Tag Archives: gratitude

Holiday Shopping vs. Holiday Spirit

You’ve heard it all before, right? Complaints about retailers who put up Christmas decorations by Halloween, the commercialization of a religious holiday, and the stress and exhaustion (and emptied checkbook) caused by hunting down “the perfect” holiday gifts.

I’m not sure how you handle it all, but I’ve tried different techniques to cope with the madness that is Christmas in America.

This is the time of year I inventory all the coats, boots, clothes, toys, and other gently used items in the house that would better benefit others in need. Not only is it freeing to purge the closets and drawers, but also it feels good to know that these donations will end up helping others less fortunate than me.

Another thing I’ve done in the past is ask my family not to send me gifts, but to take whatever money they might’ve spent on me and donate it to a charity (if they pick a charity of my choice, I match it). One year I was able to buy two new kitchen appliances for a shelter for abused women thanks to my family’s cooperation. I didn’t get a single gift, but it might be one of my favorite Christmases ever.

Thirdly, the older I get, the more I realize that the truly memorable things in my life revolve around things I’ve done rather than things I’ve owned. Therefore, now that my kids are teens, we’ve switched from buying “stuff” to buying a meaningful experience (a camp or lesson). Hopefully, later in life, they’ll appreciate that idea more than they do right now.

Finally, this year I also want my kids generate an idea of their own that is in the true spirit of giving (as opposed to “buying”). That reminds me, I need to check in with them to see if they’ve come up with something.

Care to share any special traditions you and your family have that showcase the real meaning of this holiday season?

xo–Jamie

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Attitude of Gratitude

I think it’s fair to say that November has been a tough month for most of us. Those of us who are upset by the election results are feeling afraid for the future of our nation and many of its people, while those who are celebrating the results are feeling attacked for exercising their rights. Everyone is pointing the finger at each other and spewing ugly, hateful words. I can’t recall a time in my lifetime where the country has seemed more divided and angry. I can’t speak for anyone else, but none of this puts me in the holiday spirit.

So, I’m taking a page out of my mother-in-law’s book. Since I’ve known her, she has engaged in a nighttime ritual designed to support a positive outlook. Once she’s in bed with the lights out, she reflects upon the day and every event that made her smile or feel grateful, then she settles on her favorite moment of the day and replays it in detail.

My mom's Thanksgiving table.

My mom’s Thanksgiving table.

With Thanksgiving upon us, I’m thinking this is something we might all try to do, even if just for one week. I don’t know that it will help (although my mother in-law is a pretty happy person), but it certainly can’t hurt.

To kick it off, I’m going to list a host of things I’m generally grateful for:

  • My family (the whole messy bunch that brings laughter and tears, as well as challenges and triumphs, into my life). We share an elastic bond of love and history that can’t be broken, no matter how badly it might get stretched at times.
  • My friends and colleagues, who are supportive, thoughtful, and intelligent people that teach me something new every day.
  • My agent and publishing team, who are helping me live out a childhood dream.
  • My “fans,” who read my work and write to me, sharing personal stories and well wishes.
  • My ancestors, who bravely came here from other countries hoping to give their progeny a better life. I hope they know that their sacrifices and courage were well-rewarded.
  • The majority of Americans, who stand together to fight for freedom, justice, and the equality of all, and who are resilient and passionately committed to the betterment of humanity.
  • God, for giving me a healthy mind and body, both of which I try not to waste.

Tonight I will follow my mother-in-law’s lead. I’ll reflect on my day and the specific moments that made me smile. I know waking up to the first snowfall (or dusting) this morning will be one. If the Steelers win today, that might be another. 🙂

I wish you all a very lovely Thanksgiving holiday, and hope that you will be surrounded by family and friends.

XO-Jamie

 

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Fired Up for Fall

Game of Thrones fans may get excited when they hear “Winter is coming,” but I’m bouncing on my toes because autumn is coming! There’s so much to look forward to, how could I not?

46425130 - autumn landscape

46425130 – autumn landscape

Sweater Weather: I’ll admit, I’ve been craving a drop in temperature and the pop of golds and reds in the sea of green outside my window. Neither has quite happened yet, but it’s coming. I can feel it.

Structure: I also love the return to structure that fall imposes. School is back in session, so each day is parsed into segments of compromised of school start and end times, sports practices, lessons, and tutors. Structure makes it easier to be productive (at least, it does for me), so I’m optimistic about what I’ll accomplish this last quarter of 2016.

My Birthday: It seems like my family and friends have been celebrating this for weeks now, but this weekend I turn 50. Yep, a half-century and counting, people. Someone told me that’s roughly 18,200 days on the planet. That’s a lot of days. I’ve made the most of my time on the planet so far, but there’s still much to do, so I don’t want to waste the next 18,000 days (if I’m lucky).worth-the-risk-cover

New Release: Although excited to share my upcoming release, Worth the Risk, it’s also a little bittersweet. I’ve loved the St. James family since I conceived of David, and it’s not easy to close the door on them. I hope, however, that series’ fans will enjoy the way everything is wrapped up for Jackson and his siblings.

Holidays: Two of my favorites, Halloween and Thanksgiving, are on the horizon. I used to love coming up with imaginative costumes when I was younger, but now I just love the fistfuls of chocolate at my fingertips! As for Thanksgiving, it’s one of two times per year that I get to see my entire extended family, so that’s always something to look forward to.

Food: I’ve eaten enough spinach and kale these past three months, so I’m eager to sink my teeth into some fall favorites: hearty soups, roast chicken and gravy, and pumpkin pie. Add a warm fire and some new television shows, and I’m one happy camper.

What are you looking forward to this fall?

XO-Jamie

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Let’s Connect

I’ll admit, at times social media can be painful to me. I’m not a natural born extrovert. Until I’m introduced to someone, I’m very shy, which can often be mistaken as aloofness. I’m not particularly witty, either, although I sure do appreciate those who are. And if given the choice between entering a serious debate or going to a cocktail party, I’d take the debate 9 out of 10 times.34574488 - group of hands holding speech bubble with social issue concepts

However, it’s true that, the more you do something, the more comfortable it becomes. Since I began seriously pursuing a writing career a few years ago, I’ve become active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and this blog. I’ve learned how to link some of these things together, and make sure they also show up on my Goodreads and Amazon author pages. I’ve tried tracking which kinds of posts elicit the most engagement, but that remains a mystery because I still can’t identify a pattern. Well, except for husband tomfoolery posts. Those are always popular and, lucky for me, my husband’s a good sport! IMG_7396

The one thing that keeps me motivated is when others engage with me. Whether it’s a back-and-forth on Facebook, a response to a newsletter, or an “ask an author” question on Goodreads, those little moments of connection make the multiple hours spent curating content seem worthwhile.

So I’m coming directly to the source and asking, what kinds of content are you interested in reading? Fun, flirty, pop-culture topics? Psychological explorations about love and relationships? Reading recommendations and reviews? Something else or all of the above?

Please feel free to drop me a note (or leave a comment) with any suggestion. It will make this a better experience for all if I can hit upon things that you enjoy reading and thinking about.

Hope your summer is going well!

xo-Jamie

 

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Historical Romance Brought to Life

I’ve just returned from a whirlwind trip to London. In three and a half days, I squeezed in sight-seeing all around the city, plus trips to the Cotswolds, Bath, and Stonehenge. Suffice to say, my Fitbit got quite the workout!

Those of you who have been following this blog (or, more particularly, my Goodreads reviews) know of my love for historical romance. Well, this trip made me feel as if I’d stepped into the pages of some of my favorite books. Best of all, the settings exceeded my imagination (no easy feat).

For example, take Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and also the family estate of the 12th Duke of Marlborough (and his ancestors).

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire

I imagine this might be something like the Duke of Bewcastle’s grand estate (from Mary Balogh’s Slightly Dangerous). By the way, that’s still one of my favorite books. And yes, this was actually one family’s home. The current Duke still keeps apartments there, although obviously it is open to touring as well. This is where he and his family still celebrate Christmas dinner!IMG_7610

Then we have Windsor Castle, which is where the Queen sometimes lives, and is also home to St. George’s Chapel (where Henry. How many historicals mention the King’s court and St. George’s? Many! It was beyond exciting to be there.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

I also toured the Tower of London, where the Crown Jewels are kept.

Tower of London

Tower of London

Sadly, we weren’t permitted to take photos of those, but those crowns had jewels as big as lumps of coal. This is also the place where many executions occurred, including Anne Boleyn. It was haunting to read the dozens of etched texts left by past prisoners.

Prisoner's inscription

Prisoner’s inscription

This one was my favorite. In case you can’t read it, it reads: Wise men ought circumspectly to see what they do, to examine before they speake, to prove before they take in hand, to beware whose company they use and, above all things, to whom they trust.

The history is phenomenal.

I strolled down “Rotten Row” in Hyde Park. Saw the former mansions in Mayfair. Visited Covent Garden and saw a show in a theater built in the 1800s. Luckily, however, I was not forced to do all of this while wearing a corset, long dress, and slippers!

Finally, we went to Bath, a beautiful little town. It’s been described in so many of my beloved historical romance novels, I nearly floated across its streets from the excitement of being there.

Bath

Bath

I wish I could return and spend time there writing (possibly in the very place where Jane Austen used to meet up with her contemporaries).

Assembly Room where Jane Austen used to hang out!

Assembly Room where Jane Austen used to hang out!

 

 

 

 

I feel so blessed to have been able to take the trip. Now every time I read another historical romance, I will be transported again and again.

Is there a setting you’ve read about in a story and would love to visit? Do share!

XO-Jamie