Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Is there a word that carries more memories, hopes, faith, sadness, tradition, family bonding, and dreams than Christmas? It's a mixture of spiritual and secular, a day observed by both the religious and the profane. It's a time of giving and receiving. And for many it is also a time for quiet reflection and establishing new priorities. 

My childhood Christmases didn't include a lot of expensive gifts, though there was usually a new doll and a Christmas dress--even if the dress was made from flour sacks. The toe of one of my hated long, brown socks always held an orange, a few pieces of hard candy, a chocolate, and a handful of nuts. My siblings and I bought each other gifts at Kings or Woolworths.  Daddy read the Christmas story from St. Luke to us and Mama roasted a goose. 

Caroling hay rides, skating on silvery ponds, midnight mass, television specials, Secret Santa projects, making fudge, divinity, and popcorn balls, thought provoking firesides, along with band, drama, and choir performances eventually all became part of my growing up Christmas memories. 

As young parents, the Santa thing became important.  Money was tight and we did our best to give our small children a few of their wishes.  One Christmas we received a foster child four days before Christmas and struggled to buy him a few gifts.  The day before Christmas our mailman, recognizing that an envelope addressed to us held a check, called to have us meet him and pick up our mail at the beginning of his route instead of waiting until the afternoon when he would reach our house.  He made it possible for us to give our foster child comparable gifts to those already purchased for our own child. The lights at Temple Square, The Nutcracker performance, Christmas books, our children's choir and band performances, a soldier son far away at Christmas, Sub for Santa escapades, and various parties became part of our memories 

As our children grew up, we spent Christmas Eves with my husband's family and exchanged family gifts that night, and since my own family always exchanged family gifts on Christmas Eve as well, we continued the tradition as our children began their young families.  How I love seeing my grandchildren perform the nativity pageant each year and share their musical talents, enjoy the pot luck style dinner my adult children and I put together for that special night, and treasure the laughter and fun as family gifts are exchanged. Each year I take a picture of all of my grandchildren sitting on the stairs in their new pajamas. Some have decided they are too old for the pajama part now, but we still do the picture.


Along with the warm memories of Christmases past, each year I feel excited for the coming Christmas.  I look forward to all Christmas is to me; an affirmation of my faith, the love of family, and a brief glimpse of a world where giving is front and center.  I believe each Christmas season should include at least one anonymous gift.  Those who pay off a stranger's lay-away bill, randomly distribute gift cards, carry out a sub for Santa or Angel tree project, drop coins in a Salvation Army bucket, donate food to a food bank, pay a stranger's library fine, give their waitress a big tip, or merely have a kind word and a smile for a fellow human being understand the spirit of Christmas.  I believe we observe Christmas best when we show the kind of love and kindness Christ practiced, but received little of in return.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Woohoo!  I've finished my Christmas shopping! It has been done in small increments starting before my surgery in September and some was done online, but it's done.  Of course I may think of one or two more small items, then there's the grocery shopping for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, three birthdays, and our wedding anniversary. Even my Christmas cactus is ahead of schedule. 

I figured out much too late to change the facts, that December is not the best time for a wedding or a birthday.  We will have been married for forty-nine years this Saturday.  I married the right person; no regrets there, but our anniversary gets lost each year in a flurry of Christmas parties and preparations.  Our oldest daughter, a December baby, and two of our sons-in-law with the same problem, always felt like their birthdays got a quick brush-by, combined with Christmas, or generally ignored by their friends.  So if it's not too late, try to plan a little better than we did. 

With our Christmas shopping done, we took a look at the Kohl's cash and other accumulated coupons and bonuses we'd accumulated and decided to spend them on an anniversary present for ourselves.  We bought a carpet shampooer.  I know. Terribly romantic, but we haven't been satisfied with the carpet care companies we've used the past few years and our old machine died many years ago.  Then there was that $90.00 in accumulated rewards from all that Christmas shopping. I also managed to sneak in a little more personal gift for my husband. 

Sometimes the pre-Christmas decorating, shopping, baking, parties, etc., leave us looking forward to having Christmas over.  I'm enjoying most of the pre-Christmas activity this year more than usual.  Perhaps it's because I'm not doing any book signings this year and have a little more time to spend doing other things. It's not that I don't have a book out this year because actually I do.  My publisher put out a small Christmas book this year called With Wondering Awe that includes a true Christmas story by me and stories by nine other authors.  I also have a short story in The Art Of Motherhood and a full length novel, Where the River Once Flowed which was released in February. Yet I kind of miss the signings and the fun of meeting people who are Christmas shopping.


It might be that I'm just enjoying seeing Christmas through the eyes of my two-year-old granddaughter.  She's assigned each of the horses on the carousel to different family members, the pink nutcracker is hers because everything pink is hers, and she won't go near the big nutcracker because it bites. She loves candy canes and music boxes.  And a big tree covered with interesting toys and a choo choo that races around a track are all exciting, new wonders.  And for the quiet moments she's enthralled with books that tell the story of a Baby, sleeping on the hay.


I love Christmas, not just that wondrous day, but all the shining moments that lead up to the greatest reason the world has ever been given to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Nominations Needed

Think back.  What was the best book by an LDS author you read this year?  Did you nominate it for a Whitney Award?  Perhaps you read more than one book that made a lasting impression on you.  If you haven't already done it, nominate them all for Whitney Awards. 

For a novel to be nominated for a 2013 Whitney Award, it must receive five nominations before the end of the current year and be copyrighted in 2013.  It must also be a full length novel, not a short story or novella. The author must be LDS, but anyone can nominate---except those who profit from the sale of the book.  That means I can nominate books by other writers, but I can't nominate my own book.  You can also nominate more than one book per category. Every year there are great books that don't get enough nominations because readers assume lots of people already nominated them or because readers aren't aware they are the ones who should be nominating.  I nominate lots of books and many other authors and reviewers do as well, which is great, but for the awards to have real significance more nominations are needed from the general reading public. It's kind of sad when nominations come only from fellow writers. The book doesn't need to  have an LDS theme, only be written by an LDS author. 

Award categories are General, Historical, Romance, Mystery/Suspense, Speculative, Youth Speculative, Youth General Fiction, Best Novel by a New Author, and Best Novel of the Year. Historical usually includes Westerns and Speculative includes Horror.  If you don't remember the titles or authors of the books you'd like to nominate go to Meridian Magazine's book reviews or to any other LDS fiction reviewer's web or blog page to refresh your memory.  You can also go to a bookstore's online catalog and scan the book jacket blurbs. 

Nominating a favorite book is easy.  Go here.  A form will pop up.  Fill in your name and email address, then add the book or books you wish to nominate along with the name of the author(s) and publisher(s), then submit.  You'll get back an acknowledgement that your nomination has been received by the contest chairman.  So get going! Nominate away! This is the big award for LDS authors and I assure you it means a lot to all of us to have our readers show their appreciation for our efforts to provide quality, clean books by nominating your favorites for these awards.