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Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

How many times have we shopped, found something extraordinary and thought, “This is perfect for so and so?” (Hand raised high.) When this happens to me, I usually make the purchase right then and there, depending on cost of course. More times than not, when Christmas rolls around, I already have a small stash of “perfect” gifts waiting to be wrapped and delivered.

On the other hand, how many times have you gone shopping for something specific only to be shut down, robbed of your shopping enjoyment because you can’t find the “perfect” thing you’re looking for. I know, I know, Murphy’s law and all that, but seriously, isn’t that such a let down? How hard can it be to find that one simple thing?

Christmas is an already stressed time of the year. Folks are strapped for cash, time flies by, your husband eats the cookies you baked for your boss’s holiday party. It’s stressful. Add to that the pressure of finding “the perfect gift,” and it’s down right painful.

Now finding the “perfect gift,” can be nothing short of euphoric when you see the happy smile on the face of the recipient you love. It’s a high that I personally find very satisfying. But hey, I’m a giver. I love giving, especially when it’s done right.

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

But how often have we found ourselves – settling? Buying something, spur of the moment, running out of time because it’s four o’clock on Christmas Eve and we still haven’t gotten anything for cousin Bob and he and his sleezy new girlfriend are coming over at six for drinks and we just know he’s going to bring us a gift so we have to get him something – (breathe) – and then we do the grab and go, dash home, wrap it up, present it to him in his stupid Christmas hat and goofy grin only to be rewarded for all of our trouble, angst and money with this:

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

Don’t do the cousin Bob routine.

gift cardHere’s what I suggest – stop trying to find the “perfect” thing. Think about who you’re buying for and why. If you’re simply buying because it’s Christmas and the season dictates that you buy a gift – don’t do it. Nine times out of ten the recipient won’t want the thing you’ve settled for anyway. Just suck it up and get a gift card.

I know, gift cards are a cop out, but let’s face it, who doesn’t like gift cards? I like gift cards. Let’s me pick out something I really want or at the very least, something I need but no one will ever buy it for me because it’s a practical everyday thing that’s – well – not “perfect.”

Come on people – ease up on the pressure – enjoy the season. Stop trying for perfection and give from the heart. Sometimes a dozen cookies or a sweet bread wrapped in pretty paper are more appreciated than that bottle of bath gel you picked up from an end cap at the grocery store on your way to the check out line. I’ve often given the gift of my time and taken a harried and stressed out friend out for lunch in lieu of a gift. You can offer to clean someone’s house, or pick up their dry cleaning, or mow their lawn, or rake their leaves, or some other act of kindness instead of buying some silly and usually cheap thing. Time is money – spend it wisely. To some folks time is more precious than money. Who wouldn’t want more time? Well maybe a lifer in Folsom Prison wouldn’t want more time, but you all know what I mean. Right?

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

I’m not suggesting you stop giving gifts, I’m merely suggesting that if you can’t find that thing that’s “perfect” who whomever, try giving in another way. Make a home cooked meal and deliver it to your busiest friend on a busy weeknight so they can sit down and relax for a couple of hours with their family – maybe watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or A Charlie Brown Christmas or It’s A Wonderful Life. You’d be surprised how something so small and easy to do can go a long way.

Xmas quoteSo happy holidays my friends. Relax. Put some thought into your giving. Stay safe in your travels and kind in your hearts, words and deeds. That’s why I love you all.

What have you done to show your appreciation to a loved on in lieu of giving a gift? Have any giving tips to share? I’m always open to suggestions.

Fun fact about me: I love to bake, especially this time of the year.

Word of the Day: Qiviut

Original post by Jansen Schmidt, December 2014. Photos courtesy Google Images.

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Have you ever woke up from a dream and wondered what the heck just happened? Ever wondered what the nonsense playing in your brain could possibly mean? Ever have a recurring dream?

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

Today I’m introducing my good friend and RWA chaptermate, Suzanne Vince, who is here to talk to you about her debut novel The Many Lives of June Crandall, a book about a young girl’s recurring dream and what it meant for her. On Friday, September 12, 2014, Suzanne will choose one random person who leaves a comment to receive a free copy of her book.

Photo courtesy Amazon.com

Photo courtesy Amazon.com

Growing up, Suzanne imagined herself as many things (a nurse, a teacher, even a secretary) but never a writer. Despite the fact that she grew up in an exceptionally creative family — everyone having some special talent — Suzanne did not, leaving them all to wonder if perhaps she’d been adopted.

She wrote her first book by accident, four years ago when she sat down to journal her thoughts. Four hours later she’d written the first 30 pages of what became her first novel, The Many Lives of June Crandall.

While Suzanne’s books include elements of romance and spirituality, the main story revolves around a strong parent-child bond, a reflection of the bond she shared with her own parents. Her stories inspire love, hope and the possibility of happily ever after.

Here’s my interview with Suzanne (her responses are in purple):

Tell us about how this book got its start. Did you actually have a series of dreams like the protagonist in your book, or did the idea just strike you out of the blue?

Out of the blue, kind of. I had just finished changing out the books on my bookshelf—removing the old, making room for the new. I came back a while later and found a book lying on the floor. It was titled, Many Lives, Many Masters by Brian Weiss. It’s a book about past lives.

I picked up the book and opened the cover and saw an address label on the inside. Like one you’d put on a letter. Obviously I’d purchased the book used. The name on the label was June Crandall from Sarasota, Florida. I put the book back, but for the next week I kept thinking about June, who she was, if she was still alive, what her life had been like. Before I knew it, I’d created June’s story in my head.

The following weekend I sat down to start writing and pulled the book off the bookshelf to serve as my muse. When I looked at the label on the book again, the name was Rosalyn Fink, not June Crandall. As writers, we have to invent the name of our characters, but I never in a million years would’ve come up with the name June Crandall. That’s when I knew that the story was meant to be written.

Any particular reason why you choose those three specific Junes?

Not really. I wanted each June to represent a different aspect of what was missing in Grace’s life. A mother, a best friend, even a lover.

How much research did you have to do before or while writing this book?

The dreams all take place in past centuries and I wanted the details to be as accurate as possible, so there was some research needed there. And since most of the story takes place in New York, I wanted to make sure I got the geographical scenes correct.

What’s your favorite part about the story?

I think the book signing scene is my favorite. And of course, who doesn’t love a happily ever after?

What would you tell your readers to expect before they start reading?

Well, the book is classified as a women’s fiction novel, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a mystery, a romance, and a coming of age story all in one.

Without giving anything away, what one thing about the book surprised you as you were writing it?

 I think it had to be how hard it was to make my character (Grace Adams) suffer. It took a lot of revisions to get to the point where I felt she’d suffered enough.

Were you inspired by any particular author before or during your writing of this book?

There’s a little book titled God on a Harley by Joan Brady (I highly recommend it–it’s funny, moving and every woman on the planet will be able to relate to the story). Anyway, I’ve read the book several times and every time it stirs something inside of me. I read it last in July of 2010 and then, without realizing it, I wrote the first fifty or so pages of what would become my first novel (which is now collecting dust bunnies under the bed). So I guess you could say that Joan Brady inspired me to write.

Photo courtesy SuzanneVince.com

Photo courtesy SuzanneVince.com

Here’s the 4-1-1 on Suzanne:

I grew up in Park Forest, Illinois—twice an All-American City—in a hectic and chaotic but loving family. After graduating from Loyola University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (major in Accounting), I said goodbye to snow shovels and ice scrapers and followed my parents out to California.

I currently live in Sacramento with my husband, my step-daughter and our four furry children. I still have my day job—for now—but spend most of my free time writing.

Learn more about Suzanne by visiting http://suzannevince.com.

And here’s the 4-1-1 on The Many Lives of June Crandall: 

Shuffled from one orphanage to another and finally abandoned into foster care, Grace Adams finds comfort only in her dreams, only these dreams are unlike anything Grace could ever dare to imagine. From a Nazi concentration camp in World War 2 to a Geisha house in Feudal Japan, in her dream world Grace is loved and protected by one person: a woman named June Crandall with a face she is unable to forget. Believing that the woman from her dreams is the mother she’s never met, Grace petitions the court to unseal her birth records, and what she learns about her birth mother will shake her to her core. Years later, at the urging of her husband, Grace publishes a book about the woman from her dreams. At a book signing, a stranger appears and offers a clue to the mystery surrounding Grace’s birth. Putting her skills as an investigative journalist to work, Grace uncovers a web of secrets and betrayal that threatens to destroy her dream of being reunited with her birth family. Will Grace find the woman from her dreams? Will she solve the mystery of her birth? Will she be able to put the past behind her and find forgiveness for the family that abandoned her?

Get your copy here: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Many+Lives+of+June+Crandall

Word of the Day: Cajuput

Fun Fact About Me: I consider myself a wine snob.

Original post by Jansen Schmidt September 2014. Photos courtesy, Google Images, Amazon.com and suzannevince.com.

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