Welcome to my blog. Thanks for coming! One day I hope my little piece of internet real estate will be home to lots of family photos, pictures of my scrapbook and card art, with some random thoughts and memories posted on a somewhat regular basis. Mostly my world is very predictable, but occasionally some excitement will find me, so visit often. Who knows what useful (or useless) information you may find here.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Oh Christmas Tree

This week's article in the Journal

“Have you put up your Christmas tree yet?”  That’s an often-heard question this time of year.   I saw a few homes with trees up well before Thanksgiving this year.   Of all the Christmas memories of childhood, I think my favorites are the beautiful trees my daddy would find and cut down for our family room.  Well… most of them were beautiful.  There were a few Charlie Brown trees along the way, but mostly they were perfect.  Always a highly-fragrant cedar tree, with the old-fashioned colored lights.  I loved those old-timey lights that we use to have before the miniature lights came out.  They were so heavy that my daddy had to attach them lower on the branches of the cedar trees, as the frail ends  couldn’t hold the weight.  Besides, we needed the tips of the branches free for the tinsel, or “icicles”, as we called them back then.  I remember my grandaddy sitting in the command seat, navigating placement of the icicles to be sure that not one tiny branch went unadorned.

One year, we ended up with a tree that was so large it covered the double-windows!  We didn’t have enough ornaments, so it was somewhat sparsely decorated.  There’s an old black-and-white picture of my snaggletooth self, standing proudly in front of the mammoth tree, with my hair in sponge curlers.  We were so proud of our giant tree!!  (tried to find the pic for the blog, but no luck with that)

Our family room was on the back of the house, which meant that the travelers up and down Broad Street were not able to see our tree.  One year Mamma Lorene, my dad’s mom, gave us one of those fabulous trees made out of aluminum.  We proudly assembled the tree, added the fuchsia-colored balls, and put it in front of the double windows in the dining room, on the front side of the house.  There was this lamp that sat in the floor, with a rotating plastic disk of different colors.  The disk would turn slowly, and the colors would fade from one to the other.  I much preferred the live tree with the multicolored lights, but was delighted to have TWO trees in our house each year. 

As the years went by, some of the ornaments were lost or broken.  Seems that we always managed to hang onto the ones my brother and I made at school, and those were hung each year with love.  At some point, we swapped out the chunky lights that I loved for the newfangled miniature lights that were becoming so popular.  It was the end of an era, and even though the tiny blinking lights were beautiful, I’ve always been partial to the old chunky ones. 
The first Christmas tree after I got married in 1980 was a special tree.  Not a cedar tree like I had grown up with, but some kind of pine tree that we cut at a tree farm.  With little money to spend for decorations, I opted for DIY ornaments, and our tree was covered with homemade felt snowmen and clothes-pin reindeer, a few fake red apples, and some candy canes.  But there were lots of colored mini-lights!!!   And because it was our very first tree together, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. 

There have been many trees since then.  I remember scoring a really expensive fake tree after the holidays one year.  It was perfectly-shaped, and looked better than some of the real ones we had used in the past.  I was so excited to have this flame-retardant tree, meaning we could put it up earlier, leave it up longer, and it also meant I could put my favorite chunky lights on it!  I went to the store and bought a gazillion of them, and put them on our new tree.  Couldn’t wait for the hubby to get home and commend me for our old-fashioned Christmas tree.  To my great disappointment, he made me take them off, and return them to the store.  What with being a fireman and all, he only saw the fire risk, and not the beautiful ambience I was attempting to achieve.  So I had to undecorate the tree, remove the lights, and take them back.  I pouted for days, and only half-heartedly redecorated. But by then, it was Whitney’s third Christmas, and she was at such a fun age I couldn’t stay mad for long.  

The year that she was in first grade was the first Christmas that she and I lived alone, and we carried that fake Christmas tree with us during several moves through the years.  We had a tradition on tree-decorating day – there was an old VHS Disney tape of Christmas songs.  We’d listen to it every year while we decorated.  When she was in high school, the old tree finally died, and I replaced it with a tall, skinny tree that she laughed at, but once decorated, admitted it was a really pretty tree. 

Nowadays, it is the eyes of my grandchildren that sparkle at Christmastime.  One of my favorite spots to photograph them is in front of a Christmas tree.  Last year found me feeling a bit overwhelmed, and not really interested in much holiday fanfare.  I didn’t put up my tree until the week the kids were out of school…   which was one week before Christmas!  Normally, I’m very persnickety about the ornaments being placed just so, but not so much last year.  Because of my indoor kitties, I use a small 4’ tree on a table, in an effort to keep them away from it.  Last year, though I kept my precious, breakable treasures safely packed away, I let the kids decorate the tree.  They took turns using the step-stool to reach the higher branches, but 90% of the ornaments are on the lower half of the tree.  A job obviously done by children.  But… the joy I was lacking crept back into my heart as I watched them decorate “their” tree all by themselves.  They were so proud, and the occasion was, of course, marked by many photographs and videos.  Because the tree is so small, when I got around to taking it down (don’t even ASK!) I just picked it up and set it in an extra bedroom.  Still decorated. 

So now it is Christmas 2015!!!  My little tree was delivered from the extra bedroom to its place in the living room.  Still decorated from last year.  It was my intention to undo the kids’ handiwork and re-decorate it with at least a little symmetry in mind.  But every time I reach to take something off, I am reminded of how much fun they had decorating it last year, and how excited they will be to see that I am using it that way again this year. 

Yes, Christmas trees are my favorite part of the holiday.  And one of my favorite sayings about Christmas is this:  It’s not about what’s under your Christmas tree that matters, it’s who’s around it.  I hope you will share special moments with special people around a tree this season. 

So, let me ask - have you put up your Christmas tree yet?  Just remember....

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Empty Chairs

There were two empty chairs at our Thanksgiving gathering this year.  Aunt Peggy and Aunt Carolyn are no longer with us, and this is the first holiday season without them.  I think of my cousin Elaine, and my friend Lewiss, who are missing Miss Reba this season.  And so many others.  My article in last week's Journal spoke of our losses.  Here's the article.  Hugs to all my friends who also have empty chairs at your tables.


Empty Chairs

The turkey is gone, and the pumpkin pies are but a sweet memory.  Black Friday bargains are waiting to be wrapped, and Christmas trees are going up in homes all over town.   The holiday season is officially upon us!  Twinkling lights reflect in the eyes of excited children, as the anticipation is almost more than they can bear.   A friend on Facebook recently posted a photo of a vintage Sears Christmas catalog.  How many of us remember poring over its pages as kids, dreaming of the toys we’d find under the tree?  The rush of adrenaline we’d feel at the sight of that jolly old Santa?   Even all these years later, those Santa pictures conjure up happy memories of childhood.  I vividly remember a “Night Before Christmas” coloring book, and a new box of crayons.   Hours were spent coloring at my grandmother’s dining room table, being careful to stay between the lines.  Every now and then, one of the adults with sit and color with me for a while.  What is it about a new box of crayons and coloring book that brings about such pleasure?  The smell of new crayons never fails to take me back to those days, and coloring with my own grandchildren is one of the few activities from my childhood that we can enjoy together.

For most of us, the holidays are synonymous with family.  As children, we are focused on the excitement factor- the lights, the hustle and bustle, and, of course, the gifts.  At some point, the childhood magic fades, and we begin to understand the deeper meaning, and experience a new kind of magic.   The kind of magic that makes us tear up at Publix commercials on TV.   The soldier returning home in time for Christmas dinner.  The new baby’s first Christmas, all decked out in their precious outfits.  The family who realizes that this will be the last holiday spent with a loved one.  The long-overdue reconciliation of a strained relationship.  For some families, the only time everyone gets together is at the holidays.  We look forward all year to the time when we can sit down together and share a meal.  While our tables may not be Publix commercial-worthy, I doubt any of us would trade our family gatherings for the picture-perfect scenes that invoke such emotions on TV. 

And yet, while we are focusing on all our blessings and loving on our families, we need also to remember those who are hurting.  As unfathomable as it seems, there are people who do not share in our bounty of family members, and the warmth of hearth and home.  The sound of bells and the sight of red kettles outside stores during the holidays is an ever-present reminder of those in need. 

Then there are those who, though they have no lack of necessities, are sad and lonely during the holidays.  I can’t imagine spending the holidays alone – yet there are those who endure the loneliness year after year.  Day after day the loneliness haunts them – though more acutely so when colorful lights are twinkling, and Christmas music permeates the airwaves.

There were two empty chairs at our Thanksgiving table this year.  We lost two beautiful ladies within four months of each other, my Aunt Peggy, and my Aunt Carolyn.  Aunt Peggy was my mom’s best friend.  The holidays, while wonderful and joyous, also accentuate the absence of those we love.  We all know someone who is hurting this year because of the loss of someone they love.  I think of a good friend, who lost her battle with cancer, and the devastated husband and best friend she left behind.  So many empty chairs.  Loss is part of life.  Death, divorce, estrangement, deployment.    So many reasons for empty chairs. 

This year, as we celebrate the Christmas season, may we first remember that Jesus Is The Reason For The Season, and then may we remember to pray for those who will be seated at tables with empty chairs.