Books: The Perfect Christmas

I picked up this book at Value Village just before Christmas, and only just now got around to reading it. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it very much.
This two-tale book is well written, as are all of Debbie Macomber’s books, I’ve found. The first and longer tale, The Perfect Christmas — © 2009 — is one of those non-romantic romances where two people meet and don’t like each other. However, the author does this in a realistic way with no phony melodrama, no spitting nails at each other, such as you often see in modern anti-romances. The characters and dialogue are believable, professional, and respectful. The idea of paying that much money to find a spouse is the only thing I found incredible — but I don’t live in big city USA.
Seeing as the dating scene hasn’t delivered her dream spouse, Cassie Beaumont takes a friend’s advice and hands over $30,000 to a professional matchmaker to find her a well-matched mate. Rude and abrupt Simon Dodson may be, but she has to go along with his programme if she wants results. Determined to find the man she can live with, and have a family with, she can’t afford to have Simon, the psychologist running this business, get upset and refuse to work with her.
He proposes three character tests for her — and these are real jewels in themselves! I really enjoyed the realistic experiences Cassie has and what she learns as she works in these situations Simon has set up for her. Hats off to the writer for an excellent job on this part! She passes the tests and Simon promises to deliver the perfect spouse for her. But a wrench lands in the gears…

Can This Be Christmas? is an older, shorter story (© 1998) the writer has added as a bonus, yet it’s worth buying the book just for this one. Focusing on five characters needing to join family for Christmas, this morphs into a heartwarming human interest account of strangers stranded in a train station by a winter storm. None of them want to be here, but the Christmas spirit softens each one individually and melts them together as friends.

I rarely give a book five stars, but this one deserves them all.

Of Puffer fish & Willpower

after weeks of
cleansing fast  a large pizza
her puffer fish act

Another haiku with a story behind it.

Twenty-some years back I met a lady in her mid-forties; in time she became a dear friend. Was it because of her dysfunctional childhood, or the accident she was in that left her in a coma for twelve days, or maybe some of both? At any rate, you’d have to say she was emotionally unbalanced — and had been attending a church where emotional responses were often stirred and encouraged. She was cheerful, likeable, outgoing — but not very disciplined or stable.

At some point she had accepted the concept cleansing fasts, and even discovered a retreat in the country where she could go and cleanse her body of all the impurities tainting our modern diet. In addiction to the physical benefits, she felt that fasting brought her closer to God and told me that one time she had actually fasted for 40 days, just like Jesus. However, I suspect the dream of getting back to a slimmer figure hovered not far in the background.

My dear friend had a couple of weaknesses that affected her health. Like most of us, she was fond of tasty food — which included baking and other sweets. Plus, she smoked — a habit she didn’t like at all. So she viewed going to this retreat for a month or so, where she neither eat nor smoke, was a blessing four-fold: she could relax in a no-pressure environment, lose weight, crack the nicotine habit, and gain spiritually.

We visited her there a couple of times. It appeared she had nothing much to do at this retreat except relax, read, meditate, and detoxify in the small room she was given. There were a number of other guests, with a nurse present 24/7 to make sure no one suffered serious health problems because of the regime. When my friend’s fast was over she was put on a juice diet for a couple of days to re-adjust her body to food. Then she paid the rather hefty bill — this place was into making money as well as healing bodies — and went home.

This “coming back to the real world” got me involved one day — and my involvement brings me to story behind the senryu I’ve penned.

Early one morning my phone rang; my friend was telling me she needed watermelon and could I help her out? Could I buy one and bring it to her apartment? (She didn’t own a car.) She explained that she’d just got home from spending several weeks at the retreat and her body was reacting negatively to food. She needed watermelon to “flush out the salt” being retained in her tissues.

I didn’t know much about what fruits & veggies have diuretic properties, but she mentioned a few and was glad to help. I picked up these foods and went over to her place, where I heard the facts of her current health issue.

When she got home from her fast she’d been so hungry, she ordered an extra-large pizza and ate the whole thing. Her body was reacting big time to the sudden overload.

Reading history I’ve learned this isn’t an uncommon reaction for people who’ve been starved for a time. Their brain registers FOOD! and common sense is lost among the impulses. Their hands automatically start stuffing and people may even eat themselves to death. For my friend, all that salt in her pizza spread through her system, causing her tissues retain fluid until she was uncomfortably bloated.

Maybe puffer fish is an exaggeration, but the simile came to me and I thought it an interesting comparison.

In time my friend discovered one long-term side-effect of those prolonged fasts: starving drains your bones of much-needed minerals like calcium. One day she tripped going down some stairs and broke her leg. Her doctor, after seeing the x-ray, told her, “Your shattered bone looks just like corn flakes.”

It seems self-discipline and will power are rather like muscles. If we don’t use them, they become limp. Bypassing self-discipline in favor of complete abstinence, she short-circuited her willpower. Later, faced with the same temptations, she caved. Food and cigarettes became chronic problems. I won’t say that fasting is either wrong or harmful, in moderation, but nothing can build up the muscles of self-control, or deliver us from our vices, like the day-by-day exercise of resisting temptation.

Sad to say, my friend didn’t live long enough to reap the benefits of all that system-cleansing, either. Shortly after she turned 65 she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer and died a year or so later.

I think of her often, and miss visiting with her.

The Best of Friends

To An Old Friend

by Edgar A. Guest

When we have lived our little lives
and wandered all their byways through,
when we’ve seen all that we shall see
and finished all that we must do,

when we shall take one backward look
off yonder where our journey ends,
I pray that you shall be as glad as I
shall be that we were friends.

Time was we started out to find
the treasures and the joys of life;
we sought them in the land of gold
through many days of bitter strife.

When we were young we yearned for fame;
in search of joy we went afar,
only to learn how very cold
and distant all the strangers are.

When we have met all we shall meet
and know what destiny has planned,
I shall rejoice in that last hour that I
have known your friendly hand.

I shall go singing down the way
off yonder as my sun descends
as one who’s had a happy life,
made glorious by the best of friends.

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

Two Kinds of Friends

Thoughts
by Sara Teasdale

When I am all alone
envy me most,
then my thoughts flutter round me
in a glimmering host;

some dressed in silver,
some dressed in white,
each like a taper
blossoming light;

Most of them merry,
some of them grave,
each of them lithe
as willows that wave;

some bearing violets,
some bearing bay,
one with a burning rose
hidden away.

When I am all alone
envy me then,
for I have better friends
than women and men.

From The Collected Poems of Sara Teasdale
Last renewal 1937 by Sara Teasdale Filsinger
Published by The Macmillan Company

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A Mile With Me
By Henry van Dyke
1852 — 1933

Oh, who will walk a mile with me
along life’s merry way?
A comrade blithe and full of glee
who dares to laugh out loud and free
and let his frolic fancy play
like a happy child, through the flowers gay
that fill the field and fringe the way
where he walks a mile with me.

And who will walk a mile with me
along life’s weary way?
A friend whose heart has eyes to see
the stars shine out o’er the darkening lea,
and the quiet rest at the end of the day.
A friend who knows and dares to say
the brave, sweet words that cheer the way
where he walks a mile with me.

With such a comrade, such a friend,
I fain would walk till journey’s end
through summer sunshine, winter rain,
and then — farewell, we shall meet again!

My response to the Ragtag Daily prompt: FRIEND

Be There for Me

Fellow Blogger Joel Tipple has posted an inspiring poem about coming along beside and lending strength and support to someone who’s down. He’s kindlly allowed me to reblog it so you can enjoy it, too.

Hop over to Write here, Joel to read more inspiring Christian poetry. There’s a link in my sidebar.

Write here, Joel.

Be there for me
when everything’s wrong.
Be there for me
when I’m not feeling strong.
When everyone runs away
like I’m a building burning,
run to me and say you’ll stay.

I sometimes dream there will be a day,
when I can stand for someone too
but then this tidal wave of sad knocks me over.
I might be able to hold on a little longer
if I knew you’d row out
and pull me in with your oar.

Be there for me
when I’m not attractive or fun,
when I don’t have anything
that anyone would want,
when I look like I’ve been washed up
by the sands of time,
when what separates me and death
is a very thin line.

I’ve heard your Jesus
went through a lot too.
If you know him, could he help me too?
I’m not looking for charity,
I just need a…

View original post 35 more words

Rosy Dreams

Soap bubble
Photo from Pixabay

rosy dreams
rainbows in the
soap bubbles

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Home again, home again, market is done.”
Remember that little nursery rhyme? A slightly adapted version is running through my mind this morning:
“Home again, home again, travel is done.”

We had a great time with our friends, Ron & Lydia, who took us to Grand Prairie to visit one of Bob’s some long-lost fourth cousins. We also attended church with Rons and got to meet other friends we haven’t seen for years. It’s a beautiful country of high hills, deep valleys, muddy roads. 🙂 While it’s been so dry here, that land is getting lots of rain: four inches over the weekend we were there!

Back to earth again, this morning I dream of laundry and giving my house a good cleaning. When this haiku verse came to me Tuesday I jotted it down. It seems a suitable response to Fandango’s prompt this morning: DREAMER