Janet's Jargon

Fun lifestyles, charitable acts, great fiction, author support, Patrick and Grace Mysteries, Keith clan trilogy,

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Merry Christmas gift to you

Several years ago the Federated Church back in Grand Forks ND asked my late husband Ivan and me to write a short story to read at their Christmas Eve service. The following is what resulted. I hope it will help you all stop all of your hustling and bustling for a few minutes to reflect on what Christmas is all about. Oh, and have fun!
Janet (and Ivan, in absentia)

This is free for church or family use only, and is not to be sold.

By Ivan and Janet Smith

The faded plastic angel perched high above the forest of cut trees. Deeply tucked inside was a matching creche, defying anyone to remove it. It had just survived a legal battle with the ACLU. It had a right to be there; the sign high above the building in the background declared “YMCA.” If a Young Men’s Christian Association couldn’t house the true symbol of Christmas, who could?
A smaller sign, hand printed, read “Y’s Men’s Christmas Trees: $20.00.” It was only ten days before Christmas and according to tradition, the price would be lowered a dollar a day from now on.
“Come on, guys!” the teenage boy shouted to his two buddies. “The coast is clear!”
They headed straight for the manger, not caring that they trampled the trees as they went.
“Come on, let’s take the baby and put him on the roof!”
Brian, the leader of the gang, tossed the little image to Mark, the youngest and smallest member of the group. “You’re the quickest,” Brian said. “The fire escape is out back. Go for it!”
Mark obediently ran to the back of the building and began to climb the ladder.
“Hey! Stop!” The cop seemed to come out of nowhere, but his blinding flashlight hit Mark square in the eyes, causing him to drop the baby Jesus to the ground.
Brian and Ricky ran—right smack dab into the cop’s partner!
“In a hurry?” he asked them, laughing. “Afraid you might miss Santa?”
“Ain’t no Santa!” Ricky said.
“And you ain’t no angel,” the cop said, still laughing. “Come on, boys. I think we better take a trip downtown. By the way, you guys got names?”
“Yeah,” Brian replied sarcastically. “We’re the three wise guys.” He tried hard to laugh, but Ricky and Mark didn’t join him in the joke.
The policemen helped the boys into the back seat of the squad car. They sat, silently, staring through the wire divider between them and the officers.
Brian rubbed his fingers against the palms of his hands. They had never been so sweaty. But, he had never been in this situation before. Oh, sure, he’d done plenty of things wrong. But this was different. This time he’d gotten caught.
“Okay, everybody out,” one of the cops said. He opened the door and poked Mark in the back, steering him toward the steps up to the police station.
At least they didn’t handcuff us, Mark thought. If anybody saw them…
Inside, an old gray haired policeman sat, gazing at them with daggers in his eyes.
“What’d you guys do?” he growled at them. They didn’t answer.
“Cat got your tongue?” he asked. “I said, what’d you do?”
“We stole the baby Jesus,” Ricky said, his hands shaking in front of him.
The policeman’s mouth dropped open. He sat, speechless, for several moments. “You stole the baby Jesus?” he repeated, shouting accusingly at them. “That’s the worst crime we’ve ever had!” He shook his head, clicked his tongue and reached for the phone.
“Judge Walker? It’s Joe, down at the station. I hate to get you out this late at night, but we’ve got three juvies down here I think you should take a look at.”
He listened while the boys glanced at each other. The image of a black-robed figure danced in their heads. It was not the Nutcracker Suite! In fact, it wasn’t sweet at all.
“They stole the baby Jesus,” the cop said.
The boys fidgeted. The old cop looked at them, shook his head again and said “He’s on his way.”

The judge, who looked more like Santa Claus than a scary legal character, studied the boys, his eyes moving from one to the other, then back again.
“Do you know what you have done?” he asked, his voice bellowing. Dead silence followed. “I asked you if you know what you’ve done?” he asked again, his voice even louder than before.
“We stole the baby Jesus,” Ricky said, not daring to look up.
“And what do you think God would think of that?” Judge Walker asked.
The boys had never given much thought to God, but this was a pretty good time to change that.
“And what about your parents?” the judge continued. “What will they say when I call them to come down here to get you?”
Brian’s face turned as white as new-fallen snow. If the thought of God scared them, the thought of his mother and father finding out what he had done was even worse. He didn’t know God, but he knew full well how his parents would react. He would be grounded for the rest of his life!
“I’m not going to lock you up,” Judge Walker said. “Instead, I want all three of you—together—to do one good deed for someone every day. You will have to report back to me in nine days—on Christmas eve. You have to have proof of what you have done.”

