‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL — THE REST OF THE STORY??? — PART 5

A few years ago, with my sincere apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens, I created a series of futuristic vignettes that take a look at a few of the characters of his heart-warming novel and what their lives may have been like decades beyond the words “The End” at the close of his masterpiece. Recently, I decided it would be fun to dig those stories out of my archives and dust them off. Maybe they will make this Christmas a little more fun. These tales are simply the result of my imagination being given free rein, but I offer them in the spirit of the season, hoping you’ll enjoy them. You can also find them in my Christmas anthology Stocking Full of Stories, available from Amazon.

Today is our final story, which focuses on The Spirit of Christmas Future

THE REST OF THE STORY PART 5 — THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS FUTURE: CHRISTMAS PLANET

“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. KTZY-TV is here at the 2025 Christmas Market Preview to interview The Spirit of Christmas Future and learn what’s in store this coming holiday season. Future is currently sitting atop one of the newest creations this year – the Infused Light Christmas Tree.  Christmas Future, can you hear me all right?”

“I can hear you fine, Tom. And as you explained, I am atop one of the smartest Christmas decorating ideas to come out in centuries. These gold, silver, and multi-colored trees come in several sizes. As you can see I’m sitting in the top branches of the largest size. Their primary feature is their self-infused lighting that glows gently from within and lights the entire tree evenly.”

“I see. So that cuts down the need to buy all those hard-to-handle strings of lights, then doesn’t it?”

“Exactly right, Tom. No more twisted cords to untangle; no more burned out bulbs that have to be hunted down and replaced; less time spent shopping for decorations – all those positive features will add to the ease of preparing for Christmas this year.”

“I see someone else important to Christmas has joined you down below the tree.”

“Oh, yes indeed. There’s St. Nicholas himself. We wanted him on hand to help introduce the video feed of Christmas Planet. I’ll go down and join him on the ground.”

Christmas Future sweeps from the tree branch and glides to a stop beside St. Nicholas. Before he has time to welcome the big guy, Future immediately presses his right hand to his ear to better hear the message coming into the headset he’s wearing. “Wonderful!” he says into the mouthpiece and then speaks directly to the newscaster again. “Tom, the video is ready to role. Focus your cameras on that screen behind me, and your audience will get the thrill of their lives.”

“Yes, we’re focused on the screen now.”

“All right, here it is right before the world’s eyes for the first time ever: Christmas Planet – the long-awaited masterpiece of inter-planetary travel. And the newest word in family holiday entertainment.

“As you can see, the planet itself is green, and even in the video that’s coming from a couple miles above the ground, you can see the red glow from the spectacular light show that is taking place at the main park.”

“That’s amazing!”

“Yes. As you know, Tom, NASA discovered this planet two years ago and began developing it specifically for the celebration of Christmas. Those amazing red light displays are part of the planet’s atmosphere, but it took the scientists all this time to harness those light waves and control them in order to use them in the Christmas productions planned for the visitors to the planet this year.”

“And any family from earth can travel by spaceship to Christmas Planet to celebrate the holidays, is that correct, Future?”

“Yes, Tom. NASA tells us the round trip – with tickets to all the events for two days and one night – is just about twice the cost of two full days at Disney World. And, of course, as we all know, Disney World has now been demoted to Christmas Past.”

“And when is the departure date for the first group of visitors?”

“December 10th will see the first group of families setting off in Noel I – the spacecraft specifically designed to shuttle visitors back and forth to Christmas Planet. And reservations have been coming in non-stop since last year, so anyone who wants to get in on the first year’s visits needs to be sure to go online and make the request today. According to NASA, the scheduled trips are nearly booked to capacity.”

“Well, unfortunately, we’re out of time now, but thank you, Christmas Future, for this thrilling report.”

“Thank you, Tom. And have a Merry Christmas.”

“Thank you, Future. The same to you.”

Turning his eyes back to the main camera in front of him, the announcer wraps up his newscast. “Well, folks, there you have it. Looks like Christmas has a great future ahead of it. I’m sure many of you out there want to make your own reservations, and you can contact NASA at the website showing now at the bottom of your screen. Until tomorrow evening, this is Tom Hilton wishing you good night, good news, and Merry Christmas!”    ♦

*****

Note To My Readers:  Thank you for imagining with me. I feel confident that Mr. Dickens would not begrudge me my little vignettes. In fact, I think he would probably encourage me to write even more. Charles Dickens was one of the world’s great storytellers, but he was even more. He was a man who saw far beyond the surface things of life, and he wrote most of his stories with an eye toward helping his readers to see beyond that surface as well. Exposing through his stories so many of the serious, even life-threatening social evils of his day, he literally changed a whole generation in many ways.

