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Updated: Jan 3

When your muse brings you a gift, even at the early hour of 5 a.m., you heed its call.

Scott, me, Hadleigh, Quinn and Miller at Fatima Shrine

Rubbing my eyes in the early dawn light, I could see a poem in the shape of a Christmas tree summoning a lifetime of memories. Knowing I had to act fast, I slipped on my robe and walked down the dark hallway hoping to catch this poem that was calling me. With a tap of my foot, our Christmas tree illuminated the room in rainbow crystal light. Scooting back on the couch listening to the furnace hum, I soaked in the peacefulness and let my mind wander.

Tears well-up in my eyes spying so many ornaments that once adorned my mother's tree, now mine in her passing. And with that thought, a flood of Christmas memories came:

  • Lined up with my siblings in order of age on the stairs we anxiously waited for the signal from Mom that: the coffee was poured, the music was on and Dad was wrapped in his red plaid robe, settled in his chair so we could at last come down.

  • Standing outside in the snow, arm in arm, looking up at the balcony where our very first Christmas tree sparkled.

  • My own three excited children running in and jumping on our bed, after taking a sneaky peak and seeing that Santa had indeed come.

  • And now, images of last night's crisp wintery walk at the Shrine with my granddaughters.

Right on cue at 5 p.m., cars filled with happy families pulled in to the Shrine. CHildren ran with joy down it's paths. It was magical, with every light imaginable flickering to a score of "Oh Holy Night." Remembering the joy on my granddaughter's faces as they rounded each corner to discover a new display filled my heart.

The Grotto

We stopped in the chapel where candles lit for loved ones, flickered like diamonds. Then down a path to the grotto where the Nativity Scene was sheltered. I asked Miller what her favorite part was, fully expecting the lamb on the shoulder of the shepherd or the King's camel.

She raised her eyes to mine, coyly smiled and said, "Baby Jesus,"

Further down the path, near the outdoor altar was a statue of Our Lady of Fatima with the children who saw her vision, carved in stone and kneeling in prayer. Coming upon this, my granddaughter's raced over to the scene, knelt next to them, hands folded in prayer. My heart took a picture.

The furnace clicked off and slipped me back to my beautiful tree holding so many memories. I found myself in a rare moment , when the images and words have been waiting inside of me and finally burst forth in an unstoppable flow.

So, here for you, is a little Christmas gift from my muse.

May your own memories fill your heart this Holiday Season,

and may the peace of Christ bring you comfort and joy.

Merry Christmas everyone.

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Settling into my car and buckling my belt for a long afternoon of Holiday errands, I took a minute or two to make sure I had everything I needed:

  1. Water bottle - check (Oops- Back in to visit the ladies room )

  2. Ritz peanut butter crackers- check. (Hunger is a given)

  3. To-do list- check (I am embarrassed to say with my ADD, there are many of these lost around the house)

  4. List of stops to make- check. ( I try to list them in the most efficient order)

  5. Cell phone- check. (Tuned to my favorite podcast- Picture Book Look)

  6. Wallet- check (I have forgotten this one too many times!)

  7. Shopping bags- check ( I hate having to pay 10 cents a bag at some stores!)

Shhhhhh... I'll tell you a secret.

During Advent, I add one last, very special thing to my check list.

A few copies of Forever Home.

For more years than I can count, I looked forward to being a published author. In the trenches writing and revising, I imagined the day when I could see one of my stories put a sparkle in a child's eyes. Self-publishing Forever Home along with my daughter (@ericaleighart) last year, was one of the highlights of my life, and made those moments I dreamed of possible.

Yesterday, at Terraza' in Franklin (an awesome place to shop for gifts, I might add!), I struck up a conversation with a lovely lady named Amy, to see if they might like to carry Forever Home in their store. One thing lead to another and soon Amy was telling me about Kiera, who loves rescue animals. As she continued with her story, the wheels started turning. I thanked her, wished her a Merry Christmas and headed out to my car.

Terrazza- A great place to shop!

Grabbing a copy of Forever Home from the box, I giggled as I headed back to the store and caught the staff by surprise.

"I think your Kiera and I are kindred spirits," I said to Amy,"I'd like to sign a copy of my book for her. Is that ok?"

A few minutes later I waved goodbye to four happy smiles behind the counter and beamed thinking of a little girl who would be curled up with Amy tonight listening to my kitty's story.

Next stop, the grocery store. Wheeling my cart inside, my cheshire cat smile probably gave me away as I anticipated my next encounter. I kept my eyes open for a tired mom or dad whose child was tagging along and melting a bit.

Veggies, bread, now where can I find the yeast? I had to remind myself that I was in the store to actually get some things. The excitement I felt was incredibly distracting!

Turning the corner, I spotted a young mom in the baking aisle, shopping with her 2 year old seated in the cart and a young son walking alongside. I was impressed with her calm and kind demeanor; so patient answering her child's many questions , even if it took her a bit longer .

"Hi there," I said, "My name's Cathy. I am a local author giving away copies of my book for Christmas. It's a story about my two kitties. Would your son like one?"

In seconds, the shelves of food, all the hustle and bustle melted away while the young mom introduced me to her son Paul, giddy with excitement about getting a present in a grocery store. I signed the book for him and wished them a Merry Christmas. The rest of the shopping trip was a blur, playing our meeting over and over in my head.

The Christmas spirit had landed on my shoulders with a few simple moments...

...and it felt good.

Gosh, I love being a writer. I can't wait to get my next story published. Fingers crossed one of my end-of-year submissions will lead to "the call" from an agent. I have about 25 or so stories just waiting for the magical touch of an illustrator to bring them to life. In the mean time, I write, revise, polish and dream, knowing there are more hearts to touch with my words one day soon.

L-R: Angel and Camille

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Bold phrases are sung to ("5... Golden... Rings...)

On the day I got the email

the owner said to me

Could you come 11 to 3?

Gathering up my items

my husband said to me:

Here's a big hug,

and a hot cup of chamomile tea.

On the day of my visit

I feel so joyfully.

Can’t wait to do this!

Meeting with the children,

An author’s what I wanted to be.

Lugging my book bag

The owner said to me:

I'm here to help you,

So glad you came

Here is your spot

Is there any thing else you might need?

As I set up my table

a vendor said to me:

How I love cats!

So glad you're here.

This is fun

I'm over there

She was as sweet as a person could be.

In the first hour of signing,

a small boy said to me,

My name is Emmett

I love your cats!

I like writing too

Who wrote this?

Guess how old I am?

My baby brother is three.

In the next hour of signing

12 voices sung to me

All the favorite carols

I was getting misty

Are those your cats?

I have two cats too

one's "Meow-Meow"

and then there's "Lilly belle"

Then I smiled and gladly signed three.

My precious cats: Angel and Camille, How I miss them!

While waiting at my table

a vendor said to me:

My cats have helped me...

deal with my cancer...

My heart was touched...

Gifted her a book

signed, "To Jean"

Both our hearts were full

Then I cried into my chamomile tea.

Jean, If you see this... I will never forget you.

Your courage, strength and joy despite it all, reminded me of what is really important.

Sneaking up the stairway,

my grandie peeked at me:

Grammie, it is Miller

we came to see you

Look at my t-shirt

I'm feeling hungry

I miss your cats!

Are you selling books?

Let's go home.

What is in your cup?

Just my frosty, cold chamomile tea.

Me with three of my grandaughters: Hadleigh, MIller and Quinn

On the tenth of the hour

A sweet teen said to me

Can I have a Kit-Kat?

I really like them

Kitties are amazing

Mines russian blue

But she passed away

Goodbye is so hard!

I want another cat

fingers crossed

Hope they let me soon

Really, how sweet would that be?

A beautiful Russian Blue.

In the last few minutes

a grandma asked of me:

Do you do school visits?

His class would like one

Maybe after Christmas?

Feeling very grateful

Hugs are the best

When a friend stopped by

I miss my cats

They are touching hearts

and teaching

families to adopt

and it makes me so very happy

If you're a cat person... you know.

On the way home from signing

my head is spinning round:

12 Men were singing

11 Children laughing

10 Books a-signing

9 Ladies chatting

8 Men a-waiting

7 Pets adopted

6 Stories sharing

5 grateful moments

4 crying toddlers

3 granddaughters

2 new friends

Yes, it's time for some chamomile tea.

Thank you to everyone who stopped by yesterday at Hopkinton Card & Gift.

Special thanks to Julia- for the invite. You have such a beautiful store!

To Julie- for your friendship and ever present smile.

To Jean-who was such a blessing and inspiration.

To my family and grandkids for their never-ending support. When you surprise me at these events it makes my day.

and lastly to Emmett- Keep on writing! Can't wait to buy your book one day and have it signed :)

See you at the next event!

Purchase signed book for the Holidays on my website.

Local pick-up available.

How I miss my writing buddy, Camille

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A Little Bit of This & That

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