Winning the Lottery

Gayle_Cheyenne bookstoreThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

Someone won Saturday’s Powerball lottery drawing – one ticket holder scooped up more than 400 million dollars. News flash – it wasn’t me!

However, I did purchase three tickets and last week I purchased one. I didn’t win anything last week but this week I got $4.00, winning back the money I put in ($2.00) – my husband and my father each also kicked in $2.00 so we could buy a total of three tickets. I will share the $4.00 winnings with my family members who helped buy tickets – it’s only fair.

Wyoming is new to the Powerball, joining the multi-million-dollar, multi-state lottery a few years ago; prior to that, Wyoming residents traveled to neighboring states, like Colorado and Montana, to purchase lottery tickets. I would often buy a ticket or two when living in and later visiting Montana.wyolotto-ticket

I think many people dream of “hitting the jackpot,” of being that multi-million-dollar winner. Have you ever thought about what you’d do if you won the Powerball lottery, and if so, what would that be? I know I have, and still do. I wonder what that person in Tennessee who won on Saturday will do with all that dough? Had I been the fortunate person, here’s a short list of what I’d do in addition to paying off debt, including the mortgage:

  1. Create an animal sanctuary with no euthanasia (except for extreme conditions, such as medical reasons) – similar to Best Friends in Utah and Luvable Dog Rescue in Oregon.
  2. Donate significantly to combat human trafficking, particularly to A-21 Campaign and Shared Hope International.
  3. Assistance to Elder Care organizations like Meals on Wheels.
  4. Contribute to the development of water wells in third world countries so villages can have clean water.
  5. Set up endowments to food banks, rescue missions, and animal shelters in communities where I’ve lived.
  6. Donate to child health care facilities like Jude, and Native American missions like St. Joseph’s Indian School.

money-and-peopleSome of this I already do, on a very small financial scale –how much more good I could do if I’d have won $400 million on Saturday!

For myself, in addition to creating the sanctuary, I’d quit my day job, buy land, and put a home on that property that has a front porch on which I could sit and quietly enjoy my surroundings – and finally finish that darned novel (no, Novel Writing Month hasn’t gone well for me this year!)

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I had a lovely week: time with my pets at home, sharing dinner with a dear friend, delivering books to new friends, then heading up to Montana to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and having a booksigning on Friday night in the community where, in essence, the book writing began due to Sage’s adoption from a rescue organization in that town back in 2001. Pets, book sales, friends, family, great weather, beautiful scenery – life can’t get much better than that. Oh, money is good – it’s necessary, and if one has a lot of it, a lot of good can be done. But, good can still be done without much money: compassion, kindness, nature, loved ones, talent, sharing – those and more are good gifts.

gayle-and-mom-and-dadPerhaps I’ve won the lottery after all. I may not have a boatload of money to hand out or to put into retirement, but I do have a boatload of blessings.

How about you? For what are you grateful? With whom can you share your talents, your treasures, your time? I think those are good questions for all of us, especially with the holiday season upon us. We all have blessings, we all have gifts, we all have time – let’s share of ourselves, spreading the wealth of compassion, kindness, time, treasure, talent.


Gayle with book buyerGayle M. Irwin is a freelance writer, book author, and blogger who enjoys sharing about the pet-human bond. She writes inspirational pet stories for children and adults, creating her own books as well as being a contributing writer to several Chicken Soup for the Soul collections and to Sundown Press’ July release Pawprints on My Heart. Gayle also speaks in libraries, visits classrooms, and conducts presentations for faith-based and civic organizations. She has a two new books this fall, including a short story collection called Tail Tales and a humorous children’s cat book called BobCat Goes to School. Learn more at

bookcover_tail-tales_front-cover   bobcat-front-cover


Small Victories


propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Small Victories by author Ann Lamont is one of my favorite books. She is an inspirational writer and one can learn a lot by reading her works.

I think as a writer I always look at the big picture and am devastated when things don’t go my way. It is easy to want to give up and quit, just because things don’t go as expected.

But wait – what about the small victories? Ms. Lamont reminds us that the road can be motivation-721821_640long and bumpy, but if we take it step by step and give thanks for each victory, either big or small, we will reach the finish line.

Sometimes I think I’ll never get done with a project and it gets frustrating and annoying, often to the point where I set it down and let it rest for a while. But do I stop to give thanks for the small victories I receive every day? Sometimes it’s easy to forget.

kindness-710209_640It may be a pat on the back from someone you admire, it may be finishing a sentence or chapter, it may be meeting with a fellow writer to discuss your book, or it may be a bit of research you have been waiting for that suddenly drops in your lap.

It’s easy to get frustrated as we write and it doesn’t seem to be working well, but when you do stop to take time for the small victories, you’ll find yourself a much better writer and in a much better frame of mind.

Even if you need to take a break and come back to your writing refreshed, it’s a small victory.

lotus-1205631_640At night I write down all the things that made me happy during the day, including small victories. It is good fodder for sleep as I give thanks for what has been given to me, even when I have been frustrated and am ready to give up.

Have you read Small Victories by Anne Lamont? If not, I strongly suggest that you do. It’ll make you feel different as you go through your everyday work and writing and will make you thankful for all the small victories that occur in a day.

smallIs this a new concept to you? Does it sound like one you’d be interested in? Let me know in the comments!

Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders



Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)



13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

Linda's book


13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an Ebook




You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Books

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews





A Little Bit of Why

Post copyright by Doris McCraw

edit hhj spc

We all seem to have the Big Why in our lives. Why did I do this, or that. We tend to beat ourselves up over some mistake. Let’s take a look at the Little Why.

Why do I continue to comment on other people’s blog post even when they do return the courtesy?

I do so because I know people who write these post have something to say. It is a joy to see how they think, what’s important to them. By taking the time to comment, even if it is to say thank you, I acknowledge their efforts. Let’s face it, we all want to be heard.



Why do I continue to write post that no one seems to read or care about?

This goes back to the comments in the first Why. As I learn new things I want to share. The world is a big place, we can’t all do everything, so if something I think about or research will make a difference, I’m going to share. It goes back to my days working with juveniles. A wise lady once told me, “just keep talking, you never know when something you said might make all the difference.”

Why do I continue my photo and haiku practice?

This one is easy. It has become a habit, and I plain enjoy the challenge.



Why write romance?

I want to tell stories, and if there is a bit of romance in them, I’m okay with that. One of my cover models said she loved my novella, but it didn’t follow the formula. That is what I aim for, a good story that doesn’t have to rely on formula to succeed.


Why is telling the story of early women doctors so important?

Why shouldn’t it be? Dr. Susan Anderson had Virginia Cornell to tell her story. While I do not aspire to the universal love that the Cornell book has, I do not want these women to be lost to time. They did as much if not more than the more ‘famous’ ones did. They may not be famous, but they are worth remembering.

                                          from Elizabeth Blackwell, MD

Why am I doing history symposiums and speaking in public?

See the above answer. There is so much rich history to be shared. If I can add just one small part to the overall knowledge or get someone excited about a piece of history I am happy. Life is too short to be too afraid. No one really told me I couldn’t and if they did, I chose not to listen.

So there you have it, a little bit of Why.

For those who are interested you can stream the symposium on June 11. Here is the link:  The program starts at 9am Mountain Time. The topic this year is Myths and Mysteries of the Rocky Mountain West.

For further reading on some of the posts that prompted the why, here you go:

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. In addition to Historical Romance, Doris also writes haiku, posted five days a week at:  She has posted over one thousand haiku.“One Christmas Knight” Medieval Anthology

“Angel of Salvation Valley”



Author Page:






propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Have you heard of Mindfulness? It’s a word that is being used quite frequently these days. defines mindfulness as:



the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something.



  • a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, 2013-01-04 22.53.31experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them: The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.

the mental state maintained by the use of this technique.

It’s a hurry-scurry world in which we live and taking a moment or two out of our day is a good thing. It helps reduce stress, thus making us more relaxed and aware of our surroundings. In a counseling class I’m taking, we are urged to stop at random during the day, think of where we are, what we’re thinking about, and focus on what we are feeling at that very minute. It does amazing things for the body, for putting oneself in the here and now, not worrying about the past or future; making one concentrate on the present and helps to clear the mind. Much like meditation, mindfulness lets you relax and forget about the busy world around you for a second. Even that minute amount of time is sufficient to place one in a happier, more relaxed mindset.

There is a lot of research on the Internet about mindfulness but I wanted to write a short post, so I’ll leave it to you to do that search yourself. Here are a couple of links I liked when I Googled mindfulness.

I like the Bell of Mindfulness because it gives you quiet music to listen to and suddenly a gong rings to bring you to attention. Very good for learning to practice mindfulness.

file0001052140987The Bell of Mindfulness

I read an article I found in Science Daily that says mindfulness has been shown to make the workplace more relaxing and less resistance is found between workers. Science Daily – Mindfulness in the Workplace

You can go to iTunes and purchase an app called The Mindfulness App ($1.99). I think I’ll give it a try.

The Mindfulness App: Guided and Silent Meditations to Relax

No matter how you choose to do it, try to fit mindfulness into your day. We writers tend to get so involved in our work some days that we get headaches, tense muscles, etc. Stopping for a quick minute could help alleviate that..mindDo any of you practice mindfulness?  What does it mean to you?  Does it help you de-stress?  I’d love to know

Books by L.Leander

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders



Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)



13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing


13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook



You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Books

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews








Many Ways to Give Thanks

This postpropic11_1 by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

 Thank you for the world so sweet

Thank you for the food we eat

Thank you for the birds that sing

Thank you God for everything.

                                  Child’s mealtime prayer

 Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The prayer above was one we children often said at mealtimes. We each went around the table and said one thing we were thankful for before we started our holiday dinner. These traditions still warm my heart as I remember what I was thankful for (sometimes not much different from what I am thankful for today.)

I journal every evening and always sign off by writing one thing I was thankful for that day. Sometimes it’s hard, especially if I’ve had a tough day, am not feeling well, or am just a little crabby. This daily habit helps me in many ways. When I’m crabby, I may write that I’m thankful for the warm flannel sheets on the bed. When I’m excited about something I write about my progress. I’ve even been thankful for my crossword puzzle book when I can’t think of anything else.

I read a very interesting article in a Bipolar Health Magazine yesterday. The title was “But what if I’m NOT thankful?” The post explained that it is often harder for someone with Bipolar Disorder (or any other mental health issue) to feel thankful all the time. Often, no matter how hard you think about thankfulness, nothing comes. This writer came up with some funny things to be thankful about, but at least she started somewhere.

In her words, “If you can’t be thankful for the big things, start small”, she says. “I looked at my toes – I have nice toes, I thought. I’m thankful for them.”  She continued to think of anything she might be thankful for. “I love smelling my wet dog when he comes inside from the rain and shakes himself all after the rug. I know, weird, isn’t it? I am thankful when I can’t sleep and I watch my husband and dog sleeping peacefully; the rise and fall of their chests and their soft breathing.” I think what this writer is trying to say is that everyone has at least one thing to be thankful for, even when things are at their worst.

I wonder how often we return that thanks? How often do we go out of our way to thank someone for something, give him or her a compliment, or simply smile?

This morning I watched a news segment with my husband and the local broadcaster was interviewing thefile0001832696048/manager of a pizza and pasta restaurant called Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta, located in Menasha, WI. The pizza restaurant is popular with the local crowd and is gaining customers from other areas. The main pizza restaurant is in New Jersey. About 15 years ago, the family decided to branch out, scouted locations and ended up near Appleton, WI. Luigi’s Pizza and Pasta just received the 2015 “Best of the Valley” Award.

According the broadcaster, there are many reasons this restaurant is thriving. It caters to families. It makes all fresh-cooked foods with fresh ingredients. The elderly mother of the family still makes all the lasagna and the Tiramisu.

But more than that, this restaurant loves to give back. They were full on Veteran’s Day, as they offered free meals to Veterans and their families from open to close. They have started another program that is going fantastically well. Each month or so, the manager picks out a table, goes to greet them, and says, “This meal is on us. We only ask that you pay it forward whenever you can.” The patron is given a small card to do something random for someone else and give him or her the card to do the same thing. I was totally amazed that a restaurant this large and busy would take the time to implement a wonderful program like this.

Immediately, I remembered the 2000 movie “Pay It PAY 10Forward”,  based on the book written by Catherine Ryan Hyde, starring Hayley Joel Osmet, Helen Hunt, and Kevin Spacey.

In the movie, Kevin spacey is a teacher, Hayley Joel Osmet his student, and Helen hunt the mother of the boy. The teacher challenges his students to come up with a plan to make a difference in the world. The kid comes up with an idea of doing three things for each of three people, those three people doing things for each of next three people, and so on. He is excited about the project and explains that if everyone follows through the world would be a much better place to live.

If you’re interested in seeing the movie trailer for Pay it Forward, you can watch it here, but I warn you that if you take time to watch the end you’ll be overcome emotionally.

Oprah had a day of giving and what some of the receivers did with their money will make you happy. You can read about her project here.

Wikipedia has a definition and page on Pay it Forward. You can read about it here.

The movie spawned a “Pay It Forward Day”. Here’s the link.

I had a thought this morning. How about paying it forward within our own Writing Wranglers and Warriors group? I was flattered this week when Cherley gave my book a plug in her post. What if we were each to do that? The exposure might be even better than it is now. We’re all here to help each other, right? Let’s pay it forward, not because we have to but because we want to.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video



Inzared The Fortune TellerVideo




Linda's book




You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Amazon Page

L.Leander’s FacebookPage

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L.Leander’s Reviews and Interviews

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Kate 2Kate Wyland


Many people recommend making a list of three to five things you are grateful for each morning to remind yourself of the good things in your life. Sometimes it’s hard to come with three let along five, but I certainly don’t have that problem right now. I have several big things I’m extremely grateful for at the moment.

Number one is we’ve finally moved into our new house! Closing the deal turned out to be a lot more complicated than we expected and at one point we almost said “forget it.” I’m so very glad we hung in there. Our new place is worth the wait and all the hassles. We now live on top of a hill with wooded open space on one side, a canyon below us, and a view of San Francisco Bay on the other side. I plan to do a lot of writing on our wonderful tree-shaded deck. The house is small but has everything we need, even a spa. It also has a number of nice upgrades and a compatible color scheme—no repainting necessary. I asked for the perfect house and the universe came through.



A second thing I’m grateful for is that our cat survived all our changes of residence. Hubs took a new job that required moving before we sold our house, and we ended up in three different temporary housing situations. Cats are territorial animals and often don’t take to moving. The first apartment we stayed in for two months was on the fourth floor and had no outdoor access. Kitten-Cat spent most of the day looking out the window.

After we decided to buy rather than rent, we needed to move someplace else while we went through escrow. We ended up at a tiny condo on a marina and spent a month looking out at beautiful harbor sunsets. The condo had a small patio and Kitten-Cat made good use of it and didn’t wander off as we feared she might.



After ten days in an Extended Stay hotel (due to the hassles I mentioned before) she’s now absolutely delighted with her new home. She’s been having great fun exploring the deck and yard and is back to dozing on “her” (i.e., our) bed and couch.

The last thing I’m grateful for is how well my experience with LitQuake went. LitQuake is a Bay Area group that sets up a TEN day series of literary events, known as LitCrawls, all around San Francisco. There are readings, talks and classes given by famous and not-so-famous writers and artists and attended by thousands of people—all for free. Saturday night (the day we got the keys to our house), I took part in my first LitCrawl. Six of us from the Silicon Valley Romance Writers of America read from our books to a packed coffee house. It was the first time they’d offered a romance event and we weren’t sure how much attention it would attract. We needn’t have worried. It was SRO! And my excerpt from FOREWARNING was well received. I hope I can do it again next year.

What are you grateful for these days? Do you make daily lists?


Forewarning Cover

Healing is her life. Will it be her death?


Wyoming Cover - 4x6 - #2.

Wyoming Escape
Two dead bodies. One dirty cop.
Is she next?


Cover - Images - 2.

 Images – A Love Story
She’s learned to hide from life.
Should she hide from him?


Connect with Kate Wyland:
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Christmas Past with Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

The following is from the diary of Bertha Maude Anderson before she became Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders. The year is 1842, when Bertha was ten years old, seven years before the saga begins.

I woke up, stretched my arms in the cotton nightgown I wore, jumped out of bed and dressed quickly. It was cold in the loft of our cabin and although Ma and Pa were up and building a fire, I knew I had chores to do. It’s Christmas, I thought. Just once I wish we had money so I could buy somethin’ for Ma, Pa, and Ezra. I climbed down the ladder to the main room below, where I could already hear Ma making preparations for breakfast. My snowbarnbrother and me donned coats, hats and mittens and headed for the barn, wading through the fresh snow that had fallen during the night.

“Bertha, Ezra, get your chores done and get in for breakfast.” Could always hear Ma’s voice wherever I was because it carried and echoed through the hills surrounding our home. ‘Course, sometimes I ignored it. We lived in Brower’s Gap, North Carolina, where there wasn’t many folks with money enough to do Christmas for their families.

“Be there in a minute,” Ezra shouted, winking at me. Watched my brother pull the cow’s teat and squirt a perfect line of milk into the barn cat’s mouth. They’d been laddercatdoing this ever since I could remember and the cat waited anxiously each mornin’ for the milking to begin. In the cold months we seldom took long in the barn, but the cow still had to be milked and fed and the horse and mule droppings cleaned up before we forked down hay from the loft and gave them a little grain. We left the pigs because they got leftover scraps from our meager meals along with some mash. We headed to the Chicken Coop and gathered eggs before we filled the feeders.

I stopped to drink in the beauty of the mountains. As far as I could see there was a world of white. It was wooded all around our farm and our closest neighbor was a couple of miles away. Raised my eyes heavenward and begged God to help me find gifts for my family.

“Come on, Bertha,” Ezra shouted, as he stamped his way to the house. I’m hungry and all you want to do is stand out in the cold. What’s wrong with you, girl?”

“Nothin’”, I replied, as I followed him to the cabin. Must have been about ten years old at the time, as I recollect. Life was hard up here on the mountain and although I loved it I also hated it. Love because it was so beautiful and hate because we were so far removed from the rest of the world and we barely eked out a livin’.Mtns

We entered the house and a blast of icy wind followed us in.   We shook the snow off our clothes, washed up and set at the table for breakfast. It was just like any other day and I tried to keep my feelin’s to myself. Seemed like Christmas was forgotten.

My Pa blessed the food and we inhaled the hot cornmeal mush and biscuits Ma made every morning. It was warm and filling and I was beginnin’ to thaw out since the fire in the fireplace was putting out plenty of heat by now. Still, snow and wind blew in through the logs of the cabin where the chinking had worn away. We’d grown used to it, but it was uncomfortable, all the same.

Helped Ma clean up while Ezra and Pa went hunting. They hoped to find a fat deer to eat through the lean months of winter.

“Ma,” I said. “Can I go outside for a little while?”

She usually said no and gave me one task or another to help her with, but, strangely enough, she said “You can go out for a while but be back here in time to help me with the noon meal. Your brother and Pa will be hungry when they get in from huntin’”.

Quickly, I put on my damp leggings, hat and mittens. “Come on Beau”, I called to our old dog, who lay on a hand-woven rug next to the fireplace.” Excited to go alongbeau with me he bounded to the open door and jumped into the swirling cloud of snow.

We made our way into the woods in the opposite direction from the one Pa and Ezra had taken. Had lots of time to think in this nothingness, this pristine world of snow diamonds that surrounded me.

The snow was gettin’ deeper now and I tired as we trudged along. Suddenly I spied red berries peeking through snow. Holly Berries, I thought. Might be I can make a bouquet for Ma to enjoy and the table will be real pretty. Very carefully I dusted the snow off the tops and carefully picked several stems and held them tightly as I walked, so as not to lose a single red berry.

Old Beau and me traipsed farther into the woods, where I noticed a piece of wood whittlethat must have fallen off one of the trees, but now had no branches and looked to be well-seasoned. “Ezra will love this,” I said to the dog. “He’s always carvin’something or other.” I was doing good but saw nothing that my Pa would like. I imagined his work-worn hands as he sat in the old rocker by the firelight, dozing off and on. He was always tired from all the hard work he did. I searched high and low but nothing caught my eye.

Was then I remembered the stone, the special one I’d found in the crick last summer. It was different, with flecks of gold, black and pink. I put it for safekeeping in a hole in a tree by the river so I could rub it and daydream. I called it the wishing stone. It was off apiece, but Old Beau and me turned toward the crick and waded through the snow that had become heavier and deeper than when we left. Finally reached the tree, put my hand in the hidey-hole and retrieved the stone. It glittered in the snow on my mitten and I thought again how pretty it was.rock

Laden down with our gifts, the dog and I turned for home. Another half-mile of trudging our way through the snow and ice and we’d be at the cabin door. It was hard, but I got through it by singin’ songs and thinking how happy my family would be with the presents I’d found. We came to the cabin and the door flew open.

“Where on earth have you been, child? I told you to be home in time to help me with the noon meal. That time has come and past – it’s late afternoon.”  Ma was hard understand.  We didn’t get along much because she was so strict and I was a free spirit, forever testing her patience.

“Sorry, Ma.” I hung my head. “The snow was deeper than I thought.”

“Well, git on in here and dry off.” She pulled me inside and brushed me off, taking my sodden coat and boots and hanging them on a rack by the fireplace to dry.

