Tag Archives: Christmas

The Hawk, Part Five

Sometimes plans go awry, but in this case, it means an additional entry to this series.  Originally I had slated for Part Five to be released early next year, but….  But I changed my mind, and here it is, available on Smashwords in all formats.

As the end of 2015 approaches, I also want to note a few meanderings in how my life has altered; compared to years past, the writing has slowed considerably, but then previously babies and quilts weren’t considered.  Life without my dad around has changed me, pointing out how fleeting is our presence within this world, and how suddenly we climb the ladder of distinguished familial members.  Perhaps becoming a grandmother hastened that ascendance, although other than a few minor aches, I don’t feel much older.  I feel like….

Like another part of my life has begun.  But it’s not quite like releasing yet another piece of a serialized novel, although they do share one distinct trait; I have no idea when The Hawk will be completed, just like I’m clueless as to when my corporeal presence will cease.  And thankfully I’m so busy with words and fabrics and caring for adorable infants I have little time to mull over such details.  The Burrito is ten months old and walking, while Little Miss is six months and sitting like a pro.  She loves Buttercup, of course, who is very good with both babies, and extremely pleased when food falls from their high chairs into her waiting mouth.  The above shot was taken the day after Thanksgiving, at which time The Burrito was merely experimenting with steps.  Now he toddles all over, while Little Miss lunges for Buttercup, a first Christmas for both just around the corner.

As this year comes to an end, I wish to acknowledge how good is this life, how changes that might outwardly appear unfortunate season who we are becoming, whether it’s a grandmother or improv quilter or someone on the cusp of turning a year old.  Ten years ago I participated in my first NaNoWriMo, and while the words aren’t as plentiful as before, I’d like to think they have become more meaningful.  And I must release expectations as to how they will continue to flow, permitting that all things are beyond my control.  But that is fine, it truly is.  My father died this year, two grandchildren were born.  I’ve started hand-quilting, a process that while slower than using my machine, proffers more time to study the fabrics pieced together.  Maybe the output will be lessened, but the love that goes into comforters only increases.

And that is my lesson for 2015, to live in this moment as much as is feasible.  Memories are welcome, but so much is happening that I have little time to reminisce.  Which for me is good, because even though Dad is gone, he’s here in my toddling grandchildren, in the quilts, and the words.  And of course, within my heart, a muscle that performs miracles by keeping everything in working order via beats and love.  This Christmastime, I am reminded of the tender but powerful gift of love, which I always hope to relay within my novels, through quilts, and to gently instill within those little ones.  I share that love with you today, wishing a most peaceful Advent season, followed by a very happy Christmas!

Christmas Place Mats (Also known as the lull before the calm…)

I spent much of Saturday completing the place mats, while watching American football.  Hand-sewing is very complementary to viewing footie, especially when I’m not overly intrigued by the teams, just listening to the play-by-play.  Stitch by stitch those bindings were attached to the back of the mats, and suddenly the last one was finished.  They have been washed, and are waiting to be taken to my eldest daughter’s house on Christmas Eve.

So first a little about these mats; they are fashioned with four and a half inch squares, then quilted with a stitch in the ditch, followed by more quilting in the middle of the squares, then again in the middle of those sections.  My initial place mats weren’t even dreamed up as such; they were merely to explore quilting a blanket in more than my usual not-that-quilted manner.  But they worked so well as place mats, that’s what they are used for.  And as Christmas approached, I wanted to make some for my daughter, for our annual Christmas Eve dinner at her place.

My foray into quilting isn’t the only new tradition.  As children age and start their own families, customs evolve too.  These place mats will serve us well over the years, and will be added to as more family arrives.

Now, about this lull before the calm…  Basically, I am ready for Christmas.  Other than getting veg on Christmas Eve, the rest of it sits wrapped under the tree, chilling in the fridge, or hiding in my closet.  A few errands need to be run today, but laundry is in the washer and dryer, my kitchen floor has been mopped, cards have been sent, goodies have been baked and nearly all distributed.  We’ll drop off a plate at the garage my husband uses when the cars get persnickety, but just about all the loose ends have been knotted together.  Christmas is just a few days away, but I’m feeling good about things (especially since the place mats are done, whew!).  All I want to do now is relax, letting the meaning of this holiday wash over me.

