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The Christmas Calendar Girls–an advent calendar that helps others

The Christmas Calendar Girls

by Samantha Tonge

The Christmas Calendar GirlsFern, Davina, and Cara bond over children who attend the same school in Birchwood Estate. With different personalities and strengths they value each other rather than hold jealousies. In The Christmas Calendar Girls by Samantha Tonge, the ladies work together to save the food bank that is a lifeline for so many in the community, from the addict to the unemployed parent struggling to provide.

It’s the busy Christmas season and late to begin a project to raise money, but Fern has an idea to save the food bank and engender community spirit and good will. Her friends jump on board to help.

All is not smooth sailing, however, with the project and its changing deadlines or in the “calendar girls’ ” personal lives. Fern is a widowed journalist trying to find a new normal for herself and her daughter Lily. Perhaps she is ready to have a relationship again. Kit, a former client of the food bank, stirs her heart, but is he ready for romance? Davina has always been close to her twin boys, but the more sensitive of the two begins pulling away and the pair get into a fight at school. Cara is fantastic with food, very creative, and a doting, stay-at-home mom. Suddenly she seems to have lost it all as she burns foods, uses the wrong ingredients, and  forgets school notices and weather appropriate clothing for her kids. She fears the onset of early dementia.

Watching these characters grow as they lean on each other and gradually reveal their secrets and rooting for them as they try to help those less fortunate, makes for a gentle, interesting, and inspiring story. Birchwood Estate will never be the same.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   October 3, 2019—Aria

Memorable Lines:

That’s what Cara’s homely place was like…If it was a person it would have been a welcoming aunt, who always had your favorite biscuits in and never forgot to send birthday money.

“Bringing everyone together, friends and family, over food and drink, with the purpose of helping people facing difficult times…your idea really does encapsulate everything that the festive season should be about.”

Sometimes I worried I’d never meet another man. I didn’t need one to look after myself and Lily. But I wanted the company. The closeness. I missed that.

Technology—a Bane or a Blessing?

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My parents used to describe someone who was perpetually late and low on cash as “a day late and a dollar short.” In the parlance of my day, it was “he needs to get his act together.”  Even though I am retired, have few deadlines, and more than adequate resources, I have felt more and more lately that these apply to me, and it is not for lack of trying. I even know the culprit, and I bet it is a problem for some of you too—technology, mainly in the form of social media.

We all know some good things about our digital abilities. We can keep in touch with family and friends easily and quickly. We can accomplish financial tasks with relative ease, and shopping is a breeze. The world is at our fingertips!

I wager you recognize the inherent problems in our use of technology as well. To begin with, the “world” doesn’t stop at our fingertips, it knocks on the door and then pushes on through in the form of unwanted emails, and Facebook requests. The negativity continues on social media where people say hurtful, thoughtless things that I hope they would never say to someone’s face and shouldn’t say online. Bullying happens all too often and is inexcusable.

My problem, however, is the overwhelming feeling of being incapable of keeping up: keeping up with posting on my blog, reading the blogs of those I follow, and then commenting on their posts. There are some truly significant posts going up every day. I want to read them and interact with other bloggers. Meanwhile, there is email and more email. Several times a year I unsubscribe from some email senders, but the dent is small. Ironically, the more active I try to be in communicating with bloggers, the bigger my inbox grows resulting in less time for blogging.

Facebook can be a huge time drain, and I have cut back on my use of it. It is, however, a wonderful way to keep in touch with family and friends. Instagram is a new part of my repertoire, but I only follow a few people and I personally don’t post. I have no plans for expansion.

On my phone there is text messaging and WhatsApp which is very popular in Mexico. Lest I forget, my computer is a ready tool for looking things up and for Spanish dictionaries, translators, and tutorials. Like the cute mouse in the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, when given a little, I always want more. Perhaps like me, when you get on the computer to accomplish one task, you get distracted and find yourself down Alice’s rabbit hole pursuing an entirely different line of thought.

The bottom line is that I am digitally overwhelmed on a good day. When I am in rural New Mexico, my Internet connection (as I have whined publicly so many times) is abysmal. Should there be interruptions such as illness or travel, to the normal flow of life, then the tides pull the sand out from under my feet and the waves cover me completely.

Certainly I could withdraw from all of this. Literally pull the plug. There are, however, so many benefits to the digital world. I love reading and sharing thoughts about books online, thus helping authors, publishers, and fellow readers. I used to doubt that one could make friends online, but I now see that it happens, and I value those friendships along with relationships with my other  friends. I enjoy watching the growth of my family and friends’ little ones over the quickly disappearing years. I can keep in touch with those I love even though I live in a different country. For me the benefits do outweigh the issues, and so I keep fighting the good fight.

This discussion does not even try to address the balancing act of virtual life with real life; that is a whole other topic. Does anyone else feel the pain and pleasure of the digital age? I would love to hear your thoughts and solutions.

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