Merry Monday at Crazy Creek

CrazyCreekChristmas_prc5550_300[21034]

Merry Monday, everyone! The holiday festivities begin in earnest this week, as I make food and do laundry in preparation for that most important and glorious Opening Day of Deer Hunting. Not me! My menfolk! I shoo them away and spend the weekend reading etc.
I won’t, however be reading “Crazy Creek Christmas” by that excellent author Lisa Lickel because I ALREADY READ IT! Here she is, talking all things Christmas and her latest book.

Welcome Lisa! Let’s jump right in with a pressing hypothetical situation. Your entire area has been temporarily quarantined because someone believes they saw a UFO. You can’t go home but the Center for Studying Strange Sightings will pay for you and your entire family to go anywhere in the world—make that universe—for Christmas. Where will you go and how will you celebrate?
Well we have to go visit Stella and her family (from Parhelion) on their secret Tau Ceti planet they escaped to after nuclear war threatened to destroy Earth. If we went for a little while, we’d be fine. Just for Christmas. Tau Ceti isn’t too different, but we’d have to get used to the chlorine-scented everything. Does pine and cinnamon cover that? We’d have our traditional caroling passed around in the bespeaking voice Ceticians use, as well as out loud. And food, of course—always must have a great meal after the meeting for worship. We can bring a ham to go with salad. Christmas and Christmas no matter where you go.

Ha! Did I ask the right question there, or what? For those of you who don’t know, “Parhelion” is Lisa’s science fiction novel. So there would be ham. Any other favorite dish to make for Christmas?
My new favorite is watching my daughters-in-law make Grandma’s crepes on Christmas morning while I play with their children.

Bless those daughters-in-law! Not everyone has ideal family situations. Leah and Noel have both come out of difficult and/or tragic family circumstances. How they handle what life handed them is completely different. What role does faith in a good God, or the lack of it, play in their transformations?
Good question. Leah is a nice person, just naturally a sweetheart but she wasn’t raised in a family of faith and never really thought much about church or salvation. She wouldn’t hurt a fly despite being taken advantage of, so she’s ripe for hearing the Word. It may take her a while to truly accept the gift of grace, but she’s already in tune with God when her new ranch family helps her understand what she’s missing. Noel was raised in a family that practiced charity and regularly attended worship services and youth group. Yet he ran from all of that. I think he believes that leaving the ranch also means shedding everything about his former life. When the chips are down and he has choices to make, though, the depth of his character formed through well-practiced faith shines through and it doesn’t even occur to him to blame others for his problems. His remorse proves he’s never outgrown or run far enough from doing the right thing.

Yet in spite of these heartbreaking circumstances, the story isn’t depressing! How do you walk the line between hope and melancholy?
That’s nice to hear. I don’t want my stories to be downers, but conflict has to rise from somewhere. I think the fact that the main event heartbreak takes place before the story begins, and the tragedy that Noel suffers are handled within the Kingdom of Hope and Possibilities by people who understand that God loves them no matter what helps a lot. It’s okay to have a pity party for a while, but how we rise above what happens is the real story.

Introduce us to Leah and Noel.
Leah is a daughter given up for adoption under circumstances which always eluded her. She was raised in a pleasant but busy foster home and when she aged out after high school took jobs waitressing and kept moving west until meeting a kindly couple running a diner in Crazy Creek, Wyoming. They had a heart for a special family of ranchers south of town and helped Leah hire on. Noel is the driven kid who just didn’t want to be a farmer like his dad. His sister loved their family ranch, so Noel lit out for the big city to become a property developer. He thinks that by selling his family ranch to a horse tourism outfit he’ll solve everyone’s problems. Little does he know he’s the only one on his side. Even the new cute cook thinks he has a stone for a heart.
It’s funny—last week I interviewed Susan Baganz, whose female protagonist in “Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps” is named “Noelle.” And this week I welcome you and “Crazy Creek Christmas”—whose male protagonist is named Noel! Yet depending on which syllable you emphasize, it is a very feminine or very masculine name. How much thought do you put into names of your characters?
Susan thought that was funny, too, and we didn’t collaborate. Last year three of us had Mistletoe titles. Names are important to set a particular tone. I also happen to think Noel Coward was a groovy playwright and actor and I’ve always had a secret yen to use that name.

