Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Catawriters Blog About Goals!

Last month, I did a goal-setting workshop on the catawriters loop. We thought through our lives, considered what we really want and set some goals.

I set two writing goals and a goal to lose 20 pounds (I really need to lose 30) and each of us is posting our progress on our own blogs so we can keep up with each other.

My big news is that after weeks of getting myself accustomed to the treadmill, I finally added the diet portion of my goal!

So one day down...probably 89 more to go!


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Home for Christmas

Anybody who's read my bio knows I'm one of eleven children and that there are 63 people in my "immediate" family. My mother's house is so crowded at Christmas that you cannot get a seat. There is literally wrapping paper a foot deep in the living room from all the presents. Food is served buffet style. No one serves anyone. LOL. If you want it, you get it.

You can't hear yourself think let alone hear the person next to you talking. There's always a poker game, but the seats are reserved and somebody has to get sick or go home early for a seat to open up. And there's always a baby. This year we had four kids turn one. Not exactly baby-babies, but still criers. They certain add to the noise level.

New boyfriends are intimidated. The noise alone is enough to scare away many a nervous suitor. We all dress in layers, knowing we'll need to take off at least one shirt when the body heat causes the temperature to rise. And many a person has lost his or her shoes in the pile by the door.

Yet, every year it's standing room only. Nobody says I'm not going to that crazy house this Christmas! Nope. We're all there. Some of us with bells on.

Why? Because my mother bakes homemade rolls so delicious that some people eat them ithout ham. But I'm a ham girl myself. If my butt's going to be big, I'm going to enjoy the road to Weight Watchers. Everybody brings a salad or dessert. And some of my sisters and nieces can really cook. There's a dart game for the men in the garage. We exchange gifts, and rather than wait the seventy-two hours it would take for everybody to open his or her gift individually, we have the most hilarious free-for-all and everybody opens his or her gift at the same time.

We make punch, talk about the year that's passed, talk about the gifts we got, catch up with the college bound nieces and nephews, and those who have jobs.

But most of all we just enjoy the fact that we're family. We know that not everybody has family. I have a friend who literally has nowhere to go on holidays. If she lived closer I'd make her an honorary member of our family, just because I genuinely believe nobody would notice her until 2013.

I love being in touch with the younger generation through relatives who will be painfully honest with me. I love being involved with babies and little kids in T-ball and Little League. I love hearing about mean teachers and crazy parents at soccer. To me this is life at its purest.

But most of all, I love being home, where I don't have to put on airs or worry if my crazy hair refused to behave that day. Where I can eat to my heart's delight, serve brownies from a box (since I wasn't one of the ones born with the cooking gene) and still get praise from a little kid who doesn't know a boxed brownie from scratch.

That's family. That's home. The crazy combination of comfort and joy.

May your days be merry and bright and may your home be the place of joy and laughter for those you love.

Merry Christmas

susan meier

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Real Meaning of Christmas

There are 11 children in my family. Seven girls. Four boys. All of my sisters are married, three of my brothers are married, and several of my nieces and nephews are married and have children. There are 63 people in my "immediate" family.

We have a Christmas tradition in our family of a cookie exchange. The deal is that you state your intention to be part of the exchange then Tammy (my youngest sister) sends us an email letting us know how many people are participating. This year there are 12. That means each of us will pick a type of cookie and make 12 dozen of that one kind. (I'm the peanut butter blossom girl.) Then December 20, we bring all our cookies to my mom's and 'exchange' them for one dozen of everybody else's.

Everybody involved ends up with 12 dozen different kinds of cookies for company but everybody also only has to bake one kind.

It's probably my favorite family tradition. And we've got some whoppers.

With 63 people in the immediate family, we have enough people (especially kids) to have our own personal Easter egg hunt. We have a sort of unofficial competition to see who can get my mother the best gift for her birthday. Every Wednesday morning in the summer, one of us hosts "breakfast" for the family members lucky enough not to have a real job -- or who have summers off because of working for a school district. My sister Laura is usually the winner for favorite breakfast. She makes waffles with whipped cream and fresh strawberries.

