Saturday, December 30, 2017

SIT DOWN SATURDAY with CATHERINE LANIGAN

HIS BABY DILEMMA marks my 9th book in the SHORES OF INDIAN LAKE series for Heartwarming.  This is my first time to release a December book and what a festive treat this has been!  Not only did I do back flips when the art department sent me the cover and I saw this darling, cuddly baby, Jules, even then I was instantly in the Christmas spirit.  Christmas is for children and I’ve always felt like a kid in December.

When we started planning the blog giveaways and my Prisms Book Tour Giveaways, I went a bit overboard, I admit. But if I can’t play Santa in December, it’s just not Christmas to me. By the way, you can still catch my Grand Finale and the highlights of my wonderful 5 star reviews here:

 When I originally “constructed” my Indian Lake town, Mica Barzonni was one of the original characters in my template. Interestingly, back then over 6 years ago, I had intended him to consider becoming a priest. I know. THAT would have been a conflict, right? But it’s not the kind of story line for Heartwarming. By the time I wrote HEART’S DESIRE, the second in the series and had to really think about Mica, which was during his younger brother, Nate’s reunion romance with Maddie Strong, Mica already emerged as a brooding, silent, closed-off personality who clung to the shadows of the family spotlight. He was the engineer. The mechanical-fixer on the farm. With each book his lines told me a bit about him.

I’ve always felt that those “quiet men”, though stereotyped, are very real personalities in life. They have stuffed their emotions for long periods of time. And when something drastic happens, they explode, expose their inner selves and come into their own. I wanted that for Mica.

Grace Railson’s personality, I have to admit, came a bit from my agent’s daughter, Samantha, who is only 12, but is already deep into the “Pageant Life”.  I’ve watched from the wings as Sami has competed, lost and won pageant titles.  Scholarships are hard to come by, but these kids work hard, very hard to perfect that piano solo, their voice skills and more. Grace was the kind of woman who had fought so hard for every dime she’d earned, that she didn’t know any other way to live. Until she got pregnant and gave birth to darling Jules.

Her baby lit her life, but her sense of responsibility weighted her down. And she found, like a lot of single mom’s, she couldn’t do everything. She needed help. When she turns to Mica, she has a LOT of explaining to do.

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE SCENE?

I have several most of them due to the fact that Mica has lost the use of his left arm due to a farm accident and now he’s caring for his baby son, a task he’s never undertaken.

MICA LAY ON the floor with Jules on his belly, throw pillows propped on his left side in case Jules rolled off. Grace had curled next to him and put her head on his chest. With his right arm around Grace, she snuggled closer to him by the hour.

Mrs. Beabots slept on the Victorian sofa behind them, a warm brick at her feet with three blankets and a mink coat over her. She slept soundly.
The fire was nearly out and Mica knew he’d have to disturb both mother and child to throw a few more logs on. Just not yet.

This night had been an idyll he never could have imagined. Not since before the accident had he felt this needed, or that his presence and contributions were necessary to the lives of others. True, their circumstances were not as dire as they could be, but the old Victorian house, with its high ceilings and noninsulated windows, allowed the heat to dissipate in minutes.

It was well past four in the morning when he finally rose to stoke the fire. He checked the wall thermometer Mrs. Beabots had placed in the hall just outside the library. The house was forty-nine degrees. Bone-chilling, but not deadly, as long as he kept the library warm.
Mica continued to heat bricks and rewrap them for Mrs. Beabots and Grace. They stirred in their sleep. Only once did Grace awaken.

All she said was “Come to bed.”
His heart cried out with an unfamiliar yearning.
He slid back under the blankets, pulled Jules onto his warm stomach and held Grace close.
She didn’t say another word.
The accident had turned Mica’s world upside down, and he hadn’t felt like himself since. But tonight, he reveled in a sense of belonging he hadn’t even experienced as a child. The happiest days he could remember had always been tinged with the feeling that he was an outsider. But maybe he simply hadn’t appreciated his parents and brothers as much as he could have back then.

Mica was by no means the misfit of the family. That title went to Nate, who had run away right after high-school graduation to join the navy so he could save up for medical school and pay for it all on his own, without their father footing the bill. Gabe was also headstrong and independent. He had left the farm to become a vintner and marry Liz Crenshaw. Rafe had stayed, yet even his first love was Thoroughbred racing. That and Olivia.

Then there was Mica. He’d only ever belonged to the land and to the machines and engines he repaired. He’d never traveled or extended himself beyond what he knew and loved. And he’d always drifted away from people.
Yet, here tonight, he was part of a family. He was filled with an emotion so strong, he could hardly swallow. Mrs. Beabots had been a friend nearly all his life, but right now, he thought of her as the grandmother he’d never known.

