Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Writing in the Sunset // a firefly poem

the light 
shining from my screen
reflects off the rim
of my glasses 
it changes 
as I scroll 
through the pages 

I lift my head
and glance around 
the world is darkening
last pink hues gone
sunset slipping away 
while country music 
plays in the background 

the day is passed
the warmth diminishing 
the sun gone
but I'm still here

writing words 

-- written June 6th, 9:00 to 9:07 p.m. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

RJF ~ Summery Reads

Hello all! I'm going to be a total copy-cat and do a post similar to others I've saw around the blogosphere lately. I'm not sure who started it, but JonathanSavannah, and Zane have all did this type of thing now. 

I'm also posting in part with Deborah C.'s "Recommend June Fest". Check out her blog for other book recommendations, going all this month. :D 


The Keystone Stable series by Marsha Hubler ~ Like, wow, y'all. I never realized how summery these books were until I was looking through my shelves for stuff to use in this post. A Horse to Love (book one), Summer Camp Adventure (book four), and The Long Ride Home (book eight) are more summery than the rest, but...ooooh, they should totally be read during the summer months. And they're not that long so, you could read like 3 of these in the time you could read one longer book. *nods* 
If you like 'horse books', contemporary settings, and stories of foster homes for troubled teens, these are for you. #perfectforsummer


Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn ~ It has summer in the title. I couldn't not include this little hunk of beachy-ness. Granted, I didn't agree with some of the content, and I've only read this one and book two so I can't recommend the whole series. But it would still make a pretty good summer quick-grab. #summeryness

The Ebb Tide by Beverly Lewis ~ Okay, so, I haven't officially finished this book, but a gal I trust for all things bookish recently reviewed it. So I'll take her word for it that this one is a keeper. ;) And would you look at that cover?! #beachreadsforthewin


{1940s} Interrupted by Rachel Coker ~ OHMEGOODNESS, this book is beautiful and utterly delightful. Since it covers several years, it obviously isn't set only during the summer. But it is quite summery and there's oodles of beach scenes. #abeautyyoudontwannamiss

{1910s} Once Upon a Summer by Janette Oke ~ Again, it has summer in the title. And this little darlin' is perfect for summer. It's humorous and cute and just fun. I read it last late spring/early summer and it is so sweet. Just a good ol' not-your-typical family story. :) 

{1950s} Love Me Tender by Janice Hanna ~ *melts at the adorable cover* Basically, this book is amazing. I read it recently with a friend and it was just SOO cute!! <3 The 1950s vibes were definitely there, the romance was sweet as could be, and being set in a seaside town? It makes a perfect summer read. #cutenessoverload

{1880s} Heartbreak Trail by Susan K. Marlow ~ Summer time excitement and adventure...perfect description, I do believe. This isn't my favorite Andi book (sorry, but Courgaeous Love took that spot. Once and forever. <3), but it's definitely a good one. #cattledrives

// BONUS's a bonus of two books that I haven't read so I can't really recommend them, but they look/sound so good. And they're on my summer TBR, so. xD  

To Get to You by Joanne Bischof ~ After reading This Quiet Sky, I knew I would want to read more by Ms. Bischof. A friend very nearly ordered me to read this one, insisting upon how amazing and cute it is. And once I saw the cover and read the synopsis? Um, yeah, I obviously need this in my life. Also, I've been told it includes a road trip?! #roadtripsaresosummery

{1960s} Chasing Jupiter by Rachel Coker ~ *totally not over here drooling over the cover* This. book. looks. amazing. Judging my the synopsis and the barrage of good things I've been told about this book, it's definitely one I need to read. And the cover?! Peaches?! (It's set in Georgia I think??) I MUST READ IT SOON. <33 

Well, I believe that's all I've got for now. Oh! And just so y'all know, I'll be out of town from this Saturday through the next Saturday. replying to comments or emails, but I do have some stuff scheduled. Anywho, see y'all later! *waves* 


P.S. Don't forget to visit Reading in June for more RJF posts! :D

Sunday, June 11, 2017

I never would've... {2nd Anniversary}

Today, June 11th, 2017, is my second anniversary in the blogsphere. Like, WOW

As opposed to the Q&A I did last year, this year I'm doing a list of things that never would have came about if I hadn't started blogging. 

~ I never would've known the meaning behind words and slang like 'feels', 'ship', or OTP. 

~ I never would've met all y'all. I have been blessed with so many friends 'round here. <3 <3 

~ I never would've won a writing contest. 

~ I never would've stuck with writing. Just think, all those stories and books I flail about on here may not even exist. 

~ I never would've found NaNoWriMo or Camp NaNo...and made so many wonderful friends through that. 

~ I never would've found so many great books, mostly independently published ones. 

~ I never would be publishing a book. (Blog tour signup closing tomorrow!) 

After realizing all that, I believe it's safe to say God had a plan when He led a drifting, 14 year-old girl to the Circle C Adventures blog, and planted in her mind the desire to start a place to share her own ideas and dreams. 

