To Happy Holidays & New Horizons
Let's Get Festive!
The countdown is on... In just five short days, jolly ol' Saint Nick will be sneaking into homes and sending his blood sugar sky high as he devours a sleigh full of cookies gifted with love. Regardless of how the world changes around us, the spirit of Christmas remains timeless. The pot-belly inducing meals, sweet treats, twinkling lights, togetherness, and wonderful gifts. What are you're thankful for this Christmas?
I know, it's not exactly the holiday season any of us wanted. This year will be a challenge for so many, not being able to spend precious quality time with our loved ones as we normally would. I, too, am affected by this. Where I live, in Manitoba, we are locked down in "code red" and are not allowed to have ANY visitors into our homes (exception only to the single/vulnerable, who are permitted one visitor). I would normally be travelling for two family gatherings with extended family, but this year that's a no-go.
So, I'll do what I always do - make the best of things. We are postponing family gatherings until we're able to gather once more, and in the meantime, we connect via video chat. It doesn't quite replace the warmth of a hug, but it's better than nothing.
I'm thankful for the roof over my head, the beauty that nature provides, and the close friendships I've been blessed with. I'm thankful for all the folks in my writing group W.A.B., who never fail to lift me up and keep me writing. I'm thankful that my children's chapter book, The Big Ol' Bike is out in the big ol' world, and receiving lots of positive feedback. Just knowing that children and families are enjoying it makes me smile every day. To snag a copy, click here: The Big Ol' Bike: Clarke, Rachael: 9781647190132: Books - Amazon.ca.
But above all else, I'm thankful for my husband, my two beautiful boys, and my dogs. Without their companionship, love, laughter, and support, I definitely wouldn't be who I am today, nor accomplish all of the things I have. Seeing the boys' eyes fill with wonder Christmas morning, stuffing our faces with homemade food, and watching Home Alone 1 & 2 (but not Die Hard, no matter how much my hubby suggests it) are just a few of the ways that Christmas will be cozy.
Let us all enjoy this unique 2020 holiday season in the very best ways we can. From my house to yours, season's greetings and...
Here's My Christmas Gift to You...
I want to share a fun little holiday-themed story. It is based on my own personal experience from when I was a newlywed trying to settle into a new way of living. I hope this will give you a smile. ;)
TO FLUFF OR NOT TO FLUFF
Christmas tree is out of the box. Base connected and secure. The part I hated most came next… fluffing the branches. Ugh, so tedious. But it was worth the effort to have a more realistic looking tree. It was Steve's and my first Christmas together as a married couple, and I wanted everything to look perfect.
"Need some help?" My husband asked cheerfully. Steve set down the beer he'd just cracked. I shot him a look, sliding a coaster beneath the bottle before a moist ring marked my coffee table.
"Oh yeah, coasters. I'm sure that will become a habit eventually," he said with a grin.
We were still working out the kinks in our daily marital routine. I was learning that, when two thirty-year-old individuals join together, each with well-ingrained habits, it makes finding a new normal an interesting task.
"Yeah, sure. Start on that side, and we'll meet in the middle." I smiled, thankful.
Setting to work, I furiously pulled at countless faux-spruce sprigs, arranging their spread in all different directions. The fewer gaps, the better.
Twenty minutes later, I finally reached the halfway point. I was about to celebrate a job well done, when, instead of running into layered rows of spunky twigs, I encountered exactly the opposite. The branches were abnormally flat. And, not just a shoved-in-a-box kind of flat… but rather, an I've-been-very-meticulously-flattened flat. What the…?
Peering around the tree, my eyes targeted the enemy like lasers. There was Steve, diligently working away on limbs I'd already finished—flattening freshly fluffed bows into pancakes. No!
"Stop!" I rounded the tree to confront him. "Don't you dare touch another branch!"
Steve froze, eyes filled with confusion. His hands slowly lifted in surrender.
"Notice a difference here?" I pointed to his side of the tree, and then to my remaining examples of puffed perfection.
He looked, then shrugged. "What?"
"You're supposed to fluff them! Like these are, see? Who has flat branches on a Christmas tree?"
"Oh… oops." He rubbed his neck, realizing he'd been undoing all my progress. "Well, I grew up with them flat. Honestly, that's what I thought you were doing."
"Really? NO!" My hands planted on my hips. "Fake trees need to be fluffed, period. Otherwise, it just looks like a bunch of spindly twigs stuck on a pole."
"Okay, okay." Steve gave me a crisp salute, smirking. "I can see you're much more passionate about this than I. So, it is my official decree, our tree shall never be flat."
"Good. Thank you."
We stared at each other, lips slowly curling as the ridiculousness of the situation sank into our consciousnesses. Then, as if on cue, we both dissolved into chuckles.
Shaking my head, I stretched up to kiss his cheek. "Well…" I looked at the tree, then back to him. Channeling my inner Vanna White, I highlighted his handy work with the wave of a hand. "I'm not redoing all of that."
Steve's eyes widened. "But—"
I grabbed his beer, took a swig, and plopped onto the couch. "You, oh great flattener, best get fluffing."
**You can read more of my short stories here: R.A. CLARKE | Rachael Clarke (rachaelclarkewrites.com)
Rachael's Holiday Book Recommendation:
My tastes in books are wide ranging: children's books, chick lit, historical/contemporary romance, thrillers, and even the odd horror novel. However, I do tend to favour speculative fiction the most. Genres such as magical realism, fantasy, or science fiction. Young Adult dystopian novels have dominated my bookshelves for quite some time - it's true. I love me some YA fiction. Haha. So, I thought it would be fun to share some of the books I've enjoyed most over the years. Maybe you'll enjoy them too. So here we go!
Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site
If you have young children, this holiday-themed book is absolutely wonderful. It is a favourite for my kiddos. My oldest son loves learning all the names of the construction vehicles, and went through a phase where it was all he wanted to read. There are several other books in this series, too, so you can collect them all and keep the fun going. Not only is it easy to read for adults, but equally delightful for kids to listen to. Lastly, I have to comment on the illustrations. They are simple, yet, immediately attention grabbing. The colours and composition draw you in, while the characters are entirely loveable.
This book gets a 5-Star review from me.
What Else Is Happening?
72 Hours of Insanity: Anthology of the Games, Vol 9 is out! This is the culmination of an exciting international writing competition called the Writer's Games, which I took part in this fall. I also happened to WIN the contest, placing 1st overall with the highest score across all five Events. Two of my short stories (both romantic comedies, called Clicking, and A Friend in Need...) earned a spot in the anthology, and I also had the honour of writing the book's Introduction. If you're looking for your next good read, this one is sure to entertain. Click on the book cover to grab your copy. :)
Last but not least, I want to announce something exciting coming down the pipe. Until now, I have been blogging as my main way of communicating with the wonderful folks who have subscribed. The goal has always been to transition from blog into a newsletter, when the time was right, and that time is coming very soon. My first official newsletter will go out within the first few months of 2021. Once a month after that, I'll share exciting news, the writing projects I'm working on, new publications, fun things like short stories, baking recipes, pieces of art, or glimpses into life here on the Canadian Prairies. Each newsletter will offer variety, and I will also give a monthly book recommendation, and for the writers out there, a short story contest/submission opportunity I think looks amazing. It's a whole new adventure and I'm excited to start! Watch for it in your inbox.
Once again, thank you for supporting me and following along on this writing journey.
Seasons greetings & stay safe. Bring on 2021!