I had always wanted a Christmas baby; a special gift at a special time. When my fifth child was due to be born on December 25th, I was ecstatic, but nervous about the likely prospect of spending the holidays in the hospital. I just had to be home for Christmas. Somehow I conveyed that message to my overly ripe body and delivered the baby 10 days before Christmas Eve. Noelle Marie, French for ‘Merry Christmas,’ entered the world with a caul over her face, a white ‘Angel’s veil,’ reputed through legend to be a sign of a lucky or gifted child. I pondered that phenomenon in my heart, briefly, but was more impressed by the fact that the two of us had conspired to be home for Christmas — home with her father and four excited siblings.
I distinctly remember that Christmas Eve. It was snowing, a soft and silent snow that blanketed our tiny home in white velvet. We laid the baby in a cradle in front of the scraggly ‘Charlie Brown’ pine tree, decorated with homemade ornaments and tediously strung popcorn. Next to her sat the wooden manger housing the Holy Family, which her father had made, topped with a beaming ceramic guardian angel, that had fallen off the nail at the top of the pointed roof so many times that her smile was chipped and crooked. Noelle, dressed in a red and white Santa Claus jumpsuit, resembled a tiny elf as she gazed up at the colored lights on the tree with unfocused eyes, wrinkled and funny-faced, unaware of her status.
Today, when remembering Christmases past, that day waxes sharp in my memory, followed by other Christmases, some joyous, some harried with six children throwing up. That year, unbeknownst to her father and me, Noelle and her sisters sampled the eggnog. We found 11-year-old Noelle trying to fly like an airplane around the large dining room table until she collapsed into a fit of giggles. Needless to say, they were all severely reprimanded, putting a slight damper on that Christmas.
Noelle insisted that we watch every Christmas television special as a family, sobbed each year over ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and generally drove us to distraction with her frantic preparations for the holiday. One Christmas we baked flour dough ornaments, and one of Noelle’s gingerbread boys looked exactly like ‘Mr. Bill,’ on Saturday Night Live, which forever gave him a special place on the tree; second in importance only to the bedraggled Angel that dangled off the treetop. Noelle refused to part with or replace any of our original decorations, which were all beginning to show their age. She was contagious with her love for Christmas, and bonded with the holiday almost as if her name gave her an aura or presence that ordinary-named portals could not grasp.
She loved baking the cookies, decorating the tree, attending midnight Mass, and sharing in the giving of gifts, no matter how great or small. The season was hers. She reveled in it. Her zest for the holidays, however, did not extend to cleaning the house or washing the mountains of dishes following sumptuous holiday feasts. She talked about helping, and insisted she did more than her share, but somehow had a unique ability to disappear from the face of the earth whenever chores needed to be done. And even in a household of five outraged siblings, she usually got away with it.
This Christmas, 23 years after her birth, I still marvel at the magic of the season, coveting the memories of a newborn babe lying beneath the Christmas tree, personifying the birth of Christ; and the magic of a young girl who cherished the celebration of the birth of the King, and knew how to give homage. That magic will never die.
Noelle’s last Christmas fell right after her 13th birthday. She was nearly a young woman then, with the gangliness of puberty rushing headlong into the promise of beautiful womanhood. But on ‘her holiday’ she retained the naivety of a child, bursting with love and eagerness. The pond behind our house froze solid that year, and the logs in the old Ben Franklin stove blazed warmth and comfort to six nearly frozen ice skaters. Noelle, as on every year, caught us all up in her joy and excitement. She could barely contain herself.
The Christmas which shortly followed her death, caused by a drunk driver, was not somber. We were obligated by unknown forces to celebrate Christmas in her honor as she would have; and in doing so eased our grief.
Other subsequent Christmases, not shielded by shock, were not so easy, and for several years Christmas without Noelle seemed a contradiction in terms. As passing years made our sorrow bearable the ambience Noelle evoked at Christmas slowly drifted back into our lives. Maybe it was the birth of her first nephew, born two years later on the day of Noelle’s death; her way of not allowing us to mourn that day? Maybe it was just the lapsing of time and life renewing itself. Maybe she taught us, albeit we fought the knowledge, that love lives on though life is fragile. I don’t know. I only know that the true spirit of Christmas was shown to me through the eyes of a lovely young girl named Noelle Marie.


How To: Access the (BETTER) OLD WordPress Admin (and Media)…

Good to refer to on my own wordpress

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Following on from the previous two media storage (and money) saving tips – I forgot to mention that it’s better to use the OLD admin media – NOT the NEW admin media.

Here are the first three steps to get into it:

I’ve given an explanation on top of each image below – hope it helps.

When you see your media, ensure you select the hatch Dixon as marked.

Then select the image you want to resize:

On the right you will see the dimensions and file size (weight)

Press the Edit Image button indicated

Now double click inside either box and type in the new size you want.

Then, either, use the little arrow (top right) to go to the next image, or, click on the x (top right) which will take you back to Step 4.

At any time, you can click the x to finish – the…

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  Spicy, aromatic whiffs of pumpkin pie, plum pudding, and candied sweet potatoes mingle with and enhance the hearty, mouth-watering smell of roasted, stuffed turkeys. Thanksgiving, a harvest festival thanking the Creator for a bountiful year, has remained virtually unchanged since the pilgrims in Massachusetts shared that first feast with Chief Massoit and some of his braves.

On Staten Island, as in homes across the nation, people will gather in love and harmony to give thanks. Holiday fare on the Island will not differ greatly from traditional foods, except for the addition of ethnic dishes, such as home-made ravioli, succulent tomato sauce, crusty loaves of Italian bread, lasagne and delectable pastries indigenous to the NewYork area. In Italian homes, especially, a nine course meal is not unusual.

The turkey will dominate the day, whether served in homes, hospital rooms, soup kitchens for the needy, or meals on wheels for housebound senior citizens. Restaurants across the Island will also defer to the turkey, serving those who wish to celebrate, but hate to cook. Thanksgiving is a holiday that reminds people of the past, celebrates the present, and offers hope for the future; a day that gratifies body and soul.

Although Governor William Bradford, of the Plymouth Colony issued the first Thanksgiving proclamation in 1621, the concept of giving thanks is as old as the need for worship, and dates back to the time when humanity realized its dependence upon a Higher Power.The colonists of Plymouth observed three days of feasting,games and contests following their plentiful harvest in the autumn of 1621. The journal of Governor Bradford describes the preparations for that first Thanksgiving: “They began now to gather in the swell harvest they had, and to fit their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty… Besides waterfowl, there was a great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc… Which made many afterward write so largely of their plenty here to their friends in England, which were not feigned, but true reports.”

Staten Island, at that time, was a beautiful lush wilderness, sparsely inhabited by the Aqehonga Indians, who fished, hunted deer, raccoon, and fowl, and harvested corn, pumpkins, berries and fruit. Settlers arriving from England and Holland in 1630, added sausage, head cheese and pies to the abundant game and vegetation on the Island. Twenty years ago, it was common practice for butchers to hang plucked turkeys in store windows, while grocers displayed fresh produce and jugs of apple cider.

On October 31, 1777, the Continental Congress appointed Samuel Adams, Richard Henry Lee, and Daniel Roberdau, to draft a resolution “to set aside a day of thanksgiving for the signal success lately obtained over the enemies of the United States.” There solution was accepted on November 1, 1777.

George Washington issued a presidential proclamation appointing November 26, 1789, as a day of general thanksgiving for the adoption of the constitution. The first national Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1863, due to the unrelenting efforts of Mrs. Sarah J. Hale. While editor of The Ladies Magazine in Boston, she penned countless editorials urging the uniform observance throughout the United States, of one day dedicated to giving thanks for blessings received throughout the year. She mailed personal letters to the governors of all the states, and to President Lincoln, persuadingmany governors to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving. Her editorial was titled,”Our National Thanksgiving”, and began with a biblical quote: “Then he said to them, go your way and eat the fat and drink the sweet wine and send persons unto them for whom nothing is prepared; For this day is holy unto the lord; neither be ye sorry, for the joy of the lord is your strength.” Nehemiah, VIII:10

President Lincoln, moved by Mrs. Hale’s editorial and letter, issued the first National Thanksgiving Proclamation on October 3, 1863, which reads in part: “The year that is drawing toward its close has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of almighty God.” Lincoln designated Thanksgiving as a day “to subdue the anger which has produced and so long sustained a needless and cruel rebellion.” The northern states, in response to the proclamation, held services in churches of all denominations, and gave appropriate sermons.

President Roosevelt, on December 26, 1941, approved the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving, to be observed in every state and the District of Columbia.

The first international Thanksgiving was held in Washington, D.C. in 1909. It was the brain-child of Rev. Dr. William T. Russell, rector of St. Patrick’s Church of Washington. Dr. Russell called it a Pan American celebration, and it was attended by representatives of all the Latin American countries. The Catholic Church was chosen for the services, since Catholicism is the religion of the Latin American countries.

St. Patick’s Church published an account of the celebration, noting that “it was the first time in the history of the Western World that all the republics were assembled for a religious function…When asked what prompted Dr. Russell in planning a Pan American Thanksgiving celebration, Dr. Russell said, “My purpose was to bring into closer relations the Republics of the Western World. As Christianity had first taught the brotherhood of man, it was appropriate that the celebration should take the form of a solemn mass.” The Pan American celebration continued from year to year.

Some Eastern cities adopted the old world custom of dressing children in the over-sized clothes of their elders, masking their faces, and having them march through the streets blowing tin horns. The children often carried baskets, and solicited fruits and vegetables from house to house to help celebrate the day. This tradition was adapted from an old Scotch wassail custom.

The warm, loving atmosphere of this holiday has been immortalized in song, literature, and poetry, such as the well-known poem by Lydia Maria Child: “Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…”

Thanksgiving signals the onset of the joyous holiday season which continues until New Year’s Day. The only sad note is the number of people killed on the highways each year, en route to their destinations. Thanksgiving also proclaims the arrival of Santa Claus, who assumes temporary residence at the Staten Island Mall, which will be ablaze with Christmas decorations. Those shoppers brave enough to venture out on “Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, can take advantage of Island sales.

Today, more than ever, Thanksgiving is intrinsic to our time. The need to give thanks is profoundly American. As a people, we have pursued idealism, struggled for individual freedoms, and enjoyed the fruits of capitalism. Like the starship “Enterprise” on Star Trek, Americans have “dared to go where no man has gone before.” The act of giving thanks acknowledges the greater force that inspires this nation, encouraging and demanding excellence. This Thanksgiving, when stomachs are bulging with savory, traditional food, and hearts are full with love for family and friends, it is fitting to give thanks.

Stand up on this Thanksgiving Day, stand

upon your feet. Believe in man. Soberly and

with clear eyes, believe in your own time and

place. There is not, and there never has

been a better time, or a better place to live.

-Phillip Brooks



































































































Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – When The Flaw Becomes The Beauty by J. Hope Suis

Brilliant essay on shattered pottery and shattered lives!

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

Welcome to a new contributor to the series today. Author J. Hope Suis and in her first post she describes the beautiful Japanese process of repairing broken items of pottery with liquid gold or silver. They retain their original shape but now have added beauty because of being fractured.

When The Flaw Becomes The Beauty by J. Hope Suis

In today’s Western society we put a high value on new, pristine items. We have no shame in removing and replacing damaged or broken objects from our lives, whether they are tangible ornaments or shattered people. Value is assigned and increased if there are no visible signs of flaws. And we have it all wrong.

The Japanese hold a much greater appreciation for the overall beauty and history of an object and go to great lengths to preserve it.

More examples can be found

Kintsugi is the 500-year-old Japanese art…

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Welcome #RRBC ‘Spotlight’ author: Michael Lynes. “There Is A Reaper.” Losing a Child to Cancer.

A must read memoir of love, loss and recovery

Welcome to the World of Suzanne Burke.


Hello, everyone and thanks for joining in this #RRBC ‘Spotlight Author Tour for November’.

Today I’m delighted to present author Michael Lynes.


Mr. Lynes is a serial entrepreneur who enjoys dry red wine and single malt scotch. When not occupied with arcane engineering projects he spends his time playing with his two grandchildren, baking bread, feeding seasoned hardwood into his ancient Timberline wood stove, working on his various cars, bird watching and taking amateur photographs. His current menagerie includes one short-haired turtle shell cat and a pair of actual turtles.

His last book, There Is A Reaper: Losing a Child to Cancer, was an Indie B.R.A.G. Gold Medallion Honoree in January 2017, a silver-medal winner of the 2016 Readers’ Favorite International Book Awards for Memoir, a medalist in the 2015 New Apple Book Awards for Memoir, a winner of the 2015 TISBA (The Indie Spiritual Bookk Awards), and…

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Congratulations to Micki Peluso a five time Tales2Inspire winner! winner

 The Whippoorwill’s Song

Micki learns how to cope with every parent’s worse nightmare – the tragedy of the loss of a child.  She loses her daughter, Noelle, due to a tragic accident. Despite her grief, Micki moves on and learns to live and even laugh again. In this poignant story, Micki shares it all, including her determination not to give up on life.

Read more of this story, and meet Micki in a special video presentation.

The Whippoorwill’s Song is published in Tales2Inspire ~ The Topaz Collection

The Girl Who Loved Christmas

Noelle loved this holiday and somehow was convinced it was made just for her. Micky makes us smile as she recounts many of Noelle’s special holiday rituals. As you read this story, you might also be convinced that although no longer with us here on Earth, Noelle is still celebrating Christmas in her own special way.

Read more of this story.

The Girl Who Loved Christmas is published in Tales2Inspire ~ The Sapphire Collection

But Micki Never Loses her sense of humor!

Four of Micki’s stories find their way into a Tales2Inspire Collection of humorous tales:

The first of theses stories: Tomatoes and Teenagers, is written as an analogy, comparing raising teenagers to the challenges of growing tomatoes. Six children, each a year or two apart, can be as delicate or as frustrating as raising tomatoes in a garden. Thankfully, both parents and children survive, with both getting their just rewards.

Click here to learn more about this humorous story by watching a lively video beginning at frame 5:55. 

The second of Micki’s humorous stories: 86 the Coleslaw, begins when her husband asks her to just ‘babysit’ their fast food restaurant while he’s away on business. She grudgingly agrees. In this story, everything that can go wrong does go wrong, causing calamity and shock among their customers and staff. Yet Micki is proud she survived with the restaurant almost intact, until her husband hears about the chaos and warns her to never go near the Chicken Coop again!

Click here to learn more about this humorous story by watching a lively video beginning at frames 0:00 – 1:04

The third of Micki’s humorous stories:  The Mean Machines

It seemed a simple fact of life that all the mechanical lemons of the world end up in Micki’s home. She’s convinced that electrical appliances somehow prey on women like her. She became suspicious of deliberate sabotage when she moved into her first home, which was filled with modern conveniences. The vacuum cleaner, for instance, only ran in reverse. She never complained, until the day it vacuumed her right out the front door.  .  .  . And that was just the beginning.

Click here to learn more about this humorous story by watching a lively video beginning at frames 1:04 – 1:30 

The fourth of Micki’s humorous stories: Relatives and Fish

When Micki’s oldest daughter called early one morning to ask if she could come home for a few weeks, ‘to get her head together’, Micki agreed without hesitation. She looked forward to having her home again, along with those two perfect male specimens, her grandsons. Do you remember that old saying about visitors and fish? In this hysterical tale, Micki shows us how the same holds true for relatives – children and grandchildren no exception.

Click here to learn more about this humorous story by watching a lively video beginning at frames 1:04 – 1:30 


Tales2Inspire 4 times award winner

Sixty-six (66) 5-Star Reviews for Award-winning Picture Book AMAZING MATILDA!

Grab a Copy of this award winning book!!

Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

MATILDA expertly as a cirus acrobat... 2016

About the book

This “Gem of a Tale” about a Monarch Butterfly teaches kids lessons in friendship, patience and persistence as AMAZING MATILDA transforms from egg to caterpillar to butterfly. (Children’s Picture Book/Ages 5-11).

Order your copies today:

AM Celebrate Season MATCHBOOK bas 2016

Related Sites:

[Explore Bette’s Blog]

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