About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances.

Thursday, November 27, 2014


Hi everyone. This is a blog post I wrote last a couple of years ago, and I've revised it and wanted to post it here at Once Upon a Word today, even though Thanksgiving WAS yesterday and it's a bit late. I hope you'll share some of your favorite memories and things you're thankful for in the comments section!

Our Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA is coming up next week. For the last several years, I have not “cooked” a big Thanksgiving dinner. With my daughter going to LA every year at that time so often, and my son grown and gone as well, there just wasn’t a need to make a big dinner.

Yes, my husband did complain. Every year. But he never offered to help with anything, either. In desperation, we tried different traditions—the “Festive Fajita Party Pack” from our nearest Mexican restaurant, which is wonderful, by the way; the “Smoked Turkey Dinner and Fixin’s” from a fantabulous barbecue place we love…but of course, it wasn’t the same.

This year, my daughter will be home with us, and she wants “the dinner.” I haven’t bought my turkey—or anything else. It’s still a week away. I’m not stressed, though. Let me tell you why.

I have the money in the bank to buy those groceries. So many people don’t. If I want to make sweet potato pie, I don’t have to skimp on the marshmallows. If I want to make turkey, I don’t have to worry about one brand being ten cents cheaper than the brand I really want. And best of all, I can buy both kinds of cranberry sauce, since I’m the only one in my family who really loves the whole berry kind. So I’m very thankful for the fact that I don’t have to worry about being able to provide the menu I want to make for this holiday dinner.

I have learned to cook pretty darn well. It wasn’t always this way, believe me. My mother was a wonderful cook, but being a child of the 60’s I couldn’t have cared less about learning from her. I was happy with a hamburger (which I did learn how to make for myself) and chips. I learned how to cook only after I got married—and there were quite a few trial and error “errors” that had to be tossed. They were unsalvageable. So, I’m glad that now I have learned through the years and am able to do the job right at this point.

I have the physical ability to cook. This may seem like a little thing. We gripe and complain sometimes about having to fix a meal, but I promise you, one short walk through a nursing home will make you thankful for so many things. Seeing the older people there who would give anything to be able to prepare a meal once more, or go work in their gardens, makes me realize how much I have to be thankful for—even the simple preparation of a holiday meal takes on new meaning.

I have a wonderful family. And this year they are all going to be home for Thanksgiving! So many military men and women are far away from everything familiar in dangerous situations. Families separate as children grow up and move away. It’s not always possible to get home for the holidays. And many homeless men and women have no families to go to.

I have fantastic memories of growing up, all of us gathered around my grandmother’s table, or wherever we could manage to find a place to perch with our plates. We spilled out onto the porch, into the living room, eating in shifts. Of course, the men ate first. It was a huge gathering—my grandmother had eleven children. I have thirty-three cousins on my mother’s side of the family. When we were done there, we’d go to my dad’s side and visit. There were only eight cousins there, but two of them were boys and loved to play cowboys and Indians. What could be better? Another blessing to be thankful for—boy cousins who were just my age.

A good time was always had by all, and that was the holiday that brought everyone home to Granny’s house, even if they couldn’t come at Christmas. I had a cousin, Julie, who was a few months older than I. She was my “partner in crime”.

One Thanksgiving, we spotted a package of six Milky Way candy bars in the refrigerator—our favorite. With everything going on, we managed to sneak the package out, and she hid it in her jacket. We made it out the door and into the nearby woods. This was quite a trick since she had three younger siblings at the time. We ate those candy bars, three each. I can tell you, I was feeling sick when I ate that last bite. But we were so proud of ourselves for managing to get them out undetected and to actually be alone to commit the rest of the crime.

When we got back to the house, our Aunt Joyce was beside herself. It turned out, she had bought those candy bars for a specific purpose—to make her “Mississippi Mud Slide Cake” that two of her brothers-in-law had requested. Of course, as eleven-year-old children, we’d never even thought that the candy bars might be needed for a recipe. We laugh about it now, but at the time, it was serious stuff.

These are only a few of the “everyday” things that I’m so thankful for. This is really just the tip of the iceberg. When we think of everything we have in this beautiful world, it’s impossible to make a list of things to be thankful for, isn’t it?

What are you thankful for this holiday? Do you have a favorite memory to share?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Thanksgiving "Fowl" Up

Article by Linda Swift

We had just moved to Alabama a few months before Christmas. My husband returned to Kentucky to bring our daughter home from college for the holidays and he also brought my widowed mother, his mother and her husband. They were to arrive in the early afternoon, so I had the morning to prepare the turkey and dressing.

Not bothering to dress while cooking, I wore a faded chenille robe, floppy houseshoes, no makeup, and had my hair in rollers. Things were going well as I attended other tasks while the bird basted in a plastic brown-n-serve bag. 

The stove timer alerted me that the bird was done and I removed the roasting pan and placed it on the stovetop. I was eager to get those succulent juices into the bowl of dressing I was mixing, so I attempted to move the pan to the counter across the room. It was heavier than I anticipated, and the bird started sliding then ended up on the kitchen floor. The bag burst and turkey broth spilled onto the floor and my fuzzy slippers while I stood in horrified shock. Then I went into action, grabbed a roll of paper towels, and mopped up as much as I could. I managed to get the turkey back onto the pan and hoisted it to the counter, lamenting the loss of that essential broth.

While I mopped, I had a few choice words for Tom Turkey and the bag he browned in as I tried to figure out the best way to save the day. At least, this disaster had occurred while I was alone in the house and still had plenty of time to clean up the kitchen and myself. It was a moment before I heard the sound of a car horn in the driveway above my dark mutterings.

And just then, my husband stuck his head in the kitchen door and said with a wide grin, "Surprise. We got here early."

"Go drive around the block!" I snarled, as he crossed the kitchen with open arms to greet me with a kiss. Instead, he slipped on the still-slick floor and clutched at me to steady himself, bringing us both down in a tangle. And we were thrashing about like two lovers in the throes of passion when the others appeared in the doorway.

"Don't come in," I yelled.

"Well, did you ever?" my mother-in-law said to my mother as they stopped in the doorway in shocked disbelief.
I finally disentangled myself and struggled up, while I tried to explain the situation. My daughter led her grandparents to the front door while my husband got a mop to clean the floor. I went to greet the family properly, then got dressed and returned to cope with the situation. I found some canned chicken broth in the pantry and my mother mixed the dressing while I grappled with the bird. He was nice and brown and looked rather regal when I placed him on a platter.

"Did you remember to take the giblet bag out of it?" My M-I-L asked as she eyed the bird with suspicion.

"Oh, yes, I did." I would have thought she'd forgotten that incident from my early marriage by now.
M-I-L made slaw while my daughter set the table. The men brought in the luggage and presents while we finished dinner preparations. 

I reminded myself that all's well that end's well as we sat at table savoring the holiday feast. Though, I couldn't help but notice – my M-I-L was eating dressing without any turkey.

Linda's debut story for our Victory Tales Press Romance Anthologies appears in the  
2014 Christmas Collection.

 A Season of Miracles

As John and Caroline keep a vigil for days at Danny's bedside, a close relationship develops between them. John longs for a family and wants to make Caroline and Danny his own. Will his wish come true in this season of miracles?


Also available in print.

This Time Forever

~ Civil War Romance ~ Clarissa Wakefield remains to work in her home, transformed into a Confederate hospital when the Union invades Tennessee. Philip Burke, a Union prisoner, barters medical skills to avoid prison. As opposing armies fight, Philip and Clarissa wage their own personal battles. Caught in the passions of love and war, will they be faithful to their vows or listen to their hearts? 

This novel was chosen as the basis for the short film, Clarissa's War, currently being filmed.

Please sample the first two chapters free.
and at other online bookstores

Also available in print.

Please visit Linda's Social Media sites for information about all her books and stories.
Website:  http://www.lindaswift.net/
Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/linda.swift.359
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Swift/e/B004PGXCTQ/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0
Smashwords: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/lindaswift2

Monday, November 10, 2014




A couple years ago I asked my friend, Kathy and her brother, Dennis, if I could post an interview with them about their military service and they agreed.

Dennis served in Vietnam and Kathy has served in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. They have both paid a price for their service and I want to honor them, and other men and women who gallantly serve our country by reposting that interview. And here it is.

Col. Kathy Groce: Recently retired from the United States Air Force. She served several tours in Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan as an RN in Medical Evacuation.

1. (In answer to what she would like American citizens to know.) I would like the American people to know that each war experience is different and each person responds to it differently. Perhaps you can lump generalities together from each war but, no matter what, those who go to war are changed by it in some way. Sometimes the changes are almost undetectable...sometimes they overwhelm. Veterans have faced their own fears and for the most part have put service to our country above their own comfort and safety. For the most part, they have dealt with situations and decisions that the everyday American will never consider. So we come back home from a war and try to fit back in to the times, changes, feelings...and it is hard sometimes.

2. Would I join the service if I had a do over? Yes, I would. The military is a way of life, and though I don't agree with all of it, I like it nonetheless. I learned skills and had experiences that I would never have learned or gotten otherwise.

3. My specific branch of service - Air Force - was pretty good to us. I have no real complaints. They have taken care of me.

4. The most significant thing I learned in the service is that everyone has a responsibility to speak up and to listen up in order to make positive changes. I always thought that those in higher ranks or whoever was in charge knew better ways of doing things than I did...not always true. Some good changes have occurred because someone took the risk of challenging the status quo. The key is learning the proper way to challenge the system.

5. I know that going to war with people makes bonds with them that are hard to break. There is a place in my heart for the folks I deployed with... I know what sacrifices they made and I know how hard we all worked to do our jobs. It is a camaraderie bonus.

Kathy’s outfit were allowed to ask a civilian to join them on a C130 and talk to their civials about the way they go about their job. I’m terrified of flying and I was scheduled to work that day, but my nephew convinced me it was a once in a lifetime offer and I would regret it for all time if I didn’t go. I pushed back fear and went. It really was an experience I’ll never forget and I learned so much about what it takes to be an Air Force nurse. As much as I have spent my nursing career in Acute Care, so many things are different when it’s all done thousands of feet in the air. I never thought about bleeding in a pressurized cabin, or that water wasn’t available. It’s very different…and everything takes place while dodging bullets. I learned so much about the planes, too. That cargo bay is not only huge, but it can be changed into racks of bunks for the injured, or cleared for armored tanks and other land vehicles. As big as they are, I understand from my talk with the pilot that they are extremely maneuverable and made to land on battlefields. I was so impressed by the equipment and they dedicated military who operated it all. I felt so honored to have been invited and to speak with this magnificent soldiers. I even got to talk to a female general on the flight.

Dennis Groce: Served in the War in Vietnam

1. ALL Americans should be very grateful to ALL service members, male and female. Active or retired. For doing their duty for their country! There should be more recognition and less finger pointing, realizing that in order for peace, sacrifices must be made!

2. Age and health permitting, yes I would serve again.

3. Pay for military should be increased and benefits should reflect the difficult training to prepare for a “government" job!

4. I learned life survival skills which should be taught to all citizens. Maybe then, the spaces would begin to fill in!

5. My service was mandatory as I was drafted for service in Vietnam. Every physical exercise was in preparation to either kill or be killed!

It was a Real Change from high school!

A solid mental focus became a natural occurrence when you realize

“I’m not in Kansas anymore“! Overall. I enjoyed the Brotherhood

which developed at all my duty stations. Thanks for your interest in Veterans! God Bless! 

Dennis had health issues due to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. He died in his sleep suddenly this past summer. He was a big Panthers fan, a great dad and husband, and a Mason. He was one of the happiest and kindest people I ever met.

I want to thank Kathy Groce and her brother, Dennis for sharing their thoughts and feelings with me about their service to their country. It is such a privilege for me to know both of them.



For more than just for today, I hope that you will honor the Veterans of our country and their families for the sacrifices they have made for us. If you know someone who is a veteran, I hope you call him or her, tell them you care about them and thank them for putting their life on the line for the rest of us. Not every soldier got to come home. Some soldiers’ lives have been forever altered by physical or emotional wounds. If you have the privilege of seeing a veteran today or any day please honor them, thank them and tell them, “Welcome home.”

written by Sarah J. McNeal
Sarah McNeal is a multi-published author of time travel, paranormal, western, contemporary and historical fiction. Her stories may be found at Publishing by Rebecca Vickery and Prairie Rose Publications. Her website: http://www.sarahmcneal.com