It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Yesterday we pulled out all the Christmas decorations and started decorating for the holiday.  Emily and I brought the big box up from the basement that held a surprise tree for us. Surprise, because I bought it from my sister’s consignment shop without ever seeing it. The price? $5.00.  It was $5 well spent, as you can see from the picture.

Also from my sister’s shop, the Mary Engelbreit wall hanging with Santa and the words “Believe.”  The lovely runner on the trunk was handmade by my sister Pat last year. Since I’ve left the coffee table in the basement for now, I’m using it on the trunk in the entryway.

We hung the four kid’s stockings on stocking holders that sit on my beautiful cabinet in the foyer.

For the first time in years, the outside of our house is decorated, thanks to Matt and Emily, who strung the lights on our porch and the bushes in front.  I’ve been playing Christmas CD’s all weekend, enough to get in the mood for writing my Christmas letter;

Reader’s Digest Condensed Version

Mary Kenyon’s 2009 Journal

Word Count: 1714 words


Chapter 1: January

Michael turns 22 on January 5th and Katie turns 9 on the 18th.  I meet my friend Mary Humston at Chuck E. Cheese in Cedar Rapids on the 27th and we visit for the first time since she was treated for thyroid cancer the year before. She is the epitome of grace and beauty after her trial of fire.

Chapter 2: February

An e-mail from a publisher on the 3rd that they want to publish my book! I am on Cloud Nine! I begin the arduous task of editing and revising. I write to the CEO of Chuck E. Cheese to see if there is a problem with using their name in my title. I also ask if they would like to include a token offer in the back pages for families facing cancer. Less than a week later, the CEO responds with a personal note and grants permission for the use of their name, inclusion of a photo of David and I taken inside their booth, and agrees to offer a 20-token free coupon. The 15th brings a Potter (and Weis) family get-together in the basement of the Good Neighbor Home where David works.  David’s annual CT scan on the 27th is clear. David and I enjoy a double coupon event at the Kmart in Dubuque. I pay $28 for my cart full of $150 in merchandise; David pays $5 for $110.00. We meet friends Lois and Ron at Bishops for lunch. Ron went through a similar cancer experience just a few weeks after David’s.

Chapter 3: March

Dan’s 29th birthday on the12th, the same day my signed book contract arrives. Home Education publishes my “The Messies Move” article. It is 72-degrees and sunny on the 17th, when I purchase a bike for Abby at Wal-Mart on sale for $17. For days I attempt to teach her how to ride it; at the park, in the back yard and on the sidewalk, to no avail. Michael drops by one day and informs Abby she is ready to ride, and lo and behold, she does it with no problem for him, her hero. I shop with Dave Rasdale of The Gazette at the Cedar Rapids Kmart store on March 27th, the day before David’s birthday. I’d e-mailed Mr. Rasdale that I could walk in Kmart with a five dollar bill and walk out with over $75 worth of merchandise. Sure enough, I pay $4 for an $84 order.

Chapter 4: April

On April Fool’s Day the Cedar Rapids Gazette article about my couponing appears on the front page of the paper.  My sister Pat and I begin taking walks four times a week. I hold a very profitable garage sale on the 17th. We use some of the proceeds to celebrate a “Family Fun Day” at Chuck E. Cheese on the 20th.

Chapter 5: May

On the 2nd, a pdf. file of my book arrives via e-mail and I make note of three pages of errors that need to be corrected.  When the manuscript comes back again I discover two very glaring errors that should have been caught by the editor when she changed the format. A small seed of doubt about this publisher is quickly dismissed by me as I remind myself, they are a new publisher. Our third grandchild, Beth and Ben’s little Joseph (Jo-Jo) turns 1 year old on the 9th.

Chapter 6: June

David and I celebrate our 30th anniversary by good-deal shopping in the Waterloo area together and eating at Bonanza. We get temporarily lost on one of the side streets of Waterloo, hunting for another Walgreens and I realize as we laugh together that if I’m going to get lost with someone, I’m glad it is David. I follow through with our inside joke and submit Chuck E. Cheese photos for anniversary announcements in both the Manchester Press and Cedar Rapids Gazette Milestones. David gets many compliments at work about the picture of us, and only we know that it cost just 25-cents. On the 6th we celebrate my brother Bill and his wife Brenda’s 25th anniversary at a park near Central City. They were married on our 5th wedding anniversary. On the 7th we learn that my 44-year-old brother-in-law Philip has prostate cancer and faces surgery. Matt begins Driver’s Ed. We visit the Children’s Museum in Coralville and Emily ice skates for the first time as David and I tour the museum with Katie and Abby.  Our grandson Jacob turns four years old on the 24th.

