The Thanks, Gifts, and Giving Post pt.1

THANK YOU to everyone who participated in my “gift” story request. I was pleased with how many of you wanted to share, and surprised by those who submitted. I expected many of my writer friends and family members to provide a tale–I even imagined what a couple of them would say was their most treasured “gift”. I got a few from friends and family, but interestingly enough, I received several submissions from people otherwise unknown to me.

I was provided enough stories to require multiple blogs. Please take the time to read them all! Some are very short, others are full essays. A few are complete stories, others are passing comments. All are important to the writer, whether they be the giver or the given.

I consider each of these a gift.


An antique sterling silver evening bag from my dad. He tucked a 50 dollar bill in it. I still have the bag😁

Tess I.


When my mom was first diagnosed with bladder cancer I ordered her this. She was Catholic and even though I am an atheist I thought it would comfort her. She loved it. She never took it off. She would rub it between her fingers for comfort. It saw her through bladder cancer, and then breast cancer. She wore it until she passed away back in May while holding my hand. My dad took it off of her neck and gave it to me and I have worn it ever since. It means more to me than any possession I own.

Amanda W C


The story I want to share is not about a traditional “gift” but I think it’s perfect for your blog about Thanks, Gifts, and Giving. In 1985, I was a rebellious, hormonal teenage girl. After (another) particularly rank argument with my ridiculously stupid parents (fifteen year old me’s words, not mine), I stormed off to my bedroom, slammed the door and flopped onto my unmade bed. That was it, I had had it. I was outta there. I grabbed one of the old suitcases stashed at the back of my closet and started pulling shirts off hangers and stuffing them in. Pants, socks, repeat as needed. When I got to my underwear drawer, I stopped cold. Up until this moment, I had held the focus of my ire on my clueless parents. Now, I was awash with fresh anger at my eighteen year old brother. He had stayed out of the parental exchanges and pulled a ‘Switzerland’ when they’d tried to invoke him. Not only had he been in MY ROOM, but he’d opened my underwear drawer! On top of my panties and bras was a handwritten note from my brother. It said, “Be patient. They’ve never raised a 15 year old girl before. They’re learning on the fly. You have to help teach them.” It was so stupid. “Learning on the fly”? What the hell was that supposed to mean? “You have to help teach them.” BUT I’M THE KID! The note tripped me up. And slowed me down. I unpacked my bag—well, I shoved things back in the drawers and closets. Baby steps. He and I never discussed it but I’ve never forgotten that note. His stupid words clung to the back of my brain. Cling still—talk about a gift that keeps on giving! Oh, and BTW, my parents are totally awesome now. I credit their teacher. LOL.

Sharon R.


My most precious possessions are my daughters & family. One of my favorite gifts was the year I asked for photos of my daughters together. They asked a good friend of ours to take the photos. I was delighted and so touched when they gave us photos of the the three of them together dressed in winter jackets with colorful scarves while it was snowing! Photos of my loved ones mean so much to me! ❤

Kelly S.


When I was young, maybe four or five, my dad gave me a charm bracelet that he’d picked up at a gas station. He traveled a lot, was always on the road, hardly ever home. It was a Christmas themed bracelet with charms like a tree, Santa, reindeer, etc. He started picking up charms on his travels. Charms that represented the state he was in, other holidays, our family trip to Disney, etc. My mom took it upon herself to add each new one to the original bracelet, filling every link, eventually attaching a second bracelet to hold all the charms, then a third. There were so many charms, all cluttered beside each other you couldn’t really tell what anything was. I would get SO MAD because they wouldn’t let me wear it! Nearly two decades of memories collected together. My mom and dad have both passed. That string of bracelets and charms hangs on the wall above a family portrait of the three of us.

Dee A.


In high school I was best friends with a girl. Let’s call her Puri. Well, I was starting to find myself, as kids do in high school, and flexing my wings of independence. I was trying new things and branching out. Well, Puri’s friendship started to feel confining and clingy because everything new I ventured into she tagged along. I’m sorry to say I resented her. Then one day she showed up at my locker with a gift. In a white box she’d brought me white sand and a few shells from a trip she’d taken to Florida. It was a cool gift. And I had not expected it. I fumbled for words. My already strained patience with her rubbed the awkwardness of receiving an unexpected gift and I did not accept it gracefully. My “thanks” was insincere, my hesitation awkward, and my glare, for I’m sure I glared, was cruel.

Soon after that our friendship ended. We went separate ways in school, joined different clubs.