In my first year of blogging, I published 104 posts. (Unfortunately, this time last year I didn't take note of my comments, followers, pageviews, etc. So that's about all I know. xD) 

After two years of blogging, my stats look like this... 

Posts: 224
Comments: 2,555
Followers: 43 (Google) + 29 (email) 
Pageviews: 50,173 
Most popular post: The Get to Know Me Tag (182 views) 

I was going to do a giveaway of some kind to celebrate, but I haven't been able to make a permanent decision on what I wanted to giveaway, so I decided against that. If like me you love giveaways (especially books ones!), be sure to keep your eye out for a giveaway coming with the blog tour in a couple weeks. ;) 

So long friends! How long have you been blogging? How long have you been reading my blog? Have any of you been here since those awful, first posts? *cringes* 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Dandelion Dust // Blog Tour Signup

Well, folks, the time has come. *deep breaths* Yup, you read that right. I'm preparing to release my precious book to the world. *runs around the room screaming* 

I originally wasn't planning to have a blog tour. I was going to quietly publish my book and then announce it after the fact. But...two friends were very quick to tell me "um, yes, Faith. You ARE having a blog tour. Don't argue." When they went so far as making plans to handle the tour for me, I caved in. :P 

The release date will be June 30th and the blog tour will be June 28th through June 30th. If you would like to take part, that would be so awesome! :D 

Also -- a quick note to anyone who would like to take part but doesn't have a blog. I need reviews! If you would like to be a reviewer (and get to read the book for free + without a time frame), leave a comment and/or message me through the contact form at the bottom of this page. 

Blessings, all! :D 

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Beta-Readers, Sob-Worthy Songs, and a Workshop // May Recap

And here I am again, writing a recap post. (A couple days late I might add.) But can I just say I'm so glad summer is here?! :D 

// Life. // 

>> Random conversations... 

Tucker: *sitting beside me watching YT vids*
Person on the vid: *says something about 4-wheel drive motorcycles*
*both of us start laughing*

Mom: *points out the mini pies in the freezer section of the grocery store* How cute! 
Me:...that's lonely. 
Mom: Um...what?
Me: That's lonely. Who would want to eat pie alone? 

Me: *looking in a mirror* these curls around my face make me look like an 1850s baby doll. 
Mom: I don't think they had baby dolls back then. 
Me: Well, they did on Little House. What was that, 1870s? 
Mom: Yeah, but wasn't that more like cornhusk dolls? 
Me: No, Nellie Olson had like porcelain dolls. 
Mom: But she was a brat, no wonder she had ugly dolls. 
Me: ...You just called me ugly. 
Mom: I did not!! 

Me: *sitting on the porch editing*
Tucker: *walks out the door with several pieces of bacon*
Me: You're just...eating bacon?
Tucker: I'm a baconator.  

>> I got a first draft copy of War Tears. *obnoxious squealing* Actually I got two. (Shipping one off to my critique partner was painful. *tears*) They're 404 pages of beautifulness though... 

It's as thick as A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin. Like, WOW. I can die happy. 

>> I realized how discriminating my search engine history is. Or would be, should the wrong person browse it. You'd honestly think I was in love with a wounded warrior. (Speaking of which, am I the only one who legit tears up through those ads? Am I alone in this?!) It's research...I promise...stop giving me that look... 

>> Our church youth group took a trip to a nearby amusment park. My first time on a roller coaster...pretty fun. :P 

>> School is ooveerrrr!!! *throws confetti* On a scary note...I only have one year left. O.O 

>> I was in a pottery workshop the last week of May/first week of June. That will be in my June recap... XP 

>> I saw my DD characters like EVERYWHERE. For those of y'all who've read's Ryder... 

>> I'm skipping the blogging segment this month's (sorrryyy), so I'll add this here. I added a new blog page!! Go check it out. :D 

// Books. // 


So basically I failed at reading again. *cries* What is wrong with me, y'all? 

I read 8 books... 
Deliver by Tricia Mingerink -- 5 stars -- Review HERE
A Stranger on My Land by Sandra Merville Hart -- 3.5 stars 
Philippians: The Joy of Christian Living by Darlene Schacht -- 4 stars 
The Secret Slipper by Amanda Tero -- 4.5 stars -- Review HERE
A Question of Courage by Jesseca Wheaton -- 5 stars 
Rose of Prophecy by Hope Ann -- 3.5 stars 
Love Me Tender by Janice Hanna -- 5 stars 
I Hate Reading by Arthur Bacon -- 2 stars 

Plus two books I was beta/alpha reading :D 
The Nobles Contest by Hann Remraf (alpha-reading)
Sunlight and Shadows by Livi Jane (beta-reading) 

And I acquired three books this month and they're all so lovely like YUS. *nods* 

Millie's Steadfast Love by Martha Finey, adapted by Kersten Hamilton -- Thriftbooks 
True to you by Becky Wade -- review book 
Deliver by Tricia Mingerink -- author's site (yup, it's signed. Personalized. Be jealous) 

// Writing. // 

Writing wasn't that much of thing this month. But I did edit a TON. I applied beta-reader comments to DD and now I'm working on the final edit! :D 

Just look at my big ol' mess. XD 

But I did get in some words this month -- 10,346 to be exact. *loves exact numbers* 

8,127 of those words were in A Soldier's Story which is coming along nicely...and becoming much longer than I thought it would be. :P (It's up on my stories page now, but there currently isn't a blurb. *is so bad at writing them*) 

Another thing writer-related that happened this month (and which I mentioned earlier in this post) was about WT. So my critique partner and I basically swapped books with each other. (Wanna bet on who's is best? I already know. XP) Which was so super fun and... *happy sigh* All the WWII loveliness. 

// Music & Movies. // 

I DISCOVERED PANDORA, YALL. *shoves a list of songs y'all's way* Just look at all the patrioticness.  

The Impossible // Joe Nichols 
If Not Me // Craig Morgan 
He Didn't Have To Be // Brad Paisley 
Airborne Ranger Infantry // Kristy Lee Cook 
POW // Darryl Worley 
Letters From Home // John Michael Montgomery 
It's America // Rodney Atkins 
Two Soldiers Coming Home // Lori McKenna 
Find You Here // Ellie Holcomb 
Who You Are // Unspoken 
Tears // Matt Hammitt 
Soldiers Light // Rylee Preston 
Travelin' Soldier // Dixie Chicks 
For Your // Keith Urban 
Semper Fi // Trace Adkins 
The Call // Matt Kennon 

The only 'new' movie I watched was The Shop Around the Corner (1940) and 

// Goals. // 

~ May Goals 

>> Order first-draft copy of War Tears. *squealing*              Got it!! :D 

>> Finish A Soldier's Story.            Ehh, no... But I'm getting closer, I think. XD 

>> Host another Imagine This writing challenge.       Yep, sure did! 

>> Apply beta-readers suggestions/critiquing to Dandelion Dust.       *faints* Yup, got it. 

>> Finish an alpha-reading project.        Did it!! 

>> Read 12 books.     ....not quite. 

>> Write 10,000 words.     Barely...hooray! 

~ June Goals 

>> Hit 30k or finish A Soldier's Story. 

>> Finish final edit of Dandelion Dust. 

>> Publish Dandelion Dust. (Details coming tomorrow!) 

>> Beta-read another book. 

>> Read 10 books. 

>> Go on a mission trip. (Yup, I'll be out of the loop like the third week of this month. :D) 

Alrighty, you know the drill... How was your May, folks?! :D 


P.S. I found this and laughed my head off for the next hour. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Imagine This #9 ~ entries

Hello everyone! And a lovely Thursday night to you stalkers readers! I'm finally here with the entries from the recent Imagine This challenge. Gahhh, they're all SO. GOOD. Judging was nigh impossible (when is it not?), but I managed...sorta. 

I'm considering just cutting the judging part next time? And just posting the entries? Any thoughts/opinions/suggestions on that? 

To all participants, thank you so much for entering! All the entries were so beautiful and amazing and I loved them each and every one. I smiled, I cried, I felt all warm and happy, and bittersweet and achy inside. *nods* Y'all are all amazing writer people, okay? <3 

