Anywhere With Jesus

August 30, 2013 | My Jottings

Early yesterday morning I drove down to Stillwater, MN to see my orthopedic surgeon for probably the last time. Dr. Palmer checked my eleven weeks post-op knee, pronounced me graduated, and wished me well. His assistant Karen gave me his thank-you note, along with a bar of Godiva dark chocolate for the drive home.

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I don’t know about you, but sometimes a song gets under my skin and I like to listen to it over and over until I feel ready to be done with it. I hadn’t listened to this Amy Grant CD in years, and I grabbed it right before I left the house yesterday morning. I did listen to the whole CD as I headed south, but the one song I listened to at least twenty times during the five and a half hours I drove, was “Anywhere With Jesus.” Have you heard it? Michael loves this song too, and we used to turn it up loud when we were in the car together, and sing along almost at the top of our lungs. That’s a good memory for me.

I put the lyrics down below so you can follow along as you listen….

Anywhere With Jesus by Jessie B. Pounds (in the 1800s)

Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go
Anywhere He leads me in this world below
Anywhere without Him dearest joys would fade
Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid

Anywhere, anywhere
Any little fear I’ll never know
Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go

Anywhere with Jesus I am not alone
Other friends will fail me He is still my own
Though His hand may lead me over drearest ways
Anywhere with Jesus is a house of praise

Anywhere, anywhere
Any little fear I’ll never know
Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go

Anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep
When the dark and shadows ’round about me creep
Knowing I shall waken nevermore to roam
Anywhere with Jesus will be home sweet home

Anywhere, anywhere
Any little fear I’ll never know
Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go
Anywhere with Jesus I can surely go

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I wonder sometimes if I’m the only one who does that. Do you ever want to hear a particular song over and over again? If you can relate, what song has gotten under your skin in that way?

Speaking of Splurging

August 28, 2013 | My Jottings

Last Christmas, one of the presents I received from Sara was a gift certificate to the nail salon where she occasionally has her nails done. My fingernails grow quickly and I’m always cutting them, but I decided a couple of weeks ago that eight months was long enough to wait before using my certificate. (The last time I had my nails professionally done was in late 2007.)

Sara told me which nail techs she felt were the best, and I set off one morning for My One Appointment Of The Day. Since my knee replacement surgery, I’ve tried to schedule only one thing each day so I can make resting, icing, elevating and healing a priority. There are actually several days on my calendar that are blank, and those are the days I look toward heaven and say, “Thank you, Lord!” Part hermit, part agoraphobic, I guess.

Anyway, when I arrived at the small nail salon it was packed. There were at least seven people doing nails, and there were five customers before me. Since I had an appointment I only had to wait about 15 minutes, though.

Juan asked me what I wanted done and I told him “a French manicure with gel,” just like Sara recommended. Apparently the gel protects your nail polish from chipping and a manicure can last up to three weeks. Here’s what my nails look like today:

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Juan painted the white tips on my fingernails and covered everything with a thick gel, and I like the look! Not too long, not too short, nothing really gaudy. Although I see so many women wear colors on their nails no one wore when I was young! Check out this, and this! I might go have my nails done once again before I fly to Seattle in 22 days for The Second Annual Lupi-Soo Convention, but a manicure isn’t something I would normally fit into my regular schedule or budget, so another six years may pass before I have another one.

If I were to splurge on one thing for myself, I think it would be to have regular massages. I love getting a massage. And I know it’s not just for the pleasure of it anymore — studies show the many benefits of massage and I’m a firm believer in them for mental and physical health reasons. Even just one fifteen minute massage on my knee makes a world of difference. Alas, I don’t splurge on myself much (unless I count the books I buy!), so a professional massage might be on my schedule only once a quarter, if that.

If you could regularly splurge without guilt or concern on one thing for yourself, what would it be? Regular manicures? Weekend getaways? Dining out three times a week? A swimming pool?

