Long ago, one of my heroines was getting involved with an old love, and she cautioned herself about over-glamorizing the past, using a piece of wisdom adapted from her car’s side view mirror: 

Warning:  Objects seen in memory are less romantic than they appear.

It’s advice I have to give myself regularly.  I’m not seeking out old loves (His Highness is all I can handle, thanks!), but I definitely wear my rose-colored glasses when I reminisce.

Maybe that’s because I was born sentimental, with a personality tilt toward happiness. I gloss over the unpleasant bits of the past and dress up the good times in rainbows and glitter.  You know how Robert Redford’s home run looks in The Natural, with the stadium lights exploding, and slow motion, and great music?  That’s how my Kathleen’s Happy Days Video looks in my head.  

But maybe it’s also because sometimes the past really was awesome.  Maybe even a tiny bit cooler than the present?lucy red horse clipping

I’ve mentioned before, I think, that my journalist mother reinvented herself mid-life as an antiques dealer.  She specialized in collectible paper ephemera—things that weren’t designed to last, but somehow did.   She had her store for years and became fairly well known in Tampa.  So when locals were ready to part with things like that, they tended to bring them to her.

Occasionally she loved the items she bought so much she couldn’t bear to resell them.  Once, when she showed a treasure to me, I fell in love, too.  It was an old Tampan’s bookkeeping journal, with hand-written entries beginning in the late 1800s. That person had used up the journal and then had apparently donated it to someone else, maybe a daughter or granddaughter, who turned it into a scrapbook.

ads journal 1891ad journal exterior

In the journal, the girl had pasted magazine pictures and ads she particularly liked.  The pictures are glued right over the bookkeeping entries, which she didn’t even try to blot out.  She didn’t always cut carefully, and the arrangement is casual, occasionally haphazard.  The glue’s rippled.  The pictures are sometimes faded or ripped.  This wasn’t a journal she kept for show, clearly.  It was just a record of images that made her happy.  

ad journal 13 ad journal 12


To me, the book is endlessly fascinating.  The pictures are wonderful, of course–beautiful, romantic glimpses of the early 20th Century, of war and romance, cars and fashion and fantasy.  It’s filled with rich color, gorgeous designs, women with fairy tale hair, and noble-jawed men.

ad journal 8ad journal 5

 But I also love feeling I can intuit this girl’s personality from the pictures she chose to keep. I imagine I glimpse her dad’s pragmatic affection as he gave her his journal to reuse. 

adj journal ration ticket

 On a deeper layer, every page recreates another time, and offers a morality tale, with its gilded-age scenes pasted over its grimmer realities, the entries of “ration ticket,” “3 undershirts,” and “bottle blood medicine.”

 I wonder if, using the magazines stacked in my office today, I could assemble a collection even half as delightful. Would my scrapbook “speak” to someone 90 years in the future the way this journal speaks to me?


It  makes me want to try.  But what would I include?  What culturally iconic ads, people, themes, etc., ought to be pasted in as the best of our best?  Got MilkJoe Camel?

modern ads conan got milkmodern ads joe camel

 I found those two famous ads in the office magazines tonight, but I don’t smoke, and to tell the truth I’m not really a fan of milk, either.  (Sorry, Mom…)  So…maybe I should follow this young woman’s example and just choose whatever makes me smile?  Posterity might not be impressed, but at least I’d have fun!

How about you?  Do you make scrapbooks?  How do you pick what to keep, and what to let go?  I’d love to hear what you think.  I’ll be giving away a $10 gift certificate to Amazon to one randomly chosen person who posts today, so I hope you’ll take a minute to share.







How do you feel about birthdays?

Chances are, you either love them or hate them. I’ve had friends who growled every time I suggested marking their day with even a small celebration. And I’ve had friends who gloried in every milestone, embracing the candles, the cake, the off-key singing and the gifts as wholeheartedly as a child.

Me with daddy, first birthday

But I don’t remember ever knowing anyone who was honestly indifferent.

I fall in the “love-em” category. I’m sure of that, because I just got a refresher course yesterday, when I turned {{mumble, mumble}} years old. Love, love, love them.

And it’s not because I believe birthdays are some kind of Pollyanna-perfect Sure Thing. I’ve had my share of celebrations that fell flat, viruses that attacked me at the worst possible moment, gifts that made me think, “Huh?” I even spent one unforgettable birthday sitting on a jury all day, deciding what should happen to a young man accused of disturbing acts of domestic violence, and then coming home that night to a phone call announcing a family tragedy.

And hey, I’m human. I definitely don’t relish the thought of being mumble years old.

So last night, after everyone left, I gave the issue some thought.  And here’s what I decided my top three reasons are for love-love-loving birthday celebrations.

1) Not everyone gets lucky enough to reach Mumbleage. This is a cliche, and once upon a time I would have groaned to hear anyone say it. But I’ve lost too many pieces of my heart–lost them early, and lost them in great grief–to take even one birthday for granted any more.

2) The rituals we create are like a thread that runs through years, through changes, even through generations, and holds us together. Our customs are small and silly, like the pictures I scrawl on the kitchen whiteboard, which inevitably draw giggles, as I’m entirely devoid of artistic talent. But I love the ritual of laughter. As the Irish poet Yeats said in his lovely A Prayer For My Daughter, “how but in custom and ceremony/Are innocence and beauty born?”


Renie 13 birthday crepe myrtle


whiteboard mike's birthday 2010 

whiteboard daddys birthday

Renie Bday, Father's Day 2014

3) We celebrate as family. From the years when the adults blow out the candles for the baby, to the years when the adult children blow out the candles for their grandmother, we share these days with the people we love. We get off work early, or stay up late to get our jobs done, and we come together to say, “Let’s have a party, because we’re happy there’s such a person as you!”

Garmy Rene 28

Oh, and…duh.  4) PRESENTS. ;-) Woman does not live on love and poetry alone. Sometimes she needs Stuff.

K 10th birthday with presents

How about you? What do you love/hate about birthdays? Do you have any birthday horror stories? Parties gone hilariously wrong? What was your best birthday–or birthday present–ever?

I’ll be giving away a ten dollar Amazon gift certificate to one person–chosen at random–who comments today!

When I got the invitation to write THE SUBSTITUTE BRIDE, one of the “Big Wedding Giveaway” bride novellas for Tule Publishing, I jumped at the chance. I’m a sucker for weddings, and most of all wedding dresses.

Probably that’s because…well, okay, there doesn’t have to be a “because” for this, does there? Millions of people are in suckers for wedding dresses–which can be more like works of art than mere garments. More like magical sugar-spun dreams than clothes.

For me, the most gorgeous wedding dresses in the past century belong to Kate Middleton, Princess Diana, and Grace Kelly. And my mother. :)

My mother’s dress was a WWII-time piece of simplicity, compared to the other three.

Lucy wedding dress

All cotton-lace, a softly tailored shirtwaist that fit her looks, and her personality, perfectly. She was a liberated, working journalist who made her own decisions and didn’t put on frou-frou to suit anyone else’s definition of “female.” She was way ahead of her time, really.

Still…it was understood that, when I married, I’d wear the same gown….even though it didn’t really fit my figure, or my girly personality, as well. I was curvier, shorter…with far less WWII-time dignity. But I wore it, rather than risk hurting my mom’s feelings.

k wedding day with daddy

My sister wore it with great joy, too, when she married. She never considered anything else, and she looked beautiful. The trio-tradition feels nice, and if I could turn back time, I wouldn’t change a thing.

But when it came time for my daughter to marry, I made certain she understood she was not tied to that dress, which suited her even less than it had suited me.

It was a tough decision for her. She deeply honors family, loves rituals and traditions and keepsakes passed down through the generations. But she’s also a free spirit, a creative soul. She has an independent turn of mind I’m quite sure she inherited straight from my mother. She knew it was her wedding, and it should reflect who she was. In the end, she chose a dress that made her shine.

irene wedding dress for blog

And though my mother had been gone for ten years at that point, when my daughter walked down the aisle in that lovely gown, I knew that, somewhere, she was smiling.

Look at my daughter here, dancing with some of the wedding guests. Who wouldn’t smile, to see a bride that happy and free? :)

Irene's wedding from shannon's flash 140

What about you? Are you enchanted by wedding gowns, or bored by all the fuss and frill? Was your own wedding dress the dress of your dreams? And do you love reading about brides–even one who hocks her wedding dress, like mine? ;-)

I’ll be giving away free ebooks of THE SUBSTITUTE BRIDE today to two posters chosen at random.

And Kate, the last giveaway winner, please email me at KOBrien@aol.com today! I had a problem with mailing your book and have been trying to reach you!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000031_00003]

Nancy Robards Thompson
Nancy Robards Thompson


family, Holidays, Nancy Robards Thompson

gerbera daisies

Mother’s Day is a bittersweet time for me. My mom died on Mother’s Day several years before I got married and had my daughter. The Norwegian tries hard to make the day nice. He always gets me flowers and fixes my favorite breakfast. I force my heart to be half-full and think about how grateful I am to have a wonderful, loving daughter. Still, I’m not going to lie, the thought that College Girl never had the privilege of knowing my mom does flounder around in the half-empty part of me. I see so much of my mom in my daughter that sometimes it takes my breath away. I just know that the two of them would’ve gotten along so well and been very close. I tease my daughter and say that if her grandmother was still alive I would probably feel left out because I know they would’ve been two peas in a very exclusive pod. And you don’t know what I would give to be living that today.

 So, on Mother’s Day this past Sunday, College Girl and I took some flowers to mom’s grave. I don’t really like going to the cemetery because I don’t “feel” my mom there. Honestly, I don’t like to think of that as her final resting place. But out of daughterly duty I go every so often to make sure she has fresh, bright silk flowers in her vase. I never linger. I put the flowers in place, make sure everything looks good – pull weeds if need be – and go. There are other places where I feel closer to her, like the beach because she loved it so much or when I drink my nightly mug of Sleepy Time tea (a ritual she and I used to share).

Still, Mother’s Day seemed like a good time for College Girl and me to visit the grave. Armed with a bouquet of vivid silk Gerbera daisies, she and I went, placed the flowers and were walking back to the car when a nice woman, who sported a cemetery nametag – her name was Ivy, which I found a little ironic seeing how the plant sometimes grows over graves — drove up on a golf cart. She offered us chilled bottles of water from a cooler and asked if everything was to our satisfaction. It was. In fact, the grounds looked extra nice (no weeds to pull this time). They had obviously gone the extra mile in preparation for the heavier Mother’s Day visitation. Then perky Ivy asked us to drop by the office because they were giving away free apple pies in honor of Mother’s Day. She must’ve seen me hesitate (I’ve never been offered water or pie at the cemetery) because she said, “Please do. We still have about 75 pies left and we really don’t want them to go to waste.” So we claimed our pie, and on the way home, College Girl said, “It’s kind of like Grandma sent that pie to us.”  

The more I thought about it, the more I realized it did feel like a gift from her. I’m not saying that in the literal sense. They had stacks of pies in that office. I know my mom didn’t send it special delivery from heaven. But the cemetery is large. We weren’t the only visitors and we were in and out of the car in less than five minutes. Ivy could’ve easily been on the other side of the grounds or she could’ve talked to the other parties first and we would’ve been able to slip in and out without even knowing about the pie. The more I thought about it, it did feel like a gift from my mom.

apple pieI can’t say free pie makes me any more eager to visit the cemetery. I’d rather go to the beach and imagine I hear my mom’s voice in the wind and surf, and sense her spirit out there on the horizon, where heaven meets earth. But how cool that for one day – Mother’s Day – it sort of felt as if all three generations were together. It was one of the nicest Mother’s Days ever.

How about you, is there a place you feel you should go, but would rather not? If so, do you force yourself to go or not? 

Please check out my May release FALLING FOR FORTUNE, book five in the 2014 Fortunes of Texas series. RT Book Reviews gives it four stars. Falling for Fortune

Kathleen O'Brien
Kathleen O'Brien


Facebook, family, favorite things, Kathleen O'Brien, Pets, Superromance

purrsia wants to snuggle

Remember when I asked you whether I should get a cat? Most of you said yes, and guess what? You were right! ☺

Purrsia helps me critique

I didn’t think I was ready, but apparently all I needed to overcome my anxiety was one snuggle with the perfect kitten. His Highness drove me to a little town called Christmas (yes, really)—about an hour away—to look at a female Himalayan kitten I’d fallen for on the Internet.

Purrsia notices Ewan...

She wasn’t old enough to come home with us that night. I thought that might help. You know how sometimes a person can struggle a teeny, tiny bit with impulse control? Well, I struggle with it a lot. I thought maybe if I couldn’t take her home right then and there, I’d have time for my sensible side to take over.

Purrsia sleeps on back


His Highness and I had even created a “safe” phrase, the sentence that was supposed to tell him I didn’t want to put a deposit on her, and I wanted to go home uncommitted. At one point, when I was in Sensible Kathleen mode, I even uttered the safe words.

But then, after giving him the signal to leave, I somehow just…didn’t leave. I kept playing with the kittens. I kept talking to the owners (who probably thought I was crazy and wanted desperately to get back to watching TV).

Purrsia on the desk

All the while, I kept battering at Sensible Kathleen until she finally shut up. And then I took out our checkbook. Four days later, after the vet pronounced her perfect (something I already knew), we drove back to Christmas, and we brought her home.

Purrsia in the sink

Ever since, I’ve been in heaven. She’s ridiculous and playful and cuddly and smart. Oh, and she’s adorable. Did I really think, once upon a time, that I could live without a cat? I was utterly, raving delusional.

If you’re my Facebook friend—and if you aren’t, please stop by and send a request!—you’ve probably seen enough of Purrsia Lucy Pun (yes, really…it’s a long story) for one lifetime. But, for me, there’s no such thing as “enough” Purrsia. Honestly, I don’t think I was this annoying even when my children were babies.

Kitty snack

How about you? Do you take pictures of your pets? Do you drive other people crazy, making them listen to stories of their adorable antics?

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