Whaddaya Mean, Summer’s Over?

This week’s question: Are there any summer projects you want/hope/need to finish up before the summer is over?

As a teacher, my year is shaped by the school schedule. In Michigan, school starts the day after Labor Day for kindergarten through high school, and the colleges start a week earlier. I spent twenty-eight years teaching elementary school (during which time my daughters went through the K-12 system) so summer vacation was when I rushed around trying to complete the things I didn’t have time to do during the school year. Looking back, I probably would have enjoyed summers more if I hadn’t felt pressured to do so much in so little time.

Now that I’m retired from full-time teaching and the children are on their own, there is less pressure to “get things done” during a three-month period. But since I still teach part-time, the school year is still busier than summer, and I had a list of things I wanted to finish before the fall semester begins.

Here’s my Summer 2015 to-do list from mid-May, when the last semester ended:

  1. Re-publish my Christmas book from 2012
  2. Write a Christmas sequel to the 2012 Christmas book
  3. Make a bunch of Christmas stuff for promo and gifts
  4. Remodel Daughter #2’s bedroom into a craft/sewing room (possibly writing room)

And here is how I fared on those goals:

  1. ThePartridgeandthePeartree 500x750The Partridge and the Peartree has been re-edited, historical errors have been addressed, and the book (with a shiny new cover) is due to release tomorrow!
  2. Two Tutor Doves, the sequel, is complete and has been submitted, thanks to an all-night editing session last Friday and the help of an amazing beta reader.
  3. I have a few Christmassy tote bags made, and I’ve brought a bunch more fabric upstairs, but I’m nowhere near ready for the holiday and since I just got done writing the Christmas books, I haven’t had a moment to think about making things to promote them.
  4. I’m about halfway there! The room has a new floor, and the walls have been painted. On Saturday, I received the new shelving units I ordered were delivered, and on Sunday my daughter and son-in-law came over to put them together. Now I need to arrange all my “stuff” in the cubbyholes. I may have to buy another unit.
Mess

I can’t wait to get all my scrapbooking, card-making, and sewing supplies out of the living room and into my new craft room!

Since the fall semester begins tomorrow, my “summer” ends today. Out of four goals, I have two and a half done. Next weekend I plan to finish putting things away in my new sewing room, so that only leaves goal #3. If I allot a few hours each week to sewing Christmas gifts I should be able to finish most of those projects, too. Of course, the bulk of sewing will probably be done the third week in December.

After all, I’ve always worked better under pressure.

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A Gem of a Story

A story inspired by a piece of jewelry…

When I suggested this topic, I had in mind a very touching story that involved me in a minor way. I then feared that nearly everyone else would have a story involving wedding rings or other family jewelry, but I was wrong, so I will tell you a tale of two family pieces.

When I met my husband’s family, his parents had just separated. The two oldest sons were off on their own and my husband, the third in line, had just returned to the family. The two oldest sisters were also away,(later to return), and that “only” left the youngest ten with their mother. (I’ll do the math for you: it adds up to fifteen children.)

At the same time, my future in-laws’ twenty-fifth wedding anniversary arrived. My husband thought that was too important a date to ignore. Not only had his mother had fifteen children in twenty years, (one set of twins), she had made it possible for his father to have a very distinguished Naval career. She cut a fine figure, she entertained, she had cared for the family the many times he was away and she performed all the duties expected of a commandant’s wife in two posts…she also hadn’t made waves over certain WAVES, (if you get my drift).

So, my husband bought his mother a rather large white gold ring with five not-too-small,(not really large), diamonds to mark the milestone, knowing that his father would not acknowledge her and no one knew if this was, indeed, the end of the line for the marriage. His mother put it on her finger and we never saw her without it.

Fast-forward six years of our friendship, (I had actually met my future mother-in-law before I met my future husband). We had been though his going away to college, his return to the seminary, and engagement to another young woman and a couple of attempts at a romance between us. I moved almost two-thousand miles away, but, when my now-husband traveled to the state next to my new one to get a job, he visited me and we knew we needed to be together. He returned to his mother’s area to complete his other work when and told his mother about our engagement. His mother asked him what he was going to do about giving me a diamond.

He told her that he had given me a family pin the she had entrusted to him, one that her father had won in a shooting competition.(The man is said to have been on an Olympic team.) It’s a beautiful gold stickpin with a diamond in a lovely setting.

