I just wrote THE END for my third book, which is due January 15. Between now and then it goes to my readers and then back to me for all the ‘fixes’ before I send it on to my editor.  

Factor in we are having our family Christmas on Wednesday and Thursday—add thatI found out this past Saturday that I’m to play for a wedding on January 4 (which means I have tomorrow and Friday to practice on the organ and I gave away all my organ music years ago)—I’m sorry, I know my limits. And attempting to blog anything meaningful this week is clearly beyond those limits. 

I’ll see you all again next Monday morning!!  

Wishing you all a Happy New Year heaped and running over with blessings.


Thursday’s Teaser

This is the second scene of chapter 25 of the very first full novel I ever wrote.  

Henry Ohlmquist: Owner of the town Mercantile
Ida Ohlmquist: Henry’s wife
Lily: Little sister of the heroine of the story (not seen in this chapter)
Miss Molly: Lily’s rag doll, her constant companion
Ben: One of the cowhands on the ranch, raised as an orphan

So it won’t seem so haphazard: A bad snowstorm has kept the ranch family in town after Christmas Eve services. Henry and Ida found a place to bed them all down in their mercantile. Henry has surprised them by hanging stockings along the mantle for everyone. 

Threads of Grace

Christmas Day, 1873
Prairie Hills, KS

     Henry took a deep breath and sank into his chair next to Ida. He must be extra tired to be so short of breath. Seemed lately he had a harder time breathing, but Doc told him he could expect those symptoms.
     “What are you thinking, Santa Clause?” Ida squeezed his hand. “You must have raided the store last night to get those stockings so full. My, oh my. Have you ever seen so much excitement? 
     George patted her cheek. He loved this woman. “Never, dear Ida. I don’t think little Lily has stopped talking or bouncing since we let her get everyone out of bed.” How much longer would he be able to fool her? He leaned his head against his chair, willing the dizziness to leave.
     “How did you ever figure out what to put in each stocking?”
     “I’m Santa claus, remember?” He laughed. “Look at Ben. He’s as excited as Lily.”
     Ben held his stocking like it was a prized treasure, and dug into it like there might be gold in the toe. His eyes lit up when he withdrew a shiny silver harmonica. He blew into it and everyone stopped talking.
     “Can you play us a tune?” Emma hollered across the room.
     “How did  you know?” Ben sat down on the floor and folded his long legs in front of him. “My every own mouth harp.” He rubbed his sleeve along its shiny side. “I never thought I’d have one that was all mine.” He brought the instrument to his mouth and began to play…Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…

    “Wait. Wait.” Lily ran to Ben’s side, put one hand on his shoulder, and clutched Miss Molly to her chest with the other. “I know this song, so I will sing and Ben will play. Listen everybody. 
     She shut her eyes and and waited for Ben to start again,  then bobbed her head when she was ready to join. “I may see grace, how sweet you sound. You saved a witch like me. I one was sloshed and now you found me. I was blind but now you see. When I been here ten thou sand ears bright and shiny like your son. I will have no less tears to sing your praise than when you first begun.”
     She curtsied and kissed Ben on the cheek. “Isn’t this the merriest Christmas ever?”
     Henry closed his eyes. Indeed it was the merriest ever. The only thing that could make it better is if he could celebrate it in the presence of Jesus.


Tuesday’s Tale From the Tailboard

Firefighters Are Not Unique

As a writer, I am well aware of the power of words. I’m relatively sure I could paint a picture in your mind without ever picking up a paintbrush. But I’m also very aware that words have different meanings to different people. The picture one person perceives could be a complete contrast to the next person’s, although the same words are applied. 

For example: Firefighters work holidays if it’s their shift. But so do policemen, nurses, doctors, soldiers and the list goes on. So if I lament about the years Bob spent at the firehouse on Christmas day, I would only be whining in light of all the others whose plight is/was the same. Firefighters are not unique. 

Now, to vary this post a bit, it’s your turn to paint your own mural. I’ll supply the words—you choose the vocabulary, add the verbs, your own color and choice of strokes: 
tinsel, family, alone, orphan, bells, carols, church, trees, presents, Jesus, Messiah, snow, candy, ribbons, sunshine, candles,  manger, Bethlehem, job, soldiers, mothers, sisters, wives, children, brothers, born to die, stars, magi, shepherds, angels, eve, homeless, cold, fireplaces, infertility, miscarriages, death, life, cross, good tidings, bad news, lonely, ill, cured, miracles, greetings, neighbors, strangers, Mary, Joseph, birth, love, peace, joy, laughters, tears—

Frame your picture, no matter what it is, with the reminder that Jesus was born to die, so that we might have the promise of eternal life. 

