MOM, The Woman Who (Still) Made Oatmeal Stick to My Ribs

So many things still affect me from growing up years, and those years as an adult where Mom was always there.  The “Golden Rule” was one of those things. Gently hammered into me whenever I left the nest, and even as an adult I still hear Mom’s voice.

The value of a mother cannot be underestimated. They are the nurturers of the world, the caretakers of the homes, the providers along with fathers of nourishment, clothing, and a safe place to live.

I include the final chapter to a book being revised for republishing, but available from Amazon online in eBook and used copies in hard and soft cover format. I include an audio link here of the nearly complete audiobook for those who wish to listen to an excerpt:  http://www.jamesmichaelpratt.com/.

   Though we age, and though we become the surviving members of a generation of people from slower, less complicated times, we all in our later years give thanks, credit, love from our hearts to our Mom, who gave us life, and in some cases even saved us.

With a smile as I close my eyes, I can see her call out to me as I run out the front door, “Remember Jimmy, do unto others as you would have them to do to you.”

Thanks for the unnumbered prayers for me. Thanks for all the tireless efforts when I didn’t notice. And thanks for the unseen tears. Still trying to behave Mom.  Still trying to live the Golden Rule… But whatever else may be, or however far short I have fallen from your expectations, I announce to the world this: “I love you, Mom.

 

 

LETTERS YELLOWED IN TIME

  

Ink. Paper. Love…

People don’t write “Letters” anymore; the stuff of personal history stored on pages aged through time.  I’m a romantic from slower times with a couple boxes of time colored letters. If you have lived as an adult before the advent of the internet, you will have saved some of those letters.

Do you recall the excitement of receiving a postal-stamped letter from a love, from Mom, Dad, family, or friend? It wasn’t public like this, but a secret, sacred sort of thing; just for you!

They were sent before electronic communications available now to every man, woman, and child on the planet. Phones didn’t have answering machines and long distance was expensive, so we wrote people we loved a letter hoping the postal mail would treat it kindly and get it to them in days, not weeks.

Handwritten letters are history coming alive. It is paper the person you loved touched, or maybe even kissed before sealing it up. Now more precious, though “yellowed” by time, many of those letters have a ghostly quality because, after all, your loved ones, in some cases, have passed on.

But now, here in your hand, is a personal letter written to you; an investment of time by someone who loved you very much, and for a brief moment you can talk to them again…

I’m in the reminiscing mode this week — listening to music that puts me at 19, 20 and 21 in Latin America where a letter from home was like air to breathe. Sometimes I wouldn’t get one for weeks. Sometimes I would get 2 or 3 in one week. And a telephone call with spotty service if at all, or faxing and texting — which didn’t exist –was not an option.

To put it mildly, getting a letter from home, and especially from a girl, was 10 times a feeling you now get when someone hits “LIKE” on FB or Twitter, except you could touch the paper they touched, then re-read it again as you savored every thoughtful ink-spelled word.

All soldiers from those days understand even more than others. Your life is on hold, and suddenly someone from home unlocks the door and you walk through a portal to be with them for a few minutes again. And the bonus? If you are reading it, it means you are still alive!

I recall getting a single letter from my Dad of three pages. I wept. It took him days to write. Now it is a treasure beyond price. Others still with the fragrance of perfume from some nice girls, and those faithful letters from Mom are stored in an ammo box which I need to unload, read once again, and put into plastic pages for someone else to enjoy.

We should hand-write again, especially to Mom or Dad if alive. Can you imagine the shock, pleasure, joy they would receive? Is there a missionary, a soldier, some classmate you could text message, but want to actually touch them but can’t? That’s called a “letter.”

Should natural or manmade disasters cause it, FB and other social networking phenomenons of the past 20 years will all go away one day. And then, that one day you will find your yellowed letters, and a tear will fall, and a smile will crease your face as a sigh comes from deep within. You will also whisper this to the name of the person who sent it: “I love you…”

ENJOY A SONG:

Here’s a link to a beautiful song called “Yellow Letters” by Nino Bravo, a singer from Spain 1973, who died that year in a tragic accident. You may not understand the words, but the emotion is all about the love found in the “Cartas Amarillas”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HZvFrWToECk

IN a WONDERLAND CALLED LOVE

August 11, 2018

In a Christmas tale for the present day and set in the vast open ranch country of the high plains in Wyoming, a family story develops that ultimately rescues three lost souls.  Here is the “Prologue” to a story written straight from the heart; now represented for book and film development.

