Beyond the Season Available for Download

The BookFunnel link to Beyond the Season, my Christmas novella, is available for download for free for blog readers and you can find it HERE.

The book will be on Kindle Unlimited next week and can also be purchased for 99 cents there.

If you want to read the book chapter by chapter here on the blog you can go HERE.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and thanks for reading along!



Get in the spirit of Christmas: Five Christmas Music Specials, Five Christmas Songs, and Three Christmas-themed programs to help you do just that.

Some years we are either too busy, too nerved up, or too down to really feel the Christmas spirit. If you need a little help this year, for whatever, reason, here are some ideas to give you a brief time of peace or joy as we remember the true gift of Christmas, our savior Jesus Christ.  

Five Christmas Music Specials

1. Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith

2. A Story of the First Christmas with The Chosen (includes the short film, The Shepherd)

https://youtu.be/T5ftnTK9-3w

3. Michael W. Smith and Friends

4. Christmas on Broadway with CeCe Winans

5. Gaither Christmas Sing-A-Long



Five Christmas Songs

  1. Mary Did You Know (Jordan Smith version)
  • O Come O Come Emmanuel with For King and Country and Needtobreathe
  • It’s Beginning to Look A Like Christmas by Michael Buble
  • Amy Grant, Breath of Heaven



Three-Christmas Themed Programs (or old specials)

1. A Walton’s Christmas

2. A Garfield Christmas

3. The Berenstain Bears Christmas

Bonus: one movie

The Bishop’s Wife. This is a heartwarming tale of a Anglican Bishop who has become so obsessed building a Cathedral that he has lost sight of what is really important in life, including his wife and daughter. Enter Cary Grant, playing an angel, who wants to get the bishop back on track again before he loses everything.

‘Book review, recommendation: Abiding in Him: A Life Together in Ministry by Bettie and Barry Gilbert



When you deal with chronic illness, it isn’t easy to always stay upbeat or hopeful.

You feel as if God can not use you because you struggle to even leave your house, let alone go out into the world and preach the gospel.

Bettie Gilbert and her husband Barry learned over the years that not even chronic illness, various attacks on their joy, and heartache could stop God from using them to further his kingdom.

That’s the story that is written in Bettie and Barry’s new book Abiding in Him: A Life Together in Ministry.

This beautiful book which can also be used as a devotional was written in the past year by Bettie and Barry and is published by Chronic Joy, a wonderful organization that Bettie is a part of. The organization helps support those who struggle with chronic illnesses.

The book is full of inspiring stories, poems, Bible verses, and reflective questions to help bring you through your own trials, questions, and journey, whether you are in ministry or not. Each chapter ends with a beautiful prayer and three questions to help you focus on your own life.

This is a book for those of you in ministry, yes, but for any of us who face trials no matter what we do in life.

This is a book full of hope in a hurting world, a reminder though how God worked through Bettie and Barry’s life that he can and will do the same for us — maybe not in the way we want or expect but in a way that we need and will, many times, blow us away.

You can learn more about Bettie and Barry’s beautiful book on the Chronic Joy webpage. (https://chronic-joy.org/abiding-in-him/) or you can order it right from Amazon.

Just a closing, thought, Bettie Gilbert’s writing changed the way I think about chronic illness, especially the one I deal with. Her writing reminded me that we are called to worship God in all things, even the hard things. She made me think about how for those of us with a chronic illness will rejoice that much more in heaven because we will know what it is to not have full health on earth and then realize it in our heavenly bodies.

Thank you, Bettie, for your inspiration, your words, and your faithfulness.

To read Bettie’s past words about her journey through ministry and life check out her archived posts on her blog (as she’s currently in retirement from blogging).

‘Tis the Season Cinema: Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas and Charlie Brown’s Christmas

To close out our ‘Tis The Season Cinema feature, Erin from Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs and I watched Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas and Charlie Brown Christmas this week. Blogger Katja from Breath of Hallelujah joined in as well.

Both films are aimed at children but carry inspirational messages for all ages.

I don’t know how I had never heard of the Emmett Otter movie until Erin mentioned it, but I hadn’t.  It is shocking considering – gulp – how old I am and it was released in 197…er..something. The year I was born. Anyhoooo…

The movie is a Jim Henson creation and is about Emmett Otter and his mom who are living alone after the passing of Emmett’s father. They both decide to enter a music contest where they could win $50, hoping they can win and buy each other store-bought gifts. Neither of them knows that the other one has decided to enter.

The story is a twist on the story The Gift of the Magi and in the end, sacrifices have to be made to be sure they can get their loved one the gift they want.

The movie began as a stage adaption by Henson and was later transformed into the film to be shown on CBS.

The puppetry is cute, like all of Henson’s movies, and the songs are sweet and full of warmth. I’d listen to them on a soundtrack even without the movie.

The love between Emmett and his mom is so tender and wholesome. Plus the puppets are so cute I want to reach through the screen and cuddle them.

Henson’s version is based on a story written and illustrated by Russell and Lillian Hoban, creators of Bread and Jam for Frances and other treasured children’s books, in 1971.

The film featured Muppets characters but also Hoban’s characters. The main Muppets character showcased in the film is Kermit.

If you want to watch the movie you can find it for free on YouTube or streaming on Amazon and Peacock.

I’m glad Erin told me about it and I’m sure it will be one we will watch again in other years.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas is one we try to watch each Christmas.

The songs sung during the show transport me back to a simpler time in a similar way to I’m sure how the songs on Emmett Otter transport Erin back to a simpler time for her.

In the beginning, Charlie laments with his friend Linus that he doesn’t feel like he thinks he should feel for Christmas. In fact, he feels depressed. If you ask me, Charlie has put on himself the same pressure we put on ourselves to be happy at Christmas by participating in all the activities, sending the cards, and buying the gifts, but not really realizing that Christmas is much more than all of those things.

As Charlies discovers, Christmas is about being together with family and recognizing the ultimate gift of the season — hope found in the birth of Christ.

The main plot of the movie is that Charlie feels detached from Christmas emotionally and to make him feel more involved, Lucy tells him he can direct their (school, church, community? I don’t know which) school play. Charlie decides to take the job seriously and gets very into it. Lucy gets into it as well, yelling at the cast to respect their director, as well as threatening them with bodily harm.  

I always forget certain lines in the movie, including the one that Lucy says about not eating December snowflakes because the ones in January taste better. I may totally test that theory out.

The scene that people who have seen the special remember the most is when Linus gives a speech about what Christmas is really about by reciting from Luke 2:8-14. This comes after Charlie declares that getting more involved in Christmas activities has still left him depressed and he calls out, “Does anyone really know what Christmas is about?”

I love that this was part of the film and that when it first aired on television in 1965 it was something television stations didn’t even blink at showing. The Christian message of Christmas was still very much a part of society at that time.

Producers, however, tried to talk Peanut’s creator and illustrator Charles M. Schulz out of keeping in the part with Linus reciting from Luke. Schulze, according to Amazon’s trivia section on the film, refused by saying “If we don’t, who will?” The recitation was praised as one of the most impactful moments in that special and any animated episode. In the original comic strip that featured the story, Linus was actually stressed out about having to learn and give the recitation.

As a little bit of additional trivia, the producers of the show were convinced the show would be a flop and were surprised when it was well received by viewers.

The special remains the second-longest-running Christmas special on US Network Television behind Rudolph the Reindeer.

Incidentally, every time I watch a Peanuts movie I try to figure out who I relate to most and I think I relate to more than one character. I relate to Linus because I had a blanket as a kid too (my mom eventually sewed it into a pillow when there was barely anything of it left). I also relate to Charlie, though, because he’s always melancholy and searching for happiness. I may have a bit of Lucy in me as well because I’m also a bit bossy and trying to fix everything or make sure it goes my way. Luckily not as aggressive as she does it, though.

As usual, I feel bad for poor Charlie Brown, who everyone always makes fun of, or rejects, but, of course, in the end, the real message for Charlie is finding out what Christmas is really about. His friends and classmates also rally around him in the end by decorating the little tree he found and making it a real Christmas tree while singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing with him.

These two Christmas specials were a nice, wholesome, and heartfelt ending to our Christmas movie feature. I hope all of our readers found a movie you weren’t as familiar with and either found time to watch one with your family or will find time in the next few days and into next week.

To read Erin’s impressions of these Christmas specials you can read her post on her blog. To read Katja’s you can visit her blog.

A Christmas in Spencer Valley: Beyond the Season Chapter 12

Here we are on the final chapter of our Christmas story! That means we are almost to Christmas! So exciting. Let me know in the comments what you thought of the story.

The story was shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.

Chapter 12

The house smelled of frying bacon, brewing coffee, pancakes, and if he wasn’t mistaken, grits, something his family ate only on special occasions. It was a dish passed down my his mother’s Southern relatives.

Robert had talked Molly and Ellie into keeping Annie in the kitchen while he and Jason worked on installing the swing.

Hannah had brought Franny over and Walt and Marcia were on their way. Leon and Eleanor were driving from town.

A surge of energy rushed through Robert as they put the final touches on the swing. He stepped back when they were done and took a deep breath. Morning sunlight glistened off the silver of the new chain and the white surface of the swing seat.

Jason hung an arm loosely on his shoulder. “She’s going to love it, Dad. You did a beautiful job. Shall we go get some breakfast before we bring her out?”

Robert nodded. “Definitely. We need to get your grandmas here first. They’ll see it on the way in, so grab them if you can and tell them it’s a secret.”

“Will do.” Jason opened the front door. “But let’s see if we can help the women get the food done faster so we can eat.”

Neither of them was much help as they both picked at pieces of bacon but finally the table was set and everyone had arrived to gather for breakfast around the dining room table, which Robert had extended to fit them all.

Robert asked them all to take each other’s hands and they bowed their heads and thanked God for their time together, for his son, and Robert especially thanked God that he was still alive to be with his family.

“Amen,” Franny echoed as he finished the prayer. “That goes for me too.”

Everyone laughed and began to eat.

Nervous energy buzzed through Robert as breakfast began to wind down.

He took a deep breath. “Everyone, can I have your attention? I need to ask Annie to come outside with me for a few moments before we begin opening gifts.”

Walt chuckled. “Rob, can’t you wait to make out with your wife until later?”

Robert shook his head, a faint smile playing across his lips as he stood from the table and held his hand out to Annie. “No, sorry. I can’t.”

Annie gasped and playfully slapped his hand. “Robert Tanner! You stop. Now what’s going on?”

Robert gestured for the rest of the family to go out ahead of him and once they were on the porch and in the yard, he walked Annie onto the porch, hoping she wouldn’t peak through the front window. The gasp that slipped from her when she stepped through the door and saw the swing sent relief flooding through him.

“Oh my goodness! Is that our swing?” She placed a hand over her mouth, tears filling her eyes. Everyone in the family cheered and held up their phones to record the moment, something Robert still wasn’t used to. When she was able to speak again, her voice cracked with emotion. “This is beautiful. Did you do all of this?”

Robert gestured into the yard. “I refurbished it, but Brad helped get the parts, Jason helped with the painting and hanging it up and the rest of the family helped keep the secret when they saw it on their way in.”

Annie wiped tears away as she wrapped her arms around Robert’s neck and kissed him.

“Should Jase and I grab your gift, Annie?” Alex asked from where he was standing next to Molly on the porch.

Robert pulled back from the embrace, confusion etched on his face. “What’s all this?”

Annie smiled. “You weren’t the only one keeping a secret.”

Jason and Alex lifted a dark stained bench down from the back of Jason’s truck a few minutes later and carried it to the porch, placing it on the side opposite the swing.

Robert’s chest tightened as Annie’s hand slid down to his. She laughed. “Looks like we both had ideas for somewhere we can sit on the porch. When we get tired of swinging, we can sit on the bench.”

Robert walked to the bench, fingering the back of it. His throat thickened with emotion. “Is that –” His voice caught. “One of the pews that Dad made?”

Annie nodded. “Yes. Walt helped me refurbish it.”

A tear slipped down Robert’s cheek. “Thank you, honey.” He looked at his brother, while pulling Annie against him. “Thank you, Walt. This is beautiful.”

He sat down on the bench and took a deep breath, looking out at his family bundled up in winter coats, smiling back at him. Gratitude consumed him.

 After a few moments of watching them laugh and joke with each other he stood again. “If everyone wants to wait out here just a few more moments, I think Alex has a special gift he’d like to show Molly.”

The family all turned to Alex expectedly and Robert tried not to chuckle as pink flushed across the young man’s cheeks. It was clear what the family expected the gift to be, and Robert had a feeling they might be disappointed, but also delighted at what it really was.

“Take it away, Alex,” he said. “It’s your turn.”

***

“Close your eyes!”

Alex listened to Jason’s playful admonishment as he walked to Ned’s truck, parked behind the barn.   When he pulled the truck up in front of the house Jason had both of his hands over Molly’s eyes while they both laughed.

“Keep your eyes closed,” Jason taunted through a laugh.

“Okay, you can uncover them,” Alex said as he exited the truck and slammed the door behind him.

“Now?” Jason grinned while Molly tried to pull his hands away. “Are you sure?”

Molly clawed at Jason’s hands for a moment, then licked her palm and reached up to drag it across his cheek.

Jason removed his hands, jumping back, and rubbed at his cheek. “Ah man! You’re gross! What’s wrong with you?”

Molly’s laughter faded as her gaze fell on the truck. Her eyes moved slowly, taking it all in and then she drew in a ragged breath. Alex’s chest tightened when her expression crumpled, and the tears began to flow. He’d known she’d be emotional but had no idea the emotion would sweep over her so completely.

A collective “aw” went up from the women in the family. Alex hesitated then stepped closer cautiously. “Are you – is it, okay?”

She clutched at his shoulders and leaned into him, sobbing against his shirt. “Oh Alex, it’s beautiful. I can’t believe you did this.”

He slid his arms around her, choked up himself now. “Bert and I did. Jason helped too. And Brad drove three hours to get us the last part we needed.”

Looking on the porch and in the yard, he saw tears in the eyes of most of Molly’s family members, especially Franny and Robert. Bert gave him a thumbs up sign and Jason pointed a finger gun at him and pretended to fire.

“Do we seriously have to go back in the house and try to follow these show offs?” Walt asked loudly, bringing a round of laughter from the group. “I don’t think anything will top these gifts.”

As if on cue, the sound of sleighbells filled the air, and everyone turned toward the road. Alex shook his head and laughed as he watched Matt leading a horse-drawn sleigh across the freshly fallen snow, Liz sitting next to him in the seat.

The tension that had built up in Alex’s muscles released as he kept an arm around Molly while they watched the sleigh stop in front of the house. Sunlight glistened off the red paint and the silver of the runners on the bottom.

Matt pulled the reigns back quickly as the sleigh slowed. “Whoa!”

He grinned as he looked out at the crowd gathered in front of the house. “Hello, Tanners. I didn’t know we’d have a welcoming committee.” He winked at Alex. “Looks like you weren’t the only one with a big Christmas surprise.”

He stepped out of the sleigh and held a hand out to help Liz step down. Her dark hair had spread across her shoulders, flowing from a blue knitted cap.

Alex looked at the sleigh in awe. He ran his hand over the smooth curve of wood along the back of it. “This is the one your dad started, right?”

Matt looked at the sleigh proudly. “Yep. This is it. I finally decided to finish it, like Dad would have wanted.” He slid an arm around Liz’s shoulder. “Liz was very surprised when I told her we were going for a ride in something special.”

Alex watched as Matt quickly stepped away from Liz, turned toward her, and dropped to one knee, pulling a small box from his coat pocket. “I think this might surprise her even more, though.”

Liz and Molly gasped at the same time.

The next few minutes were a blur of activity. Liz crying and saying, ‘yes’, hugging Matt, them kissing, Molly hugging Liz, Annie hugging Liz, Robert shaking Matt’s hand, Alex shaking Matt’s hand, Jason shaking Matt’s hand  . . .Around they went.

After a few moments of congratulations, Matt said he should get the horses out of the cold and Robert offered the barn and invited him and Liz inside. The rest of the family turned to go back in the house, Liz talking to Ellie, showing her the ring.

Alex realized he had almost been holding his breath in all the excitement.

Molly leaned close to him as Matt began to unhook the horses. “I have to tell you, I was afraid you were going to do something like that today. I would have been so embarrassed.” She laughed softly, whispering. “Plus, proposals on Christmas day are so cliché, right? I’m thrilled for Liz, though.”

He hooked an arm around her waist. “Then I’m glad I didn’t have that in my bag of surprises today.” He kissed the top of her head. “Hey, I’m going to help Matt with the horses. I need to find out where he got them.”

She smiled. “See you inside then. I want to go get a look at that ring.”

Alex reached in his coat pocket for the gloves he’d been trying to wear more regularly now, knowing he’d need them to help Matt. When he yanked one out of his right pocket, a box tumbled out with it, clanking against the ice on the ground.

Panic surged through him, and he stooped quickly in case Molly turned around to see what the noise had been. While stooping, though, pain ripped through his lower back and left him down on one knee, cold seeping through his jeans. His foot slipped forward, kicking the box and sending it skittering across the ice, into Molly’s path.

It seemed like an eternity before she paused and looked at it, then bent and picked it up. She turned slowly. “Oh, Matt, I think you dropped your –”

Alex watched her gaze fall to him kneeling in front of her, color draining from her face. She took a step back, her lips parting slightly. “What are you – are you –?”

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Robert, Matt, and Jason stop what they were doing and turn to look at him. His heart raced and he couldn’t feel his hands.

“Oh, Alex. I – I – I didn’t mean – I shouldn’t have said what I said about –”

He held up his hands. “Wait. Let me explain. It’s my back. It’s locked up. That box just fell out of my pocket, and I tried to get it but accidentally kicked it with my foot and now I’m stuck down here and . . .”

He couldn’t read Molly’s expression for a moment, but he thought he saw a flicker of disappointment before a smile replaced her shock. She laughed and reached out her hands. “Oh. I see. Let me help you up.” He stood slowly with a grimace, and she handed him the box. “I jumped the gun there. I’m so embarrassed. Here’s your box.” Her cheeks flushed pink. “Whatever it is. Anyhow, I’m so embarrassed. Really.”

As she turned to walk back into the house, a brilliant blaze of memories flicked across his mind at warp speed, all the moments between them rushing at him in a visual cacophony.

He stopped her, grabbing her wrist. “Molly, wait.”

Looking in her beautiful green eyes, he suddenly wanted to see the ring on her finger. The ring Franny had given him earlier that day.

The ring Ned had placed on Franny’s finger all those years ago. The ring Franny had told Alex two weeks ago she’d held on to for him, in case he decided he wanted to propose to Molly someday.

It wasn’t that he felt pressured to propose. Suddenly he wanted to propose. More than anything he’d wanted before. He wanted this ring on her finger and to soon have her arm looped through his as they walked down the aisle into a future they would experience together.

The memory of a dream he’d had years ago came flooding into his mind – a dream where he and Molly were outside Franny’s farmhouse, with children playing in the front yard on a swing set, and a baby on Molly’s hip.

He tried to speak but no sound came.

“Alex?” Molly reached up and touched his cheek. “Are you okay?”

“I don’t know if I’m ready,” he blurted. “I don’t know if you’re ready, but I know I love you and that I can’t see spending the rest of my life with anyone else. Honestly, this scares me out of my mind.” He shook his head and laughed, tears pricking his eyes as he opened the box with shaky hands. “This isn’t a very good proposal, I know, but it’s all I’ve got.”

Molly laughed through the tears, holding out her hand and letting him slip on the ring. “I’ll take what you’ve got, Alex Stone. Any day and any season.”

***

The creek of the swing and the tap of his foot on the porch floor broke the silence of the night. Robert and Annie’s breath sparkled in front of them, intermingled and dissipated again. In front of them, in the yard, snowflakes dotted the air, falling on snow that had already fallen in the days before.

He took a sip from the mug of cocoa in his hand and pulled his wife against him.

“The day worked out okay, didn’t it?”

She nodded and yawned. “It did.”

“Alex is going to be an official member of the family soon, it looks like.”

“It does.”

“Life is good Annie Tanner.”

“Life is good Robert Tanner.”

He clinked his mug against the one in her mitten-covered hands. “Here is to a new season of life. May it bring us much joy as this one has.”

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 11

We are almost to the final day of this story! Isn’t that crazy?! That means we are almost to Christmas too! So exciting. What do you think will happen in the last chapter? Let me know in the comments!

Welcome to the eleventh chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.



Chapter 11

Chaos reigned in the Tanner household the day before Christmas and Robert couldn’t wait to escape it. Six women were laughing, mixing, baking, bumping into each other and when he’d come into the house for lunch, they’d asked him to taste test three different kinds of cookies, which wouldn’t have been so bad if he hadn’t needed to get back to the shed to finish the swing.

“Which one, Dad? The gingerbread or the molasses?”

“Um.” He spoke with a mouthful of cookie. “They’re both really good. I think we should have both.”

Liz laughed. “We’re going to cook both. Molly and I just want to know which one you liked better.”

He raised an eyebrow and looked between the two young women. “Is this some kind of competition? Because I don’t want to be the judge of some kind of competition between you two.”

Liz looked at him with wide, innocent eyes. “Robert, of course, this isn’t some kind of compe—”

“It’s totally a competition,” Molly said quickly. “And I’m your daughter so you’d better pick my cookie.”

The other women, which included his mother, his wife, Annie’s mother, Ellie, and his sister all laughed and gathered behind Molly and Liz, pausing in their work.

Robert’s gaze slid to the women, then back to Molly who had leveled a steady gaze on him, a small smile pulling at her mouth. He swallowed the bite of cookie. “I like them both. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.”

He quickly excused himself to the sound of laughter before any of the women could stop him, snatched his coat off the hanger by the back door, and headed out the door.

Alex was on his way to the house from the barn. Robert grabbed his arm gently. “You don’t want to go in there. It’s a madhouse.”

Alex’s brow dipped in concern as he looked from Robert to the backdoor. “What do  you mean?”

“There are a lot of women in there and they’ll try to make you taste test their food and then make you choose sides by saying which recipe is better.”

Alex grinned and gently removed Robert’s hand from his arm. “That sounds like heaven. See you in an hour.”

Robert shook his head and turned back to the barn. That young man would change his mind when two women watched him intently and waited for an answer. No man wanted to tell a woman that their recipe wasn’t as good as someone else’s.  Not if they knew what was good for them.

Brad had pulled through much to his and Alex’s relief, despite a two-day snowstorm that had delayed his trip until two days before Christmas.

Robert had put the bolts on the swing early that morning and Bert was finishing up the engine. Alex had finished the paint job and planned to pick up the truck the next morning.

 After Robert hooked on the chains, he and Jason would load the swing onto the back of the truck and drive it down to the house covered with a tarp so he could install the swing early Christmas morning. He’d enlisted Molly to keep Annie busy in the kitchen while he installed it.

After chores were completed in the barn and dinner was eaten in a kitchen now emptied of the fairer sex, Robert and Annie showered and dressed and drove to town for the Christmas Eve service. Alex, Molly, Jason, Ellie, Liz, Isabella, and Matt met them there, along with Matt’s mother, brother and sister, and Liz’s parents. Liz’s sister and family also attended, which marked the first time since they’d moved back to Spencer that they’d been able to attend a service as a family.

Robert slid his hand over Annie’s as the music began. The church was lit with candles lining the aisles and spread across the stage and altar up front. Wreathes of pine decorated the wall along the stage and behind the choir and the pastor.

Rush had been the word of the day for the last few weeks and now the entire family seemed to be taking a collective breath and letting the peace of the season seep into their souls, soothe aching muscles physically and worried hearts spiritually.

When the music started to signal that the cantata would begin soon, Robert’s shoulders relaxed, he sat back in the pew, and he closed his eyes. He let the music wash over him and push away any thoughts about what needed to be done tomorrow — for Christmas day’s celebration and on the farm. Farmers never had holidays which meant the cows would still need to be milked and fed and stalls cleaned. Most of the day would be set aside for family time, though. Any repair projects could wait.

Muffled laughter caused him to open his eyes and look around for the source of amusement. Soon the laughing spread and he turned slightly in his pew just in time to see a black and white cat stroll nonchalantly down the center aisle toward the stage. He watched it, eyes narrowing.

Without looking away from the cat he reached over and tapped Annie’s arm.

“Hey, is that —“

“Yes, it is. Whose truck did she climb in the back of this time?”

Scout, one of their barn cats, had climbed in the back of a pickup at least twice before at the farm, once hitching a ride to Walt’s farm and another time to the farm store. This was the first time she’d made it to town, though.

The cat walked up the steps, stretched her long body out, and lay down on the top step as the congregation watched with smiles.

“I’d better go get her,” Robert whispered as the pastor stepped out on the stage.

