Tag Archives: Christmas

A Christmas So Special

Yesterday, with carols blaring on my stereo, I finished decorating my house for Christmas. Since I started the day after Thanksgiving, and this is the ninth of December, I either have a big house, or lots and lots of decorations. Actually the latter is the true answer. And I’m a whole-house decorator, really into handmade gifts, flower arrangements, garlands and lights galore. I want my home to feel like It’s having a Hallmark moment.

Dining Room

Kitchen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I still have stockings and ornaments that I made the first year I was married back in 1962. The jester stocking is my son’s. The medieval hunting boot was my history loving husband’s, and mine is a plush velvet French style shoe, and after my mother passed away, I made a cowboy boot for my dad. We had little money in those days as my husband started out in the USAF, but all our friends were in the same boat, so we never knew the difference.

Stockings and Old Garland

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1965, Vietnam interrupted a year of our lives and while my husband was gone, our son and I managed as best we could. We lived temporarily in St. Louis, MO, and Famous Barr Department Store had a wonderful Christmas area with specialty items not found in other stores. I remember walking around totally transfixed. I decided to splurge $6.95 on a nine-foot garland that had old fashioned lanterns on it. In those days and with my budget, that was a lot of money, but I knew it would look so nice above the stockings I had made years before. Can you believe I have used that garland every year since without replacing even a single bulb? That’s fifty-two years! Fifty-two years of frequent moves to cold and hot, wet and dry climates with the decorations often exposed to those weather conditions. When I put that garland up this year, one bulb didn’t light, but it didn’t matter, it has definitely earned its place in my home forever!

Flower Arrangement

Livingroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas tree is adorned with reminders of places we’ve lived or to which we’ve traveled: Germany, Greece, Hawaii, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Italy, Scotland, Egypt, Poland, Russia, and England, to name a few. There’s also a family area with ornaments with the names of my son, his soon-to-be wife, my grandson, me, my sister, niece, and even for my late kitties, Annie and Pippi. Not to be forgotten are two best-friend ornaments, and some shiny plain ones to add filler, color and brilliance. Most importantly, there’s the Nativity ornament and the tree topping angel to represent the meaning of this blessed holiday.

Angel

P1010900

 

 

 

Christmas, 2017 is one of those extra special Christmases, because in eight days my son, Rob, will marry, Florence, the woman of his dreams and my grandson, Colby, will be his best man. Then we all will celebrate Christmas together, eating and singing carols in front of the fire. Doesn’t that sound to you like A Christmas So Special?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

 

 

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We wish you a merry Christmas by Sheila Deeth

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See
Tree rings cry
for history and mystery inside;
The tree lays flat to die.
Trailer’s rings all jangling metal, dangling chains reply
So low, once high.
Road is ringed with winter’s cold, its shoulder iced with snow.
This tree can’t fly.
But now the crane is lifting, tree is gifted with new life—
A hopeful sight with silver rings, now lighted bright
against the star
struck night.
The tree stands proud and high.
Then tree of Christmas rings its bell
For history and mystery inside.

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After selling copies of Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum at the Oregon Historical Society Holiday Cheer event, and enjoying the company of writers, I headed home with my husband and a friend, past Portland’s Pioneer Square where the Christmas tree, as always on this day, was surrounded by beer tents. Cheers! And Merry Christmas! May you too find the history and mystery inside.

Sheila Deeth’s novels, Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum, are both published by Indigo Sea Press. Meet the artist whose red and black painting hide red and black secrets from her childhood, and learn how life’s infinite sum of memories can raise a survivor up instead of weighing her down.

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The Ditch

A story in the paper during the Holiday Season was the basis for my writing this poem.

DitchThe Ditch
by
Paul J. Stam

Beside the flowing drainage ditch,
The little child sleeps.
The sitting mother seldom smiles,
And very often weeps.

A block away the K-Mart lot
Is filled with shiny cars.
A child with a brand new toy,
Has no apparent scars.

In the lot the Christmas trees
Have all just gone on sale.
That means nothing to this hungry child,
Fevered, sick and pale.

The scrawny tree gives little shade,
Nor protection from the rain.
Pretty words are little help,
To an abandoned mother’s pain.

The wall behind is strong and stout
Shielding from prying eyes.
Well made to keep the bullies out,
Muffling a hungry child’s cries.

Paradise the place is called,
With mountains to the sea.
Tourist drop money everywhere,
But not at the scrawny tree.

Fear is now the rule of day,
Behind that concrete wall.
Fearing what they will say,
And maybe take her child away.

There is no help from anywhere,
From State or Church or man.
They reprimanded her before.
She’s done the best she can.

Beside the flowing drainage ditch,
The sitting mother weeps.
The child clutched to her breast,
Is at peace in eternal sleep.

She will be charged with child neglect,
With abuse and a whole lot more.
Careful how you judge another,
Who had more than she could bear.

Can there be one whose heart is torn,
By her plight and that of others?
The responsibility for her is ours,
Who are her sisters and her brothers.

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Love, Peace and Aloha – pjs/

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S&FL FrntI have a new novel will be coming soon with Indigo Sea Press. The title is, A Short and Futile Life.

It is the story of one who has served his country with valor and honor. A man of integrity, the government now wants silence him for telling the truth.

It is a near future novel about life in the United States when most, if not all, the personal rights stated in the Bill of Rights have been revoked for the good of the whole.

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Final MSS Cover frontMurder Sets Sail is available from Second Wind Publishing and on Amazon. Kindle editions is only $4.99.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]

The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.

To watch The Telephone Killer video click here.

The Telephone Killer is now also available as an audiobook.

Since everything is copyrighted please feel free to re blog any of my posts but please repost in its entirety and giving appropriate credit.

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What Was 2014 All About?

Fireworks - pinkI always wonder if the fireworks at December 31/January 1 of any given years is to celebrate the end or the beginning.

We are not too far into 2015 that we should forget the previous year, or even make New Year’s Resolutions. It is my understanding the resolutions made during the month of January are valid for that year.

There are those of my betters who would have me look back on 2014 and reflect on my various blessings. As a rule I ignore suggestions from my betters. But I guess there is still a lingering of the good-will of the Christmas season that influences me to yield to their suggestions.

First of all I’m thankful that I didn’t lose my job. Oh, that’s right, I don’t have a job to lose. Nevertheless, even though I am unemployed I still get phone calls from people whom I have never met who wish to do business with me. They start out by saying something like, “May I speak with Paul Stam please.”

“I am Paul Stam.”

“Just to make sure I have the correct person, may I have your date of birth please.”

Now that immediately implies two things. The first is that I was lying when I said I was Paul Stam. At the same time, I have several cousins and second-cousins named Paul Stam, so I can begrudgingly forgive their questioning which Paul Stam I am.

But to ask me what my date of birth is, is just too much. I don’t remember being born, so how can I remember the date of an event I don’t remember? Now if they ask me what kind of car I own, that I can remember, but I honestly do not remember being born, which may be a deficiency on my part.

I am also grateful that some people love me, or at least like me. The only explanation I can give for that is that they do not know me as well as I know myself. And for my own selfish reason I am not going to do anything to enlighten them as to the real me and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t either. Make that one of your resolutions for this year. It is not too late to make a resolution.

I am also very grateful that I did not fall down and break my back or spirit. Both backs and spirits are hard to replace. I know there is a blood-bank, but I don’t know of a single back-bank or spirit-bank.

Come to think of it, it has been a really good year. Absolutely nothing I can complain about, but that’s the story of my life – looking back there is absolutely nothing that wasn’t for the better, although I can’t understand why I can‘t remember being born, it was after all, a rather important event in my life. Maybe if I try real hard it will come back to me.

Seriously, I sincerely thank you for following, or at least occasionally, reading my posts here at Second Wind Publishing, and however you view the past year, whether wonderful or a real bummer, I hope that for you; 2015 will be better, happier, healthier and in every good way above and beyond 2014.

Wishing you a great 2015 and Aloha!

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Happy Christmas to All

Xmas card

You heard Paul exclaim on his blog post that night
Merry Christmas to all and a year of Happy delight!

 Mele Kalikimaka
Merry Christmas

Hau`oli Makahiki Hou
Happy New Year

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Christmas 2014: As one year ends, a new one begins.

Last year, my oldest child discovered the final “Secret of Santa” as in mommy and daddy are in fact Santa Claus personified.  He has kept his promise (to my amazement) not to spoil things for his younger brother and to let Nate figure things out on his own.  I have to admit that having an extra helper around to move that annoying “Elf on the Shelf” and help me stash/hide Santa gifts has been great.  What isn’t so great is the realization that he is growing up.  Within the past few months it has become evident to me that he is no longer a child in so many ways.

He’s asked his first girl to a school dance, albeit she is a friend he’s had since he was 5 but he still agonized over whether she would say yes.  He’s gone on-line to research the best deals on all of his Christmas Wish List items as well as the things he wanted to get for other family members.  He’s passed on hanging out with friends because he has projects and homework for school.  And last night, he decided he wanted to cook dinner for the family so he went on-line and found a cooking video for a beef stroganoff recipe that he wanted to try.  Aside from an occasional question (how to operate the defrost function on the microwave) and a request that I run out to the store for an ingredient we were out of, he made the whole meal himself and it was delicious.

As I watched him in the kitchen, I was struck by how mature he looked standing there at the stove checking the instructions on the tablet and adjusting the seasonings to taste.  What was also interesting to see was the echo of me, my mother, and my grandmother in his actions.  He stands at the stove the way I do when stirring a pot or browning ground beef, which is how my grandmother stood when she cooked.  He talks to himself the way my mother does, a sort of running commentary on adding this or that and calculating the timing for cooking the noodles to coincide with when the garlic bread needs to come out of the oven and the sauce is done.  I could almost see him in 15 years or so cooking his first meal for a special girl and I wanted to cry simultaneously for the loss of my baby and the realization that I am raising a good self-sufficient man.

This is the first year that I have not had to go behind him to move ornaments that he placed on the tree in clumps or on branches too frail to hold their weight.  Each ornament was placed in exactly the right spot.  He even got into the decorating inside the house.  In past years, he has always helped with the “Griswolding” of the outside but never wanted to do anything in the house.  He helped me check the lights in the strands and even helped wrap the tree with lights.  Together, we set up the Charming Tails Christmas town beneath the small tree in the bay window or rather he put most of the thought into where each of the figurines would go and scolds his brother for trying to play with them.  “Nate, they are decorations, not toys to play with.”  I hear myself in his words, the phrase I have uttered each Christmas to him since he was able to walk and grasp things that caught his eye.

As I placed the Santa photos that I get each year on the top of the TV cabinet, we shared smiles at the memories of each visit.  His first Santa picture was at 9 months and you can tell from the photo that he was enchanted by the big guy in the red suit.  His second Santa picture at 21 months was less happy but that was more because of the reindeer antlers I made him wear for the picture than the visit with Santa.  His photo at 3 makes us laugh because that Santa was wearing motorcycle boots and looked like he belonged on a Harley not a sleigh with reindeer.  At 4, he was joined by his brother and we have a succession of photos from then on of the two of them smiling and dressed in matching or coordinating outfits for their annual picture.  I particularly love this year’s photo.  In part because he no longer looks like a child in his black suit, grey shirt and bow tie, which he is only wearing to make me happy, and in part because there still exists a trace of the child who loves Christmas and still wants desperately to believe in Santa.  His brother still looks like a little boy but the promise of Oliver as a man is juxtaposed with the child in that picture.  His father thinks this is probably the last year of Santa pictures for Oliver at least.  Oliver has assured me that he will always pose with his brother for a Santa picture until he has children of his own but he does feel that next year he will be too old to actually sit on Santa’s lap.  I’m sure I will get a few more years of photos, at least until his brother hits middle school, but the thought of getting a Santa picture of the boys each year well into their 20’s does make me smile.

He still has his moments of childlike behavior, such as the occasional meltdown or pout over something not going his way.  The endless bickering with his little brother over who gets to chose a TV show, a video game to play, or who sits by me on the couch.  Despite those moments, I know this new year takes him ever closer to manhood and his independence.  In the next few weeks, we will be turning the playroom into his bedroom so that he can have his own space away from his brother.  We’ll start the process of splitting the toys up and I will lose my “office/craft room” so that the boys can have a place to watch TV, play video games, and play with the few toys (Legos) that they both still enjoy doing together. The gulf between 8 and soon to be 12 is much to great for them to continue sharing a room but luckily the decision was theirs that it was time to split them up. I knew it was coming, I was just not quite ready for it yet. Just as I am not quite ready for him to leave his childhood but I know I have to step back and let him make this transition.

It’s a bittersweet Christmas.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project and contract manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead writes paranormal romance among other genres. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” is available through Second Wind Publishing (www.secondwindpublishing.com) or Amazon.com.

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My Christmas Muse a-Musing, by Sheila Deeth

How did it get so close to Christmas? Where did another year go?

So here I sit, panicking, pondering, musing, and wondering what to buy sons who have somehow grown up and have almost everything…

Then I realize it’s my day to write a Christmas blogpost here, so what shall I say? My muse smiles weakly and suggests I search through my novel, Divide by Zero. It covers years in its characters’ lives; there must be a Christmas chapter I can share. So says my ever-confident muse, but I checked, and there really isn’t.

There’s a father, estranged, bemoaning how his son never got those Christmas cards and gifts. A newspaper reporter finds her own muse took a hike after the Christmas rush (but she had a good excuse). Troy thinks Spicy Peppermint ice-cream (yummmm) looks like Christmas in July. And Sylvia flees the Christmas dance, a young man’s innocent affection too much like the terror she’s hidden in the past.

Later the lights of police cars will flash like another Christmas night, and the world will be changed. But a child shows that love and forgiveness don’t always have to be the same, and happy memories are a treasure to be remembered. (Perhaps the Christmas child tells something of that, loving first, even though we might never deserve full forgiveness.)

Friends will keep memories alive through sending and receiving their Christmas letters, and…

I panic again, because that’s what I should be doing, so…

Merry Christmas, and may all your zeroes be the forebears of infinite joy.

Divide by Zero, a tapestry woven around a fraying thread

Divide by Zero, a tapestry woven around a fraying thread

Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero, newly released by Second Wind Publishing. Her second novel, Infinite Sum, will tell more of Sylvia’s story in 2015.

 

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Christmas With Bob Hope

The last few days I’ve been putting up my Christmas decorations with the sound of carols playing in the background. This time of year is always a time for reminiscing for me, and while unpacking, one storage box held memories from 1966. Inside was a garland of realistic holly, boxwood and pine intertwined with miniature old world lanterns that light up. I remember splurging on it at a department store Christmas boutique that year. The Vietnam War was on and my husband was stationed with the USAF in northeast Thailand at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air Force Base. The amazing thing about that garland is that it still works! I’ve never replaced anything on it, and it’s been lighting a wall or fireplace mantle every Christmas since, for 48 years!

As I stepped back to admire the garland, memories flooded back of that time my husband was gone. In those days there was no R&R (Rest and Recuperation Leave) for our troops overseas at the half-way mark and no phone calls for the entire year. The Internet and Skype didn’t exist. Only letters. How the men looked forward to letters from home and an occasional gift package.

Probably the most exciting time for them that year was a visit from Bob Hope. Stars accompanying Mr. Hope were Vic Damone, Phyllis Diller, Joey Heatherton, and Miss World, Anita Bryant, plus some minor acts. The men at the Nakhon Phanom base talked about it for weeks ahead of time and families at home were eager to see the Bob Hope Christmas Special when it came out in January to see if they could catch a glimpse of their son, brother, uncle, husband, or father.

I remember my son and I sat on the living room floor as close as we could get to my parents-in-law’s TV without blocking anyone else’s view, to see if we could find my husband in the crowd. He had written to say he was in front sitting on the ground only about ten feet away from the stage. During the special, everything happened so fast and there were so many faces to search, I couldn’t be sure we actually saw him or not, but the important thing was that the troops were able to see Bob Hope and company. What a thrill it was to them! I wish there were DVRs then!

Not all the memories of that time were good ones. Last month was Veteran’s Day and many Americans thought of all the sacrifices our soldiers have made for their country. I’d like to mention the sacrifices of the families of those soldiers as well. That year my husband and I missed sharing the celebration of our birthdays, our anniversary, several extended family events and a year of our 4 year old son’s life in a country that wasn’t very supportive. My husband’s paycheck documents got lost and for several months, we had no money coming in at all. It was a difficult time sometimes, but we persevered until his return. We considered ourselves really blessed that he was able to come back to us!

Ninteen sixty-six was a different time and military families have some advantages since then, but they also have more challenges and difficulties than ever before. I just hope that as we celebrate this holiday season, we remember the families, as well as the soldiers and airmen, for the dedicated, selfless people they are. And that those families have something nice to remind them of their sacrifice, like my garland that keeps staying lit.

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A Hand Is a Hand Is a Hand

A Couple of weeks ago I had a post entitled “Behold – The Hand.” I received more comments on that post than any other. Since I had so many comments on “Hands” I thought I would explain a little of how it came about.

As some of you know I dabble in ceramics. On the wheel I do bowls, mugs and plates, but my real love is sculptures. On the wheel I have a pretty good idea of what I’m doing, and it’s pretty routine, but I have not idea what to do with sculptures. Each sculpture has is own challenges and that’s what so exciting about it.

Dancer 1Dancer 3I had started on a series of dancers and when I got the first one done and someone said, “I really like the flow of it, but what is she holding, a piece of cardboard?”

I hoped it looked like a scarf. But as I’ve already told you, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

Some one else observed, “Her boobs are too low.” Since I didn’t have a live model to work from I excused that observations.

I didn’t throw that one out, but went to work doing it again. This is the result of the second attempt. So you say, “What does this have to do with your post about hands?” I’m getting to that.

Dancer 4

While I was doing it I was looking at my hands as they worked with the clay and I was very grateful that they worked so well. Even if their manipulation of the clay isn’t everything I would like it to be, that’s not my hands’ fault. I have known people with their hands so gnarled with arthritis they can’t hold a pencil.

Dancer 5aDancer 5bI started working on something a little different. Still with idea of a dancer, but different and this is what I came up with.

Then It seemed to me that in gratitude for all my hands have done for me, the least I could do is somehow pay tribute to my hands.

Hand 1Hand 3That is when I made this sculpture. I didn’t really try to reproduce a copy of one of my old, wrinkled hands. Wrinkles are awfully hard to reproduce in clay as I learned in trying to do the dancers scarfs and skirts.

There are some who are so good they can produce every wrinkle.

In a class where I was the model one student reproduced every wrinkle in my old face so accurately I wanted to hit him over the head with the head he had made of me. Not until it was high fired of course and hard as a stone.

Then he had the unmitigated kindness to give it to me. I immediately put it for sale in the annual Christmas pot sale at Windward Community College. I like to think that the reason it sold so quickly the first day was because I’m so good-looking, but I know it is really because of his talent to show my every wrinkle.

Damn, I wish I could do that. Well, given another 5 or 10 years I may get to be that good with the clay.

May everything your hand finds to do come with ease if not always with fun.

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Paul is the author of The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing now available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.

To watch The Telephone Killer video click here.

The Telephone Killer is now available as an audiobook from Amazon.

Another new novel of mine, Murder Sets Sail, will be coming soon from Second Wind Publishing. This novel is not a mystery. You know from the beginning who the murderers are and who they intend to murder. Adventure aboard a sailboat from Honolulu to Hong Kong.

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A Snake In The Grass

My last post was on Christmas Eve and I told you about the gift of mongooses that were given to us. I mentioned that to the best of my knowledge not one of the 3 mongooses ever killed a cobra, though that is what, according to Rudyard Kipling and others, they are supposed to do. I also promised you a real live, no I mean dead, cobra story. Being raised with the law that one must always keep a promise, here goes—

Aba house-2abPlease note that this picture of the house where I was born and where I grew up has a grass roof. It has something to do with the title of this post.

Snakes. We had snakes everywhere. Well, not everywhere. I mean, my mother never served me wiggling snakes in my soup like in that Indiana Jones movie, Temple of Doom. I have eaten grilled python steak, but it wasn’t cooked on shiny, chrome gas grill, but skewered on a stick over an open fire. Continue reading

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