Christmas Past, Christmas Future: What makes it feel like Chirstmas for you?

I love decorating for Christmas – pulling out the pieces of history from my family and adding new for  future generations.

The first item that gets unwrapped (reading the headlines from the years past is fun too) is my mother’s hand made nativity scene. Once these guys are up I know it’s Christmas! They are about 12 inches tall and when I inherited them they had a few chips and dents – I hesitate to “fix” them. What do you think? Should I repair the chipped chin and broken wing?

Ceramic Wise-men glazed by Cindy Guinther in 1975

Ceramic Wise men glazed by Cindy Guinther in 1975

Ceramic Nativity scene made and glazed by Cindy Guinther 1975

Ceramic Nativity scene made and glazed by Cindy Guinther 1975

Hand painted stockings are added to the mantel and then the Christmas tree is next! A tree full of angels and memories.

Christmas Tree of Angels and Memories

Christmas Tree of Angels and Memories

Over the years four kids have added their school made ornaments and the gifts my husband and I have received from students get added, but between all the mix-matched ornaments are my angels. My mother started giving me one each Christmas. The last one she gave me has my name hand written across a banner the little clay angel is holding. Each one takes me back to years that can’t be relived but they can be remembered.

My husband and sisters have contributed to the collection, and of course I have the ones I couldn’t resist buying. Now I have a tree full of angels and memories and I love it. Sometimes I change out the garland with red or plaid ribbons, cranberries, cinnamon sticks with dried oranges, raffia and silk poinsettias or stringed stars. I like adding something new each year to the pieces from my Christmases past.

Tree trimmings with raffia, poinsettia and family memories

Tree trimmings with raffia, poinsettia and family memories

The last thing I do every year is add my great-grand mother’s white plastic reindeer. When I was five and she was in her last eighties, she let me pick one ornament off her tree. Being the five year old I was, I passed over the old style decorations and went for the shiny plastic white reindeer. I went through a phase that I didn’t like the little plastic trimming. Now it is the last piece I place on the tree – right were I can see it and remember a women I barely knew but loved me dearly.
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Do you have a favorite tradition or decoration?

Busting sterotypes of Texas with the Hill Country

Garner State Park with the Frio River

Generations of my family have been born and raised in the Texas Hill Country and now I write about fictional characters that live in the same beautiful county.

Some people have an image of Texas as a giant state of flat lands with tumble weeds and golden grass. There are parts of Texas that would resemble that stereotype there are more places that bust it.

Texas Hill Country heading to Utopia at sundown..

Texas Hill Country heading to Utopia at sundown.

Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan

Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan

Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country

In my books the sun is often raising or setting over the hills of Texas. I love the area of Frio Canyon, where the head waters of the Frio River can be found. Garner State park is nestled in this area between Kerrville Texas and Uvalde, north of San Antonio and south of Austin. It’s my favorite piece of earth.

This Thanksgiving some extended family along with my husband and kids with be renting a cabin in in the woods by the river to celebrate our blessings. We won’t be the only ones.

Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan

Texas Hill Country Frio River at ConCan

You can’t talk Texas Hill Country without at least one picture of cowboys. Not everyone owns a hat or rides a horse, but the ones that do are fun to watch.

Texas Hill Country Rodeo Cowboys

You can’t talk about the Texas Hill Country and ignore the rodeo cowboy.

Garner State Park with the Frio River

Garner State Park with the Frio River

Do you have a favorite place on earth and do you have the pleasure of living there or just dream about living there?

The Tradition of Jack-O-Lanterns has Christian roots.

Why do we carve designs into pumpkins? Did you know it has Christian roots?

The tradition of Jack-O-Lanterns came to the USA from the way of our Irish immigrants. Did you know that the original Jack-O-Lanterns were carved into beets, turnips & potatoes?

Like most traditions it starts with a myth, a story created to warn children to behave or you’ll end up like poor “Stingy Jack”.

“Stingy Jack” was an Irish man that loved playing tricks on people and thought he could outsmart the devil. It all started when he invited Mr. Satan to sit next to him and have a drink. Being the stingy guy he was, he talked the devil into paying for the drinks.

He challenged Satan to turn himself into a coin that Jack would use to pay for the drinks, Coin in hand Jack left the bar tab unpaid and put the coin in his pocket, next to a silver cross. This of course trapped the Devil from changing back.
Jack laughed at his joke. He thought he was so smart for tricking the Devil. Making a deal, he finally allowed the Devil free of the coin, with a vow that the Devil could not claim his soul.

A year later, just to prove how smart he was, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree for a piece of fruit on one of the highest branches. The Devil’s pride once again had him falling for Jack’s ploy. While Satan reached for the fruit, Jack carved a cross into the trunk, trapping the Devil once again.

This time he made the Devil promise not to bother him for ten years. Before the decade was up though, Jake died.
Now the story tells of Jake’s true fate. God, not pleased with how Jack had chosen to spend his life, would not allow him into heaven. If he wanted to play with the Devil than the Devil could have him.

Of course the Devil had vowed not to claim Jack’s soul, so he was left with no where to go. Sent out into the darkness with nothing but a lump of burning coal that he carried in a carved out turnip. Jack wondered the earth looking for someone to play a trick on.

pumpkins-1

Classic, Sugar Skull and Astronaut Jack O’Lanterns by Tate Navarro, Jolene Navarro and Jackson Ward

The Irish refer to him as “Jack of the Lantern” of course being Irish, it became Jack O’Lantern. Throughout Ireland and Scotland families started making their own versions of Jack-O-Lanterns by carving spooky designs into turnips and beets.

They placed them on window edges and next to doors in order to keep bad spirits away.

When the immigrants arrived to the shores of the new country they shared their stories and traditions. Soon they discovered that the native fruit, pumpkin, made a perfect canvas for the artistic carvings.

Any good story told has a moral, a lesson to learn, so next time you see a Jack-O-Lantern remember that pride will get you in trouble and never try to outsmart the devil. It will always lead to misfortune.

Cousins & Pumpkins

Cousins & Pumpkins on the doorstep. Katrina Navarro and Jackson Ward photo by Jolene Navarro

Do you have a family story that is told as a warning?

Fall, Family & Fun carving pumpkins

pumpkin designs

I love the fall (some might call it autumn). Getting family together for fun and Frito pie with Kevin Ward’s homemade chili. The cooler weather rolls in from the north. In Texas that means we are moving out of the triple digits into the 90s and 80s. The other morning it hit 68…brrrr. Of course it was back to a cool 92 by 2:00 pm.

We might be limited in the color schemes too. The majestic oaks are ever year round green along with the juniper, but we have small splashed of yellow and orange in our foliage. I think this makes it more of a gift. We could pack up the SUV and head to Lost Maples outside of Vanderpool – it’s like a little pocket of Colorado tucked into the back of our bluejeans.

My favorite part is the unofficial kick off to the holiday season. In October 2004 my sisters and I got our kids together to carve pumpkins. We didn’t know we were starting a family tradition, but now it is part of our kids memories of growing up on the back steps.

Twelve years of carving pumpkins -growing up on the steps

Now twelve years later and the kids are actually carving their own pumpkins

This one might be the real picture.

cousins and pumpkins

Growing up on the steps – 2014 pumpkins

The level of skill and competition has grown each year.

The guts and glory of pumpkin carving

The guts and glory of pumpkin carving

Cousins helping with the pumpkins

Cousins helping with the pumpkins

My pumpkin is better than yours

My pumpkin is better than yours

Finding the right patterns

Finding the right patterns

Cleaning the guts of our pumpkin

Cleaning the guts of our pumpkin

Cousins & Pumpkins

Cousins & Pumpkins

The girls even got to use the power tools this year!

Girls using powertools to carve

Girls using power tools to carve

Carved Pumpkins 2014

Carved Pumpkins 2014

pumpkin designs

pumpkin designs

pumpkin a1

Sugar Skull Pumpkin Design

pumpkins designs

pumpkins designs

pumpkin designs

pumpkin designs

What are you waiting for go make some memories!  Do you have a favorite fall tradition?

SCOTLAND!

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Originally posted on Willa Blair:
Scotland is everything they say it is–and more.  Beautiful, mystical, historical, sunny, misty, fortified, spirited…I could go on, but for once, I’d rather show you! Have you dreamed of being on the water? Or of what might be in it? [gallery type="rectangular" ids="1043,1044,1045,1046,1047,1048"] Lochs Lomond, Lochy and Ness Might you…

The Heart of Small Towns: Book Signing at Bergmann Lumber

Join me Saturday August 2  11:00 at Bergmann Lumber for the book signing of my second book, Lone Star Hero.

Walking down Main Street in my hometown of Boerne, Texas is one of my favorite things to do on a beautiful Hill Country day. I love life in a small town. People know people. They know your grandmother, your cousins and your children. People have long memories and will talk about people and days gone by at a drop of a hat.

Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber. Family owned for three generations.  Taken by Jolene Navarro

Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber. Family owned for three generations. Taken by Jolene Navarro

You have a history. You’re part of a story. You belong.

I also love writing about it. I have created a fictional town called Clear Water, Texas.  With less than 400 people in this town it would be consider small by anyone’s standards.  Generations of ranchers, workers and business owners share a common history, good, bad and sometimes ugly. Preschooler to twelfth graders are on the same school campus. Community is strong. Not a great deal has changed there over the years. And yes it has a great deal in common with the town of Leakey Texas where my parents, grandparents and great grandparents have strong roots.

In my second story with Harlequin’s Love Inspired Line, Vickie Lawson comes home after her dreams are shattered. She is looking to rebuild a solid future in her old town for her kids. Her childhood sweetheart, Jake Torres, challenges her resolve to stay clear of all men.

Lone Star Hero by Jolene Navarro. August 1 2014

It it easy to fuse fiction and fact.  In my fictional stories of Clear Water Texas there is a hardware store on Main Street, called Bergmann Lumber.  Just like my made up business, the real one in Boerne is a family owned businesses that has survived the big box stores. When other mom and pop shops have closed and moved on, the Bergmanns has found a way to redefine themselves and keep the charm of small town alive on our Main Street in Boerne.
In honor of Texas small towns and family I encourage you to take the time to shop small, it can make a big difference in our communities.

I’m proud to announce my second book signing at Bergamnn Lumber, the real one.

I will be signing copies of Lone Star Hero on Main Street in Boerne at Bergmann Lumber August 2 from 11:00 am until 2:00pm.

Family owned lumber and home décor for three generations. Bergmann Lumber on Boerne Main Street.

Main Street Boerne Texas, Bergmann Lumber

The two story limestone building is a historical site and owned by the same family for three generations. Randy Bergmann and his daughters have managed to reinvent their store front and focus on customer service.

 

The final scene from the bonus story in Clear Water Texas, Vickie’s Prayer

Lone Star Hero by Jolene Navarro. August 1 2014

Lone Star Hero by Jolene Navarro. August 1 2014

Part 3

Numb, Vickie hardly noticed the squeak of the green vinyl chairs in the hospital waiting room. She closed her eyes, tired of staring at the gray sterile walls. Her father’s big hand engulfed her smaller one.
The clicking of her mother’s heels on the laminated floor broke through the muted hospital sounds. Elizabeth stopped in front of her and pushed a tall cup of steaming coffee into Vickie’s hands. After a minute of silence, her mother sat beside her.
Vickie took an obligatory sip. The warm liquid—without any flavor—slid down her throat to a turbulent stomach. Pulling the steam in through her nose, she let the rich latte aroma wash out the antiseptic smell.
Sighing, she added thanks for her parents to her silent prayers for her son. There was a comfort in having them on each side of her as they waited for word on Seth. Her sisters, Annie and Di, sat across from them. She shook her head whenever she thought of her mother’s strong sense of self-importance. The names she chose for her daughters all had royal connections. It never even occurred to her mother that two of them had tragic endings. She dropped her head and covered her eyes with her hand. Please, God, keep Seth whole and healthy.
Right now she knew Seth was alive, but that was all anyone would tell her. With a head injury, his condition could change in a matter of minutes.
Her father had prayed with her, and now they sat in silence. Her mother played with her bracelet, a sure sign she was nervous. Vickie laid a hand on her mother’s arm.
“It’s going to be okay, Mamma. No news is good news right?”
Elizabeth patted Vickie’s arm and nodded. “Have you heard from Tommy?”
She bit back a groan. “Mother, he made it clear not to call him until two tomorrow. After two o’clock.” She glanced at her watch. It wasn’t there. Wrapping her fingers around the bare wrist, Vickie sighed. “Now it’s today. Anyway, he’s busy.”
“Busy? But his son needs him.” True confusion creased her mother’s forehead.
Vickie stopped short of an adolescent eye-roll. Her mother refused to see the real Tommy. “Mamma, Tommy has his own life and decided the kids and I are an inconvenience.” Her father patted her hand. Vickie managed to give him a weak but grateful smile.
Elizabeth crossed her arms and glared at her daughter. “Well, I called. Someone needed to let him know Seth’s in the hospital.”
A new knot formed in Vickie already upset stomach. “What did he say?”
Elizabeth pursed her lips and looked off to the side. “He didn’t answer, so I left a message.” She cut her glare back to Vicki, lifting one disapproving eyebrow. “But you should be prepared to greet him, in case he shows up. I’m sure he will. Did you really have to wear that out in public?” Her mother’s gaze dropped to the dirt-covered Crocs, up the Coke-a-Cola pajama bottoms, over the two sizes too big Baylor t-shirt and stopped at Vickie’s hair. The perfectly shaped brows seemed insulted to be in the same room as the mess that was Vickie. Elizabeth crossed her arms and glared at her daughter’s tangled mess of curls surrounding Vickie’s face.
“Sorry, Mother. I didn’t stop to think about how I looked.” Why couldn’t her mother ever be on her side? She turned her head and took a deep breath, pulling the scent of Jake from his coat. The room wasn’t cold, but she needed him close and his coat was all she had for now.
“Victoria, that’s not what I meant. You could have at least combed your hair.” Her blue eyes narrowed. “Why are you still wearing that trooper’s jacket?”
“You know his name, Mother.” She burrowed deeper into the jacket and leaned on her father’s shoulder.
The door opened and Pastor John walked in with Lorrie Ann Ortega and his daughter, Rachel. Vickie leaped to her feet and crushed Lorrie Ann in a death-grip hug. She didn’t care how unladylike the action looked.
“Thank you, oh, thank you.” Despite her mother’s best training about public outbursts, Vickie started to sob. This woman, who had every reason to hate her, saved her son’s life. “They said you saved him. If not for you, I would’ve lost him.”
Lorrie Ann kept her face turned to Pastor John while patting Vickie on the shoulder. “Uhm…It was…I’m glad I could help.”
Rachel’s father, Pastor John gently pulled Vickie’s attention to him with a hand on her shoulder. “How is Seth? We’ve been praying. Celeste wanted you to know she’s praying, too.”
Vickie sniffed and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. Then she saw Rachel. Anxiety filled the girl’s young eyes. “Oh, Rachel.”
She cupped the girl’s face, cradling the soft cheeks in her hands before pulling Rachel into her arms. The fresh smell of apple shampoo tore at her heart. Rachel and Seth were so young and innocent.
“How is he?” Rachel’s timid voice could barely be heard.
“He’s alive.” Vickie smiled and tucked a loose strand of blonde hair behind Rachel’s ear. “Thanks to you and Lorrie Ann, he made it here.” She pulled the girl back against her chest and looked at Pastor John. “They’re running tests on his brain and spine.”
“Is there anything we can do?” Pastor John asked.
“No.” Vickie shook her head. “Other than pray. We need all the prayers we can get.”
Her mother approached. “Vickie, the doctor needs to talk to you.”
With a quick scan of the room, she saw the doctor standing by the double doors next to her father. Her mother took her hand and together they rushed over. She prayed for good news.
“Seth is very fortunate. There does not appear to be any permanent brain injury, no swelling. He does have a concussion. We want to keep him twenty-four hours, but you should be able to take him home tomorrow. He will require a quiet environment, no stimulation. It might be hard, but he needs to stay away from video games, loud music or TV.
The blood left her knees. She could take Seth home. The urge to hug the doctor overwhelmed her. Instead she threw an arm around her father. Biting her bottom lip, she nodded as the doctor kept talking. At this point most of what he said buzzed right over her head. She just wanted to touch her baby.
“Can I see him?” She’d have tons of questions in the morning, but for right now, she just wanted to hold him and hear his voice.
“Of course, we want to keep his room quiet and lights low. The visit needs to stay brief.”
What if he was still mad at her? What if he didn’t want to see her?
He would want to see Rachel, make sure she was safe. She looked behind her and found Rachel leaning against Pastor John.
With fast steps, she had Rachel by the hand. As they headed to Seth’s room, she continued to thank God for granting her a second chance to make things right.

If you want to read Jake and Vickie’s story you can find Walmart next week or buy it online at Amazon, Barns & Noble or online Walmart. The ebook will be available for download August 1st.