First Place ~ Kaitlyn Krispense

The day had finally come: Jonas was leaving.  My heart ached as we drove to the airport.  It seemed so natural, the three of us together.  As if it would go on like this forever.  I glanced into the backseat where I could just see our daughter’s head over the back of her carseat.  She was such a contented, happy baby.  She looked just like her father, with her bright blue eyes and brown hair.  
When I faced forward again, my eyes misted over, and I blinked rapidly to keep my tears at bay.  It was certainly a good thing that Jonas was the one driving; I probably would’ve had us in a ditch by now.
“Miss me already?” He took his eyes off the road for a moment to smile softly at me.  
I pressed my lips tightly together.  He knew the answer, and to speak would only make me cry.  My father, being a salesman, often traveled, leaving my mom, three siblings, and I at home.  Each time we took him to the airport, Mom would hold his hand, caress it, and say, “I miss you already.”
I sometimes wondered what she meant.  How could you miss someone when they were right there with you?  And now… I sniffed.  I knew exactly how my mother felt.
But Jonas wasn’t going to be gone for just a few days like my father was.  He was going to be gone for months.  And only God knew if I’d ever get to see him again.
We pulled into the airport.  It was a mess of people rushing around, cars coming and going, planes taking off and landing. Jonas is leaving, I thought, and the world goes on.  They don’t care what he’s doing.  God, why does he have to leave?  He’s just one of the many soldiers that will be forgotten to all but those who love him.  He’s going to fight for all these people, yet they won’t give him so much as a second glance.  I don’t know if I can give him up; make me strong, Lord.
Once Jonas had parked the car, I stepped out and opened the rear door while Jonas grabbed his things from the trunk.  I reached in and unbuckled the carseat, then pulled it out.  Maria stared up at me, her serious face reminding me all the more of how much like her father she was.
“I’ll take her.” He held out one arm, the other laden with his luggage.
I hesitated.  “Are you sure?  You’ve already got your luggage and—”
“Laura.”  His quiet voice interrupted me.  “Please.  I want to hold her as much as I can.”  
I saw it in his eyes: agony.  He missed us already too.  Oh God, will there ever be peace?  Will there ever be a time when husbands, sons and brothers aren’t taken away from home?  I swallowed against the tears.  It didn’t work.  As we walked into the building, my face was wet and my eyes burned from the salt.
“Let’s say goodbye here.”  He stopped and set his luggage and Maria down.  “Goodbyes are bad enough, and I sure don’t want to look back after I’ve cleared security and see the barrier between us.”
I nodded and took a deep breath, willing my tears to recede back to from wherever they had come.  It worked… until I looked into his face.
“Laura…”  He licked his lips.  “I—” his voice broke and he pulled me into his arms.  I broke down and sobbed, clinging to the front of his shirt.  
Finally I pulled away, sniffing.  “I’m getting your shirt all wet.”
He smiled slightly.  “I’m gonna miss you.”
“Not as much as I’m going to miss you.”
He pulled my face forward and our lips met.  I shut my eyes tightly, but several tears leaked out anyway.  Would this be the last time he would ever kiss me?
Finally the moment ended.  He turned and pulled Maria from the carseat.  He held her gently in his arms, cradling her head in his hands.  He stared at he intently, as if memorizing her every feature.  He’s such an amazing father.
He dipped his head and planted a kiss on the top of her head.  It was then that I saw the solitary tear make its way down his pain-filled face.  He’s hurting just as much as I am.
“Let’s pray.”  He positioned Maria in one arm, slipping his other around my waist and pulling me close.  Together we bowed our heads as he prayed aloud in a husky voice, “God, we know You’ve called me overseas.  Be with Laura and Maria.  Lord, be my little girl’s daddy while I’m away.” his voice broke, then he continued after a moment, “Comfort Laura, and help her to be the mother You made her to be.  In Your name… amen.”
He gingerly handed Maria over to me, and kissed us both, then backed away.  I watched him go until he disappeared in the crowd, then turned, placed Maria back in the carseat, and began to walk toward the big glass double-doors.  A sob tore through me, then another. My steps quickened; I wanted to get out there as quickly as possible.
“Laura!”  I heard his voice calling me, and I pivoted.  There he was, towering above the crowd.  He must have climbed atop a bench.  Normally, being the quiet, shy guy that he is, he wouldn’t do anything to attract attention to himself.  But now, I don’t think he cared.  I saw him take a deep breath.  “I love you!” his voice rang out.  
I pressed a shaking hand to my lips, then held it out to him.  He did the same. Our eyes locked, and in that moment I knew that, whatever happened, with God’s help, we would be okay.

Second Place ~ Jesseca Dawn, "If I Return" 

