Oh my, Valentine!

Cole Smith



Have you ever wondered about the origins of Valentine’s Day? Where did our favorite romantic holiday find its many symbols–the pink and red, the cards, the sweets, and the hearts? Is it really, as some suggest, a holiday cooked up by greeting card companies?


Valentine’s Day is an old holiday, with roots extending all the way back to third-century Rome and a Roman Catholic presbyter named Valentinus. Most of the facts have been lost to history, and all we really know for certain is that Valentinus was martyred and buried in a cemetery on the Via Flaminia. His alleged skull, ringed with a crown of flowers, is on display in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It’s both creepy and Valentine’s-y, no?



Valentine's Key


Legend has it that on the night before he was to be martyred, Valentine sent a card to the daughter of his prison guard, for whom he’d performed a healing miracle. He signed the card “your Valentine”. Did that simple letter start the tradition of sending cards with the words “from your Valentine”? We can’t know. Some sources claim this young woman planted an almond tree on Valentine’s grave. Its pink blossoms have endured as a symbol of love and friendship.


Probably, the St. Valentine we remember on February 14th is a composite of two or three men named Valentine, who were all active in the church at that time. There are many unverified legends associated with this figure. One is that he performed secret weddings for active military soldiers who were forbidden to marry during times of conflict. (It’s been argued Claudius never issued such a ban.)


Soldiers who were keen to marry their sweethearts in a holy Christian ceremony would recognize Valentine by the amethyst Cupid ring he wore. Since Cupid was an approved symbol of love during the marriage ban, the ring was a safe secret sign. It’s probably one reason the amethyst became the February birthstone, since it’s believed by some to attract love!


Another legend is that Valentine also cut parchment paper hearts and presented them to soldiers and other persecuted Christians as a reminder to uphold their serious vows and to remember the greatest love from Heaven.



Oh, Valentine!



It wasn’t until Chaucer published the Parlement of Foules in the fourteenth century that St. Valentine’s Day became associated with “courtly love”, and many of the traditions we celebrate today. That’s right, writers. Chaucer and his following created a holiday. Now that’s the power of a great story!


Romantic courtiers started to apply themselves to Valentine’s poems. The now-cheesy “Roses are red…” line first showed up in 1590, in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen!



Be My Valentine!


It didn’t take long to match sweet words with sweet treats, and the Cadbury candy company claims credit for making the first heart-shaped box of chocolates in 1868. Mass-marketed paper valentines showed up around 1847. And so it goes, even today.

Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day or Pal-entine’s Day, I wish you all the joy, sweets, and sentiment the holiday has to offer. What’s the best valentine you’ve ever received?



Cole Smith is a writer, teacher, and mountain biker in West Virginia. She enjoys good coffee and great stories. She shares inspiration, encouragement, and tips for creative overwhelm at www.colesmithwrites.com.

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Halloween 1870s Style

Post by Doris McCraw


First, I’ll get my new story/promotion out of the way. I have a story in the anthology “One Yuletide Knight” that is now up for pre-order and will be available as an ebook on November 2, 2017 with the print version available shortly after. You can purchase it at: One Yuletide Knight

With October 31, Halloween, approaching, I thought it might be fun to look at how people perceived that date in the 1870s in what most would call the West. Below are some actual pieces from papers of that time.

Here we have almost an advertisement for the evening from the Atchison Globe from Friday October 31, 1879 issue in Atchison, Kansas


And this warning from the Lawrence, Kansas, Lawrence Republican Daily Journal of October 24, 1878. Seems mischief has been around for longer than we may have thought.


For the history of the day we can thank the Sedalia, Missouri, Sedalia Daily Democrat of Saturday, November 2, 1878. 



Of course no Halloween would be without the special events that take place. Here from Alden, Iowa issue of the October 10, 1879 issue, we have the following 

halloween fest

And finally this clip from a piece called “The Fairy Quest” from the Saturday, October 4, 1879 issue of the Republic County Journal of Scandia, Kansas.

clip from story halloween

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of what folks back in the 1870s thought about October 31 and Halloween. There are so many stories, and I’m sure each of you have your own. However you celebrate of not, enjoy the fall season and don’t eat too much candy.  I know I won’t be bobbing for apples like I did when I was younger, but I might have a piece of…

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

Angela Raines – author: Where Love & History Meet

For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
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The History of Valentine’s Day by Barbara Schlichting

img_3160          The history of Valentine’s Day, legend says, originated during the third century in Rome. During this time, Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers, so he outlawed marriage for young men. A young priest named Valentine was furious with this injustice and defied Claudius by continuing to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. Claudius eventually discovered Valentine’s actions and sentenced him to death.

During his time in jail, Valentine fell in love with his jailer’s daughter, who visited him in prison. Before he was put to death, Valentine sent a letter to the girl and signed it, “From Your Valentine” — an expression we still use today. Valentine was executed on February 14, 270 AD. Later, around 496 AD, Pope Gelasius declared Feb. 14 a day to honor Valentine, who by that time had become a saint.

Today, we continue to honor St. Valentine and recall the history of Valentine’s Day each year on February 14 by celebrating our love for significant others, friends, and family. For thousands of years, the middle of February has been a time for fertility festival celebrations, so it is no wonder Valentine’s Day flowers are often the Valentine’s Day gift of choice around this time of year. For centuries, flowers have symbolized fertility, love, marriage, and romance.

           August 23 2012 ProFlowers

Many couples are married on Valentine’s Day. I have photos of Presidents and First Ladies featured on my blog. They’re fun to look at and remember some of the families that lived in our White House.  Here are a couple pictures.

Mr. and Mrs. Obama   Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy   Mr. and Mrs. Wilson  Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln

My mystery series, The First Ladies Mystery Series is set in a White House Dollhouse Shop in Minneapolis, MN.  Please take a look at my website and First Lady blog to learn more about me and my books.

Barb’s Books              First Lady Blog




The Maven





Posted by Kathy Waller


Once upon a time, a few days before Halloween, my friend ME called and said, “There are thirteen men under my house. They’re leveling it. For the second time in five years.” She then invited David and me to go with her and her husband to see the Edgar Allan Poe exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center, on the University of Texas campus. The next day, I presented ME, via email, the following verse. It first appeared at Telling the Truth, Mainly and is making its annual reappearance here. Mr. Poe might be horrified, but since ME is my Muse, the end product was bound to be a bit quirky.


"Texas Speed Bump AKA - Armadillo" by Jason Penney is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“Texas Speed Bump AKA – Armadillo” by Jason Penney is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


*Dasypus novemcinctus – The nine-banded armadillo*



To G and ME,
in celebration of their tenth trimester of home improvement,
with gratitude and affection
Forgive me for making mirth of melancholy


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a rapping,

As of someone gently tapping, tapping at my chamber floor.

“‘Tis some armadillo,” said I, “tapping at my chamber floor,

Only this, and nothing more.”


Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the dry September,

And my house was sinking southward, lower than my bowling score,

Pier and beam and blocks of concrete, quiet as Deuteron’my’s cat feet,

Drooping like an unstarched bedsheet toward the planet’s molten core.

“That poor armadillo,” thought I, “choosing my house to explore.

He’ll squash like an accordion door.”


“Tuck,” I cried, “and Abby, come here! If my sanity you hold dear,

Go and get that armadillo, on him all your rancor pour.

While he’s bumping and a-thumping, give his rear a royal whumping,

Send him hence with head a-lumping, for this noise do I abhor.

Dasypus novemcinctus is not a beast I can ignore,

Clumping ‘neath my chamber floor.”


While they stood there prancing, fretting, I imparted one last petting,

Loosed their leashes and cried “Havoc!” then let slip the dogs of war.

As they flew out, charged with venom, I pulled close my robe of denim.

“They will find him at a minimum,” I said, “and surely more,

Give him such a mighty whacking he’ll renounce forevermore

Lumbering ‘neath my chamber floor.”


But to my surprise and wonder, dogs came flying back like thunder.

“That’s no armadillo milling underneath your chamber floor.

Just a man with rule and level, seems engaged in mindless revel,

Crawling ’round. The wretched devil is someone we’ve seen before,

Measuring once and measuring twice and measuring thrice. We said, ‘Senor,

Get thee out or thee’s done for.’”


“Zounds!” I shouted, turning scarlet. “What is this, some vill’nous varlet

Who has come to torment me with mem’ries of my tilting floor?”

Fixing myself at my station by my floundering foundation,

Held I up a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.

“Out, you cad!” I said, “or else prepare to sleep beneath my floor,

Nameless there forever more.”


Ere my words had ceased resounding, with their echo still surrounding,

Crawled he out, saluted, and spoke words that chilled my very core.

“I been down there with my level, and those piers got quite a bevel.

It’s a case of major evolution: totter, tilt galore.

Gotta fix it right away, ma’am, ‘less you want your chamber floor

At a slant forevermore.”


