Tuesday, July 31, 2012

And the Winner Is . . .

Congratulations, JoAnn Durgin!! Thanks, JoAnn and Joi for entering our prompt contest. You'd think having only two entries would make it easier, but no! Since both stories were excellent, it was much harder to come to a decision.

And here is the winning entry:

Hayley couldn’t wait to open her present, the biggest box under the tree. When the moment finally came, she ripped it open to reveal . . . another box. Then another, and another, each gift smaller yet wrapped with exquisite paper and an elaborate bow. She held what she hoped was the last one on her lap, and dared not look at her family, warmth invading her cheeks. Why did I have to act so greedy, like the kid I haven’t been in years?

“Aren’t you going to open that one?” Lindsay’s lips curled. Her younger sister must harbor a delicious secret.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Hayley said, her smile nervous. From the expressions of those sitting around the room—her mom and dad, aunt and uncle, various cousins and her older brother Chase and his wife—they all shared the secret, privy to what lay nestled inside the tiny package. She turned it in her hands, pretending to study it from all angles. “It’s the most beautiful gift I’ve ever seen. How do I even know it’s for me? There was no tag, after all.”

“It’s yours.” Her mother sounded weary after the busyness of the last couple of days preparing the North Carolina mountain cabin for everyone’s arrival, airing out and cleaning the bedrooms, and cooking up a storm. The aromas of the feast they’d enjoyed still lingered. In her mother’s countenance, she glimpsed the deep contentment and joy stemming from her faith and love for her family. Hayley hoped her smile conveyed her gratitude, especially since she’d been chained to her Nashville desk and only arrived the night before. 

“It’s wrapped so pretty, I think I’ll just leave it under the tree.” As a reminder to accept each gift as a blessing, especially the ones that can’t be wrapped in a box with a pretty bow.

“Not if you want to take the next important step in your life.” The deep but quiet voice came from the man sitting beside her on the sofa.

Hayley’s eyes met Brandon’s—blue and clear as the stream running beside the cabin. His words apparently signaled the others. The room emptied in seconds, but her father paused with one hand on the swinging door leading into the kitchen. With a wink, he disappeared, and she overheard excited, muffled voices from behind the door. 

Brandon chuckled. “I thought they’d never leave.” 

“They seem pretty excited about what’s inside this box.” Hayley's heart hopscotched when he moved closer and wrapped his hand over hers. How she loved this strong, handsome man. Glad she’d waited to find him, grateful he sat beside her now, thankful the Lord brought them together. 

“Open it.”

With a smile, Hayley unwrapped the gift. An empty jeweler’s box.

“This gift represents my heart. I love you, Hayley. We’ll pick out a ring together. Will you take life’s journey with me?”

She raised her eyes to Brandon’s, glimpsing their future as she leaned into his kiss. “Always, my love.”

Friday, July 27, 2012

Spring Holidays of Remembrance

Patriots’ Day April 15th
Armed Forces Day May 18th

Patriots’ Day. Armed Forces Day. Not widely celebrated holidays, but holidays honoring our servicemen and women, both past and present, nonetheless. As I scanned the list of possible spring holidays to write about, I noticed Patriots’ Day. What is that about? I wondered.  A quick scan of the internet produced interesting results.
Patriots’ Day is a civic holiday commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first battles of the American Revolutionary War.
 This is an important day to remember in the history of our country. Prior to 1775, the area that is now the eastern part of the United States mainly consisted of British colonies controlled by the United Kingdom. The American Revolutionary War, also known as the American War of Independence, was a major step in the independence of the United States. The first battles in this war were fought in the areas of Lexington and Concord, near Boston, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775. For this reason, the third Monday in April is symbolic for the emerging independence of the new country.
This holiday is mainly observed in Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin. Re-enactments of these battles take place on this day, with mounted re-enactors tracing the steps of Paul Revere and William Dawes, calling out warnings, complete with police escorts.
It is also a school holiday for many local colleges and universities, both public and private.

This holiday is not to be confused with Patriot Day, which is a day of remembrance for the tragedy of September 11, 2001.
Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May during Armed Forces Week. The day was created in 1949 to honor Americans serving in the five U.S. military branches – the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard. The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated on Saturday, May 20, 1950. The theme for that day was “Teamed for Defense”, which expressed the unification of all military forces under one government department. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, the day was designed to expand public understanding of what type of job was performed and the role of the military in civilian life.

