Book Review: Murder on Moonshine Hill

I had the pleasure of reading this book in advance of its publish date.  I would encourage all of you to download it on August 23rd when it is released.  You will thoroughly enjoy the latest from Joan C. Curtis.  Here is my review:

Riveting and engaging from the start, Murder on Moonshine Hill is yet another book of Joan Curtis’ one can’t put down. Thrust back into the never dull life of Jenna Scali, the reader follows her along as Jenna reconnects with an old friend she hasn’t seen in years. Being invited to her wedding after years of being apart has Jenna curious enough to grab her go-to buddy Quentin and head for the mountains of North Carolina. The trip is full of mystery as she arrives at the somewhat secluded hotel for the weekend. What was intended to be a short trip quickly turned into a maze of questions and drama surrounding the surprise murder of someone in the immediate group.  Not one to shy away from a good scoop, Jenna goes into detective mode and grows closer to her friend in ways she didn’t see coming. This book keeps you guessing and glued to the story of friendship, murder, suspense and more. Well done Joan Curtis!

May Crowning

flowers from May CrowningSo often we go through the motions of life, not really fully appreciating the little moments right in front of us. We’re so anxious to hurry up and get done and move onto the next thing. If we’re not careful, life will pass us by and we’ll be stuck wondering “What just happened?” This past Wednesday at the Holy Spirit School weekly mass, we held the traditional Crowning of the Blessed Mother. I knew vaguely what was going to happen but when I walked into the church to find our middle schoolers gathered in the back by the baptismal fountain with a flower in one hand, and clutching their buddy’s hand, I couldn’t help but smile. The entrance hymn started and the procession began. 8th grade teachers and staff watched with pride as a mix of students walked hand-in-hand with their buddies down the aisle. Cell phones and cameras were raised to capture the moment and parents beamed. I turned to my Mom and said, “I don’t remember doing that when I was here.” Apparently my Mom’s memory and that of my 5th grade teacher’s is better than mine as they both agreed we did in fact participate in May Crowning. Well, regardless, this year’s was absolutely beautiful. Thanks to this job, I have been able to sit back and appreciate all the different ways that our school commemorates events like this. When I saw our 8th graders walk down the aisle, with their buddy looking up at them in awe, I simply smiled. Shortly after returning to my office, I immediately sent out an email to our Middle School Religion teacher (aka my 5th grade teacher) and a few other key individuals telling them congrats on a job well done.

In this thing called life, let’s remember to soak up the little moments….

Looking Back on 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, I thought this was a good time to reflect and look back on an eventful year.  One of the many “highs” of the year was my trip to Hawaii in early February to cheer on the OU Softball team in their first games of the season.  From the team starting off with many wins, to learning (read: attempting) to snorkel, to stopping multiple times along coastline to take breathtaking photos, soaking up history at Pearl Harbor…the trip was a blast and one I’d repeat in a heartbeat.

hawaii 2015

View from room at Hilton Hawaiian Village

While that was only the beginning of 2015, the year seemed to go by fast and with a monumental event like losing a parent, you realize just how fast life can go.  From early spring, we knew my Dad’s days were numbered and saw this as an opportunity to start preparing ourselves (not everyone has this chance and we were grateful for the time).  Dad started to go downhill and throughout the whole ordeal of being on hospice, he maintained a great attitude, still having the energy to roll his eyes and yell at the TV for some political comment made on Fox News.  Dad passed peacefully on June 6th and with no regrets.  We were so touched by all the phone calls, notes and people showing up at the various services to be there for us.  My sisters and I were once again able to see just how many lives our parents have touched.

Once back home in Norman, I dove into work and also into helping to plan the 50th anniversary of my grammar school.  One of my former teachers and I exchanged texts and emails on a daily basis trying to put together what we wanted to be a memorable, fun event.  As with most everything she does, she sets the bar high.  This was no different…and she met those very high expectations quite easily (well-done, Ardie Herring).  The evening was a success filled with alumni ranging graduates of the 1970’s to 2000’s and teachers, both current and former (including one we hadn’t seen in 27 years).  This short weekend “home” (San Antonio) increased my interest even more to be there on a more permanent basis and I headed back to Norman this time with a determination to do whatever it took to move closer to family.  In late October, I received a text from a former teacher (see how it pays off to keep in touch) about an opening at my old grammar school.  A week later, I interviewed with the committee and a few days after that, I accepted the job of Admissions Director.  Two weeks later, my house was ready to be put on the market and my Mom, middle sister and I drove two cars full of my things down to San Antonio.

While we knew it would be hard, we also made this past Thanksgiving an inspirational and productive one.  For a while now, my middle sister Kathy wanted to do something to honor our Dad.  After bouncing a few ideas around, putting them on paper and getting the green light from her very practical husband, our new venture of Live.Simple was born.  I would love for you all to read “Our Story” about how it all began.candle

I’ve been told that all of the “firsts” are hard…holidays, birthdays and various events without those people we’ve lost.  The tears Continue reading

Elsa & Fred

Dear Friends,

Due to Norman and the state of Oklahoma turning into a winter wonderland yesterday, I had the day off thanks to our conscientious university president, David Boren.  At first when I woke up to find no freezing rain, I shook my head and wondered why school was cancelled.  But as I slowly made my way to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee and proceeded to enjoy 2 full, uninterrupted hours of my favorite morning show, CBS This Morning, I began to be okay with not having to rush into the shower and off to work.  I sipped my coffee in peace and eventually thanked President Boren for the unexpected day off.  After catching up on a few of my recorded shows like Downton Abbey, I decided to flip on over to Netflix.  One of the first suggestions that came on the screen was Elsa & Fred.  I clicked to read more though it didn’t take me long to want to watch.  As if the sweet, romantic plot wasn’t enough, here is the list of main characters: Christopher Plummer, Shirley MacLaine, Marcia Gay Harden and Christopher Noth.  Need I say more?  I have always been a sucker for romantic comedies and good dramatic movies and this certainly met my expectations.  I won’t spoil the movie but here’s the gist: Elsa (played by MacLaine) befriends her new neighbor (Plummer) by getting him out of his apartment and brings him out of his crusty-like appearance.  The two end up being great companions for each other and falling in love.  I would highly encourage you to watch it sometime.  The acting is great, plot is good and cast…well, they’re all award-winners so you can’t go wrong there.

Oh, and a shout out to my friend Betsy who has a movie blog of her own.  I certainly don’t have the vast knowledge she does of movies.  You should check out her list of suggestions and critique of movies.

Stay warm!

Mary

Finally Friday: Start of A New Chapter

Forgive my not having done a Finally Friday segment in a while. Tonight is the preseason “Meet the Sooners” banquet for the OU Softball team. I have been involved with the program (specifically the booster club) for a few years now and have thoroughly enjoyed it. This is such a fun night where we get to interact with the players, fellow donors and fans and of course get an introduction to the new season and team. I have been told the girls are raring to go and get 2015 off to a great start. Speaking of, their first game is only days away and will take place in Hawaii. When the possible tournament and their choice to play there was shared, I couldn’t help but be interested in going. I mean, it’s Hawaii…what was there to think about? How long do I stay? Who do I want to go with? Those questions were quickly answered and the ball quickly got rolling. Now, here we are, 4 days away from leaving Oklahoma City for Honolulu. Needless to say, I’m so unbelievably excited and am looking forward to the trip for so many reasons. I’m going with a friend of mine who has been there before and has been on cloud nine ever since we chose to go. I love seeing her so happy and excited…she’s been like a giddy child and has been fun to watch.
This will be my first time to Hawaii so I’m ready to enjoy every moment. As a friend just told me yesterday, “Life’s too short.”

So as I enjoy a day off from work to do some errands and get ready for tonight, I wish you all a great Friday and weekend ahead. There will definitely be more blog posts about this new chapter and this amazing trip. Continue reading

Lifelong Sooner With a Big Heart

Jakie Sandefer

Like previous times when I have received sad news of a Sooner taken from us too early, I feel the need to share my story in their honor as a way of processing.  Two days ago, I heard that former Sooner football player Jakie Sandefer, was quite ill.  My boss stood there and told me, “He’s in the hospital and they don’t think he’ll make it.”  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I wanted to say, “But I just saw him a few months ago…”  Word quickly spread and I made sure a friend of mine who also worked with me in the suites and private donor areas also knew of his status.  We both reached out to his secretary to share that our thoughts and prayers were with him and his family.  Just about an hour ago, I got the news that Jakie passed away after “fighting the good fight.”  Jakie was such a generous man and made it his mission to help former student-athletes with finding their passion in life.  You couldn’t help but hear the genuine, heartfelt desire to help others when speaking to him on the phone or in person.  Just this past football season, I popped up to the suites level to say hi to a few people and ran into Jakie.  He was telling Paul Massad, longtime staff member of the University Development office, how much he thought of my boss and that he was proud of the work being done to help former student-athletes.  He had just recently created the program Sooners Helping Sooners to do just that.  Because of his generous, kind spirit, I can smile through the sadness knowing he left this world better than he found it.  He not only made his mark on the University of Oklahoma, but touched so many individual lives.  I am very grateful to be one of those lives.  Jakie now joins other Sooners we have lost too early: Prentice Gautt, David Maloney, Bob Coleman, Karl Moyer and many more.  I’m sure the lively discussions have already begun.

Book Review: The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans

You know those obligatory functions and parties we are all invited to each holiday season where we (speaking as a single person) wish there wasn’t that awkward “Spouses or significant others are welcome” thrown out there? I’ve been at those parties where I am the only one who didn’t come with a date. Sometimes it bothers me…but for the most part, I go and have fun, not letting it take away from my enjoyment. My latest book review is on The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans. When it comes to the holidays, I’m a sucker for a sweet, love story. I love the season that is just about over…the season of warm holiday movies and curling up with a good book that grab at our heartstrings. No violence, no crude scenes and no foul language…just strong characters and excellently written plots that makes us not want to put the book down. This was one of those books. Evans designed a story of two characters from different worlds but yet who worked in the same building. Nicholas Derr is an attorney with a healthy income and Elise Dutton is an administrative assistant who is more conscientious of her money. Derr, a handsome individual, notices Elise on a few occasions but takes a while to get the courage to go up and talk to the woman who has intrigued him. After he finally introduces himself, he gets right to the point. Nick proposes that they be each other’s date to their various obligatory holiday functions and this will all commence on Christmas Eve. At first, Elise is not sure of this idea from a total stranger. But 24 hours later, he once again joins her for lunch and brings the requested “contract” with him showing he’s serious. After going over the terms, they agree but not before changing it to a “promise” instead of contract.  To them, it sounded better.  The story goes on and describes in detail the various events.  One of my favorite parts was how Evans created such a sweet, gentleman-like character in Nicholas.  Nick sends Elise a gift each day.  As the gifts get more extravagant, Elise tries to refuse but Nick persists that he wants to do these things.  The story gives me hope that chivalry is not dead…even if this is only fiction.  Other details unfold about Nick and Elise…..oh, and as to what happens after their “promise” is fulfilled…..guess you’ll just have to read the book and see.   Happy Reading!