We’ll Muddle Through Somehow


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For many, this truly is the most wonderful time of the year. Some folks find joy in the frenzy of the season. But for others, there’s the exhaustion, the feeling of overwhelm at trying to do it all, in a limited amount of time. Clean, decorate, shop, wrap, bake, toast, mail, smile…. No wonder you’re stressed out.

And for many people, this is a sad time of year. Maybe it’s due to loss – of loved ones, pets, friends. Financial worries. Not enough sunlight (yes, it’s a thing). The loss of meaning in an ever-increasing material world. Or perhaps it’s something harder to pinpoint but can only be described as an all-encompassing feeling of melancholy. We’re living through harsh times, let’s face it. All of this can make you wish you had a river you could skate away on.

Social media is peppered with photos of smiling faces and sparkling trees. Of course it is, no one ever wants to share a photo of themselves feeling blue. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling festive! Celebrate! But if you have a friend or co-worker who opts out of the festivities, just accept it. Let it pass. Because for those who struggle through this time of year, all they wish for is to muddle through, somehow.

Book-a-Day #Giveaway Featuring Author ‘Post’ Mark


Leave a comment on today’s blog post and you’re eligible to win this author’s giveaway. Each day in November that you comment gives you an entry into the Grand Prize drawing at the end of the month! (Print copies for US residents only, please. If you live outside the US and win, you’ll receive a digital copy of the book.)

For those of you who intently follow Martha Reynolds Writes, you’ve probably read my posts in the past and know that working as one of Santa’s elves is rewarding, but not always easy.  This year is no exception, but not because I spent months slaving over another storybook, or have a bunch of kids’ tales to tell.
Now I finally have activity books to go with each of my storybooks, ‘Post’ Mark—Santa’s Misfit Postman, and ‘Post’ Mark—The North Pole Postman Visits Rhode Island.  While very exciting, it was much more of a feat than I had ever imagined.  “How hard can it really be to have my illustrator draw a bunch of pictures for a couple of coloring books,” I thought.
That was until I had to come up with 32 different creative ideas for the activities, and give the illustrator instructions on what I was trying to achieve with each one.  It was a part of my brain I hadn’t used before, or certainly not for a while.  As a writer, I’m used to conveying messages with words, and this had to be done strictly with black and white drawings.
I also wanted to tie the activities in with the common core, so teachers could use these books in their classroom.  Not only should the activities be fun, but they need to have an educational purpose.
I am very lucky to have an illustrator, and a graphic designer who were both patient, and helpful throughout the editing process.  With their tremendous help, we were able to produce coloring and activity books that hit the mark.  Now, we should be all set when book number three is written, and hopefully can produce the activity book simultaneously with the storybook.
My book giveaway for 2018 will be a copy of both activity books.  Please visit my website, www.northpolepostman.com if you are interested in purchasing ‘Post’ Mark—The North Pole Postman Visits Rhode Island, or ‘Post’ Mark—Santa’s Misfit Postman.
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Hope to see you on Saturday, December 1 at the Rhode Island Author Expo!

It’s #RIAuthor Month! Meet Mark Perry


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As a former journalist whose life has taken many turns, and changes in career paths, I never thought in a million years (or even as little as a decade ago) that I would be writing for children. Like many aspirations, this venture started out with a small idea that grew bigger, and eventually evolved into becoming one of Santa’s elves.

Having worked for Santa since 2010, and visiting schools across the country, particularly in my now home state of Rhode Island, it was pointed out to me that many elementary teachers across the state like teaching their students about Rhode Island, but the number of books for this age group is extremely limited. After doing some research, I discovered there was a hole in this market. That, along with the encouragement from librarians and school teachers across the Ocean State, inspired me to write ‘Post Mark—The North Pole Postman Visits Rhode Island to follow up my original title ‘Post Mark—Santa’s Misfit Postman.

In researching for this book, which involves the North Pole Postman learning about the state’s history, while traveling the entire state from Woonsocket to Westerly to collect letters, and deliver them to the North Pole, I discovered that for a small state, there are many unique gems, and many notable things Rhode Island can take pride in being first to achieve.

Rhode Island has both the first Baptist church and the first Jewish synagogue in America. We can also claim the first and oldest tavern in America, the White Horse Tavern in Newport. The town of Bristol gave us the first and longest-running Fourth of July parade. Pawtucket boasts the first operating mill in the United States, Slater Mill, as well as having the first diner on the National Register of Historic Places, Modern Diner. In addition to the first Baptist church, Providence also has the first and oldest indoor shopping mall in America, the Arcade, and the first automated post office in the world.

Lastly, the oldest carousel in the United States is in Watch Hill. So, as you can see, Rhode Island is a rather impressive place for being so small. But as the old cliche goes, especially around the holidays, “Good things come in small packages.”

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Please visit my website if you are interested in purchasing ‘Post Mark—The North Pole Postman Visits Rhode Island, or ‘Post Mark—Santa’s Misfit Postman.

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Meet over 100 local authors on Saturday, December 2! The Fifth Annual RI Authors Expo

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Nov 30 – Meet RI Author Mark Perry


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Last week, an eight-year-old girl from San Diego put a spell on herself in the shower, to turn herself into a mermaid.  Why hasn’t it worked yet, and how much longer will it take, she asks?  Where does such a child turn when they are contemplating their life’s most compelling questions?  Well, that would be good old St. Nick, or course, because the allure of Santa Claus to a child makes them think and feel that he is all-knowing.

When I became ‘Post’ Mark, the North Pole Postman, the elf who works in Santa’s mail room, I guess I hadn’t thought I’d be confronted with such far-fetched questions.  I more or less expected kids to share some interesting stories, because we all know kids say the funniest things.

For example, Oliver from Australia has a dog named Shelby who he believes is friends with Santa’s reindeer because she doesn’t bark at them.  Timmy, in the state of Washington, isn’t sure if Santa will come to his house this year because he tripped and fell down.  When he fell, he knocked over the Christmas tree, and broke a few of the ornaments, and thinks Santa is mad at him now.

Working for a boss who is a metaphor means I am the one who has to address these issues all while keeping a straight face when a child or parent visits me at one of my live book-signing events, or logs on to my website to share them.

A message in Santa’s inbox the other day is from a nine-year-old girl in the U.K. who has a crush on a boy, and wants Santa to let the boy know, so he will notice her, but if he can’t do that, she understands.  She would just be fine with an iPad underneath the Christmas tree, instead.

While I truly enjoy having the world come to my door with these messages, and feel they are a gift to me, you can imagine this is challenging at times since a child doesn’t know or understand that I might be going into the fourteenth hour of my work day, and there were dozens, if not hundreds of kids that came before them.

Working for Santa is a very rewarding experience, but as kids are taught, and one might expect with being an elf, it requires long hours.  I often ask myself, “How much longer can I go on doing this job,” and then, Santa receives a message from Angela in Virginia stating that she will be leaving cookies for him when he comes to her house on Christmas eve, along with carrots for the reindeer, and something for ‘Post’ Mark too because she loved reading his book.  Wow!  What an honor.  I wonder what she’s going to leave me!

It’s almost December! Visit Post Mark and find out how to send a letter to Santa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nov 22 – Meet RI Buffi Wixted


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Does the thought of having to answer your child’s questions about Santa make you realize how fast they are growing up?

A few years ago my son Dixon caught my husband off guard during a walk in the park with the statement, “ Dad, Santa can’t deliver all those presents by himself. It’s just not possible.” My husband told him Santa has lots of helpers and quickly changed the subject to basketball. I think having to answer your child’s questions about Santa causes fear and anxiety for most parents. After hearing about the trip to the park, I decided to write Dixon a letter putting my explanation of Santa’s magic on paper because I feared disappointing him and I didn’t want to stumble over the importance of what I wanted to tell to him. Yes, it had been wonderful experiencing Santa’s magic by receiving all those gifts over the years, but Santa’s magic is much more than mysterious presents that appear under the tree. Santa’s magic is really about celebrating the kindness and generosity of the human spirit. Telling Dixon the truth about Santa was more than revealing a secret; it was a big step moving him away from the innocence of childhood and closer to adolescence.

While writing my letter, it occurred to me that learning the truth about Santa should not be a disappointment, rather it’s an honor for a child to learn the history Santa and why we work so hard to keep his magic alive for each new generation to enjoy. When a child is ready to understand and appreciate the joy of giving, allowing them to participate in the process of keeping Santa’s magic alive, it signifies that he or she is maturing into a kind, generous, and loving individual. At this point my letter changed from explaining the end of one of the most beloved childhood mysteries to becoming a well-deserved invitation for Dixon to become one of Santa’s real elves and join us as members of the secret society who keeps Santa’s magic alive.

After putting up our Christmas tree, my husband and gave Dixon the letter I had written. It explained a little of Santa’s history and gently revealed that we had been the elves sharing Santa’s magic with him in honor of the generosity St. Nicholas had shown centuries ago. To mark this milestone we presented Dixon with a special elf ornament engraved with his name and the date. As he added his new elf ornament to the other milestone ornaments on the family Christmas tree, he became Santa’s newest elf and now shared the important responsibility of keeping Santa’s magic alive for future generations to enjoy. A few tears were shed, but the importance of helping keep the centuries old tradition of anonymous gift giving alive soon outweighed the tears and became a new challenge.

Over the next few years, as the letter was shared with family and friends, it slowly evolved into Elf Pledge Book and became part of the “The Fellowship of Elves Membership Kit” under the pen name Edwin Lionel Flynn (E.L.F.). The educational and interactive membership kit now contains all the items necessary to share the secret of Santa’s magic and make your child an official Elf Fellow – one of Santa’s real helpers.

To learn more about the Fellowship of Elves, please visit our website, our Twitter page, and our Facebook page

Buffi Wixted is a wife, parent, and teacher with 22+ years of classroom experience. She holds a B.S. in Mathematics and a Master’s Degree in Secondary Education.

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Let Your Heart be Light


Not easy sometimes, that’s for sure. A month filled with sorrow and grief, people divided, senseless acts of violence. How do you lighten a heavy heart during what should be a joyous season?

Stop. No, really. Stop. Still yourself. You have bought enough, baked enough, cleaned enough. Your holiday decorations are beautiful, last year’s sparkly sweater is still pretty and festive. With any luck, you’ve stuck to your budget, but if you overspent, okay. Stop now. It’s all enough.

Last week my friend Karen demonstrated to me the true meaning of Christmas, when she drove a hundred miles to take the ferry from Bridgeport, Connecticut to Long Island, NY. Then she drove to Save-a-Pet Animal Rescue and picked up Tiny Tim, a dog desperately in need of rescuing. Read Karen’s inspirational story.

Karen with Tim and Kimba
Karen with Tim and Kimba

Well, Karen brought Tim home, introduced him to her other rescue pup, Kimba, and helped him get settled in his new home. She kept him clean and comfortable overnight, but Tiny Tim crossed the Rainbow Bridge the next morning. Karen had known his time would be short, yet she put aside the frenzy of mall parking, crap-from-China shopping, over-thinking everything to rescue one of God’s vulnerable creatures. And then she wrote this achingly beautiful piece after he died.

Whether you assist an elderly neighbor, overtip the person who brings you breakfast in your favorite diner, smile at the frazzled department-store employee, dig a little deeper when the collection basket is passed your way, or whatever you can think of to brighten someone else’s day, even for a moment, believe me, your heart will be light.

Wishing you all the comfort and joy of this season, however you celebrate.

 

Comfort and Joy


If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you all the blessings this day holds.

If you don’t, I wish you peace and contentment.

And if you struggle with this time, as so many do, I wish you quiet moments. There is light in the darkness.

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What I’ve Read


Wow – not much! I track my reading progress at Goodreads, and apparently I haven’t finished many books in the past couple of months. But it’s understandable, as I published a book in late September and another last week. I have a few books open, though, and hoping to catch up in December.

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So what did I read?

  • Merry & Bright, six tales of Christmas cheer by some fabulous women authors. It’s available in digital format from Amazon, for just $2.99 and is a light, easy read.
  • Merry Chick Lit is another anthology of short stories (six of them!) and is only $0.99 for the e-book. PLUS! All proceeds from the sale of this e-book go to Rocking the Road for a Cure, to help women with breast cancer. It’s a buck! Go get your copy.
  • Oxygen, by Carol Cassella, a real-life anesthesiologist. This book was, as I like to say, unputdownable. While I found the story of Dr. Marie Heaton the anesthesiologist gripping, it was the inner story of her fractured relationship with her father that really moved me.
  • Fifty Ways to Leave Your Husband, by kc wilder. No, I’m not planning anything! This book was a lot more than I expected. Well-written and captivating, it
    follows Eve Wolcott on a journey of self-discovery. There’s laugh-out-loud comedy, memorable characters, and plenty of delicious sex in this book (definitely for adults). But there’s also a glimpse into Eve’s heart, and the author skillfully lays bare all of Eve’s doubts, fears, and second-guessing.

In fact, I’m joining author kc wilder tomorrow for an afternoon of “Chick Lit and Cheer” at her home in Wakefield. The house is open from 11:30 to 3:30, so stop by if you’re in the neighborhood (message me for address and directions). We’ll have nibbles and noshes (how about a block of chocolate cheddar – yep!) as well as our books, but mostly we’d love to meet you!

I’ll get back to reading in December, but first I’m going to finish beta reading a manuscript for a friend (almost done!) and another for one of my favorite authors (cannot wait!). Then it’s back to four books that I’ve started and bookmarked.

Hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable Thanksgiving with family and friends. The holiday can be a struggle for some, and I know not everyone feels merry and bright. Take a deep breath and consider what you can do to brighten someone’s day. It will undoubtedly brighten your own, too.

 

A Thrill of Hope


Do you feel as though 2012 kicked you to the curb, sucker-punched you in the jaw, sent you sprawling?

When I think about 2012, I will remember:

  • Newtown, Connecticut, and 28 people killed by one — the second-worst school massacre in U.S. history.
  • Hurricane Sandy – 128 people dead and over $50 billion in damage.
  • Trayvon Martin shot dead by George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida.
  • Aurora, Colorado, where gunman James Holmes killed 12 and wounded 58.
  • A September 11 assault in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans.
  • Penn State and its sex-abuse scandal. Joe Paterno’s legacy tarnished and Jerry Sandusky convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys.
  • The “fiscal cliff” that will trigger automatic tax hikes and spending cuts and our elected leaders unwilling and unable to come to a fair compromise.
  • Over 3,000 coalition deaths in Afghanistan as part of ongoing operations since the invasion in 2001.
  • Europe’s debt crisis that has hit Greece, Portugal, Ireland, and Spain the hardest.
  • Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old Pakistani shot in the head for demanding education for girls.

We are a weary world, and we need a reason to rejoice. Well, here it is.

You are not alone. You have reason to hope, and hope pushes away despair and grief. We can mourn and rejoice together this Christmas – mourn and remember those taken from us, too soon, too horribly. But we can rejoice in the expectation and hope of a better life after this one. A thrill of hope.hope

Wishing you peace and love at Christmas, and always.

The Past Week’s Roundup (still shaking my head)


Late last Friday, I learned that it was the 60th birthday of a celebrity. If you know me, you know that I’m not a celebrity junkie, but I do have a handful of favorites. And one of mine was celebrating a birthday. I posted a public comment on Facebook and wished him a happy birthday. When I typed his name, his picture popped up, which meant he was also on Facebook. So I sent him a friend request. And he accepted it, all in the space of about ten minutes. Now my comment about his birthday could be read by all of my FB friends, including….him. One of my college friends posted a couple of lines about how much she also loved his work, the roles he’s played. At one point, he replied, and she was deliriously happy. It was cute – she was positive and complimentary, and he took her comments in the manner they were intended.

The next day, I was up early, and the comments on that post continued. Most people still didn’t realize that my celebrity “friend” could read the comments, and one person posted something that may have been misinterpreted as a derogatory comment. The famous guy responded and did not sound happy. I realized that the comment thread was unraveling, especially as another of my friends posted directly to him that she thought he was rude. Damage done. I sent him a private message, apologizing to him, and removed the entire thread of comments. He has stated that he’ll simply block anyone he finds offensive, and he has every right to do that.

People think there is anonymity from behind the keyboard. According to Sherry Turkle, psychologist and MIT professor of the social studies of science and technology, “we’re less inhibited online because we don’t have to see the reaction of the person we’re addressing. Because it’s harder to see and focus on what we have in common, we tend to dehumanize each other,” she says. You can read the entire article here. Anyway, I’m still friends with Che/George/Saul, and happy about that.

Our Christmas tree is up and lit. Well, pre-lit. Four years ago, after struggling with needles and sap and twisted, unreliable strings of lights, we broke down and bought an artificial, made-in-China, pre-lit Christmas tree. Yes, at times I yearn for the real deal, but this is the tree we have, and it’s pretty.

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The rest of the week was filled with editing and baking. And tonight we saw the movie “Lincoln,” starring Daniel Day-Lewis, an Irish actor (go figure). Sally Field played his wife Mary, but I can’t help thinking of Gidget or The Flying Nun whenever I see her. Still, she’s ageless, and the film is very, very good. Try to squeeze it in amidst all the other things you have to do.