Thursday, November 29, 2012

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

A friend of mine posted a picture like this on facebook and asked if any of us were old enough to remember it.  Silly question.

When I was a very little girl, we always had a real Christmas tree, usually a Douglas fir, because Mom liked the spaces between the boughs.  She may have liked the spaces but she HATED the needles.

When I was around 8 or 9, my parents bought an artificial tree, white flocked, with a color wheel which rotated and bathed the tree in red, blue, green, or orange light.  On this wonderful tree, Mom hung all maroon bulbs.  I don't know why.

Then all of us kids grew up and moved out.  The years that we all came home for Christmas, Mom would break out the tree and we all made fun of it.  Not very charitable and not very Christmassy but very, very easy to do.  It was a terrible tree.

In 1975, Mom bought one of these trees.  Vern's wife made it in pottery class.  Actually, I'm pretty sure she bought the greenware and glazed it but she made it nonetheless.  Vern was a guy who worked with my Dad and the first car I drove after Steve died was a 1960 Cadillac that Mom and Dad bought from Vern for me.

Anyway, this tree lived on top of Mom's TV from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year's Day and, no matter how much we harangued her, this was the tree ever after.

I think I have sort of compromised.  I have an artificial tree, but is is a Scottish pine because I like the fullness.  It is about 3 feet tall and it sits on a console table that I have because that way the dogs wouldn't knock it over.  Looking at it tonight, I think that I may have combined all the trees of my childhood into one. Now all I need is a color wheel!

Monday, November 26, 2012


I like charity.  It used to be a common word.  The three cardinal virtues were Faith, Hope, and Charity.  Then the word, charity, got a bad reputation and receiving charity hurt people's self-esteem so it was changed to Faith, Hope, and Love.

The words are interchangeable.  Charity comes from Love and Love begets Charity.

I was about to type that I had grown up in a very charitable household.  Hmmmm.  I grew up in a household where money was given to the Church, old clothes were given to the Good Will, old items were given to the Salvation Army and a donation was made to whatever charity requested it, whether it was money or blankets or food.

We were not so charitable to each other.  We were not always kind nor loving.  I have often thought that if we used our company manners with family, the world would be a more pleasant place.  We see a stranger on the street, smile, and say, "Good morning.  How are you today?".  We see a family member coming in the house and we say, "What's wrong with you?".  I'll have to think about this for a while.  I do know that as I have gotten older, I am more conscious of the hurt my words can cause.  I try to be careful about this, which those of you reading this who were screamed at and yelled at and called horrible, rotten things,  know, was not always the case.

Anyway, Charity is a good thing.  It is not just giving the food, it is providing training so that someone can be self-sufficient.  It is not just giving clothing, it is giving a hug and a smile along with the clothing.  It is not just doing charitable things, it is taking along the kids and grandkids so that they, too, can know the joy of giving. It is not just a seasonal thing, either.  Believe it or not, people have to eat all year long.  They have to pay their bills all year long.  They need a hand all year long.  They need a smile each and every day.

I am fortunate in so many ways.  I grew up Catholic and Catholic Family Services was always there.  It is where I went for Lamaze classes when I was pregnant with my oldest child.  It is who I called for support when I was pregnant with my 2nd child and going through a bit of a rough patch.  It is who helped my daughter find the very loving family that my granddaughter is a part of.  But Charity is also not just Catholic - it is catholic.

When I was a very young widow, my sister's boss, who was Jewish (he died in 2011) helped me financially and emotionally. He did not give me money but it was through him that his lawyers handled what needed to be handled.  It was through him that his accountants helped me through those first years.  It was through him that I bought my first house.  He wanted to make sure that it was a good house in a good neighborhood and that it would shelter me and my baby.  He brought his daughter along the day we looked at the house.  I did not know then, but I do now.  He was teaching her Charity.

I see myself now as a charitable person.  I hope that is how others see me, too.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


My word for today is recipe.  It seems very fitting for this time of year because this is when I long for all the things my mom used to make.  My mom was not big on pastries or desserts (except pies made in the summer and frozen for when the berries and rhubarb were out of season).  She was, though, an exceptionally good cook.

As stated previously, we were spoiled.  Special occasions such as Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas generally rated a ham and a turkey because at least one of us wouldn't eat one of them.  The rest of the year, though, Mom worked on the "it's on your plate, eat it" method of menu-planning.

I wish I had her recipes.  They lived in a drawer.  Not the drawer right under the dish drainer.  That one was for Dad's Raleigh coupons.  The recipes lived in the drawer to the left of that one.  Some were hand-written on 3 x 5 cards and stored in an old Tootsie Roll box.  Some of those cards, in particular the one for Gen Sewell's Banana Nut Bread, had seen better days.  They were stained and spilled upon and much the worse for wear.  There was also a brown, spiral bound loose leaf book with some hand-written recipes.  We didn't use the book much.  We didn't use the box much either, to be honest.  Most of Mom's recipes were in her head.

Some of Mom's recipes live on.  Her recipe for glorified rice, traditionally served with the ham, is still being served at my house, at my daughter's house, and, as I recently learned, at my nephew's.  Mom would be pleased.  I have no exact measurements for this recipe because I don't think my mom ever "measured" anything, unless she was baking.  Maybe that's why she wasn't fond of it.

Cooked white rice (and no, Uncle Ben's instant won't do.  You need to actually cook the rice).
Crushed pineapple
Whipped cream (and no, cool whip won't do.  You need to actually whip it).
Mini marshmallows

That's it.  Mix it all together till it looks right, all blended and moist.  The directions in parentheses are courtesy of Juls, whose Glorified Rice last year was so  much better than mine the year before.  I tend to take shortcuts.  Sometimes they work.  In this case, not so much. This also makes a wonderful "morning after Holiday" breakfast, if there's any left.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Black Friday

Yesterday was Black Friday.  Interesting name, Black Friday.  I understand that it came to be since the first shopping day of the Christmas season was traditionally the first day that a lot of stores saw their books go into the "black", that is, to show a profit for the year.  After that first day, the rest of the year was gravy.

I am amused that the only other day that I can think of that is referred to as "black" anything is Black Tuesday.  You remember - the day in 1929 when the stock market crashed, when men leapt to their deaths from Wall Street offices, when the Great Depression began.

I think that the current Black Friday more resembles Black Tuesday than it should.  It was the day in 2012 when mob mentality ruled the stores, when men physically fought over who got to buy the trampoline at WalMart, when the Great Depression began.

I remember Christmas shopping.  I loved Christmas shopping.  When I was growing up, everyone in my family got a gift from every other member of my family.  When I was very small, Mom bought the presents we gave my Dad and Dad gave us the money to buy presents for Mom.  Some things were tradition, year after year.  Dad always got red handkerchiefs for work, JC Penney white pima cotton T shirts, boxer shorts, Old Spice, and a carton of cigarettes (they came in already decorated boxes).  Mom got a new nightgown, a new robe, new slippers, Desert Flower hand lotion, white "go to Church" embroidered handkerchiefs from the 5 & 10, and, after my oldest sister bought them the first time, Bromley lemon soaps that came from England in a little wooden crate.

Christmas shopping was an event.  You dressed for it, you went to town, you bought your gifts, and then, if you were very lucky, you got to have lunch in the mezzanine of the department store.  Ladies wore holiday corsages on their coats and everyone seemed a bit more patient, a bit kinder.

The only time I go to a mall now is when my grandson and I do the Salvation Army Angel Tree.  We make it an event.  We go to town, we buy our gifts, always starting with a book, and then, when we are done, we have lunch together and I get a new picture of him with Santa.  He humors me now by allowing this and it is one of the things that I most appreciate in him - his kindness.

So, I hope you all survived Black Friday.  I hope those of you who attended saved enough money to make it worth your time.  I wish you all a kinder, gentler, more civil Christmas shopping season.

Friday, November 23, 2012


I have been unable to think of topics lately that do not either bore me or terrify me so I asked my child to give me a word, or a topic, a day.  I guess I have been unable to commit to writing.  Her first topic for me?  Commitment.

Commitment is defined as an obligation, an undertaking, application.

I think of many things when I think of commitment and of many people.  My parents were committed to their family.  No matter how often they disagreed or how little they seemed to enjoy being with each other, they were a unit.  I realize that my older siblings do not have the same memories that I have.  Mom often said that they, especially the two older girls, had different parents.  Younger parents, funner parents, parents who were less care-worn.  I, on the other hand, being the youngest, had the older parents, busier parents, more financially stable parents.  But they were committed to raising us kids, to being contributing members of their parish, to giving us a good work ethic and sense of responsibility.  I think they succeeded.

I think of my mom and her friend, our neighbor, Lucy.  They were best friends.  They built their houses together, back yard to back yard, and raised their kids together, at least the oldest two in each family.  Lucy quit after two, but Mom had two more, several years later.  When Lucy's husband was injured in a construction accident and Lucy had to go to school to go to work, Mom went with her.  When Mom and Dad needed to go somewhere, my brother and I stayed with Lucy.  When Lucy needed someone to stay with her husband when she worked nights, my brother stayed with Louie.  Mom and Lucy worked together, went to church together and had coffee every afternoon after they woke up, both of them working the graveyard shift.  Mom was committed to her friendship and Lucy to hers.

I think of my marriage.  It is odd, being separated, to think of this but I have been.  And I am - committed to my marriage.  Marriage is a sacrament and, as such, has certain requirements and expectations.  I am still married and I am still committed, or maybe I just should be.  I did not leave my husband because of any desire on my part to end our marriage but more out of a sense of self-preservation and self-worth.  He is still my husband and I still love him.

I think of my daughter's non-marriage.  My daughter does not like being married.  Something about the word makes her feel twitchy and trapped. This week, she and her new husband were not married.  She and her new husband had a commitment ceremony and are now, in the eyes of the state of Texas, husband and wife.  They are committed to each other and to my grandson.  I think that all three are very lucky and very blessed.

Commitment papers are also issued by a court to send someone for psychiatric help when they are deemed to be a "danger to themselves or others."  So far, I am not, nor have I been, thusly committed.
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