Thursday, November 22, 2012


When Tevye belts out the following lyrics in Fiddler on the Roof it always seems like an admonishment.

“Tradition, tradition! Tradition!
Tradition, tradition! Tradition!”

Nothing is more important than keeping traditions, he seems to chide. On this most un-traditional of Thanksgivings the concept of ‘traditions’ resonates with me.

Older son is in Chicago visiting a childhood friend who attends a big university there and whose parents now reside on the East Coast.

Earlier today younger son and dad were on the road to Iowa, listening on Sirius Radio to play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi call the West Virginia University basketball game. They had Thanksgiving dinner with one of my brother’s and his family (the other, a cop, has to work). Tomorrow they’ll head to the family alma mater for the WVU vs. Iowa State football game…and root against the alma mater.

Our Iowa State academic roots go deep, but our athletic hearts belong to WVU… where we spent 15 years.

My mom and I were invited next door (tho stayed home) and another neighbor brought us over the most magnificent cake to thank us “for being such good neighbors.”  Both here on the prairie and in Morgantown, WV we have been blessed with wonderful neighbors.

A lifetime ago my husband and I made a decision not to travel on the holidays. Incidents like  backing down an interstate on-ramp in a blinding snowstorm and spending the night in a Red Cross shelter contributed to this decision.

Last year we finally broke our vow and spent Thanksgiving with all my in-laws so we could celebrate a beloved aunt’s 95th birthday the day after.

We also like to be home - our home - for the holidays.

I know each family out there has its own traditions: some spend the holidays the same place their entire childhood and adult life. To each their own. That’s the real beauty of traditions.

When my three siblings and I were growing up we adhered to a strict Christmas ‘schedule.’ Church on Christmas Eve (except the year we ALL had stomach flu; God Bless my mother!), open one present on Christmas Eve, and stockings and the rest of the presents on Christmas morning. If we were at Grandma and Grandpa Rock’s shrimp cocktail was de rigeur.

Then I married a man with pure Danish roots. This Scandinavian family opened all their presents on Christmas Eve.


Needless to say, our son or sons (depending on if the older one is in the country…but that’s another story) adhere to ‘my’ family’s traditions.

Another tradition that’s biting the dust this year is putting up the tree the night of Thanksgiving or the day after. For years a dear friend in M’town would join us for dinner and good naturedly help with the decorating…which commenced the minute the last bite of pumpkin pie was eaten.

Today I’m in a boot, having had ankle surgery a couple weeks ago. My mom (who has lived with us for nearly a decade-and-a-half) stayed home to keep me company instead of going off to my brother’s. Decorating for Christmas will have to wait till the men are home and can haul things up from the storage room.

Recently I just finished reading Anna Quindlen’s eloquent memoir “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake.” She writes beautifully in her chapter on faith about her family tradition of reading aloud Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with her three children and husband every Christmas Eve.

No doubt when/if my children have children of their own way down the road - and those children of my sons come to visit - one present will be opened on Christmas Eve and the rest saved for after-stockings on Christmas morning.

The rest is fluid. And embracing the fluidity of life is the best tradition of all.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Guest Blog Post - Christina's Juggling Act: AKA Two Releases in November

Read how my friend Christina Freeburn balances family and a busy writing schedule! - Pam

November is a busy month for me with two books being released. This started at the end of April when I attended the Malice Domestic convention. I saw some cute postcards from a new publishing company, Henery Press. The covers grabbed my attention, and I couldn't help snapping them up. And then checked out the press. I was excited to learn the books they published had a similar tone and feel to the scrapbooking mystery I completed, and, even better, they were taking submissions.

I was already happily writing my New Beginning Series for Desert Breeze Publishing. The first book, Lost Then Found, had come out November 1, 2011 and the second one, Led Astray, was coming out May 1. I was finishing up the third book, Safe and Sound (which came out November 1), when I decided to send off my mystery. I didn't expect to hear back for a few months, and if accepted I figured it would come out sometime in 2013 as I was wrapping up the New Beginning Series.

A few days later, I received an email from the editor saying she loved it and wanted the book. Not only that, but it would come out this year--November. I took a deep breath and agreed. I'm fortunate that I don't have to work outside the home, so I could concentrate on writing. And that was what I had to do--concentrate. Stay focused.

I hunkered down, took time management seriously, planned my days on my calendar and, when really crazy, created a "To Do" notebook where I kept a weekly schedule for family, volunteer, and writing. Once 'on the page,' the task was able to leave my mind so I could concentrate on the actual project rather than thinking about everything that needed to be done.
Going from one book to the other wasn't as hard as I feared as the two series have different voices (first person with a humorous tone, third person with a serious tone) so I didn't get the projects confused. My teens helped around the house, and my husband jumped in whenever the computer and I weren't getting along (this happened a lot). The main culprit was the printer that decided it wanted to quit numerous times when I needed to print out the manuscripts. I like to do the first main edits on paper.

It also came in handy to have incredible author friends who've shown me...and encouraged me...that not only can it be done...but I can do it.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Empty Nest

My to-do list for yesterday consisted of the following:

  1. Figure out the day of the week
  2. Reschedule dental apt
  3. Be brilliant writerly-wise
Guess which didn’t get done?

It’s a tad chaotic here on the prairie right now. DH (dear husband) is recovered from his broken/sprained ankle, sustained on Labor Day weekend. However, I am once again booted, due to surgery on my ankle. Between spouse, my mother, and me we function like a well-oiled domestic machine.

Except when we don’t.

Like when one of us is out of commission.

My mother/writing partner folds all the laundry, God bless her a thousand times over. Two autumns ago she had hand surgery. I nearly wept with relief when she could go back to sorting socks.

Husband cooks. 

I however, clean. I take a lot of ribbing from friends, but few things give me more satisfaction (domestically) than scrubbing toilets or dusting. Cutting clutter gives me enormous satisfaction. I find the older I get, the more I need order in my surroundings.

When I can remember where I am and what day it is….

This fall with two graduations looming (older son from college in December; younger son from high school in May) I keep telling myself I’ll miss the mess because it means they’ll be gone.

Technically, though, the big guy is the biggest clutter culprit …. not planning on him going anywhere soon. The absent-minded college professor stereotype exists for a reason.

But he does cook.

And we won’t really have an empty nest because my mom lives with us and has for the last 13 years.

She is an organizational whiz, able to eyeball a room and know exactly how to pick up and arrange things perfectly in intelligent systems

Me, I handle maintenance.

Lately I’ve been trying to envision life without clutter, without children in the house. Since my early days of motherhood when I held my firstborn six-pound son in my arms I knew if I did my job as a mother ‘right’ he would eventually leave me. Same with his little brother. The goal is and always has been to launch those baby birds out of the nest.

So I’m going to enjoy all the twigs and pieces of yarn scattered about while I can.