Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving memories.....

The year was 1995.  Two days, COUNT THEM! Two days before Thanksgiving, my mother calls and says, "I'm handing over my melted plastic spoons and my pans with no handles to you.  YOU are fixing Thanksgiving Dinner."
For a moment I thought she had been drinking.  Turns out, she wasn't.
So in a frenzied fashion, I threw together a Thanksgiving Feast fit for kings. Turkey, dressing, baked beans, get the idea.  I even made monogramed place cards!  I had learned about place cards from Martha Stewart.

At 10:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, my youngest daughter says, "mommy, my tummy hurts."  If you had a nickel for every time a kid told you that, you could retire to Maui!  "You'll feel better when you eat."  I told her with a pat on her head and a motherly smile.

At 10:30 a.m. my husband (whom I'm no longer married to and the next sentence could explain one of the reasons why) says, "We have to be at dad's at 4:00."  'Dad' lived in the Quad Cities, a good hour from our home.  My dinner was being served at Noon.  Three hours to eat and clean up before we needed to leave by 3:00. I could do it.  I had watched Martha Stewart enough times that I felt confident I could handle it. She was my hero. I had faith in her abilities.  I had faith in my own.  I would simply channel Martha for the remainder of the day and I could get through it.

My family arrived early (as they're often want to do!)  The table had been set the night before.  Everything matched. My plates matched the silverware which happened to be the cheap kind you pick up at Dollar General, the kind with the colored plastic handles.  Even my glasses matched. (I've since learned its called stemware, but mine had no stems. I was young, naive.  Don't hold it against me.)

At noon we all sat down to feast.

At noon o' one I felt my heart fall to my feet.  My mom had attempted to cut into her turkey with her fork.  The handle broke off on the first attempt.
Was my turkey so hard that it broke the fork??
No.  It was the cheap plastic forks. Praise Jesus, the turkey was fine!  The fork however, was an omen, a precursor of what was to come.

At noon o two, my youngest repeated again that her tummy hurt.  I gave her extra potatoes to help make it better.

At noon o two point five, my mother asked where the gravy was.  She knew well that I didn't know how to make gravy.  I had tried over the years and each time it ended in failure.  My gravy always had the consistency of wall paper paste.  Now, as I've told you in the past, my family thinks gravy is a drink to be served with each meal like a fine wine.  Some members of my family have often questioned my lineage, for every Dixon-Wingfield woman could make gravy. Evidently its a trait picked up and learned in utero. I must have been hatched or worse yet, switched at birth by accident.  Mamma immediately went into the kitchen, ashamed of me I'm sure, and in less than five minutes she had a bowl of hot, perfect gravy. Dinner was saved.

My family eats well, and fast, let there be no doubt.  Dinner was consumed in less than fifteen minutes.  Mom, dad and brother were out the door by noon forty-five.  My youngest, Debbi, still complained of a tummy ache. I convinced her she would feel better after a nap in the car, patted her head again and sent her to watch cartoons.

Hurriedly, I cleared the table, put the left overs away, washed the dishes, took out the trash, washed children's faces and swept the floor.  Yes, alone. It was simply easier than trying to explain to a grown man how to hold a broom or how a dish towel operates.

We left our home by two-thirty. I was quite glad to be ahead of schedule! Even though Debbi had complained yet again of an icky tummy.  I had the Martha Stewart thing down pat.  It was a perfect day.  Life was good.  She'd feel better after a slice of her Grandma Betty's pumpkin pie.

Less than ten miles left in our journey and I hear Emilee, my oldest, begin to scream from the back seat.  "Debbi's puking on me!!"

Traveling down the highway at 60 miles an hour is not the best time to be thrown up on.  It's also not the best time to try to scramble out the door to get away from one's puking little sister.  Martha Stewart NEVER mentioned what to do when your six year old is puking in the back seat of the car on Thanksgiving Day.  Was I the only one something like this happened to?

We cleaned the mess as best we could, turned around and went back home.  The girls had fallen asleep in the back seat, so we lovingly carried them into the house and put them on the bottom bunk together.  Two hours later, it is Debbi's turn to scream.  "Emilee just puked on me!!!"  It all went down hill from there.
Debbi didn't throw up again, but Emilee however, had taken on the role of the Exorcist. She threw up so many times that I lost count.  She threw up on things I didn't even know we owned.  Every blanket, every sheet, every pillow, every mattress.

At six, the weatherman said to be prepared for an ice storm.  Funny, Martha never mentioned ice-storms either.

At eight, I began to smell something very similar to burning plastic.  I smelled it again every few minutes. My now ex-husband told me I was hallucinating from the fumes coming off Emilee's vomit.  The smell would come, the smell would go. It went on like that for an hour.

By nine, he was hallucinating to.  "Whats that smell?" Was he serious?
After a very careful and thorough investigation, we discovered it was the furnace.  Try to get a furnace repair man to come out at nine on Thanksgiving Night during an ice storm.  I took a chance and tried calling one anyway.  After his initial laughter subsided, he diagnosed the problem and told me to shut the furnace off, because if we continued to run operate it, it would most assuredly catch on fire.

The furnace went off.
The ice storm hit.
Emilee continued to puke.
I continued to do laundry.
It got awfully cold, awfully quick.  I turned on the oven.  Emilee continued, like clock work every six minutes to vomit.  I continued to do laundry.  She finally got the dry heaves.  I finally discovered why some alligators eat their young.  There was no way to fight an ice storm to take her to the hospital.  I was trapped in a cold house, with a puking kid, and had ended up running out of laundry detergent.  And blankets.  And patience.

At six the next morning, she finally stopped throwing up.
At six o' one, I called my mother.  I gave her back the melted plastic spoons and the pots with no handles.
That was the last Thanksgiving meal I cooked for a very, very long time.

May you be blessed with many, many happy Thanksgivings!!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011


I presented a copy of the manuscript to "Laiden's Daughter" to my mother today.  As I predicted, she cried.  That of course made me cry. ;o)  I have a cool mom to begin with.  Until I met my husband Kevin, I do believe she was my only source of unconditional love. Yes, Dad loved me, but in a different way.

She's an awesome women with a tremendous amount of inner strength on many, many things.  I learned how to be creative from her.  I also learned how to be a fierce mamma bear from her as well!  Our motto?  Don't mess with our babies.  Usually tempered with Don't make me come in there!

My mom had always wanted to be a police officer.  In her day, girls/women just did not do things like become police officers. Long story short, probably one of the top five worst days of my mother's life was her fortieth birthday.  She woke up that day and realized that it was too late for her to realize her childhood dream.  I remember that day vividly, although at the time, I did not understand the significance of the moment.  It wasn't until I was in my early thirties (last week!) that I understood what that did to her.

I tell you this story so that you can get a better idea of where I get some of my intestinal fortitude from.  I think of that day often and I don't ever want to wake up on any birthday and realize it was too late to do something. I use it to propel me forward.  Its sort of where I get my it's now or never attitude.

I owe it to my mom.  I owe a lot of things to my mom.  From my mom I received the following:

  1. Creativity
  2. Imagination
  3. Stubbornness
  4. Wicked sense of humor
  5. Intense sense of right and wrong
  6. Our want of taking care of others.
  7. We can pinch with our toes-can pick things up with them too. ;o)
Some of the things I didn't get from my mom:
  1. Her ability to take three potatoes and an onion and feed ten people!
  2. Her talent for baking pies.  (I've tried, believe me I've tried!)
  3. Her love of gravy (her family considers gravy a drink to be served like a fine wine at each meal!) 
  4. Her love of Oscar Mayer hotdogs and bologna  
  5. Her seventh sense of coffee.  With one little taste she can tell you the brand and whether its decaf or regular! Some people have the tongue for wine, my mom has the tongue for coffee.
  6. Her sports knowledge.  Name a sport, ANY sport from football to curling, and she can tell you the stats on any team and/or player.  It is weird. Really. One of her favorite things? Extreme sports. 

I love my mom, I really do.  ;o) Even when she drives me crazy, I still love her. ;o)

So when I gave her the manuscript today, she cried first, then read the prologue. I explained to her that my 'romance' novel wasn't graphic or anatomically correct in relation to 'physical' romance.  (Translated, I don't write love scenes like Maya Banks, although I do love her love scenes! lol)  Anyway...she said, "So I don't get to read about all that 'lustful thrusting'?"  Emilee (my oldest daughter) choked on her coffee and had to leave the room for a few minutes.  Mom looks at me and says, "I know what lustful thrusting is!  She thinks I don't, but I do!"  Keep in mind my mother is over 70.

There was far more to the conversation but I'm editing because I have a fine Christian woman for a mother-in-law (I LOVE YOU JUDY!!!)  I was raised by heathens-my husband by devout Lutherans.  We're still learning to co-exist. Don't get me wrong-I'm a believer! I consider myself a Christian.  I know Jesus is my savior.  I was just raised differently than childhood stories are for another day, another blog.

So, I love my mom. She's cool.  And she is very proud of me.  She's always proud of me, even when I drive her crazy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Prologue, Laiden's Daughter....

Laiden’s Daughter
By Suzan Tisdale

Former Scottish lands, English Territory
Winter, 1329

The wee bairn wept as bitter winds whipped down from the hills thrashing whirlwinds of snow around the feet of those gathered to pay their last respects.  They were there to say goodbye to Laiden, the bairn’s mum.
The little girl clung to Moirra, her little face buried into the auld woman’s skirts. Moirra had been her mother’s best friend until the day she died. Now she was the only good thing she had left in the world and the only person who remained that would protect her from her father.
The bairn tried to be brave, as Moirra had told her she needed to be, but it wasn’t easy for someone so young.  When Laiden had died, Moirra had made the sign of the cross, wiped tears from her wrinkled face, and told the bairn that her mother was in a much better place.  Young though she was, the bairn wondered what better place could there be than here with her daughter?
            The priest spoke in strange words the little girl did not understand. The tone of his voice and the leaden sky matched the heaviness in her heart. He didn’t seem to be reading from the book he held in his claw-like hands, he seemed instead to have memorized the words. There was no sadness or feeling to his squeaky voice. The bairn did not care for the skinny man with the dull brown eyes and wished he would go away.
Perhaps, the bairn thought, if she could just lie down next to her mum and warm her, then her mum could come back from the better place Moirra had told her of.  Earlier that morning, she had shared her idea with Moirra.  Tears had welled in the auld woman’s brown eyes before she gave the little girl a hug and told her, “Twere it that simple lass, I woulda done it meself.”
            They had been by Laiden’s side for days, had placed cold rags on her forehead, and covered her with blankets.  They offered her warm broths and had prayed over her. None of the herbs the healer provided had worked. In the end, nothing had worked.
On the morning of her passing, Laiden must have known she was not long for this world.  She begged and pleaded with Moirra to take care of her daughter. Moirra made the promise; a promise the bairn wished desperately the auld woman could keep.  She did not want to stay with her father and brothers.  The three older brothers were mean to her, especially when no one was looking.  They thought it quite funny to leave spiders in her pallet or to pull at her braids.
            As a light snow began to fall, the bairn’s thoughts turned to the morrow, and all the morrows that would follow without her mum. Who would sing to her at night or comfort her when she was frightened? Who would tell her stories or care for her when she was ill?  Who would teach her to weave or sew?  Who would protect her from her father and brothers?  She could only pray that it would be Moirra.
When the priest had finished speaking the people gathered around her father. They gave him their condolences and offers of help should he need it. Broc stood somberly, nodding his head, but said nothing.  He was a tall and strong man, but somehow he seemed small this day, and his skin looked nearly as ashen as Laiden’s had been when she died.
Long after the men had covered her mum’s body with stones, the bairn remained at her side.  Her stomach hurt from missing her so much.  The only thing that kept her from screaming out was the fear that even on this day, her father would send her to cut a switch for which to beat her with.  Such an outburst would not be tolerated, no matter the reasons behind it.
After a time, Moirra came and took her back to the bairn’s own cottage. Perhaps they were going to pack up what little belongings she had before they would go to Moirra’s home.  She had, after all, made a promise.
The pain in the auld woman’s eyes when she asked her of it was quite evident.  Moirra explained that first she must speak to Broc and together they would make the decision as to where she would live and who would care for her.
Moirra tucked the bairn into her pallet by the fire and pulled the blankets snugly under her chin.  Had this been a normal day, the bairn would have pleaded for permission to forgo her afternoon rest.  Today however, was not a normal day.  Moirra told her not to worry, that all would be well. The bairn wanted so much to believe her.
After night had fallen and the candles were lit, the bairn feigned sleep. She stayed quiet and hidden under her blankets as she listened to Broc and Moirra argue over what was to become of her.
 “How are you goanna teach her about things when she’s no longer a bairn but a full grown lass? Have you thought of that Broc?” Moirra asked, frustrated with his obstinacy.
            Broc would not listen. He would not let anyone take Laiden’s daughter. It wasn’t out of devotion to his dead wife that he kept the child, there were other reasons; reasons he could not share for keeping her.  While it was true that he had loved Laiden, loved her with all that he was, she had not been able to return those feelings. Even after all these years, after all he had done for her, he could not lay claim to that which he wanted most; her love.  Her heart, right up until the end, had always belonged to another.
The bairn could not understand why this cold, distant man refused to let her live with Moirra.  She had known her whole life, short as it was to this point, that the man held no good feelings towards her.  She was always in the way and stealing her mother’s affections from him.  He never hid his resentment towards her for it.
Had the bairn been blessed with the ability to read minds, she would have known that it was guilt and fear that drove Broc. Guilt for a lie he had told long ago in order that he could keep Laiden for himself.  ‘Twas the fear of being found out that kept him from letting the child go.
“Nay!” his voice rose.  “I’ll not hear of it!”
The next words that Moirra spoke were words that would change the little girl’s life forever.  “I promised Laiden on her death bed that I would take care of her daughter! Why do you want the child, when you be not even her real father!”
Time froze, as did the bairn. Surely she must have misunderstood.
A low growl came from Broc’s throat. “I be more of a da to her than her own woulda been! I be the only da she knows and that is how it shall remain.  I’ll not hear anymore of the matter.  Now be gone with ye auld woman!” 
When Moirra left the cottage she took the bairn’s heart with her.  Only five summers old, she was bright enough to figure out that her life would never be the same.  The grief and anguish she felt at losing her mother increased a hundredfold the moment she realized she would never be allowed to live with Moirra.
            As she lay hidden under the blankets her mind asked questions her heart could not answer.  Sadness, blended with the dread in her heart, formed into quiet tears that fell down her small cheeks.  She prayed that God would keep her safe and would protect her from her father’s wrath. God had to, for He was the only one left who could.

Description of "Laiden's Daughter"....

Early 14th Century, English lands
Life taught her that men are not honorable, nor are they kind…
         Betrayed by lies told before her birth, Aishlinn is raised on former Scottish soil by a cold and harsh stepfather and stepbrothers. Traded to work at Castle Firth, her life is forever changed one fateful night when she defends herself against an English Earl.  To save her own life, she flees to Scotland.  Saved by a group of highland warriors, she soon learns that there are kind and honorable men in the world and one in particular that she could quite easily fall in love with. She also discovers an inner strength she never knew she possessed, a strength that will be tested to the limits one day, when she is forced to make a very difficult decision…allow the English to kill those she loves, or surrender for the crime she committed.

Early 14th Century, Highlands of Scotland
She is everything he never knew he wanted in a woman….

Duncan McEwan’s life is forever changed one fateful spring day when he and his men rescue a young lass from a fate worse than death. Swearing their allegiance and fealty to her, Duncan and his men take her to the safety of their clan. The Clan MacDougall, a fierce lot of highlanders, opens its home and hearts to her, and might even hold the key to her past.  Duncan soon finds himself falling in love with the beautiful young woman, no matter how hard he tries to fight it.  He would do anything to keep her as his own, including defending her life to his own death. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Be gentle-I'm a virgin blogger

I have to admit that I stole the tag line, I'm not hallucinating, I'm responding to internal stimuli, from author Amanda Forester!  I laughed so hard when I read it, that I have been using it ever since! ;o)
(I hope Amanda doesn't confuse me with a stalker. Really, I'm not!  I'm just a huge fan of her books and appreciate good humor. I'm a huge fan of James Patterson too, but to date he hasn't said anything funny enough that I'd want to repeat. ;o)  )

This is my first ever attempt at blogging.  Be gentle with me-I'm a virgin blogger.

While I'll probably blog about all manner of things, my focus shall be on writing and books. More often than not I'll probably write about my own writing. (I'm sure there is an English professor somewhere who is pounding his/her head against his/her desk at my last sentence! I simply couldn't find a better way to say what I wanted to say.)

I've had a little contest of sorts going at my Facebook page.  On Friday, November 18, 2011 I will reveal the 'surprise' and the contest winner. I've had much fun leaving/giving clues and most of my friends are to the point of trying to trick me into telling them what the 'surprise' is.  A few have even tried bribery.

I've been writing for decades but I've never shared anything I've written with anyone.  I woke up one morning and realized that I was on the back side of forty and did not want to wake up on the back side of sixty and wonder why I never took the leap and tried to share my stories with anyone.  The older I get, the more I realize 1, life is precious and too damned short and 2, if I am called by the reaper tomorrow, I'll probably wander the world aimlessly for all eternity because my soul won't be ready to go because I never took a big chance!  (Yes, the English professor is probably pouring a shot of Gentleman's Jack right about now!)

So I've done it. I've taken that big leap, the one with no parachute. I've jumped and can only pray to land safely.

Writing was the easy part.  Its the sharing it with others that is the hardest part.  Think of what it would be like to strip yourself buck-assed naked and run down Main Street screaming "I'm naked! Look at me!!!"  Sharing what you write is the same thing. While your husband might think you're quite beautiful, the rest of the folks on Main Street probably won't agree.  They'll also be calling for the special sports jacket with the eight-foot sleeves.  While they might appreciate your bravery, they might not like the act.

So the biggest worry is 'will they like it'???  Chances are, many won't.  But if a few people do like what you've written, then it will be worth it.