Living in the Moment

Kathy's SnowmanAs the holidays grow closer, I find myself so busy getting ready that I forget to enjoy the simple acts of preparing for the celebrations. I always work off a to-do list that seems to become never-ending. I cross off things accomplished in the evening and add things to be done in the morning. A trip to the post office for stamps. And a second trip the next week to mail packages. Then Target on Monday, Costco on Tuesday – well, you get the idea!

But yesterday my shopping errand brought me back into the moment. A moment of delight and anticipation and pleasure.

I went to Barnes and Noble.

Just walking into a real brick-and-mortar store devoted to the sale of books, books, books sent a thrill right through me. I hurried straight to the back where the children’s books are displayed, fighting the urge to check out the romance section first. (That would have to wait for another time.) I was on a mission to choose age-appropriate books for my grand-nephews. And as I picked up the familiar storybooks, happy memories flooded through me.

For many years, I taught First Grade and the highlight of each school day was story-time. How the children loved the tale of the witch who wanted to pick her pumpkin to make pie, but the giant pumpkin wouldn’t budge from the vine. Although the mummy, the vampire, and the monster all tried their best to help her, it was the little bat who solved the problem. And, of course, they all celebrated with the witch’s delicious pumpkin pie.

Once when I was sharing The Night Before Christmas and read the phrase the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath, the children stared at me wide-eyed and aghast. Santa smoked a pipe? ( The class had learned about the evils of drugs and tobacco in October.) I quickly assured them that, although he’d once smoked, Santa had given it up a long time ago.

Since none of my grandnephews are older than Kindergarten age, I had no difficulty knowing which book would be right for each child. But there were so many wonderful choices, familiar and new, that it took a long, long time to settle on two books for each boy. I found a brand-new one which was perfect for the two-year-olds: llama, llama, red pajama. (The title has no caps.) If you know a youngster who doesn’t want to go to bed alone at night, check this one out.

As I left Barnes and Noble, I had a satisfied smile on my face. Not simply because I could cross this errand off my to-do list.

For the duration of my visit there, reading children’s storybooks, I was truly living in the moment.

Memento vivere.

That’s Latin for Remember to Live!

Making Memories

My memories of Christmas have centered on food. I had a Grandmother who loved to cook. She faithfully made the same pastries and cookies every year. At the end of November, she started her season by baking at least a dozen poppy seed and walnut rolls some of which I wrapped in gold foil and delivered on her behalf as gifts to close friends. The rest she stored in the garage in tins.

She tackled cookies the first week of December and stood in the kitchen with the hot oven going for days and days. She made delicate almond crescents rolled in vanilla sugar, puff pastry bites oozing with apricot preserves, raspberry pinwheels and apple squares that no one could duplicate. To keep the family’s thieving fingers out of her cookie stash, she put a sampler plate of her product daily on the table after dinner for everyone to share. Each delicate morsel melted in my mouth with the creamy sweetness of butter.

I loved every cookie and pastry she made. Eating them became an evening ritual. I slowly savored each bite when she proudly served plates filled with her creations between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. I knew she would not bake any of these cookies or pastries again for a whole year. When I asked why not, she said she was making memories.

My Christmas would not be complete without the cookies and pastries my Grandmother made. The only month of the year I buy mountains of butter is December. I bake and put my family through the ritual of my youth. What could be better than making memories by celebrating through the sense of taste?

Have a yummy and blessed season!

 

 

Hope for the Season of Miracles

The days are dark this time of year.

In our past, this was inarguably the most difficult season. Harvest ended months ago. The feasting ended, too. The animals huddled in the barn, their coats thick and fat waning. Depending on the year, the yuletide could be a time of cheer, but more often, it was a time of desperate prayer. Winter would not be done for another three months or more.

People died at this time of year—the elderly, the very young, the poor. If the weather grew harsh enough, even common farmers and merchants could perish. So this holiday, this festival of light, was an act of defiance for our ancestors. The wax might not last the remainder of the winter, but on the darkest days, we’d light as many candles as possible and hope.

Hope that the stores would last. Hope that the cold would break before it broke us, our neighbors, or our loved ones.

So it was, for thousands of years.

Today, we feel far removed from those harsh realities. The Season of Miracles, in which the lights lasted longer, saviors were born, candles were lit, songs were sung, and children were encouraged to play despite the cold, has been diminished to a holiday of materialism and consumerism.

But before giving into that rather depressing, hollow reality, I’d ask you to consider that the call for miracles still exists. That the stresses of winter—perhaps no longer as bleak—are still forces that require our steadfast hope, our defiant cheer, and our deepest practices of compassion and prayer.

The darkness surrounds us today. There are those who must work without holiday. The gifts we give at this time, whether they cost time or money, must be given, even when we feel so utterly bereft of either. The violence and greed that runs through the minds of so many, and the tragedies that follow, impact each of us, daily.

And so I call on this season of miracles, on its power through history and ancestry. I say we must refresh this old holiday anew. That we raise the game and bring the miracles. That when we feel there is no time, we give it anyway. When there is no patience, we stop, breathe, and quietly accept. When there is no money, we find a way to give, however small, to those in need. That when there is no hope, we dare to believe the light within us will last through our dark hours.

Let this still be the Season of Miracles. And may yours be filled with hope and joy.

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A Christmas Wish from Katie

It’s not about the presents.  It’s not about the cookies.  It’s not about the decorations and ornaments on the tree.  It’s not about what we receive.  It’s all about what we can give to others.

Christmas Wish

From Katie and all the authors of Writing Something Romantic, we would like to give a sincere wish to our readers that you have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy happiness, health and success in the coming new year.

My Holiday Wish For You

It’s hard to believe the hectic holiday season is upon us already. WChristmas Firee’re up to our jolly Santa hats in gifts, wrapping, decorations, holiday parties, cards and the rest. All this multi-tasking makes my head hurt. So here’s my holiday wish for you: make a cuppa—whatever soothes your soul; find a quiet corner, pull up a comfy chair (if it comes with a special furry friend, all the better); grab a good book. Relax and refresh. Then go have the most merry of times!

Barb DeLong

The Writing Life and Having a Life

Jill Jaynes

There are lots of words for it- time management, multi-tasking, work-life balance.

Some people think writers sit at keyboards all day long and write book after book- undisturbed, undistracted. Safely hidden away in beautifully decorated offices, maybe with pipe smoke wreathing their heads. And maybe there are a few like that, but I haven’t met any. And I’ve met a lot of writers.

In my experience, writers are some of the most creative time managers in the world. Many of them juggle an unbelievable spectrum of competing priorities- careers, children (extra points for toddlers and teenagers), spouses, in-laws, home maintenance, other creative passions like crafts or music, and the fabled “me time.” And yet make time to write.

It’s really all about priorities.

Sometimes your priorities are your own, sometimes it feels like your priorities own you. But really, they are your own.

One of my favorite authors Susan Squires (who I am fortunate to know), said that turning point in her career from wanna-be writer to serious writer came when she asked herself the question- “How bad do I want this?”- “this” meaning getting published. She answer? Pretty bad.

She didn’t quit her day job- she was an attorney at the time and loved her day job. She didn’t stop having a family. She didn’t stop having a life. But she knew what she wanted and that want made priorities fall into new lines. Writing became a priority she pursued like an elusive lover. Twenty or so books later, I’d say her strategy was pretty successful.

But a single priority, no matter how attractive, how satisfying, can’t be everything. Just like that elusive lover can’t provide the “best-friend-forever” fix we need from time to time. We need to refresh, refill, recharge. We need multi-tasking, and relationships. We think we balance them, but its more like they balance us.

Another author I heard speak recently shared how after writing dozens of books, surprise! She hit a wall, burned out. The well was dry. Why was the well dry? She didn’t refill it. Her editor prescribed a regimen of reading. Only reading. No writing. For six months. She hadn’t read a book in years- spent all her time writing them, and that greedy, selfish lover sucked her dry.

Feeling she had nothing to lose by trying, she picked up a book. Then another, then another. She remembered why she loved books and stories and imagination. She remembered why she wrote. To her surprise, ideas suddenly flowed and bubbled and demanded to become stories.

So, I’m offering this simple phrase, as Christmas falls upon us once more- take a tip from writers; don’t forget to enjoy this season. Refill, recharge and enjoy the wonderful things there are to experience.

You need it.