Yes, there remains the candy cane ice cream to make, stockings to stuff (even big kids like Christmas stockings), red potatoes and cream to buy for the ubiquitous garlic spuds that grace every Christmas dinner (Easter too).  Oh, and broccoli.  I always serve broccoli, along with my grandmother’s marshmallow fruit salad.  Our Christmas meal isn’t elaborate, I don’t want to fuss over it.  In my realm, Christmas is about as much peace and joy as one can get.

It’s the fourth week of Advent, the wait is nearly ended.  We lit all four candles last night, and I’ll light them again this evening; I love candles, especially these that signify such tremendous anticipation and fantastic expectation.  Some years I read Martin Luther’s Christmas Book, but this year I’ve pondered the meaning within my heart, and through my daily Advent readings.  And now, three days away, I’m pleased that all the prepping for the holiday is nearly complete.  The prepping of my heart is an ongoing process.

Still, this time of year is special, bringing out decorations and Christmas dishes, preparing surprises for those I love.  Just between us, my dad is getting a bright orange Giants hat, Mom some extremely orange Giants slippers.  These are things they would never buy for themselves, but their love for San Francisco’s baseball team permeates much of their spring, summer, and when we are lucky, the autumn too.  Plus, what does one buy their parents?  Christmas is a time for deep considerations; a saviour was born into our world, to save us because he loves us.  But tangible gifts delight hearts young and old.  It’s a time for sharing love, and sometimes a loud orange SF hat translates love just as well as hug.

I’m not always at Dad’s side, but he can wear that hat anytime he wishes.

The place mats are a similar corporeal display of affection, plus they are darn pretty too.  The backing fabric is the same on all seven, a sugar cookie recipe, but it’s not an especially durable piece of cotton.  My eldest said it frayed badly when she employed it in her tree skirt, and was happy for me to use it up.  I managed to get all seven mats backed with it, so this year’s mats will have that thread (ha ha) of continuity.  More will be made next year, for additions in the works.  But these for 2014 are set, and I am pleased with them.  Every year when they are put on the table, my family will think back to 2014, some times being difficult, most of them beautiful.  Hard not to think good thoughts at this time of year.

Wishing you all a most happy Christmas!  Let the true meaning of this season bring you great calm.

Where has December gone?

I know that’s an often-heard phrase at the end of the year, but seriously, where has this month disappeared to?

Oh, the tasks I could list, ones accomplished, others screaming for attention.  I have sewing to do, shopping to sort, baking to begin…. Advent is a blessed season; it’s also very busy.

I was going to title this post: It’s Only A Tall Tale.  But that was hours ago, when I was thinking about writing, or the lack of it.  Since this morning I have shopped, not all for Christmas, for we still need to eat.  I’ve finished that Christmas lap quilt top, but also decided I have to set it aside.  The place mats are more important to complete, and prioritizing is the key for this Advent season.

Awaiting backing fabric, then I can baste them.

Only so much time exists; I need to make the most of mine.

Never has December felt so squeezed.  I’ve written books in December, for goodness sake!  Not this year, although The Hawk teases.  January, I muse, because writing still means much to me, even if in our Christmas letter to friends and family quilting made the most noise.  But I continue to consider that novel, and what I most pondered this morning was that no matter how big it has become, at the end of the day, it’s merely a story.  Characters weave in and out, plot lines twist and turn, nuances niggle, but it’s simply a tale borne of a dream.  Yes, it’s meaningful, yes I love it.  But it’s not going to fall apart if I forget to write something here or there in the first dang draft!

Whew!  That frees up some of my creative juices.  That also lets me breathe easier, in that come January, when I have a modicum of free time, I can sit at this very computer, pull up that document, and once again add to that novel.  Never has one book taken so much of my time, but sometimes projects linger far longer than we wish.

Like my eldest daughter’s tree skirt; she bought this fabric in 2013, started sewing it in summer of 2014, and will “finish” it in 2015.  Those quotation marks are in regards to the quilted aspect of the skirt.  Right now it’s fully functional, just ask Buttercup.  She thinks it’s groovy.

Well, she likes the tree too.  She likes Christmas, because her people are home more, plus guests.  I want to complete the place mats to take to Buttercup’s house for Christmas Eve next week.  Not that Buttercup will get a place mat, but she’ll wag her tail, ever so pleased that folks are at her domain, to lavish all their affections upon her.

