A Gift of Time by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1Lately it seems as though I am simply surviving. I move from one task to the next with little ability or energy to plan beyond the next deadline or responsibility. I have been sick the last week or so, a cold that just won’t go away, but it’s more than that. I’m the one who plans for holidays and birthdays weeks or more in advance yet this Valentine’s Day I shopped for a little something for my daughter the night before. I don’t like living from one chore to the next but I can’t seem to get caught up enough to shift into a more thoughtful, intentional mode.

This issue has nagged at me for a few days because one of my closest friends, Jodi, had a birthday yesterday. We are celebrating together today and I want to do something to let her know how important she is to me. We met at the public pool when both of our daughters were around four or so. We clicked immediately and moved beyond the pool to having play-dates. It quickly became clear that while we were becoming friends, our daughters were not as compatible, so we ditched the kids play date but have made it a mission to have breakfast or lunch together one day a month during the school year. We’ve been doing this consistently since the girls started friendshipkindergarten, so it’s been about eight years.

Jodi is awesome because she supports me in everything I’m up to, gives great advice, and knows we can disagree on certain issues (mostly politics) without having it be personal. We both have busy lives and just knowing she’s there for me, as I am for her, is all we need. We don’t chat on the phone or spend lots of time together, but we know if we need anything, help, support, understanding, or just someone to say it’s okay, the other will be there – no questions asked.

For my birthday in September, Jodi made me a bag of gifts based on a blog I wrote. She filled it with several different things that she really enjoys and wanted to share with me. I was touched that she had read the blog but also that she put so much thought and effort into my gift.

And this leads me back to my issue of moving from one task to another. I want to do something as thoughtful for her as she did for me. CIMG1630This isn’t about a competition; I just want her to feel as special on her birthday as she made me feel on mine.

We are meeting at a French restaurant we like for her birthday lunch and I have purchased a few things that are “her” but they don’t feel special enough. I wanted something that was thoughtful and was a gift of effort as well as a “thing.” Then I knew what to do.

Yesterday I spent a good part of my time making home-made yeast bread. I used the recipe my paternal Erin_18AUG1977_Youth_Fairgrandmother baked almost every weekend and which she passed on to my mother. I earned “Best in Show” with a loaf I made from this recipe at the county fair when I was in High School. One of my best childhood memories is the smell of this bread baking in the oven. My own daughter loves this bread as much as I do, and can’t wait for it to cool before cutting a thick slice and slathering it with butter.

So, I am giving Jodi the time and effort that I used to make her something that’s both tasty and a piece of my history. I know she’ll appreciate the gift for all that it is and hope that it conveys what a gift she is in my life.

Some friends are just worth the extra effort.

Learn more about me at:


ShadowlandsAHE New Cover8149g0+Rz-L._SL1500_

Get the champagne out!

12Feb2014This post is by Nancy Jardine.

The busy month of March 2014 surpassed itself, so my post today is going to be about life EVENTS, how they can affect author production, and whether they need to be celebrated to the same degree.

Since my last post, which was my birthday (the ides/15th of March) there have been loads of events –mostly family and and one writerly. My first grandson, Riley, made his appearance into the world relatively easily on the 19th March- a bouncing bonny bairn!  Visits from family and friends made my house a very bustling one since Riley’s mum, dad, and my granddaughter are currently living with us till their own house is ready to move into. Did I say it was busy?

Other events followed, namely the launch of Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series of Historical romantic Adventures- After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks –on the 25th March. It’s just as well that I was well planned in advance for all of the blog posts for my launch tour, and had an idea of what I might do at the Facebook launch party, because Riley and his mum were only home from hospital on the 23rd. Yes-it was busy fitting in ‘new baby cooing’ and having a Facebook launch.


I’m not done yet, though because the 29th March was my Ruby Wedding Anniversary and the 30th was Mothering Sunday in Scotland (UK). Much as we’d like to have celebrated all of those events with a huge bang, it just wasn’t possible since we’d still be drunk on champagne two weeks later! We had one fabulous dinner on the 29th, made by my younger daughter and husband, for all of the family who had managed to assemble together and that was perfect. I don’t eat venison carpaccio, or elegantly cooked salmon every day, so it was quite spectacularand so beautifully presented- daughter 2 and hubby are very good cooks! The deeply rich chocolate cake was sublime and totally decadent, the raspberry filling and drizzling of ‘jus’ a gesture to the ‘ruby-ness’ of our anniversary.

Our flowers matched the theme, but since there were vases of ‘new baby welcoming’ flowers in every room the one ruby bouquet was just beautiful. 40 years?


I’d rather not think about that bit of the event! Was it a busy household? You bet! A trip to London for my husband and me is in the offing at the end of May, followed by a holiday vacation to the island of Madeira, contributed to by my relatives and a deferred part of our big celebration. I’ll have to brush up on my Portuguese. No…I have to be honest. Scratch that, I can’t speak ANY Portuguese and will have to learn a few phrases before the visit.


Wikimedia commons. Madeira circled in Atlantic Ocean

From the 31st March, there have also been 3 birthday celebrations for 3 of my great-nieces- but I was lucky this year. My sister came for a few days to pay Riley a visit (the rest of us too, in between monopolising the baby) and was able to cart my gifts back down the 150 miles to the little girls in question, who are all her granddaughters. For some reason, I wasn’t able to make the time to pop down to deliver myself this year. I wonder why? My husband’s birthday is looming now on the 20th April, but I think another low key event will be on the cards.


Of all the above mentioned events, the only one which could be totally planned was my book launch. That date was predictable. The author in me was very glad of that because I couldn’t have contemplated a book launch that wasn’t on a fixed date. When my publisher set the date back in January, she asked if the 25th March was suitable given my family situation. I readily said it was as good as any other since we all know that babies come very much in their own time– except if by a planned caesarean.

In many ways, a book launch is a bit like having a new baby born. It takes time, effort and nurturing to ‘birth’ that novel. The nascent aspects of it are with the author for quite some time till he/she decides it has been sufficiently redrafted, and is ready for the next level, that of submission to a publisher (or if self-pubbed similar decisions made). I’m guessing with some novels this would be around the three or four month baby gestation stage- though the writing may have taken the author years to get that phase! The end date for the ‘birth/launch’ might be planned around then; the countdown done. Once the editing is completed the birth is closer but not there yet. The book still has to have final formatting, a cover design and the last publishing aspects organised. Bingo! Launch day comes and the baby bursts out into the world.

However, we all know that like a baby the new book is a fragile fledgling for quite a while unless it has such a successful launch that it flies off into flourishing cyberspace. Some new ‘babies’ might just manage that if their siblings have become very well known household names! I think, like me, most of us have babies who take quite a lot of nurturing till they’re up and properly running.

Since the beginning of April, I’ve been sporadically trying to market my new ‘baby’ but the needs of my real one take precedence. I haven’t been able to spend any time on my new conceptions since I’m still a bit busy, however, next week I expect to manage some embryonic growth to Book 4 of my Celtic Fervour Series.

tulips resizedI’m altogether a happy lady with my gorgeous blooming family and with my writing…and since the sun is shining here in Scotland, I’m also squeezing in time this afternoon in my unruly and neglected garden. Priorities!

I wish you the best of weekends!

Nancy’s Novels are available in print and ebook from:
Amazon US author page http://amzn.to/RJZzZz Amazon UK author page http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nancy-Jardine/e/B005IDBIYG/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
They are also available from B & N, Smashwords, Waterstones.com, Crooked Cat Bookstore.

AWDDC x1000
After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks:
Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1g1O3yk Amazon UK http://amzn.to/1dOlmoM
Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/422379
Barnes and Noble P/B http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/after-whorl-nancy-jardine/1118872607?ean=9781909841574 Crooked Cat Bookstore http://www.crookedcatbooks.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=128

YouTube book trailer video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zN-KdW1qi6g


Reflections: Looking Back and Moving Ahead

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Last week another year passed, and I turned 53. I recall being told antiques are things that are 50+ years old, so I guess I’m now an official antique!

I took a few moments on my birthday to reflect upon my life. Some memories weren’t the best: hurt from past relationships, including work-related associations, death of beloved friends and family … but other memories were wonderful: camping and fishing trips with my parents, walking the stage to receive my bachelor’s degree, visiting the ocean for the first time, listening to elk bugle on a September night in Yellowstone Park with geysers flaring toward a starry sky, sharing food and fodder with girlfriends, my wedding day with Greg… Then of course, there are the publications: articles in newspapers and magazines, stories in Chicken Soup for the Soul, and the books and booksignings as well as the school visits with Sage. Memories, good and not-so-good, can roll in like a tidal wave.

School Kids_Mary
Gayle and Mary at school.

My “special day” can be a bummer because Sage died the day before my birthday, two years ago. In fact, I remember feeling overwhelmingly sad last year, but this year, though I could have traveled down that same sad trail, I found myself in a classroom of kindergarteners with Mary, the springer spaniel Greg and I adopted last year. I talked with the kids about taking care of pets, about Mary and her story of losing her special person, and of Sage’s passing – then I read my book Sage Learns to Share. We talked about how special our pets are and how they help us. Even with Sage’s passing, she still impacts kids with lessons of friendship, courage, perseverance, and acceptance of differences … and I smile despite the fact I still miss her greatly. Having Mary helps, and I’m thankful she’s as good with kids as Sage was – the kids can learn from both dogs simultaneously, and I get to be part of that – what an amazing journey!

Friendship was evident in my human relationships as well last week, as many friends sent me wonderful greetings, and my colleagues at the office gave me roses and wrote encouraging words on a lovely card. True friendship is an amazing gift!

BDayRoses 2014My husband, too, gave me a beautiful card and made me a special dinner, and we watched my favorite TV show together with the dogs between us. My cup-of-life truly overflowed!

I called my parents and did something I’ve been thinking about for a long time: I thanked them for being such supportive, loving parents, for setting my feet on a good path, and for always being there to cheer me on and to catch me when I fall. The three of us were choked up as I hung up the phone. I give my husband credit for this part – he wrote his parents a wonderful, loving letter last fall to thank them for raising him (and his siblings) as they did. His words touched their hearts … and mine, and prompted me to do something similar. I thought a phone call on my birthday was appropriate – and I guess it was.

As we get older, we have more things to look back on – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful. Hopefully, we won’t dwell so much on the bad and the ugly, but instead will cherish the good and the beautiful. We can’t change the past, and we don’t always have control of the future, but we do have the present – opportunity to relish the blessings we experience, and when we do reflect, we can focus on those beautiful, good things in our lives.

Grandma Mardy2
Grandma Mardy at 91 years old.

My maternal grandmother’s birthday was exactly a week after mine; April 1 will mark 115 years since her birth. Grandma Mardy, a stout German woman, died at age 91. Like Sage, she lived a persevering life, surviving the Depression, running a store and then a farm, and living nearly 24 years longer than her husband. She took her first plane ride when she was 80 and her third, and final one, at age 85. She possessed a strong faith and a fierce love for her only child (my mother) and her only grandchild (me). We shared many dinners at home and in our Iowa town, and when she came west to visit, I was able to share Yellowstone with her. Wonderful memories of a great lady … and great times together! She didn’t get to see me walk across that stage to receive my bachelor’s degree in communication, she never saw one of my newspaper articles or books, nor did she ever meet Sage or Mary, but she helped me with school expenses and encouraged my passion for pets – and because of my Grandma Mardy I finished my degree and eventually became an author of dog books and stories.

My latest birthday is now in my rear view mirror, but my freelance career is just beyond the windshield … and I have many people, and circumstances, to thank – the good and beautiful as well as the bad and the ugly … I wouldn’t be where I am today without them all.

Gayle and Mary at KnowledgeNook

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Sage Learns to Share, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazines as well as the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. Her future plans include creating newsletter and brochure content for businesses, writing more magazine articles, and authoring additional books. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small  Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Walking_FrontCover_small

Beware the Ides of March!

This post is by Nancy Jardine
This post is by Nancy Jardine

Okay I admit it. I had Caesar Salad dressing on my greens last night. Was that a good choice on the night before the ides of March? Aha! Time will tell. As many good schoolboys and schoolgirls might know, the ides of March was not a great time for the ancient Roman named Julius Caesar, because things got a bit sticky for him on the ides of March – specifically a sticky end on the sharp point of a very sharp dagger. Make that many daggers.

It was very much a ‘dividing’ point for Caesar in that his assassination divided him from life to death on the steps of the Capitol in Rome. His assassins were Brutus and Cassius (not to mention the 60 or so others who stabbed him according to some ancient sources) many who had earlier professed to have been his friend. The English playwright, William Shakespeare, immortalised the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar in his play ‘Julius Caesar’ and forever thrust the phrase ‘Beware the ides of March’ into the public domain. Many people can quote nothing else of that play but they just might remember the ‘ides’ phrase. However, they may have no idea what ‘ides’ refers to.

julius 2

I confess to having absolutely no idea what the ‘ides’ were until I became 15 years of age. I was in my High School English class when it reared its amazing head. In my day, it was usual for every school in Glasgow, Scotland, to study the works of the English playwright William Shakespeare. It was also usual in Glasgow at that time, during the mid 1960s, that every single school followed strictly laid down programmes of work for all pupils. The Shakespeare plays we studied were selected particularly for levels of maturity of the students. In the first year of study it was the comedy -‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, since that was considered to be a nice little fairy tale suitable for 12 going on 13 year olds (actually it isn’t really but it was an easy work to study). In second year, it was ‘The Merchant of Venice’- also a comedy. By third year we were deemed old enough to tackle the tragedies- the ones with NO happy ever after endings. One of the third year plays was Julius Caesar.


The play made an impact on me for one reason only…

Zoom back with me to 1967. I’m sitting in my English classroom, some thirtyish pupils in the room. By third year, the English class was a mix of boys and girls, my first two high school years having had all classes segregated into girls only, and boys only classes. (Archaic? Probably but that’s how it was ) My English teacher of the time was the head of the department and a ‘classicist’. That means he had not only a qualification in English from University, but he was ‘of the old school’ who also had Latin and Greek qualifications. The man seemed as ancient as the old plays and books he taught us about, he was incredibly strict, but was also very knowledgeable.

 Dscn5414I can’t remember exactly, but I imagine that the week set aside to study ‘Julius Caesar by good old Willie S’ was probably the middle of March. I remember a cold dread as the soothsayer warns Julius Caesar ‘Beware the ides of March’ early on in the play. As we carried on reading-some pupils chosen to read the dialogue out loud to the others-the tension in the room escalated. Julius Caesar chooses to ignore the soothsayer who told his fortune and quips: “He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.”And Caesar carries on that night as normal.

But boys will be boys and are bloody with it (deny it if you will those males out there). My male classmates liked the idea of Julius Caesar having his comeuppance for being too much of a dictator in Ancient Rome and enthusiastically, if quietly, rejoiced in class when Julius Caesar is assassinated on the day following the soothsayers warning, on the steps of the Capitol in Rome, the forum below full of onlookers.

 Now why on earth should that be memorable to me? One of my lovely friends, probably one of the five I still keep occasional contact with, ratted on me. Someone made it public that the ‘ides’ of March, specifically the fifteenth, was my birthday. For some days, the corridors of my secondary school were not safe for me. I’m thinking you can imagine the amount of times I was metaphorically stabbed (and very noisily too) for the duration of reading that wonderful play by those enthusiastic boys whose maturity wasn’t actually all that well honed. There was no such thing in those days as harassment, or bodily harm-it was all great fun and any bruises encountered by me were not on show since they were hidden below my school uniform. It was called camaraderie!

So, what does the ‘ides’ actually mean? It doesn’t mean anything awful will happen but simply means the ‘dividing point’ of the month- the half-way mark. And the amazing thing is that every single month has one! *insert a very smiley face here* Nonetheless, I have never forgotten what the ‘ides of March’ means and the fifteenth has been a pretty good day for me for a long time… *wink, wink*

My historical romantic adventure series is set in Celtic Roman Britain but not in the time of Julius Caesar. Julius Caesar was the first Roman to venture onto the soil of the island the Romans named Britannia, but his very partial conquest was in 55 B.C. and his assassination in 44 B.C.

 New covers x 3

The era I write about is a bit later – the end of the first century AD 71-84. In only 10 days, the 3rd book of my series After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks will be officially launched. I’m not sure if I love writing about Celtic /Roman Britain because of my reading of Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’, or because I was already loving my history classes at school, but I like to think it was probably a bit of both!

What do you think?

Nancy Jardine: TOPAZ EYES-A finalist for THE PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE FICTION 2014 – Results end May 2014.  AFTER WHORL: BRAN REBORN Book 2 of Celtic Fervour series has been accepted for THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL FICTION 2014- further updates in April 2014

You can find her books at:  Amazon UK author page   Amazon US author page  Barnes & Noble; Waterstones; W.H. Smith; Smashwords, Kobo and other major book retailers.

Blog    Website   Facebook  Goodreads   About Me   LinkedIn   Twitter @nansjar  Google+ 

 Have a lovely weekend!

Days Pass Quickly

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

“I’ve been lately thinking about my life’s time – all the things I’ve done and how it’s been…The days they pass so quickly now…” So go the words to a song titled “Poems, Prayers, & Promises” by John Denver. Another year has rolled around. Three of my high school friends have celebrated birthdays, and another’s is just a few days away. My birthday arrives in March – all of us are past the half-century mark, closer to 65 than we are to 35. This year marks our 35th high school reunion – where does the time go?!

John Denver’s reflection in that song reverberates in my heart and mind these days. Perhaps because three friends recently found themselves in the crosshairs of cancer – one of them not even 40 years old. The death of a few elderly church members recently also provided pause – our time on this planet is but a blink of the eye, and no one knows when those eyes will close for the final time.

Arch ParkInstead of becoming melancholy, as I easily could, or getting stuck in the “what ifs” and “if onlys” of yesterdays regrets (which I could do even more easily) I am focusing on the future. I am working harder, taking on more projects in the months ahead, in the attempt to dig out of a financial hole that beset my husband and I last year due to less income from his business. Once the debts are paid, then the focus will be on saving more for enjoyment – I want to travel, experience more of America’s majestic landscapes, and spend time with friends and family. Time is more of the essence now than it has been – my parents are in their mid to late 70s and close friends are pushing 60 … relationships are of great value. Yet, I need to work in order to create that financial safety net that will allow me to enjoy those times of travel and camaraderie. I am believing this new year will continue providing new doors of opportunity for both finances and dreams.

AZ saguaroI recently completed reservations for a trip my dad and I will take in September, fulfilling his bucket list of visiting the Grand Canyon. We will see friends during our excursion in addition to some of America’s most breath-taking national parks, fulfilling dreams of mine along the way as well. In March I will be speaking to two ladies groups in Cheyenne, which is only about 90 minutes from Denver. I will take the rest of that week off and fly from Denver to Phoenix and possibly on to California, again visiting friends and taking in amazing landscapes. That trip is my birthday gift to myself, and though I should possibly wait another year and set that money aside, I feel the need to reward myself for the additional work I’ve taken on – the importance of these friends, and my need for some winter reprieve and R&R, is too vital to wait. And, sometimes postponing means never getting around to it. Life is too short to wait these days. I look forward to both the spring and autumn adventures with great enthusiasm!

“The days they pass so quickly now, nights are seldom long – time around me whispers when it’s cold…” so go the words to the above-mentioned song, penned and sung by the late Mr. Denver, who died tragically and before his time in 1997. He would have been 70 years old last month.

Time does pass quickly, and the whisper of cold has been prime this winter in my neck of the woods. My life’s poem, my heart’s prayer, and my mind’s promise is to enjoy the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, as many as I have, with gratitude for the work, the talent, the ability, and the relationships with which I’m blessed.

As we journey through life we take time to evaluate where we are, from where we’ve come, and to where we’d like to go. Set a course and enjoy the journey – even if that means a lot of hard work for awhile … for the days do pass so quickly!

Coniferous Forest Beside a Large Canyon

SIDENOTE: I was and still am a fan of the late John Denver. I was excited to learn that the Leon Gallery in Denver, Colorado is hosting a show of the photographic works of John Denver through March 2, 2014.  A weekend get-away for me down to that big city is probably in order!

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God. She is also a contributing writer to editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, to articles in Creation Illustrated and Our Town Casper magazine, and in the Casper Journal and River Press newspapers. Her future plans include creating newsletter and brochure content for businesses and writing more magazine articles. She also has two more books in the works. Learn more at www.gaylemirwin.com.

SageBigAdventureFront-small       Walking_FrontCover_small      Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final

Communication Breakdown

Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten

My son and I needed to buy birthday presents for the girls, so we all loaded up in the car and headed for the mall. We left the girls in Barnes & Nobel with strict instructions to stay there or if they got sick of the bookstore (what’s the chance of that), they could go into the food court.


English: Inside the food court.
English: Inside the food court. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


After leaving the girls in the Teen New Release section, we headed off to find the perfect gift for them. My son already knew what he wanted to get them, earrings. So, we headed off to Claire’s, the same shop that pierced the girls’ ears.

Claire’s was a bust, not because my son couldn’t find anything for the girls, but because the one clerk at the store was piercing someone’s ears so there was no one to ring us up. Since I had no desire to wait in that glittering palace of junk jewelry, we left in search of another store that sold girlie stuff.

Having to go to several other stores instead of just one meant the girls were waiting for us a little longer than I originally planned, still I wanted to make one more stop. I really wanted to get them a cute T-shirt to give them along with their birthday money.

As my son and I entered the last store, I commented that we were running behind and I expected the girls were getting agitated. No sooner had the words left my mouth than I got a text from my oldest. She wanted to know where we were. I texted back that we were almost done.

She texted back a grumbly “You better be, we’re bored.”

I hustled us through the store looking for the perfect shirts, but didn’t have any luck. We hurried back to the bookstore.

At the bookstore, I expected to see the girls milling by the front door. Hmm. Okay, not there. I texted my daughter asking for her location. No response.

Maybe they got thirsty and went to the food court. My son and I did a lap around the food court. Nothing. Walked through the whole bookstore-again nothing.

Now, I am getting agitated. I call my daughter it rings and rings. I hang up and try again. Same thing it keeps ringing. I do another lap around the food court and the bookstore. The whole time I am hitting redial on my phone.

I am frustrated and seriously considered standing in the middle of the bookstore and shouting their names (come one what parent hasn’t wanted to do that?)

Deciding I would rather not be banned for life from the bookstore, I decide to take one slower walk around the bookstore. Lo and behold, I spot the girls tucked into a corner of the children’s section. I approach them and see them fully engrossed in their books.

I come up beside them and tap my oldest on the shoulder. She looks all surprised to see me. I tell her I’ve looked everywhere for her AND I’ve called and texted her a dozen times.

She flushes and scrambles for her purse. Apparently, she couldn’t feel her phone vibrate from the depths of her purse. I just shake my head and tell them it is time to go home.

Follow me on Facebook
Visit my website Dragon and Butterfly Design


The Best Birthday Ever

propic11_1_1This post by L.Leander

What does your birthday mean to you? Is it a special day or just a normal day? Do you like lots of presents, cards and cake or do you prefer to keep it low-key? Each of us has our own way of wanting to celebrate our special day and I’m going to tell you about the most memorable birthday I ever had. By the way, tomorrow is my birthday so that’s why I came up with this remarkable topic!file0001936934915

My family lived in a rural town where everyone pretty much knew everyone else. We lived on a corner about two blocks from the school. I was nine years old and this would be my tenth birthday.

I had lots of friends in school and most of them had bicycles. They rode them to school and in their leisure time after homework. I may have been a mite jealous although I don’t remember feeling that way. I begged and begged my parents for a bike. Most kids had started riding at five or six but my father was certain I would be killed if I had one. He came up with so many reasons he didn’t want me to ride that I finally gave up.

castgfdg“You’ll run into a tree. A car’ll hit you. You’ll break a bone. You’ll forget to do your homework or your chores and you’ll be late for meals.” Dad had an answer for every thing I thought of to get a ride of my own – I even offered to go to work and pay for part of it myself. Granted, this was in the 50’s and I believe I received a quarter a week allowance.

My father also forbade all of my siblings and me from tree climbing because we would surely fall and break an arm or leg. Although I usually listened very carefully to my father’s warnings I have to say I may have climbed one or two without his knowledge and arrived safely on the ground. Since my siblings were in on the mischief none of us ever told for fear we’d get a spanking.

My Mother made a very big deal of our birthdays. When the day came we didn’t have to do any household chores and she would make whatever we wanted for supper. She always baked and decorated a cake. I had a few birthday parties, too and they were great because Mom was so creative. We became used to being treated as kings or queens on our birthdays.file3941254091863

My tenth birthday dawned bright and sunny, warm for an August summer. I woke lazily and smiled at the sun that streamed in through my window. My sisters and brother were soon in my room screaming “Happy Birthday Linda,” while they jumped up and down on my bed until we heard one of my parents step on the squeaky board in the hall. We settled down pretty fast but I couldn’t wait to see what the day would bring. I had ordered pizza and root beer for supper.file000679986039

We didn’t have a lot of money with four kids and a stay-at-home mom, but she sewed and painted and created wonderful things for all of us. It was usually a good idea not to get too focused on the latest craze in toys because we knew our parents couldn’t afford them. It didn’t matter. We felt loved and secure and enjoyed anything we received.

My three siblings and I tramped down the back stairs to the dining room where we ate our oatmeal and toast. I was lucky that year because my birthday fell on a Saturday and Dad was home to enjoy the day with us. We were a little boisterous around the table but quickly stopped our antics with a stern look from Dad. I picked my dishes up, took them to the kitchen and started up the stairs to get dressed for the day. I planned to wear a special shorts set Mom had made that I loved but only got to wear on special occasions.

“Linda, come back down here.” I heard my Dad’s firm voice call me.

Coffee and NewspaperI came back to the table, where he was still reading the newspaper.

“I want you to dress in some old clothes. There are a lot of papers in the back yard and I want you to clean them up. Take the old pick (a broom handle with a nail) and put everything in the barrel. I’ll burn them later.”

“But Dad,” I whined. “Don’t you remember? It’s my birthday and I don’t have to do anything today.” (Oops, did I really say that?) flashed through my mind.

“I don’t care if it’s your birthday or Christmas. The back yard needs to be cleaned and since I’m off today I can mow later.”file0001621993863

There was no changing Dad’s mind once he had made a decision and I knew better than to argue and was shocked that he hadn’t reprimanded me for the backtalk. I trudged back up the stairs, unhappy and wondering what on earth had changed.

I put on some old clothes, got the pick out of the garage and began the laborious task of picking up every scrap of paper I could find. There seemed to be more than usual so I muttered and stabbed a little harder than I needed to. When I had almost finished (about an hour later) I saw one last thing under the cedar trees. I tried to ignore it but I knew Dad would get after me for not doing a good job.

I walked slowly over to the line of trees. As I neared I could see this was rather a large piece of paper. I got my pick ready, raised it to stab the paper and suddenly a name leapt out at me. It was my name! To Linda on her tenth Birthday Love Mom and Dad. In shock, I put the pick down and retrieved the envelope from the grass.

The envelope was well sealed but I carefully opened it. It wasn’t a card. I looked at the piece of paper inside. I read it twice before I realized what it meant.

“Go to the garage,” the writing commanded.

I was puzzled but hurried to the old garage and opened the creaky wooden doors. There stood a brand new salmon and white bicycle with a big bow tied around it and a warranty hanging from the handlebars. Down the side it proudly displayed the words Montgomery Ward in white lettering.th

It took a minute for the whole thing to sink in. I looked at the bicycle and caressed the sleek body. I gripped the handlebars and imagined white streamers flowing in the wind as I rode. I pushed the bike out of the garage and across the back lawn only to see my Mother and Dad beaming with joy and my sisters and brother almost as excited as I.

“I didn’t think you’d ever find that paper,” quipped my dad with a smile. “Enjoy it but be careful, ok?”

I nodded my head, lay the bike in the grass and ran up to hug both of my parents. Then it was time to learn how to ride the thing. I positioned my bike on the sidewalk in front of our house. I got on it and although I was scared I wobbled along – right into a big oak tree in our front yard! I fell down on the body and you can imagine how much that hurt. I climbed off, determined to learn. After two or three days I was my knees and elbows were skinned but I was a master at riding that bicycle and I spent after school time and weekends riding my new bike all over our town, my hair streaming in the wind. Oh the feeling of freedom I felt! My friends oohed and ahhed over my new present and we often rode together, riding some of the back roads through the pine trees and anywhere else we could find new adventure.

It was only later that I realized how much my folks had sacrificed to buy me that bicycle. Money was very tight and we wore hand-me-down clothes our cousins outgrew and all the clothes Mom spent hours making for us. I learned my father had gotten home from work that Friday night and holed up in the garage to assemble the bike. In those days they were shipped disassembled. He spent a good part of his night in the garage making sure it would be ready for me the next day. My Mom had some extra cash she had been saving from the sewing work she took in and my father applied for a credit card (something he swore he’d never do) in order to give their oldest daughter something she had been pining for since she was five.

This was the very best birthday I ever had and I rode that bike until I was in my late teens. By then I was much more interested in boys and driving so the bicycle languished in the garage and we finally sold it when my father was transferred again. I remember going in to look at it one last time and whispering, “Good-bye old friend. We’ve had a lot of good times, haven’t we? I hope you’ll make some other little girl as happy as you’ve made me.” A tear rolled down my cheek as I walked away but I quickly dried it and looked forward to the future, no longer a little girl, but a strong confident woman.

I’d love to hear your favorite birthday stories. I’ve carried on the tradition of making birthdays a special day with my children. How about you?

Books by L.Leander: