Monday, December 31, 2012

My Picture for 2013

This is my picture for 2013, a lion in winter. The sculpture, only done in November, is new at Buhl Farm Park. I saw it last Sunday on a sunny afternoon walk. I found it slightly stylistic, but still conventional.
So why a lion in winter? Lions represent courage. Jesus is the Lion of Judah. And of course, my last name for thirty and a half years is Lyon. Lions are also often in family crests. Scottish have the roaring lion.
As this past year, I have learned to yield more to Jesus, this year, I need courage to follow Jesus. Courage to listen to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Courage to write what is true. Courage to follow my dreams.
I want to be bolder. I desire to be open to people talking; ready to pray and expect miracles. I was not given a spirit of fear; this year I will live that way.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Picture of the Year

Last year, I had a picture for the year, but couldn't find it until September. That was the old oxen yoke with a light shining through it. I am learning to surrender each day to Jesus, to take on His yoke. It is easy and light. I know I had been carrying too much on my weak shoulders for many years.
Being a Navy wife, alone half the year with relatives living eight hours away. My father, then, was able to help and when they came, I relaxed, even if I worked. He took over often. He had the burden of caring for us, which he joyfully executed. But sometimes, I saw the deep down despair that he couldn't always fix things, like my mother's health or moods.
My in-laws, too, helped when they came. My father-in-law packed our cars or the truck whenever we moved. He was a mechanic, always, checking over my car. My mother-in-law loves with her cooking and food. When she worked at Sear's, she used her discount for the family to get things.
Also, those many years ago, our parents were available by phone. I could call and dump my problems or not. If I were lonely, calling to hear their voices sometimes helped. Yet, many Sundays in my lonely apartment, I would howl in loneliness, because a phone call didn't fix it. I missed my husband when he was out to sea. I missed the chance to just watch a football game at my parents' house after Sunday dinner or napping in a recliner there.
Then the years after my father died and feeling responsible for my mother. Helping her with her health, her groceries, her well being. I loved her and I loved doing that. I fell into that, maybe it was the guilt my grandmother laid on me when I left Mom, an invalid, when I got married. But she had Dad and she improved because I lived my life, not giving up.
Also raising children, I feel responsible for their physical and mental health, maybe placing too much emphasis on ME. For awhile, I was the sandwich generation.
When my husband got a job away from home, my sweet little world dissolved. It felt it was all on me. Even though I prayed. I still felt I was one to be strong and make things happen and come together. I don't think, I really depended on God till the end of this year. Oh, there were a few times, like when I quit my job in the fall of 2004, with no job lined up. I was on an Abrahamic journey, going not where I knew. I leaned on God those few months, with His blessings. We had to place Mom in a skilled nursing facility, I got my kids back on track at school, and I rested in God's hands- a wonderful place to be.
Years passed with many difficulties and again, I forgot to truly lean on God. I had to make it happen. I pushed my way through life. I worried too much, anxiety causing rapid heart rates and jaw pain. I wouldn't check it out, because I thought the diagnosis would be, "she's crazy." I was too proud to seek help. Just a passing, "Pray for me." I didn't give up control of my life.
The writing seemed my savior.  If only I could first get to a writer's conference, then I'd find an agent, get published, then be home with my children. I read all I could on writing, platform, publishing, the business.  I worked hard on my first novel, just to say I could do it. Finances and important events leading to my daughter's senior year, I didn't want to miss, kept me from conferences. I agonized my dream would fade before I could achieve it.
Then I learned slowly to allow God to be in control. I know that sounds weird. Like isn't God always in control? I can't explain God, but I know He allows us to control our response to life, to make our decisions. Sometimes, though, like finances, and the tug of being with my children, seem to control those decisions. I relaxed in His arms, a restful place to be. I took on the yoke to let Him lead me.
So I look to this new year, still wearing His yoke, with His burden, but I have a new picture to give me the courage to follow Jesus where He leads. Tomorrow, I'll reveal the picture.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


An interesting link, that I have been trying to live the last few months. In Christian attempt to bring truth to the world, we tend to be overpowering. I harken back to the old song we sang in the 70's, you know the Flower Power era, They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love.
I cried one morning reading how Jacob, when meeting his brother after many years, sheltered all his family, especially his beloved wife and Joseph. Esau ran to his brother with open arms. They chose not to live near each other, but Esau, being the fleshy one, demonstrated love. Jacob, hesitant, because Esau represented the world. Did I hold back my children from situations that I should have embraced those in it?
How often, Christians surround the wagons, as it were, hunkering down in the country club churches, afraid to associate with those non-Christians. They round up the children in Christian schools, sports and guarded overnights visits. But what to do, if your own family is not as strict, when children have to interact with cousins, who may read material not approved by the strict ones? Or watch movies that do not honor God? Sheltering arms and nervous observation stem from the parents.
Can we really protect our children? Is it  on our strength we depend? Have we forgotten to trust God and love as the Bible tells us, as Jesus pointed out was the second greatest commandment?
This link summed it up that non-Christians, just want Christians to listen to them. We in the church call this friendship evangelism. We hear lessons of Jesus with the woman at the well, the Canaanite woman, Philip with the Ethiopian. Ask questions first, slowly develop a relationship, do not judge.
Again, with my writing, my faith is deep, but I want to reach out. I don't want to write for the Christian ghetto, as it has been nicknamed. A story can point to the redemption story without being blatant. I suppose no one wants a heavy sermon. The Holy Spirit draws quietly those who are searching.
As Christians live in the Holy Spirit, with the fruit-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control- the sweetness should pull people to Jesus. That is the Holy Spirit's job. So Christians must listen, first to the Holy Spirit and then to those in need.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Novel Reading and Writing

