Thursday, December 25, 2008

Looking for Answers

Okay, Christmas has come but hopefully not gone from our hearts. We spent ours rather unexpectedly, stuck in Coffeyville, Kansas,due to an overheating motor home engine. We were supposed to be in Tulsa having a wonderful time with our friends. Instead, I sat here and read blogs most o the day while poor old Geezer, stayed in bed sick with the post- Amazon disease. ( seems half the folks came down with this dreadful cold just as they ended their seasonal stints there). Oh well,we are getting used to this sort of thing happening after the rig sits still for a few months.

Now we are finally in Tulsa and celebrated a lunch at least one of us had been craving all week that was really tasty today.

But back to the title. I totally enjoy blogging, even when I can't think of much to say. The past couple of months have been good discipline for me. I wake up wanting to do some writing. While not everything I write is award winning, I think I'm improving. which brings me back to the title-finally.

I know I'm becoming less afraid of the techie side of blogging and I've learned a lot but there are some things I don't get. A few weeks ago someone who's screen name began with an R tagged me. I had absolutely no idea what that meant and deleted the message. Now I discover this was a good thing and I should have been delighted.

Dear "R" please forgive my rudeness and ignorance and if you want to try again please do BUT tell me what I'm supposed to do once I'm tagged.

And then there's memes. My good friend, who writes Piecing a Life sent me a meme that I still haven't been able to complete. But that's okay because I don't know if I'm supposed to answer as a comment on her blog or pass it along on my blog.

Does anyone actually make any money by becoming an afiliate or having ads for diet products appear next to their cookie recipe?

Then there is the whole subject of awards and buttons. Where do they come from and since I want to have my book cover up there in the corner, how do I add any other images or logos?

I love clicking the next button at the top of the page. I read travel blogs, Christmas blogs, storytellers blogs, hand crafted blogs, miniatures blogs, book blogs and anything with cute kids in them even the ones in Japanese or middle eastern languages. So what if I can't read them, those smiling faces all say the same thing in any language- "love me!" Still, I wish there were a way to have more of them come up in English.

But the biggie that I wanted to figure out was where do you find the gizmo to add sound to a blog? Some of the blogs I clicked on had lovely carols playing and I really wanted to do that but couldn't find them.

Oddly enough, I expect that with two possible exceptions, any answers to my questions will be coming from readers I don't actually know. Although several followers are part of my family, and most are fairly savvy with computers on the whole, I seem to discover more of the bloggers' tricks than they do, simply because I'm not afraid to keep editing.

So please any of you out there in blogger land, if you can, help me to appear smart once again. I'm afraid I emptied my bag of tricks by Christmas. Believe me, no advise will be turned down.

See ya down the road,

Angels Among Us

Angels have always been a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. Even Santa has a guardian angel as the picture above shows us. His angel protects him in his travels and helps to see that his mission is fulfilled each year. She guides him and lights the way even better than Rudolph can, to share the love which holds us all together.

Geezer and I have been blessed by meeting up with many earth angels over our forty years together. They have come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and vehicles. Thank you to each of you for the joy you have brought us.

In the past fourteen years, we have had visitations by four very special angels who have chosen to remain with us. They have shared both good times and sad, frustrating and absurd. They have given us so much of their love and generous spirits. Let me tell you about my four angels.

>< *><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*

Raven hair, flashing eyes and a smile that lights up rooms; that's what we saw the evening we met Chica. She had just flown in from England carrying her wedding dress and her wings were slightly battered by a strong crosswind. But she was so beautiful and we were so thrilled to meet her.
She and Sage Words were married two days later and the look of wonder and enchantment on my son's face has never left him. Fourteen and a half years later, we still can catch him gazing at her, completely baffled by his good fortune.
The image here represents Chica. It is a traditional Guatemalan Angel that she actually used for favors. I still have mine and it's a cherished memento. Chica and her family not only took Sage Words into their hearts but they have also embraced Geezer and myself and introduced us to their colorful traditions.

We love you Chica. Feliz Navidad!


Titian hair, laughing eyes, and an open heart; Hilly has all of these and together they caught the Lone Duck's interest.
They corresponded by email for a long period. Both were finding their way back from detours life had put in their paths. While a country apart, they fell in love and helped each other to heal. Soon after a romantic meeting, they were able to be together in the same place. Eventually, with the help of two additional angels; Grandfather and Lady B, they eloped.

If any two people deserved a round of good luck it would be Lone Duck and Hilly. If it can go wrong it will for them. Still, they have weathered the storms and have come out into the sunshine.

We love you Hilly , may your home be filled with happy kittens, and here's hoping 2009 beats all the rest.

><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*, a photographer's eye, and a laugh that draws people to her, Buttercup is our third angel. She came into Jugglesorcerer's life just as we had decided he was a confirmed bachelor. When she bumped into him she knocked him for a loop and he's been there every since, loving and laughing with her.
As shown by this lovely angel drawn by Amy Brown, Buttercup is not a typical little housewife. With a flair, she juggles a demanding job, dreams and wishes, allegedly adult children, seven dogs, meddling parents, and a hubby who is a magician, juggler, pirate, and follower of Peter Pan. Together they will never grow old in spirit no matter what the bodies decide to do with them down the road.

Merry Christmas, Buttercup, thank you for loving him and us. we love you too.


Bridey, in her beautiful white gown, her hair caught up in curls, and tiny pearl earrings suggesting her early days, became the last of our Angel Brides in May. She gave Skooba his most precious birthday gift and her mother, Betty, Grandmother, Dora and myself the loveliest of Mother's day presents all at once.. Betty and Dora received a son and grandson while I was blessed with my fourth daughter.

A witty and funny girl with a generous,caring nature she is both a nurse and a wonder worker. She loves her books, her city life,her work, and her computer but most of all she loves our son.

When I began blogging about my family, I nicknamed her Bridey. She has never said one way or another what she thought of that appellation. (I think I would have gotten tired of it pretty quickly, myself). But as much as I enjoyed calling her that, I want her to know she's not just the girl Skooba fell in love with, she's a woman I'm proud to call my daughter. So today I'm going to change her screen name to one I hope she and her parents might like a little better. Now Sweetheart, go out there, take your rightful place in the family and do something funny I can blog about!

Happy Hanukkah, Pearlie.We love you.


On May 11, 1978, God chose to give us our fourth son. I couldn't have been happier being anyone else's mom. Now however, he has chosen to complete our family with the able assistance of those four boys. Thanks Guys for finding my four daughters.

See ya down the road,

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Little Bootblack

As you may have guessed I've written several of these posts as Christmas gifts to my children. I'm delighted that others are reading them too. But please don't let your youngest children read this one if they are still waiting for Santa. Yarntangler.

We were delighted when Mom and Dad drove up from New Mexico to join us for Christmas in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1983. Dad had been quite sick that year and they wanted us to know he was recovering well. We had made special plans for their stay. The older boys were all busy with their paper routes and snow shove
ling jobs when they arrived.

Little Skooba was the only one there to greet them and within a few moments he’d been given a rare responsibility, one he’d waited for all of his 5 ½ years. Dad looked at him seriously and asked if he would polish his cowboy boots. Skooba looked at him with a toothless grin and nodded. He took the boots and the shoe shine kit and sat in the back hall for the next hour making them shine.

The following day, Skooba and I walked the six blocks to school in spite of a wind chill factor that made it seem like 25 below, when Dad’s wimpy New Mexican Datsun wouldn’t start. I was the kindergarten Room Mother, so I’d be staying there with him to bring him home. I helped the children make mitten shaped name tags that would double as ornaments, and told them they could wear them all day. As they practiced their songs I went down to the office to help our special guest get ready.

Soon a familiar “Ho Ho Ho” rang out in the hallway. The kids were beside themselves with excitement when Santa walked into the classroom. Their teacher, Mary Bilstead, and I stood back and let him lead the next few minutes. He walked around the room and looked at all of their papers and drawings on the walls. He admired their decorations and looked at the class family tree with all of their names and information written on bright green leaves.

Then the children sat
on the floor in the reading corner, while Santa took his place in the chair.

One after another, the children sat on his lap and he chatted with them for a few minutes. Skooba and his friend Ty sat near the back of the group and I kept my eye on him. He kept edging to the end of the line and Mary and I exchanged nervous glances. Suddenly, I saw a look of confusion cross his face and then he sat back, somewhat sadly.

Turning our attention back to Santa we saw him lift a little girl onto his la
p. “Well, hello, Tameira, Happy Birthday!” There was an astonished gasp from the students and a guilty one from Mary. She had been so busy that day that she had forgotten to pull out the Birthday Crown and badge for Tameira. As she hurried to retrieve the special items from her desk, Santa led the class in singing Happy Birthday.

Skooba looked completely baffled then delighted in turn, and a few minutes later he hesitantly sat on Santa’s lap. Although he was earnest, his subdued demeanor had me worried. Santa looked up at me and I shrugged.

We stayed twenty minutes or so after school to help clear the mess from the party, and Skooba and I caught a ride home with another teacher. When we arrived, we found Mom had made hot chocolate for us.

Skooba sat on the dryer with his cocoa, watching his Grandfather through the window, as he and Geezerguy tried to get his car going. The car faced the window with it’s hood open. Eventually Geezerguy was able to get it to turn over just as Dad slammed the hood closed. Mom and I went into the living room where I told her what had happened. When Dad went to take a nap on Skooba's bed before supper, Skooba stood in the door of his room and simply studied him.

Later, after dinner, we were sitting in the living room admiring all the presents that were already piling up under the tree. Skooba was sitting on his Grandfather's shoulders combing his silvery hair and beard with an extremely pleased expression. When Dad got up to make a cup of tea in the kitchen, Skooba went to stand in front of Mom.
She put down her knitting and gave him her full attention.

“Grandma, do you know that your husband is really Santa Claus?”

She smiled at him and answered quite seriously, “Yes, I do Honey, but that is a very special secret. How did you find out?”

“He must have gotten his Santa boots wet in the snow. He was wearing his cowboy boots. I couldn't figure it out at first. I thought what those 3rd graders told us might be true, that Santa isn’t real.”

By this time all three of his brothers (who were at least six years older than he) were staring at him. “Well, how did you figure out that Grandfather is Santa?” asked Jugglesorcerer. “I never knew that.”
“Me either.” said both Sage Words and Lone Duck

“Well I thought and thought about it. I thought maybe Grandfather was one of those helpers like at the mall. But then I figured out that only the real Santa would know it was Tameira’s birthday today. Even Mrs. Bilstead didn’t remember!”

He grinned when he realized he had figured out something none of his big brothers knew. Something so big it was bursting to get out. “You guys can’t tell anyone. We are the only people who know Santa’s secret identity!”

As far as I know, until today Skooba has never told anyone his most important secret. It’s okay, Honey, Grandfather says now you can tell Bridey. She’s family!

See ya down the road,

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

Do you remember when snow was still magical instead of a nuisance? Remember a time when people sang Frosty the Snowman and Winter Wonderland and actually dreamed and prayed it would snow for Christmas?

Of course, snowstorms caused problems even when I was a child (about a week after the last ice age ended). But they certainly did not merit the evening news. Usually, we simply woke up to the glorious sight of snow on the ground. In fact, heavy snowstorms were totally welcomed by a very large segment of the population , namely the students of the area.

In Levittown, the Dads would block off the bottom of Mockorange Lane, where I lived in the first house. Mom and Mrs. James, next door, would make big pots of hot chocolate for all the kids on the street. The big brothers and a few fathers went to work pulling the littlest ones up the hill to line up for the thrilling ride down the steep hill. The rest of us had to haul our own sleds and then wait for our siblings to have their turns.When the little kids were sent in to bed, we had races and sometimes we could even talk our parents into taking a ride down the hill.

We moved to Adams, MA when I was a freshman in high school and our house was only a block from Park Street, the thriving heart of "Downtown". I loved walking the snow lined street, all three blocks of it, to find exactly the right presents for everyone. I doubt any of us will forget the year we all pitched in to get Mom's Mother's ring at the jewelry store. She was so proud of that ring.

More often, we found the perfect gift at Woolworth's. There we could find cute pot holders or Salt and Pepper shakers for Aunt Marge or hankies for Aunt Mary.

If it was snowing when we went shopping, so much the better. If it happened that we should have been in school but it was canceled for the day ...groovy!

Ah snow days , I even enjoyed them in Cheyenne when it was my kids glued to the radio in the early morning waiting, just waiting for their school to be announced. There was a big problem in Cheyenne, however.For some reason known only to school administrators, the public schools which Jugglesorcerer and Lone Duck attended and the Catholic school, St. Mary's, that Sage Words and Skooba went to, did not always agree on how much snow was too much. Geezerguy was, in that life the news director at the local radio station. His children would all gather round the radio in their bathrobes to hear him read the list. They would hear their very own daddy on the air telling every one that two of them didn't have to go to school that day, but...the other school would be in session. Dad, of course, was safe at the station, while I had to try to convince them it wasn't his fault.

Today we've been monitoring the Weather Channel. In Bellingham, Washington, where Skooba lives and in Rochester, New York home to Lone Duck, it's snowing like crazy; everything is closing.

But in Arizona and California the weather is fine. Sage Words and Jugglesorcerer don't get a snow day tomorrow. Some things never change, even when Dad isn't in charge!

See ya down the road,

Friday, December 19, 2008

God Bless Us Every One!

The crippled child struggled to his feet from his seat by the hearth. Placing his crudely carved wooden crutch beneath his left arm, he hobbled to the center of the floor. His eyes swept the room and there was a hush as he stood gazing at the people in front of him. Then with a little smile, more to himself then to the strangers, he nodded.
I stood with all the people who had been working for weeks to get to this point. Most of the cast crowded into the wings to watch what came next. I was still amazed by where we were, and by what we had been doing for the past three nights.

Six weeks earlier, a friend had suggested that I bring my son to try out for a part in a musical version of Dickens Christmas Carol called The Stingiest Man in Town, at the Ft.Bliss Dinner Theater in El Paso, Texas. On a whim, I had agreed. I dressed him in plaid pants, folded knickers style and topped it with a too big turtle neck shirt. Over that he wore a sleeveless sweater his Grandma had made his big brother. A pair of knee socks borrowed from the little girl next door and the John Denver haircut, that desperately needed trimming, completed the look. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to learning a song for the audition.

We sat and watched as several other children, all older, got up to speak their piece, answer a few questions, and sing a song. "Just do what the other kids do, Honey. "

His name was called and he joined four other children, sitting on the stage, in small folding chairs. They listened to Jingle Bells , Frosty, and White Christmas for the umpteenth time and then it was his turn.

"My name is Sage Words Cumberland. I'm 5 1/2 years old and I go to Terrace Hills School. My teacher is Mrs. Blackstone and I am a very good singer, she said so, and I can't read but I can remember real good."

"We can see that. " The casting director replied trying not to laugh,"Do you want to sing a song for us now, Sage?"

"Sure but first I have to get my chair."


Instead of turning around and picking up the small folding chair as they expected, he went back down the stairs and began to drag the heavy Captain's chair from the table.

Stifling a laugh, one of the men carried the chair up to the stage for him. Sage repositioned it a couple of times and then sat on the edge of the seat. That's when he surprised them all by singing an altered version of a Barbara Streisand song all the way through.

I'm five, I'm five.
I'm a big boy now I'm five.
I can dress myself,
I don't need mom to help me anymore,
And when I sit in my father's chair
My feet can touch the floor.


I was grinning, unable to hide my pride and delight.I never stopped being proud of him during the weeks that followed . Even when, as an afterthought and much against my will, they made me get up in the stage and sing White Christmas. I ended up being a caroler. One of my main roles during the Christmas season of 1977, was as Tiny Tim's other mom.

We practiced his lines with Mom or Dad or his big brothers reading the other parts. After three weeks, little Sagie knew every word of the play and to their embarrassment was prompting the adults when they faltered. He remembered real good.

Quickly he became the darling of the cast. There was always someone to read to him or let him doze in their laps during rehearsals. During a cast party after the dress rehearsal, the bartender made Shirley Temples for the kids . Sage informed Danny, nicely, that it was a girl's drink. Danny went back and mixed ginger ale with grenadine and two green cherries. He had invented the Tiny Tim which he served to the rest of the Cratchit brothers too. It was available at the bar for the entire run of the play.

The first three nights of the musical had gone very well and we knew we were doing nicely. We were also having fun. I glowed with pride when Sage sang his solo, the poignant I Believe in Santa Claus. It was a song about the Spirit of Christmas and the hope and faith of a child.

That night we waited. There was something magical in the air. Tiny Tim took his mark but then, instead of breaking into song, his eyes swept the audience. I could see the upturned faces enjoying the sight of this frail innocent boy as he stood there looking so vulnerable in the icy blue spot for the space of a few seconds. I watched as he smiled sweetly and nodded, the cue for the pianist to begin his music. The audience gazed at this precious child and embraced him with their eyes. They entrusted their hearts to him and accepted the magical moment he provided them. They took in the childish wisdom of the lyrics and bathed him in their love.

Backstage, the cast members gasped and stood in awe as this fragile, precocious boy launched into his song. -His Song- he had completely forgotten the words but without ever missing a beat or a note, he audaciously performed his entire solo, enchanting the unsuspecting audience with his own Sage Words.

See ya down the road,

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Make a Joyful Noise

He was barely 14 years old and he loved to sing. He’d been in the Cheyenne All City Children’s Choir for three years, gradually moving from the soprano section to the baritone, with a brief stop in the smile -a- lot -and -jingle- those- bells section. He was so full of music, however, that he needed another outlet. So he joined the church choir.

After a bit of time, he realized that although he enjoyed being in the church choir there still wasn’t much challenge. The days of complicated music had passed, for the time being, as Catholics everywhere were learning from their fellow Christians that making a joyful noise unto the Lord was a good thing for the entire congregation to share. Liturgical music had become more pew friendly, so to speak.

But music of a different style, in a language he didn’t speak, now there was a challenge. So with Sister Lucy’s blessing, he surprised most of the parish by joining the all adult Spanish choir as well. At first, the older members of the choir smiled and were kind to him, sure he’d give up this little phase. Our parish was over 70% Hispanic. With his strawberry blond hair, blue eyes and freckles he stood out like a golden Christmas ball in a sea of silver.

He learned to sing the lyrics when one of the ladies wrote everything out phonetically for him. Soon, he was their pet but everyone figured he’d give it up when summer arrived. He didn’t. He made every single practice all summer long and his pronunciation improved each week. He also showed up to help some of the elder members of the choir cut their lawns and weed their gardens. In return Ponce, the gifted classical Spanish guitarist who led the musicians, began to teach him to play the guitar.

When school began in the fall he elected to take Spanish- not for any of the usual reasons-but so he could finally understand what he was singing. Over the course of the next two semesters he would earn As in Spanish class while pulling a C- in English!

As Christmas drew nigh, St. Joseph’s parish’s music grew more festive. The only Anglo member of the choir was experiencing the joy of learning not only new songs and language but also the traditions of an old and beautiful culture. He came home and showed us how to make luminarias and explained how the flickering candles were put out to light the way for the Holy Family. He was one of the hardest workers when it came to collecting goods for the less fortunate, and he was the first to offer his help when it was needed.

He learned to make cinnamon hot chocolate from scratch and he learned to drink the delicious but potent Mexican fruit punch by accident and in doing so became a part of St. Joseph’s Parish’s body of humor. See, he was the only young person at Sister Lucy’s Christmas party for the Choir. Nobody thought about the traditional Ponche Navideno Caliente ( hot fruit punch) until he passed out. Ponce and Henry brought him home and Sister Lucy apologized for a month for letting him get drunk! He felt a bit cheated when he realized he'd gotten drunk when he didn't even know he was drinking!

Feliz Navidad! Prospero Ano y Felicidad!

Ponche NavideƱo

12 quarts water
10 oz tejocotes (or crab apples)
6 oz walnuts
5 oranges juiced
8 guavas
4 sugar canes
10 oz prunes
3 sticks cinnamon
2 lb. sugar
1 quart brandy or rum (optional)

Wash fruit. Cut the sugar cane into strips. Cut guava.
Boil everything together, except the sugar.
When cooked add the sugar and brandy.

See ya down the road,

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Muzjiks- Good Word!

Wintry days, like this one back in the late 50s and 60s, usually found us sitting by the fireplace with Mom once again beating the pants off us. In the nicest way, of course, we were playing Scrabble. Once again it was Denis, Terry, and me, LB was “playing” with Mom.

Today, December 16, 2008, is the 60th birthday of Scrabble. The game came out almost 2 years after I was born, so by the time we began playing, Denis and I could read and spell at grade school level and Terry was beginning to read too. LB, who does not like her name used on blogs “played” so well with Mom and for so many years that she eventually grew up to become the aficionado (Good Word!) known as Scrabblebuff. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Scrabble is currently produced in 29 different languages. The latest is the Welsh language Scrabble introduced in 2006. * ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Mom Mom was a ruthless Scrabble player. Although she used a variation of the rules in order to encourage us with big scores, she never let us win-ever. We played a “special” game in which the premium spots could be used more than once if you could make a word connecting with a letter already in place on a triple or double. But in return for that allowance, misspell a word and you lost 25 points. In addition, we had to be able to define any word we used if she asked what it meant. To this day, if any of us uses the word ti (a plant found in Hawaii), we flash back to the first time Mom pulled that word on each of us. She got each of us in turn. We older ones got a big kick out of seeing her get the younger two. We also have used it on our own kids too. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Somewhere in the world there are over a million missing Scrabble tiles.* ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ As we grew up, playing Scrabble became much more than an entertaining way for Mom to teach us spelling, and increase our vocabularies. She used it to help us discover logic and more importantly how to be good sports and to accept what life dished out gracefully. The game became a device for talking about what was going on in our lives. Milestones were discussed over private one on one games. I even received confirmation that my suspicions of the true origin of Christmas presents were correct over a Scrabble game and I was the one who broached the subject. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The highest number of points that can be scored on the first go is 128 - with 'muzjiks' (Russian peasants). *
(*find 60 Scrabble facts)
Later, it was life altering events that were the real reason the board was pulled out. Boy/girl friend problems gave way to larger issues. Should the boys choose the Army or the Navy? Wedding plans were made over games , what to name our babies (I had so many lovely girls names picked out for my four boys) should we move away from home to Texas? Mom stuck to the rules-always- we had to have a meaning for whatever we chose.

I met a woman here in Coffeyville, Kansas who reminded me of Mom in some ways; her quirky sense of humor, her down to earth values, her willingness to try new things. It wasn’t until the day she left last week, when she gave me her Scrabble game, that I discovered she was an avid Scrabble player. Oddly enough, we’d not discussed our mutual love for the game.

I started playing Scrabble with my computer a few months ago. Although it’s not very satisfactory- it won’t even accept the word blog. Sometimes, as I play alone in the RV, I find my self thinking about what Mom would say about my life on the road. I think she would rejoice with us that we are able to do it. She too was always ready to go down a road she'd never traveled before.

Merry Christmas, Mom. Want to Play Scrabble?

See ya down the road,

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Unexpected Gifts

Once in awhile, life brings with it some cosmic twists. The path we choose at the beginning may turn out to be only one in the maze of our lives. One of my sons, on an earlier path, was privileged to be step dad to two sweet little girls. For ten years, he helped their mother to raise them and give them a place to begin their own journeys. I was thrilled to have two precious Granddaughters. Then, as happens in so many mazes, Mom and Dad came to a place where they could not continue.

Just this year, my son has reconnected with his girls and we were able to see them this past Spring. They are beautiful, bright young women, with promising futures ahead of them. But the older girl told me she has only hazy memories of those early years.

The story that follows is one that I wrote just before that wall was reached. It had been intended as a Christmas gift that year but it was one that never was delivered. I dusted it off the other day and thought about it for a long time. I read it through and then sent it to the woman my son found, when he discovered the right path through the maze. I asked my daughter-in-law if she would mind if I published it for both
the girls and for her husband, my son. She encouraged me to do it. It should have been yesterday's blog.

But one more twist of fate-not cosmic this time-cyber! I lost it! It was totally gone from my computer. When I told her what had happened, this generous lady was able to send me back the copy I'd sent to her so I could post it for the girls. And so to make a long story short-(yeah like I will ever do that), here is a little present from Grandma... and Donna.


A Winters Tale
Marcie Hoye Cumberland

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, it was a stormy night but it wasn’t as dark as it should have been because it was snowing pretty hard and you know how light the sky looks kinda grayish white when it’s snowing.

Anyway, this particular sorta dark and stormy night happened to be Christmas Eve. A young man was watching Christmas cartoons with two little girls and helping them wrap a present for their mom while she was at work. He hated the fact that she had to work on Christmas Eve but things were pretty tight since he had been laid off and he was fairly tense. He kept an eye on the storm hoping it would let up, but it continued to get heavier and heavier.

Checking the radio, he discovered the main high way was closed by the storm. He didn’t like the idea of her having to use the lonely back road to get home.
He finally convinced the girls it would be prudent to get to bed early that night and had them just about tucked in when the phone rang. Their mom’s car wouldn’t start and she was stuck at work. He would have to go get her in the pickup truck.

So he got the little girls up again. While the older girl helped her little sister into a coat over her fuzzy warmies, he warmed up the truck. Once he had the girls wrapped in blankets and buckled in, he set off cautiously down the back road .

Now, it really was dark and stormy. His headlights barely made a difference in the wall of snow ahead of him and the unploughed road was extremely treacherous. He was getting a little nervous. Naturally, he couldn’t show that in front of the girls so he began to sing Jingle Bells and they joined in.

After a mile or so of trying to remember the words to Frosty, and Rudolph, and even the Barney song, he suddenly saw something on the opposite side of the road. It was a bright red pickup truck and it had slid into a snow bank. There was someone inside. Cautiously he slowed down, knowing he still had a ways to go and that the girls’ mother was waiting for him. Still, he couldn’t leave the man stranded on this road on a night like this.

Telling the children to sit tight he got out and grabbed his snow shovel from the bed of his truck. Approaching the red pickup, he looked into the drivers window and gasped, blinking at what he saw. This wasn’t something he was prepared for.

He told the driver to stay right there and under no circumstances to get out of the truck. Then he went back to make sure the girls were wrapped warmly. “Try to go back to sleep, this is going to take a little while.” he told them. He settled them down farther on the seat and tucked the blanket around them.

He dug the snow from in front of the truck and then again from behind. He sprinkled the kitty litter he carried in case of emergency in front of the tires and in back of them too. As the old man with the long beard, tried to ease the pickup onto the road again, he pushed with all his might. Almost an hour later, after the young man was soaked and chilled to the bone, the tires finally gained traction and the driver achieved the road once again.

The old man stuck a red sleeved arm out of his window, shook the young man’s hand, and thanked him for his help. Carefully he began to pull away but slowed once more and shouted back at him, “Merry Christmas to all“.

Getting back into his truck the young man noted the older girl was staring at him with wide eyes. The little sister was asleep with her head against Sissy's shoulder. “Go back to sleep, Honey. Happy dreams.” he said. He looked at the hundred dollar bill in his hand and shook his head. Adjusting his rear view mirror, he began humming "Jolly Old St. Nicholas", and watched as Santa Claus drove his red pickup down the road.

This is a true story. I know that, because my Granddaughter took me into the bedroom and secretly told me all about the very next day.

© 2002 MHC

See ya down the road,

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Making a List-Wrong!

I just went to - to buy myself a gift. I wanted to find a copy of a movie I’ve loved since I was a little girl. Since Jim is working there for another 13 days this made sense. But doggone it, the self gifting is not going to happen, unfortunately, it’s not available in DVD, only in VHS for $23.99 and we don‘t have a VHS player. Just as well, I suppose. Most people don’t buy themselves Christmas presents anyway.

Wait a minute! I found it at Joe’s Classic Movies! Oh boy! After all these years I finally found my movie. I don’t have to stay up until 3:00 AM to watch it be all chopped up by commercials for …ahem…phone parties! But how come my all time favorite Christmas movie didn’t make the top 10 list, or the top 50 list, or even the top 100 list? I read the criteria for that one. It says :

Criteria: - These are the Greatest Christmas Movies chosen for their acting, direction, storyline, originality, and displaying the emotions and joy and often chaos of the Christmas holiday.

Who makes up these silly lists anyway? They obviously, never asked my opinion.

Come to the Stable was up for seven Academy Awards and a Golden Globe. It starred Loretta Young, Celeste Holm, and Elsa Lanchester and was made from a story by Clare Boothe Luce. What’s more it was about nuns! They made a pretty good thing happen simply by believing there is good in everyone. What more can you ask from a feel good movie?

It was a good film for three female actors back when they were called actresses. Most of the girls in my school loved it when they showed it on TV on The Million Dollar Movie after school. After all, we were in 5th grade at St. Michael, the Archangel School, and we were all going to become nuns because we had crushes on Sr. Denis Mary, and Ingrid Bergman, and Loretta Young!

The movie came out around the same time as The Bells of St Mary’s which was another story about a nun but happened to have Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley, a crooning priest. This was the same priest who sang Barry Fitzgerald to sleep crooning an Irish lullaby in Going My Way.

Oh well, Loretta, Celeste and Elsa are all probably watching perfect, un-cut versions of their movie on their 182 inch Plasma screen hi def TV with heavenly surround sound, this afternoon.
By now, they have probably realized they should have been singing something besides Latin if they wanted to beat Father O'Malley!

But I still think the movie should be on the list. After all, if an elf, a reindeer, a grinch and a grumpy old man, could all make the list, why not three sweet, trusting nuns?

One interesting thing came out of my search. I
did find eleven Christmas movies I’ve never heard of on the top 100 list so I’ll start watching for them at 3:00AM. Another other good thing was that I decided not to be greedy and buy myself a Christmas gift. It just doesn’t feel right.

I wonder if Big Jim would like it?

Okay, how about Christmas trivia question? In what Christmas movie did David Niven suggest he switch roles with Cary Grant after filming had begun?
(Dare I be as trusting as those nuns? Don't look it up on line- make your best guess. Remember guessing?)

See ya down the road,

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Merry Christmas, Season's Geetings, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Glad Tidings

No matter what your favorite greeting of the season might be, there is a card that will say it to your family and friends. I love holiday cards both modern and vintage. Since it's Sunday and Big Jim is home to spend some time with, I'm going to simply share some of the cards I've found on line today.

Once I've finished with today's blog, I'm going to close my computer, find a pen and actually write out the paper cards I still enjoy sending and receiving.

If you are going to be sending cards this year, would you take a moment to remember the young men and women serving our country in the armed forces?They appreciate the mail whether they are overseas in a combat zone or serving right here in the USA but away from home for the holidays.
I've been sending Christmas postcards t
o my two young friends in Iraq every few days since Thanksgiving. I hope they bring them some cheer.

See ya down the road,

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Fireplace Wishes Meant Warm Memories

Our house in Levittown was designed with a fireplace at the end of the wall, dividing the living room from the dining area. White painted brick with several half brick shelves forming a sort of mantle, it could be seen and accessed from three sides. Our winters usually were lived around that fireplace. We popped corn in a wire topped basket that did double duty when we went camping, until Jiffy Pop came out with the foil pans that magically puffed up into a big silver ball full of popcorn.

The houses were all electric; the heat source was actually in the floors so we kids spent most of the time sitting on the warm floor, by the fireplace. Propped up on our elbows or floor pillows, you’d find us coloring, working puzzles, or playing colorful board games. Terry usually won Uncle Wiggily, but I won Go to the Head of the Class. Denis always won Monopoly even if Mom played with us. But none of us ever beat Mom at Scrabble until we were adults. In fact, my sister and I still suspect that when each of us finally got a better score than Mom, it was because she let us win!

Occasionally, a storm would knock out the power, leaving the fireplace the only source of heat. The tile topped concrete floors, rather than providing warmth became ice cold. Mom told Denis, Terry and me to bring out the blankets and area rugs from our bedrooms and we’d create nests on the floor. Mom would put the baby (who would grow up to become Scrabblebuff), in the center so we could play with her. Mom sat in her rocker wrapped in an afghan and we’d take turns, sitting on her foot stool, holding her yarn while she wound it into balls.

The week after Thanksgiving, however, was one of the best times of all. That was the week when we did our homework as quickly as possible because the first one done got to look at the Wish Book first!

We’d sit by the fireplace, get settled in (I’d always use the red corduroy bed pillow with the arms to prop it up) and Mom would give us a crayon. We each had a different colored crayon so that Santa would know which of us was making which wish. We older ones also had to help Lori make her wishes, each chose one thing for her. And then came the lesson in making smart choices because we could only circle three items.

Mom was absolutely positive that we would get o
ne of our wishes. Because she would leave Santa a note to say we could have it. If we were exceptionally good we might...possibly... if we were really lucky... get two of our choices. We knew we wouldn’t get all three because one of our choices would go to a poor child who didn’t have a Wish Book to choose from. Of course, we never knew which one Santa would chose to give to that other girl or boy so we had to be very careful about what we picked.

Years later, when they had become obscenely collectible, Mom and I laughed about how lucky the little girl who got all four of my Madam Alexander Little Women dolls must feel.

(Once I learned that Santa sometimes had to buy certain gifts the elves didn't make enough o,f I learned to hedge my bets. I wished for both
Beth and a Miss Revlon Doll . What do you know,
I found Miss Revlon under the tree!)

Denis and Terry often worked as a team. One asked for the Lionel train set and the other would circle the buildings and layout pieces to go with it. Or Terry circled the Tonka steam shovel while Denis made a bid for the dump truck-pretty smart for little brothers.

Family traditions mean so much to us as we grow up, Attending the 6:00 Children’s Mass on Christmas Eve with our parents, brothers and sister and then later with our own children. Jim and I even do that occasionally now, to watch the little ones sing their carols and try to keep their wings and halos straight. Opening just one present on Christmas Eve…uh.. if we don’t give in to temptation like we did last year.

But it seems the traditions that stay warmest in our memories are usually wrapped in Mom’s afghans beside the fireplace, making wishes.

See ya down the road,

Friday, December 5, 2008

Earning for Christmas Shopping Was Good Practice

My friend and I went to a small town Christmas parade last night in Caney, Kansas. We had a very satisfying chili supper at one of the churches and then walked up and down the main street while waiting for the parade to begin. It was very cold out there. When we found an antique store open we gratefully went in to look around.

I don’t know what my friend was thinking about as we looked at some of the wares but I found myself thinking of my fledgling excursions into savvy shopping when I was a child. For there, on the shelves, were "antiques" I’d purchased new, as a child, to give my Mom, Nana, and Aunts for Christmas. There were also some rather amazing memories on those shelves.

When we were kids, Christmas shopping was a big deal to us. Denis and I, earned money all year to use during the season. When we went to Massachusetts on vacation during the summer, we collected pop bottles. Nana and some of her neighbors always saved them for us and we’d scour the vacant lots near the playground for empty green Coke, Moxie, or Orange Crush bottles. Once I turned eleven I baby sat for .50 an hour. We learned to economize in other ways in order to put a dollar a week into our Christmas Club accounts at the bank. We proudly stood in line every Friday afternoon to make our deposits.

One thing we did was sell Christmas cards, gift wrap, and ribbon candy for our school during the fall. Come the Spring, we sold All Occasion cards, gift wrap, and Easter candy. Although this was a school fund raiser, the students earned strips of carnival tickets for the summer carnival for each 10 boxes or packages we sold. The nuns gave us our tickets just before school let out in the summer for use at the 4th of July carnival.

