I love the written word and of course, what author doesn’t? That is what we do–write. It’s clearly our joy and at times, our job. We record the signs of our times—our families; all the events that make us smile, all the tragedies that bring us to our knees, emails or Facebook with friends, editorials, and last but not least, support for issues that stir us into action. 

But here’s the thing. Let me start with Christmas cards. Once upon a time I hung them on our living room doorsill. They ran up one side and down the other and consistently included a few lines to say hello, here we are in life now. My favorite were the letters that reviewed the year for the family, pictures included as an extra bonus. I didn’t realize then it would be the word inked in one’s handwriting that I took for granted. At that time, fifteen to twenty years ago, the cards started whittling down; this year receiving five. However, this year and the past, I still flip through my address book, sending twenty at least. I just can’t give up the tradition, the handwriting them. Could it be because I dread seeing this personal connection fade or is it simply because I am a writer and love personal writing? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s both.

What I do know is I miss grabbing a personal envelope out of the mailbox, often irritatingly hidden by unwanted advertising cards. I happily read the return address, then walk past a few houses to my home. Sometimes I wait a few hours before I sit down to read it in a quiet place. I do the same with great books—read them slowly. I’ve never read a book at one sitting. It’s like a peanut butter cup, something to be savored. I read a few pages or a chapter at bedtime. A card or letter is the same and deserves quiet and thoughtfulness. 

I know, I know, using emails, Facebook and others expand our world and take much less time to relay messages.  Don’t get me wrong, I use them too—a lot. We all can type a few lines, maybe more and the message will speed anywhere quickly. However, I still write letters or fill a card with news. Luckily, I have two longtime friends who do the same and I love it. We don’t write weekly or anything, but when I do hear from them through handwritten communication, I’m delighted. I just don’t want to give up that written word to communicate. Like I said, maybe it’s the writer in me.    

Remember Saturday?

Last Saturday, our daughter and family, my visiting niece and hers, and my husband and I traveled to Breckenridge to have some fun— at a snow tubing facility. I didn’t participate due to the fact I was in physical therapy. Nothing major, but I seem to find excuses for not doing my exercises and didn’t want to take any chances making physical therapy last longer. While they sped down the slick runs of packed snow, I sat in the lodge at the last available table we luckily grabbed. The tall brick fireplace with its radiating fire, combined with a cup of coffee and people gazing, made for a delightful time while the others zoomed down the snowy hill. They were too far away for me to watch, but the lodge’s floor to ceiling windows and brick fireplace made for a cozy wait while drinking coffee. Once they returned from sledding, their cheeks and noses flushed, they bought hot chocolate and recounted their rides with plenty of belly laughter as they did. Their stories were infectious, and we chattered happily traveling down mountain to return home. This was clearly a day to be journaled.

However, I didn’t. In fact, I haven’t journaled since we began preparing our book for publication, which has been some time. Diana journals daily in the mornings and Sally often, too. I’ve wondered why I’ve not. The only answer I surmise is I am on a sabbatical of some sort. I had no idea writing was that intense and yes, draining at times. Yikes. As our book relays, the three of us met every week on zoom, at least once, often twice, and sometimes more. We allowed nothing to deter us. 

I’m glad we each write for our blog site weekly and continue to zoom once a week to discuss our marketing strategies. During that time, we still read our personal writings on a prompt we take turns providing. I’ll return to journaling. Recording a day like last Saturday is a great memory to capture for myself and more importantly for others. As previously shown in Sally’s blog regarding her great-grandmother’s journal, capturing past memories in one’s own perspective links us to each other in a personal way.    

Your Coffee House

A couple days ago, my daughter had an appointment in Arvada, an older suburb of Denver. The “Old Town” is charming with renovations morphing into coffee houses, boutiques, and restaurants. I rode along with her since she’d suggested there was a fun coffee house located there. “You can write while you wait,” she said. “Then, we have to go into the shop next door. Their Christmas items are so pretty.” She knows I’m a sucker for Christmas decorations. She also knows I can’t turn down a visit to a great coffee shop. Combine a latte with a new Christmas item and I’m in, all the way.

            She left for her hour appointment a block away and I ordered my almond milk, sugar-free flavored latte and settled at a small round wooden table by a large window framing the street outside lined with lamps. Christmas lights were wrapped around fresh greenery and finished off with red plaid bows, the perfect touch. I set my computer on the table, drank my latte, and wrote. I can’t begin to tell you who walked through the door or what they wore or even said. A coffee shop is my “happy place” for writing. All else fades.  

            I’ve always been intrigued as to where writers prefer to write, where they do their best creating. There are so many places I’ve heard or read about. A bedroom turned into one’s private writing nest, an office with computer and printer sitting on a desk, a conference table in a worker’s lounge used during breaks, a cozy chair facing a window with nature just outside or even a patio table on a deck. That’s just a few. The important thing is that wherever one writes, there’s a good chance that just like my coffee house, the rest of the world is shut out and the words become the only noticeable activity. 

Shoestrings and Rescues

A friend and I had searched for a dog rescue where we’d like to volunteer. Heaven knows, there’s plenty of them encircling just our area. Through a small community paper article, we discovered one that rescues mainly puppies and their mothers—strays, mostly emaciated, feeding five or six young puppies. The owners work with a woman on one of the New Mexico reservations to help rescue as many dogs as possible. The rescue also pairs up with the humane society to adopt them. The puppies are adopted quickly, the mothers not so much. It’s heartbreaking and one just hopes they also are taken into a loving, caring home. 

We currently volunteer one day a week and it’s such delight to socialize the little ones with cuddling and belly rubs. Today, two fuzzy polar bear-looking puppies played tug of war with my shoestrings. Their little growls are delightful. The others come over, scrambling over each other in their clumsiness to reach us. How can you not laugh?

Currently, there are two mothers and three sets of puppies (the youngest set are still bottle fed since their mother was never found). We walked the mothers down a country road where the rescue is located. At times, they were skittish and stopped to stare at the prairie fields beside us. We never figured out what they were looking at, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t see or smell something far off. One can almost intuit their former life and the vigilance necessary to survive. Once we turned around to head home, the two dogs nearly pulled us over, tugging at their leashes, in a rush to check on their babies. Animals are teachers. We just need to notice.

During this season of giving, please consider donating to any rescue of your choice—cats, dogs, mustangs, or anything else. It would be a wonderful Christmas gift. Maybe give some shoestrings?

One Festive Moment

“Twas four weeks before Christmas, when all through the house, flour was sitting…” and so on. I love Christmas and all the festivities accompanying it. However, I diligently wait until December 1st to begin with music, decorating and cards (yes, I still write them). So, two nights ago I cheated. I decided to make chicken rice soup while listening to Christmas music. I was tra-la-la singing along with Hallelujah by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The soup called for flour to thicken the broth. Still singing loudly (I was alone in the house), I opened the pantry door and grabbed the flour stored in a large, square plastic Oxo container secured with its awesome push-down lock lid. Before you could wink an eye, as I turned around to leave, the lid gave way in my hands. At least half of the full container of unbleached flour soared into the air like confetti tossed on the bride and groom as they exit the church. 

After considerable cussing, I surveyed the area. Our wooden floor, the stove-top and oven door, the entire bottom half of the cupboards, the counters, the garbage can, the Keurig coffee machine on the counter, the pottery Keurig cup container and my sweatshirt, sweatpants and wool socks were covered in a flour mist. A rather thick one. 

I took off my sweatshirt, pants and socks, leaving footprints across the laundry room. Tossing them in the washer, I grabbed a broom. Bad idea. It doesn’t work. Just then, our dog Rusty came trotting around the kitchen counter to check out the situation. After walking through the floured floor to check on me, he happily pranced down the hallway to go to sit in his favorite chair, leaving white dog prints the entire length. Taking a very deep breath, I set the broom outside on the deck rather forcefully and watched as the bristles made a cloud of flour softly sift into the air like angel dust.

I didn’t want to use our vacuum, so filled the kitchen sink with warm water and a little dish soap. Using two sponges, a rag, and my hands and knees, I wiped it all. Over and over. I locked Rusty in my room and wiped up his canine trail. The entire chore lasted nearly an hour. I no longer wanted to hear Christmas music. Instead, I fixed the lid on the Oxo container and still maintained enough composure to thicken the soup. When my husband came home, I casually remarked, “Guess what happened?” I knew he wouldn’t be surprised. He knows me. And by the way, today I found traces of flour under the dining room table and oven.   

This Time

We move from Thanksgiving into Christmas this year of 2022. Holidays bring front and center so many emotions—happiness of sharing them with family and friends, loneliness for those not so fortunate, gratitude and appreciation for many reasons. Holidays bring back memories, too. I can get very melancholy over the past, especially during this time of year.

Growing up, my parents always had Thanksgiving dinner. My grandparents, aunts and uncles, plus cousins filled the length of our living room. Dad and my brother set up the tables while Mom made the dinner, her pies everyone loved included. After we kids set the table for over twenty people while Dad helped Mom, people began to arrive with more food and soon, the kitchen was packed and filled with laughter and the dinner table was covered with dishes of delicious homemade food (no Costco purchases then!).

It’s funny how when young, I took those times for granted, figuring Thanksgiving would always be like that. Instead, due to moving to different states, it often hasn’t been, and we’ve only had just our family of five at the table. That is the reason yesterday at our daughter’s house was so special with sixteen people at their table. It reenacted those memories of long ago and this time I was grateful.

All Kinds

A friend mentioned in her email that since her husband wasn’t feeling well, it was she who had to fill her car with gas, an act her husband usually did because he knew she hated doing it. It touched me, making me think about his act of love for her. These acts are all kinds and come in all sizes to expand one’s heart, no matter what. Like when:

My brother-in-law buys clothing for my sister’s birthday or Christmas—jackets and dresses that fit her perfectly. The gifts are nice, but more, he knows her. Relationship love.

A woman from Poland is raising funds to build an eighty-room shelter for refugees crossing the border from Ukraine, the old, women and children. Love for mankind.

A pet is euthanized with the owner’s arms wrapped around their neck, stroking them as gentle words of love drift over both like comforting incense. Animal love.

My granddaughter insists the stuffed animal you bought at the store with her is for you, not her, and she smiles when you hug it to your chest, her beautiful brown eyes gleaming with happiness that now you own one too. Child love.

Your hairdresser has moved and the one who takes her place gives you a style that closely resembles that of Elvis. Your sister says, “It doesn’t really look that bad.” You know she is lying, but doesn’t want to wipe out the little bit of self-confidence you have left. Sister love.

I could go on, but I’m sure you have a long list to add to mine. We just sometimes forget.