I know it’s a bit too soon, but I have Christmas on my mind already. My newest romance, It Happened One Christmas, is being released this week and so I’ve been thinking about the most wonderful time of the year a little earlier than usual.
And because my Christmas romance is set in Victorian era England, I can’t help but long for simpler times when gifts were not the main focus of the holiday. Back in Victorian times families spent the holidays in each other’s company and gifts were small tokens. Children were content creating homemade decorations for the tree and finding a delicious orange and a shiny coin or two in their stocking. Today we are bombarded by commercials to start our gift shopping even before Halloween. The message being that only by purchasing the biggest, brightest, and most expensive presents will we be able to make our loved ones happy on Christmas morning.
Choosing the right gifts for people is a tricky business and not one I particularly enjoy. I stress about it too much. There is always the worry that they won’t like what I’ve given them… What if they hate it? Or already have it? What if they think I’m clueless for choosing this gift for them? Does the gift not show that I know them well enough? Oh, the pressure to give the perfect present!
And it’s because we love our families and friends so much that we want to please them with special gifts. Who doesn’t want to hear an exclamation of delight when your sister cries, “Oh, I love it!” upon unwrapping the framed photo of the two of you as children? Or the shout of joy when your son tears open the new Lego set he so desperately had to have?
I love to give perfect gifts but it’s very hard to do every time. I’m a planner by nature and hate doing things at the last minute, so I’ve already begun making my gift list. (But that is mostly because I have a very strong aversion to shopping in crowded stores and standing in long lines to pay for something.) Oh, I haven’t bought anything just yet, but I’ve started getting ideas for what to get for whom. There actually was one year when I had my all of my holiday gifts purchased and completely wrapped before Thanksgiving. Yes. I know. It was amazing. And a feat I have yet to accomplish again. (I still hold out hope, almost twenty years later, that one day I will have the wherewithal to be that organized once more.)
But I realized something today as I stood in a shop filled to the rafters with pretty things and wondered what my family would want. This commercialized version of Christmas that is crammed down our throats each year doesn’t have to be this way. I don’t have to live up to the idealized perfect Christmas and the giving the perfect gift… I don’t have to do this to myself every year. Although I love the spirit of Christmas: the mood, the decorations, the traditions, the scents and sounds, I don’t love the expectation of gifts.
But I could try a simpler version of Christmas this year. Instead of the emphasis being on giving presents, I could just enjoy being with the people I love and the season itself and not worry so much about the gifts.
That would be the perfect Christmas present to myself after all, wouldn’t it?
Or I could just give everyone a copy of It Happened One Christmas…
It’s June. It’s the month of the solstice, the longest day of the year and the beginning of long sunny days and lightning bug filled evenings. It’s the dawn of the summer season, when the whole idea of summer lies before you as a special treat, as yet unspent. Remembrances of childhood summers tantalize us with memories of school free days spent frolicking on sandy beaches, playing in tree houses, and sleeping out on the porch. It’s a steamy humid day giving way to the burst of a thunderstorm and blessedly cooler air. It’s the sound of cicadas buzzing in the heat of the day. It’s the sweet scent of freshly cut grass and honeysuckle vines. It's melting popsicles and fireworks and sand between your toes.
No, summers don’t seem to last the way they used to when we were young, but they still hold that same inexplicable magic. And that is what I love about summer, even as an adult. There is still that chance to be an excited child again, to savor the prospect of time free of obligations. Of course, we always have obligations, but for some reason during June, July and August they seem a little lighter than usual when faced with a day on the lake or a lazy afternoon reading in a hammock.
The start of summer is like a promise to yourself, an unopened present. The possibilities are endless. Will you have fun? Will you rest? Will you travel? How will you spend this summer season?
I love the new year. It’s a clean slate, a chance to start over again. Everyone needs that in their lives. A fresh start. An opportunity to let go of the past and begin a new chapter. And we get that chance every year.
That’s what’s great about January. This is the month I love to clean out my closets and drawers, getting rid of anything I don’t like anymore, and create new space and freshen things up. It starts with taking down all the Christmas decorations. Ignoring the small pang of sadness at boxing up the twinkling lights and pretty red bows that graced the house, I always feel a sense of accomplishment at the inevitable cleansing that happens at the same time. I am literally vacuuming, dusting, and sweeping away the remains of the old year to make room for the new one. And that always makes me feel lighter.
Anything is possible in the coming year! All things are possible because nothing has happened yet and the year is full of promise.
Resolutions? I make a written list every year. In 2011 I resolve to have more fun, to take more pictures, to be more patient, and to learn something new, among other things. My list is usually pretty long, but I’ll admit that I do keep at least half of my resolutions. Wishes for the new year? I have those too. I always wish for continued good health for myself and those I love. And a spot on the New York Times Bestsellers List. (Dream big, right?)
What do you think? Do you make resolutions?
Happy New Year! Here’s to a wonderful 2011!
I’ve realized that most of my romance heroes I write about have dark hair. Not that I have anything against blond men, because I don’t. In fact I try to mix things up a bit by making some of my heroes golden-haired, but I have to admit, I don’t like them as much. Oh, I’ll grant you that Brad Pitt is a gorgeous man, but my heart truly goes out to the black-haired guys.
So where did this love of tall, dark and handsome come from? When I search my memories, my very first crush that I can recall was on Batman. Yes. Honestly. The wham, pow, corny Adam West version. As young as five years old, I used to create scenarios in my head where Batman would have to burst in and save me. Bruce Wayne had dark hair. So did Superman and I had a little thing for him too. (I loved Underdog too, but I don’t think he counts.)
I also grew up watching endless I Love Lucy reruns and I freely confess to having a mad crush on Ricky Ricardo. He was so handsome in a tuxedo, and the way he sang “Cuban Pete” and always forgave his crazy wife no matter what she did, completely won me over. He had beautiful dark hair too.
Now I must address my great love for Elvis. Was there ever a dark-haired man sexier than he was? I honestly don’t think so. Well, the young Elvis anyway. Those pouty lips. Those heavy-lidded eyes. Don’t get me started on his hips! And that voice! That voice that just melts your heart. “Anyway you want me…” Sigh.
As a huge fan of Gone With the Wind, which I first watched when I was ten years old and even then I knew there was no way I could love the wimpy, blond Ashley Wilkes. None at all! It was the sexy, manly, witty, and decidedly dark-haired Rhett Butler that made my heart swoon. He’s a man who knows exactly what he wants and goes about getting it. (Although, I can somehow forgive Clark Gable’s mustache, in general I can’t abide facial hair of any kind.)
During my formative years, I think it was these early crushes that formed my partiality for black haired men. Batman. Ricky Ricardo. Clark Gable. Elvis. When I watched old movies with my mother it was Cary Grant, Robert Taylor, and Glenn Ford that I loved. That brunette theme just continued for me throughout the years. Harrison Ford. The young Alec Baldwin. Pierce Brosnan. Ben Affleck over Matt Damon. John Stamos. Chris Noth. Kyle Chandler. Jonathan Rhys Meyers. John Hamm. And of course, my all time favorite, George Clooney, although now he has become charmingly gray.
There is just something about a handsome, clean-shaven, dark-haired man in a tuxedo that will win me over every single time.
There’s only one other blond man who made my heart race, besides the aforementioned Brad Pitt, and that was Robert Redford. (I don’t know that there is a more beautiful human being than he is in The Sting or The Way We Were. Good God.) My only two defections in a lifetime of tall, dark and handsome crushes.
So what do you think? Blond or Brunette?