Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Simply the Best

By now I hope you've all had your fair share of eggnog and figgy pudding (yuck) and all things holly and jolly. It was another wonderful celebration at our house, complete with food, family, and fa la la la-laughs. So here I am, 24 hours later, still in party mode but for all intents and purposes the big Christmas extravaganza is over. Bummer. If I can level with you for a minute, there's something about the day after Christmas that gives me a slight case of the blues. Post holiday letdown or something like that. Perhaps I'm not the only one. Maybe you're out there feeling a bit sluggish, a tad sour. Let's keep in mind that New Year's Eve is just around the corner, but if that isn't close enough for you, how about a giveaway to help lighten the mood?

Thanks to Kathy at I'm a Reader Not A Writer for arranging another fun hop! Check it out: This time we're paying tribute to the best books we've read in 2012. I hope you'll take a moment and leave a comment here about your favorite read of the past twelve months. Enter the Rafflecopter below (click "read more") for your chance to win an autographed paperback copy of WISHLESS plus a $5.00 Amazon e-gift card so you can buy a new e-book on me! Perhaps with all the great internet sales happening at this time you can even purchase two e-books.

Good luck and happy hopping, gang!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas Heart - Guest Blog

Please help me welcome my Guest Blogger, my 20 year-old son, Nicholas, who wrote this Christmas tale for you today.I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

The Christmas Heart
By Nicholas Martone

It was December 24th, Christmas Eve, and children everywhere were preparing for the arrival of their gift-bearing, bearded friend. This was true for all but one young man from a small suburban town in the Midwest. The boy was convinced that Santa Claus did not exist and even insisted that it was his parents who stayed up extra late to do the deed of present laying. After making a strong case to his parents about his beliefs, they simply laughed and rushed their son off to bed. There the boy sat and devised a plan to catch his parents in the act once and for all. He decided that he would set his alarm clock for every hour on the hour and quietly tip toe down the stairs to peak into the living room. He did just that, hour after hour, only to find sleeping parents and a tree without gifts every time. Eventually it was morning and still no presents were to be found. The boy confronted his parents who he believed had purposely disregarded their "Christmas Duty" in an attempt to outwit him! 

“We would never do such a thing!” They told him. “Christmas isn't about deceit. It’s about having hope and believing that what your heart needs most of all will somehow find you.”

It was at that very moment that they all heard a firm knock at the door. The father answered the door in record time but to everyone's surprise not a soul was to be found. Not a truck, car, sled or reindeer. Just a stack of presents and a note. The boy raced for the gifts but first stopped to read the note. It said: “I didn't forget. I just wanted to help you to believe, as belief is what the Christmas spirit is all about. Merry Christmas, Santa Claus.” 

It was like a light bulb had gone off in the boys head. He was enlightened. He "witnessed" the appearing of the gifts on the front doorstep all while keeping an eye on his parents. As far as he was concerned, they were not involved and that's all that mattered. He finally believed. 

The boy ended up receiving everything he’d asked for, but the toys and games weren't what were most special to him. It was the "lesson" he’d learned that morning. That was the one that mattered most of all.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dust in Santa's Eye

It had to happen. With Christmas bearing down I ventured, somewhat wearily, toward the mall yesterday to finish up with my purchases. In light of the recent mayhem in the news, I'll admit to feeling something other than merry and bright. I'll also admit to a low level of anxiety, a current akin to that of a distant engine running soft and steady. It said, "Look around you. Be aware. Not everyone is a happy shopper." Holiday music, piped in from speakers unseen, did what it could to keep spirits high. A cheerful sign reminded folks that Santa was in the building - a sign of normalcy during a suddenly strange and surreal time. I didn't follow the candy cane arrows, pointing the way toward the Jolly One himself. Yet I saw parents hustling their kids in that direction, looks of hope plastered on tiny faces. I went about my business, systematically aiming for a quick and painless exit. It was the last store I stopped in. The one with the longest check-out line. That was where I saw them. Two moms, two small children tucked between them. They spoke to one another and I couldn't help but overhear.

"I thought he was going to ask Santa for that video game he wants," one woman said to the other. "It was what we'd rehearsed that he'd say. But when he sat down the first thing he did was to ask Santa to help those children in Connecticut. I was stunned, frankly. Then he wanted to know if Santa was crying. I told him that Santa just had a little dust in his eye."

I imagine that particular Santa Claus had heard his fair share of wishes for fire trucks and dolls, video games and toys of all kinds; most reasonable requests. Standard operating procedure. Still...these are not standard times, are they? Life dictates that we digest tragedies gingerly but with all due haste. Because, in as much as it's an imperfect plan, life goes on. Holidays come along in spite of unexpected wishes whispered from the mouths of babes. Or from the hearts of mankind. Mornings arrive drenched in a misplaced sun, seemingly idyllic innocent hours following the very darkest of nights.

And so I pause momentarily to mourn, to lick invisible wounds, to wonder if Christmas will feel the same to children here and there. And to grown-ups everywhere - with dust in their eyes.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Crazy for Gift Cards!

The holidays are here...again. My, how this year has sped on by. You didn't blink, did you? Yep. Me too.
By now you are surely knee-deep in shopping, hunting down the perfect stocking-stuffers and the like. Sometimes the ideal gift for that special person in your life is the freedom to choose exactly what they'd like to receive. Gift cards can often do the trick, especially when you just can't decide what to get. That's why I really enjoy this hop. There are so many great blogs participating. See for yourself: Thanks to Kathy at I'm a Reader Not a Writer for her hard work in putting this hop together. Check out the Rafflecopter below (see more) for your chance to win a $10.00 Barnes & Noble e-gift card.

I hope you're taking some time to relax a midst the hustle and bustle. Perhaps carve out an evening or two to sit and enjoy a few of your favorite holiday movies. I'm especially fond of "The Miracle on 34th Street," "Elf" and "A Christmas Story." Be sure to take a minute to leave a comment here, sharing your own personal fave.

This week I'm taking a trip into NY city to see the Nutcracker Ballet. It's been nearly a lifetime since I've seen this show and I'm super-excited to see it again. This performance reminds me that there is more to the holiday season than just go-go-go, buy-buy-buy. The holidays are really about recalling what it is that defines Christmas for each one of us. It's revisiting a cherished childhood memory, and creating some new ones along the way. It's about touching base with our beliefs, discovering our hearts again with a little wonder mixed in for good measure.

As the remainder of 2012 winds down, remember to indulge in some reflective moments each and every day. And don't forget to read a good book or two or three! (They aren't just for crafting...)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Middle (r)Aged

I'm shooting the breeze with a friend over lunch, discussing the typical cache of topics ranging from gel polish to world peace when she halts, almost mid-sentence and emits a deep sigh.

"What?" I ask. "What's wrong?"

"I don't know. I mean, what does it matter? Does any of it really matter?" She muses.

"I don't follow."

"Nothing. I don't know. It is what it is, right? Ugh. I hate that expression, by the way. What does it even mean?"

I shrug. "Are you okay?"

She shakes her head from side to side as if it's gone loose at the neck and needs tightening. "Not really. It seems like ever since I turned forty I've become way more...more..."

"More what?"

"I don't know..."

"Introspective? Existential?" I suggest, attempting to help her along.


"Blase'? Uninspired?"

"No. That's not it!" She says and then sighs again. "I'm just, just, ya' know..."

"Cranky?" I try.

"That's IT!" She exclaims. "Why do you suppose that is? I mean, I know OLD people get like that, but, I'm not old yet. Is this how it's supposed to be?"

"Relax," I tell her. "It's perfectly normal. Haven't you ever heard of Middle Rage?"

"Middle Age?"

"No. Middle Rage. Oh, it's nothing new. Been around since the stone age."


"Sure. Why do you think they stopped filming The Flintstones? Once Betty and Wilma hit the big 4-0, they got too crabby for TV. Not to mention the scandals."

"What scandals?"

"I'm told Betty and Barney suffered an awful acrimonious split and Wilma had a torrid affair with Mr. Slate. It rocked the socks off the quarry. All due to Middle Rage."

"Wow," she says. "That's crazy. I can't believe I was never aware of this. Is there anything a person can do to avoid it?"

"Fraid not," I say. "You just have to tough it out. You'll have good days and bad. It's like riding a roller coaster. Sometimes you'll be sitting calmly on the track and other times you'll be flying through the air doing 90, screeching like a madman."

"But it gets better, eventually, doesn't it?" She's on the verge of tears now. Far be it for me to be the bearer of bad news. And won't do her any good to feed her delusions, give her false hope. I slowly shake my head. Break it to her as gently as I can. "Middle Rage ultimately turns into Old Rage. It's a natural progression." I reach my hand out to hers, tap it softly. "There, there. No sense getting upset over it."

Her eyes meet mine.

"It is what it is," I whisper.

"Ugh. I was really hoping it wasn't terminal. The holidays are here and I did so want to be jolly."

"Oh, that's no problem. They invented eggnog for this exact reason. Just have to double up. You'll be good as new."

"Thank goodness!" She says. I can see the relief wash over her. For the moment she's her young self again. Sweet, gentle, kind, waiting on the track. And then she leans in, lowers her voice. "I always knew that Wilma was a fast number!"

And we're off.