“Well, boys,” Judge Walker said, sitting behind his huge desk clad in his black robe. “How did you do?”
He did not seem at all surprised when they began to relate the acts they had completed during the last few days.
“We helped old Mrs. Green carry her groceries home the first day,” Ricky said.
“The second day we saw a little girl fall on the ice. There was a car coming right behind her,” Mark said.
“We got there just in time,” Brian said, a big smile on his face. “Boy, that was a close one!”
“The third day we shoveled the church sidewalks after it snowed,” Brian said. “Here, we got everybody to sign a note after we helped them.” He shoved a pile of little square papers onto the judge’s desk.
“The fourth day we took care of Mrs. Parson’s little boy while she took the new baby to the doctor,” Mark said.
“The fifth day we walked Mrs. Hunt’s cats. She broke her leg, so she couldn’t do it herself,” Mark said.
“Yeah! And she was so happy about it that she hired us to do it every day,” Ricky said.
“We didn’t think it would count if we got paid,” Brian said. “So the sixth day we walked the cat and then we went to school early so we could help our home room teacher.”
“The seventh day we went to the old folks’ home and visited a lot of the people,” Mark said. “I think they liked it.” He smiled as he said, “We only got ten of them to sign the notes.”
“The eighth day we went to the church and helped decorate it for the Christmas program,” Ricky said. “It looked real pretty.”
“Then we got to the ninth day,” Brian said. “We knew it was the last day we had to do something good, so we wanted to make it extra good.”
Judge Walker waited until they all started talking at once. “Hold on!” he said, banging his gavel on the desk. “One at a time or I don’t have a clue what you’re saying.”
“Go on,” Ricky and Mark said to Brian. “You’re the boss.”
“We took the money Mrs. Hunt had paid us and we bought one of the Christmas trees from the Y. You know, the “Y’s Guys trees.” He laughed. “See? I told the cop we were the three Wise Guys!”
“What did you do with the tree?” Judge Walker asked.
“We took it over to the juvenile center. One of the kids in school said they didn’t have one.”
“We didn’t get anything signed,” Ricky said. “We didn’t want them to know it was from us.”
“Now you know the real meaning of Christmas,” Judge Walker said. “It is not only giving, it is giving from the heart. Not because you have to, but because you want to. I’m proud of you, boys.”
“We asked the Y’s Guys—the other ones,” Brian said, “if we can help them down at the Y Center after school. He said they’d be glad to have us.”
“Yeah, they’re going to give us a membership so we can swim and everything!” Mark said.
“But we’ll be sure to leave the baby Jesus alone,” Ricky said. “I don’t think He needs our help.”
“I think He’s already got it,” the judge said, standing up and walking towards his chambers. “Oh, and Merry Christmas, boys!”
“Merry Christmas,” the boys said in unison.
As soon as the judge was out of sight, they looked at each other and nodded. Then, unseen, they took out a can of Lemon Scented Pledge and began to polish the judge’s desk.
For the most requested article I've ever written, please go here to share my first Christmas in Venezuela.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Last minute gift rescues

These are a few of my favorite things...
OK, so I don't sound quite like Julie Andrews, but The Sound of Music is one of my very favorite movies. It's pretty much a tie between that one and Brigadoon. And that first line up there, as you probably recognize, is from The Sound of Music.

It probably won't come as any surprise that one of my favorite things is a good book. You can't go wrong with that as a gift. One size fits all. If it is especially good, you can read it over and over again. I don't advise that you loan it out, no matter how good the friend is, though, as books have a way of disappearing, just like they do at the public library.

So, in the interest of coming to your rescue, here are a few of some of the best books I have read this year. I know there are a lot of others out there too, and I don't mean to slight any of the other fine authors who have risen onto the horizon this year, but I am drawing the line at just a few. It's always hard to pick and choose, so I don't want to overwhelm you by offering too many. Some of them will be listed by book titles, but a few others will be by author, as they have more than one that fits on my "favorites" list.

Billie A. Williams has numerous books out. I admit that I haven't read all of them, but of those I have read, here are my top picks:
Knapsack Secrets--a woman who is a success suddenly finds herself homeless. When she teams up with another homeless woman (Valentine--my favorite character) and a young teenager, tragedy strikes, but can they find a way out? The scene with the tennis shoes is priceless! This was my favorite of her books until I read...
Ghost Music of Vaudeville--The Keith Theater in Ironwood Michigan is doomed for destruction, but Charlie, a crime reporter for the local newspaper, agrees to temporarily "adopt" a teenage boy, Tommy, while his mother goes off to fight in the war in Iraq. Tommy is a friend of Piano Man, who has been the heart and soul of the Vaudeville acts in the old theater. Can he find a way to breathe life into the theater one last time before the wrecking ball strikes. And where does Bette Midler suddenly fit into the picture?

The Kahills of Willow Walk, by S.K. Hamilton is a brilliant work that will have you scrambling through the hills of Wheeling, West Virginia as Kat makes her move to the big fashion picture in New York City, and discovers that there is more corruption than she ever imagined. Arson, black cats and the adorable Granddad Jedediah weave a magical spell on the reader.

Scarecrow in Grey--by Barry Yelton is a Civil War novel that will have you cheering for the underdog. Laced with a bit of humor amidst the conflict, this is a true delight. The hero in the book faces the enemy with no fear when it is demanded. Friendship, loss, and even rabbits make this one a tale you won't soon forget.

Storm--by Joyce Anthony. It is hard to fit this one into any particular mold. The closest I can come is to call it a "spiritual fantasy." Known only as "Storm," the main character will lead you down the railroad of life and it will change the way you look at those around you forever. Reading this book is truly a life-altering event.

The Savannah River Dolphins--by Muriel Lindsay is a young adult book that will have you smiling before you even open the cover. There is something loving about dolphins, and Ms. Lindsay has dedicated her life to studying--and befriending--these creatures. Truly a delight, no matter what your age.

Alice Duncan--I discovered Alice many years ago, when she was writing for Berkley's Homespun imprint. I have read every book she has published since then (probably about 25 years ago), and I can honestly say that I've never met an Alice Duncan book I didn't enjoy. Her Daisy Gumm books, however, are my favorites, and just in time for Christmas the third one in the series, High Spirits, is out. Daisy is married to a disabled war veteran, and it is up to her to provide the living for her family. She does so by posing as a fortune teller, and she gets into more pickles than you'll find in a bottle of Heinz gherkins. The first two books in the series (Strong Spirits and Fine Spirits) are unfortunately out of print, but if you look hard enough you can find them as used books. They are well worth the effort.

OK, that's it for now. There are tons of others out there, but this will get you started. And if you should happen to stumble across a Janet Elaine Smith book that strikes your fancy, that's fine with me too. With the early onset to a harsh winter this year, including snow in Hollywood, Texas and New Orleans, if you want to escape to a warmer climate, check out Pampas. It will take you to the heart of Argentina, and the heart of a very strange gaucho.

Happy shopping, and Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

My Review of Only Necessities; Holiday motif fleece tunic

Originally submitted at WomanWithin

in seasonal colors enhances your festivities with our exclusive applique designs with a touch of glitter.

  • Side slits; 30" long
  • Polyester/cotton
  • Machine wash
  • USA or imported
M(14W-16W), L(18W-20W), 1X(22W-24W), 2X(26W-28W), 3X(30W-...

A Red Hat Deal

By Janet Elaine Smith, best-selling author from Amberg, WI on 12/9/2008


5out of 5

Sizing: Feels true to size

Pros: High Quality, Attractive Design, Comfortable, Flattering

Best Uses: Travel, Going Out, Casual Wear

Describe Yourself: Practical, Stylish, Comfort-oriented

I am a member of a Red Hat Society group in WI. I ordered the purple one with 3 holiday gifts on it, as we all have to wear purple, so the new holiday sweatshirt is perfect. As an author, I love the 3 gift packages on the shirt, as when I present each of them with a copy of one of my books as my Christmas gift to them, I can tell them where I got the sweatshirt too. It is Christmas for everybody!

My Christmas Wish for all my friends