Family Traditions

I love family traditions–what ornaments go where on the Christmas tree, the inside jokes that only the family understands, summer evenings with board games, photos, trips, memories.

Did you know that scents are the strongest memory makers we have? A whiff of cocoanut and you are back on your honeymoon in Hawaii. A scent of cinnamon and you are in your grandma’s kitchen helping her to make cookies. A favorite perfume and you are there with a favorite aunt or your mother, even when they are no longer with us.

When I went to write my story for the Authors of Main Street Christmas boxed set I decided to put a twist on a family legend and cookie.

So, the legend goes that the butter cookie recipe came from Ireland with the Redmond family and has been passed down generation to generation. I can’t say whether the legend is true, but the cookies are to die for. So I took the IDEA of a family tradition of a cookie recipe, hijacked a little of my family history, and came up with Sugar Sprinkled Memories.

Maggie Mason has dreamed her entire life of owning her own bakery and making the family-famous Traveling Cinnamon Cookies. The only thing standing in her way is tall, dark, and handsome Warren Kincaid who claims he owns the building where the bakery now sits and he wants it for his new law office. Tempers rise, misunderstandings get in the way, but just maybe–a sprinkle of sugar, a touch of Christmas magic, and life-long memories will be made for Maggie and Warren.

 

 

Chapter 1

Maggie, age 8

 “Mommy, tell me the story. My story, about Maggie the elder and Maggie the younger,” Maggie Mason pleaded as she snuggled deeper under the covers.

Her mother smoothed the covers as she sat on the edge of the bed. “I’ve told you this story a thousand times. You must know it by heart now.”

She nodded. “I do. But you tell it so well.”

Dimming the bedside light, her mother leaned over and kissed her forehead. “Okay,” she whispered. “The tale of Maggie the elder and Maggie the younger.”

She began, “In the wee village of Dunby, which no longer exists, if it ever did…”

Dunby, Ireland 1919 

Maggie McGill nee O’Shay rushed up the pebbled path to her home, her shawl wrapped tightly around herself on this blustery March day. Winter didn’t want to loosen its grasp this year.

Her fingers tingled from more than just the chilling breeze. Sean at the post office said her ma had received mail special delivery this afternoon while Maggie had been at work in the button factory.

She crossed herself. It had to be good news. The factory was closing next month and that would spell the end of Dunby. Her gaze swept over the cottages nearby. Two more had boarded-up windows and a board across the doors. The Great War had started the end of her hometown with the leaving of all the eligible men and the factory closing would end for those who were left.

“If only…” She sighed. Wishes were for the wee folk, not regular people. Wishing her John had returned from the war wouldn’t make it so. Crossing herself, she wiped her shoes on the doormat. Pity served no one when her John wasn’t the only husband who hadn’t returned.

The aroma of cinnamon wafted over her as she opened the door. She hadn’t dared hope, but her mother’s smile gave her the good news anyway. If the scent of the cinnamon buttons hadn’t proclaimed it before she’d opened the door.

“Mama, mama,” tiny voices cried as Virginia and Robert flung themselves at her legs, wrapping her in a warm muddle of boy and girl.

She hugged them back and then pushed them gently away. “Go clean up, I’m sure Granny will have dinner for us shortly.”

Her mother turned from pulling cookies from the oven. Tears flowed down Maggie the elder’s cheeks, threatening to ruin the precious cookies.

She looked away before she had tears to join her mother’s. Cinnamon was a luxury they hadn’t seen during the war and only had some since they’d had it before the war, hidden away in the back of the cupboard. Saved for only one thing. The traveling button cookies.

Setting down the cookies, her mother opened her arms and swept Maggie into a hug. Her body shook and tears dampened her hair. She clung to her mother. The familiar scents of flour, butter, and sugar painting a picture of her ma she would remember to her dying day.

Maggie stepped back, wiping the tears from her mother’s face. “I haven’t even opened the letter yet. How do you know it is good news?”

Her mother smiled, touching the side of her head. A dusting of flour added to the white strands in her dark hair. “I know you’ll be needing the cookies. You’ll be traveling far over the sea to America.”

Maggie’s fingers trembled as she tore open the envelope. She’d read the few pages in a moment. All she could do was stare at the three tickets for a ship to Baltimore, Maryland. One for her and each of her children. Unconsciously, her hand settled on her stomach.

Her mother placed a hand over her own. “This little one will be born where no one knows he doesn’t have the same father as the other little ones.”

She jumped, her face heating. “I didn’t know you knew,” she whispered, whipping her head around to see if the children were back.

Maggie the elder smiled, touching her head again. “I knew. I will always know how you are. Are you safe? Are you happy? Even when I’m an ocean away.”

She couldn’t stop the tears, even when Virginia came back into the room and wrapped her long arms around her mother and grandmother.

“Did someone die?” the eight-year-old whispered, her face blanching white with her freckles sticking out like the pox.

Maggie wrapped her arms around her. It had only been a year since the men had come and told them of John’s death in a nameless field in France. Her little boy had only been three and would never remember the devastating news or the father who would remain just a few pictures and stories and memories from his mother.

“Ginny, we’re going to America. Uncle Thomas has sent for us.”

The little girl’s face lit up, her green eyes sparkling with the idea of a grand adventure. Her red hair bouncing on her shoulders as she grabbed up Robert and danced around the room.

“Robby, we’re going to America,” she crowed as they spun across the wooden floor.

She started to speak up, but her mother’s hand on her shoulder stopped her.

“Let them have their fun. Time enough to hear the story of the traveling buttons before we get you packed and sent on your way.”

A week later and Maggie the younger stood among the bags and trunks of all her worldly goods. Her vision blurred but she refused to let tears fall down her face. Her last moments with her mother would find her with a smile on her face as she waved good-bye to the only family and home she’d ever known.

Virginia held the tin of cinnamon button cookies as her granny did up her coat.

“Ginny, this is why they are traveling cookies,” she explained as her fingers pushed the buttons into their buttonholes on the coat. “They are only to be made when someone is going away from home forever.”

The young girl sniffled as she put on a brave face. “But, we will have a new home? Mama and Robby will be there?”

“Of course,” Maggie the elder said, straightening Ginny’s collar made of a fox’s tail. “But the baker makes them to send a piece of themselves with the travelers and the travelers eat them, one each day, to remember the baker.”

Ginny wrapped her arms around her granny, cookie tin and all. “I’ll write to you all the time, Granny. And Robby too, as soon as I teach him how.”

Her comment set them all to laughing and put smiles on their faces as a truck horn beeped outside.

Maggie the elder scooted them around and had Maggie the younger, and the children, and all their belongings soon settled in the truck. She marched up to the driver and leaned in the window.

“Padraig, you take care of my babies. Don’t you leave until they are safely on their ship.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, doffing his hat and pulling it back on as the truck slowly moved down the road.

Maggie the elder stood there until the truck turned a corner and disappeared from sight. Only then did she allow tears to flow into the cinnamon-scented hands covering her face.

*****

Since we only make our family’s butter cookies at Christmas I loved the idea of a cookie that was only for a certain occasion, in this case when a loved one is moving far away and never returning home. Now, in our connected global world today, that is usually not true anymore, but I liked the idea that you can return home but it isn’t the same when you make a new home and are just a visitor to your childhood home and memories.

Hope everyone will check out our new boxed set when it is released….Jill

Did You Survive the Christmas Holiday?

Planning, shopping, wrapping, decorating, cooking, baking, working a public job, maybe, and between handling all the extra curricular activities can be exhausting during the Christmas holiday.

I know. I didn’t plan far enough ahead to keep the jitters away. But somehow everything gets done…and you sit back and wonder how everything came together.

We are WOMAN! We always manage to set out a perfect, or maybe not so perfect, dinner-dressed to the nines. Okay, perhaps some of us may have waited until the last minute to remove our pajamas. That’s okay too, because we can get the job done and open the door to relatives and friends with a smile.

I can say all the above, because I didn’t cook this year. My son, daughter-in-law, and grandson prepared a fabulous Christmas Eve dinner and scrumptious Christmas morning breakfast.

We were blessed.

I hope all of you had the best Christmas ever. No matter how your holiday went, I’ll bet you can find blessings in the day.

Have a Happy New Year!

Until next time…I wish you Music, Butterflies and most of all…Love.

So Long November—Hello December

Thanksgiving came and moved away like a whirlwind. In fact the past three months, I think I moved through a fog to get where I am today.

Poof! And I’m here. Lol.

I hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and special, as well it should be.

Thanksgiving is all about being with those you love. If you can’t physically be with loved ones, lock them away in your heart and hold their memories close. Whether they are close or far away.

It isn’t quite December yet, but close enough. Christmas is going to be here before we can snap our fingers! Many parts of the country have already seen snow or will before Christmas. There are those who either like or dislike snow.

I’m one of snow-lovers. I do agree though, that any area can be blasted with too much snow, then the thing of beauty can become dangerous.

I hope everyone has the best Christmas ever this year. If we’re lucky here in mid-Georgia, we’ll have a white Christmas. I hope so anyway.

And so–gather ‘round a roaring fire and toast your loved ones with a nice cup of Hot Chocolate.

The Blues Before the Book Releases

All the pesky thoughts fly through an author’s brain as a book gets ready to release, the self doubts, the worries…it causes the blues. If you’re an author, you’re not alone, but if you’re a reader, you get to patiently wait for the book as though it’s an early Christmas gift that will land in your lap. But while we wait for that book to fall into your hands…

Is the book good enough? That depends on quite a few elements.

Is the story any good? It’s usually not the story that is lacking, but rather the way the story is crafted together. It’s something that few people do automatically unless they are voracious readers. They pick up the way stories flow with the various plot elements, and how they arc through the story. I think most of it is mentored into us. (I am so lucky to have had some wonderful mentors over the years.)

Is it well edited? That one is tough. I’ve known plenty of authors who have paid for and received terrible edits.Why? Because their own grammar skills are lacking and they are totally dependent on the editor. I’ve also seen authors who blindly accept an editor’s suggestion. The editor might make suggestion here and that affects something else.

But once we’ve reached a certain point, then we can only wait for the readers to decide.

That’s where I am…times two!

My contemporary, full length novel Silent Journey is available on NetGalley. If you love to read, this site is perfect! You’ll get to read about to be released, books from major publishers for free. They only ask for reviews once you sign up.

https://www.netgalley.com/catalog/book/146924

Silent Journey

This is not the finalized copy, it’s still in edits, nor is it the final cover. Wait until you see the cover! The hero is everything you want except you might have a problem understanding him. He understands you so why…? He’s Deaf. He’s Deaf of Deaf. So come step into his shoes as he faces a world geared to those with hearing, and join the woman who has so much to learn.

Enjoy a little snippet of Silent Journey.

Aldo’s was situated across the street between an art gallery and an upscale boutique. Taped on the door was a warning. Silent Spaghetti Supper Tonight, Absolutely no talking allowed! Public welcome.

“Here goes.” Ashley opened the door and held it for Savannah. The place was strangely quiet. Not completely devoid of sound, because there was still the sound of movement and dishes. But there wasn’t even music playing softly in the background. A hostess held up two fingers and, when Ashley nodded, the woman picked up the menus and led them to a table.

The table contained another warning about no talking, a small pad of paper with Aldo’s logo, and a plastic-coated sheet with some suggestions should they need help. The menu was simple: spaghetti: white, rosé, red with meat, or marinara, with a choice of plain, meatballs, shredded chicken, or sausage. Then there were some specialty items such as shrimp, but they couldn’t use their meal cards with those. Savannah chose the creamy rosé sauce with chicken. Then she looked around.

That’s when she realized there were sounds, vocal sounds, just not words. They were primitive sounds. The slapping of hands, low dissonance of grunts, and punctuated higher notes that were almost animalistic. It was disconcerting and fascinating at the same time.

Most of those in attendance were using sign language. Now she knew why Professor Stockton gave extra credit for attending. A redheaded waiter came to their table. Savannah instantly recognized him as Andy. He frequented the coffee shop in the technology building where she often stopped between classes. She smiled at him and pointed to the items she wanted, but then couldn’t figure out how to tell him she wanted unsweetened iced tea with lemon. Finally she took the pad of paper on the table and wrote it. Andy grinned and signed what she had written. She lifted her eyebrows at him, and he shook his head as though admonishing her.

Next to what she had written, he wrote: You will learn. Is this your first semester signing?

She nodded.

Ashley did a little better and Andy left them.

All the normal small talk was gone. She wanted to sneak her phone from her purse, but there was a huge warning not to use phones or to allow them to ring. It was a little boring staring at Ashley who seemed to be struggling with the same silence.

Andy brought their drinks and salads to the table. The salad was appealing, not that horrible shredded lettuce that was served in the cafeteria. This was mixed greens with lots of feta crumbles and Kalamata olives. About half way through her salad, Savannah stopped with her loaded fork poised in front of her face.

Across the room, there was a young man sitting with an older couple, a female around his age, and a younger female teen. Maybe it’s his family. He was a golden blond and the only description Savannah could think of was drop-dead gorgeous. He was signing with one hand as he ate. The younger girl seemed to be playing with him, as though they were teasing. Someone must have chastised the teen by the look on her face and the way she sat back in her seat.

Ashley touched Savannah’s arm and made a face as if to ask what was happening.

Savannah lowered her fork and motioned for Ashley to look behind her.

When she turned back to Savannah, Ashley grinned and fanned her face.

Silent Spaghetti Supper is getting interesting. But Savannah decided that catching the eye of such a guy wasn’t going to be easy when he was across the room, and not looking in her direction.

She ate her spaghetti and instantly rated it the best she had ever tasted. But she kept watching the table across the room with the hopes that he would look at her. The young man left, never once gazing in her direction. As he walked away, it felt as though something had been pulled from within her.

Ashley tapped her foot against Savannah’s. In Ashley’s hand was the pad of paper with the words, Stop staring!

Savannah snatched the pad and wrote, I want a date with that guy.

Ashley stifled a laugh, but a small sound squeaked out, causing several people to look in the direction of the table.

Savannah ran her hand over her forehead hoping to shield herself from the deadly glares. I didn’t do it. But we know who hears us.

When she was certain she could no longer eat another bite, Andy placed a small plate of grapes, apple slices, and sharp cheese on their table. Between Ashley and Savannah, they ate every speck. Oh, roll me out of here after this meal.

That night Savannah tossed and turned in her bed. She attempted to tell herself it had to have been all the food she had consumed, but deep inside she was certain it was that guy. It was like a magnet pulling them together, but he must not have felt it. It’s the food. I’m not used to eating that much.

No longer did she walk the campus oblivious to the students around her. Now she scanned the landscape for him. Nothing. It was as though he didn’t exist and had merely been a figment of her imagination.

 

My other book is part of the Authors of Main Street Boxed set, Christmas Wishes on Main Street. There’s a second Joe Wags book called Christmas Paws. Yes, Flint returns as he opens another Joe Wags. Paisley has found her dream job managing a coffee cafe where dogs were welcome.

Paisley forced her body to vacate the bed. All I need is another ten minutes. Her mind pushed her to get into her shower, but her body was refusing to cooperate. Her shoulder blades and her hips must have joined forces as she slept because they were saying no to all movement. The simple act of getting dressed and going to work became an endurance challenge worthy of reality TV.

Flint had warned her that Saturday would be twice as busy as Friday. She couldn’t imagine being busier. She set up the brew stations, made certain the ice machine was working, emptied the dishwasher from last night, and checked to be sure everything was prepped and ready to go.

A man waited outside the door with his big dog. She didn’t know what kind of dog it was, but she assumed it was a fancy breed because it looked too cute with its reddish coat. She had another three minutes to go on the clock, but she opened the door anyway. “Come on in, coffee is still brewing, but the pooch food is ready as are the doggie drinks.”

“I’ll get a couple of those dog cookies for her, and I’ll take a plain, black coffee as soon as it’s ready. Is it still a quarter?”

“Yes, this whole weekend. Every penny we take in goes to the shelter.”

The man nodded and dropped a twenty into the jar.

“Thanks, that was very generous.”

He chuckled. “I’m a gold medallion supporter. The shelter gets me for a whole lot more than that.”

She passed him the dog cookies and then a cup of freshly brewed coffee. “Stick around. We have free Internet.”

“We just finished our morning run. Furthermore, it’s Saturday. I don’t want to go near a computer on the weekend. I get enough of it during the week.”

“Wow, I thought everyone was lost without their computer.”

“Not me. There might be internet on my phone, but I don’t use it.”

She kept waiting on other customers, and continued to converse with him. “Here let me give you another cup.”

“Are you doing that to see if I’ll drop another twenty in the jar?”

“No. I’m doing it because you already dropped a twenty.” She smiled brightly. “Let me guess, you have a wife, two kids, a cat and a dog, and you live in one of those big houses off of Claymont Road.”

“You only got one right – the house. I’ve got a grown son and a furry daughter.” He looked at his dog.

“Oh dear, I have one word for your daughter. Wax.”

“She goes to the groomer once a month. She can stick with the usual.” He sipped his coffee. “Okay, my turn to guess; husband, three kids, your mother-in-law, two cats, and a house that’s too small for all of you.”

“Not even close. The husband is an ex, and there’s a reason for that. His mother is welcome to get on her broom and leave town as long as she doesn’t come to Fullerton. I’ve got two girls, no animals, and for the first time in my life, I’ve got an apartment that is actually roomy.”

“How old are your girls?”

“One just turned eighteen, and the other is four months from being sixteen.”

“Ouch. That’s a difficult age for them and for their adult.”

She turned her back to him long enough to start brewing more coffee.

“I’ll let you do your work. See you later.”

She turned around to wave, but he was gone. He’d left too soon. She didn’t even know his name.

The Trouble with Wishes

Don’t we all hold dreams and wishes in our hearts? Some we share, others we hold deep inside.

Ellie Newsome has both.

One wish though, she hides well. The wish is hers. Hers alone.

Was it fear or timing that leads her to a secret wish?

The Trouble with Wishes is included in Authors of Main Street’s Christmas Wishes, due for release November, 2018.

THe Trouble with Wishes Final (small) (2)

 

Partial Chapter 10 – Excerpt 

The Trouble with Wishes

The night’s sleep hadn’t done much to alleviate suspicions and the way Ellie felt regarding Luke’s proposition. She wouldn’t rest until she laid out the issue between them. There was too much at stake. Before second thoughts took over, she called Luke to meet with her at the Corner Café on the square for lunch.

“I offered you the position because I have faith in you. First and foremost because I trust you. Also you’re a hard worker and project the confidence the job requires to take on such extreme obligations. Please. You must never doubt my reason.”

“You talk a good talk, Luke. Did you offer the position to use me?” she whispered.

Luke strained to contain his resentment, but bristled, his face went red, and he clammed up.

When she was in this frame of mind, she couldn’t let well enough alone. She did, after all, set up this meeting to straighten out the issue between them.

“Well, did you? Was that your intention? If so, the decision blew up in your face.”

Luke shoved back his tea glass, nearly spilling its contents over the table. “No. No, Ellie, I certainly did not,” he snapped. “Why on earth would I use you?”

“Then, I apologize for the remark, Luke.” she murmured. “I suppose the job offer came at the wrong time. I believed you’d plied me with dinner, the visit to the falls and opening your heart to make me feel sorry for you. Then, I’d accept your offer to help you out.”

The sorrow written over his face said it all. She wished he’d never invited her to dinner, or they’d gone to the falls…most of all she’d like to wipe away their conversation of the job offer.

But she couldn’t.

“How did we ever get to the place that you’d mistrust me so much, Ellie? I thought we were friends. Friends that respected each other.” Luke stood motionless beside her at the table, and drew in a deep breath. “By the way, you know how I feel about anyone feeling sorry for me. I don’t like it. At all.”

Ellie wrapped her arms around her waist and would’ve wondered the same about why the mistrust, except the memory of the look he’d given her over his coffee cup last night, was the moment when she’d realized he had been searching for an employee.

And I was it. His choice.

Luke snapped up the bill and flipped a tip on the table. “Thanks for the discussion, though we still have this terrible wedge between us. Since you still have doubts relating to my truthfulness, perhaps we should both give ourselves time to digest the matter. If we don’t have trust, then there isn’t much left between us.”

“I think you’re right. We need more time,” Ellie said, though her heart was breaking.
Luke nodded, turned, and without so much as a glance back, strode to the cash register.

Ellie swallowed back a lump in her throat as fat as a baseball. She missed the old Luke. The one who’d shared his children with her. The one who’d helped make her feel alive again after Ryan. The one she vowed to wait for, no matter how long it took. Now, the way things were coming together, her wish may never be realized.

That was the trouble with wishes. Wishes aren’t always fulfilled.

I wish you music, butterflies and most of all, love.

Our Christmas Tree, or New Traditions for New Lives

This year, with my boys grown and moved away, my partner and I decided to simply decorate our living room for the holidays with a ficus tree, a veer away from tradition. Rather than purchase a cut-your-own pine Christmas tree, for the first time we chose to honour our own tree—the one which lives with us every day in our home.

traditional non treeMy partner, a native of the UK, has a history of disappointment and sadness at our New Zealand Christmas. I, too, was transplanted to New Zealand (by choice, of course…). Getting used to a summertime Christmas hasn’t always been easy for me, either.

Tradition at NZ Christmas

Credit to NZ Post, with thanks, at https://stamps.nzpost.co.nz/

Seasonally-inverted southern hemisphere Kiwis (New Zealanders) have imported the northern hemisphere holiday traditions—but someone forgot to change the dates. In doing so, we’ve essentially lost the fundamental reason for celebration of the midwinter festival: the anticipated return of life after the still-to-come times of hardship—the release from darkness and want, toward the time of renewal and plenty.

tradition Cold Winter

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Early on, I realized this concept was more deeply ingrained in me than I’d dreamed. Moving to New Zealand was a big change in more ways than one.

Whether we move away from our childhood home or relocate a long way from our families and close friends later in life, we may find the need to create our own holiday traditions. As children, and now grandchildren, enter our lives, our roles may change even further, necessitating further adjustments.

Those living far from their birth homes often confirm that being away from family and close friends can be daunting.

Tell me about it.

My first December 25th in New Zealand had to rate as my most depressing Christmas up until that date. I had a wonderful boss, but no real friends outside of work, as I had spent every weekend with my boyfriend out on the coast, an hour away from home—and he ended our relationship over the phone, out of the blue, on 23 December.

Tradition not so good.

Thanks to https://awakened2torah.com/2017/07/19/stay-in-the-box-jack/ for the use of the photo. 🙂

Looking back, I can see it was for the best, but at the time… let’s say it wasn’t ideal.

On the other hand, sometimes one must sink to great depths to plumb the true strength of one’s spirit and guts.

Eyes blurred by tears, I managed to create the day for myself by cutting out intricate paper snowflakes from wrapping paper.

Tradition snowflakes paper

Thanks to The Balance for use of the pic! https://www.thebalance.com/

I still remember as if it were yesterday: The paper was red on one side, white on the other, and thin enough for light to shine through it. In fine pencil, I wrote around the perimeter of each, and on inner circles, what the holiday was really about—about the day being about love, and not presents. About those whom I cared for, and who cared about me. About the beautiful country in which I had ensconced myself, the tremendous job as an equine vet in an otherwise eight-man dairy practice.

tradition NZ view

The little piece of NZ beside my home on the cover of my third novel

As the years passed, I found new ways of satisfying the yearnings in my heart at Christmas time when I was unable to return to my family for the holidays. Celebrating a sit-down, full-on Midwinter dinner on 21 June for a roomful of my Kiwi friends, many of whom had never experienced a northern hemisphere Christmas dinner, not only did something for them, but did something for my own heart. It gave me my Christmas back and let me begin to enjoy true Kiwi summertime Christmases.

“Christmas is so commercialised, I don’t want anything to do with it,” I’ve heard from several friends lately. This isn’t a problem for me. I don’t watch television at all, and since I began writing, I avoid town… even my radio time has diminished. I don’t hear the commercials or Christmas jingles, so the commercialism isn’t a part of my life. I have only my memories and traditions from which to browse.

In speaking with my partner in mid-June about it, he said Christmas really didn’t mean anything to him. We discussed it at length, what would make it for him, what makes it for me. The result? He enjoyed his holiday, and this year we will have a midwinter Christmas feast and hopefully, he will regain his joy of the holidays, no matter what time of year they arrive.

I hope this helps someone, estranged by distance or circumstance from loved ones, find peace in their life.

In Once Upon a Vet School #7, Lena Takes a Foal, Lena finds herself in a situation. She was going to stay in her vet school town and take extra Large Animal ICU shifts over the holidays, as her family was out of the country, but she was invited home with her hero, Kit.

Here’s a little excerpt of their traditional Christmas:

Once Upon a Vet School #7, Lena Takes a Foal

Kit’s pickup eased off the highway into his family’s driveway, snow crunching beneath the tires. He slowed as we approached a beautiful bay Thoroughbred with a matching foal at foot, standing behind the post and rail fence.

“She’s my favorite jumper — the one I kept when everything got split up,” he said, and tightened his jaw.

“Glad you still have her then,” I said, taking a deep breath, and squeezed his fingers. “It’ll all be fine.”

“I know. Thank you for comin’ home with me,” he said, as we drove on toward the house.

“Glad you asked,” I said, taking my eyes off the pair of horses and looking forward through the windshield at what could only be Kit’s family members, by their resemblance.

“The welcoming committee awaits.” He smiled and shut off the engine, opened my door and handed me out into the freezing, dazzling sunshine, accented by the tang of the snow-drenched pines. His arm, warm over my shoulders, led me toward the group.

Any anxiety I might have had about meeting his family vanished into thin air as handshakes turned to hugs. Kit’s sister, a female version of him, stood tall and leggy in designer clothing and manicured nails, while his father offered a hint of the distinguished gentleman Kit would become. His beautiful mother was kindness itself as she pulled us in the door, toward her warm, cinnamon-scented farmhouse-style kitchen.

Christmas music played in the background when we eventually migrated from the hand-hewn kitchen table toward the living room with our foaming mugs of fresh eggnog. The huge tree caught my attention, its fairy lights and ornaments glittering against long pine needles, but my mouth dropped open at the view of Lake Tahoe completely filling the longest wall of the room. Its blue-black expanse shimmered against the snow on the surrounding mountains.

“Who’s dishing out the presents?” Kit’s mother asked, settling herself on the sofa.

“My turn.” Kit’s sister smiled and began delivering packages around the room.

I hadn’t expected anything, but had made gifts over the month since Kit had invited me. For his mother, a gardening apron; his sister, some padded hangers for her fashionable clothes; and for his pop, a big tin of the Danish Christmas cookies I’d grown up making with my family. Kit had already inhaled most of his cookies on the way up the mountain.

Soon there was a pile of gifts beside me. I stared at Kit over the top of it, my mouth open.

“What did you expect? You’re part of the family, now.

Enjoy it,” he said, and leaned across to kiss me.

My face heated. I couldn’t have been more pleased, as I picked up the first gaily wrapped package.

“A western shirt,” Kit said, holding up his first present. “I haven’t had a new one in years, thank you, Lena!”

“That forest green with chocolate is perfect on you,

Kit,” his sister said. “It looks designer, where did it come from?” She turned to me.

“It’s a Lena original,” I said.

“No, it can’t be,” she said, peering over her brother’s shoulder at the label. “It is!”

“What does it say?” his mother asked.

“Made Expressly for Kit by Lena,” she said.

Kit pulled it on and clicked the pearl snaps.

“It fits,” he said, astonished. “They never fit… and it’s actually long enough.”

“Of course, it fits, I’m a professional. Just remind me to give back your ratty old denim work shirt that was falling apart at the seams.”

“You didn’t cut it apart, did you?” Kit said, horror written all over his face.

“Your precious shirt is safe,” I said, squeezing his fingers. “I know how long it must’ve taken to get the fabric that soft.”

“You got that right,” he said, with a grin.

I glanced around, but everyone was absorbed elsewhere.

“Truth be told,” I whispered, “you might not get it back.”

He frowned, and I quirked my lips at him.

“What have you done with it?” His brows narrowed.

“Nothing, but it’s awfully nice to sleep in… it’s got your scent.”

He peeked toward the rest of the family, then turned back to me, eyes glowing.

“Now that, I’d like to see,” he said, in an undertone. “You can keep it, if that’s why you need it.” He chuckled.

The first present I opened was a beautiful copy of Robert Frost’s Birches.

“That’s for you, my dear,” Kit’s mother said, after I unwrapped it, “because you’re a swinger of birches.” Her eyes glowed as she gazed from me to her son and back again.

Everyone was happy with my homemade gifts and I was touched by the thought that had gone into their presents for me.

Kit disappeared for a moment, then returned to the room carrying a large, gaily decorated box. I glanced up at him with a smile and returned to reading about birches in the snow, my legs tucked up beneath me on the sofa.

All talk in the room ceased and I looked up to see Kit standing before me.

“This is for you.” He gently handed the package to me and sat down. “It’s breakable. Very.”

Looking sideways at him, I slipped my feet to the floor and pulled the end of the silk ribbon to untie the bow, then pulled off the paper. Whatever it was, it’d been packed securely.

Kit cut the heavy tape securing the box with his pocket knife and I opened the flaps.

Traditional Christmas in Once Upon a Vet School

Want to read more? 

Once Upon a Vet School #7 is available in print and digital. See details on my website here

It’s also available as part of Author’s of Main Street’s current boxed set Christmas Babies on Main Street here 

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Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Enjoy creating your own holiday traditions!

xx

Lizzi

 

Another Year Coming to a Close

I’m hoping everyone had a fabulous Christmas! It’s the most wonderful time of the year, a time for family get-togethers, forgiveness and love. It’s a time of renewal, looking forward to a wonderful New Year.

Now that Christmas is behind us, there is the new year close at hand. 2017 held happy days, sad days and sometimes delightful opportunities beyond belief. Whatever your 2017 held, be thankful and know that 2018 holds promises we can embrace as we advance into the future.

I’ve not made New Year’s Resolutions in a couple of years, because I know I’ll remain on track for a couple of months – then it’s back to the same old same old.

Maintaining sanity is key, so I decide what I need to do, then make those goals habits. Hey, it works for me.

Why make goals? 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…again 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 New Year!