I was so motivated to read the book I commented on yesterday that I finished it, about two hundred pages last night. I'm glad to say, it did turn out to be a happy, positive ending. I still had a hard time getting over the lack of quotation marks.
Sad beginnings, a desperate middle and lately I feel the modern authors want the pathos to continue with no resolution of conflict. Am I the only one who gets frustrated reading stories like this? I know I want to write novels with conflict. I don't want them to end with the "pat ending," though, either. I guess we are always looking for the edge.
I desire to remain true to my faith. I want my stories to lift up Jesus. I determined to not write the "Christian Harlequin" where everyone and the chicken get "saved." Would Christians like to see that? Of course, but I have been living long enough to know that no matter how often the Gospel is presented, how God may intervene, and I know He does, because His deep yearning is that none shall perish, hearts remain hardened. Life is complicated. 
I want my novels to carry weight, address messy situations, but to also bring a resolution. Sometimes, though, like in real life, answers are not what we desire. The Buffalo Soldier ended promoting marriage, adoption, and life. Even race differences shone in a positive light. I will try another of Chris Bohjalian, like Midwives, to understand his style better.
Now, back to Hemingway and some C.S. Lewis, I think.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Important Thing with Story

I'm reading a book now, The Buffalo Soldier, by Chris Bohjalian. I picked it up at the library, searching the jacket for clues whether it were an historical novel or modern day. It set in modern day. I'm about half way through it. I wonder if he wrote it for NaNoWriMo.
He uses no quotation marks. The conversation flows with little punctuation. That ups the word count, I'm told for the official counter at NaNoWriMo. I felt distracted by the lack of "proper" writing, at first. And the sad story, of the couple's twin daughters drowning in a flood. They struggle through, with the hope a foster boy will help two years after the twins' death.
Each chapter is told from a different character's point of view. He also includes the retired couple next door, reaching out to the boy after their trip west. They buy the African American boy a cap with a buffalo imprinted on it and a book on the buffalo soldiers, named so by the Native Americans.
I have overcome my prejudice of the writing, becoming involved in the story.  As many modern stories and as life goes, it seems there is no good or bad character, just people caught in complexities. I'm still not sure, I like this style, but I'm learning from it. I'm rooting for the couple and the little boy to not again get lost in the cracks of the system, if the couple don't hold themselves together.
I'm not finished with it, so I'm also withholding judgment. The important thing with story is involvement of the reader. I have found myself wanting to read it, but it isn't one that stays in my head.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snowy Day

Snowed in. The temperature in the upper twenties. No wind. But the snow keeps falling, falling, falling, with even some icy rain around two.
I watched the little girls romp in the snow on the miniature hill between our yards. The bigger hill is too dangerous. Toby, the chocolate lab, loose, barks his delight again and again. I think Sarge, the black and white dog across their street, tied up yelps in envy. I heard a snowmobile of the young teenager up the hill roaring around.
The girls' colorful snowsuits stand out in the snow and the snow flakes that won't quit. The girls are small, holding hands up the hill, then the older one in kindergarten, drapes an arm around her younger sister. They are both adventuresome girls and the wicked weather doesn't bother them.
Oh, if I didn't have this head cold. My sinuses bust through my head. My body aches. I want to play in the snow, watch Harrison romp, plowing the snow with his nose. Much more fun than seeing him attack my pajama bottoms after trotting them out from my bedroom.
I hunker in, wondering how people traveling are doing. My husband is driving into this storm and the depot may even close. But how do we know that twelve hours out? He knows now why he bought an SUV. A mild winter last year caused him to judge his wisdom. I'm glad he is in one now.
The snow keeps coming and coming. From twenty minutes, the pavement is covered where Katie made it bare. Quarter to six and all I want is bed.
Aw, a cup of hot tea. The dark covers the window, hard to watch the snow fall. A good time to catch up on charting, I'd say. Since I don't have a cozy fireplace.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

An Exert from Summer Triangle

As a treat to me, I'm sharing a small part of the Christmas scene from my novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo, last month. I'll be working on getting this one published, as well, as the one almost ready for publishing. I think 2013 will be a productive year. This novel is called Summer Triangle.

 Allison crept into the family room that welcomed her as the cozy lights in the new dark glowed. Her mother slept with her empty tea mug depicting Santa Claus on the stand beside her. Allison looked in shock and wonder at her mother, appearing so young in this subtle light with her blossoming belly. She was beautiful, she had to admit.
She hadn't seen her mother since homecoming weekend in the beginning of October. She came up to help Amber adjust to all this drama. She wanted to string her parents up then for both being incredibly selfish, worse that it was in Amber's senior year of high school. They should be enjoying each other, like the past years. These were supposed to be happy years. Allison wondered where her dad was. It was after five and he should have been home. Maybe he was doing his last minute Christmas shopping. So like a man.
Allison hung her coat up and dropped her bags in her old room. She passed the den and saw the permanent bed her dad set up. What has happened to this family? This was going to be a banged up Christmas. Unless Jesus intervened. Mom could believe that, but Allison didn't. If He had wanted to help, Mom would never had been raped. Grimm would be following her around right now. Amber would be loving her senior year without wondering when Dad would leave the household. He was already living like a separated man.
Allison returned to the family room and got comfortable on the cushy love seat. Maria opened her eyes, “Oh, Allison, I didn't even hear you come in,” she jumped up to hug and kiss her oldest daughter.
Hey, Mom. You looked so beautiful and peaceful in the Christmas lights. It seemed like a Christmas card. How are you feeling?”