 The airport was crowded, filled with the usual hustle and bustle. People were hurrying from one place to another, running to catch a flight, or walking quickly past the chairs of people waiting, as if trying their best to avoid human contact.  
But tucked away behind the chaos, a different scene unfolded. 
He sat there, bag on the floor by his feet, cap on the chair beside him, and his uniform jacket settling across his shoulders. 
His wife was beside him, one hand resting on his shoulder, the other gripping his elbow. As if, somehow, holding to him in such a way could--or would--make him stay. 
Dayton felt her hold on him and swallowed hard. He knew his leaving was difficult for her. God, did my tour have to come now?  It was the same question he had been asking for days. She had been through so much. How would she handle this on top of it all? 
His eyes dropped to the small child he held in his hands.  A feeling of wonder and awe washed over him yet again. She was so small, this baby. Not yet a month old. But she was flawless. Her eyelashes brushed her cheeks as she slept, and her hands balled into fists.
Such tiny hands. 
Yet, so perfect. 
It had been God working, bringing the baby into his life. Dayton had been at the right place at the right time. Though, he hadn't realized it then. The walk around the neighborhood hadn’t meant to end at the abortion clinic. But that’s where his feet had taken him. And that was where he’d met her as she stood outside, waiting for her appointment. And he’d been able to talk her out of it. 
Moving the baby to the crook of his elbow, Dayton took his right hand and draped it over his wife’s shoulders. “It’ll be okay.”
She only nodded and rested her head on his shoulder.
He ached for her. Ached for what she had gone through. For what she was going through. It hadn’t been her fault. She had been taken advantage of, and then left behind. Alone and scared, she had nowhere to turn, and a baby would only have added to her problems. 
But somehow, God had been able to use him to convince her to keep the child. 
The one thing he hadn’t reckoned on was her falling in love with the Saviour . . . and then he falling in love with her. 
Dayton looked again at the baby in his arms. Little Grace was proof that God could bring beauty out of anything. And that He was orchestrating every life to work as a part of His plan. Every time he looked at the little girl that now belonged to him, a strange mixture of love and fear overwhelmed him. Love for this child who wasn’t his. Fear that he would never be the father she needed. 
“Flight twenty-seven, en-route to Houston, boarding now.” 
The voice of the attendant sounded on the loudspeaker. 
That was his flight. He checked his watch. Still twenty minutes until the gates closed. 
“I love you, Dayton.” 
Leslie’s voice sounded close to his ear and he turned and brushed her lips with his. “I love you, too, Les.” 
The seconds stretched into minutes as the little family sat there, oblivious to the world around them. Dayton tried to relish that last few minutes he would have with the two people he loved most in the world. 
The bundle that had nestled into the crook of his left arm stirred, and then settled back into the land of dreams. His gaze fell on her again.  Grace, if God wills and I return, I promise I’ll do the best I can to be a good daddy to you.
The thought was a sobering one. Most men weren’t fathers only two months after they were married. He knew his situation was unique. But that was okay.
“Final boarding call to Houston.” 
This time, Dayton knew he couldn’t stall any longer. He stood and handed the baby back to Leslie while he swung on his bag and slapped his cap on his head. Then, taking a deep breath, he turned back to his wife. 
She stood there, almost a head shorter then him. So small. So fragile. Would she be okay without him here to help her? To protect her? 
Trust Me. 
The still, small voice whispered through his worries, bring them to rest at the feet of Jesus. 
Yes, he would trust. God would have to be strong for her when he couldn’t. 
Forcing a smile on his face, Dayton  enfolded her in a hug, baby and all. “Don’t be worryin’ about me, Les. God’s got us both in His hands.”
He felt her nod against his chest. “I know.”
Stepping back, he reached his hands out for Grace. He wanted to hold her one last time. She opened her eyes and yawned as she changed hands once again, and he grinned. This little girl had him wrapped around her finger. Bending down, he pressed a kiss to her forehead. 
The attendant motioned for him to hurry, and he reluctantly handed the baby back. Then, he drew Les toward him and pressed a kiss to her lips. “I’ll see you again, sweetheart. I promise.” The ache he felt at leaving her behind was almost physical. And, oh, it hurt!
Before she could reply, he started toward the gate, blinking hard to keep the tears at bay. 
Les’ quiet voice stopped him, and he turned. 
She stood there, her brown hair falling softly around her waist, and Grace sleeping on her shoulder. “Thank you.”
He cocked his head, wondering what she could mean. “For what?”
“For wanting us.”  Her words were quiet, but he heard. And it took every ounce of strength to keep from turning and holding her tight. 
So he only smiled past the tears that gathered in his eyes. “Of course I want you. I love you with all that is in me.” The last sentence came out in a whisper, and thankfully the attendant seemed to have given him a break. Her own eyes were glossy with unshed tears. 
As he walked past her to board the plane, she placed a hand on his shoulder. “Thank you for your service.” 
He cleared his throat and nodded. “You’re welcome, ma’am.”
It was all he could manage. 
Stepping off the ramp into the plane, he took a deep breath. God would take care of Les. And his little miracle baby would be there waiting for him to love. 
If he returned. 

Third Place ~ Micaiah K. "Coming Home" 

He’s coming home today.

My heart flutters inside my chest as I pull into the airport parking lot. Easily finding an empty space, I put the car in park and eye the rearview mirror, seeing my four-month-old baby girl sleeping in her car seat. She’s leaned up against the cushion, white, flowered onesie lopsided, hair and headband in disarray from her position. A smile creeps across my face and I have to blink tears away. Noah has never seen her. He’s never gotten to hold her, or make her laugh, or see her smile.

But he will soon. He’s almost home.

I nearly rip my seatbelt from the latch and swing the door open. Emma begins shifting when I open her door, then scrunching her small nose, and, after a moment, sleepily opening her bright blue eyes to stare up at me. “Hey, Emma! You woke up,” I say, reaching inside the car to brush at the wisps of light brown hair covering her head and rearrange her headband. I take a second to look at her, realizing for the umpteenth time how much she resembles my husband. I finagle my way under the car seat handle and press a kiss to her forehead, grabbing the diaper bag off the floor and dropping it over my neck and shoulder. Unlatching the car seat from its base, I tuck my left arm under the handle. The door shuts with a click and I’m hurrying across the parking lot, eager to be inside and wait with Noah’s family.

The front entrance slides open automatically at my movement and I step through, immediately enveloped in cold air and the rush of people. I bite my lip and study my surroundings, hoping I’ll be able to find the Kohls in this menagerie of suitcases and moving bodies.

“Amelia, dear!”

I turn at the sound of my mother-in-law’s voice. Her hand is waving in the air frantically, and I start that way, dodging rolling bags with hurried people at their handles, somehow ending up in her arms. She hugs me tightly before pulling back and smiling. “He should be here soon,” she says.

