I didn’t do much crocheting over the holidays, but realized I was missing it. Having a crochet hook in my hand while I watch TV in the evening allows me to still do something creative and constructive with my time. Further inspiration was provided when I flipped through the pages of a book of patterns I received as a Christmas gift. It was time to get back into the rhythm of the hook.
I found a cute pattern for a child’s hat which could be sized for a baby or a larger child. Below are the coordinating hats I made for my two granddaughters.
These were quick and easy to make, and a good project to get me started again. Plus, my two-year-old granddaughter’s excitement when she saw me working on them was beyond gratifying. (Though I am not sure if she was excited about the hats, or just wanted to play with the soft, squishy balls of yarn.)
Either way, it was a fun project to do. And who knows, perhaps someday I will pass this skill on to the girls. I firmly believe my central role as a grandparent is to love and support my granddaughters. Any additional skills I can pass along will be an additional bonus. If my husband can pass along some basic woodworking skills and I can pass along a craft or two, it will be time well spent for all of us.
Looking at this old house reminds me of a farmhouse I looked at recently while searching for a home to purchase. The house I visited was built in 1843. I am guessing it was one of the first wave of “nice” houses people built after they were ready for something better than the log cabins they quickly constructed when they first settled in the area. Whoever built the farm house clearly intended it to last, which it did.
Given its 175-year-history, I can only imagine the changes that house saw. What stories it could tell, if the walls could talk! It saw more people come to the area and build a village nearby. It saw soldiers marching bravely off to the Civil War, and the altered survivors limping home. It saw soldiers marching off to other wars. It saw people dancing through the prosperity of the Roaring 20’s. It saw other boom times and busts.
Ironically, it did not see much change to its own walls. When the house was built, people generally did not heat the upstairs of farmhouses – and that was never changed. There were no heat registers in the upstairs when I walked through the house. However, this simple farmhouse was built with closets in the bedrooms, which would not have been common when it was built. Even more surprising is that the original closets are still there – including the hooks to hang up the few clothes the family would have had. Unfortunately, the closets are too small to inside to retrofit for the hangers we use today.
While the structure did not change much, this house still saw many other changes within its walls. The children who first ran down the back stairs to the kitchen each morning grew up, and most of them moved away. Babies were born here, and some of them probably died here. Birthdays and weddings were celebrated. Deaths were mourned. The house could track the seasons by the never-ending farm work being discussed around the kitchen table each day.
Through everything, the house sheltered its occupants within its walls. It kept them dry and warm. While it could not do anything to stop hard times when they came, it continued to protect its people the best it could. Though the house I toured was not the right house for me, I hope new owners will respect its proud history and help the house stand strong for another 175 years. I am sure the house has many more stories it would like to tell, if its walls could talk.
Happy 2019, everyone. Turning over the calendar to a new year tends to make me feel reflective. Now that the holiday hoopla has settled, and I have recovered my from first New Year’s Eve in an urban setting (more on that later), I have been thinking about my goals for this upcoming year.
I jotted down a list of goals earlier today. When I stepped back and looked at it, I realized most of them were related to my writing career. (I also had the obligatory ones to exercise more and lose that stubborn ten pounds, but since I have those goals every year, I’m not sure they count anymore.) The goals which resonated the most for me all could be loosely grouped into one category: getting more serious about my writing. Our interstate move last fall derailed me for much longer than I anticipated, and it is past time to resume a regular writing routine.
So, not surprisingly, re-establishing the routine of writing for several hours each morning was one of the goals on the list. Another key goal was to get back to a serious hunt for an agent. I have done this in fits and starts over the years, but I haven’t looked to any degree for months because I was wanted to first finish a new story to submit. It’s time. Another goal I should add to the list is to review and refresh my social media strategy. Again, it’s time.
All of this should keep me busy in the coming months. I better get some good sleep each night!
Which leads me back to my funny story about New Year’s Eve. Let me remind you, before this year I always lived in the country. While old neighbors would occasionally get a little noisy celebrating holidays, they were usually far enough away that I didn’t really notice with the windows closed. So imagine my shock this past New Year’s Eve when I was woken up shortly after midnight (no, I didn’t even try to stay up) by the rat-a-tat-tat of what I thought was sustained gunfire! It sounded as though there was a old Western gunfight occurring just down the street! Luckily, after a few seconds of panic , I remembered it was New Year’s Eve. Someone in the dense cluster of houses on our street apparently rang in the new year with firecrackers. What a relief to figure that out!
I hope your New Year’s Eve was fun and maybe even exciting, but with no unexpected noises to startle you. And I hope 2019 will be good to you. Do you, like me, get reflective with a fresh year ahead of us? What are your wishes and dreams and goals for the coming year?
As I sit here nibbling some amazing dairy fudge from the cheese factory near my mom’s house, I can’t help thinking about the varied ways Someone uses to give us a nudge. In my case, most appropriately, via books.
To set the stage: It has been hard for me to get into a consistent writing routine in the months since we moved. I have had fits and spurts, but recently, those spurts were less and less common. Then, a few weeks ago, I read a book which blazed like the proverbial light bulb in my mind.
The book in question was a memoir, called Make Something Good Today, by Erin (@ErinRNapier) & Ben (@ScotsmanCo)Napier. They are a lovely young couple from Mississippi who now have a series on HGTV, called Home Town, which showcases their efforts to restore the old homes in their small home town. In the memoir, Erin said she has kept an online journal for years in which she describes positive incidents in their lives. This online journal was what caused them to be “discovered” by HGTV.
After reading this, I immediately remembered reading something similar in The Magnolia Story, a memoir written not too long ago by Joanna (@JoannaGaines) & Chip (@ChipGaines) Gaines. Joanna’s consistent blogging about the houses they renovated eventually led to them becoming HGTV sensations and to the huge success they are enjoying now in many arenas.
When I read Chip & Jo’s story, I was struck by how simple acts performed diligently (as well as paying attention to spiritual nudges), could generate such enormous professional dividends. I thought at the time there was a lesson in this for me as well, but over the succeeding months, I let the lesson slip away. Then, when I read Erin & Ben’s story, the same message hit me again – even stronger this time because it wasn’t the first time I was hearing it. Here was another example of nice people who worked hard at something they loved and saw it pay off for them in ways they never imagined.
So now, I am determined to remember and apply this lesson for myself. I am convinced now more than ever Someone has been trying to tell me that if I keep at my writing and do something each day to move my writing career forward, then I will also see success. So that is what I plan to do in the coming year. There will no doubt be additional celestial nudges to keep me going in the right direction, and I will endeavor to listen to them as well.
Which leads me back to where I started this blog. You may be wondering, what does this all have to do with dairy fudge? Well, nothing, actually. Although, perhaps I could use the fudge as another example of how a simple act, done daily, can turn into something good. Really, really good.
Merry Christmas! Since so many people are busy with last-minute activities in this last week before Christmas, I thought these fun riddles might ease holiday-induced stress. I hope these make you smile, and perhaps you can share them with a young child to keep him/her distracted for a few precious minutes! There are 12 riddles, one for each of the 12 days of Christmas.
Riddle: What's red and white and black all over?
Answer: Santa Claus after he slid down the chimney
Riddle: When does Christmas come before Thanksgiving?
Answer: In the dictionary
Riddle: What do elves learn in school?
Answer: The elf-abet
Riddle: What do you get if you team Santa with a detective?
Answer: Santa Clues
Riddle: What do you call a snowman in the summer?
Riddle: What do Spanish speaking sheep say at Christmas time?
Answer: Fleece Navidad
Riddle: Where does a snowman keep his money?
Answer: In a snow bank
Riddle: What's at the end of Christmas?
Answer: The letter S
Riddle: What do you get if you cross Santa Claus with a duck?
Answer: A Christmas quacker
Riddle: Who delivers Christmas presents to dogs?
Answer: Santa Paws
Riddle: Why did the Christmas cookie go to the doctor?
Answer: It was feeling crummy
Riddle: What goes OH, OH, OH?
Answer: Santa walking backwards
Merry Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful holiday, filled with the joy and blessings of the season.
As we decorated our Christmas tree the other day, I hung an ornament which is an engraved metal tube. Inside the tube is a small roll of paper printed with the text of the famous editorial response to a young girl’s question in 1897. I have always had a fondness for this historical editorial, known ever after as “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”
For those of you who might not recall the story, let me provide a brief recap. In the fall of 1897, a young girl, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, was having an argument with some school friends about Santa Claus. Her friends’ claims that he did not exist worried her so much, she decided to write a letter to The Sun, a now-defunct newspaper in New York. One of the editorial writers for the paper, Francis Church, wrote a heart-felt response to Virginia, which was so popular, it became the most reprinted editorial ever. Here is a reprint of Virginia’s letter and the editor’s response:
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, VIRGINIA, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance, to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not; but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
"The most real things in the world are those that
You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, VIRGINIA, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
[From The Sun, September 21, 1897]
I hope reading this has helped you discover a child’s faith and joy this Christmas season.
I was wrapping some gifts earlier this week (no, I am normally not that organized, but I had a reason) and it made me start wondering about wrapping paper, and when we started using it. A quick internet search for the answer to that question produced an unexpected confluence with Christmas fun, romance writers, and relaxing movies.
I can almost see some of you scratching your heads.
Let me explain.
First, some interesting background on wrapping paper. As it turns out, wrapping gifts started in ancient Asia. However, it didn’t really catch on in the West until the latter half of the 1800s, after Christmas cards became popular. The Victorian gift paper was very thick and elaborate, often decorated with ribbons and lace, and quite expensive to buy. In the early 20th century, people began replacing this thick paper with red, green or white tissue paper, which provided a more cost-effective option for a wider range of people to use.
How did we get from there to where we are now? In 1917, a stationery store in Kansas City ran out of tissue paper to sell to their customers. Not wanting to miss out on potential sales, they brought in some lengths of decorated French paper they normally used to line envelopes in their card factory. They sold out of this as well, and sold even more the next Christmas.
So in 1919, the Hall brothers decided to produce and sell their own decorative wrapping paper. Yes those Hall brothers, as in the founders of Hallmark. In that moment, a huge industry was born.
And that confluence I mentioned earlier? Well, when not pondering wrapping paper, I have also been noticing lately that a growing number of my favorite romance authors are having their books turned into movies or TV series. I think that is wonderful! It is a good thing for them, for the romance industry, and for the TV viewers. Like many others, I enjoy taking a break from holiday business by watching a sweet Christmas movie in the evening. The experience is even better when it is based on a book I have read – extra points if it is an author I have met.
I think one could say that Hallmark is a major reason for the large variety of Christmas movies available on TV channels now. So from a personal standpoint, I am glad the Hall brothers ran out of issue paper 100-plus years ago. More and more, I prefer sweet movies with a HEA and a minimum of grimness to slog through. If the Hall brothers and their successors hadn’t become so successful and creating and selling cards and paper, they would not have been able to start a TV channel, and many of the shows and movies I watch might never have been born. And some great authors might not have seen their stories come to life on film. That’s what I call a win for everyone.
Now that I think about it, who says I have to wait for nighttime to watch a movie? The heavy snow falling outside my window right now has put me in the mood to curl up on the couch. Perhaps I’ll pop some popcorn and watch a fun, romantic Christmas movie. Care to join me?
In 1863, President Lincoln issued a proclamation establishing the fourth Thursday of November as an official national day of Thanksgiving. While there had been sporadic national and state occurrences of such days since George Washington proposed the first one, it was not yearly event and there was no agreed-upon day. Thankfully, President Lincoln heeded a letter written to him by Sarah Joseph Hale, a female magazine editor, urging him to establish a day of Thanksgiving as a means to help unify the nation. He established the holiday. While not all states celebrated the holiday during the war, it eventually became a day on which every state in the nation paused to express gratitude for the many blessings received.
I have included some of the text from President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation below. Even though the Civil War was raging on at the time, these words in 1863 helped the suffering citizens to recognize that all of the many freedoms and bounty and opportunity provided in our country were still something for which to be profoundly grateful. While not perfect, they knew this exceptional country was worth the hardship they endured to reach it and to preserve it.
I believe President Lincoln’s words from 155 years ago still have meaning today. Has this been an easy year for all of us? Of course not. But it could be so much worse – and was in our nation’s past. Perhaps the words below will encourage us to pause and reflect on the many good things we do have.
By the President of the United States
The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God….
No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American people. I do, therefore, invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens. And I recommend to them that, while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners, or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.
This coming Sunday is a milestone. It is not just Veterans’ Day, but is also the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.
Being perennially curious about all things historical, I started doing some research about the war. I was lucky to stumble across the website for the “United States World War One Centennial Commission” (https://www.worldwar1centennial.org/index.php). This organization has gathered information about anniversary commemorations around the country, but also has pages and pages of interesting background information about the war and its aftermath.
This was a war of many firsts. Many of these "firsts" had a huge impact on our country. You can find many sources describing the military and technological advances (wrist watch, anyone?) which occurred during the war. WWI also produced cultural firsts, including societal groups who were involved in a war for the first time. The U.S. “Doughboys” fighting overseas were a much more diverse group than in previous wars. Immigrants served next to blue bloods. Native Americans served next to the sons of settlers. Grandsons of Civil War soldiers served next to grandsons of slaves. ( Interestingly, one thing didn’t change. The average WWI soldier was about the same size – 5 feet 7 ½ inches and 141.5 pounds – as one of those Civil War soldiers, but a little shorter and lighter than a WWII soldier would be.) The additional details provided about the various segments of soldiers are worth a read.
In addition, while men have always served in times of war, this was the first U.S. war in which women served. According to the organization’s website, the new Army Nurse Corps counted 20,000 women in its ranks. This included 10,000 female nurses who served overseas caring for 200,000 wounded U.S. soldiers. Since many of the nurses were positioned near the front lines, they experienced artillery and gas attacks right along with the soldiers. When the influenza epidemic raged through Europe, 200 of these nurses died caring for sick soldiers.
Women served in other groups for the first time, too. The Army Signal Corps had about 400 women known as “Hello Girls” serving in France as telephone operators. The Navy had a tough time competing with the Army for the people they needed, so they recruited 11,000 women known as “Yeomanettes” to work in a variety of support roles. Not just clerical staff, these women also worked as electricians, mechanics, drivers, etc. The Marine Corps and Coast Guard recruited women to serve as well.
These numbers do not include the thousands of women who volunteered in other ways, such as for the Red Cross or the Salvation Army. And of course, with a large portion of the male population gone, many women backfilled their jobs on the home front.
Most of these women were expected to return to their “normal” life after the war. It must have been difficult for some of them. (There was a popular song to this effect right after WWI called “How Ya Gonna Keep’em Down on the Farm After They’ve Seen Paree?” which was surely directed at the returning soldiers, but must have resonated with the women as well.) However, their war service did have one unexpected benefit. It helped convince President Woodrow Wilson and other men in the US that these women who contributed so much during the war deserved the right to vote, thus setting up the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Yet another “first” resulting in part from WWI.
So I hope each one of us takes a little time on Sunday to reflect on the day’s meaning. It is always good to honor our military heroes on Veteran’s Day. As a first this year, perhaps we can also remember the day’s importance 100 years ago and the effect WWI had on our grandparents and great-grandparents.
As many of my regular readers know, I periodically like to include a blog based on the theme “If These Walls Could Talk.” Usually, it is an interesting picture of an actual house a person has actually lived in at some point. This time, I am featuring something different. I stumbled across a fun picture of a “house” covered in pumpkins, squash and gourds.
After some research, I discovered this is a picture of a structure at the Dallas Arboretum. Each fall, they host a festival called “Autumn at the Arboretum” with a different theme each year.
If I am ever in the Dallas area in the fall, I definitely want to check this out. From the pictures on the arboretum’s website, (http://www.dallasarboretum.org/visit/seasonal-festivals-events/autumn-at-the-arboretum) it looks as though they do an amazing job creating a spectacular setting for guests to walk through and enjoy. The display includes 150,000 plants and 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash.
Which gets me back to the photo. How cool would it be to have a building made of pumpkins and other assorted squash relatives? And how does one go about building such a structure, anyway? If these walls could talk, imagine the stories they could tell about the sweating, straining people trying to put all of the shells into place! Plus, can you imagine the conversations they might hold amongst themselves when no humans are around? Do they discuss the people they saw? Are there cliques or quarrels? Will the pumpkins even talk to the lowly squash? Do they both shun the gourds? The mind boggles!
If you live near Dallas or will be in the area, this sounds like a great place to spend a pleasant fall afternoon. The festival runs from September 22 – November 21 this year, and the theme is “The Adventures in Neverland.” There are several stops along the winding path where visitors can see recreations of locations featured in Peter Pan.
While you are there, try to guess what the fruit would be saying, If These Walls Could Talk.
I write historical romances, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.