The Rich Life of an Author

 

The Rich Life of an Author                   

    Some people may think an author’s life is all glamour. That’s because they haven’t seen the author doing back stretches after sitting at the computer all day or lugging her books into a venue to sell. Another delusion is that publishing a book makes a person rich. I’m still waiting for that ship to come in.

Meanwhile, I am rich in wonderful experiences. Let me share what happened one afternoon last month when I spoke at a local assisted living and basic care home.

I was warned in advance that the audience wasn’t likely to buy any books, so instead of talking about my new book, Cottonwood Dreams, I told them about writing Secrets of the Dark Closet. Since Secrets was published four years ago, I’ve learned that the topic has universal appeal. Apparently, every family has its secrets.

After putting in a fair amount of time preparing the talk, I drove a few blocks to the home. Once there, I was dismayed to see most of the audience was in wheelchairs and several were asleep!

“It takes a moment to judge someone, but a lifetime to understand them.” – Tina Ng

Soon after I began, it became clear that looks were deceiving. Several people smiled or nodded as I talked. When I asked questions, they were eager to share stories. A young fellow sitting in a wheelchair at the back of the room took photos for me.

One woman was so bent over, her head was almost on her lap and one leg was all wrapped up. From time to time, she would raise up and nod at me. That tugged at my heart strings! Later, I sat with her and learned she’s in her late 90s. We had a rich conversation about family secrets and the times we live in.

When I was about to leave, there was a ruckus in the hall. After the talk, one lady had wheeled her chair through the building, taken the elevator to her room, and was dashing back. I heard her call out, “Is she still here? Can I still buy a book?” That was my one sale for the day, and though it was only $12, it was priceless.

Here’s another story. I went to the KNDR-FM studio to do a live radio interview mid-September. At 8 a.m. I usually haven’t muttered the word “coffee” by that time. Sigh.

Three days later at the Northbrook Mall Vendor Show, I learned the “sacrifice” was worth it. The first person who stopped by my table had heard the interview. She’d driven over 60 miles and arrived as the doors opened. The second person was also from out of town. She stopped by to say thank you because she’d won the book giveaway on KNDR.

Later, another woman expressed a curious interest in the Prairie Pastor Series, and then she really surprised me. She’d read the first two books and she guessed the name of the little country church on which Cottonwood Church is modeled. That delighted me, and even more so after learning that she grew up attending that church.

Lately, these wonderful encounters have been happening almost every week, and this author is feeling rich indeed.

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen

or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.” Helen Keller

Writer Update

October 14: Ashley, N.D. I’ll be signing books from 4-6 p.m. at Book Smart, 108 W. Main Street. I hear tell there will be a food truck parked out front!

November 7: I am privileged to be one of eight authors featured in the Humanities North Dakota Page Turner event. On Nov. 7, you are invited to watch me read a chapter from Cottonwood Dreams. The segment will air from 4 to 5:30 Central Time at https://www.humanitiesnd.org/event-details/nov-7-page-turner-1. There is no cost.

December 3-4: Garrison, N.D, Dicken’s Village Festival. More info later.

 

 

 

 

 

Time for National Soul Searching?

A couple days before our first son was born, we made a trip into town to see the doctor. Storm clouds mushroomed in the west. We watched as a tornado followed us for several miles before lifting.

We were blissfully unaware of the threat to the family farm. My mother-in-law was home alone with several of her kids. They hurried to the basement and knelt in prayer as the tornado roared past a quarter mile away. A torrent of hailstones hammered the farm.

We arrived home a few hours later to find that the hail had mowed down our bumper crop of wheat. Trees were uprooted. Twenty-two windows were broken in the two houses. It was a defining moment in our lives: within a couple days, our baby was born and we began to make plans to leave the farm.

But, back to the subject. During that storm, the wind was so strong that it drove shafts of wheat into a tree trunk. And yet, no one was injured. The livestock were okay. The houses and all of the farm buildings were spared.

That scene of the family kneeling in prayer? It flashed through my mind recently as we listened to the evening news.

The news gave me indigestion. Hurricanes devastated large parts of the South and East Coast. An inferno burned in California. Drought was destroyed farms in the middle states. Our enemies paraded through the streets in our military equipment. There were more Covid cases in the state than last year. Locally, every ICU bed was filled.

I thought, “Our world is in trouble. We need help!” Then I remembered the words of Jesus: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

That family kneeling in prayer many years ago? They weren’t asking a distant God for help. They prayed before every meal. They piled into the car every Sunday and attended church together. When an emergency came, they already had God’s attention.

America was founded on Christian principles, but we’ve drifted away from the things that made us a light in the dark world. It’s like the scripture from Judges 17:6: “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” As a nation, we no longer see God as the king of our lives. A recent president even called us a post-Christian nation.

Columnist Star Parker has said that maybe it’s time to do some national soul-searching. I agree. We’ve swum far out into the sea of self-reliance, and it’s time to make a change. It’s time to turn back to God. We need to seek him out and to teach our children to rely on him. Then we will find the peace in the storm that Jesus promised to those who seek him.

Sept. 19 is Back to Church Sunday. Thousands of churches across the country will roll out the welcome mat that day. They can offer you a spiritual home, a place to worship God, and they are a place to nurture your faith and develop new friendships. If you don’t have a church home, check out www.backtochurch.com.

For further reading: America’s Godly Heritage by David Barton; The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel; and The History of Prayer in America by Fern Nilson.

Writing Update

September is a busy month, but Covid pandemic has changed some plans.

Sept. 16, speaking at Augusta Place retirement community in Bismarck. I’ve been asked to wear a mask, so that will be a new challenge.

Sept. 22, radio interview on KNDR-FM. This is to promote Cottonwood Dreams and the upcoming vendor show.

Sept. 25, Northbrook Vendor Show at Northbrook Mall, on north Washington. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sept. 28, tentatively scheduled to record a chapter of Cottonwood Dreams with Humanities of North Dakota.

Oct. 1-2, I was looking forward to traveling to the Black Hills for the S.D. Festival of Books. However, due to Covid, the conference will be online again this year.

Final Word

The Bible says to count it all joy as various trials come upon you, so praise the Lord and trust him to see us through these interesting times.

Dads: Just be There

 

“Fathers are the great gift-givers of the world!” – Sonora Smart Dodd, founder of Father’s Day.

Three generations of the Schuck family

Did you know Father’s Day was created to honor a man who raised six kids as a single parent? Sonora Smart Dodd is credited with founding the first Father’s Day. Her father, William Smart, was a farmer and Civil War veteran. He raised Sonora and her five brothers by himself after his wife Ellen died in childbirth.

The first Father’s Day took place in Spokane, Washington, on June 19, 1910. On a personal note, in researching this, I discovered that Marion E. Hay, who was then governor of Washington, likely signed the first Father’s Day proclamation. He was married to Elizabeth Muir, my grandfather Gale Muir’s oldest sister.

Sonora spent her life pushing to make Father’s Day a national holiday. That took place in 1972. That’s important, because today the traditional family is under a lot of stress. Honoring the role of fathers is more important than ever!

Dads are heroes to small children and role models for teens.

I admired the fish Dad caught

Many dads feel inadequate for their role. They need to know that just being there is important. One of the saddest tributes to a father came from John Kennedy, Jr. After the assassination of President Kennedy, his young son asked William Haddad, an associate of JFK’s, “Are you a daddy?” Haddad told him that he was. In response, little John Jr. said, “Then will you throw me up in the air?”

So dads, the simplest things are important to your kids. My father loved to fish, read novels of the Old West, and work with horses. However, few people know that he enjoyed singing. When I was a child, we had an upright piano and a piano bench filled with sheet music. We often sang together as Mom or my sister chorded the piano.

Dad belted out each song with gusto! I can still hear his rich baritone voice singing “Shine on, Harvest Moon” or “You are my Sunshine.” His favorite hymn was, “The Old Rugged Cross.”

Recently I received a packet of family mementos from a cousin. It included my dad’s obituary and the program from his funeral. “The Old Rugged Cross” was one of the songs sung that November day. It’s been fifty years since Dad passed away, but I still tear up when I hear that song.

Do you have a favorite memory of your dad? If you do, please tell him if you can, or share it with others as a way to honor him.

“God is the Father who is always home.” – Unknown

 

Writing Update

This morning a box full of Cottonwood Dreams arrived! That means that if you want autographed copies of my latest book, just let me know. You may also obtain copies at all online stores in paperback and eBook. Be among the first to post a review–all reviews are appreciated.

