Wishing You A Blessed Christmas

THIS YEAR, CHRISTMAS FALLS BETWEEN Fridays, so before I forget, I’d like to take this time to wish you, one and all, a very blessed and Merry Christmas. My humble gift to all of you is a wee bit of a Christmas song from Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer.
You can find out more about this musical duo at swan-dyer.co.uk/

For me, Christmas and Easter are the holidays for celebrating. Gift-giving, decorations, singing—celebrating the birth and death of our Saviour. All of this has become part and parcel to the season. I love gift-giving, decorating—no matter what the holiday is … but all holidays—especially Christmas and Easter—have become overly commercialised and that saddens me.

As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season”—from Christmas, all the way to Easter. For me, the accuracy of the dates on which they are celebrated is a moot point. It’s the simple fact that Jesus has been given to us as a gift from God. A precious gift that keeps on giving. He was born as a gift to us and He died for us—taking all of our sins upon himself in his death. We celebrate what God and Jesus did for us. We’re not celebrating a simply birth. Nor are we celebrating the death. We celebrate what those events represent. For me, these are wow-moments worthy of much celebration. It’s the Christmas Spirit—which should live inside of us all year long. Perhaps during the actual holidays the spirit explodes, but is that a bad thing? For me, absolutely not.

But … it can be overwhelming for some. Perhaps it’s due to the loss of a loved one, or maybe it’s for some other reason. Holidays in general can ignite memories, triggering an otherwise managed depression or sadness, pushing some over the edge.

So, my friends … when you find a “Scrooge” in your midst that cannot be dissuaded, it’s time to turn down your enthusiasm. No, you don’t need to shut it off—simply reign it in when you are around that person. I have a few friends that are triggered by the never-ending Christmas music—something I adore—that is pumped through speakers at the malls and offices, ice rinks and even on the streets. There is no escaping it and it is slowly driving them crackers-crazy.

There are things we can do for these fragile friends of ours. Find quiet places to spend time with them: take a walk—away from all the hustle and bustle, invite them over for a quiet lunch or dinner … and surround them with loving prayer, to help them through the holiday. Enjoy the holidays with them. Save the enthusiastic holiday cheer for your like-minded friends.

Until next Friday, I would like to wish you all a blessed and Merry Christmas. Have a fantastic Friday, weekend and a not-too-crazy week (unless you like that kind of thing <eye roll>). Now, I’m off to work on Christmas cards—better late than never—and persimmon pudding baking! Cheers!

In Memory …

ONE OF MY MOST FAVOURITE actresses is Dame Judi Dench. When I read this article—found on a friend’s Facebook page—with a goofy photo of her, it started me to thinking …

If I were to plant trees in memory of my deceased love ones, which would I choose? With my Celtic roots, I would definitely want to research the history behind ones found in Scotland and Ireland for my family.

I do have quite a few loved ones that have left this earthly plane in my lifetime: all of my grandparents, all of my uncles, one (blood relative) aunt, my parents, my mother-in-law, my husband, a number of friends …

After reading the article, I found that Dame Judi was very particular about which trees she chose. Her friends either had an affinity to the tree or there was some personality trait that clicked with the particular tree chosen. I think I would need to research the strengths and character of each tree—and of each person before I began. I would be limited to how many I could plant, since I have a meager, not-quite-acre—on a serious hillside (with the house set in the middle of it all).

The easiest to choose would be for my dad. I’m not sure I’d only plant the Jacaranda … maybe I’d add a couple of other trees as well, plus roses. He was an avid gardener with the greenest of green thumbs. And he loved nature. I’d probably dedicate an area with various small to medium sized plants that would fair well under the umbrella of a Jacaranda. My mom loved roses—especially pinks. I think I’d probably combine their trees/garden and add forget-me-nots since pink and blue were her favourite colours.

Mom’s mom—my maternal grandmother—passed away when I was fairly young and I honestly don’t remember much about her, except that she was a wonderful cook, making sure her grandchildren had sweets and cakes to enjoy on our visits. I haven’t found any photos of her—I think my cousin has all of those, along with much of my grandfather’s photos. So I’m not sure what I’d plant in her memory. In his memory, I’d probably do best with a cactus (don’t get me wrong—I loved him, but he could be very prickly at times) … my brothers saw him in a much different light than I (I’m sure it was a gender thing after hearing stories told by my mother).

My dad’s dad (my paternal grandfather) also died before I really had a chance to get to know him—think I was only four or five. My dad looked up to him from a very early age, but all I really remember was him sitting under an old, sprawling avocado tree with most—if not all—of his grandchildren sitting or running around on the lawn around him (he was definitely the patriarch of the family). So, perhaps an avocado. I was a young adult when my paternal grandmother died, so I have many memories of her. She was the only one to send me books for my birthdays and at Christmas. This grandmother was my dad’s step mom—his birth-mom died during the flu epidemic when he was entering toddlerhood. I think, for both of his moms, I’d plant gardenias … or perhaps citrus (or maybe one of each) and forget-me-nots underneath. Not sure why—just seems appropriate. Perhaps it’s because I associate the town my dad grew up in with those plants. Both of them were of German descent, so maybe a little research will yield a beautiful tree that would survive my climate.

My husband’s mom—Czech and UK descent—and all other loved ones will need research … it’s going to be a mighty forest when I’m done (which makes me happy), but I must consider my veggie garden in the process. All trees may need to be planted only on the north-east side of the property so I will have sun to nourish my edible garden—and I don’t interfer with neighours’ viewshed.

What have you done to memorialise family and friends? I’d love to hear.

Hmm. A last minute thought: Jesus’ life/death/character was memorialised by a pine tree, in addition to the red/white candy cane and a cross …

Speaking of that … only two more Sundays until Christmas! Hanukkah began on the 12th … and all the other holidays will soon follow. Wishing you all a Merry, Happy (you fill in the appropriate blanks). Whatever way you choose to celebrate, may your holiday be blessed abundantly.


Winding Up … Winding Down

{Oops. My apologies—I was having technical difficulties and was unable to get into my account, so couldn’t post this until now.}

IN WAYS, THE SEASON IS just beginning to warm up, in other ways, it’s finally winding down. Today is the very last day of my crazy book signing/craft show events.

The wind-down allows me to evaluate what worked and what did not. And it allows me more time to spend with friends and family as the holidays heat up. I’ve had to say no to friends and family so many times this year, I’m sure they thought I was a workaholic.

Being able to say yes feels wonderful! I love when I can mix work with pleasure, too—the two-day Christmas at the Inns was delightful, allowing me to photograph the Inns in all their Christmas splendour … and I was able to have some quality time plus a delicious meal with good friend. I’ve known this cool lady since we moved up into my little paradise—a good thirty-plus years! We have a mutual love for cars and photography, so it was natural to share the two days of fun with her.

There are a few more photography-rich events we are doing together, plus a concert before year’s end and I have a Writerly Christmas luncheon to attend, a sports car club Christmas luncheon, time with family, too … my social calendar is almost as crazy as my business calendar was earlier in the year.

It’s all about spending time with friends and family. Friends I’ve neglected through the year. I haven’t been quite so bad with immediate family—I’ve been able to spend time with my daughter and son-in-law fairly frequently. My brothers and their families … well, sadly, that’s something else again—with no one close by, it’s hard. Now … it’s time to catch up on all that has been going on—somehow.

The winding-down means I can relax, too. I can enjoy the holiday—my very favourite season. For me, it means Christmas lights, decorations, decorating the tree … giving of ones self. Nothing is rushed. Everything is savoured. Enjoyed. And lovingly shared. That’s the way is should be.

So, my friends, make sure to set aside time to truly enjoy the season—slow down, breathe. Fill yourself with the beauty of the time of year—whether it’s filled with snow, rain or sun … find it in you to be gentler, caring, giving. And forgiving.

May you find this day, this weekend and week to come blessed and filled with joy!

2016 … The End Is Nigh

IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN … THE SAND FOR 2016 has almost run out. I’ve only a few more blogs to do before the closing of the year. I’m surprised I’ve managed to produce one weekly (well, almost). These last few months have been crazy. I knew they would be. I almost burned out—but not quite—from five-plus weekends of book signings and a lovely OGS Artist Showcase party (and a few personal and holiday fun things I squeezed in—I just cannot say no to fun with friends and family!) … leaving me with only one more event coming up tomorrow (that’s Dec 10th at Aptos Grange, Aptos CA folks)—and a mere three blogs to conjure after today before 2016 expires.

I’m ready for it—for all of it! I still have my initial edit for book four to finish (then begin the re-writes) and my publisher will be sending me a first “re-edit” (actually, first truly professional edit) of book one for my perusal—gotta get that back asap so we can get it back into publication! And for my event tomorrow, I worked my fingers to the bone all week trying to get the Christmas cards done—I was so excited that I was able to use images taken two nights in a row at the Christmas at the Inns in Pacific Grove. The Bed and Breakfasts and Inns were splendiferously dressed for the occasion. Beautiful. And yummy goodies to nibble on, too. My favourite was the Jaberwock Inn … for obvious reasons. And I had so much fun turning a slew of photos into lovely faux watercolour images. They all turned out very nice (insert huge grin).

I did not reach the 50,000 word goal for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I was about 20,000 words short, but that’s okay. I’m super excited about where the story is headed. I was going to the NaNo TGIO (thank God it’s over) Party last Sunday, but was too exhausted from a combo of some personal fun and work-related stuff on Friday and Saturday. Sunday turned into a day of rest. I had printed up an excerpt to read—re-reading it was fun … oh, yeah! So sad I didn’t get to share it. Maybe I will later … maybe. Book five is going to be suspenseful. Definitely.

Tomorrow, Joyce Oroz and I will be in Aptos at the Grange—along with quite a few other vendors—hawking our wares: Josephine Stuart Mysteries series (I think she has eight) for Joyce and my Secrets Beyond Scymaria series (books one-three). I think we’re the only ones with books, but I will also have my art. I was told “no photos—we’ve already got three photographers”. I was given permission to sell art and my photopolymer prints (plus … well, I haven’t talked to the contact about my Christmas cards … but I’m sure they’ll be fine because they are “watercolour” vs straight-up photos).

Don’t freak out but … do you realise there’s only sixteen days till Christmas (eeeek!) and fifteen days till the beginning of Hanukkah? Sniggle … on that note—before I close, I want to wish you a blessed Friday and week ahead. Try to stay focused on the reason for the season rather than the craziness all around you.

‘Tis the Season

ONCE AGAIN, CHRISTMAS IS NEARLY UPON US and by next Friday it will have passed, leaving only piles of festive wrapping paper, leftovers and bills from overspending. Sadly, the stressed-out, over-wrought feeling of the season will also hang in the air. Commercialism has moved the “holiday” further and further into the middle of the year in hopes of capturing more of the public’s attention and earnings—in doing so, much of the public is stressing, worried about what to get, how they can afford it…etc.  I think more and more the Bah-Humbug attitude flourishes because of this. Over the past few years, even I was starting to climb on and settle into the B-H wagon…getting overly cynical of all the commercialism.

Then, I was reminded yet again why I celebrate—why Christians celebrate (well, of course I already knew…it’s just that I’d allowed commercialism to overtake my thought processes and like so many others, started dreading the season, anxious for it to be over). I need to move away from that line of thought and focus on the true reason for the season. It’s certainly not about what to give or what I might receive or whether I’ll get the house decorated—or enough food prepared—in time for family to come over for the annual feast.

December 25th may not be the actual day (or even the right season) for Christ’s birth, but the actual day or season is not what Christians are celebrating. We are celebrating the amazing fact that God gave to us the most precious of gifts—he allowed his one and only son to be born into this awful world, full of hate, disease and turmoil. We are celebrating the birth of Christ. The gift of giving from one’s heart. A beginning of our saving. And for this, I am joyful. Grateful. Humbled.

Did you know that Christmas simply means Celebration of Christ? A celebration—shouldn’t we be doing that every day?

I want to joyfully celebrate our received Gift each and every day of the year (I do celebrate—but in a very quiet way, but not with the enthusiasm I’d truly like). I look at this time of the year as being extra special and should be celebrated with gusto. I have a friend in the UK that cannot contain her exuberance (I love that word—it’s so appropriate…look it up) to a few weeks of the year, and it’s fun to watch her display of excitement ebb and flow throughout the year. She is filled with such wonder and delight, it is hard to describe. And it is contagious. I so want to be infected with it—to unleash my enthusiasm every day…but the meek, well-mannered side of me keeps getting in the way. I think, if I lived closer to her (how I wish), I’m sure I’d do a better job of squashing my meekness—letting my true feelings show through so much more vibrantly.

This year, my celebration will be relatively quite compared to my exuberant friend—filled with a day of precious family time (my daughter and her husband) and hopefully a few new traditions will come to be. I have the right spirit filling me to overflowing this year. Here’s hoping that ‘overflowing’ will spill over into the new year—and well beyond.

I wish you and your family a blessed Christmastime together. May you also find that exuberance spilling over into your new year.




Ho-Ho-Ho! Holidays…

Oh, my…the Holiday season is nearly upon us and already I have two craft shows I’ll be at to showcase and autograph my books (along with at least two other authors). The crafters will be hawking their Christmas wares, holiday music will be playing and scents of yummy food and pine will be wafting in the air.

Here’s that time sensitive plug for both events:

LOCAL AUTHORS Meet and Greet/Book Signings

14-15 November from 10am-5pm (both days) Holiday Craft Show at the Watsonville Elks Lodge at 121 Martinelli Street, Watsonville

22-23 November from 10am-4pm (both days) Aromas Hills Artisans Holiday Festival at the Aromas Grange at Rose Avenue and Bardue Street in Aromas. 

Yours truly, along with several other authors (Joyce Oroz—murder mystery writer, Giselle Roche—a 17-year old fantasy writer), and possibly Pat Hanson—author of Invisible Grandparenting will be signing purchased copies of their books and answering questions you might have at both events. If you are a local, perhaps I’ll see you there!

It’s hard to keep the Christmas spirit at bay until after Thanksgiving when getting involved with these events. I’ve found myself humming Christmas carols already—also watching (off and on) the Hallmark channel’s Christmas Countdown, which started on Halloween Eve. I’m dying to grab a truckload of persimmons (I will need to resort to purchasing them this year as my tree wimped out this year) and begin baking—I seldom, if ever bake…except during the Holidays. I love, love, love persimmon pudding. There’s also my mom’s sour cream mashed potatoes (with a whole cube of butter and carton of sour cream…well, I have lightened it up somewhat, but it’s still decadent).

I think I’m more excited than usual, which is a good thing! But I need to reign myself in until after Thanksgiving—at least while in public, so I don’t irritate my friends (insert huge grin and a chuckle here)…

As far as I’m concerned, I could celebrate Christmas all year ’round. He is the ‘reason for the season’ and since He is with us all year long, why not.

May your holidays hold the blessings of the season…joy, peace and love.

It Is Christmastime. Really?

HMMM…THINK I MENTIONED being a bit bah-humbugish earlier this month.  Oh, yes.  Usually, as Thanksgiving is creeping up upon us all, I’m counting the days to the day after so I can start pulling out all of my Christmas decorations.  When December 1st rolls around, I find myself craving the music of the season, but this year, it took me much longer to warm up to the idea of decorating…and even for the music.

Very slowly, I started–with Christmas music whispering in the background.  One ornament or decoration at a time…now the living room is finally looking a little more festive.  Because I have back problems, I found it so much easier to just leave the Christmas lights up all year (they are very unobtrusive, so they cannot be seen that well during the ‘off-season’).  All I have to do is go plug them in.  Ta-da!   And I’ve resorted to the same idea for my little four-foot Charlie Brown tree.  I love the smell of fresh pine, but must resort to a fake tree due to allergies, so I’ve tried to make up for that fact by finding one that looks as real as possible: real redwood trunk with fake branches and needles, decorated with lights, ornaments and an angel atop.

Dragging the tree out of the garage and lugging it into the living room was the hardest part.  Then, simply remove the protective plastic bags (keeping dust and mice at bay), set it up on the table and plug it in.  Part of the reason for the little tree is space is limited in my home and I have a cat that has proven to be a Christmas tree attacker.  He plays with ornaments, so through trial and error, the only ones on the tree are non-breakable or non-valuable ones.  My cherished ornaments languish in the box, hidden for yet another year.  Also, a little tree is something I can place out of tail-wagging reach of our golden retriever/lab mix, who sometimes has bouts of going berserk, running through the house chasing the cat.

So, the tree is up, the little ceramic village laid out at its base (forgoing the lights inside each house this year), most of the decorations are up around the living room, and outside is appropriately lit with festive little twinkles of coloured light.  Christmas music is slowly increasing in frequency on the radio station I listen to, intermixed with occasional iPod blasts of 100% Christmas music.

Yet, with only a few days left till Christmas, I am still having some issues with getting “into the Spirit of the Season” — at least the commercial aspects.   I have completely resisted shopping, choosing instead to give gifts of ‘promissory notes’ & persimmon puddings to those close to me.  I have fallen into a very bad ‘tradition’ of getting my Christmas cards out after the new year has been celebrated — each year, I promise to improve the delivery time, yet it seldom happens.

Perhaps this lack of Spirit is because this is only the second year I will be spending half of the traditional holiday alone.  It’s not a ‘poor girl’ kind of thing.  It’s just different.  Adjusting usually takes me some time–in this case, several years, I guess.  I need to find new traditions since the old ones were for a family of three that is no more.  For a family that visited grandparents that are no longer living.  New traditions for a single person with a grown, married ‘child’ — sorry — daughter.  I know my daughter and son-in-law are trying to figure out and establish their own traditions for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  So must I.

But, I think the biggest reason is because I have shifted my focus from the ‘gimme’ of Christmas to what it’s truly about.  The beginning of the sacrificial giving of a child so that we may claim kinship with the mighty Lord.  Adopted into His family as sons and daughters — Princes and Princesses of the King.  What a delightful and cherished gift to receive.

As a parent, I understand the emotions behind giving up a child — though, not the heart-wrenching loss He must have felt, knowing full-well what His son would soon go through.  Giving.  Without receiving anything in return, except adopted, unruly children that mostly do not realize what a magnificent gift they have received, He handed over His only son to the World.

I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11

May your Christmases now and forever be blessed; filled to overflowing with the true meaning of this season.

Have a Blessed and Merry Christmas.  I know I will.

Oh, Bother…

Well, it is the day after Thanksgiving Day and the dust has settled.

My body has finally stopped groaning at all of the food I consumed.  No, it wasn’t the quantity in total, it was what I ate.

I have spent the last year trying to lose weight and have been successful — almost thirty pounds, and I still need to lose quite a bit more for health reasons.  I am confident that I will succeed — eventually.

I’ve made some major changes in what I eat, how much I eat and when I eat — even what I keep in the house, because I do know my limits & don’t want to tempt myself.  Also, I space out my “treats” with a minimum of multiple days between so my body can readjust.  So, if I eat out, then I always make sure there are at least three days between before I do anything else special.  But there are some nasty little habits that pop up at the most unexpected times.

I guess, my will power needs a major overhaul.  Yesterday, my wonderful son-in-law, bless his heart, suggested that we have some of the pumpkin pie while we waited for the turkey to be ready.  We were playing a game of cards and it was mid morning…breakfast was eaten hours ago and we hadn’t planned on eating our main meal till 2-3pm, so why not.  That was not the will power problem.

My son-in-law brought out a monster slice (each piece turned out to be one-sixth of the entire Costco pie) for each of us.  Mind you, there were only three of us.  Again, this isn’t so much the will power problem.

“What–not the problem?” you ask.

Nope.  Not the problem.  You see, though it was a very, very large piece of very high calorie food, I had decided that I would not have any more after dinner.  Good for me.


Well, I was even a good girl all the way through dinner.  Not too much stuffing.  Not too much of my cherished, calorie-laden family recipe of sour cream mashed potatoes.  And I was full, but not overly stuffed like I have been in past years.  I felt great.  Pat on the back.  Good girl!

After dinner, we cleaned up & put stuff away, played more cards, watched a couple videos, chatted and just had a marvelous day.  Then, when the traditional “dessert time” came, I conveniently forgot what I had promised myself.  To make it worse (I would love to be able to blame my son-in-law),  I was the one to go in and serve up the dessert.  I cannot blame anyone but myself for the size of the slices that I cut.  I duplicated the previous serving size for everyone, and with a great big smile on my face, served everyone up.

And I ate the whole blasted piece.  It did taste extremely good.  I should have stopped when I was feeling full, but the desire for the taste kept me going.  I think I actually forced myself to eat the last bite.  “Good girl.  Clean the plate,” echoed in my mind from my childhood.

Oh.  That makes two problems.  Will power and old, old habits.  I think they gang up on me when I’m in a weakened state.   Since I had caved-in to buying pizza (with a salad, thank you) the night before Thanksgiving, then had my huge meal the next day, I broke one more of my rules…not putting space between “treats”.  So, now we’re up to three!  Ho, boy!

So, today is re-group day.  I know better than to trust the scale today — it said I only gained a little over a pound…it’s usually day two that is more accurate, so I need to be extremely careful today.  And for the next week.

There are left 0vers in the refrigerator.  Not much, thankfully.  I was able to halve everything, so my daughter and son-in-law took a fair amount out of the house.  And, there is NO more pie.  Yes!  This is a very good thing.  I will go back to my normal way of life…until Christmas.

Oh, bother.  (I can hear Pooh Bear in my head anytime I say that and it makes me chuckle!)

The holidays are truly a mixed bag.  So many treasures abound — time with family, wonderful aromas flooding back memories of times gone by…delightful time of the year.

Yet, so many little land mines to dance around.  All that food that only comes out at Thanksgiving and Christmas — oh, yes…and Easter  (and for other faiths, there are other days, too).  Obviously family, the memories, all of the reasons to be thankful for the season far outweigh those little land mines.

But still, for someone battling with weight problems, it is a hard fought war.  So, if you are in the midst of the battle, as I am, take heart.  For every battle, there will be some losses, but the war will be won if you keep your heart and mind in the right place.  Dust yourself off when you fall, pick yourself back up and carry on.  That’s what I plan on doing.

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving, full of memories to cherish — and now, brace yourself for Christmas.  Enjoy the season.  Know the true reason we celebrate it and cherish it.  Breathe.  Love.  Concentrate on what is important.

I know I’ll make it through, and so will you.