Resolutions, Goals or Bucket Lists

Author: Janice McCaffrey


Resolution: a firm decision to do something. (Encarta Dictionary: English (North America). Goal: something that somebody wants to achieve. (Encarta Dictionary: English (North America). Bucket List: a list of all the things you want to accomplish before you expire. (

If a resolution is a firm decision to do something, why don’t we act on them? I know I’m more inclined to complete a goal than stick to a resolution. For me the key word is “wants”. I’ve learned that anything I should do (resolution type things: lose weight, exercise, etc) doesn’t get done, but anything I want to do (goals: keep my plants alive, Christmas gifts mailed by December 10th) usually does. And then there’s the Bucket List. From my perspective this has become more pressing as I age. The closer to my expiration date I get the more intent I am at refining and completing my list.

Twenty-five years ago I became friends with a 77-year old woman named Daphne. One day as we visited she handed me a small square of yellowed paper. Once in my hand, it felt worn thin and fragile so I used gentle care unfolding it. It was a plain rectangular shaped piece of note paper that had been folded and refolded many times and it contained a hand-written list. What I remember of it: become a teacher, live in the country, own my own home, study at Oxford, enjoy a financially secure retirement.

Daphne answered my questioning look, “As a young woman I worked as a secretary in the city and I wasn’t happy. One day I made a list of what I really wanted, folded it up and put it in my wallet. As I moved through life, and opportunities presented themselves, I followed my heart. What started as a list of desires is now a list of memories. I accomplished them all.”

Daphne’s experience inspired me. I went home and immediately wrote out my list. Over the years I have refined it adding and subtracting at will. And, like Daphne’s, my list is becoming cherished memories.

As Tennyson’s Wild Bells ring out the old and we enter the New Year, whether you choose Resolutions, Goals, or Bucket List, enjoy the vision and the journey.

Janice McCaffrey

Making Real Christmas Tree Memories

By Anne B. Howard
Each holiday season as Keith and I trim a fresh tree, I always think back to my childhood and the shiny aluminum tree my parents displayed proudly, year after year. Dad mounted a rotating pink, blue and gold spotlight on the ceiling, creating a kaleidoscope-of-color effect, and he and my mother thought it was the most beautiful tree in town. I was not convinced. I yearned for a “real Christmas tree.” A freshly cut tree that smelled of the forest. A tree I could decorate with beautiful ornaments, sparkling garland, colored lights and silvery tinsel draped over its branches. I felt afraid of that aluminum tree my parents coveted, afraid and resentful, because I couldn’t go near it. “Stay away from that tree,” my mother scolded. “If you knock it over, it could cut you to pieces.” After thrilling my folks for ten years, silver was eventually replaced with “artificial green,” but I was so disappointed I cried.

That first Christmas that Keith and I spent in Montana, in 1993, after our move from Kansas to “real-Christmas-tree heaven,” I was delighted by my selection of freshly cut trees. Several years passed, however, before I realized the true extent of my options. One evening, over a bottle of wine with friends, I confessed to my obsession with real Christmas trees.

“We’re in,” my friend said. “Tomorrow we get a permit and head up Crane Mountain, on Forest Service land, to find you the freshest, most beautiful tree you’ve ever seen. Cut any one you like for five bucks.”

Excited by the prospect of selecting a fresh tree from the forest, Keith and I, and our two friends, drove quite a long way up the Crane Mountain Road before pulling the car over and trudging through eight inches of fresh snow to a broad meadow, sprinkled with trees of every variety. Immediately, I saw the tree I wanted, but before Keith could get his saw in motion, I changed my mind. For well over an hour I ran from one tree to the next, vowing that each would be “my final choice,” only to find a bare spot or a crooked trunk, which every Christmas tree critic knows is a deal-breaker. Typically a very patient man, I had pushed him to his breaking point. “I mean it, Becky. Make a decision. This is it. I’m going home.”

Meanwhile, our friends stood patiently next to their selection—a measly little thing, by my standards. I mean, they were paying the same five dollars as me for a nice big tree, so why, I wondered, hadn’t they chosen the tallest tree they could get on their car?

Growing more annoyed by the minute, Keith jumped on my latest “final choice” with clenched teeth, and began working his saw. It took the four of us, panting and groaning, to drag that snow-laden tree over the stumps and downfall, and out of that meadow, where, after another hour spent cursing and scratching the car finish and losing the tree off the opposite side, we secured her to the roof. “I’ll never get this so-and-so through the front door,” Keith declared, furious. I kept my mouth shut—it was safer that way. Unfortunately, however, he was right. The tree wouldn’t go through the front door. Or the back door. Not even with four adults pushing and pulling with all of our might, determined to force it through. “Not going. No way,” he declared, angrily.

“What about the French doors off the deck?” I suggested, timidly.

Next, they dragged the enormous Frazier Fur up the back steps and onto the deck as I raced through the house and threw open the doors. Just as I suspected, the tree slipped easily through, but was a good four feet too tall for my ceiling. By this point, I was in big trouble and I knew it. “I’ll throw the damn thing off the deck,” Keith threatened.

Then, it began to snow. Big flakes, the size of quarters, began to stick to the cold needles creating a lovely lace flocking. “Set it up on the deck,” I said, “outside the French doors. I’ll load it with colored lights and the spotlight will illuminate the falling snow. It will be beautiful.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes, but with the help of our friends, we muscled the big tree into a make-shift stand and secured it to the railing, so it couldn’t fall over.

Once the tree was lit and flocked with snow, Keith came around. In fact, I may have heard him bragging a little to our neighbors, when he thought I was out of earshot. He said it was the perfect place for such a great Christmas tree. And, yes, it was a unique holiday experience that year, having the tree on the deck, its branches ablaze with colored lights and heavily flocked with snow. Different, but incredibly beautiful—a memory I’ll always hold close to my heart as the best Christmas tree ever.

Listen to the Children

Christmas Tree Farm Girl ImageReports of war and terror pour from the television as I rush to start the day. Despite a world now darken by apprehension, the anchorman urges us to return to normal life. And so I try.

Grabbing lunches, backpacks, and keys, the kids and I race through an icy rain for the safety of the car. Heading up the long driveway, I keep one hand on the wheel, while the other tries to buckle a seatbelt that shrinks with each passing birthday.

Return to normal life? How? My so-called normal life included guarantees, extended warranties and a comfortable, but perhaps naïve, sense of security. Where do I look for that now?

The to-do list inside my head grows longer. Buy stamps, pick-up dry cleaning, make bank deposit. Did I unplug the curling iron? I need a distraction so I turn on the radio. Disease, hunger, more fighting, the announcer reports. I turn off the radio, lock the car doors, and return to my mental list, which now includes thinking up a new reason for being late.

”There’s a rainbow.” A small voice from the back seat interrupts my mental whining.

“What is it?” I ask as my eyes dart from the clock to the speedometer.

“There’s a rainbow,” my son repeats. “Look at the rainbow, Mom.”

“I can’t. I’m driving.” But I glance back anyway. “I don’t see a rainbow, Clayton, just gray clouds.”

“Look again, Mom. Look where I’m pointing.”

As I slow to make a turn, I peek over my right shoulder. A pale band of violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange, and red curves against the ashen sky, hues almost lost in heaven’s bleakness. I pull into the school driveway and the children get out.

“Don’t forget to look for the rainbow,” Clayton yells as he runs toward the playground.

Back at the intersection, I wait my turn to join the hurried masses. Then I see it. A multicolored ribbon stitched into the sky. I take my place in the metal caravan. My pace slows so I can admire the rainbow a little longer. The rainbow—a sign that the world will go on.

In times, battles will be won, work will get finished, and wounds will heal. And our nation will continue to be a beacon for liberty and a refugee for huddled masses yearning to breathe free for as long as there are rainbows . . . and children to point them out.

This Christmas, take time to look for the rainbows, the twinkle in the stars, and the angels (snow and otherwise) that touch our daily lives with their smiles, words of encouragement, and hugs-a-plenty. And please take time to say a special prayer for all the children in harm’s way, and a heartfelt “Thank you,” for the blessings our children and grandchildren bring us every day.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyeux Noël, Feliz Navidad and a Wonderful New Year!

Thanks for stopping by,

Deborah                                                                                                              250,000 small

Christmas at Nathan's mom's house  1992

Christmas at Nathan’s mom’s house 1992

December Book News

How did it get to be December? You don’t know, either? Why is it that the older we get, the faster time seems to go? 


Out December 1 from Berkley Prime Crime

Here in Northwest Montana, we’ve been busy–which may be one reason why the year is suddenly rushing to a close! Today is release day for GUILTY AS CINNAMON, the second Seattle Spice Shop Mystery by Leslie Budewitz.

From the cover: 
Pepper Reece knows that fiery flavors are the spice of life. But when a customer dies of a chili overdose, she finds herself in hot pursuit of a murderer…

Murder heats up Seattle’s Pike Place Market in the next Spice Shop mystery from the national bestselling author of Assault and Pepper.

Springtime in Seattle’s Pike Place Market means tasty foods and wide-eyed tourists, and Pepper’s Seattle Spice Shop is ready for the crowds. With flavorful combinations and a fresh approach, she’s sure to win over the public. Even better, she’s working with several local restaurants as their chief herb and spice supplier. Business is cooking, until one of Pepper’s potential clients, a young chef named Tamara Langston, is found dead, her life extinguished by the dangerously hot ghost chili—a spice Pepper carries in her shop.

Now stuck in the middle of a heated police investigation, Pepper must use all her senses to find out who wanted to keep Tamara’s new café from opening—before someone else gets burned…

Find the book at all the usual online and independent sources--links and retail outlets in western Montana here. 


Leslie will be signing books at Think Local during the Kalispell Art Walk, Friday, December 4, from 5-8 p.m. And she and Christine Carbo will sign books at Fact and Fiction in Missoula on Saturday, December 5, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm, as part of the authors’ parade!


And of course, signed books — and e-book downloads — make great gifts!


Marie F Martin  just checked her  Amazon dashboard in Canada and the following was posted.  Maternal Harbor has held the #30 spot in the Top 100 Paid in the Kindle store for two days.  She reports this is very exciting and humbling at the same time.  Thank you, Canadian Readers.

Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #30 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)