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A FATHER, A DAUGHTER, AND ONE SPECIAL CHRISTMAS TREE (scroll down)


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Each year as I’m driving around during the holidays, my memories of my father come flooding back to me each time a car passes me carrying a freshly cut Christmas tree on the roof or in the bed of a truck.

As a grown up, I have celebrated Christmas each year with an artificial tree, beautifully decorated, mind you, with ornaments that reflected our “horsie” lifestyle of many years. Rearing horses, spotted horses, jumping horses. Not your typical suburban Christmas tree – yet, one that reflected our lifestyle on 5 acres in Parker, Colorado with a family of my own.

Yet my fondest Christmas memories remain those cutting down a fresh Christmas tree with my dad each year…

As I was the youngest of 4 children, and for many years, the only one left at home, it was my dad and I who went on the annual search for the “perfect tree.”

I grew up in Whitewater, Wisconsin – a rural farming community where everyone knew everyone else and you could walk on the streets at 3 AM without ever worrying about anyone bothering you. You could also cut your own Christmas tree at a nearby tree farm and it became my most anticipated outing each year.

My father drove a GMC pickup truck, probably circa 1959 or so. It was a rather ugly green, with a stick shift, and it smelled like him – earthy and tinged with his personal scent of sweat mixed in with a little bit of axel grease.

I remember that he and I would pile into his truck for the “adventure,” with saw in hand, bundled up against the Wisconsin cold. As he climbed out of his side of the truck, I would virtually fly out of my side into the waiting rows of trees that seemed to almost scream to me, “Take me! Take me! I want to be the one!”

Of course, my dad would always suggest the very first tree we saw and I would flatly refuse, until we had seen many, many trees so that we would pick the BEST tree possible! He loved to tell everyone how we would march through the freezing snow and cold, past hundreds of trees, until at last we would end up right back at the first, original tree he had spotted upon disembarking from the truck! Of course it was all hogwash! I couldn’t possibly choose the tree right next to the road, but he loved to tell that story all year long anyway.

Once found, he would make the precision cut with his hack saw and we would lovingly haul that tree back to his noisy old truck and place it in the back for the ride home.

Upon being perched regally in its stand of water at home, the decorating was my job. The special ornament box would come out from the top shelf of the closet and I would spend the next couple of hours ohhhing and ahhhhing over each ornament I would pull out of the box, as I remembered it from the preceding year.

Plastic snowflakes and snowmen, colorful balls with that scratchy white stuff that was supposed to look like snow but just reminded you of the feel of fingernails on a chalkboard when you touched them, and years of homemade ornaments my siblings and I had made in school were all strategically posted in their own special spots throughout the boughs.

The scent of pine filled the house, right along with all the fresh needles that had scattered like cookie crumbs along the kitchen tile all the way into the place of honor in the living room. No one seemed to notice until much later.

What simple times those were. I can even remember how excited I got over certain gifts I received back then… a sweater I called a “ski sweater,” due to its colorful pattern. (There’s not much for skiing in Wisconsin, by the way!) A “Creepy Crawler machine” to make nasty plastic spiders and other lovely creatures. A “Mr. Ed” talking hand puppet which I still have to this day, even though he no longer talks. Our stockings filled with nuts and oranges and one or two of those foil-covered chocolates that looked like gold coins.

My father passed away in 1998 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease and it has been decades since I have been in that tree farm on the hunt for that special tree. Yet to this day, whenever I see a car carrying a Christmas tree on top, on its way home to someone’s living room, I think of my dad and the special times he made for me out of something so simple as an outing for an evergreen tree.

Thanks, Dad.

AND THE (BOOK) OSCAR GOES TO…


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“No Cheatin’, Just Eatin’ takes the bronze in both writing (Mary Jo) and editing (Barb Munson) in Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association competition for 2017.

“No Cheatin’, Just Eatin’ takes the bronze in both writing (Mary Jo) and editing (Barb Munson)
in Colorado Independent Publisher’s Association competition for 2017.

We’re all familiar with the Oscars; that prestigious event that rewards great acting, writing and directing of the best of films from the big screen. With lots of pomp and circumstance, the Oscars return once a year and the celebrities, whether they’re for an award or not, compete as much in their selection of exotic attire as they do in their lengthy thank you speeches.

Each nominated person (and their family and friends) hold their breath as the finalists in each category are announced, then run to the stage ecstatic and blubbering all over the place.

After the 3 hour TV event, the big celebrating goes on at the after parties where the winners pose for photo opps yet again – only now holding their heavy statues for all to admire. And of course, the winners are now recognized as. being the best of the best! Suddenly wanted by everyone. And their salary goes up instantly. Recognition of excellence pays off!

Me and my editor Barb Munson, winning awards for my book, “No Cheating’ Just Eatin’ from the CIPA /evvy Awards, August 2017.

Well, you might not be aware that the world of books has their own Oscars as well, only the nominated are books; those who wrote them and all those best supporting folks who brought the writer’s story or idea to life! (Editors. Cover designers, etc.) And just as the film world has several movie award competitions throughout the year, (Oscars, Golden Globes, Critic’s Choice) so does the book world.Award Winner

Authors spend hour after hour, month after month, sometime year after year turning their ideas into something that goes from just a dream into something they can actually hold in their hands. It’s something a kin to being pregnant for 9 long months and finally being able to hold your baby in your hand! Of course they love their babies, but the real question is, “Will anyone else love it?”

And so authors across the globe enter their works in various book competition for a variety of reasons; for recognition, to be more credible, and to prove to everyone that it wasn’t just their friends and family members who said their book was wonderful!

The winners can then display a special seal of approval on their book covers; something akin to an Oscar-like statue in the form of a seal of approval, so to speak.

These shiny emblems on their books tells the world that these books are the best of the best. They have been fully “vetted,” as the politicians like to say. And their stories or their how-to advice between the covers should leave most readers satisfied and then some.

So what does all of this have to do with you? It’s just a little reminder to seek books with those special seals on their jackets. And the more, the merrier! Lots of seals means lots of folks gave their nods of approval. And the author can now claim the title “Award Wining Author.”

And If you know or meet an author with those special seals on their books, be sure to congratulate them for their book “Oscar.” They will appreciate that you know just what it means.

As an award-winning author myself, having won awards on nearly all my books, I am always honored that my judges and readers alike found something meaningful in my words. Of course I display my seal of approval on all my books, but honestly the even bigger Oscar for me is when a reader tells me how something I wrote changed their lives forever! (In some good way, of course!) Or that they read it in a few hours because they simply couldn’t put it down! Or how they saw their own stories within the pages … Well, there is no better reward for me than that.

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My Dog the Magician


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Mary Jo Fay

Can your dog do magic? Perhaps…

Move over Harry Potter – my dog has apparently taken up magic! Perhaps I should enter her in America’s Got Talent! See if you can solve this because I haven’t figured it out yet …

I had been out shopping the other day and when I came home I opened the door, as usual, expecting my little, white Schnauzer Larkin, to greet me exuberantly as always. Nope. No excited pup visible anywhere, bouncing with joy that Mommy’s home!  Something was definitely wrong. She never disappears.

So I figured that perhaps I hadn’t closed the bathroom door and she’d gotten in there and then accidentally locked herself in, which happens occasionally. But no. Bathroom door had remained tightly shut and when I opened it the room was just as I had left it. (If I do forget and leave the door opened, she considers it fair game to spew the contents of the bathroom wastebasket everywhere. Needless to say, it’s a rare day that I forget to close the bathroom door!)

All this time I continued to call her, but no sound of an excited fuzzy canine could be heard! I was starting to worry just a bit by then, as she never disappears. Was she hurt and unable to communicate? Had she keeled over dead while I was out?

My mind was racing by then. Perhaps someone had broken in and stolen my dog? Or something else? I glanced over to my dining room table where I do most of my work and saw the computer, (my most valuable possession as it holds all my works) was still where I had left it. Whew!

Then, I glanced over to the flat screen TV. Not a huge one, mind you. Several years old by now. But the only TV I had. Thankfully, it was still perched on the shelf above the fireplace. Apparently untouched. By this time I was beginning to panic.I live in a very small house and my possibilities were quickly running out. Where the hell was my dog? Did aliens “beam her up, Scotty?”

For a while when I first moved into my 100-year-old house, I thought it might be haunted, based upon some odd things that had happened. (I’d come home to find broken photo frames and shattered glass that had no explanation.Things like that.) And the dog hadn’t even been home to be labeled a suspect. But I hadn’t even experienced those for a while. Did my ghost suddenly return and decide to haunt poor Little Larkin to death?

Then, to my surprise, as I turn towards the next room to search, I find a pint of Halo Top low cal ice cream on the living room floor. (In the spot where Larkin usually lays to consumer bones and other precious commodities.) Aha! The first clue appeared.

The pint of Peanut Butter Cup flavor didn’t appear to be opened despite several dents I assumed to be bite marks and there wasn’t even a dribble of my sweet addictive food on the floor! (Thank God for small favors.) Yet, still no sign of the suspect.

As I studied the unopened container it struck me that it didn’t feel as heavy as usual. So, the next step was to open it. I pried the lid off and then- the aluminum foil layer after that; tightly sealed, although a bit soggy. It had apparently been out of the freezer for some time. However, the amount of ice cream in the container indeed seemed to be less than usual. Where did the rest of it go since the container was obviously still sealed? It was about half melted but even as such I didn’t see how it would take up substantially less space in its liquid state, would it?

Which begs me to ask the question – how the hell did my little Houdini get it out of the freezer in the first place?

Which takes me to investigate the freezer – firmly shut, as I know I had left it. It’s one of those doors that automatically closes itself! But how on Earth did she get it open? Sure, it’s a side-by-side fridge/freezer but she’s only about 17 pounds and I certainly have to pull pretty firmly on it to get it to open, myself.

My curiosity was growing by leaps and bounds. What had happened here with my dog at the helm?

And all this time, I have been calling and calling her as I had made all of these discoveries. Still no sight of her.

Finally, as a very last resort, I said the magic words: “Larkin, want a COOKIE?,” and slowly but surely Little Larkin showed up in the kitchen, looking VERY sheepish. And very guilty. I just wasn’t sure what laws she had broken or what to charge her with! Yet!

She hung her head for about ten seconds as I was scolding her (only with my words used cautiously, as she’s such a sensitive soul) and she went right back into the bedroom, where I watched her slide herself under the bed – much like a badly behaving child has to sit in the corner for punishment. To add to everything, the space under the bed has only about an inch of extra headroom. I said my prayers and hoped that she didn’t get herself stuck which would have only complicated the situation further. I wouldn’t have been able to lift the bed by myself, should I need to and as it was the middle of the day, there weren’t many neighbors nearby who could help either.

I guess the low-cal Halo Top ice cream had been calling her. She sees me eat it all the time and of course, I let her lick the spoon for all the drippings. So, apparently my addiction had apparently become her addiction!

In fact, I bet she’s had this plan in the works for some time! Just waiting for the right moment.
But, still, I ask you –
How did my little Magic Girl pull all this off? Should I sign her up for America’s Got Talent? Stay tuned for future mysteries. And if you have a dog in your house and you’re a Halo Top Ice cream addict like I am, you might just want to buy a lock for your freezer!