Sunday, December 18, 2011

December 17-Christmas Around The World

Well, it is creeping up on us...not long now everyone will be gathering for their official celebration of Christmas. Many will have office parties, Christmas Eve get togethers, early Christmas celebrations with friends or family, traveling to be with loved ones-etc. I decided to take a look at the way Christmas is celebrated. As I have talked about in previous posts, the time of year is celebrated many different ways. One thing that is common, Christians(as well as many other beliefs who take part in the tradition of this season) will be celebrating Christmas. Around the world Christmas is celebrated in many ways, becuase of this, I have picked out a couple of cultures that mean something to me. I am descended from Irish, Dutch, German, Native American(Cherokee & Choctaw), Polish, and Czech. My strongest(nearest) heritage is Irish, Native American, and Polish(also Czech, but that depends on who you ask :)  ). I, therefore, am focusing on my nearest heritage.

Poland began their Christmas celebration, truly, on December 6th with the St. Nicholas saint feast day. Special tasks that take place in Poland are baking Christmas piemik(gingerbread) and making decorations. Piemik are made in shapes that include hearts, animals, and St. Nicholas figures. Traditional decorations include handmade stars, decorated egg shelss, and colorful paper garland. Christmas trees, place in family rooms, are decorated and lit on Christmas Eve. Sometimes the trees are left standing until February 2. Christmas in Poland is celebrated until January 6. A tradition unique to Poland is

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 16-Heriza Kwanzaa, Happy Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is 10 days away and it is expected to be celebrated by around 18 million people around the US. Kwanzaa was founded by Dr. Maulana "Ron" Karenga, a professor of black studies, in 1966. This year marks the 46th annual celebration of a holiday created to honor the values of ancient African cultures and inspire African Americans who were working for progress. A celebration that is based on the year end harvest festivals that have taken place throughout all of Africa for thousands of years, Kwanzaa gets its name from the Swahili phrase, "matunda ya Kwanzaa." Karenga chose a Swahili phrase because it is a language spoken by many people all over Africa.
Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa represent the Seven Principles(Naguzo Sada). Celebrants of Kwanzaa greet each other every day with "Habari gani" or "What's the news?" The answer is the principle for that day. The seven principles are as follows:
umaja(unity)-building a community that stays together.
kujicha guila(self-determination)-speak for yourself and make choices that benefit you community.
ujima(collective work and responsibility)-helping others work within your community.
ujamaa(cooperative economics)-support businesses that care about your community.
nia(a sense of purpose)-setting goals that will benefit the entire community.
kummba(creativity)-making the community better and more beautiful.
imari(faith)-believing that a better world can be created for communities now and in the future.
There are many colorful celebrations for Kwanzaa. A very important one is karamu. On December 31st families gather for the feast. Karamu may be held at a home, a community center, or church. During the feast traditional African dishes are served as well as dishes including ingredients brought to the US from Africa. These ingredients include sesame seeds, peanuts, sweet potatoes, collard greens, and spicy sauces. Especially at karamu, the holiday is celebrated with red, black and green. Green is for the fertile land of Africa, black is for the color of the people and red is for the blood that is shed in the struggle for freedom.
There are seven symbols that are used in the celebration of Kwanzaa:
kikambe cha umoja(the unity cup)-drank from in honor of their African ancestors. Before drinking each person says "harambee" or "lets pull together".
kinara(candle holder)-this holds seven candles, one lit each day of Kwanzaa. There are 3 green, 3 red, and on black in the center.
mishuma saba(seven candles that represent the seven principles)(see kinara)
mazao(fruits, nuts, vegetables)-to remind celebrants of the harvest fruits that nourish the people of Africa.
mkeka(mat)-the symbols of Kwanzaa are arranged on the mkeka, which may be made of straw or African cloth. Symbolizes the foundation upon which communities are built.
zawadi(gifts)-Traditionally educational and cultural gifts are given to children on January first(the final day of Kwanzaa)
vibunzi(plural, muhindi)(ear(s) of corn)-Traditionally an ear of corn for each child that is present is placed on the mat.
Although it has become more common for celebrants of Kwanzaa to also celebrate Christmas and New Years; at first only Kwanzaa was celebrated. The reason being that one should mix the Kwanzaa holiday with any other culture, to make sure the integrity of the holiday is not violated.
I myself do not celebrate Kwanzaa, nor do I know anyone who does, but I hope anyone who is interested in this holiday was able to gain some knowledge from this post. In addition, if I have left anything out-or misunderstood something(and you celebrate this holiday)-feel free to comment and let me know.
Heriza Kwanzaa, Happy Kwanzaa

Thursday, December 15, 2011

December 15-Happy Hanukkah

In five days from today, at sunset, Hanukkah(also known as "The Festival of Lights") will begin and it will last for eight days. The Jewish who celebrate this holiday will begin by lighting the first (two) candles at sundown on December 20. I say two because the Menorah that is used has nine candles, eight for the eight days of Hanukkah and one extra to use in lighting each of the eight candles. It is forbidden to light any of the eight candles using any of the other eight celebratory candles. I have decided to write about Hanukkah in the topic for today, tomorrow will be Kwanzaa and the days leading up to Christmas will be about the way sub-religions of Christianity celebrate Christmas.
Hanukkah has a history that is not always completely clear, due to the different beliefs that can be found in Judaism. It is recognized by all Jewish people as a celebration of the take back and re dedication of the Second Temple. In 167 BCE a king by the name of Antiochus IV Epiphanes took over Jerusalem and banned Judaism, ordering an alter to Zeus erected in the Second Temple, in Jerusalem. Circumcision was banned and pigs were sacrificed at the alter of the Temple. A Jewish pries, by the name of Mattityahu, and his five sons led a rebellion against Antiochus. By 165 BCE the rebellion was a success and the Jewish people took back their Temple. The Temple was liberated and re-dedicated.
There was a Menorah located in the Temple that was lit using olive oil. The Menorah was required to burn each night. After the re-dedication, there was only enough olive oil to burn one day, but it wound up burning for eight. Eight days is how long it took to replace the supply of olive oil. This is one of the reasons that a Menorah containing eight candles (nine counting the Shamash, the extra light used to light each candle) is lit during the eight days of Hanukkah. It has been determined by many that the tradition of Hanukkah is to commemorate the miracle of the eight day long burning when the Temple was re-dedicated.
There is also another version of why the Jewish celebrate Hanukkah. That one being that there was an eight day celebration of songs and sacrifices proclaimed up re-dedication of the alter, this version has no mention of the oil miracle.
Rituals performed during Hanukkah vary, slightly. But it is definite that Hanukkah is not a Sabbath-like holiday and therefore there are no restrictions to a persons daily life. Adults go to work as usual, aside from sometimes having to leave early to be home by sunset for the light of the candles. Children go to school as usual, except in Israel. In Israel, children are out beginning the second day of Hanukkah, and then stay out of school until the holiday is over. Many families exchange gifts each night and typically fried foods are eaten. The Menorah, a nine branch candelabrum, is placed in either the window closest to the street, or near a door/doorway closest to the street. The Menorah consists of nine branches, but only eight are celebratory candles-the ninth branch is for the candle that is used in lighting the others. On the first day of Hanukkah, two candles are lit, one being the Shamash-which is the candle used to light the others, and the other one being the first candle of Hanukkah. Each day, the number of candles consistent with the number of days, is lit(example:day 4 you would light 5 candles total, the Shamash and then one candle for each day of Hanukkah). Friday is the only exception to the lighting at sunset, because Friday is the Shabbat the candle(s) for that day should be lit just before sunset. Each day the candle(s) must burn for at least 30 minutes past sundown(on Friday it will be a little longer than 30 minutes total because you may be lighting the candle(s) before sunset, but they still must burn for 30 minutes after sundown). Just before, or just after the lighting of the candles on the first day, three blessings are recited. After the first day, only the first two blessings are recited.
In North America, Hanukkah has gained increased importance because it typically falls right around Christmas time. Traditionally, Jewish children were given coins from their parents, but they started giving them gifts so they wouldn't feel left out-as children who celebrate Christmas get gifts during the Christmas season.
Both Israeli and North American versions of Hanukkah emphasize resistance, focusing on national liberation and religious freedom.
My children learn about different celebrations around Christmas, and I love the idea. It pleases me to know my children have the opportunity to learn how other children celebrate during this time of year. We, obviously, celebrate Christmas(and we celebrate it as Jesus' birthday, not only the commercialized ways), but I love to learn of the other ways people celebrate. I respect everyones different beliefs, and I wanted to share with you a little of what I know about Hanukkah. I hope that I did not leave too much out, or give too much-and anyone who celebrate Hanukkah....
Happy Hanukkah, it is a beautiful holiday.

December 14-The Best Gift To Give

I am posting yesterdays post late because I was having a problem thinking of a topic. My daughter is in Headstart and she got a gift from them today. It was a tiger with a blanket, a t-shirt that has Headstart on it, and some candy. Then I remembered seeing a Kindergarten class at her school opening presents yesterday. I don't have a lot of money, my children(who go to different schools) get free breakfast and lunch, as do the rest of the kids at their schools. Majority of the families at their schools can barely get just one gift for their children, and some cannot get any. The kids in those families do not even really know the difference, Christmas is exciting enough. My children have presents to open on Christmas, but not an extreme amount, and a lot of it will be clothing. Money is hard to come by these days, for a lot of people, and it got me thinking about the best gift out there. No matter how much or how little income you have, you can still give the greatest gift there is-compassion.
For those that have money available, why not give something to a child that has nothing. For those who are like me and barely get by providing for there own family, give time, love. You could do this by any means. There are plenty of things that those less fortunate would be happy to have. Take some time to think about it. You could volunteer at a homeless shelter, the salvation army, or anywhere that distributes food to people who don't have any, or who don't have enough. Or there is always the Salvation Army bell ringing. Even if you have very little-there are many place that sell toys, coloring books, crayons, etc, for a very low amount. You could go spend a little change and donate to Toys for Tots-or just that innocent kid down the street who has nothing to open on Christmas morning. The point is whether it be time, money, or just love-give it because compassion for those with little or none deserve to have it, especially during this time of year. Give the gift of giving, it will make someone else smile and it will make you feel good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December 12-Christmas Shows/Stories

So each year you can guarantee that A Christmas Carol will be aired right along with A Christmas Story. Both are classics, right? Of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without them. So I got to thinking, what other stories and shows are always there during December. Of course you got the classic Rudolph, A Christmas Without Santa Clause, Frosty the Snowman and Frosty Returns. Oh, and it wouldn’t be Christmas time with Charlie Brown’s Christmas, or The Grinch Who Stoke Christmas. I grew up watching all of these, and reading many of them as well. I love how they have become a tradition for my children, just like they were around when my parents were younger. It never ceases to amaze me how long things can last. I mean, to see my children excited to watch the exact Rudolph I used to get excited to see, its so fantastic. It is yet another thing for me to smile about this season. Its just like A Christmas Carol, my kids know the story as well as I did when I was a child, and my parents, and their parents. Classics at Christmas time, are a part of what makes Christmas, I love that no one has taken them away. I thought of this because I spent the actual 12(since I was busy, I did not realize I hadn’t posted my Dec 12 topic-so that is what this post is) watching some of the classics with my kids. It was so fun to just sit there and watch movies that 20 years ago, my mom was sitting watching with me. If you celebrate the Christmas Season, or are not completely against it-think about taking time to watch at least one classic. They are all over different channels, all different times. Watch them with family, kids, friends, loved ones of any sort, or just watch them alone, but remember they are a part of Christmas as much as the decorations and traditions. Hell they are a tradition in themselves.
No matter how you choose to do it, just take time to watch at least one, its amazing how youthful and happy it could make you feel.

December 13-All I Want For Christmas

So this is now day 12 and there are only 13 more days left. I don’t know about everyone else, but for me, Christmas is easing its way in very quickly. I realized that I feel a little sadder than usual this year. At first I was unsure why. But then I realized that I am missing something that I have had at Christmas time for 5 Christmases, this year would have been 6. About 5 months ago I completely ended my 6 year long relationship with the father of my children. Now, at the time it was a good idea, not saying that it isn’t right now, but at this time of year you may begin to doubt your decisions made throughout the year. We are better apart, but it is still cold and lonely without him. I haven’t missed him, until December hit. I have spent plenty of Christmases without a significant other in my life, but once you have children with someone your relationship takes on such a different role that it gets complicated. I do not want him, per say, but I do wish we were together right now. For many reasons-a big one would be the fact that I expected my kids to have both of their parents, at the same time, every holiday. And another up there reason is I miss the cuddling at this time of year. December is such a cold month. Just starting to have very cold, wet, sometimes snowy, days and nights-it makes you want to snuggle deep into the covers and into the arms of a loved one. I find myself thinking some nights how wonderful it would be to have his arms wrapped around me. I have not missed that-at all-until now. On the spending holidays together: I feel my children are being cheated by not having both parents in the house to celebrate Christmas with them. I had my mother and father until I was in eighth grade, every December-we decorated and did things as a family. I could be at home and enjoy both their company. I think had I been younger it would have affected me more. I know my kids wish their dad could be with them all the time like I am, it just makes me sad that I cannot give that to them. There are of course several other benefits of having a significant other during December, I will not list everything, I chose these two because they are what I miss the most.
So, for anyone who is without a lover, whether it be a mini relationship, or one that was long term, and you miss that lover this Christmas-I feel your pain. I know the heartache you are feeling-the sadness, doubts, &/or longing. For anyone who is not without that special someone, cherish it, work at it, work on it, enjoy every minute of it, and smile, for you are blessed. Take a moment to cuddle, snuggle, hug, love, whatever, but do it with happiness, because there are people out there who envy the gift you have, don’t waste it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

December 9,10,11-Tis The Season To Be Busy!

I wrapped Friday, Saturday and Sunday all into one because I am SO busy! I love this time of year, but it never fails to be the busiest. I cannot be the only person who ends up with too much on their plate at this time. Christmas decorations, EXTRA hyper children, school projects, shopping, wrapping, writing, editing, critiquing, posting, blogging. Its all so much. I find myself lacking sleep and forgetting things that should be done. This is the time of year that I love the most and the time of year that I float through. It is crazy, I stay up so late to get things done, that I spend half of my day just sort of going, not focusing completely. The madness that is December can be overwhelming, so I post to give this advice. Organize the best you can. Anyone who has the swamped December that I do, find a way-any way-to take a moment to breathe. Relax, take time away from the crazy and just chill. Whatever you do to escape your insane schedule-Make your self do it if you have to. But remember that regardless, it is a MUST to do so. I am still working on that chill moment, I will find it though, make sure you do as well. Merry days 9, 10, and 11...only 14 days left-it creeps up very quickly, don't let it catch you by surprise :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

December 8-Deck the Halls

Well I fell asleep last night prior to finishing this post and when I went to edit it-I realized I hadn't published my posts Dec2-7. I guess I was saving instead of publishing-that's why you should not wait until you are WAY past tired to get around to your blog. WOW- oh well, I got days 2-7 posted so if you are reading this one, wondering what happened to the others-they are now posted, sorry about that....

Here we are, 8 days in and 17 aways from Christmas and I have yet to decorate. I don't know what has happened this year, but I have not gotten around to setting up my Christmas decorations. My children are going crazy, begging me to get it done. It makes me feel bad that I have not made time to do so, but things are hectic around here-as is normal for Christmas time. I mean, I do have a few things out, but it doesn't really feel like Christmas until the tree is up. Even if you only put a small tree of any sort-do it. I remember one year I couldn't afford a tree so I improvised. We had a fake tree-like plant and I decorated it. I put garland and ornaments and even candy canes and we put all our presents under the tree-and it was great. The point of decorations, for me, is another sign of Christmas. It is a part of Christmas celebrations and traditions. No matter where you are in your life, find a moment, a way, to decorate. Even if you celebrate the Christmas season different-decorate for what you celebrate, but just do it. The joys of Christmas are not just in the things that happen in this season, they are also about being able to walk into your home and be reminded of what time of year it is. Without some kind of decorations to pick you up when you get down, it is harder to pick yourself up. It may seem silly, but its true. Whether you live alone, or with others, take a little time to Deck the Halls and celebrate Christmas-or whatever you choose, just celebrate.

