Excerpt from Hannah’s Rainbow

By Christmas, the First World War ended.  The children had decorated the pine tree with a popcorn-strung garland, an assortment of handmade ornaments from school, and a few carefully placed candles.

Both Christmas Eve and Day had separate dinners that were planned to the point of perfection.  Other than Lucy’s mother, only the immediate family gathered to partake in both meals. Everyone dressed in their finest, shoes polished, and under Ma’s eagle eye, not a hair out of place.  It was the one time of year when Erik and Harry would allow their mother to dictate what they wore.

After dinner on Christmas Eve, the family attended church to hear the story of the birth of Jesus, the miracle of light that came into the world.

The service ended, and the family walked the short distance down Madison Avenue to their home.  Snow was falling lightly. It had a magical quality when Hannah looked upward and imagined the angels dusting their wings off.  She skipped ahead, kicking up the fresh thin layer of snow on the sidewalk. She was laughing, when an icy wetness suddenly hit her in the back of the head.

“Ow!”

Her mood evaporated as she spun around to glare daggers at her brothers.  

“Hey, how dare you!” she said.

Harry had the audacity to look innocent, while Erik couldn’t help but chuckle.  The adults and Amy hung back farther, lost in conversation.

Hannah quickly knelt down and grabbed a handful of snow, formed a ball, and chucked it at her brothers.  It missed, flying between them and ended up smacking Pa in the side of the face.

Both boys were briefly shocked, before dissolving into laughter.

“Oh, you’re in for it now, Hannah-panna,” Harry teased.

“Be quiet!” Hannah shouted.  “You started it!”

The adults were upon them a few seconds later.  Pa was wiping his cheek with his gloved hand, but it was Ma who was angry.

“Who threw that?” she demanded.

“It wasn’t us.  It was Hannah,” Erik said.

“Yeah, but I wasn’t aiming for you, Pa” Hannah said.  “One of them hit me in the back of the head.”

“A likely story,” Harry said coyly, smirking.

Ma’s eyes shifted to her younger son.  “Actually, it sounds about right. Come.  We will discuss this once we’re inside.”

Pa pretended to be stern, but when he walked past Hannah and the boys, he half-smiled.  He winked at Hannah, and then his face was impassive once more. As Hannah watched her parents retreating down the road, she grinned.  

Once back inside their small home, Pa worked at starting a fire in the grate, while Ma sat Erik, Harry, and Hannah on the sofa to give them a brief lecture on how to treat each other with more respect, “most especially on Christmas.”

“How is pelting each other with snow when it’s already freezing outside a Christ-like attitude?”

Pa, finished with the fire, came to his wife’s side, and wrapped an arm around her.

“I think, perhaps just this once, we might excuse the children.  It is Christmas, after all. There will be plenty of time for extra chores in a few days.”  He smirked knowingly.

“Hmm,” Ma murmured, although her eye twinkled as she exchanged a look with her husband.  

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post an excerpt every Saturday.

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for $4.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $5.99 here.

Do you love Christmas enough to celebrate it year round?

A good and dear friend of mine has a blog entitled Yuletide Blessings, which aims to do so. Discussions and blog posts are about traditions, recipes, crafts, books, and more. Please visit the link below to read her review of a Christmas-themed novel and view the website further. My thoughts on Christmas books are also below:

I tend to read Richard Paul Evans’s annual Christmas novels. He has been pretty regular about putting one out every year for several years now. While I have read other novels centered about this time of year, his dominate my reading repertoire. I would have to say that most of his books and other Christmas novels I’ve read rely more on the timeline of Christmas. The decorations are up, the baking is happening, the shopping is going on, the parties are in full-swing, but that is the extent of the holiday backdrop. As for Christmas as a setting, the only real story I’ve read (and many times, mind you) that follows this is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Maybe it’s because that story has survived the test of time and has become a staple in holiday history and meaning, but that whole story revolves around the deeper meaning of Christmas and keeping it in our hearts year round, so much so that it changes a man’s life. Few stories have that effect, I feel.

