Hope For The Future


Recently we attended the Kindergarten program that our great granddaughter’s school put on. It was cute, the kids were great and well prepared, and they all sang their hearts out. As I looked around, the gym was filled with parents and grandparents cheering their babies on. This was a big event for many because it was either their first, or their last, child to do one of these programs. For grandparents, it was a joyful continuation of family, tradition, and community. Applause couldn’t have been louder for the most famous artist in the world. It was their kids up there doing an outstanding job.

Those little children, five and six years old boys and girls, are the future of our country, families, and communities. In the year 2031, they will graduate High School, hopefully, and move on to adulthood. As they go to college, trade school, military, or simply working in one of the many blue collar jobs across the country, they will make up the men and women who will carry on our traditions. Some will make a good life, some will fall to the temptations of drugs, alcohol, and violence. Some will turn to crime as a way of life, some with struggle, and some will sail through life without a problem. All of them will have to grow up, mature into the men and women on whose shoulders the responsibility of freedom, strength, and leadership fall.

When we looked at them standing on those risers, all so small, we see our little babies, filled with hope, excitement, and the desire to do well, performing as their teacher asks them. In the years ahead, they will face bullies, struggle with learning, work to become their individual selves. They will fight with others, stand firm as loyal friends, and fall in and out of love with someone. It will be an uphill battle to learn to listen to their conscience instead of their friends who will lead them into trouble. They will have to find their path to faith, religion, and beliefs in God, or not, and they will have to believe enough to stand firm in the face of those who would hate them just because they dare to think for themselves. It will be hard, but thankfully, it happens in small increments of time, over a long time, so they can focus and learn what they must at the moment.

They were all so small, so cute, in their excitement. We watched our great granddaughter as she sang her heart out, proud of each word she uttered. When she saw us afterward, she threw her arms around us and nearly shouted, “I love you!” This is our third generation of children to be part of raising. The feeling we had when our first child was in a program still holds firm today. We told her how proud we were of her, how she did a great job, and how we applauded her efforts. She beamed with joy, practically dancing in her happiness. In her, we see the future, and we pray we can help her on her life long journey. We also pray for all the other children on that stage, that they may have loving parents, security, and a firm belief in themselves and their value to the world. God Bless them all, the hope for the future.

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Dealing With Mortality


I am a fatalist, when it is your turn to die, you will die because there is no escaping it. I am sixty-four years old, and I have had to face the fact that mortality is a finite thing. I have diabetes, heart disease, and kidney failure – any of which will literally be the death of me. Oh, not today, probably not for years with all of the modern medicine and surgery available. But, I have a use by date stamped in my DNA somewhere and my body is making me very aware of that fact on a daily basis.

I decided that living with constant pain is something I can do, because life is worth it. I can live with the next thing to go wrong, because life is worth it. I can live with the unknown because life is worth it. As long as life is worth it, I will keep going. It may be slower than I am used to, it may frustrate me not to be able to do what I want because of limitations – both physical and emotional – but it is still living. I have long since come to terms with the idea that if I wake one day and nothing hurts, I will have died in my sleep.

I don’t fear dying, for many reasons from my faith to knowing I will get to be with my loved ones and friends who have gone ahead of me. I am also too stubborn and opinionated to let something as natural as death intimidate me. It happens to everyone eventually. I have thought a lot about what I want done at my funeral. No crying, no wailing, no feeling depressed. It is a celebration of my life, my death, and my eternal life! So I don’t want sad music, speeches about how good I was, or more likely, how difficult I was in life. I want loud music, and people dancing as the escort me to my grave. I have already told my husband that at my graveside, the song by the Muppets, “Moving Right Along” must be played as my final thoughts. I love that song, we always played it when we drove off on an adventure when my boys were small.

I don’t want people to sit quietly, whispering to each other, get up and greet each other with a hug and talk to each other in a normal voice. It won’t bother me, that’s for sure. Laugh, oh, please laugh. Laugh about the silly things I did, my stubborn slant on politics, how I would drive my car and smoke those idiot teenage boys who thought they could out drive an old woman. Tell jokes, and share stories. For heaven’s sake, whoever delivers the eulogy, don’t be preachy or maudlin. And above all, don’t be boring.

I want to do a video before I die, one to be played at my funeral. My last word on everything from love to death. Why? Because it is my funeral, damn it, and I can. I want the last memory people have of me, especially my loved ones, to be one of me telling them what to do and how to do it just like I do every day in my life. More than that, though, is a last chance to tell them not to cry, because I have gone on to a better place.

A place where I will have to answer for my mistakes, a place where I can hug my son, and then sit down and have a conversation about his daughter and her life. I will see my Grannie Vandenburg, and tell her how much I missed her. I will see my father, who left his world without giving me a chance to say goodbye. There will be so many ancestors I have questions for about genealogy and family history – and most importantly, I have a few questions for the big man himself, like why did he make platypus, and what was he thinking when he made dinosaurs.

Mortality is something we all need to address eventually. But I want a say so in what happens when and how things are done when I leave this world behind. And I do plan on haunting a few folks who need a swift kick in the attitude just for the fun of it. I may have died, but I will still be me.

Its The Music


Today I was listening to music I grew up hearing my parents and grandparents sing, and some that I grew up singing as well. Music is as much of a part of my heart and soul as my love for my children. I can’t imagine not hearing music every day. Sometimes it makes me smile, sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes I want to dance, and others I listen for the emotions the song imparts to everyone.

My mom and dad were in a band most of my life in one place or another. There are certain songs I heard them rehearse many times, songs that always remind me of them no matter who sings it or where it is performed. My mother has a unique voice and she can sing just about any song from her lifetime, but when I think of the song that reminds me most of mom, it is always a Patsy Cline song called Walking After Midnight. Hers is one of the best renditions other than one by Patsy herself. Here’s Patsy from Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owpdDjsErA4 My dad sang a lot of good Country music. I learned to love George Jones, Ray Price, and Johnny Cash along with many others from Dad.

When we were little kids, he sang a song called Old Shep. Every time he sang it all four of us girls would cry. This is Johnny Cash, singing his rendition. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=km0zHbxvwZQ But, I think my favorite songs were the ones Mom and Dad sang as duets. They had an uncanny ability to harmonize as beautifully as the Everly Brothers. They could bring an entire audience to their feet when they sang the old love songs so many grew up with in their generation. One of my favorite songs is one I often sing to my husband. This is Let It Be Me, by the Everly Brothers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYpdLb6eKg8 When I hear that song, all I want to do is slow dance with my Mr.

My dad is gone now, probably having a great time playing and singing with the great stars that went ahead of him. My mom still sings occasionally at various venues. She still has, at the age of, ahem, never mind, a strong, solid mid range voice. Hit the right intro key and she can sing the song as long as she knows the words. She still gets standing ovations, and she will always have the soul of a natural performer. I wish I didn’t get stage fright so bad, I would love to do a duet with her just once. Something from the greatest singers of her generation, its a dream.

One of the earliest memories I have is my paternal granddad playing his guitar in the evening as the sun went down. Ingrained in my memory, I see him sitting on his old rocking chair in the yard, softly picking out a tune, sometimes singing, sometimes humming along. It was easy to see in his face that music brought him calm and peace. He loved the melodies of his era, and he shared them with everyone. He was always willing to teach someone to play the guitar, or to learn a song. My mother has an old school book in which he pasted the words to songs he wanted to learn. Some of them have long since been forgotten by most people, but there, in black and white, are the songs my granddad loved. I am still searching for recordings of many of them.

I hope my grandchildren will remember that their slightly crazy Nana loved music. I will never be a performer, but I will always sing in my home, my car, back yard, and to every baby who comes in my home. Babies aren’t critics, they just want to hear music and rock with Nana. Meanwhile, I will go back to listening to the music of my childhood. Sonny James seems like a good choice. This is for my Mr. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pU_8D5jBqd0 because he is my first and only love.

What Snowflakes Need


Like many people my age, I am flat out confused by the younger generation’s determination to paint all things traditionally American as evil. Since I have been bed bound for the past few weeks, I have had a lot of time to think, and I may have found a partial answer to the problem.

People of my generation, the much touted “Baby Boomers” were raised by men and women who were from the greatest generation ever put on this planet. They are the WWII, Korean, and Viet Nam veterans. They were the men and women who faced the greatest evil of all time, followed by those who faced down communism on two battle fields to keep innocent people from being murdered and imprisoned. If President Johnson and his cadre of criminals hadn’t been such cowards, we would have wiped out the Viet Cong and saved millions from the killing fields. But I digress.

Our parents were stalwart, hardworking, patriotic, American citizens who believed in the American dream. Some were first generation Americans whose parents immigrated to give them a better life. Some, like my family, has been in America since the earliest days of European occupation. Some came from generations of American Indians who lived here since the beginning of human occupation. What all these people had in common was an understanding of what it meant to be an American. Immigrants came here to become Americans, to leave behind the ills of their native land, bringing their customs and creativity to add to the melting pot that is and always will be unique to our great country.

Those men and women of my parent’s generation and the generations before them were not afraid of hard work and sacrifice for the good of their family and their community. It didn’t matter where you came from, it mattered where you were going and how you planned to get there. After WWII, the survivors came back with the horrors of war written into their minds and hearts, but they tried to move forward and leave it in the past. The faced the nightmares, worries, and fear with their usual determination to overcome the evil and make their lives worth living.

They taught us to be strong, to think things through, to work hard, to overcome adversity without whining and feeling sorry for ourselves, and to have pride in our country and all that she stood for. We believed in the Constitution and our Bill of Rights. In my generation that included all people, no matter color, religion, creed, or code. We are all Americans, those who are citizens and here legally. We stood tall, and we believed in the very freedoms that make the United States of America a one of a kind country.

Because we were raised by the great generation, there were certain boundaries we didn’t cross. We didn’t insult our flag, our military men and women, or out elders who built all that we could use to build our lives. We gave thanks for the good, and tried to eliminate the bad. We went to church, we believed in Christianity, and welcomed those with other beliefs, at least most of us did. We wanted to be like our parents and grandparents. We wanted to stand side by side with those who fought for our freedom, and we wanted to teach our children to appreciate the same things.

Some of us failed, some of us were successful, and it is easy to see who was which by looking at the behavior of their progeny today. Those that failed have snowflake, fearful, perpetually offended, petulant children who at the age of thirty are still as immature as most teenagers under sixteen. They wear their anger and hostility toward American values like a badge of honor or trophy for participation. They aren’t winners at anything because winning is evil and bad since that means someone has to lose. Their parents encouraged the little darlings to believe they were perfect in all things and no one has the right to tell them no. In short, they haven’t learned how to be adults, and at this rate probably never will.

Those that didn’t fail have kids who left home, got a job, went to school for a career and made one for themselves, got married, had kids of their own, and stand for the same values as the greatest generation. Family, Country, God, and Community. They value our history, Constitution, and freedoms as all Americans have from the beginning. In short, the successful parents have successful kids who will pass on the same values to their children and grandchildren.

Granted, before everyone gets on the hate wagon, America hasn’t been perfect. But most people have to go back two or more generations to find issues to whine about. Since the 1960’s all people, black, Hispanic, white, or green with purple polka dots, are equal and have equal OPPORTUNITY to be as successful as they want to be. Some get it easier with affirmative action than others, but the opportunity is still there for all. Today’s big whine is that illegals should be allowed in no matter what. Tell that to the generations who sacrificed all to get into this country legally. Their answer will be simple, “Get in line and wait your turn.” They did.

This country, like most who want a Republic instead of any other form of government, has had its growing pains. We have been up and down financially. We have had growing pains in expansion and overcoming wars and rumors of war. But we have always come out on top because of the values and ideals of the American dream of independence, core values, and the strength of the men and women who came before us.

I believe that every single snowflake generation child should have to sit down with a person of the great generation, especially Holocaust survivors, and listen to their stories. My mother grew up in a one room cabin, with no running water and bare minimum electricity in rural Oklahoma in the 1930’s and 1940’s. My Dad grew up on an Indian Reservation in Arizona for most of his life. Both were from dirt poor families. Today, my dad is gone, but my mother lives alone on a 40 acre farm in Oklahoma. She is made of tougher stuff than most of us are, and she will go on doing what she wants for as long as she can. Ask most of the people her age if they want help and they will tell you no in no uncertain terms.

So many snowflake kids today haven’t a clue what hardship truly is. For them losing the charger to their phone is catastrophic. I so want to put them out on a farm in the middle of no where with no amenities and see how long they last. I have a standing bet that it will be less than 48 hours. What the snowflakes need is a lesson in reality. There are millions of young men and women their age who know that reality is hard work and learning to adapt and overcome the bad in life instead of whining about it. Many are in the military, many are police officers and other first responders, many are teachers and business owners, many are blue collar workers, and some are even rich kids whose parents made them earn what they got. Oh, and no more participation trophies, either you win one or you learn how to cope with losing.

We need the snowflake kids to learn from the greatest generation and their children before they are all gone. Time is short, take advantage of the knowledge they have before it is lost in the history of the whiners and moaners. Either learn from them or learn the hard way that life is not given to you to fritter away in self adoration, it is given to you as a test to see if you are made from the right stuff. Most snowflakes don’t even know what that means. Sad.

Childhood Memory


One winter, when I was about six years old, every kid in my family came down with a series of diseases. Measles, followed by chicken pox, followed by mumps. For three months my mother was stuck in the house with four little girls covered by some sort of bumps and dealing with a fever. We were hot, itchy, cooped up, and miserable. We all fell ill, like dominoes, one after the other. How my mother kept her sanity is beyond me. And to make things even more stressful, my dad was out in the field with the US Army and we were stationed in Germany with no family to help. I don’t remember a lot about that winter, except for one shining moment.

I got well first. I cannot tell you how great it was to not itch, and to be able to go outside. For Christmas, my older sister and I got our first bicycles. We were too sick to ride them for weeks after Christmas. I got to ride my bike before my sister got to be outdoors. I remember riding it up and down the sidewalk outside our flat, looking up at the third floor window where my sisters all stood watching me. As the second child, I rarely got to do anything first. I was chuffed beyond words. All three stood scowling at me, and I have to admit I was feeling pretty cocky that I was out and they were still in itchy hell. I was six, give me a break and don’t judge. As an adult, I know it was cheeky and rude, but as a child, I just felt empowered.

It wasn’t long before all four of us were well and back to running in and out of the house like we usually did. The memories of being miserable faded, and my special moment did too. We were finally back in school, and I know my mother was happy beyond words to have survived the winter of illness. Spring came and we were outside more than inside the house. In fact, we didn’t want to be indoors if we could avoid it. With spring came our usual battles with the Jones kids. We hated the Jones kids, they were bullies and meaner than a ticked off snake. Debra was the only girl, and she decided she was going to make my little sister’s life hell. Her closest sibling was Billy, he was twelve, my older sister was seven, and I was six. It was our job to look after the two younger girls. Billy would pick on us every time his sister started being rude or hateful and we put her in her place. I have always been, and will always be, a sarcastic smart mouth.

One afternoon on the playground, I got into it with Debra again. Billy started in on my sister, and I jumped in with a bowling pin. I have no idea where the wooden pin came from, but it was perfect to beat the snot out of Billy. So I set to, and he went home to whine to his mother. About that time, my mother turned up on the playground, (my next younger sister was always a tattle tale) to see what was going on. Mrs. Jones started shouting out her window at my mother. Mrs. Jones was probably close to six feet tall and weighed in at well over 200 pounds. My mother was five feet four inches tall and weighed about 110 pounds. Mom told Mrs. Jones that if she wanted a fight to get her fat @$$ down stairs and she would be happy to oblige her. She wouldn’t come down, and Mom was more than ready to go up and drag her out by her hair. But the other moms got her to calm down. No one insulted her girls. Now you know where I get my bad attitude and willingness to take on anyone. My sister and I got a reputation for fighting. Most people left us alone, except for the Jones brats and a girl called Rita.

Rita was bigger than my sister and I, since we tended to be on the shrimpy side. One day walking home from school she ambushed us. It wasn’t a long fight, my sister pretty much ended it before it got started, darn it. Rita’s problem was her dirty mouth and the way she thought she could talk to anyone that way. In our family, if we had sworn like that, my mother would have made us eat a bar of soap. The problem was that we wouldn’t put up with it from anyone else either. Needless to say, it didn’t go over well when my parents found out we had been fighting again. We followed the house rule of never starting a fight, but we sure as hell finished one. I guess my attitude was built into my genes. My dad and mother were scrappers in school, my sons were also willing to take on a fight anytime, and at least one of my grandchildren is a scrapper too. Thinking back on those days it is a wonder my dad didn’t get into trouble due to our fighting. Of course, one look at my tiny sister and the almost as tiny me, and every boy we fought with had a very embarrassed Dad since two skinny girls beat the stuffing out of their big brave boy.

I fought less as I grew older, but the years between six and eight were the banner years for my hot temper. I learned to control it better, but I never managed to curb the smart mouth and sarcastic comments that fell out of it regularly. Looking back, I was a bit of a bad ass. It tends to make me smile when I think back on those days.

Play With Any Toy


“Nana?” she asked, “Do I have to play with boy toys if I don’t want to?” I was surprised at the question, she is all girl, and only has pink toy cars that match her Barbie stuff. “Why?” I asked her. “Well, Papa said that sometimes girls play with toys boys like more than girls do. I don’t like boy toys, they’re boring and dumb. I want to play with girl toys because I have fun pretending with them. And I love my babies. (She is crazy about baby dolls.) So I don’t want to play with boy toys.” I assured her that she didn’t have to play with boy toys if she didn’t want to, but if she did she could. It didn’t matter one way or the other. But it had to be her choice what she played with and when. She was satisfied with that and went off to play with her Barbie doll house. Later, I got the whole story from her.

Come to find out, it is a big issue at school from last week. There was a deep discussion between the other kids sitting at her table. There are four of them two girls, two boys. One of the boys was playing “house” with the mostly girl group. He was “the dad” and he was babysitting so the “moms” could go grocery shopping. All normal play as far as I am concerned. They were mimicking their home life. Sounds a lot like our house too. At one point one of the girls said that the boy was silly for playing with a doll because it was a girl toy. This led to a huge discussion about what a boy toy or girl toy was, and why it was fine for anyone to play with either. Except for one small group of girls who insisted that boys who played with dolls were sissies and not acting like boys. Addie, who has been raised in a traditional family that has no such rules was confused. She was raised to think that she could play with any toy, and even if boy toys were boring and dumb, she could still play with them.

The play ended with a young boy with hurt feelings, and several snippy little girls feeling smug and superior. Addie felt bad for the little boy, he sits at her table, and he is her friend. The next free play time, she went to play with him and his boy toys. They had fun wrecking their trucks. Then they decided to organize the baby stuff so that everyone could find it and play with it. They were happily folding “laundry” and putting everything away when another girl started in on the boy again about being a sissy. Addie stepped in and told her she was being a mean bully to the boy. He quietly walked away and played with the boys again. The girl and Addie ignored each other the rest of the week. Apparently, it really bothered her. Enough that she sought out adult opinions from the Mr. and I.

She told me that when she went back to school, she was going to tell the boy and the mean girl that anyone could play with any toy they wanted to, and it didn’t mean they were anything different than anyone else. She was indignant for her friend, which makes me proud of her. My problem is simple, what kind of home life does the little girl have that it gives her the idea everyone has to be the same, and if anyone is different at all, then it is okay to ridicule them and call them names?

I don’t believe in forcing my kids to play with gender specific toys, who knows, my girls might want to be mechanics, and my boys might want to be a kindergarten teacher for all I know. It is sad enough that men are denied the opportunity to work with and be around young children because the are automatically suspected monsters due to their gender. Now other children, who have been brain washed, want to control a boy’s instinct to parent by telling them doing so makes them suspected in some way as abnormal. Why? At this rate, boys will grow up to be men who are afraid of being involved with their own children for fear of being labeled as predators, homosexual, or inept as males.

I am proud of Addie for standing up for her friend. I am glad she felt able to come to us and ask about something that really bothered her. I hope we gave her an answer that would help her navigate the social issues of kindergarten children. Most of all, however, I hope that girl has zero influence on Addie’s acceptance of everyone just as they are.

Your Attitude Makes or Breaks the Vacation.


While on the cruise recently, I was amazed at the number of children on board. Over seven hundred in all. They came in ages from tiny babies (Why anyone would do that is beyond me) to teenagers. The thing I found interesting, is that with all those kids, there were very few meltdown tantrums among them. Generally, when kids get over tired, over stimulated, out of their normal routine, or in a strange place, tantrums, tears, meltdowns, and stubborn acting out ensues among them. We didn’t see that in the smallest kids, nor in the kids between five and twelve. However, teenagers of all ages and adults were absolutely invested in tantrums and meltdowns from the first moment we were at sea.

Couples were arguing with each other, parents were telling off children for no apparent reason, and teenagers, well, you know teenagers, everything that wasn’t on their phone or tablet was a reason for meltdowns and irritation. Shocking. Annoying. Hilarious. Immature. Generally undeserved by the person whom the tantrum was directed at and embarrassing to watch an adult act like a tired two year old on too much sugar. I don’t get it, really, I thought a family vacation was supposed to be relaxing and fun. Apparently not for anyone between thirteen and fifty, according to the melt down count down.

I expected frowny faces and bad attitudes in children, but it was the parents who had the, “I hate the world” faces. Unless, of course, they were eating, drinking alcohol, or hanging out in the smoking areas. It was easy to tell that most of the parents couldn’t wait for the Kid’s Clubs to open so they could park their progeny there until meal times and escape to do adult stuff. Teenagers clumped together in pools of dissatisfied texting groups as long as they had access to the ship’s texting program, and when they didn’t they sat in glum silence playing games on their phones, ignoring the swimming pools, mini golf, and other activities available for them from dawn to dusk. It was as if they wanted to be bored and dissatisfied with everything. I don’t get that either.

We had a great time from playing with Addie in the pools to mini golf, to talking to the server in the buffet room who chatted with us about Philippine food for a good half hour. Addie loved the Kid’s Club, and while she was making friends there, we had a good time relaxing and wandering around the ship. We laughed a lot, held hands, teased each other, chatted with other passengers, and simply allowed ourselves to enjoy the moment. When the three of us were together, it was clear that I was the odd one out since Addie is in the “I Adore My Papa” stage of her life, so I read a book and let them rush about doing things like water slides and such. And the bonus was that Addie didn’t have one single moment dedicated to being in a rotten mood. She was dog tired by bedtime, but there were no complaints. She would climb into her top bunk, roll over and go to sleep in moments. She did get up one night to go have pizza and ice cream in the “middle of the night” around ten p.m. She got a huge kick out of that. Even after pizza and ice cream, she climbed right back into bed and went to sleep in five minutes.

Meanwhile, every time we took her to the Kid’s Club, there would be a parent there ranting about something, embarrassing their child who couldn’t wait to escape mom or dad and go play somewhere stress free. The last time we picked Addie up, the ladies who worked in the Club gave us a note telling us how much they enjoyed time with Addie. She was polite, kind, sharing, and friendly to everyone and she was very respectful to the adults working in the Club. Everywhere we engaged with crew, they always complimented us on Addie’s behavior. Our server in the restaurant made her origami dinosaurs and the steward for our room went out of his way to make her adorable towel animals on the bed everyday. I know they must miss their children terribly since they are at sea for nine months at a time. Addie was unfailingly polite to all the adults with whom she interacted. We raised her to be polite and kind, and to always use her manners. The rest is all her doing.

I am not saying she was the best kid, there were lots of kids who were good. There were also rude and mouthy kids who talked back to adults, didn’t listen to the crew when they were told not to do something or to do something, and who ran wild because their parents didn’t care what they did as long as they didn’t bother them or get into trouble with the crew who would then bother them. That I really don’t get. As a parent, grandparent or guardian, I want to know what my kid is up to every second of the day. They don’t have to be under my feet, and I don’t hover, but I keep an eye on them. It is very easy to injure themselves on a ship filled with stairs, heavy doors, and over three thousand people on board.

I suppose people brought their daily issues to the ship with them. We try to leave all that on the shore and have a new and exciting experience. This was Addie’s first cruse, we wanted it to be positive, fun, and something she would want to do again. I guess we did it right. She can’t wait to go on another one as soon as possible. As for the grumpy folks who turned their holiday into a whine fest, I’m sorry they were such a miserable group. They missed an opportunity to have a great time. Especially the teenagers who were determined to hate everything from not having internet connections to having to be around their parents and siblings for more than five minutes a day. Oh well, what goes around comes around. Next time they want to have a good holiday, Mom and Dad have an excuse to make it as miserable as they possibly can just because they want to.

Meanwhile, the Combs Family will be the three people trying to catch the wind while walking on the deck or eating ice cream and pizza at ten at night just because we can.

Ornaments and Traditions


Every year since we got married in 1971, the day after Thanksgiving is when we start decorating for Christmas. No matter how broke, despondent, worried, angry, or disappointed our life is at that moment, we begin to build our home into a happy place designed to celebrate the traditions of our families and the birth of Jesus Christ.

Over the years, we have collected many decorations, some made by our children and grandchildren, some bought in the far off places we have lived and traveled to, some handed down from friends and family. Each one is a treasure, carefully packed away every year to be brought out and rediscovered the following year. As time goes by, some of them get a bit worn and tattered, but they still go on the best place for them on the tree. As I see them being hung by my family and myself, memories flow through my mind about how and when they came to be part of our tradition.

I have twelve cloisonne bells that were given to me as a gift when we lived in Hong Kong, each one has a slightly different sound when it rings. I have a set of lovely hand carved Angel ornaments that I bought when we were visiting Bruge, Belgium. And the lace ornaments that I bought in different countries to make a special collection is beautiful. But the ornaments that I love the most are the ones made by my children and grandchildren, and now, great grandchildren. Some were made at school, others were made in scouts or as projects we did together as a family. They aren’t fancy, and they aren’t perfect, but they are unique, one of a kind, filled with love and memories. I have hand prints in paint on plastic bobbles, I have ornaments made of Popsicle sticks, glue, and glitter. I have drawings on paper, hung carefully next to the crystal angel that I bought for my first grandchild’s first Christmas. It doesn’t matter what they are made of, they are more treasured than the most expensive ornament on the tree. Because my babies made them, I would rather have them than any other treasure on my trees.

Now I have two trees, one for my fancy store bought and gifted ornaments. It is lovely to behold. Sparkling and glittering with lights and special stones. I put it up in my home office, where it can be seen from the front of the house. It is an addition to all the sparkling lights outside. The other tree is for all my special treasures from my family. It is in my living room, and it glitters and sparkles unlike any other tree in the world. Each ornament is a memory or a story to pass down to our progeny. Each one is a part of our traditions, sacred, and delightful. Usually, the youngest in the family puts the star on the tree, but the one on the tree is built in now. This year, the youngest will be eight hours away, he is two, the perfect age to start telling the stories about each ornament. Instead, our five year old will do the honors when she comes to visit this weekend. She gets a kick out of decorating the tree her way. Meaning most of the purple ornaments are at her eye level, in one place on the tree. She has a thing for organizing colors that way. If she can’t reach a place she wants an ornament, either her Papa or I patiently position it until she is satisfied. Then we have hot chocolate and play until bedtime.

As the days lead up to Christmas, our entire house is decorated inside and out. While I do the baking creating goodies to share with friends and family, the Mr. hangs lights and swears under his breath every time he has to repair another string of lights. When we are done, our home looks like a place of joy, it smells delightfully of chocolate and fresh baked goods, and the music of Christmas fills the air with both sacred and fun sounds of happiness and celebration.

Traditions bring us together as a family. The stories bring us laughter and teaches us through example. The decorations remind us of the past, the people, and the love we all share one generation to the next. I love Christmas, it completes my life, just as the month of December completes the year. Merry Christmas One and All. God Bless Each and Every One of You.

Feeding the Multitude


The Mr. and I went on a cruise to Mexico, out of New Orleans. We took our five year old great granddaughter with us to see how she would cope on a ship. She had a blast. Loved every minute of it, especially the kid’s club (power name for baby sitting so parents could have some down time). We have gone on a lot of cruises over the years, and one thing is constant on every cruise except for the adventure cruises, people eat all day long. They don’t just have three meals and a snack, they belly up to the trough twenty-four hours a day, every single day of the cruise. When they aren’t eating, they are at the bar knocking back drinks or in the casino gambling, smoking, and drinking like they are going to be executed the next day. And the majority of them are gargantuan in girth. I am overweight, but some of those people put the word to shame.

I watched with shock to see a woman in her forties fill two platters, yes platters, to overflowing, stacked six inches high and carry them back to a table with a single setting. She put her food down and got up to get four glasses of lemonade to go with it. I sat and watched her eat every single scrap of food, drink all her drinks, and go back for dessert and more drinks. It was a buffet, passengers could go back as many times as they wanted, it wasn’t going to escape, nor would they go without. She wasn’t the only one. There was an entire table full of people – a family of twelve – who ate that way. I swear that they ate an entire ham between them. On the cruise ship, there is always something available to eat. You can get pizza and ice cream twenty four hours a day, room service is the same, and chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven are always available. All of the food is free of charge, lemonade, water, and ice tea is free, but all other drinks cost money. Some of the passengers were non stop eating machines. Just because it is available, it doesn’t mean you have to eat it. Really. It doesn’t.

Then they would put on swim suits designed for people who are fashion model thin and strut about with all their extra skin hanging out of all sorts of places it shouldn’t. I won’t even wear a swim suit in public for any reason because I am overweight by about 25 pounds. With them, not an iota of modesty existed. I was constantly drawing Addie’s eyes away from an X rated sight so she wouldn’t start asking questions at the top of her lungs. (Like most five year old kids, she has trouble modulating her volume of speech when she is surprised by something she doesn’t understand.) It was embarrassing to me to see huge women wearing bikinis with the top barely, and I mean barely covering their nipples. The Mr. ended up looking at the floor or out to sea when we had to be near the pool areas.

I have nothing against obese people, most are simply fat due to diet, medications, or their inherent DNA. Losing weight, even ten pounds, is hard for everyone. But acting as if they are starving to death and they have to eat constantly isn’t going to do their health any good. Hello heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. Good bye long life.

It wasn’t just a gender thing, race thing, or age thing, the uncontrolled eating covered all of those areas and then some. The Mr. and I ate normal meals, no extras or constant eating. Addie was the same. I weighed as soon as we got home, fully clothed and I weighted exactly the same as when I left home. Tomorrow I will find out if I lost weight when I weigh without my jeans and sweater on.

Despite the shocking display of over eating, we had a wonderful time as a family. Mexico fascinated Addie, and all three of us really enjoyed the Myan Museum and learning about their culture. Their art is deeply moving. More on the holiday later. Right now I want to go lie down. I need a day off from my week off. We all do.

The Seasons of Mississippi


We live in Mississippi right at the top of the state. We get four seasons, only not as distinctly divided as folks up north. We have spring, sort of. Meaning it will warm up to the mid 70’s, trees and flowers will bloom, then it will rain and rain and rain making the world a mud pit, followed by heat. Lots and lots and lots of heat, which, with the rain, makes everything humid, sticky, and the mosquitoes are very happy.

The summer has arrived. So spring lasted all of four weeks between the middle of March until the middle of April, and sometimes a bonus week just to confuse things even more. With summer, nature is a bit more accommodating. It stays hot, from mid April right on through until the end of October. Sometimes we even get a bonus week or two into November. Because, well, it is Mississippi and she does what she wants to do.

Along comes fall. It is still hot, cooling down to all of 80 degrees or so, at night. This last for about two weeks. The leaves turn yellowish, then brown, then they all fall down (rumor has it that is why it is called fall). This happens within a week of cooler weather, sometimes it all happens within a day, if the wind blows. The leaves around here are not used to wind, it scares them right off the trees. Within two weeks, the trees are bare, the grass is brown, and all the flowers, except for the vastly confused azalea in the corner of yards, die. The wind blows harder, and it rains and rains and rains until the cold gets here from up north or back west. Then it is winter.

It stays cold, it keeps raining leaving everything floating in a pit of mud until a miracle happens. It ices over and it snows. For one day, maybe two or three on a bad winter. All the natives freak out, rush around buying out the grocery stores and filling all their extra fuel cans while driving like completely out of control children. By the time they get home and put everything away, the snow is melting and it starts to rain again. If the sun comes out, people act like they have no clue what the big yellow ball floating in the sky is supposed to do or why it is there. Everyone becomes hermits except between six and nine AM. and four and six PM. when they rush between home and work or work and home. It is winter, and it might, gasp, get down to freezing by dark.

Then we are back to spring and rain. The whole process starts all over again. This is in Mississippi, where everything but summer is pretty mild compared to most of the country. Summer is our own special version of hell on earth. I don’t know why we get punished, but we do. Every. Single. Year. I can only imagine how folks from here would cope in places like Minnesota where there are two seasons, winter and June. Or how they would cope with some place like Florida where the climate is pretty much the same all year long – only with bugs the size of Volkswagen Beatles, and mosquitoes the size of B52 bombers. I say we are spoiled, and some folks have lived here so long they actually love the summer heat.

If you must come to Mississippi, do it in the two weeks of spring before the rain and after the winter mud. It is a beautiful place for those few days. Really. Just watch out for the tornadoes.