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A Day of Hope and Love

December 25, 2010

I’m snuggled in bed writing this after making sure Santa came and put the presents where the dogs couldn’t get them.  Such a difference in Christmas morning now than when our boys were younger.  Then they’d be up and clamoring for their dad and I to wake up.  Now, they groan when told we need to be at the grandparents by noon.  Not because they don’t want to go.  But because they prefer not to wake up until after noon.

My friend KD James on her blog posted about the Sun Times letter, Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus.  It got me thinking about belief in Santa, fairies and the spirit of Christmas.

Christmas began as a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.  It was merged as so many Christian celebrations are with earlier rites and celebrations of the winter solstice.  Celebrations of the rebirth of the sun.  

December in the Northern Hemisphere seems a time of death.  The leaves have fallen off the trees.  It is too cold to grow food crops, animals go into hibernation and the days become shorter and shorter.  Even the sun, the source of light, warmth and food, seems to be disappearing a little more each day.  But there is hope.  When the world is the coldest, the darkest, the most barren, the days begin to lengthen again.  A promise that life and warmth will return once again to this world.

What is Santa Claus if not hope?  Hope that you will recieve what you want most.  Hope that there is someone in this world who will give out of love without regard to your color, beliefs, or place of birth.  Someone who will labor all year and race around the world to make at least some of your wishes come true.

Hope and Love.  This is Christmas.  The Christian belief that God so loved the world, He sent His Son to save it.  The ancient beliefs that warmth and plenty would return after the darkest day.  It’s not about things.  It’s not about decorations or food.  Christmas is Hope.  Christmas is Love for each other, for our world.  And for me that has no relation to a person’s religion or race or country.

Peace on Earth.  Goodwill to all.  We have not achieved these things.  We may not in my lifetime.  But if each of us try every day in some small way to spread love and hope to others, we will be closer to making these wishes come true.

That is my wish for this Christmas.  That I can do better at spreading Love and Hope every day of the year.

It Started With Socks

December 20, 2010

It’s cold out.  My toes need socks to keep them warm.  But alas I could only find one of each pair.  Even the new ones I’ve only washed and worn once.  So I decided to try and find the missing socks. 

First I put away the clean clothes in the basket in our room.  I found more singles but only a couple to finish off the pairs.  Then I decided maybe the missing socks were in my sock drawer.  I pulled that out of the plastic shelving in the closet and dumped it on the bed.  Excitement mounted.  A few more lonely ones were reunited.  I started putting them neatly in the drawer. 

But wait!  I had another drawer with hose and maybe socks.  I pulled that out and dumped it on the bed after almost tripping over the stuff on the floor of the closet.  Could some of the socks be buried there?

Dragged the containers of sweaters, bags of boxes, hangers, shoes, step ladder and the clothes draped over it,  and mini vaccuum out.  Piled them on the bed. 

Geez.  How did all this dust get in here.  Went and got bigger vaccuum and cleaned the floor.  Gathered summer shoes and put in plastic boxes.  Brought ladder back in to put them on top shelf of closet.  Matched up shoes and put them neatly in shoe rack except for the boots and sneakers.  Lined them up in front of the rack.

Whew.  Grabbed coffee cup to top off my caffiene lever.  Oh no, the coffee had gotten cold.  So went downstairs to nuke it.  While down there, saw the pile of my clean clothes on the kitchen table.  There were socks in it.  Filled empty laundry basket and carryed it and coffee back upstairs.

Matched up some more socks.  Oh joyous day.  But still some missing.  I remembered I’d stashed some lonely socks in my underwear drawer so I  pulled it out and put it on the bed.  The cats sleeping on the bed were beginning to get irritated. 

Put clothes away, matched socks but the drawer was getting overfull.  Moved nice trouser socks and knee highs into drawer with the panty hose I haven’t worn in eons.  One drawer for crew socks and warmer ones and one for the dressier stuff.  Matched some more.  Both drawer getting too full.

Pulled out two more drawers and dumped them on the bed.  I didn’t need a drawer just for my belts now did I.  I don’t have that many.  Put all belts on hanger in closet, scarves in one drawer and separated crew and warm socks.  Looked at the bed.  Somehow I now had a bigger pile of unmatched socks than I started with.  Not all mine. 

Sighed.  Went back down to get my husband’s pile of clean clothes.  And another cup of coffee.  As I carried my cup through the kitchen I spied a plastic container full of—yep, socks.  Added it to clean clothes and brought everything upstairs.  Started putting away, matching, hanging all over again.

At the end of 3 hours, I have all my sweaters hung, summer clothes moved to back corner of closet, all drawers neatly filled and returned to cabinet, husband’s socks in his drawer, boys’ in their basket of clean clothes down stairs.  Nothing left on the bed but 30 lonely socks of all shapes and colors.  They whispered “Clean out another drawer.  Our mates may be there.

I closed my ears to their plea and stuffed them all back into a plastic bin and carried them back downstairs.  This lets them believe that one day their mate will show up and they will be reunited again.  When in truth I fear that day will never come because their mates have fallen into the black hole of lost socks.  But please don’t tell them.  Let their hope live on.  It breaks my heart to hear them cry.

The moral of this story:  if you don’t have 3 hours free, don’t start looking for lost socks.

Day 7

December 19, 2010

Almost finished.  I really wish I hadn’t added the no puzzles part to the challenge.

Passed 75,000 words today.  Three fourths of the way through the book. 

Got most of the tree decorated.  Not sure if we’re going to leave it as is or add more ornaments.  Either would work.  Still need to put some decorations around the house.  Probably not going to do as much decorating this year because I’ve left it so late.  At 3:30 am, I was sure I wasn’t going to do more.  Now, I’m not.

Hope to get at least one batch of fudge and one batch of cookies done today. 

Looking back on the week, I did get a bit more done without the games.  And it’s nice to know I’m not totally addicted to them.  I mean I didn’t go into game dts.  Next week I’m going to try and get a better balance.  It did help me to get back on track with the writing and helped me move through the rough spot.

4 Days Down

December 17, 2010

70,490 words. 

15 presents wrapped  Still have stocking stuff to buy. 

soup made

I’ve discovered that not playing games makes me want to snack more.  So game playing is good for my diet.  Hey, I can rationalize with the best of them.

Two days down

December 15, 2010

Well, I’ve made it two days.  Only because I posted here I was going to do it.  Can’t say I’ve gotten any more done in the house or writing than before.  I did get some software loaded onto the computer that I’ve been forgetting to load.  Printer software so it’s needed.

Also got some more shopping done, pictures downloaded and a fair number of Christmas cards done.

Had to make an unexpected trip to the cottage to get it prepared for very low temps and that is what has impacted word count.  Going to try and make up for that today.

Also going to try and squeeze in some exercise this afternoon.

Can’t start decorating until boxes are brought in from shed.  Might pull one or two in this afternoon if have time but the writing will come first.

A No Games Challenge

December 13, 2010

This week I’m going to be challenging myself to not play any computer games.  For the whole week. 

How much more can I get done if I’m not playing spider solitaire or Internet Backgammon.  No Mahjong or Hearts.  Because I never can limit myself to just one game.

And this is such a busy time of year.  I have my goal of reaching 100,000 words by Dec. 31.  The house needs to be cleaned and decorated.  Haven’t hung a glass ball or put up a wreath yet.  I have bought a couple of gifts but haven’t wrapped a one.  I decided I’d use last week as my baseline and then keep track of what I accomplish this week.

So last week I cleaned one of the bathrooms and dusted the living room.  I wrote 8035 words, bought 3 gifts and spent the weekend caretaking for my parents.  It looks pretty insignificant when I see it in black and white.  I also 2 or 3 books.  I can’t remember which I was starting last Monday.  I didn’t spend all my extra time playing games.  I did the usual cooking, dishes, chauffeuring my youngest, grocery shopping, animal care and watched some TV.  Of course, I usually was doing an on-line jigsaw or playing games while watching. 

