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Update on my life late August 2018

August 27, 2018

Hi, My Sweeties—

I’m feeling swamped. Sigh. As always. But here goes…

1. I’m working on The Best of British Scrapbooking and Cardmaking to get it ready to re-publish. It’s not up yet on Amazon, because we still have some formatting issues, but when it’s up, I’d appreciate you posting a review.

2. I had to stop everything and re-edit Tear Down and Die because someone complained to Amazon about the “quality.” What exactly did that mean? It means that I had two words missing and one phrase repeated. Yeah. That’s it. I laughed like crazy because I’ve read traditionally published books with bigger errors. In fact, I just finished reading The Ghost War by Alex Berenson where he says that Aldrich Ames didn’t have any children. He did. A son. That’s a pretty big and pretty easily checked mistake. So I went back, re-edited the entire Cara Mia book because I couldn’t help myself. Now I have to have a formatting specialist look at it because I cannot get the page numbers to show up. That’s kind of okay because I have all new covers for the Cara Mia books. They are gorgeous.

3. Today I’ll tackle corrections/edits on How to Write a Letter.

4. After that, I’ll work on Bad Memory Album, which will be a special gift for people on my newsletter.

5. Then back to the new Kiki book, which I’m behind on writing.

What have I learned this week? I hate formatting, and I want to pay a formatter to do more. It’s just a huge pain in the butt.

Also, I’ve been dogsitting for my dear friend and neighbor, Lori. Chief is an older dog, so he has special needs. We had a huge thunderstorm that caused the poor boy to shiver with fright. I decided we (Chief, Jax, and I) should camp out in the laundry room until it passed. Fortunately, Chief is Jax’s best friend. Jax even “herds” Chief. If I say, “Go get Chief,” Jax runs to his pal and directs him toward me.

Jax and Chief

On a really sad note, my son and daughter-in-law have learned that their dog, Juice, has terminal bladder cancer. I really love that big sweet lunk. Every time I think about him dying, I get all weepy…that’s making me sad and grumpy.


Juice, the world’s sweetest pit bull.

This week I started going to Orange Theory Fitness. My husband, David, had a heart attack scare a year and a half ago. After that, he became Mr. Uber Fit. I finally bit the proverbial bullet and decided I am not going to get fit on my own. Hence, Orange Theory Fitness where I’m literally working my butt off. Oy!  I have to say that the staff is really, really nice. They aren’t like the usual gym bunnies I’ve known.

When I take breaks from editing or writing, I work on my new dollhouse project. Translation: I cut or paint myself. Yes, I’ve taken to sawing my fingers and slicing a craft knife blade into my thumb. I dripped blood all over the project. I now have blood on the applicator tip of the Super Glue container. What a mess! But as long as I can type, we’re good, right?

That’s it from here,

Love you,

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The Revenge of AOL/Lessons I learned about my computer

August 10, 2018

By Joanna Campbell Slan

As with most crises, this one began simply enough. My AOL inbox showed 20,000+ messages. The number had built up over time. In a surge of energy, I decided to clean out the inbox. Four hours later, I’d winnowed the mess down to 3,000+ emails. Some of you might have even gotten an email from me, because if I had any questions about whether an email had been responded to, I sent a new email to double-check.

That night, I went to bed feeling incredibly organized. Yes, I was taming my email habit at last. My friend Marla had shown me how to use the rules function. Aaron, my computer guru, told me how to block offending domains. The number in my inbox had shrunken considerably. The leftovers could be dealt with the next morning. All was well in my soul.


The next day, I opened my computer to find…40,000+ emails. I called Aaron. He did a remote session (oh, the computer gods have ways of controlling our machines from afar!), and reset the AOL account. He deduced that AOL wanted to save all my emails for 30 days. When I tried to destroy them, AOL thoughtfully replaced all of them. We thought we had the problem fixed, although Aaron’s last pronouncement proved prescient, “I hate AOL.”

“You told me that.”

“Yeah, well, I’ll say it again. I hate AOL. You get what you pay for.”

“Right, but I still use that account. Mainly for sites that force me to sign up or for when I make purchases.”

“Yeah, but I’m just sayin’…I hate AOL.”

“Got it.”

