Sunday, December 31, 2017

Moving On

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 (NIV)

The first Sunday in December, I began a month-long series of blog posts about the symbols and traditions of the Christmas season. You might think that it was fun doing all that research – and it was, to a point. But actually I read about a lot of things which really bothered me. On top of that, a pastor told me the origins of the peace symbol from the sixties. All in all, I found out things I really didn’t want to know.

Sometimes, I like to wear my Pollyanna glasses, believe in the best in people, believe that good always triumphs over evil, believe that more people will be saved in the end times than will go to hell. I guess I just don’t want to think of those bad things. And though I know that God will reign victorious in the end, I am scared by all the mess we will make of this world before then.

‘Sigh’. Ok, here’s what’s up. Did you know that most Christmas traditions, even the date of December 25, has origins in pagan beliefs and rituals? These aren’t just secular things, which have no connection to Christianity; these were folks who worshiped satan, performed human sacrifices and participated in all sorts of hedonistic activities.

One example is the seemingly innocent mistletoe. It is supposed to possess mystical powers which bring good luck to the household and wards off evil spirits. Druid priests used it in their sacrifices to the gods and Celtic people thought it possessed miraculous healing powers. It supposedly not only cured diseases, but could also render poisons harmless, make humans and animals prolific, keep one safe from witchcraft, protect the house from ghosts and even make them speak. Some of those claims sound pretty good, but how is it going to protect me from witchcraft and ghosts? Only God can do that.

So, here’s the only thing that should matter to me. Jesus was born in a humble stable some two thousand years ago to save all mankind, or at least everyone who believes, and it doesn’t matter what day of the year that occurred. We should celebrate his birth every day, right? And not focus so much on the tree and the lights and the gift-giving and all the hoopla.

But here we are on New Year’s Eve, so I can put all the hoopla behind me, right?

Well, if I thought there was a lot on the internet about the bad places our Christmas traditions came from, I was really in for it when I started reading about our New Year’s traditions. The whole idea of welcoming the new year circled around making the gods happy. Originally the new year was celebrated in the spring, the time of year for renewal and growth, and also the time to really keep the gods happy so they would supply a good year’s crop. Eventually the new year began being observed the first of January, because the name of that month came from Janus, the Roman god of beginnings. Apparently, the only way to honor Janus was through riotous excess and pleasure-seeking.

Things declined from there.

I’ve never been big on celebrating the New Year, I never saw the point. And after reading all of this, I really don’t want to celebrate.

I look at the world we are living in and it makes me so sad to see so many people turning from God in search of satisfying their own pleasures. They don’t understand that God is okay with them having good, clean fun, that He wants them to be happy, but happiness isn’t found just in this Earthly life.

But I will take heart. I know that God has got this covered.

 Lord, God, Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son to save all believers. Grant me Your peace and carry me when I waver. If it be Your will, give me the words, the actions to bring non-believers to You. Allow me to shine for others and demonstrate to them Your unfailing love. In Jesus’ name. Amen. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Month of Christmas

 The first of December, when I decided to blog three times a week between now and the end of the year about the various symbols we have for Christmas, I made up a list of items which would take me to New Year’s Eve. I even had an excess of thoughts on that list, but here it is, several days past Christmas, and instead of sticking to those things, I’m going to just recap my holiday for you.

 My Christmas season started weeks before the 25th, as I’m sure yours did. A trip to Menard’s on the first of the month, revealed that Santa was already exhausted. 
 I’m not making this stuff up. I went around the corner and found another Santa down. But I did my duty and picked them both back up again.
  I always bake at least five batches of cookies. I don’t know why – tradition, right?  So I broke with tradition and thought I’d try something new. Ended up making the ugliest cookies ever. They taste okay at least.
  Santa made his usual stop at the clinic where I work.
 Two days before Christmas, my cousin hosted her annual party for the extended family. A good time was had by all and I even got a picture with my sister.
 Since my own kids are 27 and 31, it has been a while since I had little ones around on Christmas morning. But I still have always kept up the Santa-façade. I was thrilled then when my daughter told me only a couple days ago that she and her husband would be bringing his nine-year-old son to our house for Christmas Eve and Christmas day. I wasn’t quite as thrilled by his hair style, but – hey – like my hair would win any awards?
 Of course, we also had my ten-year-old, my son’s five-year-old and my daughter’s three-year-old and seven-month old.
 Which was also great, coz every boy needs a dog. Or two.
 And lots of flannel.
 And lots of food. 
 My family hopes you had just as happy a Christmas as we did. And are wishing you an even happier New Year.   

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Traditional Nativity Scene

 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (Luke 2:6-7 New International Version)

The inception of the nativity scene is credited to St. Francis of Assisi. In 1223, St. Francis got permission from Pope Honorious III to set up a manger with hay and two live animals—an ox and an ass—in a cave in the Italian village of Grecio. He then invited the villagers to view the scene while he talked about the birth of Jesus.

The idea of staging a nativity scene grew from there, spreading throughout Europe over the next couple of centuries.

The traditional nativity includes not only Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, but also an angel, the shepherds, the three wise men, as well as sheep, donkeys, and cattle. In the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus, however, only the shepherds made an appearance. The wise men didn’t show up for weeks, perhaps even months, long after the new parents had left the stable and settled elsewhere.

I suppose people put the barnyard animals in the nativity scene because if that’s where the Babe was born, surely the animals would be looking on. None of them are mentioned of Matthew or Luke, the only books of the Gospel which talk about Jesus’ birth. In Isaiah, the book of the old Testament which prophesizes this event, we do find this verse which sure makes it sound like at least one cow and one donkey were there.

 The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” (Isaiah 1:3 New International Version)

In general, I don’t think it’s worth it to get bogged down in the details. The important thing to remember is that Jesus was born in the most humble of settings, declaring that He is King of all mankind.

Wishing you and yours many blessings this Christmas. 
Is this too many? 
I'm pretty sure the original "stable" looked nothing like this. 
Not quite sure who all these characters are. 

I really don't know who or what these characters are. 
I'm sure this are supposed to be sheep, but don't they look like seals? Is this where Christmas Seals comes from? 
(If you want to read more about what the nativity scene should and shouldn't be, I feel this article is the most accurate I've found. Click here.)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Santa's Deer

Here we are just a few days away from Christmas. Children around the world are anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus and hoping that the night sky is clear for the reindeer to make their flight.  

Reindeer were widespread throughout the Scandinavian and Eastern European countries for thousands of years, and in the 18th century, they were domesticated, used for transportation, pulling sleds and sleighs.

In 1821, William Gilley published a sixteen page booklet by an anonymous author. In the book, reindeer pull Santa’s sleigh for the first time:

Old Santa Claus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O'er chimney tops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

In 1823, Clement Clarke Moore wrote “A Visit From St. Nicholas”, commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas”.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away, dash away, dash away all!"

The ninth reindeer, the very famous Rudolph, was added in 1949, based on the story by Robert L. May.

Prior to that, however, in the 1920s, when reindeer were introduced in Alaska, businessman Carl Lomen saw the commercial, mass-market possibilities of reindeer meat and fur for the United States. At one point the Lomen Reindeer Co. owned more than a quarter-million reindeer.

In 1926, Lomen worked with Macy's department store to hold a Christmas parade led by Santa, his reindeer, and a sleigh. Eventually, similar parades were held in cities around the country. The eating of reindeer meat never took off in America, and Lomen ended up going out of business. But thanks to him, and those three writers, we have in our heads the picture of those eight reindeer pulling Santa’s sleigh. 
Sorry that I couldn't find any pictures of reindeer in my files. These whitetail from my backyard will have to do. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

One thousand Christmas Cards

In 1843, Sir Henry Cole had recently helped to set up what would become the Postal System in the UK and was looking for a way to increase use of the service, especially by ordinary people. He and an artist friend, John Horsley, designed and produced the first Christmas card. They printed and sold around 1,000 of these cards.

Sometimes I feel like I have bought and mailed 1,000 cards each year.

Every year, I think to myself, maybe I won’t send out cards this year. Maybe I’ll do something more creative (and cheaper) on Facebook or email. Then I also wonder if I should write the Christmas letter. You know, the letter that some people send out with their cards recapping their year (as if everyone hasn’t followed everyone else’s every move on social media).

And every year, just about the time that I decide to nix it all, my competitive nature kicks in. Hubby and I each have our lists of people we send cards to – we have it divided pretty much in half, between his friends and relatives and mine. By gum, if he’s going to mail out cards to his list, I’m going to mail them to mine. And before he does.

This year I failed at that miserably. He wrote out all his cards and mailed them in one day last week, while I was still debating the whole situation. So one night shortly after that, some time after midnight, I crawled out of bed and typed up my Christmas letter. I had a busy weekend, but fully intended to address my cards on Sunday evening. That didn’t happen, instead, when I couldn’t sleep, I crawled out of bed at 2:30 Monday morning and addressed them all.

Is this what Christmas is all about? Sharing joy and cheer at the cost of several nights’ sleep? Probably not, but if you didn't get a Christmas card from me this year, don’t think I didn’t try. It’s anybody’s guess what I actually wrote on some of those envelopes in the middle of the night. 
In case you didn't get the 'Christmas letter', here it is. 
Here we are, another Christmas season. And once again I have been debating over the last month as to whether or not to send out a Christmas letter.

2017 was not a good year. Nope, not good at all. You probably know most of it – not only losing Mom in February, but a long list of other friends and relatives. I also spent more time in the ER and at doctor’s appointments for myself than I ever have. Hubby, too.

I keep things in perspective, though. None of our ailments have been life-threatening, we are both still gainfully employed, and we have the money (and the insurance) to pay those medical bills.

Mom is in a better place; she is no longer suffering. Even though her death seemed to come on quite suddenly, in and out of the hospital and nursing home over just one month, when I look at pictures of her from the last few years, I can imagine the suffering she had been silently going through for a long time.

All those other friends and relatives? Some of them were suffering too, struggling for years with pain and disability, or just plain had reached the end of a long and productive life. A few, however, died way too young and leave us questioning what God is thinking at times.

My kids remain healthy, at least. Nick is still at the same job for the last five years, I believe. He keeps talking about wanting something else, but hasn’t made much of an effort.

Val lost her job in November, but considers it a blessing as now she has the motivation to look for something else, and try to get out of the food service industry. The pay has been good for her, but there are no benefits and the hours stink when you work at a restaurant. Her husband is still working in that industry, but is hoping to cut back his hours so they can spend more time together working on their house.

I went to Kenya with Val in April. We had a successful trip, working on a rabbit project at the school we’ve been working with there. She and Nick are talking about returning in the Spring, but haven’t made definite plans yet. I’d like to go back next Fall, to do a medical outreach and I will begin working on that soon.

I am still at the clinic in town. In June it will be 30 years that I have been with the same organization – or at least I haven’t gone anywhere else, even though the organization has changed hands or merged several times in those years.

Himey is still at Lincoln Hills, but is talking about retiring in 2018. It is so stressful there, as you may be able to imagine, especially if you listen to the local news (which doesn’t even come close to telling the truth about what goes on there).

My novel, “Where the Sky Meets the Sand”, finally was published. It was supposed to be out sometime in the late Spring, but took until September to be released. That delay added to my long list of stress for the year, but along with everything else, I try to keep that in perspective.

If you haven’t read the book, you can order it from or Barnes and Noble, or let me know and I can send you a signed copy. I am also anxiously waiting for more reviews of it. I’d appreciate any help I can get in spreading the word.

In November I finished writing my second novel. I hope to edit it in the next months and get that published within the year.

Umm, I guess that’s about it. Dino and our four cats are still doing well, as are my three grandpuppies. 

Mostly, I am looking forward to a better 2018. And wishing you a good year as well. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Angels at Christmas

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” Luke 2:8-15 (New International Version)

In modern culture, we say that there are angels among us, lucky individuals might have a guardian angel, someone is an angel who commits an act of kindness, our loved ones in heaven have become angels and that there are fallen angels. Over the centuries, angels have been given wings and halos, along with supernatural abilities (or course they are supernatural beings, so that only makes sense).  

Angels make appearances throughout the Bible, from Genesis through Revaluations. The term “angel” originates from the Greek word for messenger, and angels most offer did bring messages to people of the Bible. They could also be fierce warriors as in the angel Michael, who rages war against evil.

How did angels become associated with Christmas? From verses such as the one above, it is easy to understand how. Some time after the first fir trees started being decorated for Christmas (see my previous post), people began putting angels on the top of their trees. And that tinsel my mom insisted on putting on our tree? It was originally used to symbolize angel hair.

And just like in that Christmas tree post, there is so much more to say about angels that I don't have time for. 
Not my favorite angel, but the only one I already had a picture of. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Elves are Where?

Last Friday I blogged about the main attraction for many kids this time of year – Father Christmas, Papa Elf, the Jolly Ol’ Elf, the Fat Guy in Red. You know who I mean. Today, how about reading about the rest of the elves, the little helper bees who make all that Santa is known for actually happen.

Elves, and all their compadres such as fairies, gnomes, trolls, pixies and the like, have been part of European folklore for centuries. In the mid-1800s, according to Scandinavian legend, elves began to reveal their true purpose when they became helpers to Santa. Turns out that elves have a natural proclivity towards two things – making toys and taking care of reindeer. They are still not perfect workers, however, as most elves have a tendency towards mischief.

I didn’t have much luck discovering on-line where the picture of the classic Christmas Elf comes from – the pointy ears, pointy hat, pointy-toed shoes, green and red costume, tights which are sometimes striped, perpetual smile. I didn’t have much luck discovering much else about the history of the Elf, more elusive than Papa Elf.  

The movie “Elf” doesn’t clear up a lot of those questions, as after all, it is just a movie. And we all trust what we read on the internet more than what we see in a movie, right? Right. But anyway, it’s still a great Christmas classic and Buddy the Elf is the epitome of spreading joy and happiness during the Christmas season.

Luckily the Elf on the Shelf concept came out after my kids were well past the stage of believing in the make-believe. Yesterday, I asked a co-worker who has a young child what this Elf on the Shelf thing is all about. She told me that their family’s elf (I forgot his name already) is rather a mischief-maker, messing up its child’s room and arriving back from the North Pole each morning in some rather interesting places, ie, hanging from the ceiling fan. The whole idea of this elf on the shelf sounds overwhelming to me. When I was a mom with little kids at home, I had enough work to do just getting them ready in the morning without having to worry about where my elf was going to show up.

(Go to the Wikipedia article about Elf on the Shelf and read to the end where the experts give their criticisms on this trend. Are they nuts, or what?)

Needless to say, I don’t have a elf on the shelf, or anywhere else for that matter. I have enough other Christmas decorations. Don’t anybody get any ideas about inundating me with elves.

Nope, instead I got penguins on a shelf . . .

And snowmen on a shelf . . .  
Dolls in a house . . .
And Peanuts on the floor. And not a rhyme in sight. 

And I'm okay with that.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The First Christmas Tree

Perhaps the most endearing and widely recognized symbol of Christmas is the Christmas tree. Because they retain their green needles year-round, evergreen fir trees represent eternal life.
One of the oldest stories about how the tradition of the Christmas tree came about began with St. Boniface, a missionary in 8th century Germany. Around the year 732, he entered a northern town and learned that the people worshiped the god of thunder, Thor. They believed that Thor resided in a great oak tree in the village. Boniface realized that he would never convert the villagers to Christianity while Thor remained among them. He announced that he was going to cut down the oak and as he began to chop at the tree, a mighty wind blew and knocked it over. Supposedly, right next to the mighty oak, a small fir tree was growing, which remained undamaged when the big tree fell. Boniface told the people that the fir tree was a symbol of Christ. The villagers turned from their pagan worship and became Christians.

The tradition of a fir tree in the house at Christmas spread and eventually traveled to the United States with German immigrants.  There are many more stories out there, such as how the various decorations came to be, but you can look that up if you'd like. 
When I was a kid, Mom spent what felt like hours decorating our tree, hanging the tinsel, strand by strand. Then, after Christmas, she actually took the tinsel off the tree, laid it carefully in a box and saved it until the following year. For those of you who don’t remember, this was not the tinsel we have today (or does anyone even use tinsel anymore?); this stuff was thick and gutsy. It could actually be re-used.

Me? Here are a few of my trees. No tinsel, not even garland.

  My mother-in-law decorates her tree a little differently than I do.
 And these are a couple of my church’s trees. Beautiful, but only in a church, right?

As it is my tree is up, the lights are on it, and I don’t know when I’ll get around to hanging the ornaments. I have some time yet. 

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Christmas Star

If you read Friday’s blog, you know that I can be long-winded at times. I could write even more about today’s topic, but I’m thinking – well, you’ll see.

For the month of December, I’m blogging about various symbols of Christmas, any of the many items which remind us of this blessed time of year.

  God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. (Genesis 1:16 New International Version)

So God gave us the sun by day and the moon by night, but he gave us a multitude of stars.

  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Genesis 15:5 New International Version)

Stars have fascinated us for as long as mankind has been on this earth. The ancient Greeks looked up at the night sky and picked out groups of stars to name, constellations. Astrologers took it a step further and believed that people’s lives could be influenced by the stars they were born under. In general, most of us, today, still look up at the stars and imagine what it’s like “out there”, if there is intelligent life on a distant planet, if Luke Skywalker could ever have cruised out there in his X-wing fighter. And who hasn’t wished on a shooting star.

You all know the story of the wise men who followed a star to find the Baby Jesus. It’s believed that they were astronomers who had been studying the night sky for a long time waiting for the sign that the King had been born. It also took them weeks, possibly months to travel the great distance needed to get to the young Savior.   

  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. (Matthew 2:10 New International Version)

Scientists over the years have had multiple theories on just what this star was. A super nova? A comet? The alignment of several planets causing that unusual bright spot in the sky? There is even evidence that some of these events actually occurred around the time of Jesus’ birth. I still find it surprising that people doubt the existence of God when there is such evidence all around us. 

In any event, it doesn’t matter to me if science can explain the star in the sky at the first Christmas. God put that bright light in the sky not only so that the wise men could find what they were searching for, God put that star up there for all of us to follow. Which is why the Christmas Star continues to shine bright on Christmas. 

Friday, December 8, 2017

The History of our Christmas Icon

 Well, I messed up this time. St. Nicholas Day was two days ago; I should have written this blog on Wednesday. As it is, since my son is named Nicholas – though he wasn’t named after the saint which inspired Santa Claus – I always want to do something for him on that day. And I always forget. So I guess it is no surprise that I am posting this two days late.

For the month of December, I’ve been writing about symbols of Christmas, some religious, some secular and some just for kids. Like today’s.

The legend of Santa Claus goes back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas. It is thought that Nicholas was born sometime around 280 A.D. in modern-day Turkey. He was admired for his virtue, kindness and generosity. It is believed that he gave away all of his inherited wealth and traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick. Over the years, Nicholas’s popularity spread, and he became known as the protector of children and sailors. He is remembered on December 6, the anniversary of the date he died.

The story of St. Nicholas first came to America in December 1773, and again in 1774, when a New York newspaper reported that groups of Dutch families had gathered to honor the anniversary of his death. He was called Sinter Klaas by these families, which was a form of Sint Nikolaas (Dutch for Saint Nicholas).

In 1804, John Pintard, a member of the New York Historical Society, distributed woodcuts of St. Nicholas at the society’s annual meeting. The background of the engraving contains familiar Christmas images such as stockings filled with toys hung over a fireplace. In 1809, Washington Irving helped to spread the story of Sinter Klaas when he referred to St. Nicholas as the patron saint of New York in his book, “The History of New York”. Around that time, gift-giving at Christmas, especially to children, was becoming popular.

In 1822, Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, wrote “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.”  His poem is mostly responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the ability to ascend a chimney with a mere nod of his head. Although some of Moore’s imagery was borrowed from other sources, his poem helped popularize the now-familiar image of a Santa Claus who flew from house to house on Christmas Eve–in “a miniature sleigh” led by eight flying reindeer–leaving presents for deserving children.

“An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” created a new and immediately popular American icon. In 1881, political cartoonist Thomas Nast created the first likeness that matches our modern image of Santa Claus, based on Moore’s poem. His cartoon, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly, depicted Santa as a rotund, cheerful man with a full, white beard, holding a sack filled with toys for good girls and boys. Nast gave Santa his bright red suit trimmed with white fur, North Pole workshop, elves, and his wife, Mrs. Claus.

(I'm so lucky to live with the best Santa of them all.)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Poinsettia Plant

On Sunday, I promised that I would share various symbols of Christmas throughout the month of December. I only chose today’s candidate because of these pictures.
When I was in Kenya in the fall of 2015, we found this beauty growing outside of a women’s shelter that we visited. They were growing ten or so feet tall. These plants are native to Mexico, but according to Wikipedia, they were brought to Egypt in the 1860s. I don’t know if that’s how these guys made their way to the Nairobi suburb where I found them or not.
 The one fact that turned up repeatedly was that they get their name from Joel Roberts Poinsett who was the first Ambassador from the USA to Mexico in 1825. He was an avid botanist so when he discovered this plant in 1828, he shipped several of them to his greenhouses in South Carolina. He started growing the plants back home and sending them out to friends and botanical gardens.

So what has the poinsettia got to do with Christmas?

They bloom naturally in Mexico during the winter months. And here in the northern United States any plant which blooms this time of year is a welcome splash of color. The red colored leaves symbolize the blood of Christ. White variations represent his purity. Also their star-shaped leaves might be considered a symbol of the Star of Bethlehem which led the Wise Men to Jesus.
There is even a Mexican legend about how Poinsettias and Christmas come together.

There was once a poor Mexican girl named Pepita who had no present to give to the baby Jesus at the Christmas Eve Services at her church. As Pepita sadly walked to the chapel, her cousin said, "I'm sure that even the smallest gift, given by someone who loves him, will make Jesus Happy."

 Pepita didn't know what she could give, so she picked a small handful of weeds from the roadside and made them into a small bouquet. She was embarrassed because she could only give this small present to Jesus. As she walked to the altar, she remembered what her cousin had said. She began to feel better, knelt down and put the bouquet at the bottom of the nativity scene. Suddenly, the bouquet of weeds burst into bright red flowers, and everyone who saw them were sure they had seen a miracle. From that day on, the bright red flowers were known as the 'Flores de Noche Buena', or 'Flowers of the Holy Night'.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Bells

  Every Christmas season, I like to blog around a central theme, if I can come up with an idea. This year, I’m going to share the stories behind some of the symbols associated with Christmas.
 As I was decorating the house last weekend, I came across the one item which to me symbolized the entire Christmas season as I was growing up. Every year ever since I could remember, this bell has hung in the doorway leading into the bedrooms of my parents’ house. When we emptied Mom’s apartment last February, and I found it in its original box, I knew it was the only one of Mom’s Christmas decorations that I wanted to claim.
 Even though Jingle Bells may be the first song we think of when we think of bells at Christmas time, the poem by Henry Longfellow actually says it all. He wrote it on Christmas day in 1863 as his son was recovering from nearly fatal wounds he had received while fighting in the Civil War. (I did not know that until just now looking it up on-line.)

   I HEARD the bells on Christmas Day
    Their old, familiar carols play,
        And wild and sweet
        The words repeat
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And thought how, as the day had come,
    The belfries of all Christendom
        Had rolled along
        The unbroken song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Till ringing, singing on its way,
    The world revolved from night to day,
        A voice, a chime,
        A chant sublime
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    Then from each black, accursed mouth
    The cannon thundered in the South,
        And with the sound
        The carols drowned
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    It was as if an earthquake rent
    The hearth-stones of a continent,
        And made forlorn
        The households born
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

    And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

Isn’t this the song we should carry in our heads year-round in these troubled times?

Friday, December 1, 2017

Flashback Friday in the Classroom

Greeting the month of December with some - what can I say – interesting? Scary? Nostalgic? Whatever you want to call them, here’s what class pictures used to look like.

1939, Hay Creek School. My mom is in the second row on the far left. Hay Creek was a tiny one-room school house, with a second life as the town hall for the Wilson township. Somewhere I have a picture of it in later years, before it was torn down for a new town hall, but couldn’t find them this morning. Also of note, when your grandparents say they walked to school, uphill, both ways, it was possibly true. My mom lived on one hill and the Hay Creek School was about a mile away up another hill. 
 1942, Tripoli High School, Mom’s Freshman year. That has to be her in the back row, fourth from the left with that lovely white bow in her hair. When I see some pictures of her, I can tell why she never liked getting her picture taken. 
 1945, Tripoli High School, Mom’s Senior year. She’s in the front row, second from the left. Her yearbook saying was, “She loves life, she lives life.” Never heard her say that, I think that just picked sayings for everyone. 
 1966, Tripoli Grade School. Just so you don’t think I’m picking just on my mom, here’s my kindergarten picture. Ok, who can find me? Also, let me know if you recognize anyone else. I only remember about eight or nine of the other kids. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Cherished Heirloom

 If you follow my other blog, writing what I can when I can, you have already seen some of these pictures, but here’s the rest of the story.

When I first moved into this house in 1990, there were only two bedrooms. My son and daughter shared the northeast bedroom until we remodeled nine years later. The tiny southeast bedroom was mine. Hard to believe that for those first three years, there was a queen-size waterbed in there. Even harder to believe that we painted it orange when we first moved in. Too bad there’s no pictures of that.

 After the remodel, it was Nick’s room til he graduated from high school and left for college. Shortly after that, I started transforming it in any number of ways. Poor kid, no wonder he never came home after that. 
 When he earned his Eagle Scout, though, I did give him his own wall. That’s about the only thing that hasn’t changed in this room in all that time. 

 One other feature that the room had at one time was bunkbeds. Can you imagine how much space that took up in the middle of the small room! I don’t know how I survived before digital cameras. 

 I’m hoping this is the last remodel I do here. The greatest joy in this last update is the quilt on the full-size bed.  
 It’s called a signature quilt. Each of the pink squares has the embroidered signature of each of the ladies in my mom’s homemakers group from the 1950s. My mom never got her quilt put together, I believe many years ago, she gave her squares to my oldest sister. This particular quilt was given to Mom in 2010 when one of the ladies passed away. Her son gave it to Mom as he hadn’t known any of the women and only had sons of his own to pass it down to.  I believe that there may be only one or two of these sweet ladies still alive. A few of them, I don’t remember at all. But I still cherish all of their signatures.