In October the kids dress up and take part in a Halloween parade. This year they were the Flintstones, complete with PVC pipe Flintmobile. In a way, they were their own little float.

Every Friday after Thanksgiving, rather than battle shoppers, my mother hosts the cookie painting party for her grandkids. She bakes sugar cookies and makes colorful icing and the kids paint the cookies with the icing. They go on a Christmas tree in the family room with bubble gum and candy canes.

There are enough of us that if every 'family' within the family chips in $50 we can buy my mother a major appliance for Christmas.

In a lot of ways we sound like a small town, but really we're just family. We like to be entertained -- maybe too much -- and we enjoy each other's company. We were taught to share, to be generous, to include everybody in every baseball game, football game and/or card game we played and those lessons carried over into adulthood.

I sometimes look at my family and our traditions and wonder. . . Are we a tad crazy? A little too in love with entertainment and stimulation. . .Or is this what life's really all about? Sharing your toys, including everybody in the game, and baking enough cookies that everybody gets a dozen.

Merry Christmas. This year, share your toys, include everybody in the game and bake an extra dozen cookie to give to someone in your town, your church, or at your office, who might not get a cookie this year.

Susan meier

susan meier
MAID IN MONTANA, Harlequin Romance, 6/08
THE SWEETEST CHRISTMAS WISH, Harlequin Romance 12/08

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

12 Days of Christmas (Originally Posted at Donna Alward's Blog)

When Donna put out a call for authors to join her in celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, I answered quickly. I love Christmas! Not because of the presents. . .well, maybe a little. . .LOL. . .but because I love the spirit of the season.

For me "Christmas" began a little before Thanksgiving. I was tired. I'd worked since early morning, while my son slept in. It was, after all, his day off. I've noticed that writers don't get days off. . .but that's a blog for another day.

Anyway, Michael has a seizure disorder and doesn't drive. When he awakened, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to go to the bank, do a little shopping and buy lunch, let's just say I wasn't in as festive of a mood as he was.

A dutiful mom, I put on boots and a coat and drove him to the bank and a sandwich shop and then to the discount department store to get his prescription and a few things. I sat in the car and watched him jog inside, waving to friends, yelling greetings and laughing.

I'm not really Scrooge, but I did look at him and think, it must be nice to have all that energy. Then I remembered he was going into the store to buy medication that stops his seizures but makes him tired. He fights it. He has a job that pays him a decent wage, but he still has to live with his parents. (That can't be easy.) But he rarely complains. He makes the best of what he has.

In a few minutes, he ran out again and by this time the Salvation Army bell ringer was in place. Without hesitation, Mikie dug into his pockets and pulled out a few bills which he tossed into the pot. The bell ringer thanked him. He shrugged off the thanks and ran to the car, ready to go home and eat lunch.

In that moment I wasn't sure if I was more proud of him or more in need of the V-8 head-thump myself. Sometimes we get so bogged down in what we perceive to be the necessities of life that we forget life's biggest joy is giving. Not merely money, but smiles, waves, little acts of kindness.

Mikie knows how to appreciate the holiday because he doesn't see what he's lacking; he appreciates what he has and he turns his appreciation into action. He starts early, gives generously, loves mightily.

On that day in November, I decided to take a page from his book. I started early. I'm giving. Not just money, but time and conversation.

And I'm loving mightily. I'm looking around, seeing who needs to be loved. Who needs a smile. Who needs a prayer. Who needs someone to show him or her a simple kindness. And I'm doing those things. Even if it means going out of my way, giving up my place in the checkout line to someone who looks more tired than I am, being patient in traffic.

Celebrate the season by giving yourself the best gift of all. . .the gift of giving. Watch the smiles of your week double, the sincere thanks warm your heart and the love you give come back in wonderful, unexpected ways.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Magic of Christmas (Originally posted on Liz Fielding's blog)

This time of year, I hear a lot of grumbling and complaining about the commercialism of Christmas. Truth be told, I categorize the complainers into two camps: Those who hate to shop and those who've never experienced the magic of Christmas.

When I was young, I spent a Christmas Eve in the back seat of the family car, with five or six of my brothers and sisters, waiting while my dad fixed our car, which had died halfway to the popular discount department store where my parents planned to buy our gifts. In the dark backseat, we whispered to each other that there'd be no Christmas that year. Not only had the money been spent for car parts, but also by the time the car was fixed the stores were closed.

But under the tree the next morning were gifts galore. Things my parents had purchased at a drugstore that stayed open later than the department store. I remember pop beads, a toy medical bag complete with candy pills, and, of course, a doll. Some of my all-time favorite presents. I don't remember what I got for Christmas most years, but that year sticks out - - because of the magic.

One year, my father worked away from home and because Christmas was on Monday, he had to leave on Christmas Eve. The mood at our dinner table that night was solemn, sad, until my sister went into the living room and under our tree were our presents. Santa, my parents told us, had visited us first since he knew Dad couldn't be around Christmas morning.

The "how" of all my Christmas magic is transparent when I look back as an adult, but it's magic all the same. The memories make me smile and also make me realize how far my parents would go, what they would sacrifice to make our Christmas special.

That's what Christmas magic is all about.

The magic of Christmas isn't something you can buy at a store or catch in a jar. It's an unexpected jolt of joy, a sense that anything's possible - - if you believe.

Sometimes you feel it from something as simple as having someone open a door with a smile, a merry conversation with a stranger in the checkout line, or a parking space that suddenly opens up when you're trying to shop on your lunch hour.

Sometimes your heart will be touched. Listening to the choir sing a familiar melody, you suddenly feel lifted. Dropping your coins into the Salvation Army container, you receive a smile of gratitude from a cold, probably hungry, bell ringer and you suddenly realize that lots of people do more than shell out money to make the holiday special for their friends and families, they give time and make sacrifices for needy strangers, people who depend on others for their Christmas magic. . . and you ask yourself. . .why haven't I?

Sometimes the scent of pine cones or fir trees or gingerbread will transport you to a happy time, when you were young and everything was magical and you realize how much your parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and friends loved you to make all your Christmases special, wonderful.

That's what we pass on. Our legacy to our kids isn't a philosophy of success as much as it is the ability to see real magic and to know we're all magicians.

All it takes is a smile, a helping hand, an open door, more time than money, more love that sacrifices.

That's the magic of Christmas.

And that's what my hero, Jared learns in HER BABY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS. Jared has a tragic past, the kind of past that would level most people. He survived by living in denial. But face-to-face with someone who's suffering in the here and now, longing for the type of family he's throwing away, Jared not only learns to count his blessings; he also realizes that Elise copes by seeing the magic in everything. But can he learn to see the magic before his time runs out and he must return home for Christmas?

HER BABY'S FIRST CHRISTMAS easily turned into one of the favorite books I've written, all because of the magic.

I'd love to hear other Christmas magic stories!

susan Meier

Monday, December 1, 2008


Jared Johnson drove his black SUV out of the basement parking garage of Clover Valley Luxury Apartments onto the street and saw Elise McDermott standing on the corner in the pouring rain. Suitcase, diaper bag and small boxlike container on the sidewalk beside her feet, she held her baby in a carrier, which she protectively sheltered with her umbrella.

But the storm was relentless and Jared suspected it wouldn't take more than a minute or two before Elise and her baby would be soaking wet. Angry with her for standing in the rain with a baby, when she could be in their building lobby, he stopped his SUV and hit the button that lowered the passenger side window.

Leaning across his seat, he yelled, "What the hell are you doing out in this storm with a baby!"

"I'm waiting for a taxi to take me to the bus station."

With the window down he could hear the heavy California rain as it pounded his windshield, roof and hood. Obviously thinking he'd yelled to be heard over the noise and not out of anger, she stepped closer. Her pretty green eyes were dull with worry. Her thick, curly red hair danced around her in the wind.

"But I've been waiting a while. And the schedule I have has the bus leaving in a little over an hour. If I miss it I won't get to North Carolina in time to do everything I need to do before Christmas. Do you think my taxi forgot me?"

"Yes!" Guilt stabbed him. She wasn't standing in the rain like a ninny with no place to go. It sounded as if she was on her way home for the holiday. To her real home. Not a condo she was house-sitting as she'd been for the past six months for Michael Feeney while he was in Europe. And her taxi had forgotten her. She wasn't a scatterbrain. He had to stop jumping to the conclusion that everybody who did anything out of the realm of what he considered normal was somehow wrong.

Annoyed with himself, he sighed and glanced at his watch before he shoved his gearshift into Park. He was way too early for his flight anyway.

He jumped out of his SUV and rounded the hood. He knew from experience there was only one way to deal with his guilt. Penance.

"How about if I give you a ride to the bus station?"

Elise McDermott stared at dark-haired, gray-eyed, absolutely gorgeous Jared Johnson. He wore an expensive raincoat over a dark suit, white shirt and tie, and was currently getting drenched because he didn't have an umbrella. When she agreed to house-sit for Michael Feeney, Michael had told her Jared was the person to call if anything happened while he was away. He'd laughingly said Jared was grouchy but once he got over being disturbed, he would always come through, if only out of guilt. Jared had probably offered her a ride because he'd felt bad about yelling at her.

"I'd love a ride, but you're obviously on your way somewhere and I don't want to be any trouble."

He reached for her suitcase. "No trouble."

She put her hand over his on the handle. "I'm serious. You were going somewhere and I don't like to be a bother." He might want to make up for yelling at her, but he didn't have to. Being alone and pregnant she'd learned to stand on her own two feet. She didn't need to be coddled. "I'll call another cab."

"I'm on my way to the airport. But I'm early. Way too early. You'll be doing me a favor if you let me make the side trip to the bus station. I won't have to sit in the airport lounge for three hours."


Before she could argue any further, he pulled on the suitcase, easily wrestling it away from her. "Come on."

She opened her mouth to stop him, but the wind caught her umbrella and she couldn't hold it. The rush of air jerked the handle out of her grip and it took off like a kite.

He nodded at the baby seat. "You buckle her in," he said, shouting over the noise of the storm as he began walking to the rear of the SUV. "I'll put these in the back."

She shook her head. Lord, he was persistent--and she was getting drenched. Since he was offering to do what she'd have to pay a cab to do, she supposed she'd be foolish to argue.

By the time he had her gear stowed, she was almost done with the baby. She clicked the final strap, shut the back door and settled into the passenger seat of his SUV. He slid behind the steering wheel and closed the door. Suddenly it was blessedly dry and quiet.

He hit the buttons to activate the heater and she glanced at all bells and whistles in his obviously expensive vehicle. "Wow. It's so quiet in here."

"That's one of the car's selling points. It's quiet."

"Yeah, quiet and… wonderful. Holy cow. This must have cost a chunk of change."

"It's nothing compared to the things my clients drive."

"It might be nothing compared to your clients' rides--" According to the building rumor mill, the guy in the penthouse—as Jared was known to most of the residents—was the attorney for several recording artists, one recording studio and a few movie stars, so she didn't doubt his clients drove incredibly fancy cars. "But compared to the rest of us, you're sitting pretty."

Her praise seemed to make him uncomfortable and he shifted on his seat. His jaw tightened. "I wasn't always well-off."

Because she didn'tknow him, had only seen him a few times in the lobby waiting for the elevator to his penthouse, she had no idea why he'd be upset to have money. But since she'd never see him again, it didn't matter. He was who he was. Rich. She was who she was—a single mom without an extra cent to spare. Six years ago when her mother died she'd left North Carolina with her boyfriend Patrick with big dreams, but she'd ended up supporting him. When she'd gotten pregnant he'd left as if his feet were on fire. She and Jared Johnson had nothing in common and there was no sense pretending they did by making mindless small talk.

She settled into the bucket seat and closed her eyes.

Besides, she had a few things to think about. She was returning to North Carolina, but not the small town she grew up in. She'd inherited her grandmother's house in the town right beside it. She was going to the hometown of her father. The guy who had left her mom. The guy she didn't even know. And she wasn't sure whether the good people of Four Corners, North Carolina, would welcome her with open arms, or treat her like the plague. She only knew the grandmother she'd never met had left her a piece of property. A place she could sell, hopefully for enough money to buy a home to raise her baby.

The same grandmother who hadn't even wanted to meet her, hadn't acknowledged her as her kin, had given her her first break in life.

And she'd be a fool not to take it.

Suddenly the SUV was so quiet Jared could hear his own breathing. This was a bad idea. Elise was virtually a stranger and here they were, trapped in a car for at least twenty minutes, with nothing to talk about. He fixed his eyes on the road, occasionally glancing at the shops lining the street, then he saw the Christmas tree in front of Meg's Memory Mart, growing in a pot big enough to accommodate a four-foot fir, covered in blinking lights and tinsel. His heart caught. His breath shivered.


She's gone.

He shifted on the seat, struggling to rein in a flood of memories. He had to get a hold of himself now, before his plane landed in New York. If he didn't, his pain would be infinitely worse when he got to the city where every damned thing on every damned street would remind him of the absolutely perfect life he'd lost. He couldn't cancel his trip. After five years of his finding excuses not to come home, his parents had threatened to come to California with their friend "the shrink" if he backed out this year. They didn't think it was natural for him to stay away as long as he had. They thought he was just a little bit crazy. He had to show them he was okay.

Even if he wasn't a hundred percent sure he was.

Blocking that last thought, he fixed his mind on upcoming contract negotiations for one of his clients, and the rest of the drive to the bus station passed in silence. He pulled up to the curb and Elise eagerly jumped out when he stopped the car. He climbed out of his side of the vehicle and headed for the back of the SUV.

"Here," he said, grabbing her suitcase before she could. "I'll get these. You get the baby."

"That's okay. I can handle it."

"I'm sure you can. But I've got plenty of time. Think of this as part of the way I'm wasting those three hours before my flight."

She rolled her eyes but strode to the side of his vehicle, letting him unload her things. He added her six-pack-size cooler and diaper bag to the suitcase he already had, and walked to the passenger's side of the SUV where she was getting her baby from the backseat.

She arranged the baby carrier in her right hand and motioned for him to slide the straps for the diaper bag and cooler to her shoulder. "I'll take those."

She wasn't going to let him help her into the bus station? That was ridiculous. She could barely carry all these things.

Still, rather than argue, he said, "Okay," and slid the bag and cooler in place before setting the suitcase at her feet for her to take. Then he surprised her by removing the baby carrier handle from her right hand. "I'll take the baby."

"We're fine."

"I'm sure you are, but I'm happy to hold her while you get your tickets."


"I know. Fine. But I have time and I can use it to save you the trouble of juggling the baby while you buy your bus tickets."

"You know, you wouldn't have to pay penance for the guilt you feel when you yell at people if you'd simply stop yelling at people."

It surprised him that she caught on to the guilt and penance thing he had going and that unexpectedly struck him as funny. Despite himself, he smiled. "Why do you think I usually just don't talk to people?"

"I thought you were a snob."

That made him out-and-out laugh. She gave him a strange look, but turned away and marched into the bus station. He followed, glancing down at the baby in the carrier. "Hey, Molly."

The chubby, curly-haired baby grinned at him, her toothless gums exposed, spit bubbles forming at the corner of her mouth. With her pale ...