Sunday, December 31, 2023

More to Come... by Lee Ann Murphy


As the winter dusk creeps across the sky and shadows begin to fill the 
yard, I see the reflections of the Christmas tree lights in the window and so I find myself pondering on the year just past. Like all years, it was, as Charles Dickens once wrote, the best of times and the worst of times. 2023 was a time of transition and change. Although I resist change, I have learned that life is an ongoing process and that whether or not I like it, change is a part of that.
           Just as the seasons change around us or as the weather shifts from sunny skies to storm clouds, nothing remains unchanged. Once the holiday decorations get packed away and life moves back toward

normalcy, I think of the New Year as a clean page and uncharted territory. A new year offers opportunities and many people often make resolutions for change.

I seldom make New Years resolutions but I sometimes set goals and make plans although I have learned that even the best-laid plans can go awry. Another thing that I have learned is that I never know what an incoming year might bring or what may happen.

            Tomorrow, my children, all grown, will gather with me to enjoy pork, a traditional dish for prosperity, black-eyed peas seasoned Southern style with bacon and onions, other side dishes, and cake. Some years I bake a confection from scratch, an old-fashioned cherry layer cake. It’s often used as a Christmas cake but since my later mother celebrated her birthday each December 25th, we often had a birthday cake with red and green decorations. Her grandparents started the tradition when she was a child, to make sure her birthday wasn’t lost in the holiday magic. I’ve often baked the cake for New Year’s Day and plan to again this year.


            For those who might want to try a vintage dessert, here’s the recipe:


Cake:

2 cups white sugar

½ cup vegetable shortening

2 eggs

3 ½ cups flour

1 teaspoon nutmeg or cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup milk

1 can dark sweet, pitted cherries (not pie filling) 

Instructions:

Cream sugar with shortening, then add eggs and blend well.

Sift together flour, spice, and baking powder, add into creamed mixture alternately with milk.

Fold in the dark, sweet, pitted cherries but reserve the juice for the icing.

Blend well and spread in two prepared 8-inch cake pans and bake at 350 for 45 minutes.

While cake is baking, prepare icing with 1 cup shortening, two cups powdered sugar, a dash of salt, a teaspoon of vanilla and the reserved cherry juice.

Frost when cool, stacking layers on top of each other.

January, named for the two-faced Roman god of transitions, gates, and doors, often represented the life versus death struggle as well. It’s joined the ranks of my least favorite months because my father left this world in January in 2009 and my husband departed ten years and a few days later. Widowhood was never something I aspired to gain but as I will soon mark the five-year milestone, I’ve adapted as much as anyone ever does.

At the time my husband passed, I was editor for two regional newspapers in southwest Missouri. As the staff dwindled due to ongoing budget cuts, changes in ownership, and the decline of newspapers, I became a one-woman machine. I wrote most of the paper, including sports, which is not my forte. I laid out each edition and sent it to press. When the opportunity arrived from Gannett, the parent company, for a severance package, I accepted it willingly to focus on my writing career.

My long-term dream of becoming an author hit pay dirt in 2010 with my first novel, Wolfe’s Lady, (Evernight Publishing) which debuted in the last days of December.  As my media job demanded increasing hours and my husband’s health declined, my output slowed and I had a hiatus in my author career. I returned with fresh publications in 2021. I ended the year with my two most recent titles in October, Huck’s Legacy and in November, The Scarred Santa.

I have four titles under contract so far in 2024 and more to come.


One of those upcoming releases is in edits now, The Cowboy’s Last Chance. The tag line is “Eight seconds is the span of time for a bull rider to win or lose, live or sometimes die.”

I’ll share the gorgeous cover now – I love the use of color, the theme, and overall presentation. Kudos go to the cover artist, Tina Lynn Stout.

On this last day of the outgoing year, though, my focus is on 2024. I may reflect on auld lange syne, like the traditional song heard so often at this time, but I look forward to the new, to the blank slate, and the unknown that awaits. As I remember those who left this world in January, I offer a shout out to my dad, Jerry Sontheimer, who introduced me to life and taught me there is no such word as can’t. Because of him, I can and will continue. I also offer a word to my late husband, Roy Murphy, who said "I do" and did.

In closing, I wish all the happiest in the coming year. May your heart’s desires come to pass.

To keep up with what’s new (and old) with me, follow my Amazon author page here:

https://www.amazon.com/stores/Lee-Ann-Sontheimer-Murphy/author/B004JPBM6I.



From an early age, Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy scribbled stories, inspired by the books she read, the family tales she heard, and even the conversations she overheard at the beauty shop where her grandmother had a weekly standing appointment. She was the little girl who sat at the feet of the elders and listened.

As an author, she has published more than sixty novels and novellas written as both Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy and as Patrice Wayne for historical fiction. She is also the author of a new Faery Folk series from Evernight Publishing writing as Liath├ín O'Murchadha.  Her current publishers include The Wild Rose Press, World Castle Publishing, and Evernight Publishing.

She spent her early career in broadcast radio, interviewing everyone from politicians to major league baseball players and writing ad copy.  In those radio years she began to write short stories and articles, some of which found publication. In 1994 she married Roy Murphy and they had three children, all now grown-up. Lee Ann spent years in the newspaper field as both a journalist and editor and was widowed in 2019.

In late 2020, she hung up her editor’s hat to return to writing fiction. A native of St. Joseph, Missouri, she lives and works in the rugged, mysterious, and beautiful Missouri Ozarks

Lee Ann Murphy

Saturday, December 30, 2023

How A Festival of Mini-Trees Revived Christmas For Me by Anna Taylor Sweringen

Anniversaries, birthdays, even seasonal holidays are just days on the calendar for me and my husband. Often, it’s well wishes from friends in ecards, texts and on Facebook notifying us that a reason to celebrate has arrived. The only exception I’m happy to say is Christmas. 

Let us return to 2014…


I sat on the board of directors of an ecumenical center in Long Island called the Parish Resource Center. It helps church lay people do tasks assigned to them. Lead a bible study, teach a Sunday school class, run a vacation bible school. Whatever help they needed, they could come to PRC for help. Anyway, many of Long Island’s tree farms host huge tree lighting displays which draw hundreds of people. As a fundraiser in 2014 the PRC decided to do a mini-tree display. Staff and center subscribers created inventive trees to raffle off as gifts and home decor. Some were quite seasonal with angels, stars, bows and berries. Some were thematically fun with Santas and a moose. One was practical making a baby-items tree to celebrate the birth of the Christ child. I took pictures back to my church in Paterson, NJ so my members could buy tickets for the trees they wished to win. Lugging the winning trees in shopping bags on the Long Island Railroad and New Jersey Transit trains is a fond Christmas memory.


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Fast forward to 2017…


In 2017 I retired and moved to Albuquerque. My first Christmas was warm and wonderful. On my side of town, the sun melts any snow away by noon just like Camelot. My neighbors decorated their yards with large blow-up figures and inventive light displays. I thought about how I might decorate for the holiday. I went to a Christian bookstore in search of gifts for family and came across a series of handmade angels made by a shut in from one of the local churches. She was selling them on consignment. What lovely decorations for a tree. I thought. But as I shared earlier my husband and I aren’t big holiday celebraters. We’ve never even had a tree. In the past I’d hang garland decorated with instruments and bows. Maybe I could do the same with these angels.  But then I remembered the PRC’s mini-tree festival and thought, “Why not?” I can buy a mini-tree and put these lovely angels on them. I bought them all. The bookstore also had glass angels. My spirit soared. I’d buy them too and make a mini-angel tree.


Not only did I create the tree, but I joined my neighbors in decorating the whole house and my yard as well.


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When Christmas comes around, I can’t wait to pull out my decorations and get creative. I create wreaths and Christmas villages and put nativity displays all over my house.  I now have five mini trees that take over our dining room table every year: a mini tree displaying the tiny ornaments from a Metropolitan Museum of Art advent calendar, two more dedicated to our pets and famous pets from the White House. I also created a Kwanzaa mini tree with ornaments I’d bought way back when I was in seminary but never displayed. And a Christmas village that occupies half our living room floor.


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As I look back on this decorating tradition, I realize how being creative has revived the spirit of Christmas for me. As a minister my focus during Advent and Christmas was to make sure everyone else enjoyed the season. Thus, developing services and activities for others often meant I never stopped to take time for myself. Now my decorating allows me to get into the spirit of the season and rediscover its joys for myself.


Whatever holiday you celebrate - Diwali, Hannukah, Yule, Christmas or Kwanzaa - I hope some tradition enables you to be filled with the meaning of that celebration and to carry that spirit with you into the new year. 

                                         

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Michal Scott is the steamy historical romance pen name of Anna Taylor Sweringen, a retired United Church of Christ and Presbyterian Church USA minister. Inspired by the love mystics of Begijn, Audre Lourde and bell hooks, Anna seeks to write romance that can be simultaneously spiritual and steamy. She loves writing historical romance to give insight into black love and resilience in the African American experience in the US. Besides steamy historical romance, she writes inspirational and sweet romance as Anna Taylor and second chance ghost mystery romances as Anna M. Taylor. Sign up for Michal's newsletter so she can keep in touch with you: https://mailchi.mp/106e6b05cdfe/michal-scotts-newsletter


Michal has Christmas-setting short stories in two of Delilah Devlin’s Boys Behaving Badly anthologies. The latest, "Take Me To The Water," is available in Silver Soldiers which came out in 2023. The first, "The $5.00 Kiss of Life," came out in First Response back in 2019.


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Friday, December 29, 2023

"...a more meaningful level..." by Alana Lorens

This gift doesn’t cost a penny—but can pay off for years to come

Before I was lucky enough to retire and become a full-time writer, I was a divorce attorney A phenomenon many divorce attorneys like me encountered each year between mid-November and January 2 is the sudden drop-off of clients and client activity. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the holiday lull, the last-ditch effort to grasp the fast-fading warm feeling of family or at least the rational attempt to try to preserve the illusion that "everything is all right" for the children.

Often, the holidays are a happy, blurred memory batch from childhood, with ham dinners with families gathered at grandparents’ house, favorite (and not so favorite) presents we’ve received over the years, candlelit church services, carols and much more.

Overlay this with the commercial media blitz of glitter, bling (every kiss begins with k? Who knew? Awesome!) and price cuts, and the secular Holidays take on an almost sacred tone of their own.

We want our children to experience this, to feel whole, to be glad and warm and loved. Often we are able to swallow our own pain–or drown it with well-doctored eggnog– long enough to let the little ones experience Santa and the magic.

But what I saw as the years passed is the carving up of these happy days with a broad knife, dividing the time the children “must” spend with father, mother, siblings, grandparents and others. When parents cannot look beyond their own needs to compromise with their children’s lives, the court will do it for them, with lack of emotion or feeling to guide it.

Four hours for mom. Two hours for grandma. Twelve hours for dad. Splitting the day so you have to be hauling kids on the road for two hours of the holiday you’d all rather spend at home. Weather? Schmeather. The court order says… Alternating years, so every other Christmas your hearth is empty and dark with no children to celebrate. Christmas Eve. Christmas Day. Thanksgiving Thursday. Friday? Maybe, if you’re lucky, a few extra days of the vacation when the children can have a parent all to themselves without other obligations.

There’s no good way to do it, so this yields the sucking-up and effort to maintain through the holidays “for the kids.”

In my generation, divorce was not as prevalent as today, and we visited summers only, so our holidays, though father was absent, were not disrupted. My children, however, were subject to visitation orders, and spent most holidays with their fathers, which was fine with me. Holiday is a state of mind, as far as I’m concerned. You can have a special day on the 23rd, 25th, or even 31st, if you put your mind to it.

Many more children of my kids’ generation grew up in split parenting situations, so maybe for them, it’s not as traumatic for their own children to be visiting other households during these magic periods. And often, no matter how hard you’re trying to hold things together, the children are well aware of the tensions underlying the surface. If those tensions become toxic, then perhaps separation, even this time of year, could be the right choice, for everyone’s peace of mind. 

But even if the magic fails on one front, don’t give up. There are many more. Author Suzy Brown says, “Holidays are about peace and sharing and gratitude and love. During tragedy, or divorce, or heartache we have to reach down and find those core things at a deeper level, a more meaningful level.”

It’s a tough time. If you feel that you can’t hold on, for any reason, please seek professional help, whether in the form of legal counsel, psychological counsel, or just a heartfelt cup of cocoa with a good friend or close relative. Take time out for yourself. Most decisions can be put off for a week or two. Give yourself and the children time to de-stress. This will pay off as they learn coping skills they will use all their lives. The holiday break is short enough without trying to squeeze every last second out of it. There will be plenty of germs to share after the kids are back in school again.

Happy new year!


Author Bio


Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years, after working as a pizza maker, a floral designer, a journalist and a family law attorney. Currently a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, the aging hippie loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. She writes romance and suspense as Alana Lorens, and sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal mystery as Lyndi Alexander. Her recent supernatural thriller REMNANTS OF FIRE recently took the Best Fiction of 2023 award from N.N. Lights Heaven.

She is the author of the Pittsburgh Lady Lawyers series, which draws on her years as a family law attorney in the state of Pennsylvania. One of the causes close to her heart came from those years as well–the fight against domestic violence. She volunteered for many years at women’s shelters and provided free legal services to women and children in need. Alana lives with her daughter on the autism spectrum, who is the youngest of her seven children, five crotchety old cats and four kittens.

Author Links

Website http://Alana-lorens.com

Facebook    https://www.facebook.com/AlanaLorens/

Goodreads   https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4829967.Alana_Lorens

Amazon Author Page  https://www.amazon.com/Alana-Lorens/e/B005GE0WBC/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/alana-lorens

Twitter:  @AlexanderLyndi

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/alexander_lyndi/


Thursday, December 28, 2023

A Very Silly New Year’s Eve by Marla White

I’ve always loved the holiday season. Christmas music in October? Bring it! My roommate forbade me from putting the lights on the house until after Thanksgiving, but Friday morning at 8:30 I was up on the roof with my multi-colored icicle lights. But my favorite part of the holiday season as an adult is New Year’s Eve. Because of the partying? Well, a little of that, but not the way you might think. 


A little backstory…  


At fourteen, New Year’s Eve meant babysitting jobs were plentiful. Of course, I also felt like a loser, not doing all the cool things my older siblings got to do. One year, I was alone in a neighbor’s house, the kids fast asleep. The noises the strange house made freaked me out a little. Just when I was certain there was a killer in the house (have you not seen that movie? yikes!), when Dick Clark’s "Rockin’ New Year’s Eve" came on. After the ball fell, Barry Manilow sang It’s Just Another New Year’s Eve and suddenly the night had an anthem for me. If you’ve never heard it, the song is best summed up in one line, “It’s just another night, that’s all it is”.

Listening to those reassuring words, that your whole future isn’t caught up in one night, every year was my New Year’s Eve tradition until I went to college. Then I found better things to do on the night in question. Were they more fun than going to Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour (remember those?) with my sister and ending the night with Barry? Not always, but it’s New Year’s so you have to celebrate, right? You’re young and stupid. It’s imperative that you glam it up and find a cool bar or party to go to or you might as well paint a big “L” on your forehead. 


