Hidden Talents

Post (c) Doris McCraw

Doris

We all have hidden talents.  It is something that can be a journey to excitement, joy, and maybe even a little pain. 

How many people say, “If only…” or “I’d love to, but…”? What would happen if you did that ‘if only’, or tried that ‘I’d love to’? 

Are we defined by our limitations or by our pushing the boundaries? Sometimes we are so busy, we don’t even know we gone past where we said we couldn’t go. 

PROPHECY

It is in those times of pushing, or busyness that we come to know what are hidden talents could be. Of course, it helps if we give ourselves credit. Not the kind of credit where we say, “Hey, look at me” to the extent we exclude others. It’s the credit we get when we make the journey and bring others along with us. By finding our ‘other’ talents, we can offer the world even more.

When we find the voice to sing, the story to tell, the piece of history to share, we are making the whole world richer. Do we always get credit? No. Do we stop? Sometimes. But the joy, excitement and pain are there to drive us forward, to develop those extra pieces of ourselves. We may choose to share it with the world, or just our close friends, or even just with ourselves. The key it to take the journey, to push beyond where we think we can go.

LIVE LIFE 1

Some of us were blessed with people who foster that journey. Others of us have had to push when the pain of not pushing became to great to stop ourselves.  

So, to those who want to be singers, who want to write that story, who want to paint that picture, we salute you. Share your talents. Not everyone liked Picasso, Mark Twain or Paul Robeson, but these three scratched that itch, and created something special. We all have that potential. Remember, you never know whose life you may change, and for that reason alone, find and share that ‘hidden talent’ so that it shines forth into the world.

Doris Gardner-McCraw writing as Angela Raines
Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women’s History

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Photo and Poem: Click Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here

 

 

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Letting Go

Post (c) Doris McCraw

Doris

Recently I removed myself from the board of the Murder Mystery company I had been with for almost twenty years. It was a choice that had been in the making for some time. Yes, it was amicable, and I’m still available if they need me, but it was time to move on.

Life is about moving on, about growing, challenging yourself. Focus changes over time, and sometimes we have to let go in order to move on. Fear of the unknown, of change, of what people might think, can freeze action. The best way to get past fear is movement. Some of which comes from the study and use of Morita Therapy in my first career. If you wish to know more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morita_therapy

I caught the end of the animated film “Meet the Robinsons” and remembered all over again how much I’d enjoyed it and the message it contained. It was about letting go and finding your place in the world. We are never to old to re-invent who we want to be.

This song, “Small Wonders”, from the film, tells the story well. Give it a listen and let me know what you think. https://youtu.be/YKcF5k2gzH0

untold-story

Change is not always easy, we get comfortable, we get lazy, maybe even complacent. Life has a way of challenging you, of demanding the best you have. We may not be happy about it at first, but if we spend time in contemplation, we find we do have a choice. We can be happy, have sweet memories, and grow. We can also choose to be unhappy, let life get us down. The choice of how we choose to respond to the world is ours. We don’t have to agree, but we do have to be willing to be open and listen. That is the way we grow, find our happiness. “We only remember how it feels” as the song says.

You can listen to it again, with lyrics: https://youtu.be/HhZ1BdMtw_Q and “Keep moving forward!”

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com  Check out her other work and like her Amazon author page:  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL

 

Gratitude and Thanks

Doris

Post (c) by Doris McCraw

We are coming on my favorite time of year. I am partial to the Holiday of Thanksgiving. It is not a time of giving gifts. It has nothing except the heartfelt idea of being thankful. Despite how horrible we think life is, we really do have many reasons for gratitude and thanks.

The world around us is full of beauty, we have only to look.

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We are surrounded by music, we have only to listen

How many of us have tried something new to eat, or savored the joy of eating an old favorite?

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We hold our pets, our loved ones, the delight we take in that touch.

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The smell of the air after a rain, of pine when you walk in the woods, or the rose you hold to your nose.

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Take time to enjoy and employ all the senses, be thankful for all this world holds for us. No matter what happens, we have so much right in front of us, so much that makes our lives worth living. So tell that friend how much you appreciate them, hold your loved one close, and be grateful and thankful you get to experience life in all its glory. Remember the quote from my last post “It takes life to love life.”

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ” John F. Kennedy

Thank you.

 

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

Inzaredonecover

 

Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)

inzaredtwocover

 

13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

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13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an Ebook

 

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You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Books

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews

Twitter

LinkedIn

Goodreads

Google+

Mindfulness

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. Dictionary.com defines mindfulness as:

noun

1.

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

2.

Psychology.

  • 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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUzBYkOJOqo

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

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310141455.htm

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

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/mindfulness-app-guided-silent/id417071430?mt=8

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

Inzaredonecover

 

Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)

inzaredtwocover

 

13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

13ext

13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook

13marketingtipscover

 

You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Books

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews

Twitter

LinkedIn

Goodreads

Google+

 

 

 

Let’s Talk Passion

Post copyright Doris McCraw/Angela Raines-author

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According to Merriam-Webster a simple definition of passion isa strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. 

Can you imagine living with enthusiasm and excitement for everything you do? It would be fun doing the dishes, cleaning house, visiting a sick friend, gardening or just plain being. Perhaps over time, we’ve become frightened of passion, of giving something our all. Maybe we’ve been burned too many times.

The key is, it is our passion and what other people say or do has nothing to do with how we feel inside. If we are frowned upon when we laugh out loud, who ultimately loses if we bow to peer pressure? I’m not advocating doing things that harm others. I’m talking about the reason we get up in the morning, the things that make us happy. Telling the story of the women doctors is a passion. I love speaking and writing about them, and the research is a passionate challenge to me. March 19, I’ll be in Victor, Colorado sharing my passion with others about these women.

I don’t have children, I don’t like snakes, but that does not mean I should keep someone else from being passionate about them. Maybe they don’t like cats. That’s okay. Some people love to sing, others to write music or jokes or books. If we don’t enjoy what we are doing, if we can’t find the passion and excitement, why do we continue? Life is precious, don’t waste it. I’d like to share some of my favorite quotes about passion:

There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. Nelson Mandela
Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you’re passionate about something, then you’re more willing to take risks. Yo-Yo Ma

Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion. Martha Graham

and perhaps one of my new favorite:

There isn’t any great mystery about me. What I do is glamorous and has an awful lot of white-hot attention placed on it. But the actual work requires the same discipline and passion as any job you love doing, be it as a very good pipe fitter or a highly creative artist. Tom Hanks

What we are passionate about, I think, helps define who we want to be and our ability to try and get there. So here’s to a life lived with passions, following dreams and sailing our own ships.  I will leave you with a link to a song I’m passionate about. Listen to the words, be inspired and follow that passion. https://youtu.be/jSFLZ-MzIhM

Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Originally from the mid-west, Doris now calls the Rocky Mountains her home. Doris is a writer, historian, actor,and teacher. An avid reader Doris loves to spend time in history archives looking for the small, unknown pieces of history. Many times these pieces end up in her stories or poems.  Like her author page to stay on top of her work.  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL also make sure to check out her haiku and photographs at http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com.

“One Christmas Knight” Medieval Anthology
http://amzn.com/B017Z2BLH6

“Angel of Salvation Valley”
http://amzn.to/1P4JVV8

“A COWBOY CELEBRATION”
http://amzn.to/1GzwJhw

HOME FOR HIS HEART
http://amzn.to/1GJhpSu

 

 

How Do You Deal With Stress?


propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

A couple of weeks ago I read an article on Yahoo! News that gave me pause for thought.  Dan Harris, an ABC News Anchor, shared a part of his life seen by millions around the world.  During a live broadcast, Harris had a debilitating panic attack.  Unable to finish his spot, he turned it  back to Diane Sawyer.  Harris couldn’t breathe and was as surprised as anyone when this occurrence happened.  He took a good look at his life to research reasons for the attack and discovered he had three very problematic areas.  One was his frenzied attempt to rise to the top,  another was reporting from Iraq, and the third taking occasional recreational drugs on the weekend.  He was very stressed.  When he saw a psychiatrist the doctor told him the attack was most likely provoked by the drugs.

Stressed

 Mr. Harris sought to find healing.  He tried everything and nothing worked.  Meditation was suggested and, desperate, he decided to give it a try.

Mr. Harris’ idea of meditation was sitar music and chanting, but he knew he had antiquated ideas about the subject, a throwback to the era of the 60’s and 70’s.  He thought the idea might be a little crazy, however, he went to a class.  As he learned to breathe he found  peace.   Harris says the trick is to learn the breathing process to keep stress at a lower level.

Once he learned to meditate, Harris made it a daily habit, spending Meditatingbetween 1-2 hours a day.  He slowed down his life, looked around at things he had never noticed before; as his brain slowed down, and his work improved, he slept better, and quit worrying.  As Mr. Harris found answers in meditation he wrote a book entitled 10% Happier.  You can watch a video of Dan Harris’ breakdown here as he explains his experience and how he turned to meditation.

Though his earlier thoughts about meditation took a while to change, Harris overcame those preconceptions and learned to reap the benefits of meditation and relaxation.

I had much the same feeling when asked to try meditation as part of my therapy for Bipolar Disorder.  Although I had many of the same thoughts Mr. Harris did, I do know the quietness of prayer, so thought I could try it and decide then.

A free  21-day meditation from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey was offered on the Chopra website.  I signed up, and from the first day I experienced relaxation, but it took  a few  months to learn to get quiet and kick the “mind monkeys” out of my head.  Mind monkeys are all the thoughts that creep inside while you try to stay focused and relaxed.  You’ll always have thoughts that come and go, but with practice you can ignore them.seafoam

 That meditation ended and there was a break before the Mentors Channel started with a 21-day Meditation, each session taught by different experts on the subject. When that program ended, I haunted YouTube for “guided meditation”.  Between the 21-Day classes I use YouTube and find many wonderful guided meditations.  My favorites on YouTube are those by ‘The Honest Guys.” You can search and find many uplifting and relaxing meditations from them, as well as those presented by other teachers. I prefer to have my eyes closed during meditation, although the experts say it doesn’t matter.  Meditation is your time and you should do it whenever and however you’re most comfortable. 

 I look for 10-30 minute meditations in the morning.  I get up early, make coffee, walk the dog, and meditate.  When I’m through I feel calm and ready to start my day.  I did this for several months when I had a couple of anxiety attacks and my therapist recommended I try doing an additional meditation at night.  Another 21-day Mentors Channel class started.  Instead of listening to a guided meditation, a duo sang meditations.  The name of the artists are are Deva Premal and Miten.  Deva has one of the loveliest voices I’ve ever heard.  She and Miten record together, but there are many earlier albums by Deva alone.  I now do one of these recordings before bedtime to relax.  Some of these are available on YouTube, (search for Deva Primal or Deva and Miten) but I’ve been buying songs one at a time on the iTunes store.  Here is a sample recording.

Doing two meditations a day worked well until I had a mood swing that drained me.  My therapist suggested I meditate four times a day until I felt better.  I did this by not changing my morning and evening meditations, but by adding a prayer here and there, listening to a 5-minute meditation, or sitting quietly for 5 minutes.  I’m still doing this because I have been in a severe depression for a couple of weeks.  I know it will change though.  The meditation helps as I breathe deeply and relax.

I’ve learned is that there is no right or wrong way to meditate.  I prefer guided meditations, as they seem to help me relax more, but there are scores of recordings that are just music.  Some tell you to watch the images on the screen but my mind wanders too much when I do that.  I prefer to close my eyes, listen, and feel the peace and relaxation through my body.  You’ll find what works best for you.sunset

Have you ever tried meditation?  Would you?  What are your thoughts on the subject?

Below are some links you might find helpful if you decide to try it.  I know you’ll reap benefits.

Explanation of Meditation on Wikipedia

The following video on YouTube is short and explains the benefits of meditation.

How to Meditate

My favorite meditations come from The Honest Guys on YouTube. Here are two examples.

 Blissful Deep Relaxation

 Guided Meditation for Health and Healing

 

Books by L.Leander:

Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders

Inzaredonecover

 

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

 

 

 

 

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)

inzaredtwocover

 

 

Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

 

 

 

13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

13ext

 

 

 

 

 

 

13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook

13marketingtipscover

 

 

 

 

 

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

Twitter

LinkedIn

Goodreads

Google+

Always Beginning

Steph_2 copy (2)By Stephanie Stamm

I’ve posted elsewhere about my affair with the Marco Polo series on Netflix. Among the many things to enjoy about the series are the beautifully choreographed martial arts scenes—reminiscent of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I have been practicing tai chi since September, and I can see similar moves in the fight scenes. They remind me that the peaceful tai chi I practice for health is a form of martial art. Watching the precisely executed moves of Hundred Eyes, the blind monk who is Marco’s instructor, or Jia Sidao, the Chancellor of the walled city of Xiangyang, I long for the skill acquired by long years of discipline and practice.

taichi4
This move is called Creeping Low Like a Snake. I can’t begin to get this low yet. Perhaps with time and practice…

Of course, I am but a beginner, and that too is teaching me. When learning something new, you have to approach it with what Zen Buddhism calls “beginner’s mind,” that is, with an attitude of openness and curiosity, a lack of preconceptions, and an eagerness to learn. (Read more about beginner’s mind here.) With beginner’s mind, you can appreciate where you are in the process. It’s not about being right or wrong but about learning.

Yang-single_(restoration)
This move is called Single Whip. It’s repeated a lot in the series.

When we reached the first really complicated move in the tai chi series (there are 108 moves altogether, though some moves are repeated multiple times), I was bewildered. Class ended after the instructor’s demonstration and then our muddled attempt at the move. But the next week, I tried again, I asked questions, and by the end of class, I had grasped the basics, then after practicing at home, I could execute the move—in very beginner style. Now that move is one of my favorites. Still, I am only a beginner, so I know I have more to learn about it and its execution as my body becomes more adept at the practice of tai chi.

I have yet to learn the complete series, though I’ve made it to move 92. Within a week or two, I will have completed the beginning class and gotten through all 108 moves. Then I will continue to practice, moving to a continuing class, even perhaps returning to the beginning class. The moves are not something that are learned and done. Tai chi is a practice. There is no destination, just an ongoing journey.

Learning that in tai chi helps me apply it to my life.

So often we fear being beginners. We want to be experts, to be knowledgeable and accomplished. We attach our worth to our accomplishments, our work, our performance. But we never become accomplished at anything without first beginning—and then putting in many, many hours of practice. And we are not our accomplishments. We are the people who practice those things. Like tai chi or yoga, our work is always a kind of practice, one we stick with over time with discipline, so that we improve.

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The concept of beginner’s mind teaches us the importance of remaining a kind of beginner, even as we improve at our practice, so that we can be patient with ourselves when we don’t get something “right” and be open to new learning and improvement.

What new thing have you learned that has made you appreciate being a beginner?

 

Woman Doing Tai chi from http://trigomiro.net/corso-di-tai-chi/

The Tai chi master Yang Chengfu demonstrating the Single whip http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AYang-single_(restoration).jpg, via Wikimedia Commons

World Tai Chi Day by Brian Robinson, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dolfindans/137629783/ [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)%5D, via Flickr

 

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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:

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I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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.

 

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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

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13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook

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You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Website

Amazon Author Page

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L.Leander Books Blog

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews

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