Happy Mother’s Day

This post by Jennifer Flaten

Happy early Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there! I hope you all have a special day filled with the ones you love.

I am hoping for a sunny warm day so I can putter around in my garden, so far spring in Wisconsin has been on the chilly side so I am really looking forward to a warm day.

Today, as an early gift, my husband took me to our local botanical gardens so I spent a good amount of time ooohing and aahing over the spring blooms.20160505_100832

As I mentioned before I suffer from gift giving phobia, I am great picking up spur of the moment gifts to give to people for no reason at all, but when it comes to gift giving holidays, like Mother’s Day I spend way too much time agonizing over the “perfect gift”.

I went with a plant for my mom this year, although I did toy briefly with the idea of a singing telegram. No, really that would be something my mother would love….ah, maybe next year.

My oldest daughter asked me what I would like for Mother’s Day (the same as she asked me what I wanted for my birthday) and I just couldn’t think of anything. Okay, maybe I could think of a bunch of things, but most of them were unattainable by a 14yr. So, once again I said ‘I dunno, flowers maybe” and she sighed and said ‘You are horrible at giving gift ideas for yourself’.

Well, I think that is true of most moms, right? We have a running list of everyone else’s likes/dislikes, needs/wants and simply don’t have anything on that list for ourselves. Besides, it seems kind of decadent to ask for something doesn’t it.

I do this at the store, I shop for all the needs of the household, paying attention to everyone’s dislikes and get home and realize I didn’t buy any food that I really like, but I am trying to correct that habit.

So do you find it easy come up with gift ideas for yourself?

Browse my jewelry on Etsy


Spring into summer…via Easter

ccnancyjardineThis post is by Nancy Jardine

My earliest memories of Easter are not so much of hand painted hard-boiled eggs, of chocolate eggs, or of hot cross buns. What I recall most during my growing years of the 1950s was that regardless of whether the Easter weekend fell in March or in April, it was a symbolic time to shed the winter clothes and showcase those for the summer.

Brrr….Freezing cold legs and short ankle socks! That’s what I remember most.

The aunt I was named after, Nan (usually called my Nana) generally made my sister and I an Easter outfit every year. She was a kilt/ tartan clothes maker to trade and worked in the Glen Har factory in Hillington, Glasgow, Scotland. Glen Har was a prestigious clothing outlet which sent tartan and tweed products to worldwide destinations. Highly skilled seamstresses worked there, so Nana’s wages weren’t brilliant but they were a little above average for the sewing trade.

Nana was my mother’s unmarried sister. She looked after my grandfather who was 78 the year I was born, my grandmother having died in 1950. Regardless of having her full-time 5 days a week sewing job and caring for a cantankerous old man who lived till I was eight in 1960, Nana also loved my sister and me to bits, spoiling us rotten whenever she could afford it. This was just as well because my mum and dad couldn’t buy many new clothes for us; everything we wore was well cared for and intended to last a long time.
NanaUnfortunately, I’ve no photographs of any of our full Easter outfits but this first photo is of my lovely Nana, my older sister and me. I’m about 5 years old in this one: our skirts made by Nana were no doubt quite stylish for that year. (1957?)

But every Easter, Nana went the whole hog. Our brand new outfit got its first airing on Easter Sunday at her local Church of Scotland where my sister and I were enrolled in the Sunday School. Rain, hail or shine …and maybe even snow… we wore our new outfits on Easter Sunday regardless, Nana included as she kitted herself out as well! She would have been ‘black-affontit’ if we weren’t presentable from inside out so, on Good Friday, our cosy and well worn liberty bodices went into storage for the next winter. Nana replaced our scratchy woollen winter vests with strappy white knitted-cotton ones which sometimes had a lovely, but itchy, lace edging. Below that we had brand new knickers. Don’t ask what they were like – lets just say they were cotton utility with wide elastic!

Even though my sister is four years my senior, we tended to get the same design in a pretty cotton dress, or a matching blouse and skirt set. On top of that we would be given a new cardigan, often ones Nana hand knitted. A new cotton jacket or coat completed the outfit, generally shop bought, though I do recall the ‘Duster coats’ she made for us on at least one occasion.

The following photo isn’t an Easter one but my sister and I are wearing blouses and kilts made by Nana. Margaret and Nancy StaffordThe kilts Nana made for this photo are Dress Stewart (I think) although we technically only can claim to be affiliated to the Mackenzie, or the Fraser clans. I’m guessing that Nana couldn’t acquire Mackenzie or Fraser tartan at that time because I also remember wearing a Dress Stewart, Mackenzie and Anderson tartan kilts when I was older.

Woollen socks were the order of the day for the kilt outfit and though not in the photo she knitted us Aran style zipped wool jackets with matching Dress Stewart panels to the front of them. I think I’m a bit less than 4 years old in the photo and the kilt outfits were probably part of our Christmas present from her.

But back to those freezing legs memories. At Easter, we got brand new white cotton ankle socks, sometimes with a little frilly pastel lace edging, and new shoes. Into the storage cupboard went the knee length woollen or cotton socks that had done their turn for us over the winter months. (We had no thick tights or leggings in those days)

Clarks Torflex red
Wikimedia Commons

My hard wearing Clark’s Torflex winter shoes were replaced by summer sandals, or finer summer shoes. I remember at least one pair of my summer shoes being made of fine white kid leather which had to be carefully buffed up with a special white polish. Scratches on those shoes were a nightmare to remove. The summer sandals below were more usual and came in different colours. I remember loving a royal blue pair. My mother, on the other hand, hated them because the blue polish for them dyed her fingers for days after the application.

Wikimedia Commons
Of course the Easter clothes and shoes didn’t magically appear at the Easter weekend – a lot of preparation went into the affair. For reasons I now understand better since I became a grandmother myself, my sister and I were taken to Nana’s to ‘stay over’ most weekends while my grandfather was alive. This meant both he and Nana could see us regularly. Deposited every Friday night at Nana’s meant we could go out on Saturday to buy anything that was shop-bought for our new Easter outfits. Nana claimed to love shopping with us and always made it fun.

Reading the descriptions of our outfits above, you might be thinking that Nana liked cotton an awful lot and you’d be correct! As well as ensuring we looked neat, and were a credit to her, she was also extremely practical. She knew that after Easter it would be my mother who had to wash the clothes and that was quite a palaver in the 1950s. My description of that washing process runs to a lot more pages with images but not here! (If you’re interested in reading about my first childhood home (aka slum tenements of Glasgow) and my mother’s laundry woes you can read about it on my BLOG  )

dunoon 1961ish

But back to my lovely white ankle socks. Nylon ones were available by the early 1960s, as you see in the photo at left taken maybe in 1962 at Dunoon, on the west coast of Scotland,  but they tended to go all stretchy after a few hot washes and they lost their pristine whiteness fairly quickly.

On the other hand, those trusty cotton ankle socks could withstand a lot of boiling, battering and could be bleached to a new whiteness over the months of use.

We did have some sunny warm days back in the 1950s and 1960s but for some amazing reason I remember the cold leg feeling a lot more!

As I write this my laundry is birlin’ aroon nicely on my drying line in the garden. However…it’s only around 8 Deg C/ 46.5 F and I really don’t fancy getting out the ankle socks this weekend.

Did you get a brand new outfit at Easter? 

Have a lovely weekend whatever you’re doing. 

Nancy Jardine writes:

3 mysteriesContemporary Romantic Mysteries




CFS End Sept 2015 Historical Romantic Adventures





Time Travel Adventure for Teens…and older

You can find Nancy at the following places:

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk   http://nancyjardineauthor.com/   Twitter @nansjar  Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG and http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G (for The Rubidium time Travel Novels.) email: nan_jar@btinternet.com

Amazon Author page for books and to view book trailer videos:   http://viewauthor.at/mybooksandnewspagehere

Most novels are available in print and ebook formats from Amazon, Barnes and Noble; NOOK; KOBO; W. H. Smith.com; Waterstones.com; Smashwords; TESCO Blinkboxbooks; and various other ebook stores.




Thoughtfull Valentine Gifts and Expressions of Love by Cher’ley

ATThis post by Cher’ley Grogg

Thoughtful Valentine’s Day Gift

  Jim asked his friend, Tony, whether he had bought his wife anything for Valentine’s Day.

‘Yes,’ came the answer from Tony who was a bit of a chauvinist, ‘I’ve bought her a belt and a bag.’

‘That was very kind of you,’ Jim added, ‘I hope she appreciated the thought.’

Tony smiled as he replied, ‘So do I, and hopefully the vacuum cleaner will work better now.’


     I’m thinking about Valentine’s Day and looking forward to exchanging cards and gifts with my Valentine.

            I wonder what my characters in Wanton, WV are doing to celebrate Valentine’s Day. James is still learning to be romantic, with the help of George his partner at work. He turns to George for advice.

            “Get her something nice for Valentine’s Day. It’s the most romantic day of the year.”

            James went to the department store and it had Valentine decorations and gifts everywhere. What should he get? When he passed the candy, he grabbed a box. He saw a big stuff bear that had a banner across his chest that read, ‘Be my Valentine.’ He put the bear in his buggy. He needed a card, and he had to pass the jewelry counter.  He looked at all of the jewelry and with the help of the sales clerk, he chose a delicate necklace, with a small diamond embedded in a heart. He looked through every card until he found one that expressed his feelings for her. He grabbed a Valentine Balloon, a mechanical dog whose ears and tail moved as it played a love song, and then he grabbed a bouquet of a dozen red roses. Carolyn would be so happy. He thought of her beautiful grey eyes twinkling with moisture, because she always had a few tears ready for a happy occasion.  

            When he got to the McKeels’ Bed and Breakfast, He collected his bags of gifts. He put the necklace in his coat pocket, and the rest he juggled back and forth until he could hold onto everything and close the door at the same time.

            Inside, Carolyn waited at the door. She had a card and some cupcakes she’d decorated with red and white sprinkles. She steered him towards the dining room. He smiled as he saw the cupcakes and he noticed there was an envelope with his name on it.

            “Have a seat, and let me go first.” He started with the flowers because he was having a hard time holding them. He went through each gift, and finally came to the necklace and the card. She oohed and awed over each item. His chest swelled as he thought of her being so happy.

            She fingered the necklace and then opened the card. As she read the card, the tears came. “James, this is perfect, thanks for everything, but the card I will always treasure.”


Go figure, right! That’s the way it goes. Just remember to give your significant other something special for Valentine’s Day, and do expect her to love the card, no matter what else you get her. I’m not for sure how a man feels—card or gift?

What do you think is the best Valentine’s gift? Which does a man like the best—card or gift? If you don’t have a Valentine, give your pet something special. Our hearts love to share.

***How thoughtful do you think a gift or card should be? ***


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 JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

All About the Girls 5(3)

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




A Gift of Time by Erin Farwell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some friends are just worth the extra effort.

Learn more about me at:


ShadowlandsAHE New Cover8149g0+Rz-L._SL1500_

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 www.gaylemirwin.com.

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

Gifts – Not Just Pretty Packages

Gayle_BozemanFamilyChristian_smallThis post by Gayle M. Irwin


Gift – the word conjures up images of brightly wrapped boxes under a pine tree in December – or small, white boxes adorned with a colorful bow and containing a beautiful gemstone.

christmas tree with packagesBut, gifts don’t always come in pretty packages or contain expensive jewelry. In fact, if you’re Fred Flintstone, a gift is a bowling ball or vacuum cleaner! Seriously, though, gifts are people, even things, that brighten our lives. Gifts are treasures, large or small, that sparkle in our hearts, within our eyes, and on our faces.

Friendship is a gift. Whether down the street or across the country, those people in our lives whom we call friends bring us joy, encourage us, and uplift us.

Parents and GayleLove is a gift. Spouses, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren … all are a source of love, and they, too, bring us joy, give us encouragement, and uplift our spirits.

Health is a gift, noticed especially when we lack it.

Music is a gift. Some people have it, others don’t … but we all can enjoy it because the plethora of genres speak to various hearts and souls.

Writing is a gift … nearly ditto as with music.

One of my favorite Bible verses is James 1:7: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” It’s a gentle reminder of Who bestows my gifts of friendship, love, health, writing, and music (what I enjoy listening to, not my actual singing or playing – God didn’t grant me THAT gift!). God has blessed me with numerous friends, a loving family, good health (despite the Ding Dong and Oreo binges!), work, including my writing career, and loyal, delightful pets.

Cody_dog parkThis month I celebrate several gifts. On June 10th, my cocker spaniel Cody turns 16 years of age. Greg and I adopted Cody when he was nearly 10 years old – he came to our local Humane Society as a cast-off stud dog. Older canines are adopted less often even if they are small purebreds. One look into those mournful Spaniel eyes and I knew, though he may not live but a few years, we were meant to give him a home. It’s been six years, and they’ve been great years! Cody is one of my life’s best gifts!

My parents are another. They celebrate 54 years of marriage on June 17th. I’m an only child and I love and respect my parents immensely. Because of them, I appreciate nature, and I’m a writer.

Gayle_Lea_Casey_Leah_booksigningJune 6 – 8 is the Wyoming Writers, Inc., conference. This will be my seventh year attending writers’ conferences. Although I began writing at a young age, thanks to college and conferences, as well as experience, practice, and rejection, I am published in newspapers, magazines, and books. Writing is both a wonderful gift and a great challenge, but I LOVE doing it!

Because of writing, my friendship circle has expanded – that, too, is a great gift!

Good, perfect, simple gifts – from a colorful sunrise to the paw on my lap, from a loving hug to the writing paycheck … though they may not come in beautifully-wrapped packages, each one is a blessing I genuinely appreciate!

As the Shaker song, Simple Gifts, says:

‘Tis the gift to be simple
‘Tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be
And when we find ourselves in the place just right
It will be in the valley of love and delight …

View this lovely song sung by the men’s ensemble Cantus on YouTube:


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

SageBigAdventureFront-small      SageLearnsShareFront-small       Walking_FrontCover_small       Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final

Through My Daughter’s Eyes by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1I love plans. I like to know what is coming up and what I need to do about it. I make weekly to do lists with some tasks to be performed on specific days and other just listed as it doesn’t matter when I complete them as long as I get them done. This helps me feel like I am accomplishing something even if it is just grocery shopping or cleaning the cat litter box. I can cross the task off the list as “done” and this is a good thing.

Since “the flood,” which I say as though it were of biblical proportions, making and keeping plans and schedules have been nearly impossible. The house is slowly coming together and we can now use the kitchen. The office is still in the bedroom but the television has moved back downstairs. Every task from painting to setting up a book-case takes longer than expected and unforeseen problems crop up like mushrooms in the rain.

Now we have two weeks left of school, I have a jewelry/book event up in Michigan over Memorial Day weekend, and a clay camp for eight to twelve-year-olds to teach the Tuesday through Friday after Memorial Day. I am stressed, worried, and unsettled.

And I have a blog to write.

I planned to discuss the treasure hunt that has been a part of my life since strangers packed my kitchen after the flood, but then something magical happened: Mother’s Day.

When Willow was young I received crayoned pictures, thumb-printed flower pots, and painted birdhouses. I cherish them and keep them safe, these mementos of a CIMG1462child past. As she’s grown older she still makes me a card every year and shops with my husband to get me something special.

This year Mike purchased soaps and body wash and made me bath salts, all designed to help manage my stress. Willow assisted by putting these things in a pretty basket that was a joy to receive, as was his hand-made card.

Willow also made me a card but she did so much more. She also created a “World’s Best Mom” certificate which she mounted on pretty paper. Then she gave an amazing gift. A jar that held scraps of paper on which she wrote all the reasons she loves me.

Some of these reasons are funny and sweet, like the fact that I take her shopping or that I am just awesome in general. Others are based on how I treat her:

• You listen to me
• You help me with homework
• You protect me
• You are always so happy when I come homeCIMG1464
• You help me fix my problems
• You take care of me
• You save my ipod/phone when I almost lose it
• You give me what I need
• You love me
• You are the perfect mom for me

My heart melted a bit with each slip of paper that I read. I told her I might cry. She asked me not to but I could tell she was pleased at how much I loved her gift. It is clear she understands that I am in her corner no matter what. I know she is on the right path when she says that I give her what she needs versus what she wants. This is a big difference and one she appreciates.

While these statements were wonderful, what astounded me was what she wrote about how she sees me:

• You are creative
• You are supportive and kind
• You are respectful, honest, and braveCIMG1459
• You can tell when someone needs help
• You are very smart
• You are a great author
• You are very forgiving
• You are daring
• You are inspiring
• You try to find solutions for problems
• You are beautiful inside and out

I am awed and humbled that she sees these qualities in me when I sometimes I can’t see them myself. I trust that she knows these traits are a part of her as well. If not, I am here to remind her, just as she did for me.

Nothing in my life has changed since I opened that jar and read the neat penmanship on the colorful slips of paper. There are still deadlines, obligations, post-disaster construction, and the general messy process of life. But my heart is lighter as I see myself through her eyes, for I am brave and daring. I am supportive and kind. I am the perfect mom for her.

You can learn more about me at:


Farwell-Shadowlands-Final Cover.inddAHE New Cover


Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten


If you came to my house and saw this




you would assume I collect the little yellow minions from Despicable Me. I don’t. Well, not officially. Yet, I have what looks to be a good start on an army of minions.

Our whole family loved the movie, especially the minions. The kids like to think of themselves as my minions. Ergo, every holiday and gift-giving occasion, since the movie came out I now get a minion.

Add in the minions from the cereal boxes, etc and I now have what qualifies as a collection.

That’s how collections start. Most of the time you don’t mean to start collecting something. When I was growing up, I thought my mother loved frogs.

I bought her frog EVERYTHING for every gift-giving holiday frogs were my go to item.

Turns out, she isn’t that fond of frogs. I have no idea where I got the idea that she loved them and longed to have a collection of them that numbered in the hundreds. I’ve since stopped giving her frogs, but I still catch myself spotting a cute frog ornament or garden decoration and thinking “I should get that for my mom”

My daughter collects Snoopy items. Her collection started when I got a stuffed Snoopy for St. Nick’s day. My daughter was about 5 years old and instantly fell in love with my Snoopy, so I let her “borrow” it. I knew I was never going to get him back, so when I spotted that exact stuffed Snoopy at a Flea Market I bought it to replace my Snoopy.

Yeah, my daughter wanted that Snoopy too and a collection was born. She now has a wide range of Snoopy items including, WWII Flying Ace Snoopy (who we call root beer Snoopy because he’s holding a mug of root beer) and a three foot tall plush Snoopy that she dresses up for the various holidays.

One year she dressed him as “Love Bandit” Snoopy (eye mask, cape and heart patterned underpants) and put him in our front window.

About 15 years ago, prior to having kids, I bought the Swarovski holiday snowflake. If you are unfamiliar with them, they are a very lovely crystal snowflake with a commemorative year tag. Each year is unique. They so beautiful, but terribly expensive, still I decided I would collect them.

You know how many snowflakes I have now? Three, but I have an army of minions.

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Merry Christmas 2013

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

It’s here.  Christmas Day, the day we have been planning for all year.  Gifts are open and it’s nearly time for Christmas Dinner.  Can’t you smell the spicy aroma of ham cooking in the oven with pineapples pierced with cloves and basted with brown sugar and pineapple syrup?file0001795692878  Don’t you just love the sounds of the children oohing and aahing over their gifts?  Can’t you feel the love that abounds this time of the year with family and friends?

You sit in the midst of a floor strewn with wrapping paper and a jumble of toys, sweaters, and other things you handpicked for everyone.  You think about Christmases past, when it wasn’t all about the latest toy or hippest clothes everyone let you know they wanted for Christmas.  You allow your mind to drift (just for a moment) back to the Christmases of your childhood and realize they weren’t quite the same.

We always had soup on Christmas Eve.  Then Dad called Santa on the santatelephone to ask him if he could please come early to the Flory house.  We traditionally opened our gifts on Christmas Eve because my Father worked for the Michigan State Highway Department and was called out almost every year to plow snow.  Then we children went to a bedroom upstairs.  There were four of us and I read the Christmas Story from the Bible while we kept an eye out the window just in case we could see the lights from Santa’s sleigh as it landed on our rooftop.

All of a sudden a hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho” would boom up the stairs and we’d hear my Mother’s voice say “Santa Claus was here, you can come down now.”

We scampered down the winding staircase to see our Christmas tree all aglow and presents spread around it.  There weren’t a lot of presents, just enough.  Dad was the person who handed out gifts one by one.  We each watched the other open a gift and waited until my Father put the wrapping in a bag.  What fun we had.  My Mother had spent months crocheting special scarves, mittens and doll clothes.  She made pretty new dresses for us three girls and a cowboy shirt and pants for my brother.

We each got one toy and it was usually the thing we coveted most or something close to it.

One of my favorite Christmases was the year my Dad gave my Mom a box of potatoes.  She opened it and beamed at Dad.   “How did you know just what I wanted?” she asked as she set it aside.  With a big smile on his face Dad said, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Maybe you’d better look a little farther.”  Mom took the potatoes out one by one and at the bottom of the box was a brand new pair of Gingher Shears (most coveted by seamstresses) for her sewing room.  I still remember the tears of joy in her eyes.

We headed to the mantle for our Christmas stockings.  We each got a Naval orange, a Macintosh apple a banana and a scarf and mittens.

Next Dad pulled out a five-pound box of chocolates and a bowl of nuts to crack.  Bing Crosby played on the stereo; we sampled the chocolates, cracked nuts, and sat on the floor feeling the warmth of our close-knit family.

Christmas Day was the one day of the year my parents slept in due to Dad’s working until the wee hours of the morning clearing the state highways of snow so travelers could get to see their loved ones for Christmas dinner.

We had our own Christmas Dinner around two o’clock in the afternoon.   It was always the same, the glazed ham with mashed potatoes, a special fruit salad that I still make for Christmas every year, yeast rolls and pie for dessert.

My memories are intertwined with church services, prayer as we sat down to churcheat our dinner, the Christmas story told over and over (at church and at home), the nativity scenes and Christmas tree which stood in all it’s beauty while the star twinkled on top.  We knew it was all about Christ’s birthday, a little baby born in a manger because there was no room at the inn, and that Santa Claus lived at the North Pole.  We accepted all these things as truth because Mom said so.  She also made sure we gave some of the money we had been given as allowance or worked for to the Salvation Army or a homeless shelter so that others could have Christmas too.  She told us “You reap what you sow.”

So, as you sit and watch the children play while you sip hot cider and visit with Aunt Minnie take time out to remember “the reason for the season.”  Praise God in all his glory that he sent his own Son to earth to take on the burdens of the world.  Thank Him for allowing us to give the magic of Santa Claus to our children, even while we teach them the true meaning of Christmas.merry

I’d like to take this time to wish each one of my Writing Wranglers and Warriors and their families a very Merry Christmas season and a Happy New Year.  I cherish each and every one of you and enjoy the blessings we all give each other as we seek to promote each other’s work.  Have a blessed Christmas Day wherever you are!

In closing I leave you a link to a Christmas song by Joey and Rory, a duo my husband and I love to listen to.


Books by L.Leander: