Sunday, December 28, 2014

WELCOMING THE NEW YEAR with Notes to Myself

To Thine Own Self 
By Judith Cullen
© 2014

I came into the possession of a literary journal recently.  I took it home, excited to turn its pages and enjoy the work of fellow scribes.  That I would consider myself a peer with people recognized as “Literary Fellows” as these were, is a major step in confidence in itself.  I may be a humble self-published writer of fiction and essays, but I felt I deserved to belong simply because I do consider myself a writer.  By the same token, after years of qualifying my stage design work with the word “craftsman,” I now do regard myself as an artist.

I began to read the first essay.  I stopped.  I couldn’t read it.  The form was so self-conscious that I was distracted from the words.  “Maybe it is just this author” I thought and turned the page to another story.  Same thing, another composition so wrapped in its form and its own erudition.  “I’m not stupid,” I thought.  But these works made me feel so, because there was an “it” to be got, and I just didn’t.  I realized that I was waiting for someone to tell me a story, to transport me into a world of their imagination and thoughts.  Note to self: I love stories.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

"FIVE VIEWS OF A CHRISTMAS TREE: ~ View Five (The Conclusion)

Five Views of a Christmas Tree
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

View Five

It was the year of facing facts.  Facts can save you, and facts can challenge you profoundly.  This instance was the latter.  I was a rigid devotee in the “fresh Christmas tree” camp, ignoring the arguments about sustainable practices and thinking “green.”  I clung to the memories of my childhood and the delights of the smell and feel of a real tree, at least until it got dry and prickly. 

I lived on the top floor of a three story apartment building, all the way at the end of the hall.  You couldn’t live much father away from the entrance and still be in the building.  Not only that, the area where the dumpster was and the place we discarded trees was far away at the other end of the lot.  I used to have a friend who also lived there, who would haul my tree down to the other end of the lot every year.  Then he moved away.  What followed was a series of years in which the tree went out on the deck sometime in January and could stay there as late as March before I would saw off the crackling limbs and haul them away, saving the trunk to cut up for firewood.  By this particular year, I had gained a nice collection of denuded tree trunks.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Five Views of a Christmas Tree
By Judith Cullen

(c) 2014

View Four

It would eventually be about cats.  My love of furry companionship and the opportunities for feline fun that
the holidays bring would eventually find their confluence. This was inevitable. I was lucky enough to have fairly easy experiences with cats and Christmas trees.  I was lucky. That is, I was lucky until December 1991.

We had finally returned to the Pacific Northwest.  Three year’s earlier, when I had loaded all my worldly goods into a rental truck and moved to Omaha, “we” had been myself and a cat named Sparkle.  On our return, taking up residence near Portland’s industrial district, “we” were now myself plus two: Sparkle and Salem. A short haired black, Salem had been one of a litter of kittens that had taken up residence in a decaying loading dock along the alley behind the studio where I worked.  Through out the summer we had the front and back doors of the studio open to take advantage of what little breezes there were, and the kittens came in to play.  One day, in the weeks just before Labor Day, this little black kitten came hobbling in crying.  She had been hit by a bicycle or an opening car door and had a fractured leg.  I took her home; saw that she had proper veterinary care.  In less than two months we were moving from Nebraska to Oregon: Sparkle, me, and kitten makes three. I had named her “Salem” since she was black and I had gone to college in the City of that same name in Oregon.

Thursday, December 18, 2014


Five Views of a Christmas Tree
By Judith Cullen

(c) 2014

View Three

“There’s no way I am paying good money for a tree that looks like that!”  When you grow up in the Evergreen State and you move to the heartland of America, trying to buy a Christmas tree can be disappointing.  They are shipped in from whence you came, and I know what I felt like after three days in a truck and I was still fully alive.  No offense is intended to the good people who purvey holiday tree joy to the residents of the Midwest or to the aesthetic tastes of those same good folk.  To me, the color just wasn’t right, the limbs seemed weak.  I didn’t even have to take a close look.  I could see that they were “lacking” from the parking area. 

