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Sunday, December 25, 2016

The greatest gift of them all

Christmas Eve, the most magical night of the year, and the night my family and I had been preparing for and eagerly anticipating for weeks.   

We had braved the elements and trudged through snow and ice to find the perfect presents. 
We dragged bags and boxes home and painstakingly wrapped each gift in glossy paper, decorating it with a name tag and colourful ribbons and bows.

We went in search of the perfect Christmas tree, and then spent hours decorating it with colourful lights, delicate glass painted balls and silver tinsel.  We festooned the house with additional red and golden balls, candles and holly.  In front of the tree a pile of presents were waiting to be opened.  On the one side of the tree a nativity scene was displayed, complete with angels and miniature barn animals.  My mom and I went grocery shopping for our family of four and several invited guests.

And now, now the night was finally here.  I remember wearing my best dress, then looking around the living room and thinking how everything looked so beautiful and festive.  The lights had been turned down; soft music was playing; candles were flickering and the Christmas tree twinkled in all its splendour in front of the window.

In the dining room the table was set for dinner.  Mom’s beautiful china and crystal glasses sparkled on a white damask table cloth.  Silver candelabras, set among holly were waiting to be lit.  Delicious smells came wafting out of the kitchen, where my mother was preparing pot roast, carrots, peas and sautĂ©ed potatoes. 
“Can I help, Mom?” I asked.
“Everything is done and warming in the ovens” Mom smiled.  “I’ll go and get changed now.”  She took off her apron and wiped her hands.   “When your father arrives tell him to get dressed right away.  Should Paula, Hector, Francois and Lillian arrive, show them into the living room and offer them a glass of wine.  I won’t be long.” Paula and Hector and Francois and Lillian were friends of the family, each couple bringing their two sons.

Within minutes Mom was back down again, resplendent in a new wine red cocktail dress, a triple string of pears gleaming at her throat. 

When the phone rang, Mom, in a rustle of skirts, hurried to the entrance hall.  “If that’s your father telling me he’ll be late I’ll wring his neck,” she called over her shoulder.  “He promised he would finish early today.”  When she came back into the living room she seemed upset.
“Was that dad?” I asked.    
“Yes, he’s been delayed in Brussels,” she said.  “He’ll be home as soon as possible.”

Paula and Hector with their sons Gerrit and Gino were the first to arrive.  While Mom was busy hanging up coats and tucking away scarves and gloves, my brother came home.  “Dad home yet?” he asked. 
“Not yet,” Mom said.  “He’s delayed, but he’ll be here shortly.”
“Where is he?” my brother asked.
“He’s in Brussels.” 
My brother pulled a face.  “In that case it could take a while Mom,” he said.  “It took me half an hour to get across town.  If he’s coming from Brussels it will take him at least an hour if not more.  The roads are full of black ice.”

While Mom busied herself with drinks and snacks for the guests, the doorbell rang.  Francois, Lillian and their sons Patrick and Bart had arrived.  “Oh but it’s nasty out there,” Francois commented, stepping into warmth of the living room.  “We almost changed our minds about coming.  The roads are slippery, it started snowing, and it could turn into a blizzard.”

Snow on Christmas Eve!  I grew even more excited because, in my eleven years of life, I had never seen a white Christmas.  While everyone gathered in the living room I stood in front of the window facing the garden.  It was indeed snowing.  In the light of the moon I saw millions of big flakes come tumbling down, transforming the bleak winter scene into something magical and serene. 

Yet somehow this charming landscape didn’t excite me as much as it did other times.   The excitement I felt earlier at the thought of a white Christmas began to fade.  My dad was out there somewhere, trying to get home.  My brother had mentioned black ice and Francois predicted a blizzard.  Black ice covered with snow would make driving even more dangerous.

