Day 3 – Chain of Love

holding hands.jpg
This week I will be sharing a Christmas story with you in six parts. It is an excerpt from my first book, REMEMBERING WHEATFIELD BRIDGE, now available in paperback. Click here to get your copy. Feel free to share the story with others as it enfolds each day. You may also visit my website for more information, and be sure to like my Facebook page – jonivannestauthor. Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!
By Joni VanNest © 2016
Day 3 
The Young Couple
It had been six months to the day – a beautiful wedding, the most wonderful day of their lives. Dianne’s memories of the occasion were just as vibrant on that cold winter evening as they had felt on that bright sunny morning. Recent comments from an older friend regarding their “monthaversary” still played in her mind. “Six months? Honey, you’re still on your honeymoon. Come talk to me after you’ve had at least a decade under your belt.” Dianne looked forward to that and many more joy-filled, and perhaps even challenging years ahead. On this particular evening, she saw the future in her husband Kenny’s eyes, by candlelight at a small Italian restaurant in the village.
A waiter placed heaping bowls of pasta on the table; steam rose from them into the twilight of the room. As if by instinct or ritual, she joined hands with Kenny across the table while he prayed. “Thank you Lord, for six outstanding months and for the many years still to come. We ask you to bless this food to our bodies that we may be strong for you and for each other.” A duet of “Amen” concluded the blessing. Their eyes met one last time before they turned their attention to the waiting food.
“Mmm. I think I died and went to heaven.” Dianne savored the marinara sauce, letting the rich flavor linger in her mouth before washing it down with a drink. “So, have you thought about what we’re going to buy everyone for Christmas? I have some ideas about my side of the family, but I’m at a loss as to what to get your Mom and Dad.” Dianne loved Christmas. She had tempted Kenny with her visions of sugarplums since Halloween. The question was just one of the many things they had to work out for this, their first Christmas together, as they were still learning the finer details of how to create a family.
“You know, I really haven’t given it much thought, but there is something I wanted to run by you.”
Dianne put down her fork to give full consideration to her husband.
“I’ve been thinking, this whole year seems to have gone by in such an amazing whirlwind: the wedding, the island honeymoon, moving into the apartment together, getting that promotion at work. I just can’t help but feel that I, that we,” he corrected himself, “have been blessed beyond compare.” There was no doubt, things were certainly going well for them – so well, in fact, they were even considering the possibility of starting their family earlier than planned. “So I thought maybe we could share a little of that blessing with someone else this Christmas. I know it sounds hokey and it doesn’t have to be anything major, I just feel that I want to give back a little – you know, to make Christmas special for a needy kid or something like that.”
Dianne sighed and looked at her husband with deep admiration. This was why I married him. “I think that’s a wonderful idea. In fact, I saw one of those Toys for Tots barrels the other day. We could start with a donation there.”
They finished off the meal with a tiramisu for two and decided to walk off the damage by going for a stroll around the green before heading home. Linked arm in arm they window shopped along the way. Village Toy Shoppe was just getting ready to close as they stood looking in the window.
“Oh honey, isn’t that adorable? And look, she’s got on pink bunny slippers.” Bonita Bunny caught Dianne’s eye and heart. “We have to get it for Toys for Tots. Come on!” Kenny was not given an option. She grabbed his hand and yanked him into the shop.
“Hi Caroline.”
“Well hey, if it isn’t the two lovebirds.” Dianne’s childhood neighbor and local toy merchant peered out over half glasses. She looked as if she’d had a long day and was ready to call it a night. The two greeted one another with over-the-counter hugs. “Gee, five more minutes and you would have missed me. I was just closing up.”
“Oh, we won’t keep you. We know exactly what we want.”
“Dianne, let her close up. We can come back another time.” Kenny then turned to Caroline. “Every now and then I find myself rescuing people from my wife’s impetuous nature.”
Dianne pouted in her husband’s direction and implored Caroline, “Please. We need to buy that purple bunny in the window; it’s for a special little girl.”
“Well, don’t let it be said that I’d ever keep a toy from a child.” Caroline went to the front of the store and locked the door before pulling the rabbit out of the window display.
“Bonita Bunny. I have to admit, I thought she was something special when I first saw her.” The woman carefully wrapped the little rabbit in white tissue paper, taking care not to cover its face. She placed her in a gift bag, feet first, so her head would stick out.
“So, who’s the special little girl?” Caroline inquired as she rang up the sale.
“I don’t know,” Dianne blurted out, only realizing afterward how silly it must have sounded.
Kenny came to her rescue. “We want to give a gift to a toy drive. I’m afraid Dianne fell suddenly and madly in love with this doll. But I think it would be perfect as well.” He smiled at Dianne and she in turn kissed him.
“Two hearts, one mind.”
Caroline paused to look at Bonita Bunny before passing the bag to Dianne.
“This probably sounds silly, but I’m a bit sad at seeing this little rabbit leave the store. I’ve grown quite fond of her since her arrival. I suppose I’ll have to be appeased knowing the doll will soon be in the arms of a deserving child.” She finished ringing up the purchase and joined the couple’s generosity by giving them a discount on the price.
As Caroline locked the door behind them, Dianne and Kenny walked out into the crisp night air. Snow flurries filled the space between them but their love for each other and for a little girl they would never meet kept them warm.
…TO BE CONTINUED. Be sure to like my Facebook page, JoniVanNestAuthor, and to visit my website, to read the previous installments of Chain of Love. Please support Toys for Tots this Christmas.