I look forward to reading your comments…  🙂

Blazes, Blooms and Barks

August 23, 2013 | My Jottings

It’s the most beautiful morning in our part of Northeastern Minnesota. We finally turned the central air conditioning off yesterday after a spate of hot, humid days. I glided through the house (glided? well, pretty close) and opened windows and breathed in the drier, cooler air. It actually got down to about 49 degrees last night and it felt delicious in our bedroom being covered with quilts and feeling the hint of autumn blow over us. Today is supposed to be warm, and tomorrow and Sunday are supposed to be oppressively hot and humid, and then I’ll be gliding around again to close the windows and turn on the air.

We’re getting ready to have gas inserts installed in each of our two fireplaces, but before that can be done, some chimney repair and preparation had to be done. The masonry company was here yesterday doing the work, and they’ll finish up today.

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Then it will be time to decide which fireplace insert company we want to do the job, and to shop for what the actual faces of the inserts will look like. Perhaps something that looks a little like this. I’ll be sure to post pictures when the project is completed.

We love the sound and smell of a true wood fireplace or stove, but we’re trying to be realistic. Buying, chopping and stacking wood, carrying it in several times a week for a cheery blaze each day in the dining room hearth, and then cleaning out the fireplace, are not something I’m going to add to my plate. We had a gas insert in the first house we ever owned and while we missed that crackle and pop of a wood fire, we loved getting up on a chilly morning and turning on a warm fire with the flick of a switch. It heated the downstairs in minutes and was so economical in the fall and spring when we wanted to warm things up without turning on the furnace for the whole house. So hopefully by the time the snow flies (which can be October) we’ll be enjoying our meals by firelight.

We had such a long winter this year, our hostas are blooming late. They usually bloom in late June. These are in front of our deck, to the right.

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And here’s a picture of Mildred Virginia Sizzlelorum, aka Millie, doing her morning sniffing in the front yard.

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You can click to enlarge these photos if you like, and if you do you’ll be able to see the three collars the dogs wear when they go outside. The blue one is Millie’s regular collar, with a cute little blue bone tag that gives her name and phone number in case she gets lost. The red one is an electric fence collar to keep the dogs on our property instead of traipsing around the neighborhood as they would be likely to do on their own. If they walk too close to the underground wire around the perimeter of the lot, their dog fence collars go BEEP-BEEP-BEEP loudly and then the dogs back away from where they’ve been. The black collar with the hangy down strip is one of the anti-bark collars we were forced to get when we moved into this house a little over a year ago. If you’ve never seen the “anonymous” note our across-the-street neighbors wrote on the back of a piece of our mail back then, you can click here for a smile or a smirk.

Our scruffy Schnauzers are yippy little things, it’s true. When they see people strolling by, or squirrels trying to finagle the birdseed out of the hanging feeder, or when the postal carrier brings our mail each afternoon, they bark. And bark. And bark. It can be irritating. So to deter them from their outdoor barkiness, we now put horrible black shock collars on them before they go out to potty, to keep them from bothering Burt and Arlene. Thankfully Schnauzers are known to be fairly bright dogs, and Edith and Mildred learned within 24 hours what those black collars were for, and they keep quiet when we put them on. If we don’t put them on they know it, and they run outside and begin to bark almost immediately. 🙁

In knee news, I am now ten weeks post op. I went to my physical therapy appointment yesterday, where I reached a milestone of sorts. ROM (range of motion) is paramount when recovering from knee replacement surgery, and measurements are taken each time I go to PT. Up until yesterday, I’d only been able to straighten my right leg to 12 degrees, 0 degrees (totally flat) being the goal. And I’ve only been able to bend my knee (flexion) to 95 – 100 degrees while holding my mouth open in a silent scream. Yesterday my ROM was 5 degrees and 112. Yay! Improvement. I told my PT Suzanne that I felt like my progress had sped up, from Glacial Speed to Tortoise Speed. We laughed together.

Do you have any weekend plans? Reading? What are you reading? Baking? What will you make? Traveling? Where will you go?

We’ll be at home this weekend, putting on and taking off many different collars on our pooches several times a day. And reading a bit. And giving thanks for being able to do a little straightening, flexing and gliding, considering the knee and all.  🙂

Be Good To Each Other

August 20, 2013 | My Jottings

There are times in life when things get so complicated, so difficult, so painful, that we feel paralyzed and can barely put one foot in front of the other. Whenever things get like this in my life, I just want it to stop, NOW. I want relief, YESTERDAY. If my circumstances would allow it, I could easily be the agoraphobic hermit who rarely goes out, who takes to her bed in a fetal position, and whose prayers are reduced to streaming tears and two-word prayers like, “Lord, please.” “Jesus, help!”

But I do go out when I must, and I don’t often take to my bed, because as most of you know, I’m the Chief Plate Spinner here and I have people depending on me. I have whimpering times when I wish someone would just take care of me, and I’ve even been sniveling enough to whisper those words, “When is someone going to take care of me for a change?” Oh brother, even typing that makes me want to gag. But sometimes it’s true.

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Yesterday I asked the Lord for a clean slate. I realize that each day is just that already, a new chance to walk with Him, to be cleansed and set out on His path again, to receive the innumerable mercies He lovingly pours out. But I needed to mark the clean slate somehow. So I signed up for a daily reading plan at She Reads Truth, an online movement encouraging believing women to dig into their Bibles each day for the spiritual food and strength and help they need. I know a few people who have been following along with She Reads Truth for a long time, but I had never made the commitment. If you look at the site you’ll see there’s a current plan being followed right now, and there are other plans you can choose from. I chose one on prayer, and have so far loved sitting down these past two mornings after everyone in my household has been cared for, and just baring my tired soul to my Father. Each day there’s a short but meaty devotional, then sections of scripture to read, and then I take notes, writing down the things I feel the Lord is shining a light on. I sit in quiet and in stillness, and I turn my heart and mind to Him, and wait. And I write in my gratitude journal, loving the picture of how I’m passing through His very own gates (“I will enter His gates with Thanksgiving in my heart….”) when I’m being thankful. Today I thanked the Lord that Edith the scruffy Schnauzer jumped up next to me on the chair when I was praying, wanting to be close. I thanked Him for air conditioning on a day when the first heat advisory in years has been issued. I thanked Him for a clean slate and how He doesn’t give clean slates grudgingly.

After I got up out of my comfy black and red plaid overstuffed chair, I asked the Lord to guide my day and help me to do something, anything, that would be pleasing to Him. And when I prayed that prayer, the tears fell. God has everything. He is the source of all the power of the universe and doesn’t need a thing. He has it all — lakes, trees, oceans, the cattle on a thousand hills, the stars, galaxies and beyond. But there is something He doesn’t get as often as He deserves, and that is people who want to bring blessing and pleasure to Him, instead of continually asking that God would bring blessing and pleasure to them. And in that moment I believe the Lord nudged me on how pleasing Him could happen today. Two things came to mind. I have two dear friends who need prayer today, and I have and will be lifting them up to Him all day long. No fancy words, no eloquent discourses will escape from my lips, most likely. But I will pray for them, and keep bringing them to Him, over and over. And the second thing that came to mind was simple and profoundly this, “Be good to each other.” There are many verses in Scripture that say this in one way or another, so this isn’t a new concept.

For me, this could mean giving an extra hug to Michael. It could mean carefully and genuinely listening to someone talk for a long time about things I don’t find interesting. It could mean that when I go to pick up prescriptions today, the person behind the counter might need me somehow to be good to them. What would that mean? I have no idea, but I know God can prod and help me when the time comes. It could mean giving more money than I’m comfortable with to a ministry that serves the poor. It could mean holding my tongue.

For another person, being good to each other might mean that even though her spouse is either driving her crazy or bringing her grief, she can still be good to him. (In no way am I talking about enabling, either.) Or it could mean reading a book to a child when ten other things are calling your name. It could mean turning the computer off. Being good to each other might mean to not roll your eyes when your wife says that again. It could mean saying, “It’s hard for me to say this, but I was wrong. Will you forgive me?” It might mean refusing to speak badly about someone even if we think they deserve it. It could mean blessing someone who’s been mean to you.

