A Time to Look Forward A Time to Look Back & Coffee Mugs

As the new year approaches, we start making all those great promises to ourselves about what we want to do and accomplish in 2017. But I like to look back and see what this past year has brought. For me, it’s been a ton of medical expenses, and it’s not over yet. I think that has made me want to erase a few things from my mind, because I really don’t want to think about them or dwell on them. So I started to look even further back and that brought me to heirlooms.

When I was little there was a trunk. It was large. (Hey, I was little, who knows what large really was.) It was made from wood and covered with leather. The top was rounded. The inside was papered and somehow pink stands out in my mind. The trunk went to my oldest brother so who knows what happened to it. Anyway, it was filled with notions, and other sewing supplies. Nothing Mom actually used. And somehow I wound up with that stuff. All I know about the trunk was that it had come over in the boat from Germany when my great-grandmother was 8 years old, and it contained all of her worldly possessions.

There was black velvet ribbon and white velvet ribbon. Many a time I cut a length of it and tied it on my girls’ pigtails, knowing I was tying their past to them. There was also all this fascinating flat lace. I still have the lace, and I’ve never figured out how I might use it. It’s beautiful. I also have no idea if it’s from the 1900’s or earlier. Part of me worried that if I used that it might be somehow destroyed. It’s so old – would it survive? (All suggestions appreciated!)

I knew that great-grandmother, not well, but I remember her. What I remember is much too long for a blog post so I’ll save you. 🙂  But I’ve thought arwabout her quite a bit because when I wrote A Rancher’s Woman, I realized my grandmothers would have been the same age as the teens in that story making my great-grandmother the age of Alisa Coleman. Oh would I love to pick my great-grandmother’s brains now!

I only know bits and pieces of my maternal great-grandmother’s story that my grandmother passed to me. I also have all sorts of things in my house that once belonged to her including several pairs of her earrings. So I guess her legacy lives onward. My father’s grandmother… I know very little about her only my father’s stories about her and growing up on that farm.

Mentally I moved though time to my lifetime.  I know this might sound silly, but somehow over the years I’ve collected coffee mugs. Not just any mug but mugs from friends who have moved away. One of the last mugs I have is from a dear friend who loved giraffes . The giraffe’s neck makes the handle. I use those mugs when I’m lonely. Somehow mugs seem to hold that person. It was her favorite mug and she gave it to me when she moved. I gave her my favorite mug.

Seems we collect odd things in life.  Sometimes it’s physical, and sometimes it’s not. The stories that I’ve gathered from sharing a pot of coffee with neighbors/friends, often wind up in my stories. My head is filled with such things. If I had another 150 years to write all those stories, I still would not run out of them because we seem to collect more of them along the way.

When I wrote Loving Matilda, a historical western, I brought the heroine EA smback to the area where I grew up. I didn’t grow up in Germantown, but very close to it. I was familiar with the land. I had been in the house where my father was raised and and stepped onto the widow’s walk where I could still see Ben Franklin on top of Philadelphia’s city hall. I didn’t use the school where he attended, I used Germantown’s. My father attended a two-room schoolhouse. And often the farm kept him at home. But his grandmother who raised him never let him slack off. By the time he was six, he could read the Bible without stumbling over words. He left school at the end of sixth grade. But I could bring home calculus problems and he’d look at the “gobbledygook” that I did to answer the problem and tell me if I was right or wrong. Of course, I couldn’t figure out how he solved the problem, but he was always right. He’d just shake his head and comment about the crazy stuff we were learning. By the time my granddaughter was bringing home math problems in sixth grade I was totally stumped as to what they were teaching her. (HUH? What is that nonsense they wanted her to do? Of course today, they don’t use slide-rulers.)

I love tucking bits and pieces of “real ” life into my stories. It doesn’t matter if they are contemporary or historical novels. So I tuck things into the stories and keep going, because I’ve learned that no one is alone. No matter what anyone has experienced, someone else has been in those shoes.

So pouring a cup of coffee into a friend’s mug is like sharing that cup with with my friend even though we might be separated by two or three thousand miles. Or wearing a great-grandmother’s pair of earrings, somehow brings me closer to her. Bridging the gaps in time, seem to hold a special place in my heart. Maybe the past, be it distant or near, holds meaning as we look forward.

