Fall leaves  and cooler weather is a great time to look at our schedules and put our priorities back in order. With writing deadlines and a new job teaching early morning religion classes in my congregation, I’ve found new meaning in back-to-school craziness. Here are some great tips from Connie E. Sokol on getting Back to Basics and re-prioritizing!

Crazy that Christmas is also just around the corner. I’m so thrilled this holiday season to be part of Christmas Kisses: An Echo Ridge Anthology, which is now up for preorder at the special price of just 99 cents. The set includes five wonderful romances all based around Kenworth’s Department Store at Christmas time. By pre-ordering the book now, you lock in the discount price and guarantee deliver of the book on November 3rd.

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Christmas Kisses is a collection from five bestselling and award-winning authors. Set in the snowy town of Echo Ridge in upstate New York, these inspirational romances are sure to delight while you sip cocoa by the fire and listen to Christmas carols.

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Get back to basics at back-to-school time by Connie Sokol

Back to school–it’s that magical time of year (for children or for parents?) When you make a few quick changes to routine, purpose and appreciation, the summer-to-fall transition can be smoother and happier.

De-stress one system
Rather than overhaul your home before school starts (was that even a goal?) organize fall one system at a time. Consider the one that bothers you most — kids’ lunches, entry way coming and going, school papers — and tackle that one first. For example, school papers can be contained in folders, magazine holders, trays, clipboards, etc.

Use the system that works best for you. I’ve used all of them and found a fit combining three: kids put to-do homework in a folder, graded homework in a tray and long-term project information in their clipboard. This may seem complex, but for whatever reason it works!

Find your focus
If you have children heading back to school, they’re going to experience mental and emotional growth (we hope). Happily, you get to, too. Consider what helps you experience “joyful contribution,” meaning, something small or big that helps you feel creative, fulfilled or joyful.

For example, on a small level of this a few years ago, my daughters and I loved tmake flower cookies: chocolate chip cookie dough pressed in a flower mold, then baked with a lollipop stick and tied with a bow. We would take these to friends and neighbors, and it absolutely brought us joy (and licking the bowl was joyful too …).

As you decide on something joyful, perhaps a medium-level adventure would include going back to school too, like a friend of mine. She is a mom doing an online program so that with little children at home, it’s more doable for her schedule. In this way, she can continue progressing toward her ultimate educational goal of receiving a college degree.

If it resonates, something on a larger scale might be a purposeful project. A few years ago, a friend of mine noticed that in the neighborhood the kids played on a solitary large rock. While fine, she wanted them to have something more interesting and that allowed more children to gather and play. She partnered with another friend, involved the community, garnered donations, and after several months had created a beautiful and functional play area. Later she shared that on a city celebration day, she looked over at the children all playing happily on the play area and felt a surge of joy.

Notch up marital appreciation
In his excellent book “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work,” Dr. John Gottman shares a simple but powerful appreciation exercise. Using a list of character traits (he has a list of about 70, but you can create your own) have each spouse choose three positive traits of the other spouse. Jot down experiences where those traits were observed. Each spouse then takes a turn sharing a trait of the other spouse and sharing the related experience. This takes perhaps five to 10 minutes tops, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

If you like, expand that exercise to your family. We did this a few nights ago, with each child drawing a sibling’s name and then sharing three great qualities about that sibling, and one related experience. Despite the teenage boys’ obvious I’d-rather-get-my-wisdom-teeth-pulled response, they actually shared positive comments to the other person’s just as obvious delight.

Enjoy this back-to-school time by “attending” to three different but joy-giving areas.


One Winter Night by Heather Tullis Amazon bestselling author
Jonah Owens thought moving to Echo Ridge to open his art gallery would solve all of his problems. The need to sell his grandma’s house adds an unexpected complication. It would be easier if his neighbor didn’t have all those farm animals.
Kaya Feidler’s family has owned their land for nearly a hundred years–long before the neighbors were there. There’s no way she’s giving up the animal therapy business she’s been struggling to make profitable. She gets a temp job helping Jonah in the gallery. Spending time together is a recipe for romance, but can they overcome their own hangups to be more than friends?
https://www.heathersnotes.com/ * https://www.facebook.com/HeatherTullisBooks

Christmas Makeover by Cami Checketts Amazon bestselling author
Chelsea Jamison has been infatuated with Drew Stirling longer than she’s loved playing basketball, high-top sneakers, and the Knicks. Unfortunately, all Drew sees is the kid who kicked his trash in the high school free throw contest and not the girl whose heart breaks into a fast dribble when he’s near.
Drew makes an unexpected visit home to Echo Ridge and their friendship picks up where they left off as they scheme to make a teenaged boy’s Christmas dreams come true. When Chelsea realizes she’s fallen for her best friend, she wonders if there is any hope of a relationship with Drew or if she’s stuck in buddy-status for life.
www.camichecketts.com * https://www.facebook.com/CamiCheckettsAuthor

The Candy Counter Heiress by Lucy McConnell Amazon bestselling & award-winning author
Someday Reese Gates will own The Candy Counter at Kenworth’s; but someday can’t come fast enough when the manager threatens to bring in a national candy provider. Reese secretly takes matters into her own hands hoping to save her parents from additional worry and prove herself capable of running the company. Her deception deepens as she ropes computer guru Andy Edwards into helping her expand the business.  Reese wanted to shake things up, but she wasn’t planning on her heart getting caught in the mix by Andy’s stolen kisses. If she can hold it together until after Christmas, then she can reveal her successful online company and her feelings for Andy. Unfortunately for Reese, even the best laid plans can melt like chocolate.
https://lucymcconnell.wordpress.com/ * https://www.facebook.com/ChristinaDymock?fref=ts

Soda Fountain Christmas by Connie E. Sokol Amazon bestselling author
Keira Kenworth has one focus this holiday season: save her father’s old-time department store from bankruptcy. She is not focused on Tayton Wells, the tall, dark, and genius marketing guru from downtown New York, hired to make it happen. He is as doubtful that her nostalgic connect-the-town ideas will succeed as she is about his numbers-first plan. However, it’s not just their different approaches that cause sparks to fly. Working together on a fast deadline to save the store before Christmas, the unspoken connection between them grows. But will the tough decisions they face drive them back to their separate worlds, or will they lead to the beginning of love?
www.conniesokol.com * https://www.facebook.com/8basics?_rdr=p

Hope for Christmas by Rachelle J. Christensen Amazon bestselling & award-winning author
Anika Fletcher hates Christmas–its promises of good tidings and hope for the future are as tinseled as the ornaments on Kenworth’s Hope Tree. Despite her feelings, Anika wants to maintain her daughter’s faith in the magic of the season and gladly accepts a second job working with the handsome Carlos Rodriguez to restore Kenworth’s old fashioned soda fountain. Carlos is no stranger to hard times and slowly shares his life of light and joy with Anika as they work together. Just as her fragile soul begins to feel hope again, an ill-timed act of charity changes everything. Anika isn’t sure who she can trust or if hope is worth nurturing–especially at Christmas when it’s easy to enjoy a kiss and believe love can last longer than the season.
www.facebook.com/rachellechristensenauthor * http://rachellechristensen.com/

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