Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Geezer Holloween

By Nancy Lynn Jarvis

When I was a child, Halloween wasn’t for anyone over twelve. Now children under that age are carefully supervised by their elders, attend safe events, and are hustled home before the rest of us come out to play. I’m glad Halloween has aged right along with me.

Halloween is my favorite holiday. In Santa Cruz, California where I live, the celebrations for the day are bigger than what happens on New Year’s Eve, the lead-in to Christmas, and Thanksgiving combined. Naturally, when I was writing my fourth mystery set in Santa Cruz, I couldn’t resist having the book open with a murder on Halloween night, and have witnesses described the killer as wearing a death costume so realistic that many of them wondered if it was a costume at all.

I couldn’t resist having the prime suspect, who happened to be out celebrating that night dressed as Death, be a woman in her late sixties, either. I like older woman in mysteries, be they the character who holds many clues like my eighty-six year old Mrs. Rosemont in The Death Contingency, or Olive in The Widow’s Walk League, who may be a cold blooded killer.

Older women characters have lived long enough to acquire secrets, a great element of mysteries and mystery writing, and they’ve had enough life experience to see shades of gray (not that kind of Shades of Gray) and to be more open to seeing the world around them a little differently than their younger counterparts. I’ve had so much fun with geezer women in the mysteries I’ve written, I decided it was time to dedicate a whole book to a group of characters who are all over eighty.

Mags, the leader of the AARP  Gang,  a group of renegade octogenarians  who decide to heist a bank to save the mobile home park where they live from foreclosure, says the only sensible shoes in her closet are part of a nun’s habit costume she wore for Halloween a couple of years past. She also tells her attorney that while she is a bank robber, she will not commit perjury because she “has her standards.”

I think being geezers and geezerettes gives us the freedom to be a little outlandish if we want to, to try new things, and as the blurb on the back of Mags and the AARP Gang says: “Sure they’re older, but not too old for the adventure of a lifetime, or to risk everything for the sake of friendship.” We have opportunities like, too once we become senior citizens.

So let’s start with Halloween. What’s your costume? Will you be scary, or noble? Do you plan to be a super-hero or a clown? Are you going to dress as a fanciful creature or a storybook character? Whatever you decide, remember by passing the admission age for the AARP, you’ve earned the right to be whoever you want to be. At fifty-nine, I wrote my first book. It was released on Halloween in 2008. That year I was a writer.

Nancy Lynn Jarvis was a Santa Cruz, California, Realtor® for more than twenty years and is still licensed but she’s enjoying writing so much, she may never sell another house. After earning a BA in behavioral science from San Jose State University, she worked in the advertising department of the San Jose Mercury News. A move to Santa Cruz meant a new job as a librarian and later a stint as the business manager for Shakespeare Santa Cruz at UCSC.
Nancy’s work history reflects her philosophy: people should try something radically different every few years. “Mags and the AARP Gang” represents a new direction in her writing adventure. After four Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries, Nancy put her characters, Regan, Tom, and Dave, on hiatus so she could let Mags and her gang, characters who had been forming in her mind for the past year, tell you their story.

 Nancy's Website

Monday, October 29, 2012

Mama, I can't Take a Bath 'Cause There's a Fish in the Tub

Fishing with my father was anything but boring, but my mother dreaded every fishing season.

“Your father is a veritable Mr. Hyde when he fishes,” she would say, generally including an emphatic gesture like hitting Dad with the newspaper, pretending a fly had landed on his shirt. “It’s safer to cuddle up to a rattler than be stuck in a boat with your father.”

But over time, my mother learned the wisdom of patience in dealing with my father’s idiosyncrasies. “When you’re married to a man for over sixty years, you forgive these sorts of insanities. Your father’s done a lot of crazy things that challenged my patience, but the craziest thing was the day he brought home that trout he caught at Butternut Creek.”

Dad squeezed Mother’s hand. “I suppose she’s right.”

They shared the tale that symbolized their sixty plus years together.   

“Butternut Creek is probably the trickiest place I ever fished in,” Dad said. “Why it’s so narrow you could toss a stone from one side to the other. And the trees like to hold hands across the creek.”

My father first cast got a hit. “By the force of the pull, I knew he was a big feller.”  

Downstream, Eddie, Dad’s fishing buddy, was about to cast when he saw Dad struggling to hold his line. “Looks like a keeper, Cal,” he shouted. “Better use the net!”

