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Christmas Treats and Holiday Eats

 We’ve attended quite a few Christmas parties this month.  One of the topics that seems to come up at each party is what everyone will have to eat on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Over and over I have heard people say, “Every year we have…” Whatever filled the blank was part of that family’s Christmas tradition and something that everyone looked forward to having.

In my own family, we always had an appetizer buffet all afternoon and evening on Christmas Eve.  We would put out a huge variety of both hot and cold foods and let everyone graze throughout the day as we watched Christmas movies, wrapped last minute gifts, and visited with family.  Of course, Christmas cookies were also part of the fun spread!

I still remember the excited voices of my children asking if we were going to have their favorites on the Christmas buffet each year. On Christmas Day, we would have the more traditional turkey or ham (or both) for dinner and always, always, banana pudding for dessert.

Now that our children are grown and live in other states, we don’t always get to see all of them at Christmas.  We’ve adopted a new Christmas Eve tradition in the past few years of going out to dinner with a group of friends.  Often, we go to a Japanese hibachi restaurant and are entertained as our dinner is made in front of us. This takes away a lot of the time and work of food preparation, and makes for a very enjoyable and relaxing evening. 

We will still have our traditional dinner on Christmas Day.  This year it will be turkey.  Some of the other yummy and interesting Christmas dinners I’ve heard people say they will have this year are: beef brisket, Cornish hens, lasagna, clam chowder, roasted chicken, crab legs, pork loin, and tamales. 

Figgy Pudding

Interestingly enough, I haven’t heard a single person mention having roast goose, figgy pudding, roasted chestnuts, mincemeat pie, or Dundee cake (Scottish fruitcake).  What will be on your Christmas table?

Inspiration for “Coffee without a Cup”

Many of you know that my first e-story, “Coffee Without A Cup” was published on Amazon Kindle on November 28th.  It isn’t a book, but rather is a 20-page story about love, loss, and healing.  The inspiration for the story was the death of my beloved grandfather, Selmer A. Barrett, 20 years ago. 


Several things in the story are true and the rest is complete fiction.  The grandfather’s last name and initials are the same as my own grandfather’s.  This was my way of honoring his memory and the important role he played in my life. I loved him very much and still do.

The other truths in the story are that we loved drinking coffee together, and he did indeed read his Bible every day.  He had actually read his Bible cover to cover many times. Finally, my grandfather loved to garden and he often shared the abundant produce from his gardens with others. One of my favorite pictures of him, was taken in his garden with his roto-tiller.

So often, I hear people say they want to write or that they have a story in their head that should be a book.  Here’s a cold, hard fact.  If you are a writer, you will write.  Writers must write.  It’s our way of dealing with the highs and lows in life. 

After my grandfather’s death, one of the ways I expressed my grief, was by writing the rough draft of “Coffee Without A Cup.”  I then put it away for a number of years because it was too painful for me to read.  After the death of my brother, Jeff, 12 years ago, I finished the story and put it away again. 

Following the publication of my most recent children’s book, “The Day The Turkey Came To School” last year, I spent some time reading through some of my older stories. I was trying to decide what to publish next.  

About that time, a friend and I were talking about grieving and dealing with loss.  She told me she believed that God places people in our lives who will help us through the difficult times.  That made me think of my story, “CoffeeWithout A Cup” and the way that Tom came into Janie’s life to help her after the death of her beloved grandfather.

 Many of us are grieving the loss of family members and friends.  The pain is often magnified at the holidays when we feel the huge void left by those who are missing from the parties and family gatherings.  It’s no coincidence that I have published this story now.  It’s my hope that it will help even one person who is grieving a loss during this holiday season.

To purchase a copy of “Coffee Without A Cup” click on the cover image on the front page of this blog to go to Amazon Kindle and download a copy.

A Handprint on my Heart

I firmly believe that God places people in our lives who help us to grow and learn. We may help them as well, but they are definitely there by design. The older I get, the more I can look back and in hindsight, understand why certain people were in my life at different times.

I also believe there are people in our lives who simply love us. That is their role. If you think about your own life, how many people have given you complete, unconditional love? I can name those in my own life on just one hand and I don’t think I’m all that unusual.

The first time I heard the song, “For Good” from the Broadway musical, Wicked, it took my breath away. Not just because of the amazing voices of Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel, but because of the lyrics of the song. (Yes, I was fortunate enough to hear that song for the first time in NYC on Broadway and it was sung by the two incredible original stars of the show.)

Do you know the song? I’ve copied the lyrics below. “For Good” expresses many of the things that I’ve always believed about the people in my own life. Certain people change us by what they teach us or by the example they set. Perhaps we see the mistakes they have made and we don’t want to follow that same path. Sometimes people change us because they inspire us to do better in our lives.

Other people help us to look at life from a totally different perspective because theirs is so different from our own. They teach us that one can approach a problem or a situation from a different direction and still reach the same goal or end result. Or perhaps, they simply help us to see a more complete view or consider other possibilities.

The people from my life whom I treasure the most, are the ones who have helped me along the way by setting an example of love and kindness toward others. I’ve always been drawn to people who have a joyful demeaner. Their influence is something I carry with me.
Some of them are gone now, but like it says in the song, they have left a “handprint on my heart.”

Who has left a handprint on your heart?

 

###

Lyrics to “For Good”:
I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don’t know if I believe that’s true
But I know I’m who I am today
Because I knew you
Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend…
Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a sky bird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
Because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good
And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I’ve done you blame me for
But then, I guess we know
There’s blame to share
And none of it seems to matter anymore
Like a comet pulled from
Orbit/as it passes a sun/
Like a stream that meets a
Boulder/ half-way
Through the wood
Like a ship blown off its
Mooring/by a wind off the
Sea/ like a seed dropped by a
Bird in
The wood
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better
And because I knew you
Because I knew you
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good
Songwriter: STEPHEN LAWRENCE SCHWARTZ

Who Will Be Missing From Your Thanksgiving Table?

Author’s note:  This post is similar to one I wrote several  years ago.  However, I feel that the heart of it will still be of value to many.

How I miss my brother this time of year. He loved all the holidays but he really loved Thanksgiving and having our family all together. This will be our 13th Thanksgiving without him. While time truly does take away the searing pain of loss, it also means more time has passed since I’ve heard his voice and especially his laughter.

In Thanksgivings of yesteryear, the phone calls would have been flying about now between my brother and our mother and me. Do we have enough chairs? Does Grandpa need a ride? Who’s bringing games for the kids? Who will have a football to throw around before dinner? How big is the turkey? Who’s making the banana pudding and the cheesecake?

My brother and I are both grandparents now. We would have had so much fun showing off pictures and trading stories. We would have held and admired one another’s grandchildren while telling stories about our own children when they were small.

I mentioned this to my husband last night and he said, “You have reason to feel sad, but don’t forget about all of the people who have joined our family and our lives in the last 12 years.”

And, he’s right. I miss my brother every day but I am thankful for the 41 years I had with him and I hope that somewhere, somehow, he will be sitting around a Thanksgiving table enjoying our children and grandchildren from afar.

We all have those we are missing this time of year. We must cherish our memories while also being thankful for the time we had with them. I have much and many to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and I bet you do too! Sometimes, the people in our lives are there to remind us.

“Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!” Psalm 95:2

www.janetseverhull.com

Never Forget

There is a long-standing tradition of military service in my family. My grandfather, father, and uncles all served, as did my brother, Jeff. Currently, I have a cousin in the Marine Corps. As you can imagine, I have a soft spot for veterans and a great appreciation for their service.  We have our flag out today in their honor.

My brother had a great smile.  I asked him one 

time why he looked so stern in his U.S. Army 

photograph.  He said they told him not to smile.

Today is Veteran’s Day. It was originally called “Armistice Day” and was a United States legal holiday to honor the end of World War I on November 11, 1918.

In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, the 83rd U.S. Congress amended the Act of 1938 by changing the word “Armistice” to “Veterans.” This legislation was approved on June 1, 1954, and then November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.