Chapter 7: July

Abby turns 6 on July 1st. The cover template of my book arrives via e-mail. Dan designed the front cover and the back cover blurbs were gathered by me. I hate the spine and the fact that the price is not included on the back. I am able to convince the publisher to include the price but am informed the spine is not negotiable and will become their signature spine design. I’ve seen a similar spine~ on low-quality self-published books, one of the reasons I have avoided vanity publishers and self-publishing in the first place. Another seed of doubt. I am mollified when my book release date is set for Nov. 1st, just two days before my 50th birthday. Advance review copies (ARC’s) are promised in plenty of time to be sent to reviewers, who require a good 3 months time before release dates. An essay of mine appears online on The Daily Palate on July 20. Katie and Abby begin swimming lessons the last week of July.

Chapter 8: August

Beth turns 27 on the 5th; Emily turns 13 the next day. Advance reader’s copies of my book do not arrive. Emily steps on a bat at the swimming pool on the 16th and is bitten. The series of rabies shots are recommended and we wait for 3 hours in Dubuque, where the first shot is given on the 17th. That shot is injected directly into the wound on her foot. I begin work on a press kit and wonder if the ARC’s have actually been sent to reviewers. Direct questions to the publisher go unanswered, or are answered vaguely.

Chapter 9: September

Still no ARC’s by September 1st and no response to repeated e-mails asking where they have been sent. I track down both the editors and two of their September released authors. The editors are horrified I have called their workplace and repeatedly ask me how I “found them” but assure me the books are on their way. The authors, on the other hand, convince me no ARC’s were even sent to reviewers and I will have nothing but trouble once the book is out. I hear horror stories of how their books are either arriving late to book signings or not at all and one author’s book is released with 22 errors. She is an award-winning short story author and a professor at a prestigious university, embarrassed by her own book! On the 14th I receive an e-mail informing me that my price for author copies will increase as of January (although I’d made sure my contract specified a 50% discount) I get a phone call from a Dubuque bookstore owner who had been planning a November reading, informing me that she prefers ordering books with a return policy (which the editors assured me mine would have, only now their books are being flagged as non-returnable). I am frantic. Dan and I spend a good hour crafting a letter requesting a termination of my book contract, which I e-mail before going to bed. I get no sleep that night. All this comes to fruition on the eve of the day we are informed David’s CT scan shows some thickening in his throat and a PET scan is warranted. I breathe a huge sigh of relief when I am informed I will be released from the book contract and when the PET scan determines the thickening is likely scar tissue, and not cancer.

Chapter 10: October

Our granddaughter Rebecca turns 6 on October 4th.  We visit my mother on that day to view her beautiful painting that will be hanging on the wall of the Breitbach’s restaurant. Her other painting burnt in the blaze that destroyed the restaurant for the second time in a year. Matthew turns 16 on the 28th.

Chapter 11: November

On November 1, the day my book would have been released, I am feeling sorry for myself. David takes me out to lunch in Dyersville and suggests we stop at the Good Neighbor Home to view some things they will be selling at their annual silent auction the next week. We go through some dark hallways and end up in the party room where family and friends are waiting to surprise me with a 50th birthday party! I AM surprised, and didn’t know my husband had it in him to be so sneaky! The next day I take advantage of my sister Pat’s gift to me and we start walking indoors at the Manchester Rec Center. But the best birthday gift I am given is having my sister Jane and family move back to Manchester on November 4th. Once again, we host a Thanksgiving dinner here. Forevermore Thanksgiving of 2009 will be remembered by me as the year of the raw turkey.  For some reason the 40-cents a pound Fastco turkey refused to comply with normal cooking times and roasted for over 8 hours before it was finally done! The first publisher I contacted after my termination contract requested my manuscript immediately and then waited 8 weeks to inform me they weren’t publishing memoir-type books after all.  I decide to concentrate on agents and send queries to three agents who have worked with similar books.


This has been quite a year for emotional ups and downs but taken in the context of David’s continual good health, the downs seem quite minor. We are thankful for our family and friends and feel blessed to have each other. Rachel will turn 21 on the 11th and son-in-law Ben will celebrate his birthday the day after Christmas.

 Written by Mary Potter Kenyon, co-authored by husband David and children Matt, Emily, Katie and Abby

One thought on “It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

  1. jacki says:

    This is one of the most beautiful trees I have ever seen! Your decorations are gorgeous. Don’t you love Christmas decorations! They just make ya feel happy!


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