As they conversed they walked into the spotless white and cobalt blue kitchen. Maria turned on the gas stove burner under the tea kettle. Then opened the refrigerator, “You feel like chicken?”
Sure, Mom.”
I made those homemade noodles like Dad's mom and grandma used to make. All I have to do is heat them up.”
You were busy, huh?”
Always for my family.”
Mom, you are the greatest. I can understand why you want to keep the baby.”
Why, Allison, that is nice, but unusual.”
You are such a good mom. You should have had more kids. You did so much for us and you still do. I bet you were feeling a little sad about Amber moving on, too, in the spring.”
Well, I wouldn't have gotten pregnant, if that's what you mean.”
No, I know you felt you were done, but this unfortunate event has led to something that gives you a glow. I'm sorry Dad is having a hard time accepting it.”
Well, it is a stranger's baby. I just couldn't get rid of the innocent child. I mean what did he have to do with it? He has no voice, yet. I'm afraid, though, he's going to be from a single parent home. I have a feeling after Christmas and the New Year, your dad will make a decision.”
Why do you say that?”
I overheard him asking Larry for a divorce attorney's name. Larry is the family lawyer and he couldn't fight against me.”
Mom, are going to get a lawyer, too?”
Not yet. Praying for a Christmas miracle.”
Me, too,” as the tea kettle screamed.
Tea? Since I have the water hot.” Maria smiled. She felt such a closeness this evening to Allison that hadn't been there for a long time. Maybe because Allison showed a genuine concern for her mother and didn't show a favoritism toward one parent or the other. She was rooting for the family, which is what Maria was doing also.
The chicken, breaded and on the pan, baked. The noodles would only take a few minutes to heat up in some boiling water. Maria hardly ever used her microwave. She like the way things tasted not cooked in the microwave. Pizza was too soggy. The meat had a metallic taste. She did like hot chocolate with milk and Hershey's syrup in the microwave, if she was just making it for herself, other wise she dragged out a pan and warmed it up on the stove top.
Allison washed the dishes as they went along or put the dishwasher safe ones in the dishwasher.
Brendan still hadn't arrived at the house. “Is this now the normal, Mom?”
No, he has still been making it home for supper. You know, he'll read the paper before, clean up from being at the mill. I did tell him Amber worked until six and we wouldn't eat until six thirty.”
At six fifteen, Amber strolled in, “Mm. Chicken. Like Grandma's, huh, Mom. Homemade noodles, too?”
You know it, girl,” Allison hugged her sister, “How was work?”
Crazed. All those Christmas shoppers and tired, whiny kids. Everyone had their last day of school today. Mom, I'm glad you like to cook.”
That's encouraging to hear. I may get spoiled with you two girls complimenting me.”
Amber crooked her eyebrow at Allison. Usually by now, Allison has managed to make some argument, from Christmas isn't actually Jesus birthday to all the pagan traditions. She just couldn't leave Mom to her Christmas celebrations. Well, if anyone would ruin Christmas this year, it would be Dad, with his talk of divorce.
He tried to hide it, but Amber read the writing on the wall. Dad was ticked about Mom deciding to keep this baby. Not that she blamed
Dad, but oh, these adults. Up to the kids to keep the Christmas spirit going. Too bad, Allen wasn't coming tomorrow for Christmas Eve. That would so brighten everyone up, especially Mom. She loved Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day.
Brendan arrived right at six thirty. He acted glad to see Allison. He hugged and kissed her. Asked her how her trip was through the West Virginia mountains.
Not bad. Actually I made good time. I was all packed and left from work, which is just that half hour closer without the rush hour traffic. I could just hop on I-70. No problem.”
I'm glad, I'm glad,” he glanced at Maria, “You made my mother's dinner.”
Yes, and your grandmother's”
She did like to make it the day before Christmas Eve,” Brendan breathed in the fresh smell of baked chicken.
The table was set with the Christmas china. Creamed green beans, the chicken gravy, the homemade noodles and the crispy oven fried chicken arrayed the plates. The pitcher held ice tea. Tall glasses with ice cubes sat at each setting.
I just wish Barry and Allen were here. Oh, and Amy, too.” Maria flushed.
They sat down and looked at Amber. She bowed her head and prayed for a blessed Christmas season. Brendan engaged the girls in conversation. They joked and laughed. This was the first non silent meal at the table for quite a few months. Maria smiled.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Another Memory

Well, instead of posting tonight, I'm reminiscing on my Face book page- You know you're from West Middlesex if _________. Got me on Main Street and Haywood Street. Down to the creek and Kiwanis Park. Getting my hide tanned and grounded at three or four years old. Such a rebel.  Being a mother, now, I can't imagine letting my girls run like I did at such an early age.
I painted a car with one boy. I also skinny dipped with him, but my top was too tight, so just the pants came off. We wandered two blocks to the creek. Fortunately, that only ended with a spanking with the pancake turner. No drownings. My mom told how she and the other mother peered into the empty house next door. Dad drove all over. He must have remembered his childhood of skinny dipping in the river at Valley Mould in his childhood. So he and the father found us splashing in the shallow water. Loved that creek, through the years.
It was cooler weather when the other boy and I escaped farther up the creek to Kiwanis Park. He also hit me in the forehead, when I yelled at him for throwing rocks at my grandpa's car, parked on Haywood Street. He turned around and threw one at me. I still have the scar.
My mother was glad when the two boys moved out of town and I played with a little girl, Tracy. I wrote about her before on her birthday. I got into less trouble, playing in their sandbox and swinging high into the sky from their swing set.
So this sight, as I have mentioned too many times, takes me back. We are having so much fun reminding each other of sights, sounds and tastes. I do wish eighty year olds and even some ninety year olds could offer some of their history. People are digging up pictures to post of aerial scenes. I sit down to post and then a number pops up on Facebook telling me there may be another memory.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Before Christmas

Driving home today from Boardman, I ponder how many Fridays before Christmas have been like this. A day with extra visits, a trip to the office for the missed Christmas party, a late admission because no one in the office realized she had dialysis today. Couldn't push the admission off for the already crowded weekend.
The day, gray and blowy over flat Trumbull County farm country, delivering little of that predicted drifting snow. As my day ends at four thirty, the grayness dissolves into wet snowy darkness with the lights of Youngstown glowing.  The by-pass reflects black, as I travel north on the freeway, the road begins to turn a slushy white.
The black rain, undecided to be snow, still reminds me winter knocked on our door today and we had to answer. The white Christmas people elated, unless they have those journeying home. Then it could wait. The traffic slows and I wonder if a wreck is ahead. No, just jitters filtering in with the first suggestion of a strong snow. Then two patrol cars with flashing blue lights point out a car in the grass, with tracks behind it, showing a horseshoe, as it faces the oncoming traffic.
How many Fridays I've seen like this, tired, thinking of the paper, then computer work weighing the ride with anxiety. The darkness closes in as the Christmas songs wrap themselves around in the car. I'm glad to go home, yet always wishing it could be earlier.
This year, though, I'm not anxious. The wonder of Christmas, the peace of Christmas, the yoke of Jesus is upon me. And yes, I'm glad the snow waited till the city of Sharon to increase, making Highland Road a reminder of treacherous roads to come. Soon, I'm home with visitors being enjoyed by my family, Mary Ellen already off to her Christmas party. I stay home now, praying until my daughter comes home, as the snow falls making inches quickly.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Putting Up a Christmas Tree

 We moved into the big white house on the hill in 1964. I was three, my dad forty three. He always loved this house since he was a little boy. He threw himself into the decorations for the big holiday.
We drove out State Route 318 to the tree farm on the way to Mercer. The heavy snow on the ground as we trek through the silent pine trees looking for the biggest one. Finally, Dad found one, sawed it down, paid the owner and tied it to the top of the big old sixties car. I don't know what kind. Sorry, I was three and a half.
How Dad dragged this huge tree through the front door, I can't remember. The tree was so heavy, he used wires to secure it to the wall, so it would stand.

We used a black step stool and ladders to decorate it. The ornaments packaged in a colorful box, that made me think we had donuts. Long turquoise blue bulbs felt so delicate. The lights, the hot kind that you didn't dare leave on if you left the house, strings and strings of them, Dad tested before he strung them around the tree.
We strung popcorn for to drape around the tree. The old silver tinsel, so strong and thick completed the body of the tree. On top was the star, that the one year I wanted on my tree  at home, that Katie did not want. She wanted the angel I bought in Connecticut. We battled over our childhood memories. I ended up using the star  only one year.
Not many presents rested under the tree before Christmas. Mom left mine unwrapped, because they came from Santa. I remember one morning sneaking down stairs to peek at what Santa brought me, I believe in first grade. I ran upstairs to recite all I got to my sleeping parents. I even had a watch that I believe the time showed seven. I, of course, had no idea they had probably just returned to bed after putting the huge turkey in the oven at six in the morning. I couldn't fathom their lack of enthusiasm or surprise. Surely, I still believed in Santa and thought they didn't know what was under that tree.

Through the years the trees shrunk in size to a table top tree. But the last year, my father dragged out all the Christmas decorations that hadn't seen the light of day for years. He did not have the huge tree that reached the thirteen foot ceiling and covered half the living room, but the poinsettias in the curving railing, the lights, the wreaths in the windows, the figurines, all the trappings beautified his loved home. Even though, he had a plan of living, it seemed he knew he would be dead in less than two months.
One of the adjustments of married life proved to be my husband did not share the love of decorating the house at Christmas or getting a Christmas tree. We tried many ways, but with the result of almost bursting into tears. Christmas holds so many memories, emotions and ideal of perfection. Learning the real reason of celebrating has helped with the feelings of disappointment that sometimes I can't have a tree take up half my living room that would still pale in comparison to the one on Main Street.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Live Fully

Been quiet a few days. Started back to work. I feel overwhelmed that I can't do it and write and run a household. But ready cash is what I need. I've been blessed seeing my patients, though. That always makes this job better.
I plan today to listen to jazzy, piano Christmas music. Katie left it on the CD player in the van. The carol soothed my harried soul this dark drizzly morning as I drove Mary Ellen to school.
I read a post today on another blog about you can do it one more day. Tomorrow, we are not to worry about. How much of our problems are worrying about tomorrow and guess what they don't materialize.
We may not have tomorrow. But we have this moment. Live it fully.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Writing About Small Town

I have a bit of a block. I've been spending much time on Facebook, with the You know you're from West Middlesex if______. The site is growing as more have become aware of it. I find myself wishing folks in their eighties could be on it.
My procedure went well yesterday. I think I was more tired after my colonoscopy than yesterday. I had the twilight anesthesia. I think I did dream during it, but just remember them waking me in the OR. Then wheeling me to the room. I was home by three. Did take a restful nap on the couch.
Then checking out that Facebook page. I love the old pictures posted. One was downtown around 1920, the same time as my book, Main Street. An aerial shot of the old high school also fueled my imagination. I'm revising it, planning on publishing it in January, due to circumstances that didn't allow me to finish it in October like I had first planned.
I must go back to my picture for this year of the yoke. I need to learn so much to trust in Jesus. I am amazed at how events work together. At least in my writing and everything else.
I hope to get back on track remembering junior high and high school. So many memories I'm reading every day from the site. I hope we're not falling into the illusion of small town. We had fun and we're blessed, but evil lurks everywhere as yesterday's shootings remind us.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Writing Now

Having a minor procedure this morning, but I will be "put out." I figured I'd just write something now, because if I react like before, I will sleep the rest of the day, when we finally have sunny weather. The sun seems brighter in December. I feel, as I walk, as if I'm in a movie.
I watched two college age boys throwing a frisbee in the kite field yesterday afternoon. I thought of a million scenes from movies, either in Central Park or a college campus. I have been enjoying the forties degree weather with the bright sunshine. Bundled up, I don't notice the cold, nor do I sweat.
Harrison and I took a few leisurely walks the last few days, making up for the rain and dreariness of many November days. Too wet and cold to be outside long. Many days, Harrison would stare out the open door and retire to the couch. He got antsy and trotted out all kinds of goodies from our bedrooms to get our attention. Maybe this weekend will end up the same.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

What is Christmas, After All?

I love The Muppet's Christmas Carol. The songs are catchy and stay with you. The movie feels good. A lovely message. Yet, it doesn't mention Jesus or even the Babe born in Bethlehem, does it?
Last night the adults joined the youth for Wednesday evening service. The younger kids practiced their Christmas program in the sanctuary for this Sunday. Wonderful for the church to be busy that we have to join with the teen agers.
The youth pastor taught on not being a "Bah, humbug Christian" using clips of an older Christmas Carol. The film had the flavor of the forties in black and white, but music in background. My film expert daughters would know, but one is in school and the other in bed. The ghost of Christmas Present impressed me and filled me with joy. He said, "Christmas Present is 365 days old. It is not one day, just as the holy Babe born in Bethlehem wants to dwell in your heart 365 days a year." Something to that effect. A movie like that reminds me how much our culture accepted hearing the message of Jesus at one time.
Another point is how Scrooge ecstatic, almost to the point of crazy, over the fact that he can have a new life.
That scares people, makes them nervous. Yes, a person can love God and all that, but don't dare be radical. Yet, as Scrooge realizing he wasn't dead, but given a new life, we, too,  believing we have new life, should be jumping for joy, trying to do headstands, filled with enthusiasm that a second chance is ours.
Also those who have known Jesus so long need not chide this reaction to the new found realization.  I propose every day we should be doing headstands, knowing we have new life. Isn't this Christmas, after all?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tree Lighting Ceremony

The old bank in West Middlesex had a circular drive with a grassy medium. A large pine tree grew there. The town had a special lighting of the tree, usually the first Thursday of December. Festivities for Christmas waited until December back then.
I walked down town to watch this ceremony. We sang Christmas carols and songs. Treat bags, probably from the Women's Club, filled with popcorn balls and oranges, candy canes and maybe a candy bar, delighted us. A sense of community filled the cold air, as well as, our vapor breath.
Always a chance I'd see some cute boy. You know, the boy of the week. Dark night sky brought those cuddly imaginations. Reality brought me my girlfriends. And loud singing, treat bags and a wonderfully large lit Christmas tree. A walk home under the street Christmas lights with magic in the air of small town America that we seem to never recapture. We try, though.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Seventh Grade Christmas

My friends and I decided since we were much older this year of seventh grade, we would exchange Christmas gifts. Yet, none of us worked, so had little income. We agreed on homemade gifts.
I tried. I'm just not crafty or very talented. My mother, too, could never sew like a seamstress. Her attempts at clothes made the older children feel like refugees. She also didn't know the beginning of knitting or crocheting. In fact, my dad taught me how to make the chain for crocheting. He, as a kid, made chains out of leather, so he knew how to start that.
So the gifts made from the heart, broke mine. I made a jeans purse with thick red embroidery thread for one friend. It looked sloppy and terrible, I could tell by her expression. Another friend, I wrote her a poem. In fact, I wrote several poems that year to give. But I don't write poetry well. The friend showed her disappointment.
Yet, these girls remained my friends through high school. We saved and never made homemade gifts again for each other. I have found my best homemade gifts are cookies or cake because so many people don't have time to bake. Food doesn't have to go with decor or one's style. Yet, it is something made from the heart.
And the best gifts are those from the heart. I thank God for my friends that didn't hold material pleasures over our friendship. I thank God for family that accepts my poor offerings at times. I hold them all dear to my heart.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

You Know You're From West Middlesex if-------------------

We have discovered a new Facebook game. Someone set up this proposition and slowly we have been answering questions. I posted pictures from the sixties that my dad took on his new Kodak instamatic camera. Many comments are made on them. The memories are fun.
What I found interesting is how even a few years can change some of the memories. Or maybe some lived closer to down town and could remember the old stores that were torn down in the sixties or early seventies. But I do remember vaguely the old ice skating rink on the corner of Erie and Garfield Streets. A sunny winter afternoon walking over the block with one of my older siblings. I often wished they hadn't gotten rid of it.
As I observe the old pictures and read everyone's memories, I feel truly blessed that with had such a great childhood. I guess that is why I write about so many of our memories. As each one is recorded as a comment, I want to say, I wrote about that and put my link. Is that spamming? I did plug my blog, though. These people may really want to read about small town W. Middlesex.
I do think though of some of the darkness that some kids lived in while growing up. One told me of what we know now is child abuse. Some girls, I thought for sure at the time it was made up, told the story of a man driving around with no pants and exposing himself to them. As I have grown up, I know this could be perfectly true. It is a nasty world and bad things happen. People harm others, even their children. There was even the rumor of hobos living in the tunnels under I-80 and we were forbidden to play at the Kiwanis, then Alf Landon Park on the edge of town. Our parents knew of the danger, but we, in innocence, really had no idea.
I felt I really had no idea of the dangers in the world or at least in West Middlesex. We played in innocence and my parents didn't spell out the problems. In a way, I learned to believe in the good in people. Did we lose that and did we need to lose that belief?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Kraynak's Part Three or Is It Tree?