Later that day, a warning popped up in the lower right hand corner of my screen. It told me that I was running out of disk space. I hit the Crap Cleaner button. I did the Malware cleaning. Usually that’s all I need to do. Of course, cleaning the disk space is a hassle because as you do, you clean out all the “cookies,” which are really bread crumbs that lead you back to places you’ve been. When the cookies are gone, you have to manually re-enter passwords. A pain in the backside. However, I was being a good little scout. I did it. And I kept writing on my newest Kiki book and a short story.

The next day…Armageddon. AOL decided I could NOT do without the emails I’d deleted and repopulated them AGAIN. I now had 220,000+ emails in my inbox. I also had 50,000+ emails in my trash folder. I couldn’t send or receive any emails. A big yellow caution sign covered my enterprise server, the joannaslan.com site.

So I decided to take out the trash (in the computer). I needed to hurry because I was catching a plane up to DC. From there I was flying to Seattle, Washington, for a family wedding. I hit the right buttons. Hit them again. Nothing happened.

In a panic I called Aaron.

As it happened, between the emails in my inbox and the emails in my trash, I’d used up ALL the available space on my computer. In fact, between the manuscripts on my laptop, the photos, the covers, and everything else, I’d used up 60% of my disk space. My emails ate the rest, the remaining 30%.

Fortunately, there was a fix. I could physically drop off my computer with Aaron, and he could install a bigger hard drive. A much, much bigger hard drive. So I did.

Now my computer is slicker than owl snot. (As if I’d know how slick owl snot is!) And faster than a speeding bullet. (Ditto.) Aaron kindly worked overtime to get the machine back to me. Between his efforts and the wedding and traveling, I took a semi-forced vacation from my laptop. Yesterday I actually floated around in my son’s pool for an hour. It was heaven, watching the clouds float overhead in a blue, blue sky. Here in Winter Park, Florida, the temperature soared into the 90s, and the water was perfect! I actually fell asleep while drifting in the plastic doughnut.

And you know what? Despite the hassle, and the cost, and the exasperation…I’m kinda/sorta glad this happened. I now have more storage space. I feel refreshed. I really needed to take a break from technology. My mind feels much clearer, and I’m ready to get back to work.

What did I learn from all this?

  • I’m recommitted to cleaning my email inbox more frequently–and immediately dumping the “trash.”
  • I’m going to be more pro-active about using external back-up drives. I’ll keep one up in DC at our business and one in Florida.
  • I’ll be putting more of my finished manuscripts in the cloud from now on as a way to keep things organized and to better manage storage.
  • I’ll always get the largest hard drive I can afford. When we bought this new laptop, it never occurred to us to see if we could get a bigger hard drive. This one is four times the size I had.
  • I’m so glad I keep a little notebook with all my passwords written down. Another computer guru, not Aaron, told me that he spends a lot of his time working with people who put all their passwords on their computer only to have a computer problem and lose all access.
  • I need to take a break from my computer once in a while. It’s positively addicting. I need to clear my thinking and detach.
  • I really appreciate Aaron. He’s a girl’s best friend when it comes to my computer. Everyone needs a computer whiz as a pal.

Oh… and Aaron still hates AOL.

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Why I’ve Changed My Thoughts about Recycling Glass

May 26, 2018

A friend who is in the waste management business gave me some tips about recycling. I was astonished to hear that glass is of very little value and might not even get recycled at all, even if you put it in the bin. That got me thinking about new ways I can use glass bottles. Maybe you’ll want to do the same?

Here’s a list of cool ideas: IDEAS

I’m constantly finding glass bottles on the beach. Here’s an example of how I reused a bottle I found.


Upcycled Glass Bottle

All it took was a bit of twine, a flat rock, a seashell and my trusty glue gun.

I’d like to encourage more of you to find interesting ways to reuse glass bottles. Toward that end, I’m giving away a bottle cutter.

Enter to win here http://gvwy.io/neeu0s3

Here’s the link to enter to win it: CUTTER   The contest ends May 31, 2018.


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Kiki Lowenstein and the Cheery, Cherry Blossoms — Comment to win your own cheery, cherry blossoms

March 21, 2018

Note from Joanna: On Friday, March 23, at midnight, I’ll choose one lucky commenter from this blog to win a cherry blossom set (mouse pad, drawer scent, pencil and postcard).

Anya sat slumped to the right as her fingers pranced over the keyboard. Her headphones looked weird, tilted as they were. I didn’t want to disturb her or scare her, so I called her name. She didn’t respond. I tried again, and then my eyes flickered to the screen. She was playing Forge of the Ages, and her character was negotiating for a necklace.

I glanced at my cell phone. The bus would be leaving in an hour and a half. Her suitcase was sitting empty on her bed. She needed to finish her packing.

“Anya?” I prompted her again, but this time I went to tap her shoulder. That’s when I noticed the lumps running down the side of her throat. At first, I thought I was dreaming. The knots that covered her typically smooth neck were as big as large jawbreakers. How could that be real?

“Honey? Anya? Let me see you, sweetie.” This time I did touch her shoulder, gently, interrupting her concentration. She startled. Her hands flew up.

“Mom! You scared me.” She yanked down the headphones in a motion suitable for pulling off earmuffs.

“Come here.” I took her by the shoulder and guided her to the window. Maybe those lumps had been a trick of the light. No, there they were. Knots positioned the length of her throat from under her jaw to her collarbone. If her blouse hadn’t been buttoned, I would have probably seen more on their way to her chest. I pressed the back of my hand to her forehead. She whined, “Mooo-ooom.”

I turned her so that she was facing away from me. Kissing the skin on the back of her neck, I realized she was burning up. “Stay right there. I’m getting the thermometer.”

Detweiler sat across from six-year-old Erik at the dining room table. Between them sat a series of dominoes and the empty tin case with the logo “Mexican Train.” My husband looked up. “I’ll be ready to take Anya to school in twenty minutes.”

One foot on the lowest step and my hand on the rail, I hesitated. “That might not be happening. She’s running a fever. There are lumps on her neck.”

“Sounds like mono.” He shook his head sadly. “Mononucleosis is extremely transmittable. Even if she gets on antibiotics today, she wouldn’t be clear in time for the school trip to DC.”

“I know it. Let me take her temperature and then we’ll figure out what to do next.”


“Totally unfair and crappy.” Anya rested her forehead against the door window while she sat in the passenger’s side of the car. “This was supposed to be the best cherry blossom display in years. We had reservations to take tea at the Willard. I can’t believe it! Are you sure we can’t tell the teacher that I’ve been on meds for two days? I feel fine, Mom. Really I do.”

Reaching over with my free hand, I rubbed her shoulder gently. “Wouldn’t that be nice? We could just lie to Mr. Harmann, eh? No one would need to know about your fever. When all your classmates get sick, you could just pretend that’s surprise. You could go on and visit DC. Oh, maybe you could avoid little old ladies and old men and babies and anyone with a compromised immune system. If you wore a mask, carrying Lysol, wore white gloves, and went to bed earlier than everyone else, who would notice? It wouldn’t hurt anyone, would it? I mean, if someone climbed into your bus seat after you, well, gosh that’s the problem with public transportation, isn’t it?”

With an angry harrumph of her shoulders, Anya refused to face me. I could guess what she was thinking, and it wasn’t very pleasant. I turned up the radio.

Five minutes later, she pointed at a pair of golden arches. “Could we at least stop at McDonald’s? One of those shamrock milk shakes would taste great.”

“Of course we can.” I dreaded walking into the house and admitting to everyone that Anya was staying home. She had saved and saved her money for a seat on the bus going to DC. Taking photos of the monuments and the cherry blossoms was a high priority on her bucket list. Not that it mattered. All her plans would have to wait. Fortunately, we had a bottle of aspirin, antibiotics, and a coloring book that we’d picked up at CVS to keep her occupied. Unfortunately, those items were no substitute for a trip to our nation’s capital.

Anya was pretty good that evening. She hadn’t been looking forward to the long ride, because the school had decided to let two drivers alternate shifts and keep driving all night long. I could imagine how tired the sophomores would be as they drove through Virginia. But the long ride would practically guarantee the civics students that they would arrive as the sun rose on the proud marble markers. The photos should be glorious, which was why the civics and arts class decided to take the trip together. They’d been watching weather reports nonstop since the last week of January.

For Anya, the trip would be a non-starter. She slept all night and didn’t wake up until 10 the next morning. When she remembered that she would have been spending this morning in DC, she groaned and pulled her pillow over her face.

“Tell us about DC and flowers,” I suggested as a way to help her focus on things that were cool. “Come on, sweetie. I want to know.” I plucked the pillow off her face.

She rolled her eyes “Today is the peak day, which means that 70% of them will be in bloom. It varies every year, according to the weather. The majority of the trees line the Tidal Basin, near the monuments to FDR, Martin Luther King, and the Jefferson Monument. It’s illegal to pick a blossom.”

“How did they get there?”

“Teddy Roosevelt decided the nation’s capital needed sprucing up, but nothing was done until Helen Taft, President Taft’s wife, saw the monochromatic nature of the city as an opportunity to get involved in diplomacy. We’d had an ongoing trade and immigration imbalance with Japan, but a few wealthy Japanese businessmen actively sought a way to thank our country. Cherry blossoms are highly prized in Japan, but the first shipment of trees was teeming with bugs and had to be destroyed.”

I shook my head. “Wow. Talk about a rocky start.”

“The mayor of Tokyo was very embarrassed. The next shipment was bug-free. Because the trees only live to be about 30 years old, the ones blooming today are offspring. The blossoms are white and pink. Thanks to the efforts of the National Park Service, today there are 3,750-some trees that flower each spring, but I won’t be able to see them!” With that, she dissolved into tears.


“Why is Anya so sad?” Erik asked. “Because she feels bad?”

I explained about the cherry blossoms. “They’re only in bloom a few days. She’ll miss them.”

Erik pulled out his iPad and scrolled through several pages. “Look, Mama-Kiki. We can make cherry blossoms. See? Here are the directions, CHERRY BLOSSOMS. s

I glanced at them. “One problem, buddy. We don’t have tissue paper.”

“You always say, ‘Be creative.’ We have to be creative, right?” His chocolate brown eyes challenged me to live up to my own motto.

“That’s right. Tell you what. I think we have coffee filters in the pantry. Let’s go see.”

I was right. We found a package of the white circles. I sent Erik to get his watercolors. We spent a happy hour or so, coloring flowers and leaves. Because we didn’t have filaments to use for stamens, we dipped yellow embroidery floss into Elmer’s glue and frayed one end. The colorful mix dried on a dish rack set upside down. An hour later, we cut out the blossoms and assembled the branches. We also found an app that would put cherry blossoms on Anya’s DESKTOP.  Then I discovered a 99 cent app that would create STICKERS.

While Erik finished arranging the branches, I made Anya a cherry milkshake. I put a handful of frozen cherries in the blender, added chocolate syrup, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and 8 ounces of milk. After blending it, I served it in a tall glass with a squirt of whipped cream on top.

Anya sat in her bed, sipping her milkshake and admiring the spray of cherry blossoms that Erik made for her. “Do you know what the cherry blossoms mean?” she asked her little brother.

“They mean spring is coming.”

“Yes, but they’re also a reminder to enjoy every day.” She put a dab of whipped cream on the tip of his nose. “Especially those days when I get to be with my brother.”


Have you ever seen the cherry blossoms? What does spring mean to you?

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The Greatest Gift: A Kiki Lowenstein Short Story

December 22, 2017

Our blended family headed into the holiday season full of high hopes and great expectations. I’m a huge believer in traditions, especially those that occur seasonally. Traditions create memories, and memories are the glue that holds us close when tough times inevitably come. Of course, I also admit that I have an ulterior motive for loving memories. As the owner of Time in a Bottle, a scrapbook and craft store, I’ve turned making and saving memories into a business.

“What do you do with your kids’ outgrown toys, Kiki?” Vanessa Johnson asked me. She was working on a fun project, crocheting matching hats for everyone in her family. “I ask because I’m trying to figure out what to do with the toys my son has outgrown. I hate to see them thrown into the trash.”

“Don’t do that!” Clancy Whitehead, my second in command and my BFF, gave a furious shake of her head. “There are so many needy kids in this world. Think of how thrilled they’d be to get those things.”

I agreed wholeheartedly. “Last Sunday we went through all of Anya’s old things and outgrown clothes. I can’t believe how quickly her teen years are flying by. We packed up an entire box. Then I tried to get Erik to do likewise.”

“How did that go?” Clancy raised an impeccably groomed eyebrow curiously. With a tiny shrug, she added, “I know that moving here has been hard on him. He’s probably not ready to give anything up.”

Her years as a teacher have served her well, because Clancy understands children very well. As usual, she’d nailed it in one. Erik had refused to let go of anything he’d brought here, to St. Louis, from California. The prospect of saying goodbye to his belongings overwhelmed the little guy. He burst into noisy tears and threw himself onto his bed. Watching her brother cry, Anya had slipped an arm around my waist. She whispered in my ear, “This is just too much for him, isn’t it?”

I hugged my oldest child and planted a kiss on her forehead. “You’re so right, honey. I’d hoped to make space in his room so when Santa visits, there’ll be room for more presents.”

“Not working.” Anya’s smile was one of compassion.

“Sooo not working.” I sighed, taking a place next to Erik on his bed. “Come here, buddy.”

Reluctantly, he let me hold him.

Erik came to live with us after Detweiler’s first wife, Gina, died in a car crash. Because she was legally married to Detweiler when she had Erik, he’s legally Detweiler’s child. Biologically he isn’t. As the teenagers say, “It’s complicated.”

Over the past year, Erik has settled in, although the birth of Ty, our youngest, caused a bit of a regression for the five-year-old. We’ve been patient and understanding. I’ve done my best to explain why babies need so much attention, and I’ve emphasized their fragility and neediness. At the same time, I’ve explained to Erik that he’s a big brother. He likes that. He’s naturally a sweet and loving child, so taking care of the baby has become a point of honor for him.

In fact, Erik can be quite the little martinet, demanding that we change Ty’s diaper or pick him up or pay attention. From time to time, I’ll ask Erik to watch Ty, which is code for retrieving the baby’s toys and reading to him. Being in charge of someone else has given Erik a sense of pride, a certain glow.

Slowly we’ve noticed that he no longer talks like a toddler. He’s becoming increasingly independent. But, as I admitted to Anya, “He’s not ready to give up his toys.”

“Or his blankie.” Anya pointed to the ratty square of blanket that Erik has slept with as long as I’ve known him. Over time, the red plaid had faded to a dull pink. The edges of the blanket had been worn so thin that Brawny, our live-in nanny, had cut them off and trimmed blankie to a more manageable size.

“Or his blankie. That’s okay, honey.” I stroked Erik’s curls and planted a kiss on his forehead. “Even if you have to take blankie to college with you, that’s cool, sweetheart.”

Anya came over to join us. Kneeling carefully beside her younger brother, she whispered loudly, “I’m going with Mom to take my things to the Salvation Army. Why don’t you come with? That way you can see what we’re doing. Maybe she’ll even take us by Bread Co. to get pumpkin muffies for a treat.”

The old “pumpkin muffie” trick worked like a charm. Erik was willing to ride along with us in return for a “muffie,” which is the top slice of an oversized muffin. Once we arrived at the Salvation Army, he agreed to help us carry bags inside the drop-off area.

“What do they do with Anya’s things?” he asked.

Anya leaned close and explained, “People come here to shop. They don’t have much money, so they buy gifts here rather than going to other stores. Come on and I’ll show you.”

She took him by the hand, marched him out the front door, and around to the other entrance. I followed but I didn’t say a word. I wanted to see how they would handle the situation. Not surprisingly, Erik’s eyes were huge as he watched people make their selections. Anya took him for a quick tour of the place while I spoke to the manager. She helped me find several old wool sweaters that I hoped to turn into felt for future projects.

“In the car on the way home, Erik was quiet. Thoughtful even. I believe that was his first brush with poverty,” I told Clancy and Vanessa. “He’s lived a privileged existence. His step-father was incredibly wealthy.”

Shortly thereafter, we said goodbye to Vanessa. The sign in our front window read that we were closing at three on Christmas Eve. At five after, I locked the front door. Clancy and I hugged, wishing each other Merry Christmas. For me, the holiday had finally arrived.


Later that evening, after our family had dinner, we bundled up to spend time outside in the cold. Each year the church in our neighborhood hosts a Christmas pageant, a live reenactment of the birth of Christ. Although Anya is Jewish, we all enjoy seeing the nativity come to life. Part of the attraction is that the church borrows Monroe, the donkey owned by our former landlord, Leighton Haversham. When Leighton is traveling, as he often is during the holidays, we take care of Monroe. That means that walking him to and from the pageant is our responsibility. Yet another reason for us to attend and watch the pageantry.

This year Erik took Monroe by the halter. My husband, Detweiler, winked at me over the little boy’s head. Unbeknownst to Erik, Detweiler also had a grip on the donkey’s bridle. Just in case. However, Monroe adores Erik and the feeling is mutual. Last year, Erik was both beguiled and scared of Monroe. Many apples and tummy rubs later they are fast friends. I couldn’t contain the smile that bubbled up inside me as I pushed Ty’s stroller. Anya chatted happily with Brawny, who’s more a part of our family than a nanny. In the space of twelve months, we’d truly become a united front. A family, en route to see the birth of another family, one that promised peace for all mankind.

As we walked, I tried to ignore the stinging slap of cold air against my skin. The weatherman predicted a drop in the temperature, and he’d been spot on. While Erik and Detweiler delivered the donkey, Brawny, Anya, and I took our places in the crowd, using the stroller to secure a bit of real estate. Erik and Detweiler returned, and we huddled together for warmth. I pulled Ty’s blanket up around his face for extra protection. He seemed fine, but I guess the worry showed on my face.

Brawny had been watching me. She shook her head. “It’s getting colder by the minute. I best take young master home. ‘Tis too brutal for a wee tyke.”

Detweiler and I agreed. Reluctantly, I told my littlest one that we’d meet him back at the house. The ever resourceful Brawny guided the stroller through the crowd and headed for our snug home.

Thanks to the nip in the air, the pageant moved along swiftly. Detweiler hoisted Erik onto his shoulders so the boy could get a good look at the event. Erik was fascinated by the show. His bright blue coat stood out in stark contrast to the gray of the winter sky. His little face was intensely interested in every aspect of the Christmas story. We’d been reading books explaining why the couple had taken shelter in a manger. We’d talked about the shepherds and the star. We’d been pointing at angels for six weeks now. But seeing the timeless tale was different. Erik was totally focused on the unfolding drama.

In fact, he was reluctant to leave when the pageantry ended. “I want to see that baby,” he told Detweiler, as he tugged at his father’s hand. We waited until most of the crowd had cleared. Then we made our way to the crèche. Although actors had played the part of Mary, Joseph, and others, the church had wisely decided to substitute a doll for baby Jesus. I knew from experience that they would leave the toy in the manger until they took the makeshift manger scene down for the year. The people would be replaced with statues. The holy family would decorate the lawn of the church for weeks to come while we took our donkey and went home.


Christmas morning dawned bright and frigid. I awoke to the tantalizing scent of bacon and pancakes. Brawny always gets up before the rest of the household and cooks our breakfast. However, I’d expected Erik to be our alarm clock on this special day. Detweiler rolled over and hugged me. “Merry Christmas.”

I returned the greeting. “I guess the pageant tired Erik out, huh?”

“I guess.” Detweiler chuckled. “But I heard water running in Anya’s bathroom. Squeals of happiness can’t be far behind.”

However, he was wrong. We managed to pull on clothes in silence. I even ran a brush through my hair. Anya knocked politely at our door, and I opened it, expecting to give her a hug—but I froze at the look on her face.

“Erik’s gone! He’s missing. I’ve looked everywhere!”

“What?” I thought I’d heard her wrong.

“He’s probably playing with one of the toys that Santa brought.” Detweiler moved past my daughter and me. His feet galloped down the stairs. “Erik? Erik!”

I raced after him. Brawny and Anya joined us in the family room. The tree was dark. The presents hadn’t been touched. I ran back upstairs to Erik’s room. It was empty.

“He’s probably taken an apple to Monroe.” Anya suggested, breathlessly.

“I’ll go get him.” I heard the back door slam behind Detweiler. Anya and I pounded our way down the stairs.

“I’ll look in the garage,” Brawny said.

That’s when I realized our dog was missing, too. “Anya? Have you seen Gracie?”

“Huh-uh.” Her blue eyes were wet and her voice trembled. Turning away from me, she yelled, “Gracie! Here girl!”

With a sudden flash of insight, I went to the front door. It was unlocked. That meant that Erik had voluntarily left the property. I checked the wall-mounted hanger where we keep our dog’s leash. Empty.

“He must have taken Gracie for a walk. I’ll go get Detweiler. We’ll drive around the block.”

Anya’s mouth had sunken into a deep frown. “Hurry, Mom. It’s cold out there. He’s just a little guy.” With that, she wiped away a tear.

In less than a minute, my husband and I were in his police cruiser with the windows down. He pulled cautiously out of the driveway, doing his best to control his panic. I swallowed my own fears. How could this have happened? We should be opening gifts and celebrating! What if this turned out to be the worst day of our lives? Had someone taken Erik? Had he gone with a stranger? If so, how hand someone convinced him to leave on this particular day when wrapped gifts had such a magnetic pull? I sniffled.

Detweiler took my hand. “Stay calm. We need to think this through. Let’s not freak out.”

But I was freaking out. I was scared spitless. Detweiler cranked up the defroster. The weather outside was viciously cold. Where was our little boy? My husband drove slowly up the block. He stopped at the corner. Looked left and right. Decided to go straight. “I figure we should start where we were last night.”

That made sense to me, although I was too upset to really focus.

“Is that Gracie?” Detweiler spotted the black and white giant dog first. I leaned forward, sticking my head out my window so I could see better.

“I think so.” But my response was slower than Detweiler’s reflexes. He’d already pulled into the circular drive in front of the church. Throwing the police cruiser into park, he bolted out of the door. I was fast on his heels.

Gracie barked a greeting at us, but we looked past her. A small figure in a blue coat was hunched over the manger.

“Erik? Honey?” Detweiler dropped to his knees beside our son. Slowly, the little boy turned. His chocolate brown eyes were wide with surprise.

“Are you okay?” I joined Detweiler on the cold earth. I had to see Erik for myself.


“Buddy, what are you doing here?” Detweiler snatched up the boy, hugging him tightly. “We were worried about you. You know you shouldn’t leave the house without telling us.”

“I was worried about that baby.” Erik pointed a mitten finger at the Jesus doll. “He was cold. I didn’t want him to be cold. See?”

Following his direction, I bent closer to the manger. Neatly tucked around the statue of the baby was a tattered piece of cloth. Erik’s blankie.

~The End~


Note: I hope you’ve enjoyed this short story, and I hope you’ll take time to share a little Kiki with a friend. Right now, you can send a pal a copy of “Kiki and Cara Mia’s Christmas Collection” for only 99 cents. That’s cheaper than you can send a greeting card! Go to https://www.amazon.com/Kiki-Christmas-Collection-Lowenstein-Mystery-ebook/dp/B01MFC9THX/  On the right is a button that allows you to give as a gift. How easy is that? Ho-ho-ho, and Happy Holidays from your friend — Joanna

PS: Here are all the Kiki books in order with links:

  1. Love, Die, Neighbor (The Prequel) – http://bit.ly/LoveDieN
  2. Paper, Scissors, Death — http://bit.ly/PSDKL1
  3. Cut, Crop & Die — http://bit.ly/CutCropD
  4. Ink, Red, Dead — http://bit.ly/IRDead3
  5. Photo, Snap, Shot — http://bit.ly/PSSKL4
  6. Make, Take, Murder — http://bit.ly/MTMKikiL5
  7. Ready, Scrap, Shoot — http://bit.ly/RSSBook6
  8. Picture, Perfect, Corpse — http://bit.ly/PPCorpse7
  9. Group, Photo, Grave — http://bit.ly/GPGrave8
  10. Killer, Paper, Cut — http://bit.ly/KillPC9
  11. Handmade, Holiday, Homicide — http://bit.ly/KikiHHH10
  12. Shotgun, Wedding, Bells — http://bit.ly/SWBKiki11
  13. Glue, Baby, Gone — http://bit.ly/GBG12
  14. Fatal, Family, Album — http://bit.ly/KLFFA13
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