Friday, December 31, 2010

Purging for the New Year

The tree is down, lights are off the house, and the Santas are boxed away. However, I can’t seem to turn loose of the red and whites this year. I am leaving the red and white tablecloth on, am not tired of the white reindeer, and am not finished brewing and sipping with poinsettia tea pots and cups. I even left some lights on the sofa table and some more white deer in the bathroom. I am thinking I can live with all this red until deep into January.

DH got Shingles for Christmas. No, not ones for the roof, but itchy ones on his back! Being a stiff-necked man, he would not consider Express Care until December 26th when every coughing and puking person in the county also gave in and was seeking medical help after the holiday, and our home-owned pharmacy was closed for the weekend. He thought he was rallying yesterday, but today is back to feeling pretty miserable again. It looks to be a long winter.

I have spent the last few days trying to form a plan for the New Year. (I am big on plans. I was 16 years old when my best friend and I made our first SIP for summer: Self-Improvement Plan. We were going to tan, make money, loose weight, read so many books to expand our mind, etc. I am great at making plans, but I am less efficient at keeping them!) I decided a plan was better than a resolution, although I rarely keep them either. I decided to focus on words like minimal and accepting. I want to live minimally…less stuff, less frustration, less disappointment. I want to accept the things I can’t change instead of struggling against them, to accept where I am right now, to accept what IS instead of what I want To BE.

I could only start with my office. I decided to weed my books. I bagged up magazines for sharing, returned borrowed books, got rid of books I know I am not going to read—even though they were good and worthy books. Doing all this made about six inches of extra space on my shelves. Still, six inches is a lot if you are walking on stilettos!

I then went into my file cabinet, manila folders and writing basket. I had to face reality. I am NOT going to sell some of that stuff. I am NOT going to crack the Women’s World market. I am NOT interested in writing confessions and then begging for being paid for my sold work. I do not want to write articles on things that don’t interest me. I want to write fiction and poetry with creative lines and imagery. So what if they don’t sell. If I write what I enjoy and am pleased with the product then I have pleased at least one reader. That payment might have to be enough even though it won’t buy bread at Wal-mart. All those great snippets of writing ideas? The ones about to come to completion were kept, and the rest pitched.

I still need to weed CDs that are okay but not great, the ones I rarely choose to play. I still need to tidy a drawer of office supplies like clips, paper punches, and bookmarks I do not use anymore. While the manila folders are reduced in number, I still need to go through the remainder and weed story by story for duplicates and ones that have no future. I have cleaned out the Favorites on my computer, dumped old pieces that are dead end works, and deleted some stored pieces in the computer. I still need to weed pictures and maybe slash deeper in the Documents.

Dumping, pitching and purging are energizing. This morning at dawn I wrote for three hours which included drafts of a short article and a short story. I hope this level of production continues throughout the whole new year—well, at least during the month of January. Once DH’s feet hit the floor, I stopped writing and went back to more pitching. This time I attacked the tea cabinet. I looked at the teas that are good but are bypassed daily for our favorites. I tossed out the unused ones like Russian which seems wasteful, but I wanted to see that minimal look in the cupboard. Try as we might, that smoky taste just doesn’t work at this house. Every pot got dumped down the sink when I brewed it so this morning the tea leaves went to the trash. The healthy acia berry went because it was not our taste. I paused at the green, which is supposed to be healthy too, but I kept it through the round one of dumping. When I drink tea, I want a dark strong brew! I will continue to try to develop a taste for the greens that taste like grass clippings—but only for while.

I look forward to tomorrow’s dawn. I have a short list of submissions to ready and writings to finish. Some egg muffins are already baked for a 45 second warming in the microwave to go with a pot of brewed tea after the first hours writing. I hope my mind works well and produces skillfully. As for DH, he better be on the lookout for a wife chucking things out that don’t look functional!

                                          This poinsettia is about four years old and came from a
                                                      very small plant. I am excited to see it begin to go red.
                                                      To be minimal in this house, I should pitch it, but I hope
                                                      to save it one more year to be moved out to the deck for

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

One Star, One Night, One Baby

Our town lights up its water tower like a hot air balloon. This picture doesn't do it justice. It is a unique beacon of light during the holidays.

“One star, one night, one baby.” Those words really resonated for me and summed up the whole meaning of this season when I heard them last night at our town’s layman’s services. Author Cindy Dagnan was the speaker for the opening night’s program. Although I had been buried in holiday “stuff” all day, the evening was unseasonably warm and I knew I wanted to hear Cindy. I had never heard of her before she spoke at our writer’s guild last fall, but I was pleasantly surprised by a vivacious woman and writer whose enthusiasm for both life and God were infectious.

The layman’s services are a 60 year old tradition in our town and are non-denominational. Each year during the holidays, a quick program of music, prayer, and reflection is offering in the wee morning hours before people go to work. It is a quick touch with the true meaning of Christmas with the first service of the week being held in the evening. Last night’s program was only about 20 minutes long followed by cookies and fellowship if one wanted to stay.

Using Scripture and her razor sharp wit, Cindy zeroed in on all the frustrations of shopping and decorating and then zapped us with a poignant reminder that those things are NOT Christmas. We all know that fact, but oh, how we forget. So there was Cindy, sparkling as tree tinsel, reminding us not to get side-tracked from that Baby’s story.

I was no different than any child those many years ago, I adored Christmas. I distinctly remember gluing cotton ball beards on construction paper Santas and dropping red glitter on a glob of white glue that would become Rudolph’s glowing nose. I loved the music at school, preparing for that yearly Christmas program with the music teacher shrieking at us to get things right. I still hear her screeching, not-so-good violin solo of “Oh Holy Night” that occurred every year to a captive audience of parents who only wanted to see their darlings perform. I haven’t forgotten relatives and in-laws, neighbors and friends who argued and fussed over who got what hour of Christmas Day to “celebrate". I also remember well being pregnant with my babies during Christmas; I always felt extra close to the Mother Mary when I too was “with child”. This year I wait for another baby, a grandson, who will come right after the holidays.

Over the years, people, circumstances, and life have tried to steal my childish wonder from me. I admit that I find age and aging hamper the marvel of Christmas sometimes, but I never want to lose entirely the innocent but comforting glow that comes from pondering the miracle of that special Baby born so long ago. This year I have seen so many people sore, surly, and wounded by disappointment and hurt that it has been hard to stay focused the true meaning of Christmas myself. It sometimes takes extra work to fight sinking into the mire of the distressed world around us.

So today on the Winter Solstice and the darkest day of the year, I am going to remember Cindy’s words last night. “One star, one night, one baby.” She became a star herself, leading us right back to the true meaning of Christmas. No matter what your religious beliefs are, it is fitting and right to be a shining light to others around you in some way, for just one day…or one night. Take the shove or slight with grace, drive past the parking spot hog with a grin, toss a coin in a kettle, call a shut-in, or merely step out into the crowd with a beaming smile. The smile you give may save your own; it is the true meaning of Christmas.

For more information about Cindy Dagnan, visit her website at:

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Changes at the North Pole

This is today's entry in Jenny's Saturday Centus. For more stories and how to play, please visit Jenny at: Today's prompt is highlighted in red.

                    Changes at the North Pole!
hen Santa decided to break with tradition, the common belief was he would come to his senses before Christmas Eve. But he vowed no more cookies, lost a hundred pounds, shaved down to a Tom Selleck mustache, and bought a new Ralph Lauren blazer. He retired Rudolph and bought a GPS. He asked world class designers to compete for a new uniform for his workers.

Designer Gordon was stitching in a tiny green zipper; tunic in an emerald satin, a jade belt with gold buckle cinching a blousy waist, hung nearby. Time was about gone when realization hit.

"What was he thinking? OMG! Elves are soooo 2009..."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

January is Coming

The days are busy right now, pleasantly so for the most part. The nice part about the bustling right now is that one knows it is a short season, that it will come to an end soon. So one can sit back and enjoy the demanding days. Stopping for tea and candle moment are even more meaningful right now. This morning I took some time and see I have two new followers! Welcome Rebecca and Ames. You join Betty, Sara and Lady Estelle from a short while ago. I am glad to see a “crowd”!

On the other side of Christmas are the long days of January. I never minded that month myself. I mentally prepare for hibernation like a grizzly bear. I eat and party in December, but I curl up and hunker alone inside during January. I am socialized out and ready for a hide away. I use this dormant period for reading, writing, knitting, movies, and just restoring body and soul.

I usually have a January project list by now, but this year I am running behind on making one. I know I want to write, but I have no inspiration, at the moment anyway, for any specific story or essay to capture on the page. I am never caught up on reading, but I do have the book club selections read for the spring months already. I did buy one batch of yarn for a possible afghan, but I am not overly excited about the pattern. I have no snazzy articles in mind to set the needles clacking.

The last couple of winters I have made various shawls and had DH on whipping out shawl pins, but there are only so many a gal can wear! After knitting about 10 full lenth shawls, I switched to these short shoulder ones that really are more like a scraf with my sized stitch.I make them from simple washcloth cotton, making them very inexpensive but colorful.                 

I love the shawl pins DH makes, so many sizes and woods. I never can choose between the woods because I love them all. Hedge has made a great pins because it yellows with age, a totally different shade than the darker hard woods. Also, he gets the hedge from the family farm making them more special than a boughten plank.

DH also has been making biscuit cutters from hard woods. I love them even though biscuit making is not a daily job here. I first saw a hard wood cutter at Branson in the mill at Silver Dollar City. DH has been working on getting them right since then.  While he made me one from dark walnut, my favorite, I can't stand to see the rejects thrown away so I line them up on my kitchen window sill. These are cherry, hedge and walnut.

The dark dawn is turning light so I had better move on for today. I know December is here in force, but January is a coming!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tea Cup Tuesday, Snowmen Cups

This is part of Martha's Tea Cup Tuesday. For more cups and a linky, visit Martha at

I ordered two of these snowmen tea cups a couple of years ago. They have little snowmen of various kinds all over them although they don't show up well here. They are charming to use during the Christmas holidays along with poinsettia cups, but they can stay out all of January and still look right at home.

While this blue snowman tea pot does not match the cups, it goes well also through winter. It is large enough to make a big pot to fit under the cozy for many cups of hot tea on cold days and night!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thrift Deluxe

Over Thanksgiving, we were driving by the grounds of the Mother Co-Redemptrix when I spotted "stuff"! Stop the car I cried when I saw a real find! The Vietnamese Fathers and Brothers often set out old chairs, desks, and file cabinets that are no longer needed with the idea that someone in the community might have use for them. What I saw was an old library card catalog. Now, I know that is junk to some folks, but I love the old library tables, catalogs, and chairs. No computer desk, ipad, digital card file will ever have the warmth of those old oak pieces where folks' thumbs flipped cards, where fingers and wooden #2 pencils jotted down ideas, facts and figures.

Much to our son's embarrassment, his folks were out on a busy road backing the van over the grass to cabbage onto this find. Within five minutes someone else stopped wanting whatever we did not take. DH and son unloaded the very heavy piece into the shop. The piece was actually two pieces and DH had fun separating and searching and fiddling with the parts. The drawers looked like cherry so he  remade the top with a piece of cherry in his wood pile. Things were looking good.

Okay, WHERE was I going to use this thing and how? I had no idea; I just knew I loved it. But we did not want to put a lot of money into it so DH used a lesser wood from his stock pile and made a small stand for the drawers to set on. Wow, isn't it pretty for a junked piece? We toted it into my office area, shoved things around and found a place for it. I know it is crazy but well, I love the piece.

The remaining piece of the same size DH was going to take for screws, nails and such in his shop without refinishing. However, once he saw this finished piece, he has decided to find more cheap wood for a stand, strip the drawers, and redo nicer for his own use in his office over the shop.

You won't find my home in House and Garden or Modern Home. There is no bonus room, great room, or whirlpool bath, and no one would long to own this 60 year old ranch. But you got to admit, this place is a conversation starter with pie cupboards made of barn siding from the family farm barn (complete with holes drilled by Kansas wood bees!), bathrooms with doors to the deck, wall paper applied sideways, a carpenter's tool trunk used as a coffee table, a plate rack built into the wall between studs, and now a library card catalog...and it was free!


In the fall, I gave a friend an extra set of glasses I had. Look how she decided to use the stemware.
I got one of her gifts back and isn't it lovely? The fragrance is a delightful cinnamon.Thanks, Pat!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday Centus/If the shoe doesn't fit....

This is Saturday Centus . The prompt must be used word for word somewhere in the story on not more than 100 words.The prompt is highlighted. For complete rules see:

Today's prompt: an involuntary gasp of shock escaped my lips when I opened the shoebox and saw the pointy-toed shoes

                                    If the shoe doesn't fit......
I was cleaning the overstuffed closet, tossing out peeled sweaters, trousers with missing buttons. Purging was harder than it used to be--bending, squatting, reaching, puffing for a tad more air.

I tossed out sandals missing buckles, loafers with heels worn to an angle, and hats with crushed brims. Then an involuntary gasp of shock escaped my lips when I opened the shoebox and saw the pointy-toed shoes...

I looked down at thick ankles, felt aching knees, a lump formed in my throat. I wouldn’t wear toothpick-thin red heels ever again. They still sparkled, but I didn’t. When had it happened, the loss of elastic body, that dash of vigor, the zest of youth prancing on dainty feet?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Eat, Drink, and Merry Christmas

The principle of entrainment is at work for the December season. Everyone hustles and bustles, feels pressure, wrings their hands with the lack of time. Now, I have very little shopping to do, I minimize commitments, and work at NOT being hassled for or over Christmas. However, it is not long when I am out in a store or on a road before I feel myself uptight, pushed, frazzled. It is entrainment and I am stepping into the pace and emotions of others around me. Staying home, listening to soft carols, and reading of Christmases past is a better way to go.

Yet, I don’t want to miss out on the fun either so I do attend things. Last night was the Writer Guild’s Christmas party. The last month of the year, they meet at a local place, Pizza by Stout, for eating, visiting, and the exchanging of one small gift with a writer in mind. There were notebooks, supply of pens, coffee mugs, mailing envelopes, staples, paper clips, soft music cds, and reading lights among last night’s gifts. Everyone is planning a new year of submissions as soon as January hits.

Several years ago I stopped giving my friends gifts in boxes. I had an evening meal for my lady friends. I cooked and served everything myself despite the fact I had children and I worked. My gift to them was a night they walked out of their house free of even a casserole to carry. They stepped into a decorated, candle-lit house and spent the evening catching up, slowing down, relishing each other’s company. The gift of my time for their pleasure was the best gift I knew how to give. The year my dad was dying was the only time I could not follow through. Then somehow I lost the heart for that evening meal, the tradition was part of another life that was lost to me.

So I switched to a Christmas tea with the same principle involved. I was giving them a gift of a brief respite from their scurrying for a gathering over the tea pot. But this year, everyone has a different schedule. We could not find a time that matched everyone’s calendar, including my own. So I named today a floating tea and announced I would be home. Anyone could drop by, settle in, or breeze out after a cuppa. They could name a time that suited them because the tea kettle would be on and the cupcakes waiting whenever and however they dropped by. It worked well, although a departure from what we liked to do.

The ones left remaining here at lunch time packed up and we all “floated” to our local Taco Town for lunch. We all had laughed, visited, shared a few minutes with each other and had a great day --which was the whole idea of the floating Christmas tea!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lightin'n Ridge, a Great Gift Idea

Every day of December seems to have its own agenda, and the days are slipping away—pleasantly so. But I realize two things: I am not writing and January is coming which means heavy writing! I need to get a worksheet of ideas started somewhere between Holiday Teas and delivering poinsettias. I was reminded of this when I got notice of a new (to me contest) that ends in mid-January. I will post the info for you writers below.

I also want to call attention to a great publication that is done right here in Missouri. It would make a great gift for someone on your list. This little sports journal is slightly different than the usual “how to clean your gun” and “what foreign land I shot my biggest duck” publications. For one thing the editor is a woman! Don’t see that very often in the sports magazines. Publisher Larry Dablemont started this publication, called Lightnin’Ridge, and it is packed with interesting hunting and fishing stories, real Ozarkers and others doing their sports in common folk land. I won a writing contest for the magazine a couple of years ago and Larry published my story—and he thought women couldn’t write about hunt’n and fish’n!

This Christmas issue is outstanding. Be sure and read Dablemont’s story Grandpa’s Knife where he recalls a Christmas knife gift but really muses over what it takes to make a man-a good dad and grandpas. I wept after I read this poignant piece. Editor Sondra Matlock Gray’s column Camouflage and Hairspray also deals with Christmas memories. You can order this issue or a subscription (reasonably priced) at But if I were you, I would call up old Editor Larry at 417-777-5227 and chat a spell.


Entries to be accepted from 9/15/10 through 1/15/11 (postmark)


Poetry and Short Story Winners to be Published and get $500!

Both winners will get $500 and their winning work will be published (print and online) in the Spring 2011
Homestead Review produced by Hartnell College.* Finalist judges will be Maria Garcia Teutsch (poetry),
editor-in-chief for both Ping-Pong magazine and the Homestead Review, and J. Roderick Clark (fiction),
publisher and editor of Rosebud magazine.

Contest Rules
Eligibility: Open to all work not previously published. Simultaneous submissions allowed, but you must notify us immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere. Our contest is open to all writers—you do not need to be a member of CCW to enter.
Entry Fee: Short stories: $15 per story. Poetry: $5 per poem.
Multiple Entries: Enter as many times as you wish, with separate fee for each entry.
Maximum Length: Short story: 4,000 words. Poetry: no restriction.
Submission Period: September 15, 2010 through January 15, 2011 (by postmark).
Format: Typed, white 8½ x 11 paper, single-sided, numbered pages, with title only (not your name)
on upper left corner of all pages. Short stories must be double-spaced. Poetry should be formatted as
you want it to appear. We prefer staples over paper clips for stories and poems longer than one page.

Cover Sheet(s): Include a separate, single cover sheet for short stories and a single cover sheet for poetry.
The cover sheet(s) must include the title(s) of your entry, your name, address, email address, phone number,
and word count for short stories. On your cover sheet, please let us know how you heard about our contest
(website, magazine ad, newsletter, flyer, friend, etc.).

How to Enter:
Make check payable to: Central Coast Writers
Send with submissions to: CCW Writing Contest
P. O. Box 997
Pacific Grove, CA 93950
Keep copies of your submissions, as no submissions will be returned. Winners will be notified by March 31, 2011and announced in Scribbles, the Central Coast Writers’ newsletter. See website:




Monday, December 6, 2010

Tea Cup Tuesday/Christmas cups

Tea cup Tuesday....please join Martha for Tea Cup Tuesday at

I only have a few Christmas pots and cups and most are new china. This poinsettia pot was the first Christmas tea thing I got, and it is still my favorite. I found the two cups to match several years later.

The holly tea pot I bought on clearance after Christmas and while I like it, it is not as special to me as the poinsettia.

This trio of flawless Christmas tree plate and two cups I picked up at thrift for a dollar each. I am going to work them into a Christmas basket of teas for my mom.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

These Three Kings

 Some of my very first memories are of my maternal grandparents’ home in southeastern Kansas. They lived in a moderate sized town, in a two story of 1940’s vintage before my grandfather traded it off, which is another story. There were Adirondack chairs in the back yard and a huge hammock tied between two tall oaks. A glassed-in sleeping porch jutted off the back of the house over this yard. Some sleeping cots, a bureau, and a dressing table are all I can remember being there.

It was in the dressing table drawer that I found the nativity set. I wasn’t supposed to be looking in any drawers, but once I found the nativity set, I visited it often. It wasn’t fancy or expensive; it was chalk, probably from a dime store. However, it belonged to my great-grandmother, my grandfather’s mother, who could be a terror. I loved that Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Somehow over the years, I got that nativity set and set it out every year even though the facial features faded, arms chipped, and shepherds broke. One year my sister made me a ceramic nativity with numerous huge pieces. It was beautiful, but I always feared two rambunctious boys would break it in our small house. While I admired it, enjoyed it, my true love was the deteriorating chalk pieces.

Eventually, I had to throw the broken nativity set out. I found a small simple three piece set at a local shop. I put it out with a candle. Its simplicity seems to express the true meaning of the season. But each year, somewhere in the house I set out the three chalk kings that I saved. They are rough, but I don’t care. They might sit in the hutch, on an end table, or on a wall shelf, but they always look like I think the original Three Kings looked-weary and searching all over for this new Baby Jesus.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saturday Centus, Starting Again

This is Saturday Centus . The prompt must be used word for word somewhere in the story on not more than 100 words.The prompt is highlighted. For complete rules see:

Starting Again

“What a does a recent widow do with Christmas?” Emma asked herself carrying the bin of tangled up holiday lights to the trash.

Later, when her doorbell rang, she was still in a faded robe and waiting on dusk. She peered between the drapes and saw two little girls on her porch with her string of lights, straightened and wound over their broomstick arms.

“We checked these lights and not one bad bulb. It took a while, but we got ‘em straight for you. Merry Christmas!”

Smiling, Emma asked them in for cocoa. She would untangle her life again too, even if it took a while.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Toters Christmas

                                     Toters Book Club (Terrific Old Teachers Enjoy Reading)

Yesterday was my book club Christmas luncheon, and it was one of our best yet. When we formed the group years ago, we wanted a neutral place with no food, cooking, cleaning or burdens for anyone. We meet at the library conference room, bring our own drink if we want one, do books only and go home with nothing but books on our minds. However, once in the summer we might meet for a tea luncheon and in December we meet for a nice lunch somewhere decorated for the season. Our book for December might be holiday or not, but it is always smaller or lighter since everyone is extra busy at this time of the year.

This year we went to Higdon Florist for a second time. The food is simple, sandwiches and soup only, but we eat at a huge cloth covered dining room table set among the flowers and festive decorations. It is restful and seasonal, a delight for us. This year’s book choice was both The Thanksgiving Visitor and A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote. Most of the women had read nothing by Capote and were pleasantly surprised by these beautifully written stories. I read them every year and have never tired of their profound and poignant simplicity. Capote had a strange upbringing in the South and grew into a troubled gnome of a man, but his peculiar life sharpened his storytelling.

A Christmas Memory is an autobiographical story of Truman and his elderly, rather simple-minded relative and their practice of baking fruit cakes together. Several readers cried at the end; Katie admitted she sobbed. So moved by the fruitcake story, she was inspired to bake each member an individual fruitcake. They were delicious!

These delightful Christmas stories launched us into sharing our own Christmas memories of how we celebrated Santa Claus as children, of our favorite gifts, and many memories of our childhood dolls. We shared and laughed for a couple of hours before returning to the bustle of shopping, grocery buying, and errand running. Those few hours were true Christmas because they involved food, laughter, friends, and a sharing of time and self with one another—the greatest gift of all.

Do you belong to a book club?