“I left it in the truck!” 
Dad could see the truck in an open field about a quarter of a mile downstream, but it might just as well have been two miles away. As Dad battled the beast of the stream, Eddie splashed his way toward the truck. Long minutes later, he plunged into chest-high rapids. 

For an agonizing second, Dad thought his amazing catch of the day would become catalogued with the other trillion stories of the one that got away.

“Got him!” Eddie shouted as he emerged triumphantly. They stopped at the water’s edge and shared that kind of emotional moment between men sans tears and embraces. Eddie simply stated, “Got to have a picture of this one, Cal.”

“Well, I don’t own a camera,” Dad moaned.  

            “Cal, we’ve got to have proof. Nobody’s going to believe we actually caught this fellow.” 

            “Well, neither one of us has one. At least we know what we caught.” The men trudged home with no lasting memento to herald their deed. 

As much as Mother despised fishing, she understood what this catch meant to my father. “Put the fish in the tub,” she said. “I’ll find us a camera.” The next day she borrowed one from her employer, and the picture found its way into Dad’s brag book. 

Winner of the 2012 Selah Award for best first novel (The Other Side of Darkness/Harbourlight),  LINDA RONDEAU, writes for the reader who enjoys a little bit of everything. Her stories of redemption and God’s mercies include romance, suspense, the ethereal, and a little bit of history into the mix, always served with a slice of humor. Walk with her unforgettable characters as they journey paths not unlike our own. After a long career in human services, mother of three and wife of one very patient man, Linda now resides in Florida where she is active in her church and community.  Readers may visit her web site at  Her second book, written under L.W. Rondeau, America II: The Reformation, Trestle Press, the first in a dystopian trilogy, is a futuristic political now available in ebook on and Barnes and Noble.  Print edition is coming soon. She is also contracted with Trestle Press for a prequel to her America II trilogy called Rains of Terror. This will appear in serial form. Volume One will be released soon.  An Christmas Adirondack romance , It Really IS a Wonderful Life, is now available for pre-order, published by Lighthouse of the Carolinas.  


Friday, October 26, 2012


By Chuck Petterson

This is the golden time of year in Washington Township, Harrison County, Iowa. The crops, or their stubble, are various hues of yellow and brown. The late afternoon sun makes what could be a boring, monochromatic scene, a blaze of gold. On the few days where a late storm clears up just in time, the brilliance of the fields contrasting against the dark sky is nothing less than stunning.

I send the old dog out at this time of day, because it gives me an excuse to stand in the yard and gaze across the Mosquito Creek Valley to the east and take in the simple beauty of the Loess Hills.  This afternoon a flock, perhaps a dozen, of small waterfowl took temporary refuge on the farm pond just off my property. I couldn’t identify them, but they are too small for geese.

As I go out with the dog I hear the unmistakable clamor of Canada Geese. We get flocks of 50-100 temporary guests during the spring and autumn migrations.  This evening they are alternately on the water and feeding in the corn stubble.  This year should be a good feed for them; dry weather encouraged a late swarm of grasshoppers to add protein to the corn kernels they favor over soybeans.  Canada Geese are a strange lot. If they are on the water and want to be ashore, or vice-versa, they fly.  They don’t swim to the shore and then waddle the few feet to graze.  The ducks and teals that stop by don’t do that, at least not from my observations. Ducks swim to the shore and then walk around.

A red-tailed hawk flies by, pursued by a small, dark bird of undistinguishable breed.  Certainly there cannot be any hatchlings to worry about in October, but who knows? This activity is common during late spring when birds are caring for their brood, but I can’t recall seeing this in October.

The dog will be 15 at the end of the month. He likes to stand at the fence and look at whatever he thinks is there to look at. A lot of times he forgets why he went out, and needs reminding. After the reminder he will move to the other side of the yard, or go to the far end, and look at something there for a while. Most times he eventually takes care of business, but not always.  Sometimes he doesn’t remember until he gets back inside, and then begs to go back out again.

 The second trip is now after sunset.  The brilliance has been consumed by the twilight.  The lone, dark bird heads back from wherever it came from and the hawk isn’t to be seen.  The Canadas are still honking. They honk all night.  They are far enough away to not hear them inside unless the bedroom window is open.  Not tonight. Hard freeze forecast.

The dog takes care of his business and trots back to my office, where he gets comfy on his bed before I can get back inside.

