Pax Tecum 2016

I recently read a blog post by another author about how those “our wonderful year in review” letters drive her crazy. I promise never to do that to you, but this past year has felt like such  mix of good and bad that I find myself feeling really ambivalent about 2016.

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Source: earthsky.org

Of course, the year ended on such a despairing note with our election here in the US, and all of the ugliness that has bubbled to the surface since. On a global scale, it seems the world has gone crazy – from the horrors in Syria and Aleppo to the rise of isolationist, far-right extremism in many different countries.

The flip side of the ugly is that there has been a groundswell of determination from those of us who don’t support the incoming regime and all it represents, who are sharing their stories of standing up to the bullies and the bigots. It seems the spirit of the holidays – whatever holidays you celebrate – are best represented by stories of kindness and respect.

As we were in the car today, driving to spend Christmas with family, we listened to hours of Christmas music, and I wondered what in the world I could write about for this holiday blog. Then Josh Groban’s “Thankful” played. That song summed up just about all I’d been thinking about.

There is so much yet to do, but there is so much to be thankful for.  Do what takes care of you. Hold your loved ones near if you’re fortunate enough to have people you love. I know for many, family time is stressful, not loving or kind. Renew or find a purpose to pull you outside yourself – there are so many organizations that need help. Read, pray, ponder the beauty of a winter night.

I wish for all of us a 2017 in which love and good overcome all.

Pax tecum,

Caren

 

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Pax Tecum 2015

I have kind of a love-hate relationship with the Internet. It has become a necessary tool for writing and interacting with readers and other authors, but I’m often distressed by the way people use the power of the Internet to be mean and nasty to others. This week, I was reminded of the good that comes from this invisible thing linking so many of us.

Earlier this week, I received a gift that brought tears to my eyes when I opened it – miniature hand-drawn reproductions of each of my novels with first and last lines written in each. This gift was from Lisa, a reader who has become an online friend. Lisa lives in Toronto and we met in the most serendipitous way when she won one of my novels in a giveaway on the Women and Words blog when I guest-blogged a few years ago. She took the time to write me after she’d read the book to tell me how much she enjoyed it. We’ve been e-mail friends ever since.

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More recently, she’s become a trusted beta reader whose attention to detail astonishes me. She’s a doctoral candidate working on her dissertation, and she’s going to be brilliant in her field.

A few days later, I received another gift, this time from a reader and new online friend from London, Lorraine. She sent me a pair of mugs with images of my book covers – another incredibly thoughtful gift.

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I’ve never met either of these women in person, but I hope I will someday. Their gifts reminded me of a few things – that this world has become much smaller and more intimate thanks to the ability to connect across thousands of miles. They remind me that for all of us, words still have the power to move people and that I am incredibly blessed that my books have connected with readers in a way that prompts them to think of me so kindly. But I have a feeling they’re just really nice people I’m lucky enough to have crossed paths with.

This is a season of introspection anyhow, but these gifts, so unexpected and heartfelt, have prompted more introspection than usual. In a year when our small world of lesbian fiction has lost too many – Sheila Connolly, Cate Culpepper, Nene Adams and Sandra Moran among them – it would be easy to see the world as emptier. Acts of kindness help to fill the void they left – things made and done by small hands – hands that won’t be idle with despair – doing what they can to make the world a better place.

I’ve shared a couple of links to more songs I love. Turn the lights down and listen. I hope you enjoy them, too.

Wishing you all a peaceful end to 2015, surrounded by friends and family, and a healthy, happy 2016.

Pax

 

 

Pax Tecum

Christmas Card

© Caren J. Werlinger

Here in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching the longest night of the year, the night that marks the turning point, the return toward longer days and the coming warmth of spring.

I know not everyone celebrates Christmas, at least not as the remembrance of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. I do. No matter how disgusted I am by the machinations and politics of organized religions supposedly acting in his name while distorting his teachings for their own gain, none of that detracts from my admiration of him as a human being.

Whether you believe in his divinity or not, he was an extraordinary man, delivering a revolutionary message in a time when what he had to say was most unpopular with the ruling authority.

And yet, even though Christmas is supposed to be a celebration of his birth, his story was just beginning, and he didn’t really play that big a part – yet. This holiday has long seemed to me (at least since I grew old enough to not care about toys under the tree) to be more about faith and trust.

Even if you don’t believe in the story of his miraculous conception, the tale itself is a lesson in faith. Can you imagine being a teen-age girl (we guess, based on the betrothal traditions of that era), and being told that you had been chosen to carry, not only a divinely conceived baby, but the child of your God? I am awed at the depth of Mary’s faith, her ability to trust that what she’d been told was true, and the strength of character to say, “I am yours to use as you will.”

As amazing as Mary’s faith was, Joseph’s was equally awesome. How hard it must have been for him to trust what he was told, that his betrothed’s pregnancy was the result of God’s intervention and not a fling with another man. Who could believe that? And he didn’t stop with accepting her. He accepted her baby as his own, protecting him, raising him, teaching him. He became a father to Jesus in every way that he could.

Their faith, their trust in one another is such a human thing.

I stopped going to church a long time ago, for reasons I won’t go into here. But I love Christmas music and I love listening to it in the dark, removed from the noise and commercialization of the season, reminding me to find that kernel of what’s real. I actually listen to it year-round. I’ve linked a couple of YouTube videos for some of my favorite songs of reflection on what that night really stands for.

No matter what you believe or what you celebrate at this time of year, I wish you and your loved ones the peace that is the real gift of this season.

Turn down the lights, turn up the volume and listen….

Of Misfits and Cesar Romero

This coming Tuesday, CBS will air Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the 50th year! That thought staggers me, because I have seen it every one of those years but one. When I was eight or nine, I got in trouble. I don’t remember what I did to get in trouble, but I remember my punishment was that I was not allowed to watch Rudolph that night. I lay in the doorway of my room with my head sticking out in the hall (most of me was in my room), listening to the sounds of Rudolph coming from the living room.

I know it’s dated and sexist, and the animation is kind of cheesy, but I love that show. For many reasons. Even at such a young age, I knew I wanted a girl to think I was cute. I already felt like a misfit in a lot of ways, and the message in that program that “even misfits have a place” resonated with me.

So where in the world is this blog going and how does it relate to the title, you ask? Well, in the words of Sam the Snowman, “Pull up an ice block and I’ll tell you.”

There are several movies that I love at Christmastime: old movies like It’s a Wonderful Life, of course, and Miracle on 34th Street, The Bishop’s Wife, and The Bells of St. Mary – they never get old. But there are more recent movies as well, such as Sleepless in Seattle and While You Were Sleeping that I love also.

My own family became rather fractured after my mother’s death from cancer when I was 26. My dad remarried a woman who drove a wedge between us for nearly 20 years, and during that time, I stayed close only to my youngest sister and put together a family of choice – as many of us have. When Beth and I got together, her family was an enigma to me. There were a lot of them, they were loud and boisterous and (gasp) they actually seemed to like being together!!

As much as I enjoy being with them, in the beginning, my introvert side was often overwhelmed by all the togetherness. I often slipped away to an empty room or out into the yard for some quiet time. After a while, Beth would come to find me, and then the sisters came to find her and then the husbands and children would come to find them, and pretty soon, the entire family had gathered in the place I went to be alone. Beth could only give me an apologetic shrug and smile.

For over twenty years, I have sat at the table with them, watching fourteen or more people carrying on five conversations at once – and taking part in all five simultaneously. It cracks me up. At some point, I’ll lean toward Beth and say, “Cesar Romero was tall.” She just laughs. I’m so glad she gets me. My misfit days were done when I met her.

If you don’t get the Cesar Romero reference, you HAVE to watch While You Were Sleeping, and keep an eye out for the scene at the dinner table. You’ll understand then.

It was that sense of longing to belong, to be loved by someone who gets you despite (or maybe because of) your quirks that prompted my short story, Twist of the Magi.

Whatever you celebrate during this season of short days and long, dark nights – whether it’s the Solstice or Chanukah or Christmas or just time spent with family and friends, I wish for you the joy of knowing you belong somewhere with someone who gets you.

TWIST OF THE MAGI_eBook

Turning, Turning

“When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed, To turn, turn will be our delight, Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.” Joseph Brackett

I love the lyrics of that old Shaker song. It reminds me there are bigger things than my petty worries and my projects and, well… me. It reminds me that, even in the midst of all the busy-ness of my life, I need to be mindful and aware.

On that note (literally, I now have that song in my head), I have several updates to share with you. First, in case you didn’t see the announcement, my next novel, Turning for Home, will be published by Ylva Publishing in May 2015! You can check out the original announcement HERE, and read the blurb. I am very excited about this project. We’re already in the midst of the second round of edits and the experience has been fantastic! I’ll keep you apprised as we get a cover and a release date.

Fresh on the heels of that announcement, I have just published a Christmas short story titled Twist of the Magi. Here’s the blurb:

Christmas is not looking very merry for Penny Havers – she won’t be seeing her family for the holidays; she hasn’t had a girlfriend in forever; she can’t get her stories published. When two young women are hired at the shop where she works, Penny begins to think her luck may have changed. Penny is about to learn that, when Christmas works its magic, what you hope for isn’t always what you get.

Twist of the Magi is available from Amazon and Smashwords for only .99!

Most importantly, even though it is only early November, it is time to begin thinking about my next fundraiser for my local food bank. I will donate 50% of my royalties for the remainder of this month to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. All paperback and e-book sales will figure into that donation. If you haven’t bought any of my titles, this is a great time to do so. Remember, books make great gifts. Even e-books can be gifted now. All you need is the e-mail address of the recipient! Couldn’t be any easier.

If you can, please consider volunteering or donating to your local food bank. They all need extra help this time of year.

Peace and full bellies to all.

Caren

‘Tis the Season…Again

It seems like it was just a few weeks ago that I was writing about the increased summer demand for help in feeding hungry families whose kids were no longer getting free breakfasts and lunches at school. Now, we’re full swing into the holiday season. Many of us are blessed enough to have more than enough to eat, warm houses and enough money left over after all that to buy gifts and celebrate the season.

I know many families struggle to provide a nice Christmas for their kids, but there are a lot of worthy groups helping with those efforts. Children tug on our hearts at Christmas, but the poverty rate among our seniors is also very high. Many elderly people in the U.S. have only Social Security as their retirement income. I often have patients who tell me they can’t afford to come to their physical therapy appointments because they don’t have enough gas in the car to get them through until their next check.

In an effort to make a tiny dent in the need our local elderly face, I will donate 50% of my royalties for the month of December to our local food bank. All e-book and paperback sales will figure into the donation.

Wishing everyone a warm someone to hug and a joyful holiday season!

New puppy