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Home(made) for the Holidays

I always hate those articles that urge you to make your holiday gifts this year. For all the extra gifts you need–for the ChemLawn guy, say, or the UPS delivery person–why not make gingered violets, or better yet, home-made candy canes?

 What self-respecting person wouldn’t want to receive these, and what self-flagellating person wouldn’t go on a bender and actually make them? It means so much more, it’ll save you money. You’ll be the hit of the party!

When my kids were young and needed constant entertainment I had the brilliant idea to follow Martha Stewart’s sage (the adjective, not the herb) advice and create our very own cranberry wreath: an inspired mother-children bonding project that was bound to keep us all enthralled for hours.

Usually leery of Martha’s advice, I knew this project would be a breeze. I mean, how hard could it be to jab cranberries into Styrofoam?

I made an extra trip to the store, three small kids in tow, to buy our supplies; figured we’d make two wreaths, since we’d be having so much fun. So I bought eight bags of berries, and a few boxes of toothpicks (all I could find were the colored plastic ones, but they’d do in a pinch).

Add the wreaths, which cost a couple of bucks–not to mention a few gray hairs caused by dragging the kids to the craft store for one measly thing, for which I had to wait in an endless line, because, being the holiday season, every fool decided they too had a hidden craft gene in them –and we were good to go.

Soon, we’d have a gorgeous crimson festive decorator showpiece to hang from our front door, made by the creative little hands of my babies, all for under thirty bucks!

Back home, I ambitiously invited my nephews to join in the fun. So our craft team consisted of five kids aged five and under.

If my memory serves correctly, this project held these kids’ interest for, oh, say, three minutes and twelve seconds. For the subsequent hour that ensued, I cajoled, implored then forced the kids to persist. I’d be damned if my financial investment and good intentions were gonna be lost without a fight. Plus, I had no alternative activity with which to divert their attention.

Apart from the usual arguing over who got what cranberry and the best colored toothpicks, I had to contend with five out of control children dropping a myriad of deadly toothpicks all over the floor for the toddlers in the crowd to then pick up and stuff into a variety of orifices.

The floor-bound cranberries, which were most of them, were eaten by my mooch of a dog, who ended up throwing them back up in a seasonally brilliant vermilion color. Crushed berries stained my porous teak table.

By project’s end–which was when the oldest of the group (the others having given up much earlier and taken to running amok in my house) could no longer bear the pain of the pointy sticks in their fingertips–I was left with two pathetic Styrofoam rings, smashed cranberries jabbed randomly across their topography.

Do you know how many millions of cranberries it must take to cover a foam wreath? And how much resistance the foam puts up to any attempt to puncture its tough exterior wall?

What I had before me were vast expanses of white foam with vague hints of holiday red. Definitely not meant to grace my front door.

Trying to salvage something from this failed venture, I decided to hang the wreaths from a tree; at least the wintering birds would enjoy the berries.

I soon learned that while no local birds gave a hoot about cranberries, strong winds and foul weather would do wonders to facilitate the dropping of hundreds of non-biodegradable toothpicks, which littered my yard mockingly. All year long, those colored little sticks strewn all over my front lawn served as a reminder of my folly.

      The next year, I took my money from the craft budget, picked up a pizza, rented a movie for the kids, and ordered all those extra gifts by phone. I learned my lesson, the hard way.


Categories: News, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver

Welcome Guest Author Deborah LeBlanc

Please welcome guest Author Deborah LeBlanc, whose novel Water Witch was just released by Dorchester Publishing.  Publisher’s Weekly calls Water Witch an “imaginative thriller.” Set in the spooky bayous of Louisiana, Water Witch is chilling story guaranteed to make you leave the lights on when you go to bed after reading it.

When I first started writing, I had been in business for more years than I cared to remember. At first, I thought the two entities (writing and business) had absolutely nothing in common, so I tried separating the two. It didn’t take long for me to realize how big a mistake that assumption was. Writing is a business, just different from the ones I was used to. Needless to say, though, as I restructured my thinking and attempted to merge the two together, I met with frustration of the highest order. Argg! As some of you have heard me spout off about before, publishing does not follow any standard business practice known to man, woman, or wooly-back orangutan. It’s its own worst enemy at times.

That being said, however, I decided to take the advice of a man I’d admired for years. One whose wisdom has helped me understand the meaning of success, which inevitably moved me up the ladder in quite a few corporations. I figured why not use those same principles in writing.

So I did. And I’ll be damn if they didn’t prove to be just as true in the publishing business as in any other venture.

 I thought I’d share some of that guy’s wisdom with you today….

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will.

The spirit, the will to win and the will to excel–these are the things that endure and these are the qualities that are so much more important than any of the events that occasion them.

Success is like anything worthwhile. It has a price. You have to pay the price to win and you have to pay the price to get to the point where success is possible. Most important, you must pay the price to stay there.

Once you agree upon the price you and your family must pay for success, it enables you to ignore the minor hurts, the opponent’s pressure, and the temporary failures.

If you’ll not settle for anything less than your best, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish in your lives.

Remember, it’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

—-Vince Lombardi

What or who has inspired you to keep pushing forward when life gets tough? 

Deborah LeBlanc is an award-winning author from Lafayette, Louisiana. She is also a business owner, a licensed death scene investigator, and an active member of two national paranormal investigation teams. Deborah’s unique experiences, enthusiasm, and high-energy level make her a much sought after speaker at writers’ conferences across the nation. She also takes her passion for literacy and a powerful ability to motivate to high schools around the country.

She is the president of the Horror Writers Association, president of the Writers’ Guild of Acadiana, president of Mystery Writers of America’s Southwest Chapter, and an active member of Sisters in Crime, the National Association of Women Writers, and International Thriller Writers Inc. In 2004, Deborah created the LeBlanc Literacy Challenge, an annual, national campaign designed to encourage more people to read, and soon after founded Literacy Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting illiteracy in America’s teens. Her latest novel is WATER WITCH.

To check out the book trailer on Water Witch, visit:


Categories: News

Oh Christmas Tree!

I’m a sucker for the Christmas season. Always have been. Don’t know if it’s the deluded optimism the holiday thrusts upon us, or just a strange affinity for otherwise maudlin songs dressed up as cheerful seasonal chestnuts. I mean, let’s be honest, at any other time of year, who would actually listen wistfully to a yawner like “The Little Drummer Boy”?

Whatever it is, I have always ensured that my family gets into the holiday spirit, starting with finding the perfect Christmas tree.

When I was a kid, the search for the ultimate yuletide tree took us to the nearest gas station: hardly a romantic venue from which to choose the centerpiece of our holiday decor. We’d pile into the station wagon for the three-block drive to Buck’s Esso station, spill out onto the oil-slicked parking lot, mull over three or four already-netted spruce trees, and then dad would haggle down the price. End of story.

Ah, so I was determined to rewrite that tradition with my own family. Early in my marriage, we decided the most festive tree-acquisition could only be achieved by cutting down our own (plus you get the added benefit of the needles actually staying on the tree all month rather than littering the floor). Because we lived in citified Northern Virginia, the cachet of escaping to the “country”–i.e. the closest remaining patch of farmland untainted by greedy developers–only added to the allure.

But one year, I found myself almost wishing for the chance to just pop down to the local gas station to buy a tree…

That year, my husband and our three children, all under the age of four, trekked to the Clifton Christmas Tree Farm, where awaiting us were candy canes, hot chocolate, homemade wreaths and the typical abundance of forced holiday cheer that we craved.

I had whipped my kids into a tree-chopping frenzy, and so they took their task quite seriously. For forty minutes, we foraged throughout the whopping half-acre “farm” until we found the perfect tree: seven feet of holiday splendor, as wide as it was tall, perfect to fill our cathedral-ceiling’ed living room and flood us with the Christmas spirit.

The kids took turns on the ground with the saw while my husband supervised the chopping honors. Their excitement was palpable. We dragged the tree back to the cashier stand where the farmer’s son coiled the netting around our white pine. The kids stood by, sucking on candy canes, sipping hot cider and petting the farmer’s dog, who’d recently wandered over. I was just about to retrieve the car to load on the tree, when Fido lifted his leg.

“No!” I shouted in what seemed like a frame-by-frame slow motion, as a steady stream was released onto our perfect tree.

For a moment we stood stupefied, not knowing what to do. But we weren’t about to keep a tree covered in dog wee, so we grabbed the kids’ hands to head back into the wilds to hunt for a replacement one.

Until our kids let us know in no uncertain terms, that this tree was the one, the only. They threw themselves on the ground, flailing and crying, thrashing and moaning, like something from a Greek tragedy. They wanted their special tree, and nothing else would suffice.

Their wails did not subside until we relented, and agreed to load up the tainted tree.

 The farmer found a makeshift bucket, filled it from a nearby stream and doused the offending urine from the tree. We loaded it onto the roof of the car, and went home.

I have admit, I sort of detached emotionally from the tree that year. Couldn’t quite get over the psychological hurdle of having a tree the dog peed on in my living room. Somehow it clashed with the whole festive notion.

But for my kids, the tree was just about perfect, despite its incumbent flaws. And maybe that’s exactly why I like the holidays so much: because at this time of year, we’re all a little more likely to forgive the small things in order to see the bigger picture.


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((¸¸. ·´ .. ·´Jenny-:¦:-

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Categories: News, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver