Chicago Skyscapes – Skywatch Friday -March 20th, 2015

I had the pleasure of enjoying a trip to America’s second largest city this past weekend. Chicago is a sprawling place and I think we managed to see 75% of it as we made trips to the symphony, St. Patrick’s Day parade, Lake Michigan dinner cruise, Field museum and to see the Blue man group.

This was not my first time to see skyscrapers, but surely the first with so many.

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This is part of the Skywatch Friday weekly link-up.

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Macro Monday 2


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Places – Daily Post – 3/16/15

The Daily Post for 3/16/15 asks:  Beach, mountain, forest, or somewhere else entirely?

This post is particularly timely as only five hours previous I finally exited a chartered bus along with 100 or so harried band students from my daughter’s high school from a marvelous four day trip to America’s second largest city. They, along with students from the other three high school bands from our small (<60,000 residents) county formed a superband in Chicago to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade on Saturday. The idea is to qualify for a chance to go to bigger parades such as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the The Rose Bowl Parade.

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A little information to give you perspective, we live in the mountains of Virginia. By that I meqan there are mountains all around us. Needless to say the mountqains fell away as we entered Kentuck and were non-existent in either Indiana or Illinois. The only tall objects were some of the largest skyscrapers I had ever seen. Keep in mind I have been to Cincinnati, Dallas, Minneapolis and Cleveland.

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I heard many of the kids say they missed the mountains by yesterday, our third day. I have to agree. I love going to the beach, to the flatlands, the forest and other locales, but favor the mountainous region I call home over all the others.

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I’d Like to Thank My Cats – Daily Post for 3/9/15

You are receiving an award –- either one that already exists, or a new one created just for you. What would the award be, why are you being honored, and what would you say in your acceptance speech?

I guess everyone at some time thinks about receiving an award or recognition for something they do, either in their job or as a way to help others. But at the same time we must be careful in how and why we do things. The Bible tells us in Matthew Chapter 6, verse 1: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.


I am blessed to be gifted with an overwhelming desire to help others. It is part of my  J.O.Y. principle mantra: Jesus First, Others Second, Yourself last. I do things for no other reason than I feel it is the right thing to do. I do not crave attention or awards, just to serve my God faithfully with the health, strength and gifts he has blessed me with.

About a year and a half ago, however, I began saying this to my children, who are now 17 and nearly 20, respectively. Whenever I get the Wi-Fi working again, solve some insurmountable (in their estimation) problem or some such kind of thing I say “Don’t forget to vote for me for Father of the Year!”   Of course it is a joke on my part, but it can generate some laughs.

During this interminable winter with excessively high amounts of snow fall, I have had the opportunity to scoop out the driveway at my wife’s family’s driveway. For that occasion I re-tooled my words to say “Remember me when you fill out your ballot for Son-In-Law, Brother-in-Law and Husband of the Year!”

Personally I would rather others know they can count on me when in need than collect a trophy case full of hardware or awards. Not to say I won’t accept a  Pulitzer Prize or book award for my novels when I  publish. Some awards are okay if you have put in the hard work.

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2015 A to Z Preparation Progress Report

I  have only tried the April A to Z Blogging Challenge once. In 2013 I managed to create 26 unique blog posts tied to the 26 letters of the alphabet. At that time I only had the mother ship blog, Joe’s Musings and did not select a theme for my posts. Instead I tried the dart board approach. You know what I mean, find a topic that used the letter required each day. It was a harried approach, but I really did not have a lot of lead time as i found out about it right before the start.

This year I have been planning since the turn of the year and am in great shape with three weeks remaining before the start. I am making great progress and feel ready to share this with other bloggers in hopes of encouraging them that it can be done. This is my report of progress as  prepare to take on the A to Z  times 4!

The most developed of the four to this point is the ones for the Movies, TV and Streamin, Oh My blog. Of the 26 I have 10 of the 26 posts completed and except for scheduling and perhaps tweaking the Twitter feed accompanying them when they post they are ready to go. Percentage wise that comes up to 38%, which is not too bad.