December 7-Frosty

Those nights you cant wait to get into your nice warm bed, and snuggle under the covers. The mornings you get up and there is frost blanketing the yards and covering your car windows. Running out to the car 10 minutes before you have to leave because if you don't warm it up you wont be able to see and you may mess something up.
On day seven I have decided to take time to recognize the cold, frosty, winter weather. Weather is also very significant to this time. I mean, I remember being little and wanting a white Christmas SO bad. I begged with Mother Nature to please let it snow for Christmas. Of course, as I got older, those pleadings for snow turned in to begging for it to not snow. I drive well, and I know how to drive in the snow-but I hate it. I would absolutely love it if it could snow snow snow-but not touch the streets. Here in Oklahoma we have the oddest weather and winter has been crazy the last few years. It was just last year that we had our blizzard-and snow like that just doesn't happen here. I am a winter baby and winter is typically my favorite season, but as a grow older I grow weary of the cold. I cannot stand to be cold. If I had to choose between being cold and being hot-I would definitely pick cold. But it doesn't mean I love it as much as I used to. At least when you are cold though, you can bundle up and cuddle up to get warm. In the summer months-there is no cuddling. Most days its more like-touch me and I may have to hurt you. Summer is sticky hot and Winter is frosty cold. We transition from warm weather to cold weather and that is something else that plays a part in the love of the Christmas season. People want to cuddle up to loved ones. We sit around drinking hot chocolate, cappuccino, coffee, tea, or whatever else your warm me up drink may be. This season causes us to spend more time inside, therefore more time together. It makes us have to find things to do together where we can be warm and still be entertained. So, snuggle up with your spouse, or your child(ren), your mother or father, grandmother or grandpa, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your friend(s) or even your pets-whoever you choose-just cuddle. It is the best way to spread the love and keep warm. It is just another blessing of Christmas, embrace it, and embrace someone you hold dear.

December 6-Christmas Music

There is a radio station-Mix 96.5 FM- that we have here in Oklahoma. From the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas, they play ONLY Christmas music. Every year I only listen to this station. I absolutely love Christmas music. I am making this post short because I am really just posting to tell you to listen to Christmas music if you don't. I know many people do not like Christmas music at all, but you should find some that you can enjoy. Christmas music does so many things. Like music in general, it can calm you. Then there is the fact that it helps to get you into the season. Christmas music is beautiful and uplifting-it would do some good to listen to some. Just wanted to throw that idea out there for you to think about...

December 5-Traditions

Alright, day five in my countdown to Christmas and I have been thinking about traditions. When I was little Christmas always went like this: Christmas Eve: Bake Sugar Cookies and Decorate, Then Drive Around and Look At Christmas Decorations/Lights, Then Go to Grandma's House(Dad's side) and Celebrate Christmas over there, Home, Cookies and Milk for Santa, Make Sure Lights are Still Turned On(So Santa Can See), Go to Bed. Christmas Morning: Get up(CRACK of Dawn, usually it was about 4 AM and mom had a "Don't get me up until 7" rule. Let me tell you, when your a kid waiting to leave your room to see what Santa left you and to open up all your other presents-3 hours might as well be waiting an entire day-it sucks!), Wake Mom and Dad up, see what Santa brought, open gifts from parents, get ready and wait til time to go to Grandmommy's House(mom's side), Finally go to Grandmommy's, Get there and wait for everyone to be there and ready, open up presents, Eat and visit, then Go Home and enjoy everything from the day. We also always had a traditional dinner at Grandma's on Dad's side-Turkey, Ham, Mashed Potatoes and Gravy, Stuffing, etc. And we alternated between Enchiladas and Lasagna at Grandmommys house-Turkey and Ham get old so we did it a little different, our tradition, but still a tradition. As the years went, we grew(my sister and I) and Christmas did a little changing of its own-in the Tradition aspect. I mean for one, my niece was born and my sister no longer lived at home so we had to wait for Christmas at moms until my sister did Christmas at her home. Eventually I grew up and no longer lived at home-had children of my own and their fathers family to spend Christmas with. Traditions changed a little to accommodate everything, every ones life changes. However, there are things that we never changed and things that we carried over to our own homes. My house, my children and I, still baked and decorate sugar cookies on Christmas Eve, still drive around looking at lights and decorations, still leave the Christmas tree(lights) on for Santa, still set out Cookies and Milk and my kids wake me when they get up so they can see their Santa gifts and open their other gifts(I don't make them wait until 7-they can wake me up as soon as they wake up, no matter how early). My dad, my kids and I still spend Christmas Eve at my Grandmas house and the dinner there is still traditional. We no longer go to Grandmommy's house(for reasons I stated in prev topic-The Woes of Christmas) but we do go to moms and we still either have Enchiladas or Lasagna. So, things change, people grow and family circumstance changes, but there are still traditions to be found in our family. Do you have Christmas Traditions? Have things gotten lost over the years? Has too much changed? Take time this Christmas to think of a tradition that your family has, hold it tight, things can change. I challenge you to find at least one tradition that you can hold on to. If you really don't have traditions then I challenge you to start one. Traditions are important, not always, but it is good for you to have at least one Christmas tradition that is always consistent. You could be having the craziest Christmas of all time and that one tradition is what makes or breaks it. As long as there is one thing that you do every year, no matter what, your feet will not lose their ground. It may get wobbly and you may find yourself falling off-balance, but then you see or think of that tradition and it all comes back.

