A Guest Post — “Christmases of My Childhood” by Kathleen Creighton

I am honored to be able to share a Christmas remembrance from friend and renowned author Kathleen Creighton.  With more than 50 books published and two million copies sold, Kathleen has long been a powerhouse of the romance genre. Her books have earned her five RITA awards, as well as a place in the Romance Writers Hall of Fame.  Please join Kathleen for a fond look back at childhood Christmases in Southern California.

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“The Christmases of my childhood and young adulthood were always spent at my grandparents’ house. A few days before Christmas, we’d pile into my grandfather’s old pickup—-Mom and my Aunt Mary and Uncle Russell and any cousins and friends who wanted to come along—-and drive up the canyon to cut a tree. We’d find a nice, hardy little pinon and Papa would chop it down, and we’d take turns dragging it back to the pickup. The tree would be installed in the living room on a base made from an old tire. It was Mary’s job to decorate it, because she was the only one who could put the tinsel on right. In the later years, we had electric lights, but when I was very small, I remember, we still used candles. They were only lit once, on Christmas Night.

“On Christmas Day, the family would gather for dinner. If the weather was nice—-and it often was at that time of the year in that lovely little valley tucked between the arid Tehachapi Mountains and the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada—-the children would sit out on the porch. The grown-ups sat at the big dining room table, expanded for the occasion so that it stuck out into the living room, with Papa in his overalls presiding at the head and Grandmother flitting back and forth between the table and the kitchen, ignoring everyone’s pleas to “Sit down, Mama, please!”

“In the evening, after the livestock had been fed and the cows milked, everyone gathered again around the Christmas tree. The old farmhouse wasn’t large, but somehow it always seemed to hold everyone–sons and daughters and in-laws, all the children and babies—-especially the babies! There were always a few “extras,” too, because anyone who didn’t have a place to go on Christmas was welcome at my grandparents’ house. And Grandmother saw to it that every person there had a package under the tree. We’d sing carols for a while, until the kids got restless. Then we’d light the candles on the tree and sit in their glow and sing “Silent Night.”

“Once the candles had been blown out, it was pandemonium, with kids yelling and paper and ribbons flying. Papa’s special gift was always a five-pound box of See’s chocolates, which, for the rest of the evening, he took great pleasure in passing around. Finally, stuffed with pumpkin pie and chocolate, loaded down with packages and sleepy children, everyone would drift away. But never very far away. Because to each and every one of us, that old farmhouse was home. And every day my grandparents lived in it was Christmas.

“When I was very small, we lived for a time with my grandparents. On one of those long-ago Christmases, a box arrived from far away—-no one seemed to know where. In the box was a beautiful, brand-new Lionel electric train. Everyone thought Papa must have bought it, though he steadfastly denied it, and to be sure, it wasn’t his way to be modest about his gifts. I think he would have been proud as punch to be the bestower of that wonderful train, as he was with his annual Christmas box of chocolates. So we never knew where it came from, and if Papa knew, he took the secret with him when he left us.

“In any event, on this and every Christmas, I wish for you the gifts my grandparents gave to me and to everyone—-kin or stranger—-who came into their home.

“Simple gifts: Warmth and welcome and unconditional love.” — by Kathleen Creighton

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Please visit Kathleen Creighton’s Author Page on Amazon and her Web Site.  This Christmas memory first appeared as the Author’s Note to Kathleen’s novella, “The Mysterious Gift”, available for Kindle and eReaders, in which she also included her famous Christmas Cookie recipe at the end as a special bonus ‘Thank You’.  Check it out.  Please visit and follow Kathleen on Facebook and Twitter.

Big Bear Hugs and Thank You’s to Kathleen Creighton for allowing me to share her wonderful memories with you.  And also to you, for visiting and reading.  Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Holiday Season!  —  Jim (and Red!)

Christmas- Old-fashioned Christmas- 2

On Rabbitbrush, Ripples, Sheriffs and Such

Had a terrific weekend of writing.  I had an idea for a story in my head for several months but it never went anywhere, very unusual for me because I am a “pantser” in approach mostly, just sitting down and writing from start to finish from an initial story concept or character name, without a lot of forethought or planning.  I had the initial story idea, which is usually enough, but it never developed.  After sitting down the other day with the story idea once again, the light suddenly went on and it entered that magical land where the story writes itself.  Very happy with it, delighted actually, and wish I could share the story now with you.  But it is to be included in the upcoming “Adventures of Little Red Bear” collection so we will all have to wait just a little longer.

Work then started on another new story late last night.  So today I am working on what quite possibly could be the final story in the collection, and writing about Rabbitbrush, a featured element in the story.  Love the stuff.  To me, it is beautiful.   It is a plant native to arid regions in the North American West and Southwest, and thrives in coarse, alkaline soil common to desert environments.

Detail of Rabbitbrush Flower Head (Image Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Detail of Rabbitbrush Flower Head
(Image Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Rabbitbrush is an important food source for wildlife, especially during winter months.  The Zuni people of the Southwest used the plant’s blossoms to make a yellow dye, and stems for baskets.  Rabbitbrush is gaining popularity now as an ornamental plant in areas where water conservation is a growing concern.  In the wild, it is often found in unmanaged range lands, along roadways and in abandoned fields.

Also known as Rubber Rabbitbrush for its uses as a source of rubber dating back to 1904, it is a shrubby perennial growing in sizes ranging from 12 to 90 inches tall.  It’s flower heads are comprised of five small, yellow tubular flowers appearing in clusters.  The flexible stems are rubbery (hence the name) and its leaves a greenish-grey in color with a felt-like covering.

Rabbitbrush- Chrysothamnus nauseosus (Photo credit- Wikipedia)

Rabbitbrush- Chrysothamnus nauseosus
(Photo credit- Wikipedia)

Having seen Rabbitbrush before in travels to the Southwest but not knowing what it was, I learned more about it from beautiful photos shared over a year ago by a great friend, the award-winning author Kathleen Creighton in California. That is how I met her, actually.  She shared the photos online, I commented, she replied, and without hesitation granted me permission to use her photos.  Kathleen then contacted and put me in touch with others to provide me with more information on the plant.  A conversation struck up and we have been talking and great friends ever since.  And now I am including it in a Little Red Bear story.  It’s wonderful how it all works when one is open and receptive to meeting new people.  More of that Sending Out Ripples notion.

But, it has taken me a year to get the Rabbitbrush into a story, and I have stacked up a pile somewhere north of 1,000 story ideas and features since then.  I will have to live to the age of Moses and Methuselah to get them all into stories.  Since that is probably unlikely, I better pick up the pace it seems.

And in case you are wondering– “How does an arid desert plant find its way into a story about Little Red Bear and friends based in the Ozarks Mountains in the Southern Midwest?”  Well, guess you will have to wait for the upcoming collection of stories to find that one out.  But here’s a hint– There’s a new sheriff in town!

Wishing everyone a great day and positive start to the New Year!  Break time is over and Little Red Bear is calling me back to writing so I need to go.  Thanks for visiting! — Jim (and Red!)

Rabbitbrush, California Farm- October, 2013. (Photo by Kathleen Creighton Fuchs)

Rabbitbrush, California Farm- October, 2013.
(Photo by Kathleen Creighton Fuchs)