Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Where Do I Go?

Saturday was the annual Lockstein family Christmas party. Everyone who lives nearby piles into the local townhall bringing along a dish to pass and a handmade ornament to give away. It's a neat tradition the family started years before I joined (I've been coming since 1999). Rather than everyone try to purchase gifts for everyone else making Christmas shopping extremely expensive, everyone who attends is expected to bring a homemade Christmas ornament. They range from crocheted snowflakes to computer printed spinners to Uncle John's highly coveted wooden bells. Doogie filled a balloon with some flour and superglued cotton balls making a Santa face. Jesse made a pretzel wreath. Molly and Mia made ornaments with styrofoam shapes, fuzzy balls, and sequins. I printed off pictures of all three kids and (with help from Jesse) glued them into a triangular ornament. Our tree is covered with these handmade masterpieces. I especially love the ornaments made by little ones with their picture. At the end of the party, we all line up for a picture of the day. Today's pic has everyone who attended, except for my father-in-law who kept stepping out of the shot to adjust his own camera, plus a family friend and a cousin who took the pictures for the group. As many as there are in the picture, there are seventeen people missing from it!

After the party, we decorated our own tree at home with help from Molly's friend Jesse. Our tree is not anything Martha Stewart would approve of. The ornaments are so many different colors and shapes, the only theme they fit is that of a deep history of love. I sat on a footstool and handed out ornaments to Jesse, Molly, Mia, and Jesse (Doogie hung other decorations around the house and took pictures) and told a little something about each one. We listened to Christmas music and ate some cookies, and it was a great way to really kick off the season. Tonight Molly is going to wrap the presents for those outside of our immediate family for under the tree. There's nothing quite like a pile of wrapped presents under a brightly decorated tree to foster the Christmas spirit.

Where Do I Go by Neta Jackson is the first in a new series about Manna House, the homeless shelter that was featured in Jackson's Yada Yada Prayer Group series. First I have to get this out of the way: Ahhhhhhh!!!! You can't end a book that way! What a cliffhanger! How long am I going to have to wait until the next book? I'm going to go crazy waiting! Ok, that said, let me fill you in on the book. Gabby Fairbanks has been uprooted from all that she knows as her husband starts a new business in Chicago. She's left her fulfilling job as the recreational director of a senior citizen's center, her two sons are still enrolled in their private school back in Virginia until the end of the school year, and she has no friends or support system in a huge city. On her first day in town, she meets a homeless woman named Lucy, slices open her foot, embarrasses her husband and his business partners, and meets the fatherly doorman, Mr. Bentley, at her building. Every one of these events will shape Gabby's future in Chicago. After sending Lucy to Manna House, a nearby women's homeless shelter, Gabby stops by to make sure Lucy is ok. Gabby quickly becomes a regular at the shelter, becoming attached to the director and many of the volunteers (this is where the cast from Yada Yada comes in), so when a job there opens up perfectly suited to her schooling, Gabby jumps at it. But her husband views the job as unnecessary and possibly as harmful to his new business. Gabby has to decided between her family and the job that fills her heart and soul. The reader is introduced to Gabby when she runs through the sand barefoot and dips her feet into the icy waters of Lake Michigan, and her engaging personality is immediately winning. She is smart and loving and funny, and when her husband verbally abuses her, you want to reach into the book and smack him up alongside his head! Jackson has an incredible ability to write sympathetic characters you want to bring home and make your friends for life, and while I really enjoyed the Yada Yada series, she's created something completely new in Gabby Fairbanks. Of the over 400 books I've read this year, I have to say this is one of my absolute favorites! Fantastic characters, inspiring plot, moving faith in a familiar setting makes for a book I can't wait to pass on!

Pam Davis, the creator of Girls 'n' Grace is giving away one of her dolls. They are adorable, and your daughter or granddaughter is sure to love it! To enter the contest, submit a story about your best teachable grace moment with a child in your life to mystory (at) girlsngrace (dot)com. Please include the name or link of my blog! Pam Davis will read the entries and pick a winner.

And I'm still giving away three copies of Living Rich for Less by Ellie Kay. Drop me an email before 10 pm tomorrow night to enter.