I’m on a prayer/goodness adventure today. I’m praying for my friends, and I’m watching to see how the Lord wants me to be good to the people in my life.

How about you? Can you think of how “being good to each other” might look in your life? I would be honored if you would share.

Lord, I ask you to bless every person who takes the time to stop by this humble spot on the web today. Touch their lives, encourage them, make Yourself known to them, set them on the right paths, and save them (and me!) from all that we need saving from….  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

My Monday Meditation

August 19, 2013 | My Jottings

One thing I ask from the Lord,
    this only do I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
    all the days of my life,
to gaze on the beauty of the Lord
    and to seek him in his temple.

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For in the day of trouble
    he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent
    and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:4-5

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Michael loved this movie

August 14, 2013 | My Jottings

Michael and I watched a movie last night and loved it, so I thought I’d recommend it to you here. It’s called “Door to Door,” and is a true story based on the life of salesman Bill Porter. The cast is William Macy (who did a phenomenal job), Helen Mirren (whose American accent was flawless), Kyra Sedgwick, Kathy Baker, and Felicity Huffman.

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Here’s the short trailer to the movie.

And here’s another one that’s a bit longer, and gives you a better feel for the movie.

Michael laughed and wiped tears through the whole film. I know he’d like to see it again.

And not long ago we watched “Quartet,” starring Maggie Smith and many other wonderful actors. 🙂 We liked the movie a lot but if you check it out you might want to know there’s a bit of language. Here’s the trailer for that one.

Have you watched anything good lately that you can recommend?

Romans 12:12

August 12, 2013 | My Jottings

Quite a while ago I painted a wall in our dining room with black chalkboard paint. After the paint cured for a couple of days, I drew a decorative border on it. Then I waited for inspiration to strike. Then I waited some more. And I waited a long time. I plan on writing on wall now and then, but since it won’t be a daily thing, I wanted to “christen” the wall with something meaningful.

Yesterday I chose Romans 12:12, and drew with chalk on the wall:

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction and faithful in prayer.”

I’m preaching to myself every single day with this verse. As a matter of fact, after something sudden and annoying happened yesterday, Michael could tell by the way I was moving around in the kitchen that I was a tad irritated with someone who had made a truly selfish choice. Guess what Michael did? He looked at me and pointed at the verse I’d just chalked up on the wall.

Sigh.

Exactly.

I still haven’t decided if I’m done with it, but this is what’s there for now:

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I wish I could do something as beautiful as this, or this. Aren’t those examples absolutely stunning? And oh my, what about this?

Well, this is my first attempt and I think I’ll live with it for a while before I decide if all those bare spaces need a few little flourishes for fillers. A twist of fern leaf? A swirly or two? Some wheat?

What do you think? What would you add?

Knee Replacement Journal — Part Five

August 8, 2013 | My Jottings

July 8 – August 4, 2013 — The days have turned into weeks, and I am almost eight weeks post-op. Every day I still ice and elevate, at least four times. My six week checkup with Dr. David Palmer goes well. He says my incision has healed perfectly. He checks my range of motion and says my extension is good, my flexion a bit behind. But I already knew that, because even after all this time, I still have a hard time bending my knee past 90 degrees. I seem stuck at 95 degrees when I’m measured at Physical Therapy, and if the PT gently pushes past that, the lower quadriceps muscle which attaches to the patella begins to scream and I almost see stars. One thing I’m very grateful for, and that is I’ve finally been able to do full revolutions on the exercise bike, which is a huge milestone for a knee replacement patient. When it happens I close my eyes, put my head back and whisper, “Thank you Lord, thank you, thank you, thank you.” Perhaps I will buy myself a bicycle for Christmas after all. I wonder if they make really nice new modern bikes with tractor seats?

At the surgeon’s office they take three x-rays and I can’t wait to see them. One view is taken from the front, one view is of the knee bent slightly, from the side, and one is taken from above with my knees bent, so the placement of the resurfaced kneecap can be seen. When I’m in the consulting room and Dr. Palmer shows them to me on his computer screen, I gasp. Even my untrained eyes can see the huge difference in my tibia’s placement. I used to have a Swiftly Tilting Tibia because the lateral meniscus was virtually gone. My lower leg splayed out away from the center of my body, in what is called a valgus slant. And it hurt. Now, as you can see in the x-ray below, my right calf is straight, and matches the other one.

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If you never saw the first x-ray, I’ll refresh your memory:

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Dr. Palmer says my stiffness is common, the warmth of my knee is typical because of the extreme tissue trauma this surgery causes, and that it could take up to a year for me to feel okay. I’ve read and heard that before, so it’s just another reminder to be patient. To be a patient patient.

I had never had an x-ray done of my left knee, so when the double knee film comes back I am quite happy to see the good space between my tibia and femur. I plan no second knee replacement in this lifetime, and hope those bones cooperate with my plan.

As the doctor leaves the room he shakes my hand, tells me to keep icing and elevating at least four times a day, to make another appointment to come back for a recheck in six weeks, and this is his parting comment: “This is never easy.”

Ha. Understatement of the year.

Here’s Dr. Palmer, the architect of my new knee, the surgeon who has done thousands of these surgeries and is one of the top docs in the country.

David_Palmer_MD_Orthopedic_surgeonEvery week is much the same, with small variations to the days. I care for those in my care, while taking many breaks a day to care for myself. I do a little grocery shopping. I spend a little time with my grandchildren. I make simple meals, and order meals that are delivered. I read. I do my Gideon Bible study. I sit and do paperwork in 30 minute increments. I enjoy Instagram and post an occasional photo there. (Follow me on Instagram at JulieBalm). When discouraged at my glacial progress, I check in at bonesmart.org and see that others are progressing glacially too. Michael and I watch TV in the evenings together, and we enjoy The Closer, Mad About You, and Midsomer Murders, all delivered to our mailbox from Netflix. I make one pot of tea each day and enjoy having a cup when I’m icing and elevating and reading.

The surgical pain is gone. Now there’s a new, different kind of pain on the inside of my knee, about an inch from the kneecap. My Physical Therapist thinks it’s nerve pain and she thinks the cantankerous culprit is the saphenous nerve. My friend Su has been having saphenous pain too. I am not taking pain medication regularly anymore. I just take one 5 mg. pill at night before I sleep, and it helps me stay comfortable. When I’m out of those pills, that will be the end of my short-term friendship with narcotics.

The stiffness is ever present. It might be 5% better than it was weeks ago, but I never take a step without being aware of the vice around my joint. I am tolerating it better, and don’t feel quite as trapped as I did before. For this slight adjustment, I give thanks.

At Physical Therapy I’m working on stairs, a Pilates bench, the recumbent bike, and on flexion/bending, the latter of which is still one of the hardest physical things I’ve ever done. I think if someone gave me a choice right now between doing daily heel slides for another year in hopes of regaining knee flexion, or laboring and giving birth to a baby, I’d take the baby.

I also tend to some things that seem (sort of) important right now. I hire a highly recommended local masonry contractor to repair some mortar around our chimney, and prepare the whole thing for a gas insert. We plan to have one installed in the fall, so we can enjoy cozy fires in our dining room fireplace this winter. I call our attorney and make an appointment to update our wills, and to finally draw up a health care directive. Every time we see a doctor they ask, “Do you have a health care directive?” and we always say no. Now we’ll be able to say yes. We have spelled out what kind of heroic medical measures we want employed on us when we get old and terminal, which is mostly no heroic measures at all. We also have our attorney draw up a legal document that would make our five daughters instant 1/5 owners of our home if Michael and I were to die together. This will help them avoid probate, and many long and drawn out legal tasks.

I read on bonesmart.org that the second stage of recovery doesn’t really begin until a knee replacement patient is twelve weeks post-op. This is another comfort to me. I feel like I’m on The Knee Train. The train is moving, and I can see from my seat in the second class coach car that we are making some progress, but we’re not chugging along very fast. I feel like I need to telegraph ahead to whoever is waiting for me at The Happy and Finally Recovered Knee Resort, that my train will not be arriving when I thought it would. I might arrive at the new station in nine more months or so, or even in about a year. There are some days I’d like to get off this train. But then I see the beautiful scenery outside as we chug along at five miles per hour. If I weren’t on this train I might miss the orange Indian paintbrush waving in the meadow, the shapes in the clouds, the mama deer and her two fawns, and the curling wisps of ground fog in that distant glen.

Thank you for stopping by, dear friends and family….

Toot-toot,

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 105

August 7, 2013 | My Jottings

Kindness-cat-and-bird

“So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness.

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope: Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than:  Try to be kinder.”

~~George Saunders

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Two Brilliant Children’s Books

August 6, 2013 | My Jottings

I have such good memories of reading out loud to my children. I read to them long after they were able to read for themselves, often in the car on a road trip or right before bed. During the last year of home schooling, Sara and I read 54 books together, and one of my favorites came from that time.

Our literature-based curriculum said we had to read Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman, HA10-land when I looked at the cover I said to myself, “Bleh.” I try never to judge a book by its cover but a story about a boy climbing a mountain just wasn’t something I wanted to delve into that year. We sat on the couch and started reading, though, while the snow fell outside and a tiny fire burned in our living room fireplace. The first chapter was okay. The second chapter better. And by the third chapter, Sara was saying, “Mom, please read another chapter!” and we couldn’t put it down after that.

I read this book out loud to my grandson Mr. McBoy last year, and the results were the same. He kept begging for me to read the next chapter and then the next, and it was a book that made our hearts thrill. This book would be a wonderful gift to any child/pre-teen in your life, definitely one you’d want to own. In fact, recently I realized that I’d forgotten who I loaned my copy to, so I bought a new one. I don’t ever want it not to be on my book shelves. 🙂  If you read this to a child, they need to be a good listener. I don’t think a five year-old would understand it, but I think a seven or eight year-old could. And as it is with most good children’s books, Banner in the Sky is fantastic for adults too.

The other book I would like to tell you about today is one of my all-time favorites. I just finished reading it out loud to three of my grandchildren and to say they loved it and hung on every word would be quite an understatement. It’s out of print (to my knowledge) but you can get used copies, and it’s worth every dime or dollar you might have to pay. It’s called The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein by one of my favorite children’s authors, Carol Ryrie Brink.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAI can’t remember how many times I’ve read this book. It’s the story of a brainy, sensitive, lonely little girl named Irma who tells a whopper of a lie. The consequences of that lie and the lessons learned are so huge that I found myself sobbing as I read the last few chapters to my grandchildren this week.

My first copy fell apart and I sent away for another one, and it’s one I will always want to be on my shelves. There are a few grandchildren I haven’t read this to yet, and I’m anxious to begin again with them.

I’ve always loved Trina Schart Hyman’s illustrations as well, and every time I came to a page with a drawing on it, the children crowded around me to study the details and smile at each one. Hyman was such a gifted artist — in the past I’ve checked books out of the library just because she was the illustrator.

Here’s one of the drawings from The Bad Times of Irma Baumlein:

s_p1250772I’ve mentioned this before, but I think any book by Carol Ryrie Brink is a treasure. The Pink Motel, Winter Cottage, Caddie Woodlawn and Magical Melons are all beautiful in their own way.

Now I’ve started another book with one of my grandchildren — Fred Gibson’s Old Yeller. I’m familiar with the story from the movie so I know we’ll be crying before the last page is turned. But that’s okay. Crying over good literature with someone you love is one of the best things in life, in my opinion.

Some of you have shared the titles of your favorite children’s books before, but I’d love for you to share again if you would. There are new readers here and we all could use a good recommendation on how to bless the lives of the children we love!

Happy reading….

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