The Silent Night Church

During the past few days, we’ve been getting our Christmas decorations out. Since we’re in a new home this year, it has taken longer than usual for us to find the right spots for all of our Christmas finery. We keep moving decorations around until we find the place where they fit the best. But one decoration, our Silent Night Church, seems to belong under our tree this year.

Every Christmas when I was a girl, I waited excitedly for my mom to put out the Silent Night Church. The church was my favorite family Christmas decoration and I loved to turn the switch that lit up the cellophane stained glass windows. After that, I would wind the music box and then sit back and admire the magical wintery church scene as the melody of Silent Night filled our living room.

The little, steepled church sat on a 23” by 15” pine slat base that had been covered with plaster snow and painted white. Some kind of crystals…possibly salt or sugar…had been sprinkled over the white paint to make the whole scene glisten.

On the front of the church was a wreath, and placed around it were pine trees. The entire scene was surrounded by a fence that had been fashioned from small tree branches and painted white to match the rest of the scene. Standing in front of the church and under the bell tower, were two ceramic carolers dressed in choir robes.

Our Silent Night Church had been made many years earlier by my inventor great-grandfather. At his “day” job, he had invented machine parts and lathes for his brother-in-law’s machine shop. But at home, he delighted in creating fun and beautiful things for his family. Since my great-grandfather died in the 1940’s, my mom thinks the church could be almost 100 years old.

There is an actual Silent Night Chapel located in Austria that stands in the location of the former St. Nicholas Parish Church where the Christmas carol, Silent Night, was first performed on December 24, 1818.

St. Nicholas Parish Church

Silent Night Chapel

A young assistant priest named Father Joseph Mohr, had written the lyrics for Silent Night in 1816. In 1818, he asked the schoolmaster and church organist, Franz Saver Gruber, to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment to go with his song lyrics. Together, they performed the new carol during the Christmas Eve mass in the village of Oberndorf.

All of these many years later, this very old church which was hand made by a great-grandfather that I never knew, is still very special to me and my family. I hope all of you have favorite Christmas decorations that you look forward to seeing each December!



Last weekend, my husband and I drove to Terrell, Texas to talk with the owners of a gift shop there about carrying my books. Along the way, we stopped at a Jack in the Box fast food restaurant to use the restroom. The place was buzzing with people and activity and we were in the restaurant for perhaps five minutes.

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When we arrived at the gift shop in Terrell, I realized that I was no longer wearing the bracelet I had put on that morning at home. Instantly, I became very upset. You see, that bracelet had very special meaning for me and I feared I had lost it.

About 15 years ago when writing books was just a distant dream for me, I had ordered an antique typewriter key pendant necklace from a catalog. I often wore the necklace as I typed out my stories in my little writing room which overlooked the perennial garden in my backyard. I think I secretly hoped that antique typewriter key pendant held some kind of magical inspiration.

My first book, The Button Box, was published in August of 2014. That year for Christmas, my niece, Jessica, sent me a package.

In the package was a bracelet and inside the box with the bracelet was a note:

“My dad got this for me a long time ago. I think he would want you to have it now since you’re an author! Pretend this is from him.”

I held the bracelet close to my heart and whispered “thank you.” My brother, Jessica’s dad, had died very suddenly in 2006. He had always encouraged my writing and would be excited about reading whatever story I was working on at the time. It felt as if I had received a very special Christmas gift from him eight years after his passing.

Then, the next surprise was that the bracelet matched the necklace I had been wearing for so many years. A special gift indeed. And, I had lost it somewhere between Hickory Creek and Terrell, Texas.

We searched the inside of the car and didn’t find the bracelet. My heart sank. As many of you know, when a loved one dies, we have a finite number of tangible things that are connected to their memory.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving pictures of my brother and our parents.  This one always makes me laugh!

Then, my husband suggested that we go back to the Jack in the Box restaurant where we had made our pit stop. He said that maybe it had fallen off while we were there and some kind soul had turned it in.

He was right. One of the workers had found my bracelet and had given it to her manager. When I described the bracelet to the store manager, he said he would be right back. He came back a couple of minutes later with my bracelet and a big smile. Then he introduced me to the woman who had found it. I fought the urge to kiss her right then and there!

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I thanked her and told her how much the bracelet meant to me. She smiled and nodded. I asked if she had any grandchildren and she said she had two…a girl who was eight and a boy who was seven. I told her I would be right back and I selected two books from the back of our car. I gave them to her for her grandchildren. I hope my books will be a blessing for her family as she has been for me.

As we all pause to give thanks and to count our blessings tomorrow, I am so very thankful for that little bracelet with letters and symbols from my brother. I am thankful for the grandmother who found it when it was lost. But I am most thankful for the people in my life both living and gone. For those who have passed, I am thankful for the time I had with them in this life.

Wishing you all a happy and thankful Thanksgiving Day!

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Let’s Talk Turkey!

I once decided to become a vegetarian. My meatless journey began on January 1st of the new year and I did just fine as month after month passed. I learned how to order in restaurants and how to cook at home so that I would get the right amounts of the nutrients I needed to stay healthy.

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But then, Thanksgiving rolled around and I suddenly became a carnivore again. I simply couldn’t resist the mouth-watering smell and taste of the oven-roasted turkey on Thanksgiving Day.

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And, I’m not alone. According to yesterday’s website, 90% of American dinner tables will serve turkey this Thanksgiving. Total turkey production for Thanksgiving 2017 is 245 million birds, with the average weight of the turkeys purchased at 15 pounds.

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In case you are wondering where all those turkeys come from, Minnesota is the top turkey-producing state in America followed by North Carolina, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and my home state of Indiana.

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Thanksgiving (or as it’s commonly called, “turkey day”) is our thankful holiday and a day when Americans gather together with family and friends for an afternoon of food and football to celebrate the blessings of the year. Usually, a roasted, smoked, or even a fried turkey, is the centerpiece of the celebration meal.

It was 70o in Texas last night so we took a bike ride in our neighborhood. It seems like a lot of people have gone straight from Halloween decorations to Christmas ones and have forgotten that Thanksgiving is actually next week. But not at our house. Right now, the turkey rules!

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday. I believe it’s important to pay attention to our blessings so we don’t take them for granted. This helps us to be thankful for the people and things we have in our lives every day and not just on Thanksgiving.

I’m very thankful that I’ve been blessed with the ability to write and publish books. During the past week, I’ve had the privilege of reading “The Day The Turkey Came To School” to children at two libraries and at an elementary school. They’ve been excited to hear my story about a turkey and about being thankful for the people in our lives.

Who are you most thankful for this Thanksgiving season? Perhaps you should tell them!

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Author’s note: Four towns in the United States take their name from our traditional Thanksgiving bird. These are Turkey, Texas (pop. 465), Turkey Creek, Louisiana (pop. 363), Turkey Creek, Arizona (pop. 294) and Turkey, North Carolina (pop. 270).

Look For The Value

Those of you who read my blog regularly, may remember a post from last June called “The Golden Chairs”.

It was about a pair of 50-year-old chairs that my parents gave me recently. They were covered in a golden fabric originally but had been recovered in more recent years in pink.  I was delighted to receive them even though they were old and stained and smelled heavily of cigarette smoke. I knew they would require new fabric and padding but it was a labor of love for me to have them redone.

It took me an entire month of working to remove the 50-year-old varnish from the wooden legs of the chairs and then I sanded them before adding three coats of new stain. After the legs were finished, I took the chairs, along with six yards of fabric, to a local upholstery shop to be recovered.

When we got the call that they were finished and ready for pick up, I was excited but a little apprehensive too. Sometimes a fabric can look different in our hands than it does on furniture. I hoped I had chosen the right colors to update the golden chairs that I had loved so much as a child.

My original “golden chairs” blog post was inspired by my cousin, Jon, who messaged me one day with some ideas for my blog. He suggested I write about finding value in some of the old and broken things in our lives.

He said, “We don’t always have to throw things away just because they are old or worn out. You have to look for the value. Sometimes things can be repaired and repurposed for continued use.” And then he added, “This applies to people too.” Just because people in our lives might be old or difficult to deal with, doesn’t mean we have to give up on them.

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I knew he spoke from personal experience about a challenging relationship with his father. I also knew that instead of giving up on the relationship, my cousin kept trying no matter how bleak things seemed to be between the two of them. And ultimately, they reached a point where their relationship was in a good place.

Jon told a story at his father’s funeral last week about how he would practice baseball as a boy with his dad. No matter how the practice time went, his dad always made him end on a “good play” because that was the feeling he would carry with him. I’m so thankful that their relationship ended on a good play.

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It takes real work to find the value in things and in people who may not appear to be worth our time or effort. It isn’t always easy and sometimes it may be an impossibility. But what if our efforts pay off in the form of a better relationship or a refurbished family treasure?

As we head toward the holiday season where we will come together with our families, perhaps we too, can find value in each person and in the time we have with them. There is so much divisiveness and strife in our world today.  How wonderful it would be to reach the end of the year and know that we ended our festive time with our families on a good play.

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