Day 2 – Chain of Love


This week I will be sharing a Christmas story with you in six parts. It is an excerpt from my book, REMEMBERING WHEATFIELD BRIDGE, soon to be available for Kindle and also in print. Feel free to share the story with others here on Facebook as it enfolds each day. You may also visit my website for more information, and be sure to like my Facebook page – jonivannestauthor. Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!


By Joni VanNest © 2016

 Day 2 – The Shopkeeper

A wooden sign inscribed Village Toy Shoppe hung above the doorway and swayed with the wind. Alexis stood in front of the shop and took a deep breath trying to work up the confidence to go in. She felt a chill go up and down her spine and the cardboard crate in her hand grew heavy with her indecision. It was now or never. “Well God, this is it. It’s in Your hands now.” She pushed the door open and walked through.

A plump woman wearing glasses with half lenses was dusting a display of brightly colored racecars on the shelf behind the counter. Her gray hair led Alexis to believe she might be someone’s grandmother, which she thought could prove to be helpful. The woman stopped dusting and welcomed her customer. “Good afternoon. Can I help you find a toy for someone?”

The friendly greeting did little to calm Alexis’s nerves. She stuttered as she introduced herself and passed the woman her business card. “Hi, m-m-y name is Alexis Hunter. I am a toy designer.”

“Well then, you’ve come to the right place. How can I help you?”

“Actually, I was hoping I could help you.” That little spin on words was enough to give Alexis the boost she needed. Her well-rehearsed pitch began to flow, the words taking on a life of their own, much like her dolls. “I would like to show you some of my creations. I call them Alexis’s Critter Comforts. They’re a line of stuffed animals meant for pre-school age children. Each one is individually hand-crafted and no two are exactly alike.”

“Is that what you have there?” The shopkeeper pointed at the container in Alexis’s hand. “It looks sort of like an animal crate of some kind.”

“Um.” Alexis hesitated for just a moment. “It is. I couldn’t just stuff them in a bag or a box without air holes. It wouldn’t be right.” She felt the need to explain further. “This seems more humane.”

“I see.” The woman’s drawn out words and raised eyebrow told Alexis she may have gone a bit too far with her last comment, no matter how true she believed it to be. Thankfully, the woman seemed curious. “Well, let’s see what, or rather who you have in there, shall we?”

Alexis opened the crate and pulled out several of her friends, placing them on the counter. The likes of Monkey Mike, Ted Bear, Poofie Poodle and Lisa Lamb stared up at the owner. In a wave of anthropomorphism, Alexis could almost hear them pleading with the shopkeeper, Please let us stay.

“Oh, aren’t they just adorable.”

The merchant’s words gave her hope.

“Oh, look at this one.” The woman seemed to take an interest in her newest creation, Bonita Bunny. “Isn’t that precious. And so soft, too.” She picked up the rabbit and turned it over inspecting it on all sides. “Why it’s wearing a housecoat. How original.”

“She’s dressed for bed, like a little girl would be.”

“You really are very talented, but I’m so sorry I just don’t have the room to offer them on consignment or otherwise.”

Alexis’s heart dropped. She cast her gaze to the ground in defeat and thanked the woman for her time, then quickly packed up her menagerie and left.

As she walked out the door, she nearly ran into a young woman who was opening the door next to the shop’s entrance, not three feet away. It appeared to lead to a staircase, perhaps to an apartment on the second floor. Tagging behind the woman, yet holding tightly to her mother’s hand was a little girl about four or five years old. The toddler turned her head toward the crate where tufts of lavender colored fur protruded from the air holes. The girl’s eyes lingered on the toy-filled box in wonder as her mother gently pulled her inside and out of view.

Alexis sat in her car and wept for a dashed dream, allowing the tears to wash away her disappointment until she was ready to drive again.

Although the Village Toy Shoppe owner went about her business taking care of customers—both big and small—the rest of the day, she found herself repeatedly distracted by the thought of the little rabbit wearing a housecoat. It reminded her of her own childhood. As a little girl she, too, had a housecoat just like the one the rabbit was wearing that her mother had made. The memories took her back those many years. She remembered the comforting feel of the soft robe around her on chilly winter mornings, of her mother calling her to a breakfast of warm cereal or pancakes. She didn’t realize until now how that simple robe provided a measure of wellbeing that as a child she didn’t even know she had.

Well, it is getting near Christmas. Soon the toys will be flying off the shelf. And that bunny was so adorable.

She picked up the receiver and dialed. “Hello, Alexis? This is Caroline calling from Village Toy Shoppe and I was wondering…”


…TO BE CONTINUED. Be sure to like my Facebook page, JoniVanNestAuthor, and to visit my website,

Chain of Love


Starting today, I will be sharing a Christmas story with you in six parts. It is an excerpt from my book, REMEMBERING WHEATFIELD BRIDGE, soon to be available for Kindle and also in print. Feel free to share the story with others as it enfolds each day. You may also visit my website for more information, and be sure to like my Facebook page – jonivannestauthor. Have a Merry and Blessed Christmas!



By Joni VanNest © 2016

Day 1 – The Designer

Alexis smoothed the fabric, noting how the nap of the material moved with each passing of her hand like the graceful ballet of field grass yielding to a breeze. The soft texture of the lavender fur would be perfect. She knew that in her skilled hands the fabric would soon undergo a transformation; she could feel it in her soul and could not wait to draw it out into being. This is how they always begin – with just an idea, one that would not go away and would gnaw at her until she made it a reality. She brought the bolt up to the counter for the clerk to cut.

This particular idea nestled in her head about a week ago and had been incubating ever since, rolling over in her mind, changing in shape and size, even in color. This week it would take shape. The design phase had created a fairytale-like character – cuddly, downy soft, gentle as a newborn. Of utmost importance, it must give the sensation of being so delicate as to wilt from a touch. It will be something a child can love and yet be a child itself.

“How many yards?” asked the clerk.

“Oh, about three of each,” she said looking at the rolls of material lying across the counter. “I have to plan for trial and error, you know.”

“So what is it going to be this time?”

Alexis was no stranger in the notions section of the department store. She regularly came in for supplies and, more times than not, it was this same woman who waited on her. Sarah, her nametag read.

“A bunny.” The image in Alexis’s mind placed a smile on her countenance and joy in her heart, her infectious bright spirit spilled over to Sarah who returned the smile.

“I see you in here all the time buying fabric for your dolls. What do you do with them all?”

“I make them throughout the year and sell them at craft fairs in the fall. I call the line Alexis’s Critter Comforts.”

“Cute. Have you ever thought of putting them in stores? Like the toy shop in the village?”

“Oh, I…” She didn’t know how to respond. The thought had crossed her mind. The little toy shop in town would be a great place to market her creations. However, the leap from craft fair item to store inventory seemed too great in her estimation. She loved her stuffed friends and they sold well at fairs, but mass-producing, even for just one local shop, seemed beyond her talents and abilities. At least that is what she told herself.

“You really should think about it,” the clerk pressed on. “American made is in these days. And handmade American made, well, it doesn’t get much more chic than that.”

To her surprise, the more the woman spoke, the more Alexis found herself considering the possibilities. “I appreciate the pep talk. I tell you what, I’ll think about it.”

“Good idea. And let me know because I’d love to look for your critters in the shop window.”

Alexis bid goodbye, gathered all of her purchases and left the store dwelling on the newly sown seed of maybe.


…TO BE CONTINUED. Be sure to like my Facebook page, JoniVanNestAuthor, and to visit my website,



The Harmony of Words

I love the music of a story, the harmonic melody of words as they ebb and flow bending to my will and sometimes bending me to their will as a story comes alive and into its own. The song of words buoys my soul, providing comfort like a friend. And that friendship never gets old.


It is a strange thing to dream of being a published writer and actually doing it. Crossing that line can be unnerving. Suddenly, your words are no longer your own, they are open to scrutiny by loved ones and strangers alike. And you wonder if you can handle it if no one likes your words, or worse deems them only adequate, not the gripping content you thought you wrote. Well, today I take that chance as I write my first blog. Please be kind and wish me luck.