Cut to an unstated number of years and a lot of comically dreadful New Year’s gatherings later. One year, my roommate and I decided the pressure to be cool wasn’t worth it. We stayed home and invited other friends who were also over the notion that you had to do something spectacular that one night a year. I’m not even sure whose idea it was or how it started, but when midnight came around, we went out in our front yard and had a Silly String fight.


“Fight” is a bit too strong of a word. We ran around like maniacs, squealing like toddlers as we sprayed each other with Silly String to see who we could cover the most. It lasted about two minutes, but it was a lot of breathless fun. It took all the weight off the night that MUST be the biggest, bestest, shiniest of the year


The party became a tradition and grew in size every year. With more friends coming from farther away, it became a slumber party of sorts for anyone who wanted to stay, with a special New Year’s Day breakfast. Of course, the Rose Parade on TV was a must! One year, a friend who is British and had somehow never seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail was over. The entire party felt duty-bound to introduce her to the comedy masterpiece, staying up until three in the morning laughing. The clean up the next day wasn’t all that fun, but so worth it. 


We’ve downsized to an apartment, but still have a gathering, just no more Silly String. And even though we’re in LA, we celebrate midnight New York time because…why not? I love being at a point in life where I’m no longer a servant to the clock or when other people tell me when and how I should have fun. 


And every New Year’s Eve, even if I don’t make a point of listening to the song, Barry’s words make me smile. Because it really is just another night, and like the man says, “we’ve made good friends…remember all the nights we spent with them?”


Here’s a picture with one of the friends and…you guessed it, Barry Manilow! She arranged for tickets to his show in Las Vegas that included meeting him before the show.  Talk about full circle!


Want to win a $5 gift certificate?  Go to my website, www.marlaawhite.com , sign up for my mailing list, and your name will be entered to win! Winner will be chosen from random, contest ends on  - you knew it was coming – Midnight on New Year’s Eve!




Marla White is an award-winning novelist, story instructor at UCLA, and writing coach. She began her illustrious career as a storyteller at the age of four by drawing on the TV screen. Today she gives writers the tools they need to tell great stories, crayons not included. 



Her first novel, The Starlight Mint Surprise Murder, was published in 2021. Look for the sequel, Framed for Murder, coming out this spring. When she’s not writing, she’s out in the garden, hiking, or putting together impossibly difficult puzzles.   



Marla White

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

The Year Santa Brought A Doll by Patricia Bradley


Pat, her sister, and the redhaired dolls.
When I was a kid, every year about the middle of October, a wonderful item arrived in our mailbox. The Sears and Roebuck Toy Catalog. The first day or so, my parents made my sister and me draw straws to see who got to look through it first.

I think my sister had an inside track since she almost always got the short straw. And sometimes, because I was the older sister, I was supposed to let her go first. I still don’t know who made up that rule.

Sometimes, I would offer to do her chores if she’d let me get the first look at it. Not sometimes. Every time if she drew the short straw. She’s the one who sometimes agreed to our deal. But oh, was it worth it.

Do you know how many pages of cap pistols there were in the catalog? I do. Eight. Eight wonderful pages of Roy Roger or Gene Autry toy pistols that I could image strapped to my side. I read every word of every page and dreamed of riding my stick horse, ready to catch the bad guys with my toy guns. I may have spent a few hours dreaming of practicing my fast draw, as well.

Roy Rogers and Trigger

Of course, this was during an innocent age where toy pistols were just that—toys. The age of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger...The time of Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. I think it was a much simpler time, but I digress.

My sister, on the other hand, went straight for the dolls and dollhouses. And tea sets. Girly things. She wasn’t the tomboy I was. One year, somehow my mother got it in her head that I was missing out on something. I was eight years old and had never asked for nor received a doll for Christmas.

“Wouldn’t you like a doll, like this one?” She pointed to a dainty, red-haired little doll in a cute little dress.

“Sure, but did you see the Roy Rogers cap guns with the leather holster?” I could already feel them strapped around my waist. Did I mention it came with a shiny star badge? I could see it in my mind’s eye—I would be the sheriff, and my sister and the other kids in the neighborhood would be the train robbers that I would track down and bring to justice.

I marked every day off the calendar with a red crayon. Christmas Eve I barely slept, and at 4:30 Christmas morning, I woke my sister, knowing we wouldn’t get in trouble if the favored child was the one who woke our parents up at that time of the morning.

Minutes later we crept down the hall. “What if Santa hasn’t come?” she asked.

“He’s been here,” I assured her. I’d already been up an hour earlier and peeped in the living room and had seen my sister’s tricycle. Our parents must have heard us because they met us before we made it to the living room.

“What are you two doing up so early?” Our dad asked with a wink. “Never mind, go see what Santa brought you.”

We tore into the room and I frantically searched for the flat box I knew my cap guns would be in. No flat box. But there was a rather large rectangular box with my name on it. Maybe Santa brought me a double set! Or maybe there was a pair of cowboy boots in the box! I tore into it and…lifted out the doll with curly red hair.

“Do you like it?” My mom seemed to hold her breath.

I looked up into her face. Even at eight years old I knew I couldn’t say anything other than I loved it. Somehow I manage to make my mama think it was what I’d always wanted.

It would be a few years before I realized the real meaning of Christmas…celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior. But even at eight, God was working on me. Otherwise, there is no way I could’ve understood how much it meant to my mother for me to be happy with the doll.

Oh, and later that afternoon, God blessed me with a present from my godparents. Yep, a deluxe set of Roy Rogers cap pistols with real leather holsters.

                             

USA Today
Best Selling author Patricia Bradley is a Selah and Reader’s Choice Award winner, and a Carol and Daphne du Maurier award finalist.

She and her two cats call Northeast Mississippi home--the South is also where she sets most of her books. Her seventeen novels include Heartwarming’s Matthew’s Choice and The Christmas Campaign, and four romantic suspense series: The Logan Point series, the Memphis Cold Case Novels, the Natchez Trace Park Rangers, and the Pearl River Series. Fatal Witness, the second book in the Pearl River series set in the Cumberland Plateau area above Chattanooga releases February 6, 2024.

Bradley is a popular teacher at writing conference and has been the keynote speaker at several. When she has time, she likes to throw mud on a wheel and see what happens.

You can connect with her at:

Website https://ptbradley.com/

Blog - https://ptbradley.com/blog/ https://patriciabradleybooks.com

Facebook – www.facebook.com/patriciabradleyauthor

Twitter – https://twitter.com/PTBradley1

Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/stores/Patricia-Bradley/author/B00FFR8T1U?

Bookbub- https://www.bookbub.com/profile/patricia-bradley

Goodreads- https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7789445.Patricia_Bradley

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/ptbradley1/

Pinterest - https://www.pinterest.com/ptbradley/


Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Feeling Nostalgic for Christmases Past by Maria Imbalzano


When I was a child, the anticipation of Christmas was overwhelming. Do you remember those feelings of hope, eagerness, and belief in the fantasy that only a child could have? I would write my list to Santa and ask for a few things that I wanted after seeing commercials on TV. My list always included a doll or a baby carriage and maybe a board game.

I grew up in Trenton, NJ and back then, Trenton was a beautiful city. The main stores were Arnold Constable, Sears, Lit Brothers, Yards, and Dunhams, but there were smaller stores in between as well as McCrory’s Five and Dime. My parents would take my sister and I to Arnold Constable’s to meet with the “real” Santa so we could tell him what we wanted. The streets as well as the stores were decorated with colorful lights and ornaments and it was such a beautiful sight to see.

Coming down to the living room on Christmas morning was the most exciting day ever—complete with those buzzing butterflies of euphoria. And there under the tree were the things I asked Santa for. It was magic.

One year, when I was four, I got a Patty Play Pal doll. The doll was my size and dressed in a pink and white dress with a white pinafore over it. She currently resides at my mom’s house—the house Patty and I grew up in—much worse for the wear. Her neck is broken (poor thing), her dress and pinafore fell apart and her underwear was falling off. Thankfully, my granddaughters gave her one of their dresses and a pair of new underwear so she looks somewhat presentable. I have no idea what happened to her socks and shoes, but she seems okay being barefoot.

One of my other favorite dolls and a gift from Santa another year was Tiny Tears. Much, much smaller than Patty, she was the baby that I rocked, and changed and fed as if she were real. She now lives at my sister’s house with her dolls Thumbelina and Snuggle Bunny, because none of them should be lonely.

I also still have my Barbie doll—the one with the blondish bob. When I say I have it, it’s still at mom’s. (I’m sure she would love for my sister and I to take all of our memories with us instead of cluttering up our old bedroom, but we don’t.) Many of Barbie’s clothes were made by one of my aunts or my grandmother back then because her clothes were too expensive at the store. I can’t imagine sewing by hand those tiny sleeves or putting buttons or a hook on the back—but they did. And I loved them for it.

Why did I save these dolls? Because I only had a few over the years and they were special. I had contemplated giving my Barbie to my daughters when they were into Barbie, but they ended up having about fifty of them and my Barbie would never have been special to them. I showed her to my granddaughters recently, but their reaction wasn’t good enough to turn her over to them. Enthusiasm is a must for that type of bequest.

The bedroom that belonged to me and my sister at my mom’s house was set up as a playroom, initially for my kids and now for my grandkids. There are two single beds, a table to color on, a doll house with furniture and a family, a few games that we got at Christmas when we were young— Cha-Cha Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Spirograph—and a train set with easy to put together tracks. And of course, Patty Play Pal.

But I digress. Back to Christmases past.

Every Christmas, my sister and I pulled out from the box of lights, ornaments, and stockings, two Humpty Dumpty Santa Clauses that we hugged and played with and slept with during the holidays. But once the tree came down, we had to put them back in their box until the next year. They are still around and come out every Christmas to sit on the steps leading up to our old room. They too look a little ratty, but will never be thrown away.

Back in the day, during the entire week after Christmas, different relatives would drop by our house after dinner to see our tree as well as what we got for Christmas. We would also visit our aunts, uncles and cousins to do the same. Coffee for the grownups, and cake or Christmas cookies for everyone was offered and enjoyed. No telephone call was necessary to say anyone was dropping by. It was just done and expected.

I definitely miss those days of celebrating the holiday for the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s— seeing all of my cousins and experiencing the joy of the season. Now no one visits unless specifically invited.

Reminiscing about Christmases past makes me long for those simpler days when the few toys we got were special, when family and relatives were a huge part of the extended holiday and when we believed in the fantasy. But as readers, we can slip into a fantasy world of our choosing whenever we have the time to enjoy a good book. We can pick the year to go back to (or stay in the present), we can slide into a different country, an island, the mountains, the plains—and we can experience a new or old world through the characters that come to life on those pages and in our mind.

Our life experiences, from childhood through adulthood, make those fantasy worlds that much richer because of our memories.       

To continue with the spirit of the holiday, I invite you to read my Christmas romance Red Velvet Crinkles and Christmas Sprinkles. This contemporary enemies to lovers, small town holiday romance is available at all your favorite venues. (amazon, b&n, Apple, Google Play, Kobo). https://books2read.com/u/38d09r

Winner of the Still Moments Magazine Readers’ Choice Award, the Carolyn Award, and the NEST (National Excellence in Story Telling) Award, this book is the perfect book to curl up with when you want to escape into Bella’s and Dean’s world.

Maria Imbalzano is an award-winning contemporary author who writes about strong, independent women and the men who fall in love with them. She recently retired from the practice of law, but legal issues have a way of showing up in many of her novels. When not writing, she loves to travel both abroad and in the states. Maria lives in central New Jersey with her husband--not far from her two daughters and granddaughters. For more information about her books, please visit her website at http://mariaimbalzano.com where you can also sign up for her newsletter.

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