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Here in northern Iowa and southern Minnesota, we’ve been snowed in by a blizzard for the last few days. For two days, we were completely cut off from the rest of the world by 6 and 7 foot high drifts up and down our road. Now that the plows have come through, there are walls of snow 8 or 9 feet high on either side of the road, and the drifts that haven’t been already been blasted away are as hard as cement. Our temperatures heading into the month of March are forecast to be in the single digits, so there’s no sign of a spring thaw anytime soon.

Blizzard photo 2On Sunday, church was cancelled for the first time in decades, and I’ve been totally discombobulated ever since, wondering what day it is and awakening in the night thinking it’s time to get up and play the piano. Our schools have had 10 snow days in less than a month and at the rate we’re going, they may be making up days until the 4th of July.

Zion 2013 snowy

Not to complain… our electricity has stayed on and we have heat. We had plenty of warning that the storm was on its way so we were able to get where we needed to be before the weather turned the roads to glare ice and stock up on food to eat while we were snowed in.  Thank goodness!

Blizzard - 2019

Is it just me, or do you get hungry for good old-fashioned comfort foods when something in your life isn’t going quite right?  This weekend, I’ve had meatloaf, home-grown sausage, egg salad sandwiches, and raisin cinnamon bread with a lot of smooth, creamy butter spread on top – and a lot of wonderful cheeses because I was supposed to have a cheese tasting party (it also fell victim to the blizzard).

Cheese

I have a lot of other foods that I associate with warm, cozy feelings – chocolate chip cookie dough (well, any kind of cookie dough), Grandma Hansen’s chicken pie with baking powder biscuits on top, homemade apple pie, Skippy Super Chunk peanut butter and butter sandwiches… I could go on… This is part of the reason I struggle with my weight.  But my point is that food does a great job of  soothing frazzled emotions and making us happy. So do books, and they’re a lot less fattening!

Food - Strawberry Pie 2.jpg

Reading a favorite book can take you back to happier, less stressful times. Books can transport you to another part of the world, a different era in time, or an altogether unique universe where fantasy reigns. In a well-woven story, dreams can come true. The characters in a wonderful book can reassure you that things could be worse – that your life and your problems aren’t half bad after all. A good novel can help you to dream again, to move forward and keep trying when your own world seems hopeless.

Quilt - bear

Books can fill your heart with hope. They can uplift you and make you laugh. They can provide a quick escape from the harsh realities of life and renew your perspective.

Celtic Crosses

That’s why I like reading a good book when I’m stranded in a blizzard, trying to relax, or feeling anxious and overwhelmed by what’s going on in my life.

Wildflowers

My love for books helped shape my business, a bed and breakfast and country inn called the Blue Belle Inn, just as my passion for good food has. If you come to visit, you’ll find rooms named Never Neverland, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Secret Garden, Anne’s House of Dreams, A Wrinkle in Time, and Heaven to Betsy from Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy Tacy books. I’m a writer because Betsy Ray was, and if Laura Ingalls Wilder could make it through the Long Winter, then I can survive these horrible winds and snowstorms we keep having.

Scot - Chanonry Point

If you’re an avid reader, you know exactly what I mean. If you haven’t picked up a book in awhile – I urge you to give reading a second chance. Whether you need comforting or calming, perking up or settling down, a good book can help. Hopefully, it will bring a smile to your face and a song to your heart.  Cookie dough might give you a momentary lift, but reading can change your life.

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On my birthday, when I was 10 years old, my parents let me invite 6 girlfriends over for a bunking party. My friends rode home with me on the school bus that cold, February afternoon, not knowing that a blizzard was bearing down on southern Minnesota, or that it would be almost four days before we would be plowed out and able to get the girls home. By the end of the four days, three of the girls had decided they didn’t like me, and preferred to be friends with my younger sister, Becky. The other three stayed loyal to me – the battles we had must have driven my parents crazy.

After that, it didn’t matter whether or not the buses were running on the country roads or how deep the drifts in the driveway were – my Dad would put us all in the pick-up and barrel down the road to town – whatever it took to get us out of the house and into town for school. If there was any way to avoid it, there was no way he and my mother were going to be stranded at home with four cranky, overly-energetic kids, ever again.

That was my first memorable experience with Stormy Weather, and the havoc it can wreak.

Since then, I’ve had to drive in sleet, through white-outs, and on sheets of glare ice. I’ve experienced floods, straight winds, and hail storms.

I’ve been on a mountain during a lightning storm, and headed to the basement with the tornado sirens blaring too many times to count.

SW - Front Cover

In my soon-to-be-published, second book, Stormy Weather, Rachael Jones is caught up in a maelstrom of wild weather that acts as a catalyst for everything that’s good and bad and uncertain in her life. Focusing on Stormy Weather, and how different people react to it, has made me think about the rough patches in my own life, and how I’ve dealt with them.

When a tornado threatens your world, do you cower in the basement with your arms over your head until the storm has passed, or do you head out with the storm chasers in hopes that you’ll get some good photos of the phenomenon?

In my husband’s sermon a couple of weeks ago, Paul gave thanks for the storm that left them shipwrecked on the Island of Malta, where he was able to share the Good News with the islanders who rescued them.

When your life is beset by a rash of stormy weather, do you become bitter and cynical, even blame God, like Rachael does, or like Mac, do you believe that everything unfolds the way it’s meant to, that all things work together for good, that golden opportunities – even rainbows – are born out of even the most adverse situations…?

Does Stormy Weather terrify or excite you? How do you cope when the sky unleashes it’s fury on your little corner of the world?

“A storm is brewing, and as usual, Rachael Jones is in the middle of the fray. If the local banker succeeds in bulldozing the Victorian houses she’s trying to save, she’s in for yet another rough time before the skies clear. The only bright spots on the horizon are her friendship with Luke… and her secret rendezvous with Mac… Is Rachael meant to weather the storm with Luke, who touches her heart and soul so intimately, or with Mac, who knows each sweet secret of her body? STORMY WEATHER… Stay tuned for the latest forecast!”

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