Anyone else feel they let too much time disappear into the black hole of game playing?  If you do, feel free to join me. 

And I guess I need to add the jigsaws to the list of things I won’t be doing this week.  Sigh. 

 It might be a very long week.

Snow, Snow, Snow

February 6, 2010

Here is our house after the first snow of 2010.  We had more than 10 inches.

Here’s the front porch today.  Lots of blowing very fine snowflakes.

It’s truly a winter wonderland.  Every tree branch and twig aren stenciled white against the darker white of the sky.

And joy of joys it is still coming down.  I’m disappointed we aren’t getting the two feet that DC is getting but at least we have snow.  Two weekends in a row.  I’m in heaven.

Pictures from Oahu

September 23, 2009
Waikiki Beach from our lanai

Waikiki Beach from our lanai

Waikiki Beach has changed a lot in 30 years

Waikiki Beach has changed a lot in 30 years

Arizona Memorial Pearl Harbor

Arizona Memorial Pearl Harbor

Diamond Head from the water in front of our hotel

Diamond Head from the water in front of our hotel

Waikiki Beach from the water

Waikiki Beach from the water

These are the pictures I tried to upload for the My Summer Vacation post.

Some bests from Oahu.

Best Day:  Pearl Harbor

Best lunch:  Cheeseburger in Paradise

Best dinner:  Duke’s Canoe Club

Best walk: From our hotel towards Diamnond Head.

After the HEA

September 22, 2009

Even as a kid, I always wanted to know what happened after the end of the story or book.  I spent many lovely hours imagining where my favorite stories are books would go next.  And no matter what problems or dangers I threw at the characters all came right at the end.This is probably why as an adult, I like series and why my first two manuscripts are part of a series.  And why I write romance.  I like HEA

But outside of fiction, here in the real world, our stories don’t stop at the happy moments when we achieve a longed for goal or find our true love.  Life with all it’s ups and downs goes on.

I always looked at my parents love story as a HEA.  They met, fell in love, faced adversity and overcame it.  I learned from them that making a marriage, a family, a career successful takes work and the work never ends.  But the rewards are worth the effort.

My parents have had a long life together, fifty-six years.  They have been partners, lovers, parents, best friends.  Now they are at a point in their journey where there can be no happily ever after.  My dad has dementia and Parkinson’s disease.  He can’t tell the difference between what he sees in his mind and what is actually going on.  He cannot walk very far, falls a lot, and can not carry on a conversation.  It is tearing my mother apart seeing him like this and knowing there is nothing she can do, that anyone can do to fix this and it will only get worse.

My mother always feared developing Alzheimer’s disease which runs in her family.  She never dreamed my father would be the one to lose his mind.  She never expected to be his caretaker.  But she is coping.  And determined to keep him at home.  She is having to make hard decisions.  She is having to accept she cannot do it all and needs help. She is coping.  With tears, sometimes anger and sometimes self-pity but she is doing it.

What are the lessons my parents’ story has to teach?   Avoid love because it can end badly.  Shun happiness because pain and despair might follow.  Stay where you are comfortable instead of venturing out and risking rejection? I don’t think so.

Life is a journey.  There are peaks where you feel you can reach out and touch eternity.  Times when you are so happy your body seems to small to contain your joy.  There are valleys where the road is neither hard nor easy but sometimes dull and boring.  There are deep holes you fear you may never climb out of.  We don’t know where, when or how our journey will end.  Love, family, friends, faith keep us going.  Remembering the happy times helps get us through the sad.  You are stronger than you think, can handle more than you ever imagined.  There is beauty in sunset as well as sunrise and even the darkest night will end.

If I can teach my kids even a fraction of this, I will feel I’ve been a success as a parent.

After the HEA, the story continues more compelling than before.

September 16, 2009

Some of you have asked to see an excerpt from my writing.  When I first wrote this book, it had a prologue.  As I learned more about writing I realized the prologue was back story and didn’t move the story along.  So I dropped it.  But it’s back story that really gives an insight into the characters so today I polished it up and am letting you see it.

