Not all memories are warm
and cuddly like this bunny.
As a child, I remember . . .
Easter egg hunts. I dreaded them. A fierce
schoolyard competition using real, colorful eggs.
(Before the age of plastic ones.)
Armed with a basket everyone took off
the instant a teacher shouted, “On your mark,
get set, Go!” I could never out maneuver
the older kids, never discovered the most
eggs, and of course never claimed the winner’s
prize of a shiny silver dollar.
Plus, I usually sulked home with a torn dress
sash and skinned knees.
Baby chicks. One year my sister and I were
surprised with two chicks, dyed pink and
green. I don’t know if it was due to the dye
or too many loving hands, but the tiny creatures
only lived a few weeks.
As an adult I remember . . .
A C-5 transport plane. The best memory of all.
Years later it still warms my heart.
While visiting our daughter, son-in-law, and
grandson in CA, we attend a sunrise service on
Travis Air Force Base. It was held in the belly
of a parked C-5, a giant plane opened at both
ends. People filled rows of folding chairs. We
found a spot to sit together. With bodies
shivering and teeth chattering, our family
huddled as close as possible when a stiff breeze
swept through the plane. But . . . When the Chaplin spoke of our Lord’s resurrection, sunlight broke through the morning sky and washed over us. His perfect timing!
I’m looking forward to hearing about some of your Easter memories.
Mother and The Monkeys
by Carol Heilman
No, this is not the name of a new band or even a new song, though it could be.
My mother grew up in a small Kentucky town. She often told us about walking to school when she was a child. We have told our own children such stories about walking for miles to school in the deep snow, uphill both ways. No wonder they rolled their eyes.
Mother swore the following tale was true. According to her, she had to pass a next-door neighbor who kept monkeys in his trees. How he kept them there she didn’t know, but she was petrified that one, or more than one, would swing out over the high fence and jump onto her back.
Every morning her mother would warn her, “Stay away from those monkeys.” Mother did her best, sprinting down the sidewalk, clutching her books to her chest, not slowing down until she felt certain she was safe from ‘those screeching animals.’
We laughed at her story. Mother said to call her older sister, Aunt Eula. “She’ll vouch for me. Eula remembers everything.” We called. She did not remember.
“How could you forget those awful monkeys?” Mother yelled into the phone.
After that encounter we teased mother about seeing monkeys in the trees. After awhile, she stopped being mad and laughed along with us. We started giving her things with monkeys on them. Daddy even gave her a huge, stuffed monkey that made terrible sounds and then came the little ones that sounded even worse when we threw them again a wall.
Next came the cloth tote bag displaying the image of a monkey dressed as a little girl. Created by an artist friend, Betsy Thorne, Mother loved it. She proudly carried it to doctor appointments, to the beauty shop, and down to dinner in her assisted-living home.
The monkey bag became part of my inheritance. I’ve used it to carry books or writing materials, but I haven’t yet carried it to dinner. Maybe I should.
Welcome Susan Mathis
Tell us about yourself, Susan.
I’m an award-winning, multi-published author of stories set in the beautiful Thousand Islands, my childhood stomping ground in upstate NY. My first two books ofThe Thousand Islands Gilded Age series, Devyn’s Dilemmaand Katelyn’s Choiceare available now, and I’m working on book three. The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacy, Christmas Charity, and Sara’s Surpriseare also available. My books have won numerous awards, including the Illumination Book Award, the American Fiction Award, and the Indie Excellence Book Award. Visit www.SusanGMathis.comfor more.
Tell us about your newest book.
In my sixth Gilded Age story, Reagan’s Reward,it’s 1912. Reagan Kennedy assumes the position of governess to the Bernheim family’s twin nephews, and her life at Cherry Island’s Casa Blanca becomes frustratingly complicated. Service to a Jewish family when she is a Gentile and tending to eight-year-old, mischievous boys yields challenges galore.
Daniel Lovitz serves as the island’s caretaker and boatman. He tries to help the alluring Reagan make sense of her new world, but she calls into question his own faith background and forces him to face the hurts of his past. Then there’s the jealous lady’s maid who seems intent on wedging herself between them. Can he and Reagan ever find common ground on such a small island?
What inspired you to write Reagan’s Reward?
I grew up just twenty minutes from the Thousand Islands. In fact, my husband and I visit the Thousand Islands region in upstate NY every summer. It’s a beautiful, largely unknown, piece of the world where the St. Lawrence River meets Lake Ontario. There are nearly 1800 islands there, including the largest, Wolfe Island, which is in Ontario, Canada.
I chose the Gilded Age because that’s when the playground of the rich and famous took off…1872 until about 1914.
The Bernheims were one of the Gilded Age families from New York City who bought Casa Blanca and made it a grand summer mansion. C,hallenges mystery, and beauty surround thisThousand Islands Gilded Age story.
All summer long, tourists enjoy cruising around the Thousand Islands, touring Singer Castle, and hearing the stories of yesteryear. As a historic landmark, Singer Castle is invaluable, and so are the stories that go with it.
What kind of research did you have to do?
Ah, how I love research, and I love to be accurate. Besides combing through volumes of information, there’s nothing like being there on the island. The owners of the island has had me over to visit the island twice now. They’ve toured me around and let me roam at will to get the “feel” of being there. I took hundreds of photos, which make it really nice to jog my memory as I write.
I’m also super blessed because my historical editor is the president of the Thousand Islands Historical Association and has written several nonfiction books about the island. She’s awesome and has gone through each of my manuscripts with a fine-tooth comb. When I mistakenly have my character take a left instead of a right to get to the dining room, she faithfully corrects me.
When did you first discover you were a writer?
I can’t remember not writing. I’ve taught Language Arts for nine years to 4-8 graders, had my own newspaper column, wrote missions curriculum, and have written just about anything God put in my path.
Before I jumped into the fiction world, I served as the Founding Editor of Thriving Family magazine and the former Editor/Editorial Director of 12 Focus on the Family publications. My first two published books were nonfiction, co-authored with my husband, Dale. Ialso authored two picture books and am published in various book compilations including three Chicken Soup for the Soul books, Ready to Wed, Supporting Families Through Meaningful Ministry, The Christian Leadership Experience, and Spiritual Mentoring of Teens.
I swore I’d never write fiction, but never say never! My hubby and I went to a book talk/signing, and after we left, I jokingly said, “I could write a story about a quilt!” I then proceeded to tell him the entire story, and he said, “Well, write it!” Thus began my journey of writing historical fiction.
Tell us about your first five historical novels.
The Fabric of Hope: An Irish Family Legacyis an Indie Excellence Book award finalist. It’sthe story of an 1850s Irish immigrant and a 21st-century single mom who are connected by faith, family, and a quilt. It’s loosely based on my family story.After struggling to accept the changes forced upon her, Margaret Hawkins and her family take a perilous journey on an 1851 immigrant ship to the New World, bringing with her an Irish family quilt she is making. A hundred and sixty years later, her great granddaughter, Maggie, searches for the family quilt after her ex pawns it. But on their way to creating a family legacy, will these women find peace with the past and embrace hope for the future, or will they be imprisoned by fear and faithlessness?
Christmas Charityis an Indie Excellence Book award finalist. It’s the story of Susan Hawkins (the 10-year-old girl in The Fabric of Hope) and Patrick O’Neill who find that an arranged marriage is much harder than they think, especially when they immigrate from Wolfe Island, Canada, to Cape Vincent, New York, in 1864, just a week after they marry—with Patrick’s nine-year-old daughter, Lizzy, in tow. Can twenty-three-year-old Susan Hawkins learn to love her forty-nine-year-old husband and find charity for her angry stepdaughter? She hopes so, before Christmas comes.
Katelyn’s Choiceis an Illumination Book Award bronze medal winner and an Indie Excellence Book award finalist. It’sbook one of The Thousand Islands Gilded Age with Lighthouse Publishing. It’s the story of nineteen-year-old Katelyn Kavanagh who leaves her family’s struggling farm to work on Pullman Island for the famous George Pullman. There she finds herself serving powerful men such as President Ulysses S. Grant, and General Sheridan—and falling in love with her best friend’s brother, Thomas, the handsome boatsman. Katelyn gains popularity with her friends by spilling the sensitive high society gossip she’s privy to. But when she overhears possibly damaging presidential conversations, she knows she can’t tell anyone. She could lose her job—and endanger her president’s 1872 reelection—and jeopardize her relationship with the man of her dreams.
Sara’s Surpriseis the winner of the American Fiction Award andan Indie Excellence Book award finalist. It’s a story about Sara O’Neill, Katelyn’s friend who readers met in Katelyn’s Choice. Sara works as an assistant pastry chef at the magnificent Thousand Islands Crossmon Hotel where she meets precocious, lovable, seven-year-old Madison and her charming father and hotel manager, Sean Graham. But Jacque LaFleur, the pastry chef Sara works under, makes her dream job a nightmare. Sean Graham has trouble keeping his mind off Sara and Madison out of mischief. Though he finds Sara captivating, he despises LaFleur and misreads Sara’s desire to learn from the pastry chef as affection. Can Sean learn to trust Sara and can she trust herself to be an instant mother?
Devyn’s Dilemmais the story of Devyn McKenna who is forced to work in the Towers on Dark Island, one of the enchanting Thousand Islands. But when Devyn finds herself in service to the wealthy Frederick Bourne family, her life takes an unexpected turn. Brice McBride is Mr. Bourne’s valet as well as the occasional tour guide and under butler. Brice tries to help the mysterious Devyn find peace and love in her new world, but she can’t seem to stay out of trouble—especially when she’s accused of stealing Bourne’s money for Vanderbilt’s NYC subway expansion.
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