Monthly Archives: November 2018
Readers are calling this short story, “A lovely reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.” I hope it will be a blessing to you, too.
As an author, I have lots of goals. Landing on a bestseller list is not one of them. Here’s why.
Occasionally readers ask where I get my story ideas. One rich lode of ideas is studying real-life history, which I do often, both on my own and as a volunteer at a local history museum. Insatiably curious, I love digging into the past of places I’ve lived–it helps me feel more rooted and at home there. It’s a lot like snooping, but if you’re snooping through historical documents, you get to call it research. And the real-life past is an absolute treasure trove of future story ideas for a historical fiction author.
My first two books grew out of my interested in the Chicago area, where I grew up. A new story that’s coming out next fall moves the action to the dense fir forests of northern Idaho. I’m also mulling a story around the Armistice of 1918. I collect these ideas on scraps of paper in a folder, and now and then I sift through the folder for inspiration. Not every chance idea makes it into a future story, of course, but as Grandma used to say, it’s all grist for the mill. In the meantime, I’ve learned something new, and am always the richer for it.
If you’re interested in early-20th-century history, The Winter 2019 issue of SANDPOINT magazine contains three of my articles about my current home in northern Idaho. One’s about the Armistice, the second skims over key events that shaped the region, and the third’s about Sears mail-order houses, a big deal in the early 20th century. (Maybe you or someone you know lives in one!)
You, too, might be surprised and delighted at what you can turn up by studying the history of your town or region. Start with the local library or historical society, and see where the path may lead.
If you’re alone this holiday season, by choice or by circumstance, first of all, know that you are not an oddball. There is nothing wrong with you. While social expectations and Hallmark commercials drive home images of large, loving families enjoying a giant hugfest, like so many other things, the reality rarely lives up to the hype. Managing the wishes and expectations of extended family cal be a challenge. Even when it’s worth every effort, and we’re indeed blessed with those heart-tugging “moments” the media are always telling us to cherish, the sensation is fleeting. This is not to disparage large, loving families … by all means, if you’re part of one enjoy it to the fullest. But if you’re not, you needn’t despair. Your holidays may look different from the so-called norm, but they don’t need to be any less satisfying.
Whether or not you enjoy your solo holiday depends so much on your attitude. If you spend the day feeling sorry for yourself or telling yourself you’re somehow “less than” your neighbor who has twenty places set at her dining-room table, you are sure to feel miserable. On the other hand, if you embrace the blessings your quiet and serene holiday offers, Thanksgiving can be one of the richest and most satisfying days of the year.
I’ve been blessed in that I’ve always, as my grandmother used to put it, enjoyed my own company. That’s just my personality. The thought of curling up by the fire with a good book is my idea of bliss. I realize it’s not for everyone. But think of things you do enjoy: long hikes in nature, hot baths, a chance to catch up on your favorite Netflix series or BBC costume dramas Do these activities have to involve other people to be “worth the trouble”? Not if you understand that you’re worth the trouble.
Here are a few random ways to enjoy your solo holiday, in no particular order:
*Remember what the holiday is all about: Thankfulness. Write out a list of your blessings from the mundane to the sublime, and spend time thanking God for each one. Appreciate a distraction-free stretch of time to bask in prayer and soak up the Word, free from the pressures of ordinary days.
*Enjoy the luxury of time and space. Realize that some harassed people would give anything to spend the day quietly, but family expectations won’t permit it, or someone’s feelings would get hurt if they didn’t participate. If that’s not your situation, rejoice. Stock up on some good books (here are a few suggestions!) and movies and allow yourself sink into another world of your choosing.
*Bring in your very favorite foods and cook a lovely meal for yourself. Not fond of the traditional turkey dinner? You’re freed from anyone else’s expectations –cook up a steak if you want, or spaghetti, or pizza, and serve it on your best dishes. It’s your holiday as much as anyone else’s–feast the way you want (or not at all, if you don’t feel like it–but only if you don’t feel like it, not because you don’t feel worthy of it…because you are).
*Get up and get moving. Take that long walk in the woods (properly dressed so you some hunter doesn’t mistake you for a deer!). Getting some sunshine, fresh air, and exercise will lift your spirits. If the weather’s lousy, put on your favorite tunes and dance around the living room, with nobody there to criticize or complain.
*Reach out. To be sure, connect with far-flung family and friends by phone or Skype or social media. But if they’re all together somewhere and that makes you feel even more isolated, keep the conversation cheerful and brief. If you know someone else who’s also on their own, team up and share a meal. Or help serve at a community dinner. Or take time to visit a nursing home or retirement facility, where someone might appreciate seeing a friendly face.
I guess my best advice would be this: Don’t compare your holiday–or your life, for that matter– to someone else’s. Don’t automatically assume that someone else’s plans are superior to your own, or that you’re somehow inferior for spending a holiday by yourself. Every person’s life is a blend of good and bad, choices we’re proud of and those we regret, blessings God had bestowed and those he’s withheld. Embrace this season of your life. If you don’t care for it it, think about what you can do between now and then to make next year different. But don’t assume the grass is greener over there. With time, attention, and care you might find your own pasture is as green and soft as you could hope it would be.
Happy Thanksgiving to all my dear Sparklers! I’m very thankful for YOU!