The Turning Point

Dan Lawrence grabbed the pager vibrating on his hip.  His chest tightened when he read the number.  “I’ve got to call Lara,” he told the men gathered around the table.  “Something must have happened to one of the kids.”

“Use the phone in my office,” his commander said.

Dan nodded and ran into the next room.  His hands shook as he punched in Lara’s number.  “What’s wrong?” he barked as soon as she answered.

“What’s the phrase they use to tell the trainees in BUD/S they’ve passed Hell Week?”

“You sent me a 911 page to ask me that?  Are you out of your mind?  I was in a briefing.”

“I don’t give a shit about your briefing.  Joey and her band of Junior SEALs are sitting in the ocean and won’t come out.”  Lara’s voice shook.  “What’s the phrase?”

“You’re their mother.  Tell Joey you outrank her and to get out of the damn water or she’s grounded until she’s 30.”

“Didn’t work.  Tell me the freaking phrase.”

“Secure.  Tell them they’re secure.”   He sagged against the desk as he listened to Lara scream the phrase at their ten-year-old daughter.  It was November.  The Atlantic was too damn cold.  The kids would catch pneumonia.  What if Joey didn’t—

“They’re out.”

“You need to get them back to the house and into a warm tub.  Make sure they strip off the wet clothes—”

“I know the drill, Lieutenant.  Go back to your briefing.”  Lara hung up before he could say anything else.

Dan dropped the phone into the cradle and rubbed his eyes.  God, how many of the eight kids in Joey’s little band had followed her into the water?   He didn’t even need to ask to know their son Danny was one of them.  He followed Joey everywhere.

“What happened?  Are the kids all right?”  Commander Dave Crowther asked.

Dan straightened and turned to face him.  “For now.  Evidently Joey decided to take the Junior SEAL training a step further.  She had the kids doing surf torture.”

“Surf—” Dave’s eyes widened.  “Please tell me it was in a kiddie pool in the backyard.”

“Nope.  The ocean.  If Joey is going to do something, she goes all the way.  Too bad I didn’t remember that when she started building the obstacle course in the backyard.”

“Lara’s going to give us hell for telling the kids all those BUD/S stories isn’t she?”

“Oh, yeah.”  Dan blew out a breath.  “What am I going to do with her, Dave?”  He didn’t have to specify who.  Dave was Joey’s godfather.  He knew her almost as well as Dan.

“I bet she checked the water temperature, calculated how long it was safe for the child with the lowest body mass to stay in and based her plans on that.  It’s been a warm fall.  The kids probably won’t even catch a cold.”

“I’ll be sure to tell the other parents that.  Maybe they’ll just forbid their kids to play with Joey and won’t demand that the police arrest Lara and I.”

“I wonder what percentage of the kids who started the training with her six weeks ago made it through the course.”

Dan grimaced at his friend.  “I’m afraid to ask.”


“Did you get grounded too?”

Joey glanced up at her brother.  He sat halfway up the stairs clad in warm flannel dinosaur pajamas and a green robe.  His curly red hair gleamed in the reflected lights from the Christmas tree in the living room.

“Danny, Mom and Dad sent you to bed.  If they catch you out here, they’re going to add to your punishment,” she whispered running up the stairs to his side.

“I was waiting for you.”  Danny slipped his hand into hers.  “It’s okay, Joey.  A week isn’t too long.”

She sat down beside him.  “Three weeks.  I’m grounded until Christmas Day.”

“Three weeks,” Danny’s voice squeaked.  “That’s not fair.”

“Yes it is.  I’m the oldest.  I should have been setting a protecting you and setting a good example not leading you into a dangerous situation.”  She blinked back tears.  “Dad said a leader should make the safety of his men his first priority and I didn’t do that.  I’m sorry, Danny.  I didn’t meant to get you and the other kids in trouble.”

“We all agreed to the plan.”  Danny patted her on the arm.  “If we hadn’t finished this week out we would have failed.  But we all made it, Joey.  Nobody quit.  We all made it through Hell Week, how many kids can say that.”