Visit Yuletide Blessings

Excerpt from Mile Marker 139 (WIP) – Chapter 9

Chapter Nine: Russ Jacobs

“You know I ain’t gonna be surprised,” Russ grumbles as Brandy drives.

“Can you at least pretend?” his sister asks.

Russ casts a glance in her direction.  Her wavy brown hair is pulled up in a high ponytail, and she’s dressed up for her, which means her nice jeans and a new sports jersey.  Brandy was a jock in high school and is the soccer mom who coaches her kids’ games.  She’s happiest in a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt, and other than the light brown eyes Russ and she share, you wouldn’t know they were brother and sister.  Where Russ has a hard time finding enough leg room in Brandy’s Focus and his head grazes the ceiling, Brandy has the driver’s seat moved as close to the steering wheel as it can go.

“I’m no actor,” Russ says, smirking.

Brandy huffs.  “If I weren’t driving, I’d pop you one in the arm, bro.  You know Ed and the guys went through a lot to put this thing together.  And on New Year’s Eve of all nights!  You know places are booked months, years, in advance.  The reservation fee alone’s probably more than your monthly salary.”

Russ chuckles.  “You don’t know how much I make month.”

“Well, no, but you ain’t exactly living in high society if that hole you rent in Inwood’s anything to go by.  I still don’t know why you gotta live in Manhattan.  It’s like a betrayal, Russ.  What’s wrong with your home back in Queens?”

Russ grins.  “What’s it matter to you?  Besides, you got a point.  I hardly stay there.  Maybe it’s time to move, but getting back to the previous point of this stupid party, I never asked for any of you loons to do anything.”

Brandy pulls the car into a private lot and parks.  After turning off the ignition, she turns toward her brother.  “Ah, Rusty, we do it ‘cause we love ya.”

Russ cringes at his childhood name, hating that his closest family members still call him it just to get a reaction.  “Uh, don’t call me ‘Rusty.’  Okay, fine.  I’ll go in, act all surprised, and grab a beer.  Seeing my pals is reason enough to have a good time.”

“That’s the spirit!”

They step out of the car to frigid wind whipping their faces.  Russ puts a protective arm around his sister as they hustle toward the bar, a hopping new place called Jazzy Sue’s.  Once inside, they’re packed shoulder-to-shoulder with the patrons.  Brandy calls over the noise of the crowd and the music to the bartender that they’re there for a private party.

“Back room!” the bartender mouths and waves them on.

Russ and Brandy shuffle through the crowd, and upon arriving outside the door to the party room, Russ smirks at his sister, shaking his head.

“What’s so funny?” she asks.

“How would you convince me to get to this party without me suspecting anything?  You know, Ed kept teasing me about throwing an ‘Over the Hill’ party for months.  He doesn’t really think I’m gonna be shocked.”

Brandy smiles, amused.  “Okay, okay, point taken.  Let’s just get in there and outta this body heat.  Ugh, I can feel the sweat between my–”

“Don’t say it.”

Brandy laughs.  “C’mon.”

She opens the door, and the crowd beyond the threshold shouts in one voice, “Surprise!”

Russ smiles in spite of himself as he enters.  Hands are clapping him on the back, and someone passes a beer to him, which he takes and knocks back.

“How’s it feel to be an old man, buddy?”

“I’m amazed you’re still walking without a cane!”

“Hey, happy birthday, man!”

Russ can’t help but chuckle.  So many faces, so many voices, it’s dizzying but great.  It doesn’t take long before he’s swept up in the chaos of celebration.  Some people he hasn’t seen in years, both friends and family, are there.  After a few beers, Russ’s guard is down, and any previous thoughts about not wanting a party are gone.  He’s caught up in conversations he won’t remember in the morning, but he’s sure he’ll remember the feeling of being thought of by all these people for a long time to come.

After rounds of junk room and a large slice of cake, Russ is full.  Some of the crowd has thinned, even though it’s not midnight.  In a corner, Russ leans back in a chair, his best buddy Ed by his side.

