Thursday, December 29, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sista

Today is my sister's birthday. She's 40 something.
She's really good at a lot of things. Like, for instance, pouring!

I'm the big sister. Yes, that means I'm older than her. By more than a few years, I might add.  SIGH.

I always thought she got the short end of the stick  having a birthday so close to Christmas. It kind of stinks,actually. But she makes the best of it. Today we are celebrating her day.
She wants to go here. 
We may be sisters, but we are totally different when it comes to shopping.  That's her thing. Not mine. (I'm going, by the way!) I'm such a great sister!

Another thing she likes to do is run. I only run if something is chasing me!

She got all the brains in the family. (Sorry Bro!)  She's the dean of students in a private school. Yep. Smart.

Years ago now, she had a brain aneurysm. I didn't even know what that was, let alone try to spell it. It's still hard to think about. We almost lost her. It was an extremely stressful time.

Birthdays are made to celebrate.  A few days ago, I was reading about birthdays in my Simple Abundance book.   I highly recommend purchasing this great read. Sarah Ban Breathnach writes..."Today isn't my birthday, but it might be yours. If it is, I hope you're having a wonderful day--a day of authentic indulgences, joyful simplicities, contemplation, closure, and celebration...I do need to distinguish the birth day of my life in special ways from the rest of the calendar."

I thought those were wise words. I plan on taking the day off work for my birthday this next year. We all should. After all, it's the day we were born. Life. It's a beautiful thing.

I hope you have the most splendid day celebrating the gift of you, my sister. I love you.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Happy Boxing Day

Today in the UK and other Commonwealth countries, it is Boxing Day.
A national holiday, Boxing Day is celebrated the day after Christmas. Many spend the day shopping or attending sporting events. I've read this day originated many centuries ago when servants of the wealthy spent Christmas Day looking after their wealthy masters. Servants were then allowed the next day off to be with family.  Most were given a Christmas box, which would equal a Christmas present here in America.

On Christmas Day, Queen Elizabeth delivered her annual speech. So full of wisdom, she didn't disappoint. So eloquently spoken.


Thursday, December 22, 2016

Double Dose

Crowded stores trying your patience? Slow drivers maybe?
How about the dude who stole your parking spot?

This time of year can bring its own set of stress triggers. I get it. Trust me.

A few days ago, I was doing dishes. Shocker, I know. I actually did the dishes! Anyway...
Didn't take long and POOF! The water stopped running. Not good. Not good at all. No water meant no toilet. UGH. This was very bad! Long story short. I called my brother in law (hubby wasn't home.) He assessed the situation and determined a switch was bad and fixed it. Just like that. (I just snapped my finger!) In an instant, I had water again.
Was it stressful? Yep. I could have been looking at thousands of dollars to fix our well. But, even if we had to, all would have been okay. You see, I have my family. I also have marvelous friends, a job, a home, a warm bed. WATER. I have everything I need.

I'm hearing story after story this holiday season of deep distress. Epic suffering. This time of year it's not always a wonderful life.

Take a look at this video. It will help keep things in perspective. This story  takes on  whole new meaning as these people happen to be loved ones of a friend.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Christmas in the UK

My dear friends are flying across the pond today to spend Christmas with loved ones in England.
Jealous? Me? (I'm shaking my head no, trying to convince myself!)

Okay, maybe just a little. Don't worry about me though. I'll just 'Keep Calm and Carry On.'
This video made me smile. Hope it brings a smile to your day too.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

The significance of dates

December 15, 2008

The day my mother died.

I've spent a lot of energy this week wondering what could have been. What should have been.

"We all come from a dysfunctional family because there are people in them. Whatever my upbringing was, it is now my baggage. Get help, get rid of it, or it becomes bitterness."
                                                                                           - Dave Ramsey

I've looked through old journals amazed at some of my insights throughout the years.

" journals tell a long and dreary story of never ending bitterness and ugly emotion..."

My word for 2017 is TRANSFORMATION. As I read through my journals, a phrase I wrote years ago gave me pause.

"My mother did the best she could with what she knew how." 

I can't begin to explain the significance of these 12 words. Transformation is a heavy word.

Remember the significance of dates in the lives of those around you. Is someone quiet or edgy on a particular day? Give grace. You never know if that certain day is their notable one.
It's not always about you.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Holiday movies

What's your favorite Christmas movie?

 the Holiday is one of my favorites for several reasons.

To begin, it's partially filmed in England. That in itself ranks above most.

Cameron Diaz plays 'Amanda' and Kate Winslet plays 'Iris.' Each desire to take a break from their every day lives for the holidays.  The two "meet" online and decide to exchange houses .  Iris gets a trip to California, while Amanda flies across the pond to England. (Lucky her!)

I love the sub plot in which Iris meets the next door neighbor, Arthur Abbott. He's a screenwriter. Or should I say, used to be. He brings much flavor to the movie. I love elderly people. So full of wisdom. He charms in this film.

Another reason I love the Holiday is because I was able to go where the movie was filmed.  Shere, Surrey, England. I got to walk down the lane where Amanda had to drag her suitcase!

This is where Rosehill Cottage once stood. Sorry to burst your bubble, but the cottage was built for the movie. There was no going into the charming country house to check out the small tub! Nestling in front of the fireplace only happened in my dreams. Shoot!
In the start of the movie, a centuries old church rolls across the screen. This is that church. Very English.

You can bet I will be viewing this movie once again this Christmas season.

What's your go to holiday movie?

Thursday, December 8, 2016

A Cherished Gift

Two years ago, my wallet got stolen. One week before Christmas. Bummer.

I was a wreck. Before I realized my purple Vera Bradley wallet was gone, someone had shopped 'til they dropped at my expense! Thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars were racked up on my credit cards. Of course, all my cash was gone too!
Sure, closing all our accounts was a major pain. Thankfully, I didn't have to pay a cent toward the stolen purchases. Whew!

I had to get a new driver's license and a new library card. (Can't be without one of those!) My insurance card was in it, along with my CPR registration!  All these things were time consuming to replace and a bit unnerving knowing whoever took my wallet had my home address. Yep. It all was a pain in the butt!

All that was troubling, but what bothered me most of all was this.  Whoever snagged my wallet, took my dad.

I kept a much loved photo of him tucked inside.  Whenever I needed a peek at him, I would just grab my wallet and pull out the worn photo. His black hair flapping in the California breeze, he smiled as he posed with his sister Marilyn, in front of the Queen Mary. The picture was taken long before the invention of digital cameras, so there was no way of replacing it.

I cried. My dad died seventeen years ago. I want that priceless photo back. I still hope to one day maybe get a phone call that someone found my wallet in a field somewhere. Wishful thinking, I know.

In the meantime, I needed a new wallet! My children were very thoughtful that year for Christmas.
What did I get? Hmmmmm, I think you can guess!
Not only did I get a new one, but the exact same wallet I had before. A purple Vera Bradley.   I still am not sure how they pulled it off. The purple petals were a discontinued line.
I was so surprised and it warmed my heart to know it mattered to me, so it mattered to them.
Do you have a cherished Christmas gift?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Never Gets Old

This weekend, I hosted eight lovely women here in my home for afternoon tea.  What a privilege to prepare food for each one.

The ritual of afternoon tea began many years ago when Anna, Duchess of Bedford, grew hungry in the late afternoon. She needed a snack!  Tea, along with perhaps a biscuit, have become a daily routine for empty stomachs ever since.

 As soon as guests entered my home, their senses kicked in to high gear.
Their eyes immediately were drawn to the scrumptious delicacies placed in the middle of the table.
I can't take credit for these. Hubby did the honors!

Candles flickered in my fireplace. The smell of pine wafted through the air. Christmas carols piped through my stereo.
We spread real Devon cream over warm scones, feasted on pear salad, and devoured chicken salad sandwiches.  How thankful we are for our taste buds.
Afternoon tea is the perfect time to bring out the china. I loved setting the table.
Any ideas on what this is?
Well, it's a cracker. No, not one you eat! A festive cracker. Many citizens in the UK decorate their Christmas tables with them. They really do "crack." They make a popping noise. Inside, surprises await.
Such fun twisting our arms, helping each other pop open the crackers!
Each one had a paper crown. We were queen for the day!  There were jokes, puzzlers, and note pads. We laughed until we cried!

I am still smiling.

Afternoon tea and friends. It never gets old.  

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Unexpected Joys

Don't you just love it when in the middle of an ordinary week, something extraordinary happens?

So this happened . . .
My beautiful, talented (and pregnant-wink!wink!We're so excited) niece Beth, sent me this handmade card this week. I love sending snail mail. Such a sweet joy to receive one in the mail all for me!

