Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Don't mind me, folks, I'll be stuck on Christmas through January 6 and, like most Mainahs, I shan't be taking down the outdoor decorations any time soon either. Hope to get to it before Mother's Day!
Speaking of mothers...this is my mother's old bicycle basket hanging out on the chippy paint fence.
This is my old sled leaning on the garage.
Monday, December 31, 2007
It really should be this one
since we're just cleaning up after one snow storm and are expecting another momentarily. No out lates for me...I'll be puttering here at home reading my new favorite novel—The Manual. Hahahaha...
One should have profound thoughts on the last day of the year. I don't. One should be contemplating the New Year. I'm not. One should be doing something. Not me. One should wish everyone a Wonderful New Year. I do!!
Sunday, December 30, 2007
and to read the manual (yes, it's no wonder that I have crumbs and stuff in my keyboard). I hate reading manuals. Who writes those things anyway? I KNOW that I could do a better job. After half an hour of that, I just decided to try experimenting. I apologize in advance because this means that you are going to be looking at a lot of awful, not to mention dull, photos for a good long while.
I experimented on objects that I already had taken pictures of (see sidebar), I took a photo of the sewing machine,
even my bed made up with my new Christmas sheets. Speaking of which, I could crawl right back into that bed...it was soooo cozy. What's better than new sheets and a sleepy cat?
Have a wonderful Sunday! I'll be hauling trash and caring for my grandmother today, but I plan to take some really awful pictures, too. :)
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
This is a story that, as of this posting, has no end. Currently, it is a short story. Perhaps it will become a novella; perhaps (if this blog is any indication) it will become a full-fledged novel. Now that is a bit unsettling.
And, while the story is largely autobiographical, it is not an autobiography. There's a difference.
This story is dedicated to the readers of A Haven for Vee with love.
It's like this, I, a conformist by nature and a puritan to boot, bought a lottery ticket on April 27, 2003, and promptly hid it in my top dresser drawer. Wouldn't want my sister Mellie to know that I had done such a wordly, nay, sinful thing. It lay there forgotten even when the winning numbers were announced on May 5. I never even thought to check.
Three days later, mindlessly folding tea towels with This Morning on the tv, I heard Candy Morris say, "...and no one has stepped forward to claim the 47 million dollar tri-state lottery prize drawn three days ago. Somewhere, folks, we have a single winner who is taking their time getting to the claims office."
Grrrr...I thought to myself...does no one, not even a professional, use the correct pronoun?! Then I remembered. I had a lottery ticket buried deep within the socks, underwear, and old letters.
So you've guessed by now. I won the lottery!
Except I hadn't.
Thought is such an odd thing. Ironically enough, not having the winning numbers was when I began to realize that I had been waiting for a lightning bolt to strike and the fact was that I would never be able to depend upon revelatory messages from on high. Yet, here was the thought that was itself something of a lightning bolt. It flashed in that brief moment and encapsulated within was this message: Your life is like a stone wall and you must create that life one stone at a time for yourself. It doesn't matter what happens. Keep selecting the next stone and placing it. Where the stone is placed is not as important as actually placing it somewhere—anywhere.
That's when I knew that I was done with watching from the sidelines. Done. I decided right then and there that things were, that I myself was, going to change.
How should I begin to make changes? Another flash decided it. Truly, I don't believe that the thoughts came from my own head because they were so foreign to my nature. Now I simply knew that I would embark upon some great adventure. Not one adventure, but seven. Why seven?
Who really knows, though I did know that some Indian nations understand seven in ways that help them keep their world in balance. In balance so that they will not become ill or crazy. They order their lives on patterns of seven creating beauty and harmony and thereby keeping confusion under control.
Not twenty minutes after these thoughts came to me out of nowhere, Mellie casually mentioned that she had just heard that every seventh wave in the sea is larger than the rest. I solemnly believe that that was what ultimately sealed it. It was a kind of sign. I was in a place where I needed a sign. Seven. Yes, seven adventures. My! That was going to be an awful lot for a gal like me whose biggest adventure of the week was to gather the household trash and haul it to the town dump.
Now what adventures did a fifty-something year-old gal like myself want to have?
What do you want? What do you want? What do you want? What do you want? What do you NEED? The question echoed through my head until it was an ocean wave crashing on the beach, every seventh wave, a larger, louder crash.
But what did I want when I had not allowed myself to give a care for years? That was my dilemma. The thought that I would answer the question itself frightened me. I not only could answer the question, I told myself, I would answer the question. I knew what I needed. I needed a complete change.
What do you want, Carrie? I asked myself.
Begin simply, I whispered, don't get too carried away.
The answer: I wanted to color my hair.
When I shared this with Mellie, as eventually I always do, she took it in stride. She is used to my musings.
"Color your hair?" Mellie squinted looking completely bewildered. "You call that an adventure?"
"I do." And I did and that's just the thing. Coloring my hair was a big step for me and I couldn't help it if Mellie didn't see that.
"Thank God for that, Carrie, you're looking a lot like Grandma Prince lately."
My father was born in Maine as were his father and grandfather before him. My mother was born in New Brunswick with many ties to Nova Scotia. She had been raised in Maine so our ties to the Northeast were strong, not only because we visited both sets of grandparents, but also because of one magical spot on Lake Kelusit.
Grandfather Taylor had purchased a cottage on a point of land along the south shore. He had given it as a wedding gift to his new bride. Sometimes it is difficult to imagine Nana Taylor ever having been a young bride, though we have her wedding portrait to prove it.
The cottage has now been in the family for seventy years and each generation finds it as charming as the newlyweds did in 1930. This place is considered the family gem, for, even if there is nothing else, there is Lake Kelusit.
The cottage was named Sankewi, which means "peace" and long, magical summers were spent there filled with days of swimming, canoeing, picnicking, berrying, and the famous ice cream and pancake socials.
It is a simple cottage, nothing ostentatious. In fact, we had, and there still exists, only a pump for water and no electricity. Set apart from the crowded northern shore, we found ourselves over and over again in an enchanted world where the constraints of time and modernity fell away.
