Christmas in Bannoch

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Christmas is next week, so today we are checking in on our friends in Bannoch, Oregon to see how they are planning to spend this Christmas. It should be interesting because for Bunny and her friends in the First Ladies Club Christmas is a highlight of the year.

Bunny (Bunny Elder Adventures series) is packing today for her trip to Boise, Idaho, where she will spend a white Christmas with her sister, Linda and family.  She smiles as she tucks a small nativity set made of seashells and driftwood into  her bag to add to Linda’s collection. It is sure to bring back memories, fond, not-so-fond and hilarious, from the sisters’ trip to Italy to acquire a special Neapolitan crèche.  (You can read about their adventures in Vain Pursuits.)

Across town, in the Bannoch Community Fellowship parsonage, Bunny’s good friend Naidenne Davidson (The First Ladies Club) is happily baking gingerbread men with her small daughter, Talitha Joy, while husband and father,  Scott, with the help of his brother-in-law, Len Spurgeon, wrestles the family Christmas tree into place in the high-ceilinged, old-fashioned dining room .

“We’ll miss you and Rosie this Christmas, Len,” Scott says, standing back to check the tree. “I think it could be just a hair straighter, but it’s a real beauty!”

“It should be, after lugging it half a mile down the hillside,” Len replies. “but you’re right. When it’s decorated, it will be a stunner. Rosie says you absolutely must take dozens of photos of the tree, the Christmas Eve service, Christmas morning and all…and she wants you to post them on Facebook, so we can see them right away.”

“Are you sure you two want to travel all the way to Southern California for Christmas?” Scott asks. “My sister has never had a Christmas away from home, you know.”

“Oh, I know, but this is Rosie’s idea. Ever since she was a youngster she’s dreamed of Christmas at Disneyland. My brother’s family live in the area, too, so we will get to fulfill her dream and catch up with my family at the same time.”

“Oh, Mommy! Come look at the tree! It’s so big…it didn’t look so big when we picked it out,” Talitha cries, running into the room and flinging her flour-covered arms around her father’s legs.

Scott sweeps his daughter into his arms with a laugh.

“As soon as we are through with the baking…and get washed up…we can decorate the tree,” Naidenne says, walking into the room wiping her hands on her apron. “Will you need help bringing the decorations down from the attic, Scott?”

“Can I help, Daddy?” Talitha asks, patting him on the cheek.

“I thought you wanted to finish the cookies, first,” Scott says.

“It takes too long. Mommy can do it. Right, Mommy?”

“Sure. You have been a big help with the baking, but now it’s Daddy’s turn to have a helper,” Naidenne grins at her husband as she speaks.

The happy family continues with their holiday preparations just as many of their Bannoch neighbors are doing.

Few of the town’s ministers and their families will be traveling during this special Holy season. Their lives will center around their church, congregation and the special services of celebration. There is no need to remind any of them of the true reason for the season.

Rev. Merrill Bishop (A Body in the Belfry) and her nephew, Ryan, are in the grand First Baptist Church sanctuary where Merrill is helping the ladies decorate the pews and altar rail, while Ryan and his friend and church musician, Peri, practice the special music for the Christmas Eve communion service.

In the midst of this happy work, a woman staggers in from the foyer, backwards. She’s pulling something. Dressed like a gypsy with a many-layered full skirt and flowing shawls, she tugs a large wicker basket up the aisle.

“Judy! What have you got there?” Merrill cries to her friend, Judy Falls, wife of the Presbyterian church pastor (read Judy’s story in A Corpse in the Chapel coming in 2016).

“Do you need help?” Merrill asks.

Giving a last mighty tug and losing her grip, Judy plops down on her backside with a laugh before responding.

“I’ve been trimming the wild holly bushes for the hanging of the greens and seem to have gotten carried away. We have all we can use at my church, so I’m toting the bounty around to see who else can use it. It would be criminal to snatch these beautiful branches from their home in the woods and then just throw them away.”

“You’ve come at just the right time. Look ladies! More greenery, just what we needed,” Merrill calls to the other women.

Joyful scenes like these are taking place in all the churches and parsonages in town as these friends from the First Ladies Club share the special happiness each experiences in her own way while celebrating the birth of their common Savior.

May I join them in wishing you all a Blessed Christmas and a spirit-filled New Year!

If you want to keep up-to-date on all the happenings in the lives of these women and their friends, please sign-up for my periodic email newsletter.

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Rave Reviews Back-to-School Book & Blog Block Party

Hi! Sadly, the party’s over, but wasn’t yesterday fun?

So nice of you to stop by to help me clean-up the mess. You can always tell a successful party by the after-glow you feel and the amount of clutter to clear away.

If you will grab those balloons, there, I’ll sweep up this graffiti…careful not to step in the spilled cider.

Did you hear? We have Five lucky winners of the door-prizes:

Nonnie Jules, S.M. Spencer, Joy Nwosu Lo-Bamijoko, Robyn K,  and Shirley Harris-Slaughter will soon receive a personal email letting them know which prize each has won.  But, I was the big winner. What a blast!  I can’t wait for next time.

If you don’t want to forget what fun we had, just read my conversation with Bunny below and all the super comments from my other guests.

Thanks for coming!

[9/16/15 post follows]

Welcome wonderfBlock Party Badge(1)ul readers! I am thrilled you came to my party. I’m so pleased, in fact, that I am giving away door prizes to five (count ’em, 5) lucky guests today. Leave your comment below and tomorrow you may be notified that YOU are the winner of the signed paperback of your choice from my published works or the winner of a $10 Amazon Gift Certificate. In addition, three lucky guests will receive a digital copy (in your preferred format: Kindle, ePub or PDF) of the Bunny Elder series book of your choice.  How do you like those nifty party favors, just for showing up today?

It may still be warm where you live (here in Northern California it’s downright HOT), but September holds the promise that autumn is on its way. So, pull up that comfy wicker rocker on my shady veranda, sip some spiced cider (okay, a tall glass of iced tea may be substituted, since you asked so nicely) and settle in for a friendly visit.

Some of you may have read the Bunny Elder series books, but whether you’ve heard of her, or not, I’m sure you will enjoy meeting the woman herself.

Bunny, come on over here!

Bunny: Here I am, J.B. I was out back picking an apple from your tree. See how pretty it is?

JB: Yes, that tree is bearing a bumper crop this year. Be sure to take a bagful home with you. But, right now, look! We have company.

B: Well, hey, I didn’t see YOU sitting there. Hi, I’m Bunny Elder Banks. Would you like an apple?

JB: I thought we might have a chat and let our guest get to know a little more about you, Bunny. Would you mind if I ask you some questions?

B: Ask away!

JB: Bunny is a rather unusual nickname. Can you tell us how you got it?

B: My older sisters, Jean and Linda, gave it to me when I was about six. When my two front permanent teeth came in they were too big for my mouth. My sisters said I looked like a little bunny rabbit and the name stuck. I was more than happy to leave “Leveline” behind.

JB: I can understand. But where in the world did your parents get that interesting name?

B: I was told it was the middle name of a favorite great-aunt of my mom’s, but I never met her. I always figured my mother just made it up after hearing Chuck Berry’s song “Maybellene” and she was too embarrassed to admit it.

JB: You grew up in Northern California, is that right?

B: Yep. In a little mountain community called Clark’s Hallow. You’ve probably never heard of it, but I loved it, from its quaint old-west style downtown to the quiet lanes overshadowed by tall pines and cedars.

JB: Where do you live today?

B: My main residence is in Bannoch on the Oregon Coast. I also maintain a condo in Houston, Texas.

JB: How do you support two homes, if you don’t mind my asking?

B: My late husband, Max Banks, was a well-to-do business man and a savvy investor. He left me very well off. I’ve discovered managing wealth is a huge responsibility, but I try to use the money for God’s glory.

JB: So you don’t work?

B: Not so much work, but I do write and I’ve published a book which has gotten some nice reviews. I manage to keep busy with my writing, my church work, trips to Houston to oversee things there, and occasionally I take trips with friends or my sisters.

JB: That’s right! You had quite an exciting trip to Italy with your sister, Linda, a few years back. [This adventure is recounted in “Vain Pursuits”-ed.]

B: That was almost too exciting. Most of my travels have been much more restful…well, except when Max and I were captured by those nasty pirates on our honeymoon in the Indian Ocean. That was not restful, at all. [Read about it in “…and Something Blue”-ed.]

JB: Um, no, that doesn’t sound very nice, but tell us, if you have a place in Texas because of your late husband’s business, what made you decide to settle in Oregon?

B: I have so many wonderful friends in Bannoch. I’ve even been made a sort of honorary member of the First Ladies Club. [Bunny moved to Oregon in “Seadrift”- ed.]

JB: Is that a group of past presidents’ wives?

B: (laughing) No! In some churches the pastor’s wife is called the First Lady. The group is made up of the wives of some of the pastors in Bannoch.

JB: Your first husband, Eustace, was a pastor, is that right?

B: Eustace was a pastor, but he wasn’t my first husband. Max was both my first and last husband. Eustace was a rather unpleasant interlude between.

JB: I believe he died in a car crash, is that right?

B: Yes. Can we talk about something else? [You can read all about it in “Hollow” – ed.]

JB: Of course!  What are your plans for the future?

B: One of the first things I want to do is make certain Max really did die in that plane crash in Eastern Europe.

JB: I’m surprised. Is there any reason to think he didn’t?

B: Probably not. But his body was never found and Max’s daughter, Marki, insists she saw him alive, not long ago. It’s been bothering me ever since she told me about it. Most likely she’s simply indulging in wishful thinking, but I need to make sure.

JB: Well, that is certainly intriguing. Please let us know if you find out anything. I see that our guest has finished her drink and is ready to say goodbye. She has several more Block Party stops to make. Thank you so much for joining us, Bunny.

B: Thanks for inviting me… and thanks for the apples!

JB: Any time. Watch out for that loose step! Goodbye, Bunny.

Thanks for joining Bunny and me today at our Book & Blog Block Party.  Before you go to the next stops, be sure to leave a comment, then watch your email tomorrow to see if you’ve won. Come back, again, anytime. Look out for the loose board on that step, there.

Goodbye!