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Cold Fingers, Warm Hearts

It's getting cold here in Iowa, which means that we all find innovative ways to stay warm. The cats love their blankets. I say that because I love my blankets and I assume they must as well. Sleep is entertaining in the winter with three cats. Each of them has a different location on the bed that ensures they are warm comfortable. TB's favorite place is tucked into the crook of my legs - under the blankets. Earl won't go under the blankets, unless it's time to play. He'd much rather sleep on top of my ankles so he can keep an eye on everything in the house. He's our knight-protector. Grey goes wherever the warm is. Generally, she is tucked in close to me and under the blankets. If not there, she's got her nose tucked into Earl's belly.

Book 20's cover is finally here. That makes me so happy. When I finally finish the cover, I relax. The book is off to my editors and proofreaders, so we are right on target for December 25th publication date. 

Winter is my favorite time of year. It has two of my very favorite holidays and then after those are finished, it's time to hunker in and work. The time between January and April is the most productive I ever am. I can hardly wait to see what this next year brings.

I hope you had a fabulous Thanksgiving. I love you all!

Book 20 - Cover and Title

Love can be surprising in all its different forms. It's fun to see what happens in the lives of Polly's friends and family. 

This book is just a peek into their world. So much happens in Bellingwood, it's hard to keep a handle on it. 

December 25th - Christmas Day - is just around the corner. Oh, I guess it's also release day for Book 20 - Love's Surprises.

P.S. I just found the image for the Christmas short story cover. That story will publish on January 1st. There will be a reminder in the back of Book 20, and I will reveal the cover and title for the story in the December 25th newsletter.
Creativity Friday Giveaway
December 8-10, 2017

I hope you all will join us for this fun weekend. Mark your calendar and bring out your pictures of anything holiday - Thanksgiving to New Year's Day. Kids, pets, decorations, meals, gifts given or received, projects you're working on, experiences you're having, programs you're participating in ... everything!

Since we won't have a Trivia Night for this book release, I'll give away ebooks and paperbacks, frogs, mugs, a special ornament, and more! The number of giveaways will depend on how many of you participate. The more the merrier!

Everything will happen on the Facebook Bellingwood page. On the morning of December 8th, I will create a post for you all to respond to and then I will select winners on Sunday, December 10th. Be sure to 'like' the page so you don't miss out on any fun.
Christmas Card

I would love to send a Christmas postcard to you, but of course, I never presume to keep your addresses. If you'd like to receive a card from me and the kitten-cats, hit reply and send me your physical mailing address. You can also send an email to nammynools (@) gmail (dot) com. 

Please do NOT send a message through Facebook and please don't assume I have your address and will automatically send a postcard. The only people who can assume are those who regularly purchase paperbacks from me. One will come with your book.

If you live in any country other than the US, YES! I will send postcards internationally. I love you so much!

Please let me know by December 15th if you'd like a postcard - otherwise I can only pray it will make it to you by Christmas. However, late cards are the same fun as early cards, right? Never fear, the deadline isn't hard and fast.
Surviving The Wait

On September 27th, I put a link to a Christmas countdown clock on the Facebook Bellingwood page as a lark. 

Never one to shy away from fun, Diane Wendt wrote a poem in response. She posted another the next day and the next day and the next after that. She managed to stay creative for a long time, all consistently wonderful!

You'll love these bits she gleaned from the Bellingwood books. Story lines, characters, animals - it's all here. 

Click here to be taken to my website so you can read the collection called Surviving The Wait. What fun these are!
Love Your Mother
A Short Bellingwood Vignette

"What do you think, Jeff?" Lydia asked as he walked from the kitchen to his office.

"About what?"

She tipped her head at his tone. "About the purple monkey hanging from the spiderweb?"

Jeff stopped, turned, looked up at the immense spiderweb in the corner and then at Lydia. "I'm sorry, what?"

"You sound grumpy today. Is everything okay?" she asked.

"It's fine and I'm sorry. What were you asking me?" He dropped the hand holding the note he'd been reading to his side.

"We moved the Dungeon of Horrors into the lounge here." Lydia flipped the light off.

In the darkened room, lights shone around two new displays - a torturer's rack and a display of bloody weapons. The cat-o-nine-tails looked like it had viscera hanging from it. These two new displays joined the guillotine added last year. 

"You have a really sick mind," he said. "No one ever sees this side of you."

Beryl tapped him on the shoulder, making him jump. "She doesn't share this side with just anybody. You haven't seen the dark basement rooms in her house."

"There are no such rooms." Lydia scowled at her friend. "And don't you dare start any rumors otherwise." She shuddered  "What would Aaron's constituents think?"

"They'd be glad to know he was human after all." Beryl grinned. "So what has you all grumpy, Mr. Boss-Man?"

"I'm not grumpy," he protested.

"Then what has you so distracted?" Lydia asked.

"It's my mother." He waved the piece of paper. "She's coming to visit me this week and I'm not ready for her at all. I knew this visit was out there on the horizon, but all of a sudden, it's right now. My place isn't nearly clean enough and I know she's going to add chaos to my life and I don't have time for this and why is this happening to me?"

Lydia laughed. "Your mother loves you and wants to know that you're happy."

"You didn't torture your children when they moved out, did you?" Jeff asked.

"Sure she did," Beryl said. "Have you noticed that the only one who lives close is Marilyn? The others moved far, far away."

"I'm not going to dignify that with a response," Lydia said. "That was mean and not true."

Beryl put her head down. "I'm so ashamed."

"No you're not." Lydia swatted at her friend. "Though sometimes it is difficult for mothers to let their children grow up and be adults." She smiled. "I hate to tell you that my mom drove me nuts those first few years Aaron and I were married."

"Not your mom," Beryl said, in surprise. "She was really cool."

Lydia nodded. "She was a great mother, but for some reason, back then she wasn't ready to believe I could manage a life with a husband and a new baby. Every week, for no reason, she showed up at our house. Sometimes with food, sometimes with toys or clothes for the baby and once she had new clothes for Aaron because she was afraid I wasn't able to do laundry.There for a while, she showed up every single day, no matter what I might be doing. I always had to just put up with her in my space. She never asked if I wanted her to come over, she just showed up. I'll admit to being a little overwhelmed those first few weeks after we brought Marilyn home from the hospital, but I certainly didn't need her to buy my husband new clothing."

"It wasn't his birthday or anything?" Jeff asked, his mouth open as he listened.

"Nope," Lydia said with a laugh. "Mom was worried that I couldn't do it without her so she dropped in every chance she could. If I sat down for a minute when Marilyn was napping, I'll be doggoned, but Mom was there telling me that I should use that time to get some of the things done around the house that I couldn't do when the baby was awake and needed me to pay attention. Then she'd pick up any laundry that was dirty and start a load, staying long enough to run it through the dryer, fold it, and put it away."

"I'd have killed her," Beryl said.

"I was so tired I didn't have the energy to protest. Not only was I trying to do everything, but I was doing more than I needed just to make sure she wouldn't catch me being lazy or not being a good wife and meeting all of Aaron's needs."

"What did you finally do?" Jeff asked.

"One afternoon, Aaron came home early and found me sobbing into Marilyn's fuzzy little head. He thought he'd done something wrong or that maybe I was facing postpartum depression - and I very well could have been. He took the baby out of my arms and since she had fallen asleep even in the midst of my crying jag, took her upstairs and put her into the crib. Then, he came back down and literally picked me up." Lydia glanced down. "I was a bit smaller back then. Anyway, he carried me over to the sofa and held me while I fell apart. I told him everything." She looked at Beryl. "He was as surprised as you about Mom's behavior. I didn't realize that I'd been hiding my frustration with her so well. He was so busy, though, that he hadn't paid much attention to anything beyond the fact that there were meals on the table, the baby was happy, and the house wasn't falling apart."

Jeff was nodding in sympathy with Lydia's story. He looked up when she paused. "What happened next?"

"He and I talked for hours. He told me that I needed to make her stop her bad behavior. If I didn't, he would. And if he had to talk to my mother, she'd get angry with both of us. Well, Mom just adored Aaron and I didn't want anything to come between them, especially since I was the one who needed to put on my big girl pants and have the conversation."

"I don't remember this," Beryl said. "You actually told off your mother?"

Lydia nodded with a small smile. "I sure did. The next day, she was back with a whole load of baby clothes that I didn't even know she'd taken with her. They were all fresh and clean. I asked her to sit with me in the living room. Then I put Marilyn in her arms so she couldn't get mad and stalk off."

Beryl laughed. "She would never have done that. She was as reasonable as you are."

"I wasn't sure," Lydia said. "This behavior from her was so weird. We talked all afternoon. I found out that she had felt like a failure as a mother when her babies were born. Her mother told her that she was on her own the day she married Dad." Lydia shrugged. "I didn't know Grandma was that crazy. She must have mellowed by the time I was old enough to know her. My poor mother was all alone and didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to clean the house or do laundry or cook healthy meals - nothing. And when she got pregnant, she didn't know what to do until a couple of friends kind of helped her through it. But they had babies of their own and she hated to admit how scared she was of raising us. And then ..." Lydia looked straight at Jeff. "Then my mother - my strong, capable mother - told me how much she missed me and when I made my own home, she was afraid that I would be too busy for her. She missed me. That was most of it. She wanted to be part of my life. We needed to have that conversation and we needed to find a way to move forward so both of us would be happy. Mom could no longer just assume that I didn't know something and she had to ask me if I wanted her help. But she could also come over whenever she wanted company. I learned that I didn't need to be strong all by myself. If I wanted her to help me, I needed to learn to ask. It took a few weeks for the two of us to learn new behaviors, but we got there."

"So what you're telling me is that I'm supposed to talk to my mother," Jeff said. 

Lydia laughed. "It's probably a good place to start."

"I don't know," he said. "She's opinionated and not prone to listening to me when I disagree with her. The woman always knows what's best. It's easier to just ..." He stopped and shook his head. "I won't fight with her."

"You don't have to fight with her." Lydia put her hand on his arm. "You just need to talk to her. She's coming to see you because she misses you. You were a big part of her family and then five years ago, you up and left. I think it's amazing that she didn't push harder to visit those first couple of years. Your mother wants to be part of your life. After all those years she spent caring for you, did you really expect her to stop because you moved out?"

"No, but I hoped she'd change. I did." 

"We're older. Change is harder for us," Beryl said. "You just wait until you're her age and see if you can turn your feelings on and off so easily. Give the poor lady a break."

"You two make me feel guilty." He laughed. "I don't know if I'll stop complaining about her, but at least now I feel guilty about it."

"We've done our job then," Lydia said, laughing with him. "If there's anything else you need, let us know. We're good at this."

"Thanks," Jeff said. "If I run out of courage to have this conversation, I'll at least try to understand why she does the things she does." He turned and headed for the office. "And I do like the dungeon," he tossed over his shoulder. "Though I do worry about what happens in your head when you come up with these ideas."

Beryl flipped the lights back on in the lounge. "We probably shouldn't tell him that the idea for the bloody weapons came from sweet Andy, should we? And what's up with you? You've never told me that story about your mother."

"It wasn't a story that needed to be told," Lydia said. "We worked it out and it was over."

"What did Aaron say when he came home that night?"

Lydia smiled. "He was home on time that day and quite relieved to find a happy wife and a happy baby. Nothing was ever said about it again. I hope Jeff works things out with his mother."

"Oh, he will," Beryl said. "I'd lay odds that much of his complaining is all for show. If they didn't like each other, she wouldn't come out to visit him."

"I'm sure you're right."

Beryl crossed her arms. "You know better than that. Of course I'm right. I'm always right."
Don't forget to dig through the menus and tabs on my website. There is so much more information there about Bellingwood.

My Amazon Author Page has all of the books and short stories I've written.

Be sure to join us on the Bellingwood Facebook page. When I'm writing, I need distractions and I enjoy spending time with you.
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