Annie pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly, then released it. “Yeah. Maybe you’d better.”

z“Well, I see even the domesticated pets are here tonight to worship the birth of our savior,” Pastor Joe said with a smile. “In Psalm 148 it says, ‘Wild animals and all cattle, small creatures, and flying birds, kings of the earth and all nations, you princes and all rulers on earth, young men and maidens, old men and children. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.”

Scout had curled up into a ball now, ready for a nap. “I think we’ll just let this visitor stay for now. There must be something comforting to him or her about our church and that, to me, is a very high compliment indeed.”

Robert sat back in the pew again, shaking his head and laughing. For the next hour and a half, the cat napped, waking up only when Robert scooped her up after the cantata was over. He placed her in the cab of the truck with him and Annie, both of them unable to stop laughing over her sudden appearance.

They’d been taught that God had a sense of humor, Robert thought as he drove home, the cat in Annie’s lap. Hopefully, he’d found the humor in Scout’s attendance at a service to honor him

***

The sun had just started to rise over the horizon when Alex left the barn after the morning chores to head for town.

“Hey! Where are you off to?” Molly called after him. “We’re going to have a full family breakfast soon.”

He glanced over his shoulder. “I’ll be back soon, don’t worry. I have something I need to grab in town.”

He left her standing outside the barn with confusion etched on her face. It couldn’t be helped, though. He’d agreed to meet Bert at the shop and pick up the truck and then they’d both drive back for breakfast and lunch at the Tanner’s for the day.

When he reached the shop Bert had already pulled the truck outside. The men stood and admired the new paint job on the truck, the shine on the bumpers, and even the new tires.

“It looks good, Alex it really does.” Bert smiled, eyes glistening. “My father-in-law would have been really proud to see it in such good shape.”

Alex stepped around to the front of the truck, hands at his waist as he admired the final product. “You had a lot to do with it, more than me even.”

“You did the paint job, shined it up. Reminds me of when I first saw Ned with it. Hannah was in the passenger seat next to him. She was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on. I never thought she’d give me the time of day that day let alone let me marry her a decade later when we were both old enough to get married.” He winked. “We were only 15 when we first met.” He laughed, touching the back of a finger across the bottom of his eye, and turned away. He pulled a handkerchief from his coverall pocket. “Sorry, I got so emotional there. Didn’t expect that.”

Alex patted his shoulder. “Hey, no problem. Memories are powerful, especially when they are good ones.”

Bert blew his nose and wadded the handkerchief up, shoving it back in his pocket. “My marriage has been a good one, kid. I guess that’s why I keep pushing you to propose to Molly. I want you two to experience the happiness we have. Being married, making that commitment to be there for each other no matter what, in front of all your friends and family – I don’t know. There’s something fulfilling about it.”

Alex pulled his cowboy hat down low on his head and nodded. “I know, Bert, I appreciate it.”

Bert sniffed and tossed a set of keys to him. “Anyhow, here are the keys. I’ll follow you in your truck and meet you at the house.”

Alex slid behind the steering wheel of the 1976 Chevy, cranked the window down, and closed the door. “I have to take a detour, so I’ll meet you there.”

Bert grinned. “Another gift to pick up?”

Alex touched a finger to his hat. “I’m keeping that under my hat, but I’ll see you at Robert and Annie’s for breakfast. Don’t eat all the bacon on me.”

Alex started the truck and listened to it rumble for a few minutes, then slid his hand across the surface of the new red upholstery on the truck seat. He hadn’t thought they’d be able to replace that too, but in the end, Jason had helped and they’d pulled it off.

He took a deep breath and shifted the truck into gear, nodding to Bert again as he pulled the truck out of the parking lot. Turning the radio on, a favorite song came on and he hummed along, turning the truck toward the road that would lead him to Molly, but first her grandmother.

Sunday Bookends: Snow, disappointing books, more Christmas books and movies

It’s time for our Sunday morning chat. On Sundays I ramble about what’s been going on, what I and the rest of the family have been reading and watching, what I’ve been writing, and some weeks I share what I am listening to.




What’s Been Occurring

I’m starting a new feature on Saturdays where I’ll ramble more about what’s been going on generally in my life. You can find this week’s HERE.

In that post I rambled about the snow we received this week, the snow we might get this week, and some other fairly innoculous stuff.

Here are a couple extra snow photos that I didn’t share yesterday. The kids went out (at my urging) to sled since there was a fine layer of ice on top of the snow. The result was a couple of injuries so it might not have been my best suggestion. The sled was very hard to stop. Oops.



What I/we’ve been Reading

In yesterday’s post, I ranted a bit about the book Little Miss picked out for me a week ago during the local library book sale. She picked it off the shelf so at least I don’t own the book now. I really thought the book was going to be a good one and for the first several chapters I had a hard time putting it down. Eventually, it became a bit wandering and tedious, though, and then, out of the blue, in the 21st chapter of a 23-chapter book, the author dropped two fairly minor swear words and then the big one. Fudge, but not fudge, as the narrator says in A Christmas Story.

It was so bizarre. I mean I was happily skipping along, though getting a little disturbed by the darkness the book was starting to throw at me, and then boom! The bad guy dropped the word and it was just completely out of place. It was like serving vegan food at a biker bar, or biting into a piece of chocolate, swallowing it, and finding half a worm. I told a friend it was like reading a sweet Miss Marple book and then all a sudden she just turned around and said, “Well, f-it, I’m over this sweet stuff,” and walked off the page and out of the book. Okay, I didn’t exactly say that to my friend, I added a bit more for this post, but it was close.

Needless to say, I will not be reading any more books by Leslie Maier. I don’t need any more nasty surprises.

This week I am back to Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon (and hopefully spelling Shepherds right since I have been spelling that three ways lately thanks to writing too much lately and burning out my brain – or because I’m stupid. One or the other.). I actually never left Shepherds Abiding, as I have been reading a chapter here or there for the last couple of weeks to drag the book out for my enjoyment.

I had a bit of a breakdown this week when Little Miss had a cup full of water on our table for her art project and I knocked it over and it spilled down the table and onto my hardcover copy of Shepherds Abiding, crinkling many of the pages in the process. At first, I was upset at Little Miss, but quickly realized I’m the adult who one, allowed her to have the water on the table and two, had left my copy of the book on the floor. Why was it on the floor? I can’t remember, honestly, but I think it was because I was doing schoolwork with her and laid it down and – who even knows. I do stuff like this all the time.

So the book is a bit beat up, but I can still read it. I also have it on Kindle, but for Christmas, I like to read actual books because I am a book snob at times.


If you have never read Shepherd’s Abiding, it is the eighth book in the Mitford Series, and here is a brief description:

Millions of Americans have found Mitford to be a favorite home-away-from-home, and countless readers have long wondered what Christmas in Mitford would be like. The eighth Mitford novel provides a glimpse, offering a meditation on the best of all presents: the gift of one’s heart.

Since he was a boy, Father Tim has lived what he calls “the life of the mind” and has never really learned to savor the work of his hands. When he finds a derelict nativity scene that has suffered the indignities of time and neglect, he imagines the excitement in the eyes of his wife, Cynthia, and decides to undertake the daunting task of restoring it. As Father Tim begins his journey, readers are given a seat at Mitford’s holiday table and treated to a magical tale about the true Christmas spirit.

I hope to listen to The Mistletoe Countess by Pepper Basham this week, as I stole The Husband’s Audible credit to buy it. We have Audible for a few months, but may have to get rid of it in February because everyone keeps raising their prices and it’s getting to be a bit much.

Little Miss and I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson this week and absolutely loved it. This is a book that was read to me when I was in elementary school and has stuck with me all these years, even though I only had it read to me that one time. This year while looking for Christmas book ideas for Little Miss, I spotted it on a list of suggestions and had planned to order it on Amazon. Then, in an effort to conserve money for Christmas, I delayed order it. I was so excited, however, when I went to the book sale at the library and found an old copy of it!



The story was as hilarious and touching as I remember it and I even found myself crying at the end, after laughing for just about the entirety of the rest of the book. If you’ve never read it, do yourself a favor and find a copy. It is a children’s book but it is so well done that it is entertaining even for children.

Here is a description:

This year’s pageant is definitely like no other, but maybe that’s exactly what makes it so special.

Laughs abound in this bestselling Christmas classic by Barbara Robinson! The Best Christmas Pageant Ever follows the outrageous shenanigans of the Herdman siblings, or “the worst kids in the history of the world.”

The siblings take over the annual Christmas pageant in a hilarious yet heartwarming tale involving the Three Wise Men, a ham, scared shepherds, and six rowdy kids. You and your family will laugh along with this funny story, perfect for independent reading or read-aloud sharing.

Ralph, Imogene, Leroy, Claude, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman are an awful bunch. They set fire to Fred Shoemaker’s toolshed, blackmailed Wanda Pierce to get her charm bracelet, and smacked Alice Wendelken across the head. And that’s just the start! When the Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and suddenly take over the Christmas pageant, the other kids are shocked.

It’s obvious that they’re up to no good. But Christmas magic is all around and the Herdmans, who have never heard the Christmas story before, start to reimagine it in their own way.

I just learned this week there is a movie and I couldn’t find it streaming anywhere, but someone put it up on YouTube 8 years ago so I think I’ll check that out this week.



The Husband is reading Star Trek: The Vulcan Academy Murders

Little Miss and I are reading Paddington At Large because we can’t remember reading it before. For homeschooling, we are still reading Children of the Longhouse.

The Boy is stuck reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn because I am an evil, evil homeschooling mom. Bwahaha!

What We watched/are Watching

This past week I watched It’s A Wonderful Life (again) as part of the ‘Tis the Season feature I am doing with Erin of Still Life, With Cracker Crumbs. You can read about that HERE.

The Husband and I also watched a couple more episodes of Brokenwood Mysteries, because it’s so good.

I watched part of A Christmas in Connecticut and then felt uncomfortable with it and abandoned it part way through.

I also watched a couple videos by Darling Desi, one of which you can find here:



We watched the first episode of Season Three of The Chosen Sunday night and will watch the second tonight.

You can watch it on their YouTube channel for 72 hours and then you have to watch it via their app. Seasons one and two can be found streaming on Peacock and Amazon and I believe Netflix now.



We got interrupted watching A Man Called Ove the week before last and never got back to it until last night. It’s a really good movie. This is the Swedish version and it’s available on Amazon. This is not the Americanized version that will be coming out with Tom Hanks. I don’t think that version is necessary when the Swedish one is so well done. If you do watch it, please make sure to have some tissues and be prepared for some sweetness and some heartache.




I hope to continue with the Christmas themes this week by watching a couple other Christmas-themed movies/shows. When I found The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on Youtube, I also found that someone had uploaded A Walton’s Christmas and The Christmas Box with Maureen O’Hara. I think I might add those to the list for this week.

I plan to watch The Shepherd, which is part of The Chosen series, as well before Christmas. You can find that here:




What I’m Writing

Today I’ll be finishing the last chapter of my Christmas novella, Beyond the Season, which I am sharing here on the blog in chapters. It finishes up Tuesday and then I’ll post a link to a Bookfunnel file of the full story.

What I shared on the blog this week:

What I’m Listening to

This week I listened to this on YouTube a lot while finishing my Christmas novella.

Now it’s your turn. What have you been doing, watching, reading, listening to or writing? Let me know in the comments or leave a blog post link if you also write a weekly update like this.

A Christmas in Spencer: Beyond the Season Chapter 10

Welcome to the ninth chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.

You can catch up on chapters HERE.

If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,

The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.

Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.



Chapter 10

Molly unhooked the ponytail she’d had her hair pulled up in and let her curls fall down across her back and shoulders. “Alex, I’m perfectly capable of making the drive to Burdett and back on my own.” She folded her arms across her chest and tipped her head slightly, narrowing her eyes. “Wait a minute. It’s not me you’re worried about, is it? It’s your truck.”

Alex laughed. “No! I am not worried about my truck. You’re a perfectly capable driver. There are snow squalls expected though and I –”

“You thought what? Think you can stop the snow squalls from happening?” She let out a small laugh. “Alex, I’ve been driving these roads in the winter a lot longer than you have. I’ll be fine. Promise. You really need to rest your back.” She pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly and let it go again. “But if you really want to go then I wouldn’t mind the company. I’ll drive though so you can push the seat back and relax.”

Now that the freezers at the store were fixed, more inventory could be added to them and there was a delivery of fresh goat milk and cheese a half an hour away. Molly had volunteered to go, but Alex had overheard and didn’t like the idea of her out on her own in possibly bad weather.

Worrying about her was foolish, and he knew it. Like he’d told many people over the years, including Molly herself, she could handle any situation that rural life threw her. She didn’t need him to protect her. Truthfully, though, he did want to try to protect her. He also wanted her company after a busy few weeks of barely seeing her due to work on the farm, recovering from his injury, and painting the truck.

Once inside his truck, she flicked on the radio, pushing buttons until she found a station playing Christmas music. She pulled her hair back up into the ponytail again and he found his gaze focusing on the skin exposed at the back of her neck. He resisted the urge to trail his fingertips along it.

She made a face as she clicked the seatbelt in, then wiggled back and forth a little in the seat.

He quirked an eyebrow. “What’s the matter with you? You have an itch on your rear or something?”

She laughed, a small dimple dotting the skin next to her mouth. “No. It’s just your truck feels so — I don’t know – clunky.”

He scowled. “Clunky?”

“Yeah, like too big or something.”

“It’s a four-wheel drive. Heated memory seats. Maximum horsepower. Back-up camera. GPS integrated into the dashboard. State of the art paint job. What’s not to love?”

She sighed, shifting the truck into gear. “It’s lovely. It’s just not my truck.”

Oh. Right. That.

He reached over and laid his hand over hers. “Hey, I know. It will be back soon. Have you got ahold of Bert?” Hopefully not. “What did he say?”

“I did actually.”

Uh-oh.

“He said the engine was in pretty bad shape so he’s working on it. He had some other jobs to finish up first.” Not a lie. Good job, Bert. She lifted her shoulders briefly then dropped them again. “I don’t mind, really. I’m just glad to hear it might be able to be saved.”

If Brad was able to pick up that part tomorrow then the verdict should be that it would definitely be able to be repaired, not maybe.

Houses decorated with Christmas lights, a few with Christmas-themed inflatables in the front yard, slid by as they drove toward Spencer. They drove around the town via the by-pass when they reached town limits and headed on to Burkett, another 25-minute drive beyond.

Alex closed his eyes and enjoyed Molly’s singing as she crooned out carol after carol, mixed in with a few country hits and a couple of worship songs.

“Did I ever tell you about the time Grandpa picked me up in this truck from elementary school?”

Her question came out of the blue, halting her singing.

He’d started to doze and jerked awake to listen to her. “No, actually. I don’t believe you have.”

“He pulled up in front of the school and honked the horn. We were letting out early because of weather and he’d volunteered to get me so I’d get home faster than I would have on the bus. About a mile from home, we hit that bridge over Shaver’s Creek and the snow started falling faster. Right after the bridge there was a left turn and Grandpa hit the accelerator and did a donut right at the end of the road. The truck turned all the way around, 360, and ended up facing back the way we were supposed to be going.”

Alex chuckled. “That totally sounds like something Ned would do. Or did he do it on purpose?”

She looked at him, meeting his smile with hers. “Of course he did it on purpose. He thought it was the funniest thing ever to see my eyes almost bug out of my head, he said. Later he said it might not have been the smartest move because we could have flown over the embankment into the creek by the road, but in the moment it sure was fun. For him anyhow. For me, I almost wet myself. I thought we were going to die.”

The story reminded Alex of his own grandfather. “My grandfather did something similar when he took me flying one time. He had a private pilots license. He took the plane into a nosedive and just when I thought we were going to crash into a mountainside he ripped it back up again. I was ten and I’m not going to lie, I did pee myself just a little bit.”

They laughed together as Molly turned into Brookings Family Goat Farm’s driveway. Josiah Brookings met them outside the barn and within fifteen minutes they had the inventory loaded in Alex’s truck.

“You two be safe out there,” Josiah said as he shook Alex’s hand. “The weather says we’re supposed to get snow squalls.”

“We should be fine. Molly’s driving and she’s a lot safer than I am. Take care and see you next month.”

Josiah waved as he walked back up the long drive to the house, leaving Alex and Molly standing in an orange ring of light under the light pole.

Alex paused, reaching down and scooping up a handful of snow, smirking as he packed it. Molly was already starting to climb into the truck when he tossed the ball, striking her in the shoulder.

She turned quickly, mouth dropping open. “Alexander Stone, what do you think you’re doing?”

He grinned, reaching down for more snow. “Just some minor physical therapy for my back. It’s good to do some light stretches for it.”

She pointed at him. “You drop that snowball.” She took a step back, now waggling the finger at him. “Don’t you dare start something that I’m going to finish.”

He tossed the snowball at her, snow shattering down the front of her winter coat as the ball hit her chest. “Molly Tanner, you know I’m the snowball fight champion five years running. Don’t let your mouth write a check your bottom can’t cash.”

Molly snickered as she stooped to gather snow in her hands. He grunted a few seconds later when a snowball hit him in the thigh. After that the snowballs flew fast and furious. He kept his distance and then decided the one way to win was to get close and get as much snow down the back of her winter coat as possible. She anticipated his move though and put her hands up to block him, which resulted in a brief wrestling match, during which she slipped and started to fall. He caught her under her arms and helped her regain her balance, laughing hard. She stepped back away from him in a fit of laughter and leaned her against the truck, breathing hard. Placing one hand on either side of her he leaned close, catching his breath.

“Looks like I win.”

She smiled, a sparkle in her eyes. “You didn’t win, you cheated. You clearly pushed me onto that patch of ice.”

“I clearly did not push you. You were just overcome by my snowball throwing power.” He moved his head closer to hers. “Besides, anytime I get to be this close to you, I win.”

Her voice was a whisper, her mouth a mere inch from his. “I remember another time we were pushed up against your truck like this.”

“I remember it too. Fondly.”  His lips grazed her cheek, then her mouth.  “Very fondly.”

She smiled as he lowered his head toward hers. They stood there for several moments, her arms around his waist as they kissed, snowflakes falling around them, before she pulled her mouth away slowly.

“We’d probably better get on the road in case it starts getting slick out.”

He reluctantly agreed and they climbed back into the truck cab, him wincing as a light pain shot through his back.

While Christmas songs weren’t what he’d normally listen to alone in the truck, he pushed the seek button until he found one, simply so he could hear Molly sing. He seemed to be catching her love for the season.

Ten minutes into their drive the road in front of them disappeared in a blur of white. He noticed Molly’s knuckles turning white. “You okay?”

She nodded quickly. “Yes. I’m fine.”

“Nervous?”

“A little bit.”

“You want to pull over?”

“Yep.”

He laughed as she maneuvered the truck gently off the road. “I thought you could handle driving in this weather.”

“I can and one way of handling it is knowing when to pull over and when not to.”

She shifted the truck into park. “The squall should pass soon. This will give us time to chat because I realized today that I have never asked you if you have any favorite Christmas movies.” She held up her hand as he started to answer. “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. I’m not debating that again.”

He smiled as he propped his hands behind his head. “It is a Christmas movie, but I’ll let you believe what you want. As for other Christmas movies, I haven’t really watched a ton, but I guess It’s A Wonderful Life is good. Miracle on 34th Street. White Christmas.”

She flipped her hair over her shoulder and laughed. “Jason made you watch those with him, didn’t he?”

“Of course, but I liked them. What’s the one we watched together last year?”

“Christmas in Connecticut.”

“Yeah, that one wasn’t too bad.” He grinned and lowered his arms, leaning toward her. “Of course, anything is good as long as I’m with you.”

She placed a finger on his lips and tipped her head toward the windshield. “Looks like the snow squall has let up. We’d better keep going if we want to get back to Spencer.”

He smiled against her finger. “If you say, so, but there’s nothing wrong with stealing some kisses while we’re here.”

She kissed him briefly. “I’d like that, but I need to get back to pick Liz up from the library. The heat is broken in her car. Mom and Dad said I can borrow their car tonight.” She turned back to the steering wheel and placed her hand on the shift lever but didn’t move it. Her gaze drifted out in front of them, at the road now visible. “You know, this is the first Christmas since we lost grandpa that I really feel happy about Christmas again. This time of year used to give me such a warm feeling but so much about it seemed dull and lifeless since losing Grandpa. This year feels different. I don’t know why.” She sighed, eyes glistening. “There is something wildly beautiful about the spirit of Christmas, the way it reminds us all to take time to pause and tell those we love how much they mean to us.” She pulled her hand briefly from his and wiped at her damp cheek. “Sorry. I don’t know why I’m so sappy tonight.”

He leaned across the seat and kissed her cheek. “I don’t mind sappy if it’s coming from you.”

She squeezed his hand then looked out the windshield. “Looks like that snow squall has cleared up. Let’s see how much closer we can get to home.” He gazed out the window at the now clear sky that moments before had been swirling with white. Stars sparkled against a dark blue sky. She was right. There was something wildly beautiful about Christmas, especially when he saw it through her eyes.  

Saturday Afternoon Tea: Snow, Christmassy stuff, and a disappointing read


I’m debuting a semi-new feature here where I take a day just to chat about what’s going on in my world over a cup of tea for me and a cup of whatever you want for you (please drink responsibly). I’m calling it Saturday afternoon tea because I’d like to post it on Saturday afternoons. Today, though, I kept getting interrupted (for good things) while writing it so I wasn’t able to post it until early evening my time.

I don’t know if I will share this feature every week or every other week. We will just play it all by ear right now, which is a saying The Husband likes to use a lot.

This feature will most likely replace the What’s Occurring section of my Sunday Bookends post because a lot of it will probably be the same info.

I mentioned in the Sunday Bookends post last week that Little Miss and I went to the town Christmas light parade with our neighbor and her grandchildren. It was so terribly cold that night but I did manage to grab a couple shots of Santa and Mrs. Clause.

Thursday and yesterday my photos were of snow since we finally got our first real snowstorm of the season.

We only ended up without maybe five inches of snow when they originally called for up to ten. I am glad we received the lower amount. `

There are rumors we may receive another snowstorm at the end of next week, which could leave us with a white Christmas. We will have to see how that goes.

Our dog, Zooma the Wonder Dog, loves the snow. As soon as she saw it Thursday morning she rolled over on her back and rolled in it. On Friday when Little Miss ventured out into it, she chased Little Miss and then loved having snowballs thrown up in the air for her so she could catch them.

Our kitten also loves the snow and chases little snowballs that she makes by running in the snow.

I’ve still got the Christmas spirit, for the most part (despite some hiccups here and there), and have been trying to read Christmas-themed books and watch Christmas-themed movies. I’ve been trying to cram so many Christmassy things into my days, though, that I’ve overwhelmed myself a little bit.

There is no way I will be able to watch every movie I wanted to watch or read every book I wanted to read or attend every event I wanted to attend. It simply isn’t possible between working on my short story/novella for the blog, reading a book for a fellow author, letting cats and dogs in and out all day, trying to find ways to make money from home, cooking dinner, and homeschooling the children.

For now, I am watching as many movies as I can and zeroing in on one main book to finish before Christmas – Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon. I’m also trying to remember for this next week that quality is better than quantity when celebrating the Christmas season.

I’ve been listening to Christmas music during the week, including this collaboration on YouTube. Maybe you’d like to put it on while you bake or wrap or have family time this week.

I will mention it more on Sunday Bookends, but I was disappointed this week by a book I took out at the library that I thought was a clean, cozy mystery book that would work as a Christmas-themed book. I was almost done with the book when out of the blue the author dropped the f-bomb. It was so strange. I told a friend it was like reading a Miss Marple book and then suddenly she asks, “What the bleep is going on around here?” It was just so out of character and odd for the rest of the book. Like getting a nasty surprise in a piece of chocolate or some other special kind of food.

Needless to say, I won’t be reading any more books by Leslie Maier.

If you read my Sunday Bookends posts, you can just skip the paragraph where I vent about this again.

Pretty much off the topic here, but I was thinking this week about how when I write my Educationally Thinking posts it sometimes sounds like we just skip happily through our school days.

That definitely couldn’t be further from the truth, which was proven on Tuesday of this week when Little Miss and I had a huge miscommunication issue and ended up not talking to each other for two hours while we both pouted. That ended up in me having to lay down some new rules about our school days and those new rules actually worked for the rest of the week. We found some rules and a routine that worked for us just in time for Christmas break which starts on Thursday of this upcoming week.

After that, we will have a full week off and we truly cannot wait for it.

We don’t have any big plans for that week. We might play in the snow if we get some more snow, make some crafts as Christmas gifts, watch Christmas movies, read Christmas books, and just simply be together.

How about you? What’s been going on with you and what Christmas-related plans do you have coming up this next week? I’d love to hear. Let me know in the comments.