Tag Archives: family

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









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










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.






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.




Filed under musings

People and Things, by Carole Howard

My mother died in 1997 at the age of 80. She’d been losing weight and the docs neither found out why nor ended her slide, even after I insisted they admit her to a hospital and get some nutrition into her body.  Still, it had never occurred to me that she was gravely ill. So it was a shock when I got the phone call. Naivety, I guess. Or maybe denial.

My brother and I flew to Florida to pack up our mother’s things and help our dad decide where he’d live. (He couldn’t care for himself — that had been my mom’s job – because of Parkinson’s.) The packing-up process practically smacked me in the face with, “All this stuff we accumulate, in the end, it’s just….. stuff.”

But the hangers in the closet did me in.

After I took some pieces of her clothing that I wanted, I sorted the rest (which involved removal of my mother’s notes to herself, like “This blouse goes with the blue pants or the green skirt plus the paisley scarf), then donated it to the nearby synagogue. But they didn’t want the hangers. What was I to do with them? It felt wrong to just throw them out.

The hanger issue tormented me. I gathered them into bundles and used twist-ties to join them at the curvy ends. They were unwieldy. I unbundled them, then put them in cardboard boxes. It took a lot of boxes to accommodate those pieces of wood, plastic, and wire. And I was still left with the question of what to do with them. In the end, I put them back in the closet, neatly arranged according to type. Closure. Logic. Neatness.

I knew my reaction was crazy but, just like the time I went up to the apartment my husband and I were moving from, to get one last thing, and unexpectedly bawled, I knew there was something else involved.

Yet when a very good friend and member of my extended family recently died, I had a completely different reaction to her possessions. “Lily” knew she was dying, since she was the one who had declined chemotherapy. The process wasn’t a mystery, just the timing. In the last month or so of her life, she had friends come over, a few at a time, so she could give away her beautiful (she was an artist) clothing and jewelry. She had a LOT. Every piece had a story. What was unsettling to me was that she took enormous pleasure – glee, practically – in telling the stories and giving the pieces away. Really, glee. I wanted to be gleeful, for her sake, but glee was too much to ask.

Now that she’s gone, I have quite a collection of things that remind me of her: scarves, sweaters, earrings, earrings, and more earrings, and one pair of shoes. So does my daughter. She wears them frequently. I have another approach: I take out one thing and wear it a few times before I take another. Each one reminds me of Lily, one at a time, widely spaced.

I’m not sure what accounts for the difference between my reaction to my mother’s things and to Lily’s, nor the difference between my daughter’s approach and mine. Nineteen years older? Mother vs friend? Cleaning everything out vs accepting some gifts to give Lily pleasure?

I just don’t know. Did anything similar ever happen to you?

  •     *     *     *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio, a murder mystery with a musical undertone, set in West Africa.


Filed under musings, writing

Politics by John E. Stack

I do not like politics.  I do not watch politics. I loathe political hate ads (they are a waste of millions of dollars that could be better used elsewhere.)  Don’t tell me who you are , show me who you are by the things you do.  Don’t tell me what you are going to do, tell me how you are going to do it.  Don’t slam the other candidate, it makes you look bad.  Anyway, I was thrust into this place I do not like by a seven-year-old.

The other day my first grader came home and told me that her class was going to vote for president and she had to decide how to vote. Our conversation went kind of like this:

So, who are you going to vote for?

“I think I’m going to vote for Hillary.” 


It was like I had asked the most difficult question ever.  After a moment, she responded,

“Because she is a girl.”

“Not a good reason. Too many people vote that way.  You need to know something about the person and what they stand for before you make a decision.”

“Oh, okay.”

Suddenly, our conversation was over and she went off to finish her homework.

The next day, when I got home from work, our conversation continued:

“Do you know who Gary Johnson is?

Yes, do you?

“Of course.  He is running for President with Hillary and Trump.  I think I will vote for him.”

“You think so? Why?”

“Dad, have you seen him?”

“Yes, but that is not a reason to vote for him.  Too many people do that already.  You have to look at more than skin color, whether they are male or female, or if they are cute or not.”

“So, how do I know who to vote for?”

“You have to research how they feel about the things you care about.  You are a Christian (her own decision), and do you believe what the Bible says?


“Okay.  So, as a Christian you should decide if the person you plan to vote for feels or believes the same way you do.  If you believe the same way they do about the important issues, then that is who you should vote for.  If they argue against what you believe then maybe you shouldn’t vote for them.  Let’s get the computer.”

So, we found a web-site that had a comparison of things each candidate said about different topics.  We went through the issues that she found an interest in.  The seven-year-old mind is a strange, but wonderful thing.  It is so full of questions, but has just enough knowledge to analyze some facts to form opinions.

We discussed babies and abortion; we discussed same-sex marriages; we discussed illegals; we discussed guns.  For some reason, she didn’t want to talk about corn subsidies, but we did spend about an hour and thirty minutes talking about the candidates and seeing if she agreed with any of their opinions. 

I reminded her that every candidate was not perfect and each in some way went against the American people.  I think that the most important thing that I told her was to use her knowledge of God and the things that the Bible tells us are right, and choose the candidate that feels the same way she did.

“Dad, none of these people make a good choice for president.”

“I know, honey, everyone has their own opinion of who to vote for and why it is the right thing to do.”

Her response was, “That’s hard, dad.  Who should I vote for?”

“I can’t tell you who to vote for.  That is the best part.  You get to make your own decision and no one has the right to tell you who you should vote for.   No one can tell you that you made the wrong decision.  Just remember, that God is still in-charge.”

She went to school and made her decision.  I didn’t ask the question I so badly wanted to know.


*** John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure.  Also, to be released very soon: Cody and the Great Zoo Escape, and Secret Lives (of Middle School Teachers).


Filed under John Stack, life, writing

If that was my child… by Arhonda Luman

I’d like to take that kid for a week. He would come home different.  If she would bust his rear end, he would not do that.  That is a horrible child and those are terrible parents!major-payne

Ever been guilty of saying or thinking those things about a child you saw out of control in Walmart or when you go out to eat? Maybe you’ve heard stories about the monster children at school who terrorizes other children. Did you blame the parents?  If so, shame on you and YES, shame on me because I admit to being guilty on all accounts.

While I will give credence to the fact that some children misbehave because they are not disciplined, I will also play the devils’ advocate and say, none of us are qualified to make judgements about other people’s children as to whether or not the child needs a spanking. The first reaction of seeing a child lying on the floor in the store, banging their heads on the concrete, screaming to the top of their lungs, not only makes people cringe, but it also sends a barrage of negative thoughts and emotions pulsing through their minds. I know this to be true. I have quickly exited stores and restaurants to get away from the chaos.

The shameful thing about this, is that I never considered the child had been reduced to that state because they were overwhelmed too.  I should hatempertantrumsve tuned in to a much larger problem than just a tantrum. Why would a child have that violent of a reaction to being told they could not have a toy or a candy bar?  There has never been a candy bar created that is good enough to injure oneself for.


Sometimes it is difficult to make a judgement call for your own child. When our babies are born, they do not come with an instruction booklet. If they did, each child would have to have their own because no two children are exactly the same.

\We are so proud and protective of them when they are born. How could anyone know, that our child would be broken when it was born? How could we even imagine they would be ostracized, made fun oppositional defiantof, banned from social events and yes, discarded by the very people who should be able to help? Rarely is the child praised for being wonderful or sweet. It is those intense moments they are remembered for.

I have experienced this within my own famiy. Well meaning people give me their advice on how to *fix* the problem. My parenting skills, or lack there of, are always being scrutinized. I have suffered through a constant barrage of posts on “Parenting done badly!” on social media and winced with every arrow that was shot in the form of an amen or a signature. I personally have been held accountable for the things they have done or not done and I’m almost ok with that. I totally get it! The first responsibility lies with me as a parent to find them help; however  there is so much more to it than that and help isn’t delivered under my pillow by the tooth fairy. Help and understanding is as illusive as a unicorn.  Most times help is achieved only, by blood sweat and tears.   There are those sweet moments though when someone actually *helps*.

As one who succumbs to being a drama queen to get a point across, I must ask this question, how many of you would spank a child to heal it from cancer?  spankingI daresay, none. With that being said, a spanking does not fix *broken* no matter the diagnosis.

If I may be presumptous for one more moment, I would like to encourage  you, the next time you see a mother who has a child in crisis, offer to help her open the door or push her basket of groceries or just smile at her and say something encouraging. She likely has little of that and her load is heavy. (and don’t be surprised if she wonders if there is an ulterior motive, I can assure you, she has not been offered support very many times by the people who are close much less strangers!.

I am enclosing information some of you might find enlightening and/or needful.






Filed under writing

When life overpowers Death by Arhonda Luman

When I was a child, I  found a little bird that had fallen, or was pushed, from its nest.  It’s skin was so thin and transparent, I could see its tiny heart pulse every time it beat. It’s miniscule eyelids were so thin, I could almost see through them. I walked gingerly into the house with it cradled in my hand. I was trying  to protect it. Being the natural born caregiver that I am, I told my mother I was going to save its life. My innocence had not allowed me to know, it was not always in my power to do that.baby bird

Life on the farm exposed me to many harsh realities, some of which, were lessons about the circle of life, specifically,  birth and death. I learned at an early age, that no matter how sincere I was, or how much I truly wanted something to live, even if I cried all day and night, sometimes the answer was no. . . .

For nearly nine months I had looked forward to my fourth grandchild. When my daughter went into labor, we were thrilled. He was nearly here. July 14, 1998, my grandson Mark, fought his way into this world.  Of course it was love at first sight and already my heart had wrapped its loving  arms tightly around him. Perhaps, I even loved him harder for that moment, because I knew it was possible, he might not stay with me. Life had taught me to give him all the love I could, in the time we had, because there is no promise of another minute for any of us. baby in incubator

As I helplessly watched his chest convulse, trying to gather enough oxygen to keep him alive, then quiver in an attempt to expel it.  I remembered the little bird. Their noses seemed to be cut from the same mold. They were sharp and long because  they were so gangly. His little lips did not look like they were big enough to accommodate a nipple. He was so tiny and frail, he looked like earth was just a place to visit but could never be his home.

I didn’t get to hold him. He was too weak and could not come out of the incubator. He needed a sterile environment.  One bad germ could be the difference in life and death for him. I promised him through teary eyes that when he got better, I would make up for lost time and hug and kiss him till he begged me to stop. Then, the helicopter took him away.  I ran to the whelicopterindow to watch the helicopter, carrying my precious cargo,  rise into the air and turn its nose to its destination.

That baby had a fighting spirit! He did the most courageous thing, he spent a couple of weeks in the neonatal unit at children’s hospital and decided to come home to us.

Sometimes, the answer is yes!

I’ll be telling a little more about his miraculous life in future posts! Watch for them!


Filed under life, musings, writing

The Waiting Game by John E. Stack

Back in January, I posted a writing about having to say goodbye to “Bill,” the baby boy who is now a toddler that we have in foster care.  Bill came into our lives when he was two months of age.  He was born at 26 weeks, was 12 inches long and weighed about one pound twelve ounces.  He was the smallest baby we had ever seen, much less taken care of. 

We knew that he was extremely attached to my wife and I and that placement was going to be difficult.  He had been in our family for around eighteen months and we were also very bonded to him.  Bonding is very important to a newborn.  If they don’t bond with a caregiver, then it will be almost impossible for them to bond with an adopted family.  So, the children we have in foster care are treated just like they are one of our own.

Now it is the middle of June.  Bill has now been with us for 23 months.  Every month when they were supposed to have the case heard by the judge, it was continued until the next month.  And continued, and continued.  Last month the courts shut down to close out the year and for vacations.  Now his court case is supposed to happen in July.  I can’t mention the particulars, but Bill will reside in our home until the court makes a decision.  This will be around six more months.

No one seems to think about the children who are put in this type of situation.  Not only do they lose contact with their birth families, but then they have to be separated from the people that have been their family since they left the hospital. 

Bill will not accept the change so easily.  If the courts cared about the welfare of the children, this mess would be resolved within about twelve to fifteen months.  Much after this, the baby will suffer trauma from separation and feelings of abandonment.  More than likely Bill will have to undergo therapy of some type to make it through the full transition.

People believe that babies do not remember things that happen because they are so young.  Not true.  We fostered a newborn baby girl for about 10 days until she was placed with her adopted parents.  We had received her at three days. Around a year later we were invited to her one-year birthday party.  Her mom got her up from her nap after we arrived and explained that she was starting to be afraid of strangers, so not to be disappointed if she started crying.  As soon as the baby heard my wife’s voice, she lifted her head and went straight to my wife.  She had remembered my wife’s voice a year after she left our home and she was only two weeks old at the time.  Yes, babies remember.

We’ve thought about adopting Bill, but we don’t believe that would be fair to him due to our ages – we are both in our sixties.  That would also mean we would need someone to take legal responsibility for him if something were to happen to us.

So, again we wait.  We wait on a court system that is not really concerned about the children as long as they are in a safe place. Our home is a safe place, but not a permanent safe place.  Also, to adopt Bill would mean that we would probably have to stop foster parenting, and we do not want to do that, yet.

I just wish that the court system would hire enough judges so that cases would not have to be continued multiple times. I wish they cared about other’s children like they care about their own.

Right now, I’m frustrated.  Frustrated at the system.  Bill has brought a lot of joy into our home.  He is funny and a lot smarter than most think.  Do I regret any of it? No, not in the least.  We fully believe that we are doing exactly what God wants us to do.

Have you ever considered being a foster parent or adopting?  I encourage you to check it out.  It is a tough job, but the blessings are uncountable.  Pray about it and take a step out in faith.

***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo and Olivia’s Sweet Adventure. Also, to be released sometime this summer: Cody and the Great Zoo Escape, and Secret Lives (of middle school teachers).  


Filed under John Stack, life, writing


I woke up this morning to a fine layer of snow blanketing our cars. Throughout the day, we saw occasional flurries. Yes, we live in Quebec, but seriously…it’s the 16th of May!

This led me to think about climate change, which then led me to think about changes in general (It’s funny how things snowball, isn’t it? – pun intended).

As my husband and I are in the throes of planning our 25th wedding anniversary celebration, I’ve recently had some opportunities to sift through some of the memorabilia which has accumulated over the years.

Trying to recall songs which were sung at our wedding reminded me of my brother who sang them, and who has since been lost to us. Remembering the planning of the event reminded me of my mother, who helped me, and who has also passed on. Remembering the building of our home reminded me of a father-in-law who took such an interest in the process, and has since passed away.

But, mostly it’s the pictures. All the pictures which chronicle our lives together also reflect the changes. Of course, there are the obvious physical changes – hair that’s a different color, body shapes which aren’t quite the same – but it’s the changes in the fabric of our lives which are the most significant. We have friends who have been with us since those early years, and there are new ones which we have acquired. Our extended families have expanded with the creation of little ones who are now creating little ones of their own.

Of course, our own children have had the biggest impact on our lives. From the moment they were born they became an integral part of our hearts and souls, our entire reason for being. The years have passed in a flash. They’ve gone from being precious little bundles to lovely young women. I thought about all the stages of their lives and how they affected us as parents. Our daughters shaped the way we lived our lives and firmly cemented our values.

Other changes are evident in our conversations with our contemporaries, which often include discussions of our health issues. Twenty-five years ago, we would have been talking about our social plans not our retirement plans.

While some may complain about the ‘negative’ changes in their lives, I remind myself that we’re lucky to have something to complain about, whether it be the climate, the aches and pains, or the gray hair. It’s not just a celebration of twenty-five years of marriage, but a celebration of twenty-five years of change, all of which brought us to where we are today.

From my point of view, I wouldn’t change a thing.


A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, a suspense thriller, published by Indigo Sea Press


Filed under writing

Mother’s Day by John E. Stack

I casually walked toward the front of the auditorium and took an end seat about four rows from the front.  I have been attending church here for around twenty years and it was not unusual for me to be there alone.  Suzanne will often stay home if we have a baby or if one of ours is sick. I don’t sit with friends, because I have a tendency to talk and misbehave. I’m well over fifty, but for some reason I find sitting for long periods of time quite troublesome.

Anyway, we had a sick little boy at home with a double ear infection and Suzanne refused to let me stay home and take care of him, so Allie and I took off to church to celebrate Mother’s Day. So, again, here I am singing during worship time and decided to look around the auditorium. I really wasn’t surprised by what I saw, even though slightly disappointed at some parts.

In many faces I saw joy.  Some people are naturally radiant when they sing.  Not me, I do try to smile when the words allow, but sometimes my mouth can’t do two things at once.  Anyway, joy in the eyes of adults who have the pleasure of being with their own elderly moms.  There was also joy in the eyes of the middle aged parents looking at their “little” girl celebrating her first Mother’s Day.  It was and is a beautiful sight to behold.  One couldn’t help but smile along with them.

Then there were eyes of sadness and remembrance where families had recently lost their beloved mom, or wife, or grandmother.  Eyes wishing that they could have spent one more Mother’s Day so they could tell “mom” how much she really meant.  To say the things they never got around to saying, because it just didn’t seem like the right time.

Then I spied a family, actually several, but I will single out this one.  In this family, there was a multitude of emotions going on.  The most obvious was the mom.  Her face said it all – “why did I even bother?”  There was anger, and self-pity. “I’m not happy” just screamed from the look in her eyes. I’m sure she thought, ”they will miss me when I’m gone.”

Beside her sat her disassociated husband.  The look on his face said “I know there is somewhere else I need to be.”  If he noticed his wife’s mood, he wasn’t letting on.  In his mind he must have been on a golf course or on the beach.

Then I saw the teenage daughter’s face.  The look of disgust, and anger.  She looked as if she could have called down fire to destroy her parents (mom) for making her come to church.  She was probably missing hanging with her friends and her mother forced her to be here.

I continued to glance around all through the twenty minutes of worship and no smiles were cracked, and no praise was sung.  It was sad, really sad.  My heart went out to each one of them.  Why? Because we have all been there.

Sure, the Bible says to honor your father and mother, but it also says fathers (parents) not to exasperate your children.  If your adult or semi-adult child doesn’t want to come to church, maybe they will settle for lunch.  If you force them, you will only build resentment and hatred.  Guilt doesn’t work either.  You can’t make your child want to be with you, no matter how much you love them.  

Kids, you really need to spend important times with your parents, times important to them.  If you come out of obligation, you miss the whole point.  You do things with parents, because you love them.  And, you want to spend time with them.

That love we all crave starts from the very beginning.  Showing our kids what we want with respect and love.  Kids also need discipline which is part of love.  If you try to put yourself in charge after your kids turn teens, it won’t work.  You have to be the parent from the beginning.  You can’t be your child’s best friend.  If so, all respect is lost.  Kids don’t listen to you when they do not respect you.

Wounds heal with time and sometimes when you think you have lost the battle, that prodigal child comes home.

I do miss my own mom.  She died several years ago, and there are always things we wish we would have said.  But, no regrets.  I look at my wife as she still mothers little ones and I can see the love she instills into each baby.  I see my own daughters.  Two of the three are married and the love they have for their little ones is the same love that their mom instilled in them.

I hope all the moms who read this will continue to love their children, have the patience their children need, and have forgiveness in their hearts for wayward children and disassociated husbands.  We need you.

Oh, speaking of love.  May is Foster Care Awareness Month.  I pulled some information off the Dropping Anchors Blog on Facebook and this is what I found:

*Over 415,000 children live in foster care in the US because of child abuse reports.

*Over 100,000 children in foster care are eligible for adoption, but one-third will wait over three years before being adopted.

*25% are infants.

*The average age of a child in foster care is 2 years old, and 50% are separated from their brothers and sisters.

*Over 23,000 teens will age out of the system without a family to call their own.

*Those kids that age out will normally experience homelessness, drug and alcohol dependence, sexual abuse and commit crimes.

Kids belong in families.  Families that care and love.  Fostering is not an easy job, as a matter of fact, it is one of the hardest, most difficult jobs I’ve ever done, besides parenting.  A lot of people say “I just couldn’t let them go.”  More often than not, you don’t need to. Others say, “I would love them too much.” Don’t you wish that sometimes someone would love you too much?

 Look into foster care.  You could change the life of a child, not to mention your own, forever.


***John E. Stack is the author of Cody’s Almost Trip to the Zoo, Cody’s Rescue Adventure at the Zoo, Olivia’s Sweet Adventure and the soon to be released Cody and the Great Zoo Escape.


Filed under John Stack, life, musings, writing

A Mother’s Magic by Sherrie Hansen

Have you ever noticed that in many novels, the mothers of the main characters are conveniently vacationing in some remote spot on the other side of the globe, or even dead? Having grown up in a family where my mother and grandmothers, even my aunts and cousins, were involved in almost every aspect of my life, I have a hard time relating to a world without a mother’s magic.

Gloria Grandma

When I was 9 years old, I joined 4-H and got sent to Aunt Shirley’s house (my dad’s sister, who is married to my mom’s brother) to learn how to sew. I remember getting into arguments with my mother when she told me a seam was crooked and had to be ripped out. When Aunt Shirley told me something needed to be redone, I very meekly said, “Okay,” and did it over until I got it right. From that time on, I made most of my own clothes.


Going to Dorothy’s Fabric Store in downtown Austin, Minnesota to pick out fabric and notions was an adventure that was shared with the extended family, too. The first thing Mom did when we found a time when we could go to town – preferably without my little sisters and brothers – was to call my grandmas and aunts and invite them to meet us at the fabric store. I can still remember them crowding around me, holding this and that bolt of fabric close to my face, giving their opinions on what color looked best on me and reminding me that vertical stripes were the most flattering to my figure. Which fabric would work well with the pattern we had selected and what kind of cloth would hang right and stand up well under repeated washings were important considerations, too. Dry-clean-only fabric wasn’t even considered because of the extra cost of upkeep. Anything on the clearance rack was given double consideration. Their favorite materials were the rainbow selection of polyester double knits, considered a modern miracle of inventions because the seams didn’t ravel, it didn’t have to be ironed, and it was practically indestructible. When the fun part came – deciding which buttons would accent the fabric to its best advantage and what kind of zipper was easiest to put in – options were discussed at length, a truly matriarchal affair.

Grandma Victoria and Auntie Lu

Perhaps the fact that my mom, grandmas, and aunts were so involved in my life would have driven some teenagers to madness, but it made me feel surrounded by love, special, and deeply cared for. To this day, I have trouble making decisions by myself and almost always call my mom or dad to see what they think I should do before making a major purchase. I still think about calling my grandmas for advice when I’m stumped even though they’ve been gone for over a decade. I’m blessed to have both parents living and hope it stays that way for a good long time.

Blog - KY - Mom and Dad

As for writers who leave mothers out of their fictional equations and plotlines, I would say that they’re missing out on some of the best fodder for character development – and yes, conflict – there is. Mothers and daughters have a very unique relationship. They love, they adore, they disagree, they despise. The imprint our mothers make on us, good or bad, affects us more deeply than anything else in life. And what is more endearing and heroic than a son who loves and respects his mother? Mothers know their children inside and out. They meddle. They make us laugh – they break our hearts. Mothers are our biggest cheerleaders and our worst critics. They’re not afraid to say what they think, and they sometimes don’t approve of the choices we make. And they show us the true meaning of love, over and over and over again.


In Sweet William, Lyndsie’s mother (Kelly, who you’ll remember from Wild Rose), and her Aunt Rose, are very influential figures who chide, defend, and lend a listening ear. William’s mother, who is convinced Lyndsie made everyone at their family gathering sick when she served them her homemade smoked haddock pies, takes an instant dislike to the lass her son is in love with, putting William in a very awkward position. To see how it all ends, you’ll have to read the book.

Sweet William

Mothers really do make the world go round. Without them, nothing would be as it is – we wouldn’t exist. A mother’s magical presence, woven into the plotline of a novel, may not be as high intrigue or titillating as  murder and mayhem, but it can tear at the soul and tickle the heartstrings like no other relationship.

Grace Corner - Bleeding hearts 2

If you sometimes take your mother for granted, be sure to give her a hug and tell her how much you love her this Mother’s Day.  Next time you read a book, think about how much impact a mother has on what’s happening between the main characters. There are fictional mothers we love, and those we hate, and those we feel lukewarm about, but whatever their make-up, they’re one of the – maybe the most – pivotal, primal component in our lives.

Cherish your mom, today and always.



Almost twenty-five years ago, Sherrie Hansen rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, and Shy Violet, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels. Watch for Sweet William coming soon! You can see what’s she’s up to at: 








Filed under Sherrie Hansen

Erin go bragh

On this eve of St. Patrick’s Day, many of our family, friends and acquaintances, whether of Irish descent or not, are thinking about how they will commemorate the occasion. The best part about St. Patrick`s Day is that everyone is welcome, no matter who you are or where you came from.

Here, north of Quebec City, we have a great little contingent of Irish descendants, most particularly in a little town aptly named Shannon. This past weekend I attended the 50th anniversary edition of the Shannon Irish Show, a show I’ve enjoyed all of my life. The enormous homegrown talent of residents, past and present, was once again on display.

Irish show pins

It amazes me how there can be so many talented people born and raised in such a small community.  Whether they’re singers, musicians, or dancers – or any combination of the above – they’re clearly blessed. And those of us with no musical talent in the least are blessed to be able to watch and enjoy their performances.

Having married into an Irish family from Shannon, most of my in-laws were up on stage or working behind the scenes to help bring the show to life. This year, I was particularly proud of my 85-year-old mother-in-law, center stage, returning to join a group of singers with whom she had been active over much of the 50 year history of the show. Her three daughters were on stage with her along with a dozen or so other singers and musicians. In other acts, I had a niece who sang beautifully, others who danced, a nephew doing a skit, and some cousins who had the audience on their feet, cheering and clapping. What a wonderful heritage!

The next day, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s recent birthday with another party, which of course included more Irish singing, and appropriately enough, the first song was entitled ‘At McCarthy’s Party’, a big favorite.

I haven’t been to Ireland yet (notice the ‘yet’), but I know that the Irish are warm and welcoming people with a talent and a love for music. How do I know this? Because I see proof of it so often in my everyday life. The traditions and the love of their heritage continues to be passed down through the generations.


So, on that note…May the road rise to meet you, and a Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all.


A.J. McCarthy is the author of Betrayal, published by Indigo Sea Press.


Filed under writing