 The first Armed Forces Day was celebrated by parades, open houses, receptions and air shows. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy established Armed Forces Day as an official holiday. Because of their unique training schedules, National Guard and Reserve units may celebrate Armed Forces Day/Week over any period in the month of May.

Writing prompt of the week:  Deborah pushed through the dense underbrush, thorns gripping the edges of her sapphire gown. It didn’t matter. Her brother, Paul, had to be warned…

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spring Holidays and the Prompt Contest

Spring and the gift of Easter 

Spring begins with the vernal equinox on March 20. 

Public Domain Photo from Wikipedia
Modern Easter holidays include Palm Sunday,  Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday.The Easter holidays coincide with the Jewish holiday, Passover

Easter could easily be crowned as the most important of the Christian holidays. It is the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. The name "Easter" is of Germanic origin and is said to be derived from the name of the goddess of spring. This is a "movable" holiday, because the date changes from year-to-year. Christian churches in the West celebrate the first Sunday after the vernal equinox.

For Protestant Christians, the celebration begins with Palm Sunday when Christ entered Jerusalem. He and His disciples were en route to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. In that day, it was customary to cover the path of someone worthy of honor, which is how the day got its name. The people cast their coats on the ground, and cut branches from surrounding trees, probably palms.

The literal meaning of maundy is "foot-washing," which refers to Christ's act of service during the Last Supper as He washed the disciples' feet. Of course it was an object lesson, as He encouraged them to serve others.

Good Friday is a day of remembrance. This was the day when Christ was crucified and laid to rest in the borrowed tomb. Though not a legal holiday, many Americans take this day off in order to attend religious services or travel to visit family.

Passover is one of the most important of the Jewish holidays. It is a weeklong festival celebrating the story of Exodus, when the Hebrew nation was freed from slavery in Egypt. They had a savior in the form of Moses. You may remember the famous story from the movie, The Ten Commandments.

The giving of eggs as gifts actually predates Christ. The egg represents life. Though it doesn’t seem to be alive, an ordinary fertilized egg is capable of producing a living thing. Why the egg? In the Christian view, the egg is a symbol of the resurrection, and Christ’s emergence from the tomb. New life. Eggs were once a forbidden food during Lent, so eggs laid during the Lenten period were boiled or otherwise preserved. Then, to celebrate the end of Lent, the eggs were decorated and given as gifts. These were a real treat for egg lovers who had just fasted.


Prompt Contest!! (See below for details)

Spring Holidays
Vernal Equinox (1st day of Spring) 20

Palm Sunday 24

Passover 26 

Maundy Thursday 28

Good Friday 29
Easter Sunday 31
April Fool’s Day 1
Patriot’s Day 15
Earth Day 22
Arbor Day 26
May Day 1
Cinco de Mayo 5
Mother’s Day 12
Armed Forces Day 18
Memorial Day 27
Flag Day 14
Father’s Day 16

Prompt Contest! Prompt Contest!
For this month's prompt contest, I have chosen the prompt for the Christmas post (below). You choose the genre. You have until Sunday, July 29th to submit entries. The winning entry will be posted on July 31st -- yes, posted, in place of our usual Tuesday blogpost. Of course the winner will also receive a $10 Amazon gift card. Get your thinking caps on and come up with a winning post! 

Contest Prompt: 
Hayley couldn’t wait to open her present, the biggest box under the tree. When the moment finally came, she ripped it open to reveal . . .

Friday, July 20, 2012


Queen Esther
The word holiday is derived from holy days, or more pointed, High Holy days, which is the term for the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, which just so happens to be my one of my favorites.

But I'm not writing today to talk about the Jewish New Year, rather to talk about Purim (in Hebrew) Purim.

On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them.
Esther 9:1 (NIV)

Have you ever read the Book of Esther from the Bible? It's a rather charming story that captures the romantic imagination of the reader.Can you tell I'm a romance writer?
At one point in Jewish history they were taken into captivity by the Babylonians, those Babylonians were eventually overtaken by the Persians. Got it?

So, fast forward a few years and you have an interesting cast of players.

King Xerxes I- King of Persia
Queen Vashti- Xerxes queen
Esther- orphaned, exiled Jewish girl living with her cousin
Mordecai- Esther's cousin
Haman-an honored royal official

So here is the dumbed down version. King Xerxes had a party. After he had a little too much to drink, he requested his queen attend him so he could show her off to all his royal officials. Whether it was pride or her sensibilities, she refused. The king's officials feared their wives would rise up in disobedience too, causing discord within many a household. Vashti's disobedience to the king caused her to become dethroned. OUCH! Talk about being made an example.

What was a king to do?

Find a new queen.

A bunch of virgins throughout the kingdom were gathered and taken to the king's harem where they were beautified for twelve months. Seriously? I'd love to have a twelve month spa. Esther caught the eye of Hegai, the person in charge of the harem. This gained Esther seven personal maids. Wow! And the best place in the harem. With treatment like that, the other virgins didn't have a chance, did they?

No, they didn't because Xerxes chose Esther. The young, exiled, orphaned Jewish girl raised by her cousin.

Anyway, throw in a murder plot against the king, which was thwarted by Esther's cousin, a prideful, jealous royal official plotting to annihilate the Jews and a bold, yet humble, beautiful young Jewish woman who found much favor with her new husband and you have a super duper romance that could only have been written by the hand of God.

Oh, I'm not supposed to be talking about romance, am I?

Anyway, Haman, that jealous official plotting to kill the Jews, cast lots in order to decide the day they'd be killed. This casting lots, or rolling of the dice, is called pur. Yeppers, you got it, PURIM.

To make a long story short, Esther was able to convince her husband to help her save her people. Xerxes gave the Jews permission to take up arms against those who attacked them.

The Jews prevailed! And the king and queen lived happily ever after.

So, why the holiday?
These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory of them die among their descendants.
Esther 9:28 (NIV)
Purim is a day to remember the thwarting of a plot to annihilate the Jews. It's celebrated by reading the Book of Esther (something we do at home) and by blotting out the villain's name. It's also celebrated by ". . .feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor." (NIV 9:22)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Holidays - Winter

A Little History of Christmas

It is believed that the Christmas holiday observance originally sprang from a celebration of winter solstice, the turning point of winter. The shortest day of the year lay behind and as the days began to lengthen, the worst of winter was believed to be over. In many Northern European countries, winter was the time for slaughtering their animals, so food was plentiful, and summer’s wine and ale were coming of age. What a great time for a party.
A little further south, Romans also celebrated a holiday around the time of winter solstice; Saturnalia. In the warmer climate of Rome, Saturnalia was a harvest festival.
For early Christians, the most important holiday was Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. They did not celebrate his birth. Scholars argued that most likely, Christ’s actual birth was in the spring when the shepherds would be in the fields with the flocks. 
The Feast of the Nativity began to be celebrated in the fourth century, possibly as a way to unite the citizens, by combining the Christian celebration with the pagan Saturnalia. These early celebrations were loud and raucous, (a little like Mardi Gras). For this reason, religious leaders outlawed participation in the festivities. Many early Christians avoided the celebration completely. By the time the puritans made their voyage to the new world, Christmas was considered a pagan holiday. But in Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith related that the Christmas holiday was “enjoyed by all, and passed without incident.”

In the nineteenth century, the holiday’s character began to change. Many attribute that change to the efforts of two writers. Washington Irving’s The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Both books dealt with the class system in society and encouraged the “Christmas spirit of giving.” 
Out of this struggle, our modern-day celebration was born and in 1870, it was declared a national holiday. Today, the Christmas holiday is both religious and secular in nature. It is the crown of the year for retailers, beginning with “Black Friday,” and ending on Christmas Eve. 
For Christians, it is a time to celebrate the birth of their Savior, a reminder of God’s great love for his children. It is also a time for all families to come together and celebrate their love for one another.   
Disclaimer: There is no way to cover the entirety of Christmas in one short blogpost. I was very nearly sidetracked by a study of the traditional song, The Twelve Days of Christmas―so interesting, but a rabbit trail. I also avoided the mention of Santa Claus, aka St. Nicklaus, etc. So for those of you who may be interested in these subjects, I have imbedded the links throughout this article, and again in the “Research” section at the bottom of this post. 

“God bless us, everyone!”
This week’s story prompt: Hayley couldn’t wait to open her present, the biggest box under the tree. When the moment finally came, she ripped it open to reveal . . .

Winter Holidays
Winter Solstice 21 (Shortest Day of the Year)
Christmas 25
Kwanzaa 26 - Jan 1
New Years Eve 31
New Years Day 1
Inauguration Day 20
Martin Luther King Day 21
Chinese New Year 23
Groundhog Day 2
Chinese New Year 10
Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras 12
Lincoln’s Birthday 12
Ash Wednesday 13
Valentine’s Day 14
President’s Day 18
Washington’s Birthday 22
Purim 24
St. Patrick’s Day 17

Friday, July 13, 2012

Holidays of Remembrance

Fall holidays are the topic of this week, but I wanted to veer from the standard of Halloween and Thanksgiving and focus instead on the United States Armed Forces and the holidays of remembrance.
Honor. Integrity. Character. Dignity. Words that describe the brave men and women of our Armed Forces, celebrated by Veterans Day and National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.
Veterans Day was first designated a holiday on November 11th, 1919 by President Woodrow Wilson. Originally called Armistice Day, it marked the anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended World War I. Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
 A Congressional Act in 1938 made it a national holiday, and in 1945, Raymond Weeks, a World War II veteran from Birmingham, Alabama, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all United States veterans. In 1954, Armistice Day was officially renamed Veterans Day.
Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day in that it celebrates the service of all United States veterans, not only the ones who died while serving. Observances include parades and ceremonies honoring local veterans, along with the closing of some businesses, schools, and non-essential federal government offices.
National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day is a day of remembrance to honor all who died or were injured during the attack of an United States Air Force base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941 America's naval base in Pearl Harbor was attacked by the forces of the Empire of Japan. More than 2,400 Americans were killed and more than 1,100 were wounded. The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and damaged four more. It also damaged or sank three cruisers, three destroyers, one minelayer and damaged 188 aircraft.
U.S.S West Virginia
The day after the attack, the United States declared war on Japan and officially entered World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt declared it “a date which will live in infamy.”
While not a federal holiday, it is a tradition to fly flags at half-staff until sunset. Memorials have been built on the site of the attack and special events honor those killed or injured at Pearl Harbor.
Whether trick-or-treating or watching the football game while feasting on turkey this fall, let’s not forget our veterans, and the holidays of remembrance.

Writing prompt: Joe had finished the letter to Nancy, tucking it with care under his pillow on the hard bunk when a tremendous crash...

Pictures from Wikipedia Commons

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Fall Holidays - Thanksgiving and Perseverance

Thanksgiving Day is the most obvious choice among the Fall Holidays, but I intend to take a slightly different track. Since Thanksgiving is high on my list of favorite holidays, I would like to give homage to Sarah Josepha Hale, who ardently campaigned for its creation. She would not back down, but pursued her dream for seventeen years. Hey, that’s perseverance! Of course she was a writer. Writers understand rejection and perseverance. 

Hale wrote letters to five American presidents, asking that they declare Thanksgiving Day a national holiday. Up to this time, it was only celebrated in New England and those states chose their own day to celebrate. Abraham Lincoln was persuaded by her letter to support legislation for the holiday in 1863. Thanksgiving became the third national holiday, joining George Washington’s birthday and Independence Day. 

For more information on this fascinating individual, you can click the link (her name above) or under research, below. I would encourage you to read about her life and perhaps you can include her, or references to her, in your historical writing.

My son's first turkey
Of course I can’t leave the discussion of Thanksgiving without also giving homage to the humble turkey. If Benjamin Franklin had had his way, the turkey would have been declared our national bird, instead of the eagle. 

Franklin wrote, “For a truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America . . . a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.”

Ha! So as you slice into your golden-brown turkey on Thanksgiving Day, be sure to thank him (the turkey) for his ongoing contribution to your celebration.


List of Fall Holidays:
Autumnal Equinox - Sept 22 @ 10:49 a.m. Northern Hemisphere
Native American Day 28
Sukkot (begins at sundown) 30
Yom Kippur 30
Columbus Day 8
Thanksgiving Day 8 (C)
Boss’s Day 16
Sweetest Day 20
United Nations Day 24
Halloween 31
All Saint’s Day 1
All Soul’s Day 2
Veteran’s Day 11
Sadie Hawkins Day 13
Thanksgiving Day 22
Pearl Harbor Day 7
Chanukah 8 (lasts 8 days) 
Poinsettia Day 12

This week’s prompt: 
When Ardmore grabbed the knife to begin carving the Thanksgiving turkey, Charlotte’s face paled. . . 

Friday, July 6, 2012

National Aviation Day

Tomorrow is my birthday. Every year I'm asked what it is I'd like for my birthday and every year I don't have a clue. So, this year I've been pointing out all kinds of things to my kids, mostly books, a little outdoor table so I can sit my water feature on it, steak dinner, but I never thought to ask for a national holiday in my honor.

I don't think Orville Wright asked for it either, but that's exactly what Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave him on August 19, 1939. And why wouldn't the President of the United States give the man such an honor? Although I'm sure Roosevelt had no idea just how much the Wright brothers would influence the future of the world.
November 16, 1904-Library of Congress
This honor was bestowed on Orville Wright only a few short weeks before the start of WWII and a few years before the United States entered the war. Of course, planes were used during WWI.
National Museum of the United States Air Force

The image above is a replica of the Wright Model A. It was the first model the brothers made to sell. It also landed them a $30,000 contract with the U.S. Army Signal Corps for a modified version. An interesting note here, the Wrights sold licenses to other countries. Germany was the largest producer. Hmm, I wonder if the brothers knew the future ramifications of that particular deal and I wonder how they felt when WWII occurred.

Wright Model A
Military aviation
War Planes
Orville Wright
Salute to your service

Schools sometimes take advantage of National Aviation Day to teach children about the history of flight. Some aviation museums celebrate the day by honoring other well known aviators such as Amelia Earhart.

Happy Friday, 


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Holidays - Summer

Betty Owens here--Happy Summer! We're in the midst of an early heat wave. I'm writing this post at 7:30 in the morning and it's already 89 degrees. During the month of July, we'll talk about holidays. This week, it's summer holidays. Summer began officially on June 20th at 7:09 pm (in North America). This day is called Summer Solstice. Sol means sun, and -stice means to stand still. It is the longest day and shortest night of the year. I have listed some of the most common summer holidays below this article.

The greatest of the summer holidays, the Fourth of July is a day of picnics, backyard barbecues, band concerts, and fireworks displays. For many of us, it means a day off from work. But it hasn't always been that way. Early celebrations included public readings of the Declaration of Independence, ringing of bells, bonfires, and processions. Some even held mock funerals for George III, celebrating the end of the monarchy’s control. 

The first annual celebration of the Fourth of July was held in Philadelphia in 1776, but it did not become widely celebrated until the years following the War of 1812. In 1870, the U.S. Congress made the Fourth of July a federal holiday. In 1941, it became a paid federal holiday. Now it is one of the six major holidays celebrated by many businesses.
Miami FL, Wikipedia Commons File
Fourth of July celebrations figure large in several well-known movies. Yankee Doodle Dandy (James Cagney, 1942), and The Music Man (Robert Preston, 1962) are two of my favorites. The small-town celebration in The Music Man is classic Americana. Though stylized for film, those of you who grew up in small towns may have experienced something similar. I remember baseball games, marching bands, and church picnics and of course, the exciting fireworks displays. 
Interesting side note: John Adams believed the actual date to celebrate the new nation’s independence was July 2nd when the declaration was signed, instead of July 4th, when it was accepted. It was reported that Adams turned down invitations to speak or make appearances at Fourth of July functions. Oddly enough, both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on July 4th, 1826, fifty years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
For more information on the Fourth of July, check out these webpages: 

This week's writing prompt: 
Julianne would always remember this Fourth of July as the day she . . .

Summer Holidays:

June (after the first day of summer)

St Baptiste Day June 24
Paul Bunyan Day June 28
Canada Day 2 (C)
Independence Day 4
Parents Day 22
Friendship Day 5
Assumption Day 15
National Aviation Day 19
Women’s Equality Day 26
Labor Day 3
Grandparents Day 9
Patriot Day 11
Stepfamily Day 16
Constitution Day (&Week) 17
or Citizenship Day
International Day of Peace 21


We have a winner! Last month's prompt contest was a difficult one to judge. After much deliberation . . . (drumroll please) . . . Congratulations, Michelle Sutton!! You have won the $10 Amazon gift card. Please click on the "Contact" tab near the top of this page to email us so we can send you your card. And thanks so much for entering! Thanks also, Ginger, Samantha & Meghan--loved your stories. Keep trying!