I’m taking a break to celebrate the holidays with my family. So, I’m sharing a blog that originally ran in 2012. I tweaked it just a bit to reflect what’s happening right now, but the message is timeless. Happy holidays, everyone!
We have nine days until Christmas. Where has the time gone? Is it just me, or has this year flown by? It feels like it shouldn’t even be Halloween yet. Probably because Halloween came and went without even a carved jack-o-lantern or toasted pumpkinseed in our household (and I love toasted pumpkin seeds…). Halloween was preempted by deadlines and obligation. There was just no time. Missing that, we held on tight as we careened into November, which is birthday season in our family; then the birthdays gave way to Thanksgiving. Now, here we are sprinting toward the end of another year.
I realized the other day, I need to slow down and smell the Christmas cookies. Actually, I need to make time to bake some. I need to make time to enjoy my family and the meaning of the season before it’s over and we’re halfway through next year.
It’s time to take a deep breath and live in the moment.
I’m reading a great book called Ten Zen Seconds by Eric Maisel. Chapter nine, Embracing The Moment, really spoke to me. It’s about the difference between “passing the time” (or in my case, racing through it) and “being present.” Living in the moment. It’s really given me pause and made me think.
How is it that we get so busy that we don’t have time to enjoy life? We get so caught up in planning and scheduling and racing from one thing to the next that we neglect to live. Events that are supposed to be fun and memorable become burdens or worse yet, they slip by because we don’t have time or we’re present in body, but not in spirit as our mind wanders, planning what’s next .
The commitments and obligations won’t evaporate – and the truth is, we probably don’t want most of them to go away. I just finished back-to-back deadlines (and thank goodness for book contracts!). I’ve barely made a dent in my Christmas list (probably good for the budget). My daughter just got home from college and my father just returned for the holidays (one of the most important events I’ve been anticipating all year. I don’t want to take for granted a single moment with my family). I am determined to slow down and savor the rest of the month.
What’s your best tip for enjoying the spirit of the season? How do you keep up with family, friends, work, housework, decorating and all those holiday concerts, pageants, and parties and keep your sanity? How do you live in the moment during the holidays?
I must be a New Englander at heart even though I’ve spent my whole life (just about) in the South! I love the spare. I revel in bleak. Give me a muted winter landscape.
I’m moved by beauty that’s not obvious.
One of my favorite books is the young adult novel A DAY NO PIGS WOULD DIE, which I just re-read and cried copious tears over. I know. If that title were a flower, it would be a dried up thistle, not a lush rose. Who wants to read a book with the word PIGS and DIE in the title?
It’s about a Quaker boy in Vermont. It’s short, and it’s plain. It’s also full of everything that life is about: the hurt, the glory, the joy, the sorrow.
So cue “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Or “All About That Bass.” Here comes Kieran–the lover of bare-boned anything–who actually talks a lot, dances a lot, and writes a lot, especially fun, light romances.
It’s an odd dichotomy—being a writer of the quirky and colorful yet a fan of the plain–except that I have figured something out about people who appreciate the stark. We usually have a strong sense of humor.
I think it’s because we’re attuned to the ironic. Whatever the surface says, we see more layers: life in all its multifaceted dimensions. You can either laugh or cry about that. I often go off in poignant directions in my stories, but always, always, I come back to laughter. To joy.
I know where my fascination with irony came from: my late sister was profoundly mentally and physically challenged. She couldn’t sing, she couldn’t dance, she couldn’t write. She couldn’t understand a word I said. Yet she was capable of changing everyone around her for the better. A defenseless girl—a plain girl–had real influence.
That pretty much epitomizes the Christmas season for me. Vulnerability coupled with power in a run-down stable. Bare beauty cradling hope.
And so my love of winter landscapes—and laughter.
What says Christmas to you? One person (US/Canada only) who comments will win a copy of Kieran’s YOU’RE SO FINE (print or digital–winner’s choice) and a Love Changes Everything koozie. Winner chosen randomly and announced Sunday.
I wish you abundant smiles this holiday season.
Every time I look through a holiday magazine, browse a Pinterest Christmas board, or visit the home of one of my artistic friends, I think…Next year! Next year I’m going to have a color-themed Christmas tree! Wouldn’t that be awesome? The elegant restraint of all silver and blue. The luxury of purple and gold…
But I never really do it. How could I? Putting the ornaments on my crowded, haphazard, everything-goes tree is like taking a walk through my life. I meet my childhood, my babies, my friends, my…(the temptation to break into song is almost irresistible)… my favorite things!
Here are a few of the reasons I’ll never have a decorator tree:
The two beaten-up ornaments that have survived from my childhood Christmas trees. They look awful and who knows how long they’ll last, but I feel my parents beside me every time I hang them on the tree.
My Flora, Fauna and Merryweather trio. Sleeping Beauty was my favorite, favorite movie when I was about 10.
Those “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments.
The many red horses I bought because my mother’s fabulous antique shop was called The Red Horse.
The ones I bought to commemorate exciting vacations.
The ones we bought when the kids started college.
The ones my friends have given me.
The ones we make at our Christmas craft session every year
This year it was ribbon angels, (here’s mine)
I know I’ll always remember the fun of this year’s craft party, if only because my super artistic daughter-in-law decided to get creative and put us all to shame with her gorgeous poinsettia improvised out of the leftover ribbon.
How about you? If you have a tree, does it tell the story of your life? Do you have one ornament you love most of all? I’ll be giving away a $10 Amazon gift certificate to one randomly chosen commenter today, so I hope you’ll share! Remember—if you win, you MUST spend it on yourself! No cheating and giving it as a gift. Santa is watching!
Hi, everyone! I’m so excited to welcome the lovely RITA Award-winning author Beth Andrews, who is here today to share her inspiration for her new Superromance, CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER, and to talk about how
The Times They Are a-Changin’
So far, 2014 has been a doozy for my family. Little Sis (my younger daughter and youngest child) started her senior year of high school which means she and I have been busy visiting colleges and sending in applications. Big Sis (older daughter who is actually NOT bigger than her 5’8” baby sister) is in Columbus for her second year at Ohio State. And their big brother? Well, he’s been the busiest of all. In the span of eight months he got engaged, graduated from college, started a new job, moved into a townhouse, got married and moved again.
Did I mention the part where my son, my firstborn, my only boy, got married? My baby is a married man. It’s been a month and I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around that one. Wasn’t it just a few years ago that I birthed him? (I swear, those 75 pounds I gained were all baby)
Changed, bathed and fed him?
Kept him warm for those cold, Northwestern Pennsylvania winters.
Taught him the importance of pitching in with the yard work.
Why, it was just a few days ago we were wearing matching outfits and traipsing around in the woods.
And, of course, he learned the art of pulling off any hairstyle with aplomb from me (not to brag, but I did rock a mullet for a year back in the eighties).
Then, in the blink of an eye (or twenty-three years – same thing) my husband and I were escorting him down the aisle.
Now, he’s married to the love of his life, giving me another beautiful daughter!
Yes, there are plenty of changes afoot at my house (isn’t that the way of life?) and while those changes may take some getting used to, they should also be celebrated.
Change and the relationship between mother and son are two big themes in CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER, my December release for Harlequin Superromance (like how I tied that together?) Single-mother Penelope Denning moved to small-town Shady Grove, Pennsylvania hoping to raise her son in a warm, safe environment. But when local firefighter Leo Montesano wants to build a future with her, she feels torn between him and her son.
“As in out on a date,” he clarified. Must be he sensed that her brain had ceased working the moment he’d stepped into the room. Then again, he was probably used to having that effect on women. The power of a pretty face knew no bounds. “Dinner. A movie. Or we could go into Pittsburgh, see a show.”
Her throat dried. She couldn’t feel her fingers, had to lock her knees to remain upright. Date? Him? Absurd. They were too different. He was too good-looking. Too smooth. Too young. Too…everything.
And she was afraid she wasn’t nearly enough.
She leaned her hip heavily against the desk. “I don’t think—”
“Or we could start slow. Have lunch. Or even coffee.” His voice dropped to a husky, sexy tone that could strip a woman of her inhibitions. And her good sense. “It doesn’t matter to me. Just a few hours. I’d like to get to know you better.”
She shut her eyes. Counted to ten. But when she opened them, he was still there, broad and earnest and, it seemed, completely sincere. “Why?”
The word hung in the air, bald and loud and yes, desperate sounding. Too bad. She wouldn’t take it back even if she could. She was too curious to hear his answer.
“Because I find you interesting.” He stood and stepped forward, his body and her own pride trapping her between him and her desk. “Because I’m attracted to you.”
Her breath locked in her chest. A thrill raced through her before she could stop it. He was attracted to her? That…that was impossible. Implausible. Incredible.
He edged even closer and she pressed against the desk, the rounded edge digging into the back of her thighs. “How about it, Penelope?” he asked, drawing her name out as if savoring each syllable. He trailed the tip of his forefinger up her forearm, his light touch like a flame along her skin. “Go out with me?”
Dear Lord, but he smelled wonderful, a mix of citrus and spice that made her want to breathe him in. And when he smiled at her, his eyes dark with intent, she wanted to believe in fairy tales. Wanted to believe in foolish dreams.
But fairy tales were for children. And dreams were for people who didn’t know better. She wasn’t some naive girl waiting for a handsome prince to sweep in and make her life complete. She was a mature, sensible woman with a teenage son who needed her time and full attention.
A mature, sensible woman who was wise enough to know when she was in over her head. Leo flustered her, and she hated being flustered. She doubted that feeling would ever go away, even if they went on a hundred dates. She needed to be the one in control. She liked knowing what the right thing to do and say was, and with him, she wasn’t sure she’d ever have that ability again.
“No,” she said, her voice firm. “Absolutely not.”
I’m giving away three copies of CHARMING THE FIREFIGHTER! Just leave a comment telling me the biggest change in your life recently or your idea of a dream date. Winners will be drawn at random and announced on Sunday.
When Romance Writers of America RITA® Award winning author Beth Andrews was a young wife, she started a gas grill with the lid down. The small explosion left her with singed hair and a life-long respect for propane. While no handsome firefighters came to her rescue that day, she will never forget that particular incident. Mainly because her husband reminds her of it every summer.
Learn more about Beth and her books by visiting her website, www.BethAndrews.net or her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/BethAndrewsBooks.
Recently, Girlchild and I spent an afternoon in Barnes and Noble. This is ordinarily one of my Big Thrills. His Highness keeps me supplied with B&N gift certificates, so that I never feel I “shouldn’t” buy something. (Isn’t that adorable? Isn’t that…charmingly naïve? As if my conscience could stop me from buying a book!)
But that afternoon, neither of us wanted to buy a thing. We’d pick up books, then dump them back on the shelves irritably. We grew increasingly sour, wondering what on earth was wrong. Had every published novel on the planet suddenly turned to garbage?
And then, suddenly, Girlchild figured it out. The album on the store’s music system was HORRIBLE. It was mournful, and whiny, and just plain annoying. We thought about asking them to switch CDs, but we were already too bummed. We left.
This wasn’t the first time something like that happened to me. Once, many years ago, I was at my sister’s house, and she and I were having a big talk about some conflict. Ordinarily, we handle differences maturely, get them out on the table, and move on. But this day we kept arguing for what seemed like hours, getting more and more emotional. Eventually, we were both in tears, and a resolution seemed impossible.
Girlchild had come with me for the visit, but had wandered outside to avoid the drama. Then she read a book in the other room. Then she talked on the phone. Then she wandered outside again.
Eventually, she stomped in, looked at the two of us, and said, “You know, I think this might go better if you didn’t keep playing that tragic version of Ave Maria over and over again.”
Luckily, that struck us as so funny it ended the drama immediately. But the truth remains: I’m ridiculously affected by the soundtrack of my life.
Right now, I’m finishing up a new Superromance, and this one’s been difficult. I think it may be because I haven’t had a good playlist to write by. Playlists to set the mood are a big part of my writing process.
Problem is, this book is a friends-to-lovers story. That’s tricky right from the start, because I’m more a lightning-bolt-love-at-first-sight kind of lady. I don’t remember any relationships I’ve ever had that started out as just friends.
Consequently, my iTunes lists aren’t full of friends-to-lovers songs. I found only one, “What If I Said?” by Anita Cochran and Steve Wariner. It’s great, but one song won’t get me through a whole book! So I’m hoping maybe you guys can help me.
Do you know any good songs about friends turning into lovers? Even if you don’t, what are your favorite love songs? At this point, I’d welcome any suggestions to sing me all the way to The End.