 After the delightful Santa Lane stroll, we enter the other part of the store that also seems to go on and on. Trees are decorated here and they display so many fun and unique, as well as absolutely beautiful items to buy.
We spend time here, speculating what would be great ornaments for different people. I think of my nieces in Emporium that would love the Steeler tree.
Coke signs, as well as root beer, and other pop icons are for sale. Angels serenely stare down at us as we amble through the isles. A variety of Santas from old fashioned to modern, some wearing flannel shirts and jeans wink at us. We do wonder why garland smells vaguely of cat pee.
The acorns are about eight inches long, four in diameter, silver and gold. Beautiful and different. Mary Ellen entertains recording her voice into a stuffed animal that plays back what she says. I think she mostly amuses herself. She is pretty funny, though. Katie belly laughs out loud.
I promise we will come back because we just scratched the surface of this end of the store, let alone not really looking at all the toys on the other side, as well as candy. There is also the subdued florist, gift shop area with the breakable, expensive merchandise. And a whole section devoted to trains.
Local or not, I highly recommend Kraynak's for that hard to find gift, as well, as the easy to find gift.
I think every interest is addressed on State Street, Hermitage, PA.

Post from last year- a love story

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Kraynak's- Santa Land


 After playing some in the toy isle we reach the opening to Santa Land that the Kraynak's staff works on all summer. The first one about 1970 or 71, was very simply a display of decorated trees on one end of the huge store, then they added animated electronics. A family of white poodles in a basket that moved their heads slowly back on forth. The Holy Family, with a blond Mary, serene, in light blue, her head also motorized. They added music to drown out the motor sounds.
Over the years, a whole isle of many displays joined the store.
People used to throw change into the displays, but now they are asked by a sign to leave a donation at the end, that they give to local charities.
 I have only posted a few pictures of the many scenes delighting our
eyes. Some did not come out, like the purple Christmas tree. Others were blurry of the Peanuts characters and Bert and Ernie. I do love the trombone playing bear. Mary Ellen did not share in my enthusiasm. Right, she didn't pay five hundred dollars for her daughter to play a trombone.
The Coca-Cola picture is for my niece, Michelle.
This says it all for Christmas

The meaning of Christmas

 We love taking children to this display. They stand in awe or run ahead to try to see it all. When Katie was a baby to preschool, I came at least once a month as an outing. Buses of many special groups could be seen here in the mornings.
The Christmas music is piped in and beautiful pleasant scents filter in to promote the candles they sell. I liked the Gingerberry.
We wander and explore, spying favorite things. Penguins, Scotty dogs, colors, characters and old fashioned Christmases, thanks to Currier and Ives.
The Nativity scene reminds us that we still celebrate the Baby's birth.
Next we transition into the green house and the display of a multitude of trees tomorrow.

Happy Birthday, Mom

Mom and new baby, ? Diane

Lewis family saying good-bye to Denise 1965
 Happy Birthday, Mom, Jean Evans Lewis. Pictures through the years. My post last year on her birthday. Now it has been four years since she was called to Heaven. I think Dad put Jesus up to it.
Dad and Mom, Pam Keck's wedding Oct. 1973 WM UP church

Sequoia's with the Galicia girls
Meagan and Mom 1983

Katie as baby, Grandma Evans, Mom, Michelle, Gabrielle, Diane and me

Me, Mom and Dad at my friend Terrie's wedding. Nov. 1984, New Castle,PA
Mom High Desert '90's
Mom and her older brother, Bill Christmas party 1978

Christmas after first walking again 1984?

Mom and Diane

Katie and Mom

Mom, Katie and Mary Ellen Riverview apts. Sharon, PA

Michelle and Mom 1978

Katie, Mary Ellen, Sarah, Meagan, Mom

Wish I were better with the click and drag!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Kraynak's Part One

 Kraynak's, a family run store famous in the Shenango Valley and beyond. I believe Kraynak's started as a garden store. The building exudes that 60's feel. It is also huge. I remember shopping there as a child of six or seven. I could get lost there. Being a child, though, I was drawn to the toy department. My parents knew to look for me in the toy department. I was never lost. Well, maybe in thought.
The store still carries the kind of animals I loved when I was kid, playing "Animals." The hard plastic, realistic kind, but now they display so many more. These pictures are just a sampling.
Mary Ellen's favorite, kitties
 One weekend day, I know I was in first grade, my dad bought me the kangaroo couple. I took this gray hard plastic couple, with the joey molded into the wife, to school on Monday for show and tell. I loved kangaroos. I had forgotten that love until one day at the Pittsburgh Zoo, I walked through the then new kangaroo display and almost floated away I felt so incredible, thinking I was so close to these marsupials.
The other day we took a half hour to venture into Kraynak's. It is still overwhelmingly big. This time of year, you're wise to go during the week. The weekends, the line to go into the store stretches out to the parking lot, in all kinds of weather.
The attraction in the fall is Santa Land and in the spring is Easter Land. They decorate and set up these displays for months. Santa Land is dismantled Christmas Eve, so if you don't get there from September to December 24th, just forget it.
I'll write more on that later.
I direct everyone to Kraynak's for toys of all kinds. John Deere, trains, all kinds of dolls, baby dolls to Barbie and in between, board games, stuffed animals and these hard plastic animals. Also, candy you haven't seen since childhood, Mal lo cups, hard candy, popcorn balls. Kolachi sits on the shelves, too.

Rows and rows of toys

A child's dream

Remember paddle ball?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Why Snow at Christmas

As the low milky sun visits my window in the fifty degree weather, I'm amazed every year at how people marvel at the mild weather. I want to scream, "It's still fall in early December." Winter will come. It always does in the North. Maybe not as wild as some years, but we have a change in seasons. The winter solstice remains on December 20 or 21, depending on the time of all that solar stuff.
December of 2001, the forsythia bloomed. Last year and the year before, I saw violets in October and late November. The year Mary Ellen was born, 1994, an extremely warm December, made it difficult to dress a newborn. I felt guilty not bundling her up, but we saw seventy degrees on Christmas Day. I wore a red light weight skirt and a white and red blouse, but it didn't look Christmas-like to me. I still felt warm, thank you, hormones.
Some years, I have seen snow start in October and early November. Two years ago, snow came before Thanksgiving and we didn't seen bare ground until April. Then it was muddy through June because of all the rain. Fifty days out of sixty one in April and May of rain. Now, that was depressing.
So why do we think we have to have snow and cold for Christmas? Folk lore, Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, Clement Clarke Moore, Santa living at the North Pole? Or is it my idea about the magic of first snow, that symbolizes cleaning the earth. Our sins will be cleansed by the blood of this Baby born on Christmas Day. I don't think we realize this consciously, but in our spirits we are open to a new start, being a new creation. Is that why we want snow at Christmas? Why we are disappointed when no snow shows on December first? We're ready for purity, the innocence of Christmas. Jesus said,"Unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Mathew 18:3.

Monday, December 3, 2012


I think I'm still a little bleary eye from so much writing on Friday. I love my posts from last December, so if this is uninspiring, please look back at them.
I feel I cheated yesterday, but I'm still looking for revival. I read a book over the weekend that left me pinned against the couch. I'm sorting through it in my mind and the Bible. I feel convicted. I saw how vulnerable we are by not knowing the Bible. If you know anything about prophecy, it speaks of a present message and a future message. The book is The Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn, based on Isaiah 9:10, and the relationship to 9/11/01.
The most convicting part for me at the beginning was how I know I and many other Christians thrilled that leaders were quoting scripture. Many used this verse from Isaiah, but it is out of context. How many Christians knew this at the time? The day after on the Capitol steps. In 2004, by John Edwards, and in February of 2009, indirectly by President Obama. Most of us applauded the American spirit, the we will rebuild, our Yankee roots that formed so much of our rugged individualism.
Isaiah 9:10 is a verse of defiance. The country declaring they can rebuild without calling on or  acknowledging God. And have we not pushed God out of the public square? We turned to prayer in 2001, but soon fought to get it out of our public meetings, again.
I was mostly upset that I missed the use of this obscure verse from Isaiah. This was after the first attack on Israel by the Assyrians. They did not turn back to God. Several warnings. How many warnings must this country have? Will it turn back? I had no idea at the time about this verse.
If any one has read this book and wants to discuss it, please comment somewhere. If you have not read it, don't judge what I have written, until you have read it. Thank you. I would like to explore what it means to different people.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Read my post from the beginning of Advent season last year:

Saturday, December 1, 2012

It's Over

Whew! It's over. My word count didn't agree with the site's validation at about eight-thirty last night. Not just a few words, but about two thousand.  I added some beef to parts I had lightly written, when I thought, I'm almost done, until that validation told me otherwise. Still not enough. I think I wrote about four to five endings to get the count up.
I looked at that as a blessing giving me more time with the characters and delving deeper into their lives. I woke this morning, knowing they had been in my dreams. The song I had chosen as the love theme for the couple wrapped itself around me this morning, the Beach Boys' God Only Knows. It was like when I read a novel, finally ending it, I can't stop thinking about it.
I do think I'll enjoy living with these characters more as I revise and rewrite. I was just meeting them in November, after hearing about them for a year. I entered their lives in November for some crazy days of frenzied writing.
The other thing that is over today is the Hickory Hornets foot ball season. Our third trip to Slippery Rock University in that many weeks. The team played well, but the other team had been winning since they were in eighth grade. Bittersweet. I love the stories that go with the foot ball players and their families. Coach Brest supported by his wife. The aunt who stood and danced for her senior nephew, wearing his jersey. The mother who screamed when her son made touchdowns. The grandfather proud of his quarterback grandson. I shed a small tear as they exited the field to greet their families, but I love this team and their enthusiasm. They didn't get to be District 10 champions and move on to quarter finals without hard work and spirit.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Bon Writing

Another quick post to let you know I'm still alive and writing. Under twelve thousand to go in two days. I kept at it last evening, until my eyelids started hooding my eyes. Katie advised me, "Go to bed. Take a break."
True, I didn't know how to end the scene, I just kept writing. This is a crazy way to write, but it does keep one motivated. One of my writing buddies e-mailed me encouragement. She had seen people come back from further than I was behind.
So this is a day of extreme writing. I have so much more to say in this story, but for the word count, I finish at fifty thousand. Then I continue and revise. That will be fun, too.
I hope when I finish to be a municipal liaison next year. Many goals. I want to encourage writing.
So bon writing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Joy of Writing

I am pleased with my NaNoWriMo writing this month, even though I have been behind since day three. The writing has taken a turn different than I had planned, but as with all expression, my feelings are being explored. I need this more than I thought.
I may rewrite this novel totally differently next month as I go back to what I intended. Or I may leave it basically as is. I just know now I have to finish by Friday evening at midnight. I want this task under my belt this year.
I would like to start a writing group in this area or be the municipal liaison in a Shenango Valley region. The first goal of finishing must be accomplished. If it is not, the writing has been fun and enlightening. I love writing fiction. Through characters I can explore varying emotions and thoughts, plus write out song lyrics to play in my head all night long. I am always amazed at how it fits together, themes and symbols without me planning it out completely. Back to frenzied writing. Oh, and cleaning and meetings and walking the dog sometime in this snow.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

First Snow

I wasn't sure what to write about and the snow came. I could write about that I thought. The first snow and even as adults, we feel a magic with first snow.
Then as I checked Face Book, the History Channel posted that today in 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot. So from nothing I wanted to share to two topics, here we go.
Danny always stayed home with me during church when I was little because he didn't like church and I didn't like nursery.  We did go to Sunday School. We still lived down Main Street in the house that isn't there any more. The church isn't there any more, either. An alley separated our house from the church. I saw the time on the post as 12:20 PM. I'm wondering now if that were Eastern or Central.
My mom told the story that as they entered the house from church, Danny greeted them, excited by the event he witnessed on TV, "Jack Ruby just shot Lee Harvey Oswald."
I remember dreaming about Jack Kennedy. He was in a tall, institutional green room. Somehow I knew he was dead in my very young mind. Not sure if I really knew what dead was, but I just remember seeing him.
I dreamed of my grandfather after his death, too, of him being in a heavenly choir, with glowing white robes and gold shining background. Funny because I don't really remember him singing and he definitely didn't go to church or sing in a choir at church. He had a wonderful Welsh voice, even took singing lessons with Dana School of Music. But I think my young mind wanted to think of him in Heaven.
Now, back to some fun stuff of childhood. The first snow of the season. To wake and see even a dusting for the first time in late fall filled this child with wonderment and excitement. When I was about four,  a heavy frost thrilled me. Children in the North equate snow with Christmas. That must be why we secretly love to see the first snow, even as adults. I like it now, if I can sit on my couch and not drive in it.
We loved it in seventh grade because we still were allowed to walk on the hill beside the school for changing classes. This saved much time, rather than jostling through the halls if you had gym or study hall in the auditorium, and the next class was in the junior high wing. Getting through those halls in four minutes seemed almost impossible to new seventh graders. The hill provided a wider space and we got fresh air. Late November, the snow, fluffy and light, fell on one of the last days we could be outside. We jumped and skipped, relishing the fun of snow.
First snow, how lovely. It covers the dullness of barren trees as the sun grows weaker. Our sins are covered, too, with the blood of Jesus and as the Bible, says, then we are whiter than snow. Could that also be why we thrill inwardly at first snow? Even if we don't realize the forgiveness of Jesus? As it ushers in the Christmas season, where I believe the world is open to the giving personality of the Holy Spirit, the snow symbolizes forgiveness, too. A new start, open your heart to Jesus this Christmas season. Rejoice in Him, as a child rejoices in the first snow.

Monday, November 19, 2012


My NaNoWriMo writing is coming along well. I am behind, but feel I'm doing better than last year. It is such a strange way for me to write, though. I think I'm inclined to take the Ernest Hemingway style of writing. I read he re-read every day what he had written. I guess that is living in the story.
I'm reading Farewell to Arms, now. I got the version with all his re-writes and different endings. His style influenced me in high school when I had to read this novel for eleventh grade English with Mr. Yarian. Not only my writing, but I think in my understanding of men and love, at least this man's view of women. The choice of the nurse's name, Catherine, built on my love of the name. I chose to spell it with a 'K' in reference to my dad's Aunt Kate. He spoke fondly of her.
So as I'm rereading this novel, I see where he used a lot of dialogue, which I tend to do in my fiction as well. Conversation keeps the story going reflecting what the characters are thinking, to some extent.
I'm over half way toward the goal. I hope to catch it up some these next few days. Last evening I wrote over three thousand words. I had planned on writing more during the day, but my body told me I needed a Sabbath.
Interesting I was reading the Ten Commandments retold by Moses in Deuteronomy, this morning. This special day of rest will remind you that I reached out my mighty arm and rescued your from slavery in Egypt. 5:15. CEV.  The Sabbath was to be kept to remind the Israelite people of their deliverance from Egypt. They were to reflect on that fact on the day of rest. I think now we should take that day to reflect on our deliverance from sin, that is was through no work of our own. We need to rest in that knowledge.
But now every chance I get, I'm writing my novel, Summer Triangle. The first, frenzy version. The inner editor has to sleep on it, till December.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Last to Go is Gold

Hawk taking flight

There is definitely a beauty in November sunshine, a starkness, the landscape stripped of color, except for a few spots of fading hues. The atmosphere is anemic. The sunlight is weak and short. But as it streams through a window, the warmth comes with it. The car is warm, fooling a person into thinking he doesn't need a coat. Enjoy my pictures of some of the sunny days we've had this month.