I send the rest of the dogs out for one last opportunity around ten. At 10 o’clock the stars are competing for my notice with the blinking lights on the transcontinental airplanes and the golden hills secretly recharge somehow, ready to do it again tomorrow.

Charles (Chuck) Petterson lives with his wife of 43 years in rural Harrison County, Iowa. Following graduation from Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Chuck enlisted in the Navy. He spent seven and a half years at sea with the Atlantic Submarine Force after two years of training as a nuclear plant operator. He worked for Westinghouse Electric Corporation as a nuclear instructor and field engineer for 18 years. Since 1991 Chuck has been an independent technical writer specializing in proprietary documents for electric utilities and industrial thermal facilities.

Chuck’s creative outlets include playing saxophone in a variety of community concert bands and dance bands. His writing efforts include contributions to a variety of hobby interest publications.  Polar Bear in Parrot Jungle is the first novel length story offered to the public.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


By Linda Lange

It had been a long day, and all we wanted was a quiet dinner. 

My husband Scott, an announcer, had gotten up at 5:30 to drive to an out-of-town job.  Once home, he’d spent the afternoon wrangling on the phone with a difficult producer.  I’d put in a thirteen-hour day at an animal shelter, where a beautiful kitten in my care succumbed to a virus.  It was the Day from Hell.  Good food, mutual sympathy, and adult beverages would help us unwind.

But soon after we got our booth at a neighborhood restaurant, another party was seated across the aisle.  Although it was after 8:00, the group included two small boys.  The younger was two or three, and he was the problem.  Obviously overtired, he broke into periodic bouts of wailing.  Our heads pounded.  Finally my husband couldn’t take it anymore.  He loudly blurted, “SHUT … UP!”

Not the ideal dinner companion 

The child’s father glared at us.  When his meal was done, he walked over, leaned into our booth, and informed Scott in so many words that he would have punched him if he hadn’t been of such advanced age.  (My husband is 66, with white hair and beard.)

So who was rude, us or the young dad?  Have standards of politeness changed so much?  If, as a child, I had behaved that way in a restaurant, my parents would have warned me to stop or risk a spanking.  When our son was small, we’d walk him outside, where he wouldn’t bother the other diners while we calmed him down.   But these people didn’t take their kid out or even make much effort to shush him, other than to hand him a toy or two.  Is this the new order?  Are we just supposed to put up with it—or stay home?

In another restaurant a few weeks earlier, we encountered a large and lubricated party at the other end of the room.  They were calling out and laughing loudly.  Scott asked the hostess if she’d approach them and ask them to be a little less raucous.  She declined, perhaps on the grounds that they were spending a lot more money there than we were.  So he got up and—politely—did it himself.  The group apologized.   But the hostess was furious.  She stopped just short of asking us to leave.

Is it impossible to have a quiet dinner in a restaurant these days?  Are we out of step?  After all, we live in a world where loud cell-phone conversations in store aisles are commonplace.  At the shelter, I’ve motioned to people to quiet down because our manager was on the phone in the same room, and received bewildered looks.  Nobody uses their “inside voices” anymore.

On the upside, it’s clear that although Scott and I are over sixty, we’re not losing our hearing.

But I’d really like to know.  By today’s standards, who was inconsiderate—us or the young family?  Have we become curmudgeons?  

What do you think?

Monday, October 22, 2012

Loving Arms

The newest and sixth addition to my collection of grandchildren is 13-month-old Molly. I have the privilege of living with her and her parents, my daughter Darice and her husband Ron. I raised three children of my own, two girls and a boy, and I’ve spent a lot of time with my other five grandchildren (all boys), but sharing a house with one brings a new perspective to my role as a grandparent.

Although they’ve shared numerous characteristics with every other child ever born, each child (and grandchild) of mine also has had his or her own personal likes, dislikes, and childhood rituals. That’s what makes us individuals. For instance, none of my children, nor grandchildren, have ever wanted anything to do with a pacifier. Except Molly. She loves hers. Sure, sometimes she rips it out of her mouth, turns it around in her slimy little fist, gives it a good talking to, and flings it across the room, but who among us hasn’t wanted to do that very same thing to our pacifier (whatever that may be) or our computer or smart phone or phone bill or credit card or car keys? Though not exactly clear to me, I’m sure Molly has her reasons for her love/hate relationship with that little contraption. In the end, though, they always find their way back to one another.

One particularly endearing ritual Molly developed in her infancy is running her little fingers over the bare skin of my arm when she’s getting ready to sleep. Not only does it feel good (I often want to drift off right along with her), but it also gives me a clear-cut signal that she’s ready for sleep. More than that, it lets me know she’s relaxed and comfortable enough with me to bury her little head in my chest and fall asleep in my arms. While I know infants will fall asleep dangling from their ankles if it suits them, this ritual signals more to me (and hopefully, her) than finding a convenient place to drop off to Dreamland.

This is about trust. Hers and mine.

This is about looking into her cornflower-blue eyes and making that deep connection that only grandmas and babies can make. It’s about my trusting that she knows I’ll never let anything happen to her; that she can scream or cry or misbehave or make messes or smack me in the face with a Mega Blok and I won’t be angry. It’s about that unspoken commitment all grandmas make with their grandchildren that says, “I’ll be right here for you no matter what. No problem is too difficult or embarrassing or frightening to share with me. You’ll always have me in your corner when the skies darken and the storms rage. I’ll never let you face your problems alone.” It’s about recalling the experiences and putting to good use the wisdom gleaned from parenthood and using all of it to help nurture the next generation of little ones—our own children’s children—a double blessing if ever there was one.

It’s about trusting one another that nothing but death will ever separate us.

And speaking of death, I hope that when I finally leave this earth (many, many years from now), I’ll have left Molly and Dustin and Hunter and Cannon and Tyler and Adam with the knowledge this grandma isn’t the only one who harbors a deep, unconditional love for them. They also have devoted, adoring, nurturing moms and dads, other doting grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and one another to help them navigate life’s tricky waters.

But more importantly, I hope I’ve left them with the knowledge that their Heavenly Father loves them more than even grandmas can love them. And when I leave this earth to begin my eternal residency in Heaven, I hope they envision me with my head buried in my Father’s chest, resting in His arms, trusting that nothing will cause Him to stop loving me.

Perhaps I’ll even gently scratch His arm as I drift off to sleep.

Deborah Dee Harper’s current adult Christian manuscript, Misstep, was a finalist in the 2009 Operation First Novel Contest co-sponsored by the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale Publishing House. It will soon be under contract. 

Her children’s adventure book, Laramie on the Lam, originally published as a six-part, kids’ adventure eBook series by Echelon Press (Quake) is available now in print through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other online sites.  

Deborah has made numerous elementary classroom visits to read her work to students, spoken to several groups (both student and adult) about writing, and developed a writing seminar for elementary-aged children. She is represented by Terry Burns of Hartline Literary Agency and writes from Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

She can be reached through her website: or at her email address:

Just in time for Christmas!
For KIDS who love rooting for heroes, outwitting villains, loyal dogs, weird mysteries, adventures in exciting locations, seat-of-your pants danger, wild animals, thrilling fun, and laugh-out-loud humor!

For PARENTS, HOMESCHOOLERS, and/or SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHERS looking for wholesome, Christian-based reading material for kids, complete with six study guides—all combined into one fun-to-read, fact-filled book of wild adventure!

 Laramie Wyoming is in big trouble—as usual—but this is the biggest, baddest trouble he’s ever gotten himself into. Eleven-year-old Laramie is a lot of things: an average student, a little mischievous, always messy, constantly curious, and on most days, a good big brother. When his mother, a travel writer, gets the chance to take her family with her on a trip around the country to write a book, they jump into their motor home and head for the great unknown. The adventure hasn’t stopped since! Even though he’s used to getting in (and out) of scrapes, Laramie never—not in a million years—dreamed he and Maestro, along with his best friend Jake Pickens and his worst enemy Prentiss Williams, would end up being chased from Virginia to Alaska and lots of places in-between by bank robbers.

It’s official: Laramie’s on the lam!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Crying with my Ancestors

Sometimes I think you need a little of your own history in order to be able to understand history. I can’t remember never knowing about those relatives. They were on my Grandma Hall’s side, residing on the farm in Amelia County, Virginia. Patsie — we never call her Grandma — would sit at her oak dining room table, framed by the gold wall paper and talk about these people — Nonnie, Lou, Ralph and countless others, all making my head swim with Old Relative Fatigue.

