A Book on Every Bed

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Last week I read an article about a new Christmas tradition. It’s called A Book on Every Bed, invented by Amy “Ask Amy” Dickinson. She began the project because her mother was a reader, writer and educator and to promote literacy. She admits she “stole” the idea from an author who talked about his childhood Christmases and how he received a book from Santa every year. Personally, I don’t think she really stole anything. She took something one family did and shared it with the world.

This is how it works. You wrap a book, and Santa places it on your child’s bed after they’re asleep. They wake up Christmas morning to find it. It’s a great way to encourage reading. If you have a reluctant reader it could be the jump start they need.

This could turn into a fun activity for yourself, too. There are so many great children’s books to choose from, you could have fun searching the classics or try a holiday-themed one. Of course kids love animals and sports, too. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I’d like to take this project a step further. Wrap a book for anyone and leave it on their bed from Santa. Buy their favorite genre or get them started on reading. You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy a surprise from Santa.

And if you’re dealing with adults, you wouldn’t have to sneak in their room and place the book on the bed when they are sleeping. You could do it before they go to bed on Christmas Eve (or any time during the holidays). Wouldn’t you love to come into your room and find a present on your pillow? You open it up to find a great book. Then hop into bed and start reading.

Let’s help Amy get this tradition going. If you like the idea, pass it along.

And remember the ability to read is a gift. Don’t let it go unused.

Have a happy holiday, everyone.

 

Three Strikes and You’re Out

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This post is not about baseball. I wish it was but there was no way to tell you who won the game yesterday. Our cable was out. And our phone. And our internet. So much for getting one of those packages. When the company loses the connection, goodbye everything.

I usually post on Mondays (creature of habit) and couldn’t get on-line. My whole world started to crumble around me. No access to anything. Really? I know some may say, just use your phone. But I don’t have a smart phone yet. I call mine a dumb phone. Soon I’ll be in the 21st century. I’ve designated the phone as a Mother’s Day gift.

So in the meantime, I was disconnected from the world yesterday. The internet was the first to come back, but everything went so slow it wasn’t worth being on the computer. One good thing came out of it–no telemarketing calls to interrupt dinner. Finally the TV came back around 9 pm.

Back in the real world again…or was I? In the good old days, dad would adjust the antennae on the TV, not having to rely on cable or even know what it is. We didn’t have computers so I’d probably be reading a book or playing outside. And the phone? I don’t remember it ever not working.

My husband called the cable company and found out there was an outage. They asked if he’d like to receive a call when power was restored. This morning the phone rang. Caller ID showed the name of the cable company. I answered to hear a recorded message. My phone, internet and cable were restored. Really? I knew that last night. Welcome to the 21st century. 🙂

Word of the Day: Binge

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Binge-watching, a new way of watching shows. This activity wasn’t available in the “old days” unless a TV station ran a marathon. And if they did, it was called exactly that—a marathon.

I looked up the word and there are a few meanings. In this case, it’s used as a verb so I’ll give you the two main definitions of the verb form.

  1. Eat too much.
  2. Be self-indulgent with something. Example given: Stay in all day and binge on old movies.
    The dictionary is already behind the times!

Netflix is feeding the binge-watching addiction. They release a whole series on the first day. A person can watch one episode or devour them all in one sitting. If you have the time. Or you’re part of the younger generation.  I understand it’s the new way to watch a series. Trust me, I have firsthand knowledge. My son has binged-watched many a series.

Not too long ago the family went to New York City for vacation. Little did I know, Netflix was releasing Arrested Development while we were there. Somehow he managed to squeeze in 14 episodes in two days. Don’t ask me how.

Well, actually do ask me how. It’s really not that hard. Just start with the first show and immediately go on to the next. When that one’s over, start up the next. Pretty simple. You may pause for snack and bathroom breaks when needed. And if on vacation, set your phone aside to look at the sights.

I wouldn’t mind binge watching a series I liked. I have no idea how far I’d get, but it would be fun to try. In this family, there’s only one master binge-watcher. It’d take a lot to dethrone him, as you will see in the conversation below. Recently this took place in my kitchen.

Husband to son: We’ve been binge watching Mad Men and The Newsroom.
Me to son (Smiling and maybe an eye roll thrown in):Two in a row.
Son: Dad, that’s not binge watching, that’s just watching television.

I’d like to start a new movement. How about binge reading? I remember coming home from the library with a pile of books. When I finished one, I reached for the next one on the stack. And books can go everywhere you go, too. It’s an amazing concept.

Do we really need to binge on anything? In this fast paced world I think it would be nice to slow down once in awhile. Instant gratification is becoming common place.

Next time you’re set to hit the play button, stop and think.  Is there something else I could do? Read a book, write a poem, kick a ball around the backyard, go for a walk, call a friend?

It might be fun to binge every now and then.  I’m not against it. Just take time to smell the roses. You may find you like the slower pace of the real world.

The Simple Things in Life

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When we’re young, most of us want to be rich and famous. We stand in the middle of our bedrooms belting out songs, whether we have the voice for it or not. We dream we are on that movie screen playing the part of the femme fatale or the hero.