And if you’d been the only person on earth, it wouldn’t have changed His mission. 




Thursday’s Teaser

I realize that these ‘teasers’ are disjointed—a bit here and a bit there, a little like a preview, or a trailer. You don’t get the entire picture all at once. In my case, it’s because these tidbits are still very much in the ‘swirling around my head’ stage. I’ve punched them into the computer so I wouldn’t forget, but they still need to be fleshed-out. Today’s ‘teaser’ is from— 

Hope’s Chance

Hope wrapped a brown woolen scarf around her face and tucked the ends behind her neck. She would have preferred a blue plaid muffler, like her best friend Addie Belle’s, but Papa said that was foolish. It ain’t the color that matters. Brown will keep you as warm as blue. She supposed he was right. Not only would it keep her warm on this colder-than-Chance-Manning’s-heart kind of day, it would also keep her out of a whole lot of trouble. She had a bad habit of letting her thoughts run wild out of her mouth straight into Papa’s ears. Surely winding something around her lips would help.
            “Can you see where you’re going, Daughter? Face all wound up like that people might mistake you for a robber.” Papa squeezed her shoulders.
            She nodded. No need to let him know she could still talk, although it would mean a mouth full of itchy yarn. And he was the robber—making her move out so Chance Manning could move in robbed her of her very own home. And Addie Belle agreed.
            “You take care now. Do what Miss Olive asks and mind your manners. It’s a good thing Mr. Hazlett has agreed to let you stay on to care for his sister-in-law. You won’t have to go to your Aunt Esther’s after all, but heaven knows you need a woman to guide you. Miss Olive seems reasonable enough, her being an old schoolmarm and all.”
            She rolled her eyes, and Papa’s scowl signaled he’d seen her. He turned her shoulders to him and bent so he’d be eyeball to eyeball. This couldn’t be good, but she didn’t dare look away.
            “Don’t do this, Hope. I don’t have a choice. We need the money and I can’t pass up the opportunity of being in on building the railroad through Kansas. It’s making history and I’ll get paid in the making.”
            Hope plopped down on the nearest chair and pulled the scarf from her face. “Papa, I know we need the money, but there has to be a better way than for you to traipse clear across Kansas. It’s dangerous. I need you, Papa. What will I do if something happens to you?”
            “That’s why I was a hopin’ you’d find someone to take care of ya, or at least agree to go to your Aunt Esther’s without putting up a fuss worser’n a injured wildcat. You’re not makin’ this easy. Mr. Hazlett is downright generous to offer you a place with Miss Olive. And then he up and agreed to let that Manning cowboy of his look after our place while I’m gone. The minute the last spike is drove in that track, I’ll collect my pay and head right back here to you.”
            Hope pulled the scarf back onto her face before her lips gave her away. Papa didn’t know Miss Olive, and wouldn’t take to hearing anything unkind about her. She’d never told anyone, except Addie Belle, all she knew about Mr. Hazlett’s old maid sister-in-law. What would Papa say if he knew the old woman put Applejack in the spice cake she took to every church dinner? And as far as Chance Manning looking after their farm? Well, she’d see to that. Addie Belle said she’d help her come up with a plot to run him off, and Addie was very good at schemes. She stood and waved her mitten-covered hand. Talking was futile, but Chance Manning was not going to inhabit one square inch of this house for long. No, siree. Not for long.
            Her papa opened the door, then bent and planted a kiss on the spot between her eyes. “I put your trunk in the buggy and Lady is hitched, ready to go. Be sure to put her in Miss Olive’s barn when you get there and—”
            “I know what to do, Papa,” she mumbled through the scarf. “I’ll see you before you leave, won’t I?”
            He nodded. “That Manning fella is movin his stuff over here tomorrow. Best if you aren’t here. I’ll stop by Miss Olive’s before the stage leaves.”