Was then I seen it. A Christmas tree. A real Christmas tree! It was a little scrawny, but I didn’t care. It was decorated with bits of old fabric from clothes too patched to wear, a bird’s nest Ezra found last Spring, strings of popcorn and little pieces of fabric tied to branches. It was the most beautiful tree I had ever seen, and the first in my young life in our cabin.tree

Ma handed me a cup of hot coffee with plenty of milk to warm me and sat me down to dry off in front of the fireplace next to Beau. I felt warm and cozy. Pa looked at me from his rocker, his tired eyes fixed on me.

“Well, youngun’, he said. “Reckon it’s Christmas Day and we might ought to celebrate like other folks. Don’t have much but our family and that’s reason to be happy. This year is different. Ezra wanted to surprise you and it looks like he did.”

I looked at the tree in awe. “Thank you, Ezra. Thank you, Pa.” I breathed in the scent of pine as I closed my eyes. It was a scent I never tired of and even better inside on a snowy day. I was so happy I had to wipe my eyes so Ezra wouldn’t tease me about bein’ a crybaby.

Once I was warmed up we sat around that tree and sang Christmas carols. The tree seemed to swell and grow bigger and bigger as we sat there.

“Wait, I brought presents,” I exclaimed.  Wait just a minute. I stepped outside and dragged in my booty. “Ma, this winterberry is for you. I thought it would look nice on the table for Christmas and then you can use it for your potions.”

holly“That’s right nice of you.” She took the branches from my outstretched hand and put them in some water. A woman of few words words and little affection, she returned to her seat. I felt a sense of sadness. Maybe she didn’t like it after all.

“Ezra, I found you a nice piece of oak to whittle on. It’s already seasoned, I think, and should be ready to use. My brother admired the piece, and reached over to hug me. “Thanks, sis. It’s a mighty fine gift.” I beamed, knowing he genuinely liked what I had given him.

“Pa, I saved yours for last, I said. It’s somethin’ special I found in the crick last summer.” I handed him the stone and it sparkled in the firelight. “It’s a wishin’ stone,” I said. “You hold it in your hand and wish for what you want. I think it’s so pretty and I held it often last summer.  Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”

“Looks like a gift I’ll use a lot,” Pa said as he fingered the stone, turning it over and over in the light to inspect it. He laid his head back in the rocker, closed his eyes and rolled the stone over and over in his hand. I knew he appreciated the special gift I’d given him.

“Well, since you got gifts for all of us, ain’t right you get nothin’ in return,” my Ma said in a sharp tone. She reached behind the Christmas tree and there in her hand was the most beautiful doll I’d ever seen. She had a sock face and I recognized it was one of mine I’d worn through, all darned now. Her features had been embroidered on and she had yarn for hair. She wore a dress from an old shirt of Pa’s and red underwear from the ones Ezra had worn for so long there was holes everywhere. I could do nothing but stare. Ma thrust the doll at me. “Don’t you like it?” she said. “I spent many a night by the coal-oil lantern sewin’ on it whilst you were asleep.”

burlap doll

“Oh, Ma. She’s so beautiful. I love her and I’m going to name her Anna, after you.” I took the doll into my arms and hugged her tight. Thought I saw a glimmer of happiness in Ma’s eyes, but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared.

Pa and Ezra gave us their gifts but nothin’ was as special as Anna. I still have that ragged little doll that accompanied me everywhere I went. I fashioned a sling for her and she did every crazy daredevil thing I did right along with me. At night when I went to bed, hers was the last face I saw and I kissed her forehead. I whispered, “Thank you for a very special Christmas, Ma.” Then I’d go to sleep.

We never had another Christmas like that, which is why I remember it so well. Times was hard and money tight, so we got things like mittens and warm clothes Ma stitched or mended. But I had gotten my wish. I’d found presents that Christmas for all my family, which was the most special thing of all.






The Greatest Gift

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

When I was three years old, it was a doll called “Miss Peep.” When I was eight, it was a bicycle painted in my favorite color (purple!), complete with a handle-barred white basket with pink and purple flowers. When I was 19, it was an engagement ring. When I was 25, it was my bachelor’s degree and my first job as a writer for a newspaper. Each time I thought, “This is the greatest gift!”

Miss Peep doll

Dolls come apart, bicycles get traded, engagements are broken (mine due to his infidelity and subsequent departure to marry someone else), papers dull, and jobs change (although I am still a writer). During the Christmas season, we’re bombarded by ads to BUY, BUY, BUY, and kids beg and whine to their parents to get them “the greatest gift.” We’re led to believe we need more stuff, bigger, stronger, faster … made to feel we can’t live without the latest gadget, largest TV, or fastest car. But, gadgets give out, TVs go on the fritz, and cars get T-boned. And, even with what we do have left when our time on earth is finished, as the saying goes, “you can’t take it with you” … or as John Ortberg so succinctly says in his book, “it all goes back in the box.”

Gifts are amazing. The saying goes, “Your life is a gift from God; what you make of it is your gift to Him.” A recent sermon at my church spoke to that, mostly in the form of our work and our volunteerism. The minister reminded us work is a gift – whether we work outside or inside the home. We’re blessed to use our talents, to positively impact people, and to make a wage to pay bills … or not make a wage and serve/care for our families.

Gayle_ChrisjpgGifts also come to us in the forms of talents and abilities. Whether one has the gift of music, the gift of hospitality, the gift of managing, the gift of writing – each one is important and wonderful; I appreciate those traits in people. Again, our gifts/talents are from God and what we do with them is our gift to Him (and to others).

Gifts of material things, such as diamond jewelry, candy, flowers, a car – those are wonderful as well. I appreciate the gifts my family and friends give me on my birthday, for no “special reason,” and for Christmas. But, it’s not the “stuff” that makes me smile as much as the love and care with which those gifts are given. The relationships, those family members and friends, are gifts themselves. Recently my husband gave me the gift of taking our little family (us and the two dogs) to our mountain cabin. He had spent the previous weekend snow-blowing and plowing our long driveway from the main road to the cabin. This hasn’t been done in recent years because the blower/plow needed repair and we didn’t have the money to fix it. He spent two long afternoons ensuring we could drive in to the property so that our nearly 17-year-old Cody dog could go with us and not have to walk (or be carried). We spent a delightful, sunny Sunday afternoon basking in the beauty that is our mountain hideaway, and though I’m not much of a snow or winter person anymore, the majesty of brilliant blue, sunny skies, peace and quiet, and the aura of Christmas delighted my heart and relaxed my spirit. That was a special gift of love he gave me (plus, Greg enjoys winter much more than I do! But I still greatly appreciated the gift of his time spent making the trek possible and the time we shared eating soup, reading, and simply enjoying the scenery).

Cabin_back sideThe gift of love is the greatest gift, and during this Christmas season I’m reminded of the greatest gift of all – the love my Heavenly Father bestowed, giving his one and only Son, so that, as Scripture says, “whoever believes in Him will have everlasting life.”

Christmas isn’t just packages under a tree, festive light displays on the lawn, or mistletoe above the doorway (although those are nice) – Christmas is love from friends family and the One who Created us. Christmas is loved wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manager … then, 33 years later, dying on a cross and rising from the grave. Without Christ there is no “Christ-mas”, it’s just another day. The greatest gift of all is Jesus – He is love … and mercy … and hope … and so much more. I pray we each unwrap that precious present, the greatest gift of all – the very Love of God, which was given to each one of us that first Christmas, a present from the past that continues into the future, given to us every day.

Nativity movie scene


Gayle & Mary outsideGayle M. Irwin is a 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 two dog devotion boos: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Her speaking engagements include presentations for children and adults about the lessons people can learn from pets. Visit her website at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover   SageLearnsShareFront-small   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Walking_FrontCover_small

A Bounty of Blessings

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin

It’s the month we celebrate several things including veterans, pets, America. Thanksgiving is around the corner and in the United States this is a holiday which means more (or should) than planning the trek to stores that are open for “Black Friday”/Thanksgiving Thursday.

Anticipating spending this Thanksgiving in Montana with my parents, I cannot help but reflect back to nearly a year after my mother’s first knee replacement surgery. It was a difficult time; her recovery was slow and painful, but within a few months she was walking better than she had in several years. This past May she went through a second knee surgery, this time on the other leg, and her recovery was much quicker and now her walk is much smoother and much less painful. A great blessing!

Mom and Dad_treeI’ve experienced many blessings this past year, including several magazine writing assignments, a new book, and healthy pets (despite several ups and downs). My husband and I have also experienced sorrow, in particular the loss of his father. As we look to celebrate Thanksgiving with my parents, we also look forward to sharing Christmas with his mother. Friendships surround us as well, people we enjoy being with and people who have helped us in time of need. And, our pets give us special companionship, help us smile and keep us warm at night (especially lately!) Another great blessing: our family and friends, both humans and four-leggeds. And yet another: the increase in my writing, including venturing into a new genre!

Cody FaceWith the onslaught of a bitter cold, snowy winter, I look around me and see a multitude of other blessings: warm shelter, food in the pantry and on the table, machines which wash clothes and dishes, blankets, beds, and two running cars. I have a stable job in addition to the writing work I’m doing and my husband’s business has picked up since spring. We have a bounty of blessings for which to be thankful for this year … including those which we often take for granted.

As this year draws to an end and a new one looms on the horizon, may we be ever mindful of the bounty of blessings each of us receives while looking forward to great goals and new challenges.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving table

Gayle & Mary outsideGayle 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. Her latest book is a follow-up to the devotion book: Devotions for Dog Lovers Volume 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul, including the latest dog book The Dog Did What?, released August 2014. She also writes for WREN (Wyoming Rural Electric Network), Crossroads, Creation Illustrated, and Our Town Casper magazines, as well as for the Casper Journal, River Press, and Douglas Budget newspapers. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and volunteers for and donates a percentage of her writing revenues to several animal welfare organizations. Visit her website at

SageBigAdventureFront-small     Walking_FrontCover_smallSageLearnsShareFront-small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_FinalDog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014  Chicken Soup_DogDidWhat_Cover

Black Friday

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Black Friday. We begin to hear the never-ending commercials for the event in October and November.   Somehow Thanksgiving gets shoved aside as people eagerly anticipate the biggest shopping day of the year. I am not a fan, and here’s why.

You can read more about Black Friday HERE.

In my day (I’m sounding like an old lady again) Thanksgiving was a revered holiday.dinner It originated with early settlers of America and the Indians who owned the land coming together to make peace. As the day’s popularity grew, it became a time for reflection, thankfulness for our world,  families, the food on our tables, and most importantly, a God who loved us. No store was open in my Thanksgivings of the past. The whole world took a break to be thankful and it was almost as if time stopped for 24 hours while we counted our blessings. We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning and then helped Mom get things ready. We usually had cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles and anyone my turkeyfolks thought needed companionship. After eating our fill, the kids would run outside to play Duck, Duck, Goose in the snow. We played until we were wet and half-frozen but when we came in to dry off there was pumpkin pie! At the end of a special day with relatives and friends, I always felt full of love. At dinner we each said something we were thankful for before my Dad led us in prayer to bless the meal.

Read more about the 1st Thanksgiving HERE and HERE

Read about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade HERE


Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together to reminisce. The table is laden with food and everyone goes home with leftovers to enjoy later.

Enter Black Friday. It has commercialized Thanksgiving, but I harbor no bad feelings for those who love it. My sister, her three girls (whose husbands care for their children), a cousin and a few friends leavesnowroad immediately after the Thanksgiving meal is over and drive to Green Bay, WI, where they have secured motel rooms. Since my sister lives in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, they are only a 2-½ hour drive from Green Bay. They love the time together and although I’m always invited, I politely decline. It’s not my cup of tea. The entourage checks into their rooms and go out as soon pajamasas the sales start, often in their pajamas. They shop the sales they want and go back to the motel to sleep for a while. They do more shopping the next morning, then head to Appleton to catch the sales there. Another night in their Green Bay Motel and they’re on their way home, their cars laden down so much that the tires groan under the weight.moreshops

It’s not that I hate to shop that I don’t go along. Give me a music store, a bookstore,a fabric shop, or a yarn shop and I’ll make haste to get there.  Just not on Black Friday.  It makes no sense to me to stand in long lines for something that will probably be sold malleatout by the time your turn comes. I like to rest the day after Thanksgiving, often sewing or reading before hubby and I tackle the leftovers. I contemplate the life God has given me and the blessings I sometimes forget to count. I’m not fond of crowds of people pushing and shoving their way through stores, trying find a parking space, and waiting in the food court to get something to keep you sewinggoing. That being said, I love the stories my sister brings back about the wonderful deals they got and I’m very glad they have a good time together.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think of Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful; a day of rest and relaxation with family you may not have seen for a while. When I was working I protected Black Friday, because it was an extra day I could do something I wanted to do but never had time for.

What do you think about Black Friday? Are you a lover, a hater, or ambivalent? I’d like to hear your thoughts.




You can read about the origin and rules of Duck, Duck, Goose HERE

Watch a video of the game HERE


Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

INZARED bookcoverkindle










Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders


Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared The Fortune Teller Book Cover











Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)


13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing













13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook








You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander Books Blog

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews