Dana Mentink

It was supposed to be a nifty twenty-fifth wedding anniversary trip…with a wee little research itinerary woven in. Since Papa Bear is a huge Alaska fan, and I happen to be writing a book for the Love Inspired Suspense Alaska K-9 continuity series, what would be more perfect than a trip to visit, among other things, a reindeer ranch in Palmer, Alaska! We’d been to Alaska before (see picture) and fell in love with the wide open spaces, the independent spirit of the locals and the gorgeous landscapes. This time we’d see reindeer in Palmer, and enjoy a riverboat cruise and visit a mining operation in Fairbanks. But then…well, you already know the rest of the story. The virus, whose name I refuse to type, put the kibosh on that whole adventure.

Deadlines, however, do not wait for anything, included viruses, so I had to go to plan B…armchair research. Thank goodness for the internet! I am now typing away about this fictional adventure and Katie’s reindeer ranch in Palmer Alaska is taking shape on the page. I thought it would be fun to share some of the zany facts I’ve learned about reindeer through my armchair travels. So here we go! The top five facts about reindeer!

  1. Reindeer and caribou are the same animal.
  2. Their hooves actually make a “clicking” noise (hence the old song, up on the housetop click, click, click…”) I have read that this adaptation makes it easier for them to stay together in a blizzard, not just on rooftops! Ha!
  3. Reindeer are excellent swimmers, thanks to their hollow fur which traps air to help with buoyancy.
  4. Reindeer are not designed to eat carrots. They have no incisor teeth on their upper jaws which makes it hard for them to tackle carrots. They eat lichen in the winter which they dig up with their antlers and various leaves and other plant materials.
  5. Reindeer are the only species of deer where both the males and females grow antlers!


Sara Blackard

As we go through November, I know I’m not alone in looking back at all that I am thankful for. God is always good and blesses, even in the struggles. Sometimes, they just take more time to find.

Two years ago, I most likely lay in my bed, struggling to get the energy up to help the kids with their homeschool, make something more than oatmeal or pancakes for dinner, or even be able to read a picture book to the youngest two. I was a mother of five living in a fog of exhaustion and pain so thick I thought I’d never find my way out. I remember thanking God for a husband that didn’t care that he was eating cereal for dinner again, for kids that didn’t mind snuggling in bed with me to do their school work, and for the short Alaskan winter days that made it seem not so bad to go to bed at seven.

After being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s, my list of blessings are much easier to sort out this year. I have energy for the first time in years. I can play with my children without forgetting their names and what we are doing. I’m discovering foods God’s given that are healing for me and my family. I still have a lot of work to do, but God’s been leading me through the ups and downs of restoration, both in my body and my spirit.

One of the most surprising blessings God has given me this year is the gift of writing. I’ve always dreamed of writing. In college, I ended up with a degree in creative writing after trying on several others and finding them a poor fit. I never imagined I’d use my degree, because, who actually makes it as a writer these days?

After coming out of the fog of disease and mental entanglement, God filled my brain overflowing with stories and vitalized me with the necessary energy to write them down. Two years ago, I never imagined I’d write a coherent paragraph. This month, I published my eighth book Celebrating Tina.

I am so thankful to God for giving me my mind back. I’m so thankful He helped me be able to appreciate the minuscule blessings along with the grand. I’m so grateful He’s not only given me the joy of my youth, but has also shown me the hope of a future. He is with you, a warrior who saves. (Zeph 3:17)

What blessings have you found this November? I’d love to hear about them! You can email me at sara@sarablackard.com if you’d like to share God’s blessings with me.