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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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Purse Pile Poses Perplexing Puzzle aka The Best Gift Ever

Through no fault of my own (I’m blaming it on my genes) I am a hoarder. I find it hard to throw things away for silly reasons like I don’t need it, use it or want it. I might need it someday. Maybe someone can use it for something, or perhaps “insert any name here” would want this.

So, stuff piles up. Occasionally.  And even more occasionally I act upon a whim to go on a trashing spree. One of these rare moments occurred a few nights ago when I had a sudden inspiration to clean out my purse stash. My purse stash consisted of two end table shelves full of purses I had used until they were used up, hadn’t used at all but didn’t like, or somewhere in between.

I grabbed my trash bag and started to put the first purse in, but paused when I thought about what I used to carry in those things. Important stuff like chewing gum, breath mints, ballpoint pens, receipts from Wal-Mart, half used chap stick, wadded Kleenex and stray cough drops. Now and then I may even have a few pennies lying around in the bottom of one of those things. I probably oughta check it before I throw it out just in case.

The first purse I unzipped was hiding a . . . sock! A sock whose mate had long since been discarded under the assumption the other had become regurgitated dryer lint. Now how did that happen? I threw the purse and the sock away. Next purse – a washcloth. Wadded up as if someone fished it out of the laundry basket. Odd. Washcloth and purse find their way to said trash bag.

Purse number 3 contained the molded plastic wrapping of an old electronic game. No way that could have migrated to an unused purse. What was going on here? Somewhat leery by now, I open the next purse (so, yeah, I had a LOT of old purses – okay?) and I find a book. A nice hardback book called ‘The Christmas Blessing’ which used to sit on my nightstand  - I don’t know – maybe years ago? I rescued the book before I tossed the purse.

I was beginning to see a pattern here. Every purse I opened contained one thing that had no reason for being there, no logical explanation for having taken up residence in my purse stash. I didn’t get it. Not yet.

The next purse I opened is sort of hard to talk about publicly, you know on the internet and all, but I refuse to either embellish or detract from the actual circumstances. So. . . . a pair of underwear. Yes, mine.  I didn’t check it out any further. Into the trash along with the purse.

Other things turn up as the purse pile dwindles. A piece of newspaper with a completed crossword puzzle, the aforementioned electronic game, a page of math homework, a hammer, a double handful of pencils, pens and highlighters, and. . . a Winnie the Pooh Diary. Yep, the diary gave it away.  All this stuff I was finding was a love note left for me from Randon.

The memories came rushing back then. Randon loved to play in my old purses, pretending they were his school bags, police packs, offering plates, wilderness survival kits, or whatever fit the game he was playing. I can just see him devising a silly game of planting an object in each purse for me to find, not having any idea I never used those purses. He probably thought I’d find the things the next day and we’d have a good laugh about how he fooled me.

So I look at the pile of trash in my bag and I cry a few tears. Then I laugh out loud and tuck another memory away in my heart.  What an extraordinarily special gift I just received.