Journeys of the Heart

An author's journey

Beating Christmas Preparation Stress

I love books.  I love to write.  I love Civil War reenacting.  And I love Christmas.  Unfortunately, for many people, the Christmas season has also been known to raise their stress to ‘my brain will explode if I have to do one more thing’ level.  Having engaged in a parade in VA, rounds of physical therapy, a major Civil War event and one of the biggest holidays of the year, all within a matter of a few weeks, I understand that stomach churning realization that Christmas is less than a month away.  Oh, and then there’s that book I’m trying to revise so I can send it off to my editor.  So what’s an insanely busy person to do?   Over the years I’ve found these tricks help me keep the lid on my stress and allow me to enjoy my favorite time of the year. I thought I’d share them with you. 

1.)                Shop early!  Starting in January is not too soon.  I look for sales and gift ideas all through the year.  Most of my big purchases are completed by early November. Don’t panic if you’ve lagged behind, catalogs and the internet are great sources of those last minute purchases.

2.)                Christmas Cards: I do mine while watching my favorite television shows. No matter how busy you are, you know you’ll succumb to the temptation, so why not make it work for you? You’d be amazed at how many cards you can address during the commercials.   Start on a Monday evening and you’ll be done before Friday.  And you’ll feel productive while enjoying yourself at the same time.

3.)                Wrap the same way!  Remember that productive feeling?  If it works for cards it will work for gifts.  Wrap a few each night and your pile will disappear.  Box the gifts ahead of time to keep curious family members in suspense about what’s inside.  (Keep those presents with pictures and print that give away the contents for another time.)  Gift bags and tissue are quick way to wrap something at the last minute.

4.)                Gift Cards are okay!  As I get older I find that more and more of my friends and family members truly appreciate a gift card to their favorite restaurant or store.  Even teenagers seem to covet them.  Gift cards allow everyone the luxury of using them at a more convenient time.

5.)                Light the tree and let the carols roar!  When you find your Christmas spirit lagging, light the tree and put on your favorite holiday CD.  Music can be mood altering, so turn the volume up and then attack the cookie baking, package wrapping or house cleaning.   Periodically stop and dance about the room or do a few exercises.  Your stress level will drop dramatically.

 Hope one of these tips resonates with you.  I’m off to take my own advice.  I plan to turn on my CD player and then dive back back into my revisions.  Almost there.  Really I am.


November 30, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Thanksgiving Wishes

Remembrance Day 2009 is already a memory.  My ball gown and dance shoes are packed away until the next event.  Time to move on, but ripples from the Civil War, the era my husband and I reenact follow.  This Thursday is Thanksgiving.  Most folks are familiar with the Pilgrim and Indian origins.  Many Thanksgiving feasts were held afterward, but it wasn’t until Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of Godey’s Lady Book petitioned (pestered might be a more accurate word) President Lincoln to declare the last Thursday in November as the official date for an annual nationwide day of Thanksgiving that the holiday as we know it really took form. 

I’ll be taking a break from writing as I clean and bake and get ready to cook for my family on Thursday.  Our gathering has gotten smaller over the past few years, but it’s always a good feeling to sit around the table together and discuss the Macy’s Day parade (an annual event in my family), the coming Christmas Holidays and memories of past Turkey days. 

From my family to yours,

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

November 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Remembering Remembrance Day

NJ Convention 2009 Head ShotThis past Saturday I was in Staunton, VA, taking part in their Veteran’s Day parade.  After a miserable drive down in the mist and rain, Saturday turned into a beautiful ‘Indian Summer’ fall day.  The parade and following ceremony went off without a hitch. 

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(Here I am with my friend, Teresa in our parade finest)

This weekend is Remembrance Day and the official end to the reenacting season.  Thousands of reenactors will descend on the small town of Gettysburg, PA to commemorate the Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address and the thousands of men who fell in battle 147 years ago.  My unit will start the day with a ceremony at the 88th PA monument.  We’ll travel to Greenwood Cemetery to leave flowers in honor of the citizens who rose to the occasion and fought their own personal battles when the two armies arrived on their doorsteps. From there we’ll move on to the National Cemetery to lay flowers on the graves of three of the 88th men who are interned there.  The afternoon is filled with the color and pageantry of a huge parade of all the units, both Union and Confederate.  As the sun sets, one luminary for each soldier who was killed will be lit in the cemetery.  The day will end with dancing to the strains of period music at a ball held in one of the original buildings of the Gettysburg Seminary. 

All of the above are distractions from my writing.  But I don’t care.  For those few hours I’m happy to remember the past and honor the fallen heroes of the 88th PA and the brave civilians of this sleepy little town who suffered through three hot, dreadful days in July of 1863.

