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.

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A Quick Note on Perspective

I listen to a LOT of audio books while I’m driving. And when I’m not listening to audio books, my car radio is tuned to SiriusXm 70’s, 80’s, First Wave, or Classic Vinyl.

So when I watch American Idol and the contestants do contemporary songs, I rarely know them. Of the eight or so (!) singers featured in the two hour (!) premiere episode, one did two songs I knew, one blew a song I knew, a couple did originals, and the others, well, they might as well have been originals!

Although a bit embarrassed to be so far removed from the hip and cool music scene, and also for using words like hip and cool, I kind of like not having a comparison. I don’t know who the artist is or how the song is supposed to sound. I can judge the contestant on their performance without those biases.

It’s a helpful perspective when it comes to considering the talent.

Top of Mind Inspiration post this morning.
See? Quick!


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Liquid Morning

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions,
and by that, I mean, what you meant to do versus what you did,
I think it’s because priorities are fluid.

They change.

We WANT to do first things first.
We HOPE to do first things first.
We TRY to do first things first,
but sometimes OTHER THINGS come first.

Today’s to-do list was topped by “Post Blog”.
Monday, you know.
Yet, I’m just now getting to it.

I believe you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about.
Perhaps your list was swept out by a tide or caught in an eddy?
Mondays, you know!

My message to you today is IT’S OKAY.
Go with the flow.
What needs to get done will get done.


Still Monday.





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I really want to share some #DonutFire stories with you! But first, I need you to be receptive of them. It’s important that you have an open sense of humor and are willing to see the fun in potential disaster.

Your perception is influenced by personal experience, education, culture, values, and other environmental factors. These conditions cause a predisposition in perspective, the way you accept, reject, or analyze situations.

My #DonutFire stories could have been disastrous. The circumstances might have really flipped my pissed-off switch. Left me griping and grumbling. But they didn’t. Instead, I chose to enjoy the experiences and happily consider them blog post fodder.

Perspective is a highly subjective thing.

An example:
When I was a kid, I ate TOO MUCH divinity at Christmas. I threw up. Trust me when I say it is not delicious the second time around. I have not eaten divinity since. Now, YOU may LOVE divinity and not understand how I could so willingly snub my nose at a plate full of homemade delight. More for you, I say! That’s my personal experience versus yours.

Many years ago some friends and I went to a concert in an intimate venue. The artist was recording the show for a live compilation of new releases. There were signs posted everywhere requesting quiet for the sensitive recording instruments. The small crowd was chatty and disruptive as the singer opened with his new material. The performer snapped at the audience with a FINE, NEVER MIND and proceeded to only play his older hits. I was irritated with the crowd–even the owner of the venue could be heard talking during the set. One of my friends was really put off by the way the artist behaved. Same show, different reactions.

One more story:
I was in a car accident when I was 18. I was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown to safety from the rolling vehicle. Seat belts were not the law yet. A member of the emergency crew told me that if I had been wearing a seat belt, I might have died because of how the roof was crushed. I do wear a seat belt now, but I think about this every time I latch it. Every time.

I wanted to show how personal experiences influence our point of view. It’s important to realize a different perspective doesn’t make one right and another wrong. I also hope to show that perspective is NOT carved in stone.

But most importantly, I wanted to give you a peek into my way of thinking, maybe influence you, open you up, prime your mind for a #DonutFire.

Stay tuned…

(Man, I hope I don’t disappoint!)

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Social Media and Photos

I have several ideas for posts about Social Media and how they impact our daily lives. Today I want to focus on photographs.

Scrolling through my Facebook stream this morning, as I do every morning (full disclosure–as I do every five minutes or so), I read posts of pride, grieving, outrage, support, and humor. Some personal, many memes.

It occurred to me as I liked a friend’s adorable Facebook Memory photo of her child, that this kid has only ever lived during the time of social media. I won’t pretend to know how that will affect the youth of today in years to come, but I felt a little jealous that this mom has these digital memories so easily accessible.

I mean, I’m sure you all read my post regarding big bins full of printed photographs. Update: I did not continue to go through the pics and assign them to boxes for my kids. Instead, I returned the bins to the closet and stacked stuff on them.

My friend will never know the frustration of having BIG BINS of printed photos. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that printed photos are important, but now you only print the GOOD ones. Back in the day, for those of you young ‘uns who don’t know, you had to print ALL 24 photos–oh yeah, that’s right, my youthful readers, cameras used FILM that came with a limited amount of exposures! And you had to have it processed BEFORE you could see the pictures! You had to have the whole roll of film developed even if half were blurry, double-exposed, or *gasp*, unflattering. Sometimes you got a second set of prints FREE, so you did it because, you know, FREE, but then you had twice as many crappy pics. How many bad ones were thrown away? Not enough. Just check my bins if you don’t believe me.

I’m curious–
how many of you still print photos? To share or frame.
Between selfies and filter aps, are these the kinds of pictures you would hang on a wall in your home?

Old people, just imagine–
the oval class photo collage that your mother filled in every year?
Now envision it with kindergarten bunny ears, first grade puppy tongue, second grade cat face, third grade big eyes and mouth, fourth grade flower wreath, etc…

But I digress.

I also liked a photo of a friend’s mother who had recently passed. An old-fashioned print, scanned and posted. And I thought, how awesome is it that she can share this wonderful image of her mother as a young woman? Quite awesome, I think. Very touching. And the resemblance! I would have never known. (I’m pretty sure I loved this photo.)

There are social media sites dedicated entirely to photography. Food Porn is its own genre. People take pictures of EVERYTHING now. Digital technology gives everyone the ability to take a spectacular photo. Camera phones make it delightfully easy to snap, edit, and share.

It’s so convenient to be able to post pictures.
To share the fun times, sad stuff, and revisit memories.
But is it distracting from other aspects of our lives?
Are we over sharing simply because we can?
And, if you’re so inclined to consider–how is this openness affecting the generations growing up within it?

What are your thoughts on social media and photos?
Maybe you don’t think about it at all?
Maybe you will the next time you post or like a picture?

Let me know in the comments.


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Donut Fire

It’s no surprise that WORDS fascinate me.
As a writer, sure, but also as a reader–and especially as a speaker–their origins and usage are of interest.

Did you know that Merriam-Webster, America’s most trusted dictionary for English word definitions, meanings, and pronunciations since 1828, added more than 640 new words and phrases to their online dictionary in 2019?

The irony of having people use less words to communicate due to 140 character limitations and text abbreviations is an interesting twist considering that Tweet and BRB are now listed.

I want a piece of that dictionary real estate.

I was hanging out with a friend a while back and inquired about a mutual acquaintance. She said he was “an (effing*) donut fire”. I was unfamiliar with that phrase but I instantly liked it. And I perfectly understood how she felt about him in that moment.

To me, an (effing) donut fire describes something that should be good but just misses. Something familiar that’s become outrageous. Something that holds promise but fails in a major way.

I used the term several times during our visit, peppering the conversation with “(effing) donut fires”, warming up to it quite nicely.

Before she left, I offered a snack for the road. She declined since our mutual friend, who had quit a lucrative job and now works at a bakery, brings sweets frequently.

That’s when it hit me–DONUT FRYER.
Epic misunderstanding.
An (effing) donut fire, one might say.

In the upcoming weeks, I hope to share some stories and personal experiences I would describe as (effing) donut fires. Good times that just missed. Normal stuff with an outrageous spin. Big plans that failed ridiculously.

Merriam-Webster accepts HUNDREDS of new words and phrases each year based on usage. I guarantee there are people, places, and things in your life that make perfect (effing) donut fires.
Use it.
Let’s make it a thing.

*I don’t mean to offend, but the f-word seems to be an important part of the phrase.
We may have to settle for an Urban Dictionary entry, lol.

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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.




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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!


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