Thursday, February 18, 2010

Monthly Giveaway Winners Announced!

I need a place holder here, so I'm going to take care of a little housekeeping. The winners of an autographed copy of your choice of Thin Ice, Jake's Return, and Ashton's Secret for December and January are:

December - Jodi
January - K.M. Daughters

Congratulations! All you have to do for a chance to win is comment on any blog. At the end of the month, I count up the comments for that month, and ask my son to choose a number. I then count down to that comment and voila! Pick a winner.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Can You Spare A Moment in Time?

I think we’ve all received that email at one time or another where a young boy who has been teased and tormented at school finally clears out his locker and plans to go home and kill himself, but on the way he drops his books and someone stops to help him pick them up, someone who becomes a friend, and in that moment changes his plans and his life. (If you haven't read it yet, here's one link, and then another, kindly supplied by the hosts of Zen Moments, who stumbled across this post--Thank You!) There are others, such as the story of a cab driver who picked up an elderly woman on her way to a hospice and ended up driving her around town for hours without charging her so that she could relive her favorite memories one last time. Then there are the Christmas stories about single mothers with no money to buy presents for their children, and yet many presents arrive.

Last but not least is the story of Teddy Stoddard, which has inspired many, but according to Snopes, is a fictional story of a young boy who taught his teacher a life lesson she will never forget.

The themes that all these stories have running through them are kindness and compassion, something we could all use a little more of in our lives. Whether they are true or not, they are meant to make us stop for a moment and think about the things we say and do—or don’t say and do--and realize the possible impact we can have on the people around us, from our closest family members to the clerks and cashiers we meet in passing in the drive-throughs, checkout lines, and toll booths of our lives.

I’ve had several moments in my life that either gave me hope, courage, or the willpower and determination to continue. One that stands out in my mind is rather gross, but unforgettable. I was pregnant with my only child, a high risk pregnancy, and I had started bleeding, and was terrified I would lose the baby. I called a friend about something else and in the course of the conversation, broke down with my fear. Quite nonchalantly, she said to me, “Oh, you’d be surprised at how much you can bleed and still keep the baby.” She then went on to tell me of her experience, which had been much worse than mine was.

Still, I held onto her words like a lifeline until I delivered a healthy baby boy.

I’ve since gone back and thanked the woman for getting me through that terrifying time, and she doesn’t even remember our conversation. It was just an off the cuff remark she made to reassure me and she didn’t give it a second thought.

Which just goes to show that you never know how your words or actions will affect the lives of others.

I’ve had people come back to me, and tell me things that I said to them that gave them new hope and determination for a situation they were facing. Things I don’t remember saying, but made all the difference in the world to them…and for that I am glad.

Any moment can be one that you or someone you’ve encountered remembers for a lifetime, a little jewel in the sandstorm of life, for you to take out and remember and appreciate when the going gets tough. Most of those moments are rooted in random acts of kindness. I’m not saying you need to join the World Kindness Movement, or any other kindness organization, but simply encouraging you to take time in your day to smile at someone who might not receive a smile otherwise, open doors for men and women alike, especially the elderly and mothers with young children, say please and thank you to clerks and other attendants, or stop and listen, really listen, to a child.

We all want to matter to someone, we all want to count. We all want to be seen and heard in ways large and small. All it takes to acknowledge that special person in your life, a friend, acquaintance, or even a complete stranger, is a moment of your time.

There is no greater gift on this day we celebrate love and romance, or any day, than You.

As a special Valentine’s Treat, leave a comment with a life-changing moment for you here for a chance to win an autographed copy of Thin Ice and an even bigger prize--a 5-ARC (advanced reading copy) package from the Classic Romance Revival authors who are participating in today’s Moment in Time Blog Carnival. The winner will be drawn from visitors commenting on the most blogs.

To qualify for the grand prize, you need to register for the contest. Please visit the Classic Romance Revival blog to find details of all the participating blogs and to register.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feeding the World - One Bowl at a Time

Most of the poverty and misery in the world is due to bad government, lack of democracy, weak states, internal strife, and so on. ~Billionaire philanthropist George Soros

Well, we’ve gone from 9 degrees last Saturday to a balmy 21 degrees today, but only if the sun comes out. And only if you’re somewhere inside, snug and warm and well-fed. Otherwise, it’s bitter cold and gray and dismal.
There was an article in the paper this week….I don’t get the paper, but I read the headlines as I’m going in and out of the post office or grocery store. Hunger “Alarming” it says. I make a mental note to borrow a copy from someone later.
As luck would have it, my son comes home with that very same paper. A teacher offered his extras that day, and for some reason, my son was motivated to take one. This sort of thing happens to me all the time. Ask and you shall receive. I decide I need something and somehow it shows up in my life. Like the day I bought my soup stock pot.
My soup project is going twice as well as hoped. From just that one post, I had two donations for ingredients, thank you Gail and Ellie, which is enough to make three more soups. During a chance conversation with another woman, who as it happens also cooks for the homeless, I came home with a huge ham bone with lots of meat still on it, and 5 pounds of potatoes. Another friend, who loves to use coupons, says she can get me name brand vegetables for 30 cents a package, and rice and beans for next to nothing.
So today I’m making soup again. My third batch in just over 30 days. First I made this spicy Italian vegetable, with leftover broth from a pot roast. The second time I was in the mood for split pea and ham with lentils. So were a lot of people, because the first store I went to was completely out of split peas.
That one turned out awesome, if I may say so myself. I had two bowls, and made a spare pot for my lunches during the week. Today, Superbowl Sunday, it’s ham and potato. I boiled the ham for stock yesterday, took the bone out and cut off the meat, and set the broth in the garage to cool. Today I’ll scoop off the fat and add the potatoes and make soup. Since the ham and potatoes were donated, all it will cost me is some time and a gallon of milk.
An unprecedented number of people in the Erie area need emergency food. According to the article in the paper, “There has been a 40 percent increase in the number of people seeking emergency food assistance compared to four years ago, with nearly 22,000 of those being children.”
Children. Children are going hungry in this country.
There’s no excuse for it.
Nearly 70 percent of the people served by our local food pantry, Second Harvest, live below the federal poverty line, and nearly one third of the clients served by the agency have been unemployed for two years or less. Nearly one in four residents in Erie lives below the poverty level.
According to the study, 34 percent of people served by Second Harvest reported frequently having to choose between paying for food and paying for utilities. Eleven percent said they were homeless, a population that has more than doubled in Erie in the past 18 months.
In December, Second Harvest locally distributed nearly 758,000 pounds of emergency food, the largest one-month total since the agency’s inception in 1982.
The article goes on to state that more than 37 million people in the United States, including 14 million children, received emergency food in 2009 through the network of agencies served by Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger relief organization. That’s a 46 percent surge compared to Feeding America’s previous food study in 2006.
And according to their study, the rise in the region’s needy is likely to continue this year and beyond.
Meanwhile, according to the same paper, the auto show rolls into town and casino table games are coming to Pennsylvania.
Just what we need to put food on the table.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Guest Author, Linda Poitevin

Today's guest is Linda Poitevin, fellow Rose and part of the Goddess Fish Promotions blog tour. Linda's latest release is A Fairy Tale for Gwyn, the story of a disillusioned single mother who unexpectedly finds love with a very determined and special man. Please join us as she talks about what it's like to be a mom, and how she uses that experience in her writing. Welcome, Linda!

Out of the Mouths (and minds) of Babes…
As the mom of three girls (identical twins and a later sibling), I felt uniquely qualified to include four-year-old twins and a seven-year-old girl in A Fairy Tale for Gwyn – and I had huge fun doing so. My own kids are now pretty much grown (the oldest are nearly nineteen and the youngest is fifteen and a half), but I still clearly remember the challenges of little ones…and their occasional precociousness.
While none of the incidents that occur in A Fairy Tale for Gwyn actually happened in our house, we did have our share of “moments” – and of priceless memories. I’ll never forget the time we bought an antique piano (at a garage sale, of all places) and had it delivered to our home. When it arrived, our then five-year-old girls began banging enthusiastically on the keys and I warned that the piano wouldn’t play beautiful music anymore if they continued treating it that way. Lovers of classical music at that point, they both stopped immediately and one, looking horrified, asked, “You mean it’ll play rock and roll instead?”
And then there was the time our youngest was in grade one and was refusing (very politely) to do the worksheets given to her by her teacher. I explained that her job was to do as the teacher asked; she agreed and the problem appeared to be resolved. Fast forward two weeks: I picked up my daughter after school one day and a substitute teacher greeted me at the door with the news that dear daughter had again refused to do her work. I reminded my daughter of our agreement and she looked up at me in complete innocence. “But, Mommy,” she said, “that’s not my teacher.”
Incidents like those definitely inspired the more interesting challenges my heroine, Gwyn, faces with her own children, Maggie, Nicholas, and Katie, as well as those tender moments we all treasure. I’d love to hear about one of your memorable moments with a child, too – whether the child is your own, your neighbor’s, or your sister’s. And if you’re a writer, have you used that experience in a story?

Gwyn Jacobs doesn’t believe in happy-ever-after.

Ever since her ex-husband walked out four years ago, abandoning her with a toddler and infant twins, Gwyn has been mother, father, and bread-winner all rolled into one. Her own scarred heart and failed marriage aside, she is determined not to open up her children’s lives to the possibility of another heartbreak...until her very own fairy tale falls into her lap -- and the hero won’t take no for an answer!


“I think you should,” he said.
Gwyn reached for the handrail and gripped it until the ache in her knuckles remained her only link to reality. She thought she should, too, but decided to make sure they were thinking about the same thing. “Should what?”
“Know why else I’m leaving.”
She gulped for air. She absolutely didn’t want to know, she told herself, because it was for the best, and reasons didn’t matter. They couldn’t matter. But when she tried to deny him, she managed only a thread of a whisper, a single word. “Why?”
Strong, heated fingers closed over hers, slid against them, twined with them.
“Because if I don’t leave now, I won’t leave at all.” Gareth’s thumb stroked her wrist, playing havoc with her pulse. “Because, besides missing my plane and breaking my contract, I’d still be here in the morning when your kids woke up, and you’d hate both of us if that happened. And because I respect you, and them, too much to do that to you.”
Gwyn squeezed her eyes shut and tried to focus on his words rather than his touch. Respect…kids…she felt certain the words should have some importance, but she couldn’t seem to get past the warm, pulsing ache spreading through her body.
Gareth’s voice swore in her ear. He’d moved closer. Close enough that his scent filled her senses to overflowing, and his hair brushed her cheek when she moved her head, and…
“You’re not helping,” he muttered.
Her eyes fluttered open. “Wh-what?”
“I said, you’re not helping,” he grated.
With a shock, Gwyn realized that he hadn’t been the one to move, and that her own feet had somehow shuffled forward, bringing her to teeter on the edge of her stair, her free hand resting against his shoulder for balance. Her face flamed. She dropped her hand and stepped back.
“I’m sorry.”
Gareth’s clenched jaw made his smile look somewhat tight. “Don’t be. I’m just a bit rusty at this honorable thing. Which brings us to the next discussion.”
Gwyn would have liked to retreat a few more steps before she tried to discuss anything with him, but he still held her hand captive. And with his thumb continuing to travel its hypnotic path over her wrist, she couldn’t muster the will to pull away. She cleared her throat. “What discussion would that be?”
“The one where we decide what we do now. You see, much as I’m enjoying Goldfish soup and doing chicken pox dot-to-dots, I’m afraid those pursuits still fall under the heading of friendship.” He lifted her hand in his, turned it over in his grasp, and traced a finger across her palm. “I meant what I said about wanting more than that from you, Gwyn, and I don’t know how long honor will hold out.”
Nothing on earth could have persuaded her to meet his gaze at that moment.
Gareth lifted his other hand to push a strand of hair away from her face. “Come away with me.”
Except maybe that.

Linda Poitevin lives just outside Canada’s capital, Ottawa, with her husband, three daughters, and a varied collection of animals. In her spare time, she gardens (organically), cans and freezes the family’s winter fruit and vegetable supply, knits (basically), crochets (better), and starts way more projects than she ever finishes. (Fortunately that doesn’t hold true of her books!) She loves spending time with her family, having coffee with friends, walking by the river and watching thunderstorms…in about that order.