christmas

WIN CHRISTMAS GRACE!

POSTPONED UNTIL SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5 AT 7PM EASTERN TIME!

 

Want to win a free audiobook? You totally can, and just in time for the holidays! Watch our next Sabbath Rest Book Talk on Sunday, October 29 November 5 at 7pm Eastern Time and comment live, and be entered to win a free copy of the audiobook of our adult reading selection for that month, Christmas Grace by SRBT favorite Leslie Lynch.

ChristmasGraceCover

No one wants to celebrate Christmas this year. Not Ella McKendrick, who, on the cusp of success as a potter, is tasked with her husband’s company party on too-short notice. She gives up her first pottery sale to pitch in, but the joy of the season is diminished.

Not Gertie Wycliffe, Ella’s mom, a new widow who is doing everything she can to avoid her first Christmas alone. No one understands the grief and terror she feels – maybe because the craziness of a seventy-four-year-old woman signing up for skydiving lessons is all she lets them see.

Not Natalie Shaw, Ella’s pregnant daughter. Natalie’s husband is deployed halfway around the world, and she believes that ignoring the holiday might blunt her loneliness.

Then disaster strikes, not once but twice. Three generations, three untenable situations. Three women who come together for each other and remember what’s most important about Christmas.

If you made it to this page on October 29 on or after November 5 you should be able to watch below. Good luck!

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“IT’S STILL CHRISTMAS” CATHOLIC EBOOK SALE

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Is that gift card burning a hole in your stocking? Spend it on Catholic ebooks!  

A number of independently published and small press Catholic authors will hold an “It’s Still Christmas Sale” December 26-28. This sale will feature no fewer than 16 Catholic ebooks all priced at $.99 or FREE.

[Ahem.  One of the featured books is “Working Mother,” a quick bargain read all about the Holy Family, specifically, “What if Mary had to get a job?“]

The “It’s Still Christmas Sale” gives readers a chance to make the most of gift cards received for online purchases.  More importantly, this sale is designed as a reminder that Catholics celebrate Christmas beyond December 25 and well into the Octave of Christmas, the first eight days of the Christmas season.

The “It’s Still Christmas Sale” will feature work from Catholic authors John C. Connell, Jeanie Ewing, Ellen Gable, Melanie Jean Juneau, Theresa Linden, Gil Michelini, Erin McCole Cupp, Connie Rossini, Marianne Sciucco, Tim Speer, Thomas Tan, Jacqueline Vick, J.I. Willett, Gloria Winn, and John Paul Wohlschied.

The featured books include something for every reader, both fiction and non-fiction, adult and YA.  Regarding this sale, participating author Connie Rossini notes that, “You can get a whole library for about $10!”

To take advantage of these offers, visit the Indie Catholic Authors Blog or join the event on Facebook.

7QT: It’s Never Too Late for a Hastily Written Post

7 Quick Takes Friday.  Write ’em. Post ’em.  Link ’em up and read ’em at This Ain’t the Lyceum.

… who is actually taking Friday in the Octave of Christmas off, but I’m here in spite of that.

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Merry Christmas!  Santa came!  Only to get torn limb from limb.

Poor Santa.

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My husband and I were reflecting on how smoothly Thanksgiving-to-Christmas seems to have gone, for the first time in years. Inwardly, I’d been congratulating myself for keeping my pledge (also inward) not to go crazy with getting junk for the kids to unwrap, with cookies to bake, with dishes to concoct, etc.  Then hubby pointed out that this was the first fall-to-winter in yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaars when I wasn’t down for 2-3 months with a viral-triggered asthma episode.  I’ve had cold after cold, but thankfully they’ve not required heavy doses of Prednisone, nebulized albuterol, and/or antibiotics that may or may not make things worse.  Was it the olive leaf extract, the kinder/gentler viruses that made the rounds this season, or just the way God is working things so completely out of my control?  I don’t know.  I am, however, grateful.

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Speaking of Christmas, I have a post up on Catholic Mom today, “Christmas is Not Supposed to Be Like This.”

Weihnachtskrippe in der Sanoker Minoritenkirche courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I originally wrote it for this blog last year for Christmas Eve.  It all started because, as hinted at before, Christmas came and I hadn’t been able to mop the floor or bake a single cookie. This is perhaps one of my favorite things I’ve ever blogged, and the feedback I’ve gotten on how it’s helped people put things in perspective… anyway, I hope you like it and that God is pleased by the whole mess.  I’m grateful He came down into our mess and still does.  I’ll see you at the manger.

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Could you please pray for a special intention?  It was an intention I prayed for during this year’s St. Andrew Christmas Novena.  For last year’s, too, but last year’s answer was a BFN.  I’ll have God’s answer to this year’s in a few days.

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While we’re at it, could you also pray for the other intention I included in this year’s novena: for the success of the launch of “Working Mother,” my short fiction ebook piece about the Holy Family.

Working Mother Final-1

“What if Mary had to get a job outside the home?”  Read to imagine one possibility.  It’s available for preorder now, if you’d like.  It should show up on your Kindle on Holy Family Sunday.

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Sigh.  Both intentions are related to doing everything possible to contribute to a desired outcome.  Over and over again.  And then getting disappointed.  Over and over again.  And it’s not like the desired outcomes are things that couldn’t possibly be within the realm of God’s will. That I could help support my family financially by writing stories that get people to consider our Heavenly Father in a more positive light then they may have done previously? To my feeble human brain, it doesn’t really seem like such a bad combo.  And the other thing… well, not sure if I feel comfortable going into all that again, not in public anyway.

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Either way, I know that God can do all things, and that no purpose of His can be hindered.  I know, too, he hears the cry of the woman who believed that just a touch of His garment can make a difference.

In hindsight, it looks like the 2004 Tsunami may have ended 30 years of armed conflict.  Analysis of the Columbine Massacre says of one of the shooters, “If he had lived to adulthood and developed his murderous skills for many more years, there is no telling what he could have done. His death at Columbine may have stopped him from doing something even worse.”

“God, why am I failing at doing good for you on earth?” is about as useful a question to ask as if Mary had said, “Why would You choose to be born in a stable?” God’s sight includes hindsight.  As much as we might want to know the “why” behind God’s “No,” it’s.  Just.  Not.  Our. Business.  Not right now, anyway.  Hindsight, I now see, does not have to be a painful curse.  It’s a gift–a gift of seeing, as God sees, outside of the nownownownowNOW!

Through whatever inscrutable pain the now might bring, it will pass away.  His Word, however, does not.  Cling to it.  I know I will need to in the coming days.

12 Days of Fiction, Day 12: Twelve Drummers Drumming

Welcome to the twelfth and final post of the “12 Days of Fiction” series, where a volunteer writer is assigned a random writing prompt from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” All writing on the prompt must be done in 10 minutes or less.

 by E8 Album HQR Initiative

Volunteers have been cultivated through the original 12 Days of Fiction invite, the Catholic Writers Guild members-only Facebook page, my Facebook page… and I think that’s it. Thanks to Random.org for the random number generator.

And now, at long last, let’s welcome back Kimberly Hartman, who is drumming us through the final prompt!  Thanks, Kimberly, and all our improv writers! I really enjoyed how each writer found his or her own way to interpret the song lines that we take for granted almost into new and fresh ideas–and writing them didn’t have to take a large chunk of your time.

This has been so much fun that I am looking into posting a regular writing prompt linkup.  Would that be of interest?  

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“They Will Keep Drumming”

by Kimberly Hartman

He’d already had the 10 minutes of terror, and was looking forward to the 50 minutes of sheer boredom that everybody was talking about. The new guy always had the worst shift, he grinned to himself wryly. At least he could could relax for a min – “got five more coming in.” Said the nurse on comm.

“Can’t they be diverted– We got our hands full.”

“They are being diverted – to us.”

“K, I hear the first one” he ran so fast that they often said he left his hair color behind him. The triage nurse called in sick so he was doubling on that too. “Keep them moving steady.”

“Okay head injury 08. Alright okay Pneumothorax okay, 06. This one, broken femur, 09, keep the CPR going on that one, Crash cart to 11, don’t want to lose him. This one to 12, catch that medic alert wristband.”

ERs always sounded calmer in real life, than they were on TV. Order so quickly executed that they could’ve been chaos. All 12 rooms full, but none lost yet; on the edge but all hearts still beating, still drumming. If he had any say, and God be with him and his team, they would keep drumming.

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12 Days of Fiction, Day 7: Seven Swans A-Swimming

Welcome to the seventh post of the “12 Days of Fiction” series, where a volunteer writer is assigned a random writing prompt from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” All writing on the prompt must be done in 10 minutes or less.

 by E8 Album HQR Initiative

Volunteers have been cultivated through the original 12 Days of Fiction invite, the Catholic Writers Guild members-only Facebook page, my Facebook page… and I think that’s it.  Thanks to Random.org for the random number generator.

If you’d like to join in, let me know.  We may have days yet unclaimed.  Comment on this post or on the original 12 Days of Fiction invite (or on any of the above, if you have clearance to get to them), and I’ll comment back with your day and writing prompt.

And now here’s a contribution from Kathy Szymanski!  Thank you, Kathy.  I enjoyed your poetical prose!

 

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7 swans a-swimming!  Oh how I love swimming in Minnesota in January! The seven swans gather round and watch the crazy Minnesotans as they “polar plunge” into the freezing water. (Hole was made courtesy of the Park Department for the swans to be able to swim.) And lo and behold! After they plunge magical things begin to happen and the plungers become majestic (and no longer cold or freezing). Their clothes are dry and warm and transform into beautiful robes. (No, they are not dead!)

They hover about, and as they instantly are aware of their new status, they realize the magical powers bestowed upon them. They float about, as angels, but visible to all, doing good deeds, bringing good news and love to all! It brings joy to their hearts as they are able to bring peace and happiness to people, friends, family, and strangers alike, sharing just a smidgen of God’s love and peace.

But alas, their transformation lasts only seven minutes. Then they return to their normal mortal state and find themselves again at the edge of the ice hole, the seven swans now a-swimming grandly in the lake.

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12 Days of Fiction, Day 4: Four Calling Birds

by E8 Album HQR Initiative

Welcome to the fourth post of the “12 Days of Fiction” series, where a volunteer writer is assigned a random writing prompt from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” All writing on the prompt must be done in 10 minutes or less.   Volunteers have been cultivated through the original 12 Days of Fiction invite, the Catholic Writers Guild members-only Facebook page, my Facebook page… and I think that’s it.  Thanks to Random.org for the random number generator.

If you’d like to join in, we only have “6 Geese A-Laying” and “8 Maids A-Milking” unclaimed.  Comment on this post or on the original 12 Days of Fiction invite (or on any of the above, if you have clearance to get to them), and I’ll comment back with your day and writing prompt.

Today’s piece is by Amy M. Bennett, author of “End of the Road”, available from Oak Tree Press, amazon.com, and  barnesandnoble.com.  Amy writes, “Spent the day in Santa Fe visiting our Carmelite family members, got my story written but no internet access!  I think I went a little overtime (10  minutes fly when you’re having fun!)  Hope you like it!  It’s a spin-off of my Black Horse Campground series!”

Thanks, Amy!  It’s a great piece, and I especially love the tie-in to the meaning of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”  PS: See, people?  I told you I wouldn’t get upset if your post doesn’t go up on the exact day you’re assigned!

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Four Calling Birds

 Corrie sighed as she hung the phone up and rubbed her temples. Eight calls to eight different contractors and handymen and not one of them would be available to fix the concrete walk around the Black Horse Campground office and store for at least two weeks.

She looked out the window and winced inwardly as she studied the condition of the wooden steps leading from the building’s porch to the walkway. Just this morning, the UPS delivery man had nearly lost his loaded hand truck off the top step and rescued Corrie’s shipment at the cost of a splintered step and broken railing. And no one would be available to fix anything for a while.

She had given her employees, the Myers and the Pages, the day off to do the campground’s shopping in Las Cruces, 150 miles away, and would be gone until late, so neither Red nor Jerry could do any repairs until the next day. Her maintenance man, Buster, had offered, half-heartedly, to make some repairs, but his enthusiasm was only matched by his skills so Corrie had let him off the hook… much to Buster’s relief.

And Rick and J. D. were both on duty and unavailable.

She tried not to grow irritated at the situation, but it hadn’t helped when a guest’s son had tripped over the broken walkway and skinned his knee. Corrie had placated the child and his mother with a bandage and an ice cream, but she cringed to think of a guest being injured more seriously. She had called Father Eloy, the pastor at San Ignacio church, and asked if he knew any parishioners who were able to do the work and might want a little extra money and he’d admitted that everyone was busy now.

“All the ones who were hurting for work during the heavy rainy season are overwhelmed with projects now that the weather is drier,” he’d told her. “I’m sure they’d do it if they could, Corrie, but the church repairs have been put off as well.”

“Well, if you hear of anyone looking for work, Father, would you have them give me a call?” she’d asked.

Now she turned as the bell over the front door rang and her old black Lab, Renfro, let out an unenthused “Woof” of warning before resuming his snoring. Two men stood just inside the door with two boys around the age of 13 standing with them. One of the men stepped forward and removed his battered ball cap. “Ma’am,” he said, his voice quiet, “my brother and I are traveling through town with our families and we’re looking for a little work to boost our funds. Noticed that you might could use some work on that walkway out there.”

“You do concrete work?” Corrie said hopefully. Fr. Eloy must have found someone and sent them down to her right away. The two men nodded.

“I’m Marcus and this is my brother, Lucas,” the man said and the other man inclined his head. “These are our boys, Jonathan and Matthew. Mind if we get started right away?”

“Not at all,” Corrie said, breathing a silent prayer of thanks. “Do you need any…?”

“We got our tools and materials with us. We just need a place for the night and some money for gas and groceries. We got our wives and other kids with us.”

“Make yourselves at home,” Corrie said immediately. She reached under the counter for two keys. “Two of my cabins are empty right now and you can use the bathrooms and laundry room. There’s even a grill you can use to fix a meal. How soon can you start?”

“Let us get our families settled and we’ll get right to work, ma’am.” Marcus replaced his cap and he and his companions backed out of the door.

Corrie shook her head in wonder. She watched as they drove their trucks to the cabins and unloaded two women and several younger children, then pulled up beside the walkway.

It seemed like not more than a few minutes passed before they were pulling the broken stair apart and breaking up and removing the concrete from the walkway.

As the day wore on, she glanced out the window from time to time and watched them work without pause, except for when one of the wives would come over with sandwiches or a bottle of water for them. It was close to four o’clock and she saw that the work had gone amazingly fast. She stepped out on the porch and held out an envelope to Marcus, who stopped working long enough to accept it with a grateful smile. “God bless you, ma’am,” he said with a slight bow.

She returned to the office and busied herself with paperwork. When the door bell rang, she looked up, expecting to see Marcus and his crew, but it was Rick and J. D. who walked in. “Hey,” Rick said, removing his Stetson and shades. “Looks like you got the walkway fixed.”

“Yes,” she said, then frowned at Rick’s use of the past tense. “Those men have been at it all day and are making amazing progress.”

J. D. raised a brow and shot a look at Rick. “What men?”

Corrie pointed out the window. “Well, the men who are….” She looked and gasped. The walkway was finished. Only the barricades to keep people out of the wet concrete were still up. She stood and went to the side door. The trucks and all the men’s families were gone as well. She turned back to Rick and J. D. “Did you see two pick up trucks pull out of here?”

They both shook their heads. “When would this have been?” Rick asked.

“Well….” She shook her head, dazed. “I could have sworn they just left, but….

“Who were they?” J. D. asked, and both he and Rick had the wary expression of concerned lawmen.

“I don’t know,” Corrie said. “I thought maybe Fr. Eloy sent them to do the work, but they never told me their full names.”

“What names did they give you?” Rick asked, pulling his pocket notepad out and flipping it open.

“Two men and two boys. Marcus and Lucas and their sons, Jonathan and Matthew.”

Rick’s eyes narrowed. “Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John fixed your walkway?”

Corrie stared at him and J. D. and said, “Yeah… I guess they did.”

12 Days of Fiction, Day 2: Two Turtledoves

Welcome to the second post of the “12 Days of Fiction” series, where a volunteer writer is assigned a random writing prompt from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” All writing on the prompt must be done in 10 minutes or less.   Volunteers have been cultivated through the original 12 Days of Fiction invite, the Catholic Writers Guild members-only Facebook page, my Facebook page… and I think that’s it.  Thanks to Random.org for the random number generator.

If you’d like to join in, we only have 5 days unclaimed.  Comment on this post or on the original 12 Days of Fiction invite (or on any of the above, if you have clearance to get to them), and I’ll comment back with your day and writing prompt.

And now here’s a contribution from Kimberly Hartman of Catholic Writers Guild fame!  Thank you, Kimberly.  I am indeed intrigued!

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“Sorry, that’s the price of one.”

“Wait.. I could buy two of these last year at this amount! I know costs rise but…”

“Look, it takes money to get all this into the city, and the smaller the package, the more cost per. It’s not personal, it’s business, ok? Maybe your people can pony up the rest for you, you always come in groups, right?”

“It’s just me and my son this year. We’ll even need to stay in the city to make enough to get home. Tell you what, I’ll work for you to pack up whatever’s left.”

“You kidding? I don’t have enough overhead to pay the guys I got. Go on, I got paying customers, here. -what! What the heck?!!!! Hey , you there! Over there! Stop with the whip!  Hey! I ain’t no thief. Hey, guys, don’t let the animals get away!

“…as was done for me, so I do for you…”

Christmas is not supposed to be like this.

nativity scene

Christmas is not supposed to be like this: The floors never got mopped. The cookies never got baked. There’s some kind of green crust on the wall in the downstairs bathroom that keeps growing back even after you scrub it with bleach. And don’t forget, you certainly shouldn’t have to work night shift on such a special celebration.

Christmas is not supposed to be like this: You didn’t have money to buy a nice roast for dinner. It’s instant mashed this year, because unemployment just ran out three weeks ago. Your heart breaks because the kids’ gifts are from the dollar store, thrift store, or the “giving tree” program of some church.

Christmas is not supposed to be like this: Your kid is not supposed to be in Europe, the ICU, or Afghanistan on Christmas. Your daughter is not supposed to be in jail. You’re not supposed to be in jail. You’re not supposed to be homeless. You’re supposed to have a warm house with clean sheets, or at least an overpass to keep the rain off and the wind down.

Christmas is not supposed to be like this: You’re supposed to get together at a joyful holiday party with a loving family who wants you safe and healthy and who would protect you from anyone who threatens otherwise. You’re not supposed to be triggered by memories of incest at everybody else’s fond Christmas recollections. And that family is supposed to believe you, not your abuser, when you tell what happened all those years ago. Your abuser is the one who should be getting left out, not you.

Christmas is not supposed to be like this: Your mother, father, son, daughter, cousin, aunt, uncle, best friend was not supposed to have died of cancer. Or blood clots. Or be present but lost to Alzheimer’s. Or have committed suicide. Or be MIA in some foreign war you don’t even know why we’re in it.

Christmas is not supposed to be like this: You should be able to stroll warmly and freely and into Mass on Christmas day, not be scandalized by a priest who turned you away or turned on you. The Catholic Church should bring you comfort, not conflict.

Christmas is not supposed to be like this: A Tiny Prince is supposed to be born in a clean place, with clean cloths and hot water and plenty of string and a good, sharp knife. His laboring mother should be made comfortable on the best cushions the world has to offer, surrounded by her supportive family, competent medical staff, a doula, and a lactation consultant. The husband should be given a chair to sit in when his feet grow tired from pacing, and at the very least he should get a hot cup of coffee. Once the Child is delivered, He deserves a gentle, warm bath, a soft diaper, and a quiet place for a first (and, of course, easy) nursing session. He certainly deserves better than a filthy stable, scratchy straw, and nobody to help out but a handful of sheep-poop smeared pastorals. That braying donkey over there certainly should shut up and stop waking the baby. And the manure—have we mentioned the manure?

Christmas isn’t supposed to be like this, so come to the manger. In fact, if your Christmas is not the way it’s supposed to be, all you have to do is open your eyes. You’re already there.

Emmanuel—God is with us in our world, even in its wrongness. If we open our eyes to see Him, really see Him in all the people around us, we’ll see something amazing. We’ll see that we are all, every last one of us, at the manger together. We don’t have to talk right now. The Baby is sleeping. But maybe, just maybe, when He wakes, we can spare a smile at each other, see how we ourselves have made others’ Christmases something less than they were supposed to be. And then, maybe, just maybe, we can join with Him and make things right. You can forgive in silence. You can take full responsibility in silence. Make those rough places plain. Resurrect Christmas. After all, He didn’t come just to experience the not-supposed-to-be. He came to give us better than we imagined. All we have to do is follow Him there, from the manger, to the cross, to the grave, to eternal life.

Merry Christmas. I’ll see you at the manger.

“Twelve Days of Fiction” Improv Fun

Is anybody up for something fun? I’d like to host a “Twelve Days of Fiction” here at my humble little hole in the interwebz wall.

Ancient Youth Ministry Proverb:  If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.

The only rules are:

  1. I’ll put participants’ names in a hat, and you’ll get a writing prompt from the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
  2. It must be a piece of fiction you improv and write in 10 minutes or less (or fewer, depending on how you measure time.
  3. Keep it PG-13 or better.
  4. Aim to get your writing posted the day you’re assigned.  I’ll still love you if you can’t, but don’t give up if you can’t get it posted on time.
  5. NO OVERTHINKING!
Mary bathing Baby Jesus--CUTE!

Mary bathing Baby Jesus–CUTE!

If you want in, comment here no later than midnight on December 23.  Honestly, I won’t be checking until early on December 24, so if it’s before then, you’re good.  No later than Christmas afternoon, I’ll put all the interested names in a hat and let you know which day and song line is your prompt. We won’t start until St. Stephen’s Day (prompt: A Partridge in a Pear Tree). Post your writing to your blog (if you don’t have one, PM me and I can post it on mine for you). Let me know where to look, and I’ll link your piece on my blog, and I encourage other participants to do so.

Having been in a critique group that always started off each meeting with a writing exercise, I can personally attest to how the practice of improv writing has sharpened my writing as a whole, not to mention broken many writer’s blocks.

So, who’s in? I just need eleven more writers.

7QT: Better Late than Never

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Join Jennifer, The Skipper too, The Millionaire and his Wife, the Movie Star, and the rest, here on 7 Quick Takes Fridaaaaayyyyy!

About an hour ago I sent off my final scheduled DYFAM blog tour post to Celeste at A Perpetual Jubilee.  A few other bloggers have invited me over for interviews, but as of right now there’s nothing pressing on the calendar.  Some time in the relatively near future, I will have a post about How Not to Do A Blog Tour.  Because… dang.  I shot myself in the mental foot so many times I’ve lost count.  My hosts were all wonderful and gracious.  I just made this harder on myself (and, I’m sorry to say, on them) than it ever needed to be.  I did hit my primary goal of getting my posts to my hosts at least one week in advance.  Other than that, though…yeah.  I’m glad it’s winding down.

Anyway, here’s the list I’ve been treasuring in my heart over the past month of writing posts and commenting on them and otherwise promoting Don’t You Forget About Me. And that list is called…

7 Things I Will Do When This Blog Tour Is (Mostly) Done

  1. Make these cupcakes.  A friend at co-op made them for our Halloween party.  They are so worth making at home for no good reason other than, yay, I don’t have to write anything tonight.
    Ultimate Chocolate Cupcake
  2. Return to my pre-tour showering schedule.  Same goes for flossing.
  3. Get to the gym… though now that I’ve been given the boot, I haven’t quite figured out how to make this happen before my foot’s 4 week incarceration has been served.
  4. Mop a floor.  At least one.
  5. Declutter.  Though that’s like having the goal of “Flying to Mars on Wings Made of Fountain Grass.”
  6. Prepare for the upcoming holiday season. Cards.  Shopping.  Wrapping.  Decorating badly and cheaply.  Before you all whine at me about “It’s not the holiday season.  It’s CHRISTMAS, you soulless wretch,” I feel VERY strongly that nobody should be calling it a HOLIDAY SEASON moreso than we Catholics.  We have so many holy-days between now and The Baptism of Lord, that if that’s not a season of holidays, then I’m a wilted cabbage leaf.
  7. Educate my children again.  I haven’t taught math or Latin in nearly three weeks.  We’re already more than halfway through the number of hours our state requires us to log, so it’s not like I’m negligent or they’re truant, but the return to a structured schedule would be good for all of us.