At his words there came a pounding and a dozen men came bounding

From his pickup, and they dropped and disappeared beneath my floor.

And they carried beam and hammer and observed no rules of grammar,

And the air was filled with clamor and a clanging I deplore.

“Take thy beam and take thy level and thy failing Apgar score

And begone forevermore.”


But they would not heed my prayer, and their braying filled the air,

And it filled me with despair, this brouhaha that I deplore.

“Fiend!” I said. “If you had breeding, you would listen to my pleading,

For I feel my mind seceding from its sane and sober core,

And my house shall fall like Usher.” Said the leader of the corps,

“Lady, you got no rapport.”


“How long,” shrieked I then in horror, “like an ominous elm borer,

Like a squirrely acorn storer will you lurk beneath my floor?

Prophesy!” I cried, undaunted by the chutzpah that he flaunted,

And the expertise he vaunted. “Tell me, tell me, how much more?”

But he strutted and he swaggered like a man who knows the score.

Quoth the maven, “Evermore.”


He went off to join his legion in my house’s nether region

While my dogs looked on in sorrow at that dubious guarantor.

Then withdrawing from this vassal with his temperament so facile

I went back into my castle and I locked my chamber door.

“On the morrow, they’ll not leave me, but will lodge beneath my floor

Winter, spring, forevermore.


So the hammering and the clamoring and the yapping, yawping yammering

And the shrieking, squawking stammering still are sounding ‘neath my floor.

And I sit here sullen, slumping in my chair and dream the thumping

And the armadillo’s bumping is a sound I could adore.

For those soles of boots from out the crawlspace ‘neath my chamber floor

Shall be lifted—Nevermore!



Kathy Waller blogs at
Telling the Truth, Mainly
and at Austin Mystery Writers.
Her short stories appear in
AMW’s crime fiction anthology,
Murder on Wheels,
and at Mysterical=E.





July Fourth Quotes and Thoughts

Post by Doris McCraw

edit hhj spc

Today is a National Holiday in the United States. I thought this time around I would let you read and hear what others have to say about our Holiday and Freedom.

Let’s begin with Home Free and their latest video.


This quote may be obvious, but how many of us think of July 4th this way?

The United States is the only country with a known birthday. ~James G. Blaine

Of course we all salute those who created this democracy and have kept it going. That means we can also salute ourselves. Every time we take part in the choices and governing of the country, we keep the idea of democracy alive. That means voting, engaging in discourse, but leaving anger and hate outside.

We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it. ~William Faulkner

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it. ~Thomas Paine

Where liberty dwells, there is my country. ~Benjamin Franklin

sunday twain quote

Mark Twain supplied an interesting piece. Written near the end of his life, it puts another face to what we call our country’s birthday. I’m sure not all will like it, but the wonderful thing about living here: we may not agree, but we cannot control another person’s thoughts, nor should we. We can only see where we need to improve by allowing all discourse. Was Twain being serious of just very cynical? I leave it to you to decide.

To-morrow is Hell-fire Day, that English holiday which we have celebrated, every Fourth of July, for a century and a quarter in fire, blood, tears, mutilation and death, repeating and repeating and forever repeating these absurdities because neither our historians nor our politicians nor our schoolmasters have wit enough to remind the public that the Fourth of July is not an American holiday. However, I doubt if there is a historian, a politician, or a schoolmaster in the country that has ever stopped to consider what the nationality of that day really is. I detest that English holiday with all my heart; not because it is English, and not because it is not American, but merely because this nation goes insane on that day, and by the help of noise and fire turns it into an odious pandemonium. The nation calls it by all sorts of affectionate pet names, but if I had the naming of it I would throw poetry aside and call it Hell’s Delight. ~Mark Twain, 1908


I will leave you with some additional words to challenge your thoughts.

Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. ~Albert Camus

For what avail the plough or sail, or land or life, if freedom fail? ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those who won our independence believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. ~Louis D. Brandeis

Wishing everyone a wonderful July 4, filled with joy, peace and love wherever you live.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about my newly released story in the anthology “One Hot Knight” a collection of five Medieval Stories.

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Angela Raines is the pen name for Doris McCraw. Doris also writes haiku posted five days a week at – http://fivesevenfivepage.blogspot.com and has now passed one thousand haiku and photos posted on this blog. Check out her other work or like her Amazon author page:  http://amzn.to/1I0YoeL





Rainy Days and Mondays

This post by Doris McCraw

hhj spc 3





The past few weeks have been stressful, and with the Holidays it may get worse before it gets better. In that vein, this post is about some of what is happening and our response. If anyone has ever heard or remember the Carpenters song “Rainy Days and Mondays” you know what I’m talking about. For those who may not have heard it, this link should take you there. https://youtu.be/dPmbT5XC-q0

I’ll start with the shootings. Please know, I don’t watch the news all the time. I get my information, then let the constant replay go unoticed. These events are terrible. While we all eventually come to an end of this life, it is never easy to see it cut short. While we can’t know exactly what is in the mind of the shooter, there are some clues I’ve picked up from working with delinquents. In both the Colorado Springs and San Bernidino events, the shooters probably believed they were doing the right thing.

How can killing ever be the right thing? I don’t know, but shooters such as these believe their actions are justified. When someone has no grounding they become the victims of the stronger personality. While this may not always a bad thing, when there are other issues involved, a person can take things literally and to a further consequnce than we would expect. When someone is wandering, they crave structure. If they don’t get it at home, or never learned to create it themselves, they become easy prey. I saw young men and women join gangs, gangs who had horrid initiations, terrible consequences for failing, yet these young people thrived in that structure. They had something to grab onto, to feel a part of. So yes, life can be depressing. Many people feel neglected, unloved and victims of lipservice caring.

I would hope that we can start to really care, take the time to listen and do more than just say we care, and start showing we do.

These things have been on my mind for some time. I think that is why after over 20 years of retirement, I still feel a kinship with those young people who were so lost. I think I still want to help them find a way home.

To end this post, I’ll leave you with a Christmas video from Kenny Rogers and Home Free. It’s the time of year to share love, and I want to send each and every one of you the best that life has to offer. You deserve it. https://youtu.be/o4qNaAlZ1xc

Happy New Year

Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten

Happy New Year!

I found myself writing 2015 on my checks a few days ago. Obviously, I am ready for this year to be over.

Whether you love to stay up until midnight to usher the new year in, or figure the best way to great the new year is well-rested, I hope your 2015 is filled with love, friendship and laughter.

For several years now the kids have vowed to stay up until midnight. In order to fill those long hours until the ball drops the kids have a “party” in their room. It includes snacks, beverages, movies and glow sticks.

They set up the laptop in my son’s room and everyone got cozy in their blankets and watched movie after movie. Every once and a while I would check in on them. That first year no one made it past 10p.

Last year our son dropped off at 9pm, but the girls were still up at 11p. I really didn’t want to deal with grouchy kids the next day so we watched the ball drop in Times Square (thank you time difference) and packed them off to bed.

I don’t think we are going to get away with watching the ball drop early this year. The girls seem determined to wait for midnight. I am sure they can’t wait send their friends Happy New Year texts at 12:01am.

decemberActually, that is a great way to greet the new year, filled with happy anticipation. I think that is exactly how I will greet the new year, even if I do it at 8pm, instead of 12am.

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Holiday to Holiday between Christmas and New Year De-Stress by Cher’ley


This blog by Cher’ley Grogg


Last Christmas, grandpa was feeling his age and found that shopping for Christmas gifts had become too difficult. So he decided to send checks to everyone instead.

In each card, he wrote, “Buy your own present!” and mailed them early.

He enjoyed the usual flurry of family festivities, and it was only after the holiday that he noticed that he had received very few cards in return. Puzzled over this, he went into his study, intending to write a couple of his relatives and ask what had happened. It was then, as he cleared off his cluttered desk that he got his answer. Under a stack of papers, he was horrified to find the gift checks which he had forgotten to enclose with the cards. 


Guests have gone; gifts have found a home, and if you are lucky you have the decorations down for another year or perhaps you enjoy keeping them up until after the New Year. Whichever, there are no right or wrong ways to spend the holidays, and there are no right or wrong ways to spend the time between the Holidays, but try to:


The aftermath of the annual gift-unwrapping fr...




The gifts you have so carefully chosen have been tossed aside, for the boxes or just one game.


A Sad/Happy Feeling takes over your body. You have just come down from an Ultimate High.


Christmas Stress Relief: A Mindful Guide


Take baby-steps towards the things that you used to like doing but have since forgotten about. You can make a start by choosing one or two of the following things to do (or perhaps come up with your own ideas):


  • Be kind to your body. Have a nice hot bath; have a nap for thirty minutes (or perhaps a little less). Treat yourself to your favorite food without feeling guilty– sit and enjoy a nice candy bar-all by yourself-you and your candy-have your favorite hot drink.
  •  Do something you enjoy. Visit or phone a friend (particularly if you’ve been out of contact for a while). Get together what you need so you can do your favorite hobby. Do some exercise; bake a cake; read something that gives you pleasure (not ‘serious’ reading) a forgotten magazine-Teen or Hot Rod. Listen to some music that you have not listened to in a long while.

    The first song that came to my mind was The Little Ole Lady from Pasadena.


Now to come down and relax: Follow the Bouncing Ball and Sing Along with O Little Town of Bethlehem. It’s a great song for any time of the year.



**What do you do to distress? Remember my guilty pleasure?**



Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. And she has a new one that is freshly published with 11 other authors. 


Stamp Out Murder”.


The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren.

The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey BackThe JourneyBack 3

Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology

 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

Fans of Cher'ley Grogg,AuthorAnd please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell

Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE


off7 Guilty Pleasure by Cher’ley

Christmas Presents or Christmas Presence?

Steph_2 copy (2)This post by Stephanie Stamm.

In this season of stockings hung by the chimney, presents under the tree, and multitudes of ads telling us just what we need to buy for our loved ones or to ask them to buy for us, it can be easy to get caught up in trying to purchase the perfect Christmas. We ask our children to make Christmas lists, and we want to give them as many of the things they want as we can. We search for just the right presents, and we agonize over our choices (see Jennifer Flaten’s post on gift-giving anxiety here.) And many of us go into debt and spend the rest of the year paying off those Christmas purchases.

Some of that is understandable. We want to give things to the people we love. We express that love in a shower of presents.

But the overwhelming emphasis on piles of presents sometimes seems like too much. I wonder if the accumulation of packages means that each one loses a little of its value. I remember my parents talking about the joys of getting oranges at Christmas when they were children. That was the only time they had them, so the simple gift of that citrus fruit most of us take for granted was something special.


My favorite Christmas memories are about experiences, not individual presents. Like walking through the snow with my dad into the woods on our farm to cut a Christmas tree. Like looking for Stringing Popcorn from Abovebittersweet to put in a vase. Like painting sycamore balls or stringing popcorn with my sisters. Like making cookies with my mother. Like decorating the tree with cookie cutouts made using a regular molasses cookie recipe and having them drop off the tree one by one as they softened from the moisture in the air and broke at the hole for the hook. That was Oriental-bittersweet-produces-flowers-and-berries-along-the-length-of-the-vinemy worst Christmas tree decorating idea ever—and, yes, it was my idea. My mother just went along with me. My family laughed every time we heard a cookie plop. Of course, sometimes the experience and the present were rolled into one—like the year my sister gave me a big-pawed puppy. That experience lasted for years.

The real presents of Christmas are the presence of our families and friends, the memories of those we’ve lost but still cherish, and the peace and faith and love embodied in the season.

Wishing you the merriest of Christmases, filled with presence!



Popcorn picture from http://blog.justpoppin.com/20130911/projects/back-to-school-popcorn-crafts-091389

Bittersweet picture from http://www.bettyongardening.com/horticultural-hints/horticultural-hints-november/oriental-bittersweet-produces-flowers-and-berries-along-the-length-of-the-vine/

Frozen Cookies

Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten

Christmas is one week away and today is Bake Cookie Day, coincidence? I think not. Whether you are a skilled baker or a novice in the treats department today is an excellent excuse to get in the kitchen and bake a batch of cookies. Even if you consider your self all thumbs in the kitchen a batch of Nestle Toll House cookies are a cinch to make, in fact, I have that recipe memorized. You could even cheat a teeny tiny bit and buy some pre-made dough that you baked at home. All that matters is you get a delicious cookie and a tall glass of milk.

My Grandma didn’t bake much, and when she did it was usually a Jiffy cake mix, but at Christmas, she would make an assortment of Christmas cookies. To keep the cookies fresh and away from my Grandpa, who had quite a sweet tooth, she would put the cookies in an old JCPenney shirt box and store them in the freezer.

Once I was old enough to figure out where she hid the cookies, the fact that they were in cold storage didn’t stop me at all. Demonstrating amazing Ninja skills, I would sneak out to the freezer and steal a frozen cookie. Did I wait for it to thaw? Heck no. I ate that cookie frozen. The best frozen cookies (from years of research) are chocolate chip cookies. The worst oatmeal raisin.  00701

Since I am an adult now I no longer need to snitch cookies from the freezer, if I want a cookie I can bake a batch of cookies–and yes, I’ve done that, baked a batch of cookies simply because I want a cookie–but they never taste as good as those I pilfered from the freezer.

What is your favorite holiday cookie?
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