“You sure you won’t have another beer?” Ed asks, smirking.

Russ shakes his head, chuckling. “And get a beer gut like you, man?  No thanks.  Looks like I’ll be working out extra hard at the gym this week whenever I can afford it.”

Ed pats his belly and smiles.  “You’d have to go a long way to beat me.  But anyway, tell me, Russ.  It’s been too damn long since we talked.  Is there a special girl in your life?  Time’s tickin’ away if you ever wanna settle down.”

Russ frowns.  “Who said anything about settling down?”

Ed straightens in the chair and regards his friend.  “Hey, that was years ago, man.”

Russ shakes his head.  “Nah, there’s no one.”  He’s sure to put a stop to Ed’s attempt at getting him to talk about something that has no bearing on his life at present.  Despite what he says, Russ’s mind goes to a place he’s surprised.  Maybe it’s the alcohol talking, but Russ half-smiles and says, “Well, there’s this one girl, but she doesn’t really count.”

“Do tell.”

“It’s nothing.  I shouldn’t even be thinkin’ about her.”

“Okay, now you have to tell me.”

“Well, her name’s Shelley, and beyond that, I don’t know much about her.”

“So, how’d you meet her?  Online dating?”

Russ laughs.  “Nope, not even gonna go there.  You know it’s next to impossible to meet someone with my schedule.”

“Well, how’d you meet?” Ed persists.

“You ain’t gonna believe this, but she was at one of the rest stops along my route.  Somewhere in Ohio, past Cleveland.”

“Sounds romantic.”  Ed chuckles and finishes his beer.  “Sure you don’t want another?  You only turn the big 4-0 once, man.”

“Oh, what the hell?  Why not?  Sure.”

Ed leaves and returns with two bottles of some brand of Christmas ale.  The foamy liquid gold slides down Russ’s throat with ease.

“I doubt I’ll see her again,” Russ says.  “I think she might be homeless or somethin’.”

“Dude, that’s messed up.  You’ve got a thing for a homeless chick?  What’s her best feature?  The lice in her hair or the trash bag she wears?”

Russ stops smiling.  “Don’t be a jerk, Ed.”

“Sorry, sorry.”  Ed sets down his beer and holds up both hands in mock-surrender.  “Just a bad joke, but c’mon, pal, you don’t really think you’re gonna score with a chick like that.”

“No.”  Russ smirks, but he can’t help the prickle of sadness that creeps into his heart.  He hasn’t had any feelings for a woman in years.  The long hours on the road, the time away from home–it keeps him busy and thinking about anything other than falling in love again.

Ed slaps Russ on the back, snapping him out of his thoughts.  “Look at the time!  It’s almost the New Year.  I gotta find Susan.  Find a girl somewhere in here to kiss, man.  At least give yourself that.”

Russ smiles and shakes his head.  “Go get your wife, you crazy son-of-a-bitch.”

The TV in the corner above the bar shows the ball getting ready to drop in Times Square.  For how close 42nd Street is for Russ, he’s never been there on New Year’s Eve, but as the seconds count down to 2018, everyone in the room chants the numbers backward.  Arms are around Russ, pulling him into the fray, and he finds himself counting down with them.

Then…

“Happy New Year!”

Someone grabs Russ and lays a wet smacker on his lips, and when he pulls back, he’s stunned to see a girl who’s barely legal.  

“Who are you?” he asks.

She only laughs and darts out of the room, leaving Russ bemused.

“Happy birthday, old man,” he mutters.

 

Pay It Forward…A Reminder

‘Tis the season…

To be jolly?

To go into debt?

To give.

Because God first gave to us His son, Jesus.

In the midst of the craziness of shopping, stressing, overspending, and stressing some more, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters.  Whether you’re Christian or not, whatever reason you celebrate Christmas–whether religious, secular, or both–I believe that this season can bring out the very best in people.

Goodwill toward men, indeed.

I went into this holiday season trying to not overspend on gifts.  Having three young kids, it’s easy to fall into the trap of buying them things they just don’t need, especially when they’re inundated with commercials for the latest hot toys.  What five-year-old doesn’t tell their mom at least once an hour, “I want that, Mom?”

It’s a trap.

Seriously.

No joke.

I kid you not.

Kid.  Ha, I was talking about kids and wanting stuff.  Anyway, pardon my bad sense of humor.  I digress…

I fell into the same money pit this year by spending too much on my family, and I was torn between wanting to give, give, give and wanting to take some of the things back.  In the end, a mom’s desire to see her kids’ excitement on Christmas morning when it came time to open the gifts won out.

However, I am vowing to go about this insanity differently next year.  I want to donate or give to charity the same amount that I spend in gifts on my family.  That’s not an original idea, but I heard it somewhere, and it stuck with me.  I’m up for the challenge, and I’m not all talk. (Update: This was written in 2016. Now it’s 2017, and I am happy to say I lived up to this challenge of giving equally to charity what I spent on gifts.)

See, when I put my mind and heart to something, I can accomplish it.  Case in point: Almost two years ago, I sat down and said I was serious about writing an original story.  I would write at least fifteen minutes a day.  If I missed a day, okay, but I wouldn’t let more than two days pass without writing.  Ten months later, I had my first draft completed.  That was almost a year ago.  Now, I have the first draft of a second novel completed that’s currently being read and edited by a writers group at the library.  I have self-published my first novel after going through the arduous process of querying a hundred literary agents and getting many rejections, but I kept at it.  I am well into writing my third novel.  I have the first chapter written of my fourth and have an idea for a fifth. (2017 update: I have finished drafts of novels three and four.  I am well into my fifth.  I self-published novel number two.  I have ideas for six and seven.)

pablo (13)So, if I can write and be dedicated to it, I can be more generous next Christmas.  I can give more to those who really are in need and give less to my own family, who already has plenty of things.  We don’t need more stuff.

You might think, “Okay, that’s all well and good to make plans about what you’re going to do next year, but what are you doing about it right now?”

I do regularly give to charity.  I sponsor two children through Children International, but for me, that wasn’t enough this Christmas.  I became aware of a family in need.  The father had just lost his job, and having a kid to support, you can understand why I wanted to help out.  Also, this family is close to heart, so if there was something I could do to help them, it would be all the more important to me.

I didn’t have the means to personally give them much as far as money goes, so I organized a Go Fund Me campaign and rallied my friends and family for several days to give to this family.  It was a beautiful thing to see the response.  Many gave, and it’s not a matter of how much you give, but giving what you can.  In the end, I was so happy to be able to give them a sizable amount of money to help them pay their bills and put food on the table, and while I was a part of that, I cannot and do not take full credit.  So many people stepped up, and I love that.

Another friend told me about the local Elk’s Club wanting to give a large box of food and gifts to local families in need, and she thought of the family I was supporting.  Needless to say, I got in touch with the Elk’s Club, and they were so generous and kind to deliver such a box to this family. (2017 update: This family is doing well this Christmas, although her sister lost a child and doesn’t have the money to pay for much of a Christmas for her other kids because of funeral costs. Not only did the family I helped last year help this devastated family, but I was also moved to send them some gifts. There is always someone in need who you can bless.)

In the midst of all this, I have my own troubles, but to help others lifts the burden of my problems.  I firmly believe that reaching out and helping others is one of the best ways to help yourself.  Everyone benefits.  There is nothing lost, for, you see, love has no end.  It’s funny how the more love you give, the more love grows.  The more love you receive.

So, I did my little part in paying it forward.  I had no expectation of getting anything in return from those I helped, so you can imagine how moved I was to be on the receiving end of the generosity of others who felt they wished to help my family.  I never asked for it, nor expected it.

A Christmas card arrived from my church a couple of weeks ago with a hundred dollars in gift cards to a grocery store!  The card was simply signed “From your friends at church.”  I have recently expressed my heartache to some friends at church about the struggles my autistic son and my family are going through, so I can only guess that someone did this kind deed because of that.  I cannot be sure.

As if that weren’t enough, on Christmas Eve, my husband and I dressed to play Mary and Joseph and were waiting in a classroom for our entrance into the sanctuary when a friend approached me and handed me an envelope.  “It’s not really a Christmas gift,” she said, “but a couple of us from our ChristCare group (a Bible study group of sorts) wanted to help you out.”  I smiled, thanked her, and tucked the envelope in my purse.  Hours later, after the service was over, the kids were in bed, and the presents were under the tree, I opened the envelope to find three hundred dollars inside and a note that said, “For your son’s therapies.”  Tears streamed down my face for the second time this Christmas season because of the kindness of others.

So, as another year winds down, I am thankful.  It started around Thanksgiving with the extra intention of choosing kindness.  As Christmas came upon us, I made the extra effort to pay it forward in terms of generosity, just one form of kindness.  And it certainly came back around to touch me.

If you don’t believe that what goes around comes around, maybe you’ll think my story is just that–a nice little story.  To me and many others, it’s more.  Much more.  May we all go into the New Year with a sense of wanting to reach outside ourselves, and you’ll see.  It will come back to you.

Merry Christmas!

Like what you’ve read?  Please subscribe to my blog, where I post a new blog every Friday, including book reviews, which will resume in January 2018!

My novel, Lorna versus Laura, is available for only $2.99 here.

My novel, Hannah’s Rainbow: Every Color Beautiful, is available for $3.99 here.

Out-Poured

 

When darkness claims the day,
And sadness won’t go away,
When God seems so far,
And clouds cover every star,
When doubt and fear close in,
And you feel you just can’t win,
When friends are lost,
And you don’t know the cost,

That’s when faith can grow,
And God’s light will show.
It’s sometimes the harder path,
Where we feel the world’s wrath,
So much suffering and pain,
Wondering what there is to gain,
That teaches us what matters,
Even when our spirit is in tatters.
There is no price for love,
Heaven-sent from above.
Keep your feet on the ground,
And strength will abound,
But hold fast to the Lord
And His mercy out-poured.

I wrote this for all those who are going through hard times, especially feeling alone and/or sad at Christmas. Remember Who loves you! I pray for you always. 

All These Things I Believe

 

God calls us Home,
Each in His own time,
And that is why life is precious.
Do not fill your days with worry and fear,
But rather, be grateful for the life given you.
Mourn lost loved ones,
But rest safely in the comfort of knowing they are with their Lord.
Do not bemoan getting older;
Each year is another gift from God.
It’s true that life is short,
So don’t waste time on anger, bitterness, and all forms of negativity.
Blessings surround you more than you know;
Embrace them.
The pain and suffering of this world cannot compare to the One who has overcome the world.
You are God’s precious child,
Deserving of love like everyone.
All these things I believe.

Ode to Christmas Insanity

Shopping is done,
And presents are wrapped.
Wasn’t that fun?
More like whacked?!
Staying up late
Addressing the cards;
Now, wait,
What’s in my front yard?!
The mail truck is here;
Let’s run like a fool!
Oh, dear, oh, dear!
All this for Yule?!
Covered in flour up to each elbow,
More cookies to bake,
Stack and frost in a row.
Oh, for Pete’s sake,
What is that smell?
I forget one batch.
Oh, well, oh, well.
Start again from scratch!
I swear, if I get one more email
Begging for my business –
This is why I hate retail!
Nothing but a mess!
Pull out the tree
And untangle the lights,
Oh, whee, oh, whee!
This gives me the frights!
Here comes the cat
To knock it all down.
Now what do you think of that?
Maybe next year I’ll just go out of town.
Now, I think myself generous,
But how many a charity
Must ask for my Ebay bonus?
Do you want me to live in poverty?
Elf on a shelf
Can take the plunge in the lake;
I’m beside myself
With dancing in the snowflakes!