“Perhaps we should start dinner,” my mom suggested an hour later.  Her suggestion was greeted with little enthusiasm.  Everyone agreed that we would wait until Dad got home.  Another hour later, there was little or no conversation.  Dad hadn’t made it home yet, and although nobody said so, we all suspected that something had happened.

The shrill sound of the phone broke the silence, and my mom rushed to the entrance hall to answer the call.  When she came back she didn’t have to say anything, we could see something was wrong.  “That was the police,” she announced.  “There’s been an accident.”

Mom related that someone had called for help when they had seen a car skid off the highway, tumble down the embankment and hit a tree.  Dad, and his colleague Ben had been taken to the hospital.  In that moment Christmas instantly lost its shine.  Dinner was forgotten, the tree and other decorations became invisible, and presents were no longer important.  All I could think about was ‘Please let my dad be okay.’

I thought about this over and over again as I sat in front of the nativity scene alone in the dark.
I don’t know why I stayed there.  There was no real reason for it, but being in the company of these serene looking holy people and angels somehow made me feel better.

I woke up from a light being switched on in the living room and my mom and dad walking in.
Dad had a bandaged wrist and a band-aid on his forehead.  “You’re okay,” I said, flinging myself at him.  “If you ask me it’s a miracle,” my mom said.  “Skidding off a highway, then rolling down a hill and hitting a tree.  Yet, there’s hardly a scratch on him.”

In that moment I didn’t care if I never got another Christmas present.  I had just received the greatest gift of them all.  

Friday, December 23, 2016

FREE book - Lily

Just in time for Christmas, Lily is on special. You pay nothing, absolutely zero. 


There is a dark secret in Lily’s home. Her mother,
Marion Vermeer, has dangerous mood swings
directed at Lily with disastrous results.

Eager to get away from home, Lily falls in love with
the charming Edward who showers her with
the attention she craves. But there will be no fairy
tale ending for Lily. Too late she realizes
that she has replaced her domineering mother with a controlling and flawed husband. 

Unable to find work, Edward’s solution is to move his
young family to South Africa, a country in the midst
of violent, political turmoil. When her marriage is
in jeopardy and her son is threatened, can Lily reach
deep inside herself to discover her greatest strength? 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Free - Voice of an Angel

Free this week only. 
Voice of an Angel.

Just in time for Christmas, I'm running a special on my books.
First up, Voice of an Angel.


Talent agent, Jack Garrett, hears the voice of an angel drifting down from a balcony in Greenwich Village. Frustrated, he spends nights walking the streets trying to find his angel. Jessie Green is in a dead end job until she loses it, and quickly grabs an opportunity for a better life. With her best friend, Betty McGill, they both stumble into new but different careers with the help of serendipitous good luck. Through a web of unexpected circumstances, Jack and Jessie’s lives are about to collide with more than a few surprises. Will love get in the way of making their dreams come true? Jessie and Jack both have a lot to learn, but can they really trust each other? Voice of an Angel…where more than one dream can come true.

Grab your copy today.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Computer virus alert

A few days ago, a long-time friend sent me a picture via Facebook chat. Since I know the man well, I clicked on the picture without any reservations. Nothing happened, so I clicked it again and again, but still the image was not displayed.

Moments later I received a message from Jess asking me what kind of picture I had sent her. She stated “Since we don’t usually chat on Facebook or exchange pictures, I’m a little suspicious.” I commented back that I hadn’t sent Jess any picture.

A string of comments followed. Some Facebook friends were nice and polite about the shared picture, others were rude and even defriended me.

As it turned out, the picture was in fact a virus. My long-time friend’s account was hacked, the picture was shared with all his Facebook contacts (including me) and now the virus was in my Facebook account and was shared with my contacts. Quelle nightmare.

Facebook got wind of this virus, restricted me of using certain features (such as sharing posts) and offered to help by way of a virus cleaning program. I ran the program, but nothing happened. I ran it again and again, but still no luck.

In the end it took Malware Bytes Anti-Malware to clean my computer system.

Still, every day I’m getting emails from people asking me about the shared picture. So, should you get a picture ‘from me’, without any explanation, for heaven’s sake DO NOT CLICK ON IT!!!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Black Friday

Intrepid souls all over north America, and perhaps elsewhere too, are whipping out their credit cards and heading to the stores for Black Friday bargains.

Others, who prefer to do their shopping online, fire up their computers and prepare for a day of Internet surfing, looking for deals.

I won’t be doing either.

It started out so innocently. I had noticed a red swelling on my leg (where the leg meets the tummy) on Monday. I assumed it was some sort of an insect bite and that it would go away in due time.

This was not the case. If anything the swelling got bigger and became rather painful. So painful in fact that I had to cut my underwear as the elasticized material was too tight around the leg where the swelling was.

Yesterday, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. Not only had the swelling grown from the size of a blueberry to a cherry, I couldn’t keep cutting my underwear.

The doctor diagnosed the red swelling as a boil, a giant boil. He suggested antibiotics or opening the boil to drain the blood and pus. He was going to give the affected area a local anesthetic, but he said and I quote “I’m not gonna sugarcoat it, it’s gonna hurt.”

He was right. When the needle entered the skin it was just a tiny pinprick, but as soon as he started injecting the freezing liquid it felt like the boil caught fire.

The surgery itself was painless, although more complicated than the doctor had anticipated. He had to cut three times. Eventually, he had to give up because he said he couldn’t cut any deeper because he might hit an artery. 

He said that by Sunday the boil should be better, if not I will have to take antibiotics (which I rather not). He advised me to apply warm compresses every two to three hours and stay off my feet.

“So no Black Friday shopping,” I asked him.
“Better not,” he said, “put up your feet and rest.”

This ruined my plans for early Christmas shopping. I was gonna go to the mall, and even though dealing with a crowd of shoppers would be hell, I was prepared to put up with it for the sake of finding some bargains.

If I couldn’t walk the stores, I figured I might as well join the Internet shoppers and go online. Not that that worked out well. Not only did I get for all selected items the message “May arrive after Christmas”, the shipping and handling charges were outrages.

I was about to give up when I found an email in my inbox that a particular website offered 75% off on over 10,000 items. I clicked to check it out, only to be disappointed again. 

Items that were $120 were now $115, items that $45 were now $43, items that were $14 were now $12. Where was the 75% off?

So I gave up and my Christmas shopping will have to wait until December. With any luck, the stores in the mall will have Christmas specials. And yes, dragging my purchases home won’t be easy, but it will be cheaper than the shipping charges.

Monday, November 21, 2016

The Catmosphere

Just the other day I warned that pet owners should think before they buy a cat toy. But but I don’t exactly practice what I preach. 

It all started with Holly licking her bum. Not once, not twice, but constantly.

When I had a look I noticed that her backside was rather dirty, and the skin around her anus red and swollen. With Dieter’s help, her bum got rinsed with clean lukewarm water. A few days later we repeated the process.

Despite our best efforts, Holly’s bum didn’t get better. She continued to lick so I decided to take her to the vet.
At the vet’s office, Holly’s backside got examined and as it turned out her anal glands were enlarged. She got treated and the doctor said that she should be better within a few days.

However, that was not the end of it. The vet said that Holly was overweight. This was not news to us, we knew Holly is on the heavy side, but we didn’t know what to do about it. She eats a normal amount of food and gets daily exercise.

The vet suggested switching her regular dry food to weight management nibbles, increase the exercise and get her a catmosphere ball. The concept behind the catmosphere ball is simple … instead of giving cats their dry food in a bowl, the catmosphere ball is filled with nibbles, cats slap the ball around and in the process it dispenses food. In other words, cats have to work for their meal.

It sounded like the perfect plan to me and I wasted no time getting Holly (and the rest of my cat family) not one but two such balls. The balls were filled with nibbles, placed on the floor and introduced to the cats.

And what do you think? If you think Mickey, Charlotte, Gabriel and Holly enthusiastically started slapping the ball around, think again. They looked at it, sniffed it and … ran away. And I do mean ‘ran’, they didn’t just walk, they backed away and took off like bats from hell.

Not wanting to give up that easily, I decided to demonstrate to the cats how to use the ball, and what their reward would be, but no, they wanted nothing to do it. I placed the two balls in two different locations, but wherever the ball was, they walked around it in a big circle. Eventually, I had no choice but to fill their regular food bowl with nibbles.

If anyone bought this ball for their cats, whether it’s a failure or a success, please share your experience with me.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Spiders are only good for one thing …

People are weird. I’ve said it a number of times and with each passing day I’m becoming more and more convinced of it.

Have you heard the latest? A woman in Australia has rescued a spider and called it Charlotte. Yes, you read that right, she RESCUED a SPIDER!!!

Now I’m all for rescuing animals such as cats, dogs, bunnies, wolves, foxes, even certain types of birds and fish, but I draw the line at spiders. In my opinion spiders are only good for one thing … to be killed and judging by the poster above, women and men all over the world agree with me.

As for the Australian spider … it was found in a barn and according to a CNN news report the monster sports 15-inch legs – that’s 38 cm for my European readers.

I saw a picture of it, and I’m telling you, if I was to come across a spider that big, I WOULD HAVE TO BE RESCUED!

It was Dieter who told me about this particular rescue. If you think I looked up the news article online, think again. Being confronted with a spider, big or small, on my computer screen is enough for me to scream, throw my laptop away from me, and go running. I would probably survive, but my laptop might not.

While at first I wanted nothing to do with the Australian rescue, after a while my curiosity got the better of me. Being too chicken to look for the CNN article myself, I asked Dieter to do it for me. He had already seen the spider, so its size would come as no surprise to him.

While he searched on his laptop, I put some distance between myself on his computer. If I was going to see a huge spider, I wanted to do so from a few feet away. When he found the particular article he asked if I was ready and then turned the screen of the laptop toward me. And eeeeeew what a beast it was. I couldn’t imagine anyone rescuing something like that, much less a woman.

Two weeks ago, when I first shared the poster above on Facebook with friends, Andrew (not his real name) commented that spiders shouldn’t be killed, but captured and set free. He suggested getting a glass and a piece of paper. To put the glass over the spider, slide the paper between the wall, floor or ceiling, thus trapping the spider and then take it outside.

When I read that I shivered all over. Me … putting a glass over a spider and holding it in my hand to take it outside … no way, not for a million dollars. And I mean that, if someone was to offer me big money to rescue a spider I would never get to enjoy it as I would suffer a heart attack in the process. Not a hair on my head actually considers doing such a thing.

Yet another friend, let’s called her Maureen, send me a video of a contraption to capture a spider and set it free again. The contraption looks a little like a dishwashing brush. The plan is to open the brush, put it over the spider (effectively capturing it between the bristles), closing the brush and then releasing the spider in the yard.

With all due respect Maureen, you can keep this contraption. I have NO intention of EVER using it. No way am I going to capture a spider between those bristles, walk with the monster less than 8 inches away from me, and releasing it, free to scare the bejeezus out of someone else.

Besides, even if I was brave enough to capture a spider, what would I do with it? I live on the 11th floor of a condo building … would I drop the spider off the balcony? If I did there would be three possibilities:

1. The spider would land in the grass below and run away

2. It would hurt one of its eight legs, be unable to move and die a slow death

3. Catch a strong gush of wind while being dropped and land on a balcony below mine

Just imagine if it was to land ON someone. The poor man, woman or child might scream and suffer a heart attack.

No, I’m much more in favor of what an Australian friend did. She recently felled a tree, a couple of spiders as such became homeless and went running in her yard. Amanda (not her real name) didn’t think twice. She sprinted to her barn, grabbed a pitchfork, ran back to where the spiders were, raised the pitchfork a few times and killed the lot of them (or as many as she could hit).

Me and spiders … we are sworn enemies.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Behind Closed Doors

Book reviewers often state that a book is ‘addictive’, a ‘page turner’, or so captivating that they read it in one sitting.
Personally, I take such statements with a grain of salt, especially the latter. Who has the kind of time to read a book in one sitting?

However, where it comes to ‘Behind Closed Doors’ by B. A. Paris, this statement comes close to the truth. No, I didn’t read the book in one sitting (although I wish I could have), I read it in 48 hours.

I didn’t read the review before buying the book because I don’t put much stock in what others think of this or that. Professional reviewers invariably praise a book to the heavens, while amateurs either praise or slam it (which is their good right).

Amateurs state:

When I began this book, it grabbed me. But then it was just constant sadism and I was feeling sick reading it...and the sadism didn't really advance the plot so it was gratuitous. I couldn't go on reading it but I did feel a need to find out how it ended, so I skipped to the final chapters. The ending was good

It's a frightening state of affairs when a book THIS BAD gets over 500 five star reviews. WHAT THE HELL PEOPLE?? The writing is atrocious-I've read stories by middle schoolers with more depth. The characters are ONE DIMENSIONAL and there is NO SUSPENSE because you know Jack's a psycho from day one. Oh, a psycho who gets kicks torturing women but doesn't lay a finger on the narrator...?? The entire premise is absurd. Don't waste your time!!!!!

I find the book too dismal for me to even read beyond the first half of it. Not interested in someone who mistreats people in this way. It may give lesser people ideas, not what I hoped for in this book.

Professionals state:

This is one readers won’t be able to put down.Booklist (starred review)
"A can’t-put-down psychological thriller.” Library Journal (starred review)
“This debut is guaranteed to haunt you...Warning: brace yourself.Bustle (10 New Thrillers to Read This Summer)
“Making her smash debut, Paris [keeps] the suspense level high. In the same vein as Gone Girl or Girl on the Train, this is a can’t-put-down psychological thriller.” Library Journal
Not sure why Library Journal compares ‘Behind Closed Doors’ to ‘Gone Girl’ or ‘Girl on the Train’ because ‘Behind Closed Doors’ is nothing like the two other stories, other than they too are psychological thrillers.

Personally, I thought ‘Behind Closed Doors’ was excellent.
The beginning is captivating, the story is mesmerizing and the ending is superb.

All too often books fail in one of these categories. Some have a good start and a good ending, but the plot itself is weak. Other start off just fine, keep the readers’ attention, but the ending ruins the story.

In the case of ‘Behind Closed Doors,’ there is finally a story that doesn’t disappoint. Not on any level. Yes, the story is disturbing, and certain aspects will shock the reader, but one has to see these parts in context of the story.

As one reviewer stated … the story will make women everywhere look at their boyfriend/fiancĂ© with renewed interest and give them something to think about.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Cat toys ... think before you buy

All too often people buy things on the spur of the moment. They mean well but later come to the conclusion that this or that wasn't the best choice.

The most classical example is the parent who buys his child a drum set. How many folks have come to regret that decision when those little hands grab the drumsticks and start banging away at all hours of the day.

Pet lovers are no better. They see something Fluffy or Fido might like and they bring it home. Most of the time, those store bought toys are ignored, while something free – like the box the toy came in, a scrunched up tissue or an aluminum foil ball – provide hours of entertainment.

I have made my fair share of booboos too where cat toys are concerned.

Take the undercover mouse for instance. I saw this toy online. It’s basically a yellow plastic sheet with a wire attached underneath. As the wire moves, the cat thinks there’s something underneath the sheet and tries to grab it. I thought this was something my cats would like.

I was right, they did like it, but the undercover mouse drained battery power like crazy. Considering the toy requires four big rectangular batteries, keeping the cats entertained was just too expensive.

My next purchase was a mouse. Mickey, Charlotte and Holly didn’t give it a second look, but Gabriel was interested. So interested in fact, that he attacked the mouse every chance he got. Within 24 hours the new mouse was no more than a ripped up corpse. See for yourself …


On to something else.

A few months ago Dieter brought home a ball for the cats. The ball is about five or six inches in diameter and has a small bird inside. When the ball rolls it makes a sound like … tweet-tweet-twit-twit-twit-tweet, tweet-tweet-twit-twit-twit-tweet.

During the day the cats ignore this ball, but at night is a different story. One or several of the cats start to slap the ball around. Not only does it clatter over the floor, the clattering is accompanied by ... tweet-tweet-twit-twit-twit-tweet, tweet-tweet-twit-twit-twit-tweet. This results in me having to get out of bed to take the ball away from them or I wouldn’t get a wink of sleep.

Then again, sometimes we buy something that isn’t meant to be a toy at all, but is used by our pets as such. Take these two runners and rug for instance. They are meant to look like this


Gabriel has taken a fancy to these runners and uses them as a surfboard. He runs, at full gallop, either from the living room to the bedroom or from the bedroom to the living room, jumps on the runner and goes sliding.

As a result, these runners and the rug end up like this

I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to put these runners back into place. If I were to get a dollar for each time I straighten them out I could pay a good chunk off my mortgage. Then Gabriel sits there, waiting for the opportunity to mess them up all over again.

As a cat or dog owner, I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

Where it comes to kid and pet toys ... think before you buy.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Thank God I was awake

Some claim that Thanksgiving was celebrated in Canada as far back as 1578 when Martin Frobisher survived a long journey in his quest to find a northern passage from Europe to Asia. Others state Canadian Thanksgiving wasn’t properly observed until 1957 when it was established that this holiday would be celebrated on the second Monday of October.

Personally, I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Being born and raised in Belgium, the holiday doesn’t mean anything to me. Other than that, I’m not fond of the traditional food … turkey.

That being said, that doesn’t mean that I’m not thankful for a number of things. Family, a few good friends, a great number of acquaintances, a reasonably good health, and life in general. We should always keep in mind … no matter how bad it gets, there’s always someone who is worse of.

As for giving thanks … yesterday I did exclaim “Thank God.”

Let me explain.

After going to bed, I prepared for half an hour or so of reading. Reading helps me relax. Propped up against two pillows I picked up my Kindle (I’m getting quite used to electronic reading) and continued with “The Melody Lingers On” From Mary Higgins Clark. An excellent read by the way.
Suddenly, through my eyelashes, I saw something. When I looked up I saw that it was a medium sized spider coming down from the ceiling on an almost invisible thread.

Good Lord, with considerable speed I scrambled out bed all the while calling for my son, “Dieter … Dieter … DIETER!”
He could hear that something was wrong, so he quickly pulled on his jeans and t-shirt and came to my room.

“Look, a spider,” I said, “Go get a shoe.”

Even though there are plenty of shoes in my room, but Dieter went to go get one of his own.

The spider, perhaps knowing of his imminent demise, didn’t waste time. While it has almost reached the duvet of my bed, it quickly clambered back up again on his thread. So fast was he that by the time Dieter came back with a shoe, the spider was back on the ceiling.

Dieter climbed on my bed, aimed the shoe at the spider and … true to male form, he missed and the spider fell on the duvet. This had me screaming in panic. If the spider couldn’t be found, I could never sleep in this bed again.

Fortunately, the nasty creature was spotted and Dieter proceeded to knock the spider over the head again and again until it was dead and I said, “Thank God I was still awake.”

Can you imagine if I had gone to sleep without reading a few pages of my book first? That monster would have come down from the ceiling and landed on my bed, free to wander around. Eeeeewwwww!!!!!