Reading Life

This post is by Abbie Johnson Taylor.


Thanks to StephJ for inspiring this. Since I love to read as much as I love to write, here are my answers to some questions about how I read.


Do you have a specific place for reading?

Because of my visual impairment, I prefer listening to books, either in recorded or digital print formats. For this reason, I can read while eating, doing dishes, putting away laundry, etc. Most of the time, I prefer to read in the recliner that once belonged to my late husband Bill or in the back yard where he also enjoyed sitting. I like reading in these places because it makes me feel closer to him.

Do you use bookmarks or random pieces of paper?

The devices I use are capable of keeping my place when I leave a book and return to it later. They have bookmark features, but I rarely use them.

Can you just stop anywhere or must it be at the end of the chapter?

I try to stop at the end of a chapter, but some authors end chapters with cliffhangers, so that can be more easily said than done. Also, some chapters are lengthy, and if I start nodding off, forget it.

Do you eat or drink while reading?

Whether I’m reading or writing, I’m always drinking water. In mid-afternoon, I drink Dr. Pepper. Occasionally, I’ll listen to a book at the kitchen table while eating.

Do you listen to music or watch TV while reading?

Since I listen to books instead of reading them, this can be tricky, so I usually don’t.

Do you read one book at a time or several?

I read one book at a time. I finish it, or not, then move on.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

With my portable devices, I can read anywhere, but I prefer to read at home.

Do you read out loud or silently?

Most of the time, books are read to me, either by a human voice on a recording or by my device’s text to speech engine. Sometimes though, especially when reading poetry, I read material aloud to myself with my device’s Braille display.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

It depends on the book. With a novel, I don’t dare skip anything because I don’t want to miss an important plot twist. With a book of essays, short stories, or poems, I skip material that doesn’t appeal to me.

Do you break the spine or keep it like new?

Most of the time, I’m not dealing with spines. Occasionally though, if I really want to read a book and can’t find it in an accessible digital format, I’ll buy a hard copy and scan it. When I do this, I try to keep the book intact.


Now it’s your turn. You can answer any or all the questions above, either in the comments field or on your own blog. If you do this on your blog, please put a link to your post in the comments field here. In any case, I look forward to reading about your reading life.


Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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your Profile PhotoThis post by Jennifer Flaten

As you know I love reading. It is one of my favorite things to do. There is nothing as satisfactory as losing yourself in a book. For me reading a good book can turn hours into minutes. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve started a book at 8pm and then stayed up until 2a to finish it.

So it is probably no surprise that I get a little thrill when I find new book I’ve been waiting for on the library shelf. Actually, since I don’t pay much attention to when an author has a new book coming out I like it even better when I happened upon a new book by my favorite author. Seriously, it can turn a ho hum what shall I read trip the library into a wish I had a self driving car so I could start reading on the ride home.

As much as I love discovering new authors there is something so comforting about reading a book with familiar characters. Or if the author doesn’t do a series, it is the joy of reading someone who can make you laugh, or cry. Whose words jump off the page at you and encourage you to stay up way past your bedtime reading that final chapter.

Of course, on that rare occasion you get a book that is a dud. For whatever reason, your favorite author has let you down. Maybe the plot didn’t work for you, or this time that little quirk the main character has isn’t that charming (perhaps it reminds you of an annoying co worker), it’s downright irritating.


Sometimes this can be remedied by putting the book in a time out. Other times it is necessary to skip the end and call it a day. There is always another book on the pile.

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The Fresh Breath of Spring


This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

It’s time for planting and all around us are farms with tractors making rows and planting seeds. The smell of the fresh dirt never ceases to make me feel good – a deep earthy scent that you know will soon yield crops.


We have many Amish farms in our community and we see them with teams of horses and discs as they prepare their own fields for planting. It’s like being in a time standing still but I’d venture to say a lot more work than the farmers using machinery.


We’ve been planting, too. Last year my husband planted a wildflower garden for me just like one my mother had at our farm when we were young. It was such a good feeling to see and smell the flowers and watch them sway in the breeze and open up to the sun. This year we cleaned up our rock garden at the lake and totally planted all wildflowers. I can’t wait to see it bloom. Our tulips are up and beautiful as are our daffodils. Some of last year’s flowers are popping up through the ground and each day they get a little taller.


Ralph has planted his favorite (hollyhocks and sunflowers). Last year he had twelve, eight, six and four foot sunflowers that were grand. They are majestic and this year he planted all the seeds he took off the heads, plus more packages. We may end up with a back yard full of sunflowers!

When I was a young wife and mother I loved putting up food for the winter, but I wasn’t so good in the garden. The want-to was there, but I didn’t seem to have the know-how and a lot of my plants died. Thank goodness for a mother-in-law who grew a huge garden and gave me lots of fresh vegetables and fruits to can.

I’m lucky to have a husband with a very green thumb. We’ve given up planting vegetables and fruits and switched to flowers. I do a lot of the prep work and I love raking and clearing the spots for seeds to be sown. I even got to plant a few seeds of my own, with Father Nature standing over me, of course.

Now all there is to do is wait. Flowers, vegetables, fruits – all reaching to the sun and begging for gentle rain. I can’t wait for the corn to be ripe because in our area there are big corn roasts almost every weekend when it’s ready. Nothing better than getting an ear of corn from the roaster, dipping it in a can of melted butter and standing around with friends laughing as the butter drips down your arms 0nto the ground.


I’m ready to enjoy summer (already have a hoarde of books to read, writing, knitting, coloring, journaling and sewing). We are moving to the lake lot next week and won’t move back home until October 15. What I most look forward to in the summer is the sound of loons on the lake, geese returning home, red-winged blackbirds, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, cardinals and blue jays all chattering at the bird feeder, plus the squirrels and chipmunks yipping and gathering peanuts in their cheeks. Throughout all this gentle patter I sit on the deck, watch the lake, and listen to children laughing as they  play in the water while I read. Ah, the glory of it all!

Hummingbird Feedermale cardinal




L.Leander is the author of the Inzared series (available on Amazon):


Inzared the Fortune Teller

and books for authors (also available on Amazon):

10 Extreme Tips to Publishing an e-Book

10 Extreme Tips to Marketing an e-Book

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Ties that Bind

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Despite the crummy weather in Wyoming last weekend, I was able to drive to my friends’ ranch near Kaycee and share time with my parents, my husband, Mary-dog, and our good friends Kevin and Judy Lund (I got out of town prior to the latest spring snow storm!). The solace of the JKL Ranch near the Powder River and the warmth of companionship took the chill off the damp weather. In between systems of rain and snow, the greening grass, singing birds, and sightings of wildlife provided us with touches of spring. All of that combined to add sunshine to our days and festiveness to our evenings. Amazing how nature and nurture work together to bring joy to one’s heart!

big tree at ranch
Sunrise at the JKL Ranch in Wyoming

As I alluded to in previous blog posts, our relationships with others help define who we are and impact what we do. Whether those people are family members, friends, work colleagues, other writers, publishers or readers of our stories, each person adds something to our lives. We hope that “something” is positive, but sometimes it’s not. We can struggle with certain relationships, even the relationship we have with ourselves. Are we nurturing ourselves? Are others nurturing toward us? Or do we bemoan who we are and let others belittle who we are? I urge each of us to surround ourselves with encouragers … and to encourage ourselves when needed.

I am blessed to be loved by many people, including my dear, aging parents. I worry over them at times, especially on lengthy drives such as they took last weekend – nearly 400 miles one-way. My father is nearly 80 years old (his birthday is in July) and my mother 77. Mom has never driven so Dad is the lone person behind the wheel. Thankfully, he still manages well; they will be traveling to Oregon for a Mansfield family reunion – likely, the last as each one of his brothers is also in their 70s (one is flying from Mississippi, the other two live in Oregon). They were to have had this reunion last year, but unfortunately, one of the wives fell and broke her ankle, so the reunion was postponed a year. My hope is that they all enjoy each other’s company as much as the Mansfields/Irwins did last weekend.

Gayle M. Irwin and her husband Greg and her parents Earl and Marcia Mansfield

Our friends the Lunds are so warm and welcoming! This is my fourth trip to their ranch this year, and though little writing was accomplished on this particular trek, the main of idea was fellowship, which was greatly accomplished. So was a lot of wildlife watching. Again, in spite of the nasty weather, we had one day where we drove around the ranch (thanks to our friends’ all-terrain Kubota) and took two different afternoon adventures, one to what’s known as Red Wall Country – an area of vast ranches and rich history (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid frequently hid out in this region). We also traveled to the northwest part of the lower Bighorn Mountains, to another ranching/former town site area known as mayoworth signMayoworth; a sign for a former stagestop presented itself in addition to the many species of wildlife: mule and white-tailed deer, pronghorn, turkeys, sandhill cranes, hawks, pheasants, Canada geese, and plentiful songbirds. Bluebirds were returning and meadowlarks, Wyoming’s state bird, chorused from fence posts. We watched and listened to several tom turkeys as they courted harems of hens, and we saw several herds of deer in many different pastures. The sound of my new camera clicking made my parents laugh and tell my husband a “Gayle and the deer picture story” from my childhood – before digital cameras allowed a person to delete the numerous bad pictures, Gayle took at least nine photos of deer, and mostly captured butts… wasting both film and money. Even as a teen, wildlife and photography fascinated me. Sharing memories, and making more as in last weekend at the ranch, is one of the great joys of relationships.

pair of cranes
A pair of sandhill cranes saunter through prairie grass near Kaycee, Wyoming

As this week unfolds, I’ll be making more memories and binding and building more relationship ties. On Thursday evening, May 5, I’ll share an event with another Casper author as we conduct a program at ART 321, one of the newest galleries, called “Your Life is a Story.” We’re both authors of children’s books; we’ll help participants make their own books and also read from ours, and hopefully sell a few. It’s all part of the monthly Casper Art Walk. Casey Rislov and I are the first authors to have an event at ART 321. We are hoping for strong interest and good success.

Then on Saturday, May 7, I’ll join our own Darrah J. Perez for two events in Lander. In honor of Be Kind to Animals Week, we’ll share our words at the Fremont County Library in Lander for four hours then for two additional hours at Mr. D’s Coffee and Books. This is my first time at either place, and I’m grateful to Darrah for setting it all up. We’ll be collecting pet supplies to donate to area pet rescue organizations as well. Collaborating, helping, and giving back, both through our books and through our partnership endeavors – so exciting!

The quiet of last weekend, the beauty of nature and the loving nurture around me, and now forthcoming the busyness of the days ahead and the joy of the interactions I’ll have, may seem polar opposites – but they all fill me with joy and excitement.

meadowlark singing
A western meadowlark trills from a fence post in Wyoming.

There’s an old hymn that goes, “Blest be the tie that binds, our hearts in Christian love…” Whether Christian or not, the ties that are bond by love and respect are the best types of relationships to experience, the most meaningful, the most lasting. As writers and as human beings, we are blessed by and through our relationships with others. I am blessed by my parents, and I try to be a blessing to them. I am blessed to have a kind, loving, and supportive husband. I am blessed by my relationships with my pets and with and by my human friends. I am blessed interacting with nature, and I am blessed by my readers and others who support my writing endeavors. I hope, too, that I can be and am a blessing to others, people, pets, and nature.

My prayer for all of you is that you, too, are blessed by ties that bind in love and respect.

Greg Gayle Mom Dad_cabin
Gayle and her family at the Irwins’ mountain cabin.


Yellowstone Sign_Gayle Mary_smallerGayle M. Irwin is the author of several inspirational pet stories for children and adults; she also freelances for several Rocky Mountain area newspapers and magazines and is a contributor to six Chicken Soup for the Soul books, including the upcoming “The Spirit of America.” A strong supporter of pet rescue and conservation organizations, Gayle enjoys traveling and volunteering with such groups. She regularly speaks in schools, at libraries, and for various civic and faith-based events where she enjoys sharing about the human-pet bond and the lessons people learn from animals and nature. Learn more about Gayle and her writing and speaking endeavors at


SageBigAdventureFront-small   Sage Finds Friends_front cover   Cody Cabin_New Book CoverImage   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover  Spirit of America book

This post by Jennifer Flaten

I caved in and bought one of the Adult coloring books (okay, is it just me or does that make it sound like there should be a brown wrapper on it or what).

I’ve always enjoyed coloring. It allows me to be artistic without getting frustrated because I can’t get the images out of my head and onto the paper, my major artistic roadblock.

Coloring was one of the things I loved doing with the kids. Did I want to play hide and seek for the 100th time? No, but I would sit down and color a few pages.

There really is something extremely soothing about moving that crayon back and forth. Now you would think any repetitive action like painting or sweeping (two things that my house desperately needs) would have the same soothing effect on me, but nope. They don’t.

In order to get that great relaxed feeling, it has to be coloring.

Buying the coloring book meant I had to buy new colored pencils….and, because I love office supplies, maybe a new pen (or pens) and some notebooks. You get the idea.

I love sIMG_2969_v2electing the colors for the images and I do love seeing the finished picture. Yes, I am thinking of hanging it on my fridge.

Have you tried the adult coloring books?

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This post by Jennifer Flaten

When we were planning our move four years ago, it was stressful, but I thought I was handling it okay. Until, I wasn’t. I had a horrible anxiety attack that led to a trip to the ER. I seriously thought I was dying.11-7E59C4AD-244617-960

At the ER I had a kind, cautious dr who sent me for a variety of tests to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack–as they do present differently in women. It was just stress.

Now I try to be more mindful during stressful times, since it is impossible to avoid all stress. Sure, you can eliminate some stress, you know the ‘don’t sweat the little things’ stuff. But, the big items job (or lack of) stress, money stress and sometimes family stress—I have three teen (or almost teenagers can you tell).

As you know I like walking, which I find is a great stress reducer, so is my knitting. That is unless I find out I made an egregious error 7 11-000E5553-873961-960rows back and have to rip it out. Playing with my animals is always a great way to feel less stressful. How can you possibly feel anything but relaxed after hanging around with this guy.

So what do you do to alleviate stress?

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The Art of War; Or How I Learned To Relax

Post by Doris McCraw


As I pondered this post I kept remembering the 1964 film, “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb”. This political satire, by film maker Stanley Kubrick has one of the strangest titles of all time. It sticks with you long after you have seen/read it. The film, of course is in black and white and starred the great Peter Sellers. As a disclaimer, the film has nothing to do with this post, except for the title.

What this post does have to deal with the timeless book “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. Written about 2500 years ago as a job application, according to one source, this book is a favorite of generals, world and business leaders. I have five copies of the book. I can hear you now, why five copies?  The book has had many interpretations over the years, with each version offering a different take on the authors words. While each version has similarities, there are slight  and sometimes major differences in the text.

There are five principal concepts. !. Moral Compass 2. Heaven 3. Earth 4. Commander 5. Regulation. Even the five listed here from the 2011 version by Janes Trapp are open to interpretation.

Possible Image of SunTzu

The first translation from Chinese, was into French in 1772 according the Wikipedia. English translations were in 1905 and 1911.  However, there is argument as to the real original version. Just check the Wikipedia entry and you will see what all the fuss is about.

So how can one of my favorite books, written about the art of war, be relaxing? The fact that each version is interpreted, based on the particular ‘original’ the author used. The text itself is written in such a style that even the particular translation is open to the readers take on the words. If such an ancient text can have so many choices of translation, then life itself is not written in stone. We each take events and see them through the filter of our own experiences, ie. version. When that is understood, it makes it easier to relax and let people have their insights into life without trying to make them accept mine. That my friends is so relaxing. When I write my fiction and non-fiction, it is to pass along life as I perceive the stories to be, but my readers are free to see what they need to see in my work. So on that note, when you see the book “The Art of War”, think of me sitting back and relaxing reading whatever version I happen to have handy.

Doris McCraw specializes in Colorado and Womens History. She writes fiction under the pen name Angela Raines. Join her on facebook and her Amazon author page.

Coming Oct 19 – “Angel of Salvation Valley”, by Angela Raines

Product Details
“NEVER HAD A CHANCE” , second in the Agate Gulch stories, in the Prairie Rose Publications “A COWBOY CELEBRATION” anthology

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HOME FOR HIS HEART the first in the Agate Gulch stories.

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Unconscious Effort or Conscious Effortlessness by Stephanie Stamm

Steph_2 copy (2)A few weeks ago in my yoga class, as we were moving into savasana, or final relaxation, my instructor asked us to release any remaining tension we might be feeling. Then he said, “Tension is unconscious effort. Relaxation is conscious effortlessness.”

“Wow,” I thought. “That’s an insight I need to take with me when I leave class.”

I’ve practiced yoga and meditation on and off for years, and I’ve read plenty about Buddhist thinking on “doing without doing” and “effortless effort.” I had never really understood those terms. But my yoga instructor’s words made sense to me.

We all carry so much tension: in tight necks and shoulders, clenched jaws, knotted foreheads. Most often we are completely unaware of it. We tense those muscles for action—frequently for fight or flight—but we don’t know that we’re doing so. In general, tight shoulders, clenched jaws, and knotted foreheads don’t help us get our work done, but we expend unconscious effort activating those muscles. Our tension, for the most part, stems from things of which we are unconscious.shoulders

When we become conscious of them, when we realize we are tensing our shoulders or clenching our jaws for no reason, we can consciously release that tension. Generally, just by releasing our shoulders or our jaws, a sense of ease and relaxation flows through our whole body. And the work that had felt so difficult and so stress-inducing doesn’t seem nearly so bad.

I don’t mean to suggest that all we have to do to reduce stress is to relax our shoulders—though I’m surprised by how much of an effect that has. I think the statement applies to more than our tightened muscles. Sometimes what we have to release is the unconscious effort we might be holding in our thoughts and emotions, in our expectations of how a day or a project should go. Those thoughts, emotions, or expectations—again often unconscious—expend a lot of energy pushing us toward that desired outcome, even though they don’t actually participate in the work of getting us there. If we can channel the energy from those unconscious thoughts into the real work of our projects, we are already ahead of the game. Because then we are in the work and not in our expectations about the work. We are doing, but not efforting. We are doing without doing, working with effortless effort.

Most of us have experienced moments of what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow, when we are so immersed in an activity (usually something at which we are very skilled) that we lose all sense of time, even of our selves. Csikszentmihalyi says this is the state where we are happiest. I think that experience could also be described as “doing without doing” or “effortless effort.” In moments of flow, we are completely absorbed in what we are doing. We do not have to exert effort, because we have become one with the doing itself. I don’t know that flow could be called “conscious effortlessness,” because I don’t know that we slip into it consciously. But it does seem to me to be the absence of unconscious effort. I would guess then that the practice of conscious relaxation of tension, of converting unconscious effort to conscious effortlessness, might allow us to experience flow more easily.

Click the video below to see Csikszentmihalyi’s TED talk on flow.

Try adding some conscious effortlessness to your day—at least relax your shoulders 😉 —and let me know how your work flows.

Shoulders image from

Connect with Stephanie Stamm:




Stephanie Stamm is the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy A Gift of Wings(She is working on the sequel.)

A Gift of Wings Cover







She has also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

Queen of the Mountain by Abbie Taylor

Abbie TaylorThis post by Abbie Taylor.

Do you have a recliner or a favorite armchair? Don’t you just love sinking into it at the end of a long, hard day with a book, newspaper, or TV remote control and a cup of coffee or other beverage?

My late husband Bill loved his recliner. Because of his paralysis due to his strokes, it was necessary to purchase one that could lift him almost to a standing position so I could more easily transfer him to his wheelchair. One day after I got him settled, he said, “I’m the king of the mountain.”

This inspired the following poem from How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. The original title was “King of the Mountain,” but that didn’t seem to fit so I changed it.


With his good hand, he presses a button.

The chair reclines.

Familiar objects are within reach,

telephone, radio, drink,

cassette player, bag of nuts, TV remote control.

As I cover him with poncho and blanket,

his sightless eyes gaze at me with love.

He smiles, content.

I still have Bill’s recliner. I’m sure there are others who need such a chair more than I do, especially since I don’t even use the lift feature. There may come a day, though, when I’ll need it so I guess I’ll keep it. In the meantime, I’m now the queen of the mountain.

***What are your favorite and familiar comfort items?***

Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of:

Front Book Cover - We Shall OvercomeWe Shall Overcome


Cover: How to Build a Better Mousetrap by Abbie Johnson TaylorHow to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

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Autumn In Wisconsin

propic11_1_1This Post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Autumn has arrived in Wisconsin.  The morning weather forecaster says the trees will be in peak color in a week or so.  It’s all around us; the flaming red maples, the orange and yellows of the oak trees mixed in with sturdy green pines.  Sumac has turned an orangey red and shares ditches with purple weeds and puffballs. Top this off with a perfect blue sky with cotton-ball autumn colorsclouds and you’ve got the prettiest picture right in front of you.

This morning as I took my early walk I reveled in the crunch of leaves underfoot, the honking geese as they prepare to head south, the squirrels scurrying around to put up food for winter and the cute little chipmunks with their cheeks stuffed to capacity.  The air smells fresh and crisp, like a new apple and the water laps gently on the shore of our little lake.

deerTwo days ago on my walk I nearly ran into a doe and her spring fawn.  Or rather, they nearly ran into me.  There I was minding my business and appreciating the morning when out of nowhere they bounded across the trail right in front of me.  I’m not sure which of us was more startled. A few mornings were chillier than usual and I had to wear a hat and gloves.  Once I get started walking I warm up pretty fast though.  I’ve grown to really appreciate and enjoy these morning walks.  I usually get up early enough to see the gorgeous sunrise over the lake.  A glass of orange juice, a little warm-up and I’m on my way. This is time for me to reflect on things that need to be pondered, to pray for my friends and the world, or sometimes to just breathe.

Last week while nearing the end of my walk turkeysthrough the woods I scared some wild turkeys.  They had apparently gotten over the campground fence and didn’t know how to get back over.  I kept walking and they finally flew away.  Later someone told me they’ll attack if provoked, but I’ve had wild turkeys on my property before and never had that happen.

Some mornings I hear cows lowing to be milked in a dairy farm not far from here.  This morning I heard dogs barking far away.  Lately I’ve been duckshearing a lot of gunshots on the lake and it makes me sad.  It’s duck and goose hunting season and since we watch these birds all summer as they herd their little ones across the lake it’s heartbreaking to know they might be killed. It’s also bow-hunting season and I did ask one of the park security guards if I would be in danger.  He assured me I’d be fine because there’s a law about hunters being so many feet away from the campground.  But as I walked that morning I realized I’d be a perfect target – with my white headband to keep my ears warm and light gray sweatshirt.  Guess I’ll need to drag my red vest out of the closet and wear it when I’m walking this month.

What about you?  Do you enjoy walking?  I didn’t used to enjoy walking unless I was going somewhere. I have definitely changed my mind about that.  I love the peacefulness and time to think, the sights, sounds and smells of the forest.  I’m sad that we’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks but water gets shut off in the campground in two weeks and we are almost moved into our new home. Soon I’ll be able to cross-country ski, something I love to do.  I’ve already staked out a new walking route but it’s all on paved streets through my new neighborhood. Since I’m feeling better I am learning to appreciate all the blessings around me and tune out negative thoughts.  I hope you experience the same thing!

Books by L.Leander: