Blogmas 2018 – Day 14 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

Today I share with you an excerpt from one of my unpublished novels, Rocks and Flowers in a Box. Below is a Christmas scene from 1945:

Tristan and I lounged on the couch. My eyes lingered on the tree, the warm glow of the strands of lights the only source of illumination in the living room. Beyond the window where I watched Tristan pace among his rocks, what seemed another lifetime, snow fell in a whimsical ballet in the silent night.
The snow had been coming down when we stepped out of the church at midnight an hour ago. When we arrived home, we stood, hand in hand, in the driveway and listened to the stillness. A world at peace. A world not at war for the first Christmas in six years.
“How are you not asleep?” I whispered to Tristan, nuzzling his ear with my nose.
He chuckled. “Some nights are worth staying up.”
“Tell me your favorite Christmas memory.”
He kissed the top of my head and placed his hand on my stomach. “This one, right here.”
“But this isn’t a memory yet.”
“It will be, one day. Every moment at passes pushes it into the past.”
“Don’t wish it away so quickly.”
“On the contrary, my darling. I’m cherishing it.” He cupped my chin with his hand and brought his lips to mine in a gentle kiss.
When we broke apart, I gazed into the low light dancing in his eyes. I rested my hand on his cheek. He closed his eyes as he leaned into my touch.
“Do you remember when we saw Meet Me in St. Louis last year?” I asked.
Tristan’s eyes popped open. “I wasn’t expecting that question, but yeah, sure. Why?”
“The song Judy Garland sang…’Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’…do you remember it?”
Tristan chuckled. “I hope you’re not asking me to sing it.”
I giggled. “No, of course not. I was just remembering the lyrics. I can’t recall all of them, but something like all our troubles being out of sight in the following year or something.”
“Yes, I remember. It spoke of hope to you. You cried during that part of the film.”
I nodded. “I was just really hoping, you know…that with it being Christmas and all, that Chucky would come home.”
Tristan sighed. “I know and I’m sorry. I know how much he means to you.”
“Would it be too much to wish for one more miracle? You’re alive. I’m pregnant. Now, if only he were here, why, it would make the perfect Christmas.”
“I’m not great at it, but…do you want to pray?”
I took Tristan’s hand and squeezed it, nodding, my eyes on the verge of spilling over.
He enclosed my hands in his and whispered, “God, I’m not good at this. I don’t know what the right words are, but my beautiful wife tells me that You don’t expect us to come with poetic words. I’m a writer. I’m used to writing eloquently, but when I speak, I mess it up. What I’m trying to say is…thank You. Thank You for everything You’ve already given us. It’s more than I could’ve imagined. Me, especially me. Now, if You could just bring back my darling’s brother safe and sound, that’d be great. I see the sadness in her eyes, even when she smiles. Thanks for listening…and thanks for Christmas and what it means. You know what I’m getting at. Um…amen.”
“Thank you.” I kissed him. “That was the sweetest thing.”
“I sounded like a fool.” Tristan yawned. “Maybe I’m just too tired to think straight anymore.”
“No, you got it all right.”
“I got it right when I met you.”
We share a lingering kiss. Then Tristan took my hand and pulled me to standing and guided me into our bedroom.

Blogmas 2018 – Day 13 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

Today I am singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Only 12 days till Christmas!

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Blogmas 2018 – Day 12 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

 
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Merry Christmas!! As a gift to you, I’m sharing with you a part of a Christmas chapter from my story, Hannah’s Rainbow, which is based on my late grandma’s life. I recreated what a typical Christmas morning was like at my house when growing up and Grandma would spend the night. While what’s below is fiction, it’s based in fact. I’ve also posted a short video of Grandma’s last Christmas with us, and you will see some parallels between the story and the real thing.

————-

When Hannah woke early on Christmas morning, she crossed the hallway to the bathroom and smiled at how Haley had lined up all of her personal items on the counter, completely unpacking her travel bag. After she finished her morning ablutions, Hannah made her way downstairs in her brightly-colored floral robe and fuzzy red and green slippers.
She entered the kitchen to find it empty, and hearing voices down in the finished basement, Hannah made to join the rest of the family. Haley came running up the steps, followed by Abbi.
“There are you, Grandma. We were waiting for you.”
“Did I hold you up?” Hannah asked, surprised. “It’s only 7:30.”
Abbi smirked, shaking her dark head. “You know my daughter, Mom. She was the first one up, counting the presents to see if she or her brother got more.”
“Grandma, come on downstairs,” Haley insisted.
“Wait, Haley,” Abbi said firmly. “Mom, do you want to grab a cup of tea before heading down?”
“Tea would be wonderful, thank you.”
The teapot was already on the stove. Hannah took a seat at the kitchen table to wait.
“How long is this gonna take?” the girl complained.
Just then, the kettle whistled.
“Hold your horses,” Abbi said, removing the teapot from the flame and pouring two cups, each with their own bag.
Hannah graciously accepted the cup, cradling the warm beverage between her hands. She kept from commenting on her daughter’s waste of good tea bags. Hannah had been using a single bag in the kettle for an entire week for decades now, and it had served her just fine.
“Are you ready now?” Haley asked. She looked out the window into the backyard and smiled. “Hey, it snowed!”
“What?” Abbi asked, frowning. She glanced briefly out the window. “That’s not snow, Haley. It’s just a thick frost.”
“Grandma, come here and look. What do you think?”
Amused, Hannah stood and ambled over to the window. Abbi was right about the frost, but not wishing to ruin her granddaughter’s spirit, she said, “What do you think?”
“Maybe it is frost, but it’s white, so it still counts as a white Christmas. Wouldn’t you say, Grandma?”
Hannah smiled warmly. “Yes, I think it does.”
Haley laughed. “See? I told you, Mom.”
“Yes, yes, let’s go downstairs now.”
Haley ran ahead of her mom and grandma. “She’s up, Dad! She’s finally coming, Randy!” she called down.
Hannah carefully followed Abbi down the carpeted stairs, remembering the youthful enthusiasm she once had on Christmas mornings.
By the time Hannah joined the rest of the family, Haley was already clutching a gift. For a moment, Hannah thought the girl was about to rip it open, but then Haley handed it to her.
“This is for you, Grandma. I made it.”
“Is it something you drink tea out of?” Randy asked.
“Oh, shut up.”
“Hey, can I help it if your hints are dead giveaways?” Randy teased.
Hannah smiled and said, “I wonder what it could be?”
She used her long thumbnail to undo the tape and the wrapping, careful not to rip it.
“Hurry up, Grandma. Who cares if you rip the paper?” Haley asked.
“Why waste good paper? It can be reused.”
“Mom, they don’t make wrapping paper like they used to. You don’t have to save it and iron it. It’s cheap enough to just buy new,” Abbi said.
In front of Hannah, Alan stood with his video camera. She didn’t comment on the younger generations’ lack of recycling, their tendency to rush through things, or their need to capture every minute of every special occasion on film. Wrapping removed, Hannah gazed down at the gift: a calendar.
“It’s lovely,” she said, flipping through the pages at ease. Haley had drawn a picture for every month and had written in the holidays.
“Thanks.” The girl glowed at her grandma’s praise. “I even wrote some Bible verses in it.”
Hannah pulled Haley into a hug and kissed her on the cheek. “I will hang it by my phone and use it. Thank you, Haley.”
“Now can we open our gifts?” asked Randy impatiently, his voice raw from coughing the past two weeks due to a bad cold.
“Go ahead,” Hannah said, motioning toward the tree. “They should be under there somewhere. Look for two envelopes.”
Frowning, the children darted toward the tree, digging through the horde of presents until they each came away with a red envelope. Hannah had taped a candy cane to each one, and Randy was already undoing the wrapping and biting into it. Haley set the candy aside and opened the envelope.
“Fifty dollars!” she and her brother exclaimed simultaneously.
“What do you kids say to your grandma?” asked Abbi.
“Oh, thank you, Grandma!” Haley cried, half-jumping from her seated position.
“Yeah, thanks, Grandma,” Randy said, more subdued but clearly pleased.
“You’re welcome,” Hannah replied. “This way, you can get something you want.”
“Or put it into savings,” Abbi said.
“Mom,” Haley moaned, “we put our birthday money into savings.”
Hannah was happy to see her grandkids smiling, although a part of her mind wandered to Glen’s kids. Abbi caught Hannah’s brief scowl and shot a questioning look at her mother. Hannah forced a smile, her warm countenance in place. She would see the rest of her family soon enough.
The family took the next hour to open gifts, and Haley and Randy argued over who would hold the video camera while their dad opened his presents.
“Neither of you if you can’t hold it still,” Alan said. “That camcorder is my baby, and I won’t have you breaking it.”
“You and your technology, Alan,” Abbi replied. “Two years ago, it was that VCR for six hundred dollars, and now you blow a thousand on this thing.”
“I told you that you didn’t have to get me anything for Christmas, honey.”
“Yeah, if you do come up with a list, you always go to the store and buy it before the event, anyway.”
The argument continued as Abbi and Alan walked back upstairs. The kids were putting some of their gifts away in their rooms, leaving Hannah alone for a few minutes. The tea cup sat empty on the small table next to her chair. She gazed at the lights on the tree, watching them blur, and Hannah touched her cheek to find it covered in tears as her thoughts drifted to Edward.
“Oh, Eddy,” she whispered. “I wish you could’ve been here to see your grandkids grow. We shared some lovely Christmases together, didn’t we? I do wonder what you would think of how things have turned out. Glen is so distant most of the time ever since you left us.”
Hannah gasped when something landed on her lap, and she gazed down to find Haley’s cat, Calliope, nuzzling her hand. Hannah rubbed the cat’s chin, and Cally purred as she settled onto Hannah’s soft robe.
“Were you talking to someone?” came Haley’s voice from the steps.
“Oh, just Cally here. She’s keeping me company while your mom gets breakfast ready.”
Haley scampered over to her grandma’s side and sat on the floor. “Cally only likes Mom and me… and you, Grandma. She’s such a fraidy cat.”
“She seems perfectly content right now. Is breakfast ready?”
“Yeah, that’s what I came down to tell you.”
Hannah gently picked up the cat and placed her on the floor. She followed her exuberant granddaughter to the kitchen, gazing one last time at the tree.

Hannah’s Rainbow is available on Amazon.

Blogmas 2018 – Day 5 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

‘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 2018, and I am happy to say I lived up to this challenge of giving equally to charity what I spent on gifts, as well as having done so in 2017.)

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.) (2018 update: I published my third novel, have finished drafts of novels four, five, and six, and am well underway in 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!

(I felt it was worth reposting this, even though it was written two years ago. The message is still the same: pay it forward.)

Blogmas 2018 – Day 3 #christmas #blogmas #blogmas2018 #christmas2018

grandmaonxmas
Grandma – 1980

The soft glow of candlelight illuminates the sanctuary while we sing “Silent Night.” A reverent awe flows through the atmosphere, seeming to carry everyone present to a higher, deeper level. After the service ends, stepping outside into the chill of the air as snow gently falls adds to that magical quality. It’s dark and the snow is fresh. The moonlight gleams off the white blanket, smiling back at the night sky. The stillness of the moment is encapsulated by once-naked branches coated in pure beauty, and not a sound permeates the heart, creating that inward peace the world finds fulfilled. I step inside and cozy up on the couch, a blanket hugging me and the warmth of the fire caressing my skin, its orange hues dancing on the ceiling as I lose myself staring at the twinkling lights on the tree. The evergreen is covered with ornamental family pictures and creations from years past, taking me back to when my

xmas1984
My brother, me, and my dad at Grandma’s house in 1984

grandma spent Christmas Eve with us. I would wake in the morning, the excitement of the day vibrating through me like a thrilling sleigh ride. Grandma would wait patiently while the kids tore open our presents, our laughter joining the Christmas music in the background. We were sharing in something greater than us, something brought down through generations. Grandma would sit in the armchair with her comfy robe and slippers, a gift on her lap, the last to go. Her rosy cheeks and the glow in her eyes behind her glasses as she carefully undid the wrapping are still in my mind’s vision. She never wanted to ruin the wrapping paper, telling us that she reused it because it wouldn’t do to be wasteful. She wasted not a second hugging me for giving her a handmade calendar. Her elderly childlike voice thanks me, but I have to thank her for giving me these memories. I taste her gingerbread, her gelatin salad, her pinwheel cookies as I remember and carry the memory on, as I take the next batch of baking out of the oven.

xmas1988
Family gathering at my childhood home in 1988

Poetry Tuesday – Out There

As the dim winter morning sun shines

Upon the jagged, ice-peaked mountains,

I glanced at the other side of the sky

And can still see glittering stars…

And beyond that–infinite beauty

That radiates under my skin,

Into my soul.

And from this moment, I know

A glistening truth

Long hidden and forgotten

By most people.

What started as a single, quiet bell

Gradually expands itself

Into millions of ringing choirs,

Bellowing for my hand to reach out,

For my mind to open,

For my eyes to finally see

That out there is something

Far grander, better, and truer.

-written in 1999

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST A POEM EVERY TUESDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

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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.

Excerpt from Hannah’s Rainbow

“Well, it’s done.  I gave away my oldest.  No one told me it was this emotional.  I guess I know how your father must’ve felt now.”

Hannah smiled fondly.  “Yeah, Pa was glassy-eyed, that old softie.  I was thinking about them last night.”

Edward wrapped an arm around Hannah.  “If you need to cry, let them be happy tears, darling.  Do you hear that soft rustle of the wind through the branches?”

“Yes.”  Hannah listened beyond the voices around her and gazed up to find the trees dancing delicately.  If she hadn’t been looking or listening for it, she would have missed it.  “Sycamores, just like the old house.”

“We have some time for a short walk, I think.  We’ll meet everyone back at the church in a little while.”

“Brenda was smart to keep the reception at the church and keep it simple, but yes, a walk would be perfect right now.”

Edward’s hand sought Hannah’s, and without a word, they detached from the crowd.  With the passage of fifty years, Madison Avenue had changed.  Many of the homes had the wear and tear of decades, and many of the trees lining the street had grown tremendously.  When they reached Hannah’s childhood home, they stopped.

“I see that large rock is still by the driveway,” Hannah remarked.  “I haven’t been back here much since Ma moved out, but it looks mostly the same.”

“I thought it might do you some good to see it again.  You can hear the wind in the leaves better here, not so much commotion.”

“I used to go outside in my yard whenever I needed to be alone and at peace.”

“I figured a walk was in order for a bit of peace today, even though it’s a happy day.  When I asked you back at the church if you heard the wind in the trees, it was meant to be a reminder that your loved ones are never far from you.”

“Thank you, Eddy.  This place holds many memories for me, but it’s the past.  Brenda getting married is the door to the future, to possible grandchildren of our own.  I think it’s time we headed back and celebrated what’s to be and keep in our hearts what once was.”

“I like that idea, very much.”

As if they were walking together for the first time, Hannah and Edward held hands and returned to the church.  Behind them, trees overshadowed that quaint house on Madison Avenue, lost in the voices of the past, but in Hannah’s heart, she could still open the door to find Ma and Pa to welcome her home.

LIKE WHAT YOU’VE READ?  PLEASE SUBSCRIBE TO MY BLOG, WHERE I POST AN EXCERPT EVERY SATURDAY. ALSO KEEP UP-TO-DATE WITH MY WRITING PROJECTS!

My new novel, A Laughing Matter of Pain, is now available for pre-order here.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.