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Christmas Journal Flip-Through

Hello Friends! Welcome to my channel. You are invited to join me on this journey wherever it leads us.

Hope you enjoy this Christmas in July journal flip-through!




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Hope, for the New Year…





There’s an old song or poem written by Tennyson that says in part,

   “Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,

    The flying cloud, the frosty light:

    The year is dying in the night;

    Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

    Ring out the old, ring in the new,

    Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

    The year is going, let him go;

    Ring out the false, ring in the true.”

What an incredibly difficult year we’ve all had… I’m glad to lay this year to rest, and let it die… Things that we never imagined could happen, did actually happen. We’ve lost so much… but we didn’t really lose it did we, this terrible illness has taken it all from us, our way of life, our loved ones…

As this year passes, it feels like it should have been over a long time ago. Or, maybe, I just wish we could have had the progress that we have at the end of the year sooner. We know things are going to get better. We just all have to be patient, kind, and supportive, and wait this thing out. Things always change, I’m sure I’ve written about that before… This next year brings us new hope, and hopefully a good new normal. I know things will never be the way they were before, but that’s okay, we need things to be better than they were before.

So as we make our New Year’s resolutions, and contemplate this next year, this new year, and what our new normal will be. I’m full of hope for, new dreams, new goals, new discoveries, and wonderful things we don’t even know about yet.

I wish you all love, for each other…

I wish you all courage, to face our future…

I wish you all strength, to help carry each other’s burdens…

I wish you all hope, that you can see a brighter tomorrow…

I wish you all kindness, for everyone…

I wish you all happiness, from within…

I wish you all, peace…

Merry Christmas from New Parish

I hope everyone has a most joyous and wonderful holiday season.

I’ve been working on Home in New Parish, book three in the New Parish series. It’s not finished yet, but I thought I would introduce you to Sarah and Hannah’s older sister, Brenda. She’s got a lot of challenges to face but she seems to find it a little bit easier to face them in New Parish. She’s uniquely different from Sarah and Hannah, but still a feisty Nichols sister.

She was almost devastated when her marriage didn’t work out, and ended in divorce. She’s facing life’s challenges now and holding it together, for her four children.

Below is the newsletter she wrote to share with her family who aren’t in New Parish for Christmas.

Christmas in New Parish – Part 3

Christmas is full of traditions. Traditions that have been cherished, loved, and observed over the many generations in each family. In Return to New Parish Hannah learns about a wonderful cowboy tradition, that has been handed down from generation to generation in the James family.

I hope you enjoy Max’s rendition of the Cowboy Good Samaritan Story!


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 6 – Things Change

       “Come on, Dad, you have to tell it,” Johnny said.

       “Yeah, Dad, it wouldn’t be right without it,” Joseph and Jake chimed in.

       Max smiled, “Alright then,” he stood and returned to the fireplace.

       Hannah’s seat mates looked like they were thrilled and got a little wiggly, but soon settled back down when their dad began to speak.

       “Long, long ago, on Christmas Eve,” he started, “a group of cowboys were herding cattle on the trail from the south to the north. They’d been out on the trail with the herd for a good long while and they were all tired and worn from the work. It was cold, but the snows hadn’t come yet,” Max paused for a moment looking into the fire. “It’s said that this story can only be told around the campfire, so I guess our fireplace will have to do. The cowboys say this day on the trail was long and hard even if they ran out of daylight early. The cowboys had found a stream that had some patchy grass for the herd to feed off of and had decided to make camp there for the night. It was Christmas Eve after all and they were hankering to stop work for the day and get some much needed food and rest.

       As one cowboy rode into camp, he fell off his horse, his saddle cinch had broken, it was worn into from age and use.

       The other cowboys all laughed at him and taunted him saying, “You should’ve bought a new one last time we were home.” And, “That needed replaced long ago.” Another one accused, “I know you had the money to get a new one.” Then another one blamed, “Yeah, if he hadn’t of given it all away to his sister.”

       The cowboy shrugged and replied, “She needed it, her family’s having a hard time.”

       “Yep, and now you’re having a hard time. Herding cattle without a saddle isn’t going to be easy,” they laughed at him again.

       “I think I can fix it,” he said, looking over the worn frayed leather.

       “It’s your own fault that you’re in this mess,” they scoffed.

       When dinner was done, they each got their portion of the stew from the pot and sat down to eat. It was about that time when a stranger walked into camp. The stranger said he’d been traveling far and that he’d been robbed, and that the robbers had taken his horse, his money, and all his possessions. He told them he was tired, hungry, and cold. He asked if they could share their supper with him.

       One cowboy turned his back to the stranger and murmured, “Pathetic.”

       Another one shouted at him, “Git outta here, we don’t want your problems!”

       One cowboy looked at him in disgust and asked, “Can you pay for the food?”

       Another one called him, “Liar! Where’s your proof? I know a pan handler when I see one. This ain’t no charity camp.”

       The cowboy with the broken saddle invited, “Come over here, sir, I have plenty for us both.” He gave the stranger a blanket to warm himself in and later when dinner was done, he gave him his bedroll to sleep in.

       You see he just couldn’t stand to see the old fella cold and hungry like that. Even though he was tired and hungry from all the days of being on the trail, he cared more for others than for himself. I digress,” Max excused himself and continued with his story.

       “Well, the next morning when they woke the stranger was gone. The other cowboys started looking around, angrily, to see if he’d stolen their possessions. All their stuff was still there, nothing was out of place,” Max paused, looking around the room, then continued, “As the cowboy gathered up his things he noticed in place of his old worn out saddle there was a new one. It was much nicer than any saddle he’d ever seen before, it had a shape that resembled a Sheppard’s staff carved deep into the side of the saddle skirting.

       The cowboy looked around again to see if he could find the stranger, but he didn’t even see any tracks where he left the camp. The other cowboys were impatient and wanted to get the herd moving. So he saddled up and went to work. He told that story each Christmas Eve for the rest of his life. He took good care of that saddle and gave it to his son when he was ready to leave this world. It’s said that each man who received the saddle passed it on to the next generation and always told the story at Christmas time.

       Over time the cowboy community named that cowboy the Good Samaritan Cowboy, this is his story. I heard it long ago at Christmas time and promised I’d always tell his story and follow his example. I hope you’ll all do the same. The Good Samaritan Cowboy story was told to me when I was about five years old, and I’ve heard it every year since,” Max told them. “Uncle Alex was the one that told me and he taught me to live by the same standards that the Good Samaritan Cowboy lived by. Always share what you have with those in need, no matter if it’s a blanket and a bit of stew. He also taught me not to look for rewards here, but to look for ‘em to be saved in a storehouse in Heaven for you.””


Find Return to New Parish, New Parish, and Brigham Tea Magazine on at the link below:


Christmas in New Parish – Part 2

Is your shopping done? Have you sent your long distance gifts off? Living away from my dear ones, I have to be organized and get things mailed off early. That’s just the way things are in New Parish for Christmas. Sarah and Hannah live a good distance away from their family so they have to think about how to still show their love… In Return to New Parish, Hannah spends her first Christmas there with Sarah and her family. She gets a little more of the culture, lifestyle, and love the family has for each other and for Christmas… She also gets to know Max’s extended family, (one of them, a little more than she wanted to know).

Hope you still have some of that hot cocoa for this week’s post…


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 5 – Christmas Party

“… With guests arriving Hannah and the others were busy filling the tables with finished goodies as quickly as possible. Hannah saw Hope stick her finger in her mouth to hide the icing that had found its way there when she sat the last of the cupcakes in order for the Christmas tree cupcake cake. Hope winked at her, smiled, and hurried back to the kitchen.

       There was lots of laughter and smiling faces as people began to flow into the Fancy Room, some Hannah recognized from the day before. Mary and some of her mothers came in requiring hugs, Hannah didn’t mind so much anymore, she was getting used to it. She heard Bing Crosby begin singing White Christmas faintly in the background, smiling, she thought, “Perfect.”

       Sarah came up behind Hannah quickly grabbing her arm as a man with dark graying hair, came through the door. Hannah noticed him immediately, his presence seemed to command attention even though he wasn’t doing anything to draw it. Hannah figured he was around six feet tall, just a bit shorter than Max. Sarah was pulling her toward this man shouting softly, “Brother Michael! Brother Michael, this is my sister Hannah.”

       “Oh, hello, Hannah,” he smiled warmly at her.

       “Hi,” Hannah smiled back, noticing that he had piercing blue eyes, which reminded her of Max and his uncle. “So you’re the man in charge here?” she teased.

       Brother Michael winked at her and replied, “Yes, but I deny any responsibility.”

       They all laughed at his deniability clause. Hannah felt instantly at ease with Brother Michael. She liked everything about him, the way he easily smiled, the way his eyes seemed to look into her soul in a way that made her feel like he knew her and who she was. “This man is amazing,” she thought to herself.

       “We’re glad you’ve come to our little town,” Brother Michael welcomed her. “Sarah tells me you want to stay,” he said, almost asking.

       “Yes,” said Hannah firmly. “I do want to stay. Sarah’s found happiness here,” she shrugged, “and, I’d like to do the same.”

       “Sounds good to me,” Brother Michael smiled at her.

       “So what do I do first?” she asked.

       “Oh, well, you have to talk to the church leader about baptism, then set an appointment to talk to him about the matching system and marriage,” Brother Michael thoughtfully explained, holding up a finger for each thing she had to do.

       “Okay, aren’t you the church leader?” she asked a little confused by this information.

       “Why, yes, yes I am. Oh, would you like an appointment with me?” he asked smiling.

       Hannah caught the tease now and understood. “Yes, sir, I would like an appointment,” she smiled. Sarah was having a small giggle fit next to her and Hannah gave her a “thanks for that” look.

       “How about this next Wednesday, around 10:30 in the morning? I’m off for Christmas holidays, then so we’ll have plenty of time to talk about the gospel and everything we need to talk about.” He said, smoothing his hair down, as a gust of wind blew through their conversation when more guests came through the front door.

       “Sure, that’ll be great,” Hannah replied, “Where?”

       “My house,” Brother Michael winked. “Sarah knows where.”

       “Okay,” Hannah smiled, feeling energized at the prospects of this new beginning.

       “Oh, hey! Hannah you didn’t meet Karen and Marla yesterday,” Sarah said. Then, proceeded to introduce her to the ladies that had entered the room, with the previous gust of wind.

       They were warm, friendly, and welcoming like so many people here had been. Hannah felt like she’d found a place to belong and to be happy, maybe… There was also another feeling floating around inside her. She couldn’t put her finger on this new feeling yet, but it was helping with regaining her inner calm. She felt like the battle for peace in her life was gaining ground.

       After meeting Brother Michael and his other two wives, Hannah felt like the party really got underway. Things shifted from Bing singing to Alex James returning home. He entered wearing a maroon colored cowboy shirt like the one he had on the previous day, denims, and black cowboy boots. Hannah growled at herself inside for noticing, but he kept haunting her dreams, so she tried to excuse her inventory of him based on that. He was smiling and shaking hands with people and evoking laughter, as he made his way to the piano. She couldn’t hear what he was saying, but, her experience with him taught her that he was always joking around so she just considered herself lucky not to be in his line of fire.

       He began to play and the guests were either singing or dancing to the music. Mary came over to her, grabbed her by the arm, and pulling her toward the area that had been cleared for dancing said, “Come on, dance with me. Sarah’s nauseous again and she volunteered you.”

       “What?” Hannah asked in confusion.

       “It’s a line dance,” Mary said, as if that explained everything.

       “I don’t know how,” Hannah protested.

       “Neither do I,” Mary laughed.

       They joined the line of people dancing and did their best to imitate their movements. Hannah laughed so much during the dance that her stomach muscles were getting sore. When the dance was over, she and Mary went to get something to drink and ended up near the Christmas tree. The music stopped and Hope came over to the piano, nodded to Alex and he began to play “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Hope sang the song beautifully, Hannah was so entranced by her voice, it was as though she couldn’t see or hear anything else.

       When the song was over Hannah whispered, “Wow, she’s got an amazing voice.”

       “Oh, yeah,” Mary nodded agreement.

       As they stood there talking, Hannah heard a thud and crash sound behind her. She turned just in time to see the bottom of Alex James’ stool speeding toward the other side of the room. Alex was lying on the floor in front of the piano looking confused. She quickly surmised that for some weird reason the top of the stool had detached from the bottom and they had gone their separate ways.

       The bottom of the stool was on a trajectory that was heading straight for Cilla who was bringing in the cake they had painstakingly made earlier that day. Cilla was carrying the cake gingerly in front of her when she saw the stool bottom coming for her, she quickly sidestepped to avoid the imminent collision. When she did this she bumped, hard, into a rather large rotund man, which caused her to lose the cake. It wasn’t just lost, it was airborne. Hannah could see it sailing through the air almost in slow motion. The cake was soaring towards her, she reached out for it, trying with all her might to catch it. She might have done just that, but Alex James was still on the floor – she tripped over his feet and legs landing on top of him. What happened after that was something that would replay over and over in Hannah’s mind for the rest of her life.

       Hannah could feel herself falling and landing awkwardly on top of Alex James. She could feel him trying to catch her and keep her from hurting herself or him. It was where he caught her that was the problem. One hand on her side as she came down, that was okay, it was where the other hand went that had infuriated her – his comment didn’t help either.

       Alex James’ right hand was firmly grasping her left breast. As their eyes met and he said, “Well, these girls are real.”

       A flurry of movement happened next as Hannah threw a punch with her right fist, then her left. Alex caught both before they landed. Hannah then reverted to using her knees…

       As they rolled over and over on the floor in an all out effort from Hannah to cause injury to Alex he shouted, “Whoa, calm down little lady!”

       Hannah didn’t calm down, she continued her efforts to punch him or knee him in the groin. He tried to stay on top of her to defend himself, but she managed to throw him off and regain the advantage. There were many grunts, groans, and exasperated growls that passed between them during the roll.

       Everyone around them moved quickly out of the way, giving them room to roll. The room filled with laughter.

       In a panic, Sarah shook Max’s arm, “Pull her off him! She’s in nonstop battle mode! She won’t stop!”

       “No, ma’am,” Max refused smiling, “I always let other men deal with their own women troubles.”

       “You’re enjoying this!” she accused him.

       “Yes, ma’am,” he chuckled.

       “Brother Michael,” Sarah implored him for help, “Please pull her off him, she won’t stop!”

       Brother Michael laughed so hard that champagne came out his nose, but didn’t move to help his brother.

       There was a mixture of laughter, some were simply chuckling, but most were laughing so hard they were in need of holding on to something or someone to remain standing.

       A shout of, “The eight seconds are up Alex, you can jump off now,” sounded from near the Christmas tree.”


Find Return to New Parish, New Parish, and Brigham Tea Magazine on at the link below:


Christmas in New Parish – Part 1

Christmas has always been a very special, magical, and wonderful time for me. So, of course, I have to include it in all my New Parish books. When Hannah goes to New Parish, it’s just before Christmas, she discovers what Christmas is like in New Parish, their traditions, and some amazing activities.

So, get comfortable, snuggle in with some hot chocolate, and savor some moments from Hannah’s first Christmas in New Parish…


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 4 – Mr. James’ Home

“… Upon entering the kitchen, Hannah witnessed organized chaos, there were kids everywhere, adults that were mostly dressed, and food in various stages of preparation. Sarah still had on her pj’s looking as if she was prepared to leave the area quickly, Myra was barefoot and had a towel wrapped around her head. Del had all her clothes on but was still very disheveled, with her long dark hair loose and in her sock feet. Max was sitting at the dining room table, pulling on his boots and smiled at her as she entered.

       “How can I help?” she held back the laughter that was bubbling up because of the scene before her. She was quickly put to work. Leah, and the older boys helped her finish breakfast duty. Sarah, Del, and Myra quickly evacuated the kitchen, Max grabbed an already prepared croissant sandwich, which was loaded with egg, cheese, and bacon before leaving the area.

       Hannah thoroughly enjoyed the in-charge moment and made sure all the kids got their fill of breakfast, then moved into cleanup mode. By the time the others were returning all the dishes and clean up were done.

       “Okay,” Del announced, “Max is pulling the van around front.”


“… Hannah chuckled and said, “Hi,” awkwardly, she’d never been a huggy type person, but Sarah had warned her that it could happen. Myra, who hugged everyone all the time, had insured she was ready for these situations.

       She relaxed a bit after she scanned the area and saw no sign of the old cowboy. Cilla took her hand and said, “I need you to help us with the decorations, we have the Fancy Room, to get done today, the girls have already started, well, they have been in there for a few moments.”

       “Okay,” Hannah smiled thinking, “I can do decorations.”

       Sarah gave her a look of encouragement and quickly squeezed her hand before she and Cilla went through the huge double doors into one of the largest rooms she’d ever seen in a house. “It’s ginormous,” she thought to herself in amazement.

       Cilla gave her the tour along with the game plan of what they had to do. “We’re going to decorate that bay window, the boys will bring in the decorations in a jiffy,” she pointed to the wall on the left of where they were standing. The window was almost the length of the wall which stretched to the very ample French doors on the other end of the room. “This wall is where they’ll set up the tree and the tables and such.” Cilla pointed to the other wall which had a mural painted on it depicting prairies and mesas and mirrored the beautiful desert area she was becoming intrigued with. There was a huge Navajo rug, portraying an ancient Navajo village, hanging in the middle of the mural and two smaller Navajo rugs hanging on either side.

       Hannah stood there not knowing what to say, the room was so amazing and unexpected, that it had caught her completely off guard. She finally got out, “Wow,” as she slowly shook her head.

       Cilla laughed, “Yeah, it’s really something. I suppose I’ve gotten so used to it till I forget to appreciate the beauty. That big rug was given to Alex as a gift when he was a young man, by the Navajo people he was working with out on the reservation. The smaller ones he bought because they show the different plants the Navajo use to dye the threads. The big one actually has him woven into it.” Cilla walked over to the rug and pointed to a figure on it, “That’s him,” she turned to Hannah and smiled. “They really liked him so they included him in the village scene. They said that way he would always be with them and they with him, in spirit.”

       Hannah smiled, still amazed, “Well, it’s beautiful. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

       Cilla smiled and shrugged, “It’s been here longer than I’ve been here. Okay, let me introduce you to the girls.”

       Hannah followed Cilla over to the bay window where the girls were sitting. She’d noticed them sitting there when she entered the room and smiled at them. She’d never been an introduce yourself kind of person. Hanging back and watching how things unfold was her thing, she’d analyzed herself on this, many times, but this time, it was just an automatic thing.

       “This is Sophia, Isabella, and Cassandra, but we call them Sophie, Bella, and Cassie. I just like to say their real names every now and then.” Cilla introduced the girls who in turn smiled brightly and said, “Hi.”

       Hannah returned the smiles and their greetings, noticing that the girls shared many of the same features, “One could definitely tell they are sisters,” she thought. They each had long dark brown hair, milky white skin, and somewhat familiar blue eyes. Sophie had her hair parted on the side and hanging loose, it reached almost to the bench she was sitting on. Bella had her hair pulled back into a ponytail which Cassie had emulated. Bella was almost the same size as Sophie but Cassie was much smaller.

       “Mommy! I have a box of stuff!” a voice came from behind a box that had walked into the room.

       Cilla laughed again, “Okay, Papi, put it over at the window please.”

       Hannah laughed as the box headed toward the window, “So I guess there’s a small person behind that box?” she mused.

       “Yes,” Cilla smiled at her. “Liam, say hello to the nice lady,” she told the now present boy who had sat the box on the floor in front of the window.

       “Hi!” he said brightly cocking his head slightly to the side as though he was sizing her up. He had thick black hair that was cut short and parted neatly on the side, it contrasted greatly with his pale milky skin. His blue eyes smiled warmly all on their own. He was thin and looked as though he were about to grow too tall for his denim pants.

       All in all, Hannah thought he looked the picture of a miniature cowboy, “Hello,” she returned, trying to suppress the laughter that almost escaped as she watched the small boy. “Are you sure you should be carrying a box that big?”

       “I can do it,” Liam said with confidence, “I can handle the big jobs just like my Dad.”

       Hannah laughed now, she couldn’t help it, “So who’s your dad?” she asked, wondering where this enchanting little boy came from.

       “My dad is Alex James,” Liam said. “He built this ranch with his bare hands.” He held out his hands to give expression to what he was saying, which made Hannah think of Peter Pan.

       The cogs in Hannah’s brain started to turn, he had called Cilla “Mommy” he was her son, so of course, he was Alex James’ son. Why hadn’t she put that two and two together? She wondered as she stood there looking at this incredibly adorable boy, who she now recognized as looking a lot like, his dad.

       “Okay, Papi, go get some more decorations to bring in please,” Cilla chuckled at him.

       “Yes, ma’am,” he smiled and ran out of the room.

       “He’s so cute,” Hannah chuckled.

       “We like him okay,” Cilla said, with some pride in her voice, then continued with the tour. “This is where the outside or overflow will be,” she led Hannah down to the other end of the room and out the double French doors. There was a beautiful rose garden which had desert landscape, flowers and plants dispersed throughout it, just off the deck.

       “Wow! I love roses. What colors do you have out there?” Hannah couldn’t help the question, horses and roses had always been weaknesses for her.

       “I don’t know really,” Cilla admitted, “there must be about every color and some are mixed colors. You’d have to ask Patty, this rose garden is her baby, well she used to work in it all the time, but lately she’s been having the girls help her because of her arthritis.”

       “It’s lovely,” Hannah smiled.

       Cilla chuckled and said, “Patty will love to tell you all about it – she’s really easy to talk to. So anyways, the guys will be bringing the space heaters and placing them out here so that the guests won’t get too cold and they’ll do most of the outside decorating so we won’t have to worry about that.”

       A loud shout of, “Mommy!” came from inside the “fancy room” and they both ran inside to see what had happened.

       “What Papi?” Cilla asked with concern in her voice.

       Liam leaned around the box he was carrying, smiled a very innocent smile and asked, “Do you want this one by the window too?”

       Cilla sighed in exasperation, “Yes, Papi,” she said, sounding a bit annoyed.

       Hannah did the fake cough to cover the laughter that tried to escape, “This boy is so cute,” she thought to herself.

       Cilla shook her head and smiled at Hannah, “I blame his father, that man is the biggest tease in the world. And if he knows he can get to you, well, nothing entertains him more.” She fanned the air in front of her as if to wave the tease out of the air and said, “So let’s get started over here.””


Find Return to New Parish, New Parish, and Brigham Tea Magazine on at the link below:


Thanksgiving in New Parish – Part 2

Thanksgiving is always steeped in tradition. Each family has their own traditions, such as what food is cooked and how it is cooked, activities that are a must for the day, and of course as much family and friends included as possible. It’s really all about love, relationships – and sharing the work!

In this next part of Hannah’s family’s Thanksgiving in New Parish you’ll learn some more about some of their traditions.


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 13 – Let’s Talk

“The next morning’s early start was the usual, Hannah and Sarah making their Grandmother’s cinnamon rolls, as per tradition. This time was a bit different, though. The big house kitchen made it easy to navigate, and of course Sarah had Parley with her.

Parley seemed very interested in what they were doing, Hannah dipped her finger in the icing just a bit, and gave him a taste. He got very excited and very animated with both his hands and feet moving rapidly. Sarah gave her a serious scowl.

She shrugged and winked at Parley, “Who’s your favorite auntie?”

He let her know his feelings with a big smile.

It didn’t take long for everyone to arrive on the scene and begin the traditional eating of the cinnamon rolls and meal prep in synchronicity. Hannah noticed her mom looking around often as they worked through the morning.

She began to feel a little uneasy thinking maybe she’d forgotten something important, so she asked, “Is something missing? What are you looking for? Maybe I can help find it?”

“I’m not looking for anything,” Samantha deigned.

“It’s just that, I see you looking around like you’re looking for something,” Hannah explained, feeling confused.

Samantha waved her hand in front of her as if to clear something away and went on with the food prep.

Sarah chuckled from behind Hannah and she turned to see what Sarah was laughing about. “She’s looking for Uncle Alex,” Sarah accused her mother.

“I most certainly am not!” Samantha defended herself, but couldn’t hide the guilty look.

“Oh,” Hannah sighed, catching on, “He’s not here. If, you were looking for him, he’s out till this afternoon.”

“Looking for another wife, I suppose,” Samantha scathingly accused.

“Ha!” Hannah returned. “He wasn’t looking when he got me, so I doubt it. He took Buck and some of the guys over to help out a fellow who’s had some hard times. You know, do some home repairs, mend fences, stock the pantry, stuff like that.”

“Mmm,” Samantha shrugged, “I’m still bewildered as to why you would marry a man old enough to be your grandfather. Even if things were perfect, and he’s not, you’d still not have very many years together,” Samantha sighed in frustration.

“She has a point,” Brenda shrugged. “With Sarah and Max the age difference isn’t that much. But Hannah, really, your guy is substantially older.”

Hannah’s thoughts went instantly to her friend at BYU, “Yeah, there’s an age difference, but it doesn’t matter to me. I think he’s awesome and amazing. Besides, you remember my friend, Helen. She came home with me a few years ago, she was a couple of years ahead of me in school. She was 21 and her husband had passed away a couple months before. They were the same age,” Hannah sighed. “They met their first year at BYU. He was so cute, very handsome, they had fallen in love immediately. He was sweet, kind, and really perfect. They were perfect together, so happy. Till his headaches got really bad. He went to the doctor and yeah, brain cancer, inoperable. Three months later all Helen could do was hold his hand and watch him die,” Hannah sighed again.

Silence settled on the room as Hannah finished telling about Helen. She noticed a sad smile on Sarah’s face, and how her mom was pretending what Hannah had said didn’t affect her at all.

To Hannah’s surprise her Dad spoke breaking the silence, “Sammy,” he began slowly, “You need to leave Alex alone. He’s a good man, and he loves our Hannah. And even more importantly Hannah needs him.”

Hannah wanted to run over to her dad and give him a huge hug, but she knew it would cause trouble with her mom. So she mouthed a silent, “Thank you.”

David winked and nodded, then went back to breaking beans.

Her mom continued to pretend nothing had been said.

When all the work of the day was done Hannah resisted the urge to grab another biscuit as she put them in the fridge for the next day’s work. They always made loads of them for the dressing, but Hannah liked them with a little butter and sometimes a little jam, it was a weakness.

Everyone was heading out for ranch tours, everyone except Samantha. They were going to take turns flying over the ranches and New Parish. All this was to happen before the traditional pizza and charades later. Dave and Sarah were already doing a bit of “clean” trash talk about who was going to win, Hannah had found that very entertaining, all day.

When everyone was gathered back together that evening, TVs were set up in the sitting room off of the kitchen for the kids to watch movies and play video games. Alex’s staircase room was the designated charades room, he hadn’t winced much at giving up his man cave for a couple of days.

There were five teams this year, the scoreboard was a large white board set up in front of Alex’s bar. This was the first time Hannah had her own team. She’d always known it would happen and now that it had, it felt even better than she’d thought it would, “A little weird,” she thought, “But, cool.”

Teams were divided up thusly: David, Samantha, and Beth. Her parents had always claimed Beth for their team because she was the book worm extraordinaire, she was also a librarian and had vast knowledge of all things literature.

They thought it gave them an advantage, Hannah thought it only gave them an advantage when the charade was about some old book or Shakespeare.

The next team was Dave and his wife Tabitha. The third team was Paul and his wife Margie. Next was Sarah’s team, which included Brenda, along with Max, of course, and Myra, and Del. Lastly was Hannah’s team, with her, Alex, Patty, Hope, and Cilla.

Once everyone was in the staircase room, numbers were drawn by the team captains to see what order the teams would present. Dave drew the number one, and smirked at Sarah, who rolled her eyes and drew number three. Hannah’s parents got number two, Paul got four, and Hannah drew five.

As Dave went to the charades bag, sitting on the center table, to draw his first challenge from it, Hannah noticed Alex sitting back relaxed looking amused. She had to smile…

Dave groaned a bit when he pulled the old strip of paper from the bag, then walked over to the designated charades spot at the end of the sitting area. He looked at it again as if he was wishing the words had changed, then placed one hand under his chin to accent his mouth opening as his other hand was behind his back acting as though he were moving a lever up and down. The room was silent with a lot of questioning looks on many faces.

Dave stopped this action and then did something very un-Dave like. He tip toed around with his hands pretending he were daintily holding onto a short skirt.

Everyone burst out in laughter and Myra shouted, “The Nutcracker Ballet!”

Dave sighed and nodded, “Thanks for ending that.”

Sarah jumped up triumphantly and went over to the scoreboard and put a tick mark under her team’s name.

David was next, and pulled out another old looking piece of paper. He slowly unrolled it and stoically read it. Then he looked at the back wall as if in deep thought and his eyes return to the slip of paper. With a sigh, he moved over to the presentation spot. Holding out both hands with a questioning look, he then pointed at himself.

“Who am I?” Beth spoke quietly.

David nodded and began to act very strangely. First, he squatted down and stood back up using his hands in a rising motion. Then he started strutting around like a bird with its chest puffed out. Then he opened his mouth as if he were singing, but with no sound coming out.

The audience went from watching intently to uncontrollable laughter in rotating intervals. There was also rapid whispering among the teams as they tried to figure out the answer.

He returned to the squatting and standing, but this time instead of the rising motion with his hands, he looked as though he were holding them purposefully low and then high. Then he began to pretend he were walking up stairs. After that, he pointed to his chin, and pulled at the loose bit underneath his chin to accent the extra part.

Hannah was at a complete loss, so she just decided to sit back and enjoy the show. She could overhear Sarah’s team whispering about a singing farmer and her Mom and Beth saying something about Fiddler on the Roof, but to her it was just hilarious.

Finally, Myra said, “Tevye?” 

As per the rules David still couldn’t speak, so he held up his index finger on each hand, put them together and then apart.

“Oh,” Samantha said, “that’s only part of the charade.”

“How many words?” Sarah asked.

David held up seven fingers and began to dance around like a bird and as though he were dancing around a large pole.

“Tevye, If I were a Rich Man,” Beth asked tentatively.

“Yes!” David said, exhaustedly.

Sarah stood and looked as though she were scared of what the bag might do to her. She grabbed the bag by the top and shook it really good, looking as though she hoped all the hard ones would be shaken down to the bottom. She drew a slip of paper that looked old and very worn, she sighed even before she unrolled it.

Stepping into the charades arena, Sarah turned to face everyone. Her face held a blank expression, she raised her hands to the top of her head with all fingers pointing up. Her expression changed to one that looked prideful and haughty.

Del asked, “Are you a queen?”

Sarah shook her head in the negative and held her arms up to show muscles and express masculinity. Then she pretended her hands were a book which she opened and closed several times as she pretended to read.

Everyone looked clueless so she changed her approach all together and began pretending to dribble a ball, then she suddenly jumped and pretended an epic slam dunk.

“King James!” Max shouted.

Laughter erupted throughout the room and another tick mark was added to Sarah’s team score.

Charades went late that night. David finally had to intervene and call it done for the night. Sarah’s team was ahead by five and Dave was not happy about it.

The next morning Hannah woke to her alarm blaring loudly and was very tempted to snooze it. Forcing herself up, she quickly showered, dressed, and ran down to meet Sarah, who was coming in the front door as she reached the bottom of the stairs.

That day progressed much the same as the day before, only different foods were made ready for the next day’s feast. There was only one incident, which was between Dave and Brenda. Hannah thought Dave should have known better. Brenda had always been able to promptly put him in his place, or the place she deemed he should be put in. They were running out of places to put the deserts and as they deliberated on where to store them, Dave snidely said, “Maybe we should just keep the best ones and toss the others.” To which Brenda replied, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought we were trying to solve a problem, I didn’t’ realize you thought it was a moment to be rude.”

Hannah had laughed so hard, not just at what Brenda had said, but at the expression on Dave’s face, which was priceless.

  When the work was finished for the day, they had every fridge in the house full to capacity, every counter top brimming, and five ovens filled with two turkeys and three hams.

Hannah lamented a bit over the smell of food throughout the house, it made her hungry all the time, no matter where she was.

Alex hitched up the big wagon and took everyone for a hay ride that evening before the pizza and charades. Hannah thought it was a really nice respite after the work and before the battle. Max brought his guitar so they sang songs as they rode along the old wagon trail. To Hannah this was a little bit of heaven, she could tell by the expression on Sarah’s face that she was feeling the same.

For the final tally in charades, Sarah’s team won by two points. Dave decided that he and Paul would merge teams for next year’s competition, “It’s only fair. You guys have more people on your teams, creating an unfair advantage over us two person teams.”

“Fine,” David allowed. “You guys can merge next year, but no more complaining this year.”

After her good night hug Hannah went to bed without full recollection of getting there. The alarm once again woke her before she was quite ready to be that way. Yawning, she rolled out of bed, although she was leftover tired, she was excited about the day. Thanksgiving had always been her second favorite holiday, just simply because she knew her family would all be together.”

Find Return to New Parish, New Parish, and Brigham Tea Magazine on at the link below: 


Thanksgiving in New Parish – Part 1


I hope everyone is enjoying this wonderful time of year! Today I thought I’d share some of the Thanksgiving activities that happen in New Parish. In Return to New Parish Hannah’s family all come out to New Parish for Thanksgiving due to Sarah’s baby Parley, having a little head cold. So, of course, there’s a cowboy flair to this year’s Thanksgiving…


Excerpt from Return to New Parish:

Chapter 13 – Let’s Talk

“The morning her family were to arrive, Hannah thought, the holiday arrangements had gone pretty smoothly. The only kink in the plans had been when her mom insisted that she and her dad would be staying at Max’s, not Alex’s. Hannah had shrugged that off with the smirky smile thinking, “Really, it’s dodging a bullet, the less time Mom and Alex spend together the better.”

            Hannah remembered finding a bit of extra humor when Alex had told her, Cilla, Patty and Hope, “We’ll put ’em in the South wing.”

            “Maybe no one else would think it’s funny,” she thought, “but I do.”

            That whole area was empty, putting her family in the South Wing for the Thanksgiving holidays was perfect. It was the South Wing part that had given Hannah the giggles. Her southern heritage had long been a source of both pride and embarrassment, depending on the situation or the topic. When someone would say something had “gone south” Hannah always felt a twinge of embarrassment, but when they would refer to southern hospitality there would be a little beam of pride shining from her.

            Hannah pondered the memory of telling her sister wives about how her family all worked together to make the meal, “The prep, and cooking, and clean up are hang out times for us. We’ve always done it that way.” She was relieved and grateful they had embraced, and even gotten enthusiastic about her family’s traditions.

            A couple of weeks before the family were to fly out, her Mom had sent out the list of ingredients and supplies they’d need for the dinner. It literally took that long to gather all the supplies. Hannah supervised the extreme overloading of the house pantry. It was a very large pantry, twenty foot by twenty foot, but, it was so full with all the Thanksgiving supplies till it looked a bit inadequate. Some stuff had to be stacked in the main house kitchen. Hannah and her sister wives had decided that using the main kitchen probably wouldn’t be sufficient for the monumental job ahead. So, they planned on using Patty’s, Cilla’s, and Hannah’s kitchens to compensate and would probably have to use Hope’s fridge too.

            Hannah felt like she needed to heave a sigh of relief and brace for impact at the same time, as she waited for Max to arrive with the South Wingers. About an hour before the plane was to arrive at the small local airport, Max dropped Sarah and the rest of the family off at Alex’s so they could be there to greet the incoming family. Everyone was excited to see everyone again, and for some it was the first time meeting, so there was excitement all around.  Even Del was there, feeling better, and looking a bit more plump.

             Alex had Buck and the boys on standby, to take the bags to the designated rooms. Hannah watched, at the side windows as Max’s van slowed to stop. The South Wingers began emerging from the van, and Buck and his crew began unstrapping the luggage that was attached to the top of the van.

            “So far, so good,” Hannah thought. Then she took a deep fortifying breath, “This is gonna be fun. I hope…”

            The next little while was full of hugs, kisses, and laughter. Everyone was shown their rooms, and given help with settling in, everyone except Samantha and David. Their things were left in the van. Hannah noticed her mom avoiding Alex, and Alex not minding.

            After the settling, they had lunch in the big kitchen. As they were finishing up with the meal David leaned over to Hannah and asked, “So, where are all those Palominos you told me about?”

            “In the stables,” she chuckled. “I can show you in a bit, after the dishes are done. Okay?”

            “Sure,” he smiled.

            “I can walk out there with you. If you want to go ahead out?” Alex offered.

            “Alright,” David nodded, getting up to follow Alex, “Thanks.”

            “You’re welcome,” Alex said leading the way out of the kitchen.

            Hannah didn’t worry about this matchup, she smiled, thinking, “It’ll be good for them to get to know each other.”

            After inventorying and assessing the supplies, Samantha gave Hannah her approval, “Looks like you got everything, Sweetie. We’ll get an early start on it in the morning.”

            “Yep,” Hannah smiled, feeling a bit proud of her new position in the Thanksgiving hierarchy. All previous years she’d been the gofer, the assistant, and the “go put this in the garage fridge person,” which she didn’t mind at all. She was sure those roles would resurface in the morning. These roles were all comfortable for her. This new role was much more stressful, but she liked it all the same.

            “I made tea so we can have a nice visit in the sitting room,” Cilla said as she joined them in the pantry. “It’s herbal,” she smiled seeing the look on Samantha’s face. “Mint, no caffeine.”

            “Oh,” Samantha’s expression still looked awkwardly uncomfortable as she nodded.

            “Come on Mom,” Hannah chuckled, “it’s not against the Word of Wisdom.”

            “I know,” Samantha said, trying to recover from her obvious awkwardness at having tea.

            “It’s really good,” Cilla smiled. “Del grows it in her garden, all organic.”

            Entering the sitting room Hannah noticed that it was an all girl tea party. She looked questioningly at Sarah, “Max took the kids and Dave and Paul out to the stables to see the horses.”

            “Ah,” Hannah nodded, sitting down on the sofa close to Patty and snagging herself a chocolate chip cookie.

            “Here Mom, take this chair,” Brenda got up from the armchair she was sitting in and took a seat next to Hannah. It was a tight squeeze, but she was a very petite person and made it work.

            “Thanks, Sweetie,” Samantha smiled.

            “So, Samantha,” Patty began the conversation. “Tell us about your Thanksgiving tradition. Why do you all get together and do this? I know there has to be an interesting story in it.”

            Samantha nodded and looked pleased, “My great grandparents were immigrants, from England. They came over in 1915, just as the war was beginning. They were very proud to come to America and become citizens.

            My great grandfather already had some family that had immigrated a few years before, so they had a place to come to. It was in August, and believe me, South Georgia in August is an experience. My grandmother said that her mother told her she felt like she was going to die from the heat that first summer. She didn’t, they survived, and became citizens just before Thanksgiving. So, for them it was a special time to celebrate every year, both being American and being grateful.

            My grandparents taught me that when a family works together, they are close and stay that way. Their family had always worked together, so that’s what my grandparents did. As things changed and the world evolved with different job opportunities becoming available – things other than farming. Well, they made sure there were still opportunities for the family to get together and work together. Over the years that work opportunity has become our Thanksgiving tradition.”

            “That’s so wonderful!” Hope said. “I’m glad we get to be part of it.”

            “Oh, me too!” Patty beamed. “Your Grandmother was right. Working together does bring people close.

            “Gran was an amazing lady,” Hannah sighed. “We called her Gran, but actually she was our great grandmother, we never got to meet our grandmother.”

            “Oh?” Patty queried.

            “She and my father passed away when I was a very young girl,” Samantha interjected. “I was raised by my grandparents.”

            “Oh, I see,” Patty nodded understandingly.

            Soon the tea party was over and everyone was back together. Hannah thought the whole house seemed to be alive with life and laughter, and noise. Later that evening was a true cowboy dinner with large rib eye steaks and baked potatoes from the grill and a huge cast iron pot of baked beans cooked over the fire pit. When Alex had said he’d take care of dinner that night Hannah had had full confidence in his abilities but was pleasantly surprised at the outcome. She watched as he and Max manned the grill, including Max’s older boys, teaching them the fine art of manly grilling.

            Hannah got a good laugh when her Dad commented on how good the steaks were and asked where Alex had gotten them. Alex smiled broadly and replied, “Fresh off the hoof.”

            Later that night all the kids were gathered to Hannah’s apartment for the traditional slumber party. All the nieces and nephews along with Liam, Cassie, and Bella were there. Even Rosie and Mia stayed which was a bit of a surprise to Hannah, but she was very pleased they felt that comfortable with her. There was popcorn, movies, and not much floor space when the dust of things settled.”

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