Woman@Heart

Musings on Life, Love and Lefovers

A Pillowcase of Costumes

“What are you going to be for Halloween?

It’s the most asked question during October. At recess, in between soccer drills or on the drive to piano lessons, you hear preschoolers and preteens, alike, eagerly pondering the possibilities.

At my house there was always a lot of discussion before the Halloween dress-up decision was made. Like every other 3- to 13-year-old, my sons, Shawn, Jake and Seth, took their time making this important selection. Woe to the kid who chooses too quickly and settles for something simple like a pirate, a cowboy or a vampire.

The chatter started weeks before October 31. Numerous ideas would be kicked around, debated and considered. Like most busy mothers, I did my best to sway the conversation in the direction of accessories we had on hand (cowboy hat, black cape, baseball mitt). I cheered when one of the younger siblings wanted to be what their big brother was last Halloween.

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One particular mid-October, my family was busy unpacking the Halloween gear – boxes filled with decorations as well as leftover bits and pieces from Halloweens past. Shawn, 11 and Jake, 7, were carefully inventorying what items might work for this year’s costumes. Mingled in among the seasonal supplies – a glow-in-the-dark skeleton, pumpkin carving knives and fake fangs — were three hollow, plastic pumpkins the boys had used the previous year for trick-or-treating.

 

These are way too small,” Jake complained as he pulled them out of the box. “All my candy falls out.”

I had to agree. Last year he and big brother, Shawn, walked every street and cul-de-sac within a mile of our home; their dad, Nick, and I, pushing 2-year-old Seth in the stroller behind. By the time we turned for that final stretch home, Jake’s hand was spread across the top of his trick-or-treat bucket, making sure none of his treasure spilled out.

“Can we get bigger bags this year?” he asked.

Nick, remembering his own candy-collecting pursuits, said his mom let his brothers and sisters use pillowcases. With some reluctance I went to my linen closet and fished out three of my sturdiest white pillowcases to donate to the cause.

“They’re so plain,” grumbled Jake when I handed them over. “Can we paint them?”

Before I knew it, brushes, poster paint and markers had been dragged out from the craft box. The Halloween décor was pushed aside while energetic artists set to work. Ghosts, pumpkins and goblins took shape on the canvases. Not really sure what all the excitement was about, Seth, did his best to join in the fun. As the painters worked, the conversation returned to the original question: What can I be for Halloween?

When my sons were little (under 4), the dialogue was brief. At my direction, they each took a turn being a cheetah, Robin (of Batman & Robin fame) and Davy Crockett (costumes inherited from older cousins). But now I had to run down the list of available options (available meaning that I had all the parts) for Jake. The list was varied but not remarkable — firefighter, baseball player, zookeeper. It amounted to an inventory of the costumes Shawn had worn.

Listening as I recited his Halloween history, Shawn grabbed a marker and started writing the names on the back of his newly acquired candy bag/pillowcase. His nine entries included masquerading as a traffic light in first grade and as a killer tomato in third grade (although, to his great disappointment, most treat-givers mistook him for a giant pumpkin).

Jake joined in and printed his shorter list of names. A few minutes later, after much deliberation, Shawn added the words Incredible Hulk to his list, Jake wrote ninja turtle and I penned zookeeper on Seth’s sack. From then on, the guys recorded each year’s costume name on their pillowcases before setting out for trick-or-treating. They’d return home with pillowcases bulging from their caches of candy bars, lollipops, gum, coins and the toothbrushes given out by Frances, our neighborhood dental hygienist.

That year, I abandoned my quest for recycling costumes, and the boys’ imaginations blossomed. In the Halloweens that followed, a new stream of characters came to life. Visits to costumes shops, thrift stores and bargain bins yielded disco-era bell-bottoms, light sabers and tie-dyed shirts. And character names like Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, “Disco Dude” and “Hippie Guy” were carefully inscribed on what would become three family heirlooms.

These linens, still part of our Halloween décor, are unpacked every October and displayed near a table that holds a treat-filled black caldron, a jack-o-lantern and a ceramic ghost. Three somewhat shopworn pillowcases that chronicle a time when at least one six-year-old boy thought being Buzz Lightyear was cool and a hand full of Tootsie Pops was a prize to behold.