Next as far as completion goes is Faith By Acts. I have 13 skeletons in place. The skeletons have the beginning of a title and the letter graphic supplied by the A to Z team. I will still have to select the bible verses I want for these and add my comments. Chasing the Blooms is still at the very basic stages, except that I have several photographs ready for this theme.

Ballin’ All the Time, my sports-centered blog is way in the distance as far as planning and preparing. It may not make the cut of blogs I try to include this year.  I am still working that out within my blogging calendar for March and April. As i said in my  last post about skeletons and themes if I bring all four to the party it means creating 104 unique letter based posts.

So how about you? Are you joining this year? Will you go nuts like me with more than one blog? Share your experience so we can all commiserate/learn in the process.

Posted in Blogging, Blogging Challenge, Faith, Fiction, Fiction Series, Friday Fictioneers, gardening, Movies, NASCAR, Religion, sports, weather, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

February Editorial Calendar for my blogs

February is always the shortest month, so always gets the short end of everything. Leap year even steals a day from this month, making the deal even tighter. But I can say with pride I did not short change Our old friend FEB this time around. No sir, I made every effort to give February its full due, managing to post something to one of my blogs on all but 5 days.

Why five you ask? Well first of all you must understand Saturdays are usually off limits. You see that is my day to exit the confines of my work and writing abode and dig in the dirt, or snow as the case has been this month, or do whatever projects have been piling up. Then you have the other two days and no subject seemed ripe enough to tackle.

That is not to say I did not post more than once per day. On my busiest, the 2nd and 19th I managed to lay three posts into the fire. Some of the days are usual post days, like Friday Fictioneers on Wednesday, Sunday Photo Fiction on Sunday and a new Floral Photo opportunity on Friday.

Now seems the right time to share a pic of the calendar for February.



Seeing it like this makes me feel pretty good about my efforts. Obviously it points out the lack of posts for one blog, Ballin’ All the Time. Up until yesterday the only effort there was a treatment of the Seahawks give away for the Super Bowl. I decided it was worth the time to put together a post concerning the NASCAR response to domestic violence by one of their stars. The Movies, TV and Web blog also received little notice, but perhaps I will see there is not enough interest to maintain either.

The Fiction Playground will predominantly get the most use. Fiction is my first love of writing. Following in a close second is my love of gardening, so you can be assured Chsing the Blooms will see its fair share of new material. While I would list my faith as the most important of all, writing good posts with that takes more rumination and so when I post on Faith by Acts I want it to be special.

As far as the mother ship, Joe’s Musings, it is left to be the catch all when the targeted blogs won’t hold the content like this particular post. You may find any topic here, including an upcoming piece about Facebook legacy services. What is this you ask? An option to set your successor on Facebook, one who can make updates after you pass. That is important you know!

So there you have my report on myself for the month of February. I must say overall it is pretty nice looking from my perspective. I won’t bore you with mind numbing stats like views, followers added and likes, because it means little or nothing to anyone other than the author. I encourage you to graph out your calendar as well, to give yourself the gift of perspective.



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Preparing for April A to Z – Choosing themes and building skeletons

Two years ago I got in on a wonderful blogging adventure called the April A to Z Blogging Challenge. Coming out of winter into the favorite of my seasons, spring, I almost did not take part. You see my hobbies in order of rank are gardening, writing and sports. During this time of year when I am trapped inside due to the temperature or amount of white stuff (nearly 2o inches over the last eight days), my word counts soar and blogs posted are numerous.

But, come April 1st, that equation usually flips and I spend a considerable amount of time working on my 3.5 acres of land I affectionately refer to as Alpine Acres. Flowers, vegetables, cutting the grass, landscaping and upkeep quickly can fill your calendar and make any writing schedule seem arduous. So what to do? I mean I love the interaction and possible exposure to nearly 2,000 other A to Z participants, but there is only 24 hours in a day.

Now before I go on let me admit I have taken a step in the opposite direction as far as making the process more streamlined. You see last April I stepped back from my blog, Joe’s Musings and it was nearly the end of 2014 before I returned. You see I knew the focus was if not gone all wrong for my blogging. After those off months to consider the way ahead I decided to create blogs specific to certain themes of interest that usually were the main topics of my blogs.

Now I have a blog for fiction writing Fiction Playground, faith Faith By Acts, sports Ballin’ All the Time, gardening Chasing the Blooms entertainment Movies, TV and Streaming, Oh My! as well as a gig as administrator of a weekly (Sunday) photo fiction blog Sunday photo Fiction. As you can see if I commit to A to Z on the main blog and the others it means responsiblity for quality content for 6 blogs x 26 days or 156 posts. WOW! I had not done the math before right at this moment. 156 quality posts ( The A to Z crew I think recommends 350 or so words so people can read several in a day) is no small feat.

I am not really sure how many I will do, but I know for sure I will for FP, CTB, MTSOM and FBA, so with just the four I am looking at 104. To get all that right I decided to do two things. First of all, I chose a theme. Then I began to build the skeletons of my posts. You know what I mean, a draft that has the title and the jpg for the particular day.


Now this in no way guarantees the quality post, but starting on it this far ahead I have plenty of time to get done. Add in the convenient scheduling feature our fine friends from WordPress have provided and you will be golden on April 1st, 2nd and so on.

I recently floated through BLogging 201, trying to pick up as much as possible that can help to broaden my reach. One of the things I guess I knew but just have not followed through with is to create widgets to promote upcoming events. This time around I snatched the 2015 A To Z badge and have it nestled in the sidebar of all my par ticipating blogs. By the end of this week I will have the Countdown widget in them as well announcing the date of my theme reveal.


On March 23, nine days before the madness is unleashed many bloggers who committed to share their theme for the 2015 challenge will share the selected theme for their blog. While not a requirement by any means, it can help reduce the strain by giving you a clear pathway to solid and quality posts.

Many bloggers stress about trying to make some of the less used letters, such as Q, X and Z work on their A To Z adventure. The theme can help with that, but mainly you just have to begin early to allow the creative juices to simmer. I hope you enjoyed my plan to tackle this fun event and I invite you to visit my stable of blogs and let me know what you think.

Posted in Belize, bible study, Blogging, Blogging Challenge, blooms, Daily Prompt, Faith, flowers, gardening, vegetable gardening, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When The Anchor Fails, The Ship Will Drift

How do you like my choice of metaphor? The picture of the ship floating away seems appropriate here. Of course all this refers back to the situation the evening news anchor for NBC, Brian Williams, find himself in at this time. We hold the evening news anchor to a lofty standard and depend on them to give us the straight scoop. Or at least we did at one time.


Here is where I will invoke the names of David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. Oh, wait, Rather was caught lying too. As a matter of fact, his lie got him tossed from CBS. I suppose CBS has more cognizance of the implications of a lie by their anchor than our friends at NBC/Universal. Anchors, on evening news as well as morning programs carry a heavy responsibility. As the face of their programs and networks they are the face and must withstand intense scrutiny. In short, they should know if they say they did something or saw something they better be 100% truthful, because otherwise it will come back on them.

So why did i join into the chorus of those who are commenting about this matter? It is because just recently a 60 minute promo for the NBC Nightly News which is now being offered by my cable provider, COMCAST through there On Demand service. It is Mr. Williams pontificating about his role as the evening anchor and what he will do.

In his recording he talks about how “we are not fooling anyone anymore”. COMCAST removed this obviously as soon as this came to light because he was as much as admitting he had knowingly tried to fool people. We don;t tune in to the news because the anchors impress us, we tune in for the news. If their credibility is blown why would we believe anything they say? NBC what are you thinking. Replace the man and clean the slate or risk becoming the joke fo the news giving community.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Depth

The weekly photo challenge is one of my favorite recurring opportunities to delve into the photo archives and see what I can ferret out to apply to the weekly theme. I consider my photo bucket, no copyright infringement intended, to be pretty deep and usually can pick some appropriate representations without much effort. So here we go with the Depth theme.

I got an early idea to share the way the water in my dog’s water bucket froze in our chilly temperatures. The depth of freezing was more on the sides of the bucket where the air temperatures were lowest.

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My second Depth idea sprang from the massive hole I discovered when trying to clean up from some termite damage in my barn.



This hole opens into a larger den that is no telling how deep.

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Copyright - Tim Halloran

Today’s assignment: consider what you want to accomplish with your blog. Write down three concrete goals you want to achieve.

During this Blogging 201 :Branding and Growth concentration I hope to collect knowledge from other bloggers about how they get and keep long term visitors. Over three years I have drawn only about 34,000 visitors and I want to determine how to improve that. My goals?

1. Deliver solid, interesting content. Content draws eyeballs and if we are writing it is with the intent that someone will read, otherwise we are just cluttering cyberspace. Trust me I have seen quite a bit of it and the clutter is everywhere. I want to rise above the clutter to write something that will shine.

2. Develop my brand as a writer of fiction. I have three completed science fiction novels, a Young Adult fiction novel and a nearly completed mystery novel. But as far as the reading world knows I am a nobody. My goal with my blog is to develop my name recognition as a serious writer and then as my novels launch cross pro mote them through my blogs.

3. Stretch my range as a writer of complete, thrilling and desired fiction work. You know what I mean, I want o be like Grisham, Clancy, Flynn and Collins, those writers that immediately draw the reader to their latest release. Of course that requires a signature character like Mitch, Jack or Katniss. One way i will do this is to enjoy the A to Z Challenge through my Fiction Playground blog with the help of an editor who will give me a fresh fiction prompt each day of the A to Z, challenging me to create a complete story with 350 words or less.

I feel the reorganization of my blog into subject specific blogs will help with this, but I am willing to take tips from anyone willing to share.

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See The Fourth of July in All 50 States – A Blog Hop – PLEASE JOIN

The beauty of a flad is not truly shown until enough wind comes along to fully extend it from its rigging.

Celebrate the Fourth of July with your pictures here!

So I had this great idea last year ahead of the A to Z Challenge, but then came my writing sabbatical and it went by the boards. But here I am re-energized and ready to put the work in ahead of time on it this year and I invite you to join in. What’s the idea? To enlist people from every state of the U.S.A. to pledge to share their photos of their own or local 4th of July celebrations.

I have been part of an effort like this as a participant and I think the one who initiated it was from Hawaii. I cannot remember the gist of his particular collection of folks, I guess I could spend some time running back through my comments to see, but basically it was trying to do exactly this, enlist people from every state to take part.

This is where the mention of the A to Z Challenge comes in. For those of you unaware it is a challenge each April to write posts on some theme using every letter of the alphabet. Yes, I know April has 30 days, but Sundays are off days where you can read other’s posts or get ahead on your own. By bridging this announcement at the bottom of each of my A to Z post I hope to blanket the entirety of the nation.

So just to be clear that I am cognizant of our fellow writers outside the border of the USA, you are not excluded from joining in, I just expect the Independence Day celebration of the USA would not rate anywhere else.

So if you know someone in another state that is a writer point them this way. Below you will find a Linky List.

Simple rules:

When clicking the Linky List “You are next… Click here to enter” button, you’ll first be asked for the link title (your name) or blog title. Please add a hyphen and the two-letter state abbreviation AFTER your name/blog, so I can track which state you’ll be “representing.”

(e.g. Joe Owens – VA)

On Twitter, please promote the event by tweeting this post and/or using #50Statesof Independence hashtag.

We cannot leave out the folks who live in Facebook, so pass along this info to those as well so we can be sure to cover the map.
More than one entry from each state is allowed, in case one gets busy and forgets, we will still have each state represented. To help all gauge how we are doing I will post a map of the USA below and as the states are represented I will color them in. Since I am from Virginia I can color that one in and begin the countdown.


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Two Left Feet – Daily Post – Jan 21, 2015

Today’s Daily Post prompt asked what we MUST do within the first 30 minutes to get the day started off right. I guess the first thing is to greet everyone in the household if they are up. It may just be a simple good morning, but attitude is what you make it and one of my new 2015 leaves is to start the day with a positive attitude.

Daily Prompt

Recently, like in the last week I have made a habit of putting in 30 minutes on the treadmill each morning. Ostens I have developed a poor habit of staying sedentary fro long periods. ibly this will work to maintain or reduce my weight. But on a larger scale it is intended to help break the cycle of Wintertime blood clots. The last two years I have suffered from these ans I want to try to change my ways this year.

My 9 to 5 job is as a software tester. This means I have a laptop active all day as I sort through the work assigned to me. Unfortunately  I have developed a poor habit of staying sedentary for long periods. Combined with the time on the treadmill I have learned to make a conscious effort to get up peridoically and move around, doing laundry, dishes and errands.

The other usual activity and this has been on the  treadmill of late, is to plan the day. My energy level has increased and along with it a motivation to take care of a ton of odds and ends that have been lingering on the “to do” list. The sense of accomplishment for completing even small tasks is a powerful elixir for days when the Winter weather keeps me inside.

I look forward to reading others’ routines for their morning launch and invite you my reader to do the same.

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Re-springing Your Step – Daily Post – 19 Jan 2015

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Re-springing Your Step.

Daily Prompt

Today the Daily Post is asking us to share some event or situation that caused us to feel fresh, energized and rejuvenated. I actually have put a lot of thought intot his recently as I feel i am benefitting from a thorough example of this. But it is not only one change, but multiple.

First of all I finished a self-imposed writing hiatus of about nine months. Why you ask? Because i wasn’r satisfied with my writing. It is not like I forgot how to write, i just wasn’t writing material that made me satisfied.

I was deep into the edit of a fiction manuscript and all the joy had escaped so that it was more a chore than a joy. I don;t feel it is a reflection of the novel as it promises to be a fine work, it was just the approach.

The second major change and one I should have embraced long ago was a reprioitization of my devotion to bible study. If you have read my blogs before you know I am a Christian and proud to share that information with whomever wants to read. Recently however, I joined a group called Bible Study Fellowship that gives me an opportunity to meet with other men for a couple of hours each week and talk about our bible lessons. I have picked up so much from this and it seems to have awakened a hinger inside me for more.

Couple all this with the start of a new year and I consider it a great impetus for a change. Certainly the only difference between December 31 of 2014 and January 1 of 2015 is a single second, but it always has seemed to me like the time to flush the things dragging you down and start anew.

This is my example of  what energized me. What is yours?

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NYC Midnight – 9th Annual Short Story Challenge

Okay so everyone enjoys a challenge, right. I mean the word challenge ignites a thought pattern that you will have to summon your deepest skills to succeed at whatever comes after the word challenge. For a writer a challenge can simply be trying to put together a credible plot that can be developed into a full fledged story.

I just got this information about a short stroy challenge coming the end of this week that might be interesting to my fellow fiction wirters. It is hosted by NYC Midnight. The 9th Annual Short Story Challenge is a creative writing competition open to writers around the world. There are 3 rounds of competition. In the 1st Round (January 16-24, 2015), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment. Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words. The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (March 12-15, 2015) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story. Judges choose finalists from the 2nd Round to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (April 24-25, 2015). A panel of judges review the final round stories and overall winners are selected. NYC Midnight

Unfortunately since I got this notice so late the only entry deadline remaining is by January 15th, Thursday and the fee is $55. What do you get for this fee? Not only does every writer receive feedback from the judges for every story submitted, but a special review forum is available for the participants to submit their stories for review from fellow writers throughout the competition. During the Short Story Challenge 2014, there were over 3,300 comments made on the 200+ stories submitted on the forum.

Feedback is always a good thing and seeing what others write will help us all to improve.

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Joe’s Musings 3.0

Two Years. 730 odd days. Plenty of ups and downs in the markets and my own life. Nothing too horrible, just days or weeks that didn’t live up to expectations. In other words “life happened”. We all experience it, but writers have the drive and desire to ferret out morsels to use as a writing prompt. Finding something to write about should not be a chore. That is one truth I would list in my two year journey on WordPress.

Perhaps the most humbling truth is that quantity does not equal quality. Yes I know this is a fundamental truth that applies in all situations and something I should have known from the outset. I suppose I did, but I still allowed this simple principle to float to the periphery of my consciousness as I plunged headlong into the “rat race” of collecting page views. I became obsessed with the counter of views I received each day. To the point I was creating content not based on a thorough concept or subject, but just to have something out there.

Fame is an elusive goal. When we, as writers, see someone of our fraternity achieve wild success it surfaces the jealousy we all struggle to hold back. We are happy for them but wonder why we cannot see the same success. That is one of the reasons I plunged into the blogging pool. You see anonymity is one of a writer’s worst fears. If i write it an no one reads it what is the point.

So my solution was an eight month hiatus from anything bordering on a collective effort at writing. It was not something I did lightly. In fact it was completely foreign. Writing is like a daily tonic, a way to let some of the effects of life wash away. A mini-reset if you will, one where feelings and motivations and other components find their place. Over this sabbatical I have decided to revamp my writing style in hopes I can better my overall output.

As part of this plan, I have decided to subdivide my writing into specific subject-centered blogs that are targeted to some of my personal interests. That way I feel like I can reach a specific audience interested in that subject instead of casting it out into the blogosphere hoping to get a nibble. It is like casting an empty hook into the ocean expecting to haul in a whale.

The 3.0 reboot of Joe’s Musings will subdivide into four subject centered blogs on the following subjects: gardening, faith, fiction and movies/TV. You see if you understand these things about me you can know a lot about who I am. They are four of the main tent posts of my interests and my life. The majority of the 600 odd posts up to this point of my blogging experience are focused on these key subjects.

So now let me take a moment to illuminate each of the new blogs and how I will approach each.

Chasing The Blooms

I love flowers and gardening? Don’t believe me? Wait until you hear about my greenhouse business or see the thousands of pictures of flowers I have collected over the years. If it has a bloom I like it. There just is not much like a field of blooms to me. If you follow along with CTB I will promise you a chance to enjoy some beautiful colors and an appreciation for the magnificence of God’s creation through plants.

Fiction Playground

This is where my fiction stories will come to life. You might even get some insight into the progress of my fiction novel The Family Secrets. Along with any weekly challenges I join with others on WordPress or any contests that catch my eye, you can count on nothing that isn’t made up showing up here.

If It is on a Screen, I Love It

To say I have a love affair with television and movies would be a tremendous understatement. From a young age, when cartoons were the mainstay to now when Netflix and I are on a first name basis, I have always enjoyed the storytelling aspects of entertainment shows and movies.

Here I will share some of my thoughts, favorites and other things relating to television and the movies. Join me for a cinematic journey.

Faith By Acts,.

The most important aspect of my life is that I am a Christian and graciously saved by my Creator and Savior and guaranteed a place in Heaven for eternity. It would be my express pleasure to share with anyone how this is possible. Through this blog I will share my faith and how I am displaying that faith to my children, other children and adults in my church and to those in my world.

So now I have given you the rough outline of Joe’s Musings 3.0. I invite you to join as i dive into year 3 and if you know anyone who might enjoy one of these blogs feel free to pass along the blog link.

Posted in Christianity, Evangelism, Faith, Fiction, flowers, gardening, Motion Picture, Movies, Religion, Television, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment