Plot Twist, by Bethany Turner

Olivia Ross, writer of greeting card sentiments, sits in a busy Los Angeles coffee shop trying to work on her passion project–a screenplay.

She is rescued from a relentless flirter by Sexy Irish Guy, on his way to an audition and later identified as swoonworthy actor Hamish MacDougal. Oh wait… Hamish is Scottish, not Irish. Olivia is apparently not well versed in accents.

Anyway, ‘supporting characters’ like Olivia don’t fall in love with leading men. …. right?

Image Credit:

Olivia is a writer. She is also as insecure, goofy, scatterbrained, and awkward as you can imagine.

Yeah, I immediately related to her.

And Turner could not have come up with a more perfect title than Plot Twist. Seriously, the switchback roads up the Alps have fewer twists and turns than this book… partly thanks to Olivia’s best friend Fiona, who appears to live a charmed life. I won’t even try to tell you the gist of the story, only that I couldn’t put my Kindle down until I’d finished this Great Weekend Read.

Your turn:

I’m always looking for good books, so please share: What are you reading this weekend?

Do you have a day job and a passion project or hobby, like Olivia?

I love your comments! Join the conversation by using the “Your Turn” box waaaay down at the bottom of this post. (If you’re reading this from the home page, there’s a “Leave a comment” link below the “sharing” buttons below.) Which reminds me, if you like this post please consider sharing via those buttons.

Thanks for reading,


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How to Warm Up for a Bike Ride on the Road…

… When You’ve Been Using the Indoor Trainer

After the warmest and driest December known to mankind, we finally got some cold, drizzly days in January. Being spoiled to sunny weather, we were gonna get out of shape, and fast. But then Brent put a bike on the trainer upstairs. I was the first to try it out, opting to listen to Classic Rock on Pandora rather than watch a video of a virtual ride or spin class.

A bunch of my stuff migrated upstairs… spare gloves, a water bottle, the old Garmin and a couple of sensors. And one piece of outdoor equipment you still need, even inside: the road shoes with cleats that clip onto the pedals. I did a 30-minute workout, not very strenuous except for two all-out intervals.

Yesterday we had sunshine and temps around 60, so I decided to get in a short ride on the road. Ya gotta warm up, right? Here, for your edification, was my warmup routine:

  1. Decide to use the water bottle from the trainer bike. Run upstairs to get it; run back down.
  2. Realize phone is also upstairs. Run up to get it; run back down.
  3. Go outside to get shoes from their shelf in the garage. Realize shoes are also upstairs. Run up to get them; run back down.
  4. Reach for Garmin bike computer; wonder why it isn’t in its usual place.
  5. Remember you took the new Garmin upstairs to look up some setup instructions online. Run up to get it from your desk; run back down.
  6. By this time, your heart rate is in Zone 3 and you are ready to roll!

You’re welcome.

Your turn:

Does anyone else get discombobulated by any change in routine? Anyone still dating stuff “2021”?

I love your comments! Join the conversation by using the “Your Turn” box waaaay down at the bottom of this post. (If you’re reading this from the home page, there’s a “Leave a comment” link below the “sharing” buttons.)

Thanks for reading,


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Journal-ism: A Fresh Start

When I study the Bible, I like to write down any observations; words I need to take to heart; or cool insights I gain. I use a spiral-type journal, preferably one thick enough for me to clip a comfort-grip pen inside the wire spiral.

So, this happened yesterday… I’d wrestled with the truth for days, but finally had to face facts:

I couldn’t squeeze any more notes into the journal I’d been using since April. So I fished out the new, blank journal from my stash and opened it up.

It’s probably silly, but starting a new journal usually gives me a feeling of “New Year” significance. I don’t just put the old journal aside and grab the new one, thinking “Next…” No, I write my name on the first page with a flourish and think about how I want to tweak the way I use the pages. In fact, any time I get a new item–car, appliance, house, shoes, replacement for a favorite-but-stained shirt–I greet it with a “This time it’ll be different” attitude. I’ll keep this house cleaner, wear an apron to protect this shirt, etc. Journals have always been like that, too–I’ll organize this one better, write more consistently… again and again.

Until now.

Yesterday felt different. I still wrote my name in the front with a flourish. But when it came to tweaking, it dawned on me that I’ve finally landed on a “system” that works well for me. Study notes on the left-hand page (because I’m left-handed and it’s just easier), Scripture memory practice on the right, with that space also available for memos to self, other verses to look up, and other miscellaneous stuff.

I’ve even grown more consistent, doing a bit of studying almost every day. Not that I’m the Organization Queen or anything. No, it’s mostly because I tend to wake up for no reason at some ridiculously early hour. Whatever works, right?

Tweaking is fine and necessary, and something new can give me a fresh start. On the other hand, settling into a routine that fits makes it easier for me to practice the disciplines that are important to me. As near as I can figure, forming those positive habits means I’ll need that “fresh start” less often.

I welcome your comments! Have you cemented any positive habits? Need to form a new one? Join the conversation by using the “Your Turn” box waaaay down at the bottom of this post.

Thanks for reading,


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Nurturing True Gratefulness: A Guest Post

November… already? Well, this is a great time to take stock, count our blessings, and pass along a grateful attitude to our loved ones. One of my very favorite bloggers over at Muddy Buddies: Making the Most in the Messy has some tips for modeling and encouraging gratitude in our kids. Start here, then hop on over to her blog for more thoughts AND cute pictures!

Take it away, Heidi Johnson!

Nurturing True Gratefulness

First appeared on the Muddy Buddies blog on

Nurturing True Gratefulness - featured image

How do we encourage genuine gratitude in the hearts of our children?

What is True Gratefulness?

To start, let us look more closely this phrase, True Gratefulness, and analyze the internal process that results in this desirable heart posture.

1. True Gratefulness is deep.  It is more than just a “thank you” and appreciation for gifts and circumstances.  It is not a polite custom; a means to award yourself a badge each November; nor is it something to check off the to-do list so we can move on to black Friday shopping.  It is not a mere outward expression.

photo of discount sign
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on

2. True Gratefulness is a response to the giver rather than the gift and requires a humble heart.  Just as love is a verb directed toward someone, gratitude is meant to be poured out toward the giver as we acknowledge that the giver did not owe us. ….. Click here to keep reading


I hope you’ll visit and enjoy Muddy Buddies as much as I do. There’s always someone cooking there — or laughing, or discovering, or making a mess!

Thanks for reading,


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What I Learned at the Writers’ Conference

Inspired by online writing friend Sarah Rexford, who would serve on the faculty, I registered for last month’s Maranatha Christian Writers’ Conference in Norton Shores, Michigan. Part of the appeal was a chance to visit my niece and her husband in nearby Grand Rapids.

A conference can feel like a high-stakes, high-pressure event. Writers stress over questions like Will any agents even look at me? What if I meet with an editor, but then flub my pitch? Is my writing career over before it even starts?

But I wasn’t a bit worried about any of these issues. In fact, I felt as relaxed as Garfield the cat. Sipping chamomile tea. After eating half a lasagna.

Overconfident? Nope. It’s only because my purpose in attending wasn’t to pitch a book. Specifically, I had nothing ready to pitch. I went only to listen and learn, improve my skills, talk with other writers about writing and faith, maybe make a few new friends… and, of course, get my first-ever look at Lake Michigan.


The conference experience gave me all that and more. Fabulous meals, engaging speakers and teachers, kindred spirits, prayer partners–it could hardly have been much better. I even made some encouraging connections–totally unexpected.

So yes, I learned a lot, but I won’t bore you with lecture content. If you’re a writer, you probably know most of it, and if you aren’t, why would you care? No, I’d rather share some surprising facts and pearls of wisdom that anyone might enjoy.

1) On the second day of the conference, I headed for my room in the lodge with my hands full. How to unlock my door?? I’d stuck my key card in the clear pocket with my name badge. I leaned the pocket up to the key reader, and–voila!–the door unlocked. I burbled about my amazing discovery to a younger attendee. He nodded patiently and said, “Well… yeah.” (Tell me I’m not the only one who didn’t know this.)

2) It’s actually possible to visit a conference / retreat center situated beside the third largest lake in the United States… and be unable to FIND THE LAKE on foot.
In my defense, I didn’t know the “Residents Only” sign was meant for unauthorized cars, not pedestrians. As you can see, I finally got there.

3) Sometimes a quote will inspire you AND make you think about the information you take in. How complete is my perception of any given group?

4) After you finish your fries, it’s best not to put your glass salad plate on top of your lunch plate.

You will end up looking at what appears to be a crime scene.

With cheese.

These are just a few of my discoveries. But I’d better stop for now. I have homework to do, editing tips to apply, people to get in touch with…

Thanks for reading,


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Spare Me the “Eroic” Efforts

Witten Road: The Nice Part

Y’all… have you ever committed to doing something you were kind of scared to do, and wanted to get it over with, but had to keep waiting and waiting? Sort of like climbing an endless ladder to jump off a high dive?

That’s what my “Eroica California” experience has been like. The event is patterned after the “L’Eroica” bike rally first held in Gaiole, Italy in 1997. Participants ride vintage (or replica) bicycles and wear retro style cycling clothes. The main thing about the ride itself is that a significant part of the distance takes you over unpaved roads.

Our story starts back in 2018 with our first Ciclismo Classico tour, “Tuscany and L’Eroica.” Brent especially enjoyed the white gravel roads, casual pace, and over-the-top refreshments of L’Eroica. (I didn’t participate, just roamed around the village and took pictures.) Brent found this rolling party such fun that he turned around and registered for the corresponding event in California in April 2019.

After that, in a fit of enthusiasm and optimism, he registered both of us for the 2020 event. He bought me a vintage silver Zeus bike and spend many hours (and $$) adapting it for my fit and comfort. The cables and other trimmings are a snappy bright red. I named it Peppermint and started re-learning how to use friction shifters and toe clips.

As you can guess, organizers had to postpone the 2020 event a couple of times, finally settling on September 2021.

This summer I once again started training on Peppermint. Quite the learning curve: I saddled up for my first ride, grumbling about the clumsy retro shoes, only to realize I had the wrong shoes on. I was wearing my touring shoes, complete with walking cleats. No wonder I had so much trouble getting them onto my old-school “rat-trap” pedals. Pedals fitted with TOE CLIPS.

Fortunately, I hadn’t left the driveway.

Then I had to get re-re-acquainted with the friction shifters on the down tube. I’m so used to brake-lever shifters that I could never remember which way to push / pull the levers to shift both front and rear for the right resistance in a given situation. This time, I developed a little chant, which I recited at the beginning of each ride and before all significant changes in grade.

“Counter-clockwise makes it harder,
Clockwise makes it easier.”

It worked. Don’t judge.

My first ride only extended to the school just south of my neighborhood, where I cruised the parking lot and practiced shifting. Counter-clockwise makes it harder.

The rides increased in distance until I was doing 20+ miles with some serious climbs (Clockwise makes it easier) and fabulous downhills (Counter-clockwise makes it harder).

As the big trip to California drew near, Brent took me out on some of his favorite gravel roads. Most of these were relatively smooth, with fine, well-packed gravel. “This is kind of fun,” I said.

But then we came to Witten Road. It started out okay, until we came to a stretch that looked like bare rock. Cracks divided the surface into fist-sized sections that felt like cobblestones. The parts that weren’t cobblestone-y were awash with deep drifts of fine gravel, the perfect surface–if you want to fishtail or just slip off the road altogether. Watching the surface distracted me so I forgot the chant and accidentally shifted to a harder gear on some uphill grades.

This was less fun.

“There’s a downhill ahead,” Brent said, and offered tips on optimum position and braking technique.

The descent began and quickly steepened. Peppermint felt like a running jackhammer. I put all my effort into controlling my speed, but slamming into the pavement and going airborne several times per second renders your brakes almost irrelevant. If I could even reach them from the drops, which I almost couldn’t. When I bent low enough to work the brakes, I was too low to look ahead for patches of gravel.

Fishtailing moments provided my only brief breaks from the jackhammer effect.

I’m totally gonna die.

Honestly, this scared me twice as much as the Zombie Pickup Truck incident.

By the time the road leveled out to where Brent stood waiting for me, I had mentally sold Peppermint for $1.50 and a fun-size pack of M&Ms.

After a five-minute meltdown (during which Brent assured me I didn’t have to do the ride in California; I could just go and enjoy the weekend), I stopped shaking and we pedaled on. The remaining gravel stretches were all quite civilized and didn’t try to kill me. I got home, showered, and was good as new.

The very next morning, I made a grocery run. When I came back into the house, Brent was just wrapping up a phone conversation. He disconnected and came to the kitchen.

“Big news,” he said. “Eroica California has been postponed again, to next year.”

Fine. But I’m still selling Peppermint.

Thanks for reading!


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