Although I had visited the country, fed the cows and had my picture taken in front of the tobacco crop, I had yet to value these relatives. By the time I met them, they were well over sixty, country folk, and most with only an eighth-grade education. I was a city-raised missionary kid, spending my childhood in Japan. These relatives hugged me too often and acted like they knew me. After the turkey sandwiches, lemonade and a few rides on the porch swing, I was eager to go home.

As a college student and throughout my early twenties, whenever I’d sit around her dining room table eating fried chicken, biscuits and salad, I’d hear some anecdote from Patsie’s farm-raised days. At age seven, she played in the field one gloriously sunny day instead of sticking to her chore — picking tobacco. She recalled the spanking for her disobedience. Classmates at the county school teased, calling her “Tar Heel” because she and her family had moved from North Carolina, the Tar Heel State, to Virginia. As if this wasn’t bad enough for a young girl to endure, she was also ridiculed for her freckles. Hearing that freckles disappeared if washed with the early morning dew, Patsie often scrubbed her cheeks and nose with the moisture. Not only did her brothers laugh at her for this ritual, but her freckles remained.

Affectionately, Patsie told tales of her sisters and brothers, and Aunt Chachi, who lived with Mama, Papa and the children. What kind of name is Chachi, I would muse. Patsie talked about them like they were a part of us, which made me feel I should be interested. So I’d pose a question or two. Other than my infrequent remarks, it was mostly just Patsie reminiscing as the sun sank into the horizon, ending another day. I don’t have time for this, I’d think. There were exams to study for, dates to go on, and a big world I wanted to travel.

A short while ago, I took my children to visit Patsie. The now ninety-year-old silver-haired woman sat in the red winged-back chair and somewhere in the hot, sleepy summer afternoon I was aware she was again filling me in on the relatives of Amelia County.

I listened to accounts of Ralph and Nonnie and the others. I learned that of her eight siblings, four were still living. Her sisters had recently paid her a visit from the country. They’d brought blueberry preserves and apple pie.

But what I really wanted to learn was much more emotional than preserves or pie. I found my voice asking about Johnny, her youngest sibling. Of course I’d heard the tragic story before; Patsie had told it as she recalled all the other stories. Johnny had been on the running board of the car when he was twelve. Carl, his older brother, had been driving. “Don’t let the boys ride on the running board,” Patsie’s father had warned, but Carl hadn’t listened. Over a bump on the country road, Johnny slid off the running board to his death.

Of all the times I’d heard this story, I’d never cried. But on this afternoon in July, the tears welled and curved along my cheeks. Reaching for the photo album on the coffee table, I held the black-and-white photo of my great-grandmother and looked into her young face. I touched her hair and arms. I knew these arms ached because they no longer were able to hold her precious Johnny. “I know, I know,” I whispered at her picture. While blood had united us as relatives, the more definitive bond was that we were both bereaved mothers. For I, too, had a child die — my son, Daniel. It had not been a car accident, but a cancer-related death.

Although there were six decades between the deaths of Johnny and my Daniel, as mothers our lives had no doubt been similar after the deaths of our sons. Days of anguish, doubt, sorrow and frustration of having chores to do and other children to care for when our newly-broken hearts begged us to sit and sob. I cried for this woman in the black hat; I cried for me.

These days, I am listening to the tales of those relatives. I sit on the edge of my chair and take it all in. For those relatives, though far removed from my city life, are a part of me. Patsie believed they always were. It just took awhile and some history of my own to recognize this.

~Alice J. Wisler wrote this article in 2002 for The Urban Hiker. She is the author of five inspirational novels, including Still Life in Shadows. All of her novels have a component of grief and loss. Her devotional, Getting out of Bed in the Morning: Reflections of Comfort in Heartache, arrives on bookshelves this December. In addition to writing, Alice teaches workshops on writing through the turmoils of life. Visit her website:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Cracking Walnuts

Cracking Walnuts
What am I doing here?
Okay, I’m a writer. And yes, I am on the other side of some calendric divide, but I am feeling a little like the guy who arrives at a Christmas party carrying a menorah. Although I am a few months shy of the big seven-oh, I am neither retired nor looking forward to retirement. With two school-age children, the word retirement is not even in my vocabulary. Fine with me.
One of my boyhood heroes was my great-uncle John, who lived alone and single-handedly maintained a sprawling place on Lake Minnetonka that hosted hordes of visitors on weekends three-seasons-round. He always said he wanted to die with his boots on. Neighbors found him one morning slumped over on his front step, one boot on and his right foot pushed partway into the other. Stubborn man.
I was always a non-conformist about age, with close friends significantly older and substantially younger. These days, younger friends are studying brochures from retirement communities, and many contemporaries have already moved in. To me, an entire community of birders and golfing enthusiasts, all my age or older, would approximate purgatory on earth. I have nothing against birders—I’m married to a teacher-naturalist who works for Audubon—and golf seems mostly harmless. But the older I get, the more the age-segregation of modern society strikes me as unnatural, and the more it becomes clear that my take on age is nonstandard.
Where did western society take a wrong turn? Throughout most of hominid evolution and human history, our ancestors lived with infants and toothless elders, agile adolescents and balding providers, young mothers and mumbling shamans all crowded in together in small groups. We were not meant to live without children underfoot to trip us or young people confronting our complacency or the elderly offering perspectives that we couldn’t possibly understand until we, too, are toothless and incontinent.
I am fortunate to be still surrounded by people of all ages. At the one end of the scale are my five- and nine-year-old grandchildren, and at the other end my elder friends and associates. Teaching at a university not only keeps me current, but also immerses me in the generation into whose charge the messed-up world is being handed. They are a strange breed, these young adults of the digital age, but even as I puzzle about their preference for texting over face-to-face dialogue,  I am optimistic. In between are my middle- and high-school kids and their friends. The parents, most of whom are half my age, nevertheless seem to accept me as a fellow passenger.
Retirement? How do you spell that?

The Rosen Singularity, my fourth novel, is a contemporary thriller, a provocative meditation on life, death, age, and longevity. In it, an emeritus professor tells his young protégé about his own view on retirement.
My Miriam once told me about…stopping at a farm stand....  Her parents bought a small bag of walnut meats from a girl of twelve or so, who proudly told them that her grandfather had cracked all the nuts on the table. She nodded toward an old man with gnarled hands and a weather-ravaged face hunched over one of those big old long-handled affairs, cracking walnuts one at a time, very, very slowly. Miriam said he looked like he was a hundred to her girlish eyes, but there he was, doing his part to keep the family orchards going. Maybe he read to his young grandchildren in the evening when he was too tired to crack any more nuts. Maybe he entertained the family with stories from the old days, polished and embellished by years of retelling and by flagging memory. Who knows? But that man was not off playing golf or mahjongg in some retirement community or taking up bed space in a nursing home while waiting to die.
His protégé protests that this seems harsh, that not everyone has vigorous golden years. We deserve eventually “to take some time to ourselves, to do what we please, or at least not to have to get up every morning and drag ourselves off to some stupid job.”
The older professor replies, “I’d say no. Everyone contributes, everyone adds something, whatever they can.”
I am neither of these characters, and just because I wrote their dialogue does not mean I have to be in full agreement with everything they say. Their conversation echoes the tension in a much grander dialectic in the book. Still, to borrow from my own characters, as long as we are consuming, perhaps we have a responsibility to contribute.
Even if it means cracking walnuts. Or telling stories.

Larry Constantine writes intricate thrillers on provocative themes under the pen name Lior Samson. When not cracking walnuts or writing stories, he teaches graduate courses in industrial design, cooks gourmet meals for his family, and composes vocal music for community groups. He is an award-winning writer with 22 books published, including four novels and a collection of short fiction. He divides his time between Massachusetts and Portugal, where he teaches at the University of Madeira. You can reach him by email at Lior(at)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lessons Learned on Halloween Past

I love autumn, when cool nights carry with them the promise of a vibrant fall, and the chance to gather together as a family—first at Thanksgiving, then Christmas. But as a child, I loved Halloween best of all. I’d plan for days, trying to come up with a clever costume. My friends and I were costume snobs, looking down on anyone who had to wear a store bought outfit. Our costumes were as homemade as the fun we had on Saturday afternoons.

Halloween wasn’t just a one-night event either. There’d be at least one Halloween carnival, a class party, another at church, and possibly one at a friend’s house. Each one required a costume. Some years I’d wear a different costume to each event. Others, I’d use the earlier gatherings as a rehearsal for the big finale, Halloween night.

What made it such a big event? It was the candy—of course. We’d spend as long as possible out Halloween night, and then the next day comparing our loot. Sometimes we got a load of the good stuff, and other times not so much. We’d trade for our favorites and find ourselves torn between wanting to make it last till Christmas or eat as much as possible.

But, before anyone could get any candy, we had to knock on the door. Even tiny toddlers were taken by the hand or carried in parents’ arms and taught to knock.

Why? Because, as any child who’s ever been out for Trick-or-Treat knows, not knocking means not receiving

So what do you want to do during this time of your life? Whatever it is, go for it, and don't let a lack of action keep you from chasing your dream.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Where's Home in Your Heart?

Last night, I strolled with my family through the streets of my hometown—New Albany, Indiana—enjoying the annual Harvest Homecoming Festival. It was a glorious fall evening with a slight chill in the air necessitating a sweater or jacket. The theme for this 45th festival is “Harvest Goes Hollywood.” We sampled homemade fudge, sipped hot chocolate, greeted old friends and made some new ones. A concerted effort by a number of groups to revitalize the downtown business district has been successful and, as a result, charming, independently-owned restaurants and shops are now drawing in younger families and the “hip” crowd to a once-dying economy. What an exciting transformation! The aromas of roasted nuts and caramel corn mingled with chicken and dumplings, corn dogs and pork sandwiches. Something for everyone. The cafés and art galleries opened their doors wide. Vendors in many booths sold all manner of colorful and creative wares, from T-shirts and trinkets to expensive jewelry and artwork. Firefighters gave kids a tour of the engine and ambulance. Bands and dancers performed live on the festival stage. All the while, Miss Harvest Homecoming moved among the crowd, wearing her tiara and sash. Groups of teenagers congregated in front of the music store, older folks observed from picnic tables, and young couples pushed strollers.  As much as any other time in my life, it impacted me tonight that this is Americana. This is what life’s about. Small town life at its best with families enjoying a beloved hometown tradition together, strengthening ties and the spirit of community.  

As a senior in high school, I couldn’t wait to get away from New Albany, part of Kentuckiana where it sits on the banks of the Ohio and often called the “sunny side of Louisville.” Let me make it clear I was in no way ashamed of my hometown, but I inherited an independent spirit from my mother and wanted to embrace and experience the world. Unlike the majority of my counterparts, I wanted to live and work in a big city, travel to Europe, see Broadway plays and meet all sorts of fabulous, interesting people. When I packed up and moved to the Ball State University campus as a freshman, I only returned home during summer breaks, holidays and vacations for the next 28 years. Along the way, I married my husband, Jim, gave birth to our three children (ages 16 to 23) and lived in Texas, California, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts before coming back home in late 2005 with my family in-tow. Funny how life comes full circle sometimes. I'm proof that you can come home again and yes, Dorothy, there truly is “no place like home.” On my website, I make this statement: “I’ve ‘been around’ in the nicest sense of the word.” As a writer, living in different regions of the country has given me a broader perspective of this great nation and its people, customs, cultures, and geography. I wouldn't have traded those experiences for anything, and they've made me the person I am today.  

When our son Matthew graduates from high school in two years, I’ll be able to say all three of our kids have graduated from New Albany High School—the oldest public high school in Indiana (1853) which served as a hospital during the Civil War, and first in the nation to have an FM broadcast radio station commissioned by the FCC. Notable alumni include Billy Herman (Hall of Fame MLB player during the 1930s and 1940s), Sherman Minton (U.S. Senator and associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), Josh Dallas (actor, currently on ABC’s popular “Once Upon a Time”), Fuzzy Zoeller (U.S. Open and Master’s Champ—and part of my family), and Edwin Hubble (astronomer for whom the Hubble Space Telescope is named) was a notable faculty member. 

My question to you: “Where’s home in your heart?” As New Albany begins its Bicentennial celebration in 2013, I’m so proud to be a “returnee” to my sweet hometown, full of rich heritage and tradition. You see, the Lord knew where I belonged all along. It just took me a while to see it, and to find my way home again. But oh, I'm so glad I did. My prayer for you, my friends, is that you’ll be so abundantly blessed. Matthew 5:16

JoAnn Durgin is the author of the popular Lewis Legacy Series, contemporary romantic adventures full of faith, family and love (Torn Veil Books): Awakening, Second Time Around and Twin Hearts are available in both paperback and ebook from all major online Christian book retailers. Book #4 in the series, Daydreams, is coming in December 2012. Meet Me Under the Mistletoe, a Christmas novella from Pelican Book Group (White Rose), is expected to release in the next month. She'd love to hear from you at her website, or on Facebook.