Friday, December 27, 2013

Feature and Follow - Christmas Arrivals

8474595901 873f4993f4 Feature & Follow #137

The Feature & Follow is hosted by TWO hosts, Parajunkee of Parajunkee’s View and Alison of Alison Can Read. Each host will have their own Feature Blog and this way it’ll allow us to show off more new blogs!

How does this work?

The goal is to increase blog followers and make friends. First you leave your name here on this post, (using the linky tools — keep scrolling!) then you create a post on your own blog that links back to this post (easiest way is to just grab the code under the #FF picture and put it in your post) and then you visit as many blogs as you can and tell them “hi” in their comments (on the post that has the #FF image). You follow them, they follow you. Win. Win. Just make sure to follow back if someone follows you! What sets this Hop apart from others, is our Feature. Each week we will showcase a Featured Blogger, from all different genres and areas. Who is our Feature today? Find out below. Just remember it is required, if you participate, to follow our Features and you must follow the hosts (Parajunkee & Alison Can Read) as a courtesy. How do you follow someone? Well, if you have a preference, state it in your #FF post. A lot of blogs are transitioning to WordPress in which they do not have the luxury of GFC, so an RSS subscription is appreciated or if you choose an email subscription. If you don’t have GFC please state in your post how you would like to be followed. All features are chosen randomly to be the feature. They are not chosen by content or name.

This week's Question:

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! What books did Santa stuff your stocking with this holiday season? Do a holiday book haul for us! If you don’t celebrate just show off your books that you got this week. Pictures!!!

  I only got one book this Christmas, but it fits me perfectly:

What about you?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Morning - a seasonal short story

Christmas morning

I had been dreaming. She was pretty and said all the right things and made all the right moves. But suddenly there was a screech from outside my dream and a weight crashed into my no longer sleeping chest.

“Daddy! Daddy! DaddY! Santa was here! Santa was here!” in two simultaneous voices, one directly over my head and one slightly to the left.

My eyes fluttered open to see Meghan, my 7-year-old, jumping up and down next to the bed, a huge smile on her face, and James, 5, with a similar smile hugging me.

James rolled off the bed and nearly onto his sister and they both grabbed my left hand which was outside the blankets, pulling hard.

“Come see!” they screeched in excited unison and I let myself be pulled out of the warm bed and into the early morning chill.

The kids alternately pulled my hand and ran ahead a few steps out the bedroom, down the hall, and into the living room. Under the small blue spruce decorated with a mixture of store-bought ornaments and pre-school/elementary art ornaments, was exactly what Meghan and James had asked Santa for – a gleaming red fire truck with flashing lights and a Molly Pitcher doll.

James immediately had to show me how the lights flashed as he pushed the truck across the floor toward the kitchen, making siren noises and terrifying the cat who was just trying to watch the festivities from a corner. Simultaneously Meghan was explaining how Molly was awake and ready to help “chase the Redcoats!”

I didn’t say anything; I didn’t have to. The two of them raced through their imaginary adventures, giving me a continuous, loud, and excited, minute by minute detail. I dutifully caught the eye of first one then the other and nodded and smiled as they raced through their events. A smile, much smaller than theirs, but with the wistful remembrances of Christmases long gone, played over my face.

Once the first burst of activity subsided both of them asked, hopefully, if they could open “just ONE more present?!”

The answer, as they knew it would be, was no, they had to wait, and wouldn’t they like some waffles?

After the obligatory, and momentary, vocalization of disappointment, both eagerly agreed to waffles. James raced into the kitchen first, yelling, “I’ll get the eggs!” while Meghan quickly pulled out the small stepstool while exclaiming, “I’ll get the mix!”

Moving more slowly, I cautioned James to be careful with the eggs and Meghan to be careful climbing and pulled the battered waffle maker from its perch high above the stove. It was a Christmas tradition, started with my first married Christmas, to have waffles before opening gifts. That memory, flashing through as I gripped the waffle iron, just me and Denise in our tiny first apartment, caused a hitch in my throat.

Almost before I noticed the catch in my throat my attention was drawn to the drama near the fridge as James struggled to pull the egg carton out without toppling the  container of leftover rice  that rested above. He, of course, despite his best effort, toppled the rice onto the floor. Fortunately the lid stayed tight and his grip on the eggs was true. Triumphantly he handed me the eggs and raced back out of the kitchen to snatch up the fire truck once again. I stooped to put the rice back in the fridge and close the door while Meghan jumped off the stool and showered me with a light dusting of waffle mix shaken from the box with her impact with the floor.

She carefully placed the box on the counter next to the waffle maker and followed her brother into the living room, to swoop Molly Pitcher up in her arms and carry her swiftly to meet “everybody” in her room.

Cancer had taken Denise physically from us, but I still saw her every day, in Meghan and James and the traditions we had made in the few years we had had together. A tear formed in my eye, as it did every year, and I turned to the task at hand, hearing the squeals of joy from the other rooms, sad for what I/we had lost yet overwhelmingly happy for what I had.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Feature and Follow - Bookselling Time

8474595901 873f4993f4 Feature & Follow #137

The sixth book from the left on the second shelf from the top of my biggest book shelf is... Unless Victory Comes by Gene Garrison with Patrick Gilbert. I have not yet read this one. I bought it for 50 cents in a going out of business sale a couple of years ago. It is a first person account of an infantryman in the U. S. army in France in 1944-45. It is one of those histories which have been coming out recently as the last veterans of Word War II get their memoirs published before they pass on. As their numbers thin every year these issues get fewer and fewer. Soon there will be no more. These histories have the advantage that the basic story is well told; they need not provide the background detail that was necessary early on. They have the distinct disadvantage of extreme distance from the events they portray. Garrison uses narrative, with conversations presented as if they had happened yesterday. Although the story may be as he remembers it, the exact details are likely to be, shall we say, shaded. One other thing that seems to be different in these late memoirs compared to the early ones is that they often lack some of the political correctness of the early ones. I look forward to reading it.


Throwback Thursday - Christmas Stories

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never to fond of Books.

It's the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven't seen the "New Releases" shelf in years. We hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may or not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

You don't have to be a book blogger to participate! You can put up a Throwback Thursday post on your non-bookish blog; or if you don't have a blog at all you can use the comments to tell us about a book your remember fondly.
My Throwback this week is my two favorite Christmas stories. Neither should be a big surprise as they are both classics and both emphasize the spirit of the season in a relatively secular way. I am speaking, of course, about Dickens' A Christmas Carol and O Henry's Gift of the Magi.

Dickens story is everywhere this time of year - TV, theater, radio, etc. The story is justifiably a classic. However, to me, Henry's story is the stronger since it has no reliance on external forces (ghosts) to drive its message. The selfless giving is a lesson that is timeless.

Honorable mention goes to Jan Brett's The Mitten, a children's tale that also captures the spirit of the season.

What do you think?

Monday, December 9, 2013


Inspired by all the recent discoveries and re-theorizing in the field of hominins.


Laid carefully down
So very long ago
Holding their secrets
Under the tropical sun.
Laid down in a cave
By a grassy plain
Unearthed in that cave
Now near the desert.
Bones so gently,
Reverently handled.
Asked, in a whisper,
To tell their story.
Aged and dusty
They whisper back
Telling the history
Of humans before.
Before there was writing
Or cities or wheat.
Answering the questions
Fitfully, slowly.
One species or many
From trees or from plains,
What of australopithecines?
Ancient bones
Telling stories
To those who will listen.
To those who can hear
Their whispers.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Feature and Follow - Something New or Unusual

8474595901 873f4993f4 Feature & Follow #137

Taking my queue from our hosts, my new/unusual "something" is that I became a soccer referee. After years of complaining about calls and being upset because the referee crew was short one or two (there are supposed to be three), I put my money where my mouth is and took the class and got my certification. I've now done over 100 games and have to admit to learning something new every game and making my share of mistakes, though I don't think I repeat many. All in all it is fun and I am giving kids the opportunity to play.

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Morning in a Life - short story

A Morning in a Life

The cobwebs clung to my eyes as I struggled to identify the alarm clock on the cluttered night stand. My right arm, still stiff from sleep, snaked out from the blanket and hit the snooze. In the sudden quiet my brain fluttered to functional. Morning. Time to get up. 

I disentangled myself from the covers and wandered into the bathroom. Ten minutes later, skin still flushed from the hot water and the rough towel, all my parts had awakened. My eyes saw the laundry piled high in the corner, my nose smelled the dog who now waited expectantly, my ears heard the city stirring outside in the lightening dark of the early winter morning.

First things first, walk the dog. He’s  a pretty tolerant mutt, with the appearance of a collie but God knows what mixed in. But he needs to get out by 8.

I slipped on a pair of torn jeans and an almost-clean flannel shirt and struggled into my walking shoes, clipped on the leash and we were off. George waited with the impatient patience of a big dog until the door was open when he immediately pulled me out the door.  I managed to swing the door shut as we launched down the steps and up the street.

George’s morning walks are all very similar. He races from one checkpoint to the next, always sniffing the same items, always relieving himself in the same place. He spends 10-30 seconds at each stopping place, I think depending on whether the smell has changed since the day before or not. Weather doesn’t matter to George. The routine is the same rain or shine, hot or cold.

Of course, for me, some days the walk is interminable and others it ends all too soon. Today is nothing special. The wind sliding down the street is cool but brings with it the smell of the city waking up and the promise of a dry, sunny day.

George bounds back up the steps to the landing and waits as I follow more slowly to reopen the door. His tail wags happily as it always does after the morning walk. It’s good to be George.

Time for breakfast.  George sits quietly by his bowls, his eyes watching my every move as I putter around the small kitchen. I fire up the coffee pot and drop a bagel in the toaster before opening the cabinet and scooping out a goodly portion of Dog Chow. George tosses his head a little when the scoop goes in – he knows breakfast is on its way – but he doesn’t otherwise move until the food is safely in the bowl and the scoop is on its way back under the cabinet.

I get out plate, knife and coffee mug as George happily (and noisily) munches his breakfast. He is finished by the time the toaster pops out the bagel and the coffeepot clicks indicating the brewing cycle is done. He trots off to lie down on the as yet unmade bed leaving me alone to ponder the sunlight filtering through the small window.

This is the loneliest part of the morning for me, alone with my coffee and my thoughts sitting at my battered 1970s table on its matching metal and foam chair. Sometimes I savor the quiet, others I hasten through wishing to be anywhere but here.

George is oblivious to this, my morning crisis, the first of many such small crises over the course of the day. He is happily snoring almost from the time he hits the bed, thinking dog thoughts, probably about the smells he just encountered, piecing together the story of the night based on his data-gathering. He shows no signs of loneliness, no sign of ever wanting to be somewhere else. Some days I envy him.

Today is a good day. The bagel tastes fresh; the coffee has the sharp edge I like, no heavy thoughts intrude. A bird even drops by near the small window to sing to me.  Not bad.