You titled your chapters! I love that! Not too common anymore. What made you decide to do that?
It just seemed like a fun thing to do. I didn’t have numbers at first, but someone else made an executive decision. Quite often I use a little phrase describing a chapter to keep me on track when I’m writing, but this story came together so fast I didn’t even have time to think about it. I wanted to offer the reader a little glimpse of what to expect.

Who in “Crazy Creek Christmas” is your favorite character after Leah and Noel?
I’m honestly trying to answer, but every time I try to pick one, I think of something about one of the others that was fun to explore—Jorge’s children, Manny’s “love ya,” “Gil’s soulful woundedness, Tom’s contemplative silence, and Marty’s cantankerousness; even Sister’s patience, and of course Cupcake’s name.
Favorite Christmas song? Or, if you really like Christmas music, feel free to share more!
I do, I do like Christmas music. I love both old and new, and cry for different reasons. I have Amy Grant singing “Love Has Come” sparkling in my head—thanks a lot. That’s gonna be an all-dayer. Steven Curtis Chapman’s Christmas album is a fav, and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” Don’t why know.

Will you write more about the Rocking J Ranch and Crazy Creek?
So, you’re the third person to ask me that. I guess, if one more person asks, I’ll consider it. I sort of even have the start of an inkling of a possible potential plot.

Actually I think three times is a charm…Would you like to live on a ranch?
It’s a place I think would be nice to visit, but I’m past all the enormity of being involved in an operation like that.

How much are you like Leah? Different?
How about Noel? Men and women are obviously different but also are similar in many ways. Any characteristics you have in common with him?
I’m from the Midwest, and I enjoy cooking, and if someone plunks me in a house with dust, I have a compulsive itch to clean. But other than that…nope, this little plump short grandma has little in common with Leah, other than I, too, dislike interrupting. Something about Midwestern values. Noel? He’s got a big chip on his shoulder, doesn’t he? He really wants to help, he just stumbles around trying too hard. He needs a good helpmeet. I guess I like to “help” too, which doesn’t always fly in the right direction.

Sister is a pretty appealing horse. Do you like horses? Ride much?
I love to look at them from a distance. My neighbors use horses in their work and pasture them around us, but I agree with Leah: they are awfully BIG.

And the burning question: do you decorate for Christmas before or after Thanksgiving?
After, of course! My prudish Pilgrim people decorations would frown at my opulent mink-coated Santa. They might not even appreciate the ceramic Santa kneeling at Jesus’s manger.

*********************************
Pelican Book Store https://bit.ly/2MVnYLj
Barnes and Noble https://bit.ly/2BpBRfl
Amazon https://amzn.to/2MYmoYW

Blurb
Crazy Creek, Wyoming saves Leah Hanes’s life. Running on fumes and bald tires, she thanks heaven for Cookie and Jeanette Wimmer who send her to the Rocking J Ranch as a winter cook. Leah arrives to discover the ranch and the people need more than a cook.

Noel Johansen, heir of the Rocking J, happily left for the big city years ago. When he loses his family in a terrible accident, the best thing for everyone is to sell the place, ditch the memories, and move on. But his brother-in-law has other plans, and the beautiful new cook they’ve hired for the season threatens Noel’s desire to remain detached.

The ranch represents Noel’s future and selling it becomes more important than ever when one more tragedy leaves him with nothing. But memories can’t be bought and sold, nor can a broken conscience heal itself. Home, heart, and future are irrevocably tied in Crazy Creek.
Lisa Lickel headshot 234kb

Bio
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author who loves books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Besides writing inspiring fiction, she also writes short stories, feature articles, and radio theater, and loves to encourage new authors through mentoring, speaking, and leading workshops. She is an avid book reviewer and blogger, and a freelance editor. Find more at LisaLickel.com.

A Wednesday Recipe from the Tuesday Prude

Here they are. One of my top ten favorite cookies. Maybe top twenty. I do love cookies.

IMG_4523

And here, almost right away, before I tell you how much I love these cookies and the history behind them and why molasses is so good for you it may offset some of the superabundance of sugar—here is the recipe:

IMG_4536

They really are different than a regular ginger snap. No snap, lots of chew. When it says don’t over bake, it kids you not.

I would tell you about the history, and how I ran across this recipe, but that memory is lost in the mists of time. It was some time during my college years. Before the days when I subscribed to every Country Woman, Taste of Home and Quick Cooking magazine. All of those were just a twinkle in their creator’s eye when I ran across this recipe for Molasses Sugar Cookies.

The last line is part of the original recipe and I always include it because it’s a winsome little line. Since I have 50% sloth blood in me, I didn’t feel like typing out the recipe. So I took a photo from the Mulder Family Cookbook. Now you know why I don’t hyphenate my name.

If you ever make these, let me know what you think. And Happy Wednesday from the Tuesday Prude!

IMG_4524

(I just noticed the 3 little holes in the cookie on the right. It mystifies me. Too late for another photo. The cookies are long-digested.)

The Ratio of Ick to Glory

 

DSC08022 - Version 2

I live in one of the American States in an area vaguely designated as the Upper Midwest. It’s not so northerly to suggest all Paul Bunyan all the time. And not mid-westernly enough to call up images of cornfields, wheat and the occasional soybean.

My state has so much to commend it!  Rolling hills. Picturesque farms. Colby Jack cheese. And many bodies of water.

The problem is this:
There are only two months of the year during which I can fully, without encumbrances, enjoy and participate in the Great Outdoors.

June is one. Many folks remain outdoors for the 30 days June hath.
With good reason. We seldom need buckets of citronella, pallets of Deep Woods Off
or thousands of dollars of homeopathic insect repellents. But that day comes soon enough.
Because a primary function of some bodies of water making my Upper Midwest state so appealing is mosquito hatcheries.
They perform it admirably, and from July through September, my fellow statesmen and I don Deet, erect screen houses, engage in the state dance (The Mosquito Swat, Slap and Sidestep) and cower indoors after dusk like the residents of Transylvania avoiding Count Dracula. Because often, mosquitoes don’t depart till October.

Speaking of October, it is the other month that beckons us upper Midwesterners
with open arms. “Come outside,” this tenth month calls. “Leave behind your insect repellent, your Uggs, your mosquito netting and your fuzzy mittens.”

SONY DSCSONY DSC

DSC08026

Isn’t October pretty?

Like June, it compels us to spend the entire month outdoors.
Because we know that the months of November through May often bring this:

SONY DSC

We are either anticipating the above dump of white, living through it, or cleaning up after it in those 7 months.

But we endure. Because we anticipate June and clasp memories of October to our hearts.

SONY DSC

Friends who may consider a move to the Upper Midwest, know this:
The ratio here of ick to glory is 10:12. That is 5/6th of a year we can’t head outside without layers of outerwear or layers of insect repellent.
Is it worth the struggle?  Mathematically the odds are against us.
But aesthetically it can’t be beat.

SONY DSC

Up ain’t pretty

Here’s one of my new life mottos:
Smug goes before the grunt.

In its expanded version the motto goes:
If we’re smug because we can sit down cross-legged on the floor at our age, (60+), we’re sure to be humbled to the dust when we grunt getting up.

IMG_4311

Oh yes. Once, maybe only a decade or so ago, my fellow 60+ers and I were able to perform a feat of beauty:
We could rise from a legs-folded-and-tucked floor position and STAND UP by merely rising. No arms needed.
Note: In our less culturally and politically woke days, this seated position was known as “Indian style” (but whether from Native Americans or Indian swamis, I can’t say).

Apparently, once we hit late middle age, this graceful upsweep of levitation has become more complicated for many of us.
As our cracking and creaking days increase, rising can involve several steps, including but not limited to:

flexing, shifting, rotating, bending, hoisting one’s backside, and praying. And grunting.
Sometimes all limbs, including both hands, AND a piece of sturdy furniture get involved.

Up ain’t pretty.

IMG_4312

People my age should build an additional forty seconds into our estimated time transitioning from the floor to wherever we’re headed after the floor.

To be fair, the process isn’t always this complicated. I can often go from cross-legged to a squat to a stand using only one hand for support. A sort of flash-tripod move. (Usually only accomplished with speed and precision when there is no one around to witness my two-step triumph.)

I say this not to brag but to encourage. Another of my life’s mottos is: If I can almost do it, almost anyone can.

To be fairer, just last winter I witnessed a woman— a scant 30 some months younger than I—perform the single-sweep elevation. But she’s a vegetarian, so there’s that.

I, however, am an omnivore, I’ll never see 60 again, creakiness is in my DNA, and I never remember to regularly take my glucosamine and chondroitin.

Right now I’m going to enjoy the fact that I can still sit on the floor. Great things happen there. Stories with grandchildren, circle songs, a direct view of lost items cowering beneath the sofa.

And if up ain’t pretty, it is still up. A good place to be.

Slashing Syllables

person-1281651_1920

That tears it. When not one, not two, but three to five friends tell me I use a lot of big words in my books, I have to throw up my hands and fess up.
I am a big-word fiend.
Not a big word SNOB.
Don’t think I mean to make you think I am smart.
I’m not, you know. Smart, that is.
But words are SO GREAT.
Some are JUST RIGHT.
Why not, I think, use one big word if it fits? If it says what I want to say?

Now I know why. Folks don’t like the big words. At least not the way I use them. Not in the light weight books I write about love and crime and snow and dogs.
I hear you.

So as of this date I turn o’er a new leaf.
I vow to tone down the length and breadth and width of the terms I use in the books I write.
I shall look at each word.
If it won’t pass the snob test I pledge to slash and burn. To pare down to words that make the heart glad of each gal (or guy) who reads my work. Words that don’t tax the brain past where it wants to be taxed.

Of course, I would not have known how vexed folk can get, had not I asked some of those good folks to proof read my tales (those not yet in book form). They seemed to think I have a poor chance that these tales get put to print lest I cut the fluff of out sized words.

So it starts. I wrote this blog post to work on my vow to toss those big words. Only one beat per word. Feel free to proof read. Did I miss some long words? Are some still so big that you must clap twice or more as you read each one?
Give me your feed back. Please. Feel free, too, to use words with more than one beat. ‘Cuz it is quite tough to keep those beats down to one. Trust me on that.

(I made free with the name of this post. A two beat word and a three beat word. At times, one must be kind to ones self.)

40 Winks and the Woman

Refurbished from an old post (November 1, 2012) on my old blog.

Want to see a twinkle in the eye of a lady on the plus side of 50?
Brawny-chested men won’t do it.
Chocolate? Possibly, but there is a more immediate craving.
Jewels? Vacations? A lifetime supply of Oil of Olay Deep Wrinkle Remover? Is that the best you have?
Fuzzy slippers, an afghan and a recliner?
Oooooohhhh.
Now you are talking.
We don’t always want our pulses to race, our taste buds to quiver or our social status to elevate.

We want a nap.

elizabeth-lies-6702-unsplash(1)

Not a long one. Enough to release stress but not so long that we forget what year it is. Or which millennium.
Our sleep should be deep enough for little cherubs to do a happy dance in the corners of our mind, but not so deep that the cherubs metamorphose into winged dust globules with digestive issues.

A satisfying nap will do a woman more good than a shot of Botox, a shot of 5 Hour Energy or a Valium shot. It will give her brain a chance to clear, her creativity and energy a chance to recharge and those funny little wrinkles along her top lip a chance to relax.

We’ve been storing away missed nap opportunities for years. Now, with kids a bit older and fewer commitments, we want to cash in on all the naps we pined for during our education years, our child-rearing years, our career-building years.

The nap helps build stamina. It is good for our hearts. It helps make up for sleep lost at night because of demented hormones, a snoring spouse or a barking dog.

Ladies. Throw off the shackles of guilt, the fear that we’ll be labelled as lazy and libeled as slugs.
Stonewall Jackson, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, JFK, and Napoleon Bonaparte all benefited from naps. They achieved greatness.
And they are all men.
This, my friends, is why women our age do not get the notice we deserve.

We aren’t famous because we’re behind on our naps.

Let’s change all that, starting about 1pm today.
Cuddle down, cover up, and snooze. Rise up, go forth, and change the world.

A grateful nation may name an airport for you.

Or at the very least, a dessert.

 

 

Photo by elizabeth lies on Unsplash

The n-word (or, the fully unclothed truth)

The “n” in the title is deliberately lower case, to differentiate it from the very Nasty N-word that makes most of us grit our teeth.

Nevertheless, this particular lower case n-word has great power over me. The power to make me blush.

No. I am not going to write it out. I’m relying on my favorite way of dealing with words that offend my prudish sensibilities—
the euphemism.

Two of my favorites for this particular n-word are “birthday suit” and “in the altogether.”
Figured out what it is yet?
No? How about a synonym.
Never mind. I don’t like any of those either.

Here’s one of my own.
“Fully unclothed”

The first time I remember reading the n-word was maybe in 2nd grade? One of the Little House books, I think. The description of a tornado and the devastation it left hit me hard. I’ve been terrified of twisters ever since. But then. THEN. The narration described a survivor of the storm as being “n-word as a jaybird.”

Well. Yuck. That was my first reaction. I didn’t want to be caught up in a tornado and I especially didn’t want it dropping me off fully unclothed.
Hot on the heels of that gut-level prude reaction came judgement.
How could a book for kids print a word like that? I think I half expected it to incinerate before my eyes.

Cartoon birth

“Ick” and “that wasn’t nice!” are two of the natural-born prude’s natural reactions to things of the flesh. The final is embarrassment. What if someone—say God—caught me reading the n-word?

(This is a good time to take the blame for my prudishness off my parents and put it squarely where it belongs. An unknown genetic anomaly that develops freeform and randomly in a limited number of human children. [The animal kingdom appears immune. To my consternation. Many is the time I wished Rhesus monkeys were partial to pants.] If you’re worried that your offspring might be susceptible, don’t be. The prude gene is becoming increasingly extinct. My point is, my parents, although never given to swearing or vulgarity, are not responsible for my prudish nature. I was born this way.)

Maybe other prudes can handle the n-word. Prudes who don’t so closely link spoken or written words with mental images. When I hear or read the term “birthday suit,” a picture of someone crowned with icing and a candle on the head cavorting in confetti pops into my mind. The phrase ‘In the altogether’ springs into my minds eye a pleasingly plump individual, slightly pink, and tastefully blurred from the neck down. No, I don’t know why.

Cartoon Buster

But the n-word? Or any of its synonyms? When I hear or see it or its associates— say ‘nudy-rudy’ word or the homonym for “bear”—and my mind runs madly for a beach towel or nice opaque sheet to cover the vision flashing in my head.

I have never been happy with the mess Adam and Eve led us into, but I’ve always been intensely grateful that in the aftermath, God at least let us wear clothes.

 

Note- the above cartoons are from “Cartoon Cavalcade” edited by Thomas Craven and published by Consolidated Book Publishers in 1945. Which means that although the cartoons I used were created before 1919 they may not actually be in the public domain and I could be in violation of copyright.  But dug-nub-it. I worked so hard on finding appropriate—in more  ways than one—images and adding text. I’m going to live dangerously.