Thursday, November 29, 2012

The True Meaning of Christmas with Linda Swift

The Contest is closed. The winners are: Cheryl Peirson; Laurean Brooks, Paula Martin; and Teresa K. Congratulations gals!!

KAREN:  Linda Swift is a multi-published author with Kensington Publishers and Published with Rebecca J. Vickery, to name a few. She has over one hundred short stories, poems, and articles in print, and a play produced on WPSD-TV, an NBC affiliate. She's here today to chat about the true meaning of Christmas and she's offering a recipe for Pecan Pie. ...And that's not all. 

***CONTEST: She's also offering THREE digital copies of HER holiday book THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. Read on to find out how you may be a winner! CONTEST ENDS DEC. 3RD AT MIDNIGHT PST.


MY BEST CHRISTMAS PRESENT 
by Linda Swift

As my children grew older, the Christmas season gradually became a marathon I began running right after Halloween. There were school and church functions, family gatherings, a house to decorate, festive food to prepare and shopping for gifts. No longer believing in Santa, the "want list" included specific brand names, colors, and whatever the current fads were. (these sometimes changed after the requested items were bought.)
 
Gift buying had become so complicated that I was designated to shop for my children's gifts from my parents and grandmother as well and my husband and self. One Christmas Eve, my daughter and I stood empty-handed outside the last department store on the block. She had asked for clothes this year and after searching all afternoon, still hadn't found what she wanted.

"You have to buy something," I said desperately.  "We have to spend Grandmother's gift money."

"I didn't see anything I want."  She looked near tears.  "I can buy something later."

"No, you can't," I raised my voice. "We have to put a gift from grandmother under the tree."

"Well, I'm not buying anything I don't want," she shot back.  "That is not what Christmas is all about.  This is Christ's birthday, not mine. "

We stood a moment in the cold wind, glaring at each other, and I suddenly realized the truth of what my daughter had said. I put an arm around her. "Okay, let's go home."

I don't remember how we explained to my mother the lack of a wrapped gift under the tree. But I do remember that on the way home we discussed how we would handle Christmases from this time forward. There would be no more marathon shopping sprees or pressure to spend money just to satisfy the gift-giving syndrome the merchants would have us think exemplifies the spirit of Christmas.
br /> We decided to introduce our plan now for the following year and give the grandparents time to get used to the idea. Feeling no gifts would be unacceptable, we suggested a token gift exchange, with each family member buying for the others.  Since little money would be involved, a bad choice would not be disastrous.  And each person would have a special celebration on his or her own birthday with larger gifts if they chose.

Even with prior notice, it was not an easy transition for them. As the next holiday season approached, they began talking of the usual large gifts. My daughter and I gently reminded them of the new rules and encouraged them to go shopping early. And me? I wandered through the stores, watching those harried mothers rushing about, arms loaded with packages. And I wanted to stop them and remind them that this was not what Christmas was all about. It had taken a stubborn teen-aged daughter to teach me the lesson and in so doing, she gave me the best present I ever had.  And to this day, each Christmas season, I enjoy her gift again.
* * * *
Our family Christmas wouldn’t be complete without desserts made from my mother’s coconut cake and pecan pie recipes.

This is my mother's no-fail recipe that differs from any other I've ever seen for pecan pie. The secret of its mild taste is using light corn syrup and white rather than brown sugar. An easy version of Kentucky Derby Pie can be made by adding a cup of chocolate chips. I make this pie often and it always evokes memories of my mother's wonderful desserts.

PECAN PIE
3  whole eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup melted butter
1 cup pecans, chopped
1 tsp. vanilla

Beat eggs slightly. Stir in sugar, corn syrup and melted butter.
Stir in vanilla and pecans. Bake 40 minutes at 375d. or until filling is slightly firm      
*Or cook 45-50 minutes at 350d.

****CONTEST: I will be giving three digital copies of my holiday book The Twelve Days of Christmas to the winners of this question:

What was your best Christmas present? DON'T FORGET TO LEAVE YOUR EMAIL SO I MAY CONTACT YOU IF YOU SHOULD WIN. CONTEST ENDS: MONDAY, DEC. 3 AT MIDNIGHT. I'LL POST THE WINNER ON TUESDAY. GOOD LUCK!!

Available at: Amazon

Blurb:
THE TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Contemporary Women's Fiction
 Ebook and print
 Publishing by Rebecca J. Vickery


Leigh and Russell have not seen each other in years when they come to Kentucky to spend the holidays with Leigh's Grandmother. Russell's own grandmother lived next door until her death and they had been in love before he left for college. Leigh waited for his return but to her disappointment, he never came back. When they meet again, the attraction between them is stronger than before but many complications exist. Leigh's husband and young son were killed in a car accident in upstate New York. She blames herself for her son's death and vows never to be a mother again. She left her elementary teaching job and moved to Florida where she sells real estate. Russell is a successful building contractor in Arizona, a divorced father of two, whose wife just remarried and will be moving overseas. She has offered custody of their girls, four and eleven, to him and he must decide now. When Russell asks Leigh to marry him, she thinks he needs a mother for his children and doesn't want the job. Will he be willing to say no to custody in order to get Leigh to say yes? Can she become Russell's wife if it means depriving him of his beloved daughters?

Linda Swift's Website

38 comments:

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Good morning, Karen. Thank you so much for having me as your guest today. I hope my "learning experience" about the true meaning of Christmas will help some other harrassed mothers have a calmer holiday. It has certainly made a huge difference in my own life.

Paula Martin said... Best Blogger Tips

A lovely post, Linda, and a wonderful reminder of what Christmas is all about. Having said that, I do miss buying toys for my grandsons, now that they're both grown-up!
And my best Christmas present? Over the years I had 'lent' copies of my early novels to friends who didn't return them, so I only had copies of two of my four novels. One Christmas, about 10 years ago, I opened a parcel from one of my daughters to find the two missing novels. She had found the books on a couple of used book sites in the USA. I must admit I cried!

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Paula, what a beautiful story. I know you must have been very grieved to lose those copies of your early books. Almost like losing a loved one, wasn't it? And how special that your daughter understood and made the effort to find them. I'm really looking forward to reading more stories like this one from the readers of this blog!

Diane Craver said... Best Blogger Tips

How wonderful that you and your daughter made a change in Christmas shopping. Very true and relevant post.

My mom used to make pecan pie so nice to see that brings warm memories to you while baking your pecan pie.

And wow, you have an awesome career - I read your impressive bio!

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Diane, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to read my blog. Yes, Christmas has become the happy holiday that it should be, thanks to my daughter who saw the truth so clearly. Isn't it nice that our recipes bring back the memory of our loved ones every time we use them? And thank you for your kind words about my bio. If you work hard enough, long enough you are bound to garner a few succresses along the way.
I'd like to know your favorite Christmas present if you'd like to share it.

Sue Reeder said... Best Blogger Tips

Good morning Linda. I am very pleased that you sent the blog to me and I am very impressed with it. I would say it is one of your very best. I like the content of it with something like our everyday problems and thoughts. I think it would be a book that I would start reading and would not want to put it down. I am not a writer but you have a great talent for it and I am so proud of you. I give you an A and thank you for thinking of me. I need a new book to read and I have enjoyed so many of yours. Love you. Say hello to Bob and your children. Merry Christmas. Sue

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

A friend read the blog and sent an email to me directly. I asked her permission to share her comments here.
Linda,

Your observations are right on, in my opinion! Our society has certainly fallen hook, line and sinker for the commercialization of our celebration of Christ's birth......great reminder. Don't you know Satan just loves how caught up we'ver gotten with the wrong focus. Thanks for the reminder...

Hope your Christmas days are filled with the HOPE and JOY of Christ's birth.

Ro

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Sue. Thanks so much for reading the blog and for your comments. And for saying these nice things about my writing. It warms my heart. You may not be a writer but you have musical talent that I have always wished I had. Looking forward to seeing you in Florida! Love, Linda

Celia Yeary said... Best Blogger Tips

H! Of course, I've already read this wonderful Christmas story. I hope readers will enjoy it as I did.
And Linda, I'm so glad you make pecan pie like I do--with white corn syrup and white sugar. It makes the very best pecan pie. I have made the exact filling, but used walnuts, raisins, and rum flavoring--I made that up. I used to take it to the Cottage Kitchen when our women's group served lunch, and the workers would get slices to "put back,"--yes, it was popular. I don't know if any patrons ever got a slice or not.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Celia, wouldn't you know that we would make pecan pie the same way, cyperspace sister? I think you are my twin who was kidnapped at birth. I like your additions to the recipe. Will try those. And I made up the addition of chocolate chips as another easier version to Derby Pie. Thanks for stopping in and for recommending this book.

Jackie Leigh Allen said... Best Blogger Tips

Oh how I could relate. My experience started much earlier in my children's lives so I feel blessed. My first two kids were four and two and had finished opening a mountain of presents from parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. My four year old looked around and said, "Is that all?" I immediately decided we'd overdone it and never made that mistake again. I wish everyone a blessed Christmastide. jackie.allen@roadrunner.com

CarolZW said... Best Blogger Tips

What a great story! That daughter of yours is pretty special! :) I like the way that you guys have simplified gifting - it really does bring the focus back where it should be.

My best Christmas present would have to be the Nikon camera that I got a few years ago from my parents. I'm surprised I haven't worn it out! LOL! It has brought me many hours of joy, and has allowed me to capture special times, places and people.

Cheryl Pierson said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Linda,
Your daughter sounds a lot like mine. I think my daughter would be happy with a package of sharpie markers and a sketchbook right now, at age 26, and nothing more. LOL Simple really is best. I remember when my son was younger and there was always a game or a gaming device he wanted (Wii, Playstation, etc.) I spent hours trying to hunt down the Wii one year, and finally I told him, Casey, you might not get the Wii for Christmas. If I can't find it, you'll have to take an IOU for it. He sighed and said, "I might not get it at all. I'd like to have one, but they aren't making enough of them. It's okay Mom. I can be happy with something else." I did find it just in the nick of time, but after that, I determined that was the end of the shopping frenzy. We've simplified a lot. In fact, this year I bought a smaller tree just because I don't want to have to spend two days decorating the big one we've got, and then another couple of days taking it down. No, it won't be as pretty, but it will be nice, and I won't be dreading having to box it all up and put it away once Christmas is over. I love that pecan pie recipe--I've never made one, but it looks wonderful and I'm going to try it this year. Your story sounds great! Now you know I've got to find out what happens with Russell and Leigh!
Merry Christmas!
Cheryl

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Jackie, I loved your defining moment you related about your son. It is our fault when our kids come to expect too much, isn't it? I suppose we all want them to have everything their little hearts desire but "things" can be overdone and you saw that. Great story.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Carol, I'm glad you have had so much pleasure from your Nikon. Who knows, it may lead you to a career in photography. Pictures are treasures not only to us but to generations that follow us. If you are making them in digital form, be sure you have backups. We lost five years worth when we had a computer crash. Lesson learned!

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Cheryl, I'm glad you are simplifying. It will make for a happier holiday all around. Pecan pie is a Southern staple. And so is KY Derby for my state of KY.
I "cheat" on both recipes by using bought crust. And if you like a "feel-good" love and holiday story combined, you'd enjoy The Twelve Day of Christmas. Good luck on winning a copy.

Laurean Brooks said... Best Blogger Tips

Linda, Thank you for reminding me to stop and smell the Poinsettas. It is Jesus' birthday, not ours.I keep reminding myself not to get stressed, yet I start to get that way when I think of all the places I need to be, meals I must cook, gifts I must buy....

That said, my most memorable Christmas was when I was 11. My grandmother died in the hospital in Memphis. Daddy was there with her. We lived 120 miles away. Daddy called on Christmas morning to say that Grandmother died. Mama had not shopped because as she said, "It wouldn't be right to celebrate when your daddy's heart is broken."

