Another Christmas book I've written is Leona's Christmas Bucket List. The thought for writing a bucket list into the story came from an incident at WalMart. I was in the women's bathroom, trying to use the new fangled soap dispenser after the store had remodeled. I pushed all over that dispenser, trying to get soap. A shopper walks up to the sink beside me. I looked over as her hand filled with soap. “How did you get the dispenser to work? I can't figure this one out.” She's grinning at me, and I'm feeling foolish for not knowing while she explained that the dispenser is automatic just like the stools and towel dispensers are now. Put your hand under and the soap comes out. I did it and was tickled to see my hand fill with white foamy suds. The helpful and cheerful woman said, “There now you can mark that one off your bucket list. We both laughed. As I dried my hands, I thought about her remark. I knew what a bucket list was from watching a movie about two old men with a bucket list. Why did that woman think I had a bucket list or that I should have one? Just for the record that was the only time I got that soap dispenser to work. Others must have had the same problem and complained. Anyway I like to think that is what happened. Since then the dispensers have been exchanged for the ones with a lever to push which I understand. Also, for the record, I haven't needed to make out my bucket list yet, but I had a story I was itching to write and using the bucket list for my main character who was ill went well in the story. The year I published the book, a nephew who is quite a poet sent out a poem that I liked so I asked him if I could include it in my book. The title sounds like the book would be sad, but I promise you more smiles than tears as you read this holiday book. I'm adding the first chapter to this post. Read it and enjoy. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=Leona%27s+Christmas+Bucket+List https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/296517 http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/Leona's+Christmas+Bucket+List?_requestid=257759 synopsis When Leona Krebsbach found out just before Thanksgiving she didn't have long to live, she took charge of her life like she always did. She bought a small spiral notepad and titled it Christmas Bucket List. On each page of the notepad, Leona listed something she needed to get done while she still had time. Details like her funeral headed the list. She didn't want to leave anything for her daughters to have to worry about after she was gone. She kept her illness a secret until after Thanksgiving when she had all but one thing completed on her bucket list. Finally, she was as ready as she was ever going to get. She called her daughters and invited them to a tea party. Now was the time to tell them. At her age with a long life behind her, Leona Krebsbach should have felt better prepared mentally for the end. She should have been ready to go, because she would be with her beloved Clarence. If only she had managed to atone for that one regretful time that happened so many years ago. If that didn't weigh on her, she knew her mind set would be different, but she couldn't change the past. Even if she wanted to, she didn't have enough time. She reasoned her bucket list wasn't designed to do that unless a miracle happened. A Winter's Pace By Shane D. Herman The summer air and springtime flowers have quickly been replaced By that time of year more cold and frigid A kind of arctic place The ice nips at your fingers and bites at your toes As falling snowflakes kiss at your face So light up the tree and hang all the stockings And drape all the holiday lace As Christmas approaches with unbridled cheer And the people shopping make haste It is when friends and family come together as one That makes this a season to embrace So from me and mine to you and yours And everyone else in the holiday race I invite you all to take in the moment As we all move at a Winter's Pace. Chapter 1 Goose feather size snowflakes glittered in the street lamp's golden glow, floating lazily like crystalline down. The ground outside the basement window of Limestone City, Minnesota's United Methodist Church turned white in a hurry. The scene made Leona Krebsbach imagine angels in Heaven with a wing shedding problem. Suddenly, the elderly woman felt light headed. She leaned her thin frame against the window sill for support and frowned. Please not now. The sinking feeling brought annoyance with it. Here in church of all places. Why couldn't this wait to happen until she was home? Why did she have to be bothered while she wanted to enjoy the winter view? Leona knew full well the weak spell made her face head on, that after years of watching similar scenes, this would be the last time she'd see a first snowfall. She wouldn't stand at this basement window ever again, gazing out at the dead grass between the church and the parsonage as the ground turned white. Out of all the snowfalls in a winter, she aways favored this first quiet, slow snowfall of the season. Quiet except for the banging of the lanyard against the flagpole in the post office yard across the street. Heavy nostalgia built as agonizingly as any pain might in her chest. At least, she hoped that was the cause of the unwanted pressure. With all the twinges she'd had lately, she couldn't be sure these days if she needed to brace herself for the end right away or not. So far the twinges had been false alarms. When the feeling passed, Leona sighed deeply and straightened back up. She took a deep breath and tried to bolster herself to face the fact she had to get ready for far worse moments yet to come. She had already decided she didn't have any intention of immediately taking to her sick bed and going quietly from this world. Not as long as she had the energy left to keep up her winter's pace. No telling how long she would have stood at the window, mesmerized by the gently falling snow, if Pastor Jim Lockwood hadn’t cleared his throat softly. Slowly, Leona turned to face him. The minister gave her a warm smile. He probably wondered why she hadn't left yet so he could lock the church basement exit door and go back home. The rest of the bible study group had cleared out some time ago. Leona admired the dark haired, dark eyed young minister. He was just like the son she'd wanted to give her husband, Clarence, and couldn't. She wished Jim Lockwood could grow old as pastor of this church while her grandchildren needed guidance, but she knew that didn’t usually happen. After a few years, ministers always got the call to go far away to another church. They moved out of the lives of the parishioners that had grown fond of them, leaving the congregation to have to get used to another minister. At her age, Leona knew she was a fine one to talk about getting used to changes. She figured out a long time ago she shouldn't mind changes in everyone else's life if the changes were for the better. In fact, she always looked forward with excitement to the new changes she made in her own life over the years. Like the time when she went back to school at the community college to learn to use a computer so she'd be able to carry a conversation with her grandchildren. She had to learn about the digital age after her grandchildren said her typewriter was as extinct as dinosaurs. These days when she made herself think about the changes ahead of her she wished time could stand still. She knew that was an impossible thing to ask the Lord to do for her, but she still wished just for a short time she didn’t have to face the inevitable. Putting off telling everyone that needed to know wasn't going to make a difference. She was pretty sure if she kept her illness a secret that wouldn't stop her death from happening. That would be a cruel thing to do to her family. She had to suck in how she felt and get up the courage to tell everyone that mattered in her life her days on earth were numbered. The twinges she'd felt lately were just a warning signal to prepare her. Her disclosure better be soon. At her age with a long life behind her, she admonished herself that she should feel better prepared for the end than she did. If only she had managed to atone for that one time she regretted so many years ago. If not for that moment in time, she knew her mind set would be different, but she couldn't change the past no matter how much she would like to do it. No bucket list was designed to take care of a tall order like that one, especially on such short notice like the one she'd been given. Leona gave the minister a wan smile. “You been standing there long?” “Didn’t want to sneak up on you and startle you while you were deep in thought,” he said as he crossed the room to look out the window with her. “You looked very pensive. Are you thinking about anything in particular?” “Several things. Life for one,” Leona said. “I was thinking how the seasons are like my life. I remember with fondness the spring time of my youth with loving parents and siblings. In the summer of my life, I married a wonderful man and raised two great daughters. Sharing the years of fall with a loving husband, that left me too soon, gave me many memories to keep me warm in the winter of my life. I've lived a long time and have been truly blessed thanks to God.” Pastor Jim put a hand on Leona's back as he stared at the snow. “You always manage to have a parable or story to fit the moment. Beautiful outside, isn’t it? God designed nature to paint everything white in time for the holidays. If only the snow covered landscape could stay pristine all winter instead of turning a dirty brown.” Leona chuckled. “I know exactly what you mean, but no way can we criticize the dust that blows in from the fields. That dirty farm land is what makes the income for farmers and businesses around here. Not unless you’re willing to make due with smaller collection plates.” “Smaller collections are a given this time of year anyway. Especially with the way the economy is now. The whole community has had to learn to make do, but we must keep praying that times will get better soon.” Pastor Jim gave Leona a sincere look. “I'm sure you know how to make do better than my generation. You had experiences in your life with tougher times then the rest of us will ever know. Times when you had to make do.” Leona sighed. “I expect that’s right. Make do and do without sometimes, too. That's something younger people today have no idea how it was. If the same thing happened to them, I fear they wouldn't know how to cope with the struggle. During the depression in the thirties, I saved everything, even broken items just in case I had a use for them or needed parts off the junk for later on. Clarence and I were savers just like the Krebsbachs before him and my family before me, the Palmers. My daughters would tell you I still save too many useless things even now when I shouldn't worry about finances. That's why my house has so many cluttered closets, and the outbuildings still hold things that Clarence couldn't bear to throw away. When I was first married, Clarence and I didn’t have money to buy writing paper so I could keep in touch with my parents. They were just two counties over, but we didn't have time to go see them as much as I would have liked. Sometimes, it was a matter of not having enough money in the budget to buy gas for the car. I wrote my mother as often as I could. I made do by tearing pages out of old Sears and Roebuck catalogs. I’d write my letters on the margin. Even then, I still had to sell enough eggs to pay for the envelopes and stamps.” “I’m sure your parents were happy to hear how Clarence and you were getting along no matter what your message was written on,” Pastor Jim assured her. “In those days, faith in the Lord, a good husband, loving family and friends put our struggles into perspective. I always felt rich in ways that counted. That rosy outlook is what kept Clarence and me going and looking forward hopefully to a promising future. That outlook paid off as you can see,” Leona told him. “Well put. I'm working on a Thanksgiving sermon to emphasize that very thing, wise lady. We should all learn to count our blessings just like you had to do in hard times, and I'm sure you still do now. When days are difficult, we have to learn to look forward to better days. Once a lesson is learned, we don't soon forget it, do we? My parents saved many things just like you did. No one knows how to save these days, and we do need to learn to recycle more than we do. I hear all the time that this nation is a country of wasteful people.” “Clarence always said you can look in the review mirror and lament the past. Or, learn from hardships faced by others, meaning our parents, and do a better job in your life time,” Leona said sagely. Pastor Jim nodded agreement. “A wise man, your Clarence. If you don’t mind, I'd like to quote you.” “I don't mind.” “Have a good attendance at bible study today?” He asked. “Yes.” Leona fiddled with the straps on her black purse. Assuming she was nervous about the drive home, Pastor Jim cautioned, “Drive carefully going back to the farm. Doesn’t take long for a wet snow like this one to make the roads slick. With night coming on, black ice is hard to see when it forms on the salt brined pavements.” Leona glanced out the window. The snow hadn't let up. If anything the flakes were coming down faster. “I’m a safe driver. I've had long years of winter driving practice to prove it.” She clutched her purse to her waist and turned to face the minister. “Pastor, I’m not ready to leave yet. I've been waiting for you to show up, because I have something I need to talk to you about.” “You sound serious. Now we must be going to get to the real reason you were so pensive when I came in. Let’s sit down.” Pastor Jim took her elbow and led her over to the black folding chairs lined up around one of the long white tables. He pulled out two chairs and held onto one until Leona eased into it. Leona plopped her purse and bible onto the table. As Pastor Jim sat down, she shifted the chair to face him. She had to look him in the eyes so she could use his strength to get her words out. “I need to tell you this will be my last time leading bible studies.” “What? Th -- this is so sudden. I hate to hear you want to stop. What will we do without you?” He blurted out, flustered. “Don’t worry.” Leona patted his hand reassuringly. “I’m not leaving you in the lurch. I took the liberty of asking Becky Smallwood to take my place. I thought I would make my leaving easier on you if I help you find someone else.” “Thank you for thinking about me. Becky’s okay, but just the same no one can take your place. You've been the best teacher for the job for so many years,” Pastor Jim said adamantly. “Besides, I’ll miss talking to you on Wednesday nights.” “I appreciate that. I know I’ve been as predictable as this snow, showing up here for years. Don't worry. Becky will be a fine teacher. She is very knowledgeable about the bible and a fast learner.” Leona licked her lips, mustering up the courage to