Since Veterans Day 2018 falls on Sunday, November 11th, the holiday will be observed on Monday, November 12th. Since Veterans Day is a federal holiday, government offices and post offices will be closed, and there will be no mail delivery. Schools have the option of remaining open, but most schools will be closed on Veterans Day.

Not only are America’s national parks open on November 11th for Veterans Day, but Veterans Day is one of four days each year that they offer free admission. The other three days were January 15th: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, April 21st: First day of National Park Week, and September 22nd: National Public Lands Day.

Many restaurants will offer free meals and deals to veterans. Here is a list of participating restaurants (from the fortune.com website) for Veterans Day 2018:

Applebee’s-Hopes to serve 1 million free meals to veterans, offering full-sized entrees from eight popular menu items, including a bacon cheeseburger, a 6-ounce sirloin, fiesta lime chicken, and three-cheese chicken penne.

Denny’s-From 5 a.m. until noon on Monday, veterans and active duty military can build their own grand slam meal for free.
Buffalo Wild Wings-On Nov. 11, the chain is offering a free small order of wings and fries to armed service members. You can choose either traditional or boneless.

Chili’s-On Sunday, military can choose from one of seven entrees, ranging from burgers to chicken crispers to quesadillas.

Dunkin’-The chain formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts is offering a free doughnut on Nov. 11 to veterans and active duty military. It’s also offering a month’s worth of K-Cup coffee pods to a dozen franchisees who have served the country and will surprise other military members with a coffee shipment as well.

Little Caesar’s-Come in between 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on the 11th for a free Hot-N-Ready lunch combo, which includes four slices of pepperoni pizza and a 20-ounce drink.

Starbucks-Swing by Starbucks for a free tall hot brewed coffee on the 11th.

California Pizza Kitchen-Veterans will get a free meal on Sunday, choosing from six popular pizzas, four full-sized salads or three pasta dishes. They’ll also walk out with a buy-one-get-one-free coupon, which can be used from the 12th through the 18th.

Cracker Barrel-They’ll have to buy the meal, but veterans can wrap it up with a free Goo Goo Cluster Latte or double chocolate fudge Coca Cola cake for Veterans Day.

On the Border-The Mexican chain will offer a free ‘create-your-own’ combo meal to veterans, choosing any two items off of the combo menu, including tacos, empanadas, and enchiladas, on Nov. 11.

Outback Steakhouse-Members with a valid military ID can get a free Bloomin’ Onion and beverage on the 11th. They’ll also always receive 10% off their entire check.

Red Robin-Show proof of service and you’ll get a free Red’s Tavern Double Burger and bottomless steak fries at the burger chain on Nov. 11.

Red Lobster-For Veterans Day, the seafood chain is offering either a free appetizer or desert on both Nov. 11 and 12 to anyone with a valid military ID or proof of service. Options include the lobster and langostino pizza and seafood-stuffed mushrooms, along with key lime pie and brownie overload.

Thank you and blessings to all of our United States Veterans!  Never Forget.

www.janetseverhull.com

Coming In November 2018!

It’s a scary proposition for someone who’s known primarily as a children’s book author, to publish writing for adults.  But that’s what I will be doing very soon. “Coffee Without A Cup” is my first e-offering on Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing.  It’s not a novel, but rather a 6000 word Christian story about love and loss and healing.

All of us have lost someone close to us at one time or another. When that happens, there are people in our lives who step forward to help us through those very difficult times.  One of my trusted readers asked me if “Coffee Without A Cup” was also a love story.  I’ll let you be the judge of that.

From “Coffee Without A Cup”:

He looked into my eyes with his warm caring ones and said, “Janie, the love we have for other people continues on. We may lose people, but the love they have shown us stays with us forever. Your parents may be in heaven now, but God will send other people who will step forward to provide the love and support you need. You have to be able to accept that love and help.” Perhaps Tom Yeager was one of those people my grandfather was talking about that day?

Look for “Coffee Without A Cup” by Thanksgiving of 2018!

www.janetseverhull.com

Are You Superstitious?

A few days ago, my husband and I were driving home from somewhere when a black cat ran across the road in front of our car. He said, “It has some white on it so we are safe.” I asked him if he was superstitious and we both laughed, but that got me thinking about all the superstitions I heard about when I was growing up.

Some of those were things that were considered unlucky to do such as: walking under a ladder, opening an umbrella inside, putting your shoes on the table, breaking a mirror (seven years bad luck), breaking a chain letter, hanging a horseshoe upside down, knocking a salt shaker over, having a bird fly into your house or an owl fly over your house.

A superstitious person is defined as one who believes in irrational beliefs that do not have grounds in logic and reason in our physical world. An example of this would be us thinking we were going to have bad luck because a black cat ran in front of our car.

Other superstitions I heard about as a child were that the number 13 was unlucky, and Friday the 13th could be a very unlucky and bad day. I’m not alone because many people stay home on Friday the 13th so as not to tempt fate. Hotels and skyscrapers usually do not have a 13th floor, and table 13 is missing in most restaurants.

Singer Taylor Swift has done a lot to change the image of the number 13. She was born on December 13th and considers 13 to be her lucky number. She paints the number 13 on her hand before every show for good luck. When asked about 13 being her lucky number, Swift said, “My first album went gold in 13 weeks. Every time I’ve won an award I’ve been seated in either the 13th seat, the 13th row, the 13th section or row M, which is the 13th letter.”

Knocking on wood, or touching wood for luck is another superstition that I grew up with. If you talk about your good fortune or something you intend to do, it’s considered good luck to knock on wood for luck or perhaps to ward off any bad luck.

We’ve all heard that it’s bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding ceremony. At the wedding of a friend’s daughter a couple of years ago, there was the sweetest scene and nod to this superstition. Before the beautiful outdoor ceremony, the bride and groom stood on either side of the corner of the bride’s tent where they couldn’t see one another. They held hands around the corner as they each read the loving words they had written to one another for their wedding day.

As a child, I used to hear that deaths and bad luck both come in threes. I’ve actually heard that one throughout my life from many other people. Because I’ve heard it so often, whenever I hear of someone dying, I automatically think there will be two more deaths. I didn’t think I was, but I guess I am a little superstitious.

For good luck, people used to carry a lucky rabbit’s foot. I haven’t seen this for a really long time, but I used to think that carrying the dyed foot of a dead rabbit was kind of gross.

When I was growing up, my mother always gave my brothers and me a shiny new penny on New Year’s Eve for good luck in the new year. I continued this tradition with my own children. In the southern part of the United States, people eat black-eyed peas for good luck in the new year. I’ve actually adopted this practice during my nine years of living in Texas.

We’ve all probably picked up a penny from the ground for good luck. If it’s not heads up, I always turn it over for the next person. Other common symbols of good luck are finding a 4-leaf clover, seeing a shooting star, the number 7, and seeing ladybugs.

Some people think that more spiritual good luck signs are seeing a rainbow as a symbol of hope, and seeing small white feathers which can mean that angels are around us.

Whether we actually believe in superstitions or not, some of them are just simply fun to think about and do! What superstitions have you heard of or practiced in your life?

Author’s note: We’ve already had our Friday the 13th days for 2018. They fell on April 13th and July 13th. The next one won’t be until Friday, September 13, 2019.

www.janetseverhull.com

Where America Used To Shop

I was sorry to hear that the Sears Company filed for bankruptcy this week because it holds a special place in my heart. As a girl, I remember accompanying my parents and grandparents to Sears whenever they needed a new appliance or any kind of a tool. Many a time I heard, “You can always count on the quality of Sears Kenmore Appliances and Craftsman tools.”

My little brother, Jeff, wore the Sears Toughskins Jeans because he was hard on clothes and they held up better than the other brands. While my mom would have my brother try on pants, I would sit outside the fitting rooms reading a book.

Every fall, Jeff and I used to watch for the Sears Catalog to arrive in the mail. When the big wish book finally arrived, we would lie next to one another on the living room shag carpet, turning page after page together and dreaming about what we might receive for Christmas that year. Later, when I had children of my own, they too loved looking through the Sears Christmas Wish Book and dogearing the pages with the toys they hoped to receive that year.

When I graduated from college, Sears was the first store to give me a credit card. I think I did all of my Christmas shopping there that year! My first washer and dryer also came from Sears.

Sears was started in 1886 by Richard Warren Sears as a watch and jewelry company. He had been a railway agent in Minnesota but decided he’d rather be in the watch business. He moved the R.W. Sears Watch Company to Chicago and hired a business partner named Alvah Curtis Roebuck who was a watchmaker.

Richard Warren Sears

Alvah Curtis Roebuck

Within 10 years, his business was called Sears, Roebuck & Company and its small watch and jewelry catalog grew to a 530-page book selling everything from clothing and shoes to bicycles and buggies. At one point, they even sold kits for building houses and many Sears homes are still standing today.

The first Sears brick and mortar store opened in February of 1925 and had a soda fountain and an optical shop. Over the years, Sears opened hundreds of stores across the country, usually as anchor stores in malls.

In 1973, the corporate headquarters was moved into the 110 story Sears Tower in downtown Chicago. It was the tallest building in the world for the next two decades. Since then, it’s been renamed the Willis Tower but many local Chicagoans still call it the Sears Tower.  One day when I was in my 30’s, I rode to the top of the Sears Tower with both of my younger brothers.

As discount stores like Walmart and Target came on the scene, people stopped going to malls as often and people didn’t shop at Sears as they had in the past. Big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot that sold appliances also contributed to the decline of Sears because consumers had other good options.

In recent years, Sears has tried closing non-profitable stores, opening smaller stores, ending their catalog business, bought the K-Mart Chain, offering curbside pickup for online orders, and selling Kenmore appliances through Amazon. Sadly, these efforts couldn’t make up for the losses.

While Sears has filed for bankruptcy, they aren’t going out of business entirely. They plan to close nearly 200 Sears and K-Mart Stores by the end of this year. Sadly, one of those is the store nearest to me in Denton, Texas. Sears will try to stay in business with a fraction of their more profitable stores still open across the country. I for one, hope they can find ways to appeal to American shoppers again!

For The Love Of Writing

Yesterday, was the third annual “Indie Author Day.” This is a day for libraries, stores, and literary organizations around the world to welcome and honor local independent authors and writers for their contributions to the writing world. Many places hosted a day of education, networking, writing, panel discussions, mingling and book signings.

If you aren’t sure what an “indie author” is, it’s an author who does not publish their books through a traditional publisher. The indie author is truly independent and has creative control of their work from concept to completion and beyond.

Some might think the indie author is just that because they cannot find a real publisher. While that may be true for some indie authors, it isn’t always the case. I know many indie authors who have had one or more books published by traditional publishers, but opted to self-publish some of their other works.

For most of us, being an indie author is about having creative control over the finished product, our books. I was offered a contract for my first book, “The Button Box.” As I read through the contract, I realized that I would be handing over my words and would have no say whatsoever about the illustrator or how the illustrations would look, the cover, the size of book, or even the way it would be edited. On occasion, I’ve wondered how my books might have turned out if I had sold my stories to a publishing company.

I did talk with the publisher and ask if there was any way I could be a part of the decision making for the look of the book. When they said that wouldn’t be possible, I turned down the contract and never looked back. I established my own company, Walk Down The Lane Publishing, and never even considered submitting my second and third books to publishers.

There are definitely times when I would love to have some help marketing my books. But my understanding is that even when one works with a traditional publisher, a certain amount of the marketing responsibility still falls upon the shoulders of the author.

Indie authors also pay for their own book publishing. I have several author friends who have had to take out big loans to fund their books, and many indie authors also work a day job just to pay the bills.

Most indie authors self-publish because they have a passion for writing and they want to share their books with the world. They write for the pure love of words, writing and stories. As the holiday shopping season begins, I hope you will consider the wonderful books by your local indie authors as gifts this year.

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