Monday, December 31, 2007

Things that moved me in 2007

The subject of this post was actually supposed to be an addendum to my Christmas card. It's not a completely unique idea - I stole it from Wendy who stole it from someone else. As we already know I got kind of back logged at Christmas time so the few cards I sent out were lucky to include my signature. There was very little chance that they might include a letter, or a list. My intentions were good. My time management less than stellar.

Looking at the clock I have exactly six hours to get my this posted. Ha! It's dinner time and the boys are getting hungry. If I had to make one change in the new year that would make my life a lot easier it would be the making of dinner every night. Meal preparation is getting very boring. Eating even more so.

But rather than end the year bitching, here's my list:
  • The smell of hay right off the truck (I was in charge of getting the hay for the Nativity scene. )
  • A red-faced goose. (I needed a break from hospital duty and went to talk to the ducks outside the hospital. This particular goose and I had quite a conversation.)
  • The British movie "On a Clear Day"
  • Driving down the road and seeing a whole flock of red-breasted robins having a worm fest on the neighborhood lawns
  • Watching a visiting baby receive ashes on her forehead on Ash Wednesday. (Perhaps I should have been more reverently bowing my head, but I couldn't resist watching this little one.)
  • Little baby toes painted red ... yum!
  • My new kitchen ... oohlala!
  • The "Silly Goose Daisy" video sent by email. (I tried to attach it here but alas, I am serious attachment challenged)
  • Gabrielle at the beach
  • Going on a "Caht" search and finding instead a cockatiel walking across the street. When I stopped to "rescue" it, the friendly bird, walked right up my arm and perched on my shoulder like we were long lost friends. (The happy ending to this story is that the bird had not gone to far from his front door and the cat was sitting in a neighbor's driveway waiting for me to pick him up...wondering, I'm sure, what took me so long!)
  • Driving through McDonalds behind a pirate ship and a whole passle of scary looking but not so scary pirates.
  • Jenni James' blog ... whether it is about her cat's problem with constipation, rescuing sea lions, or making birthday lists, Jenni can seriously write a story and make you think you are in the middle of the action
  • Party preparations with Linda
  • Looking out the window and watching a bird take a bath in the sand, right under birdbath filled with fresh clean water. Go figure!
  • Good friends saying goodbye ... very sad but full of the power of love
  • Watching what could only be a grandmother and her grandson (about age 11) having lunch (a school's out celebration?) at Steak and Shake. They both totally enjoyed the coke floats swimming in a sea of whipped cream.
  • New kitties
  • A lone morning glory poking its purple flowery head through the weeds and ginger plants.
  • Watching a dad and son (kindergarten age?) riding bikes home from the first day of school.
  • Watching from behind as a goose went running down the sidewalk. Who knew a little goose bottom could be so cute?
  • Completing NaBloPoMo
  • Dancing with the Stars ... let's face it, the show is addictive!
  • My sweetie knowing just what to do/say when I had an emotional meltdown
  • The Christmas Pig Ornament miracle at Cracker Barrel.
  • Hispanic Festival of Lessons and Carols, liturgical dancers and children's chorus singing Silent Night ... mmmmmm, too good for words!
There were also ...
Good books:
  • Three Cups of Tea
  • Eat, Pray, Love
  • The Pig of Happiness
Good people:
  • Bella from Peaceful Journey
  • Terri St. Cloud
  • Fr. Roos
  • New babies
  • The lady at the Apothecary Pharmacy
  • A sympathetic veterinarian
  • Fr. Miguel and his "happy band of Christians"
  • Peruvian waitress at Olive Garden who knew how to talk trash with a 90 year old man and get away with it!
  • Men and women serving in the Armed Forces .... thank you
Good shopping:
  • Reddi Arts ... 25 years in business and still going strong.
Good music:
  • Wendy's 2007 Christmas mix ... perhaps her best
Good sayings:
  • "I love the sea" (Gabby Green)
  • "This makes me want to cry." (Dad at Christmas looking at his stocking)
  • "Talk to the hand!" (Ashley Megan to her grandmother!)
Good pictures:
In no particular order here are a few of my faves from this year. There are more that I could include but everytime I upload a photo, every line I've written has to be repositioned which is kind of frustrating since I'm down to 13 minutes to post before the new year begins.

    Linda's first lavender crop



Dad and Ashley blowing out candles on his 90th birthday





Key West sunset

Black Beauty the nurse dog



Wendy, Ashley and Rob






So there you have it - out with the old and in with the new.
I wish for you, in the year ahead, love and joy and beauty and peace enough to go around.
God bless you,
Merry ME
P.S. I just went back to the beginning of my blog to find out when my "blogiversary" is. I read the post for Jan. 4 and was amazed that I ended it with talk of keeping my "List of things that moved me" up to date. How's that for continuity?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Past

And just like that Christmas is over.

Unless you've still got money to spend or presents to return (of which I have neither) the pace has slowed to a crawl. No more trips to the mall. No more late night wrap-a-thons. No more last minute baking. Like the meatless turkey carcass that sits on the kitchen counter surrounded by a kizillion dirty pots and pans, the only things left of Christmas day are good memories, happy thoughts and an overwhelming desire to sleep.

As far as blogging and Christmas go, it's really not a combination that works well together. I quickly found my ability to multitask has lessened to the same degree my need to complete several jobs at the same time has grown. Even after burning the candle at both ends and telling myself "I think I can, I think I can ..." I soon realized I just don't have it in me anymore. And since something had to go, it was obviously the blog.



I feel kind of guilty, though I'm not really sure why. Guilt is really is a useless emotion isn't it?
I guess the notes and brief subject ideas about Christmas and the holidays that I wanted to write about will keep til next year. And like baking cookies, if I start early, perhaps I'll get them posted on time.



According to the calendar it's time for me to move on to New Year's resolutions. But since I'm being honest, I think it's a pretty good bet, that not only will I not keep any resolutions past the first week of January, I probably won't even make any. There are things I'd like to do differently in the days ahead; things I'd like to accomplish. Changing my diet, adding exercise to my daily routine and getting up earlier in the day would all be on the list. But let's face it, change doesn't come easy for me. Crappy excuse, but my own personal truth.



I do, however, want to keep writing. I want to be more disciplined about it. I used to be disciplined. It wouldn't be like trying to learn a new trick. As my sweetie would tell me, it would simply be a matter of choice. To write or not to write ... my choice.



For whomever might be reading this, I do hope you had a great Christmas. You know, it really is a magnificent holiday. Every year, the story of love being reborn in the most humble of places reminds me that we can (if we choose) forget the commercial trappings and concentrate on the loving. Like the Pig of Happiness, if we see rain and decide to dance instead of grumble about getting wet, life is just bound to get easier.



On that note, I wish for you bright stars in the sky and the love of the people around you. May all your bones be filled with peanut butter. [Photo L: The dog of happiness!]

Merry ME

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tradition

" Tradition is the illusion of permanence."
Woody Allen

If today is any indication, then perhaps I'm not the Scrooge I was afraid I was turning in to. Let's face it, Christmas time is a stressful time. Some days it's just easier to say Bah Humbug and leave all the decorations in a box, in the closet, up the stairs. The very idea of digging it all out for three weeks of falalalala - ing makes me tired.

Yet I got up this morning, pulled out the ....

... and just like that the words stopped; my mind went blank; I'd not only hit the wall, I'd smacked into it hard enough to knock myself senseless.

I don't know what I was possibly thinking telling the world I was going to post Christmas thoughts every day before Christmas. Even if I had the thoughts, the very idea that I expected to find time to write then post them is laughable.

It's been ten days since I wrote anything. Tonight my mind is mush. My feet are killing me and my fingers less than flexible. I'm on my way to bed.

But first I'd like to assure you that no moss has gathered on this rolling stone.
I've shopped.
I've baked.
I've wrapped.
I've baked.
I've decorated.
I've baked.
And today I took most of it to the post office.

While there is something to be said for tradition, I think this is the year for me to say, "its time for a new tradition." I think I may just have to call the Christmas baking marathon a thing of the past. I discovered it's not as much fun to do it all by myself. And for the money I spent on postage, I could have fed a small third world country.

Also, I'm pretty sure that those stars, bells, and trees that I so carefully cut out and decorated with sprinkles are going to be nothing more than glitzy crumbs by the time they arrive at their destination.

So my friends, I'm going to go out on yet another limb. I have between now and next Christmas to go through all my recipes. The ones stuffed in recipe boxes, cookbooks, and Ziplock bags. After finding them all, I'll organize, retype, and compile the lot of them. I'll print up enough for all my cookie recipients and send paper instead of cookies. It's a brilliant plan!

Anyone want to take bets to see if it really happens?

Signing off and going to bed,
Merry ME

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Christmas Pig

From the donkey who carried Mary into Bethlehem to Rudolph and his flying reindeer friends animals are featured prominently in most holiday stories. Soft, furry, friendly animals you can't help but love. Or mean, grouchy animals that are transformed by the magic of the season. You name the animal and it undoubtedly has a holiday story to tell. Magic, you see, is the language of Christmas.


I discovered a few years ago that I am the kind of girl who needs a theme to work with when making things merry. From brown birthdays, to monkey baby showers, to blog posts, I've found if you have a theme to work with, you don't have to work so hard. As for this time of year, I realize that Christmas is, in and of itself, the more prominent theme; still I like to put my own twist on the familiar. I learned this from a couple of gay guys who lived next door to me in San Diego. One look at their over-the-top, neon bright tropical fish tree, with hand painted ornments that looked like they just swam out of the Caribbean Sea, and I knew I had to try the theme approach.

In years past I've had a purple theme, a cow theme, a shell theme, and a travel theme. The Christmas after I went to Cursillo, I was amazed to find a plethora of rooster ornaments for my de Colores theme. I am pretty sure, if you can think it up, somebody somewhere has already thought it up and turned the idea into ornaments for your tree. And I have to tell you, once you've picked a theme it's very likely that you will become obsessed with hunting down every last theme-based decoration.

Take for instance this delightful Santa pig. I've had it for a few years, but never really considered having a whole Christmas planned around it. Let's face it, except for baby pigs, swine are not necessarily the most loveable of animals. They are rather large, and my guess is they are kind of stinky from rolling around in the mud. However, I've recently read two books about pigs (The Pig of Happiness by Edward Monkton, and The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood by Sy Montgomery) and I believe if we open our hearts to the good things about pigs, we won't have time to think about the ugly stuff this world can dish out. A pig seems pretty content just being a pig and that can be a good lesson for us humans.


Which brings me to this announcement that for Jack and I, 2007 will be the year of the Christmas pig. Go ahead, scoff if you must. But not before you read this article that was in today's newspaper. All heavenly signs are not necessarily bright stars or singing angels. Perhaps, rather than strains of glorious halleluias, all one has to do to know she's on to something is read a simple column hidden in the middle of the Metro section. There's more to this Christmas pig idea than first meets the eye. So stay tuned.


Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon (Merry Christmas - Tagalog)
Merry ME


"A Modern Christmas includes Pigs"
By TERRY DICKSON, The Times-Union


ST. SIMONS ISLAND - It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. People are festooning their yards and houses with lights, inflatable Frosty the Snowpersons, Santa Claus and other stuff.


And it's so easy. You go to your local store, buy lights and string them up, plug them in and - this is the amazing part - they work.

It wasn't always that way.

Back in the '50s and '60s, my mother and I would repeat the same ritual about every year. A few weeks before Christmas, she would tell me to put on my coat and my cap with the ear flaps. We'd bundle up and ride the country roads looking for a red cedar with a pleasing shape. She'd whack it down with an ax, load it in the trunk of the car and stick it in a bucket at home.

My mother would untangle the strings of lights, plug them in and, usually, they would remain cold and dark. In those days, one bad bulb kept the rest from working. She would painstakingly remove each bulb in the string and replace it with a good bulb until she found the rascal that didn't work. Once they lit up, she would string them on the tree and they would go out again and she would start replacing bulbs again, then and for three or four more times until the tree came down.

But at least it was a real tree with a real cedar smell. Now you can buy herds of electric reindeer and trees that are already decorated and have them staked out in the yard in minutes.

We always buy real trees for the living room, and this year Vonette, my wife of 30 Christmases, added a couple of easy to assemble, stand-'em-up and plug-'em-in trees, one for the den, one for the yard.


This trend started humbly a few years ago when Vonette saw a small electrified deer in a box. Thinking it was cute, she bought it. It turns out, Christmas decorations can be like the people you meet on the Internet. The pictures aren't always representative. The guy who looked like Richard Gere on the computer screen tends to look like Richard Nixon in the flesh. Nonetheless, Vonette set the little deer among the already decorated shrubbery and plugged it in. As we were going out for dinner, our daughter, Jessica, glanced at the cheerfully lit animal and said, "That's supposed to be a deer? It looks like a pig.''

Thinking her remark was insensitive and hurtful, I immediately came to Vonette's defense.

"It's a Christmas pig," I said.

It did look a little overfed and short-legged. And unfortunately, as Christmas animals go, pigs don't make it.

There were no hogs snorting around the manger on the first Christmas, and swineherds weren't watching their flocks by night. And how about Christmas songs? Rudolph the Red-Snouted Poland China hog? Amal and the Night Swine?

Guess I'll have to do it myself. So here we go, an out-of-meter ditty sung to the tune of the Beverly Hillbillies theme:
Come listen to my story,
'Bout the Christmas pig,
The runt of the litter,
He wasn't very big.
While carolers sing
About old Rudolph,
The little Christmas pig's
Got his nose in the trough.
Tater peels, stale bread,
Eggplant casserole.
The problem with a hog,
Is he won't pull a sleigh.
Call him for work,
He'll run the other way,
But for Christmas leavings,
He can't be beat.
There ain't very much
A hog won't eat.
Fruit cake, soy-based egg nog,
Men's cologne...
A new Christmas tradition is born. The yule hog is lit.
Enjoy the season.

Florida Times Union, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2007, pg B-5,terry.dickson@jacksonville.com

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Visions of Sugar Plums

“When having a smackerel of something with a friend,
don't eat so much that you get stuck in the doorway trying to get out.”
Winnie the Pooh

Jack and I took a field trip today. We went to the Fresh Market. As if we were in Tiffany's we went to look (and drool) not actually shop. Unlike Publix or Walmart, the Fresh Market is more of a market than a large grocery emporium. I realize that the Fresh Market is, indeed, a chain store, but it's smaller and feels more small town "markety." Fresh produce in baskets, fresh cut meat wrapped in brown paper, fresh baked bread and cakes while you wait. Mmmmmm. It all makes grocery shopping more of an outing than a chore.

Today the market was decked out in its holiday finery. Two foot Christmas trees stood at the door, next to rows of poinsettias and blooming Christmas cacti. I have to tell you, those trees were so cute and simple that I almost bought one in my desire to downsize the holiday trappings. Since Jack wasn't as equally drawn to the midget firs as I, we chose, in the spirit of Christmas goodwill, to agree to disagree. We walked into the store, like kids going into FAO Schwartz. It was a veritable cornucopia of gourmet delights.

And that's another part of the holiday season, isn't it? The smells and tastes of so many special treats we don't allow ourselves at other times of the year. Poets of yore wrote of sugar plums, which according to what I can find out is "a small confection, often consisting of fruit such as a candied cherry or dried apricot surrounded by fondant."* The same source also said that because "prunes are dried plums, recipes calling for prunes are still keeping things plum-my." In my opinion, there is a rather large difference between a small sugary confection and something prunishly plum-my. Another internet source said sugarplums are "what the fairies eat when they want to sneak a sweet treat!"** I think fairies, like flying reindeer and a fat man who can get up and down a chimney without disturbing children who are sleeping with one eye open, are part of the magic of Christmas.

Upon entering the market Jack turned right and I turned left. He checked out softball sized fruits and mini eggplants. I headed straight for the candy aisle. Not so much because I had a sweet tooth, but the displays were so tantalizing, so perfectly stacked, so very Christmasy I couldn't resist. Out came my camera so I could share the sight.



After one photo, a woman, obviously a member of the management, came up to me and asked if she could help me. I explained, as if a "real" journalist, that I wanted to write about Christmas sweets and thought the display would make a great addition to my article. Well, with that, the accommodating lady started straightening out all the giant lollipops so they would photograph to their best advantage. Check this out. I love that the lights in the background look a little like snowflakes! Surely a sucker that size would be enough to sweeten the disposition of even the grinchiest Grinch.

I close with this poem I found while researching sugar plums. I'd never read it before and I think it is kind of cute.

The Sugarplum Tree
(By Eugene Fields)
Have you ever heard of the Sugar-Plum Tree?
"Tis a marvel of great renown!
It blooms on the shore of the Lollipop sea
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town;
The fruit that it bears is so wondrously sweet
(As those who have tasted it say)
That good little children have only to eat
Of that fruit to be happy next day.

When you've got to the tree,
you would have a hard time
To capture the fruit which I sing;
The tree is so tall that no person could climb
To the boughs where the sugar-plums swing!
But up in that tree sits a chocolate cat,
And a gingerbread dog prowls below-
And this is the way you contrive to get at
Those sugar-plums tempting you so:


You say but the word to that gingerbread dog
And he barks with such terrible zest
That the chocolate cat is at once all agog,
As her swelling proportions attest.
And the chocolate cat goes cavorting around
From this leafy limb unto that,
And the sugar-plums tumble, of course, to the ground-
Hurrah for that chocolate cat!

There are marshmallows, gumdrops, and peppermint canes,
With stripings of scarlet or gold,
And you carry away of the treasure that rains
As much as your apron can hold!
So come, little child, cuddle closer to me
In your dainty white nightcap and gown,
And I'll rock you away to that Sugar-Plum Tree
In the garden of Shut-Eye Town.

In the days ahead, in the Christmas rush, I hope you'll have at least a few fairy, gingerbread dog or chocolate cat sightings. If not that, then at the very least, I wish for you a candy cane or two.

Merry ME



* The New Food Lover's Companion as quoted on the Food Network site.
**dedewilson.com/recipies/sugarplums.html

Monday, December 3, 2007

Disclaimer

In putting together my thoughts for this wordy lead up to Christmas I need to explain that I come from a Christian/spiritual place. For me the "reason for the season" is not just an overused slogan, it is the heart and soul of the holiday. Not that the festive flair, decorations, and gift giving isn't a nice addition. I like falderall as much as the next person - maybe more than that person who was honking at us to get out of the parking spot a full 2 seconds faster than we were moving.

Yet, I still regard these days leading up to the big event as anticipatory and exciting in a churchy kind of way. Somehow in the midst of all the running around and madness, I always get to feeling rather introspective.

Whether you are a Christian or not. Whether you believe in the Virgin Birth or not. Whether you believe in angels or not, I think there is still a place for the Bethlehem story in our lives. For it is a story of hope and love. It is a story of people giving to others, whether it be outrageous gifts like gold and incence or simply a room in a stable so a poor family could rest. It is a time to stop, reflect and embrace the kind of deeply felt peace that might change the world. For just as in the days of Herod the king, our world is sorely in need of change.

Christmas may be the best known and most over the top of holiday, but some kind of mid-winter festival has been celebrated for ages. The Winter Solstice, for example, occurs on the shortest day or longest night of the year. Around the globe different cultures celebrate a holiday on or about the winter solstice. Interpretation of the event varies from culture to culture, but most hold a recognition of rebirth, involving festivals, rituals or other celebrations. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Years, and other festivals of light are just a few.

Every culture, it seems, has some kind of observance of the rebirth of light and hope, even if it is simple a celebration of the sun's (son's?)victory of darkness. Winter days begin to get longer and the sun begins to take the chill out of the air, one degree at a time. Peeking their heads out of a cave or snow drift, even the animals seem to declare "all's right with the world."

So, whether you believe as I do that the birth of the Christ child is reason enough to celebrate, or if you just like the idea of giving and receiving gifts for no other reason than to say "I love you," Christmas is a good way to end one year and push us into a new one full of resolve to do it better in the next.

My posts will undoubtedly have a Christian/spiritual bent to them, but don't let that turn you off. Hopefully, I will touch on something you can relate to. And again, my point is not to preach, but to make the season more meaningful somehow, and less hectic. Hopefully we'll make it to the end of the year in one piece full of the perfect peace.

Kamgan Ukudigaa (Merry Christmas - Aleut)
Merry ME

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Ho! Ho! F#*!#!king Ho!

Well, I made it through NaBloPoMo and the month of November, but I missed the very first day of my advent calendar blog. Yesterday just got completely away from me. What would normally have been a minimal trip to Walmart for groceries turned into a pre-Christmas shopping nightmare.

It didn't help to find out AFTER everything had been passed through the checkout line that the money the credit union told me was available for withdrawal from my checking account was not really available as in, "go ahead and use your debit card." Instead I faced a cart full of food in front of me, a line full of people behind me and a clerk staring at me with a curious look. Luckily my mastercard was handy so I was able to take my purchases home without having to swab the Walmart deck.

There was a Salvation Army man ringing a bell just outside the door. If I told you that I dropped a dollar into his bucket instead of saying what I was thinking would you be proud of me?

I think that is part of the "real" meaning of Christmas don't you? Like turning the aordinary into the extraordinary. Looking for a miracle even when it seems totally impossible that your credit card limit will cover your charges. Smiling at a stranger rather than growling. I've got 23 days to go. I may not get all my thoughts about Christmas and the holidays posted, but keep checking in. It's the time of year when you never know what might happen.

Be blessed.
Merry ME