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New Release – ACCUSED, book 3 of the Atlanta’s Finest Series

Another exciting read by my favorite author.

Sharon C. Cooper

Hi All!

It’s release day for ACCUSED, book 3 of my Atlanta’s Finest Series! This is Kenton Bailey and Egypt Durand’s story. You first met them in VINDICATED, book 1 of the series. They weren’t a couple in that story, but in INDEBTED, it was clear that Kenton was interested. However, Egypt doesn’t make things easy for him. You’ll see what I mean. Get ready for a wild ride!

He wants to forget his pastShe’s hiding from hers…

Former FBI agent Kenton Bailey traded in his badge when an assignment went horribly wrong. Now he provides personal security to high-end clients. But falling for Egypt Durand, the Queen of Supreme Security, wasn’t part of the plan. She’s smart, classy, and ignites a fire in him that only she can extinguish. Except she retreats from his advances…and she’s shrouded in a veil of secrecy.

Egypt has never met a…

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Ribbon of Light Available Today!

Ribbon of Light, Julie Rafferty’s story releases today.

Click here to read the first chapter for free.

ROL 3D spot.pngAbout the Book

Julie Rafferty’s life-long dream is within her grasp. But just as the toy company she founded verges on becoming a multi-million-dollar enterprise, her husband abandons their marriage.

Trevor had no choice but to walk away from Julie. How else could he show his wife that the business was her priority, not him and their three children? His drastic stunt backfires though, jeopardizing the family business and seemingly pushes Julie into the arms of a younger man.

Just when Julie and Trevor find their way back to each other, a ruthless competitor escalates a bogus lawsuit. Together they plot to reclaim control of the toy company, only to uncover a shattering betrayal that puts them in unimaginable danger.

Can they overcome their dreadful mistake and reclaim the passion, trust and commitment that once drew them together? Or will the greed of an evil man irreparably destroy everything they hold dear?

 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Kobo | Goodreads | iTunes

Get The Picture

Every summer, under a crisp, sunny summer sky, serious faces study programs, debate odds and circle sure winners in the racing form. There are a few minutes to post as my family mills around, each one with an ink pen at the ready. It’s our annual Uncle George Day at the horse races. This group of about 20 is focused on how to parlay two dollars into two hundred.  Everyone, that is except me. My winning ticket involves capturing this moment with one snap of my digital camera. Corralling chickens is easier.uncle george day

Hours earlier we set up lawn chairs and spread blankets on Del Mar’s trackside apron in preparation for a picnic of sandwiches, fruit and chips. Gathered alongside my husband, Nick, are our kids and kids by choice. Sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins and long-time friends join in the fun.  No one is interested in the future importance of photos chronicling our outing to where the turf meets the surf. More attention is paid to an over-sized bag of kettle corn propped against the cooler.

Nonetheless, I remain undaunted and perhaps a tad annoying. It’s not every day this group, spread over hundreds of miles, is together. Hoping to placate me — and have a chance to get their bets in before the windows close — people slowly shift into frame. A few even smile. I smile back as I take the picture.  “Oh, don’t move,” I say. And the voice of any of my sons replies, “We’ve got to take two.”

Photo Bomb at Uncle George Day (2018_01_26 07_27_09 UTC)

Photo bomber circled!

With the images safely stored on my smartphone, everyone moves to their original places. The sound of a trumpet blares in the distance. A few scurry to the betting windows, seemingly mesmerized by names like Briarpatch Betty, Countyourwinnings and Pappaspepper. The younger kids scamper toward the metal fence surrounding the track and watch the horses and their jockeys trot to the starting gate. I breathe a sigh. Another family memory captured for eternity.

My gang doesn’t realize it yet, but someday these random snapshots, converted to digital data, will become family treasure. We moms, know. That’s why many of us assume the role of family photographer/historian, with the same seamless leadership and commitment we exhibit as family party planner, nutritionist and chauffeur. And this usually means we’re not in the picture — at least most of the time. That’s a small price to pay in exchange for the satisfaction of having the images of those we love preserved on a sheet of photo paper, tucked into a family album or captured on a computer slide show.

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I wasn’t always a fan of digital photography. I mistrusted anything I couldn’t drop off at the drugstore for developing. It took nearly a year after receiving a digital camera for Christmas before I traded in my insecure attachment of film rolls for the convenience, efficiency and quality of a digicam. I fell in love with knowing instantaneously whether the photo was good or not. No more waiting days or weeks to find out I had blinked, someone had looked away or one of my sons (or their pals) had photo-bombed the picture.

Later that day, while everyone else gathers around the dining room table recapping their winners and losers, I sneak off to my computer to download the candid shots snapped in between races. I linger a moment and after a few mouse clicks, I open a digital slide show of other family events. One son’s first day at kindergarten, their grandmother’s 80th birthday, the sweet smile of a new bride, the joyous birth of a grandchild. It doesn’t matter where the pictures are stored — in an album, on a hard drive or at a photo sharing site. Or whether my face is among the group grinning from the image. I’m part of the moment and the emotion that only a photo can preserve.

I smile as the pictures glide past, reminding me of forgotten occasions. Like the sleepy Saturday morning I had awoken everyone early for a family portrait. The professional photographer insisted the light at Coronaod beach was best before the clouds disbursed.  Sometime around 7 a.m.  Complaints and protests — mostly Nick’s — echoed in my ears. “Why are we up earlier than the sun?” he moaned, as he and our young sons trudged barefoot through the wet sand to reach a sea wall.

Wearing rolled-up jeans and white T-shirts, our fivesome posed casually, while the photographer captured our smiles forever. It’s a great portrait. And that time, I was in the picture.

 

 

Promises To Keep

I’ve waited nearly a year to share this exciting news.

PROMISES TO KEEP
Now available for pre-order. Releases on March 23!

Promisesto Keep.paperback

Here’s a sneak peek of the second book in the Begin Again series featuring the Jameson sisters.

Love, Secrets, and Lies…

Kate Jameson married the man of her dreams. Her real-life hero. A man who wouldn’t abandon her the way her father had—or so she thought. Weeks after their son’s birth, her husband is suddenly pulled away for a business trip that takes him out of the country. But something isn’t right. His truths aren’t adding up. Kate digs into his past, determined to learn what he’s hiding. But unraveling this endless mystery draws her into a maze of lies, family secrets and deadly consequences.

For twenty years, undercover CIA agent Eric Wiley lived for one reason—to avenge his parents’ brutal deaths. Until he marries Kate. Eric promises her a life of love and commitment, but competing promises constantly collide, offering him little chance of keeping either. When an informant lures him to Mexico, Eric thinks his goal of apprehending an elusive killer will be realized. Leaving his family for a few short days, weeks at the most, would be worth the prize.

Can this final mission bring closure and allow Eric to be the husband Kate deserves and the father he yearns to be? Or will their destiny remain mired in the secrets of his past, leaving them powerless to embrace their present?

The eBook is available for pre-order at these sites. The paperback is available on March 23.

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | Kobo
iBooks – coming soon!

Visit www.clairefadden.com to read an excerpt.

RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR

By the time the last of the sugar cookies are eaten and all the gift have been unwrapped, we barely have a chance to jot down a resolution or two and reflect on how quickly 2017 has passed. Another year is coming to an end and it’s time to usher in a new one.

There are lots of ways to welcome in the New Year. Your family might stay up until midnight to bang pots and pans, pop open a bottle of bubbly and watch the ball drop in New York’s Times Square. Many believe that sharing a kiss at midnight is a sign of good luck.shutterstock_643138579

For some folks, the New Year signals a day to relax, watch football and unwind from the flurry of holiday activity. My husband Nick and I review our successes with last year’s resolutions before writing down 10 attainable goals for the coming year.

People from all corners of the world participate in many of customs and traditions, unique to their culture and history. Here’s a sampling of some memorable and unique ways to say good-bye to old Father Time and greet Baby New Year. Perhaps you’ll add one or two to your family celebration.

GOOD LUCK GRAPES 

If you are in Spain or Portugal for New Year’s Eve, you can share in the local custom of selecting twelve grapes from a bunch. Then as the clock strikes midnight, eat them one at a time making a wishing with each grape as a way to bring good luck for the next twelve months. Latin American countries share this custom. In Northern Portugal children go caroling from home to home and are given treats and coins.

DOWN UNDER CELEBRATIONS 

In Australia and New Zealand, New Year’s Eve falls when summer is in full-swing. Fireworks symbolize the crossover from New Year’s Eve, marking the end of the old year, to New Year’s Day, which signaling the beginning of the New Year. The largest and most elaborate fireworks occur at midnight in Sydney Harbor, an iconic Australian landmark. On this night, the harbor is lit with spectacular fireworks, where hundreds of cultures unite for the Harbor of Light parade.

Because New Zealand is located close to the International Date Line, it is one of the first countries in the world to welcome the New Year. It is celebrated as a day to relax, visit family and friends, perhaps attend a horse racing carnival or other summer day fairs. Instead of football, New Zealanders watch cricket.

EUROPEAN FESTIVITIES 

January 1st is an important date in Greece because it is not only the first day of the New Year but also St. Basil’s Day. A traditional Greek celebration features Vasilopita, a cake with a silver or gold coin baked inside. On New Year’s Day, the cake is sliced as a blessing to the home and to bring good luck for the New Year. The first piece is for St Basil, the second for the house, the next for the most senior member of the household down to the youngest member and often includes absent family members. Whoever finds the coin in their piece of cake will be lucky for the next year.

To predict the future, families in Germany and Austria melt a small amount of lead by holding a flame under a tablespoon, then pour the lead into a bowl or bucket of cold water. The resulting pattern is interpreted to predict the coming year. A heart or ring shape means a wedding, a ball means luck will roll your way and a pig signifies plenty of food in the year ahead.

SOUTH OF THE BORDER  

Bolivians who want to travel in the New Year must take their luggage to the door of the house or go upstairs. Another custom is to wear your underwear backwards: Red is to be lucky in love; yellow is for wealth. At midnight, Bolivians turn the underwear frontwards symbolizing moving forward into the New Year. Some Bolivian families make beautiful little wood or straw dolls to hang outside their homes to bring good luck.

Brazil may be the most celebrated locale to welcome in the New Year. Millions of people from around the world travel to Rio de Janeiro’s shores, especially in Copacabana to experience the majestic fireworks light up the sky above the beaches. Your good luck will increase if you can jump over seven different waves while making your New Year’s wishes, one for each wave. Brazilians believe lentils signify wealth, so on the first day of the New Year they eat lentil soup or lentils and rice.

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, Mexican families open the front door and symbolically sweep out the old year before tossing coins on the ground and sweeping them into the house wishing for prosperity in the coming year. To symbolize renewal, Mexicans also throw a bucket of water out the window.

AULD LANG SYNE 

The most popular New Year’s Eve song, is actually an old Scottish song. Poet Robert Burns transcribed and refined the lyrics after hearing them sung by an old man He published the song in the 1796 edition “Scots Musical Museum.” “Auld Lang Syne” translates as “old long since” and means “times gone by.” Bandleader Guy Lombardo popularized the song in 1929 and turned it into a New Year’s classic.

The birthplace of “Auld Lang Syne” is also the home of Hogmanay, the rousing Scottish New Year’s celebration. Shortly after midnight on New Year’s Eve, neighbors pay visits to each other and impart New Year’s wishes. They are called “first footers” and traditionally, bring along a small gift. You will be especially lucky if a tall, dark and handsome man is the first to enter your house after the New Year is rung in. The Scottish also believe that you should clear your debts before “the bells” ring at midnight.       

HOW TO SAY HAPPY NEW YEAR

Brazilian: feliz ano novo

Brazilian Portuguese: feliz ano novo no brasileiro

Chinese (Cantonese): Sun nien fai lok

Chinese (Mandarin): Xin nian yu kuai

Czechoslavakia: Scastny Novy Rok

Finnish: Onnellista Uutta Vuotta

French: Bonne année

German: glückliches neues Jahr

Greek: ef̱tychisméno to néo étos

Hawaiian: Hau’oli makahiki hou

Italian: Buon anno

Portuguese: Feliz Ano Novo

Philippines (Tagalog): Manigong Bagong Taon

Spanish: Feliz Año Nuevo; Prospero Ano Nuevo

 

Book Of The Day – Love At Last

I enjoyed this story. A Christmas miracle of love.

Sharon C. Cooper

Hi All!

Today my Christmas novella, LOVE AT LAST, is the “Book of the Day” at Ereader News Today! And even better, it’s only 99 cents for a limited time! If you haven’t picked up this enjoyable holiday read, now’s a great time to do so!

About Love at Last:

Carolyn Jenkins has never had a problem getting a man, but keeping one is another story. After two failed marriages and numerous short-term relationships, she’s ready to wave the white flag and give up on love. Yet, with Christmas quickly approaching, she dreads spending the holiday alone. Will a chance encounter with a handsome stranger make all of her Christmas wishes come true?

After thirty years of a nearly perfect marriage, widower Lincoln Richwood struggles to move on with his life. The idea of dating at his age seems daunting … until he meets the vivacious Carolyn Jenkins. Normally…

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Whose Home for the Holidays?

Ah love. It starts out innocently enough. You say yes to dinner and a movie. He brings flowers and chocolates. There are romantic walks on the beach. And before you know it, you’re married. The days of staring lovingly into each other’s eyes are replaced with scanning the food section for bargains and listening for the sound of the shower turning off, so you can take your turn.

You’re occupied with many challenges as the two of you begin a life together. So many decisions to make: Cable or satellite? Pepperoni or sausage? Over-easy or scrambled? Foreign or domestic?

Days, weeks, months pass. Miscellaneous facts are gingerly revealed: He likes Brussels sprouts. She thinks birthday cake is a breakfast food. Both of you have trouble staying awake for the 10 o’clock news. Deals are reluctantly made: He agrees to read the sports section until she’s finished with the front page. She’ll watch Entourage if he’ll sit through reruns of The Office. Then, your newly formed family of two becomes three, four and maybe even five.

In my case, over eight quick years, the duo of Nick + Claire expanded into a quintet that included Shawn, Jake and Seth. Of course, more questions arise, more choices need to be made. Cloth or disposable diapers? Public or private school? Soccer or taekwondo? As fledgling parents, we made it through these either/ors while learning about raising sons. shutterstock_11570470

But every November the same question arose; one that never seemed to have an easy answer. Where are we spending Thanksgiving and Christmas this year? At your parents’ place or mine?

This guilt-inducing query is best avoided when you’re dating. Discuss religion, how you’ll vote in the next primary, which pro football team you’ll cheer for, but tiptoe around this explosive topic.

Like lots of young couples, we tried to appease everyone by attempting to be in two places at one time. We’d go to my mom’s house for an early dinner and his folks’ place for dessert. Playing beat-the-clock when Thanksgiving Day is limited to 24 hours is tough. The same is true of Christmas Day. There’s not enough time to enjoy the holiday if you’re spending most of it crisscrossing the county. We’d barely taste a forkful of candied yams and cranberry stuffing at my mom’s table before we were loading ourselves back into the car.

I can still hear the voice of a 6-year-old Jake yelling from the backseat as we drove to our next stop: “There goes the pumpkin pies.” In our haste to be on time, the desserts had been set down but not secured. They slid aimlessly across the van floor and slammed into the back of the front passenger seat, making a gooey-looking burnt sienna splash across the cloth upholstery.

Scurrying from house to house was how we spent the next several Thanksgivings and Christmases. Inwardly I wanted to mount a stay-at-home-for-the-holidays coup. The thought of packing up three kids, two car seats, a green bean casserole, and sundry other items had lost its appeal. Maybe I had spent too many Christmas Eves staying up until 2 a.m. helping Nick put together a 350-piece something whose box has innocently cautioned: “some assembly required.”

Exhausted toward the end of one of these marathon holiday events, I collapsed on the couch where other similarly fatigued parents grouped. My brother-in-law, Leo sitting nearby listened as I lamented the craziness of the season. He smiled and nodded knowingly. His family had just spent their day under similar circumstances. “Next year, why don’t we move our get-together to the day after Christmas?” he proposed to no one in particular. A huge sigh swept through the room, followed by cheers of relief. “Why hadn’t we thought of this before?” asked a sister-in-law. “Where does it say that we have to scrunch everything into one 24-hour day?”

The meaningful parts of our celebration would be the same; they would just occur a day later. Pop-pop would still be the center of attention as he donned his Santa hat to pass out gifts. The grandkids would wait wide-eyed to hear their name called before eagerly opening their presents. The overabundance of sugar cookies, popcorn balls and fudge would get a second chance to find a welcome palate.shutterstock_525751432

A once stress-filled, jammed-packed ritual was forever transformed into an extended familyfest. Leisurely, all of us kids-at-heart could delight in the blessings that come when you’re part of a large family, minus the harried disposition. No one would have to keep an eye on the clock, poised to rush out the door for another gathering. As a bonus, we all got an extra day to anticipate the fun.

The years have passed since we could look forward to sipping a cup of Nana’s hot apple cider, gobbling a scoop of Sitie’s pistachio fluff or listening to Uncle George regale us  with stories, while we laughed as though hearing his tales for the first time.

It’s the sweetest memories that last. And isn’t that really the best part of the holidays.

The Power of the Story Inside Us All

During the last century, I filled my college hours in Dr. Hartung’s news reporting 101 and Mr. Krumming’s Media Law classes, fascinated with fact-finding, spelling and grammar. Who could ask for more?

Well, San Diego State University administrators can, and did. In those days, SDSU required J-school undergrads to have a minor, whether it be finance, history or art. They probably knew the odds of getting a writing job were similar to winning the California State Lottery.

So, as many of my fellow students, I set about to select a minor. If I knew then what I know now, I would have invested my time in comparative literature or marketing. But psychology captured my imagination and units. So, I learned about Freud’s id, ego and superego as well as the behaviorism theories of Pavlov and Skinner. Surprisingly, a lot of  my journalism classmates shared my affinity to explore the inner workings of our minds, but I never understood why.

Then I read “The Power of a Story” in a recent issue of Real Simple magazine. I now realize the path I chose was meant to be traversed. There’s nothing happenstance about my choice. In the article, Jennifer King Lindley intersects psychology and plot twists in a fresh, creative way. And since this storyteller lives on the corner of character arc and classical conditioning, I was immediately taken with the premise.

According to Lindley, “We naturally think of our own lives as stories, psychologists say. Changing the way you tell yours can help you handle whatever plot twists come your way.” In her article, I learned about an emerging field of study–narrative psychology. Too bad that minor wasn’t offered at San Diego State when I was a junior.

Hope you find “The Power of a Story” as fascinating as I did.

https://www.magzter.com/article/Home/Real-Simple/The-Power-Of-A-Story

New Release – Proposal for Love and Giveaway

My copy showed up this morning on my Kindle. Can’t wait to read.

Sharon C. Cooper

Hi All, it’s release day! Woo hoo!

PROPOSAL FOR LOVE, book 2 of the Jenkins & Sons Construction series is now available!

Nathaniel Jenkins-Moore never allows romantic entanglements to get in the way of running Jenkins & Sons Construction. That is until the woman who ripped out his heart crashes back into his life. She wants to leave the past in the past, and though Nate knows a thing or two about rebuilding strong foundations, her betrayal still haunts him. He can’t forget. He won’t forgive. She can’t be trusted. But why does his heart still beat double-time whenever she’s near?

Liberty Stewart has been living a lie. Masking her shredded self-esteem and trying to overcome the emotional torment inflicted by her abusive ex-husband, she’s ready to rebuild her life. But just when she thinks she’s on track, her current assignment brings her face to face with the only man she’s…

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