The one thing that stands out to me concerning A CHRISTMAS CAROL is that the story has had a powerful impact on every single generation since it was written. I don’t know of any piece of fiction that can equal it in having been told and retold and retold and retold for centuries. Even in our most modern digital society, we find at least a dozen different productions of the story — generally around Christmas time — spiffed up with currently fashionable clothing for costumes and high-tech corporate executives playing the main characters. But the truths of the story remain the same. And whether it’s a TV production, a local theatre group musical, a Hollywood spectacular, or an animated cartoon, every year brings the story around again, and it draws amazingly large audiences every time.  It’s so encouraging and exhilarating for a writer like me to know that an excellently crafted story with a strong moral theme can have such a powerful impact on our world year after year after year. It makes me want to write all the stories I can. What about you???


‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ — THE REST OF THE STORY??? — # 4

A few years ago, with my sincere apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens, I created a series of futuristic vignettes that take a look at a few of the characters of his heart-warming novel and what their lives may have been like decades beyond the words “The End” at the close of his masterpiece. Recently, I decided it would be fun to dig those stories out of my archives and dust them off. Maybe they will make this Christmas a little more fun. These tales are simply the result of my imagination being given free rein, but I offer them in the spirit of the season, hoping you’ll enjoy them. You can also find them in my Christmas anthology Stocking Full of Stories, available from Amazon.

Today’s story focuses on the Spirit of Christmas Present

THE REST OF THE STORY # 4 — THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT: LIVING IN THE HERE AND NOW

Reggie sat slumped in his chair, his right leg carelessly propped over the chair arm, gloom written all over him. He’d been this way for weeks, and hitting the bottle wasn’t helping him any. It just gave him a horrible headache the next morning. So tonight, he’d left off the booze, but he sat in a stupor anyway.

“Well, what a pretty picture you make tonight, Reginald, old boy!” The voice jolted him upright; he looked around.

“Who’s there?”

The voice took shape: on the sofa to his right, a well-tailored man gradually came into focus, lounging with his feet propped on the coffee table. “I’m generally called Spirit of Christmas Present. That’s what your Uncle Ebeneezer called me.”

“Oh, so you’re the one who supposedly helped him straighten out his life, huh?”

The figure shrugged. “Among others.”

“Well, you can go back where you came from,” Reggie said, at the same time making a shooing motion with his hand. “I don’t need anything you have to say!”

“You need a hammer to your head!” his visitor replied. “It’s just a shame I’m not allowed to give it to you.”

“Hey, where do you get off talking like that to me? Threatening to hit me in the head with a hammer! For what?”

“For constantly trying to live in a time dimension that it’s impossible for you to inhabit. You’re always trying to live either in the past – sucking on your memories the way a baby does his thumb – or in the future – always focusing on next week or next year. It’s stupid. Your memories make you miserable, and your future makes you anxious and edgy because it holds problems you don’t have answers for yet.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re here because you think you’re going to fix me?”

“No … I’m going to tell you how you can fix yourself.”

“Well, just maybe I don’t want to be fixed. What do you think about that?”

“Your uncle didn’t think he wanted to be fixed either – until he saw where his life was leading him. Do we have to give you the same kind of detailed, guided tour of your life that we gave him?”

“Who’s we?”

“You know – the Spirits of Christmas Past and Future, and yours truly.”

Reggie shivered in his chair. He would never consider admitting to this strange visitor that he believed what had happened to his old uncle, but he did have to admit to himself that he’d seen the changes in Ebeneezer first hand. And when his uncle had described his experience, it had sent cold chills down Reggie’s spine. He certainly didn’t want any more of that.

“Okay, okay. Just give me your spiel and let me get back to my contemplation.”

“What you were … contemplating … as you call it … was how sorry you are for yourself. And what I’m going to tell you will set you free from all your self-pity and wasted life if you’ll take heed to it.”

“Okay, okay, get on with it.”

“Well, it’s actually very simple, Reggie. You simply have to make yourself be where you are.”

“Huh?” Reggie shook his head briskly and sat forward in his chair, looking more intently at his visitor. “What the heck does that mean?”

His visitor sighed. “It means, Reg, that you need to live in the present hour — every hour of your life. Live now. You can’t re-do yesterdays, Reggie, and the future is nothing but a long series of ‘now’s’ that you’ll eventually experience one at a time. But when you get to them, you’ll have what it takes to deal with each of them. Trying to worry ahead of time about what might or might not be in those ‘now’s’ is ridiculous because you can’t even begin to know what they’ll be like. So why exhaust yourself worrying about them? And why drive yourself to drink by sitting around pitying yourself for the things that have already happened and can’t be changed?”

Reggie hung his head. “Yeah, I guess I have to admit my life’s a bummer coming and going.”

His visitor jumped up from the sofa, and Reggie looked up at him, a little fearful.

“Then for heaven’s sake, man, quit coming and going – hopping from your sad past to your unreadable future! Start living where you are and when you are. Take one day at a time, and one hour at a time. Look at it, feel it, taste it; let it soak into you; enjoy everything you can about it, and if you can’t enjoy it, then learn something from it. But live it. Start really living each one of those moments in your life, Reggie, and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.”

“But I don’t think I know how.”

“It isn’t rocket science, Reggie. As I said at the beginning of our conversation: it’s simple. You just have to decide to do it. And I’m not telling you everything will be the way you want it. Your life – like anyone else’s – will have its ups and downs. It may not always be great – but at least it will be real.”

Reggie hung his head again, trying to get a better handle on the fact that he was listening to some vision that had just suddenly appeared in his living room. He had to admit that what his visitor said gave him the first inkling of hope that he could actually have a better life. He looked back up to the visitor to say so — then blinked. The room was empty.    ♦

 


Tomorrow, our final story featuring The Spirit of Christmas Future

‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ — THE REST OF THE STORY ??? – # 3

A few years ago, with my sincere apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens, I created a series of futuristic vignettes that take a look at a few of the characters of his heart-warming novel and what their lives may have been like decades beyond the words “The End” at the close of his masterpiece. Recently, I decided it would be fun to dig those stories out of my archives and dust them off. Maybe they will make this Christmas a little more fun. These tales are simply the result of my imagination being given free rein, but I offer them in the spirit of the season, hoping you’ll enjoy them. You can also find them in my Christmas anthology Stocking Full of Stories, available from Amazon.

Today’s story focuses on the Spirit of Christmas Past


THE REST OF THE STORY # 3:  THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PAST — REQUEST FOR TRANSFER

“Mr. Alexander, the Spirit of Christmas Past is here for his 2:00 appointment.”

“Send him in.”

As the door opened, his boss could see that Past was unhappy.

“Good to see you, Past. We haven’t had a talk in – what – three or four years?”

“Four years, Sir,” Past said, taking a seat.

“I get a lot of good reports about your work. But you look unhappy. Is something wrong?”

“Yes, Sir. Something’s very wrong!”

“I’m sorry to hear that. Can I help?”

“Well, Sir, I was wondering if I couldn’t trade places with Christmas Present for a while.”

“But you’re an expert at what you do, Past. Why would you want to have to learn a whole new job?”

“Because I never get a chance to use any of the new stuff, sir – any of the new technology and advanced equipment and devices that men have invented in the last several decades. I never get to play video games, or use cell phones, or those gadgets they call iPods. Why, do you realize I’ve never even had a chance to use a computer?”

“Well, I have to admit that I hadn’t given that point any thought, Past, but you don’t need any of those devices in your work, do you?”

That’s just the point, sir. I don’t need any of those things in my work, so I get none of the fun involved with using them. And there’s something else that’s just recently come out – a brand new thing-a-ma-jig that they call Oculus that lets you experience hundreds of different virtual worlds and lets you perform feats and play games that go beyond the imagination!”

“Oculus, huh?”

“Yes sir.”

Mr. Alexander just shook his head in consternation. He didn’t understand all this new-fangled equipment either, but that fact hadn’t bothered him before now. Maybe he was starting to fall behind the times himself. He looked back at Past, unsure what to say because he knew there was no way The Boss would go along with moving Past to a totally new time dimension.

Past looked at him hopefully. “It just isn’t fair, Sir! And that’s why I’m asking for a transfer. I was sure you’d understand when I explained.”

Mr. Alexander leaned back in his chair and looked at Past kindly. “Let me think this over for a bit, Past, and, of course, I’ll have to run it by The Boss.

One week later, Past walked back into Mr. Alexander’s office, having been summoned there to discuss the troubling issue again. When he arrived, he saw several gaily wrapped packages of various sizes on Alexander’s desk.

“Have you just finished your Christmas shopping?” Past asked.

“Not exactly, Past, but I have been doing some shopping for some special gifts.”

He motioned to a chair in front of his desk. “Sit down, Past, and I’ll tell you about these packages.”

Past took his seat, his eyes alight with excitement, and Mr. Alexander stood with his hand on top of one of the larger gifts. “The Boss says we just can’t possibly reassign you to a different job, Past. You’ve been trained specifically for what you do, and you bring centuries of experience into every case you handle. So we need you to stay where you are.”

Immediately Past’s mouth drooped and his eyes lost their light, but before he could say anything, Alexander continued.

“But The Boss and I also understand you naturally feel cheated in certain areas because of the need to focus uniquely on people, facts, and events from a dimension of time that has none of the benefits of the present day. You don’t get to spend any time in the present, and certainly have no possible involvement in what’s coming down the road in the future.

“So –” he turned and lifted one of the gifts, smiling at Past – “we felt the least we could do was to give you some of the devices that you’ve longed for the last several years. You may not get to use them on the job, but you can have fun with them personally in your time off.” At that point, he handed Past the gift he’d been holding.

“Receive this with our deep appreciation for the terrific job you do, Past. And all these other packages as well,” he added, sweeping his hand over the entire collection. “There’s one of everything you mentioned to me in our last meeting, and we hope they will, in some small way, make up for all that you’ve missed out on.”

Past was speechless. He was barely able to reach out and take the package from his boss’ hands. “I’m … I’m … Well, I just don’t know what to say,” he stammered. “All of these are for me?”

“Indeed they are, Past. Enjoy them as much as you can. It’s the least we can do for you considering all the people you’ve helped and the lives you worked so hard to change for good during your many years of faithful service in the … well … you know . . . the past.”  ♦


Stay tuned for Parts 4 & 5 over the next two days.

‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL — THE REST OF THE STORY??? – # 2

A few years ago, with my sincere apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens, I created a series of futuristic vignettes that take a look at a few of the characters of his heart-warming novel and what their lives may have been like decades beyond the words “The End” at the close of his masterpiece. Recently, I decided it would be fun to dig those stories out of my archives and dust them off. Maybe they will make this Christmas a little more fun. These tales are simply the result of my imagination being given free rein, but I offer them in the spirit of the season, hoping you’ll enjoy them. You can also find them in my Christmas anthology Stocking Full of Stories, available from Amazon.

Today’s story focuses on Tiny Tim.

THE REST OF THE STORY # 2: GETTING A SECOND CHANCE

“Excuse me, Mr. Alexander. You wanted to see me?”

“Oh, yes, Christmas Past. I’ve called for Present and Future as well. Oh … here they are now. Come in, gentlemen.”

“Is there a problem, sir?” Present asked.

Mr. Alexander sighed deeply. “Indeed there is! Come over to the Earthglass, gentlemen, and take a look. We’re going to listen in on a businessman’s dealings, with a poor couple.”

****The Earthglass brings a large, modern office into view.****

“Don’t blabber to me about Christmas! I told you months ago that if you didn’t have all the money by today, I would foreclose on this date.” His eyes gleamed and he rubbed his hands together in delight, envisioning the two-story mall he planned to build next year. Then he looked at them again. “And by tomorrow morning, I’ll have the three houses south of you as well.

“Please, Mr. Cratchit —”

“Silence! Enough begging. Go home and pack!”

“ But it’s Christmas Eve!”

“Christmas! Bah! Humbug!”

Christmas Past looked at Mr. Alexander. “Sir … is that ….?”

“Recognize him, Past?”

“Not … surely not Tim Cratchit!?”

“Yes.” Mr. Alexander let out another lengthy sigh. I’m afraid so, gentlemen. Tiny Tim. Although he’s about 300 pounds past tiny now. He eats only fats and sugars. Too stingy to buy decent food.”

“Is he why you’ve called us, sir?” Future asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Alexander answered, turning from the Earthglass and sitting back down at his desk. The other spirits sat in chairs across from him. “After Ebeneezer Scrooge changed his ways so dramatically, he grew very close to the Cratchit family and eventually left the business to Cratchit – who left it to Tim. But human nature being what it is, greed always manages to seep back in, and now Tim’s become another Scrooge.”

“You want us to visit him, Sir?” Present asked.

“Yes. That’s why I’ve called you.  It will take all three of you again.  But greed has become so much worse in the world this century that I have serious doubts about the success of your venture this time.”

Present leaned forward, looking his superior in the eye. “Sir, surely you don’t think Tiny Tim is beyond hope.”

With another sigh, Mr. Alexander leaned back in his chair before answering. “I honestly don’t know, Present. But we’re going to pull out all the stops to try and turn him around. I’m sending Ebeneezer ahead of you three. He’ll prepare the way just as Marley did for Scrooge himself. Tiny Tim grew to really love that old man before Ebeneezer left the earth, so if anyone can get through Tim’s hardened heart, it would be Ebeneezer.

“Beyond that, it’s all in your hands, gentlemen,” Mr. Alexander said, rising to see them out of the office. They rose as well, shook his hand in turn, and promised to give the project their highest effort.

“I have no doubt that you will,” he said, “and I certainly wish you God speed. It’s Christmas after all – the season of hope. I’ll hold onto that hope as tightly as possible while you do your work.”  ♦


Check back the next 3 days to read ‘the rest of the story’ for the spirits of past, present, and future.

‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ — THE REST OF THE STORY??? – # 1

A few years ago, with my sincere apologies to Mr. Charles Dickens, I created a series of futuristic vignettes that take a look at a few of the characters of his heart-warming novel and what their lives may have been like decades beyond the words “The End” at the close of his masterpiece. Recently, I decided it would be fun to dig those stories out of my archives and dust them off. Maybe they will make this Christmas a little more fun. These tales are simply the result of my imagination being given free rein, but I offer them in the spirit of the season, hoping you’ll enjoy them. You can also find them in my Christmas anthology Stocking Full of Stories, available from Amazon.

Today’s story deals with Ebenezer. But be sure and come back for the next 4 days as I tell you “the rest of the story” about Tiny Tim, and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future.


THE REST OF THE STORY PART 1:  EBENEZER THE SUITOR

Ebenezer had never felt his heart stop beating before. Was that what was happening, or was he just forgetting to breathe? He wasn’t sure, but He did know he was looking at the most beautiful creature he’d ever seen, and he was glad he’d worn the new suit.

“Ebenezer, meet my cousin, Marilee Cratchit,” said Bob.

Marilee extended her hand, and Ebenezer took it, becoming submerged in the magical cloud of her cologne. He’d been nervous about attending this party, but since his regeneration on Christmas day last year, he was welcomed everywhere. Right now he felt ten feet off the ground. It seemed being a kind, generous man really was the most important thing in life.

“Ebeneezer, I’ve been dying to meet you,” Marilee cooed. “Come sit with me and talk.”

His heart danced. He couldn’t believe anyone so beautiful and fragile would be interested in spending time with him. His heart skipped a couple beats as he wondered: was he actually going to get another chance at love?

“What shall we talk about?” he asked her, contemplating ways to express his renewed heart to her. Ever since his transformation, he found that he wanted to tell everyone how good life was when you learned that people are more important than money.

“I’d like to talk about your money, of course!” she said. “They say you’re the richest man in London!”

Disappointed at her words, he answered: “Uh … I don’t know. Is it important?”

“Well it is to me! Without a lot of money one can’t own a fine home, or fashionable clothes, or beautiful jewelry. And there’s no chance to travel and have fun without a lot of money either. Surely you, of all people, know how important it is.”

“Well, I admit that I used to feel that way. In fact it cost me the love a wonderful woman when I was quite young. But last year I had a most unusual experience that taught me a valuable lesson about life.”

“Oh? What lesson was that?”

“That people are much more valuable than money and that unless you care about people money doesn’t really do you any good because no matter how many things you buy with it, it cannot take away loneliness and give you love.”

“Well, I’ll take my chances,” she said. “I do not intend to be poor or to do without all the finer things in life.” She gave him a saucy look, her seductive smile in place. “I may as well warn you, Ebbie, I’m looking for a rich husband, and I have my eye on you.”

He squirmed just a little where he sat and cleared his throat. “Marilee,” he said, “I think perhaps there’s a book you should read. I’ll loan you my copy. It’s a little Christmas story by Charles Dickens.”  ♦


THANKSGIVING POEMS

I sometimes like to go back and browse through my holiday writings from past years. The poems and stories I wrote 2 or 3 — or  8 oar 10 — years ago meant a lot to me and still do. So I often recycle them when those holidays roll around again. I hope you enjoy these recycled Thanksgiving poems.

`

AH, THANKSGIVING, HOW I LOVE YOU!

Ah, Thanksgiving, how I love you!
Golden crowning jewel of Fall,
Beacon of warmth and cam’raderie,
Sending glad invitation to all:

“Gather to worship; gather to visit;
Gather to focus on all that’s worthwhile;
Feast from tables resplendent with harvest;
Feast on the love in a touch and a smile.”

All the year’s labors weigh heavy upon us.
All the world’s problems seem bigger by far.
But out from that wearisome struggle you call us,
And laying it down, we run to where you are.

And whether in cottages, mansions, or churches,
Community buildings, or tables in parks,
We gather with gratitude full – overflowing;
To the Giver of blessings lift voices and hearts.

Then we return to life’s pattern awaiting.
Filled up with joy, we set off on our way,
Warmer and richer and kinder in spirit
For pausing to celebrate Thanksgiving Day.

*** 


THANKSGIVING ACROSTIC

Thursdays come and go; in every month there’s four or five.
Hardly anyone’s attention they demand.
Ahh, but there’s one month when Thursday is a special day.
November’s got the situation well in hand.
Kinsmen young & old along with neighbors, best of friends,
Stop their normal labor briefly and, instead,
Gather close, declare a feast, and celebrate all day
In churches, homes, and civic halls – wherever led.
Voices glad and warm with love fill up the heart and soul,
Inviting those attending to lay burdens down.
Neath autumn’s healthy harvest, tables beckon us: so come;
Giving thanks to God, now let us gather ’round.

***


WHAT’S FOR DINNER?

I spot him there, behind the barn,
A full-plumed, regal bird.
He looks up, straight into my eyes.
I speak no single word.

It’s happened thus, in passing years —
At least for two or three:
Each mid-November I’ve set my mind;
He’s been there to greet me.

Now, lifting his head in challenge strong,
He gobbles loud and long.
I lower my gun and heave a sigh:
To kill him would be wrong!

So, wrestling with my double mind,
I trek home to my wife
To explain why, once again this year,
Ham will greet the carving knife.

***


HAVING A HAIKU DAY

I just felt like having a haiku day today. No particular subject matter. I’ve been all over the place subject-wise. So sit back and enjoy these 5 little capsules of my thoughts over the past 24 hours.

KEYS

photo courtesy of MSA-90 @ pixabay.com

Where there is a key
There is a door to open:
Adventure awaits.


SMOKY MOUNTAINS

`

The mountains call me:
“Come nestle in our bosom.
Your dreams are safe here.”


CHRISTMAS TREES

photo courtesy of Gerd Altmann @ pixabay.com

Stately sentinels:
Evergreens with glitter dressed,
Guarding Christmas joy.


FEATHERS

`

Feathers fascinate.
Fluffy soft, yet not fragile.
Plumage fit for flight.


AUTUMN

photo courtesy of Visions Seen Photography

Favorite season.
The year preparing for sleep
‘Neath blanket of leaves.





trent’s weekly smile — 1/14/22

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had an opportunity to participate in Trent’s Weekly Smile posts, but I really did want to get back to it. The truth is that I haven’t been posting regularly at all during the past year and a half. Like most people, my whole life — work, social functions, even ministry functions — have been totally messed up with all the covid junk. (I refuse to capitalize that word; it doesn’t deserve to be capitalized.)  There have been a number of things that kept me from smiling. My sister had a battle with cancer during that time, and she passed away in the latter half of 2021. So smiles have been a little hard to come by.

She was the only really close family I had left, although I do try to stay connected with her two sons and their families. This year at Christmas, we felt the need to be connected even more strongly, but on Christmas Eve, one of my nephews and his wife had to be tested for covid, and they couldn’t get the results back in time for us to be together at Christmas. They didn’t have covid (and that in itself is worth a smile), but our window of opportunity for that holiday was past. But not to be defeated, we finally worked out a plan to get together at a later time, so that we could all eat together and open gifts and just have another “family” Christmas.

Now, I come to the ‘SMILE’ part of my story. One of my nephews had bought the newest Oculus Quest for his brother’s kids. Now, I has seen these gizmos and had watched a couple kids having fun with them, but I never even thought about trying one out. But, lo and behold, my nephew who had purchased the Oculus decided his 73-year-old aunt needed to get into the 21st century a little better, so he insisted that I put on the headset and let him instruct me in how to use it.

I’m not sure how many of you readers out there have tried out the Oculus Quest, so some of you probably know a lot more about it than I do even now, but I can say it was truly an experience I hadn’t even imagined. I’ve seen sci-fi movies in which characters experienced some things like I experienced with the Oculus, but I just never really thought about doing so myself. 

It was truly like entering an entirely different world. In fact the scene that came up immediately made me feel that I was standing on a strange planet, and if I hadn’t felt the good old Earth beneath my feet, I would have been a little nervous. I have to say the fact that my nephew and his son made an issue of making sure I had plenty of empty space all around me before I put the headset on was a little unnerving to begin with. My thought was, What am I going to be doing in all this space? But I realized that it was just precautionary since I couldn’t see the real word around me at all once the headset was on.

The options for activities and games that are literally “at your fingertips” is amazing. Just learning how to maneuver the hand sets was an experience. But as strange as it was, it was also delightful. I definitely smiled a lot. And even though it’s been a little more than a week since that experience, I am still smiling every time I remember it. So I figured why not make that the smile I share for this week.

The takeaway from all this experience is two-fold: Remembering it and the comradery with my nephews still makes me smile — and the whole experience has triggered a couple new ideas for brand new stories. And new story ideas always make me smile. So if any of you writers out there haven’t tried out the Oculus Quest yet, you might want to put it on your list of things to do in this New Year.

 


Poems At Christmas – # 3

WINTER FRIENDS

I had a little snowman;
His smile was big and wide.
He was a happy snowman,
When I was by his side.

But since it was quite freezing,
I could not stay and play,
And when I had to go in,
He followed me one day.

I hurried to the fireplace
To warm my hands and toes,
And suddenly I found myself
Adrift in melted snow.

My happy little snowman
Had come inside to play,
Not knowing that the warm fire
Would melt him quite away.

But not to worry, dear friends;
I’ve dipped him up you see,
And poured the water outside
Where it will now refreeze.

Then I’ll scoop him back up
Add some fresh snow too,
And mold him back together
So he’ll be good as new.


Being Present

I glanced at the screen on my cell phone this morning and noted the date: Friday, December 17, 2021. And normally I would have laid the phone down and gone on about my business, giving the information very little thought. But, for some reason, I was suddenly struck by the thought that this was going to be the only day I would ever see that particular date. It is a reality today, but only for today, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. I know — some of you are thinking — what on earth is she talking about? Does this woman have nothing else to do with her time?  🙂

Actually, I had a whole list of things I needed to do with my time today, but I just couldn’t get away from that thought for quite a while. I realized pretty quickly that the Lord was taking advantage of that date on the phone to get me to focus on the fact that I needed to be cognizant of today. I didn’t need to be thinking about yesterday and all the stuff I didn’t get done, or that I did wrong, or even what I did right. I lived yesterday completely, and it’s gone. And He didn’t want me focusing on all the plans coming up for the next week, trying to figure out how I could make them all work out.  He especially didn’t want me focusing on all the possible future things that had the power to cause me worry or fear. 

He wanted me focusing on Him and what was on His heart for me to do and be today. He has plans for all of us that are good. But He so seldom gets our full attention long enough to be able to make us understand what those plans are and to get us to carry them out. I’m convinced from my many decades of walking with God that there isn’t a day that goes by that He doesn’t have some good things in mind for us to be a part of.

So as I contemplated the truth about this day being a unique gift that will come to me only once in my entire lifetime, I realized that I too wanted to be focused on what I could do and be that was good today. And I wanted to focus on some good things that could come my way as well — things that wouldn’t have an opportunity to come to me tomorrow or next week — but just today. I kept hearing this admonition in my heart: “Be present in this day. Enjoy it. Be grateful for it. Live it to the fullest.”

As those thoughts lodged in my heart, I was reminded of a little short story I wrote several years ago — a sort of “take-off” from Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was participating in a writing challenge in which we were supposed to write about some of the characters as if they were living today. One of those stories made the very point that the Lord was making to me today about being present in the here and now. So I thought I’d share it here in this post. It fits into the season, since I’ve borrowed the Spirit of Christmas Present. Some of you might remember the story, and several of you will be reading it for the first time. But I hope it spurs each of you on to focus on being truly present in your day today — and then to do so again tomorrow — and the next day — and — well, you know.

THE SPIRIT OF CHRISTMAS PRESENT: LIVING IN THE HERE AND NOW

Reggie sat slumped in his chair, his right leg carelessly propped over the chair arm, gloom written all over him. He’d been this way for weeks, and hitting the bottle wasn’t helping him any. It just gave him a horrible headache the next morning. So tonight, he’d left off the booze, but he sat in a stupor anyway.

“Well, what a pretty picture you make tonight, Reginald, old boy!” The voice jolted him upright; he looked around.

“Who’s there?”

The voice took shape: on the sofa to his right, a well-tailored man gradually came into focus, lounging with his feet propped on the coffee table. “I’m generally called Spirit of Christmas Present. That’s what your Uncle Ebeneezer called me.”

“Oh, so you’re the one who supposedly helped him straighten out his life, huh?”

The figure shrugged. “Among others.”

“Well, you can go back where you came from,” Reggie said, at the same time making a shooing motion with his hand. “I don’t need anything you have to say!”

“You need a hammer to your head!,” his visitor replied. “It’s just a shame I’m not allowed to give it to you.”

“Hey, where do you get off talking like that to me? Threatening to hit me in the head with a hammer! For what?”

“For constantly trying to live in a time dimension that it’s impossible for you to inhabit. You’re always trying to live either in the past – sucking on your memories the way a baby does his thumb – or in the future – always focusing on next week or next year. It’s stupid. Your memories make you miserable, and your future makes you anxious and edgy because it holds problems you don’t have answers for yet.”

“Oh, I get it. You’re here because you think you’re going to fix me?”

“No … I’m going to tell you how you can fix yourself.”

“Well, just maybe I don’t want to be fixed. What do you think about that?”

“Your uncle didn’t think he wanted to be fixed either – until he saw where his life was leading him. Do we have to give you the same kind of detailed, guided tour of your life that we did for him?”

“Who’s we?”

“You know – the Spirits of Christmas Past and Future, and yours truly.”

Reggie shivered in his chair. He would never consider admitting to this strange visitor that he believed what had happened to his old uncle, but he did have to admit to himself that he’d seen the changes in Ebeneezer first hand. And when his uncle had described his experience, it had sent cold chills down Reggie’s spine. He certainly didn’t want any more of that.

“Okay, okay. Just give me your spiel and let me get back to my contemplation.”

“What you were … contemplating … as you call it … was how sorry you are for yourself. And what I’m going to tell you will set you free from all your self-pity and wasted life if you’ll take heed to it.”

“Okay, okay, get on with it.”

“Well, it’s actually very simple, Reggie. You simply have to make yourself be where you are.”

“Huh?” Reggie shook his head briskly and sat forward in his chair, looking more intently at his visitor. “What the heck does that mean?”

His visitor sighed. “It means, Reg, that you need to live in the present hour — every hour of your life. Live now. You can’t re-do yesterdays, Reggie, and the future is nothing but a long series of ‘now’s’ that you’ll eventually experience one at a time. But when you get to them, you’ll have what it takes to deal with each of them. Trying to worry ahead of time about what might or might not be in those ‘now’s’ is ridiculous because you can’t even begin to know what they’ll be like. So why exhaust yourself worrying about them? And why drive yourself to drink by sitting around pitying yourself for the things that have already happened and can’t be changed?”

Reggie hung his head. “Yeah, I guess I have to admit my life’s a bummer coming and going.”

His visitor jumped up from the sofa, and Reggie looked up at him, a little fearful.

“Then for heaven’s sake, man, quit coming and going – hopping from your sad past to your unreadable future! Start living where you are and when you are. Take one day at a time, and one hour at a time. Look at it, feel it, taste it; let it soak into you; enjoy everything you can about it, and if you can’t enjoy it, then learn something from it. But live it. Start really living each one of those moments in your life, Reggie, and you’ll be surprised at the outcome.”

“But I don’t think I know how.”

“It isn’t rocket science, Reggie. As I said at the beginning of our conversation: it’s simple. You just have to decide to do it. And I’m not telling you everything will be the way you want it. Your life – like anyone else’s – will have its ups and downs. It may not always be great – but at least it will be real.”

Reggie hung his head again, leaning over with his elbows on his knees, trying to get a better handle on the fact that he was listening to some vision that had just suddenly appeared in his living room. He had to admit that what his visitor said gave him the first inkling of hope that he could actually have a better life.

“Yeah, you might be right.” He surprised himself by saying the words aloud. He was still looking down at the floor but his mind was going back over his visitor’s words. Even though it felt a little spooky hearing them from this apparition, he knew in his heart that he needed to try to follow the advice.

“I’ll do it!” he said as he looked back up to the visitor to confirm his decision. But then he blinked. The room was empty.



Poems of Christmas – # 2

IF YOUR TINSEL’S IN A TANGLE

Is your tinsel in a tangle?
Is your wreath hung at an angle?
Are you starting to feel stressed and quite undone?

Is your credit card maxed out?
Are the kids bored, in a pout?
Have you given up the hope of having fun?

Well, forget the tangled messes
And the aggravated voices,
And forget about more shopping that’s not done.

Stop the hassle and the frazzle;
Look away from what bedazzles
To the reason for the season. There’s just one.

Jesus Christ – He is the reason.
His birth brought about the season,
For the Father gave His one and only Son.

If you’ll focus on His coming,
You will hear your heart start humming,
And will find your merry Christmas has begun.


Excerpted from my book of Christmas and winter poems: KEEPING CHRISTMAS.


on a roll with my christmas bags

Yay!  I’m on a roll getting my Christmas gift bags painted. Usually, I’m running very close to Christmas getting any of these done. But I now have 4 completed, and I may get two more finished by the end of the day. Both of the newest ones have a touch of gold, which really adds to the holiday spirit. The one with blue flowers is done in watercolor, and the one with red roses is acrylics. I think I probably get more fun out of painting them than recipients do out of receiving them, but that’s okay. I paint mainly to destress and relax anyway. And I love anything Christmasy. So bring on the bags.

 


KEEPING CHRISTMAS

CHRISTMAS POETRY: Wonderful gift for someone you love.
 
Christmas is my favorite time of year, so, naturally, I’ve written multiple poems about it. This year, I decided that it was time to collect them from the various nooks and crannies where they’ve been tucked away and bind them up together as my special Christmas gift to friends and family. I hope some of you, my WordPress friends and family will enjoy them as well.
 
A unique collection of my own works — a variety of poetic forms and themes celebrating the delights of winter and especially the Christmas holidays. Readers will enjoy the diversity of this collection, which covers funny, nostalgic, inspirational, and faith-building aspects of the Christmas season.
 
The cover features my own artwork as well. Soft-cover, 5 1/2 x 81/2, 49 pages. $5.00. You can get your copies from Amazon, or you can get signed copies from me if you live in the U.S. Sorry about not shipping outside the U.S. The cost is astronomical for so many places right now.
 
Order from Amazon this week to guarantee copies before Christmas. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09M79NN3H