There were also a lot of “shirred” trees.  That’s were they trim a trees branches with a hedge trimmer so that they fit some sort of pre-determined notion of symmetry and perfection.  I hate those trees.  When you come from a land brimming with “the real deal” these all seem fake.  I felt the same way about the puny apples I saw in the grocery, waxed to within an inch of their lives to increase their visual appeal.  “I know how long you’ve been in the packing case,” I would think as I passed them by.  To me, a good apple should rival a softball in diameter, not a wiffle ball.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014


Image courtesy of  Ts88Rm at
Five Views of a Christmas Tree
By Judith Cullen
(c) 2014

View Two

I had not yet reached the first legal portal of “majority” yet.  That would come in May of the next year.  This was, however, my first “adult” Christmas.  Perhaps it was actually the final Christmas of an era.  The tree had come out with the regiment of long tradition, and stood proudly in its place before the front windows, alight and sparkling.

As was also traditional, we brought the presents down and placed them under the tree on Christmas Eve.  This ritual had very defined steps which we never deviated from.  As youngest, I always went first.  There was the Santa hat to be worn, and the string of jingle bells on its crocheted red string.  Everyone but the “present-er” closed their eyes, munched on a Christmas cookie while the stereo played holiday music, and the gift delivering member of the family Ho-ho-ho’d their way into the living room and placed their presents under the tree.  If you had a lot of packages to deliver, it could be a challenge to “ho-ho” that long.  Mom always went last, and Dad had to sometimes stage her stuff in the adjacent front hall.  Since she wrapped for both herself and Dad, she always had the most packages to place.  Dad’s presents to her were wrapped by kid-assist.  We’d open our eyes after each family member had done their placing, and were appropriately impressed, with much “Oooo-ing” and “Aaahh-ing.”

Saturday, December 13, 2014

HAPPY HOLIDAYS ~ "Five Views of a Christmas Tree" ~ View One

free image from
"Now, the tree is decorated with bright merriment, and song, and dance, and cheerfulness. And they are welcome. Innocent and welcome be they ever held, beneath the branches of the Christmas Tree, which cast no gloomy shadow! . . . I hear a whisper going through the leaves. 'This, in commemoration of the law of love and kindness, mercy and compassion. This, in remembrance of Me!'"  

~ Charles Dickens

The publishing may be done for the year, but not the writing.  The writing never ends, thankfully.

Inspired by Charles Dickens 1850 short story A Christmas Tree, in which a man recounts the journey of life guided through the boughs and decorations of a festive fir, I have taken five views of the role that these iconic expressions of joy and celebration have played in my own life.  I've written a five part tribute of my own. I'll be publishing it, by section or "View" between now and the 23rd.

Here's the first - Enjoy!

Sunday, December 7, 2014


Convenient for stocking stuffing, or with the new Kindle Matchbook program, you can get a lovely discount when you buy both the Kindle and Print version of any title. So buy them both, keep the Kindle for yourself, and gift the print version to a friend or for your part in that great holiday tradition: the gift exchange.

Now Available - A TRIO OF TRAVELING TALES - the last collection for 2014 featuring three great new original stories. This Trio includes: "The Unexpected Path", "The Empire Builder", and the popular "Lawrence Street."

Available on Amazon for Kindle and in Paperback

All my titles are available in time for whatever gift-giving necessity you have.  I doesn't have to be dawned with holly and mistletoe.  It might involve a kinara or a dreidel. It could include the burning of a Yule Log.  Does not matter.

Who on your list might enjoy one of these? Click and see!

Monday, December 1, 2014


It's official! Coffee Shop Talk is live today!  

There's a bit of something for a lot of different people in this collection: humor, insight, poetry, reflection.  And then there's the name.  If you like Coffee, Shopping, Talking, or any combination therein - YOU SCORE!  The collection seemed to write itself, actually.  I just woke up one day and said "Whoa!  Lookee there!"

Coffee Shop Talk includes twelve essay/stories, and a smattering of the best of this year's poetry, including "December Sojourn" which will be featured in the Tacoma's Laureate Listening Project launching in January, and "Blue Lotus Dream" from this year's Art-Inspired Writing Project with Proctor Arts Fest.

One story for each month of the year - though it takes a lot less time to read them than that :
  • Coffee Shop Talk
  • What Wiles?
  • Seeing Red
  • The Pink T-Shirt
  • Finding Mck
  • Invisible Me
  • Go Slow
  • Walter's Sundat
  • You Are Not alone
  • My Mother's Hands
  • Thankful Forward
Amazon takes a few days to get things totally synced, but at present you can purchase the book for KINDLE or in PAPERBACK. My collections are compact, and meant for reading "On-the-Go" or for gift giving - they fit great in your average sized Christmas stocking!

You can also find my other titles from 2013 and 2104 by clicking in the tabs at the top of the page. THEY ALL fit in stockings!