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Friday, November 22, 2019

Thanksgiving Makeover - Part 2

Good morning, FFFFs,
The rain is pattering lightly on the skylight of my room. I can hear the street-sweeper somewhere in the area. It's colder this morning. Only 37º right now instead of in the 50s. The last few days have been damp and cloudy. I think we're supposed to get sunshine either later today or tomorrow. That will be nice.
I've actually done some writing this week! Are you shocked? I am. ;) I've written every day (except Sunday when I don't write) and am planning to write today and tomorrow. No, I haven't gotten 1k written most days, but even 500 is better than nothing, right? I finished one Christmas story which you probably won't get until next year. Sorry. Now I'm not sure what I'll do. I think I might leave the other unfinished Christmas stories to wait until next year. I still need to write a short story for our Christmas cards. Any ideas? Any Christmas songs you would like to see in a Christian story?

I've also been practicing my violin. We are playing our Thanksgiving song on Sunday. And I finally got music for the two Christmas specials we are planning on doing. The one for the Christmas program is easy which is good since I'll be very busy that evening. ;)

Another thing I'm doing is taking part in Tarissa's Literary Christmas again! This is the 3rd year I've done it. Basically you read Christmas books and review them on your blog, or on Goodreads, or Amazon, then share the title and the link to the review on Tarissa's blog. It's fun to see what sort of Christmas books people read. Oh, and she's doing a giveaway right now. :) All you have to do to enter is read and review a Christmas book, share the link, and there you go. (There are other ways to enter the giveaway too.) Anyway, I hope you'll come join the fun. I'd love to see what books you read. You can get to Tarissa's post by clicking on the image below.

A Literary Christmas: Reading Challenge // inthebookcase.blogspot.com

And now for the 2nd part of your Thanksgiving story. I think I need to write a few more Thanksgiving stories. And 4th of July stories, and Valentine's Day stories, and  . . . ;)

Thanksgiving Makeover
Part 2

    Brad was frowning. “I don’t know. He’s supposed to be in a sleigh on top of a house, but . . .” Suddenly he snapped his fingers. “The dog house! If we could put it on wheels of some sort, we could cut a cardboard box so it kind of looks like a sleigh and the whole thing can be pulled or pushed.”
    It was an ingenious idea. Brad raced home to ask his dad for a little help in getting the dog house to the lot. One of their neighbors, who had been talking with Mr. Miller when Brad arrived, offered the use of his small gator and flat trailer to put the doghouse and such on. “You can use it if Hunter’ll drive it,” Mr. Johnson agreed. “I don’t want any youngster accidentally running into the next float or dumping Santa Claus into the street.”

    It was almost noon before the “Neighborhood Macy’s Parade” was ready to begin. From all around the neighborhood families and friends gathered in the front yards along the side of the street. The end of the street had been blocked off with bright orange cones, so there was no fear of traffic to interrupt the parade.
    Loud were the cheers when the “floats” began to appear. There was one with pilgrims and Indians. Who cared that the Indian’s feathers were bright blue and pink, or that the pilgrim father’s paper hat blew off and he had to chase it. Next came the “band” consisting of a pot beaten enthusiastically, a kazoo, and a trumpet.
    The onlookers roared with laughter when they beheld Cherry leading on a string an enormous “turkey” who seemed strangely tall considering that its face appeared to be that of Trenton wearing a beak and red floppy comb under his chin. It took only a look at the boots under the yellow paper “feet,” however, to realize that Sgt. Crawford, home from the Marines for several months, was the lower part of the bird. “He’s probably got couch cushions or his pack on his back covered with a cloth,” whispered one lady to her husband amid the laughter.
    “Yep, and I reckon it’s supposed to be one of those balloon things.”
    The “Macy’s” float came next, with a large sign, and a wagon full of stuffed animals, and dolls all sporting fashionable clothes.
    Three bicycle riders came next, followed by a few more ingenious “floats,” but the crowning moment came when “Santa Claus came to town.” No one minded or even commented on the fact that Santa’s legs stuck out the bottom of his sleigh and the toes of his boots were hooked on the edge of the roof so that he wouldn’t fall out. His outfit was splendid, and he sported a beard of white batting which made him sneeze several times as he was carried slowly down the street waving to the people and shouting, “Come to Macy’s and buy your Christmas presents!” This last bit brought down the house, and even the sound of the gator’s engine was drowned out.

    Pulling off the itchy beard, Brad asked, “When is the game, Dad?”
    Mr. Miller chuckled. “Not yet. You’ve got to give everyone a little time to recover from the parade. And besides, aren’t you all hungry yet?”
    “I am!” Rosa exclaimed. “But we can’t eat a Thanksgiving dinner, can we?”
    “Well, not like we usually do, but we’ll eat a feast later in the afternoon. We’ve got three turkeys roasting in roaster ovens powered by a generator Mr. Leeks had. Between all the families, I imagine we’ll have enough to at least taste a bit of turkey. If they don’t get done, or if anyone is still hungry after we eat, they can roast hot dogs.”

    At two o’clock everyone gathered in the “Neighborhood Bowl” behind Mr. Merrik’s house for the big foot ball game. All the players had been divided into two opposing teams: Panthers vs. Cowboys. All around the field chairs had been set up, a few trucks had been parked and more chairs set up in their beds. “To give the impression of stands,” Mr. Miller had told his wife. Since no one had real padding, the game was tag football, but no one minded. One of the men used to work as a referee and he had pulled out his black and white shirt and hung his whistle around his neck.
    At half time the score was 3-1 in favor of the Panthers. Most of the ladies left the game then, as did a few of the men who weren’t playing. The ones who remained, however, cheered every play and shouted encouragement to the younger players until they were hoarse.
    When the game finally ended the Cowboys had managed to win the game by one point at the very end. Brad came off the field rather winded and hot. He found his sisters and brothers waiting for him in the back of their dad’s truck. “Well, I thought we were going to win,” he remarked, reaching for the water bottle Rosa held out to him.
    “But it was a really close game,” Rosa said, waving to a friend who had been sitting on the other side of the field. “Now you have to go get cleaned up so we can eat.”

    Everyone agreed it was a most unusual place for a Thanksgiving dinner, but the middle of their quiet, blocked off street seemed to be the perfect place to put tables and chairs. “Of course, anyone is welcome to sit in the grass or on their porch, if they’d rather,” Mrs. Miller told everyone as they all gathered.
    It wasn’t the traditional Thanksgiving meal most families in America would be partaking of, but it was a feast. The three turkeys had been roasted to perfection and, with the use of three grills, two gas stoves, and two dutch ovens, the ladies had managed to prepare potatoes, both mashed and baked, stuffing, corn, cranberry sauce, and a few other dishes, not to mention the pies which had been baked ahead of time. As for rolls, Mr. Henthorn, who worked at a bakery, had brought home dozens of rolls the evening before, when he had learned of the intended feast. Though there wasn’t enough turkey for everyone to have as much as they might have wanted, no one was hungry by the time the meal was over.
    Brad leaned back in his chair and looked down the length of the street. “It sure is funny to be eating our Thanksgiving meal in the middle of a street.”
    Rosa nodded. “But we wouldn’t have fit anywhere else very well, except for the empty lots, and that would have been a long way to carry all the tables and things.”

If you had to create a float for this parade, what would you do?
Do you enjoy watching or playing football?
Have you started reading Christmas books yet?

Friday, November 15, 2019

Thanksgiving Makeover - Part 1

Happy Friday, Favorite Friday Fiction Fans!
It's a beautiful morning! The sun is rising in a clear sky. It is cold (25º) but it's supposed to warm up to the upper 40s or low 50s. A good day to sign papers for a new house. No, not me. My brother and sis-in-law are signing papers for their house this morning. Then this afternoon they are going over to clean or wipe things down. I'll probably be going over too, and I think my sister will. Then tomorrow is moving day. Busy. But fun. The kids are excited.

I wrote a little this week. Enough to finish the Christmas story I'll be sharing next month. It's the story version of the Christmas play I wrote. ;) I wanted to write more, but haven't had the chance.

Sunday was a day my brain worked extra. The beginning of the church service was first, then I went to Children's Church to work with the kids on their play, then back to church for the last half of the sermon, then as soon as church was over I had to switch to the other play to work with the kids on that. Next I had to talk with some of the mom's about practice dates and costumes before rushing off to get in on the last part of choir. Whew! This Sunday won't be quite as crazy since I'll have bells instead of the other play and choir.

I can't believe that today is the half-way point of November! What? How is that even possible? I knew it would be a busy month, but . . . Well, anyway, here's the first part of your Thanksgiving story. :) Hope you enjoy it!


Thanksgiving Makeover
Part 1

    The early pre-dawn light was just beginning to spread across the eastern sky, giving a hint to a beautiful Thanksgiving day. The neighborhood was still shrouded in darkness. Not a light shone in any window, giving the impression that no one was awake or that everyone had left town for the holiday. However, the eerily dark streetlights hinted that something more than late sleepers was causing the darkness.
    Inside the Miller home, eleven-year-old Brad shut his Bible and placed it back on the shelf before snapping off his flashlight. It took a minute for his eyes to adjust to the gloom, but when they did, he slipped from his small room and knocked softly on the door across the hall.
    It opened in a minute and his sister appeared.
    “Are you ready?” Brad whispered.
    “Yep.” There was excitement in Rosa’s voice as she turned off her light and tucked it into her pocket.
    Together the siblings hurried down the hall to the stairs. A faint light glimmered from the living room, and Brad and Rosa headed towards it.
    Looking up from his Bible as the children entered, Mr. Miller smiled. “Is it time already?”
    “Yeah, it’s just after six.”
    “Is Mom awake yet?” Rosa asked.
    Mr. Miller nodded. “Yes. She’s going to let the younger ones sleep as late as they want because I don’t think anyone except Molly is going to take a nap today.” As he spoke, Mr. Miller had risen, set his Bible on the table and picked up a camping lantern. “All right, let’s get coats and get to work. Brad, get the posters, Rosa, the papers.”
    The air was brisk as the three figures stepped outside. The soft twitter of a single bird was the only sound to be heard.
    “It sure is quiet without the hum of that streetlight,” Brad whispered.
    “And dark,” Rosa added, shivering.
    The Millers worked quickly, tucking a paper announcing the unusual day’s events, into the front door of each family who was in town. Posters were stapled to light posts. Across the top of these was written in large letters: “Neighborhood Thanksgiving Festival.” Below was a list of events and where they would take place. Though most of the families already knew about the day, the time and place of most of the events hadn’t been announced.
    As they returned to their own home, Brad could hardly wait for everyone to get up. He didn’t even think about the sudden power outage which had knocked out all their original plans for a “normal” Thanksgiving; he was just eager for the fun he knew would be coming.

    Breakfast was hardly over before the excitement and work began. Arrivals at the front door seemed incessant, and Brad and Rosa were kept busy answering questions or directing people to the kitchen to talk with their mom, as she fed baby Molly, or to the back yard where Dad was working.
    At nine o’clock Mr. Miller came inside. “Brad,” he called.
    “Yeah?”
    “I think it might be a good idea to head up to the empty lot and start getting ready for the ‘Macy’s Parade.’ It’s going to take quite a while to get everything ready, I imagine.”
    Brad pumped his fist in the air. “Yes! Come on, Rosa!” he shouted.
    Instantly Cherry and Trenton began to beg to go, and Ryan started crying, “Me too! Me too!”
    Turning in despair to his mom, Brad exclaimed, “Mom, I can’t watch the little ones and get a parade ready!”
    Mrs. Miller smiled as she stepped over Molly’s scattered toys. “I know you can’t. Miss Elise and Mr. Hunter said they’d come help when the time came. The younger ones can stay with Miss Elise while you and Mr. Hunter get everything ready and organized.”
    A flurry of jackets were pulled on, and five Miller children raced out the door and up the street to the empty lot which marked the end of their housing development. From nearby homes other children spilled from doors, some dragging wagons or hopping on bikes, others carrying bags or boxes from which trailed fabric of all sorts.
    Everything in the lot was mass confusion for several minutes until Mr. Hunter, a college age young man who was respected by every child in the neighborhood, got everyone’s attention. After that, Brad was able to assign numbers to the various “floats,” and the work of decorating them and dressing up began. There was much laughter over some of the floats, much borrowing of garments, a seemingly constant request for safety pins, and much running back to houses to get thing forgotten or needed.
    “Mr. Hunter,” Brad asked, when everyone was busy, “since this is supposed to be a ‘Macy’s Parade,’ and they always end theirs with a Santa Claus, do you think we can too?”
    With a laugh, Mr. Hunter shrugged. “We can try. We’d have to find a red coat though, unless someone has a Santa suit.”
    “I don’t know of anyone who does. But I’ll ask the kids.” And Brad ran off. He didn’t believe in Santa and knew most of the other kids didn’t either, but the big parade they were copying always had a Santa at the end, and it just wouldn’t be the same without one. There were no Santa suits, but he learned he could get a pair of red snow pants, a red hoodie and a Santa hat. “I still need a black belt, white gloves and black boots,” he panted, running back to Mr. Hunter who had three-year-old Ryan on his shoulders.
    “I can get a black belt for you and you should be able to find some black boots.” He turned to his sister. “Hey, Elise, do you have any white gloves Santa can wear?”
    “Sure. If you’ll keep Trenton with you, Cherry and I’ll run and get them.”
    “And grab my black belt from the closet, will you? Oh, and see if you can locate any black boots,” Mr. Hunter called after her. Then he turned to Brad. “What is Santa going to ride in?”

How was your week?
Did you get any writing done?
Have you ever created your own parade?

Friday, November 8, 2019

To Give Hope – Part 3

Good morning, FFFFs,
It's a sunny morning here. But it's cold. Only 21º at the moment. We had lovely weather earlier this week in the 60s, but then it rained and a cold front blew in from the north. The leaves are really falling from the trees and it won't be long before our yard is a carpet of leaves ready to be raked up.

This week has been crazy! Of course I have to play "catch-up" on Monday. Then I went to bed early Monday night because I had to be up at 4:30 the next morning.
I worked as an election judge on Tuesday. There was only one city thing on the ballot, but more people came out than we thought. That was nice. But of course I didn't get home until 9 PM.
Wednesday I had to play catch-up again. Only this time it was harder because I was tired. And it was cloudy. What is it about clouds and tired that make you not get much done? And Wednesday evening I had to go to church to practice music.
Yesterday I had writing classes. That was strange since I usually do it on Tuesdays. And I was missing one student who couldn't make it which meant that one class only had 1 student so I had to scramble to fill our time since I wasn't expecting that. In the late afternoon the grandkids all came over. They didn't leave until quarter till nine.
And today . . . Well, I need to clean house, send emails about play practice, take care of things, take care of other things, work on my Christmas Collection books that need editing, practice the violin, and maybe I can write. We'll see.

How was your week?

This is the final part of this story. What should I post next? I have two choices for you: (1.) the first part of an 8 week story (it would have to skip December and start again in January) or (2.) re-post a Thanksgiving story from a few years ago. Which do you want?


To Give Hope
Part 3

    The concert hall was packed, much to Clara’s astonishment. She hadn’t expected so many people to come to listen to the Quattuor Amicis String Quartet. Yes, she knew they were good. They had just come back from a world tour where they had been lauded for their aesthetic performances before packed houses, and their acclaim was touted in musical circles and magazines. But to Clara, the Quattuor Amicis Quartet was just Grandpa’s quartet. He and his friends had established it long before Clara was even born, and she had sat in on practices, had eaten many dinners with the other players, and considered them all almost like extra grandpas.
    Now, sitting in the front row, her stomach gave a queer quiver. Pressing her hands over it, she bit the inside of her lip and hoped she wouldn’t get sick.
    “I told you to eat your supper,” her dad leaned over and teased in low tones.
    Clara managed nervous chuckle and smoothed out an invisible wrinkle in her dark cranberry formal. Supper had been the last thing she wanted that evening. “Maybe I should have stayed at home,” she whispered. “I’ve never been this nervous in my life!”
    Mrs. Stillman dug in her purse and pulled out a peppermint. Handing it to her daughter, she instructed, “Suck on this and think of the music.”
    “That’s my problem!” Clara took the candy. “I can’t help thinking about it. What if it doesn’t sound good? What if I messed something up?”
    “Hey, Grandpa has already told you it was great, hasn’t he?” Mrs. Stillman leaned around her husband and looked at Clara. “It’s not like they just saw the music tonight.”
    “Yeah, but what if Grandpa just said the music was good because I composed it.”
    Mr. Stillman let out a sniff. “If your grandpa says it’s good. It is. When it comes to music, it doesn’t matter who wrote it or arranged it, if it’s not good–and I mean really good–he’ll say so. Now relax and enjoy the night.”
    Clara sat back in her plush chair and sucked on the candy, trying not to think about the fact that tonight was the debut for her song.
    As the concert got underway, she relaxed and let the music of Mozart and Bach calm her nerves. Her song wouldn’t be until the very end.
    Intermission brought all the butterflies back to her stomach, and she whispered to her dad, “I think I might be sick.”
    “You are not. And you are not going to be. Grandpa has played your songs before, and you can close your eyes and pretend his quartet is playing at home.” He patted her knee and smiled to ease the bluntness of his words.
    When the music began again, Clara couldn’t concentrate. She fiddled with her program until her father reached over and took it. Then she sat and polished her fingernails with the belt of her dress and counted pleats on the curtains behind the musicians. Applause startled her, and she caught her breath.
    This was it. They were going to play it. Her song. The one they commissioned her to write. Her mouth felt like cotton, her heart thudded against her ribs, and she wanted nothing more than to hide. If she was only in the wings and could pace the floor. Or if Grandpa’s quartet had been able to reach town yesterday like planned; then they could have played it for her ahead of time. But their flight had been delayed. She hadn’t even gotten to say hello before the concert.
    “Breathe, Clara,” Her dad murmured in her ear.
    The first low notes on the viola started. They were sad and slow. The cello added its mournful tones to the music, and Clara felt again the sadness of that afternoon. But as the song progressed, hope came. It came in the higher birdlike twitter on the violins and in the slow crescendo of the sunrise on the viola. It was heard in the crashing waves of the cello and in the tender bits of old hymns tucked away among the other notes. It came steadily and grew stronger. Light. Hope. Joy.
    Clara could breathe freely again.
    The song ended with the soft almost breathless whisper of the wind in the trees which gradually died away on the air. Then silence.
    Not a sound could be heard in the vast concert hall. Then from somewhere the applause started. It filled the hall, rang from the balcony, and echoed across the stage. People were on their feet, but Clara remained rooted in her chair. She hardly noticed when the thunderous noise ceased, and the first violinist spoke into the microphone telling about her piece. She didn’t hear him inviting her up to the stage with them. If her dad hadn’t led her to the stairs, helped her up them, and walked by her side to join the Quattuor Amicis String Quartet, she would never have made it.
    “It was perfect, Clara,” Grandpa whispered as he hugged her before the cheering audience. “It was what we wanted–something to give hope.”

Did you like the ending to this story?
What should I post next week?
Was your week crazy or normal?

Friday, November 1, 2019

To Give Hope – Part 2

Good morning, FFFFs!
It's 32º right now and I'm glad I'm not outside. Yesterday morning we woke up to a very light dusting of snow on the porches, roofs, cars, and such. Snow in October? That doesn't happen here. Or at least it didn't. :P

This week has been busy in a different way. I found out early this week that all the free audio codes I had been given from ACX were going to expire on Nov. 12th. (They do give me more in another place that are different.) Well, I didn't want to just leave all these codes to expire, so I sent out emails, a newsletter, and have talked to people. I'm giving away as many codes as I can find takers for. :) It's been a lot of fun! So far I've given out 175 audio codes! Some are to people who already know my books, others are to people who know I write, but have never read anything.
Did you get any free audio codes yet? If not, ask. I still have around 27 for "Gift from the Storm" and 30 or more for "The Old Mansion's Secret" plus some of the others. If you know of any friends who would like either of those audio books (just because I had extra of them), send them my way. I'd love to give out some more copies.

What else have I been doing? I've practiced the violin for a Thanksgiving special some friends are playing at church. I wrote! No Christmas story this week. I had an idea for a new "Kelsey" story so have been working on that. It's been such fun! I do like Kelsey and her sisters. And the other characters. I taught writing classes. Only two more to teach before we break until January. Now that sounds strange!

Here's the next part of this story. There's one more part after this.


To Give Hope
Part 2

    Mr. Stillman reached out and tapped her head. “This. This is what’s wrong. You were playing with your head and not your heart. Your head was running all over the place and dragging your heart along with it. You are doing the same thing about composing this song for Grandpa’s quartet. Composing something, anything of value anyway, must come from the heart. If it doesn’t, then it’s a waste of time.”
    “I know!” Clara burst forth. She’d been a student in her dad’s classroom and knew all the right things. “But I can’t do it! There’s nothing there! It’s all dark and minor and won’t go anywhere.” She struck an E minor chord on the piano with force.
    “Play through the darkness then, Clara. Is there nothing but darkness and despair? What about the joy of the Lord is your strength, or God being a Father to the fatherless and a judge of widows. I know that my Redeemer liveth. Why aren’t thou cast down O my soul? Casting all your care upon Him for He careth for you.” Mr. Stillman stood up and rested a hand on his daughter’s shoulder. “Give them hope, Clara. Give light in darkness and joy instead of mourning.” He squeezed her shoulder and walked away to the far side of the room.
    Staring at her hands resting in her lap, Clara thought about her father’s words. Was that the trouble? Had she been so focused, and so distracted, by the sadness and pain around her that she couldn’t see the hope that was offered? Was that why she couldn’t compose the song her grandpa wanted her to write for the quartet he played in?
    Her father’s call roused her, and she rose from the bench to find him holding out the viola and a bow. She looked from the instrument to her dad. “What am I supposed to do with that?”
    “Play through your darkness and find the hope, Clara. You can’t do it on the piano as that’s not the instrument you love best, and you can’t play it with your heart when you aren’t one with it. Take this and give the sadness and despair a voice. Then give them hope and offer joy. Play with your heart and talk to God as you play. You’ll find your notes.” He placed the instrument into her hands, kissed her forehead, and then moved to the door. Turning, he said, “Don’t try to write anything, just play.” With that he was gone.
    Clara stood for a moment looking at the closed door. Then, tucking the viola under her chin, she tested out the strings. They were in tune, and she began slowly, softly, to play. The notes rambled at first, until her fingers began moving almost of themselves. The notes were a cry for help, a sob, a feeling of anguish. Clara closed her eyes and let the music flood around her as she prayed and pleaded for strength, for hope, and for joy.
    Gradually the notes began to change. Bits of hymns found their way into the despair. Lighter notes, like birds singing, brought a smile to her lips, and soon Clara was so wrapped up in her music that she didn’t notice the door opening or see her parents peeking in. She was alone with her music, and with her God.

*

    Lowering the viola at last, Clara sank into one of the chairs and rested her instrument on her knee. She felt exhausted, but refreshed at the same time. The heavy weight that had kept the music from spilling out of her fingers was gone.
    A light knock on the door made her look up to find her dad standing in the doorway. There was a smile on his face. “Supper’s ready. And don’t say you want to get started composing first. You skipped lunch and need a good meal before you start because I have a feeling you’ll be at it a while.”
    Clara laughed. “You’re right. I am hungry.” Rising, she hung up her viola and bow. “Thanks, Daddy,” she said, going to him and giving him a kiss. You understand me better than I do sometimes.” She slipped her hand through his arm and walked beside him down the hall. “I found the hope and light, you know.”
    “Yes. I could hear it.”

*

    Clara worked into the wee hours of the morning composing then sat down on the couch in the music room for a little break. She hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but before he left for the conservatory, her dad found her with her on the couch head pillowed on a stack of music books. With a smile he lifted her head gently and replaced the music with a pillow, spread a light blanket over her, and left her sleeping.

Have you ever fallen asleep someplace besides your bed?
How do you deal with stress and frustration?
Did you get any free audio books?

Friday, October 25, 2019

To Give Hope – Part 1

Good morning, Faithful Friday Fiction Fans,
It's a lovely, cloudy, rainy, chilly morning. I went to sleep last night listening to the light pattering of a gentle rain on the roof. And this morning the rain is still softly falling. It's 43º right now. Fall. Yesterday, since it was a rainy day and I didn't have a lot of pressing things to do, I curled up with a book and enjoyed some reading. It was quite lovely.

Guess what I've been doing this week? Writing! Yep, I'm writing again. I wrote for the first time this month on Tuesday and have written every day since. Of course that's only three days, but it's sure better than none at all! I'm hoping to keep going and get a few other short Christmas stories finished. Don't worry, I'm not starting any new ones. These are all ones that have been started but not finished.

I'm still working on stuff for the two Christmas plays for church. I made a list of all the things I need for props. And I'm starting to ask people if they have them. And I will be sharing the story for one of the plays with you in December. 

Today starts a new story. I was going to wait a week before I started it, but decided to just go ahead and start. It's only 3 weeks long. I hope you enjoy it. The idea for this story came to me when I was listening to a string quartet with my grandpa a couple months ago.


To Give Hope
Part 1

    Clara stared at the blank lines on the sheet of music paper before her. She had to write something! Her dark brown hair had been pulled back from her face several hours before, but wisps and curls had come loose and now framed her face. Frustration rose up in her as she fiddled with the pencil on the table.
    “I’ll try at the piano.”
    Sitting down on the bench, she lifted the lid and touched a few chords.
    “Ugh! Nothing works!” She looked at a framed photo that hung on the wall. “Grandpa, I can’t do it,” she whispered. “I can’t compose something for your quartet.”
    Tears gathered in Clara’s brown eyes, and turning, the girl buried her face in her hands and cried. Once the tears were spent she sat motionless, head still in her hands, and wondered listlessly if she would ever be able to compose music again.
    “Hi, honey!”
    Clara heard her dad’s cheery voice in the other room. He must have just returned from the conservatory where he taught music composition. The very thought brought renewed frustration, and Clara groaned. “His daughter is a failure at the very thing he teaches! Didn’t I learn anything?” She swallowed back another lump in her throat and listened to her mom’s voice.
    “. . . she hasn’t come out to eat lunch, and I haven’t heard any composing going on. I wish you’d go talk with her, John. You understand her better than I do when it comes to music and things like that.”
    Clara knew her mom was right; her dad did understand about music, but she doubted even he’d be able to help her. Nothing could help if she couldn’t compose anymore.
    A light tap sounded on the music room door before it swung silently open. Clara didn’t lift her head.
    “How’s the composing going?” Mr. Stillman asked.
    “It’s not.”
    Sitting down on the piano bench beside his daughter, Mr. Stillman rubbed her back a little. “What’s the problem?”
    With a sigh, Clara dropped her hands and straightened. “I can’t compose. There’s nothing there. It’s all dark, frustrating nothingness! How do you compose when–” She broke off and stared at the carpet.
    “When what?”
    Clara shook her head. “I don’t know. I look at the paper and see nothing. I sit down at the piano, and all I can hear, all I can play, are minor chords that sound terrible.”
    Mr. Stillman sat silently for a moment. “Clara, I want you to forget about music for a minute. What else is bothering you? What has you so tense that you couldn’t even play chopsticks without exhausting yourself?”
    Clara stared at the walls of the music room without really seeing them. They were a light neutral color. On one wall hung a few violins, her favorite viola, and a framed verse from Psalms. Another wall held a bookshelf filled with hymn books, music books, sheet music, and biographies of famous composers. The other two walls were empty expect for the large windows where heavy drapes could shut out the sun’s harsh glare or let in the warming rays. Music stands, a table, a couch and chair, and a variety of instrument cases occupied part of the room.
    “Come on, Clara, what’s bothering you?”
    The words seemed to come of themselves. “Paul and Ashley are splitting up. Emma is struggling with being a single mom with two children. Kale and Isaiah just lost their baby. Ginger seems to have lost all idea of how to communicate and only gives vague answers about the upcoming baby shower for Tiffany, and it’s all driving me nuts! And now Grandpa is counting on this new song that I can’t write.” She propped her elbows on her knees and rested her chin in her hands. “And yes, I’ve tried to put it all out of my mind, Dad, but I can’t.”
    Mr. Stillman rose without a word and crossed the room to the bookshelf. After a quick glance, he pulled a well worn music book down and returned to the piano. He opened the book and set it on the music rack. “Play this song for me.”
    Clara didn’t move. She didn’t want to play a song, but her dad took hold of her shoulders and slid her around until she faced the music. It was a simple piece, one she had learned many years before. Almost automatically her hands found the correct keys and she began playing.
    “Stop.”
    Her fingers stilled, and Clara sat staring at the music before her.
    “What’s wrong with the song?” Her dad’s voice was calm.
    Clara didn’t answer. She hadn’t paid much attention to what she was playing.
    Crouching down beside the bench, Mr. Stillman tipped his head and looked at her. “Clara, what was wrong?”
    Her answer was a shrug.

Do you play an instrument?
Have you ever tried composing something?
Does everyone else's problems weigh you down sometimes?

Friday, October 18, 2019

He Answered My Prayers – Part 4

Good morning!
It's still dark here right now. There's a faint light in the east, but things are hushed except for one bird twittering in the stillness. It's chilly. Only 46º at the moment, but I think it's supposed to be in the low 70s today.

This week has had it's ups and downs. Something I thought was finished turns out to be not finished. But I did get a few other projects done that have been needing to be finished. I was able to get together with one of my heart sisters for a few hours. That was nice. I now have a violin song to work on for Thanksgiving. A few others at church were going to play and asked if I wanted to join. (We've played several things together.) I also worked on my website and blog posts. 

Oh, the sky is getting really pretty. On the horizon the sky is a rosy orange, and above that it's a faint salmon color before it melts into blue and purple. The trees are dark silhouettes before the color. So pretty!

Here is the final part of this story. I hope you enjoy it.



He Answered My Prayers
Part 4

    Somewhat to her surprise, Lacey found it enjoyable having someone helping her in the kitchen. It kept her mind occupied. Garrett could make his coffee and fry his eggs for his toast in the mornings, but that was the limit of his kitchen activity. Charlie mixed ingredients, washed dishes, sampled cookies, and talked now and then about life, or asked questions about the cookies they were making.
    When the kitchen table and the dining room table were both filled with the five different kinds of cookies, the dishes washed, and the kitchen back to its spick–and–span order, Lacey suddenly felt tired. “Now it’s time to go to bed.”
    Charlie gave a light laugh, glanced at the clock, and kissed his aunt’s cheek. “Going to bed at four-thirty in the morning after an early breakfast of cookies. I think I’m going to enjoy this visit. Goodnight, Aunt Lacey. Thanks for letting me stay up and help.” He turned off the kitchen light.

*

    When Lacey rose later, she was shocked to find it nearly nine. She never slept that late. Not even if she was sick. Quickly she dressed and made her bed. The house was quiet, but the morning sun shone in the window when she opened her curtains. The rain and clouds were gone.
    “I wonder if Charlie is still sleeping. Garrett is gone off to work, I’m sure, though I do hope he had sense enough to take more than cookies for his lunch! Cookies! How could I have left them out so long? They’ll all dry out.” Rushing from her bedroom, she stopped in the dining room and frowned. The table was empty. Had she just imagined getting up and baking all those cookies? Had she simply dreamed that Charlie had helped her?
    “Good morning, Auntie.” Charlie came up behind her and gave her a gentle hug. “If you’re looking for the cookies, Uncle Garrett and I put them away. We filled the three cookie jars and then found some old empty tins. Don’t worry, I washed and dried them carefully before putting cookies in them. We did eat a few.”
    “Did Garrett take more than cookies for his lunch?”
    The abrupt question seemed to startle Charlie for a moment, but he replied, “Yes, I heated soup up for him and he filled his thermos. Took a couple rolls and some cookies too.”
    “Good.” She walked to the kitchen. “Did you eat breakfast? Something besides cookies?”
    Charlie laughed. “Yes, ma’am. I ate toast and eggs with Uncle Garrett. If you’ll just let me run upstairs and put my Bible away, I’ll come cook an omelette or fry some eggs for you, if you want.”
    Miss Lacey turned her head quickly, only then noticing the Bible her nephew held in his hand. “Go ahead. I usually have toast and oatmeal, but since it is so late . . .” Her voice trailed off.

*

    “Aunt Lacey,” Charlie stood leaning against the door into the kitchen while his aunt hung a fresh towel and took off her apron. “Won’t you go for a walk with me? The sun is shining and it’s not really cold. Come on, let’s go see what that path is like.” His smile was bright and coaxing.
    Miss Lacey, feeling the need to get out of the house too, gave in quickly.
    Charlie was delighted, and soon the two arrived at the much wondered over path. The hard packed trail wound around through the pine and elm, oak, maple, and walnut trees, past scarlet sumac, a few late black-eyed susans, and other plants Lacey couldn’t name. For a while Charlie chatted about the sights and how much he thought he would enjoy his stay, but when no reply came, he gradually fell silent, and they strolled together for several minutes without a word.
    Seeing a bench up ahead, Miss Lacey walked over and sank down, not caring if it was still damp from the rain. A squirrel chattered from a nearby walnut tree, and a bluejay scolded from an oak. There were no other hikers to be seen or heard. Sunlight filtered down through the leaves of the trees.
    “Do you believe the Bible is true?” Miss Lacey asked suddenly.
    Charlie blinked but answered quickly. “Yes, Aunt Lacey, I know it is.”
    Pulling her light coat a little closer though she wasn’t cold, Lacey remarked softly, “So does Garrett. And Jenny.” She went on as though talking to herself. “I know all the stories. I’ve heard what Jesus did on the cross, but I’ve never believed. I’ve never wanted to believe. I wanted to do things on my own.” Absently she picked up a red and orange leave that had fallen into her lap. “I was going to go to college, get married, and live in the city. I didn’t need a crutch.”
    “Jesus isn’t a crutch, Auntie,” Charlie said softly.
    “No,” Miss Lacey agreed in almost a whisper. “He isn’t a crutch, and religion isn’t just something you do on Sundays. It’s a brother living everyday with his sister, bearing with her and still loving her when she’s moody and grumpy. It’s an old friend who used to scoff about it all telling you that Jesus has forgiven you. It’s a nephew not being ashamed of the Lord before his old aunt and uncle, and–” Tears had begun to trickle down her thin cheeks. “Charlie, I know the story of Jesus, but tell it to me again, because I want to believe.”

*

    After supper that evening, Miss Lacey sat in an easy chair in the living room and watched the flames in the fireplace. Garrett sat in his favorite rocking chair and toasted his slippers before the fire while Charlie relaxed on the couch.
    “Garrett,” Miss Lacey said at last, breaking the quiet of the room, “I wish you would bring out your Bible and read a bit.”
    The rocking chair stopped moving and Garrett looked at his sister.
    “I really mean it, because–well, because today I let myself believe. I fought against Jesus Christ for years. You know that, Garrett, but God didn’t let me go. He–”
    Garret rose and crossed the room. “He answered my prayers, Lacey,” he whispered in a choked voice as he stooped and kissed her cheek. “He answered them.”

Did this end the way you thought it would?
Did you see the sunrise this morning?
How was your week?

Friday, October 11, 2019

He Answered My Prayers – Part 3

And now we return to our regularly scheduled program.

Good morning!
It's dark this morning. Cloudy and 39º.  We had rain last night and wind. And a bit of hail. Fall is certainly here. It's only supposed to reach the 40s today.

All 7 of my nieces and nephews are here. But right now they are all still sleeping. Maybe because it's darker and chilly. Even Buster who seems to wake up at 6:45 is still sleeping. Yay! Two year olds need sleep. ;)

This week has been busy. The 2nd Christmas Play has been approved, and I gave parts out to almost all the kids. This is going to be an interesting play since, to quote one of the cast, "There's not going to be any grownups!" ;) Nope, just 5th & 6th graders.

I also got a short Christmas story up for pre-order and worked on covers for the 3 Christmas Collection stories. I can't wait to get my proof copies of these books. :) But, as far as writing anything new, that hasn't happened. I keep wanting to, but haven't done it.

Here's the next part of your story. I hope you enjoy it.

He Answered My Prayers
Part 3

    Lacey shrugged and carried her dishes into the kitchen. As she began putting the leftover food away, Charlie cleared off the table and filled the sink with hot, soapy water. With someone helping, Lacey found that the dishes didn’t take long at all.
    “Now what?” And Charlie dried his hands on a towel and looked about the neat kitchen.
    “Go visit with Garret. I’ll get your bed made up.” She wouldn’t listen to his protests or offers to help but waved him away to sit before the fire as she mounted the narrow stairs. It was seldom that she had cause to go upstairs, for her bedroom and Garrett’s were on the ground level.

*

    It was some time before she returned to the living room to find Garrett and Charlie deep in a game of chess. “Your room’s in shape now.” It was the only comment she made about it. “Are you two ready for pie?”
    “Yes.” The answer was simultaneous from both men.
    “Well, which do you want? There is pumpkin and Dutch apple.”
    Charlie looked up quickly. “Dutch apple? Aunt Lacey, you are a genius! That’s my favorite kind!”
    “Pumpkin for me, Lace,” was Garrett’s answer.
    The slices of pie were large, and Miss Lacey blinked back tears as she picked up the plates. “I’m a silly, old woman,” she muttered to herself. “If a compliment makes me sentimental, then it’s a good thing I don’t get them but once in a blue moon.” But she wasn’t sure it was just the compliment that had her fighting tears.

*

    Quietness had settled over the house, and the old clock had struck eleven some time before. Lacey had been in bed for several hours, and the house was dark and still. Usually she didn’t have any trouble falling asleep, but that night she tossed and turned. She fluffed her pillow and then flattened it. She pulled the covers close about her and then kicked them off, only to pull them over her again because the room was chilly. Finally she sat up. It was no use trying to sleep; she just couldn’t sleep and she didn’t know why. Well, she guessed it had something to do with the letter from Tammy, but she refused to give that idea more than a passing thought.
    “Maybe Charlie’s coming unsettled me,” she thought, tossing back her blankets and standing up. She shoved her feet into her warm slippers and pulled her bathrobe around her, knotting it firmly about her waist. “If I can’t sleep, I might as well be doing something useful. Humph! I don’t know what’s gotten into me!”
    Leaving her room, she shuffled softly down the hall and into the dining room. The moon had broken through the clouds and sent a beam of light through a crack in the dining room curtains. With a shake of her head, Lacey opened the curtains and gazed for several minutes out into the rain–soaked yard where the moon cast a shimmery glow about everything.
    For some reason the sight caused the older woman to catch her breath and swallow back a lump in her throat. “I’m being ridiculous!” she told herself. “I’m acting like a sentimental fool! I’m becoming as bad as Anne Shirley with all her sentimental twaddle.”
    Turning her back on the enchanting scene outside, Miss Lacey stalked to her kitchen and flipped on the light. Planting her hands on her hips, she stood looking about. “I need to clean out my cabinets, but that would wake the others.” Finally she began pulling items from the cabinets and the pantry shelves before grabbing her apron and tying it quickly about her waist.
    Before long the smell of molasses permeated the kitchen. Sliding the first pan of ginger snaps into the oven, she glanced at the clock. “Goodness gracious!” she muttered. “It’s almost midnight and here I am baking cookies. Humph!”
    More ingredients were pulled from the pantry and fridge, and by the time the last of the ginger snaps had come from the oven to cool on racks, another kind of cookie, batcher’s buttons this time, were waiting to be placed on the sheets and baked.
    “Lacey Redhead, what on earth are you doing?” Garrett’s sleepy voice interrupted her work.
    “What does it look like?” she snapped back. “I’m making cookies.”
    “It’s the middle of the night!”
    Lacey glanced at the clock again before sliding a filled cookie sheet into the oven. “After, actually. It’s morning now. Go back to bed, Garrett.”
    “And leave you up making cookies? Hardly.” And Garrett pulled out a chair and helped himself to a fresh ginger cookie. “Are you all right? You’re not sick, are you?”
    Lacey made no reply except for a short sniff.
    “Making any ranger cookies?”
    “I was going to make them next.”
    Garrett shook his head. “I was just joking, Lace. They can wait.” He yawned widely.
    “Hey,” a new voice interrupted sleepily. “Is this when you two usually get up? I mean, I remember getting up early when I stayed here ten years ago, but–” Charlie’s words were cut off by a gigantic yawn, and he rubbed his hand over his face. “Boy, cookies for breakfast, Aunt Lacey? You really are the best!”
    “Help yourself, Charlie,” Garrett said, motioning to the cookies that were cooling. “And no, we don’t usually get up in the middle of the night. I don’t know if it’s your coming that has set Lacey off into a cookie frenzy at such odd hours, or the rain yesterday, or something else.” He yawned again.
    “Garrett, go back to bed. You have work to do tomorrow.”
    “Can I stay and help, Aunt Lacey?” Charlie’s voice was pleading around the large bite of cookie he had just taken. “I don’t have to work.”
    Lacey shrugged. “There’s another apron behind the door of the closet.”
    Garrett gave a half chuckle. “I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it. Two people up in the middle of the night baking cookies. I’m going back to bed.”
    “Goodnight again, Uncle Garrett. Or should I say good morning?” Charlie’s voice had lost all sign of tiredness. “What can I do?”

Have you had really cold weather yet?
Have you ever gotten up in the middle of the night to bake?
Do you get up an do something if you can't sleep?