Stories of the early years are many and have taken on legendary status. My grandfather loved people and, not bound by clocks, never hesitated to host a party at any time of the day or night. He shared five-gallon buckets of Watson's best vanilla ice cream or his famous buttermilk pancakes, light as feathers, yet thick and delicious and covered with pure maple sugar syrup harvested from his own trees. I never knew him, though Mellie and I smile to look at the sepia toned photographs of a hearty, large man grinning from ear to ear with his friends gathered around him in various comedic poses.
The camaraderie of that place and time became the glue that held families and friendships together for the larger part of a century. Now the cottage with its name hanging over the door spelled out in birch bark was sitting alone and empty. My own parents are no longer able to spend more than a few short weeks there. Age and illness do not go together well with such a place.
Reading the want ad over my morning cup of coffee, I dreamed again of spending time at the lake. Mellie would be surprised. I could hardly wait to show her what I had found hidden in the small print right there in the back of Along the Coast's May issue.
Wanted: Cranberry Publishing of Millfield, Maine, seeking a full-time Copy Editor for temporary project. This position is scheduled to begin on June 18 and carry through the end of August. Candidate will be responsible for light proofreading, publishing, and layout of book production. Strong working knowledge of MS Word, email, and internet is a must. This position requires a high attention to detail, organization, and customer service skills. Candidates with this background are urged to apply.Cranberry. I liked the name. My qualifications matched. Although I had spent most of my adult life teaching, I had a strong interest in the publishing world and had spent time as a proofreader. I never read anything as interesting as a novel, though I sure read a lot of text books, mostly medical and all written to give the reader detailed accounts of the most gruesome of illnesses. As a hypochondriac, I was lucky to have made it out of there alive.
Even though my résumé could have used some additional fine-tuning, I was anxious and simply added a line or two, printed it from my files, kissed it, and sent it that very afternoon sending along a little prayer to keep it company.
Thrilled by the possibility of my actually applying for a job, it didn't matter to Mellie that it was temporary. For nearly two years, I had sat at home sinking into an abyss of shame and regrets. Shame that I could not seem to find a lasting job no matter how menial the labor and regret that I had wasted my life by teaching when I might have applied myself to something more fiscally responsible as Mellie had done with nursing. Nurses are always needed.
Yes, Mellie had been supportive. She had always been a friend as well as a sister Scratch that. As little girls, we were hardly supportive or friendly. I am five years older and our age difference had kept us at arm's length unless we were fighting. Mellie loved nothing better than a ripping good tussle and preferably one involving a sneak attack. She would pounce on me from the backs of sofas or the tops of stairs taking me down to the ground in a heap of knees and elbows as she shrieked like a wild thing. I worried about her. The tables are turned. She worried about me now.
We had lived together for almost four years by then. She arrived on a cold winter day fleeing a troubled marriage. Her two teenage daughters helped her gather a few things and they left their home and moved to mine. My own daughter was already on her own and my son would be shortly as he was a senior in high school at the time.
Everyone settled in quite amicably together except for those times when she accused me of being a control freak wanting to have all the say where dishes would be stored and little things like that. I don't know how we managed to stay on track with the three kids in a small house the first year, but every year after became easier and we settled into a comfortable, albeit dull life.
Today, all the children are on their own. They are doing well. Sometimes we worry about them. Sometimes we worry a lot.
Within ten days, I had received a very nice letter from a Mr. Charles Denning from Cranberry Publishing. My hands shook a little as I read the letter urging me to set up a telephone interview by calling his secretary. I allowed myself to think that maybe, just maybe, I did stand a chance of landing this job.
I should call his office today I thought as panic set in. Remember to breathe.Call today I told myself again as I worked to gather enough strength to follow through. Follow the process. Take the next step. Baby steps. Breathe.
Courage: the thing I lack and had always lacked, eluded me. I run in the face of danger; sink when I should rise; slip away unnoticed when I could have become involved. There's not one thing admirable about being a coward. I loathe cowards and find it particularly galling that I am one. I mean really. It's ridiculous to be afraid of phones and people and places and new things. I made a plan: if I called and the phone rang more than three times I would hang up. That would work.
My palms were sweaty, my breath shallow, my heart was beating too fast, but I pressed those buttons. I made the call. One ring. Two rings. Three rings. I hung up.
When I awoke the next morning and looked out my bedroom window at the pale blue sky of morning, I decided to try again. After all, I reasoned, the hard part has already been done. Even with the ongoing pep talk swooshing around in my head, I felt myself wavering. Finally, I had the phone in my hand, the numbers were punched, the phone was ringing, and a friendly voice answered, "Cranberry Publishing, how may I help you."
The phone interview was scheduled for three that very afternoon and, lucky for me, I would not be doing the calling that time.
Mellie was working so no one to tell. Poor gal was always working. Working, working, working. Two jobs, sometimes three. She worked while I sat on my duff doing nothing. What was the point? I wasn't going anywhere.
But that day, I decided to dress as if I were, going somewhere that is. Perhaps that's what made the difference when Mr. Denning himself called promptly at three.
"Hello, Carolyn? Carolyn Taylor? This is Chuck Denning from Cranberry Publishing."
"Hello, Mr. Denning. Thank you for your call." My voice sounded so calm. Odd since my mind was skipping around the room and crashing into the furniture.
"I am the one to thank you for applying, " he said graciously.
We chatted pleasantly for a few minutes about Maine, the job, and my expectations. Mr. Denning make it all very easy and natural. Still, I was a little surprised when he asked, "Would you be willing to come to Millfield next Tuesday so that we can discuss some particulars?"
I allowed myself to feel hopeful for the first time in a long time. The Bible says that hope deferred makes the heart sick. I had been heartsick for some time now.
Mellie was so happy. I loved that this made her feel hopeful. I hadn't seen her that happy since I had come home with the new hairdo. My red hair made her happy and now the prospect of my finding an opportunity to go to Maine delighted her. We began to make plans for how we would be able to do this together.
If she took a long weekend, Mellie felt certain that she would be able to join me for the trip. We'd fly avoiding the 14-hour road trip from Virginia, then rent a car. We'd go to Sankewi and find out how it was doing after weathering the last three years alone. Like two young girls again, we were excited about an adventure.
Excitement is a wonderful emotion, but I realized all too well that I would not have been able to do it alone. I needed Mellie; it was just that simple. I was a drowning person clinging to a life preserver. And, as much as Mellie loved me, I knew that she couldn't appreciate being that preserver.
(My apologies! Lea asked me where the story had gone. Oh my!)
"You've got to have something to wear to that interview of yours, Carrie." Mellie announced just before bedtime. "Tomorrow let's go to the mall."
"Sure" I agreed. Shopping was not my idea of fun. I had become increasingly troubled being in large groups of people. This had been going on my entire life, but had become worse over the past ten years. I did, however, recognize the need for an updated outfit. Besides, I had lost a little weight and felt more comfortable with the idea of trying on clothes for the first time in a long while. Mellie, on the other hand, never had trouble shopping. Her closet reflected that. Too bad there wasn't something in there that I could snitch.
The Tanglewood Mall was busy with Friday shoppers as we looked for parking not too far from an entrance. Mellie parked outside a J.C. Penney's entrance on the far end. This was her usual plan. If I had had to predict where we would park, I'd have gotten it right.
Tanglewood had been a premiere mall in its day. As teenagers, we had spent plenty of time shopping and, as young women newly married, had loved shopping in the French Quarter. Today we were grateful that most young shoppers preferred a different mall. Hopefully, we'd find just what we were looking for without a lot of distractions...gum-chomping gals wearing chains and with piercings on every facial feature. I'd never get used to pierced eyebrows, noses, lips, and multiple piercings tracing ears' edges. It basically caused me to wonder what planet I had landed on.
Walking past a fountain on the dark wood parquet floors, we headed straight for Lubbetz's Chocolatiers. A delicious white chocolate Lubbetz wafer would work like a tranquilizer. We strolled with our handbags over our shoulders. I had nothing but a credit card in my wallet and the two-dollar bill my great-grandmother had given me for my sixth birthday. When it had become apparent that I was in financial distress, my mother had returned it to me saying, "With this you'll always know that you have some money." I carried it around like a talisman never believing in its power to actually work.
We were on our way to lunch when Mellie spotted my new blue outfit. "That's it! The perfect color for you and this tailoring will hide stuff."
"Stuff? What stuff are we talking about?"
Grinning she grabbed the suit from the rack and headed for the dressing room.
"Are you trying that on, Mellie?"
"Get over here right now! You know that we're shopping for you today!"
That no nonsense tone was the one she reserved for her daughters and me.
Mellie was right. The suit fit perfectly and it did hide stuff. I felt so good in that suit that I could have walked right out of the store wearing it. The way my red hair looked against that shade of blue...well, that red hair almost made me happy that day.
"Now some shoes." Mellie said.
"Are you planning to go barefoot? And you're not wearing those flip flops and that's final."
I looked down at my old pair of red flops. I wore them through most seasons of the year except on the coldest winter days or when it rained. I'd learned my lesson the hard way slipping and sliding through the grocery store one day on linoleum.
Somehow I found classic taupe pumps that felt comfortable and didn't look too horrid. They were no Manolo Blahnik's, but shoe design at my age did not include pizza toes nor did my budget allow anything but Payless.
As we were leaving the mall walking briskly past the large fountains, the artsy lighting, and the tinted glass, we ran into Brenda whom Mellie immediately invited to join us for lunch.
(My sincere apologies for taking so long. I had no idea that it had been an entire month.)
...whom Mellie immediately invited to join us for lunch.
Brenda is an old friend, but one who knows when to fade into the woodwork and then pop out again at just the right time. Brenda has so many friends that she finds managing us all a juggling act. I find her endearing with the right amount of "cute" — twinkle in her eye and a bounce in her step. She is cheerful, upbeat, perky. All the things that I am not. Oh, and another thing, she doesn't hesitate to say what's on her mind.
She is an avid adventurer, too, often striking off for automobile journeys of weeks completely on her own. Just last November she had asked me to go to Texas with her to visit her parents. I had naturally declined as graciously as possible, but it was a no all the same. Brenda has been given many "no's" through the years. I don't know why she doesn't give up asking.
"Oh I wish that I could have lunch, but I'm late now for an appointment. Can we get together tomorrow afternoon for tea?" Brenda waited grinning at us. Tea is a semi-sacred ritual for Brenda as it is for Mellie and myself. We usually set three o'clock aside for a cup of tea and some refreshment, though because of Mellie's schedule, it is not an everyday event. Brenda and I made plans for tea the next afternoon in spite of the fact that Mellie would be working and unable to join us.
Traffic in Maine is nothing compared to traffic in Virginia. It was always one of the first things we noticed. That and how heavenly the air smelled with balsam and pine mixed with juniper floating on the fragrant sea breeze from Casco Bay. Still, we were so eager to get to Sankewi that we ignored the ocean and headed straight for I-95 North.
Mellie fully intended to drive through Millfield past Cranberry Publishing so that I could see where I would be going for my interview on Tuesday morning. But the interview seemed pleasantly far away this Friday afternoon.
As usual, because Mellie drove, I got to enjoy all the sights. It was one of her frequent complaints that I allowed to go in one ear and out the other. Once we left I-95 in Gray, I would have even more to enjoy—the sights and sounds of small town Maine as we wended our way to the Western foothills. There were the ubiquitous Civil War monuments all decked out in flags, ribbons, and flowers in preparation for Memorial Day; the quaint homes with their attached sheds and barns needing some paint and care. Some homes even stood newly painted or newly covered in the dreaded aluminum siding. We knew the way so well that time passed quickly as we passed the first views of the five lakes along the way before we would see our own Kelusit.
Thankfully, the days are much longer in May and we would be arriving well before dark. This was not always true in our youth as we often staggered into camp in the wee hours of the morning. That was fine for young people, but not so for us who, in our middle years, were beginning to notice the way we began to lurch about when too tired or hungry. Speaking of hungry, were we ever! And we could not wait to arrive at Thayer's in Millfield.
Thayer's sat in the nook of one of the five corners in Millfield's center. A breakfaster's delight, it would serve us quite well since Mellie and I liked nothing better than a meal of toast and eggs for supper. The smell of bacon hung in the air as Mellie parked the car. The place looked quiet for a late Friday afternoon, but that just meant that finding a booth would be easy.
"Well, Mellie and Carrie, as I live and breathe. What in the world are you doing here?"
We grinned at the waitress who was wearing tight blue jeans and a striped red and white shirt, horizontal stripes, without regard for her girth.
"Hello, Janine. How are you doing?"
"Oh pretty good, but not worth the powder it'd take to blow me across the street." She smiled. "I haven't seen you gals in ages. Are you heading for the lake?"
"Exactly, " I responded.
"Oh that's great. I don't think anyone's in yet, though. We were out last weekend and just stayed the afternoon. Stan wanted to begin doing some cleaning up, mostly raking."
Mellie and I nodded in unison. We had already been talking about the amount of cleaning that would be needed before the camp was up to our standards.
"Where is everybody tonight?" Mellie asked.
"Oh there's a supper at the Methodist Church. You, gals, are really missing out."
Janine went on without skipping a breath and without concern for what her boss might say if he heard her pushing another dining experience.
"They have everything you can possibly imagine to eat. Everything. Usually, they serve ham and a turkey plus all sorts of casseroles, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, lots of salads. You know those molded jello salads with all the whipped cream? I love those things. Smart people don't eat any of that stuff, though, they just wait for the desserts. At least, that's what Stan does. He loves the pies. Strawberry is his favorite. What kind of pie do you like?
"Chocolate, " Mellie said simply, "chocolate anything."
"Well, who doesn't? chuckled Janine. "They have lots of chocolate—pies, cakes, brownies, cookies, you name it, you can get it there. I don't know how those church ladies have the time to do all that baking. Lord knows, I don't have that kind of time anymore. But the best thing about the church supper is meeting everybody in town right there. Course I do get to see most folks here, but there's a few that only get out for the church supper."
Just as I became concerned that we were being talked into leaving, Janine waved at the nearly empty room and told us to sit anywhere.
Twenty minutes later, we had our meals and were enjoying a cup of coffee.
"I'm so glad to be away from the rat race, " Mellie said.
"Your job is intense, " I agreed with Mellie.
"Yes, crazy intense and I have been at it for too long."
I raised an eyebrow as I peered over the top of my mug.
"Well, this will be a nice little break for you then."
"Hmmmm" Mellie agreed as she speared another hash brown.
"Carrie, I've been thinking." She paused and looked me right in the eye. "What would you say if I told you that I have given the hospital my notice?"
"Ahhhh, I'd say that maybe you'd better think it over."
Mellie hedged a bit and then mumbled, "Too late for that."
4-26-2013 (I know! Shocking!)
We had finished our meals in relative silence and were now driving the last few miles before the camp road.
Cranberry Publishing had been easy to find and would not be a problem for me to return to on Tuesday morning at eight-thirty. It sat the fourth building along its block from the town's one and only traffic light. It was a painted white brick building with pale blue and pale yellow trim. I like the look. I couldn't remember its having been there before, but Mellie told me that it had been faded red brick the last time I had been in town.
Mellie's words were rolling around in my thoughts. "Too late for that." I had not pressed her since I was in no position to question her. After all, I had been floating around all this time doing nothing while she had become overworked and underappreciated. I would wait for a better time when we were both less tired to discuss it again.
There it was! The camp road just ahead with all the names of the campers on old shingles nailed to a tree. Sawyer, Dunlop, Merrill, Fiore, West, and Taylor. As an unnecessary bonus, each shingle was shaped into an arrow tip that pointed into the depths of the forest. Slowly, Mellie turned the car down the road and we entered the narrow path as the sun hung low over the trees casting dark shadows as we crept along riding the high places. Squirrels scampered in the pines and chipmunks skittered across the road with their tails straight up in the air like masts on tiny ships.
We would soon turn that final bend in the road where one cove of Kelusit would sit sparkling in the sunset before us. The anticipation was almost overwhelming and then, well then, we were there looking at Kelusit's placid surface and the golden path the setting sun made across the water.
Sankewi sits nestled in pines at the furthest point that reaches way out into the water between coves along Kelusit's southern shore. It has glorious views and small windows with which to see them. It is for that reason, that Adirondack chairs are set out almost immediately upon arrival.
This is where Mellie and I found ourselves that first night each seated in an Adirondack chair watching the sun sink beyond the earth's shoulder and when the final colors faded to deep lavenders and black, we heaved ourselves forward with a mighty lurch and set about to making a pot of tea and having a bit of cheese with crackers. That would energize us for the next great task of making beds and crawling into them. We'd worry about cleaning in the morning.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
On the 24th, I was busily getting the house ready for my sister and her beloved and her daughters to enjoy for Christmas Eve. I was bowing out as gracefully as possible and planning to spend the afternoon and evening quietly with my parents and my grandmother. Those were my plans. Of course, everyone else in the family also had his or her own plans.
When I arrived at my parents' home, my mother was off doing some last minute shopping. My grandmother was shuffling about as she does when she's worried, but she said nothing other than to acknowledge my greeting and to nod toward the den.
So I turned and went there to find my father who was sitting in his usual chair. I think I noticed right away that something was wrong. I asked him how he was feeling and he said, "lsdfhiognd." "Dad, are you all right? What did you say?" Again the strange babbling. Then I noticed that the right side of his face was definitely different...sagging... and his right eye was closed. I took the glass of milk that he was now offering me..."you smdinkg tfris."
Thankfully, my mother was pulling into the drive and I went out to the dooryard to say, "Listen, I don't want to worry you, but Dad is not well; I'm afraid that he's having a stroke; we're calling 9-1-1."
My mother hustled as quickly as she could (she has severe rheumatoid arthritis) to check on him and realized that something was very amiss. The phone call was made, a second phone call to my sister who, as a nurse, is always consulted early and often. The ambulance arrived in fifteen minutes and thus began our new plans...getting my dad to the hospital because now he had become hostile and belligerent and was refusing to go. My mother was pleading, the medical personnel were urging, I was staying out of it since I was the one being blamed for the call for help. Finally, my sister called to tell him, "Behave yourself and allow people to help you." After that things went a little better. My dad listens to my sister.
Eventually, the ambulance pulled away carrying my dad on a stretcher in the back and my mother riding along in the front. I was to follow as soon as someone showed up to stay with my grandmother who was now telling me that my father had been mumbling incoherently all the time that my mom was at the store.
Several calls to my daughter and my nieces had them all there within a half an hour to stay with their great-grandmother...very different plans than they had had, of course.
An Emergency Room Christmas Eve is very much different from those warm, fuzzy ones spoken of in my last post's quotes. Cold, sterile cubicles with needles, x-rays, cat scans, urine samples, etc. One becomes acutely aware of the discomforts and indignities of being human. One watches one's own loved one struggle and suffer and one sees the suffering of others. The worst was a snowboarding accident...poor young man without much of a face left.
Back to my dad...yes, it was determined that he'd had a TIA or mini-stroke; he'd have to be admitted; he'd have to be carefully monitored for the next three days because they are the most critical for having another event. Yes, there was evidence of an earlier stroke...yes, it may have been the cause of all the imbalance and dizziness he's been experiencing since summer. (Don't get me started on the doctors involved in this saga prior to this event.)
So Christmas limped along yesterday. Mother was with my dad for several hours in the morning while I made the preparations at her house. My sister was with him in the afternoon for an extended time. We all had a good look at what Christmas is like without two very special people...the anchors of the family; we didn't like it.
This event has reminded me of a story my friend told me several years ago. During that Christmas season, her friend Denise's mother was diagnosed with a terminal, malignant brain tumor. It was a very fast cancer and the woman was not expected to live more than a month. One day, after a particularly grueling week, my friend was expressing her frustration over Denise's circumstances, what a toll it had taken on the family, and how unfair that it was all happening during Christmas. Her companion nodded and said, "But I thought that this was why He came."
Indeed. This is the reason why He came...to walk with us when we are in difficult times...even through the valley of the shadow. Even when Christmas Eve is spent in an ER, when Christmas Day feels absurd, when we worry that a parent may be in more trouble than we know, when we don't feel adequate, when we are worried about whatever-it-is, when we struggle with our flaws and failings, when we're not sure which path to take...this is why He came.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl. But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart... filled it, too, with a melody that would last forever. ~ Bess Streeter Aldrich
What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace. ~ Agnes M. Pharo
Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world - stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death - and that the blessed life which began in Bethlehem nineteen hundred years ago is the image and brightness of the Eternal Love? Then you can keep Christmas. ~ Henry Van Dyke
Wishing you all a perfectly love-filled Christmas because that is exactly what the Lord has in mind for you! Take care...catch you on the flip side...
Sunday, December 23, 2007
My grandmother always prepared a lumberjack's breakfast Christmas or not. Her everyday set of dishes was Fiestaware. In my mind's eye, I can see her kitchen table laden with those brightly colored dishes. At each table setting a small plate rested atop the larger and upon that small plate a grapefruit half drizzled with maple syrup sat beckoning. I can smell the bacon frying in her cast iron skillets. She'd take special care with our egg orders and was usually successful with perfection. My sister and I were in charge of the toaster and we kept piece after piece of bread coming or going. I see the honey jar and the marmalade and jam bottles all together. Nan always had real butter (my own mother had switched to margarine); my sister attributes her love of butter to those breakfasts at Nan's. Many happy times were spent around my grandmother's breakfast table.
All this leads me to the answer to yesterday's question. And, really, BumbleVee is the closest. Yes, B-Vee, those Santa caps really are party hats for — eggs. That's right! They're egg warmers! Say what? Eggs need to be warmed? My head, easily confused on the best day, was really grappling with this concept. Well, you can see right here. This is the actual conversation that Mrs. G. and I had just yesterday via MSN.
Mrs.G: what are you doing up? you are supposed to be in bed
Me: I was in bed until my head got so busy that my body had to get up. Have been wrapping gifts.
Mrs. G: thanks for wrapping the egg warmers
Me: You're welcome
Mrs. G: not kitschy then?
Me: They're adorable, you could make garlands with them, wouldn't that be cute?
Mrs. G: too much work for garlands...I put mini hats on the declaration because I figured if you had never heard of egg warmers, the customs guy might not have either
Me: Is it a German thing?
Mrs. G: I don't think so...my dad used to wrap Sunday eggs in a couple of towels for those coming later
Me: Why do they need to be warmed?
Mrs. G: my aunt made me cute ones for Easter one year-chickens
Me: Don't you get to the table on time?
Mrs. G: a boiled egg will cool rather quickly
Me: Don't you boil them all together in one pan?
Mrs. G: yes, vee, we set the table, last we boil the eggs and put them in the cups
Me: I just don't get it
Mrs. G: that's obvious
Me: I think that these will wind up as ornaments on the tree
Mrs. G: North Americans are more familiar with fried eggs for breakfast, i think
Me: So do the eggs sit in an egg cup and wear their little caps?
Mrs. G: yep, now you got it
Me: egg cups...that's next on the list
Mrs. G: oh no, you don't have any? LOL
Mrs. G: What about your son?
Me: He's lucky to have a plate and a fork
Mrs. G: lmao, tree ornaments they are then!
Look, Mrs. G, I found the perfect egg cups for these little caps! Wonder if I can talk the kids into serving soft-boiled eggs on Christmas morning... You may make a civilized person out of me yet. Thanks for all your patient explanations. ;>
Saturday, December 22, 2007
Yesterday, six beautifully knitted Santa caps arrived. Aren't they sweet?
My dear friend from Manitoba sent them to me and it's taken three instant message discussions to figure out exactly what they are. They have a distinct function besides just looking cute. Anyone out there recognize them? I'll tell you tomorrow; until then, I know that you'll all be beside yourselves with curiosity.
Thank you, everyone, for feeling my pain. I appreciated it immensely! Nothing like some empathy...heck I'll even take pity at this point. LOL!
Sandi, don't worry...the candy in question was not the Velveeta Peanut Butter Fudge...that's coming up next!
Even though the scarf didn't work out, the tea towels came out cute. Well, I think so anyway. Edited to Add: These patterns were found at Turkey Feathers.
Finally, I was visiting with my grandmother today and she had received the most adorable three-dimensional card. I found the online addy and HERE it is. This is an example of one of their Christmas cards.
Friday, December 21, 2007
What's the trouble you ask? Well, and thank you for asking, the scarf that I have been knitting through every snatched moment is in the garbage. Yes. And, given its condition, that's the best place for it. Sometimes things just can't be unraveled. Perhaps they could be, but would it be worth the time and the trouble? No. So the scarf joins the ruined candy and becomes merely stuff to write about.
Anyone else having troubles with anything? Gift wrap multiplying in your dining room? Crumbs in the keyboard? Dishes stacked to the rafters? Ice lining the drive?
(Imagine a woman bathing in a suds filled old-fashioned claw footed tub with candle glow lighting her face.)
Perhaps a nice long soak in a warm tub will soothe the aching muscles and, if that's not enough, you can head to Abbie's Place: Whimsy of a Staggering Woman where you'll find Whose Woods Are These...nice song, too.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
And that's really how I became interested in Joseph's part of the Nativity story. He is so vague a character, yet he played such a crucial role. I want to know more about Joseph. I really do.
by Michael Card
How could it be this baby in my arms
Sleeping now, so peacefully
The Son of God, the angel said
How could it be
Lord I know He's not my own
Not of my flesh, not of my bone
Still Father let this baby be
The son of my love
Father show me where I fit into this plan of yours
How can a man be father to the Son of God
Lord for all my life I've been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a king, How can I raise a king
He looks so small, His face and hands so fair
And when He cries the sun just seems to disappear
But when He laughs it shines again
How could it be
Clicking on the words to the song will take you to YouTube where you can see a meaningful video and listen to the words. I hope that you will enjoy that as much as I have enjoyed this song since I first heard it years ago.
Picture Source (Now there's some meaning if one wants to peel back the layers...we are adopted into God's family just as Joseph adopted Jesus as his very own.)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Last night I stayed up excruciatingly late...brain burning late...to finish wrapping gifts. Then, at two in the morning, I decided it would be a very good time to cast on some stitches for a scarf. Why am I making gifts at this late date? Yes, please tell me. This is not a rhetorical question. Please do not include "crazy" in the explanation, though.
Sis and I have decided that tonight is our night. No beloved! No kids! No parents! No friends. :> She's making a meatloaf, baked potatoes, salad, and some sort of veggies for supper. Yippee! Gotta love days when I don't have to think about making supper.
This afternoon, I am making peanut butter fudge. I am making peanut butter fudge despite the foul weather that may well affect its outcome. It's late, it's late, it's fearfully, frightfully late...
Leaving you with a photo of last year's peanut butter fudge session. Licking the spoon is always the best part!
P.S. Barbara and Alan are celebrating 48 years of wedded bliss today. Isn't that marvelous? Best wishes to them both on such an anniversary! (ETA: The date says 1959, but just now I could have sworn that it said 2353. ;>)
Allowed to stand
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
But this year, I have been enjoying the marvelous tours sponsored by BooMama among others. Am I participating? Right! No, I am not participating; I am sending you along to see what the others are doing. LOL! I have all the decorating talent of Mr. Parker in "A Christmas Story." But I do have a Red Ryder bb gun. See?
Speaking of which, Linda of Restyled Home did a wonderful piece on A Christmas Story. Did you know (you do if you watched the TODAY show over the weekend) that a man has bought and restored the home? SOURCE Click here for a direct link and enjoy seeing some of the actors posing in the living room of the newly restored home.
Okay, back to blogging house tours... One of my very favorites is featured as this month's cottage of the month at The Old Painted Cottage. And look around more while you're there for the runners' up homes. Lovely!
I'm off for a day of shopping. Ohhhhhhhh, the horror! Later...
Monday, December 17, 2007
Anyway, can't have a Survivor finale without a treat...definitely not rice. As inspiration waned, I ran smack into Linds's recipe for Cinnamon Cake, which you can find by following the link. Linds has a terrific blog called Rocking Chair Reflections; I very much enjoyed spending time there.
Everything that she said about her cake recipe is true. It filled the house with the most Christmasy aroma of cinnamon and sugar. This cake was a definite hit. We only have a couple of pieces left this morning. My oven temperature is not accurate so it took a long time for this cake to finish baking, but the smell made the wait well worth it.
So, check out Linds's picture of her cinnamon cake on her blog. That's how it really should look. :) You won't regret baking this one!
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Sandi from Holding Patterns has tagged me and, in the interest of holiday frivolity, I am playing along plus I really adore Sandi and I want to make her happy. It's an honor to be tagged. Yes, it is! And you'd best be remembering that when I get around to tagging you! :) (Do please stick around for the final paragraph so I can share what I was planning to say prior to being tagged. Thank you!)
Sooooo, here are the rules:
1. List 12 random things about you that have to do with Christmas.
2. Please refer to it as a 'HOOPLA' and not the dreaded 'm'-word (I'm not sure what this means ladies, I'm guessing the ME word, I sure hope it's not the MERRY word!)
3. You have to specifically tag people when you're done. None of this "if you're reading this, consider yourself tagged" stuff is allowed...then nobody ends up actually doing it. The number of people who you tag is really up to you -- but the more, the merrier to get this 'hoopla' circulating through the blogosphere.
4. Please try and do it as quickly as possible. The Christmas season will be over before we know it and I'd like to get as many people involved as possible.
All righty then here we go...
1. On my dad's side of the family, I am the sixth grandchild of 16. On my mother's side, I am the first grandchild of two. Want to hazard a guess as to where I spent my Christmases? Very good! Yes, indeed, we spent Christmases with my mother's mother and my mom's step-dad. (As my own grandfather's best friend, this dear man was the only grandfather I ever knew and I've never thought of him as anything less than a true grandfather.)
2. When we were little children, we traveled the 250 miles to their home. When we were older (teen years), they came to us. Guess our stuff got to be a problem getting into the car.
3. One of my favorite Christmas memories is of drifting to sleep in my grandmother's flannel-sheeted bed on a cold Christmas Eve listening to her play the piano with my grandfather accompanying her on his violin. Christmas carols have never sounded any lovelier.
4. Christmas is NOT my favorite holiday. I like it. It's nice. It's just not my favorite... way too much HOOPLA for me!
5. Keepers of Christmas have my sincere respect. My mother is an excellent keeper of Christmas. I'd like to be more like her. Suppose I could just choose to be?
6. When my own children were growing up, we spent Christmas Eve with their dad's family and Christmas day with mine. Their dad was the oldest of seven children so Christmas Eve was a free for all with tons of cousins, aunts, and uncles!
7. My family is the more sedate type. We open gifts in very civilized ways. Slowly. One at a time. It takes us hours. Days. Weeks. (Yes, we save all the darned paper, the ribbons, and the bows, too.)
8. In former times, I loved attending Christmas Eve candlelight services. They were held at midnight. Okay, so what if I sometimes nodded off?! It was often the one time that I had the opportunity to center myself. I still get teary eyed realizing all over again just what a sacrifice was made that holy night. Would you leave Heaven to be born in a stable? Me neither.
9. I hate shopping. I hate it all year around. I especially hate it at Christmas time. I've truly entertained the thought of a present-less Christmas. Wonder if I could talk my family into that????
10. Since Christmas is so labor intensive, I never take down the tree before Epiphany...that's January 6. Don't even tell me that there are those of you reading who take down the tree the day after Christmas! Often, my favorite "Christmas" moments are well after the 25th.
11. I never put all the Christmas things away; something of Christmas always remains out. One year, I left Baby Jesus on the breadbox to remind me that He is the Bread of Life.
12. Twelve? Nah, I've run out and besides, I am a rebel.
I tag a gal who didn't get tagged last time...BumbleVee ! I don't think that she has enough to do. ROFL! She's so going to get me!!
Often I say that I "stumbled" across something really neat. I think I do every day in this wonderful blogging community. This week I stumbled across THIS I DO and WINDOWS TO MY SOUL.
One just couldn't go wrong on a quiet Sunday afternoon to spend some time reading at either blog.
Have a marvelous Sunday, everybody!!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
My sister brought home a can of those peach blossoms. Even though they come in a can, they don't taste like peaches; they don't look like peaches; they aren't even the same color as peaches. They do have a funky peanut butter filling. She said, "I love peach blossoms. " I looked at her with my brow furrowed and declared, "I hate them!"
She said, "Well, they do match the dish beautifully."
"Hmmmmppphhhh," I said.
Funny thing about those peach blossoms. They've been disappearing at an alarming clip and no one has been home except little ole me. :?
Friday, December 14, 2007
Oh my gosh, just a couple of more comments about yesterday's post. Believe me, I heard more than four comments...everything from "what a meanie" to "are you out of your mind?" Thank you to the four brave souls who dared to comment: much appreciated. This post spiked more hits at site meter than any for the past two weeks. Okay then...skating right on, shall we? LOL!
This little poem was sent to me last year by a friend. I really loved it and saved it to my essays and poems folder, which means that I can now share it with you. I love all the little stories about Christmas time, don't you?
A Christmas Cup of Tea
by Tom Hegg
The log was in the fireplace, all spiced and set to burn
At last, the yearly Christmas race was in the clubhouse turn.
The cards were in the mail, all the gifts beneath the tree
And 30 days reprieve till VISA could catch up with me.
Though smug satisfaction seemed the order of the day
Something still was nagging me and would not go away
A week before I got a letter from my old great Aunt
It read: Of course I'll understand completely if you can't,
but if you find you have some time, how wonderful it would be
if we could have a little chat and share a cup of Christmas tea.
She'd had a mild stroke that year which crippled her left side
Though house bound now my folks had said it hadn't hurt her pride
They said: She'd love to see you. What a nice thing it would be
For you to go and maybe have a cup of Christmas tea.
But boy! I didn't want to go. Oh, what a bitter pill
To see an old relation and how far she'd gone downhill
I remembered her as vigorous, as funny and as bright
I remembered Christmas Eves when she regaled us half the night.
I didn't want to risk all that. I didn't want the pain.
I didn't need to be depressed. I didn't need the strain.
And what about my brother? Why not him? She's his aunt, too!
I thought I had it justified, but then before I knew
The reasons not to go I so painstakingly had built
Were cracking wide and crumbling in an acid rain of guilt.
I put on boots and gloves and cap, shame stinging every pore
And armed with squeegee, sand and map, I went out my front door.
I drove in from the suburbs to the older part of town
The pastels of the newer homes gave way to gray and brown.
I had that disembodied feeling as the car pulled up
And stopped beside the wooden house that held the Christmas cup.
How I got up to her door I really couldn't tell...
I watched my hand rise up and press the button of the bell.
I waited, aided by my nervous rocking to and fro
And just as I was thinking I should turn around and go
I heard the rattle of the china in the hutch against the wall
The triple beat of two feet and a crutch came down the hall.
The clicking of the door latch and the sliding of the bolt
And a little swollen struggle popped it open with a jolt.
She stood there pale and tiny, looking fragile as an egg
I forced myself from staring at the brace that held her leg.
And though her thick bifocals seemed to crack and spread her eyes
Their milky and refracted depths lit up with young surprise.
Come in! Come in! She laughed the words. She took me by the hand
And all my fears dissolved away as if by her command.
We went inside and then before I knew how to react
Before my eyes and ears and nose was Christmas past, alive, intact!
The scent of candied oranges, of cinnamon and pine,
The antique wooden soldiers in their military line,
The porcelain Nativity I'd always loved so much,
The Dresden and the crystal I'd been told I mustn't touch.
My spirit fairly bolted like a child out of class
And danced among the ornaments of calico and glass.
Like magic I was six again, deep in a Christmas spell
Steeped in the million memories the boy inside knew well.
And here among old Christmas cards so lovingly displayed
A special place of honor for the ones we kids had made.
And there, beside her rocking chair, the center of it all
My great Aunt stood and said how nice it was that I had come to call.
I sat and rattled on about the weather and the flu
She listened very patiently then smiled and said, "What's new?"
Thoughts and words began to flow. I started making sense
I lost the phony breeziness I use when I get tense.
She was still passionately interested in everything I did.
She was positive. Encouraging. Like when I was a kid.
Simple generalities still sent her into fits
She demanded the specifics. The particulars. The bits.
We talked about the limitations that she'd had to face
She spoke with utter candor and with humor and good grace.
Then defying the reality of crutch and straightened knee
On wings of hospitality she flew to brew the tea.
I sat alone with feelings that I hadn't felt in years.
I looked around at Christmas through a thick hot blur of tears.
And the candles and the holly she'd arranged on every shelf
The impossibly good cookies she still somehow baked herself.
But these rich and tactile memories became quite pale and thin
When measured by the Christmas my great Aunt kept deep within.
Her body halved and nearly spent, but my great Aunt was whole
I saw a Christmas miracle, the triumph of a soul.
The triple beat of two feet and a crutch came down the hall
The rattle of the china in the hutch against the wall.
She poured two cups. She smiled and then she handed one to me
And then we settled back and had a cup of Christmas tea.
P.S. ...and totally unrelated... Every now and then I read about a blogger's frustration with her header. Today is my turn. No matter what I do, I cannot get my header straightened around. I find these kinds of upsets completely maddening. Yes, my name is Vee and I am a Type A personality.
Sooo, if anyone knows the answer to this dilemma, I'll be very grateful. Spending any time in the chaos and confusion of Blog "Help" is absolutely maddening. Guess that the Blogger folks realize that there is a problem and are working on it as stated right here.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Now I don't want to open a can of worms here. No. I really don't. I just loathe rocking the boat. (Mrs. G., stop chuckling!) But I found this letter written by Mark Twain to his little girl Susie away back forever ago and found it so utterly charming, whimsical, even magical that I wanted to share it here in its entirety:
Palace of St. Nicholas
In the Moon
MY DEAR SUSIE CLEMENS:
I have received and read all the letters which you and your little sister have written me by the hand of your mother and your nurses; I have also read those which you little people have written me with your own hands--for although you did not use any characters that are in grown peoples' alphabet, you used the characters that all children in all lands on earth and in the twinkling stars use; and as all my subjects in the moon are children and use no character but that, you will easily understand that I can read your and your baby sister's jagged and fantastic marks without any trouble at all. But I had trouble with those letters which you dictated through your mother and the nurses, for I am a foreigner and cannot read English writing well. You will find that I made no mistakes about the things which you and the baby ordered in your own letters--I went down your chimney at midnight when you were asleep and delivered them all myself--and kissed both of you, too, because you are good children, well trained, nice mannered, and about the most obedient little people I ever saw. But in the letter which you dictated there were some words which I could not make out for certain, and one or two small orders which I could not fill because we ran out of stock. Our last lot of kitchen furniture for dolls has just gone to a very poor little child in the North Star away up, in the cold country above the Big Dipper. Your mama can show you that star and you will say: "Little Snow Flake," (for that is the child's name) "I'm glad you got that furniture, for you need it more than I." That is, you must write that, with your own hand, and Snow Flake will write you an answer. If you only spoke it she wouldn't hear you. Make your letter light and thin, for the distance is great and the postage very heavy.
There was a word or two in your mama's letter which I couldn't be certain of. I took it to be "a trunk full of doll's clothes." Is that it? I will call at your kitchen door about nine o'clock this morning to inquire. But I must not see anybody and I must not speak to anybody but you. When the kitchen doorbell rings, George must be blindfolded and sent to open the door. Then he must go back to the dining room or the china closet and take the cook with him. You must tell George he must walk on tiptoe and not speak--otherwise he will die someday. Then you must go up to the nursery and stand on a chair or the nurse's bed and put your car to the speaking tube that leads down to the kitchen and when I whistle through it you must speak in the tube and say, "Welcome, Santa Claus!" Then I will ask whether it was a trunk you ordered or not. If you say it was, I shall ask you what color you want the trunk to be. Your mama will help you to name a nice color and then you must tell me every single thing in detail which you want the trunk to contain. Then when I say "Good-by and a merry Christmas to my little Susie Clemens," you must say "Good-by, good old Santa Claus, I thank you very much and please tell that little Snow Flake I will look at her star tonight and she must look down here--I will be right in the west bay window; and every fine night I will look at her star and say, 'I know somebody up there and like her, too.' " Then you must go down into the library and make George close all the doors that open into the main hall, and everybody must keep still for a little while. I will go to the moon and get those things and in a few minutes I will come down the chimney that belongs to the fireplace that is in the hall--if it is a trunk you want--because I couldn't get such a thing as a trunk down the nursery chimney, you know.
People may talk if they want, until they hear my footsteps in the hall. Then you tell them to keep quiet a little while till I go back up the chimney. Maybe you will not hear my footsteps at all--so you may go now and then and peep through the dining-room doors, and by and by you will see that thing which you want, right under the piano in the drawing room-for I shall put it there. If I should leave any snow in the hall, you must tell George to sweep it into the fireplace, for I haven't time to do such things. George must not use a broom, but a rag--else he will die someday. You must watch George and not let him run into danger. If my boot should leave a stain on the marble, George must not holystone it away. Leave it there always in memory of my visit; and whenever you look at it or show it to anybody you must let it remind you to be a good little girl. Whenever you are naughty and somebody points to that mark which your good old Santa Claus's boot made on the marble, what will you say, little sweetheart?
Good-by for a few minutes, till I come down to the world and ring the kitchen doorbell.
Your loving SANTA CLAUS
Whom people sometimes call "The Man in the Moon"
My own children, now long grown, began their childhoods by believing in and loving the "Santa" part of Christmas. On the day that my son climbed into my lap and earnestly told me that he loved Jesus all year long, but at Christmastime he loved Santa best, I felt that we had a problem. A big problem. I believe that he was nearly five that year and his sister was 7.
So I purchased the most beautiful picture book of the story of Christmas...not that the true story of Christmas had not been already shared, but because I was about to do Santa in and I thought the exquisite picture book would help in the task. Their father was very supportive of this idea and one evening a few weeks before Christmas we all climbed into the sofa bed before the Christmas tree and I presented the story. Then, as gently as possible, we told them that Santa was a real person who loved the Lord and that he now lived in heaven with God.
Ohhhhhhh, the wailing! Ohhhhhhh, the weeping! Ohhhhhhhhh, the intense sorrow and sobbing. My husband and I stared at one another over the tops of the children's shaking shoulders and grimaced at one another. Dear Lord, what had we done???? So our poor kids went through the holidays grieving St. Nicholas's death more than 1700 years before. Sad. When I botch something, I really do it completely! This very story was just repeated to me a few weeks ago by my daughter and son. They can laugh about it now, but at the time, it was very traumatic for them.
In hindsight, I wish that I had never allowed them to believe in Santa. Why? Because the Christ of Christmas should not have to compete with the fat man in the flying sleigh who gifts children with all the desires of their expanding greed. There's more wonder in the true story of Christmas than ever needs to be supplemented with the fairy tale. I am not sure how Christian parents balance the two. What's been your experience?
Picture Source (link broken, but picture allowed to stand)