Joey tried to smile.  “As far as I know, we’re the only ones.  But it wasn’t the real Hell Week.  We were just pretending.  There is no such thing as Junior SEALS.”  She stared into the lights of the tree.  They flickered and ran together as tears again filled her eyes.

“There is now.”  Danny folded his arms over his chest and frowned at her.  “It doesn’t matter what Dad and the rest of them say.  We did the training and Hell Week and we’re Junior Seals.  Someone has to be the first.  Isn’t that what you always say?  We’re the first Junior SEAL and you’re going to be the first girl to get into the SEALS.”

Joey dropped her head onto her knees to hide the tears running down her cheeks.  “I’m not going to be a SEAL, Danny.  Dad said that I’m old enough now to understand that.  In America, women aren’t allowed to go into combat.”  She scrubbed at her face.  “It’s a dumb law. You don’t have to be physically strong to serve your country.  And I will serve my country.  Somehow.”

“Joey, Danny.  What did your mother and I tell you to do?”

They jumped up.  Joey looked down at her father.  His auburn hair was mussed where he’d raked his fingers through it when he was in the office with her.  Lines framed his mouth and creased his forehead.

She straightened her shoulders.  “You told us to go to our rooms, Dad.”

“You do realize the length of your punishment is contingent on good behavior don’t you?”

“Yes, sir.”  They said quickly.

“Then I would suggest you both go to bed immediately.”

Joey took Danny’s hand and started up the stairs.

“And lights out.” Their father called after them.

“Lights out?”  Danny cried.  “But it’s only—”

Joey shook her head and he sighed.  “Yes, sir.  Lights out.”

“Sleep tight, Danny.  I love you.”

“Love you to Dad,” Danny said and trudged into his room.  “But it’s too early to go to sleep.”

Joey glanced at her father in time to see him hide a grin behind his hand at the grumbled words.  She put her hand on her doorknob.

“Joey, your Mom and I love you very much.  You know that don’t you?”  His voice was soft and gentle.

Tears filled her eyes again.  “Yes, sir.  I love you too,” she said without turning around.”  She walked into the room and started to close the door.

“Door open, Joey.”

Her dad sounded tired.  That was her fault.  She left the door ajar and crawled into bed.

“She’ll forgive us eventually, Dan.”  His wife wrapped her arms around his waist.  “She had her dreams shattered.  We need to give her time to adjust and find a new dream.”

He turned and took his wife in his arms and laid his cheek against hers.  “She scares me, Lara.  She’s so smart and she cares so much but she has no fear, no concern for her own safety.  And I never know what she’ll do next.”

Lara kissed him and led him to the couch.  He dropped down and tugged her hand to pull her into his lap.  She snuggled against him.

“She cares about other’s safety.  We made our point when we told her that the other children trusted her and would follow wherever she led.  She’ll watch out for them if not for herself.”

“After this stunt, I think their parents are going to make sure they don’t come anywhere near Joey.”  He stroked his hand over her reddish-gold hair.


They sat quietly for a few minutes watching the flames dance over the logs in the fireplace.  “Dan, what percentage of candidates usually make it through BUD/S?”

“It varies but usually between twenty to thirty percent,” he answered absently his mind busy assessing the possible repercussions of the children’s dip in the water.

“Joey brought one hundred percent of her group through their version.  That’s pretty remarkable when you think about it.”

Dan let his head fall back against the couch.  “It wasn’t anything like the actual course.”

“True, Joey made adjustments and concessions based on the kids age and size.  That chart she had ready to give the parents showing the water temperature and the research into body mass and reaction to cold was pretty impressive.”

“You sound like you think she should be rewarded not punished.  She broke the rules, Lara.”

“Which rules did she break, Dan?  She got Lauren to go to the beach with them so there was an adult present.  Every child had a buddy and every child was wearing a life jacket even though they were sitting in only seven inches of water.”

“And the rule about not going in the water in the winter?”  he snapped.

“Did we ever make that rule?  I seem to recall a couple of polar bear swims in February.”

“We’re adults.  And Dave and I only dipped Joey and Danny in for a second because they kept begging us to take them.  We wanted them to understand how cold it was.”  He didn’t meet her eyes.  Maybe they hadn’t ever spelled it out as a rule.  But Joey had a genius IQ.  She should have been able to figure that out for herself.  “You don’t think we should have let them keep going do you?  The next step in training after Hell Week is the Dive Phase.  And after that is demolition training.  Thank God, we stopped her before she came up with some version of that.”

“Is that why you told her she could never become a SEAL.  So she’d stop training for it?”

“I just told her the truth.  Even if the laws change about women in combat, they will never be admitted to the SEALs.”

“She could still join the Navy when she’s old enough.  With her leadership abilities, she could become the youngest admiral in the history of the Navy.”

He pulled back and stared at her.  “Only if they give her admiral’s rank on enlistment.  Otherwise, she’d be facing a court martial before she finishes OTC.  If our daughter thinks an order doesn’t make sense, she’s going to find away around it and you know it, Lara.”

“Yeah, heaven forbid anyone question some of the obsolete and ridiculous rules on the Navy books.”  She stood up and held out her hand.  “Come on into the kitchen.  You can pour us some wine while I grill the pork chops.  I’m starving.”

“Let me check on the kids, then I’ll come and help.”  He squeezed her hand and headed for the stairs.

“You know honey, with the kids in bed and asleep before their usual bedtime, we have a couple of empty hours to fill.  Got any suggestions on what we could do to pass the time.”

He grinned.  “Oh, I can think of one or two things we might do.”

“Only one or two?  You must be tired.”  She turned and walked toward the kitchen her hips swaying seductively.

“Ah, but you don’t know which one or two things I have in mind,” he called after her.  He ran up the steps and went into Danny’s room first.  He was sprawled on his stomach, a stuffed dinosaur clutched in one hand.  Dan pulled the covers up around his son’s shoulders and kissed his cheek.

He paused outside Joey’s door.  A faint glow showed beneath the mound of blanket and comforter.  He sighed and walked over to the bed.  “Lights out means flashlights too, Josephine Elizabeth.”  He held out his hand when she stuck her head out from under the covers and she handed him the flashlight.  “Book too.”  He stuck the light and the paperback she handed him in his pocket and sat on the edge of the bed.  “What am I going to do with you, Joey?”

“I’m sorry, Dad, but I couldn’t go to sleep.  It’s too early.”  She scooted up and put her head on the pillow.

“Did you try?”

“No.”  She shrugged.  “ I never go to sleep this early so I figured I wouldn’t be able to tonight.”

“You don’t usually spend the afternoon doing surf torture,” he countered.  “Hell week usually includes sleep deprivation.  Have you guys been doing that part of it too?”

“Just getting up a couple of hours earlier than usual.  I was afraid some of the kids might get cranky or fall asleep in school if we tried to get by on less sleep than that.”

“Good call.”  He brushed her unruly curls away from her face.  Her hair was the same glorious color as her mother’s.  “I think you’ll find it won’t take much effort to fall asleep tonight.”

She obediently closed her big green eyes.  He wondered how long that would last and if another flashlight was hidden under her pillow or in the drawer.  But he’d made his point and would make sure he and Lara made noise when they came up the stairs later.  He didn’t want to have to extend her punishment and hell, he’d read under the covers when he was a kid too.  He kissed her forehead.

“I’m sorry I upset you and Mom.  I’m going to make you proud of me, Dad.”

“I’m proud of you already.  I love you sweetheart.”

“Love you too, Daddy.”

He walked out of the room and pulled the flashlight and paperback out of his pocket and laid them on the hall table.  Profiles in Courage by John Fitzgerald Kennedy.  He shook his head.  Courage she had in abundance.  It was common sense she needed to work on.  He walked back downstairs.  As he passed the Christmas tree, he looked up at the angel on top.

“Dear God, You better send your best guardian angel to help keep Joey safe.”  He thought for a minute.  “Better yet, you better send her angels plural and you better make sure they are Navy SEALS.  No one else could keep up with her.”