A Christmas Poem

A Christmas Poem
by Kelly F. Barr

Difficulty finding a place to park;
Endless checkout lines.
Not sure my purchases will hit the mark.
Surrounded by tired children who begin to whine.

Wait! Slow down! I have to stop!
This picture’s all wrong.
On a bench outside, I flop
As I hear a beautiful song.

Then a child takes my hand
And leads me down the block
Until, before a church I stand
Where I see shepherds with their flocks.

There are animals in a stable,
Three wise men on bended knee.
This is it! No, it’s not a fable.
But the truth that sets men free.

Mary, Joseph and the babe – most precious gift.
I bow before this sight, by many unseen,
And here my spirit lifts.
This babe, Jesus; He’s what Christmas really means.

Time to Put My Nose Back to the Grindstone

Well, after a month break from novel writing, I feel refreshed and ready to get back to some serious writing.  I finished my first novel at the end of November, and when I did, I had no desire to start editing it or really digging into another novel.

So what did I do for the past month?  I let my novel rest, although I did send it to my writing buddies that I meet with weekly, and the editor completed technical edits (you know, grammar, spelling, and such), which I have only recently begun to look at.

Did I feel guilty for taking a month off?  No, I felt like I needed the break.  It is a busy time of year.  Also, I have heard other authors repeatedly suggest taking a break after completing a novel.  Suggested time off ranges from two weeks to a month.  It allows you to approach the novel with fresh eyes and mind to edit and revise.

During my month break I did not stay away from writing completely.  I couldn’t do that.  If you follow this blog, you know that I wrote a short Christmas story that I read at our church Christmas service, because I posted the original on this blog.  I also did a couple of blog posts, did some planning and research for my next novel, and I read and studied the book Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell.

I found Mr. Bell’s book extremely helpful, and it has given me great tips and advice and motivated me to begin the editing and revision process of my novel.

For the past two weeks, I’ve had no time to write as I prepared for our family Christmas celebration, and then came the celebration, but during this period, I was still studying Mr. Bell’s book.  I was also blessed the Sunday before Christmas, to be able to spend some time talking to our church’s associate pastor, who is also a writer.  He has never published anything traditionally, but has printed and assembled some of his poems and stories to share with friends and loved ones.  He is now 92 years old and still writing.  We have been talking a lot about writing over the past couple of weeks, and I have had the privilege of reading one of his short stories and offering him some writing tips, because, though he has been writing for years, he hasn’t really studied the craft and is not up-to-date on today’s publishing options and what editors are looking for.  I love talking writing with other writers.  I also love to encourage and help other writers in any way I can.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and I pray that God will bless you in the coming new year!  I hope that those of you who write, will enter the new year feeling refreshed and excited to write.

Look for glimpses into my novel in the new year.

Unlikely Saviour

Hello Everyone,

Here is a Christmas short story I wrote.  I hope you will enjoy it, and I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Unlikely Saviour

by Kelly F. Barr

It was 1858 when Thomas and Catherin O’Connell and their four children made the long, challenging journey from Kentucky to Missouri. They had arrived in the United States from Ireland just seven years before. Thomas hoped to get some good land in Missouri to start a farm.

As soon as they arrived in Missouri, he followed the other men to the land office and stood in line waiting and silently praying that he would get some good land. When he finally stood in front of the land officer, he said, “Could I please purchase a few acres near the river?”

That land costs $2.50 per acre. How many acres would you like?”

Thomas lowered his head and swallowed hard. “What do you have that’s cheaper?”

The land officer folded his arms across his chest. “We have land on the interior of the Ozarks for 12 1/2 cents an acre. That’s the cheapest you’ll get.”

I’ll take four acres of land on the interior, please.” He paid for the land and received a deed with a map of where to find his land. He left the land office, shoulders drooping.

How did you do, Thomas?”

Oh, Catherin, darlin’, we got four acres, but I heard some of the men talking as I was coming out of the office, and it’s going to be very hard work. The good land was more than we could afford. The land we got is on the interior of the Ozarks and is rough land.”

Well, we’ve never had anything easy and we’re used to hard work. At least Henry, Charles, and Frank are big and strong enough to be of help.”

He kissed Catherin on the cheek. “You’re always the encourager. Let’s go see our land.”

By the time they arrived at their land, little Rose was asleep in the wagon. Thomas and the three boys built a makeshift lean-to and a fire. While Catherin set to preparing their supper over the fire, Thomas carried Rose and laid her in the lean-to where Catherin could be nearby. Then he and the boys marked off where they would begin to build the house.

By the time they had finished supper, it was dark and they all bedded down for the night.

Thomas was up with the sun and he roused the boys. They began to build the house while Catherin prepared breakfast. Two year old Rose helped Catherine with simple things throughout the days while Thomas and the boys worked on the house, but mostly, she played in the sunshine and watched the squirrels and birds.

After two weeks the little house was finally finished, and Catherin was happy to live in a permanent structure. She even enjoyed unpacking her dishes and pots and pans to set up her kitchen, and Rose had fun trying to sweep the floor.

Catherin’s eyes filled with tears as she watched Thomas and the boys, so physically tired from spending two weeks building the house, tread out to begin cultivating the field. She thanked the Lord that they would be sleeping in real beds tonight. She hoped they would feel much more rested tomorrow morning.

The soil was very gritty and it required arduous work to get crops to grow. As they farmed the land over the next three years, they found that Indian corn and wheat seemed to grow best in the difficult soil. At the end of the third year, the farm finally started showing a small profit.

* * * * *

Last year Catherin gave birth to another little girl. Little Margaret had just turned a year old last week. Rose, at the age of five, helped Catherin with the housework and caring for little Margaret.

Today, Frank, the youngest of the boys at ten years of age, was as excited as Rose. The family headed into the woods to choose a pine tree to bring home to decorate for Christmas, which was just a week away. The chores were all finished and they had to find a tree quickly because it would be getting dark in about an hour.

As the family walked through the woods inspecting every pine tree they saw, Rose found a pine tree she really liked. She wandered nearer to get a closer look. It was tall and slender. She watched a couple of little birds flitting around the top of the tree. When the little birds flew away, she turned around to look for her family, but they weren’t there. She ran back to where she had last been with them, but they had moved on.

Da, Mam!” Rose called for her parents.

Henry, Charles!” She tried calling for her older brothers.

No one called back. She stood still listening.

Da, Mam, where are you?”

She knew not to wander because her family might come back to look for her when they realized she was missing, but the sun had already started sinking in the sky and it was getting dark in the woods. She tried not to be scared, but she couldn’t help it. She sat down at the base of an oak tree and cried.

The darkness grew and it began to get cold. She pulled her ragged little coat tighter around her and put the collar up around her neck.

Please, God, help my family find me soon.”

As the hours passed, she began to hear the scary night sounds of the woods: the hoot of an owl, the distant howl of a wolf.

Please, God, don’t let a hungry wolf or bear come this way tonight.”

She fought to keep her eyes open, but sleep soon overtook her.

While she slept, a large animal came and lay down beside her, lending its body warmth to keep her warm. She snuggled closer to the animal and slept on.

When she awoke, it was still really dark all around her. She realized there was an animal lying against her. She reached out and touched it with her hand. It rubbed its head against her.

Where did you come from, Kitty?”

The animal stood up, and Rose got up and grabbed a handful of the animal’s thick fur. “Please don’t leave me, Kitty. I don’t like being alone in these dark woods.”

The animal rubbed against her and began to walk. She clung to its thick fur and walked with it. “Can you lead me home?”

The animal walked slowly enough for Rose to keep up.

After a while, Rose said, “I’m getting tired, Kitty. Can we rest soon?”

The animal continued to walk.

After a few more minutes, Rose saw a cabin with a light in the window. It wasn’t her house. The animal nudged her toward the cabin.

You want me to go to the cabin door and knock?”

The animal nudged her with its nose.

Rose said, “Wait here for me, okay?”

She hesitantly walked up onto the little porch and gently knocked on the door. After a few minutes, she knocked a little harder and the door opened. A plump, white haired woman looked down at her.

My goodness, child, where did you come from?”

I got lost from my family in the woods last night when we were looking for a Christmas tree.”

You mean to tell me, you’ve been out in the woods on this cold night wearing that threadbare coat? Well, you just come right in here and warm yourself by the fire. I’ll have breakfast on the table in just a few minutes, and Shane will be in from the barn soon.” She ushered Rose to a chair by the fire as she talked. Then, as she moved toward the kitchen, the back door opened and in came the biggest man Rose had ever seen.

Shane, we’ve got ourselves a guest for breakfast. She’s sittin’ by the fire.”

Rose’s eyes grew wide and she shrank back into the chair as Shane approached.

Aw, now there’s nothin’ to be afraid of. I may be big, but I wouldn’t hurt you, child. What’s your name?”

Rose O’Connell.”

Lands sake, you the little ‘un belongs to Thomas O’Connell lives just outside the woods on the interior of these Ozarks?”

Rose nodded her head.

Shane reached over and gently patted her hand. “Don’t you worry none. I’ll get you home after breakfast. How did you find our place?”

The big kitty brought me here.”

Big kitty? What big kitty?”

I don’t know, but it kept me warm last night and brought me here this morning.”

Shane rubbed his chin and walked over to his wife in the kitchen.

He spoke quietly and Rose strained to hear what he said.

Nora, did she tell you a big kitty brought her here?”

No, dear, but I didn’t ask how she got here. I do know that she’s been out in the woods alone all night. Seems she wandered away from her family when they were looking for a Christmas tree.”

Well, do you think she’s right in the head?”

Course she is. She’s just a young’un with a vivid imagination who just came through what was probably the scariest night of her life.”

Nora put the food on the table, walked over and led Rose to the table for breakfast.

Rose didn’t know what she had said wrong, but she could tell that talking about the big kitty bothered the man, Shane, so she didn’t mention it again.

After breakfast, Shane said, “Well, little Rose, I’ll go get the wagon ready and take you back home.”

Rose smiled at him.

After he had gone out the door, she asked Nora, “Will you come along to take me home too?”

Nora smiled at the pretty little girl with curly red hair and a sprinkling of freckles. “Course I will. It’s just a short ride.”

When Nora and Rose went out to get in the wagon, Rose looked around for the big kitty. She didn’t see him until the wagon began to move. Then she spotted it just behind the tree line. He was following the wagon.

When the wagon pulled up in front of her house, she saw the big kitty hide behind some bushes and brambles near the tree line on the edge of their property. She climbed down from the wagon and whispered, “Thank you, Kitty.”

Before Shane, Nora and Rose reached the front door, Rose’s Mam came running from the house.

Oh, Rose. We were so worried. Where were you?”

I’m sorry, Mam. I was watching some little birds at the top of the Christmas tree, and when I turned around, you and Da and Henry, Charles, Frank, and Margaret were gone.”

Rose!” Da and the boys exclaimed when they saw her, and little Margaret toddled over to her.

Shane, how did you find my daughter?” Thomas asked.

She showed up at our cabin early this morning. She said a big kitty had kept her warm in the woods during the night and led her to our place in the morning.”

A big kitty?”

Aye, that’s what I thought too. We don’t have large wild cats around here, except for the rare mountain lion, but that cat would be a danger to such a young’un.”

I’m sure she’s mistaken. Probably imagined it because of being scared in the woods alone at night.”

That’s what my Nora said too.”

Thomas and Catherin invited Shane and Nora in for coffee, but they politely declined. So Thomas and Catherin thanked them for bringing Rose home safely, and Shane and Nora climbed back into their wagon.

* * * * *

The O’Connell family went inside and Thomas pulled Rose upon his lap.

Now, my little Rose, won’t you tell me about this big kitty you said helped you?”

Yes, Da. He was big and his head was really hairy. The rest of his body wasn’t so hairy. I couldn’t grab the hair anywhere on his body, except around his head. He kept me warm by lying against me as I slept. He was gentle and tall. I had to lift my arm to hold onto the hair around his head, and he led me to Mr. Shane and Nora’s house. Then he nudged me with his nose to show me that he wanted me to go to their door.”

Now, Rose, you know the difference between the truth and a lie, right?”

Oh, yes, Da, and I promise, I am telling the truth.”

Da set Rose down on the floor, scratched his head, shook it, and went out the back door. In just a moment he was back looking a bit dazed.

Thomas, what is it now?” Catherine asked.

I just saw it.”

Saw what?”

I saw that big kitty of little Rose’s. At least I saw its back end with its long sleek tail with the tuft of hair on the end as it walked deeper into the woods. But, we don’t have those kinds of cats around here.”

What kind of cat was it, Thomas?”

A lion.”

Oh, Thomas, you must be mistaken.”

I know what I saw Catherin.”

Well, come over to the fire and let’s place the crib on the mantle now that our little Rose is home again.”

Thomas took Catherin’s hand and they joined the children near the fire. Henry had the crib setting on the table waiting. Each of the children placed pieces of the crib on the mantle: the boys placed the shepherds and wise men, little Margaret placed the sheep and oxen, Mam and Da placed Mary and Joseph and then Mam handed the baby Jesus to Rose.

Rose held the figure gently in her hand and looked at the babe for a long time. Then she kissed him and said, “Thank you, Jesus.”

What are you thanking the baby Jesus for?” Frank wanted to know.

For bringing me home safely.”

I thought you said it was a big kitty.”

It was, but Jesus was inside the big kitty. That’s why the kitty didn’t hurt me.”

Catherin smiled, tears glistening in her eyes and began to sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. The rest of the family joined her as Rose placed the baby Jesus in the crib upon the mantle.

A Disappointing Giveaway and What’s New for the New Year

I must say that I am stunned!  My giveaway posts earned me some new followers, and to all of you who are now following me, I extend a hearty welcome!  I hope you will find many posts here that you will find enjoyable, inspirational and/or helpful.  However, the requirements for a winner for the giveaway was that people were supposed to leave comments on my giveaway post letting me know how long they have been a follower on this blog and what they would like to see more or less of, and, to my chagrin, the giveaway post received not one single comment.  Therefore, I am disappointed to announce:  the winner is . . . No One!

Maybe it was the books I chose to give away.  Maybe they were too old.  Maybe no one who reads this blog is a fan of Mary Higgins Clark.  Maybe you don’t read Christmas mysteries.  I don’t know what happened, but I never thought that “giving something away” — for free would fail.  But alas, it has.  I will, however, try not to take it personally and will attempt to have another giveaway at a much later date.

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Now for the happier, more positive item — What’s New for the New Year?  Well, I know I did this a couple of weeks before the new year, but my blog has a new look.  I think it’s cleaner, crisper and sharper.  I hope you all like it too!  Also, the photo in my blog header, behind by blog title box, is one I took while we were on vacation on Chincoteague and Assateague Islands in October 2014.  I thought it went well with the new look.

Also, if you scroll down the page and look at the things listed on my right sidebar, you will notice a button for BookLook Bloggers.  I have decided that since I love to read so much, and reading and writing go hand-in-hand, AND since I enjoy writing book reviews anyway, that I would join BookLook Bloggers.  I should be receiving my first book soon, so I hope you will look forward to upcoming book reviews here at Kelly F Barr.

I was excited to receive a year-end report from WordPress on my blog.  I don’t believe I received such a report at the end of 2013, so this must be new as well, and I found it very helpful to see what my readers (you) like to read.  I hope to use this information to keep you all reading here.

I was also shocked and thrilled to look at my follower count today.  The last time I was here, my follower count was just under 90, and I was hoping to hit 100 by 2015, and here it is, January 1, 2015, and my follower count now says 198!  I am not sure if that’s due to the fact that I updated some settings and have the blog automatically connected to my other social media sites now, instead of me simply posting links to all of my posts on Facebook and Twitter, or if the follower counter could somehow be wrong.  But, I hope that it’s accurate and that the count continues to climb.  I don’t worry too much about numbers, but I don’t look at my followers as numbers — I look at them as my readers; readers I hope will come to love what I write and spread the word that what I write is worth reading, because, as a writer, my desire is that others would find value in what I write.

In 2015, I will also continue to keep you up-to-date on my writing journey.  In the past month, I have submitted two nonfiction short pieces for consideration; one to a children’s/family devotional magazine and one for possible publication in an upcoming book of inspirational short nonfiction stories.  I will keep you posted on any response I receive for these submissions.  Just having submitted a couple of things makes me feel like a real writer and it motivates me to keep writing.  I have a few more short nonfiction pieces I want to write and submit to other locations soon, and I will certainly keep writing my fiction.

I saw a friend on Monday who asked me if I’m still writing.  I told her that yes, I am, and that, as a matter of fact, I had recently begun submitting things, hoping to gain some recognition and maybe earn a little money for my writing as well.  I was so blessed by the next words that came out of her mouth, “Well, I don’t know why someone wouldn’t pick you up.  You’re good.”  Such words of encouragement are a light to my writer’s soul.

A Special Giveaway!

Hello everyone, I hope you are having a blessed Christmas.  I am having a quiet, relaxing Christmas at home with my family.

I am having a special giveaway because this post is my 100th post on this blog, AND today is Christmas day, therefore I am giving away two books!  They are older books, but they are good stories with a Christmas theme.  One is All Through the Night by Mary Higgins Clark and the other is Dashing Through the Snow by Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark.  I enjoyed them both, but Dashing Through the Snow is my favorite of the two.

I would have liked to give away a writing resource since I am a writer and that is the main focus of this blog, but I really didn’t have anything to offer at this time.  Maybe I can do that for a future giveaway.

To be the recipient of these two books, please leave a comment in the comment box below and tell me how long you’ve been following my blog, what you like about it and what you’d like to see here.  Those comments will be greatly appreciated and considered as I begin a new year of blogging here.

I will determine a winner by December 31st and announce the winner of this giveaway here on the blog in my New Year’s Day post.  That gives you one week to decide on a comment to post here to take a chance at winning two good books by a well-known author.  I can’t wait to read what you have to say!

Christmas — Happiness is . . .

Last night we watched “Miracle on 34th Street” (the original with Ed Gwinn and Maureen O’Hara).  I love this movie, but last night it really struck me when Doris criticized Fred for placing such importance on intangible things like joy and love; to which Fred responded that some day she will realize that the most important things in life are the intangibles.  I completely agree with Fred.

Then, today I visited my friend Lisa’s blog:  Lisa’s Musings and thoroughly enjoyed her post on Happiness is . . .

So, I left her a comment letting her know that I was going to borrow her wonderful idea to share my own version of my Christmas version of Happiness is . . .

I thought it might be nice to frequently post something a little more personal about me, so that you, my readers, can get to know me a little better, and I thought Christmas was a great time to do so.

happiness is

Lisa shared this cute picture from a book by Charles Schultz.  I remember this and all of the “Happiness is . . .” stuff that followed.  Something wonderful to focus on:  things that make us happy, and for this Christmas season, I’d like to share some of the wonderful intangibles that make me happy.

This Christmas, Happiness is:

A warm puppy, yes I love our affectionate,black Labrador Retriever

A cup of Chai tea and a good book

Watching our favorite Christmas movies together, as a family

Loading everyone in the car and taking a drive to look at the wonderful Christmas light displays

Listening to, and singing along with, Christmas carols, especially the ones that direct our focus to the true meaning of Christmas — the Christ child, who came to save us

Family get-togethers where we share love and laughter, oh yeah, and food  🙂

Watching our sons hang their homemade ornaments on the tree

Our Christmas Eve service, (that isn’t usually on Christmas eve anymore), with our loving church family

Baking my sons’ favorite Christmas cookies and making their favorite brunch recipes for our brunch on Christmas day

Shopping with my husband — because we get some treasured one-on-one time

How about you?  What are the intangible things that make you happy during the Christmas season?

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I’d like to include one more item in this post, and that is My Favorite Christmas Movies:

It’s a Wonderful Life starring James Stewart

White Christmas starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye

Miracle on 34th Street starring Ed Gwinn and Maureen O’Hara

The Polar Express (animated)

The Little Drummer Boy (also animated, or, rather claymation, I think)

A Christmas Carol starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit

The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews (I know that this is not technically a Christmas movie, but I love to watch it at this time of year)

Frosty the Snowman (animated)

Frosty’s Winter Wonderland

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (again, I believe this is claymation)

How about you?  What are your favorite Christmas movies?

Leave a comment and let me know the intangibles that make you happy at Christmas and your favorite Christmas movies, or do a blog post sharing these things and leave a link to your post in the comments.