The Princess Clio Diaries: Musings on my life with my human – Day who knows

It’s a dog eat dog world

Clio

Me: So what would you like to eat today?

Clio: I’ve a choice? Is that diet you have me on optional?

Me: Not really. But I heard something the other day and I wanted to make sure.

Clio: So this blog post is about you? I knew it. How long has it been? I mean, this has got to be Day 500 or something.

Me: I’ve been a little busy…I did do some writing, you know.

Clio: Oh, I know. I mean seven blog posts on your trip to PTown.

Me: I did a lot there.

Clio: Was I there..?

Me: No…

Clio: Right. So this blog post is about you again?

Me: No, no, we’ll get back to you. How would you like them served?

Clio: What served?

Me: The doggies you’ll be eating.

Clio: What?!

Me: Well, I heard it is a dog eat dog world.

Clio: So you thought I’d like roast leg of Labrador?

Me: They say babies are very tender..

Clio: Roast Leg of Labrador Puppy??

Me: You’re on a raw food diet. No roasting. Tell me, if I brought the puppy in here, would you mind awfully if I left it to you to do the necessary?

Clio: Wait, wait.. I see what you’re up to. Are we adopting a puppy? Because if we are, I’ve got to make sure you and the little tot understand the ground rules.

Me: We’re not. Ahem.. I think I’m the one who should be making the rules.

Clio: As I was saying.. One, there are no vacancies for King or Queen. Those are arbitrary words. Just because my title is Princess does not, I repeat, not, mean that any royalty extends to anyone else in the house.

Me: I thought I was –

Clio: No input really necessary. Just write.

Me: Right..

Clio: Two, any time involved in the upkeep of a puppy must not be subtracted from the time spent on me.

Me: But you are a full-time job…

Clio: Three, the puppy must be trained properly from the start. A few steps behind me is fine when we’re out in public. In the house, there’s a spot in the hallway that I’m not all that fond of, it can have that.

Me: But –

Clio: Four, boys only. We both know from experience what havoc females can cause.

Me: Anything else?

Clio: Something might occur to me after you type all that out.

Me: Right. So, I guess you wouldn’t want to eat the puppy..? You know, dog eat dog world…you’re a dog, it’s a dog..

Clio: I’m a dog?

Announcing the publication of A Place Somewhere

I am thrilled to announce that my fourth novel, ‘A Place Somewhere’, is now available on Amazon and Smashwords.

DigitalFrontAPSHow far would you go? Would you lie to protect the innocent?
ALEX HART risked everything to be with her online girlfriend of two years and moved from Ireland to America. But the unthinkable happened and she is emotionally and financially ruined. Devastated, she turns her anger and betrayal into a mission to root out those who deceive the innocent online.
When a mother pleads for Alex to protect her daughter from an online predator in Ireland, Alex must become what she hates.
How far will she go before losing herself in her own web of deception?

A Place Somewhere on Amazon.com
A Place Somewhere on Amazon.co.uk
A Place Somewhere on Smashwords

It arrived earlier than expected and the song of the same name that was to be released with it is only going to be recorded on Thursday and should be available on iTunes etc by Friday.

Provincetown Women’s Week 2013 – Part I

I am terrified of flying. In all senses of the word. Of letting go, of being vulnerable, of crashing to the ground in a burning ball of flames. So when I had to go to the US this year, and I saw the GCLS (Golden Crown Literary Society) message that authors could sign up to read on panels in Provincetown for Women’s Week, I was petrified when I clicked on the sign-up button and registered on a panel. A simple click of the mouse, but one that held so much fear. And changed so much for me.

There are so many considerations when deciding to go on a trip like this. The cost, security, social aspects, business aspects. Finding someone I trust to take care of Clio, worrying about her, missing her. The trip was my first holiday since 2006, and I tried to placate my cautious side with assurances that it was a business trip; after all, I was going to read on panels with established authors, and interact with readers and authors. I promised myself that my only indulgence would be to see a show by Suzanne Westenhoeffer, a lesbian comedienne I’d listened to about 20 years previously, who I am sure has saved some people on the streets of Galway as I was too busy laughing at her stories to experience road rage.

I tried to find ways to reduce the cost, but I hadn’t planned far enough ahead and ended up cancelling the various hotel rooms I’d booked with the intention of finding others to share them with. I was reconsidering the trip when I got a message from another independent author, Liz Bradbury, who was reading on the same Friday panel and who gave me the benefit of her years of experience and the assurance that it would be worth it, and that she would be there to hang out with if I needed company. Liz got me on to Kathryn in Womenscraft who agreed to store the books and leaflets I needed to send ahead, would welcome us for a book signing session, and invited us to a wine and cheese party for authors and readers.

After weeks of researching planes, buses, trains, ferries, and cars, I chose the option of a bus from Galway to Dublin, a flight from Dublin to Boston, and the last sailing of the fast ferry from Boston to PTown. Seventeen hours after I left Galway on a 5 a.m. bus, on a journey that involved a lot of waiting and the discovery that buses and ferries make me extremely nauseated, I arrived in the dark and rain in Provincetown. I checked into the hotel outside of town that I’d booked for the first few days.

ferry

The fast ferry to PTown (just before the nausea hit)

I’d been travelling for what seemed like days, but I had promised myself before I went that I would not sit in my hotel room, that I would partake of everything that PTown had to offer, for every hour that I was there. So I got a cab and headed into town to the Women’s Week Kick-Off Party. The streets were deserted. The town looked like an off-season mountain resort. I was trying to hide my nervousness as I questioned the cab driver, was the whole week like this, had the recession done that much damage? I found out later that this was the Monday after Columbus Day and PTown didn’t really get going again until the Wednesday or Thursday, but that night I decided to make the best of it and went in to the Pied Bar. The Kick-Off Party was over, and the bar reminded me of a quiet night in Galway.

Of course, I didn’t realise that you have to tip bar staff and all I can say is Jill at the Pied Bar was very sweet and didn’t bat an eyelid when I thought I was being very helpful and placed the exact change on the counter. I may have over-compensated later when I discovered that you have to tip bar staff, restaurant staff, cab drivers. I think I may even have tried to tip someone who turned out to be Suzanne Westenhoeffer, but that’s another story.

Next, making friends

Committed Muses and Heartfelt Gratitude

After receiving a bit of a hammering from life, my muse has been committed to The Home for the Temporarily Bewildered and Perpetually Confused. She smuggles occasional words out, written on tiny scrolls and hidden in the middle of cupcakes, but I get distracted eating the cupcakes…

Well that’s my excuse anyway for only being 30,000 words into my novel which I’d planned to publish this month.

I’m not all that upset about not writing at the moment. My life took another one of its many turns after my last blog post; that vulnerable (unusually for me), painful, honest bunching together of words that had me terrified to press the Publish button. Part of the resulting change was due to the actual writing of the post, but the major part was down to the responses I received in the comments and in emails. I want to thank those people who took the care and time to reach out. The words you sent were very helpful and the action you took meant even more.

What I was especially glad about was that there was no negativity and not one person advised me to look with gratitude at all the good things I did have in my life. Which made me do that on my own volition. The day after all the responses was a beautiful day in Ireland. I sat in the sun and thought about a lot of things. And the things that flooded into my mind were all positive. All the tiny and huge blessings in my life, from the smile I felt in my heart listening to the sun-baked dog snoring beside me to the astonishingly long list of positives in my life. I had meant to write out the pain in whatever words I could find, as an exercise in releasing it, and I ended up writing out all those good things. And I asked for what I felt was missing.

My life has changed since then. In a multitude of good ways. Most of the things I asked for have come into my life, definitely not in the context I meant, but in ways that are good enough. In fact, they are more than ‘good enough’, they are stunningly brilliant ( :-) I’m not normally an effusive person when it comes to praise so I’m trying to be better at that). And I’m taking the time to address the negative as it happens and to look for the positives and be grateful. It is working, in that the things that are happening are mostly positive, but also in the sense that I’m different in what and how I see.

About a week after I wrote that blog post. I watched a talk on TEDTalks about how we have all changed someone’s life, usually without even realizing it. I wanted to share that video with all the people who responded with helpful advice, a hug, an email, and to let them know that they are now heroes in my life and join the many people who have contributed in positive ways to help me get to where I am now i.e. blessed.

There are ‘small’ things that people do that affect others in ways they cannot even imagine. I read that it is a myth that when you land in quicksand, you sink to the bottom and die. Instead, you are stuck and are more likely to starve or die of dehydration or be drowned in a high tide. That the best way to survive is to try to float and if you have a strong stick you should get it under your back to support you and gradually start to move your feet and work your way out. At that bad time when my mind felt fractured and I was unable to do more than just float in quicksand, an almost stranger reached out and held a stick under my back. She did that by emailing every day, checking on me, supporting me, encouraging me to write if I could or not write if I couldn’t, and sometimes even just posting something for me or standing in the way of anyone who I couldn’t deal with. She didn’t have to do any of that, I was just a newbie author whose books she had reviewed and liked. But she opened a channel to me and flooded it with positive thoughts. She knows who she is (as I still bore her as much as possible with updates on my life :-) ), but I’m not sure she will want a public thank you (being all British and shy and stuff) so instead, have a look at her blog page and know, if you didn’t before, that’s she’s a wonderful person and the kind of friend you want to have watching your back.

I also have to mention a ‘little’ thing that a well-established much-loved author did that affected me deeply. I don’t usually comment much on Facebook, unless it is something to do with Clio, as I’m really quite introverted. However, when this author was featured in a weekend discussion on a Facebook group I just had to comment as she is also an introvert and I admire the way she handles the public part of her life. That she turned out to be a thoroughly nice person and that she was genuine and kind to me, exactly the type of person I had gotten the impression that she would be, was comforting and reaffirmed that sometimes reality matches up with the imagined image. And watching the brilliant video she made cheered me up.

I’m mentioning these things because it is important that people know that even the little things they do can be life-changing for someone. I used to think that I couldn’t accept these acts of kindness without paying them back, but I’ve realised that rather than worry about paying it back when I may not be able, I need to pay it forward when I am.

The question that I asked of readers at the end of the last blog post was whether writers should write novels that explored the darkness while in the depths of darkness themselves. What I realised from the responses was that the question was not the right one, or at least it wasn’t the right one for me at that time. I will explore that issue and find the answer as I write the novel. What I know now is that my writing will always be authentic for who I am at the point in time that I write the words. And what I have discovered in my writing is that I am, and always need to be, someone who will search for the positive, the humour, and the light, even when I am in the depths of darkness. So when my eyes can’t see light, I need to wait until my heart can feel it and then the words with become clearer and the darkness will lose some of its power to blind me. In other words, there will always be good and positive people out there and I need to see that the rainbow of light they shine into my life will replace the colours that one person stole from my palette, until I am able to shine brighter for myself and hopefully for others.

I need answers from outside my own fractured mind

When someone has stolen the bright colours from your palette, do you paint with what is left? Does smearing your greys and blacks onto a canvas help anyone, but you?

Before a few months ago, I could access the hurt, the pain, the fear, and I could pour it into fiction, even the worst of all the bad things that happened- watching my mother’s breath being switched off, hearing the silence after and knowing that space would never be filled again, I could put it into a novel, a story about a woman that wasn’t me, despite the obvious similarities. I could put all the bad that has happened, that has been done to me, that I have done, and make my characters do the same, and watch karma pay it all back by the end of the book.

What could be worse than losing your dearest loved ones? Losing yourself? Your belief in love and goodness and karma, in the idea that everything will be all right in the end. I am not an overly religious person despite, or probably because of, having a priest as a father.  I don’t believe in the organisation of faith. I believed that if we figure out what we really want from life, we can paint that into existence. And I did, and still to a certain extent, believe that there must be more than what is visible. I was sitting in a church a few days ago, a stopgap, a quiet place to wait for an interview that could change my future, and I felt the heaviness of silence and asked the question that weighed heaviest on my mind in that moment. “What decision do I make, what path is the right one?” The one that doesn’t lead me to fall off a cliff. Because my previous decisions have left me stranded at the bottom, broken and unable to take more than a few steps in any direction, unsure whether there are more cliff edges to come and where they are.

The unsettling answer I got back very clearly was that there was no pre-ordained path. That I write my life myself in every moment. That I could choose security or adventure. That nothing is written anywhere that says I will not fall off the cliff again. Nothing is written that says I will not feel that betrayal, that hurt, that absolute depth of pain that comes when you place your foot on what appears to be solid ground and out of nowhere there is nothing but an abyss, into which you fall mostly bewildered, until the ground that was solid and firm beneath you is now actually the hard surface against which you smash and break.

I broke my ankle about ten years ago during a simple soccer training session. Training that I had been doing for years, every week, twice a week. Until that day when I took a step forward to stop the ball with my right foot and my left foot got lost, leaving me with only a round moving object to provide balance. Before that, I belonged to a world where a fracture was a theoretical concept. I was brave, I thought proudly, I would make any tackle, put my head in the way, save a goal from going in against my team, but this wasn’t a heroic goal-saving ‘worthy’ moment, this was an innocent, ‘whistle as you walk’ ordinary moment. When my ankle fractured, when all everyone on the training pitch could hear was the sound of bone breaking, ligaments tearing, muscles ripping, as a foot swung in ways it was never designed to do, in that ordinary moment, something more fractured, more than just a tibia and a fibula. Belief in the physical fractured. The belief that nothing so bad, so painful, so awful, could happen to your body in those ordinary moments of life. Not when you were not prepared. And certainly not when you were careful. Not when there was no use, no purpose for the pain.

Before my ankle fractured, I used to dance freely, with rhythm. I used to be able to pick up any sport and play it pretty well almost immediately, which I’m sure was annoying to others, but it gave me a sense of confidence, in my world, in my body. The broken ankle was patched up and bolstered with a titanium plate which is strong I have no doubt, but now I do have doubt in my bones, my muscles, my ligaments, my body. I dance awkwardly now. With fear. I still have rhythm, an inbuilt memory of the movements, but no grace, no confidence, no laughter in those movements.

When everything, and I mean everything, went wrong a few years ago, it was slow coming. I could see the cliff edge approaching, could prepare my mind and body, could distance myself and watch as loss after loss buffeted me. And after, I could collect the pieces and even on that lonely beach at the bottom of the cliff, I could still marvel at the spark off a rock, the glint of light off the waves, something to brighten my moments and possibly a laugh or a smile to brighten the moments of others. I wrote my novels and included the darkness, but also the light because I still had an open heart, a childlike innocence because I believed that there was a purpose, a light, a love waiting for me. That for someone somewhere I would be enough, more than enough, that we would blend the colours that would make our lives shine truer and deeper, that there would be someone I wouldn’t lose and who would not want to lose me.

But instead something happened a few months ago. My mind was fractured. There are no visible bruises and only I heard the sound of breaking. It was not the heartbreak to which I have grown accustomed at the end of relationships. Not the well-worn track that I know and can adjust my gait, my movements, my expectations. I loved someone who I believed with everything inside me to be my soulmate, who used the dreams I showed her to portray herself as everything I wanted in my life, who made me believe that everything I had wished for could come true. Maybe I was a fool to believe, maybe I was vulnerable clinging on to the wreckage on that beach, fighting against being drawn out into the sea, of drowning. I had built a life raft from the pieces of my life and she offered me a safe haven designed to protect us. When I discovered that it was all fiction, that she did not even exist except in that fiction, something snapped in my mind. A mind walking along in the innocent belief in the ‘ordinary’ truth, that things are what they are, suddenly had no ground beneath it.

And now, my mind cannot dance anymore. It is awkward and shy, without grace, without confidence. It peeps out, makes a half-hearted attempt, and then crawls back inside. There are no visible scars, no crutches, no few months of ‘keep the weight off’. There is no Plaster of Paris cast to be signed. There is only the grind of bone against bone as I hold the ends together to get through the day. Making sure not to let others see the break because in my world, where even before reality was twisted in on itself I would not show vulnerability, a fractured mind leaves me more vulnerable than a fractured ankle. And is less acceptable.

As a writer of fiction, I could escape into stories. I could connect with others without being too vulnerable because, ‘they are fictional characters in pain, not me’. And, until a few months ago, I have always been able to use bright colours to lighten the darkness in some little way and hopefully even bring a smile. When readers connected to share their wonder at the concept of a vision painter, at the pleasure in the thought of being able to paint a life with happiness, I felt the same wonder and pleasure again. That even through pain and darkness, my words could reach others and we could share hope. I was pleased that despite the obvious negatives in the novels, what had connected and lifted spirits and remained even for a brief moment, were the positives.

Now, all I can do is post up pictures on Facebook of Clio, my saving grace, the main reason that I can smile. I can hide my fractured mind behind that smile and we could go on existing like that. I’ve been working on my next novel, though I haven’t written anything for the last few weeks, wary of adding more negative than positive, more shadows, making another dent in innocence, adding falsehoods to a world already brimming in them. I know that my writing is not that important in any grand scheme of things, but it is to me. It is important to me that my words have integrity whether they are in the guise of a medical thriller, a romance, or a fantasy of magical realism. It is important to me that when someone reads my words, they do not feel worse after, do not have to endure the grinning companion of hopelessness that stamps out any flicker before it can become the flame that might burn bright and leave me destroyed, or might light the way.

Existing now without my palette of bright colours is gloomy enough, should I put that out there into the world and darken what can already be a shadowed canvas? Should I stop writing and connecting with others now, when I need it most? Or, should I just put on my big-girl pants and invent a Happy-Ever-After, because dammit, I’m a writer?

I feel the need for answers from outside my own fractured mind. I want to know from authors – do you put your novels on hold at times like these, until the story that pushes to be written can offer something more than what life at that current moment holds for you? From readers – do you wish to be drawn into the darkness in the same way you were captured previously by the story?

Casting Shadows is now available

Casting Shadows – The Further Misadventures of a Vision Painter

Casting ShadowsKiran is still the only vision painter in Ireland but she cannot express her gift as she struggles with the consequences of its misuse. When everything she loves is threatened, she must protect her family by uncovering the history and secrets of the vision painters in Kerala. But there are those who will do what it takes to keep the truth locked away in the shadows of the past.

Casting Shadows is a story of love, sacrifice, betrayal and guilt. Of love and hatred that spans time and place. Of history that casts shadows on the future.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00B6UFULM

 

The Princess Clio Diaries: Musings on my life with my human – Day 1

Clio

 

 

 

 

 

Clio: Ok so, Day 54 and the..

I put down my pen and she glances at me and stops.
Me: Day 54? What happened to Days 1-53?
She waves a little white paw in the air.
Clio: You’re the writer, you fill them in. It feels like Day 54 to me. Should I continue or are you going to interrupt me at every stage?
Me: You know, a small subset of people think it I am weird to love animals as much as humans? Why do you look puzzled?
Clio: You are weird.
I pick up the pen and make a gesture towards her.
Clio: So, as I was saying, Day 54 and my human accompanied me on a brisk walk down the lovely country lane – Yes, what is it?
Me: Could we at least refer to me as something more complimentary?
Clio: You have a problem with the truth? You’re human, you’re my only subject, ipso facto, you’re ‘my human’.
Me: I didn’t know you knew Latin?
Clio: What did I say about interruptions? We must hurry, if this works on the same principle as my 7 dog years to your 1 human year then I have just 7 minutes of inspiration per day.
Me: You think that’s funny?
Clio: I crack myself up. Now, where were we?
I look back at the notepad.
Me: I should have left you down the bog country lane.
Clio: You wouldn’t!!
Me: We’ll see. Go on.
Clio: My subject…my human, no? What would you like then? Especially since you were so kind as to come up with a pretty decent title for me. Though why on earth you picked such a long one is beyond me. I would have been satisfied with something short and sweet like ‘Her Royal Highness, Princess Clio’.
Me: I wanted to give a sense of your authority.
(Under my breath): And limit its scope.
Clio: Did you say something?
Me: No.
Clio: I like it. ‘Her Royal Highness, Princess Clio of Cloogantoverville’. It will be difficult to emblazon across a jacket but it is fitting. Why tack on the ‘Ville’ at the end of the name?
Me: Don’t know really. Wanted to have an Irish and American feel to it.
Clio: Right. Well, I’d like to shorten it in everyday conversation to ‘HRH Princess Clio the Pretty’.
Me: Ok, HRH, what’s next?
Clio: I was thinking that since these are my musings on you and my life here, I would start by letting you tell readers how pretty I am and maybe a few details about my good nature and gentle character as well as my very regal bearing.
Me: Well, I do write fiction. Should I include the fact that I had to wash poop off your big fluffy backside this morning? You know, I now get why my dad looks at me sadly and shakes his head and says ‘You used to have such potential.’
Clio: My backside is not big!! Besides I like my hair.
Me: You should have a gold medallion to hang around your neck. You could pass as a Greek guy then, with all that chest hair.
Clio: Would you like me to talk about the time Freda wanted to call the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals on you?
Me: I knew you were behind that!
Clio: Well, you have to admit the haircut you gave Hamish was cruel.
Me: You try shaving a wriggling dog with one of those hand power razor things.
Clio: You didn’t think of stopping after the first few jagged swathes of hair were gone off his back?
Me: (muttering) It was an expensive razor thing. Hey, it might still be in the cupboard somewhere.
Clio: You bring that thing near me and you will be eating through a feeding tube too.
I retreat to doodling in the notepad.
Me: are you nervous about your surgery on Friday?
Clio: What, with the specialist flying in from Israel just for me? And a top vet surgeon in Dublin?
Me: Right. So it is just me.
Clio: You worry about everything. I’ve come through seven surgeries on my mouth and I’ve got this feeding tube stuck in my neck, do you see me complaining?
Me: Yup.
Clio: When?
Me: What do you call running from the towel and rubbing your wet self into every cushion in the house?
Clio: A royal protest. Besides you shouldn’t have cream-coloured fabric covers. Pink is much more my colour.
Me: I’m getting a headache. Your seven minutes of daily inspiration are surely over by now?
Clio: You’re getting old.
Me: Hey! Eight in dog years is older than I am now. You think maybe we should retire the ‘Princess’ thing now? Maybe call you Milady Dowager or something?
Long silence.
Me: I’m going to pay for that, aren’t I?
Clio: Human, you have no idea how much…

Is it assault to smack your imaginary muse..?

I had sent my third novel, Casting Shadows, to my beta readers and I was just about to celebrate when she whispered in my ear, “I was just thinking that you could have them do -”
So I smacked her.
Not hard. After all, she was responsible for setting me off on my novel and had helped me through the months of writing.
But now, I’m wondering whether imaginary jail would have pen and paper…
Because I already miss the characters. In some shape or form, good or evil, characters have been whispering words into my mind for what seems like forever. Well, a year and a half. And while I am grateful for the (relative) peace and quiet in my brain at the moment, I miss them. Their problems, fears, hopes, dreams, messes..
So I wrote a short story. And plan to add it to three more short stories to make a little collection. Thankfully, I only managed to write one. I’m realising my brain really does need a break.
But that dratted muse did actually plant the seed of a good idea for a fourth book. Maybe if I ignore it for a while, it will take root unseen and unnoticed and when I’m ready, the little sprouting will push its way back into the front of my mind.
I know it is probably considered kidnapping to bind and gag a muse and put it in a cupboard and I really don’t want to get into any (more) trouble with the mind police so I have restrained myself from doing that to her. But I can see her eyeing me warily as she sulks on the couch. She’s just got to learn that you can only push a writer so far before they write you into an unpleasant situation.
So, tread carefully my imaginary muse, I may not be writing just now but I can still plot…..

Pre-Launch of Casting Shadows: Falling Colours & Heart Stopper – $2.99 for a Limited Time!

In anticipation of the launch of my third novel Casting Shadows – The Further Misadventures of a Vision Painter, I am running a promotion on my other two novels. This promo runs for a limited time so if you haven’t already got the first in the series, this is your chance to catch up.
You can get the first novel in the series, Falling Colours – The Misadventures of a Vision Painter, at the reduced price of
$2.99 on Amazon.com and
£1.92 on Amazon.co.uk
You can also get Falling Colours on Smashwords for $2.99 by entering the Coupon Code: JR73J

While you’re there, check out the new cover for my first novel, Heart Stopper. And get it for
$2.99 on Amazon.com and £1.92 on Amazon.co.uk
You can also get Heart Stopper on Smashwords for $2.99 by entering the Coupon Code: AP69B

The grass is always greener for the other turkey

I have friends who look with envy at my solitary state at Christmas. They complain about having to face the holidays with family. And as everyone knows, you put Christmas decorations, Christmas cheer, add in a few Christmas relatives, heat with Christmas emotions, throw in a Christmas turkey and baste gently for a day and you have a recipe for a dish that could leave a stink for the rest of the year.

So my friends or workmates say goodbye as they pack up their bags or tidy up their desks, bemoaning their upcoming stress with envious asides to me about my luck at not having to face it all. And in a way, they are right. I don’t have to deal with Christmas if I don’t want to. I can stay in my house, shut off the TV, pull the curtains, and pretend that the week is just like any other week of the year. Which it is. And that is the problem.

In my adult years, I’ve always grumbled about Christmas because it is the time of the year when everyone leaves to go home. And as the non-religion-practicing child of a Christian priest, I experienced every Christmas Day in the same way that the ill child of the town doctor probably views an annual flu epidemic. So I have to admit to underlying mixed emotions about Christmas. But I still don’t understand why there is a specific period set aside when people make that extra effort to be nice to each other. And why they then stress about it.

When people complain to me about the stress of Christmas I have to wonder why they do everything on that one day of the year that they would avoid on other days of the year. If they don’t particularly like turkey on any ordinary day why make it at Christmas, douse it with gravy, stuff it to bursting to make it palatable and then invite relatives they wouldn’t want in their home at any other time to partake in this self-described misery. And then complain and envy the turkey-less zone on the other side of the fence.

I get invitations to go to the homes of my friends and I appreciate that immensely. More than I appreciate the laments of envy. But, if I face my truth, I have to admit that what I want is to stay home for Christmas and more importantly to ‘be’ home. If I had my perfect Christmas, love, laughter and the doggies (which would actually be my perfect day any day of the year), I probably wouldn’t remember to invite those who were on their own, but I’d appreciate what I had enough to never tell them that I envied what they had.

I admire and envy those who have the family, love, and laughter, as part of their everyday lives and for whom Christmas is the time to add the icing to the cake but with no stress about how the cake looks, just that it is sweeter, richer and the cake is held tighter together. I admire those who don’t complain about the layers of unnecessary icing they’re slapping onto their cake to someone who hasn’t yet got the right cake.

If you had the choice of recipe and unlimited access to the ingredients to make a truly happy day, why choose a recipe that called for unnecessary ingredients, gave you indigestion, and swore you off having that dish again for at least another 364 days?

Don’t envy me because I have the recipe but no access yet to all the necessary ingredients. When the missing ingredients arrive, I hope to make that dish every day and not just over the Christmas. Then, the only extra ingredient I’ll add over the holidays is more time just to savor the experience.