The last year of high school I wrote a poem for her, apologizing for how I treated her, and I put it out there in the school paper. Though we never talked about it I feel that she saw it and forgave me.

That gift taught me a lot about myself, about how I handle receiving unexpected gifts, and about how to treat people.

Karen K.


Thank you for checking in on today’s Gift Stories.
Stay tuned for more to come…
Can’t wait? Read my original gift story here.
And access the column that inspired this idea here.

Posted in Holidaze | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments


It’s officially the season of pending plans. My calendar is slow to load…












That’s right, it’s the *WEATHER PERMITTING time of year.
No matter the question, the answer will be, “Weather permitting…
That means that when I’m invited to lunch, or offered a girl’s night out, or asked to bbsit, or needed for a meeting, my answer will be, “Yes, weather permitting.” (Which really just means, “No”. It’s WINTER, people.)

Why the caveat? Mostly because I truly do not like to drive on potentially icy roads. We live in an area surrounded by corn fields and once they’ve been harvested, there are no wind barriers. The country roads are frequently covered with drifting snow. My blue-knuckle driving mixed with a vivid imagination of all the things that could go wrong plus poor road conditions make me the perfect candidate to STAY HOME.

I enjoy being a homebody. Not all the time, of course, but I like the idea of hibernating.

We had a spurious start with the ice and snow on Halloween last October. And again on Veteran’s Day with that winter storm. Inconveniently early, but I was willing to make the sacrifice and not go anywhere for a few months.

False alarm.
That wonky weather was followed by weeks of mild temps and no precipitation.
I went out A LOT in anticipation of the impending days when I couldn’t. (Or won’t.)

Traditionally, I stop making commitments in November, keeping my December, January, and February calendars clear. With the obvious exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I keep my commitments to a minimum. This year I was so confident in the mellow weather that I actually made NYE plans! In December AND January! In Janesville! But that’s a blog for another day, :D.

We were supposed to have a BIG STORM this past weekend. I was concerned because I’d been caught up in the unseasonable calm in the days preceding and I stupidly made plans for this week…
What storm?

Seriously, the MORE hype, warnings, and multiple radars they employ, the less we actually get. So, thank you, social media and major network meteorologists, I will be keeping my dates this week.

I’m all for a mild winter.
Unfortunately, banking on the superfluous spin of the media is not a reliable system.

So, yeah…
If you ask me out, I probably won’t commit, *Weather Permitting, and all.
For sure though, I’ll be here every Monday if you find yourself needing a Mary fix.




Posted in It's all about me | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

And we’re off…!

It’s a new year.
A fresh start.
A brand-new beginning.

Thank goodness, right?
Last year was…an emotional challenge.
Now I know, just like everyone knows, that a year is only a word to represent the turning of the planet around the sun. The things that happen during those particular amount of minutes, hours, days, etc, are arbitrary and really have no connection to it having been that year. 2019 is merely a marker for reference, not the responsible party.

A year is an assessment for reckoning movement of time. It’s not liable for transgressions. A year is simply a measurement of revolution.

A measurement of revolution.
I like that.
Rebellion, reformation, rising.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my goals for the upcoming year.
I want to focus on writing. Expand my repertoire to include humorous essays and non-fiction while returning to short stories and reviews, AND, of course, completing novels.
And I want to share it with you.

I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities in the past because of my dislike of public speaking. I hope to expand my boundaries to include things that make me a little uncomfortable.

I’ve been doing this long enough to trust in my experiences and education. I’m confident in my abilities and eager to share what I’ve gained through my accomplishments, and failures. I’m always open to the wisdom of others and I truly believe that every interaction is a learning experience.

Baby steps, of course. I mean, public speaking, ugh.

It’s a new year!
A fresh start!
A brand-new beginning!
2020. Welcome to the revolution.

In the words of my Gram Fran–
We’re off like a terd of hurtles!


Posted in It's all about me, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Wrapping up 2019

The last blog post of the year highlights the BEST blog posts of the year!
This list includes the stories and updates that were most read, liked, and shared during 2019.

TOP 10:

10. Art Loss – This post actually ranks much higher because of a TON of support and sharing by friends and family and appreciators of art. Since there was no happy outcome, I’m including it only as number ten.

9. Dating Game – I’m not sure if it was the nostalgia of Colorforms or the lively conversations that ensued regarding dating your novels with outdated references, but this post was a favorite for many.

