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Stepping it Up

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One reality prospective authors need to face is that getting published is not winning a sweepstakes. No one is going to show up at your door with a giant check, flash you a brilliant smile, shake your hand and shout: Congratulations, you’re a winner!

Getting published is a series of steps. If you can keep your momentum, the steps go upward—working towards bigger and better goals and often getting easier as you climb. Some of those steps are major ones: my sister, children’s book author Allyn Stotz (http://allynstotz.blogspot.com/), took a giant hop up this week: she saw her second book, Kailee Finds Magic IN Words, in final form—ready for press. I know that seeing the heroin of her first book, The Pea in Peanut Butter, come to life again on the pages and knowing people will soon hold her creation in their admiring hands has to be a wonderful feeling: in this case, it’s enough of a leap up to carry her past some challenges to come.

I took a big step this week, too, though it wasn’t that golden glow event of seeing my name on a printed page. My step was that I submitted our first draft of Fate of the Violet Eyes, book three of the Sam Osborne series, to our publisher. That means for just a moment, I can sit back, take a deep breath, and realize I’ve done all I could to make this book better than the last two. Having been through this twice already, it also means that I can finally let the experts at Spectacle Publishing Media Group, tell me how to make it even greater.

While it’s vital to our sanity as authors for us to acknowledge and feel our accomplishments—pat ourselves on the back for the steps we overcome, Allyn, as well as Mom and I, will not rest long in this heaven. That’s because as authors of more than one book, we know there are many steps ahead, even after the book is in print. The hardest part about becoming an author is the reality that getting to the point where your book populates the crowded lists on Amazon and Barnes & Noble is much easier than what comes next: getting someone to notice it. And having tracked the blogs of several major writers, I know that, unless you’re James Patterson, you have to direct and participate in how well your book goes over. You have to force yourself to become what you may not be: a marketer. And I bet even Mr. Patterson sometimes dreads putting on a suit or combing his hair to give a speech, an interview or to make a video to post on his official website. We are writers―our art is creation of stories and the alignment of words in such a way that we lead readers down a path we want them to travel. The reality is that, even if you’re shy, you have to believe in your own work enough to want others to feel what you felt when you were creating it.

My intention in saying this is not to throw water in prospective author’s face. While Allyn, Mom and I have been learning how tough it is, we’ve also seen the rewards. Every time you lift a foot and climb up another step, you gain a little strength; you make the next stage of the climb a little easier because you have one thing going for you that you didn’t have before. Whenever you need it, you can turn and gaze back down the staircase and see yourself on that first little stair. You can remember that you are climbing towards your dream—which is a brave step not many people do in their lives. You can feel what it’s like to have recognized what you want enough to have built the staircase in the first place.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Want to know what’s in book three?

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I’m getting close to finishing the third book in the Sam Osborne detective series, and while there’s still a long process before the book goes to press, it occurs to me that mom and I have given very few hints about the plot of this book.

The title, Fate of the Violet Eyes, does not fall off the tongue as smoothly as Twist of Fate or Wretched Fate, but I think the story is our best and the eyes play a major role partly because they affect the lives of several main characters. One of those characters, Maggie, needed special consideration and crafting because we knew we wanted to give her a precious gift: the love of Sam. It’s a gift because, as we’ve brought Sam more and more to life with each new book, we’ve both fallen in love with him. His gentle, but persistent ways, strong personality and inquisitive mind are easy to fall for, and Maggie needed to be worthy of him.

In Fate of the Violet Eyes, readers will learn even more about Sam and meet Maggie for the first time. In our other books, the characters who hire Sam and work with him fall in love with each other. In this book, Maggie is the person who hires him—a mother mourning her child Jenna, who was kidnapped. Even though the police and the FBI have both conducted investigations, her child is still missing so she hires someone who is not constrained by procedures or resources—private investigator Sam Osborne.

My mom has done a terrific job creating both the villain in this book and the victim (the snatched child). She takes us into the mind of a man who has gone from a religious background to a killer. She shares with us her thoughts on how a small child could survive such a heinous crime as being snatched from her own mother’s arms and delivered into a killer’s grips without showing fear or weakness.

The mystery in this plot is sprinkled throughout the story revealing clues and false clues in layers as you read. Mom designed it that way and we both have worked hard to confuse and surprise you.

Meanwhile, Maggie and Sam begin to work together, and as they do, you’ll see them gravitate towards one another. As readers of our first two books know, Sam’s own child was kidnapped many years ago and that plays a role in how Sam reacts.

This book also travels outside the bounds of Lancaster, which is where our first two books took place. Maggie and Sam hit the road to investigate and love happens along the way.

I can’t tell you much more, but I’ll promise this: If you liked Twist of Fate and Wretched Fate, you will love Fate of the Violet Eyes.

Keep tuned to this site to learn the book’s progress.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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If I had a million bucks

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Have you ever played that game with your friends, your siblings, your spouse where you ask yourselves: what would I do if I were rich? It’s a fun game, an exercise of the imagination that usually nets a lot of silliness. But believe it or not, I think it’s good for us. When we stop playing such games, haven’t we’ve stop believing in the impossible?

When I was growing up, in the Beverly Hillbilly days of the world, “rich” meant a millionaire. Nowadays, I’m not sure you’ve even classify someone who had $1 million as  rich, though the person would certainly be considered wealthy. When you watch shows like Extreme RVs, with double-decker, two-story vehicles, two-person soaking tubs and chandeliered living areas, a million bucks feels like pocket change. But I’m choosing that number, because I don’t want to be rich. I just would like to be more comfortable.

So what would I do with my million bucks?

First and foremost, I’d buy peace of mind. That has meant different things in different periods of my life. In the poorer days, it meant paying the bills. Today, there are crunch times, but far fewer of those paydays when I feel good for 10 minutes, only to realize the money is already gone.

These days, peace of mind would mean more money in my retirement account and taking care of my elderly parents. My siblings and I spend a lot of time side by side, swords in our hands, battling old age issues as best we can. But I would love to see my mom and dad in an assisted living place that would shoulder the day to day worries about falls and not eating enough and finding ways to keep from getting bored.

Second, I’d buy delight. One of my favorite things in life—a gift God gave me when he gave me a kid at 41, was to rediscover how pleasurable it is to delight. With a child, it’s a simple task—a giant sucker or a pretty sticker. In my life today, it might mean presenting my husband with a Mediterranean cruise (okay, okay, that’s for me, too), send my daughter on a backpacking trip to Europe with some of her many friends or work a miracle for one of my sisters (yea, you know who you are): a personal introduction to Barbra Streisand.

Third, I’d buy independence for a short time. I am certainly an independent person, but what I mean is … now that I have discovered how truly wonderful it is to pursue your creativity, I absolutely hate the fact that I have one hour in the morning to do so. It is pure heartache to stop at the end of the hour I’ve allotted myself for creative pursuit in order to return to the reality that there are bills to pay. A million bucks might buy me a period of time when I could spend 8 hours being the true me.

I know myself well enough to know that I’d also give a chunk to Nyumbani.org, a charitable foundation I’ve worked with for many years that fascinates me because I’ve been there to see its phenomenal growth. It sprang from the heart and passion of a priest and a nun that wanted badly to help save a few orphans who had HIV/AIDs. But it’s grown into a multi-country-supported effort that reaches more than 4,000 children.

And I also know myself well enough to know that I would have to buy one purely materialistic toy just to experience the thrill of spending money. A fully-restored, baby-blue Thunderbird convertible would do nicely.

Hmmm, maybe I’m going to need more than a million bucks!

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Finding our moments of pause

As we get older, most of us fall into routines: Internal schedules cemented over time wake us before the alarm. We take the same route to work because we already know the limitations of alternates. We eat our meals at a certain hour instead of letting our stomachs dictate.

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There is comfort in our schedules. We’ve lived long enough to know there are very few “sure” things in life, so we create our own, wrapping our day in sameness like we wrap our bones in blankets at night. And there is boredom. Which we look forward to breaking up.

There can also be moments of pause, if we look for them.

My moment of pause occurs on my morning walk with the dog. I am unfortunate enough to have fallen in love with Laney, a mongrel who loves to run away (which means she’s always saddled with a leash), and who gets violently ill the moment a car starts its engines. At the same time, I live in a community sandwiched by development and fenced in by richer communities. So Laney and I mostly walk the same paths. One of those paths, however, takes me into a short patch of woods. Laney loves this little respite and acts as if we are on a great adventure, sniffing at tree roots and nosing underneath bushes and piles of leaves―convinced a grand treasure awaits if she can just find it. But unlike my last dog, Laney is not a nose hound, but rather a sight hound. While she loves the sniffing, it comes second to lifting her head and studying.

Laney is the one who gave me my daily moment of pause.

The path is at the edge of a hill, which is probably the reason this bit of woods will never be developed. Before the shopping center went in next door to our community, we’d frequently spot deer. I still see squirrels and rabbits; I think Laney sees much more.

When we’ve reached the end of the path, we will turn off in a direction towards home, leaving the hill behind. At that spot, however, Laney stops and assumes what I call the Hound Dog Forest Stance. Her tail goes up slightly, her legs stiffen and hold, her head pops up, and she freezes, gazing deeply down the hill and into the trees, her nose clenching and releasing as if assessing each scent individually. She will remain that way for several minutes.

Those minutes have become by moment. I stare with her into the trees, but gave up trying to pick out anything specific long ago. Instead, I see the beauty: the way the sunlight filters through the trees and chooses to spotlight a small patch of ground or circle of bark. The mix of light green and hearty dark green set against a tawny background with an occasional splash of white or color from blossoms. I hear the symphony: a woodpecker’s rhythmic tapping somehow tying together the wide variety of chirping songs. The fluttery snap of twigs as small unseen feet scamper across tree branches and forest floor. And the occasional bang, as something breaks under the crush of larger feet or fallen limb. I cannot smell what Laney smells, but I use my inferior human nose to catch the clean scent of breezes mixed with earthy muskiness.

And I feel without touching a bit of it.

I am always a bit sad when rainy skies and muddy grounds don’t allow us to walk that route. But when better weather gets us there, it makes up for any time away. Then, I take my moment of pause, I say “thank you” to God, and I tuck my moment into my heart and my brain to pull out when I need it.

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A small miracle needed in a big way

I’ve done a lot of grumbling lately. The weather has been lousy for four months. My work load has been heavy. My mom and I haven’t had the time we had last year to market our newest book, Wretched Fate. My dad can no longer drive which means many hours figuring out how to get my parents back and forth to doctor’s appointments and the grocery store. None of which compares to the real heartache: Mom and I, and the rest of my wonderful family are dealing with: Dad’s Alzheimer’s.????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

So when a tiny piece of sunshine breaks through, it feels like a miracle. But then, maybe it is.

For about a month and a half, my daddy cheerfully utters the same phrase whenever we get into the car: “You’ll let me know if you see any deer, won’t you?” As long as we are driving where there are trees, he says the phrase several times. There’s a reason he repeats the request: In the largely rural areas of Ohio and Michigan where we grew up and lived many years, we spent hours driving around and trying to spot deer. It was a family tradition that all of us remember from vacations or Sunday drives. And even though none but my oldest sister lives in a rural area, I think we all still search the tree lines when we’re driving in the country.

It’s a bit disconcerting, however, when you live in an urban area like Washington, D.C. and you’re just on your way from point A to point B and happen to be on a tree-lined street. But we always smile at Dad’s “joke,” and we nod and reassure him that we’ll be on the lookout.

Recently, Mom, Dad and I were on our way back from a doctor’s appointment that didn’t take as long as we all expected, so we decided to take a ride through a local park. It was the first pleasant, spring-like day in many weeks, and we were all in a good mood. I cranked up the music, and Dad responded almost immediately. He may not have remembered my name half an hour earlier, but give my Dad a melody, and he will sing along. He usually knows the melody, and he often knows most the words.

We took a winding road that led into the park, and on the way in, Mom and I heard “Let me know if you see any deer, won’t you?” All three of us chuckled. Then we rounded a bend and there before us, was a long stretch of land with seven deer munching happily on grass. I slowed way down, but they barely batted their beautiful eyes. They were young and didn’t know enough to be afraid (park season hasn’t started). Or maybe they just sensed that we were a car of people in awe.

The deer were so close to the road, we were afraid to roll down the window and make any noise that would scare them away. So we glided slowly by, as silently as we could, all of us appreciating the moment. Then we turned around and came back and appreciated their beauty again. They never stirred. Just lifted their heads and stared back as if to say, “Yea, we see you. But we are not about to move.”

In a municipal park that is packed later in spring and summer, to see seven deer out in the open is truly wondrous. It dispersed the drabness that can easily surround everyday life. And it gave my housebound daddy, who is dealing with a horrible disease that keeps him inside his apartment far too much, a few minutes of pure pleasure.

Genilee Swope Parente

 

 
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Posted by on April 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Leaving something of yourself on Earth

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As I get older I realize I don’t have many years left.  It is hard to believe that someday you will cease to exist.  How can that be, when you’ve existed all these years?  Will it be like you are sleeping? Or will it be like a dream that becomes your new reality. I have been asking myself these questions for a long time, and the answers have eluded me (thank goodness for that!). But I’ve also tried to leave something of worth behind me.  Over the years, I enjoyed many crafts and part of the reason is that I am attempting to give my children and the world something to remember me by.  I painted pictures, quilted, painted ceramics, and conducted genealogy research.  Each form of expression gave me some peace―some feeling of leaving something besides my wonderful children behind me on this Earth.

I do not intend for this column to be depressing. But I see no reason not to cope with the reality that someday we will no longer exist—a concept most people who are 86 grapple with.  Will you be forgotten as another generation arrives or have you left something behind that will say “I was here”?  I feel this way about my writing as well.  I am proud to have two books and several stories published; I like thinking that someone might read these works fifty years from now and get pleasure from or entertainment from the words. My writing gives me satisfaction that I have put part of me into the future—I created characters, plots and stories that will allow someone to get lost in my creations for a time.

Although I believe in God and in Heaven, it is very difficult to grasp what it will be like.  How will we recognize loved ones who have gone before us?  How is there space up there for all of us?  Some might say these are useless questions: We will find the answers when it’s our time to go.  Still, the thought of no longer existing as a person in this reality is a hard one to grasp.

My daughter Genilee may have a fit with my writing a column that seems so glum.  I remember well when my own mother talked about death, and I told her the same thing my children would say to me: “Don’t talk about it. I don’t want to hear it.”

I understand where they are coming from, and yet―here I am talking about it on the Internet.  I used to hate the subject as well. But as I approach my 90th year, I can’t help but be curious.  And I’d like to hear from my fellow writers, readers and friends. How do you feel about the subject―deathDo any of you have trouble coming to grips with the fact someday you will no longer exist on Earth?

Regardless of whether I hear from anyone, I promise to write my next column on a more cheerful topic.  And to my friends: don’t worry. I am actually not depressed and I apologize if I’ve made you think about something you don’t want to face right now. Please know that I am quite content with my life.  I hope you are, too.

F. Sharon Swope

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Come see your movie star friends

Both Mark Swope, Genilee’s brother and Sharon’s son and Spectacle Publishing Media Group have posted links to the video of the television show Conversations with Rich. The show aired last week in the Northern Virginia area.

Here’s Mark’s version. It’s a shorter version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNN6oEYpO0A&list=UUh3nHRkelA5vRojc7cuIMGw&feature=c4-overview

And thanks to Eric Staggs, president of Spectacle for posting this longer version:

http://youtu.be/uvlYPMYNTfQ

Genilee Parente

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Lights, Camera, Action?

If anyone had told me five years ago that I would be a television star, I would have called them nuts.

Never mind the miracle of finishing three books, getting published twice, getting offered a contract on a third book. And yes, it’s a small miracle that being an author has brought me out of my shell long enough to speak in front of audiences.

But last week, mom and I launched our official road to celebrity-hood by taping the Rich Massabny show—Conversations with Rich (airing times on this page).

How could I have foreseen before all this began that I would be a television star!! Okay, maybe not a star. Just a twinkle in a few fan’s eyes if anyone tunes into the show. But there we were—mom and I—sitting on black plastic chairs, mike’s clipped to our bosoms, chatting with Rich, who is pretty well known in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, like we were old friends. How exciting to experience the heat and blinding bright of the lighting and be with the guys and gals with clipboards saying all sorts of fascinating things like, “1,2,3 check. Production room? What do you mean you can’t hear us? Is mike four even ON?”rich massabny

I just KNEW at that exact moment that we’d made it—fame at last. Okay, maybe not fame and there really wasn’t a lot of guys and gals. Just a friendly fellow with a pony tail, several youngsters who looked like they’d just left diapers behind last week, and a nervous young man who kept clearing his throat.

But it was our first filming crew. The same crew with which we’d just shared the delicious spread produced for the television crew. Okay, maybe it wasn’t a spread or one of those feasts that unions require for movie crews. It was leftovers from the cooking show that went on just before we did, but we could tell it was delicious by the many ums and ooohs. We couldn’t eat because we were too nervous. Okay, really it was because mom and I too often tend to wear what we attempt to put in our mouths, and we didn’t want to spoil our new blouses.

Then there was the excitement leading up to the taping. You know … that room with a star and the makeup girl fussing to make you look just right. Okay, that’s a downright lie. I sat in a waiting room and made conversation with my fellow author―mom. At one point, I ducked into the ladies room and put on lipstick―which I hate in the hopes that it would make me less pale. It didn’t work.

Nevertheless, there we were, “on stage” for the first time, sharing our hopes and dreams with the whole wide world. All right, maybe our hopes are really that just a few people who might happen to be bored with Jimmy Fallon will flip through the channels at the exact moment we’re on.

But back to my original thought. I could not have imagined five years ago that instead of sitting watching the tube next week, I’ll be watching myself.

Oh wait, does that mean I have to look at my double chin? Ah well, the price of fame …

 

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on February 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Life of the not-so-rich, pretty poor

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My household is full of excitement this week as both my husband and I are perched on the edge of fame. Okay, okay, maybe not fame. But we’re both floating above our usual clouds of obscurity just a tad.

My husband is set to go this morning to a second round of tryouts for the Great Mobile Wheel of Fortune. I know that “Great” is not really part of the name of the big bus that travels around the country overseeing hordes of excited fans trying to get on the most-popular-game-show-ever, but it should be. This show has been on the air for 35 years, the longest-running syndicated television competition ever, and there’s a good reason. Even my 88-year-old Daddy, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s, still shouts out answers occasionally—and he’s usually right. He can’t remember what he did five minutes ago, but he loves this game. It’s an American icon, the nighttime ritual of millions—one half hour of excitement that ties a hugely broad diversity of people together, even if that tying occurs in front of the boob tube.  And it isn’t exactly easy to get on. This is my dear hubby’s third time of trying to get past that initial two-day mass tryout. He’s proud and excited to be called back for a second round, and if you want to be part of this household’s brush with fame, you’ll get on his facebook page and wish him luck. (that’s Raymond Parente, Dumfries, VA, folks!)

Then there’s me, and my amazing 86-year-old mom of course. We are appearing three times the last week in February on Conversations with Rich, a local (Channel 10, Fairfax [VA] Public Access Station). Rich is well known in the Washington, D.C. area for hosting different types of talks shows, including two of his most popular, which feature restaurants and cooking. Mom and I won’t be talking about cooking (I’m hearing great sighs of relief out there!); we’re talking about our successful two books—Twist of Fate and Wretched Fate. But we have already spent two luncheons discussing at length what colors we might wear that would de-emphasize the reason we’re on in the first place: we’re old (Amazing, yes, but old).

Which brings me to point three of this blog: true “fame,” or at least glory. Mom and I had a second visit at the Emeritus assisted living community in Manassas this week. The residents there read our first book, Twist of Fate, during the month of January, and agreed to give us their comments, then purchase Wretched Fate if they liked the first book. By the end of 45 minutes of discussion, mom and I had to try to stuff our inflated heads back into hats. Lynn Hess, the dynamic life enrichment director of this facility, said she feared she’d be mobbed if she made residents stick with the original plan: to read (then discuss) only a certain number of pages per week during the month. There is no greater compliment to a writer than “I couldn’t put it down.” Lynn truly has a great bunch of intelligent readers in that community and their comments were invaluable, full of insight, and right on the mark. Needless to say, we’ll be returning to hear about Wretched at the end of February. To mom and I, who know we’re probably too advanced in years to build up an audience that can provide the riches, their enthusiasm was our reward for the hard work that goes into our books.

We’ll have to rely on my handsome, charming and talented husband, to win the big money prize!

Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Cracking Open the Christmas Nuts

Okay. Okay. I know you’ve seen that word: Christmas, and already you are shuddering. I’ll make a commitment here and now not to lambaste you with yet more Christmas crazy. After all, it’s not even Thanksgiving.

But then … whom am I kidding! I’ve been trying not to say “awwwwwww” at Christmas commercials since Columbus Day; I have half my shopping done; and this past weekend, my husband decided that to save time at Thanksgiving for visiting with relatives, he’d put up the outside lights.

“In that case, honey, bring down some of the inside decorations, and I’ll unpack just one box,” I said.

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The box was empty, its contents in place in ten minutes and what was I to do? I knew it would take my hubby at least two hours to put up lights. So I picked and I picked at the decorations boxes, not able to stop the “awwwwww”ing as I pulled each memory out, dusted it off and found the perfect spot to show it off. Two hours later, most boxes were empty, and I stopped out of pure guilt. My college daughter had already texted twice and threatened ex-communication from the Church of Parente Christmas Nuts if I did it all myself without her expert eye.

So I stopped.

However, when this blank computer screen in need of a blog stared me straight in the face this morning, well … what was I to do? Christmas is on my mind, and the lull that occurs after shopping and before the big day gets here is weeks away yet.

Besides not lambasting my readers (uh, don’t count on that), my commitment to this holiday is to look for simple ways to celebrate that have nothing to do with December 25 and everything to do with making someone feel good. Here’s my ideas so far:

  • Keep a few dollars in my pocket. This is so that when I’m loaded down with groceries or packages, and I hear the tinkling of the bell that so many of us recognize as the start of this season, I’ll always have ready access to the cash. I’m not doing this for the Salvation Army or its many recipients. I think it’s wonderful what the organization does. The cash, however, is for that soul who stands in the chilly weather ringing the bell. The gloved, smiling volunteers are terrific and need a pat on the back.
  • Do my online Amazon shopping at http://www.nyumbani.org. I am not supporting Amazon.com by doing this. But I end up on the Amazon sight a lot during the holiday season. This giant of a retailer has created a program whereby charitable organizations can get up to 4% of the proceeds of a sale from people who link to its shopping through the organizations’ websites. There’s a big brown button on my favorite nonprofit’s site that will see a lot of click throughs from me this season!
  • Do some of my charitable giving at home. I’m not talking about buying my poor rundown dining room windows the new drapes on their Christmas list. I’m talking about looking around at what some of my neighbors, friends and family need. Most of that doesn’t involve money, but rather time. I can spend some time helping my elderly parents put up their decorations (I know. I know. Such a sacrifice). I can ask a neighbor I know is laid up with illness what they need at the store. I can make a few extra calls to a friend who needs my ear to get through a personal crisis.

The list is started and hopefully will grow. Got some ideas to help out? Send them my way and we’ll get the Christmas cheer going. It will help me pass the time as we anxiously await … the printed version of Wretched Fate. That should happen any day now and I’ll let you know as soon as it does.

In the meantime, send me your ideas!

 Parente Christmas Nut Mom Genilee Swope Parente

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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