Book Signings:

August 14, from 11-4 p.m. Northbrook Mall, Bismarck

October 1 & 2, Festival of Books, Deadwood, S.D.

 

 

 

 

 

In the Garden

 

Writing Update

This blog post, “In the Garden,” is dear to my heart, but first I want to announce that Cottonwood Dreams is now available! Purchase your copy at all online bookstores. May I recommend Smashwords.com for eBooks?

Want to be a part of the team to launch this third book in the Prairie Pastor series? Join “Gayle Pals” by sending me an email. Just as it takes many people to write, edit, proof and publish a book, it takes a team to let others know about it. Here’s how to be a part of the team:

  1. Purchase your eBook or paperback online to boost its visibility.
  2. Write an online review. (No need to be long or flowery. Honest reviews are appreciated.)
  3. Tell others about the book and the rest of the series set at Cottonwood Creek.

As information about book signings, events, etc. become available, I’ll let you know via email. Look for Gayle’s Pals in the subject line.

 

In the Garden

As I write this, we’re between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, two holidays infused with flowers, music, and nostalgia. For me, May is also the launch of garden season. Our garden includes a small square behind the house and numerous pots filled with flowers and vegetables. We enjoy nurturing them all summer.

“A garden is predictable. The melody has already been written, or at least the chord progression,” Richard Brookhiser recently wrote in the National Review.

Baby lettuce

I hadn’t thought of gardens as being predictable. After all, you never know what kind of crop you’re going to get. Still, we believe (predict, hope) seeds and baby plants will grow up to be beautiful, fragrant flowers or tasty, bountiful vegetables.

One of the best-loved hymns is about gardens. C. Austin Miles wrote In the Garden in his basement with no garden in sight. Instead, what he saw was a vision of Mary at the empty tomb as described in John 20:14. The words of the song came to him in a rush. That evening he set it to music.

 

 

 

A May garden promises June roses

In the Garden

I come to the garden alone While the dew is still on the roses And the voice I hear, falling on my ear The son of God discloses.

He speaks and the sound of His voice is so sweet, the birds hush their singing, And the melody that He gave to me With in my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him Though the night around me is falling But He bids me go
Through the voice of woe His voice to me is calling.

And He walks with me And He talks with me And He tells me I am His own And the joy we share as we tarry there None other has ever known. C. Austin Miles

 

Lilacs in May

When I was a new Christian, I preferred contemporary Christian music to hymns. I didn’t know that when In the Garden was written in 1912, it was modern Christian music. It also went against tradition by describing a sweet personal friendship with Jesus, rather than seeing him as an unapproachable God.

Today, I love this hymn. It has even more meaning in this interlude between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day because it was sung at my mother’s and sisters’ funerals. They were all gardeners. I like to think they’re now enjoying a heavenly garden.

“Kiss of the sun for pardon.
Song of the birds for mirth.
You’re closer to God’s heart in a garden
Than any place on earth.”

–  Dorothy Frances Gurney

While, some of the most important events in the Bible took place in the Garden of Eden and the Garden of Gethsemane, Revelations 22:1-2 shows that there are gardens in heaven, too:

“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.”

This May season is the perfect time to enjoy a quiet interlude in a garden, park or other pretty spot. While there, let us listen for his sweet voice and be open to his friendship.

Meanwhile, please be a pal and join the Gayle Pals team.

 

 

 

Take a Sneak Peek at Cottonwood Dreams

Spring has sprung, and it’s time to look forward to summer fun. Much of my fun takes place in our tiny gardens. The daylilies and roses are peeking through the ground and we purchased several bags of fertilizer and mulch this week. It’s a season of optimism.

Coming soon!

I am also happy because my next book is almost finished. It took 20 months to write Cottonwood Dreams and another four months for the editing process. Those are the first two steps in publishing. Next, the manuscript will be sent off to the publisher. Waiting (and wading) through this step can take weeks or months. Then it’ll be time to let everyone know it’s available and dig out my book-signing pen.

I hope readers will like this book. All of the characters from By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek and Amber’s Hope are in it, but the main characters are Brianna Davis and Tiny Winger.

The truth is I didn’t think Brianna was very likable in the other books. She was too tall, too pretty, too successful, and too haughty. Give me someone I can relate to! However, I began to wonder how she felt about being pretty. Did it cause her problems? How did it feel to find success so young? Slowly her story was revealed to me.

I could see her standing in front of Aunt Kate’s Queen Anne house in Schulteville, clutching her sewing machine and suitcase. Brianna was dumping her glamorous life and pinning her last hope on the love and friendships she’d found in North Dakota.

Tiny began as a minor character in By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek, but he developed a following among readers. Everyone liked this shy hometown guy who wore a greasy cap and oozed common sense. Well, almost everyone liked him. Brianna didn’t. And clearly, the feeling was mutual at first. Then, they were forced to spend time together.

Cottonwood Dreams is the story of Brianna and Tiny’s relationship and the good-hearted people that surround them in both their happiest and most difficult moments. It’s about faith and friendship helping them navigate life.

It’s also about mental illness. Did you know this illness takes many forms? It’s misunderstood, difficult to diagnose and devastates families. Tiny lives under its weight, and Brianna is about to get it thrown in her face.

Writing Cottonwood Dreams kept me busy through the long months of Covid-19 isolation. Still, I heard from readers who asked how the writing was going or when the book would be published. Your comments are always Miracle- Gro™ for this writer!

Sometimes, I go through my “kudos” file and say a prayer of thanks for readers that take time to write a note. Knowing you read my book in one sitting, can relate to a character, or found encouragement in the pages means more to me than you can imagine. Thank you.

Now, here is a word of encouragement for you:

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

May you be blessed with sunshine, flowers and the warmth of God’s grace this spring.

 

Writing Update

Upcoming events: August 14, 2021, vendor show at Northbrook Mall in Bismarck. Details to follow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today While the Blossoms Still Cling to the Vine

The other morning I awoke with a melody running through my mind. Though I couldn’t remember the title or the words, it seemed like a good idea to pay attention to the jukebox in my head. Often the songs playing there offer insight into my emotions or current events.

Today, when I turned on the music channel, that very melody was playing. “Today” by the New Christy Minstrels came out in 1964. When I listened to the song, I knew there was a blog post in that five letter word “Today.”

Today while the blossoms still cling to the vine I’ll taste your strawberries, I’ll drink your sweet wine. A million tomorrows shall all pass away Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today.

Me, filled with jaded teen wisdom

As I write this in my senior years, I recall writing an essay on “Yesterday” when I was a senior in high school. Now, I wonder how much a teenager could have to say about yesterday? I kept the paper, which is filled with jaded teenage wisdom. Although it couldn’t have been too bad. When I met up with my English teacher decades later to thank him for encouraging me to write, I found he had also kept the essay.

Paradoxically, now that I have many yesterdays to write about, I’m writing about today. Because, really, today is what is important.

I can’t be contented with yesterday’s glory I can’t live on promises winter to spring (winter to spring)

So, besides humming this sweet ballad, how can we treasure today?

  • Take time to enjoy music or art, spend time with a friend, go for a walk. My very Norwegian Aunt Ianca Larson often commented, “The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.” Getting away from our tasks or problems puts them in perspective. Ianca also liked to say, “Too soon old, too late smart.” Let’s be smart and make some guilt-free happy time.
  • “Worry is the interest paid by those who borrow trouble.” George Washington said that, and he had plenty to worry about. We can make the most of each day by following his advice and that found in Matthew 6:34, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
  • Begin each day by thanking God. There is a scene in the movie “The Orphan Train” where a room full of homeless orphans found much for which to be grateful. By comparison, my list of blessings is endless! There is a bonus in thanking and praising God, because it brings us into His presence; there is no more lovely place to be.
  • Encourage someone. Courage is the root word of both encourage and discourage. St. Paul, in I Thessalonians said, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up…”
  • We all have a God-given call to be part of His family and be His representatives here on earth. Nothing makes today more rewarding than being in that sweet spot where we are making a difference. Need direction? Ask and then listen for His quiet voice in your heart.

Today is my moment and now is my story I’ll laugh and I’ll cry and I’ll sing. A million tomorrows shall all pass away Ere I forget all the joy that is mine today.

Writing Update

Cottonwood Dreams will have the most beautiful cover! A photo by local photographer Paulette Bullinger is right now in production. I’m so pleased that all four of my books have artwork by North Dakota photographers. The manuscript is now on the proofreading circuit. When the cover and the proofreading are completed, we will go into publication mode.

Meanwhile, I’ll be signing books at the Spring into Summer show at Northbrook Mall in Bismarck on April 17. It’s my first book signing in 18 months! If you are in the neighborhood, please stop by. This is a new organization and this is only their second show. It will have 50 vendors.

 

Happy Easter!  A sunflower cake is featured in Cottonwood Dreams. When I finished writing the book, a friend made this cake to help celebrate. May you be blessed with an Easter celebration as sweet and sunny as this cake. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m of the Old School

 

 

Old School

Perhaps I’m old school because I attended the Old School when I was growing up. It was a square brick building with a bell tower and three floors. The wooden stair steps had indents from decades of young feet tramping up and down them. Each fall the newly shined hardwood floors smelled like polish.

I lived across the street, and so the school grounds were my playground. On summer nights, the neighbor kids played baseball there. On mild days, we used the iron bar fence along State Highway 13 as a balance beam. I still remember rambling across the snow-crusted schoolyard with the boy next door after a school dance.

In the main hall of the school, a statue of Abraham Lincoln greeted students as they came up the steps. To a little kid from a small town, the statue was large in meaning.

Old Abe

Old Abe in his new home

Old Abe reminded me that even a poor boy from the frontier could grow up to be president. He was known for his honesty. He was a champion of freedom.

Some people appear to be ignorant of Lincoln’s accomplishments and sacrifice for us, U.S. They desecrate and tear down statues of Lincoln. They point out his flaws and miss the obvious fact that he changed history for the good of all of us.

To me, the statue will always be linked with the ideals that were instilled in us as students. This month, President’s Day falls a few days after Lincoln’s birthday. It’s a great time to think of how much he helped our nation. Yes, we have our problems. Still, people all over the world dream of moving here. That’s because of, not in spite of, the leadership of people like Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on the battlefield during the Civil War. That battle was the turning point in the war for freedom from slavery.

The Gettysburg Battlefield today

The Gettysburg Address still identifies the heart of America. Please take a moment to read through its 278 words which are still relevant today.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Abraham Lincoln
November 19, 1863

The Lincoln statue from the Old School is now located at the LaMoure County Memorial Museum at Grand Rapids, N.D. You can find the link to the museum on Facebook.

Writing Update:

I’m editing the manuscript of Cottonwood Dreams and wishing I could make a road trip to Cottonwood Creek. I’d stay at Kate’s Bed & Breakfast and gas up at Your Friendly Co-op. Then I’d drive out to Cottonwood Church and snap a few photos.

Speaking of which, I am looking for good photos of a North Dakota blue sky over a sunflower field. If you know of any, please contact me.

 

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.”

– Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

 

 

New Year, New Book

“Joyful, joyful, we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love. Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.” These words have been marching through my mind for the past two weeks as I finish my next book.

This New Year’s, the book is one chapter away from being finished and it still didn’t have a name!

On New Year’s Eve, with three naming ideas in hand, I went to my husband for advice. This man has read every chapter as it comes off the printer all raw and flawed. He’s caught typos and flagged problems. He’s laughed and cried over my words. Of course, my writers group has done this, too, but my husband has also dealt with the words, “Just another ten minutes” too many times as I finish a paragraph, and has driven me all over the Dakotas for book signings.

I picked out three titles for the book and had sort of decided on one. However, I wanted his opinion. Without hesitation he chose the third one, the very one I had landed on.

Today, I’m sharing with this select audience the title of my next book:

Cottonwood Dreams

There’s a long way to go before Cottonwood Dreams is finished. The publishing process may take another year. After the last chapter is written, editing and revisions begin. Eventually it will be proofread. A cover will be designed. Then comes the actual launch. Sometimes I feel too old to do all of this, but then I remember one of my favorite authors, Laura Ingalls Wilder, began publishing Little House books at age 64.

Cottonwood Dreams is the last book in the Prairie Pastors Series. For 20 years, the characters of series have lived in my heart and mind. By the time By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek was finished, Kelly, Amber, Tiny and Brianna took on lives of their own, and Amber’s Choice was on it’s way.

Here is the synopsis of Cottonwood Dreams:

Can a couple as different as chalk and cheese make a relationship work? That’s what Brianna Davis wonders when, in an unlikely turn of events, Tiny Winger captures her heart and she moves across the country to Cottonwood Creek. She wants to escape from her life in San Francisco, but is their love strong enough to heal the hurts of the past?

Tiny has overcome childhood abuse and neglect with the help of God and the good people of Cottonwood Creek. Now he dreams of a life with Brianna. Only two things block the way to true happiness: their mothers.

 

How to Live Well in 2021

Going into the new year with a song in my heart is certainly a gift from God that contradicts my personal concerns and the state of the world.

It is the second time music has been a muse for my writing. Six years ago on New Year’s Eve, as I wrote the last chapter of Secrets of the Dark Closet, the hymn This is my Father’s World played in my head and lifted my soul and spirit.

A muse is a “source of inspiration.” The song Joyful, Joyful is based on a poem written by Henry Van Dyke to go with a melody composed by Ludwig van Beethoven. The above words are the first lines in verse one. There are four verses.

Music is a source of inspiration for all of us, lifting moods on dreary days and brightening our outlook on the world. Several of my friends picked special words to reflect on this year and encouraged me to do the same. My word will be “Sing.” I hope you will “join the band” and pick a word to inspire you in 2021.

I wanted to offer some ideas for living well in the new year, but my friend Barbara Brabec beat me to it. These ideas are shared with her permission. Find more in The Brabec Bulletin brabec-bulletin@wowway.com.

* Live one day at a time and don’t worry about tomorrow, since “. . . tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matt. 6:34).

* Ground myself in the Word, thank God for each new day I’m given, and find something to be grateful for each day.

* Stay informed about what’s happening in America and the world at large, but avoid “negative news overload.”

* Continue to find joy in my work and interactions with friends and family. Be helpful to others, and do what I can with what God has given me for this purpose.

* Prudently plan for my future, dream of new things I want to do, set goals I can realistically achieve, and never take my family, friends, and God-given skills and talents for granted.

 

God Bless You Richly in the New Year!

 

About Those Christmas Traditions

Go to www.gaylelarsonschuck.com/blog

As Christmas draws near, I’m indulging in some traditions. The Santa card that Aunt Mary and Uncle Art sent me when I was four is hanging on the tree. My mother wrote our sons’ names on it when she sent it one Christmas many years ago. Other traditions include making frosted sugar cookies, sending cards and exchanging gifts with family.

Laura Ingalls Wilder said, “Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.”

However, let’s not get too sentimental about Christmas traditions. Some of them disappeared with good reason. Clearly, Laura wasn’t forced to eat oyster stew, lutefisk and lefse for Christmas Eve supper. It’s a good thing we also hand cranked homemade ice cream for dessert or I would have starved.

Apparently, my brothers and sisters were like-minded about those traditional Norwegian dishes. By the time I was nine and we moved to town, my siblings were married and had families. Everyone gathered at our house for assorted meats, salads, and Christmas cookies. Dad lobbied for lutefisk and lefse every year, but they were no longer the main meal. Oyster stew vanished.

Babies Scott, Kathy & Ed with their moms

By then, our small house was packed every Christmas Eve with up to thirty adults and children. In 1960 there were three infants present! More mobile red-cheeked kids ran around in their Christmas outfits, cookies in hand. Adults imbibed in eggnog and my brothers told stories that drew hardy laughter.

By nine ’o clock, the house would be eighty degrees and the decibel level even higher. That’s when I’d fight my way through the mob and slip outside.

The night would be silent, the air refreshing and cold and the sky lit by a million stars. Walking around the neighborhood alone, the words “silent night, holy night” became reality. Not a single car was driving around. Even the wind was quiet in the presence of the same glorious night sky the shepherds had seen.

A Polaroid taken a couple years later. Me with of some nieces and nephews, including those babies

Those Larson Christmases make fond memories now. They were followed by Christmases with the Schucks, which were just as boisterous and included homemade pickled pig’s feet and deep fried chicken gizzards. And, oddly, the stomach flu often went through the family during the holidays.

Today, our Christmas Eves are much quieter. If the weather is good, we attend a lovely candlelight service at church. The next day we feast and open gifts with our children and grandchildren. (The menu doesn’t include oyster stew or pickled pigs feet.)

Although times change, the memories and the traditions we keep are a way to hug the people we love when they are no longer with us.

And perhaps it’s good that traditions evolve. I like the saying “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not be bent out of shape.” That point of view has certainly made this Covid 19 year easier.

There is one tradition that we can follow regardless of time, distance or pandemics, and that is to open our hearts to the original Christmas baby, our Lord Jesus. My prayer for you is that you find time to ponder the hope that He brought and still brings.

It was He that said in Matthew 28:20, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Notice he said, “I am with you.” Now. In this present moment, we have the gift of his presence. We only need to stop and realize how he can sustain our hearts with hope and joy.

What Christmas traditions do you follow? Which ones have you left behind?

 

Writing Update: I’ve been working on a sequel to “By the Banks of Cottonwood Creek” and “Amber’s Choice.”  Here’s the synopsis:

Can a couple as different as chalk and cheese make a relationship work? That’s what Brianna Davis wonders after she moves to Cottonwood Creek when in an unlikely turn of events, Tiny Winger captures her heart. But is love enough to conquer the hurts of the past?

Tiny Winger has overcome the abuse and neglect of his childhood with the help of God and the good people of Cottonwood City. Now he dreams of a life with Brianna Davis.

Only two things block the way: his mother and Brianna. 

 

What do you think? Your comments are welcome.

 

Merry Christmas and God bless you!

 

The Christmas Catalog

 

I know, I know. I should dish about the election or Covid, or wax eloquent about Thanksgiving.

But I’m tired of being a grownup. I want to read a Christmas catalog and imagine finding a Sassy Walker under the Christmas tree.

The Sears, Penneys and Monkey Wards Christmas catalogs were the online shopping of the 20th century and provided hours of entertainment. They featured holiday clothing for the whole family. Red and green dresses, sweaters and suits for the guys, and matching pajamas for the whole family.

One of my classmates remembers when she found a dress she liked, her mother would cut a pattern out of newspaper and sew a similar outfit. What a great memory! Some readers remember cutting out the models to use as paper dolls. Thank you Karen, Carol, Bonnie, Brian, Larry, and Sandi for sharing your experiences.

Toy dishes, postmarked 1958

Personally, I flipped through the clothing and got to the toys. As a young girl most of my playmates were neighbor boys. Perhaps that’s why I liked the cowboy guns and toy farm sets. However, they weren’t as great as the dolls and the stuff needed to keep dolls dressed and fed.

My husband recalls wanting a bicycle in the Christmas catalog. Not just any bike, but a lightweight J.C. Higgins 3-speed. He cleaned the barn quite a few times for that “gift.” The bike was shipped from France and cost a total of $38.65. When it arrived by freight train, a neighbor picked it up and brought it to their farm. He still rides bicycle, though not the same one, which would probably be worth a mint today.

The words “Christmas catalog” seem to bring instant memories to several generations. For instance, one of our sons recalls that he spent hours memorizing the electric train section. Actually, both of our sons did. As adults, they still enjoy model railroading.

21st Century Catalogs

Catalogs of the 21st century are smaller and more plentiful. Recently we received one that featured a family wearing matching pajamas, and even the dog had a matching set. We get a lot of catalogs now, but I hope my family doesn’t order anything for me. I really don’t want a t-shirt that states, “I lived through the 60s. Twice”, or a collectible mouse or an overpriced puzzle.

So what do you think? Did this post take your mind off politics and Covid for a few minutes? It did mine.

Recently I began leading a Bible study called Growing in Wisdom & Faith by Elizabeth George. It’s based on the book of James, who said right up front in the second verse of the first chapter, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”

The truth is we will always have problems and trials. The Life Application Study Bible says we can’t really know the strength of our character until we see how we react under pressure. And friends, it’s when we see God as bigger than our trials, we can find joy in spite of circumstances.

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.” Helen Keller  

 

Writing Update

I’m “counting it all joy” and learning to be patient this year. Our writers group is meeting again and I’m working on Chapter 31 of…something.

All of my books are for sale online, or contact me personally if you want a signed copy. People tell me they make great gifts. If you order “Secrets of the Dark Closet” please order the second edition and pay less.