Then, the next day, I was double blessed again.
My lovely writer friend Erica MADE and sent me this book bag, along with this really fun note of encouragement. I'm still smiling. WOW. What a joy to come home and find this package waiting for me. She made it for me. Me. I am in awe when I receive a gift that was made by hand. So much time and energy goes into such priceless gifts.  My dear friend Yvonne made me a quilt not long ago. That too, still makes me tear up when I think of all those hours put into making something that priceless for me. I will keep these gifts close to my heart, always.

The same day I received my book bag, my sweet friend Vickie sent me a lovely note.
Encouragement is such a gift. Hand made notes mean more than one could ever know. I am just so blessed to have such wonderful friends and family.  

I hope you are having such a lovely week as I.

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Classic

Love and goodwill. Such great themes in a story.
Yesterday I had the thrill of attending A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie theater in Minneapolis.
I never tire of viewing the play during the holidays each year. Such a great way to start off the Christmas season.

Charles Dickens wrote the story. It was published  December 17, 1843. I wonder if he ever imagined folks would still be enchanted with his story all these years later?

I've often pondered how Dickens came up with the name Ebenezer Scrooge. Genius name. It just fits doesn't it? In the above book, P.J.Lynch illustrated the story and may have an answer. On the back inside cover he is quoted, "When I lived in Brighton, I used to walk daily past a gravestone belonging to a man called Ebenezer Robbins, who died on Christmas Day, 1842. In my mind, I felt sure that this man must have in some way inspired Dickens to create Ebenezer Scrooge in 1843..."

One never knows where inspiration will come from. I myself,  have ambled through a few cemeteries.
This particular cemetery in England handed me some pretty awesome brainstorm breakthroughs for a few scenes I am writing.

I quickly snapped a photo of the set before the lights dimmed and the play began. No photos or videotaping is allowed during the presentation. Rightfully so. Hard to see the set in this photo, but it mimicked the charm of English villages. "Snow" falling made it idyllic.

I can't decide who my favorite character is. Scrooge, Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, the ghost of Christmas past, the ghost of Christmas present, Topper, or Fezziwig. Who's yours?

So much work goes into learning the lines for such a classic as this. Kudos to all the actors and actresses. Go see this play if you ever get the chance. It won't disappoint.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Giving Thanks

Did you know we take about 23,000 breaths a day? I bet you don't even think about one of those breaths over the course of your day. Sadly, most days I know I don't. SIGH.

How many times a day do we go to our faucet,  turn on the water and a full stream actually comes out! There are plenty of places in the world where this never happens.

What's your favorite food? Chocolate? Pizza? Here in this country we have a smorgasbord to choose from.

Have you thought much about that warm bed you just rolled out of this morning?

Last night, I went to a Thanksgiving service with my family. I was reminded of all the "simple" things I take for granted every single day.

This past week I have learned of absolute heartache going on in the lives of people all around me. Things I can't believe people are actually dealing with. This is the stuff of movies...not real life. But, it is their life. And it's real, yet they somehow manage to get out of bed in the morning.

I am a strong believer in faith. But, I have to be honest. I'm not sure how I would deal with at least one of those heartaches. I hope I would pray. Alot. I hope I would give thanks for today.  Today is a gift. It's all we've got. I don't want to waste it, or any others I am so lavishly given.

Today is Thanksgiving. May I live my life like every day is Thanksgiving.

Enjoy your day today. Live it fully. Be grateful for those gathered around the table. For pumpkin pie with lots of homemade whipped topping. For table games.

For those 23,000 breaths you get to breathe today.      

Monday, November 21, 2016

New ad

I know it's early, but Christmas is coming!

While in England, we visited a Marks and Spencer.
A lovely department store with a cafe on the 2nd floor. I bought a scone. Ate the WHOLE thing! Notice the devonshire cream on the bottom, jam on top.  That's the proper way to spread a scone. Others may disagree!

I love this new holiday ad for the department store.

Brothers. Do you have one? I do, and sometimes it wasn't fun growing up with him. There were times I wanted to send him away. He could be pretty mean. I'm quite sure the feeling was mutual.

Watch the ad and tell me it won't make you think of your sibling in a new light.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pure joy

Forgive me. This post will be brief!

I'm elated. We're talking handsprings, jumping for joy, elated.

I just found out less than 24 hours ago I am a finalist in a writing contest. I wish I could explain how this feels...I just can't.

Thanksgiving just got a little sweeter. I am overwhelmed and so thrilled to have made the list.

I am so grateful.  

Congratulations to all the finalists.

Monday, November 14, 2016

A dream

                     "Come in! Come in, and know me better."
                                      -Spirit of Christmas Present
                                    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Last night I had the fireplace going and made myself a cup of hot tea.  I settled in to watch a movie.

One my favorite authors, Robin Jones Gunn,  has waited more than five years to see this movie to fruition.  That's a mighty long time to wait for a dream.

Finding Father Christmas.
You can find it on the Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel.

The book takes place in the fictitious village of Carlton Heath, England. The movie was in fictitious Carlton Heath, Vermont. Either place, it was idyllic! Vermont is a New England state!

Miranda is the main character. She goes on this journey from Seattle to Vermont. Her goal is to find out who her father is. She needs to know where she belongs. Such a great theme. We were created with a deep need to belong.

It's Christmas. A time of year Miranda never looks forward to. Her mother was an actress. She died while on stage performing her part in the play, A Christmas Carol.

She arrives in Vermont surrounded by Christmas. Snow, a quaint Inn, Carolers, scones, tea, and lighting of the Christmas tree.

I won't give the rest away just in case you might want to view it for yourself, but I was right at home there in the idyllic village of Carlton Heath. I could live there. My favorite author knocked this story out of the park. She has written now 93 books. Yep. 93! This one just might be my new favorite!

I heard this movie will be played 20 times throughout the holiday season. I will definitely be watching at least one more time! At least!

We all have them. Dreams. I'm waiting on a dream myself. Sometimes I want to give up, but there's a little fire in me that keeps its embers burning. It's good to have dreams. They keep us hoping and make us reach deeper and farther than we thought we ever had the guts to go. And just when we think its over and we want to give happens.
I can't even imagine what it must have been like for Robin to watch her book be made into a movie. A movie! What a thrill.
It couldn't have happened to a kinder author. No, I haven't met her in person (that's a dream-wink wink!) but I have written to her AND she wrote me back!

I would highly recommend the book. Watch the movie too!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Thy Will

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not bring us to the time of trial,
but rescue us from the evil one.

For thine is the kingdom and the power
and the glory--forever and ever. Amen.


Monday, November 7, 2016

The fascination continues

Yet another British show has managed to charm its way into my heart!

Have you seen The Crown?

I started watching it last night.
The first episode did its job. Hooked me good!
The actor John Lithgow, plays Winston Churchill brilliantly.

A few things I noted in this first episode... (No spoilers here! We all know history!)

The word 'obey' was notably present in Princess Elizabeth (now queen) wedding vows.

King George VI smoked...ALOT!

The King had surgery to remove a lung.

Winston Churchill is elected for the second time as Prime Minister. He meets with King George VI and returns to 10 Downing Street. There, he speaks privately with his wife Clementine.
He tells his wife the King has cancer, to which she replies, "Who knows?"

"No one," said Winston. "No one knows. Not even the King." That Winston. Never missed a beat! Is that historically accurate? One never knows.

The Princess notices the sparks between Princess Margaret and Peter Townsend. She would be correct.

Spending time with her father, Princess Elizabeth asks, "Does it get lonely?"
" must have the right person by your side...." the king replies.

The King takes Prince Philip duck hunting where he tells him a thing or two! Mostly, he is being a protective father. He spells it out..."She is the essence of your duty. Loving her. Protecting her..." The King was a good father.

Oh, how I love this show! Can't wait to watch the next episode!

Have you watched?  What do you think?

Monday, October 31, 2016

Enlarged territory

Perhaps you have heard of The Prayer of Jabez.

"Oh that you would bless me and increase my territory, and that your hand might be with me..." I  Chronicles 4:10

This weekend I was privileged to gather and celebrate with a writer friend. Amy launched her second book. It's a big deal. I'm so glad I was able to attend.

I had never met Amy face to face until yesterday. She invited me to her book launch party. We hugged right away when she greeted me at the door. She is wonderful. Lovely in every way. We were trying to figure out how I even found her. Social media had a hand to be sure, but I simply can't remember how I came across her.  We guessed it was through my fascination with England, and somehow I stumbled upon her writing.

You see, she lives in England! My happy place. She grew up here in the states, not far from where I live. She met and married Nicholas, who is from the UK. He is a vicar and they make their home in London. Two lively children have since been born.  I got to meet them too!
Amy signing books! Can you see the joy! She is filled to the brim!

I mentioned the Prayer of Jabez. I most certainly feel like God has enlarged my borders. I live in a small town. It really is a great place to live. That cannot be denied. But, there is something to traveling and choosing to step outside our comfort zones.

About four years ago, I started a journey I never dreamed I would travel. Writing! I have been able to go on writing retreats in Dallas, St Louis and Florida, to name just a few. Sure, I've been learning tons on the craft to actually write something that's relatively decent! But more importantly is the people I have met along the way.

I always wondered what those authors were like when I picked up their books in Barnes and Noble. Were they even real? What kind of lives do they live?
Well, now I know! They most definitely are real and live very normal lives. Just like us!  They just happen to be very disciplined in the art of writing. They plant their butt in chair and don't get up until they reach their word count for the day.

Stephen King wasn't kidding when he was asked how he wrote.
"One word at a the end, it's always that simple."  I'm learning to live by these authors' example.
One of these does not belong! Take a guess who. I'll wait while you ponder. (I'm humming jeopardy music while I wait.....)

If you guessed me you'd be right! The one NOT published yet!

Want to know more about these authors? Here's the link to their websites.



Thursday, October 27, 2016

Taking it back

The analogy between toothpaste and words is too good not to share.
 Have you ever tried to put toothpaste back into the tube once its been squeezed out?

Basically, it can't be done. Just like words. Once they've been spewed out of our venomous mouths, the damage is done. You can't take it back.

Here is a link to 'Words' by Hawk Nelson.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Driving Miss Gail

In last Monday's post, I promised I would tell you what we did before having lunch at Reads.

I was asked if I wanted to go for a drive. Hmmmmm...twist my arm!
Yes, please!  I felt a bit like the Dowager in Downton Abbey! Que the music!
Enough with the selfies already! But, you have to admit...I played  the part well! My chauffeur was definitely Driving Miss Daisy ( I mean, Gail!)

We drove in the country for about an hour. I was in my glory!
I want to live here. I really do. This is a village green with a real life pub! I know...storybook. Idyllic.
 Every pub has its own name. Makes the area so quaint.
See what I mean!
So much history. Oh, if those markers could talk!
Yes, that is the road!
I loved the tree tunnel!
That is a car, and yes, we managed to squeeze past without a scratch!  Tight fit! Made me think of that scene in the movie The Holiday. "Amanda" nearly gets squashed by the lorry (that's 'truck' in British terms) while driving the mini cooper down the lane.
We got out and walked around. I wandered about and breathed in the fresh air. Pinch me. I really was in England.
My beautiful happy place!
Can it be more blissful?
In England, I could walk anywhere I wanted! There are footpaths everywhere!
See that road in the middle of this photo? That's the quiet lane. Aaaaaahhhh....I'm there in my mind. 
On the road again. All good things must come to an end. Bummer.
My driver/chauffeur/ dear England friend, Alan! Thanks for the drive. I loved reliving this moment, Alan!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Where I come from.

Admittedly, Halloween is not my favorite holiday.

Scaring children, dressing up like the grim reaper? Really? This is fun? Ummm...don't think so!

This is more my style...

Finding flower arrangements dressed in brilliant oranges and stunning reds.

Seriously though, the Halloween capitol of the world is where I come from. There really is such a place.
Anoka, MN

This is where I grew up.
So did a few famous people.
Those being...

U.S. Representative, Michelle Bachman
1989 Miss America, Gretchen Carlson
and Garrison Keillor.

I once saw Garrison Keillor in the grocery store of all places. Not in Anoka. Actually it was in Wisconsin! I could not pass up the opportunity to speak with him. I discreetly approached him and asked him if he had been to Anoka lately. He laughed that undeniable chortle and there began a lovely conversation. He is a wonderful human being.

Anoka got its name in the history books back in the 1920s. The festivities started, "to divert its youngsters from Halloween pranks..."

October 28 and 29, Anoka will be celebrating their Capitol status in Halloween style. It really is a sight to behold. Floats and bands WANT to be invited to these parades. Truly, one of the best parades in all of the midwest. If you happen to be in the area, check it out.