Excerpts: a sale, a past, and a present

giftToday the Kindle edition of The Sheep Walker’s Daughter went on sale for $0.99. I am tasked with promoting the sale, so I thought I’d share some excerpts of the different ways Dee celebrated Christmas.

If you have read Dee’s story in my two books, you know her struggle. Life events come into sharp focus in the way we celebrate (or don’t) our holidays.


Valerie (The Sheep Walker’s Daughter)

“Mother and I managed to make it through Christmas—she by working a lot and me by reading a lot. On Christmas Day we saw Roman Holiday. After the holiday Mom and I had, I’m ready for a holiday of my own.

“Thanksgiving and Christmas are always awkward because none of the women in or family cooks. Now that we are a family of two, it’s easier. My grandmother always wanted to go out to eat, but Mom and I don’t have the heart for it this year. I’m not sentimental about holiday traditions, but where am I headed when I spend Christmas with my mother in a movie theatre filling up on popcorn and Coke instead of Christmas dinner?”

Dee (The Lyre and The Lambs)

“Valerie and I are the decorations and food committee. After much discussion, we have decided to leave the aluminum tinsel tree in the box. We send Roger to the Christmas tree lot for the biggest fir tree he can hunt down and load in the truck he borrowed from Carlo.

“It has been challenging to turn the living room into a wedding chapel the Saturday before Christmas.”

No 12 foot tree for us this year!

No 12 foot tree for us this year!

Christmas Past

I suspect we all have some holidays that hold painful memories. Usually they are attached to difficult relationships and unmet expectations. The path that Dee walked pointed to a future where she learned how to make happier memories. Toward the end of The Sheep Walker’s Daughter, Dee tells Valerie:

The things we leave behind aren’t important. What’s important are the memories we carry forward and what we do because of them.

Christmas Present

Do you have a memory that needs to be reshaped to accommodate a new reality, one you are living now or one you hope to live?

This season I wish for you the hope that is expressed in Psalm 27:13:

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Whatever your circumstances, may the light of hope shine through the window to your soul and give you peace.

photo credit: Maigret Lampwork via photopin cc

Advent 2014

WreathI love the concept of Advent, pulling away from the everyday to prepare for an arrival; marking time until a special event; slowing down to a wait.

Mornings I fire up my Jacquie Lawson online advent calendar and experience an Edwardian Advent. Last year’s calendar jumped me right into shopping, decorating and running all over the countryside. This year’s countdown is a crawl. The Edwardians approached the holidays with a clear sense of decorum. Did you know that a plum pudding had to boil for eight hours and hang in the pantry for five weeks to gain full flavor?

As the family changes, so do traditions. The big tree has given way to a small pot of rosemary on the dining bar. We’ve moved over to Christ Presbyterian in Goodyear, AZ to deepen our appreciation of the season with liturgical worship.

I love choir robes. To focus on words, music and facial expressions without distracting fashion statements brings me to a deeper place.

I love vestments. In a age of so little regard for people who hold office, vestments invite respect for a pastor who has labored through years of education and spiritual formation to bring me a message of hope.

Even though big trees, big shopping, and big entertaining are no longer part of our celebration, unwritten Christmas cards pile up on the desk, acts of love and appreciation slip my mind until a neighbor comes by with a lovely remembrance, the everyday presses in upon me.

I love that Advent comes at the end of the year, when I can let go of this year’s expectations, met and unmet, because we are out of time. Pssst, no one’s looking. They are all at the mall, hanging lights, in line at the post office, ferrying children to pageant practice, preparing end of the year reports.

Into this world was born the One of whom the angel said, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all the people. (Luke 2:10) So kick back and put your feet up. Your delivery in on His way.

Every day my mailbox fills up with promises of great deals. Just today, I deleted a message purportedly from Facebook telling me that they were awarding my account with one million dollars for the advancement of education, signed Svetlana someone-or-other. (I kid you not.) Of the hundreds of offers I have received, I have responded to one. Ballet tickets for 25 % off really are a good deal. But not nearly as good a deal as what the angel offered us.

Let’s wait for Him.

An Ozark Connection

  Ghost towns like East Calico Rock dot America 



East Calico Rock, Arkansas

We traveled to the Ozarks this Thanksgiving to nurture our connection with grandma. This trip, I looked for beauty in a culture that mystifies me simply because it is not my place. Hardwoods dominate the landscape; the trunks of the Black Oaks look as if they were sketched in pen by artists. Sun glistens in coppery leaves that curl inward and twist in the wind on their stems, loathe to leave their branches. That might be a metaphor for the culture.

I asked my husband how many families established Mountain View. About ten, he said, and then he named them all. Their descendants still live here.

Forests, creeks and rivers, and multi-colored stone bluffs attract hunters and fishermen, mountain bikers and hikers. The Folk Center offers tourists a look back in history, when life was dependent on the work of many hands. Studios draw local craftsmen and artists who have kept endeavors like quilting and weaving, candle and soap making, leather tooling and copper jewelry alive. They demonstrate their arts and crafts, tell stories, and play music.

In our wanderings, we happened upon this picture of the past that tells a story about the future. East Calico Rock once boasted a cotton gin, a planing mill, and many other enterprises. The bridge and railroad trestle allowed workers, goods and services access to new industry. Once this town prospered because of its connection between natural resources, enterprising people, and a train and a river boat stop.

America is dotted with ghosts towns like East Calico Rock. Resources dwindle, people leave, connections die. How will generations to come document the enterprises that we will inevitably lose to disuse or misuse? Will they speak in wonder about our networks of airports, tele, and data communications—those vehicles that connect us—the way we recall the riverboat days? Idealized like a Grandma Moses painting, or judged harshly like a Diego Rivera mural, what will the ruins and artistic representation of our present life look like?


In Relief

colddesertMy neighbor’s Mexican tile roof shines in bright relief against a darkening sky.  Has Old Man Winter cast a glance westward? The temperature has dropped to 66 degrees. I hear you laughing. In Buffalo, New York, rooftops piled six feet high with snow threaten to collapse so I’m not complaining.

We went to the store to buy warm clothes for our Thanksgiving trek to Arkansas. I’m counting on my theory that not many people will fly East on Thanksgiving Day, not this year. I’m hoping we will both have an empty row.  What a relief that will be.

We won’t get to our mom’s in time to eat turkey with her, but for the next few days we will have as much holiday fun as a person can have in a small rural town in the chilly Ozarks; dinner at the diner, caroling in the caves, porch or parlor setting while the town makes music over on Courthouse Square. (One does not sit, one sets for these occasions, the difference being you stay in your chair until you grow roots.) When we return, I will fulfill one of my New Year’s resolutions a month early. 

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Witness Protection

suitcaseA Facebook posting by Jeremiah Peters caused me to revisit my list of acceptable hideouts should I ever require witness protection. Jeremiah was hanging out at Barnes and Noble, trying to get some work done, when a guy sitting next to him took a phone call, put it on speaker phone, and proceeded to discuss his security clearance with a job recruiter, or something like that. The posting garnered some witty comments having to do with the danger involved in overhearing such a conversation. That naturally led me to reflect on the list I keep in my head of acceptable places to relocate, should I ever require witness protection.

Some people fantasize about winning the lottery. I fantasize about being forced to relocate to a city or town of my choice at government expense. I’m sure that’s not how it works, but a girl can dream.

What is it about this scenario that I find attractive?

  1. I love new beginnings.
  2. Nothing solves the problem of clutter like having to make a quick getaway. If it doesn’t fit in a suitcase, it gets left behind.
  3. If you feel stuck in a rut, relocation energizes. Lose the baggage. Lighten the load. Hit the reset button. Footloose and fancy free. Reinvent yourself.

Every place I visit auditions for a spot on my Witness Protection Program relocation list. I realize my criteria should be based on where I’m not likely to be found, but these days, I honestly don’t know how that is possible. You can change your name, but you can’t change the retina pattern in your eye. Just sayin’.

Here is my top ten list of places I would happily disappear at government expense (not in order).

  1. The 14th arrondissemente in Paris. (For those of you who are not Francophiles, that is Montparnasse.)
  2. Camelback Mountain above Scottsdale
  3. Carmel Valley
  4. Barbados
  5. Queen Anne Hill in Seattle
  6. Ashland, Oregon
  7. The owners suite on a tall sailing ship
  8. A writer’s residency in any national park
  9. A beach house in Aptos, CA
  10. A condominium at the harbor in Winslow on Bainbridge Island

Fantasize with me. You’ve witnessed something that puts you in danger. The Feds are at your door with the offer of protection if you cooperate. (Do you have a choice? I don’t think so.) You glance at their list of dismal places to disappear. You have a quick minute to counter their offer. Go!
photo credit: chispita_666 via photopin cc

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