December 4-Children During Christmas Time

So, I don't know about anyone else's children, or even children you may know, but mine go crazy at this time of year. It's all the excitement, they know Christmas is coming and they cannot contain themselves. My kiddos get so anxious and wild-it makes no sense to me. I have always loved Christmas and I don't remember going too crazy in December, heck I even had my birthday to be anxious over. I do know it is not only mine that get excited. Many of the teachers at my eldest's school always talk about how crazy the kids get leading up to winter break. I think it isn't just Christmas, i think it is everything associated with December. Kids have a sense for things that we adults lost long ago. They have those feelings that we don't have time to stop and feel anymore. Kind of like a rush that we feel in our bodies, our hearts, that we just ignore. I mean really, who has time to think about how happy they should be over a month? Adults have so much going on that all they think of is that December is here, Christmas will follow and then New Years. We know the time is coming, we know what will happen on the 25th day of December, but we don't have time to let ourselves dwell on the things that means. We cant stop and go wild just because its almost Christmas. However, those sweet innocent children can. Each child has the ability to just be, to just accept, to just let whatever happens happen, and to just feel it all. Every thing that December and Christmas time bring with it. They have no responsibilities to hold them back from going buck wild. They can act however, they may get into a little trouble for it, but its okay. They are kids and its Christmas time, so everything is okay. I am making this post short and sweet, my point is an easy one here: Lets all take a child moment, take a lesson from that child you know-even if its your inner child. When you feel that flutter within that you don't have time for, make time for it! Feel its pull, let that little flutter fill your heart and GO CRAZY!!! Just not too crazy, you do still have responsibilities, just let them be for a moment and feel the excitement of this time of year. Who knows what it may do for you...

December 3-The Woes of Christmas

Well, I am following up my Joys of Christmas with the Woes. Unfortunately where as there are so many things about Christmas to be joyous about, there are also things that can bring you down a little. For some this time brings on old pains, new pains, or just the everyday same ol same pains. Example-December 26, 2008 Betty Lavon Turner passed away at 12AM-well to get literal it was like 1203AM. Betty was my grandmother. She was in the hospital a few days prior to her death. We had Christmas in her hospital room and then Christmas night, while some of us were with other family, having our Christmas elsewhere-we were called back to the hospital. It was around 7PM Dec 25, 2008 when I got to the hospital. It was 10 PM when we all went to her ICU room and, basically, said goodbye. At 1130PM I decided I would go back home, to be with my babies. At 1205AM Dec26, 2008 my mom called to tell me my grandmommy was gone. Here we are now, going on three years and I still remember it all like it just happened. It saddens me even writing it. My heart aches for her every holiday-the most being Christmas. Point of this is that some people have so much to be sad over during Christmas. There are people right here in my community that will barely scrape by just to give their children one thing on Christmas People who will not have a meal on Christmas day, unless they can make it to a Shelter of some sort that still has enough food left over. There are people who will spend Christmas Eve sleeping under the bridge on the highway, or in a park, or just somewhere on the streets in general. Many with only the clothes on their backs to stay warm. There is that family I wrote about in a prev post that have to face what I face in 2009-their first Christmas without a loved one-of course, the loss of a child is hardly comparable to that of a grandmother. They are both sad, but the loss of a child will hit harder on Christmas morning. Anyway-I am sure I could find many other things that someone can be sad over during Christmas, but I am also sure the point is taken.
Lighter side of the woes of Christmas, and yes there are lighter woes. For instance, I have yet to decorate and I typically do that the day after Thanksgiving. Oh, and lets not forget the shopping, are you done? I'm not and probably wont be until the week before Christmas, or could even be a few days before. Wrapping, ugh, i don't know how anyone else feels about wrapping those presents, but I hate it. And I usually end up having to wrap for my mother, my dad(sometimes), sometimes my sister, this year I will have to help my kids because they will be shopping at their schools. So, there are a few things on the lighter side of woe. Point from this post would be just this: I know there are many things to be woeful over this Christmas(and others to come) but, if you think of my prev post(The Joys of Christmas-go read it if you haven't :) ), there are many things to be joyful over as well. Don't get sucked into the bah humbug of your woes, remember the joys and happiness will overcome.

December 2-The Joys of Christmas

OK, here we are on day two of the countdown to Christmas and I have been thinking of all the joy that this time of year brings to me. The hustle and bustle. The decorations, at my home and all around town. The time with family. The lights in my little girls eyes. All the excitement of every child. The Christmas shows on TV, classics and new. The music associated with this time of year. The sign that I have conquered yet another year of the madness that is life. The giving, love, happiness, sharing, smiling, laughing. These are the joys of Christmas. I am sure that somewhere in there I missed things, there is so much to be joyous about during this time. I may be a little bias because I am not only a winter baby, but a December baby and one week shy of being a Christmas baby, but this is absolutely the BEST time of the entire year. December makes any troubles suffered the other 11 months all worth while. It makes every heartache, teardrop, and anger for someone or something-meaningful. December is the time when people are more caring. At least 50% of people are going to feel the Christmas spirit. People are going to give to the less fortunate-those that have been forgotten all year. Some will reach out to family they ignored January through November. Others will call up that friend they couldn't find time for. Strangers will speak to other strangers in the street-even if it is just a simple nod of the head-it happens during this time. I love it, every bit of it. My heart is huge-I always give when I can. Smile at the woman furious about-what? I don't know, but she needs a smile. I always donate food to food banks as often as I can. I donate all clothes my children and i outgrow and I do what i can for those who have less than I do(which trust me-is VERY little). Point is, I always give, i am that person who wants everyone to always be happy. That one who wants no crime to ever happen. I have never stolen, I don't cheat, I do my very best to never lie, i want everyone to love each other. This is my time-December is that one time of year that other people feel the way I do. The kindness that Christmas brings out in people is what is the most joyous part of Christmas for me. I enjoy seeing so much giving, so much caring, so much love. it makes Christmas the most wonderful time for me. So-my lesson for this post is short:
Think of all the joys of Christmas. Think of everything happy that you can during this time and embrace it. Take it all in and then-carry it over to January, February, March, etc. The kindness that makes December the most wonderful time of the year should not be reserved for Christmas only, it should be kept with you always...Let the joys of Christmas become the joys of the year.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

.December 1-To Be Or Not To Be-Merry Christmas?

Okay everyone today is day one of twenty five very busy days for me. I am not really sure why, but always from December 1 to December 25 I am a very busy person. I have a feeling -between revisions, critique group, new MS, and everything else that I always have going on - these twenty five days will be SUPER BUSY. I have decided to give myself yet another thing to do during these busy days. I will have a topic daily-some will be related to each other, but I am sure some will not.
So to kick off my 25 days of posting(my countdown to Christmas) comes topic number one:


I was born, December 18, 1985 one week to the day before Christmas. From the time I was born, beginning December first(and sometimes around Thanksgiving) everyone would say Merry Christmas. In elementary school we had Christmas parties and Santa's Workshop(which is where a group brings items to the school so that the kids can shop for presents for their family-so they can have gifts that are a secret and that they got all by themselves.), we always put on a Christmas Pageant-where we sang Christmas songs and did a Christmas play,  there was always a Christmas Parade, people put up Christmas trees and decorations, everyone read(or watched) A Christmas Carol and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, we made Christmas cookies and drove around to look at Christmas lights. And on Dec 25-Christmas day-we opened up presents, Christmas presents. I said Christmas fourteen times just now, and it flowed out completely natural-it didn't even sound repetitive to me as I typed it. The reason? Because it is what it is. Every time I said Christmas it was because it fit there, I couldn't imagine another word in its place. Well, some I can imagine it because it has already been "changed" to say something different. For instance-schools no longer have Christmas parties, they have Holiday parties; there is no longer a Christmas Pageant, but a Holiday Pageant. The Christmas parade is not the Holiday parade, and decorations are just that, decorations-even sometimes though they are Holiday decorations. And Merry Christmas is now Happy Holidays. I know other people celebrate the holiday of Christmas differently and call it something different. Some celebrate Hanukkah, other Kwanzaa-but people have been celebrating those for years. When did it become so offensive for people to say Merry Christmas? When did everyone decide it was best to just say Happy Holidays and leave it at that? I was always taught that some people have different beliefs and it is okay to accept that and you must respect them. So I say why cant everyone feel that way? I respect anyone who celebrates Christmas different than me, who calls it by a different name, anyone who has different traditions for this time of year. So should I not receive that same respect? I have spent 25 years 11 months and (almost) 2 weeks celebrating Christmas and will continue to do so until then. (My children will be raised the same) I have always, and will continue to say Merry Christmas. I mean no offense by it if you do not celebrate Christmas. Tell me Happy Hanukkah in return, or whatever it is you believe-but please do not be upset that I tell you- MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful for Thanksgiving

I love holidays. My absolute favorites are Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both of these holidays are about love, giving, kindness, thoughtfulness, and thankfulness. Since I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been a holiday of joy. It is only suiting that Christmas comes shortly after.
We always talk about what one has to be thankful for and this year, it means so much more to me-and I was not even sure why at first. I think I have it figured out.
When I was little, Thanksgiving always meant-food, family, friends. Each year we would go to my grandmother's house-the whole family, with a dash of friends-and we would eat, talk, laugh, and enjoy each others company. Never forgetting to take time to discuss what we are thankful for. I always had a couple of things that came to mind. I am thankful for my family, my friends, my life. As everyone in the family grew older, that traditional thanksgiving at grandmas was not the same. Did it still happen? Of course. But it was also clouded by everyones own Thanksgiving feasts. We all became adults, with families of our own, some moved away, and some gained extended family. Whatever the reason, once we all had SEVERAL Thanksgiving feasts, that one special one became less special.
I lost my grandma on December 26, 2008 and I think our family got a little lost as well. My two aunts that live out of state do not visit as frequent and therefore our family Thanksgiving gathering at Grandmommy's was no more. When they come, we still have something, but it is rarely planned well or celebrated on the day Thanksgiving falls on. (This is also a little of what had begun happening prior to Grandmommy's passing) With the family tradition becoming more of a task and less what I so loved growing up, it took away the joy of Thanksgiving, thus causing me to have conflict with what I was thankful for. This year I have a different outlook.
This is what brought back the joy that I had lost. It happened when my 5 year old came home from school and said, "Mama, we learned about the pilgrims and Thanksgiving today. We also learned about being thankful, and I want you to know that I am thankful for you. What are you thankful for?" This, warmed my soul and changed my feelings back to what they once were. It caused me to look at it through her sweet innocent eyes and truly see.
I realize that even when Thanksgiving was such a wonderful holiday to me years ago, I did not really grasp the meaning. With her simple, yet sweet statement, I realized that Thanksgiving is so much more. More than being thankful, it is a time where you can sit back and really think about your life. If I sat down and began to write a list of what I am thankful for, it would go on and on. It would be easier to answer what am i unthankful for. The answer to that would be, nothing. I am thankful for EVERYTHING-my daughters, my parents, my grandma, my aunts, uncles, niece and nephew, cousins, sister, friends-my loved ones period. I am thankful for my life, and I am thankful for the time I have had and any time I am blessed with in the future. The roof over my head, clothes on my back and shoes on my feet. I will leave it at that because as i said, I am thankful for everything. So, enjoy this holiday-full of happiness, love, family and friends-and food and giving-and next time someone asks you what you are thankful for, answer with your heart, it may open up a view that you or they could not even see.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

A Tragedy At Penney Park

This is a bit off from my book, but there are definitely teardrops happening. Today, well now yesterday(11-11-11), a 9 year old girl was found dead in a sandbox at Penney Park. I did not know her, but I am saddened by her passing. It is a shame for her, and her family-my heart and prayers go out to them all. My nephew knows her older sibling, and I live down the street from the park. I have taken my children to that park to play many times. My daughter attends the same school that she attended. My heart is heavy with grief for this poor girl and her family. I cannot help but feel heartache for her, for them. I try to post something that has purpose, my purpose for this post is to say:
I pray for her family in this horrible time. I pray that they may get relief from the pain they are suffering. And remember, you never know when someones time here will be up. It happens all the time, to all different ages, when the time comes, it just comes. It may seem wrong, it is sad, enjoy your loved ones while they are here, because you never know. Hold your loved ones tight, I already do, but something about this sad event will make me cuddle my babies a little closer tonight-and every night...

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I decided I wanted to do a little something different, so, I am posting a poem I wrote. I will sometimes post them, when IDK but I enjoy writing poetry and figure I will share them. Some people who read this may have an opinion about the poem, it is okay either neg or pos-comment if you want. I am posting this one, as well as any others I end up posting along the way because I love poetry. It is a key to the soul of a writer, just like any other form of writing. Poetry has a depth to it, it is almost a piece of your soul, perhaps that is how the key is made. However, I find that there are many poems out there that really speak to me, maybe I will post one that speaks to you. Anyway-here is the first of many:


IT is what you make IT
Everything you take from IT
Can make or break IT
Choices are evident
Decisions exclusive to everyone
And no one
In every second of every minute
Every hour of every day
Do your best, give, take
Laugh when IT is fake
Cry when your heart breaks
Scream when IT is too late
Shut your mouth when IT is at stake
Open your arms wide
Keep a guard on every side
Make your smile wide
Put your frown in your eyes
Escape at every chance
Drown if you can
Take IT all in stride
Nothing you do or say will matter, because IT is life.
Kerri Stepp

Monday, October 17, 2011

Writer's Block

Okay, I have recently been really trying to write my query. It is not working. I have lost whatever groove I was in. I wrote my entire novel, fairly smoothly and now have the WORST writer's block. I have tried everything I could think of to try to break down the wall, the VERY BIGGGGG wall. Nothing has been working, until tonight, at lest that is what I thought. All of the sudden I was sitting at my "desk" not even really messing with my computer, it was on and I was just looking at it, not even really thinking about my query. Then, BAM, my brain was like, open up word and start typing. Unfortunately, I did not get much, well I wrote the whole query and read it, it was not very good. I realized that, although i will never give up, there are so many things in my mind unrelated to my novel that i can hardly expect a good query to come through. I mean, my writers block is made up of bricks that consist of everything that has been happening in my life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Just Sharing

I follow the blog, From The Write Angle, which is awesome. Their posts are helpful, informative, and contain a lot of really good advice for authors who are just starting out as well as those who have been in the game a while. So, for anyone who reads this who does not follow their blog, or who has not read this recent post, I am sharing it, Self-Publing? Use The Right Tools! by Pete Morin. I found that, although I am not planning to self-publish as of yet, it has a lot of great advice. Check it out!-The blog and the post.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

That AHA! Moment

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night out of a good, deep sleep. The first thought I had was, DAMN! That's why I have been having difficulty with my query letter.

When I set out to write the story in my heart, I did not plan to write a romance novel, but I think, even though I was in denial, that my book is exactly that. I have been writing a query for an Urban Fantasy novel with just a little romance mixed in. I even told myself that it could work without the romance, I think I am wrong. I think the romance is what adds to the interest in my novel. Yes there are things happening that are good, but I really do not think it works without the romantic elements, at least not as well. I mean, if I take everything else away, it is a book about a woman who has been through a few horrible relationships and is jaded when it comes to men. She is not the normal gorgeous, thin woman that you find as main characters in books. She is pretty enough, a little on the heavy side, and is lacking slightly in confidence. Eamon is a vampire who has not had any real relationships because every relationship hes been in, whether it was with a human or vampire, he can hear their thoughts and it gets irritating. They meet and Sheena is already obsessed with the vampires she reads about in fantasy novels, so shes okay with learning vampires exist, and the fact that Eamon is deliciously sexy is a bonus. Then Eamon learns he cant read/hear Sheena's thoughts which makes her automatically attractive. The fact that they learn later is they are SUPPOSED to be together, made to be together. Neither could ever truly be happy without each other now that they have met. The relationship stuff is mixed in with other things happening, but these are main points of the story too. So, I think if I accept the fact that my novel is a Paranormal Romance, and write the query letter with that in mind, it will work better. Although I really do not want to write romance, even my next book in the series I have planned has romance in it. The series is going to have things happening, but a main thing that will happen in every book is that a man and a woman, at least one of them a vampire, will meet, find out they are supposed to be together and fall in love. Therefore, it is a romance novel. There is a good chance there will never be any detailed sex scenes, but there will be enough happening to make that OK, its just another difference in my vamp series. SO I just wanted to write about my AHA! moment because I am sure it will not be the last, probably isn't even the first and I am sure everyone of us gets them-and you never know when they will come or where they come from.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Sometimes You Have To Backspace and Try Again

I am revising the latest query I was all set to send out. I have officially decided that I need to start with a completely blank slate and re-read my novel yet again. I know it is worthy, I just need to get it across better in my query.

So, I am doing a complete do over, just glad I didn't start sending it out. POINT-Sometimes we get anxious and want to get the queries out there. We write/revise/write/revise and so on, but then after a few we decide, OK I am done revising-I want an agent so I am sending this latest revision.

I am setting a goal, at some point in November(by the end of November) I will have my query and synopsis complete, polished, and ready to go. My reason for this is-that will make it four & 1/2 months of working on the query letter and synopsis and that is how long it took me to COMPLETE my novel.

Many may say, four & 1/2 months?!? That's it!?!? But let me say, I was immersed in writing. When I forced myself away from it, it was like when you are reading that great book that you hate to put down, and every time you have to, you cannot stop thinking about what happens next. I may have been writing the story, I even knew where it was going, yet every time I was away from it I could not stop thinking what's going to happen next?

Therefore, I spent MANY MANY VERY VERY late nights working on my book. There were nights that I, sadly, could not stop and ended up being up ALL NIGHT, never even going to bed. I wasn't even that tired because I was loving every minute of the story. So, i wrote, edited and polished it in four & 1/2 months. I figure since i wrote my novel in that amount of time, that is how long I will spend on my query and synopsis. So, by end of November I plan to be sending out queries. Sometimes you have to just clear everything out and start over. I already made notes for my query, but I think if I just re-read the novel and make new notes i will have that AHA! moment that my query is missing.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Query Critiques

Well, I ended up not taking the latest query and using it...I revised. I actually like my revision best of all of them. I am pretty sure I will begin sending it out starting tomorrow. It gets to the point when you have to just get out there and give it a go. If I continue getting critiques and revising who knows when I will really send a query. This takes me around to the topic at hand....


So many writers(that I have noticed), especially just starting out, get so nervous about everything. Is my novel really ready? Maybe I should add this, or take this away, or maybe even rearrange. Is my synopsis right? Is my query letter good enough? Is it the right letter to get the agent I have been longing for? Point being, we get nervous and paranoid and then we begin to question everything we are doing. Sometimes the thing to do is just sit back and think-why am i doing this? Why did I just spend X ammount of months writing this novel? Why did i just spend another however more months(or years) reading through it and editing?
Personally I write for one MAIN reason-I love to do it. I know there are people out there who decide they know how to write and they do it well so why not just write a novel or five because they can. Those people may sell a book, hell they may even make it for a few more books, but they will never be a true AUTHOR, its impossible. There will come a book that, although it may be well written and thought out, they will not be able to write a compelling query or synopsis. The reason is this

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Agent Research

Well, I was all geared up last night to post but then I did not. The reason is because last night would have been the same post as Thursday-I love my fellow authors. Any aspiring author-or even one who is established but still in the query/agent research game-should definitely get out into the social network for authors. There are so many of us out there, and so many of us are just really great people. So many great people who are willing to take time from the long process of writing a novel, editing and polishing that novel, writing a query, editing and polishing that query, researching agents, querying agents, and everything else that goes along with being a writer. So, I just wanted to say another thank you to any one who reads this who is one of these great people, someone who is willing to extend a hand.

Next thought for tonight- I have posted on Query Tracker and on AQ Connect (my query) I was getting a little feedback on AQC but then nothing, nada, and even what feedback I was getting was only coming from a few people. On QT I got feedback from only 3 people, but it was sooooo helpful. I was really hoping that i would get some more advice from my peers on AQC but I think I am going on to sending out queries. I could sit around and wait, hoping I get more feedback, but I really think I should just go with what I have. I like this query(not that it says much because I liked all the others) this one is improved compared to some of the others, so I am just going to go on and begin the querying process. I figure if i get rejection after rejection after rejection-and so on- then i will repost the query and hope that even though it will be in an older topic, that people will help me out. Tomorrow begins the journey down query lane and we shall see where it leads...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I Love My Fellow Authors...

And I love Query Tracker and Agent Query Connect.

I recently posted a question on Query Tracker in a topic that I had posted my query(and some revisions). I was so confused because I have a problem understanding what is really supposed to be in a query. Even after researching and reading SO many things on how to write a query and all other reading about writing queries, I was at a loss on exactly how much of my book to put. I kept getting feedback on my queries saying they need conflict where's the conflict, what's the conflict, etc. So once the question was posed I didn't get the exact answer I was looking for, but I did get some answers.

The posts by my fellow authors had me almost doubting my book, at first, but then they made me sit back and really focus. Once I focused in on the book better I realized where I was messing up. I am so excited now to realize something that has been missing! I have NO IDEA where or how I am going to fit it in, but I know what I need to fit in.

So, I just wanted to post that I love the sites out there where aspiring authors (and even agented and established authors) can get and give advice and I love the people on there that do just that. I know that not everyone can appreciate the raw, blunt, honest opinions of people who are truly out to help you. I APPRECIATE ALL HELP.

I have absolutely no followers right now, but hopefully if you read this (and you are one of those people who help other authors) you will know you are appreciated-and if you are one of those people who post something and don't like the bluntness you get, get over it, suck it up and enjoy the fact that there is someone out there who is willing to give you an honest opinion, someone who just wants to help you in the best way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Infamous Query

So, this is my first ever blog post, not even really sure I get the point of blogging, but I am going for it. Don't really know what to say. I guess since it is my first post I will tell a little about myself.

I am a mother of two, I do not go to an actual job and clock in, but I work pretty much 17 hours a day. I take care of the kiddos, all errands for my family(parents and sister included in that, not just my kids), all grocery shopping, sometimes pick up and/or drop off my niece and nephew, all cooking, and cleaning is split-not always evenly- but still split.

When I am not doing the above I am a writer. I have always loved to write poetry-I started in 1995 with my poetry. One day about a year ago I decided I love to write poetry, I have written some short stories, why not try out writing a book. I did not actually sit down and begin writing the book until earlier this year, but I got it done and am now working on getting it out there. I have been working on my query, but it is a hard process, i do believe I would rather write another book than have to write a query. That does not matter though, I have to do it. So, this brings me around a bit to why I decided today would be the day I start my blog.