continue. “Things have to change from time to time. That’s just the way life is. Sometimes, we aren’t given a choice so we have to make the best of it.” “Did someone say you can’t lead bible study anymore? Tell me who it is. I’ll have a talk with that person right away. I don't want you to stop teaching,” demanded Pastor Jim. “Actually, I was talking about you in regard to your accepting this change. You're right though. Someone did let me know I had to stop teaching bible study classes.” Leona paused, giving the minister an amused look. “I wager you talk to that someone every day, Pastor. Just the same, no amount of your pleading or praying will change the fact that I have to quit. What I need to tell you now is the hardest part, the reason why I'm quitting.” Looking into her sad, brown eyes, Pastor Jim's brow furled. “I’m not going to like this, am I?” “Probably not. Don't feel bad though. I’ve had trouble facing this myself so I know how you will feel when you hear my news. It's time to start talking about this problem out loud so I picked you to be the first. I want to practice on you. I hope you don't mind. I need to face this dilemma I have head on, but it has been hard taking the first steps. So in order to help me stay motivated, I've made a bucket list.” “A bucket list,” Pastor Jim echoed. “Yes, I have many details I have to take care of right away. Actually, I don't have much time to do get them done you see. One of the first details on the list is now taken care of, finding my replacement for bible studies.” “Making a list to remind you to get things done for the holidays is fine, but calling this list a bucket list might be a poor choice of words,” Pastor Jim reproached. Leona gave him a doleful look. “No, I used the right words.” “What’s wrong?” Pastor Jim croaked. “I’m going to die soon. I have liver cancer,” Leone said bluntly. The young man combed his hand through his hair and fixated on the floor. “I've felt something was wrong for a while now. You’ve lost weight, and your complexion is pale. I hated to bring it up. Knowing how efficient you are, I prayed you were on top of the situation and going to the doctor.” “Your prayers must have worked. I did get checked out. The doctor said there wasn't anything that could be done for me. You see I didn’t have much warning. Apparently, I'd had the cancer for some time and didn't know it. The doctor said I have only a short time left to live.” Leona rifled through her purse and brought out a small spiral notepad with Christmas decorations scrawled over the cover. “So just to show you I'm not joking, this is my bucket list, and I have to get the list completed as quickly as I can. Actually, I'm calling this a Christmas Bucket List, because that might be my deadline,” she said with dry humor. Pastor Jim combed his shaky fingers through his dark hair again. “I want to do anything I can to help you. Is there some of that list I can take care of to help you complete it?” Leona flipped through the notepad pages. “On page two of my bucket list is get details out of the way for my funeral to take the burden of details off my two daughters. Of course, I want to ask you if you will conduct the funeral service here.” The minister took her hand. “That’s a given, dear friend.” “Good. Now for scriptures, since I've lived in the country my whole life I've always been partial to the twenty-third psalm. You can pick the rest of the scriptures you want to fit into the service. The two songs I want the choir to sing are Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art. If my girls have a hymn they like, they can add their favorites to make them feel better if they want to do that.” “All right. Done,” Pastor Jim said briskly as if they were planning details for a soup supper. While she read the items aloud, Leona was busy checking off the details in her notepad. “I was going to ask Becky Smallwood to sing a solo, but I didn’t have the heart to heap bible study duties on her and burden her with my demise and performing at my funeral all at the same time. So maybe she could lead the choir.” “What did you have in mind for her to sing just in case?” “Becky nails any song she sings. How about The Wind Beneath My Wings?” Leona asked. “I think everyone likes that one.” “That would be a super choice and fitting for you. Please allow me to work on these details in this bucket list of yours,” Pastor Jim insisted. “All right. I still have to contact the pallbearers I decided on to make sure they are prepared when Arlene calls them. I’ve already been to the funeral home, made arrangements there for the visitation and settled the bill. The casket I picked out is very pretty. It's dark pink with roses on both sides the handles.” Leona stopped to catch her breath. “You have been very thorough, I see. Not that I'm surprised. This is just the way you tackle everything you have always set out to do. Head on,” Pastor Jim said softly. “Yes, I’ve managed my life the way I wanted until now. I don’t see any reason to leave the details of my funeral for my family to have to do,” Leona assured him. “Besides, there’s some comfort in knowing how my life will end, and what will happen at my funeral.” “Not many people have your courage to face the end, planning like this, dear lady,” Pastor Jim said admiringly. “Well, it took some doing to get to this point. I’ve reasoned with myself about dying. You see, I've done my best to live a decent life. At least for the most part, I think my family will be proud of the way I lived. I think I know where I’m headed, and that's a comfort,” Leona said, pointing a finger toward the ceiling. “Carrying out my final details for my daughters so they won't have to gives me peace of mind.” “I can vouch for the honorable way you have lived your life. I'm as sure as you are that you will go to Heaven. I've always admired your self control that allows you to take charge of any task. Even at such a difficult time in your life as this one. You have the presence of mind to make your final plans by yourself, and do whatever else needs to be done. You always handle adversity head on, because you're a very strong woman,” Pastor Jim complimented. She cocked her head to the side. “I think the modern term the grandchildren and my daughters use for me is control freak. I've always put myself in charge, and I figure on doing that until the end so I know everything is done right to my satisfaction and goes smoothly.” “When it concerns the end of your life, no matter what anyone would say I will stand with you on this. I think you’re entitled to run the show the way you want it,” he joked with a weak smile. “Thank you,” Leona said as she reached over and patted his arm. “Somehow I just knew you would be on my side.” Pastor Jim looked worried. “Always, dear lady. This is upsetting to me to say the least. How is your family taking the news?” With averted eyes, Leona said, “They don't know yet.” “What! Your daughters need to be told. You should do that soon, before they hear the news from someone else,” Pastor Jim cautioned. “I will. So far the people that know, I told to keep this to themselves until I've had time to tell my family. I'm dreading that so much, but I plan to tell them right after Thanksgiving is over. Arlene will want to smother me with kindness or boss me around. Diane will be a basket case that we'll all have to take care of. So why spoil the last holiday we'll have together for the rest of the family,” Leona explained. Pastor Jim nodded. “I understand that, but you've been their rock for all these years. This will seem like a sudden blow to your daughters and hard for the whole family to absorb for a while. I guess you will not be able to come to church soon. Where will I find you for visits? The farm?” “No, my health will decline fast. I’ll need medical care very soon, and I don't want to burden my daughters and their families. Right after Thanksgiving, I’m moving into The Willows, a hospice house on the outskirts of town. Come there to see me whenever you have time.” Pastor Jim took a deep breath before he spoke. “Can I borrow your bible? I didn’t realize there would be a need to bring mine with me from the parsonage just to lock the church door.” Leona handed her worn thin bible to him. “Let’s pray,” he said, already bowing his head. She glanced out the window. The wind moaned a wailing cry as it whipped around the building, churning the snow into a furious haze. She needed to head for home right away. All she left home with was her handbag, and a prayer that this winter day would go well. She wasn't sure that would be enough to guarantee her a safe return home the way the storm had intensified. Other winters, she had always put an emergency supply kit in the car, but she hadn't gone to the bother this time. “I appreciate the prayer, but you know you don’t have to pray for me right this minute. I’ve accepted what is coming, and I certainly do expect you to be by my side to bolster me later on when I weaken,” Leona insisted. Gripping her bible in his hands, Pastor Jim said, “And I will be very glad to be there anytime you need me, dear lady. Just bear with me this once. I'm not only praying for you. I have to pray for strength for me so that I will be able to help you. I'm not going to be able to take your news too well until I get used to it,” he said, his eyes a misty blur. Leona laid a frail, blue veined hand on the pastor’s strong one. She said with a touch of humor, “Can you make it a short one, Pastor? I need to head for home soon. Like you said the roads will be slick. You see I can’t die in a car wreck today. I haven’t finished all the arrangements for my funeral yet, and I still have to complete the rest of my bucket list.” A few minutes later, Leona turned off the tree lined street and drove down Main Street. She noticed the last minute shopper hustle that always went on the day before Thanksgiving. Almost every parking place had a vehicle in it. That wouldn't change now until after Christmas shopping was over. Loretta Abbas hustled along the sidewalk, her arms loaded with bags. She stopped by her car and looked up as Leona drove by. Loretta fumbled with her car door, got it opened, set the bags on the back seat and managed to wave at Leona all in a heartbeat. Loretta was probably in a hurry to get home before dark, too. Seeing the woman was a reminder that Leona needed to call her. She wanted Loretta to head up a coat and clothes drive from one year to the next for the Indian Settlement. If Loretta turned her down, maybe the woman would be kind enough to find someone that did have time to volunteer. Suddenly, Leona felt maudlin about not being able enjoy the Christmas holiday. She had always looked forward to Arlene and Diane's yearly visit right after Thanksgiving. They spent a day with her, putting up the tree and decorating the house just like they did when they were children. Leona relished buying just the right gift for each member of the family and baking Christmas cut out cookies with the grandchildren. She made a large amount of fudge and divinity so the girls could take a box home. After a few failed attempts over the years, Arlene and Diane gave up trying to make candy. They told her they would rather enjoy the candy she made. The effort Leona put forth to make the holiday special for her girls and their families when they came home had always been a labor of love. After this, the girls and their families would have to make due with special memories from this Thanksgiving. She wouldn't be doing anything about Christmas except taking care of her bucket list if it wasn't done by then. Suddenly, Leona realized she was coming up to the grocery store parking lot. If she was going to make pumpkin pies, she needed more milk and eggs. Leona stepped on the brakes and fishtailed. She negotiated the turn into the parking lot and realized the lot was full of cars. Near the entry door, Leona spotted an empty handicap parking spot. She shouldn't park there. She wasn't legally able to, but she considered this an exception. She had to be careful. Falling on the slick concrete and breaking a hip wouldn't enhance her Thanksgiving plans. Luckily, Leona found one shopping cart left in the corral. She grabbed it and took off for the milk and egg section. By staying in the middle of the aisles, she dodged past the other shoppers, lingering along the sides. There weren't too many jugs of milk left. Leona put one in her cart. She thought better of that and picked up another. Her grandchildren drank milk. She was reaching for an egg carton when someone tapped her shoulder. Leona turned and found her son-in-law, Steve, grinning at her. “Fancy meeting you here, Leona.” “I guess. Looks like most of the town is in here right now. I was lucky to find one shopping cart not in use.” Steve nodded agreement. “Me, too. So about ready for the big day tomorrow?” “You bet and looking forward to every minute of it,” Leona assured him. “I thought you might be.” Steve turned serious. “Leona, how you feeling these days?” Leona questioned sharply, “Where did that come from?” “My secretary said she saw you coming out of Dr. Crane's office last week.” Steve shrugged. “Arlene hasn't mention you not feeling well so I thought I should ask.” Leona fumbled around with the egg carton, trying to find just the right place for it in the cart. “Leona, are you stalling?” “I might be,” Leona said stiffly. Steve came along side her cart so he could see her face. “There is something wrong, isn't there?” “Steve, you're a dear to worry about me. I plan on talking to Arlene and Diane right after Thanksgiving about my doctor visit. Can you keep what your gossiping secretary saw to yourself until then?” Steve grinned. “Sure.” “Promise me. I know how hard it is to keep from telling Arlene something like this, but this is important to me,” Leona implored. “All right, I promise, but only until after Thanksgiving. I might break my promise if Arlene doesn't get an explanation from you soon,” Steve said earnestly. “Now aren't you the hard taskmaster,” Leona teased. Steve shrugged. “I'm just concerned about you. Is there anything I can do for you until you talk to Arlene?” “Just enjoy tomorrow with me,” Leona said, giving him a quick kiss on the cheek. “I'll handle the rest in my own good time.” “Fine, but like I said make it soon. You're right. I don't like keeping secrets from Arlene. You know, driving isn't great tonight. Out in the country it has to be hard to see where you're going. You want me to take you home? We could leave your car in the parking lot, and Jason could drive it out tomorrow as we come,” Steve suggested. “Certainly not. If it's hard driving now, then you would have to come back to town by yourself. It will probably be even worse after dark. I don't want to have to worry about you making it home. I'll be careful. This isn't my first experience at driving on slick roads you know,” Leona chided. “Now I best get to the checkout lines. Might be a long wait for my turn. See you in the morning.”
A woman that has worn many hats in my life time. Join me here and find out about those hats.