Twelve Tales of Christmas by Cathleen Townsend: Book Review

Title: Twelve Tales of Christmas

Author: Cathleen Townsend

Genre: Short stories, Fiction

Synopsis

Christmas isn’t always Jingle Bells and “Ho, ho, ho.” In these Twelve Tales of Christmas, even Santa has to deal with unexpected German shepherds and reindeer who suddenly want to learn the tango. A dryad works feverishly with a teenage boy to save her tree, now in a stand in his living room, and everyone begs Death to hold off for just one more day.

And no one knows what to do with the fire-breathing dragon. He’s not going on the Christmas card list anytime soon.

Come enter worlds of beauty and dread. Join a house hob as he raises his cup of eggnog high, and enjoy yuletide yarns delicious enough to tempt even St. Nick.

Review

The stories in this collection, meant to be a Chritmas vacation read are delightful, surprising and thankfully all positive because no one wants to feel sad in this season. Every story made me smile. Some for the kindness, others for the love. These tales are magical, more than literally so. The language is lovely. The stories touch your heart in unexpected ways. You feel love, empathy, kindness, hope and joy, which is quite a lot for this short and sweet read.

The language is precise, sharp, witty and the stories present different flavours. Christmas makes up the theme and the spirit of the stories but the settings and the protagonists have a lot of variety.

Short and longer stories are mixed together judiciously. There are short bursts of positivity interspersed with longer, deeper ones. The shorter ones usually leave you with a mood and the longer ones with the feel of the characters. At places, the characterisation is surprising and refreshing like Mori and the irritable dragon in the last and the longest story. The narrative voice is very mature and I loved the language. Each story threw up lovely words at me that evoked new feelings.

I really could not decide which were my most favourite stories. Each one seemed better than the last. ‘The Gift’ portrays the mind of an elderly woman so well that the reader is as delighted as the protagonist. I wished ‘Chritmas Tango’ was longer. And ‘Snowflake’ is both poignant and beautiful. These stories tantalise and because they are short, the reader to forced to think up what happens later. ‘Department Store Santa’ shows a world that is hard up. Everyone has troubles but it is possible to forget them in little lovely moments. I loved the sensitivity of ‘The Angel in the Tree’. ‘Dragon Yule’ is a wonderful fantasy read.

This collection is easy enough for a quick read and rich enough to savour. Read it as your mood demands.

Buy this fantastic book here.

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Colours

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Colours transport me back to my childhood. As I finger my children’s crayons, I am tempted to rub my fingers along them, digging in my nails to see bits of colour under my fingernails.

I remember running in the driveway after my dad’s car, shouting to remind him of his promise to get me colours. That evening, I was given a box of crayons, that I took to my room. I sat on the floor next to the bed, hidden from view. I opened my box and there were so many of those glorious colours. I slipped off the paper covering of a few; some were difficult to remove and needed force. So, I broke a couple of them at least.

To this day, I forgive my children for wanting to use them on all surfaces, including tables and walls. I am tolerant when the colours are broken. I collect all the stubs and put them in a transparent plastic pouch, which already have tens of other stubs that my nephew has outgrown.

Every morning, I walk slowly up steep hill sides and mountain steps, holding my little one’s hand, keeping an eye on my older child’s step and take them to their loving teacher who hands down to them her love for vivid, thick colour. She draws, sketches, fills in with the oil pastels my children carry.

When I come to fetch my children, they excitedly show me what they have been drawing and colouring and I am transported back to my own magical adolescent years when canvas, brushes and colours were my medium of self expression.

I see the same joy taking over my children.

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Renew, Rejoice

Almost a week into the new year and no talk of resolutions, wishes, desires? I had been a stickler for the New Year routine for years when I realised that all I was doing was making the same list over and over again, narrowing or expanding the scope. That made me give up on resolutions.

Still there are times when life needs a course correction, when things become dull or uninspiring, when everything seems jaded. How then to find joy and contentment in daily life even when I am not climbing mountains or clinching that deal?

Here are some of my mantras for constant self-renewal.

Change your surroundings

Tackle your immediate environment first. Clutter can cause a lot of stress. Getting rid of the unnecessary gives you a priceless commodity-freed up space. Cherish that and feel the calm descend.

Another way is to go for a walk or a drive to an area you usually do not frequent. It may not be always possible to travel or to go on a vacation. The stimulus of being in a different place would bring in fresh ideas.

Do not draw from the same well

When feeling stuck in a rut, try to do things differently. Be creative in other areas. If you normally find your creative outlet in painting, try sculpting. If you write, try music as a way to get your creative juices flowing again. You need not even take rest or a break. Turning from one creative activity to another is a great way to rejuvenate your mind.

Examine your life script

Forget star alignments or God’s will or destiny. Much of that happens to us is governed by our minds-our perceptions, our imagination, our expectations and our vision. Analyse how you perceive yourself. Think about how you expect your life to turn out. Enumerate the things that are holding you back. Then, try to understand why you are not living your life the way you would really want to. Frequently, we are the ones holding ourselves back. We all can write our life script and work towards making it happen.

Stay fit physically

Physical fitness is a precursor to mental agility. Working out, taking care of what you eat, staying active make you feel good and in control. A healthy mind resides in an active body.

Connect with nature

Living an artificial lifestyle leads to stress and dissatisfaction deep inside. Spending some time communicating with nature brings on a sense of calm. It may not mean spending time in hills or near the sea as that may not be possible. Going for a walk in the relative quiet of the morning, taking up gardening or even contemplating with your own potted plants are great ways to feel closer to nature and yourself.

Practise Gratitude

Expressing Gratitude on a regular basis brings an amazing amount of positivity into your life. Start a Gratitude Journal, keep a Gratitude Jar, count your blessings with beads, enumerating your blessings every morning are great ways to keep negativity in check. If you are unable to let go of your negative thoughts, replace one consistent negative thought with a strong positive one. It would soon work wonders in your life.

Seek out new connections

Seek out new people in your life for they would bring an element of newness and expand your mental horizons. Make friends with people of different age groups and social background. It is as important to interact with an eight year old than with an eighty year old. Make connections with people from diverse professions.

Review your Identity

We cannot and do not change what we are essentially, but we do change our habits, hobbies, even professions over a period of time. Give more time and thought to the direction you would like to move in and the person you would want to become.

Rejoice in the wonderful gift of life that has been handed to you!

Motherhood

Many years ago, when I was in my mid twenties, I was asked by a friend if I thought Motherhood was highly over rated? I could not even reply to this one, although in the past we had shared an easy banter; a camaderie. I mumbled something and looked away, out of the window of the tiny white car she was driving.

I was confused, so I could not answer. I thought of it as a non-question. Could you choose motherhood? Wasn’t that something that happened or did not happen, as per God’s will? Did we, mere mortals have the right to interfere in nature’s scheme?

Later, when I married and it was time to have kids, we did. I never gave it a second thought. Sure, it was difficult, at first. The tiny ‘bundle of joy’, always crying, never sleeping, not gaining enough weight, requiring vaccinations, medications, countless visits to the paediatricians… most of the time; I felt helpless, even resentful. I was at a loss. How to take care of another life, so entirely dependent on me when I had not even figured out what I myself wanted out of life?

Things got worse before they got better. But the second time was easier. I knew the tribulations enough to even expect them, I was more prepared and I enjoyed the process a little better. Both children are now at a stage when I do not have to constantly tend to their physiological needs. Emotional needs, I know would continue throughout my lifetime

Coming back to my friend; I think of her often these days. She was trying to analyze something that for me was and always will be the wonder of creation. The other day, I was fed up and my mother called. I poured out my frustrations and ineptness and the pointlessness of it all, of meeting the endless demands. And she answered that I am actually participating in the creation and sustenance of life. That is what keeps me going. Indeed, it fills me with joy and a sense of purpose.

This post was written in response to Daily Prompt, a free writing exercise.