I was never much for jewelry. Back then, I usually only wore a small watch and sometimes a dainty necklace on a chain, but I had recently taken to wearing pins and this was a wonderfully sentimental, (and valuable), symbol for me, a perfect token of him making me part of the family, and making family with me.

But his mother would not hear of it; he had to get me a ring. When he said he needed his small savings for our immediate needs, she took the ring he had given her off of her finger and gave it to him for me.

I could not have been more touched.

Do any of you have a family piece of jewelry? Do they have a story?

Posted in big plans, connections, Family, Gifts, inspiration, Life, Random thoughts, Tonette Joyce | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Inspired by a Sparkler

4F1HBy Jeff Salter

By Jeff Salter

We’re all about jewelry this week and since I wear none besides a wedding band and a watch, let me tell you this true story about a real sparkler (that caught my eye).

I guess it was about two years ago when I met a Cincinnati couple, with whom my wife and her cousin had traveled a few times to Pigeon Forge. So they all knew each other pretty well, but this was my first time to meet this couple. Let’s call them Rob and Laura. [I’d use their real names, except I might have a few story details askew, so I don’t want to ruin their tale if they choose to tell it elsewhere.]

Rob and Laura had driven down to Possum Trot with Cousin Pam and her husband, Ken, to attend a car show hereabouts. I joined the party as they all convened at Sonny’s for supper.

We’d hardly gotten seated and exchanged introductions when I noticed a striking gem on one of Laura’s rings. “My, but that’s a stunning ring,” I said. Then before I realized what I was doing, I grabbed Laura’s hand and said, “May I?” And began turning the gem to see it from all angles. Even in the relatively dim light of that restaurant, the stone had dazzling fire. Laura’s husband, Rob, may have been taken aback at a stranger grabbing his wife’s hand, but he did not deter me. [Perhaps this has happened before.]

diamond-gold-ring

“Surely, this is some special stone,” I said, out of pure amazement over its beauty. [Now, youse guys should understand, I know almost nothing about jewelry or individual jewels and gems. All I know is what catches my eye. And this stone had certainly done that.] Still holding Laura’s hand and gazing at this ring – which I assumed was a diamond – I said, “There’s got to be a story about this.” Looking back, it was actually a rather intrusive query, but I was truly taken by this gem.

“As a matter of fact,” replied Laura, “there is (a story).” And, with a genteel movement, she retrieved her fingers.

Obviously her husband Rob knew the story, and I assumed perhaps Pam did, but I was convinced that Ken, my wife, and I would be hearing it for the first time. I was all ears.

I no longer recall which relative she said it was, but Laura and her siblings (and perhaps others in the family) were going through the belongings of a recently deceased relative as they were settling the estate. I got the impression some (perhaps most) of the others had already gone through much (or all) of it and Laura and Rob were examining what was left. They came upon a jewelry box and looked at the few remaining contents. Didn’t seem to be much in there besides a large (presumably grubby) stone in an unfortunate-looking setting. Evidently it looked forlorn enough for the others to have left it.

But Laura picked it up. “I wonder what this would look like if it was cleaned up?” thought Laura. Because of the size of the stone, she and Rob must have figured it was only costume jewelry. But something about it caught her eyes, so Laura took that grubby ring as her small portion of the estate’s leftovers.

At some point later, upon further examination of the piece, Laura thought, “What a shame the setting is so awful.” And she decided to take it to a jeweler to get his opinion about the gem and see if it could be inexpensively reset.

The jeweler took it to his table, put it under lights and magnifiers, and peered every which way. Then he looked up at Laura and said, “This is one of the most perfect diamonds I’ve ever seen.”

“What?” exclaimed Laura. “You mean it’s real?”

The jeweler nodded as he carefully placed it on a nearby pad. “All five carats,” he said with a heavy sigh.

Fast-forward through Laura’s excitement and selection of the proper setting for her lovely diamond. And rest assured, I allowed her to use that hand to deal with her plate of barbecue. But I thought to myself: Here Laura got practically last pick of the jewelry and she ended up with what was likely the finest piece. And further, I thought: How is it that I – who knows next to nothing about diamonds or jewels – would even notice a ring, much less spot one with its own delicious story to tell.

Question:

Have you ever possessed – or seen – a really special gem of any kind?

I saw the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian way back when I was a kid.

