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Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Valentine Party

  I have posted this before but in honor of my favorite holiday, here it is again. Enjoy!

The Valentine Party

I had been planning it for weeks
Everything was set
The ladies in our church group
Would have the grandest party yet

I made my way to the front of the church
Perfectly coiffed and dressed
Announced our little party
And invited all ladies to be our guest

Next Monday night at 7:00 pm
We'll meet at my house and dine
And bring a card for our contest
"Who has the sweetest Valentine?"

I took my seat and began to dream
Yes, I tuned the preacher out
My party would be the best ever
There simply was no doubt

And so, on Monday next
Everything was in its place
Frannie had hosted last month
I couldn't wait to see her face!

The floor was swept, the sink all scrubbed
Not a trace of dust remained
I had skipped church the day before
But look at all I'd gained

Lacy Valentines and shiny hearts
Bedecked the house in red and white
My best china set the table
Just for this special night

The candles lit, flowers arranged
The dinner smelled divine
The caterer was quite expensive
But this was my night to shine

The guests began arriving
I greeted them at the door
Everyone who was "Anyone"
I could not ask for more

Then just as we sat down to eat
The doorbell rang again
Now who is that - all are here
My patience was wearing thin

I hurried to open the door and see
Who had dared interrupt my dinner
My mouth dropped open in horror
For at my doorstep stood Mary Penner

Mary came to church sometimes
Whenever she could get a ride
Her clothes were always old and worn
Did the woman have no pride?

Her hair wasn't the latest style
She talked a little different
Once I had said hello to her
But that was as far as it went

"Can I help you?" I questioned
As she stood there at my door
I looked down my nose at her
And the mismatched outfit she wore

I prayed that she would turn and leave
But my hopes were only fleeting
Her crooked teeth showed in a grin
"Is this the church ladies meeting?

Our group was rather exclusive
But of course she didn't know
I was thinking to myself
"How dare she spoil my show!"

I invited her in and took her coat
Introduced her around the table
I tried to hide my resentment
As well as I was able

Her table manners were lacking
And my anger didn't waver
They all complimented the food
But to me it had no flavor

But as the servers cleared the table
My black mood was lifting a bit
Time now for the Valentine contest
And I was sure that I would win it

I had hunted for it long and hard
Antique stores I searched were many
It was hundred-year-old Victorian
And I had paid a pretty penny

Round the table, each guest in turn
Shared the card that she had brought
Frannie's had come from a student
In the classroom where she taught

Janet had a decorated cake
That spelled out "You're the One"
Carol's card said "I love Grandma"
Handmade by her little grandson

Chocolates, roses, balloons and cards
One by one they shared
Each one special to their hearts
Evidence that someone cared

They oohed and aahed over mine
And how much I must have spent
But I could see it wasn't as sweet
As the ones that love had sent

I swallowed my disappointment
But then became even more vexed
When I looked around our circle
And saw that Mary's turn was next

She seemed almost embarrassed
And looked a bit dejected
She said, "I guess this meeting
Is not quite what I expected.

When I heard about a ladies group
I suppose I thought we might
Have a little Bible study
And so all I brought tonight

Was my old well-worn Bible
Hoping that what I heard
Would feed my hungry heart a bit
With morsels from His Word

But I reckon that my Bible here
Is the best Valentine I ever got
It's all about how He loves me
How my freedom from sin was bought."

She looked around at all of us
And we stared back at her
No one moved or said a word
But of one thing I was sure

Guilty fingers gripped my heart
I knew how wrong I'd been
My shaky voice said, "I believe
That Mary's card should win."

One by one each lady spoke up
"Mary" was the vote of every guest
We all knew without a doubt
That her Valentine was the best

We had all been so caught up
In our little social game
We had lost sight of our purpose
And we hung our heads in shame

Then Susan said, "I'll host next month
Everyone invite a buddy
Mary, we would all be honored
If you would lead our Bible study."

Mary grinned and nodded
Each guest hugged her as they passed
I waited until all were gone
Then spoke to her at last

"I've been so very wrong," I said
Tears ran unhindered down my face
"It's all right, my friend," she answered
"God never runs out of grace."

Friday, January 16, 2015


Anybody suffer from insomnia? It’s kind of a new thing for me developed over the past few years. I can lay awake for hours before falling asleep. Annoying and makes for a hard morning. I’ve tried lots of remedies but the only thing that really works is Tylenol PM. Problem is, it only starts working once morning has arrived.
Yesterday I saw something about a 4 – 7 – 8 breathing technique. It is used to calm anxious nerves or help a person fall asleep. I had zero confidence that this thing would work, but it didn’t stop me from trying it. It’s a three step process that works like this:

  1.  Breathe in through your nose for 4 seconds
  2.  Hold the breath for 7 seconds
  3.  Release the air through your mouth for 8 seconds

Sounds easy, right? Well not so much. I had to practice it several times before I got it right. I kept wanting to breathe in the same time I was breathing out. Well anyway, I finally mastered it. Some of the people that commented on this on the internet article I read, insisted they were asleep before that first 8 second breathe-out was complete. I was skeptical but hopeful.
Did it work? No, I didn’t fall asleep. Yes, it was very relaxing. So relaxing I could almost tolerate the snoring going on beside me. Finally, I got tired of all the counting. Maybe it’s the same principle as counting sheep. A person just gets so bored with the repetitive counting they finally go to sleep. Except not me. As usual my mind was going in dozens of different directions, but I couldn’t concentrate on anything but counting and what part of the breathing I was supposed to be doing. So, I quit counting. And guess what – I missed it! Yep, I wanted to do it some more. The shallow breaths I take in normal breathing couldn’t compare with the relaxation of the 3 step process, counting and all. And that thing with the snoring – well – that benefit couldn’t be ignored. I think I’ll do it again tonight.
So you try it. Let me know it works for you. And if you’ve got a tried and true method for battling insomnia, leave a comment and tell me about it.
If nothing else, this little exercise in futility gave me a great idea for a short story. Going to write it tomorrow after a “good night’s sleep.” If you’d like to see that story make its way to a blog post, comment and tell me so. Enough encouragement and I might be persuaded. . .

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Nutcracker Dilemma

When my oldest son was very young I bought a Captain Kangaroo Christmas video for him. Little did I know what I was starting. In the movie, Captain Kangaroo reads some children’s Christmas stories complete with illustrations and one of those stories was “The Nutcracker.” For some reason I can’t identify, Ty became immediately and undeniably enthralled with nutcrackers. When asked what he wanted Santa to bring him, his list consisted of a nutcracker. That was it.

Unlike nowadays when Christmas nutcrackers adorn department store shelves in abundance, nutcrackers were not a common commodity back then.  As a last resort we went to a specialty (that means high-priced) kitchen store and bought him a nutcracker for $25. A fortune back then, especially for a little boy who I ‘m thinking must have been about four. I worried that he thought the nutcracker would come to life like in the story, but I needn’t have. The nutcracker was a huge hit as a Christmas gift and my little sweetie learned how to crack a peanut shell in his mouth. Thus began the ritual.

After that, the nutcrackers became a tradition. Every year I looked for new and different varieties to add to the nutcracker brigade. Of course nutcrackers became very popular about that time and we had them all. Candleholders, Wizard of Oz, Kansas State, you name it. Whatever Ty was interested in at the time had a nutcracker to go with it and Mom couldn’t resist the sparkle in his eyes when he opened the new one.  Ones. Yes, they began to come in multiples. Sets. Collections. We had miniatures and giants, tree ornaments and door guards.  Finally we had to set up an oblong table in our living room to accommodate the nutcracker collection.

In subsequent years nutcrackers not only filled every square inch of the table, but overflowed to other surfaces such as coffee table, cedar chest, end tables and any card table we could find. Even the space underneath the tables became inundated with nutcrackers. And here I must confess. It began to grow a little tiresome. It took me hours every Christmas season to unpack them all and I won’t even go into the eons it required to wrap them each in tissue paper and box them away when Christmas was over. But for my darling child, I did it faithfully.

Right up until he graduated from high school. And then he dropped the big bomb. “Mom, I don’t really want any more nutcrackers.” Oh. Well how long had he been feeling this way and not said anything? Awhile I guess, though I never got him to admit it. And what of the army of nutcrackers I had bought on an after-Christmas sale last year, now put away as a special gift for Christmas morning?

As it turns out, those nutcrackers never came back out of the box. To this day I have stacks of cardboard boxes in the garage and in storage sheds filled with the infamous nutcracker gallery. No one has opened them in years. What to do with them?

Someone thought I should sell them as a set. Surely all of them together would fetch a hefty price. If you could find someone that wanted a rather hefty collection. Someone else thought I should insure them. Really? How does one go about insuring a nutcracker collection? I know. I can give them to Ty since they are his and he has his own place now. Nope. He’s not touching them. And his wife has tactfully expressed her lack of desire to inherit them as well. They are now mine forever.

Truth is, I kind of like knowing I have them – as long as I don’t have to find them and get them all out every year. Anyway how could I rid myself of such memorabilia?  The image of my little Ty holding his first nutcracker is seared into my memory. It made his Christmas all those years ago and to this mama’s heart, worth every bit of money, pain and agony that went into the nutcracker-collecting era.

And perhaps one day I’ll have a grandchild.  Maybe that grandchild will like Captain Kangaroo and I can dig out the old video. Maybe, just maybe, he’ll say something like, ”Grandma, I wish I had a nutcracker.” Problem solved and I will be the coolest Grandma ever. (As long as you don’t ask the parents of that very fortunate grandchild.)

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tag - I'm "it"!

My writing friend, Leanne Bristow (check out her blog at tagged me in a blog hop. I’m so excited and honored that she would think of me for this. How it works is I am given 4 questions about my writing to answer here on my blog. I then tag four more authors to do the same. I have read several of these responses and it’s been so fun to see the different responses to the same questions. Well, here goes:

What am I working on?
    After making it through about 5 ½ of my 8 books adding male POV (see blog post “What’s Your Point of View from Feb 2013 I temporarily left that project last fall and began a completely new book. I just finished it not long ago and am working on the edits. It is historical romance set in the Kansas Flint Hills (guess that’s my trademark now.) I can’t even find words to express how much easier it is to just write a book using all the things I’ve learned over the last few years than trying to revise an old story. I haven’t given up on my Heart Series or Seasons Series but for now I’m hoping to move ahead on this new project, starting book number 2 soon.
How does my work differ from others in its genre?
In all honesty, I’m not sure it does, but I also don’t think that’s such a bad thing. I love reading historical romance and therefore that is what I love to write. There must be others like me that simply enjoy the genre without always looking for the new or latest thing. On the other hand, I try to add my unique touch to whatever I write (as in the aforementioned setting.) In my newest series I am incorporating circumstances from my own family history into my stories. Personal and unique, though only my family will notice the vague similarities.
Why do I write what I do?
As I mentioned in the last paragraph, I write what I would enjoy reading. That’s the only way I can enjoy writing it. A tough farmer guy or cowboy, a sweet heroine full of strong character and their heart-fluttering romance are the essential elements of a story I want to read or write.
How does your writing process work?
   I usually have a vague overview in mind when I start a book, but I find I work best from within the dark tunnel. I don’t have outlines, plotting maps or a deliberate structure for my story. One scene ahead is about all I can see at a time. When I finish that scene, the next is beginning to take shape. I can’t explain how it works, but it always does. Everything comes together at the end and I’m as surprised as anybody else how it turns out. One of the obvious advantages in this method for me, the I’ll-procrastinate-if-I-can writer, is I can’t wait to write the next chapter so I can find out what happens. What an impetus to keep going. This goes against the grain to plotters and I recognize the obvious disadvantages in my methods, but when I try to plot, I get writing that sounds like I tried to plot. You know – like reading off a speech you wrote two weeks ago – nothing unique, no straying from the norm, no surprises.  Yeah – I like the surprises!
So thanks again to Leanne for tagging me. I haven’t found enough bloggers as yet who want to be tagged next, but when I do I will post them here. Email me cregnier(at)twinvalley(dot)net if you’re interested.
Oh – and check out my old and new short stories in the Family Fiction short story contest. Appreciate any thumbs up votes you feel inclined to give