Category Archives: Holiday

A romantic touch.

The Best Gift: A Valentine Vignette

Loud voices and thumps filled the cramped compartment as she waited her turn to escape the uncomfortable seat. Switching her phone off airplane mode, she received her first message. Welcome home!

Her face warmed as she smiled. She couldn’t help herself. As the impatient queue surrounded her, she typed a response. Can’t wait to see you.

Get here as soon as possible, appeared on her screen right away. Be safe. LYL

LY2 SYS

She tucked the phone into the back pocket of her jeans and stood, head bowed beneath the overhead unit. An older woman motioned her into an open space in the aisle.

“Thank you.” Reaching up, she grabbed her bag from the luggage compartment, careful not to knock anyone in her vicinity unconscious. She stepped into the line.

The woman behind leaned close. “Heading home?”

She threw a quick smile over her shoulder. “Yeah. Been a while. I’m eager to get there.”

“You must have a hot date tonight.”

Why on earth would she say that? Am I so transparent?

The realization hit her like a ton of bricks. She’d been on the road since right after the holidays and hadn’t paid attention to the date. Her phone confirmed her fear. February 14th.

“Sure do,” she responded. “I hope you have fun plans.”

The woman laughed. “Got a date with my cat and my knitting. Been away from both for too long – though I always enjoy visiting the grandkids.”

They soon reached a flight attendant who ushered them out with a cheerful, “Thank you for flying Northwest Air.”

“Thank you,” she said, mind racing. Her love would be waiting at home, something special at the ready, while she’d forgotten.

As they entered the terminal, her companion wished her a wonderful Valentine’s Day.

“Have fun with kitty,” she replied.

“She’ll be all over my lap. Add a roaring fire and a nice cup of tea. A perfect night.”

“Sounds like heaven.”

They parted ways with a smile and a wave. As the older woman disappeared into the teeming throngs, she almost envied her. Not that she didn’t want to see her husband. They’d been apart much too long. Yet the thought of a hot bath and bed sounded divine. Especially since she’d forgotten to bring him a surprise.

She hurried into a shop to see if she might find a romantic gift. How could she have forgotten? Sure, she’d been caught up in endless meetings, trying to sell their big idea to angel investors. She still should have remembered the day. The love of her life awaited her at home. He’d been working just as hard as she had and deserved a token of her affection.

The display space beneath a heart-shaped sign sat empty, the advertised wrapped gifts for ‘someone special’ already long gone. Nothing else jumped out at her. She didn’t want a souvenir from their home city, for heaven’s sake, because that would just be tacky.

The displays in each shop she passed, at least the ones she could afford, were all cleaned out. No flowers, no chocolates, nothing except expensive electronics. No romance for sale.

She checked the time and found she’d lingered too long already. He’d be worried and waiting. Rushing out into the cold evening air, she hurried to a waiting taxi.

“Where to?” asked the cabbie as she climbed in.

“The Park Tower Apartments, please.”

The driver started the meter and drove into traffic.

Sitting back, she closed her eyes, trying to recall whether she’d bought anything fun during her time on the road. Nothing came to mind. She hadn’t even swiped hotel notepads and pens.

They passed a few florists and grocery stores. She pondered stopping for a quick bouquet…then realized she’d either have a running meter or the need to find another mode of transportation. Neither option seemed good.

Maybe she had a hostess gift left over from Christmas?

None that she could remember.

The taxi drew up in front of her building and she paid the driver before climbing out. After taking a deep breath of the chill air, she stepped into the lobby. Only five more flights to her love.

They’d both been busy. He wouldn’t mind…would he?

Her heart pounded and stomach fluttered as the elevator carried her upward. She dug out her keys while walking the hallway to the apartment.

The door opened.

“Babe!” Her husband reached out.

She melted into his arms. He smelled of Old Spice and hair gel with a touch of musk. A sigh of contentment escaped her. He wore jeans and a pullover sweater they’d bought on a trip to Ireland many years before, when they’d been younger and more impulsive. They had no money for expensive vacations until their dream launched. If they achieved financial success.

After several minutes he released her, reaching out to shut the door behind them.

She looked around to find he’d cleaned the place up. “Smells wonderful. Did you cook?”

He set her bag by the doorway to the bedroom and motioned at their small table. “Dinner courtesy of Pizza Heaven.”

On a red-and-white checked tablecloth he’d placed a couple plates topped with folded napkins. Wine glasses and a bottle of her favorite vintage reflected the light of battery-operated candles. The pizza sat in the center of the tableau, on one of their best serving plates. “Looks heavenly.”

He seated her and picked up her napkin. A ring box sat in the center of her plate. Trembling fingers went to her lips. He’d remembered!

“What’s wrong?” He knelt at her side.

She burst into tears.

He pulled her to the sofa and took her in his arms. “Whatever I did, I’m sorry.”

She ran her fingers through the curls at the nape of his neck as she sobbed into his shoulder.

“This isn’t like you. Did something happen on the road?”

Unable to speak, she shook her head. How could she tell him she’d forgotten Valentine’s Day when he’d done so much? He’d think she didn’t feel about him the way he felt about her.

He tilted her face and kissed the tears from her cheeks. “You must be exhausted.” He squeezed her tight. “I’m so glad you’re home. I’ve missed you, babe.”

The warmth of his embrace filled her with peace. As her sobs faded away, she took a shaky breath, dabbing at her eyes with the cuff of her shirt. “I’m sorry I didn’t get you anything…”

“Is that what’s bothering you?” He took her face in his hands and looked deep into her eyes. “I don’t care about stuff. You know that.” He again pulled her close. “This is all I need.” He kissed the top of her head and rested his cheek against her hair.

A wave of love washed over her. She snuggled closer.

Taking a deep breath, he murmured, “You’re the best gift of all.”

Valentine

Life in the New Year – Looking Back to Look Forward

Looking Back

The author in 1979

About three years after this photo, I graduated high school, married, and moved off to start a new life. The young couple soon became a family of five. At the ripe old age of twenty-five, and a stay-at-home mom to three kids, I found myself in desperate need of some intellectual stimulation at an adult level. I started writing romantic stories with an eye to a career as an author.

The image above from about forty years ago now, during my junior year of high school, reminds me just how much I miss creating music. I’ve still got the violin and the memories of how to play. The feeling of the bow, the smell of rosin, and the sound of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik are as familiar now as they were then. My love of music hasn’t diminished over the long years since. The young girl in the picture remains deep inside. She just matured into someone who didn’t make time to pursue a once-favored activity

Romances morphed into TV tie-ins (glorified fan-fic!) for my favorite show. This attempt at publication attracted the attention of a well-respected editor at a well-known publishing company. Despite a face-to-face meeting with the aforementioned editor, the book didn’t quite make the top of the publishing pile and TV show (and novelizations) ended. My writing attempts continued unabated until the need for a second income led me to take a day job. Between work and kids, I didn’t write as often, but still managed a few words here and there for quite some time.

Here and Now

The kids are now grown and out of the house so I’ve plenty of time to write after work, yet I haven’t done so on a regular basis. Camp Nano and Nanowrimo aside, my attempts to finish a manuscript haven’t gone far, despite the little voice in my head telling me I’m still the same person who once attracted the attention of that editor. This is a change I plan to make in the new year.

Looking Forward

Who Knows What Tomorrow Will Bring?

The road in the photo above looks like it either dead-ends or fades into the dirt path. Does the asphalt continue? The driver will not know until they go on. This picture is a lot like life in that no one knows what tomorrow will bring. We can only follow the road until we find the way to our destination.

With this in mind, my plan of action for the new year is to take each day as it comes. I’ll follow the road until I find whether this path will head the way I hope to go. If not, I’ll find another route, like the unmarked trail with the potential for adventure. If I have to turn around, I will. The one thing I won’t do is stop at side of the road – and certainly not in the middle – to wait for guidance. The resulting boredom and inactivity are not pleasant.

Musician me will seek out my old violin and practice again whenever I get the chance. Whether or not that someday leads me to audition for the local community orchestra is on the other side of the hill.

Writer me has once again started my vehicle to make the slow drive toward those hills. Creating this blog post has moved me the first few feet forward. The road ahead looks quiet. Of course, potholes aren’t often visible until too late, but that’s something to worry about when the time comes. My current view is smooth enough for me to get at least as far as the point where the road vanishes. I’ll handle whatever I find once I get there.

Travel as Inspiration

A couple weeks ago, my middle child and I took a trip to Disneyland and California Adventure where we spent several magical days enjoying special experiences, great food, and each other’s company. Having my youngest child and her husband and two kids with us for part of the time only enhanced the experience. The photo below, taken from Mickey’s Fun Wheel, looks out over Disneyland to the east and the mountains beyond and gives you some idea of just how gorgeous a winter day in southern California can be.

Southern California in January 2015.

One of the best parts about getting away from normal day-to-day life is being able to see the world in a new light – and that’s always good for the writing process. The drive down and back, while somewhat familiar from previous trips, changes each time we travel that way and that often spurs interesting story ideas. The way the sky looks and the air feels is different than at home and which is refreshing to the sensory memory. Coming across people we’ve never seen before (and probably will never see again) can inspire character creation. Plus, visiting an amusement park often brings out extreme feelings from terror to exhaustion that can be mined for future stories. Not to mention the fact that actual writing can be done during the enforced confinement of the long car trip.

The return home to my own small community after spending time in the big city gave me a chance to look at the familiar in a somewhat different light, too. The sky is a paler shade of blue at our higher elevation than the warm golden tones I associate to the LA basin. The mountains are much closer to us here than they are in the valley down there. The air is thinner and colder than the heavy humid air to the south and our smaller population means we have less smog. We also don’t have as much light pollution so the stars are brighter and clearer in my home town than what’s visible beyond the endless lights of the metropolis. Most of the trees up here in the north look skeletal now, devoid of their summer greenery, and we have a lot less vegetation overall due to our high desert climate, while sunny southern California is ripe with flowers, fruit and palm trees, and thick green grasses. While I enjoyed my time away from home, I’m always happy to come back again.

After a short week back at work I took a second trip out of town, this time for business. Again, I traveled south…to fabulous Las Vegas. A co-worker and I flew down in the morning and returned on an evening flight so the experience was quite a bit different than my day-long drives of the previous week. Again, I saw many unfamiliar people, but this time I also met up with people I know from the work environment. Since we weren’t vacationing, we didn’t get to enjoy the more glamorous aspects of Sin City, but spent our day in a generic conference room taking notes, drinking coffee and eating rich pastries, and discussing some pretty in-depth technical issues. Though my day job is not writing-related, I do get quite a bit of inspiration from the work I do, and this trip was no different on that front. Some of the ideas discussed during our training might someday serve as background detail for one of my romance novels; just a sprinkle of dry material here and there to add texture without causing the plot to thicken too much, so to speak.

Las Vegas is much different from both my home and the Los Angeles area so being in the three locations in such a short span of time is stirring my imagination in new ways. January is often a depressing let-down period for me after the holiday season, but I didn’t feel that way at all this year, and I believe the work I do in the next few months will be richer for the experiences I’ve had over the past few weeks. While I’m more of a homebody than a world traveler, getting away has been just what I needed to help me settle back into my writing routine with fresh eyes and renewed excitement.

Reflections on the New Year

Happy New YearThe New Year is like a clean slate – an opportunity to achieve the heart’s dearest desires.

My first seventeen New Year celebrations were loud events full of extended family talking and laughing together, dancing, drinking, eating, and all the other fun things associated with big parties. What I felt I missed out on over all those years was the chance to stay up until the magical hour of midnight. The Christmas/New Year holidays also meant two weeks of blissful freedom from the drudgery of school so I celebrated that as much as anything else.

New Years Day number eighteen became a major turning point for me. The two jobs I’d had the previous summer dwindled to one when I learned I wasn’t cut out for manufacturing. My remaining job in fast food turned out to be the one that would change the course of my life forever; that’s where I met my soul mate, who proposed to me from an airport payphone in New Orleans on New Years’ Day 1982. We married the following June – a year and a day after my high school graduation.

The first day of 1983 found me a young bride living through a cold Nebraska winter with my new husband as we prepared to have our first child. I don’t remember much about either that holiday or the next few, but know that New Years Day 1986 found me pregnant with child number two, and that I was pregnant with child number three on January 1st, 1988.

On January 1st, 1989, our young family of five had just moved to an Air Base near Tokyo, Japan. While I don’t remember that year’s holiday very well, what I recall most about that time is the excitement of living in a foreign land and the discomfort of learning our first trip into our temporary community coincided with the death of Emperor Hirohito.  We celebrated two more New Years in Japan before leaving the military life and returning to live in the town where my husband and I first met.

I can’t say whether or not I stayed up until midnight each year of the 1990s since that decade covered the bulk of the time spent raising our kids and my memories are lost in the haze of exhaustion surrounding parents. We, of course, stayed up to celebrate the coming of the New Millennium; everyone wondered what would happen that year so we had to find out. We also had a few years of parties at our house for our kids and their friends after that, the photo above from one we hosted four years ago.

Fast forward to 2015. Like the first New Year we celebrated together, my husband and I once again watched the Time’s Square ball drop on TV this year, just the two of us. We had trouble staying up late enough to watch the tape delay in our time zone and spent today recuperating. I’ve gone from my childhood wish that I could stay up until midnight to wondering whether I should anymore. January 1st is just another day, after all. The sun rises and sets on schedule and nothing magical happens at 12:00 unless you happen to be Cinderella.

I don’t know how my husband and I will celebrate in future. We may have just seen our last midnight ball drop because we decide we’d rather get the rest we need than stay up. Maybe we’ll go to be early and celebrate the first sunrise of the New Year instead. What we do doesn’t matter as much as that we do it together. No matter what else the New Year has meant to me over the years, I’ve come to realize the most important thing I celebrate each January 1st is that my wonderful better half proposed we spend our lives together on that day – and that we’ve spent every New Year together since then. That’s all I need.