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Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Perfect Christmas or How to Deal With Holiday Stress

Doesn't that look like a perfect Christmas? I took that photo the Christmas after my mother died, which was a sad time. Unhappy and tragic things happen all year long, but during the holidays when we are all supposed to be jolly, grief can be especially painful.

I know part of the problem is stress. There's just too much to do this time of year and everyone feels compelled to jump in and get it all done. In addition to the usual tasks, there's decorating, purchasing gifts, extra parties to attend, and family gatherings that often create tension. Everyone strives to keep up but trying to do too much at one time is not healthy.

Over the years, I've learned to cut back. We really don't have to use the fancy dishes. We don't need to serve three desserts and five side dishes. We don't have to throw a grand party for all our friends.

Then there's the worrying. Hey folks, you are not supposed to worry. It won't change a thing. Jesus said so.
He said to [his] disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life and what you will eat, or about your body and what you will wear. For life is more than food and the body more than clothing. Notice the ravens: they do not sow or reap; they have neither storehouse nor barn, yet God feeds them. How much more important are you than birds! Can any of you by worrying add a moment to your life-span? If even the smallest things are beyond your control, why are you anxious about the rest?" (Luke 12:22-26 NAB)
So stop worrying. Or at least, make a conscious attempt to do so.

This year on the day before Thanksgiving a wave of anxiety swept over me. I expected it. One very tragic memory often throws me off at some point during this season. My brother was in the Air Force when his plane crashed in 1973 right before Christmas. Each year since then, there will be a time when a pall settles on my heart. But I've learned how to get over it. Distraction can be a good thing. That day, I got out an old cookbook and baked two lovely loaves of bread. Simply the aroma of that bread rising in the oven was enough to lift my mood.

The next day, after I put the turkey in the oven, I got a call that my mother-in-law was being shipped off to the hospital with a suspected case of shingles. Hubby picked up our daughter at the train station and then they both went off to check in on his mother in the ER.

I stayed home, basted the turkey, sliced my beautiful bread (also ate some), and prepared the feast. My mother-in-law was settled into a hospital room and received excellent care. Hubby and our daughter came home in time to eat the dinner. Our other daughters and their spouses joined us and we had a pleasant time chatting. Everything worked out just fine.

If you're having a difficult time dealing with holiday stress, even the Mayo Clinic has advice for you. Read it at

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Mystery for Christmas

My guest today is Anita Klumpers. Her latest book is part of Pelican Book Group's Christmas Extravaganza. You won't want to miss this holiday mystery. It will be on sale on Saturday, December 1, 2018. 

Dinah loves Christmas. She loves history, the old Wagner House, and the elderly women working to preserve its heritage. She loves almost everything except Mick Wagner, her childhood nemesis. 

But if they want to save the Wagner House and solve a mystery that's been hiding in the attic for almost eighty years, they'll have to join forces. And they have to do it quickly, before one of them dies trying.

Anita Klumpers is Midwest born and bred, except for a brief and exhilarating few years in Denver when she was small. She received a teaching degree sometime in the previous millennium and used it mostly to homeschool her three sons. These days Anita chases her grandchildren around, waving books at them and suggesting everyone cuddle up for a good story. 
            Good stories are her passion, especially if they are well-written, have a dose of humor, just a tickle of romance, and a decidedly non-gory mystery. On the other hand, she lists “Frankenstein” and “Fahrenheit 451” as two of her favorite books. Go figure.
            Creating skits was Anita’s first foray into writing. Always up for a challenge and a reason to postpone defrosting the freezer, she tried her hand at a full-length novel. It only took five years, but she did it!
            Daily (honestly) she marvels at how much she loves coffee and her husband; her family, friends and church. Even more, she is astonished at how much she is loved by her Lord and Savior. 
            Her blog is “The Tuesday Prude” ( and she’s had two books published by Pelican/Prism Books (“Winter Watch” and “Hounded.”)
“Christmas Passed” is due December 2018 and “Buttonholed” is contracted with Pelican/Prism Books.

Link to Christmas Passed


Barnes and Noble:

Thursday, November 15, 2018

What Happened to Calm Political Discussions?

I called my uncle the other day--my last remaining uncle. In the photo above, he's the baby. My father is holding him on the back of the bicycle. My uncle misses my father--as do I. My uncle was bemoaning the fact that there are no calm political discussions anymore. My father was a Democrat. My uncle used to be a Democrat but is now a Republican. Nevertheless, he and my father could have a discussion when it came to politics. Since they were both brought up in Jersey City, politics was an important part of any conversation. Yet, even though they were on opposing sides, they never got mad at each other. They never yelled. They listened to each other and presented their views. There was no acrimony.

It is sad that our country has become so divided. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I'd pass around an article I found that might help some families deal with their differences. A political discussion can be calm if both parties abide by the rules of civility. Please read for more information.

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Defending the First Amendment

We live in a free country. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees Americans freedoms that many other countries do not have. Here, people can worship as they choose. They can speak freely. The government does not run the news sources. Americans are allowed to protest unjust laws.

We are very, very fortunate. However, it is important never to allow our freedoms to be cast off or to take them for granted. I learned early about the freedom of the press, because my father was a journalist. Dad spent his entire career in journalism except for a stint in the Air Force during World War II. By the time I learned to read I was aware of the dangers of liable and slander. I heard stories first hand of the drama of stopping the presses. I was aware of deadlines and the importance of punctuation. I visited the newspaper offices where my father worked and learned a great deal about putting a newspaper together. I had respect for the work my father and his colleagues did every day in getting the news out into the world.

The world has changed considerably since my father retired. Newspapers have lost circulation and many have gone under. Yet, we get the news faster than ever before. The news is available from many sources now--from the internet, from television, from Twitter, from self-proclaimed "experts" on blogs.

Often, the news is slanted toward one view or another. It is difficult to know who to trust. A graph is available online indicating the bias of the various news media outlets HERE. 

I am grateful that there is a free flow of information. Coaches cannot get away with mistreating the members of their teams. Policemen cannot get away with undue brutality. Priests cannot abuse young children.

New windows are open to the truth.

Below are some photos taken of my father in action back in the heyday of his journalism career. You can see him wielding his soft-leaded pencil while juggling a paper pad during interviews. Years later, tiny tape recorders replaced the pencil and pad, outdating the axiom: the pen is mightier than the sword.

Ray and a colleague from a rival paper at work in a room with bars on the window. It probably was in a police station.
Newsmen and a woman scribe from several metropolitan papers, including Ray on the left, take notes as the center of attention responds to questions on a now long forgotten subject.
Chief of detectives and uniformed officers protect back of unidentified man in crowd of unlookers and reporters. With the cops there, the gathering probably had something to do with unrest on the Hoboken waterfront.
Ray outside a police stable while researching a feature on mounted policemen.

In the Fifties, no respectful white collar worker would show up for work without a tie, ironed shirt, and a jacket. Ray was no different, as shown here.

Ray waiting on the deck of an ocean liner to interview some celebrity or newsmaker. Since the Holland-America Line docked in Hoboken, part of his job was to board the ships from overseas and talk to passengers chosen by the news editor.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Into the Zone

The moon slips out of the clouds as easily as I get into the zone, or as some people call it, the flow state. I credit my mother with showing me how it's done by her example. As an artist, she was able to ignore distractions, focus on her work, and had confidence in her ability.

I paint and draw as well. I'm not afraid to put a pencil to the paper. I can study an image and work until I'm happy with my own depiction of a scene. If it's not to my liking, I can fix it. Or start over. But while I'm busy with my task, I am completely absorbed in it. It's a nice way to forget all the other clutter in my brain.

The same process occurs when I'm writing. I sit in my favorite chair, tune out the rest of the world, and type out the story in my head. I know it won't be perfect the first time around, but I have faith that eventually the plot will unfold and my characters will succeed in their happy ever after. Of course, it helps that I've done this a number of times. But way back in the summer of 1987 when I was determined to write the book that kept whirling around in my brain, I sat down at the dining room table with my old manual typewriter and zoned out until I had a stack of papers and a finished story.

Nowadays, typing is a lot quieter with the computer, but my process for writing is basically the same. Although, I sit in a comfy chair and not at the dining room table.

If I'm working on a more challenging crochet pattern, I find I slip into the zone, too. Keeping track of where I am and counting my stitches takes concentration!

I feel sorry for people who can't slip into the flow state, because it's a nice place to be. I know many folks get into the zone when they're involved in athletic pursuits such as running. Hubby gets into his zone with music. I found a blog with a whole list of possible activities that may contribute to this rewarding mental state. You can find that blog at

I suggest you give it a try. It's worth it. 😀

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Putting Our Hearts Into Our Books

That’s Carol Lee Mahler on the left. This was her first booksigning at the NJ Romance Writers’ Conference. She’s been a member of NJRW for many years, so this was an especially sweet conference for her because she was selling copies of her first published book. I bought one. 😀

I’m on the right, looking like a general with several pins from past conferences decorating my badge. I attended excellent workshops and listened to inspiring speeches by Virginia Kantra and Jane Porter. But I also had the opportunity to chat with several writing friends.

Writing is a very solitary task, but a writer doesn't have to suffer a lonely existence. Being part of a group of writers helps--a lot. As authors, we put our hearts into every book we write. We care about the characters we put in our books. We want them to have their happy ever after and we just can't be satisfied until they do.

And then we send our book children out into the world! 😘

At lunch, I won one of the raffle baskets. This one was put together by Judy Kentrus. In addition to her book, Tea in Time, the basket contained a lovely little teapot, a few varieties of tea, biscuits, shortbread, and Ghirardelli chocolate. Delicious!

I can't wait until the next conference!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Another good place to sketch...

I found the Social Security office to be a great place to sketch. Once, many years ago, I sat there with one of my daughters for three hours. I had brought a book along, but I doubted I would get a chance to read it--and I didn't. There were too many other distractions in the waiting room. It was fortunate I brought along my sketch book. The Social Security waiting room was just as good as the beach for sketching--nobody moved much at all.

My daughter and I chatted with a veteran who was trying to get disability payments so he could go to school. He needed a pen to fill out a form and he could not find a pen in the waiting room--so I gave him one I had gotten from one of my writer friends and I told him to keep it, but he didn't. So I really did not get the chance to advertise another romance writer. Still, it was interesting to hear someone else's life story. I can always use another character in one of my books.

Perhaps the Social Security office isn't as slow as it once was. Nowadays, people have the opportunity to complete many transactions online. Still, that day I had good company, interesting conversation, and some practice in quick sketches. It was a good day. 😊