8. A Body in Motion – An optimistic piece about overcoming a long 2/3 of 2019 and finally getting my mojo back. I think a lot of readers identified with the struggles of loss and depression and stagnant bodies and minds.

7. I Want to Rock’n’Roll All Night – Thanks to the MANY fangs of the band Liliac, this post was popular across social media. If I was putting together a Top 10 of concerts of 2019, this one would be NUMBER ONE.

6. Does Word Count Matter? – This blog was cross-posted by other writers, which is very cool to me.

5. Puppies are Fun? – The first of several puppy blogs, this one documented the scary and stressful delivery of our corgi pups.

4. A PUPPY PARTY! – Definitely a highlight of our year! I was pleased to share the puppy reunion through a blog post and readers agreed. Seven of our eight offspring were able to attend. I hope to make this an annual event!

3. The Pickle – A post dedicated to my beloved aunt. And appreciating the simple things in life.

2. Why Writing is Better than Speaking – I chuckled as I reread this post from February. Still applicable. USE YOUR WORDS FOR GOOD.

1. Yes, Virginia, there is a THIRD post of Thanks, Gifts, and Giving – My most popular posts this year were the THREE posts sharing other people’s gift stories. The third installment was the highest rated of the three. Thanks, Gifts, and Giving Post pt. 1 and T, G, and G Part 2 were also well-read and shared. I’m lumping them together because they really are worthy of being #1. It was a pleasure to share other people’s words.

Thank you for reading, following, and commenting on my blogs.
I’ve been doing this for over 400 posts and seven years and I can’t thank you enough for sticking around! Stay tuned and tell your friends–I’ll be back in 2020 with insight, essays, reviews, and rants.

Happy New Year!



Posted in Holidaze, It's all about me | Tagged , | 2 Comments

So close to Christmas…

December 23rd.
Two days before Christmas.
Which is generous when you consider Christmas Eve.
One and a half days to get things done.

And in three days it will be over.
If you haven’t started enjoying the season, please do so now.

Seriously, if it’s not bought, baked, decorated, shipped, wrapped, written, frosted, etc, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.
This year.
There’s always next year.

368 days until Christmas 2020.
Unless you’re old, then it’s like, I dunno, three weeks away.

My gift to you is appreciation.
I appreciate everything you have done. Really! You’ve been so busy! You are awesome!
And as a bonus, you know, kind of like when you order a gift and get a second free–
I give you consent to be done. The last thing you did is the last to be done.
Really! You did great! You are awesome!

But wait–THERE’S MORE!
Consider me your excuse.
Anybody says boo to you about what you didn’t finish or forgot or left out, you tell ’em Mary says it’s okay.

Mary says I don’t have to bake any more cookies.
Mary says the daily newspaper is perfect for wrapping.
Mary says minimalism makes for a contemporary holiday decor.
Mary says I don’t have to go to that party and socialize with those people.
Mary says “stress” was NOT on my list to Santa–
Mary says it’s my celebration, too!

And when they inevitably ask, “Mary who?”
You tell ’em–

Then, with a shrug and a smile, you go on to have a wonderful, relaxed, joyful rest of the season. You deserve it. You are awesome.


Posted in Holidaze | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

We Wish You a Memory Christmas!

My son-in-law recently sent me a video of my kindergarten-age grandson singing “We wish you a Merry Christmas”. As you can imagine, it’s very cute. The abandon with which he sings took me back to my grade school music classes.

I LOVED the music teacher at Garrison, Dorothy Paige-Turner. I vividly recall her as being an AMAZING vocal talent and instructor.

I was only ten years old, but I knew this woman was extraordinary. As you must know, I am a big fan of teachers and I appreciate their abilities and dedication, but I felt her voice was meant for larger audiences. Twenty-five kids sitting on the floor shaking tambourines was not nearly enough adulation.

I remember asking her to sign a yellow legal pad for me one day after class. I wanted her autograph! I joked that I was going to keep it to prove that I knew her before she was famous. If only I’d have been able to predict Ebay.

I don’t know where the signature ended up, but I can tell you that Dorothy Paige-Turner is truly a local superstar and area-music influencer.

I did an internet search and found several articles and other sites for her. Including a Spotify page. I read that Paige-Turner (I also love her name) did indeed teach AND perform–garnering the audience she deserved. She retired after thirty-four years in the district but continues her musical impact on stage and through instruction.

It’s funny how memory works. I mean, one minute I’m listening to my adorable grandson serenade me, and the next I’m knee-deep in nostalgia.

Grandson…Christmas song…music teacher…youthful memories…
If I didn’t know better, I’d think this was the beginning to a Hallmark Holiday movie!
That’s it, I’m writing We Wish You a Memory Christmas! Look for it next year in the holiday line-up, lol.


Posted in Holidaze | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Yes, Virginia, there is a THIRD post of Thanks, Gifts, and Giving!

I’ve paced these stories for you because I want each to be read and savored. I was fearful that one singular long post would have gotten glossed over.

Please do not gloss.
These stories are very special to the people who shared them.
I hope they bring up important memories and experiences for you, too.
If you missed posts one and two, click on the highlighted words.


During our senior year, my grandfather passed away and after the funeral my grandmother pulled me aside and in my hand she placed a little aluminum cross and told me she found it hidden in my grandfather’s wallet. She never knew he had it and she wanted me to have it…I put it in my wallet that day and have carried it every day since 1984 through many different wallets but every one has had that cross. It has no resale value but is truly priceless to me. Some days when I pull it out to look at it I cry, other days I smile, but either way it reminds me of the love my grandparents had for me.

David B.


A lot of people say their children are their greatest possession, but I don’t feel my kids are a possession! They are my GIFT. I hope they will grow to cherish as they are cherished. 

Debra J.


I have both our tickets from Game One of the White Sox World Series. That was the last game me and my dad went to together. It was only game one, but we knew it was their year. Great memories!

James L.


One Christmas, many years ago, I went shopping with my mother. We had a productive day sharing, laughing, and buying for others. I took GREAT notes and went out again for HER and bought EVERYthing she said she’d liked, everything she’d commented on the day before. And I mean everything. The wooden fruit, the silk scarf, the hand-woven basket, the neon green heels… Yes, you read that right. NEON GREEN HEELS. The look on her face when she opened that box was priceless. Those shoes came back to me a few years after that. They’ve been back and forth and on a cruise since then. Most recently, they were adapted into an autumn centerpiece. Lovely. Truly a cherished gift, lol.

Mary L.


I volunteer for, a community powered streaming radio station. When I originally started I said I could give two hours tops. Well, since then, I’ve traveled to produce interviews, and actually interview artists, started a three hour EDM show on Saturday nights, and recorded concerts at The Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center. Sometimes in my duties I’ve been there many times in a week for hours. At times I’m tired, like last night. But, when I get to enjoy the unique and amazing artists I view and interact with, I remember why it’s become such a big part of my life. Last night, I saw Ladama. I was in awe of these amazing women’s talents. I had the great privilege of sitting down with @drumrbaer (Joel Baer) and watching his big band play, I ran the board for an interview of a professor at NIU who specializes in Gamelan music sitting cross cross applesauce on the floor in my socks, as it was insulting to wear shoes near the instruments. When I think of how much richer these experiences have made my life, the time donated is more a gift to me than the station. #music #thankful #lifeisbeautiful

Pamela S.


My grandmother used to do this crazy exchange with her college roommate. The first time I came across the story was my grandma’s birthday. She received a flower delivery and when she saw who it was from, she burst out laughing. The bouquet was beautiful, but hardly humorous, so I asked what was up. She emptied the card envelope on the counter and this dry, shriveled, hard…stick? fell out. It was a french fry. They had been swapping this same petrified potato, a remnant of some crazy “study” night fifty years ago. It had been found in a make-up case, a high heeled shoe, and a coat pocket, among other places, over the years. That ancient diner fry is in a jewelry box in my desk drawer. It reminds me of my grandma and the fact that people often have (had) a life outside how you know them.
(Thanks for letting me share this story again, it’s been a while, but it’s a fun tale to tell.)

Barb M.


Gratitude 2019

I’m sixty-eight years old. Until just twelve/thirteen years ago my mother and I were not close. I was told when I was younger that it was because we were so much alike. I hated hearing that. Now I know that is was because of something much different.

I believe my mother was stifled in her life from a very young age. She had dreams that she was never allowed to follow. Her parents made her decisions for her. It was a different time then. I was her first daughter. Mother did what she was taught, tried to keep me on a tight leash. That did not bode well, for either of us.

I believe while she wanted better for me, she was also afraid for me. This made for some fearful years for her, and some angry years for me. We were always in conflict.

I moved away with my girls. The distance was good for me. I found my own way and have become the woman I always wanted to be.

My daughters and I have great relationships. We stumble from time to time, yet we are close and love on each other through it all.

As life has it, my girls took their leave of my home. It was their time. I miss them and love it whenever we can connect, even if it’s by text. I smile because I know they were raised to think for themselves. Live their lives as they see fit. Become who they want to be. They are each amazing in their own way.

It became time for me to try to close the gap between my mother and myself.  I was hesitant but determined. It took time. What I realized early on with this endeavor was, my mother, the “my way or the highway” woman, was as willing to mend our relationship as I was.

It takes both parties to want to do things differently for a lasting change to occur. My mother’s change of attitude, her willingness to listen, and her openness has been an experience I never expected. I venture to guess that she could say those same things about me. Imagine that! It became apparent to me that we could, we could have a lasting, loving relationship. It doesn’t matter that I was in my fifties when we began the journey that some mother/daughters had from birth.

Mother has weathered some major hurtles with our family. Divorce, single parenting, and a gay daughter, to name a few. She has chosen to live life on life’s terms. She has stretched herself so that she can love and be loved by her family. She has had to let go of prejudice, anger, and righteousness. Why? What made her push past where she was to where she is now? Her love of family. She makes conscious choices at every turn, with every situation. Is my old ideas worth keeping if it takes me from my family? Can I hear an alternative theory to this situation? Mother is 90 and one-half years old and she stretches herself everyday because she loves her family. Now when I visit her, we love on each other and we look after one another. When she goes to bed at night, I lay with her and we pray together. We speak of our family and feel deeply grateful that we are now, at our ages, making up for the years that we missed together.

It was by choice that we went our different paths years ago, and it is by choice that we now are on this path together. It took willingness and work from both of us. We are grateful and blessed by the choices we made, continue to make. What was so hard to do years ago, now is second nature for us.  

I am so thankful for you Juanita Katherine. So very proud. Now, when people tell me she and I are alike…I smile because, that is perfectly wonderful for me.

Meg L.


Thanks, again, for reading.
I love to share my words, but what a thrill it is to be able to share other’s words, too. I think the best part of these stories is the different ways “gift” is interpreted.

I would like to close with this wonderful quote:

I think there are truly only 3 things that we can truly and totally own in this world and that’s our thoughts, our emotions and our memories.

David B.

Posted in Holidaze | 3 Comments

T, G, and G Part 2

Welcome back! I hope you had a chance to read through the first post, if not, you can access it here.

Continuing with the theme of most cherished gifts…


One of my favorite gifts was a bud vase with a copper base that (a dear friend) gave me on my 21 birthday. It’s on an antique piece of furniture from my Great Grandmother. It started me collecting copper. Now I know who to blame for that obsession.









Cindy B D


My children💖

Meredith H R


My grandmother LOVED to garden. Some of my earliest memories are of “helping” her in the garden. I think I was six when she moved into an apartment complex and had no space for her own garden. She had five grown children, three in the area with their own houses and yards. She moved through each one, attempting to keep up with an allotted plot on their properties, each garden failing. By the time she moved her plans to my house, I was ten. The youngest of fourteen grandchildren, I was the baby of her baby, and obviously her favorite. Her son, my dad, let her work with a good sized corner of our back yard. She taught me how to prep the soil, what to plant as a seed and what to plant as a seedling, when and how much to water, pruning, mulching, deadheading, the whole shebang. We worked very well together, she used to joke that I was born with a green high five (as opposed to a single green digit). My grandmother gave me the gift of the love of gardening. The Bachelor’s Button (her favorite flower) bouquet from my garden adorned the casket at her funeral.

Stephen L.


Two things: 1. My father built me a canopy bed for my 10th birthday. It is the least girly canopy bed in the world. Walnut, straight lines. Gorgeous. No nails. I love that he thought ahead so that I would have a bed that lasted beyond my lifetime and one that I would want to sleep in for the rest of my life. 2. After my grandpa died my grandma was willing to hop in the car and go anywhere with me. We had some great adventures. We drove to AZ and back. We drove from Portland, OR to home (Shirland). She made sure we ate at least one good meal each day on the road. And we had a lot of little adventures just driving around the neighborhood.

Susan H.


My most treasured possession are my children. As far as a gift, it was a poem my mother wrote for me.

Carol K.


Last week I was going through old files and found this written by our young son 20+ years ago.

Della L.


WOW. I am so proud to be sharing these stories and perhaps spreading some happiness. So fun.
One more post tomorrow!

Posted in Holidaze | Tagged , | 2 Comments