A Full Circle Christmas and Dog-Eared Reads

 

My youngest daughter called me from Barnes & Noble the other day. “What are 12-year-old boys reading these days?” she asked.

She’d adopted a needy family whose name she got from a Christmas three at the mall.

It was a sweet reminder. We’ve come full circle.

“Did you know our little family was adopted one Christmas when you were small?” I asked her.

It was the Christmas of 1990.  A woman rang my doorbell and left a toboggan on the front porch, filled with gifts and preloaded stockings and all the food to make a Christmas feast. There were winter jackets for us all, wrapped toys for my daughters, socks and mittens and hats. Everything we could ever want or need. It was the best Christmas we’d ever had. It would be the only Christmas that I didn’t worry about how their holiday compared to those of their peers.

Comparing holiday spoils was something I was adept at. As a child, I dreaded returning to school after Christmas break. “What did get? Where did you go?” Basic stuff kids ask kids. Questions I was too embarrassed to answer.

When I became a mom, I tried to make sure my kids’ Christmases were great. I cooked the big meal or said yes to a lot of invitations to share it with friends. Along with the book or sweater I bought new for the girls were presents scavenged from Value Village, wrapped as pretend-new gift. I hoped their holidays would measure up to their friends’ scrutiny.

The thing is, there wasn’t any scrutiny from their friends.  But the girls certainly felt my pain. They felt it through my moodiness and meltdowns. And they felt it through my martyrdom.

When they were teens, my oldest daughter broke it down for me.

“You do realize that you ruin all of our holidays by trying so hard, don’t you?”

I was gob smacked. While it was tough to hear, it was also freeing. Who says holidays need to be perfect?

Holidays have a way of amplifying old insecurities or hurts if we let them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

In later years, my daughters and I settled on easier holiday routines. For gifts, we get one another things to experience. A pedicure, a massage, movie tickets, books. We like brunch with egg nog French toast casserole better than turkeys. And we like just enough time together that the sweetness lingers, but not so much that old bitterness’s resurface.

It doesn’t always work. And the trick for me is not expecting perfection on Christmas and other holidays when I enjoy an imperfect life all of the other days.

And the other trick is to appreciate the ability I now have to both give and receive.
I wonder sometimes about the nice family that adopted mine so many Christmases ago.  I wish they knew how they touched our lives, and that we’re doing our best to pay it forward.

I hope you enjoy your holidays. And drop me a line if you know what 12 year-old boys are reading these days. It’s fun to hear from you.

Here are some of my recent reads from Alaskan writers.

From L to R- Homestead Girl, Whisper Mama, The Shadows in My Heart, Trumpula


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for stopping by.

If you’ve wanted to come to one of my book events but couldn’t, here’s a link to a recent interview from Radio KMXT’s Dog Eared Reads.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Homestead Girl Author Chantelle Pence

  When did you know that you wanted to share your stories in the form of a book?

It sounds kind of hokey to say that I wanted to write a book since I was a child, but it’s true.
After I read The Outsiders when I was about ten years old, I had a distinct thought: “I could do this…” I thought it again after reading The Prophet and after I finished Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which was my favorite book as a young child.

I knew that I loved writing, but I didn’t pursue it as a serious craft until I was in my early thirties. My education and professional background is in Human Services, not journalism, so it took some time and permission-seeking from others, before I finally told myself, “If you want to be a writer, just write!” I had notebooks and computer files full of writing, but when I shared my first piece with friends and family, I was trembling. Any offering of writing is an act of vulnerability, and most of my stories are very personal in nature, so it was scary.

I discovered that my writing resonated with people, beyond my friends and family, when I started submitting pieces to the Anchorage Daily News as well as to local and regional publications. I began getting feedback and encouragement to keep writing. I even received phone calls, letters, and emails from some state officials after certain essays were published in the paper. At some point I decided that I had earned the right to write a book. I didn’t have a degree in journalism or creative writing, but I had a body of work that I could stand on. I applied for, and received, an Individual Artist Award from the Rasmuson Foundation, which funded my first book project.



  What was your favorite part  of Homestead Girl to write?
I don’t know that I have a favorite story, but I love the process of story making. One essay in Homestead Girl describes the feeling I get when a story is ready to come through. I liken it to a “joik”, a style of song that is native to the Sami, the indigenous people of Northern Europe. They don’t joik about a person, place, or thing. They joik it into being. It’s not a retelling, it’s a conjuring. I don’t even bother sitting down to write, unless I feel the story coming. It’s not a thinking process, it’s more like feeling the spirit of the story and giving it a body. Sometimes a story will flit about for days, or weeks, before it’s ready to come through. When it does it’s a great relief, and frees me up for other things…until the next story starts whispering.

 What surprised you the most about writing and publishing nonfiction?

I am pleasantly surprised that I don’t get more hate mail! I get a bit, and it’s to be expected because some of the subject matters that I explore are controversial or uncomfortable. My intention, always, when I write about things that are not so pleasant (a recent sexual abuse article comes to mind), is to shine a light and offer solutions. I also write from the ground level, not up on a pedestal. I promised myself a long time ago that if I were going to write about sensitive subjects I would put myself right in it, and share my own failings, not just point out problems and act like I’m perfect. I had to get over the desire to want to be liked or to look good.
Generally, people appreciate the honesty in my writing. I know it’s not always easy for my family or community when I share certain things, but I do believe that the truth sets people free.

 Your book has done very well, and I’ve noticed your articles that appear in the local newspaper reference your book, increasing its visibility. You have also done some out-of-the-box promoting.
 What promotional advice would you give prospective author about publishing his or her book?
You have to put it in front of people.  Your friends and family will buy your book, but others won’t unless they know about it. I go anywhere that will have me (book fairs, farmer’s markets, book clubs, craft fairs, etc.), but I don’t think of it as marketing. I think of it as an opportunity to meet new friends and readers. This has truly been the best aspect of the book release. I did a Books and Brew tour that was really fun! I was able to do readings and pop-up book signings at some of our Alaskan breweries, and met really fantastic people. That’s what it’s all about for me.

  How can readers best connect with you?
Go to www.chantellepence.com and fill out the form on the Contact page.