Buttercup could care less about Advent, my WIP, or place mats.  To her, it’s the people who matter, people speaking to her in a sweet voice, or rubbing her belly.  Christmas can get hectic, frantic even.  But I don’t wish to be overwhelmed by hustle and bustle and lists.  I want to revel in what this season means to me, faith-and-family-wise.  Sometimes that’s difficult, I won’t lie.  But it just takes a little cognitive prowess to place items in the right order.  A lap quilt falls to the bottom of the list, just above a novel.  Place mats are high on the list, along with gifts for my husband.  I can shop with him for other things, like ice cream and ham and perhaps even trekking to the mall.  But it’s all about getting done what truly needs to be accomplished.  And letting the rest fall away.

Even in December, not everything manages to reach finality.  Actually, December is the first month of the church year, the beginning of something so new and beautiful, that to think we can get it all done in one month is silly.  The Hawk will move along as its supposed to, that quilt will find completion one of these days.  Christmas is about new and precious moments.  I want to enjoy each as they are presented, not worrying about too much else at all.

Plugging back in

Breaks are necessary and reviving, but routine is my best friend, next to my husband.  As my daughter, son-in-law, and Buttercup left this morning, I gave hugs and kisses, belly rubs too.  Buttercup was edgy as her folks were in and out, loading the car.  She seems to crave routine too, along with walks, food, and copious palms laid along her back.  I don’t need excess stroking, but as I sat to write, once the last goodbyes were said, a strange, lovely energy ran through me.  I read over what I’d written yesterday; yes, I snuck in some work on Boxing Day afternoon, after mulling over the WIP.  It’s going to be a few chapters shorter than I planned, with a sequel to follow.  All that time not writing or prepping The Timeless Nature of Patience was usurped by family, the dog, Christmas, or pondering the novel-in-progress.  Enough thought went into it that I was left with no other choice; end the novel well before I originally decided, then write another to finish (or elongate) the tale.  No, I’m not looking at another six-book saga like Alvin’s Farm, maybe just one more to follow Where The Ball Is.  I’ll know when I get to the end of the next one, Where The Heart Is, although I assumed The Thorn and The Rose, the second Alvin novel, was going to be it.

Ha ha ha ha ha!

Anyways, back to what I was saying.  This morning, around nine thirty or so, I had read over yesterday’s installment of the WIP.  All I had to before starting to write was plug in my ear buds, listen to today’s song, then let my fingers do the work.  Living Colour’s “That’s What You Taught Me” was supposed to document Kendall’s meeting with his former soccer coach, laying the seeds for Kendall’s possible return to sport.  Instead it was Kendall telling his parents what he had asked his girlfriend Sarah.  Listening to the song, I could feel renewal flowing through my arms, right down to my fingertips, my brain engaging, as if I had actually been hooked back into some writing pipeline.  I have never felt that sense so strongly, and it was shocking.  I know this is my gig, no doubts there, but I had reveled in those days off, both from writing, also publishing Timeless Nature.  Yet, when the moment presented itself yesterday, I scribbled over 3,500 words.  And today I hit nearly 5K.

You can take an author from the keyboard, but you can’t take the words from a writer.

I had a fabulous Christmas and Boxing Day, spent with those I love most, rain falling more often than not, quite British actually.  We watched Doctor Who on Christmas night, a hot mess my friend Julie rightly described.  It was sort of a Doctor Who Christmas in this house; I received a book of spoilers journal and a Vincent van Gogh exploding Tardis mug.  My husband got Dalek socks, the newly married couple Tardis and Dalek salt and pepper shakers.  We played the Alan Turing Edition of Monopoly last night, another gift for that new couple.  My youngest kicked butt with the green properties, I was the second to go out.  Which gave me time to finish reading over yesterday’s work, then plopping a quick post about the merits of time off and how my brain managed to sort a new direction for that novel.

But today is December twenty-seventh, Christmas is over.  Even in the UK, it’s just another day.  And for this writer, some truth, that while a holiday is required, so is that which fuels quite a bit of my heart.  Family is foremost, but another rush beats right under them.

Sometimes it takes a special moment for the fire to return.  One of the best parts of “The Snowmen” was the one-word test Clara was put through.  As a writer, I hooted as she chose the exact piece of language to best prod The Doctor off his cloud, a brilliant touch in an otherwise chock-a-block episode that did pique my interest in the second half of season seven.  No use shooting more shows if everything is wrapped up in one Christmas treat.

(But there is something to be said about letting an audience digest what has been proffered; Strax is alive!  Vestra and Jenny are married!  Clara is…  Heh heh heh, no spoilers…)

In my book of spoilers, lines break up blank pages, but I’m not looking to record what River Song needed to document, at least not on paper.  I capture plots and people on Word documents, it’s what I do.  It really is, my goodness, how humbling and wonderful it was to realize that this morning, like a delightfully gentle brick upside my head.  Music does it, just like now, Hans Zimmer’s “Up Is Down” from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.  I’m listening to that tune, but not imagining Johnny Depp and friends.  I see a legion of women young and old saving San Francisco from imminent doom.

Yes, my creative brain is always ticking.  Descendants of Maidens is the title of that tale, waiting for its moment in the sun.  And in the meantime, as I finish a slice of double layer pumpkin pie and a refreshing cup of decaf Yorkshire tea, I’m back on the horse, ready to see out 2012 with a heart-pounding, dramatic flourish.  Where The Ball Is is nearly done; what will 2013 bring?

(A post detailing those plans coming soon…)

Sometimes it happens too fast

December, writing novels, childhood; all these things whip past before I can really grasp them.  My two and a half year old nieces are in 5T shirts!  They were just babies, tiny babies, born three months premature in 2010.  Now you would have no idea; we just saw them at Thanksgiving, identical chunks except for a thin blue vein over bridge of the eldest’s nose.  Also she’s a wee bit more cranky than her younger sister, which hearkens back to their earliest days.  I spent a week with my sister and those preemies and even way back then #1 was a little more troublesome.  Now they are nearly out of toddler clothes, how in the world did that happen?

Christmastime is firmly upon us, and I’m getting a few bits sorted, amidst the writing.  The WIP is one of those novels unlike that eldest twin; this book is slipping from my fingers with an ease that December requires.  If I’m going to write this month, it better be a novel that basically writes itself.  One page of names constitutes my notes.  There is no outline except for the playlist, and while tabs litter my window, it’s a stream of consciousnesses sort of manuscript.  I’m spitting out a chapter a day so quickly I can barely grasp the joy of writing it.  I really like this book, would love to savor it a little more, I really would.  Christmas has other plans.

I wonder if that’s because when I edit this novel, I will go over with such a fine-toothed comb I’ll want to puke when it’s all said and done.  I’m nearly to that point with The Timeless Nature of Patience, the last of the Alvin’s Farm series that will be published sometime this month.  Reaching that stage with a manuscript, I vacillate between joy and weariness, just wanting to be DONE with it.  The current novel-in-progress makes me itch to write it; every morning I sit with a giddy exuberance, like a kid eager for December 25th.  I haven’t been this over the moon with a novel in a while, and it feels so good.

It’s like seeing my nieces and nephew at Thanksgiving; their childhoods, like my own kids’, is racing past.  Baby photos grace my screensaver, but they aren’t those infants anymore.  The twins were three pounds at birth, weighty for twenty-nine weeks gestation, but still no bigger than their mother’s hand.  I saw them at a stage where they should have been cloistered away, an unexpected privilege I will never forget.

My sister and one of her twins.

My sister and one of her twins.

Sort of like blabbing about writing a novel.  Where The Ball Is is about halfway through its confinement, nowhere near those metaphorical forty weeks.  Books need every single moment to percolate, and maybe as in pregnancy, I just want it to be done, not thoroughly appreciating the process until it is far past.  I think of those precious days watching two sisters lying together in an isolette, then to how they were tangled into each other on my parents’ floor just weeks ago; they are still as much a part of each other now as in the summer of 2010.

Time speeds by, every moment means something   As I sit to edit Timeless Nature later today, I’ll try to not be sick to death of it, but attempt to recapture its beginning, in November of 2010 for NaNo, those baby girls home from the hospital and thriving.  Just perspective, I guess.  Life is fleeting.  Best to make the most of today before it becomes tomorrow.