As I face a new year and make plans for 2017, I don’t make resolutions, just plans, I find myself bringing the past with me. It’s embedded in my genes and a part of me. So I’ll raise that darling giraffe to my friend as I once knew her for today she is battling Alzheimer’s. That mug will mean nothing to my children and it doesn’t need to mean anything. It’s my way to remember my friend and the wonderful times together.  My family that came before me is here in my house in my possessions, a constant reminder of my roots.

I had a tough year, so did a lot of people. Many have faced more difficult battles, and I’ll admit so have I. We all seek an artificial goal of perfection that none of us will ever obtain. Maybe we need to learn to accept our pasts and move from there. I can’t make my past go away anymore than I can stop my hair from going gray – I can hide it, but I can’t stop it.  I can’t change who I am. But I can strive to be a better person while knowing that I’ll never be perfect.

There’s nothing wrong with making resolutions and if that helps someone face the future with a positive attitude, go for it! Maybe I just don’t put a date on it or attach any sort of time restraint to what I do. But somehow what goes through my head is change what you can, accept what you can’t, and cross your fingers that you have the wisdom to know the difference.  I swear that often the most difficult thing to do is to change something. Habits can be ruts and climbing out of the them is possible – not easy but possible.

I know I have a few very bad habits. Everyone does! I’m not going to say I’m going to change all those negative things about myself this year. But I’ve made plans to seriously work on a few of them. Maybe this year I will succeed! What makes me think that this time it will be different? Maybe, just maybe, I’ve hit that point in my life where I’m honestly ready to let go of that bad habit. Maybe this year I can finally see myself making a few changes in those areas.

sheridan-1890

Sheridan, WY, 1890’s

If the roof doesn’t need total replacement, and everything else goes as planned, I’m going to Wyoming this year. I keep threatening I won’t come back. But one look at their winter temps and I know I’d never survive that cold!

Anyone here live in Wyoming? Hit the contact page and tell me about it! I’ve heard I should go to Cody and the museum there. Any other recommendations? Yep, Sheridan, I know you’ve changed in the last 120 years. For a the first time in ages, I think it just might be this year that I get there.

Change will happen. Every passing day we change. Everything we do changes us, and the things around us change. We cannot stop all the changes. But we can control what we do and how we face whatever comes our way.  So I’m putting a smile on my face and looking forward to this new year. I’ve got some great plans and I don’t want the things that I can’t control getting in my way.

One major habit to break, another that needs to be, shall I say, modified, and an overall plan to continue to make gains where my health is concerned. My intent is become a better me. Plus, there’s a few things with this old house that I’m hoping to fix. And I really want to take a trip to Wyoming. So that’s my plan. Camera, toothbrush, laptop, and I’m out of here!

There’s a new year coming and I’m ready for it! Are you?

New Year’s Resolutions – Yes? – No? – Maybe?

I trust everyone had a fabulous Christmas! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a time for family and love.

Now that Christmas is behind us, there is the new year to look forward to. 2016 held happy days, sad days, and sometimes opportunities beyond belief. Whatever your 2016 held, be thankful and know that 2017 holds promises we can embrace as new harmonies with life.

I ask myself, why? Why make excessive resolutions when I know I’ll never fulfill them? I’d rather feel positive about an important short list, than a spreadsheet that becomes overwhelming.

Life does have a way of taking over, and maintaining sanity is key.

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Know thyself! Okay, I do. I’ve had a lot of experience with past goals and know some New Year’s Resolutions simply don’t stick to my expectations.

Why? A new year means a new beginning, and new beginnings mean change. Change is a good thing, but not if you’re frustrated trying to reach goals that are too widespread. So aspire to make resolutions that are attainable, meaningful. When goals are realistic, they’re easier to follow. Whatever plan you have in mind, make it work for you.

So…this year I’m simply going to do what works even if those undertakings need a tweak here and there. Who doesn’t need to tweak? I do, and have a feeling some of you do too.

Happy New Year, everyone! I wish you love, butterflies and music.

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Happy Yule

1The longest night of the year is always a time of deep contemplation for me ~ I am pleased to spend some of this magical day celebrating the solstice and the season with all of you.

4The dark is important to all Celts. It reaches its apogee at the solstice. We honor Yule and Christmastime together. It is a time of rest while we wait for rebirth of the sun. It is also the time for storytelling and story weaving.

Long nights curled by the fire in the North stir the heart and feed the soul. Now is the time to honor the Dark while yearning for the return of the Sun/Light.3

It is the time when stories are born. It is the time the year is remembered; including the darkest parts. Now is the time to face the dark and to know with certainty that tomorrow brings growing light.

14Yule logs are lit.

Christmas and Hanukkah candles are lit.11

Our fireplaces and Christmas trees are lit to fill our homes and our lives with the beautiful, soft, glow of colored light.13

On clear nights, if you live away from city lights, you can see that even the stars shine brighter, gifting us all with light. The beauty of the stars, and the sun, is that they shine whether or not we can see them.

I’ve always been struck by the words:

“BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM”15

These words seem perfect for Yule as we celebrate the rebirth of the Sun – and for many of us, the birth of THE SON.

As we welcome and celebrate the coming of the light, I’ll leave you with a treat for Santa.

Merry Christmas & Happy Yule.

May love & light live within even on the darkest of days.

Leigh

 

Recipe/Idea to welcome Santa with a treat:

Today or Tomorrow or Anytime through the weekend~

10Light a candle, preferably a red one, while you bake (or place on a plate if you purchase from a bakery) cinnamon rolls. Think of a wish you would like Santa to grant. Meditate on that wish while you bake or while you arrange the rolls.16

The spiral in the rolls depicts our endless spirits and the eternal spirit of giving.

A fitting gift for the Santa within us all.

Holding your wish in your mind, blow out the candle. Believe. And share your rolls!

Yours always,

Leigh

 

 

Only five more sleeps until Christmas!

When I was a kid, the week before Christmas felt interminable, while I waited eagerly for the night Santa came down the chimney with mounds of new toys for my sister and me. I always had a hard time falling asleep Christmas Eve. I remember lying awake one Christmas Eve, listening intently, and at the stroke of midnight I could have sworn I heard the sound of hooves landing on the roof.

I also remember the stage when I began to clue in about the secret behind Santa, though I wasn’t quite ready kermitto let go of the magic. This was around 1980, when The Muppet Show was one of my must-see TV programs, and the one thing I really wanted for Christmas was a Kermit the Frog doll. It was the only thing I asked the mall Santa to bring me. To shore up my chances, I made sure to tell my mother what I’d asked Santa for.

Lo and behold, I found Kermit under the tree Christmas morning. (My sister got Animal, the drummer from Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem). Was it Santa who had granted my request? Was it Mom? Who could be sure?

My best friend, Jennifer, received a Kermit too. We played with our Kermits for hours and brought them everywhere with us, even to summer camp. The doll was about 14” tall and had Velcro fasteners on his feet and hands, so I could hang him or prop him up in all kinds of places. I dressed him in baby doll clothes so he didn’t have to be naked all the time.

Kermit is still with me but spends most of his time in a box now. All these years later, he’s  in pretty good shape. Whenever I see him, I smile, thinking back on a time when the magic of Christmas was real. And he reminds me to enjoy the magic through my kids’ eyes for as long as it lasts.

Santa Snippets

There are so many fun holiday romance stories. From the Hallmark channel to the library bookshelves–you can find them most anywhere–including our very own Main Street. Do you have a holiday romance to share? It can be from a novel to a personal experience. (If it’s a novel, be sure and leave a buy link! Don’t tease us with a snippet and leave us hanging.) Please limit your excerpt or blurb to 150 words. Here’s mine:

bcf34-christmas2blie2bwhiteCarson Trent doesn’t know the beautiful Millie Cruise who literally falls into his lap is really Camille Harper,  a bestselling romance writer.
Millie doesn’t know she’s headed for Carson’s grandmother’s inn in a quaint New England town.
Neither Carson nor Millie know that their lives are about to spin out of control thanks to a patch of black ice, a cow, and a little white Christmas lie.

Our First Christmas

Life is full of firsts – first step, first day of school, first car, first job. But there is something magical in a couple’s first Christmas, a first Christmas as a family. Ours was 1988. We were engaged Christmas of 1987, married June 1988, and had our first Christmas as a family in December 1988. My daughter Jennifer was 7 years old.

We so wanted to make it special for our new, blended family, so we found Disneyland’s Main Street playset at Sears. It was enormous and one of Jen’s favorite spots in the world.

disney-main-streetOkay, looking back, we should have left it in the box and worked on it with her as a family, but we were young and excited. So we decided to put it together on Christmas Eve after she was asleep and surprise her with it in the morning. Big mistake!!

It took hours to put the buildings together, glue stuff to the big plywood base, and set it all up. We finally finished about 4:00 AM. You parents out there can guess what happened next…Jen work up at 6:00 AM, excited to see her presents and open them. LOL

We were exhausted and dragged butt all day, but it was a magical Christmas, our first as a new family. A child’s excitement for the season makes it all worthwhile. Let’s all take a little of that childish glee and absorb it this holiday season. Enjoy each magical moment and make some memories with your loved ones.


My story Waking Up for Christmas in our boxed set Christmas at the Inn on Main Street is all about the magical wishes for the joy of Christmas. With the help of a cheerful innkeeper and her young grandson, Nick, Chase will find our if wishes do come true.

   He would have spent the past weeks eating hospital cafeteria food and fast food on the go if not for Mrs. Macgregor and her home cooking. He stepped into the empty dining room as Mrs. Macgregor’s grandson Nick came out of the kitchen with platters of food.
   The young man had a permanent smile on his freckle-covered face, as if sadness was unknown for Nick Macgregor. He had the bright-red hair to go along with those freckles, as well. “Just in time, Mr. Thanos. Get it while it’s hot.”
   “I’ve told you, you can call me Chase.”
   “No, sir. Nana would take me out to the woodshed,” he said, his smile growing wider to let him know Nick was kidding. “If we had a woodshed.”
   Chase looked around the room. “Where is everyone?”
   Nick rubbed his chin. “Well, the Peterson’s left yesterday afternoon.”
   Chase sighed in relief. The Peterson twins had been running up and down the hallways and yelling at the top of their lungs the last few days. He wouldn’t miss them at all.
   “Mr. and Mrs. Johnson had to leave in the middle of the night and head home for an emergency,” Nick continued. “And Mr. Olivera is packing now and leaving shortly.”
   “So, that just leaves me?”
   “Yep.” Nick smiled at him. “Just you through Christmas.”
   Another reminder the holidays were right around the corner. The touches of red and green around the room snagged his attention. A set of lighted houses sat across the buffet behind the platters of food. The same set Darcy had collected during the years of their marriage; a new house for each Christmas they’d spent together. The same set he’d found in the trash the last Christmas they’d spent together.
   A clear spot sat in front of the bay window. Chase pointed. “For the tree?”
   Nick nodded, his thick hair sweeping across his forehead. “I’m getting it tonight. Nana makes a big production out of decorating it. Tells a story for each ornament we put on the tree.”
   All he could do was nod. He didn’t trust his voice not to crack with emotion. Darcy did the same thing. A story of getting an ornament. She remembered where and when they’d gotten each one. This one on a trip. This one from a relative. That one from a friend.
   He moved over to the buffet and placed a spoonful of each item on his plate. His chest ached at the thought of shoveling food into his mouth. Telling himself he had to eat to stay healthy for Darcy helped, but not enough.
   As if Nick could read his thoughts, the young man grabbed a plate, filled it, and sat down beside him. “Hope is a powerful thing.”
   “What?” Chase said, his fork halfway to his mouth with scrambled eggs.
   “Hope. With hope, anything is possible. Your wife is still there. You just have to reach her and give her a reason to come back.”
   “She’s in a coma.”
   “Doesn’t mean she can’t hear you.” Nick said, wiping his plate clean and pushing his chair back.
   He reached over and placed a hand on Chase’s shoulder and squeezed. “Tell her why she needs to come back.”
   Gathering his plate, Nick walked across the room and disappeared into the kitchen. He heard mumblings as he talked to his grandmother and then the clink of dishes being washed. Chase forced himself to finish eating even though the delicious food was tasteless as he was lost in thought.
   Give her a reason to come back.
   He straightened in his seat. He could do that.


Enjoy the Christmas spirit with 5 sweet, exquisite tales of the holidays. Christmas at the Inn on Main Street is available as an eBook and in print from Amazon.


Season’s Greetings and Wonderful Memories, Jill