November 16, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thank a Veteran Today

NJ Convention 2009 Head ShotMy husband’s father and uncles and several of my uncles all served during WWII.  My stepfather fought in the Korean War. We both have friends who were in the Vietnam War.  My best friend’s husband is retired Navy.  He served in the Gulf during the 80s. My niece’s husband is currently an officer in the Air Force. One hundred and forty-eight years ago, both my husband’s great-great grandfathers and my great-great uncle fought for the Union during the Civil War.  One of Neil’s great-greats lost a leg at Chancellorsville. 

This coming weekend we will be in Staunton, VA marching in their Veteran’s Day parade.  My husband will proudly don his blue lieutenant’s frock coat, buckle on his sword belt and join the color guard consisting of Confederate and Union reenactors.  I’ll be with the ladies, attired in my finest 1860’s gown. With luck I’ll have some awesome photos.  As a group, we are always a crowd pleaser. 

The applause is appreciated, but that’s not why we do this.  We do it to honor veterans, all our veterans—past and present.  I know I’m grateful for the sacrifices of the brave men and women who willingly put their lives on the line so that I can live the comfortable life I lead in the freest nation in the world.  So I join with millions of other Americans today in saying, “Thank you for the service you have done our country.  Thank you for the standing on the wall and guarding me.” 

If you know a veteran, or bump into one today, please pass the message along.

November 11, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

‘V’ Revisted

NJ Convention 2009 Head ShotI love science fiction.  As a kid, my older sister and I saw every grade B sci-fi film ever made.  Every Saturday afternoon we sat transfixed by giant ants, mole people from beneath the earth and invaders from Mars.  I discovered the genre in print in 7th grade when I read Starman’s Son by Andre Norton.  From there it was on to Bradbury, Clarke and Heinlein.  I read them all.  It will come as no surprise that I was a fan of the Twilight Zone, Lost in Space, Star Trek and all the other Science fiction genre shows that have come and gone on television over the years.  In the 80’s when ‘V’ arrived as a mini-series and then went on to become a series, it was one of my and my son’s weekly fixes.  He was thrilled when I took him to a science fiction convention in Philadelphia to meet Robert Englund (Willie who went on to fame in the horror films playing Freddy Kruger)  He still has an auto graphed photo and I have several pictures of him standing with fans dressed as Visitors.  I also got to meet author A.C. Crispin who wrote one of the V episodes, several books and co-authored one with Andre Norton who started it all for me. 

As these things go, V has returned to television.  Like Battlestar Galactica, it is a reimaging of the original show from the 80s.  The sexy, snaky Diana has been morphed into the gorgeous, charming (and we know just as snaky) Ana.  Instead of the male cameraman and the female, almost doctor, we have a female FBI agent and a priest as the leads.  Many other things have been changed, but the basic premise of alien reptiles coming to earth for water and food (that would be us) to save their dying planet remains the same. 

In preparation for the new V, the SyFy channel broadcast the original mini-series and TV series the past 2 weeks.  I must confess, hokey as they are, I’ve enjoyed immersing myself in them.  The new V has a sharp, modern look to it and I love Morena Baccarin (Anara on Firefly) as Ana.  It remains to be seen, if it will draw a big audience.  As an author I’m fascinated to see how the writers on the show take the old and make it fresh.  That’s a skill we can all use with our own stories.  Some of the ones we’ve stored under the bed should no doubt remain there, but recent shows like Battlestar and V prove that a dated, problematic book, can, with some creativity, be retooled into a workable project.  So there still might be hope for a few of those books gathering dust bunnies under that bed.  Pull one out and dust it off today.  If this reimaging thing works for these shows, it might work for you too.

November 9, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fall Back

rt 2008 redu (2)Time flies, or at least it seems to lately.  RomantiCon, the much anticipated first conference sponsored by my publisher, Ellora’s Cave, Inc., occurred almost a month ago.  An array of daily obstacles kept me from reporting about it right away.  Better late than never, I guess.  So much has already been said about the event in other blogs, I’ll confine myself to sharing a few of my favorite pictures.

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Do you think I had fun?  I won’t be able to make it next year.  My son is getting married, so we’ll be having our own party in Las Vegas.  But I’ll be ready when 2011 rolls around. 

Last night I registered for the 2010 Romantic Times Convention in Columbus, Ohio.  This seems to be Ohio’s year.  In the next few weeks my hunt for the perfect red outfit and shoes will begin.  Hard to believe since I just packed away my animal print stuff from this past April’s jungle theme.  Somewhere between the holidays and the special shopping trips, I have to finish revising my fourth book, Palace of Dreams, and submit it to my editor.  Oh, and write the next issue of my newsletter, Hopeless Romantic.  I keep telling myself I can fit it all in.  My friend’s are equally as busy. It would have been helpful if I could have turned my clock back a few months instead of just one hour this past Sunday.  Where’s Einstein when you need him?


November 2, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment