Laura Haley-McNeil

12/18/16, Unplanned

Hello, Everyone!

We’re getting close to the finish line. Christmas is a week away, and if you’re as I am, you’re putting the finishing touches on wrapping gifts, shoving in last minute shopping trips, trying to juggle a calendar of friends we want to visit and work obligations we wish we could ignore. This time of year can be frantic, but it can be fun. For those of you who don’t find the holidays easy, I send you my prayers for peace to soothe your hearts and hope that happy memories will pull you through the season and that you have the opportunity to make many happy memories for those holidays in the future when you need something strong and joyful to carry you through trying times. Though I miss my parents, especially my mother whose birthday is Christmas Eve, I appreciate the time they took to make sure we six children had special moments to look back on. Though my family was far from perfect, my parents worked hard and put us first and for that I’m truly grateful.

With all the scheduling and juggling that happens this time of year, there can be something that can be thrown into the mix that spins a tight schedule out of control. This weekend that happened to me. I had a leg cramp that wouldn’t go away. A visit to the doctor ended in the hospital with a blood clot. I felt fine. Being admitted to the hospital when you feel fine is unnerving. Hospitals are for sick people, and I was far from sick. What was even more frustrating was all the work I had to do. I still had shopping to do and gift wrapping. We had planned to a get together with friends which had to be canceled. We wanted to attend a Christmas concert provided by one of the community orchestras. There’s nothing better to put you into the Christmas spirit than hearing beautiful music and singing celebrating the birth of our Lord. Then there were the year end projects at work that needed to be submitted and returned and reworked and resubmitted. I can see you nodding your head. You’ve been there. A hospital stay never fits in with our schedules.

I had also planned to work on my next novel. It’s ready to be sent to the editor. The sooner she gets the manuscript, the sooner she returns it to me so I can make the necessary changes before submitting it to the proofreader. I had thought to work on it in the hospital, and my dear husband brought my laptop to the hospital. Once I had sent the draft to the editor, I’d be back at work on the sixth book of the Crystal Creek Series. I’m about a quarter of the way through the first draft. All the best laid plans.

Alas, the hospital is not a conducive environment for a creative project. The poking, the prodding, the IVs and the heart monitor. I had so much medical paraphernalia strapped to me, that making a trip to the bathroom felt like crossing the Himalayas with Hannibal. I had to drag all the equipment into this tiny bathroom and then rearrange everything so the equipment and I could fit into the room. I was sure Larry David became my life director for the weekend. Nighttime wasn’t any better. The night crew takes their jobs seriously and they continued to monitor me, take my blood pressure, my temperature, check my legs. When they discharged me, I couldn’t get out of the building fast enough.

What really disappointed me was the lost weekend. With all the shopping and wrapping planned then meeting friends and getting into the Christmas spirit by attending a concert and then my great plans to send one manuscript off to the editor while making great strides to complete the next – I accomplished nothing. Sometimes the mind and the body just don’t mesh. The mind is ready to charge ahead. Though the body tries to keep pace, it goes until it can’t go anymore. I guess that’s what happened to me. Thankfully, I feel fine now. I sent my manuscript to the editor. Though didn’t accomplish as much as I wanted to on my new book, I’ve been making steady progress and hope to have completed the first draft by the end of January. We’ll see. The shopping and the wrapping will be completed. We’ll see our friends after the holidays. We’ll make plans to see a Christmas concert next year.

For now, we’re winding up the week with finishing work projects. My husband is scheduling piano lessons so that his students can enjoy some time off during their Christmas break from school. Next weekend we’ll drive to the mountains to spend the holiday with my brother, sister and her family. My sister added a new member to the family – a foreign exchange student from Germany. She’s a delight and so brave. She’s fifteen years old and will spend the holiday away from her family. She’ll spend the holiday celebrating it in a very different way. In Germany, January 6th, the Epiphany or the visit of the Magi to the Christ Child, is an important holiday. Many of my European friends take that day off from work and their children stay home from school. It’s a day of gift giving and celebrating.

I love buying gifts for my grandnieces and grandnephews. They’re young and love surprises. It’s such a delight to see them open a package with wide-eyed expectations. Of course, their attention spans are short, and usually the wrapped gift holds more excitement than the contents. It’s a special memory for me to see and feel their anticipation, their little hearts pounding wildly as they delve into the mystery of the unknown present.

My thoughts are with you this holiday season, whether you spend it with loved ones or travel or reach out to those in need. This time of year makes all our plans and efforts special. I pray your holiday is warm and filled with love both incoming and outgoing. I wish you a Merry Christmas even if you celebrate a different holiday. I pray God’s rich blessing on you and your loved ones. I’m so grateful to you for the kindness you have shown me this year in reading my books and sharing your comments with others. I thank you for your letters and tweets and emails and Facebook postings. They mean so much to me. May the peace of the season light your world as you have lit mine and warmed my heart. I pray love and blessings keep you and your loved ones safe and warm this holiday season and through the New Year and always.