            “You don’t want me to the stage with you? But Papa—”

            “Don’t argue.” He wiped his hand across his mouth and Hope couldn’t tell if he was trying to hold words in, or get them to come out. “Too cold for you to go standin’ outside waitin’ for me to drive away. Guess I don’t hanker to have to wave goodbye to you, either. I’d rather know you was happy and warm inside with Miss Olive.”
            “But what if I need things?”
            “I put what little money I could spare in the bank for you. You ask Mr. Simmons if you need anything. I’ll send him my pay so you’ll have plenty.”
            I don’t want, plenty, Papa. I just want you to stay home. 
           One last look around the familiar kitchen would only cause a delay. Besides, she knew it by heart. Mama’s blue calico curtains still hung at the window and covered the shelves under the bottom cupboards. A big round oak table occupied the middle of the room and held the lamp with the roses painted on it. “Too fancy for a kitchen, if you ask me,” Papa always said. But nobody ever asked him, and mama loved that lamp. If Chance Manning broke it he’d have to answer to…to…well to God, that’s who. She almost hoped he would break it. She’d ask God to forgive her such an evil thought, but she’d never forgive Chance Manning if he broke Mama’s lamp.
            “Girl, you gonna stand there and let all this warm air out? It can’t follow you, I hope you know.”
            Hope turned and threw her arms around her papa’s skinny waist, embarrassed that she’d noticed his slimness and ashamed she’d never noticed, until now, how much weight he’d lost since mama died.
            He returned her awkward embrace with one of his own, then gave her a gentle shove. “Don’t make this hard, girl. Remember your name—Hope—that’s what your mama would want you to do. Picked that name out herself and wouldn’t hear to no other. I was partial to Beatrice–after my ma, but…”
            She couldn’t bring herself to look at him. She’d heard the story of her name all too often and was grateful mama had overruled Grandma Sanders’ name. But this was the first time Papa couldn’t finish the story with a tweak of her nose. She wished now her nose wasn’t covered. She could live without the tweaking, but would she remember how papa smelled? Mama always carried the aroma of cinnamon and sugar and all things sweet. But Papa always smelled like…like…she shut her eyes and took a deep breath inhaling through her nose as best she could. Papa smelled like all things safe. Warm hay and sunshine after he came in from the fields. Cows and horses and milk from the barn. Lye soap after he washed before coming into the house. Papa smelled just like—heat rushed to her face and slithered down her shins to her toes—Chance Manning! Papa wouldn’t take kindly to knowing his daughter harbored such memories.
            She stood on tiptoe, uncovered her face long enough to plant a kiss on her papa’s cheek, then hurried through the still open door. Three quick steps got her off the porch and onto the dampened grass before she dared to stomp her foot. Of all things. It was bad enough to think of Chance Manning living in their house, sleeping in…oh, it just got worse. At least she was taking mama’s quilts with her, and they could always burn the mattresses when Papa got home again.
            Just you wait, Mr. Manning. You might invade my thoughts and sleep under my papa’s roof, but not for long. I’ll come up with some way to get you out. Just you wait.

Tuesday’s Tale From the Tailboard

All Joking Aside

With three firefighters in the family, it goes without question that around our celebration tables there are many, many stories. Most of them are funny incidents that happen at the firehouse, some are hilarious tales of crazy things that happen on a call—those times where live or property was not in danger, but rather what happened between the firefighters themselves. And with three different firehouses, there are stories galore.

But then, there are those times when the laughter dies down. The voices become much softer, and the eyes a bit more moist. Those times when they can’t finish the story. The times they would like to forget—the loss of lives and property around this time of year. The times when they worked so very hard, but couldn’t save either. The times they know will affect families forever, and still affects them.

The next time you hear the wail of a siren and see the flash of a fire truck as it weaves its way around traffic, its air-horn blasting, say a prayer. A prayer, if you will, for those who are waiting for help to arrive. A prayer for the ‘help’ that is coming, their hearts pumping, their minds going over procedures, and maybe this isn’t their first run of the day. Perhaps they are so tired it’s hard for them to think. Maybe, just maybe the last run ended badly and they can hardly think of what might be ahead. And it could well be that they recognize the address toward which they are barreling and don’t want to think.

Invariably, around our celebration tables, there comes that time when we—as a family who waited more than once for ‘help’ to arrive—put 
All jokes aside. 

Mundane Monday

Morning Ritual

Reading the paper, hand on ever-present coffee cup, and back of his fuzzy white head.  Mundane?  In a way. But oh, how I would miss it. Our chairs are side by side, but he swivels his to take better advantage of the light from the lake-side windows. 

There is comfort in this mundane ritual.