Childhood Christmases

When I was a child, Christmases were a lot less commercialized and a lot more innocent. Gifts were often homemade and so were ornaments and decorations. More children believed in Santa Claus and wrote letters to him.

It was just a more innocent time. There was no TV or very little TV for most of my childhood. So we weren’t overloaded with all the Christmas stories and animated movies that we have now. We had to make our own entertainment.

The season started in about September when Mother began baking cookies and breads and making candy. She gave some to everybody she knew in little Christmas tins she collected all year. Everybody looked forward to their little tin of goodies every year. Some people returned the tins to get them refilled the next year.

Then the decorating started. Every room had its own theme. It took days to get the whole house done, but did it look spectacular. My Mother had some decorating favorites in those days. Lots of candles and lots of angel hair.

I remember the year the angel hair on the dining room buffet caught fire. My Mother was always in charge of noticing problems and sending out the alarm. My Dad was in charge of fixing said problems. And so it was with the fire. Mother saw the fire on the buffet and began screaming. Daddy, knowing his job, immediately jumped up and threw his drink on the fire. It worked and the fire was instantly out. To which my Mother responded, “Well, that’s going to leave a stain!”. Ah yes. That was a good year.

But most years were not so “firy”. Usually we just decorated and put up our tree like normal folk. Well, maybe not so normal. We never had a green Christmas tree my whole life. In those days, tinsel trees were very popular, so that’s what we had. A tall sparkly heartwarming silver Christmas tree. Every year. My entire childhood.

Oh it looked great when it was decorated. It really did! And we all decorated it – the whole family. Then we had our Christmas tree picnic.

We would turn all the lights off except the tree lights. Put a picnic blanket down by the tree, where we would all sit. Then we would eat cookies, drink cocoa, talk and sing Christmas carols. It was wonderful fun and sometimes would last for hours. It’s a tradition I carried on with my family too.

No one ever peeked at their presents before hand in our family. I’m not sure why. I guess it would have spoiled the fun of Christmas morning.

Mother would carefully wrap each present. She was gifted at that. She could tie beautiful bows and the tape didn’t even show. Her presents were works of art. I hated to unwrap mine because they were so beautiful.

We opened gifts on Christmas morning – at o’dark thirty actually, when my brother woke up. He was a real early bird.

Mother had coffee and OJ ready for us. We usually all got new pajamas to wear for the pictures. First the stockings were emptied. There was always candy and an orange in the toe.

I never understood the orange, until I was an adult. My parents lived through the Depression when fresh fruit was so hard to come by. To have an orange all to yourself then was a real treat and my Mother was just passing that on to us.

Then we got to open gifts one at a time, so everyone could enjoy each one. Sometimes one child was designated as “Santa Claus” and would hand out each present from under the tree

Most years we had more than we knew what to do with but I remember one year when I was pretty young. Christmas was little sparse. But a week later my parents told us that Santa Claus had brought some gifts that he had “forgotten” the previous week. We were beside ourselves with excitement. And were we ever popular in school that year. Santa Claus had come to our house TWICE!

I was grown before I figured out that my parents had to wait for the after Christmas sales to get us Christmas gifts. How hard that must have been. But they made it so wonderful for us.

My parents always did that. They made every holiday special. They ept a positive attitude when it wasn’t easy to do and protected the children from adult concerns. Even though they must have had many Christmases when they were uncertain how they would manage, I never felt fear or worry.

My childhood Christmas memories are filled with fun, laughter, good food, family, bright colors, a silver tree, and an occasional fire (but no one was hurt!). I hope my children can say the same.

400!

Today’s blog is my 400th!   I can’t believe it but yes, it’s true. Four hundred blogs!!!!

I’ve been writing pretty much all my life.  Mostly newsletters for different organizations and lots of letters.  I’ve always loved expressing myself per the written word.  Even after I almost failed Freshman English in College.  (The Professor didn’t think I was much good at writing in those days.)

I started this blog because I had a few things to say about being a Granny.  I thought it would be a temporary outlet and that I would run out of topics.  What a silly thought that was!

I have more to say now than I did then.  As the years have gone by, I have found that more and more ideas have occurred to me and my subject areas have broadened immensely.  It seems odd, but the older I get, the more observations and opinions I have.  I realize now it will never stop.

This blog has given me a wonderful creative outlet.   It has allowed me many opportunities to express myself in hundreds of ways. Through gratitude, humor, self-reflection, pride for another, happiness, courage and faith, I have been able to tell stories about Granny, Gramps, the grandchildren and the village.

The blog keeps me disciplined.  I must not go too long between blogs.  I must choose a topic.  I must write a certain number of words with a beginning and an end.  I must edit it and it must make sense when done.  Then it gets published.  At that point it’s all up to the readers.

They are in charge of reviewing the blog and making comments on it.  No one can know the importance of the viewing public to me.  Without you, your views and your comments, I really have no reason to write a blog.  It would be like talking to the wind.

The blog provides me much encouraging feedback to keep writing.  It’s you, the readers, who keep me going and wanting to keep posting.  One sweet compliment lasts a good long while and a positive reply is as good as intravenous vitamins.

All you viewers out there have no idea how important you are to me.  How much you mean to me and how much I depend on you.  You are always brutally truthful as to what is a good blog and what is less than my best.  For that I thank you.

This blog has taught me to be able to choose which parts of a story can be told in truth and which parts need to be kept secret or told in code.  People must be protected and social media is not very good at that, so a person must decide what is included and what is not, to protect the people.  Editing becomes a big part of writing a blog well.

This blog has taught me another thing – how kind most of you readers are.  You are basically a good group of nice people with specific opinions I need to hear.  All this exchange back and forth makes me a better writer and you a better reader.  That combined effect of getting better makes the whole blog that much better.

So how do I say thank you to all of you – my faithful followers, my diligent readers, my responsible ones, who read each blog.  How do I express my gratitude?

This is my BIG THANK YOU!  I couldn’t do this without you!  Besides the fact that I have to do this, I have to do this for you!  Thank you for that – for being there and making it worth it!

Here’s to the next 400!

My Neighborhood

Gramps and I moved to this neighborhood almost eight years ago.  We loved it from the start.  It was exactly what we were looking for.

First of all, it had sidewalks.  We had gone without sidewalks for about twenty-five years and that was the most important thing in our move.

Sidewalks make neighborhoods friendlier and closer.  They connect all the houses and make them safer.  The people in neighborhoods with sidewalks know each other and spend more time talking to each other.   It’s a proven fact.

Our neighborhood has great sidewalks.  Gramps and I walk them every evening and run into numerous neighbors and their dogs while we are out.  We stop and chat with them each time because we know our neighbors – all of them.

Our little village here is very safe because we all check up on each other.  We know when someone is gone on a trip or when someone is sick.  We know when a strange car enters the neighborhood or when someone has visitors.

We feel very comforted and cared for right now in these hard times.  Our younger neighbors have checked in on us and made sure we have everything we need.  Gramps and I know for certain we could go to anyone for assistance and get it with no questions asked.

Gramps and I are the unofficial grandparents of the neighborhood and used to be almost the only ones home all day.  But now during this health crisis, a great majority of the folks are home.  Our village now looks like Saturday, every day.

Everyone is out doing lawn work, washing cars and odd jobs around the house.  We are still visiting with each other and the dogs are still running up to greet us.

All the neat lawns and well-kept homes attracted us to this neighborhood.  We could tell that everyone was proud to live here and worked hard to keep their homes looking nice. Such a good neighborhood without an HOA!

Gramps and I love the diversity of our sweet neighborhood.  There are elderly, young families, children, teens, singles, people of color and lots of pets.  I think we would be bored if we were living in an all-seniors environment at this stage of our lives.

Now that we have found the neighborhood that is so perfect for us, we plan to never move again.  This is our last home.  We will stay here and be part of the best neighborhood for the next person who moves here.

My BFF

Paula has been my best friend since we were in sixth grade.  We are now seventy-two years old, so that’s . . . sixty years!  Hard to believe but true.

We lived close to each other and would often “meet in the middle,” which was halfway between our houses.  Sleepovers were common in those days, as they are today.

We clicked right away and did most everything together.  I remember when we taught ourselves sign language and would sit silently in the back seat of her family car, happily signing back and forth.

There was a time in high school when we made clothes alike, so we could dress like twins. I think we both secretly wished we were real sisters all those years.  Point of fact: we look nothing alike.  How we thought we would pass for twins is beyond me.

For several summers during high school, we went on vacation together with her family. Those are some of the greatest memories I have.  Especially the night we stayed outdoors on cots so we could see the deer come up to the cabin.  We planned to stay awake all night in shifts.  Well, the next thing I remember is us waking up in the morning and seeing the deer tracks where they had come up to investigate us while we slept.

Or the time we planned to row across the lake in a very small boat. That lasted about half an hour and it seemed we were getting nowhere.  So we turned around and came back. Best laid plans!

We shared most everything in those days – ideas, activities, goals, worries, laughs and dreams.  Where one went, the other was not far behind.

College found us going in separate directions – different career paths, different jobs, different friends.

After college, we stayed in touch by phone and letters.  We were in different states by then. We both got married and had two children each.   We visited each other a couple times during those years.

Then one day Paula called – she was getting divorced. How could we help?  “Come get me,” she said.  We helped her move and she stayed with us for nine months.

It was just like before.  We laughed.   We cried. We shared everything.  Paula and Gramps became gardening buddies.  Gramps would enter the house after work and announce, “Hi Honeys, I’m home!”

Paula has since moved out, remarried and bought a new home.  But we remain close.   She is my best friend forever.

We share a love of quilting and belong to the same Quilt Guild. We keep in touch with phone calls, lunches, birthday and holiday dinners and sleepovers.

The best part of our relationship is the shared history.   We don’t have to say a word. Sometimes a look will get us laughing and only we know why.  Everytime we get back together after a time apart, we just pick right up where we left off.  No awkwardness.  No reintroduction necessary.  We really know each other.

The two of us have been to many of our high school reunions over the years.  They have all been fun but the best part has been sharing them with Paula.  Remembering those years together has been most special.

In fact, Paula and I are going on a cruise this year for our high school fifty-fifth reunion.  We will be roommates for ten days to Alaska.  Can’t think of anyone I’d rather go with. (Except Gramps. But he didn’t go to my high school)

We are going to have so much fun.  Share such a wonderful trip.  And make more memories together.

Sisters

I have no natural-born sisters.  But sisters at heart – I have dozens!

A sister to me is a girlfriend whom I love, who loves me back, no matter what.  If I hurt her or if she hurts me, we forgive each other and carry on.

A sister revels in your successes and cries with you when you are sad.  She wants the best for you and will defend you to the death.

A sister believes the best of you and supports you in your efforts.  No one enjoys your good times more than she does or laughs louder at your jokes.  She also points out your mistakes and loves you through them.

A sister is a soulmate in many ways.  She shares your secrets and confidences.  She knows your likes and dislikes and can often predict what you will order at a restaurant.

I have such sisters in my Quilting Bee.  We have known each other for years and yet never get tired of each others’ company.  We often comment how we all feel the need to get together more often than we do because we miss each other when we are apart.

We give each other good advice and not just about quilting.  About everything really – cooking, entertaining, grandparenting, decorating, car repair, computing, marriage, etc.  I learn something every time we are together.

Our group is very eclectic and economically diverse, but you would never know it.  You’d think we were all from the same family by the amount of love in the room.

In all the years I have been a part of this group, I have never heard a harsh word against anyone.  There are no cliques or little gangs amongst us.  And I believe the only curse word I ever heard was said by me in a frustrating sewing moment.  (I know!  I’m still sorry!)

This group is so special to me.  I knew I had to be a part of them the moment I first met them.  It’s a good thing they turned out to be quilters and not miners, because I would be deep in the mines right now.

These dear sisters share everything – no holding back.  They will give anything that is needed – ideas, knowledge, tools, patterns, fabric, support, hugs.  They will sit beside you, go with you, stand behind you, hold your hand and pat your back.  I have seen them make meals, finish others’ quilts, clean a house, drive a friend, pick up a family member and babysit a dog.

And talk about huggers!  These gals are the best huggers in the world!  I can always count on getting my quota of hugs on Bee day.  I always feel so warm and loved.

My quilting sisters set the bar high for kindness and goodness.  They make me a better person by just being around them.  How could I not be a better me when surrounded by my mentors of such high caliber?  I hope to be just like each one of them when I grow up.

These sisters of mine are top-notch quilters, too.  How lucky am I to have the best teachers to guide me?  They challenge me gently to constantly improve my skills and to never accept less than my best from myself.

I dearly love my sisters and know they dearly love me.  I count the days until we are together again.  We will greet each other with hugs and smiles.  We will laugh, talk, share stories, show our quilting projects, eat and continue on with more of the same.  It never gets old.

We can’t get enough of each other.  My sisters and me.

My House, My Home

I’m a real homebody, a nester, so my home is especially important to me.  I love everything about it.  From the front door to the back door to the garage to the yard, it’s my special haven.

We bought the house in foreclosure, which meant it required an immense amount of work. Every surface needed some sort of work, replacement or refinishing. The labor nearly broke us physically and emotionally.

It was much better when we decided to hire out the jobs.  And the nice part was we got to make the house ours.  We added our own touch to every corner of every room.

Now the house is a real home – it’s ours.  Gramps and mine.  The original black front door (really? black?!) is now a welcoming cream with a seasonal wreath hanging on it.  Come on in!

The front foyer greets everyone with horizontal blue and white stripes with blue and white plates scattered all around.  The large chandelier is named Elizabeth.

I know that’s strange but grandson Mac and I where very into naming things when he was younger.  Several things in my house have names.  Don’t judge!

The rest of the house is also very blue.  Blue is my favorite color.  I can’t get enough of it – in all shades and hues.

We have a dining room because we had to have one.  I love having meals with loved ones all around me at the table.  Most of my memories involve meals, so this is important to me. And, of course, all the blue and white dishes.  Enough said.

The family room is, steady now, blue with a fireplace.  It’s very cozy and has two blue recliners for Gramps and me.  We are like a pair of bookends on either side of the table with the lamp.  Gramps does a lot of reading in his chair and I do a lot of sewing in mine.

We are surrounded by several collections of family antiques.  They mean a lot to us and give us comfort.

The kitchen is white with a blue backsplash.  It’s very country in style.  I have a large cast iron sink and an island with a marble top.  The old chopping block from Aunt Gladys is there too.

The kitchen eating area is surrounded in beadboard paneling with, you guessed it, blue walls.  It’s a lovely sunny corner with windows on two sides.

The master bedroom is, careful now, yellow with blue accents.  Our bed is over one hundred years old.  My grandmother was born in that bed.  The room has many antiques, which I love.

There’s a guest room and an office.  The guest room holds many of my quilts. The office is mostly Gramps’ space.

Then there’s my sewing room.  The HQ of all fabric-related jobs. It is my favorite room. Lots of lighting.   Lots of storage. Lots of fabric.

One whole wall has shelves of fabric.  And yet that is never enough.  Somehow every project I start requires some fabric that I do not have.  I hate when I have to go to a fabric store.  NOT!

There’s a wonderful cutting table in the middle with an ironing surface.  My sewing machine sits in the corner facing out so I can see everything.  Sewing projects are stacked everywhere.

On the outside, Gramps has singlehandedly made our yard a green haven.  He has added grass, trees, bushes and walkways.  There is now a wonderful patio and a colorful yard beyond in the back.

The front has a welcoming walkway with lights, trees and shrubs.  Our sunset walk always starts with an inspection of the front yard grass for weeds and other stray growing things.

I love my little bungalow of a house.  It is my shelter, my haven.  It is sweet and welcomes me home every time.

It has become like an old friend.  Always there.  Always comfortable.  Always reliable.

It’s getting dark out now.  I need to go turn on the front lights.  Yes, even Elizabeth!

The Purpose Of A Funeral

I’m going to a funeral today.  I don’t want to go but I always go.  A funeral is necessary.  It’s an ending and a beginning.  It’s like a period at the end of a sentence.  Final in a way, but also suggesting more to follow.

A funeral is one way to say goodbye.  Even if you don’t know the person, which I don’t in this case, you can help the family and friends say farewell.  It helps to have the village around you.

A funeral is a good time to remember the person.  Grieving is all about remembering and talking about the lost.  They should never be forgotten and should be part of the conversation always.

A funeral is a time to grieve for all the lost ones.  Every time I attend a funeral I think about my mother, Daddy, my friend Sherry, her husband Paul and all the sweet souls that I miss so much.  It’s such an appropriate place and time to mourn for everyone.

A funeral is an organized ritual that provides comfort at a time when everything feels out of control.  It soothes the soul, provides stability, and makes sense in a tumultuous period.  It may be the only time when you can predict what will happen.

A funeral is a gathering of friends and family that can give you the strength you lack.  The clan will back you up and hold you when you most need it.  There will be a hand on you at all times, so you will not fall.

A funeral is the best time to cry all you want and need to.  You may have to stifle your tears in many other places because it is so inappropriate, but not at the funeral.  You can sob until the Kleenex box is empty, if you want, and no one will care.

A funeral is a chance to tell everyone about the lost one.  You can provide pictures, video, music, favorite treasures, stories and jokes.  Make it as personal and detailed as you want, so all will understand the depth of the life that has ended.

A funeral is a group activity that strengthens the whole village and gives it a common memory.  The entire group has a known and agreed-upon way to deal with loss and sadness.  The elders hold onto the memories and teach them to the younger ones.  This practice keeps the village stable and strong.

Really, a funeral is no small thing.  It is a huge thing that can be uncomfortable at times.  It makes us face our own mortality, but we are never alone.  We do it together.  Side by side.  Holding each other up.

So today I will go to a funeral with the rest of my village.

A Good Book

Reese Witherspoon has written a wonderful book “Whiskey In A Teacup” about life and recipes from the South – Nashville to be exact.

But it’s not just a cookbook. Although the recipes are truly fantastic. I mean, who can pass up great tips to making Southern favorites like sweet tea, lemonade, pecan pie and fried chicken.

And all the other wonderful tried and true recipes from her family and friends. You can’t beat those special meals handed down from generations ago. They are each a small treasure to be guarded, enjoyed and passed on to the next generation.

Added to the recipes are the touching stories of her childhood years  in Nashville and the impact of her mother and grandmother They are priceless!

After such good training from such strong women, Reese can and does give us all appropriate advice on how to be beautiful and proper on the outside, and fierce and warrior-like on the inside. Hence the name of the book, “Whiskey In A Teacup”.

She shows how Southern friendship and community breeds women with good manners, hospitality and a sense of decor who will fight for the rights of others, see that everyone is fed and will never lose an argument.

Included is a list of Southern Expressions and a Southern Pronunciation Key so we can all understand each other. Although since I’m from Texas, I didn’t have any problem “talking’ Southern”. My favorite, of course, is “Well Bless Your Heart!” which, as Reese points out, has many meanings. The tone of the voice will tell you which version is meant.

A good portion of the book is devoted to how Southern women deal with entertaining especially during all the holidays. Of course, a Southern woman will tend to overdo everything, so Reese’s best advice is to try to simply as best you can. Good luck with that!

I really loved reading this book .It is charming. It is sweet. It is comforting. It is like a big hug from a friend. In fact, some people I know will be getting this book as a birthday or Christmas gift.

Shh – don’t tell them!

 

Goodbye Libby

Libby was a swell dog. She was happy to see anyone who came through the front door. She would run around the room and wag her tail as if to say, “Oh boy, someone to play with me!”

After awhile she would calm down and lay at your feet quietly. And she would do almost anything for a treat.

She was Mac’s dog, for his whole life. Until two days ago when we all had to say goodbye to a swell dog.

Mac loved her very much. They played together and slept together as most boys and doge do. He fed her and watered her – his daily chore. They were very close as most boys and dogs are.

When it was time to say goodbye to Libby, Mac was right there by her side. He held her close until the end.

Even though he was grieving, he didn’t back away. Even though he was sad, he held her. Even though he was afraid, he remained brave.

Mac talked to Libby in a soft voice. He told her what a good dog she had been, how much fun he had with her and how important she was to him.

It was so important for Mac to do all this but it was just as important for Libby to receive such a send off. She needed to feel safe, loved, warm, in familiar arms and surrounded by a voice she knew

She got the proper medication, so she was calm, comfortable and relaxed the whole time. That was important as it took a few hours for Mom, Dad and Mac all to get to the Vet’s from different points.

The final minutes together were very meaningful for the whole family and provided a thoughtful closure for all of them

The hardest part now is dealing with the quietness at home without Libby there. She has left a definite hole in the lives of Mac and his family.

She will be missed for quite some time especially by Mac. He has not known life without Libby. He will have a lot of adjusting to accomplish in the future.

But he will do fine because he not only lived well with Libby, he let go of her well also.

When it was necessary, he gave her the best goodbye ever.

Lessons From “Emma”

Gramps and I went to see the movie “Emma” today.  Despite the fact that it is pretty much a chick-flick and he had a tough time keeping up with all the characters, he was very concerned that everyone would end up with the right partners. Good man, Gramps!

The movie is an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel.  That alone would be reason enough for me to see it.  But the costumes and the sets were astounding!  Even the hairdos were captivating!  Needless to say, I loved the movie.

Besides reveling in the look of the move, I enjoyed what Jane Austen had to say.  She always has plenty to say about love and “Emma” was no exception.

Here is what I learned in two hours of period drama:

Lesson #1-Never interfere in others’ love choices.  People fall in love for a lot of reasons, most of which we are unaware. Maybe even they are unaware of them.

Interfering in, or worse, judging, someone else’s choice of love can lead to unbelievable heartache.  It hurts both parties and you.  It can damage a relationship forever and can break a trust for a lifetime.

It can be so hurtful that the friendship can never be repaired.

Best to be a good friend and supporter.  Be happy for their choices and rejoice in their joy.

Lesson #2-Never judge people by their wealth alone. The amount of income a person has can be the least important thing about them.  Of much more importance is their character, their morals, their ethics, their spirit, and their humor.

The income or wealth of a person may be temporary.  It may be the result of something beyond the person’s control, such as a health crisis.  It is beyond our knowledge to know and so should be beyond our ability to judge.

Lesson #3-Love words should be spoken often.  Too often we think our loved one understands what we are thinking and feeling.  Even if they do, they need to hear the spoken words of love.

More often there is miscommunication through looks and gestures that are unclear.  False conclusions are assumed and actions are taken based on false premises.  The ending couldn’t be farther from the intention.

We all must speak what is in our hearts every day.  Feelings of love, gratitude, pleasure and need should be expressed often to that special loved one.

Very often, they too are simply waiting for the opening to speak those very words back to you.  They are bursting to tell you exactly what you have been dying to hear from them – love words.

Don’t miss any occasion or opportunity.  Don’t let a precious moment go by when those caring words can be shared.  You’ll never regret saying them.  But you will regret locking them in your heart and keeping your silence.

That will haunt you to your dying day.  Jane Austen gave good advice through the language of her novels.

Listen and learn