Denis, was miles ahead of me when it came to salesmanship. First, while I was entering the gawky, bad hair style, skinny pre-teen stage, he still had the cute factor going for him. Thick wavy dark brown hair, happy eyes, a winning smile, and the most adorable freckles covering his nose and cheeks. He could sell Christmas cards even to the Winerips and the Wisemens and they were Jewish!

But he didn’t stop there. Denis was a successful entrepreneur by the time he was eight years old. He could somehow put a spin on something that convinced you he was giving you a great deal. I guess he was, if you bought his idea and part of your satisfaction was seeing that beatific smile of his.

One year he made me an offer I couldn’t resist. He would pay me .10 for every looped potholder I made. I, of course, supplied the loops, frame and labor . He then included a free potholder with every order of three boxes of Christmas cards or 5 packages of wrapping paper. I thought, smugly, I’d done pretty well when he had to pay me $4.20 out of his newspaper carrier’s pay.

He, however, collected over 100 tickets for the carnival!

About a year later he branched out. Realizing he could be making a good income year round, he became a prize winning salesman for the Olympic Sales Club.

This well known employer of industrious child labor, was still going strong when my own, pint sized Trump, Jugglesorcerer, decided to go into business thirty years later.
He was just as cute and shared the same apparently angelic smile as his Uncle Denis.

Denis, my younger brother, still owns his own business.

Merry Christmas, Denis!

See ya down the road,

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Forgotten Cookies 2-The Sequel

I admit I am somewhat competitive. But, I knew that Jim’s mom was always in my corner. So I played around with her Forgotten Cookies. I did it mostly because those little meringues are deceptively inexpensive to make but also because I was lazy the following year.

Around about the first of December, I finally got around to cleaning out the freezer from last Christmas! I threw out bags of ice crystals that had once been green beans and several UFOs (unidentified frozen objects). Then I found two hundred mini candy canes, left over from the church party! Nothing wrong with them but what was I going to do with them?

I sat there, talking to a friend on the phone, while I unwrapped every individually wrapped cane. Then I put them in a zippy type bag and attacked them with my rolling pin. When they didn’t crush by rolling, they gave way when I "Emerilized" them - BAM! Then I substituted them for the chocolate chips in those Forgotten Cookies. First batch looked anemic so I added the food coloring. Voila! I had a brand new confection with a double entendre name!

Forgotten Candy Cane Cookies

2 egg whites
Pinch of salt
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

2-3 drops red food color
1 c. crushed candy canes

Beat egg whites, to which salt has been added, until stiff. Fold in sugar and vanilla. Add food color until nice bright pink. Then crushed candy canes. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto aluminum foil covered cookie sheets. Or pipe from a plastic bag with one slit corner. Place in 350 degree preheated oven. Turn off heat at once and leave for 2 hours or even overnight.

Then I got an unexpected invitation. One of the sophisticated, somewhat Yuppie, and decidedly feminist, talk show hosts at the radio station, where Jim was the Associate News Director and I was a part time producer/receptionist, invited me to a Cookie and Wine swap! All I had to do was bring 12 dozen of my “most decadent cookies” and a bottle of wine to a “Girls Night Out”.

Hmmm… I didn’t know, at that time, which was better, jug wine or Mogan David.

Hmmm…Most decadent cookie sounds expensive.

Hmmm…Girl’s Night Out… I lived with one husband and 4 sons… I’m Coming!!!!

I dug into the cupboard and found some goodies I’d hidden from the boys.

(Upscale) Andes Mint Dreams (Forgotten Cookies)

2 egg whites
Pinch of salt
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
2-3 drops green food color
1 c. chopped Andes Mints

Beat egg whites, to which salt has been added, until stiff. Fold in sugar and vanilla. Add food color until nice light green. Then chopped Andes Mints. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto aluminum foil covered cookie sheets. Or pipe from a plastic bag with one slit corner. Place in 350 degree preheated oven. Turn off heat at once and leave for 2 hours or even overnight.

Okay, so I had the original cookies, the candy cane pinks, and the mint green ones, one more brilliant idea would fill out my square Christmas paper plates perfectly. What do sophisticated, up and coming, career women like? (I, of course, was mostly a stay at home Mom/ manuscript reader) What was trendy? Well, we did live just North of Seattle, home of Starbucks' and right there in the Fairhaven section of Bellingham was the original Tony's Coffees.

Trendy Espresso Meringues (Forgotten Buzz Cookies)

2 egg whites
Pinch of salt

2/3 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

½ teaspoon instant coffee powder (not crystals)
1 c. crushed chocolate covered espresso beans

Beat egg whites, to which salt has been added, until stiff. Fold in sugar and vanilla. Add coffee powder. Then crushed espresso beans. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto aluminum foil covered cookie sheets. Or pipe from a plastic bag with one slit corner. Place in 350 degree preheated oven. Turn off heat at once and leave for 2 hours or even overnight.

When I got to the party everyone asked for my recipes!

The Wine ? No problem, I brought the bottle the hostess gave us for Christmas the year before!

See ya down the road,