As time goes on, we learn that only a small percent of the population achieves those goals. We have to join the real world. Now a new race begins. A new home. The best technology. An awesome car. Things that all seem to cost money.

Life has taken on a new meaning for me, a new way of thinking. Yes, I am thankful for friends and family, good health and my home. But I’m also grateful for the simple things in life. I can look up at the morning sky, feel the warmth of the sun on my face, see the bright blue sky and be thankful. I try to gaze up every day, no matter the weather, and find something beautiful.  Dark gray snow clouds create a wondrous background to the bare trees of winter. The sun peeking through the morning mist hints of the day to come. My favorite is those white puffy clouds that look like cotton candy.

I won’t bore you with too many more of the simple things I’m thankful for. Maybe you can add to the list.

Sun sparkling off a new fallen snow

The golden leaves of autumn

A baby’s smile

The first buds of spring

Birds chirping

Yellow forsythias

The sound of water lapping on the shore

Sharing a bottle of wine with friends and family

Snuggling with a good book by the fireplace

Holding hands with my husband

Watching my son grow into an awesome young man

The simple things. Give it a try.

Who Do You Look Like?

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I remember standing in my paternal grandmother’s living room being asked that question. Her neighbor came over to visit, took one look at my older sister and saw the family resemblance. She gazed over at me, studied me up and down and asked the question, “Who do you look like?”

I was quite young at the time, maybe five or six, and refused to answer. My mother always referred to that reaction as being a stubborn Swede. Stubborn Swede or not, I didn’t like the question. What did she care who I looked like? My sister was my sister and so what if we didn’t look alike? If I had the nerve I do now, I might have answered, “the mailman.”

Maybe that’s why, to this day, I have such trouble describing people in my novels. I’m always stumped when it comes to descriptions. I’m aware people want to know the color of the romantic lead’s eyes or the hero’s hair color. Is the character tall or short? Lean or has muscles? Then it’s on to the lead female character. Full lips? Flowing hair or cropped short? I could go on and on.

Descriptions are important in a novel so I started a folder of character traits. Whenever I come across one I like, I add it to the list. I found a website that describes eye color, not just the green, blue, brown but all the shades in between. Definitely a keeper!

All authors have their own personal stumbling blocks. Mine happens to be descriptions. It carries over to scenery and clothes, too. To help the process, I study pictures, close my eyes to envision my character, and write and keep rewriting until it flows. It’s a type of writer’s block and can halt the whole writing process.

I guess you’re wondering if I ever gave that neighbor an answer. I’m sure my dad wasn’t too happy with my silence and prodded me to speak. I remember that day as clear as if it was yesterday. I finally did answer the question, “Who do you look like?” I looked her straight in the eye and uttered just one word, “Me.”

Dad’s Day

 

outline-28723_640Unconditional love. Every time I think of my dad, those are the first words that pop in my head. Although he’s been gone a long while, I still feel it to this day.

When I started writing my new novel, one of the characters loses her father when she’s still in high school. The pain of losing him is hidden away until it comes bursting to the surface one day. I couldn’t let her be in total pain so I gave her the gift of unconditional love. She remembers and misses his love, knowing she may never have it again in her life.

So if you’re a parent, ask yourself. Do I give unconditional love to my child? Or do I have underlying motives attached? I think every child deserves unconditional love. It’s the greatest gift you can give.

So as Father’s Day draws near it becomes a good time to ask ourselves again if we are doing that. Don’t blame someone if you didn’t get it from your parents or anyone else in your life. Break the mold. Be the first.

Give that love to your children…unconditionally

Lights Out

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Recently our power went out three Saturdays in a row. Life as we know it ceases to exist. Everyone panics and prays for it to be a quick break in the power line and hopes it will come right back on. When it doesn’t, your mind switches to survivor mode.

Candles, flashlights, batteries come to mind. Things you don’t give a second thought to in everyday life. Our power has gone out so many times over the years we have it down to a science. Lanterns and solar powered flashlights are stockpiled, even a solar powered radio.

After the big power outage of 2003, now called the Northeast Blackout of 2003, we invested in a generator. We debate when it’s the time to haul it out, crank it up and start using it. Since we lost all our food in 2003, the refrigerators are the first to be plugged in. That used to be everyone’s main concern.

During these last outages, the fridge wasn’t the only thing on my mind. I was disconnected from my world…the computer. Everything I do is on it…my writing, books to read, and my entertainment. I didn’t like the feeling of sitting in the house with nothing to do because everything was on the computer or my Kindle which wasn’t charged.

How times changed! When I was little I thought it was cool when the lights went out and the candles came out. We’d try to place as many as we could around the house. Everyone would sit in one room and talk. We’d decide how many cold snacks we should start to eat out of the refrigerator if the lights didn’t come back on. There were books and board games to entertain us.

Life, at times, seems more solitary than even a decade ago. Maybe the power going out has some benefits. It might be time to tear ourselves away from the computer screen long enough to look around and see what we’re missing. Our whole world shouldn’t be wrapped up in our phones, laptops, iPads or whatever you use these days. It gave me time to reflect, gather the family together after the initial shock of being without power wore off. We talked, shared stories and even cracked open a bottle of wine. Maybe having the power go out once in awhile isn’t such a bad thing after all.