As an 11-year-old, I understood, but I still pouted because I wasn't getting a thing for Christmas.

We didn't know if Daddy would come home or if he would stay in Memphis until after Grandmother's funeral. But that afternoon, a taxi pulled into our driveway. We 6 kids raced outside in time to see Daddy pull three full sacks from the back seat of the Taxi.

We held the dooropen.He waltzed in, handed a sack of groceries, including a turkey, to Mama. Then he started passing out gifts from the other two sacks. They were simple things. I got a green pencil box. When you rolled the wheel, the country came up in one wheel and the capital showed up in the other. He also gave me a pink,flowery box of dusting powder.

The thing I will never forget about this Christmas was Daddy's sacrifice. He put his grief and tears on hold for us kids and joined in the celebration of the season. Two days later he went back to Memphis for the funeral. But for that one day--Christmas Day--his heart was with his wife and kids.

Laurean Brooks said... Best Blogger Tips

Linda, Thank you for reminding me to stop and smell the Poinsettas. It is Jesus' birthday, not ours.I keep reminding myself not to get stressed, yet I start to get that way when I think of all the places I need to be, meals I must cook, gifts I must buy....

That said, my most memorable Christmas was when I was 11. My grandmother died in the hospital in Memphis. Daddy was there with her. We lived 120 miles away. Daddy called on Christmas morning to say that Grandmother died. Mama had not shopped because as she said, "It wouldn't be right to celebrate when your daddy's heart is broken."

As an 11-year-old, I understood, but I still pouted because I wasn't getting a thing for Christmas.

We didn't know if Daddy would come home or if he would stay in Memphis until after Grandmother's funeral. But that afternoon, a taxi pulled into our driveway. We 6 kids raced outside in time to see Daddy pull three full sacks from the back seat of the Taxi.

We held the dooropen.He waltzed in, handed a sack of groceries, including a turkey, to Mama. Then he started passing out gifts from the other two sacks. They were simple things. I got a green pencil box. When you rolled the wheel, the country came up in one wheel and the capital showed up in the other. He also gave me a pink,flowery box of dusting powder.

The thing I will never forget about this Christmas was Daddy's sacrifice. He put his grief and tears on hold for us kids and joined in the celebration of the season. Two days later he went back to Memphis for the funeral. But for that one day--Christmas Day--his heart was with his wife and kids.

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips

Linda,

Thanks so much for being my guest. You gave some great advice for the holidays and your recipe for pecan pie sounds yummy!

Pamela Hearon said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for the reminder of what this season is all about, Linda! We get so "wrapped up" in the shopping:-) The recipe sounds wonderful--yum!

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Laurean, thank you for sharing that beautiful story about grief and joy and how your daddy was able to combine them both. If you haven't used this in one of your books, you certainly should! He sounds like a wonderful man.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Karen,thank you for having me here today. And since there is still time left to win a copy of my book, I hope we will have have more wonderful stories from readers before Dec. 3rd. And yes, the pecan pie recipe is yummy. My mother made the crust from scratch and that made it even better.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Pamela, thanks for visiting. I love your new photo. The best one yet. And I also enjoyed your clever play on words, which you are so good at. And yes, we are all guilty of getting wrapped up in the wrong approach to celebrating Christmas.

LisaRayns said... Best Blogger Tips

Great post!

Ilona Fridl said... Best Blogger Tips

Loved your post! People get so wrapped up in "stuff" they tend to forget the true meaning of Christmas. Hope yours is a happy one!

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Lisa, thank you for visiting. And thank you for your comment about the post. It was greatly appreciated.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Ilona, thank you for visitng and for your good wishes. All of my holidays have been happy since I stopped trying to buy gifts for everyone in the family. The greatest gift is being together celebrating the One whose birthday we are supposed to remember, isn't it? And being in volved in "stuff" can certainly get in the way of that.

Cathy said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Linda,

Great post. Over the years it's been a hectic time trying Christmas shop. I like your way better. :)

Christmas is a big deal with our family. Aunts, cousins and everyone gather for Christmas Eve and Christmas.

cnickol at verizon dot net

bn100 said... Best Blogger Tips

Lovely post. I'd say books by a favorite author.

bn100candg(at)hotmail(dot)com

Teresa K. said... Best Blogger Tips

What a beautiful post Linda. Your daughter was raised right by her mamma!

Sometimes as a parent we forget about things because we get so wrapped up with the pressures of the holidays. It amazes me on how much our children do pay attention and have to remind us from time to time.

The best present to me was when the children at my son's school held a car wash for my son. Our house burnt down and he lost his Playstation II game system and all his games. He was in middle school at the time. I was a single parent and it took a long time for me to raise the money myself to buy him that game system. He was a good child and took care of his stuff for he knew we didn't have a lot of money and to see him lose those things broke my heart. For we didn't have content insurance. So we had to start over from scratch. I was so blessed to live in a community that cares for each other and those children held that carwash and raised enough money to not only get him a new game system and games but enough to be able to Christmas shop and buy other presents. He got his game system and than he made sure that I had a present under the tree. I still cry when I remember this. For he loved me so much that he wanted to make sure his mommy had a good Christmas also.
May everyone experience the meaning of Christmas through a child's eyes.
Merry Christmas, everyone. And I'm sorry for such a large post.

Teresa K.
tcwgrlup41(at)yahoo dot com

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Cathy, it must be lovely to have a large family to share holidays with. I don't have that and I think this must be the reason I have written to two holiday books about large families sharing their Christmas. Today, I signed books at a huge Christmas Fair and that is why I'm late replying to your post. Thank you for visiting and for your comments.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

bn100, I'm so glad you mentioned books as favorite presents. I have such happy memories of receiving books every Christmas when I was a child. And they were my favorite presents under the tree. Thanks for this reminder of that.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Teresa, please don't apologize for taking a lot of space for your story. It brought tears to my eyes to read it and I'm sure to other's eyes as well. What a sweet little son you have. Is he grown up now? I almost feel I know him after reading your post. And it is wonderful when people in the community come together to help each other. Thank you so much for sharing.

margaret blake said... Best Blogger Tips

Delightful post, Linda, a timely reminder of what Christmas is all about. We have been caught up in this buy buy culture that we have forgotten the true meaning. As a little girl I can well remember being delighted at finding a couple of oranges in my stocking, as well as a book or two. That was enough to make me very happy. And how many grandparents have seen their grandchildren playing with the boxes the present came in, rather than the presents themselves.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Hello Margaret. Thank you for visiting. And yes, I agree that Christmas used to be so different before commercialism took over. Those simple gifts we remember from our childhoods meant more than a room full of gifts seems to mean to children now. Ah, for the good ole days.

Katrina Gillian said... Best Blogger Tips

Hi Linda,

Nice post and great reminder what Christmas is all about.

My mother loves books and of course she always made sure we had plenty. Santa gave use quite of few in our stocking, too. :)

I hope you have a Merry Christmas.
katrinagillian (at) yahoo (dot) com

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

Katrina, thank you for visiting. I do think parents who give their children books as gifts and read to them when they are little are nuturing "readers for life." And from that experience so often writers are also developed. There is something so special about being able to experience "other worlds" through the pages of a book. There is a quote from a poem "Books are keys to kingdoms' treasures." How true.

Linda Swift said... Best Blogger Tips

11Good morning. I want to thank everyone who visited and left comments on this blog. And a special thanks to all who shared their best Christmas present with me. It was really difficult to choose the winners. In fact, I just couldn't narrow the choice to three but I finally did select four! They are: (listed in alphabetical order by first name) Cheryl Peirson; Laurean Brooks, Paula Martin; and Teresa K.

There was such a contrast in the presents mentioned in the writers' lives compared with the ones they listed for their children -- from an orange in a stocking, a green pencil box to Playstation and Wii. How our world has changed is almost frightening. But the spirit of Christmas has remained the same and this is cause for hope.

I will be contacting the winners individually in a short time. And I wish all of you and your loved ones the best Christmas ever and many more to come.