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Diaper Desperado

I don’t have a lot of jewelry so this week I went to talk to my parents. There were so many wonderful pieces to choose from, many with a story behind them. I got to see a civil war medal that my dad found on his old farm. It was interesting to look at. Then I got to see my grandpa’s class ring. There was a beautiful necklace that was the first necklace my dad had given my mother. A thick bracelet with engraving on it that my mom had given to my dad back when they were in high school.
“What does it say Jeanne?” He asked looking at the worn letters and wanting to know if she still remembered; knowing full well that she did. Before my mom could answer I did.

OLWALAND

I was right. That is their thing, their code. I remember it being on every gift I have ever seen them give to each other. I guess it started back when they were in high school with that first gift.

Then there was a beautiful locket which looks like a book. A cross adorns the front of it and it opens up to reveal a spot for 4 photos. My sister purchased it for my mother back when she only had 4 grandchildren.

I was shown several items that I could use for inspiration. The one I liked the most was given to my parents when my oldest brother was born. Not your typical jewelry as it is a set of diaper pins. But they are the most adorable ones I have ever seen.

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Diaper Desperado

The clock on the wall loudly ticked off each second. Laying her weary head back on the pillow she pushed back the long, slightly tangled brown tresses which were usually kept sleek and loose down her back. Her mind drifted off to a Sunday drive that would change her life forever.

Every week her family went for a drive in the country after church. Sometimes they went to her grandfather’s melon farm for a short visit and the tastiest cantaloupes this side of the Mississippi. This week they headed in the opposite direction. Her sister younger sisters chattered away beside her but the moment she saw him every thing else was tuned out.

A cowboy with jet black hair astride a beautiful horse. The horse danced for him or perhaps with him. The rapid movements of the horse’s hooves and the fluidity with which the young man moved with the beast held her captive.

She stared openly out the window as they drove by.

It was him, the boy who sat a few rows in front of her in study hall. The large auditorium at the high school was used for several classes during study hour. This upper classman just happened to sit in front of her. Through-out the school year she must have spent hours staring at the back of his head willing him to turn around and notice her. Every time he did she had glanced away pretending that she was busy with her studies.

He wouldn’t notice her in the car tucked behind the window. As her gaze met his he smiled and nodded in her direction. Those blue eyes pierced her heart, she would marry him some day. That cowboy would be hers. Now to get up the courage to actually speak to him in school.

Sighing she opened her eyes to glance at the clock. Two minutes. That was all the time that had passed?

For the first time in her life she was nervous while in church. In front of the mirror she tucked her curled strands under the white sunhat and pulled the little veil attached to it down over her face. The short white dress hit the top of her knees.

Slipping her hand through her father’s arm she allowed him to lead her down the aisle. By the alter was the other half of her heart. His dimple revealed itself as the smile spread farther with each step she took.

Why in the world did the walk to her future have to take so long? Why was a wedding such a public event, so many eyes staring at her. Making her nervous. If she’d wanted that much attention she would have run off to Hollywood.

In just a few moments the world would know that they belonged together. By the time her hand was settled into his her heart pounded furiously. Focus on him. The desperado who had stolen her heart.

“Can I?” A sweet soft voice tugged her attention to the present. Her eyes fluttered open. A head of golden curls bounced near the edge of the bed.

“What?” The words came out sleepily.

“Hold him.” She wiggled up onto the edge of the bed. The door opened causing both sets of eyes to go to them. He hadn’t changed much over the years. Perhaps he’d grown more handsome with time. The little bundle in his arms squirmed. Dancing blue eyes twinkled as he perched on the edge of the bed.

“He’s perfect.” She breathed out as she scooped him into her arms. Her daughter and husband on either side of her. He had been beautiful when she first laid eyes on him but he was even more so now that the nurses had cleaned him up. Laying him down on the bed she unwrapped the blanket to look at his little hands and toes.

Two shiny objects caught her eye as soon as the blanket fell away. Only a few hours old and he was already being brought up to be a little desperado. In lieu of plain diaper pins were two six shooters.

After swaddling the baby boy back up she leaned into the arms of her cowboy and cradled her little diaper desperado while her beautiful daughter snuggled close to her other side.

The clock on the wall chimed as if in celebration of this wonderful moment in her life.

~~~

My mother really did decide that she would some day marry my dad after seeing him and his dancing horse on the side of the road while out for a drive. I remember her telling me about study hall though I am not sure if it happened before or after the horse. I was looking through my mom’s jewelry box with her when she and my dad showed me these adorable diaper pins that were given to them as a gift when their oldest boy was born.

Looking through the old items that have been tucked away for years inspired so many stories. One of the watches will be appearing in my current work in progress. Have you ever had a piece of jewelry that brought a tale to mind?

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“Use a piece of jewelry for inspiration”

I think this week’s topic calls for a repeat for me. I believe I’ve already told you about my necklace. It’s a typewriter key with my initial “J” on it.

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I received this necklace from my Romance Writers of America chapter (Olympia RWA) in commemoration of my first sale back in 2013. Okay…I’ll admit I feel special when I wear it and it gives me inspiration when I need it to continue writing. Although I have many necklaces, a few rings, some pins and maybe a couple bracelets, I’m not sure I have any other piece of jewelry I could say I’d use for inspiration.

I’ve got lots of earrings, but most depress me to look at unless I see past the memories they possess. They were given to me by the man who most recently and permanently broke my heart and hanged my life forever. I still wear them all because they’re pretty, but I suppose the ones I like the best remind me of my indigenous (Native American) heritage. I’ve got a lot that are bead worked, some dream catchers, and some feathered.

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I’m not quite sure if this is what was expected for today’s topic, but there you have it! (: >))

Is there anyone else out there like me who attaches too many memories to stuff?

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Watch the Watch

I don’t wear much jewelry, so when I saw this week’s topic was “Use a piece of jewelry for inspiration” I was stumped. I don’t wear rings or earrings, and I have three necklaces I wear when I want to feel like dressing up. I have a few teacher pins and necklaces I got as Christmas gifts from my students, but those haven’t seen the light of day since I retired ten years ago.

watchI had no idea what to do until my watch tapped me on the wrist. I have one of those new-fangled watches that doubles as a smart phone. My dear hubby, knowing that I like to dabble in techie stuff, got it for me this spring as soon as it became available. He doesn’t like to shop, so a few years ago he came up with the brilliant plan of getting me something big and telling me it counts as my gift for our anniversary, Mother’s Day, my birthday, and Christmas. My watch is this year’s gift.

I’m still learning a lot of the ins and outs, but it’s a fun toy. I like being able to see what time it is without taking out my phone or looking for a clock. I like being able to answer my cell phone without having to look for it or having to dig it out of my purse. I can delete a lot of my junk emails as soon as they come, because I get a tap on the wrist whenever one arrives. I can time my writing sprints because it has a stopwatch. I can check my calendar, read and send texts, and calculate how many calories I’ve burned on my walk from the car to the restaurant. And when I set the GPS on my phone the directions are transferred to my watch, which taps me on my wrist when it’s time to turn.

Dick TracyWhen I first saw advertisements for this watch I immediately thought of the old Dick Tracy comics. I can picture a fedora-wearing gumshoe who wears and uses a watch like mine (the larger male version, of course) to juggle the many tasks he needs to accomplish in solving his cases. The watch was a gift from a very grateful female client…I’d imagine there’s quite a backstory in that…

****

Joe Findit sat back in his ergonomic desk chair and sighed. He lifted his left wrist and spoke to his watch, which presently acted as his phone.

Lilly Loveme had called, asking him to find her beloved poodle, Pookie. There would be a generous tip if the dog was returned to her by the end of the day. He really didn’t like taking missing pet cases, but the client was wealthy, not to mention beautiful and generous with her … benefits to those who did her bidding. The smart watch he wore had been one of her previous tips.

“I can’t imagine where he’s gone. He leaped out of his favorite Gucci bag and scampered off,” she whined.

“Didn’t you get one of those GPS collars for him?”

“Yes, but I don’t know how to use it. That’s why I emailed the website login and password to you.”

He rolled his eyes, thankful Lilly couldn’t see him. “Right. I’ll have to find that message.” He tapped his watch to bring up his email and found the information he needed.

“You got a picture of the mu– uh, Pookie?” he asked.

“Of course.”

“Text it to me so I can show them around.”

A few seconds later a tap on his wrist alerted him to the fact that he’d received the promised pictures.

He booted up his computer and entered the password and gawked when the map came into focus – the blinking cursor showed the dog was right down the street at Bob’s Bar and Grill. He tapped his watch to bring up his contacts then tapped again to call Bob. This new-fangled phone watch sure saved a lot of time.

Bob answered on the second ring. “Yeah, what is it, Joe?”

“Do you see a white poodle wandering around? His GPS tracker says he’s there.”

“If it’s not a service dog, it had better not be in here.”

“What about in the alley in back?”

There was a pause, and he wondered if his friend had hung up. But then he heard footsteps and then a door creaking open. “Nope. No poodle in the back.”

“Hey, thanks for looking.” Joe lifted his finger to disconnect.

“Wait a second.” There was a grunt from the not-so-in-shape Bob and then, “I think the dog ditched his collar. This is one pricey piece of leather – diamond studs spell out ‘Pookie’ and there’s a blinking pendant hanging from it.”

Joe groaned. “Thanks, Bob. Looks like Sal and I are gonna have to look for Lilly’s dog the old fashioned way.”

“Good luck.”

He disconnected then looked around for his assistant. Where in blazes was he? With two of them looking they could cover more ground.

The door opened and Sal entered, carrying a little white furry bundle.

“Hey, boss. I think I got the dog you’re lookin’ for.”

“How do you know? And how did you find him so fast?”

“Easy. I went outside and yelled, ‘Hey Pookie’ and whistled. He came running.”

Posted in flash fiction, Patricia Kiyono, smart watch | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

The World Needs More Love Letters

Free week…what do we discuss this time? How about random acts of encouragement?

This week I ran across a post on Facebook for “The World Need More Love Letters”. It was started by a young woman who suffered from loneliness and low self-esteem. She had moved to New York City and started leaving notes “To Whoever Finds This” around town, just to talk…and often, she received answers.

Somehow, as she was getting herself together, she realized just how much a little encouragement meant to not only herself, but to others She realized how, at times, the incredible power of knowing that one person cared or just took one moment for one other person, had kept her going and could keep others going. And she could see that people seemed to get a great deal out of reaching back out to her.

In my own case there have been some low times in my life. Quite a number, in fact. I suffered from incredible shyness and low self-esteem. We had a policy of secrecy in my family and a general lack of encouragement. There was a big fear of failure on one side, which pretty much doomed many to that very end, from fear of trying. Only some members got encouragement, others, well, not so much.

Even when I had gotten beyond some of the shyness and actually gave some efforts a real shot, life still hit some lows. At one point, with family and every other possible problem happening to, (or around), me, I pretty much subsisted on prayer and a semi-anonymous prayer groups.

The first group let people ask for prayer and give quick responses, or at least to tell each other that we had them in thought. Sometimes we only knew each other by our initials or code names. That one moved to another site where one could even leave details of problems or concerns, (anonymous, if they’d like), and others could, through the site, answer each other personally in detail directly to their email, (also anonymously, if referred).

When I got on them, it was nice to know that someone cared and that there were actually a few people who had very similar problems to mine. After a few heart-felt communications, I exchanged email addresses, then addresses and sometimes phone numbers with three women with whom I became close friends, with whom I could be frank…and with whom I could give understanding advice and/or commiseration.

More than once I heard from them, “You know, there were times when I that kept me hanging on one more day was to read: ‘I’m praying for [her name].’”. One told me that it once kept her from considering ending it all. You never know what one encouraging word can do.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta equated listening to a lonely neighbor as much of a charitable act as going to India to care for the lepers. It’s that important.
Often one helpful word can do more good than the damage of what one discouraging word can do, and we all know how much lasting harm one wounding word can do.
But the prayer groups are gone, too expensive to keep up, which is unfortunate. We even had people who identified themselves as atheists and those of every religion post in, people who have the same cares and worries, concerns and problems… and compassion for others.

I looked at the Love Letter site and clicked to the next step. There were requests from family and friends people, (only four at a time), who are experiencing problems, asking for encouraging notes, ‘love notes’, as it were, for them.
A few hit home with me. I am almost certain I know why some of the behaviors that the persons are exhibiting come from, where the fears came from that they have. So, maybe a couple of notes I could send might give a little encouragement to the people. Maybe not, but I couldn’t help myself from trying, worth a few moments of my time and the price of a couple of stamp.

There are times when a few encouraging words would have made a difference in my life.

So, tell me…have you ever had encouragement from a stranger that meant something to you?

Did you ever have a turning point from just one bit of encouragement?

Have you ever felt the need to reach out to a stranger?

Posted in connections, free week, Friendship, helping others, inspiration, Life, Tonette Joyce | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments