Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

I hope everyone  had a blessed Christmas. My Christmas plans changed due to illness. My granddaughter was getting over the flu, so we didn't get together on Christmas Eve as we traditionally do. In fact, my son-in-law came by in his patrol car to pick up the doll beds that Santa's elves had been working feverishly on to finish. I wish that I had taken a picture of three doll beds in the trunk of a police cruiser. Who says that Santa doesn't have extra helpers? My three granddaughters begged me on the phone last night to bring them their Christmas presents. How could I say no? So I was up early this morning and loaded up the car to make my rounds. It just didn't seem fair to have all these unwrapped Christmas presents under the tree. My middle granddaughter got an art easel and promptly wrote two messages: "Thank you Santa," and "Happy Birthday Jesus!" My grandson also produced some artwork and also made his own elf on a shelf. It looks like we have a few budding artists in the family. My older granddaughter is also creative.




My grandson's drawing
My six-year old grandson's Elf on a Shelf. He cut it out and placed it on the entertainment center.


After going to see the girls and their happy faces (only because there were no fevers), I went to my older daughter's house for Christmas dinner: ham, sauteed brussels sprouts with bacon, sweet potato casserole and Sister Schubert rolls. Yummy! My grandson showed me the toys that Santa brought, such as his Doctor Who Tardis, Groot, action figure,  and Zoomer, the robot dog. My six year old grandson had also asked for a Doctor Who calendar. Each of the boys got their own little tree, such as the Grinch tree shown here.

And speaking of calendars, one of my gifts was a family desk calendar from Shutterfly that my daughters had ordered. I absolutely love it!



I stopped at my sister's house next, to drop off a few presents, as they were unable to come over, too. By the time I made it home I was as tired as one of Santa's elves at the North Pole. Now, back to work tomorrow.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Meaning of Christmas

I wait on people everyday on my job. The conversation usually goes like this: "Hello, how are you today? What can I do for you?" With Christmas just a few weeks away, it gives me something else to talk about besides the weather. I'll ask, "Are you ready for Christmas?" It amazes me how many negative responses I get. "I'm ready for Christmas to be over with" is one of the answers I hear frequently.

"Christmas is just not the same anymore. It's so commercialized" is another popular response. "I've been so busy, that I haven't had time" or "With my husband/father/mother (insert name) in the hospital, or trying to work/go to school/be a caregiver, it's a stressful time of year."

Work. Job loss. Poor health. Family problems. Loneliness. There are many things that cause people to be depressed and stressed during this time of year. My son-in-law, who is in law enforcement, told me that suicides rates are up this time of year. That's so sad, but it's true. We want things to be perfect. We want the "It's a Wonderful Life" happy ending. We want to see that hard-to-get-along-with relative of ours to have a "Scrooge"-like conversion. We want a 'White Christmas' on Christmas morning.

I think about all these wonderful things I want to do, the picture perfect decorating, the sumptuous feasts, the beautifully wrapped presents under my theme-based tree. I want to create gorgeous baskets of homemade goodies to give to all my friends. But I don't have the time to do it all, so I have to choose. For the last few years I've down-sized my Christmas decorating. I put up my table top tree and decorated it with my homemade ornaments made out of old Christmas cards that I've cut out and outlined with glitter. I hang up some simple candy canes and curling ribbon and my little tree is finished. I have a few miniature nativity sets, most which I found in thrift stores for a couple of dollars. Just the other day I found a whole nativity set: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, shepherds and manger animals, stuffed in ziplock bag for $2.99 and not a scratch or chip to be found. Of course I bought them.

It's easy to forget what the season is really all about. It's not about the decorating or the presents or how much money you have. It's about a baby, born in a humble stable, two thousand years ago, that was a gift to mankind, a gift from God.

Here's a photo of my tree last year.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Christmas Ornament




When my oldest daughter was in the third grade, she became a “traitor” in our family. In Alabama there are only two football teams. One is Alabama and the other is Auburn. We were die-hard Alabama fans and my husband, Don, never missed a game. Then out of the blue, our oldest daughter decided that she wanted to to to Auburn University when she graduated from high school. I thought it would hurt my husband, but he never said a word. “It’s just a phase,” he joked, and then teased her, “No child of mine will ever go to that school.”

When Shannon graduated from high school she spent her first year living at home, working and attending the community college. By her Sophomore year, she was ready to transfer to Auburn. We packed up two cars and like thousands of other parents each Fall, tried to hide our anxiety and emotions, as we sent our oldest off to college. Shannon settled into her dorm, met her best friend on 'moving in' day, joined a local Christian fellowship group and last, but not least, bought a season pass to all the football games. That daughter of mine could talk football with the best and seasoned commentators and it simply amazed me. It amazed her father, too, that this former clarinet player in the high school band knew her football so well.

After her graduation she moved to Georgia, a few hours drive away. She and her father continued their mutual love of football. My husband and I had actually never attended a live Auburn football game, but one Fall my daughter arranged to get us tickets and she was going to meet us there. It happened to be the same week my husband had to undergo some serious medical tests. We hadn't yet told our daughters. I was worried and wanted to back out of the trip, but he didn't want to let her down, so we went. The test results came back the following week. It wasn't good. Cancer. Two weeks before Thanksgiving he started Chemotherapy.

Before Christmas that year my husband had ordered a special  Auburn football ornament for Shannon. It was the first in a series. She loved it. She came home every chance she could, now that her Dad was undergoing cancer treatments. It was naturally hard to leave each time and return to her job, knowing how ill her father was.

In March, a small package arrived in the mail. I opened it and there was another Christmas ornament, the second in a series. Had my husband already ordered another one, this early in the year? I put it away in the closet. The Chemo was taking a toll on my husband, but his spirit held strong. When his doctor told us that there was nothing else they could do, I called my oldest daughter to come home.  And I told her about the ornament that had come in the mail. I couldn't hold onto it until Christmas. I truly believed that this was God's way of letting her know that it was okay to let go.  God knew that her father wasn’t going to be there for the next Christmas.

Since then the ornaments have arrived like clockwork each year, each one uniquely designed with her favorite college colors, blue and orange. She has ten now and it is a gift from her father every year, a way of letting her know that he is still with her.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas in Dixie


When Don and I moved to Ft. Bliss, Texas in October, 1982 we were sad to move so far away from our families in the South. So you can imagine how happy we were when we found out a few months later that my sister and brother-in-law, Keith, were also going to be stationed at Ft. Bliss.
   
Keith was homesick as soon as he moved to El Paso. He was a country boy through and through, and gave up his long hair and beard when he signed up with Uncle Sam. It was summer when they arrived. Somehow... and I can't remember exactly how, but Keith found out that we had a copy of  "Christmas in Dixie",  the record by the group, Alabama. He took that record home and played it with tears streaming down his cheeks. In the middle of summer. My sister told me.

That Christmas Eve in 1983 was a blistering cold day with single digit temperatures. It was also the day of the Sun Bowl and Don and Keith had  tickets to go to the game.  They came in that evening half-frozen, but pumped from having seen Alabama  beat SMU.  After all, they got to see Coach Ray Perkins and had their pictures taken with a group of Bama fans (the picture ended up in the newspaper).  My brother-in-law said that they missed half the game trying to stay warm. The concession stands even ran out of hot cocoa. Still, if you can't be in Alabama, the next best thing is seeing your favorite team play football.

Keith didn't make the Army his career and got out after his tour of duty and went back home to work in an auto parts store. He got an opportunity to advance his career in management and took a job in Birmingham. Seven months later he was killed in a random act of violence on his way home from work. He was 30 years old.

I can't listen to "Christmas in Dixie" to this day without thinking about my brother-in-law and the  good and decent man that he was. 


Monday, December 1, 2014

The Pocketbook


It was Christmas  1966 and we were living in middle Tennessee. My father was in Vietnam.  As a young mother of five children, with me being the oldest at nine years, my mother let me help with the Christmas shopping and wrapping that year. We went to the Dollar General on the downtown square and bought toys for my younger siblings. My mother bought me a boxed jewelry set and one of those eau de toilette sets that every little girl wanted.  We usually got new pajamas and new hats and mittens if we needed them.  I'm sure that my baby sister got a new rattle. I felt like a grown-up keeping the Christmas secrets along with my mother.

On Christmas Eve we went to our grandparents' house. My grandparents didn't have much, but I don't remember how poor they were,  just Grandma's sweet spirit and her homemade cooking and how there was always room for one more  around the dining room table. My uncle, still in his teens, came in that Christmas Eve with a bag full of gifts. He emptied the sack on the table. He must have spent his entire paycheck on presents for us. There were presents for everyone and for me there was a pocketbook.


There are certain Christmas memories that always stand out. That Christmas, in 1966, is one of them.




































Saturday, November 15, 2014

Names in an Old Address Book

I have three address books. I don't know why I have held onto the oldest one, where names and addresses are scratched out and old acquaintances are long gone. But an old address book is like a memory capsule of sorts. They provide a glimpse of people and events that were once a part of our lives.

Under "A" there is the name of my husband's buddy. They were best friends in high school and both joined the military and served in Vietnam. I met him once. He seemed like a nice guy. He died a few years ago.

There are the two uncles, one in West Virginia, and one in Florida, both now deceased. Uncle #2 took care of his father for many years and didn't marry until middle-age.

In case she ever needed it, I still have my daughter's college address. She actually had three addresses while in college. We moved her into the old and dingy apartment that was assigned to her and moved her into the dorm two days later because I didn't feel that the apartment was safe enough for a 19-year old girl. It was meant to be because she met her best friend when she moved into the dorm.

Under"B" there is my old friend from El Paso. We were military spouses and met in the post-partum ward (no kidding) in the Army hospital. Our kids were born on the same day. We lost touch through numerous PCS moves. Her last address was in Colorado Springs.

Another old friend and neighbor from my El Paso days lives in East Texas now. We stopped to see them on our way to Alabama and ate at a country buffet. They both worked at the state prison.

There is the name of my old pastor, listed under "C". He baptized my younger daughter 20 years ago.

An old co-worker is listed under "D". She was a single Mom and a hard worker. I haven't seen her in years.

Then there is Cassie, the little girl that my daughter befriended on a church trip and became pen pals with. Cassie was from Virginia.

An old, old school friend, also from my Army brat days. She married her high school sweetheart and became an Air Force wife. We wrote each other for many years, but once we had families it dwindled to once-a-year Christmas cards. She was very talented and multi-lingual. We reconnected recently on Facebook.

Former neighbors, listed under "G", long gone. I miss their newsy Christmas letter. They also live in Virginia. She gave the best Halloween parties. She was a writer, like me.

When we get to "H" I remember my dear friend, Grace. She retired to Florida when her husband died from cancer. We were walking partners and she was a native New Yorker. Beautiful person. She is now deceased.

The piano teacher who taught my daughters. She was a wonderful woman and taught me more about faith by her example.

Under "T" there is another old friend, Sonny. She and I met through the tutoring program at school and became close friends. A native New Yorker, she was like a mentor to me. She was out-spoken, but had a heart of gold. She and her husband died within a week of each other three years ago this month. She was a big influence to me. Once you met Sonny, you never forgot her.

So many names and addresses. All have touched my life in some way or another.

A picture of downtown taken on Veteran's Day
 




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sunset

I took these pictures of two recent sunsets. They looked like pictures in the sky.
 
 
Do you see the image of the cross?

 
And this one looks like two galloping horses.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Autumn


 
Autumn has always been my favorite season.  I look forward to her cool temperatures and soft breezes, especially after the stifling heat of a summer day. Fall is not like Spring, although lovely to look at, she has a tendency to show off her unpredictable moods. And she is not like Summer, either, who is a show off with her tanned bodies and gorgeous sunsets.  No, Autumn's bloom is slightly fading, but she has a mature beauty. Her face is full of character and experience and paints a beautiful canvas.  Whereas all Spring and Summer want to do is have fun, Autumn is ready to settle down. She is all about home and family. Football games and marching bands. It is hot apple cider and jack-o-lanterns on the front porch. It is harvest time and hay rides and visits to the pumpkin patch. Autumn is Thanksgiving, which means  extra plates on the table for company and afternoon naps and leftovers to eat the next day. Grandma's turkey and dressing, pumpkin pie and sweet potato casserole. This is why I love Autumn.  She  wraps her arm around you like a warm, cozy blanket. She has the biggest heart of all the seasons.

Friday, September 5, 2014

History


I could never understand why people didn’t like history.  I have always loved History.  I was probably the only person in Western Civ. 101 who enjoyed the two hour lectures on Mesopotamia and ancient Egypt. It may have helped that I had been to the British Museum and seen the mummy room when I was a high school senior. We lived in Germany at the time and our Honor Society spent a week in London, giving us an education that can’t be taught in history books.
Whether we realize it or not, our lives and the lives of our ancestors were touched by historical events that can have an impact for generations to come.  We were not conceived in a vacuum, but come from many history chapters before us. What will our chapter say to our future generations? What will future census records tell our grandchildren and great-grandchildren yet to be born?

My own life has been affected by history. I was born in Germany and spent my early years living with my German grandmother. She and her children had been refugees after WWII, having lost their home during the war. She ended up in West Germany and my grandfather in East Germany. The details are shadowy, but the hardships affected several generations.  I had a German uncle who fought in the regular German army and was taken as a POW by the Americans. He kept a scrapbook of his time with the Americans.  

History once again was prominent in my life when in 1966 my father was shipped off to Vietnam. We moved to middle Tennessee to live near our grandparents. As I played in the shadows of an old southern plantation, walking in the creek bed behind the old house and catching toads, I didn’t realize then how history had played a role on this piece of land only a 100 years before, where Union and Confederate soldiers had fought nearby. I was in the third grade and befriended a new classmate, a little black girl that I would walk home with after school. It was the first year of integration. One day she didn’t return to school.  I walked by her house that afternoon and saw a pile of ashes. The house had burned to the ground and the family moved in with relatives. I didn’t know anything about Civil Rights then, just that I could buy my  popsicles for a few pennies cheaper when I went to the corner store in the black neighborhood.  
When I was ten we moved to Oklahoma and I soaked up the western stories in our musty Oklahoma history books. The story of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker fascinated me and I searched the library shelves for stories about the Indian chief whose mother had been taken captive by the Indians when she was a child.  Cynthia Ann Parker was eventually rescued by the Texas Rangers, who returned her to her family, but she died of a broken heart. After losing her young daughter, Prairie Flower, and missing her adopted tribe, she could never adapt to her new life. When the Indian wars were over, Quanah lay down his arrows, dressed in white man’s clothing, and became a celebrity, but kept his four squaws.

How can we ignore history when it’s all around us? I’ve walked the halls of Versailles and stood in the cathedrals at Westminster and Notre Dame. I’ve seen the horrors in black and white at Dachau concentration camp.  I’ve seen the Crown Jewels and can name all six of Henry VIII’s wives. I’ve walked along the canals of Amsterdam, where Anne Frank herself may have walked. Her home was closed for renovations when we were there. History is never more apparent than when visiting Washington DC, with all its memorials and names etched in stone. How can we not like history?

Looking at my life through the lens of a historian every part has been affected in one way or another.
This is my third time living in North Alabama. I lived here 50 years ago when the space program was in its infancy, although as a second-grader I didn't know it at the time. I lived her again for a brief time in the early 1970's. We survived the worst tornadoes ever seen in April 1974. I was a sophomore in high school when President Nixon visited Huntsville and my classmates and I went to see him speak. He was the first man in American history to resign the presidency. It was front page news at that time. Today it is history.

 
This photo is 40 years old.

 
The little town in Germany where I was born.

 
My husband and me, Paris 1978.



                                                           The canals in Amsterdam.

 
Where I lived in Germany as a young 20-year old.

 
The Saturn V rocket
 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

A Heavenly Homecoming

My dear, sweet mother-in-law went to be with Jesus yesterday morning. She was at home, baking for her daughter's family, and passed away peacefully. She was 91. She had been battling health problems for some time, a result of old age, but she didn't give up. She still helped with the laundry and the cooking because she was never one to sit still for very long.

I was blessed to have known her for these past 37 years. She was a survivor. Out of nine siblings she was one of the last two still living. Now there is one. She lost a husband and two sons and still maintained her beautiful positive spirit and never lost her sense of humor. An avid hockey fan, the local hockey team called her "Team Mom" and gave her an autographed hockey jersey on her 90th birthday. She coordinated the fellowship suppers at her church for many years and looked forward to going to breakfast at the casinos where she lived. She had many friends, young and old, and kept up with countless nieces and nephews and more than a dozen grandchildren.

She always had a story to tell. The most recent one was about a "younger man in his 70's" who would sit by her in church and drive her to Walmart. She laughed at the thought of having an admirer at her age.

She called me last Friday night and left a message and ended it like she always did, "I love you".


Monday, July 28, 2014

Honeymoon in New York City

It has been a busy summer. My daughter got married. My grandson celebrated his birthday (today) and turned six years old. School is starting next week already. Where did the summer go? My daughter and her husband went to New York on their honeymoon and had a great time. Here are a few photos of their trip. They took over 400 pictures. The highlight was seeing "Rocky" and meeting the stars afterwards (and getting pictures made):)



View from the hotel


Good seats!


I caught a glimpse  of my daughter and her husband
at the end of the show.


Visiting Ellis Island


9/11 Memorial


Monday, July 7, 2014

July Wedding

God blessed us with a beautiful day on Saturday for my daughter's wedding.
She was married to her 'best friend' in the gardens of
a historic home, a perfect setting for a summer wedding.



The house was built in 1819 and was the home
of a famed local poet and artist. My new son-in-law is a graphic artist
and my daughter and I like history, so it was the perfect match.


We chose simple table centerpieces.



The two brothers waiting for the wedding to begin.



The elegant dining room.




Here comes the bride!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Celebrations

May was a busy month. My granddaughter, Mae-Mae, turned three. My grandson graduated from
Kindergarten. My two oldest granddaughters had dance recitals and finished up their ball season. They did great in both. My oldest daughter celebrated her birthday and we had a bridal shower for her. We decided on a burlap and lace theme (in case you couldn't tell);) Thank you, Pinterest, for the inspiration!


I made these little gift bags out of plain brown sacks
(3 for a $1.00) and added cup up lace doilies and twine for
the bow.


My daughter's friend had this old window at home and it
was perfect for a backdrop.


My daughter bought the burlap banner and stamped the hearts on the pendants.


My daughter wrapped Mason jars in burlap and lace and used simple
Baby's Breath for the arrangements.




     

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Nature Hike

After a week of freakish storms and cleaning up storm debris I relished the beautiful weather that we have been blessed with these past couple of days. I wanted to get away for a few hours, so my daughter and I took the children on a nature hike nearby. It's a mile and half walk on top of a mountain.


Perfect spot to pose for a picture.





We counted at least nine turtles.


My 3-year old granddaughter explores the old homestead cabin.



A little chapel in the woods.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter. Here are some images from my Easter.


I made the cross designs using strips of masking tape.

 
My attempt at cupcake decorating.

 
I bought these little bags at the Dollar General. I
didn't go overboard with the candy.

 
My little granddaughter looking rather glum,
but she cheered right up once she found some Easter eggs.
 

 
What Easter is really about.

 

Monday, April 7, 2014

April Showers (Blessings)


We celebrated my middle granddaughter's birthday this past weekend.
She is seven. She has a big heart and is a little fashion diva. She is a good sister, too.
Everyone loves her.





I made some Black Forest Cherry Cupcakes. They turned out pretty good.


My backyard looks an unkempt bag lady, but that's okay.
She is surrounded by purple flowers.


The downtown park in Spring. I love this time of year, so I
can take pictures of the cherry blossoms.



The Japanese bridge



Feeding the fish

Pictures

Growing up in my era we didn't take a lot of pictures. Of course, there were the school pictures, which I dreaded, and Mom rarely bought...