Christmas meaning? Wait for it…

 

IMGP2605by Cari Schaeffer

It’s That Time of Year again. Christmas preceded by Thanksgiving. I like that particular order – speaking for myself, spending a day focused on giving thanks is the perfect way to enter into the days leading up to Christmas. As a Christian, I am eternally grateful for Christmas (which leads up to Easter…but that’s another season and another post) because it’s the day of the year that we celebrate the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The meaning of Christmas has changed for me over the years depending on my season of life. When I was a child, it was magical and I looked forward to it very much. I didn’t come from a family of tremendous financial means and so it was never a lavish affair. We didn’t have a formal dining room with fine china brought out just for the occasion, a roaring fire in the fireplace, a twenty-foot tree in the great room with shiny presents spilling out from under its branches, and parties every weekend. The homes I grew up in were composed more of single-wide trailers or apartments. What I did have was a mother and stepfather who loved me, a sister, and close family around for most Christmases. Some Christmases were sparse at best while others made my eyes as large as saucers because I got the brand new bike or EasyBake oven I so desperately wished for. My childhood Christmases were about presents, the smell of pine, twinkly lights, and really good food.

As a young adult, Christmas was often disappointing to me. I thought it was never quite good enough compared to The Ideal presented in every commercial, television program, and greeting card. Intellectually, I knew they were just sets and not real, but I still felt like I could never quite measure up to what it was supposed to be like. I was sure everyone else did it better than I. Then one Christmas I was sitting on the sofa and glancing around at our little duplex in base housing. My husband was at work (of course) and I had just put our three-year-old daughter to bed. It was just me and the cat. My eyes spanned the family pictures on the wall which led directly to the Christmas tree that still twinkled like I remembered from childhood. The smell of pine was missing because we had chosen a reusable faux tree. It was cheaper. Under it were enough presents to fill the gap. My gaze continued on and landed on my book bag resting against the wall by our front door. You see, I was enrolled full time at a local private university that cost more per year in tuition than my husband made as a member of the military. But it was paid for because I earned my GI Bill. I was very close to graduation. Our house was clean, warm, safe, and filled with everything I could possibly want or need – a husband who loved me, a healthy child, food in the fridge, and the promise of a very bright future. At that moment, the disappointment I felt every year for not having The Ideal Christmas disappeared in the light of truth. That feeling of inadequacy has never surfaced again. Christmas is not a competition. It’s a celebration.

Now, my children are teenagers with that little three-year-old girl turning twenty-three soon. We have intentionally never focused Christmas on “things”, but rather on what Christmas really means to us – love, family, and relationships. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son to die for our sins, we are adopted into the family of God when we accept the sacrifice of His Son, and God restores us into right relationship with Him through the death and resurrection of Jesus. That’s what Christmas means to me.

We do buy gifts for each other but never go into debt for it. Christmas comes at the same time every year. So in our earlier years when money was tight, we saved a little every month during the year in order to pay cash for the presents. We have no financial hangovers come January. We also remind our children that the gifts we give them represent the ultimate Gift of Jesus Himself.

This is controversial for some, but in our family, we have never done the whole Santa thing. We are Christians and there are enough things in our society to detract from the name of Jesus that we don’t feel it’s appropriate to distract even further by supplanting what CHRISTmas is all about.

I hope that you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Keep it simple or lavish, but whatever you do I hope you remember the Reason for the Season.

This entry is my final adieu in this blog. It’s been fun sharing bits of myself with all of you. I have enjoyed my time here and found the Crew to be a great team full of grace and knowledge. God bless you all on your writing journey.

20140428_144615Farewell and God’s Blessings on You,

Cari

www.carischaeffer.com

 

 

3 Questions Wednesday with Cari Schaeffer

20140428_144615Today’s 3 Questions Wednesday guest is one of our own Crew members, Cari Schaeffer.

I know our readers want to know more about you, Cari. Here’s our first question:

Which author would you never get tired of, and why?

Cari: At the moment, I am devouring works by Michael Palmer and his son, Daniel Palmer. Their books are, 95% clean of foul language (some of the characters are horrible villains, so…) and believable. One book, a medical suspense, deals with a surgical cure for PTSD. That is a hot topic today in our country. As a veteran, my heart goes out to those whose physical wounds heal and scar over, but whose minds and souls seem to be forever fractured. As a former ICU RN, I appreciated the medical accuracy of the book. It’s obvious the author did their homework. There’s nothing worse than reading a book and being thrown off because of an inaccuracy in any particular field. This book really had me thinking – could this happen?? Currently, I’m on my…sixth book between those two authors in about two weeks. Love them!

Wow. You must read fast. 🙂 On to the villain…

Who is your favorite fictional villain?

Cari: Perhaps she can’t be classified as a “classic” villain per se, but my vote goes to Mrs. Hilly Holbrook from The Help. That woman is the embodiment of everything wrong with trying to play Keep Up with the Joneses. She’s superficial – focused only on the external appearance of herself, her home, and her life. She surrounded herself with like-minded women who propped her up. She had lofty ambitions for her husband’s career without regard to anyone that was in her way. One of the most memorable statements she made was, “Be careful, Skeeter. There are real racists around here.” as though she wasn’t one. She worked hard to destroy anyone who dared put a pin to her bloated life balloon. I totally cracked up when The Terrible Awful was done to her. She became apoplectic trying to convince everyone it wasn’t Jackson, Mississippi (or her) when the book came out.

Good choice! Last question:

What project are you currently working on?

Cari: The second book in my trilogy series, “The Yellow Ribbon Chronicles”. The series is a work of fiction, but based on the experiences of several actual military wives (including my own) who’ve shared their stories with me and given permission for them to be fictionalized in this series. The trilogy will cover about twenty-five years of recent history; from the 1980s into the first decade of the twenty-first century. It provides incredible from-the-inside-out perspective of what it’s like to be a military spouse. It embodies the good, the bad, and the ugly. There are so many misconceptions of what it’s like and I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight and hopefully enlighten readers.

Thanks so much for dropping by, Cari!

Hello and Goodbye3D-EBook Hello and Goodbye small

The life of a military spouse is tough for Heather. The long separations, deployments, military housing and the regulations, the rank structure and how it permeates every aspect of their life together…The list goes on and on.

Heather had no idea when she married Rick just how much she would be tested, or how their relationship would be stretched.  Will they endure, or will they snap?

Sacrifice, service, heartache, loneliness, strength, and tears. This is the cost of entry into this unique band of individuals. Not everyone is up to the task.

Join Heather and Rick in this first installment of the trilogy as they take this journey together.  Meet some of the unique characters and see some interesting places from the amazing, and often overwhelming, perspective of a military spouse.

Cari Schaeffer has worn numerous hats in life. She proudly wore the uniform of the US Air Force. After serving, she worked as a critical care RN for almost a decade. She also owned her own Personal Chef and Catering company for six years. Finally, she chose to turn her attention back to her family.

Closing her business hasn’t made her a couch potato. She cooks at the weekly Wednesday night dinners for her church, and volunteers at the Cross Talk Café in support of the Celebrate Recovery church ministry on Friday nights. She has volunteered her time as a Mentor Mom for two MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups. When she’s not busy in the church doors, she’s happily entertaining people in her home.

She not only has a passion for writing, but also for serving. She views writing as a form of service for people from all walks of life. Jesus used storytelling to convey life principles, why can’t we do the same?

She lives in southern Illinois with her ridiculously patient husband of twenty-four years, three children, and her two Chihuahua guard dogs, Snoopy and Stanley. Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate is her first novel.

Coffee or Tea? Yes, please!

20140428_144615

by Cari Schaeffer

I like both coffee and tea, actually. I lean more toward coffee than tea, but both have a place in my heart and on my tongue.

More than half of U.S. adults drink coffee every day — are you one of them? I am! I drink two cups every morning and sometimes one in the afternoon. I have not, however, jumped on the “pod” wagon. I prefer to brew my coffee the old-fashioned way because I like to mix and match the coffee I drink. For a pot of coffee – not just for me, mind you! – I will place two heaping tablespoons of the fully leaded stuff with four heaping tablespoons of decaf. I cannot drink regular coffee. If I do, I will end up cleaning my baseboards (and your baseboards) with a toothbrush after power-washing my house! I also like my coffee strong and full of flavor. That’s why I mound my tablespoons.

Here are some interesting little factoids about coffee:

  • Coffee beans contain antioxidants called quinines, which become more potent after the beans are roasted.
  • Magnesium is naturally found in coffee.
  • Drinking four cups of coffee a day is linked with a lower risk of melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer.
  • Coffee could help prevent dental caries because it contains an antibacterial compound called trigonelline. You still have to brush your teeth, however.

20151001_123616I am also strange (in many ways, but let us stay focused here) because I rarely buy a cup of coffee. I like to make my own at home and drink it in my favorite coffee cup. Note the caption on it – it’s one of my favorite Bible verses and an awesome way to start my day. Personally, I drink and eat nothing out of Styrofoam. It releases chemicals into whatever hot liquid you’re drinking and they are harmful. Plus paper/cardboard cups alter the taste of coffee and my taste buds don’t appreciate that.

As far as tea goes, I like it hot or iced. Although my family roots are in the South, I prefer my tea unsweetened. Whoa – did you feel a shift in the Force when I said that? I think I did… My Southern family won’t be happy with my sacrilege against sweet tea, but I have to be true to myself.

Be sure the next time you drink a cup of tea that it is actually tea if you want to get the health benefits. Real tea is derived from the Camellia sinensis plant and includes only four varieties: green, black, white, and oolong. Anything else, such as herbal tea, is an infusion of a different type of plant and therefore isn’t technically a tea at all. But if you enjoy it, do the technicalities really matter?

There are some wonderful health benefits to drinking tea. Tea contains polyphenols – a type of antioxidant – and phytochemicals. Most studies have focused on the more prevalent and well-known green and black teas, but white and oolong have health benefits, as well.

Here are some great benefits to be found in tea:

  • Drinking tea could help reduce the risk of heart attack and help protect against cardiovascular and degenerative diseases.
  • The antioxidants in tea might help protect against a variety of cancers including breast, colon, colorectal, skin, lung, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, pancreas, liver, ovarian, prostate and oral cancers. This must be balanced with the fact that tea is NOT a miracle cure (notice I said “might help protect against”, not “treat”), but simply a component of a healthy, well-balanced diet and lifestyle.
  • Tea has significantly less caffeine than coffee and can therefore provide greater hydration properties.
  • Tea could be beneficial to people with Type 2 diabetes. Studies suggest that compounds in green tea may help diabetics better process the sugar they consume.
  • Green tea has been found to improve bone mineral density and strength.

20151001_124657Aside from the health benefits that keep pouring forth regarding coffee or tea, I strongly believe there is a health benefit to be had from sharing a hot cup of coffee or tea with a friend or group of friends. The great thing about a hot beverage is that it cannot be gulped. Therefore the experience can’t be hurried. It is meant to be sipped, savored, and enjoyed. Just like my friendships. The time I spend with friends is meant to be savored, enjoyed, and long. It’s fun to schedule a proper English tea complete with home-made scones, delicate sandwiches, and bite-sized sweets. I have done it several times and enjoy it immensely.

When a friend is going through a rough time or has some exciting news, they will inevitably say, “Let’s get a cup of coffee and I’ll tell you all about it.” There have been some amazing conversations that have swirled in the steam above a cup of coffee or tea. If only my cups could talk, oh the things they would say…

3D-EBook Hello and Goodbye small3D-EBook-FaithHopeLoveandChocolate smallCari Schaeffer can be found at www.carischaeffer.com  She has two novels currently available – Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate and Hello and Goodbye: Volume One: The Yellow Ribbon Chronicles. Both are available as e-books and paperbacks.

 

 

It’s All About Control, Freaks

20140428_144615by Cari Schaeffer

I find it necessary to briefly tell you a little about myself. I am a US Air Force veteran, have my Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing and worked as a Critical Care RN for almost a decade, became a Chef and owned my own Personal Chef and Catering Company for six years, and am now an Indie author. In the midst of all that, I have been married for twenty-five years and have three beautiful children and two Chihuahua guard dogs – Stanley McBarker and Snoopy. With that in mind, read on…

Control of My Worlds   It is my belief that a number of writers have control freak tendencies. I am one of those. Fortunately at this point, I have come to realize the only real control I have in life is self-control. I cannot control the people in my life or the events that transpire. I can only control my reactions to them. Sure, the choices I make can influence some events in my life, but even that isn’t guaranteed. Often, making the right choice brings pain, sorrow, and challenges into our lives. It is still the right choice, however.

Fiction writing is different. When we write, we control everything that goes on in the world we create. Every single person exists because we created them. They say or don’t say whatever we want them to, do everything we make them do, and go through everything we put them through. If you write fantasy or anything “out of the ordinary”, you have even more control – if you don’t want gravity to exist, POOF it’s gone! It’s a perfect outlet for anyone with control issues.

As an Indie Author, I write when I want, what I want, how I want, and for as long as I want. The flip side and challenge is that this path requires a good measure of self-discipline. If you’ve chosen the path of being a traditionally published author, you have externally-imposed deadlines to meet. Either that’s liberating for you because you operate best with a “boss”, or it chafes you because you don’t.

I have no externally-imposed rules related to genre. My first novel is Inspirational Fiction, but it doesn’t follow some of the rules imposed by the traditional gatekeepers of that genre. There is no foul language or explicit material, but the characters of my book experience a wide variety of emotions that sometimes spill over. The married main characters of my book have sex, too. Nothing is overt, just implied. The reviews I’ve received for that novel are all positive. My readers are my gatekeepers. I am not limited to a single genre, either. My most recent novel is clean fiction without an overt Christian message. I have several more novels in a queue, waiting for their turn. One of them is a YA fantasy. I read one novel in the last year by a traditionally published author who broke one of the rules that every other book I have ever read (regardless of publishing method) follows. She didn’t use one single set of quotation marks around any of the dialogue in her book. I found it very distracting and hard to follow. I have no idea why she made that choice, or why her publisher allowed it, but there it is.

Control of My Career  I have complete career control. For better or for worse, that’s the truth of it. Indies decide what book formats to publish – e-book exclusively, paperback exclusively (rare), or a combination of both, which channels to publish through, and how much to charge for the books.

It also means I have to market all by myself, too. Although for traditionally published authors, they are typically on their own, too. The Big Six publishers (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Random House, and Simon and Schuster) aren’t spending a lot of money to market their authors. Unless you’re a publicly recognized name, they just don’t have the money for it. Smaller publishers don’t have the money, either. One requirement for an author to be considered by either a publisher (most of which accept only agent submitted manuscripts) or a literary agency is to have an already existing, robust marketing plan and social media platform.

Speaking for my own Indie Author journey, I have had hits and misses. Along the way, I have had so many other Indie and Hybrid authors come alongside me, mentor me, and show me the ropes and the way. Not everything I have been told has panned out or proven true (for me), but I count everything as a lesson learned and therefore inherently valuable. I find this group of people to be very peer-like in attitude and more than willing to share knowledge without boundaries.

The beauty of my Indie journey has been the ability to instantly tweak anything and everything, often with just a few key strokes. Remember, I have control freak tendencies, so this works for me! If something isn’t working in my marketing deck of cards, I shuffle it and put something else out there after researching and discussing it with other authors.

I am currently learning about new marketing techniques and tools. One successful tool I want to share with you is that of growing your email list. The example I will use is Facebook. It is fabulous for relating to people all over the globe, but you don’t have control over who sees your posts and who doesn’t. Facebook controls that. When you collect email addresses, you are the one in the driver’s seat. You control the flow of information and interaction. I want to stress that the collection of these email addresses works best for those who have intentionally and voluntarily signed up to receive updates from you via your website.

When I owned my business, I never had a single business card printed with my email address on it. Why? Because at networking events, the attendees walk around collecting large stacks of business cards from each other. When the attendees collect that stack of business cards, they go home, sit in front of their computer and enter email addresses from said business cards or other materials to receive newsletters, etc. from them before throwing them away. It is still a common business practice. Personally, I find that to be unethical. I certainly never appreciate it when someone adds my email address to their newsletter without my explicit permission. It does not increase the likelihood that I’ll frequent that business, service, or product. In fact, it has the opposite effect. I treat my readers the way I would like to be treated – with respect. I don’t write newsletters and don’t plan to. As an author, I am not entirely sure what the purpose of a newsletter would be.

My email subscribers only hear from me when I have something to share. It is not tied to an externally-imposed schedule (sort of like me…) such as weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc. There are plenty who would disagree with me, I’m sure. That’s all right. We all find what works for us individually. The promise I make to my subscribers is that I will not fill up their in-box just because the calendar says it’s time to send something. Instead, I let them know about book signings, new releases, and anything else that pertains to the reason they signed up in the first place – to read my books because they like them. That’s all.

Cari Schaeffer can be found at www.carischaeffer.com  She has two novels currently available – Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate and Hello and Goodbye: Volume One: The Yellow Ribbon Chronicles. Both are available as e-books and paperbacks at most on-line retailers.

3D-EBook-FaithHopeLoveandChocolate small3D-EBook Hello and Goodbye small

Writer’s Prompt: You are walking along a gravel path, alone and lost in thought. Suddenly, you come upon this structure. Why is it there? What stories does it have to tell?

Pergola

That Boy Is About as Sharp as a Wet Noodle…

20140428_144615That is a quote from one of my favorite cartoon characters, Foghorn Leghorn. The end of the quote is “…and just about as useful.” I love Looney Tunes! I grew up watching them every Saturday morning – I would sit rapt in front of the television absorbing every movement of those animated creatures and their crazy antics. I even spent considerable time wondering if I could order something from Acme to drop on my sister’s head.

In case you’re wondering, I could not.

Those cartoons are The Gold Standard. I have to say that no other cartoons since have measured up. Believe it or not, my family owns all the Looney Tunes on DVD. My husband bought them one Christmas as a family gift. My children can quote them from memory, as can my husband. I’m not so bad myself.

In fact, my husband frustrated the stuffing out of me one day with his Looney Tunes knowledge. I had asked my husband to take the garbage out at least three times that day. The garbage can remained full. The kids were discussing something to do with Daffy Duck. One of my boys argued that Daffy did NOT have a middle name and my other son argued that he did indeed have a middle name. My husband pipes up (straight-faced, mind you), “Daffy Duck has a middle name. It’s Dumas.”

My jaw fell open.

“You mean to tell me you can’t remember that I’ve told you three times today to take out the garbage, but you know that Daffy Duck’s middle name is Dumas?” I retorted incredulously.

Indeed.

I have to give credit to Daffy Duck for one thing – he wrote a screenplay called The Scarlett Pumpernickel that he hawked to a major director. If a fictitious sassy little black duck can write, then so can I!

Did reading this and seeing the pictures of Looney Tunes characters bring a smile to your face? I hope so – it always brings a smile to mine. When I write a great book and you read it, I hope I bring a similar smile to your face, too. Not because I include a cross-dressing bunny rabbit, though. I am not that creative…

Watching cartoons as a child really helped my imagination to soar. Talking animals of all sorts, gravity-defying antics, and a pig that plays a farmer of all things. Really? Wow! In books, I can make anything and everything happen if I want it to. There is no better place to let my imagination go as far as it can go. The creativity, the laughter, the absolute and absurd silliness of it all got the hamster in my head spinning on his wheel, and he’s never fully come to a stop since. I hope he never does.

Writing Prompt: If you could order anything from the Acme Catalog, what would it be and how would you use it? Believe me, there is no judgment here…

Catch Cari Schaeffer on Facebook and at her website http://www.carischaeffer.com and join in on the conversation! Her book Faith, Hope, Love, and Chocolate is available in print and as an ebook on most major retail sites.