I nod and press her hand, words clogging in my throat. Thank you, Father. Thank you so much.
A moment later I’m in the midst of the whole family, Mr. Kohl greeting me with a small nod. 

And then we’re waiting. Ten minutes tick by, but it feels like hours. I set Emma’s car seat on a nearby bench, keeping my hand on it and peeking underneath to see her sleeping again.

Another ten minutes. I’m suddenly nervous and ask Mrs. Kohl to stand by Emma while I go check on the flight. She agrees with a soft tilt to her lips, and I realize she understands how I feel.

Just a few steps into my quest, I see him. He’s across the room, eyes roving the place, still in his military uniform. And then Noah sees me too, and he begins to walk in my direction, nearly crashing into a few people. He starts jogging, and suddenly I’m running too. It wasn’t very far, so before I can even think he’s wrapping his arms around me and squeezing me so tight I can hardly breathe. I place my arms around his waist and bury my face in his chest.

“Amelia,” he says, so quietly I can barely hear him in the cacophony around us. I look up to see tears forming in his blue eyes. “I’ve missed you.”

I laugh and sob all at once, standing on my tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “I’ve missed you so much,” I say.

Noah grabs my hand. “Can I see Emma?”
I nod vigorously, grinning beneath my tears. I lead him across the room, where his family waits. They all want to hug him at once, and I laugh as I watch the most exuberant round of greetings I’ve ever seen. 

Mrs. Kohl demands we come over for dinner, and Noah just nods, hugging her a second time and kissing her cheek.

I sit on the bench where the car seat is and unbuckle the straps around Emma’s small abdomen, gently tucking her in my arms. She’s awake now, and happy, though a bit unsure of what’s happening around her. I stand, and Noah steps close to me. His orbs land on our baby girl and light in a way I can’t describe. He reaches out to take her, and he holds her in his large hands, staring at her with amazement etched on his face. Like she’s the only one in the room and he doesn’t want to look away. “Amelia, she’s beautiful,” he says.

I begin nodding again, heart so full I can barely speak. “She is.”

Noah presses a kiss to her forehead. “You’re so beautiful, Emma,” he says softly. “I love you so much.” Her little face scrunches at then her lips form a toothless smile. Noah laughs, a sound I’ve longed to hear so badly in the last year. A moment later he looks up at me, smile so broad I can’t contain my own. “Let’s go home,” he says.

Mrs. Kohl overhears and reiterates her invitation to dinner, and we laughingly assure her we’re coming.

I move to take Emma, but the look on Noah’s face stills me. “Can I do it?” he asks, eyes wide.

I bite my lip as a grin pulls at my cheeks. “Of course you can.”

Noah places Emma in her car seat, so gently it’s like he’s afraid she’ll break if he isn’t too careful. He clicks the straps together and then crooks his arm under the handle. Mr. Kohl grabs Noah’s duffle bag, and we’re walking towards the entrance.

Noah is holding my hand, and he tugs on it, pausing his stepsand mine. He leans over and rests his forehead against mine. “I love you,” he says.

I squeeze his hand. “I love you too.”

Fourth Place ~ Livi Jane 

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we begin our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position. Please be sure your seat belt is securely fastened and all carry-on luggage is stowed underneath the seat in front of you or in the overhead bins. Thank you.”
Twenty-year-old Reid Kohl blinked once to clear his blurred-by-sleep-vision and slowly pulled himself into a sitting position. He yawned and stretched. 
The elderly man in the window seat next to him smiled in his direction. “You slept almost the whole ride,” he observed, using his index finger to push his thin-rimmed glasses further up his nose. “Long deployment?”
Reid snapped his seat belt in place and nodded. “Somethin’ like that,” he said, a Texas twang evident in the young voice. He glanced down at his uniform, brushed it off. He didn't realize the man was still speaking to him until he heard the word “army” spoken. 
“I served back in the sixties, during the Vietnam War.” The elderly man’s silver eyes took on a faraway look. 
“Well, thank you for your service,” Reid acknowledged, offering his hand. “Reid Kohl, by the way.”
The old man took it. “Danny Thompson. And thank you.”
A silence fell between for only several seconds before he spoke again. “You headed home?”
“Yep.” Reid’s young face took on a proud glow. “I’m goin’ meet my daughter. She just turned three weeks old.”
Danny’s smile grew. “Congratulations! Is this your first?”
At the soldier’s excited nod, he smiled. “I thought as much. You look quite young to have a family!”
“Twenty,” Reid told him with a smile. The younger man was almost surprised when the flight attendant’s voice came across the speakers, announcing they had landed.
Reid slung his backpack over one shoulder and eagerly gathered up the rest of his belongings. He followed the rest of the passengers off the plane, now fully awake and anticipating his little family’s welcome. 
He turned to Danny. “It was great chatting with you, Mr. Thompson.”
The old man smiled, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “Just Danny. That’s what everybody calls me. And you have a wonderful time with your family. Don’t take any of those moments for granted.” His gravelly voice sounded like he spoke from experience
“I sure won’t,” Reid promised. “Thank you.”
With one final handshake, Reid watched Danny disappear into the sea of people.
It took no time at all to weave his way through the Texas airport. Reid’s heart pounded. He couldn’t wait to see his baby in person. The young soldier picked up his pace.
“Reid!” The shout drew attention from bystanders. A slim, five foot one figure rushed up to meet him.
Reid barely had time to kiss his wife before a tiny body was eased into his arms. He looked down.
"Cora Grace," Jessalyn whispered, tracing a gentle finger down the side of the baby's cheek. "Three weeks old today," she added, although Reid didn't need the information. He had watched each and every minute drag by since he was informed of his daughter's birth. 
His gaze slipped down to the baby. Sure, he had seen her twice over video calls with Jess, but there was something a thousand times more special about seeing her in person, holding the little form in his arms. Reid lifted Cora up, one hand gently bracing her neck and the back of her head. He leaned in probably closer than was necessary, taking in every detail about the infant.
Her nut-brown hair, same color as her daddy's. Those blue eyes, brighter than a happy sky, like her mommy's.
The little turned-up nose and puckered-up lips. It made his heart melt. 
“She's perfect,” he breathed, awestruck at the tiny life before his eyes. 
Cora shifted in her soft, flower-patterned pajamas and stared up at her father, observing him every bit as much as he had been doing to her. 
“Isn't she?” Jess’s voice from next to him directed his focus away from the baby, and he realized he had hardly given his pretty wife a welcome. It has been months since he’d last seen her. She was still gorgeous as ever, with her short, slim figure and long blonde waves. His heart ached at the thought of not having been with her when baby Cora arrived. 
He put one arm round about her shoulders and gave her a tight squeeze. “I love you, J. I missed you so much. I'm so sorry I couldn't be here when--”
“You're here now,” Jessalyn interrupted softly. “That's what matters.” 
She hugged him back; stood on tiptoes to plant a kiss on his cheek. 
Reid’s gaze shifted back down to Cora. My little princess. His chest swelled. 
“What do you say we get home?” Reid asked, ready to be away from the crowd, alone with his family. 
Jess nodded, her blonde waves bouncing slightly. The corners of her rosebud-shaped lips turned upward in a smile. “Apache will be ecstatic. He’s missed you, that’s for sure,” she said, referring to their Golden Retriever. She offered to Reid slide Cora back into her arms so he could go search out his luggage, but he quickly decided he could hold the baby and get his luggage at the same time. 
In no time at all, the trio was packed into the family sedan and headed home. 
Reid glanced in the rearview mirror, his eyes settling on the carseat carrying his baby. He still could hardly believe he was father.
“Is something wrong?” Jess’s worried voice cut in on his thoughts. She squeezed his hand, which was caressing her own. 
Reid blinked, realizing there were tears in his eyes. “No, no,” he denied. “In fact, something’s right.” He grinned at his wife through the tears. 
“I'm home, and we’re together. Our whole family.”

Hope y'all are having a great week! May recap, coming soon. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Remembering... {Memorial Day 2017}

Happy Memorial Day, readers! I wasn't sure what to post today, but late Saturday night I had this idea for a memorial-themed short story. So I wrote and edited the entire thing Sunday afternoon and tonight. Hopefully it isn't *too* bad and y'all can get something out of it. :P 

  I guess all families have their own traditions. Things like whose house you go to for Christmas, Christmas Eve, Easter, and the Fourth of July. What you eat when and who gets to read the Christmas story. 
  We have a tradition that's probably a bit unusual. My paternal grandfather – a WWII veteran and a hero in my eyes – started it. He was always a patriot, but from what I've been told, this particular tradition started after he returned from Europe. 
  Every Memorial Day weekend, for as long as I can remember, all the aunts, uncles, and cousins gather at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. After filling up two whole pews at the country church on Sunday morning, we would come back for the cookout and family time. The aunts would make sure all the kids changed out of their good clothes before turning us loose in the backyard. Our playtime before food was served wouldn't last long. Then we'd sit on old wooden picnic tables and eat our fill of hot dogs, potato salad, and homemade ice cream. 
  As soon as everyone had finished eating, and before one of the ladies dared start cleaning up, Grandpa would stand and walk away without a word. Grandma would follow closely behind him, slipping her hand into his elbow before they rounded the corner of the house. 
  The adults would round up all us kids and lead us to the front of the house, giving strict orders to be quiet and respectful during our moment of silence. I clearly recall the words of my dad, reminding us that this was to remember those who had given the ultimate sacrifice for the freedom we enjoyed daily. I'm sorry to say, those sober words didn't mean much to my six-year-old self. 
  Everyone would take seats – in the rockers, the porch swing, or sprawling on the floor boards. I can remember sneaking peeks at Grandpa, watching him out of the corner of my eye. Sometimes he would shed tears and talk about his memories, but other times he would just sit staring off down the road. 
  Sometimes we kids would grumble to each other about having to be quiet, but never in front of Grandpa. No, we always sat there just as we were told to out of respect for him. For his memories. After a while of putting up with our uncomfortable squirming, Dad would give the go-ahead nod and we were at liberty to slip away. 
  The spring of my twelfth year, I was much more attuned to Grandpa’s uttered words as he reminded us kids to never take our freedom for granted. 
  I had questions this year; I wanted to know more. “Grandpa?” 
  “Yes, Caleb,” he answered, leaning back in the rocker and meeting my gaze. 
  “Are you a hero?” 
  Grandma, Dad, and someone else further down the porch nodded their heads, but I didn't want their answers. I wanted him to tell me. 
  Grandpa smiled at the question and shook his head. “No, son. I'm not a hero, but I have known a few.” 
  “What do you mean by that?” I asked, puzzled by the mystery surrounding his reply. 
  “People think they're talking to someone special when they thank men like me. But who they really should be thanking is the ones who didn't come home.” 
  That line certainly gave me something to think about and contemplate. And for awhile, it was enough. 
  Years passed and cousins grew up and went off to school. There were many times everyone wasn't able to make it back to that old, white farmhouse for our family gathering, though we always tried our best. 
  Again, the spring of my senior year, I sat there on that porch. I stayed with Grandpa long after all the others had wandered off to the backyard to clean up from our cookout or join in the reckless game of dodgeball. 
  “Something bothering you, son?” Grandpa finally asked. 
  I turned to face him from where I sat on the top porch step, my elbows propped on my knees. “Yes, sir.” 
  “Want to tell me about it?” 
  I shrugged, returning my gaze to the dirt road that stretched on for miles and miles, winding around mountains and dipping into valleys. What would it be like to walk down it, not to come back for years? Or ever? 
  “You're readable, Caleb,” Grandpa said. I heard his rocker creaking as he stood and limped toward me. “Something’s weighing on you, I can tell.” 
  He stepped up beside me, preparing to sit on the porch edge like I was. Regardless of the much-different story he would have told, he wasn't a spring-chicken. 
  I reached for his arm, aiming to steady him. “Can I help you, Grandpa?” 
  He frowned and swatted my hand away, easing himself the rest of the way to the seat on his own. “Thank you for the thought, Caleb, but despite what your father and his sisters think, I'm not falling apart.” 
  I snickered, remembering the many quarrels between my grandparents and Dad about this subject. 
  Grandpa nudged my shoulder. “Are you going to tell me what's bothering you? Or do I get left in the dark?” 
  I leaned forward and propped my chin on my crossed arms. “I've been wondering about a lot of stuff lately, especially my future. I've…I've been heavily considering the military.” I glance to my right to gauge his reaction. 
 He just nodded as if that was old news. No shock, no surprise. “I thought so.” 
  “You-you did?” 
  He smiled, a faint smile that seemed to hold a hint of sadness and then faded away. “I think there is something in every man that makes him feel protective over those he cares about. For some that may just mean being a good person, a good husband or father. There's nothing wrong with that, but for others, it means more. A call to serve.” 
  I looked down at my crossed arms and let Grandpa’s words wash over me. I had so many questions and it took awhile before the most prominent one formed itself in the forefront of my mind. 
  “Dad says you had a friend who was killed during the war,” I began, treading carefully into uncharted territory. “Were you…good friends?”
 “Best friend I ever had next to your grandmother and the Lord Almighty.” 
  I didn't expect such a quick answer, and I scrambled to come up with my next inquiry. “What was that like? Coming home when he didn't?” 
  Grandpa sighed and mimicked my pose, leaning his elbows on his knees and staring off down the road. When he spoke his words held a tremble that hadn't been present moments before. “Hardest thing I've ever done, Caleb. But I can't blame it entirely on Bobby’s death. War is never easy. Whether you lose someone close to you or not, you're surrounded by death and destruction. It changes you, and you can't stop it.” 
  Grandpa’s words washed over me and wrapped around me, exactly what I needed to hear that warm, Sunday afternoon. “Why are you telling me this now?” 
  “Because you need to hear it, Caleb,” he replied, his hand appearing on my shoulder. “Your struggle is written all over your face, but it takes someone who's been where you are to understand how you're feeling. If God is telling you to serve your country this way, then he'll give you the courage to do it.” 
  Instead of going to college that fall, I shipped out to boot camp. I've served in the armed forces for nearly a decade now, and at times I've doubted if I would be where I am today without the man who saw my struggles and shared from his own painful memories in order to help me along my journey. 
  Grandpa passed away last autumn. At his funeral, I heard the twenty-one gun salute, I saw the folded flag they handed Grandma. I realized that the man I sat on the front porch with that day so long ago truly was a hero. A hero who honored those who gave even more than he did. 
  And I cried like I've never cried before.