PROLOGUE

Christmas had been unusually good to the ranch this year, he considered. Now past, he welcomed the chance to relax but somehow also know for certain that the Love legacy would be safe and continue.

As he had each morning at sun-up, cattle boss and ranch manager Dan Echohawk walked down the long drive from the main family home and unlocked the ranch-run café managed by Phil Jensen’s wife, Doris. He would have his first cup of a hot wake-up drink, and then return to manage the dying cattle spread.

He sat on the red bar stool and swirled the black liquid in his coffee mug as if an answer waited for him in it. Dan mentally measured how the two-generation old cattle business didn’t need to die as so many other family ranches had. It was financially sound but just needed a good man and woman at the reigns again; someone who loved the ranch as much as he did.

“Rachel,” he sighed hopefully. “I think Jake…” he muttered, and then realized he was talking to himself again. “You have a nice day, Doris,” Dan finally offered with a heavy cough, as he took one more swallow and prepared to leave.

Dan suddenly realized how much harder every movement was becoming. His cloaked illness was becoming less likely to stay hidden each passing day. Hope Rachel and Jake return early today, he posed in silent reverie. Best we finish this story while I can.

Doris waved from the other end of the room as she dialed the heater up and began her preparations for the regulars who would be coming through the doors any minute.

“How do you do?” the younger man said as he took a seat next to Dan at the counter. He seemed to appear without making any sound upon entering.

“Doing well; thank you,” Dan lied. “What brings you to Love so early, stranger?” Dan quizzed.

“Just enjoying being out at this hour” he replied. The visitor offered a few other particulars about himself, but with a pleasant demeanor kept his focus upon Dan.

One thing led to another and soon Dan found himself considering how this day’s early morning walk down to the Love Diner had offered a new twist. Someone returned back up the gentle hill with him.

Dan built a fire from the pile of pine logs stacked in the brass cradle, and now sat in his favorite easy chair positioned near the stone hearth in the Great Room. He and Missy had enjoyed many hours here after the sun went down; right up to her final day on earth last year.

He invited his friendly guest to take the lounger opposite him. A roaring fire soon crackled and took a winter chill off the one hundred-year-old lonely ranch house main floor.

There was something interesting, and even wise about the inquisitive man who had entered the diner at opening hour; a man who simply called himself “William.” He guessed the well-groomed man fitted in typical Wyoming western wear, was in his mid-thirties, though his energy seemed more like a college athlete.

For some unearthly reason William just seemed to open Dan up, like no one had ever before done. With few close friends, he was busting to share some of his secrets about this place folks simply called the Love Ranch but had little confidence in how to go about it. Dan’s visitor urged him on and he decided to trust William. He began to tell his story as honestly as he knew how:

     Few folks take the lonely stretch of road from I-80 north, then another due west past Eden, where a whole lot of nothin’ greets the eye until you reach a sharp bend before a long drive at a sign post marked ‘Love, Wyoming – Population 50.’ Our small diner and gift shop, the last of the one gas pump country cafes that served the occasional passersby and local cattle folks since the 1920’s, marks downtown.

Up the drive leading to the diner and then the ranch house are three more signs welcoming strangers. Each one was placed there by an original member of the Love family who settled this land. In a family tradition, of sorts, every generation was expected to add their own sign upon marriage. The first of three signs welcoming a visitor up the drive was placed by the original ranch owner, ‘Old Man’ Jack Love. It reads:

 If you are going to fall, you might as well fall in Love.

 

 

 

 

GREATEST GENERATION and FRIENDS

    

 

Have had several dreams of my father. Always in his early thirties–half my present age. Grew up hearing the stories, in bits and pieces of World War Two soldiers: Dad, neighbors, friends, family.

They are almost entirely gone — in fact I don’t think one who was close to me remains. I look forward to seeing them again, laughing with them, thanking them, but not in dreams. Why I wrote the love stories celebrating them in the war years 1941 –1945:

The Last Valentine, The Lighthouse Keeper, Ticket Home,
and, “When the Last Leaf Falls” (unpublished)

Like a soliloquy to the lost but not forgotten, tender music like this pays tribute to these old-young men who fought so valiantly for their loved ones. From “The Pacific.”

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.  The author page at amazon.com lists a Bio and all titles to date: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APVUJA

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

Sneak Peek — In a Wonderland Called Love

Sharing a synopsis for reading fans of my latest work in progress for both book and film.  Hope you enjoy!

 

A Wonderland Called Love

by

James Michael Pratt

 

Christmas Eve – Present Day

Jake Monson is a lost soul shattered by 15 years of war. As he ponders upon the dark thoughts invading every waking moment, Jake pushes through a snowstorm on a lonely highway somewhere in the middle of Wyoming. He joined the Army at 18, earned elite Army Ranger status, and served as a Special Forces operator in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a dozen other countries. Now disabled, he is unsure how to reconcile a past of violence with a new one of peace.

Rachel Love Strong lost her dreams of the perfect man and never-ending high plain sunsets long ago. Christmas Eves were the last magical memories for Rachel, who as a child hadn’t known anyone lived a life larger than in Love, Wyoming; population 50. Single with one child, Rachel wasn’t planning on making this family ranch and one horse-stop café her life when she eagerly left for culinary school on the coast years ago. With parents recently deceased, she desperately wants to wrap up the sale, get back to her successful L.A. catering business, and a busy perfection-obsessed life.     Hypnotized by both the blizzard and deep thought, Jake loses sight of the road before him. Suddenly swerving to avoid a deer, he finds himself crawling out from under his over-turned truck, bleeding and limping toward some distant lights.

With a winter white-out, Rachel didn’t expect many guests for the annual Love Family Christmas Eve meal, but with dogs barking she also didn’t expect to find a stranger staggering toward the porch, falling headlong into a snow drift.

Over the course of a holiday week, Rachel finds an injured man in need of more than bandages and rest, and that sometimes home is where you find what you went out into the world in search of. Jake forgets his past long enough to discover magic and innocence isn’t lost after all. They both come to find that unfulfilled dreams and unexpected miracles can happen in a winter wonderland called Love.

 

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.  The author page at amazon.com lists a Bio and all titles to date: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B000APVUJA

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

IN a WONDERLAND CALLED LOVE

Photo courtesy Alan Day of Heber, Utah

A Christmas season tale of redemption and filling inner emptiness with what matters most is offered when two strangers find the meaning of life over quiet weeks of giving. They learn that the unexpected can happen if you are willing to slow down and look for it.  This short excerpt is from the narrator voice found in the manuscript in progress:

“Love, Wyoming, Population 50, exists only in the heart of every person who calls it home, or who stays for a week or two. But there’s the rub–the one thing that most won’t do. That is, most folks won’t ever visit Love; not on purpose anyway.

“It is a place without cell phones, cable TV, and internet, yet holds the magic everyone longs for. It is that intimate connection where face to face is all that’s needed to make a person feel important and needed.

“I didn’t get this wisdom from my Cheyenne ancestors, but from plain old observation.  Now this truth be told — you are all welcome to Love. Will you actually make your way here?”

Uncle Dan Echohawk, from In a Wonderland Called Love, a Christmas story now in progress.

 

James Michael Pratt is the author of 10 titles including THE LOST VALENTINE, also produced as a Hallmark Hall of Fame and CBS Movie of the Week Jan. 2011.

For weekly connection, posts, specials, sneak peeks, or just to comment, stay in touch with the author by leaving your email @ the website: www.jamesmichaelpratt.com “Contact Me.”

 

The Making of Dickens “A Christmas Carol”

Author at Santa Claus Lane in Carpenteria, CA. 2001

We owe alot about the evolution of our present Christmas Day to a novelist.

In fact a novelist has kept his bestseller on the shelves, on stage,  and on the big screen — turned into no less than six different movie versions — for 174 years because he was able to take quintessential values about love and attach them to a largely uncelebrated date.

This holiday season a delightful family film, The Man Who Invented Christmas  presents the story of Charles Dickens writing of A Christmas Carol.  It offers insight on how Christmas became the sacred and family fun filled holiday that it now is.

Christmas has become so beloved since 1843’s arrival of Dickens A Christmas Carol that fun park villages and lanes across America have been dedicated to the annual event.  One such lane is shown in the photo above. It was near my hometown in Ventura County off the 101 Highway on the California coast in Carpenteria, California. The famous “Date Shakes” — among other novelties — called many travelers to tap the brakes on their north and south bound drives and indulge their inner child for a few moments.

The American celebration of Christmas combined imported traditions from our cousins in Europe.  My Dutch immigrant grandparents brought theirs, and our English, German, Danish, Swiss, Norwegian cousins (among many others) also imported theirs to make the American holiday a unique mix of Christ, Santa, Christmas trees, sleighs, parades, lights, candies, music, carols, gift and a card giving event.

As an author continually in search of the next inspiration for a novel, I find the story of Charles Dickens 1843 inspiration for the perennial classic “A Christmas Carol” compelling and worthy of every reader’s time.

Written in just a six weeks, Dickens’ self-published novel has given us the Ebeneezer Scrooge character which informs us of the cost that a cold heart really is. But it is more than that. It is a story of love lost and refound in a “it’s-never-too-late” plot that is timeless.

Writes Kate Samuelson of Time.com:

When Dickens pitched a Christmas book to his publishers, they couldn’t understand why anyone would be interested in the idea. But the author had predicted a turn in the yuletide. Queen Victoria had recently married the German Prince Albert, who brought the Christmas tree over from Germany, and the idea of the festival being a time for family and celebration was gradually seeping back into public consciousness…

I have included a link to the full background article and review of the movie celebrating Dickens creation — The Man Who Invented Christmas  — here:

http://time.com/5017067/a-christmas-carol-charles-dickens-movie/

BTW:  I give the movie a “10 Star” out of 5 rating;  a must see for every lover of the Dickens tale.

CHARACTER MATTERS — A societal crisis is solved this simply

Assume a virtue though you have it not.”  — Shakespeare

Some time ago I had the privilege of doing a book signing for one of my titles along with Golf legend Johnny Miller who was breaking out his book Called It the same day and at the same store.

We discussed life, issues with the swing, and even mental preparation before taking any swing.  I remember talking about how things “come back” to you and how important every swing we take really becomes.

If life is a game, and people are players, then some also become perfect with practice and others become users. What achievers actually do is pre-thought, and pre-practice in their minds. The outcome of those actions, when built upon thoughts played out before hand,  are winning consequences, and the difference between how good or conversely how bad those outcomes can be, is only a matter of time.

Because the power of media is deeply ingrained in a fast paced soundbite society, we find we are living in times where allegations and accusations of unlawful, inappropriate, hurtful, unwanted, and even violent behavior against others becomes instant fact before an investigation or jury is even called in to question.

“CBS fires…” and “NBC fires…”  and “NPR fires…” and “Fox New fires…” and “Hollywood mogul loses company…”  “More accusers come forward…” and “Senator embarrassed by allegations…”  and so on.

Virtue is a planned behavior. Character is forged over time by choices between virtue and vice. When changes of life are made, so personal character is also changed. As we watch the mighty in society fall each day, remember it did not happen in a day. It began with a simple thought…some time ago.

A crisis in society where character is constantly challenged through allegations of sexual and other misconduct, can be solved very simply. The cause of allegations — which if they turn out to be true — means the perpetrator practiced mentally before any physical action against another person took place.

James Allen (1864-1912) had tremendous impact upon my mind and my course in life, when in my 19th year my mother wisely handed his most famous book to me — As a Man Thinketh — and said, “Jim, I want you to read this.” What stood out to me as I read was this:

 

We become what we think about.

That premise of pre-thinking our life, our actions, who and what we want to become, is a simple formula for success, and conversely to disobey it is to ultimately fail and face disastrous consequences.

LIFE HACK and simple formula for building good character…

If you want to be well thought of as a gentleman or a lady–

Deliberately plant seeds of thought with good outcomes.

Redeem the past through giving and seeking forgiveness and…

Ensure the future by living well today.

LIFE 101: Dark vs Light, Pain vs Joy

This much is true.

When it comes to darkness, light follows.

It may be a sunrise that soon yields a brightness of the sun at its zenith, or a light switch that chases away a darkened room, but one does not know the difference and the joy of light without the coldness of the dark night.

Pain, Confusion, Darkness, Disappointment, Tears, Illness of all kinds, offer the flip side:

Pleasure, Clarity, Light, Serendipitous JOY, Laughter, and Wellness.

You never get one without the other — so hold on!

As a Man Thinketh…In His Heart” (revised edition coming to Kindle 2018)

 

Music Inspires Stories

 

This Guy’s in Love with You

Music often inspires elements and characters for my stories. This song is one from my youth. It seemed to play at every school and church dance, and listening to it now returns me to a certain innocence that the world seems to have lost.

Music for “Vivian’s Book of Love” could not get much better than from Burt Bacharach — Vivian’s story is also “his” story; one of a broken heart and lessons for a life well lived. Revealed in an unforgettable slow dance but fast-paced 110 page journey with the most powerful ending I could imagine.

Hope you enjoy THIS GUY’S IN LOVE WITH YOU — from the 1960’s that actually had songs of pure innocent love…