He regretted his knee-jerk reaction when Grace had first shoved his son into his arm. Everything about his baby brought a warmth to his heart he’d never felt before. He loved Jules, and Mica would spend the rest of his life telling and showing his son exactly that. And Grace...
Grace was both integral to this family and an obstacle to keeping it together. Mica didn’t know how he would convince her, but if she wouldn’t marry him, then there had to be another way for them to be together.
Mica would find it because he knew now he was no longer a drifter. He could be the father Jules needed.
He would make it permanent.
With or without Grace.

LIKE THE RUMBLE and thunder of an avalanche, snowplows roared down Maple Boulevard in the early hours of the morning, jolting Grace from a deep sleep. Opening her eyes and slowly coming out of a hazy dream, she realized she had one arm draped over Mica’s chest and one arm curled up beside him. Jules was sound asleep on Mica’s stomach as if he’d slept with his daddy every night since he was born.
She blinked. Though the fire was still blazing, which meant Mica had woken through the night to stoke it, the Tiffany lamps were on.
“Power’s back,” she mumbled.

Mica stirred, but didn’t open his eyes. His arm tightened around her shoulders, then he ran his hand down her back and pulled her closer. It was the natural position of a husband who’d slept beside his wife for years. What was going on here? She nudged her nose against his chest, inhaling an intoxicating, spicy scent that was pure Mica. One that she’d never forgotten and never would. 

Looking at Jules lying on Mica’s stomach, she was once again struck with the similarities between them. Jules’s long dark lashes fanned against his cheek exactly like Mica’s. Their dark hair was the same texture and color. Jules’s lips parted only slightly as he slept, though he breathed through his nose...like his father.

Family traits. Family resemblance. Grace felt as if she could barely keep her head above water in the Barzonni sea. In Paris, she had designed and customized the world she inhabited. In Indian Lake she was an outsider, despite the fact that her Aunt Louise had been here all her life and Grace herself had visited often during her teen years here. Grace felt as if she was clinging to her plans with her fingernails, like the survivor of a shipwreck. And what a wreck she’d made of this.

The idea that she could just leave Jules with Mica for two months, then whisk him back to Paris was nothing short of absurd. She’d worried about Jules more on this trip than she had when she was at work in her atelier. Granted, Jules was getting older. He crawled now and was trying table food. When he was smaller and less mobile, he was easier to keep an eye on. But it wasn’t just that. Something in her had altered drastically.

Perhaps is it was the fact that on this trip, she’d had long stretches in which she only had to think about Jules. And Mica. She wasn’t glued to her design table or computer, or listening to Etienne and Jasminda argue. She wasn’t in conference with Rene or on another overseas call to England.
For the first time since Jules’s birth, she’d performed the role of mother more than that of businesswoman, designer or couture team partner.

Was this the real Grace she was exploring? Or was it another of the many facets most women polish in their lives? Was she any different than Sarah or Liz, who balanced careers and kids? She didn’t think so.
And, of course, there was Mica. For over a year in Paris, she’d actually thought she was past her feelings for him. She’d thought that bringing Jules here would be uncomplicated. She’d expected his anger and shock, yes, but she hadn’t counted on her own emotions. Her reaction to him last autumn had been a combination of compassion for what he was going through and the remains of a teenage crush that could never be anything more. All through her pregnancy and Jules’s first months, she’d tried to convince herself of that. But after only a few days in Indian Lake, it was obvious that she’d been in denial. Her love for Mica was full-blown and devastating.

Lying next to him now, with their baby son sleeping soundly on his stomach, was something out of a dream—one that Grace should certainly never trust.
Mica had never opened his heart to her. She wondered if he even knew his own heart.
She looked up at the high, stamped-tin ceiling. She would like to tell herself that she and Mica were practically strangers, but she’d just be making up excuses again. She was a victim of unrequited love and it was time she faced that cruel fact.
No matter what Grace did to reason herself out of loving Mica, it wouldn’t work.

“Grace...” Mica shifted and kissed the top of her head. “I think he peed on me.”
“Oh, no!” She scrambled to sit up, but he didn’t loosen his hold on her. “Mica, let me up. I’ll get the diaper bag.”
“The power’s on, right?”
“Yes.”
“Could you bring me a warm washcloth, then? Let’s not wake up Jules until we have to.”
Grace nodded. “Absolutely. The water heater might not have kicked in, but I’ll boil some. You don’t have a change of clothes, though. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay. I’ll wash up as best I can. How’s Mrs. Beabots?”
“Asleep.”
“Good. I’ll stay here and you get the things.” His smile was slow and sleepy. His dark hair was mussed and his dark stubble only made his blue eyes more intense. He’d never looked so handsome.
She didn’t know what came over her, considering she’d just been stewing over how painful it was to be in love with him, but she kissed his cheek. Then she grazed his lips with hers.
“Don’t,” he said.
“What?”
“I haven’t brushed my teeth.” He gave a low laugh, then pulled her close and planted a kiss on her temple.
I’m so toast, she thought and drew away from him.
“Be back in a sec.”

Grace rose carefully so as not to disturb Jules or Mrs. Beabots. She tiptoed to the kitchen and put a kettle on to boil. She looked out the window and saw that the streetlights were glowing. Now that she was up, she could hear the furnace had kicked on and the house would soon be warm again. She found a French press near the kitchen sink and there was ground coffee in a blue-and-white French porcelain canister on the island. She rummaged around and found two coffee mugs, a sugar bowl and some cream in the refrigerator.

Just as the kettle was about to whistle she took the pot off the stove and poured water into the French press. She placed the cups, sugar and cream on a silver tray she’d seen Mrs. Beabots use. She found a bar of soap near the sink and two washcloths in a drawer. She put the rest of the hot water in a cereal bowl and added it to the tray.
When she returned to the library, Mica had scooted into a sitting position and placed Jules on his baby blanket.
Grace whispered, “Here we are.”
“Thanks,” Mica said quietly.

Mica dipped the washcloths into the hot water and then soaped one up. He lifted his shirt and scrubbed his six-pack. Grace couldn’t help but stare. Her eyes darted to his.
“Told you I kept working out.”
“But...”
“My arm didn’t hinder my sit-ups.” He grinned mischievously.
“Apparently not.”
Grace turned to Jules and unsnapped his sleeper, glancing back at Mica. He caught her eye.
“What?” he asked, rinsing the suds off with the second washcloth.
“Sorry.” She smiled and took off Jules’s diaper, then cleaned him up with a wipe. Jules stirred, rubbed his nose and looked at Grace. He smiled and then closed his eyes, content that he was safe and his mother was taking care of him.
Mica dabbed at his sweater. “I’ll take care of this when I get home,” he said.
“What about your jeans?”
“Safe.”
“I didn’t give Jules his bottle last night. I’m surprised he slept all night,” she commented.
“Maybe he likes sleeping with his dad,” Mica replied proudly.
“I’m sure he does.”


WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH DID YOU DO FOR THE BOOK?

This book was a delightful challenge because I love Paris and the whole couture world is fascinating to me. Not only did I delve into historical couture houses like Chanel, but the young designers both in New York and Paris have such a difficult road to design and become recognized. It is an 80 hour a week job and that’s on a slow week. For those truly dedicated, there is little time for themselves, much less family. That’s what made Grace’s dilemma so very real.
In addition, I dove into the engineering world of machines and new inventions. There are a great many advancements being made in regard to farm equipment for the disabled. As cool as the French dresses and silks were, I was even more intrigued with nuts, bolts and computerized tractors. This new farm equipment comes with really hefty price tags to boot. What Mica experiences is the real thing. And his computer set up looking like the inside of a space ship, isn’t all that far off the grid.
Their worlds appear divergent at first glance, but in essence both Grace and Mica are designers and understand how a new invention or design can fill their head and take them to “other worlds” much like being an author when we are creating a new story.
I loved the research. I always do.
In parting, I want to thank all the December authors for their hard work putting together the Starry Nights and Romance Facebook Party back on November 29th. It was an amazing success. In addition, we had a fantastic December giveaway. Just the thing to finish of the old year.

                              

That “Sleighful of Gifts” was truly the thing for Christmas!  All the December authors thank you all for your participation.
Now a New Year is coming. I can’t believe 2017 is over. But it is, and I’m looking forward to some super exciting announcements for Heartwarmers. Check Rula’s and my blog on January 2!
I wish you all Peace, Perfect Health, Happiness and all God’s Abundance in the New Year!
Catherine


Friday, December 29, 2017

Getting ready for the new year @Liz Flaherty


I have to give a Sorry! here. I didn't realize when I wrote this that the subject had already been covered really well. I hope you'll have patience with another look at words.

Does anyone else do a word for the year? I do. I replaced promises to lose weight, read fill-in-the-number-of books, and clean out the crisper drawer in the refrigerator with single words meant to define the coming year.

I've had some good ones. Joy, expand, and my personal favorite magic. My word for 2017 was evidently a failure, because I can't remember what it was. This year was a time of personal struggle, political struggle, and more busyness than I had any business signing up for. In that busyness, several things slid past me. Birthdays I should have acknowledged, time with people I want to be with, pleasure in things I enjoy.

So here have been my word ideas for the year to come.

(1) Acceptance. Because I have the most godawful tendency to dwell on things and not let them go. (Emphasis intended--it's that bad.)
(2) Laughter. Because if you can't get through the day any other way, that's definitely a good one.
(3) Prioritize. Because, you know, I'm not good at it and I need to learn. Right away before I do anything else.
(4) Remember. Because I forget things all the time. Every time I mislay something, the word dementia runs screaming through my mind and even though it's probably an unavoidable rite of aging, I'm terrified of it.
(5) Appreciate. Because I should. Always.

And then there was this morning on Facebook, when my friend Jerra Moreland posted a meme that said "Be kind even to mean people."

Oh. Oh, yeah. Kindness. Why didn't I think of that?

So, my word for 2018 is actually six of them. Since I can't possibly remember the whole list (there's #4, after all), I'm going to print it out several times so that even when I lose the list, I'll be able to find it again.

Happy New Year to you all. If you'd like to share your word or your resolutions, we'd love hearing them.

Speaking of New Year's, don't forget what's coming up any day now, and can be pre-ordered even as we speak. Wonderful new offerings from Heartwarmers Karen Rock, Virginia McCullough, Tara Randel, and Loree Lough. I can't wait!


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Words for the Years


by Cari Lynn Webb and Beth Carpenter


Here we are in that week between Christmas and New Year’s. It’s a time to relax and to reflect. So taking a cue from Dickens, we’re thinking about the Ghosts of New Year’s Past, New Year’s Present, and New Year’s Future. And because we’re writers, we’re giving each one a word. Let’s play!

New Year’s Past


Beth’s word: Organization
I had great intentions in 2017. I planned to organize my writing, my activities, my home. How did that work out? Well, let’s just say the mountain of to-be-filed papers beside my printer hasn’t disappeared. My writing routine isn’t quite as routine as I’d hoped. But the deadlines were met, we made some progress on home improvements, and the family is fed and cared for. I’ll call it a win.

Cari’s words: Exhausted and Excited
I had to use two words as I look back on 2017. The year had multiple deadlines in my writing life. With each one I met, I was both exited and exhausted and equally determined to meet the next deadline early (not that it happened, but I had good intentions). The excitement of moving into a new house came with my daughter falling down the cement stairs and breaking her foot-nothing like eight weeks in a boot to put a hamper on a teenager’s summer fun. My oldest daughter started high school (and as anyone can attest with a high schooler – there has been a range of emotions from exciting all the way to terrifying and that has been what I’ve felt.) There were ups and downs all year, but we made it and that makes me excited to see what the new year brings.


New Year’s Present


Beth’s word: Gratitude
I’m a lucky woman. I have a good man, a wonderful family, and a sweet dog. My second Heartwarming, A Gift for Santa, came out this month. I’ve had a great time with the book tour and promotion. Reviewers and bloggers have been very kind, and I’m grateful. I’m also thankful for all you Heartwarmers for your support. Most of all, I’m thankful to my readers. It’s been great.

Cari’s word: Full
I’m writing this after a Christmas weekend spent with family. Our family has homemade raviolis for dinner on Christmas Eve every year (my mom and I made 300 raviolis on Saturday) and then we all proceeded to eat and drink our way through the holiday weekend with homemade cookies and even more food. So in a very literal sense, I’m full. But as I look at my life now, I’m so very blessed for everything I have: a fabulous husband, terrific daughters and a wonderful extended family and friends. I’m blessed for every moment I get to spend with the people I love. I’m also blessed to be able to write for Heartwarming and meet the readers who love romance as much as I do. My life is full and I’m so grateful every day.


New Year’s Future 


Beth’s word: Hope
A fresh new year is all about hope. Who, knows, maybe this is the year I’ll finally lose weight, exercise, or learn to knit. My next book, Alaska Hideaway, is all about a man who has lost hope, and how his neighbor helps restore that hope.

Cari’s word: Anticipation
I’m ready for 2018 … I’m looking forward to the new year and already starting a list of goals for the year. Like Beth, I’m feeling hopeful: this will be the year I conquer the book marketing that intimidates me, learn something new (how to golf or Pilates or perhaps how to upgrade my cake decorating skills), and travel (I want to explore the east coast now that we’ve moved to South Carolina). Mostly, I’m ready to see what new memories will be made with my family and friends in 2018. I’m hoping for a lot of laughter and love and wishing all of you the very same!



Your turn. Do you have words for New Year’s Past, Present and Future?

May your new year be ever Heartwarming.


Part of the Heartwarming
Holiday Wishes Collection
Find it at Amazon
Find it at Amazon

Cari and Beth both have Christmas stories out. 

You can find out more on the web.






Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The After Christmas Blahs

            Okay, I admit it. I have the after Christmas blahs. But don’t we all? The anticipation of the big day is wonderful. The actual event is terrific. And then, like a tumbling tower of little kids’ blocks, it’s all over, leaving the blahs behind.
            What to do in the first few days after Christmas…shopping? Ah, I don’t think so. I love to shop but spending more money now doesn’t seem like the thing to do. Go out for dinner? Better than cooking for sure, but with the calories I packed on, hitting the Cheese Cake Factory doesn’t seem like a wise decision. Watch tv? Can’t do it. The Game Show Network has continuous Family Feud. I like Steve Harvey but enough already. And all the good love story movies have been played and re-played.
            So today I did what any good post-Christmas sufferer does, I took a nap! A wonderful, long two hour nap with my sweet new rescue dog, Willie, curled up beside me. Willie doesn’t judge my expanding fruit cake middle. He doesn’t complain that his gifts weren’t what he wanted. He just makes me feel appreciated. And maybe that’s all any of us need, to feel appreciated. As moms, hate to leave dads out, but mostly moms, we step up to the plate and swing for the fences with gifts, meals, and overall good cheer.
            Is it worth it? Of course it is. A smile, a giggle, a hoot and holler, the occasional thank you is what we need to remember the holidays with fondness and satisfaction.
            Thankfully I have a super way of getting rid of the after Christmas blahs. I have my new release – HIGH COUNTRY COP, the first of a trilogy called “The Cahills of North Carolina” coming out in Feb. This is Carter’s story. I hope you like it. And I hope you’ll follow all the Cahills of the High Country as they find love in the Carolina mountains.
Merry After Christmas, everyone.

Cynthia
February release

Willie




Tuesday, December 26, 2017

It's all over.....almost!

If you live in Canada, as Lee and I do, or in another Commonwealth country, the day after Christmas is called Boxing Day.  When I was very young, I briefly thought that Boxing Day had something to do with men wearing gloves and sparring in a ring.  This notion likely stemmed from the Friday night boxing matches my father used to watch on TV.
    There are a few theories about the origin of the Boxing Day holiday, the most common being that wealthy estate owners in Britain boxed up provisions and small gifts to hand out to their tenants.  Sometime in the mid 1800s, this practice was officially recognized and given holiday status.  Another explanation relates to the medieval custom of doling out money to the poor from church donation boxes, which were opened up the day after Christmas.
    Although Boxing Day is a statutory holiday here in Canada, the stores are wide open.  Call it Canada's version of Black Friday!  Businesses can't get enough of us customers.  I grew up in an era before store were allowed to open, so the day after Christmas meant a chance to try out those new skates or toboggan, get into the Meccano set or cut out my new paper dolls.  Yes, those presents are really dating me, aren't they?  But the day was also an opportunity to visit distant relatives, nibble on leftovers or best of all, settle onto the couch with a new book.
    These days I'm fortunate to share Christmas Day with my extended family and many of us enjoy going to a movie on Boxing Day.  Of course, the movie has to be one appropriate to all the generations.  I remember one year when someone didn't read the reviews.  A fairly explicit sex scene (for the times!) ensued.  Sitting beside my husband's eighty-five year old grandmother, I was privy to her constant 'tsk-ing' throughout.
    Since I'm not a shopper, the idea of returning to those same stores I'd dragged myself through mere days before is definitely not an option for December 26.  Until I have to meet everyone for this year's blockbuster matinee, I'm all too happy to nibble a bit, get to the couch before my husband does, and dive into my new magazines or books.  The best part?  Staying in my pj's till lunchtime.
   
How do you like to spend Boxing Day, Lee?

Thank you for the Boxing Day background, Janice!  I love this holiday almost as much as Christmas, just for different reasons. 

 I love to decorate the house for the holidays and every year we host a Christmas Eve buffet supper, a post-gift-opening Christmas morning brunch and Christmas dinner.  While the turkey is in the overn on Christmas day, some of us work on a new jigsaw puzzle while others play checkers, scrabble and gin rummy.

My family jokes about the amount of food I prepare and the general consensus is there's enough to feed a large village or maybe even a small town.  While that may be true, there is a method to my...Okay, let's not call it madness.  Let's call it thinking ahead.  And on Boxing Day, here's where you'll find me.
Curled up in front of the fire with a couple of cats, a good book....and a plate of leftovers!

Wishing a very happy and heartwarming New Year!   warmest, Lee

Oh Lee, if we weren't so far apart I'd join you in front of that fireplace.  All the best in 2018!

Janice

How do you like to spend the day after Christmas?


    

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Sit down Saturday with Liz Flaherty

There are no words to express how much I love this season or how tired I am when it's over. I can only say--and smirk when every author around nods her weary head--it's a whole lot like writing a book.

I love writing more than any non-human or non-pet thing in the world. I'd rather do it than anything else. Even when I'm doing other things I love doing, like sewing or working at the library, writing is there in the back of my mind. It never goes away. But when I get to the end of a book, I'm exhausted. I'm also fulfilled, but I'm too tired to care.

I had a little surprise when I finished writing my December release, The Happiness Pact. Not that I was tired of it, but that I wasn't sure I liked the book. I didn't tell my editor this, although I did wax dramatic with my friend Nan Reinhardt and my husband Duane. (Both of them have heard all this before. Probably every time I finish a book. They both sighed. Heavily.)

So I did something I don't think I've done since my first book came out 19 years ago. As soon as The Happiness Pact showed up on my Kindle, I read it.

And it made me happy. Because not only did I like it, I loved the people who'd told me their stories. There are the other authors nodding their heads again. Isn't it the greatest feeling?

I hope you like it, too.

The Happiness Pact joins A Gift for Santa, Every Serengeti Sunrise, and His Baby Dilemma in Heartwarming's December lineup. What fabulous company I'm keeping!

If you're tired, I hope you get some rest and enjoy the sweetness the next few days brings. And while you're there in the recliner, grab a book. We all appreciate it.

Merry Christmas!


Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Spirit of Hawaii Past and Present

By Roz Denny Fox with interruptions and pics by M. K. Stelmack

M. K. here. I don't know if anyone will tune into today's blog. I mean it's three days before Christmas. Who has time to read a Christmas card, much less a blog? If you are one of those fortunate few, Roz has a tale to tell of a Christmas long ago that didn't feel at all like Christmas. After reading it (I don't send or receive Christmas cards so I enjoyed her blog), I wondered if times had changed. Sure enough, I found visual evidence to show that the holiday season has indeed stretched to the farthest reaches of the Unite States. 

So if you're caught in a lineup somewhere or waiting at an airport or stopping by after shopping at Amazon Prime, and have checked in to the blog here, here's Roz's tale of her Christmas Long Ago and (Too) Faraway.

Do any of you recall having a Christmas where it just didn’t feel like Christmas?
This year as I pulled out Christmas decorations I don’t know why I remembered back to a holiday that didn’t feel like Christmas. I don’t believe there was one single reason, but more a composite.
It was the year my oldest daughter turned fifteen. She was in a Hawaiian and Tahitian dance group with two other girls. I’d lived in Hawaii as had her dance teacher, the mother of one of the other girls. When the teacher phoned to say she’d secured the girls a wonderful opportunity to dance with her former teacher at the then Hawaiian Village, my husband and I were excited for the girls. However, until after we’d said yes and told her to count on our daughter, she’d neglected to say it was for Christmas Eve Day. We had already planned a family ski vacation with my husband’s sister and their kids. Rather than cancel out on that vacation where we’d already paid for half a chalet, my mom-in-law said she and a friend would go to Hawaii with me and my eldest, and my husband and youngest could go ahead with the ski trip.
It sounded like the optimal thing to do. So the four of us booked a week on Oahu, extending through New Year’s Day. After all, I knew it’d be warm, and Santa would wear a ski hat and red swim trunks and arrive on a surf board.

M. K. Sorta like this dude...? I pulled this from an Associated Press file. It is a Hawaiian tradition now for Santa to arrive by boat (canoe).



Okay, but our hotel had zero decorations up. Not even a red candle in our room. 

M. K. Not so anymore!

(Photo by FlickRiver)


Even the City Hall in Honolulu gets into the act. 



Only one restaurant we went to the whole two weeks we were there was playing Christmas music. From the day we arrived it just felt unChristmasy. (sorry if that isn’t a word)
It turns out my daughter also felt it lacked something, even though she thoroughly enjoyed the dance with her friends. On Christmas Day we went to the Cultural Center. I assumed the craft kiosks would have Hawaiian Christmas decorations. Nope. 


M. K. Tomorrow (the 23rd) marks the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas celebration at the Polynesia Cultural Center. Here's a pic from the Center of their Christmas Lagoon.





Again no Christmas music. Even though I love Hawaiian music I really hope it’s different there now. I haven’t been back in a number of years. I think the last time was the RWA conference and it was summer-time.

M. K. And it is! (Though this is looking pretty vintage...)



Subsequently, my husband and other daughter who went on the ski trip also said they felt their holiday was “off”. Partly probably because the vacation itself was our gift to each other. We didn’t take gifts with us. The group who went skiing did hang up stockings. But my sister-in-law set a dollar limit and number of gifts “Santa” could leave in the kids’ socks. Needless to say the children all felt short-changed. All in all that was far from our normal family Christmases.
Looking back I think our lack of anticipated enjoyment was due in a large part to splitting up our family unit for a holiday known for gathering family together. We called each other on Christmas. That didn’t make the holiday better. I’ve known a number of people who go separate ways over Christmas and they are quite happy about it. As for my family, we all returned home vowing to never again divide up for Christmas---at least not until our daughters got married and had families of their own.
What I wish for everyone this year is to have and enjoy a full family get-together, be it at home, on an island, in the mountains, or over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house.


Peace, love and joy from me to all of you.

M. K. Or as the Hawaiians say Merry Christmas...!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

How lovely it was...

                by Liz Flaherty
Helen suggested talking about winter memories today, which caused me to frown at my keyboard for a while. Thinking.
I don’t mind winter. I won’t say I love it, and I’m never sorry to see it end, but
I don’t actually mind it. It’s not hot, for one thing. For another, there are no bugs—or hardly any. It is a time that fully embraces the by-the-quart eating of soup. All kinds of soup. It is a time of snow. Before you can object to that, let me qualify that by adding that as long as the wind is not blowing, the roads are cleared, and there is no ice involved, I love snow. If I were an artist I’d paint snowscapes all the time. I’d do it while I was inside, of course. I don’t actually want to go out in it.
         
But we used to. Our kids, you see, played winter sports. As people who never played organized sports of any kind, we were never sure exactly how this happened, but one son played basketball, our daughter played volleyball, and the other son played football. (I know that technically, football is a fall sport, but when you’re sitting on the bleachers in the snow watching your kid slide around on a white gridiron, it feels like winter.)
          With sports comes quality cuisine. Nachos, hot dogs, popcorn, candy bars,
hot chocolate—did I mention nachos? Sports are also good exercise for athletes’ parents. At our school, the home side is always the Other Side. This means walking roughly four miles around the end of the football field to the home bleachers. Then four miles back to get the blanket you left in the car.
          Basketball and volleyball offer fitness opportunities, too. If you sit on the top row of bleachers, you get to lean against the wall. Never mind that there’s a reason those are called nosebleed seats and that your knees—well, okay, my knees—are ready for me to sit down about a row and a half up from the floor.
          Winter sports are hard on your voice. Yelling at officials who in no way
understand the game they’re officiating. Yelling some more—and possibly spilling popcorn on everyone below you—when your particular athlete does something outstanding. Yelling at a parent across the floor or field who calls your athlete a name.
          It’s been years. My kids played in the 1980s and early 90s. But those memories are still some of the best, the sharpest, the sweetest.


          How about you? Any winter memories you’d like to share? 
          Merry Christmas!

by Helen DePrima

I can’t imagine I can contribute any new thoughts about Christmas. My cards are sent, gifts bought, tree decorated. Now I can concentrate on surviving the rest of the winter. I don’t ski or skate or snowshoe; my winter sport is keep a path shoveled between the back door and the bird feeder.

But except for my childhood when the rare snowfalls in Kentucky brought out my
grandparents’ antique sleigh pulled by our old pinto Mothball, I’ve spent most of my life in places where snow is celebrated rather than tolerated.

After high school, I lived ten years in Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado without once skiing down a slope. My experience with snow focused more on keeping my VW Beetle on the mountain roads between Visiting Nurse appointments. Creeping down an unmarked single-lane from the high country once in a snow storm, I vowed never again to schedule a winter house call without first checking the forecast. The wet blacktop winding through Poudre Canyon, when I slid down the last switchback, looked like my hope of heaven.

After my husband graduated from vet school, I should have insisted on settling where winter lasted maybe a month around Christmas. Instead, we’ve spent the last forty years in New Hampshire. I get through time between Christmas and the end of mud season by poring over seed catalogues, by starting a quilt and finishing a manuscript. I have a fire in the wood stove and my laptop on the corner of my lap not taken up by my Maine Coon. Let it snow.



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Christmas Book Flood by Laurie Tomlinson


Does anyone else find it super appealing to skip the hubbub and celebrate with a pile of good books this year? Are you already envisioning which books will change the lives of the good boys and girls on your list? The people of Iceland are really on to something here!

Since most are running low on frequent flyer miles, we can recreate our own Christmas Book Flood at home. But we're going to need some essentials. 



1. A cozy book nook. A squashy chair, soft bedsheets and blankets, and an ottoman or pillows to ensure optimum comfort in the same position for an extended period of time. 


2. Comfy clothing. You'd better believe these babies will keep my tootsies toasty, and my body will be laden in lots of fleece. 

Source: thestayathomechef.com

3. Chocolate. Lots of it. Try these cupcakes, keep a steady stream of this hot cocoa going, and fill your home with the aroma of these Texas sheet cake cookies

4. Books. You need a variety to sustain you through the night -- one or two for each mood you could possibly be in. If you need a recommendation, you've come to the right place :)



Can you think of any other Christmas Book Flood necessities? What would you have in your dream book nook? Mine would include this blanket wrapped around my shoulders!


About the author: Laurie Tomlinson is an award-winning contemporary romance author and cheerleader for creatives. She believes that God’s love is unfailing, anything can be accomplished with a good to-do list, and that life should be celebrated with cupcakes and extra sprinkles. Her debut novel, With No Reservations, is now available from Harlequin Heartwarming. You can connect with Laurie on her websiteFacebook page, and Instagram.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas Traditions by T.R. McClure

We're coming down to the wire. Christmas is less than two weeks away and I, like you, have a lot to get ready. So in the interest of saving time, I'm going to share a story I wrote my senior year in high school for the local paper.
                                                         🎄🎄🎄
Every Christmas the tree stood in the back room of the old farmhouse, slightly removed from the threatening traffic of energetic and curious grandchildren perhaps, but still an ever-present reminder of the season.

As a child, I often marveled at the immensity of the tree. As seen from the perspective of a  six year old, my grandparents' tree had all the majesty of any carefully decorated tree on the White House lawn.

The task of finding that particular tree fell to whomever was struck by the sudden desire to search for that Tree of all Trees - or to whomever had the most children pleading with him to go traipsing through the woods in foot deep snow. In whatever way the search began, it did eventually begin.

One might be led to think that with an entire ridge full of beautiful pines, it wouldn't take long to find a suitable tree. Well, that's not quite right. As a matter of fact, that's dead wrong. Trees that were below six feet were passed by without a second glance. Trees were rejected for any number and variety of reasons. One was too thick, one wasn't thick enough, one was too fat, one was too skinny, one had a cluster of sticks and grass nestled close to the trunk. That tree was already taken.



But before the season was over we did finally decide on a tree. It may have been a bit sparse in some places, but in the eyes of the grandchildren who had been in on the big decision, it was beautiful. The tree was felled and dutifully dragged over the snow back to the farmhouse, leaving a feathery trail in its wake.

Boxes of Christmas ornaments that had been used for years were once more dragged down from the attic. Popcorn was popped and strung, a tradition reminiscent of days long past. Delicate glass Santa's that had witnessed the change from the old-fashioned past to the modern future took their places among the branches as did, of course, the star. The Nativity display at the foot of the tree had seen better days, but the faded and chipped figures continued to serve their purpose.

Tradition. Lovely, heartwarming, old-fashioned tradition. That's what my childhood Christmases were made of.

But in the face of time and progress, traditions change. The old farmhouse is closed up now for the holiday. Potential Christmas trees grow tall on the ridge, having lost out to the ease of picking out an already cut, well-trimmed pine. The family is separated into smaller groups now to have their own special kind of Christmas, to start their own traditions.

Yet the tradition of an old-fashioned Christmas is ingrained in each one of us no matter where or how we grew up. It's an integral part of all the Christmases we are involved in, because the recipe for Christmas is composed of the basic ingredients of the past, with the present thrown in for flavor and perhaps just a touch of the future for added spice.
                                                            🎄🎄🎄

I ended my article there with no thought that someday I would be preparing for my own grandchild to come to our house. This year we welcome a three-month-old, first granddaughter, her parents and her aunt and uncle. I wrote that article as a grandchild and rewrote it as a grandmother!

Traditions.

Merry Christmas!
T.R. McClure www.trmcclure.com