Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mother

If my mother had lived, she would be celebrating her 95th birthday today. She would have enjoyed being that old and seeing her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren grow into fine human beings.

I, personally, have no intention of dying because I want to see what happens.

By Jenny Joseph, 1961
Minchinhampton, England

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people's gardens . . .

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Oh, where has all the inspiration gone?

Did you ever have one of those days? You know the kind, where nothing pops into your head to write about. You read other people's blogs hoping for inspiration, but nothing seems interesting enough for you to put words to computer screen.

This has been such a blah week so far. I guess it's the big let-down following Thanksgiving. There was so much preparation and cooking, then the exhaustion, and finally a doozy of a cold. This is the second cold I have suffered through in a little over a month and I'm getting darned sick of being sick.

On top of all that, the weather has turned nasty. Every day it has been either raining, overcast, windy, or getting colder by the hour. I looked at the five-day forecast this morning and snow is predicted for Thursday. I'm sure it will only be a small amount, and probably won't stick to the ground, but the first snow of the season is always a bummer for me. You know how much I hate snow. In fact, that's why I moved down from Chicago -- to get away from all that snow and ice.

Husband and I have joined a wellness center (health club) to get ourselves back in shape. Husband was able to go today to work out, but it will be several more days before I have the stamina to start exercising. Hopefully, by working out at the club, we will be able to tone up those gluts and abs, get rid of that stubborn belly fat, lose weight and gain muscle, lower our BMI, become pretty again, defy gravity, and not need any plastic surgery in the near future. (Now if I could only walk, I would be in good shape.)

I am looking forward to feeling better within the next couple of days. I'm tired of being in the house and sneezing, sniffing, snuffling, coughing, wheezing, and blowing my nose. I'm also tired of the cough medicine, lozenges, throat spray, Tylenol, Zicam, humidifiers, and lemon tea. Tomorrow I'm making a pot of Jewish penicillin (that's homemade chicken soup to all you non-medical people out there). That should clear up my head, nose, throat, and lungs. At least that was always my mother's remedy. Now, if she was only here to serve it to me . . . and make me feel all better!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

An Ode To Marriage

I just remembered yesterday, while talking with my sister, that my wedding anniversary is coming up in three weeks. It's funny, but I really couldn't remember how many years husband and I have been married. So, this morning I took out paper and pencil. Let's see, I count 37 years. Is it really that many? Where, oh where, has the time gone?

Husband and I were married on a cold Sunday afternoon in December of 1968. You might say it was a "shotgun" wedding. I was really unsure whether I wanted to get married, but I was sort of pushed to go through with it. Husband was a hippy and I was a big city girl who hated to get her hands dirty and didn't even own a pair of jeans.

Husband's sister and her husband were to stand up for us, so we went to the preacher's house in a little Kentucky town near Lexington and got married in his parlor. Afterwards, we celebrated by going to our brother-in-law's uncle's farm out in the country.

It was during the afternoon that we not only cut down a Christmas tree, but it was also the one and only time I ever shot a gun in my entire life. I can remember being handed a very heavy shotgun that seemed almost as big as I was. I could barely lift it, but I thought I would give it a city girl try. The guys were sort of chiding me to put the butt of the gun squarely against my shoulder, hold my breath, and squeeze the trigger. I did as they said and found myself almost sitting on the ground from the force of the blast. I don't think I could hear out of my right ear for about four hours and my right shoulder was sore for weeks.

From that auspicious beginning, husband and I have traveled down a long and winding road to get to where we are today. Our son will be 36 years old tomorrow and our daughter was 34 years old last June. We are both retired, we live in a pretty decent house, we have two lovely granddaughters who we spoil a lot, we have six cats who I love and spoil a lot, we have our health, we have a little money in the bank, we have our books, we have our music, we have our computers, we have plenty of food on the table, and we have each other. What more could you ask for?

Like most couples, we have had our ups and downs. Some years, the downs were more prevelant than the ups, but we made it through relatively unscathed. Husband worked for the government for 36 years before taking a deserved retirement, and I worked in healthcare for the last 17 years of my working career until I retired.

During our marriage we didn't take a lot of fancy vacations, but we have been on a few really nice trips, mostly to visit with family. Both our children were able to go to university, and our son had the privilege of attending the U.S. Naval Academy and then becoming a submariner. Daughter is a musician and plays not only the oboe, but also several other instruments. Both her girls are musically inclined.

As we get ready to celebrate our upcoming anniversary on the 15th, we can look back upon our lives and honestly say that we have had a good life. We may not have the good looks of our youth, and gravity has played havoc on our bodies, but we still see ourselves as young. Most importantly, we still enjoy the finer things in life and can laugh at ourselves for all our faults. We get pleasure from a beautiful sunset, a bird visiting our feeder, the cats playing joyfully in the yard, a good meal, the company of family and friends, and the smell of a new-mown lawn.

Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young)

I'll light the fire
You put the flowers in the vase
That you bought today

Staring at the fire
For hours and hours
While I listen to you
Play your love songs
All night long for me
Only for me

Come to me now
And rest your head for just five minutes
Everything is good
Such a cosy room
The windows are illuminated
By the sunshine through them
Fiery gems for you
Only for you

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And our la,la,la, la,la, la, la, la, la, la, la.....

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And Our

I'll light the fire
And you place the flowers in the jar
That you bought today

Who wouldn't want to get married if they could have all that?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hey, God, Thanks

As Thanksgiving Day draws near, and some of us are frantically trying to take care of all the last-minute details for the upcoming food bacchanalia, I wish to say Thanks for all the good things I have in my life.

Husband and I visited a funeral home last evening upon the death of one of husband's old co-workers and we are visiting another funeral home this afternoon upon the death of another of husband's old co-workers. So, I say Thanks for allowing us another day on Earth to do good and to love.

Thanks for giving us relatively good health. So many of our contemporaries are dying young.

Thanks for allowing us to keep our mental faculties. So many people we know are afflicted with debilitating dementia or Alzheimer's.

Thanks for allowing us to share the lives of our loved ones. We appreciate and love our friends and family.

Thanks for allowing us to help others in some small measure. So many people we know have problems and we have been so blessed.

Thanks for allowing us to live in a culture where we are free to choose how we live, how we worship, how we travel, how we speak our mind, and who we know.

Thanks for allowing us the freedom from want.

Thanks for giving me empathy for others.

Thanks for giving me the ability to forgive and accept others for their faults and lack of kindness.

Thanks for giving me the ability to express my thoughts and love in words and deeds.

Thanks for sons, daughters, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, granddaughters, grandsons, cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Thanks for cats, dogs, birds, and other lovely creatures of this earth.

Thanks for the gift of continued good sight in order to see the beauty of this world.

Thanks for the gift of continued good hearing in order to hear the music of this world.

Thanks for the gift of smell and taste in order to enjoy the delicious Thanksgiving meal we are about to partake of.

Thanks for the means of sharing a day of Thanksgiving with loved ones when there are so many alone.

Thanks for having enough food to eat, shelter to keep us safe and warm, physicians to keep us healthy, family and friends to understand and love us, and beauty all around us to make us happy.

Thanks for allowing us to eat our Thanksgiving meal in peace when so many are at war.

And finally, Thanks for allowing me to blog at will. I love it.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Games People Play

As far back as I can remember, our family has always played lots of games. We played card games, board games, and anything that required either a little luck or a lot of expertise. Even the cousins got in on the action at an early age. We were all competitive. I guess we played a lot of games because there was no television then, so we had to amuse ourselves in other ways.

My grandparents finally bought a television in the middle 1950s (a Silvertone with pushbuttons to change the channels and a 13-inch screen). They were the only ones in the family who could afford one. There were very few programs in those days. On Saturday mornings, we would sit in front of the screen with a test pattern on it and with the set issuing a buzzing/humming noise while we waited patiently for the program to start. There were no TV Guides in those days and the programming was very sporatic.

The grandparents, parents, and assorted friends would get together to play Canasta, Kalouki (also spelled Kaluki, Caloochi, Kaloochi, or Kalougi, depending upon what part of the world you came from, and was a kind of Rummy), Pinocle, Hearts, Spades, Rummy, Poker, Solitaire, Bridge, War, or Kings in the Corner.

When I was around 10 or so, I was invited into the inner circle to play Canasta. This circle was made up of my Grandma Clara, my Mother Sara, my Aunt Lil, and I. I was probably chosen because they either didn’t have a fourth or because they were so impressed that I could count cards and usually beat them a lot. It was great fun and I felt so grown up playing with them. They even let me be scorekeeper because I had learned to add very fast from working in my parent’s store (we didn’t have a cash register so you had to write the amounts on the paper sack and add up the columns of figures). We either played at Aunt Lil’s house where we were usually treated to the most fantastic cakes, pies, or cookies and cups of tea, or at my mother’s house. This went on for years until I left home and occasionally when I was home for a visit.

My grandmother, who lived in the upstairs apartment, also had a circle of friends that she would invite over to socialize and play cards. Their game of choice was either Canasta, Pinocle, or Kalouki. My sister and I would be drafted to help clean and polish the furniture, and to help make the treats that grandma would serve her guests. We were allowed a few bites, just for taste, but the rest was for her guests. When everything was ready, and the guests started arriving, we were banished back downstairs so the adults could play their games.

The cousins also played a variety of games. Our games of choice were Monopoly, War, Kings in the Corner, Pisha Pesha, Cootie, Parcheesi, dice games, Chinese Checkers, Dominos, Life, Clue, Mr. Potato Head, Checkers, Chess, and Risk.

I remember my father taking my sister and me to Chicago on the South Shore Railroad on a cold Saturday morning in the late 1940s or early 1950s to Marshall Field’s Department Store in the Loop. Our mission was to purchase a Monopoly set. I think the game sold for around $2.95. We used that set for many years. In fact, the cousins would hold tournaments that would go on literally for days on end. What fun.

One afternoon the cousins played Cootie. Unfortunately Cousin Howard was the loser so we made a sign that we hung around his neck with a string. The sign said, “Cootie.” I have a picture of him looking hang-dog with that sign around his neck. We loved to tease Cousin Howard.

The most fun, however, was playing Scrabble with my parents and my sister. My father was notorious for making three-letter words and we kept telling him that wasn’t allowed. Eventually he didn’t want to play with us anymore because he couldn’t use the dictionary to find any larger words. My mother, my sister, and I remained voracious players and we played together whenever we were together. (My sister and I played Scrabble last Thanksgiving at her house in Las Vegas. Nobody else would play with us because they were afraid of the humiliation and knew they would lose.)

We were always on the lookout for new games that we could play. This love of games was passed along to my husband and my children. We went on to play Cribbage and Trivial Pursuit. The problem with Trivial Pursuit, however, is that nobody wants to play with me because I usually beat them. Daughter and her husband bought me one of the new DVD versions of Trivial Pursuit last Christmas. We occasionally get it out, load it up on the TeeVee and sit and answer the questions at random. Not as fun as playing with four to five others.

I guess we have passed along this love of games to the granddaughters. They already have the beginnings of a good group of games, but they are quickly outgrowing them. Dancer Girl has especially moved on to computer games and Little Sister is not far behind.

As we celebrate Thanksgiving next week, the women and kids will no doubt sit down after our meal and think of some game that all of us can play while the men lounge in front of the TeeVee watching football. Let the games begin.

I like being nosy!

I first got hooked on genealogy when my son and daughter were in high school. As Juniors, they were required to diagram their family trees as far back as they could. It was during this time that I discovered how very little I knew about our families. And, it was during this time that I learned to like being nosy.

My daughter used a large sheet of poster board to to illustrate, in four quadrants, each side of my husband's and my families. Some quadrants were covered in data, based on how big the families were, and some quadrants (my dad's) were small because I could not find out very much information. My husband even illustrated the top of the poster board with a lovely tree and a massive root system. (She got an A+ on the project.) The three of us spent countless hours gathering information on folks in our families and what we discovered was amazing.

So, now I was hooked, not on phonics, but on genealogy -- the penultimate art of being nosy. I spent a lot of time and money calling and writing family all over the country over the years trying to coax them into revealing a lot of really personal information. (Some folks were reluctant to speak with me, and others were pleased that I would actually be interested in them and their stories.) I spent a lot of money on a computer program (Family Tree Maker) to document the highly personal information these family members had given me. I spent a lot of money joining Ancestry.Com to have access to their numerous databases. I learned to be a computer sleuth and have discovered ways of gleaning seemingly inconsequential information from a lot of "free" sources on the Internet. I spent a lot of time compiling and entering data into the database all the stories and information that I garnered from every available source. I discovered that the thrill of discovering a small bit of information about a relative, and placing it into the bigger picture (sort of like a jigsaw puzzle), is almost indescribable.

This project has taken me down a path I never would have imagined when I first began more than 15 years ago. I have succeeded in documenting at least eight generations of our families going back into the middle of the 19th Century. I discovered that my husband's paternal great-grandfather was a dictator in Mexico during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I discovered that my maternal grandparents came from a village in the Ukraine (Kremenchug) on the Dneiper River. I discovered things about relatives that nobody knew (or remembered), such as the child of my great-uncle and great-aunt who died when he was a very small boy.

The pivotal point of my research on my mother's side of the family is when my maternal grandparents got married and came to America.

Clara and Sam, 1902
Kremenchug, Ukraine, Russia

Their story is amazing and everyone in that branch of the family wants to read it. When I first saw Barry Levinson's movie Avalon, I felt he was telling my family's story of coming to America. My grandfather Sam came first, passing through Ellis Island in 1904, followed by Clara and my uncle Max in 1905. They settled in Hammond, Indiana, and had another son and four daughters (including my mother Sara). Sam's brother, my great-uncle Moishe, and his mother Rebekah also came to America around that time and Clara's father, my great-grandfather Judah, followed. There were already relatives in Chicago, but I don't know who they are.

Sam and Clara, 50th Anniversary, 1952

A high point in our family's history was during my grandparents' 50th Anniversary. Sam and Clara renewed their wedding vows at the Kneseth Israel Synagog in Hammond that my grandfather helped found back in the 1920s and all the family and friends gathered to help them celebrate. We all dressed up, ate a lot of good food, danced, sang, and celebrated a happy life. This event was captured for posterity by the many pictures the photographer took. (Who can forget the moment the photographer snapped the picture of the entire family and my cousin Jerry, standing in the front row, simultaneously pressed the rubber bulb under his arm that released the rubber worm in his bowtie? Priceless.)

Sam and Clara, 60th Anniversary, 1962

My grandparents lived a long time and they left a wonderful legacy for all of us. I feel I am leaving a legacy of my own by telling all our families' stories. After all, if we don't remember for our children and the generations of children to come, who will? The stories of our relatives' lives will be like so much smoke, soon dissipated and forgotten, misty memories down through time.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas

I have always loved Christmas. I love the decorations, the lights, the carols, the music, the pagentry of it all, the holiday clothes, the smells, the excitement and anticipation most everybody feels, the generosity of total strangers, the Christmas cards and annual newsletters, the packages received in the mail, being with family and friends, eating Christmas dinner, the purchasing and wrapping of gifts, the delight seen on the children's and the adults' faces when they see the decorated tree and all the presents piled under it, the reading of The Night Before Christmas, The Nutcracker Suite, the snow (if we're lucky), and the annual Christmas movies.

When I was a kid, we didn't celebrate this holiday in our house because we are Jewish. My parents didn't believe in celebrating Christian holidays so all of the above was strictly forbidden. My parents also didn't celebrate any of the Jewish holidays, so I felt doubly cheated. One year, I can remember laying out a couple of socks on a chair in the hopes that Santa really would visit us in the night and leave a little something in our "stockings." When I awoke, I had to hide my extreme disappointment and tears because there was nothing there but a pair of yesterday's empty socks.

At school, in preparation for the holidays, the teachers would orchestrate Christmas pageants, decorate the classrooms and hallways, and everyone had an air of eager anticipation. During annual holiday programs, we sang the carols along with the rest of the kids. We felt it was okay to sing Christmas carols in public, just as long as you mouthed the words Jesus Christ and didn't tell your parents that you participated.

After the holidays, when we returned to school, the teacher would ask each child to step up to the front of the class and tell what they got for Christmas. When it came my turn to stand up there, knees trembling and knowing that God would surely strike me down, I deliberately lied anyway and recited a list of "pretend" gifts that I had received. I was humiliated and I always felt terrible about lying, but I would never have been able to look any of my classmates in the eye if I got up there and admitted that I had not received anything at all. Reminds me of little Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory when he was forced to admit to his teacher in front of the class that he had only eaten two chocolate bars.

Our family celebrates big during this holiday and we enjoy it. Those who are religious are free to worship as they please. Those who are not, are free to enjoy all the other good things about Christmas. In fact, I'm probably the most enthusiastic person around when it comes to celebrating. I'm the one who reads "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" to the kids, young and old, every year.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas,
Toys in ev'ry store,
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

A pair of hopalong boots and a pistol that shoots
Is the wish of Barney and Ben;
Dolls that will talk and will go for a walk
Is the hope of Janice and Jen;
And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
There's a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well,
The sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas;
Soon the bells will start,
And the thing that will make them ring is the carol that you sing
Right within your heart.

Christmas is great fun, and besides Thanksgiving, it's my favorite holiday of the year.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Winter Wonderland

I grew up in the North, outside of Chicago, so you could say that my blood was thick enough back then to withstand any type of weather. The winters there were Arctic in nature with lake effect snows (icy cold winds blowing out of the north from Canada picking up moisture as they blew across Lake Michigan and depositing mounds of snow on our house) . As I have mentioned before, it usually starts snowing in October or November there and doesn't quit until April or May. My father's favorite tool of choice was his snow shovel. He didn't actually buy his snow blower until we were grown and gone. You get the picture.

When we were kids, they never called school off because of snow no matter how much accumulated. I can only remember school being closed one time when I was in high school and that was because the temperature remained at 17 degrees F. below zero for a week. Talk about your nose hair freezing when you breathed! We walked everywhere and loved the snow. Our parents' store had a large stove in the middle to heat the place. When our hands became almost frostbitten, we would throw our gloves on top of the stove grate so they would dry out and warm our hands until we could go back outside and start all over again. We didn't just build snowmen -- we built huge snow forts that served as protection for our infamous snowball fights.

After we moved to Kentucky in the late 1960's, Husband and I were surprised at the temperate climate. We came to enjoy occasional big snows, but nothing like I was used to. Since living in Kentucky for almost 40 years, we joke about how they close the schools if there is even a dusting of snow on the roads. We are still amazed how people flock to the stores with the threat of a snow (no matter how big or how small) and empty the shelves of all stocks, including flour and yeast, just in case they can't make it to town for a couple of days. Most people around here don't do well when the roads become nasty.

We have enjoyed a fall this year that has been ideal. The temperatures have been in the 60s and 70s most days and the leaves on the trees didn't actually fall completely until after Halloween. For the past several days, we have had bad, nasty weather -- lots of tornadic activity, rain, wind, and falling temperatures. Most of the trees are bare now and our yard is strewn with lots of leaves. When I woke up just a little while ago, I happened to glance at the thermometer. The temperature outside read about 21 degrees and everything looked cold. The school buses across the road were warming up and were blowing lots of steamy exhaust. The cats are all in the house and they look warm.

I am reminded of last winter. We usually don't get any snow to amount to anything until the end of January or February. Last winter, however, we were surprised by a massive snow that kept us house-bound for a week.

The Big December Snow, 2004

This is a view of our back deck the morning after. Luckily, I had been to the store a couple of days before so we were pretty well stocked up on all the essentials. Both our vehicles were snowed in so we couldn't go anywhere. School was called off indefinitely, so we knew they weren't going to plow our street (even after I called the city and begged them nicely). So, Husband and I hunkered down and made the best of it. Our neighbors (there's only four houses on our street) were also stuck except for the guy next door who works for Kenergy and kept his big truck at home and the guy next door with the 4WD. They even stopped delivering the mail because they couldn't get in our street.

We really didn't care. After all, we had our TeeVee, our computers, our phones (both cell and land lines), and plenty of food, so we were okay with being trapped. But, as the week wore on, and nerves became a little frayed, desperate measures were taken. Husband actually bundled up and shoveled a path to the mailbox. Then he tried to shovel my car out (it was parked in front of the house next to the road). One day he even got it up the street about 50 feet before it got stuck. Eventually, however, by the end of the week I bribed the guy next door with the 4WD to drive me to town which he gladly did. I was able to run a few errands and was glad that downtown was shoveling out and coming back to life.

I decided, mostly out of desperation and frustration, that we were getting too old to be shoveling massive amounts of the white stuff any more and I certainly didn't want to become a snow widow before my time. So, the logical thing to do was get on the Internet and order a snow blower from Home Depot. I found the largest, prettiest red one I could find and, believe it or not, a large truck delivered it to our door within a week. We were so proud and happy. We were also confident that we were prepared for any snow no matter how big. We couldn't wait to use it. So, into the garage it went. We were prepped and rarin' to go.

And, that's where it still resides, still a virgin, brand new and never been used. That's right. It never snowed again last winter.

But, we're ready for this year. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. We are invincible. We can plow out our vehicles and our street. In fact, we can plow out the entire town. Huh? Let's just say that we hope we can plow out our vehicles and get us down the street, if necessary.

Man, I hate snow!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Back Home Again In Indiana

One of my all-time favorite holiday movies is Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story. I have probably seen this film every year since it was released in 1983. In fact, I have the video and bring it out to watch during Christmas just like my other favorites, It’s A Wonderful Life, Miracle On 34th Street (original version), Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory, and The Wizard of Oz, among others.

The first-time I saw A Christmas Story, I was amazed and excited. All I could say was, that’s where I came from; that’s my home town. My family looked at me like I had lost it. I knew that Jean Shepherd came from Hammond, but I had no idea that A Christmas Story took place in Hammond.

Jean Shepherd as narrator says that the characters lived in Hohman, Indiana. Actually, the story takes place in Hammond, Indiana, the place where I was not only born and raised, but also the home town of author/humorist Jean Shepherd. Hohman, Indiana, is a fictional place but his descriptions of the place are real. Hammond was and remains an industrial town that at one time had a population of approximately 125,000 people. Over the years the place deteriorated and those who could afford it emigrated to the richer suburbs.

For those who are not familiar with Hammond, it is located approximately 20 miles southeast of Chicago on the southern tip of Lake Michigan and is part of the greater Chicago area. Hammond is on the state line with Illinois at Calumet City, Illinois, a notoriously old, bawdy town that used to have strip joints and bars lining State Street when I was a kid. You could drive up and down the street and see strippers dancing in the clubs, sort of like New Orleans is today. “Everyone” knew that the mob ran Calumet City in the 1940s. Calumet City is still the place to go for bars and taverns if you like that sort of thing.

I especially like to point out all the places in the movie that are or were located in Hammond as I was growing up there. The similarities between the movie and real life were all too obvious to my eyes. First, Jean Shepherd lived at 2907 Cleveland Street in Hammond. That house still stands. In fact, I had a childhood girlfriend that lived in the neighborhood. There is a Hohman Avenue which runs North and South through the town. The department store depicted in the movie is Goldblatt's Department Store (now defunct and gone for many years). The parades and store windows were real, including the in-store Santa. The movie theaters (the Paramount and the Parthenon) actually gave away dishes. The cold and snow are real. It is so cold in winter that your tongue WOULD actually freeze to a flag pole if you were that stupid to try it. It usually begins to snow in late October or early November and doesn’t quit until April or May. If you didn’t cover your nose in Winter, your nose hairs would freeze as you inhaled and exhaled.

The school that Ralphie and his pals attended looks just like my old high school, Hammond High. I actually went to grade school with a kid that looked exactly like Skut Farkas, including the yellow eyes. The houses, streets, and alleys looked like those in the movie. And, there were “hillbillies” everywhere in our neighborhood. These were the southerners who came up north to work in the factories during the war and never left. My parents owned a corner grocery store and you could always tell the “hillbillies” by their vernacular and by the junk cars they were always working on in front of their houses or in their yards (this is where the expression “shade-tree mechanic” came from). Some of my favorites are “I want a poke of . . . ,” which means put it in a paper sack, and “gimme a bottle of dope,” which means I would like a Coke (pronounced Co-cola).

At the end of the movie, after the next-door neighbors’, the Bumpuses, smelly old hound dogs ate their turkey, the family goes to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. The restaurant in question is Cam Lam’s Chinese Restaurant on Sibley Street. The exterior shot in the movie shows the actual restaurant, which is still in business today. Our family used to eat there every Sunday and my father invariably ordered Chicken Chow Mein or Sub Gum Chicken Chow Mein and an egg roll. My sister and I ate whatever our parents ordered for us. We loved the place because we always got orange sherbet for dessert and the owner would bring out little containers of real cream that we would pour over the sherbet. It would freeze and form a sweet crust on top. It’s still my favorite.

I always called Hammond “the armpit of America” because it was such a dirty, smelly place crisscrossed with a million trains and railroad tracks. You couldn’t drive a block without getting caught by a train. Our favorite pastime, if caught at a crossing, was counting the rail cars. You were only slightly inconvenienced if there were fewer than 100 cars in back of the engines. I couldn’t wait to get away from Hammond, so I left immediately after graduating from high school. I moved back briefly before moving to Kentucky in the late 1960s. After my parents passed away and my sister and her husband moved to Las Vegas, I vowed never to return. On my last visit to Hammond, I got pictures of every house, business, and other buildings that were owned or had relevance to our family.

This Christmas I will again bring out and watch the video A Christmas Story and I will again get that nostalgic feeling about Hammond. But, to this day, I have never gone back home again to Indiana and I don’t regret it a bit. I will allow my memories to remain memories and to flicker briefly while I watch the movie.

I do, however, still get teary-eyed when I hear Hogie Carmichael's version of Indiana.

Words by Ballard MacDonald
Music by James F.Hanley
C. 1917

I have always been a wand-'rer,
Over land and sea,
Yet a moon-beam on the water
Casts a spell o'er me,
A vision fair I see,
Again I seem to be:

Back home again in Indiana,
And it seems that I can see
The gleaming candlelight still shining bright
Thru the sycamores for me,
The new mown hay sends all its fragrance
From the fields I used to roam,
When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash,
Then I long for my Indiana home.

Fancy paints on mem-'ry's canvas
Scenes that we hold dear,
We recall them in days after,
Clearly they appear,
And often times I see,
A scene that's dear to me.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Misty Memories Down Through Time

I remember my birth. I know that sounds like a false memory, but I’m convinced I can remember erupting into this world, being squeezed under tremendous pressure and then emitting a lusty cry in response to a new, cold environment. I remember having something stinging put into my eyes. I remember the lights that were so bright, and I remember the noises.

I next remember lying on a bed and crying furiously because I couldn’t get my hand to my mouth. I desperately wanted to suck my thumb and couldn’t. I remember my mother zipping me into a bunting up to my neck with my hands inside. I remember there were windows high up on the wall to my right in this room. I later found out this was my parents’ bedroom in back of the store where we lived.

I remember nursing at my mother’s breast. I remember the warmth of her body, the smell of her skin, and the taste of her milk. I remember the pleasure of nursing was almost sexual. I remember her singing me to sleep.

I remember lying in a baby buggy outside the store, all bundled up, taking a nap while my mother worked inside the store.

I remember being bathed in a large tin wash tub in the kitchen behind the store. We had a toilet but there was no bathtub.

I remember playing in the back yard where there was a huge tree outside our back door behind the store. Every spring this tree would drop long, red seeds that to me looked like worms lying on the ground. One day, when my mother was working in the store, I found myself standing alone in the back yard, looking down, and suddenly realizing that the ground was covered with these long, red seeds. I remember standing on tiptoes, screaming my lungs out that the worms were going to get me, and waiting for someone to rescue me. I remember the relief I felt when my mother finally heard my screams and came and took me in her arms. I was saved.

I remember my sister tormenting me throughout my childhood with worms and bugs that she had found, chasing me around the house and yard while I cried hysterically. I was traumatized for life.

I remember coming down with ringworm on my scalp from playing with stray cats and stray dogs and my mother shaving my head. Every morning she would apply kerosene to my head and then wrap it in a scarf. This burned terribly and I cried and cried. I was also mortified that my head was shaved.

I remember my sister burying a box of cookies in the back yard because she wanted to grow a cookie tree. That was her first experiment in horticulture. Everyone thought she was so cute.

I remember my sister had a dolly named Hilda that she carried around everywhere.

I remember the time I broke my nose. My grandparents lived in the house across the back yard. There were several trees next to this house that we loved to climb. One day, as I was climbing, the branch broke and I fell and broke my nose. I remember blacking out, not being able to catch my breath, and suddenly finding myself in the store with my mother. I guess my sister took me to the store. I ended up with a swollen face and black and blue eyes for a long time.

I remember I sucked my thumb for many years and my mother did everything to stop me, including putting hot pepper on my thumbs. Nothing deterred me.

I remember around age five when we moved from the back of the store to the house next door that belonged to my grandparents. My parents and my sister and I were to live in the four-room apartment downstairs and my grandparents were to live upstairs. I remember walking back and forth carrying things for my mother. I soon got very tired.

I remember "capturing" a large grey cat in our back yard and naming him Smitty The Kitty. I loved this cat and he lived at our house for more than 15 years before he died of old age. All through school he would go to the end of our block and wait for me as I walked home, then he would walk the rest of the way home with me, always glad to see me. He continued this until I graduated from high school. I hated leaving him when I left home at age 18. He was part of our family and I still have many pictures of him.

I remember sharing the (patented) Murphy In-A-Door-Bed with my sister. This bed was in the living room and we slept there until we were in our teens (except for a short period of time when my mother put a bed in the dining room for us). I remember we had no privacy.

I remember when I was six my father walking me to the Lafayette School to enroll me in kindergarten. I was extremely shy and desperately clung to his leg all the while hiding my face. I liked school after a while because they had a nice playroom, lots of toys, and the teacher, Mrs. Hoag, served snacks in the morning and afternoon.

I remember becoming sick at age six. The doctor came to the house to examine me. I remember the pain came and went. It hurt a lot in my right side. The doctor said to bring me to the hospital the next morning. I remember standing in line with my father at the hospital (St. Margaret’s), having a blood test, then being admitted. I remember being taken to the operating room and someone putting a mask over my face. I tasted something nasty. The next thing I remember was my mother was there and I was throwing up when I woke up. I had had my appendix removed. I was in the hospital for ten days. During that time, I was allowed up once a day in a wheelchair as I regained my strength. I remember one day seeing a room with a lot of babies in little cribs. I snuck in to play with the babies. The next thing I knew the nurse caught me playing with the babies, screaming at me, and sending me back to bed. I cried and cried, and I wanted to go home.

I remember lots of cousins and lots of family dinners. My mother had five brothers and sisters, so there were always many family members around for all kinds of activities. We had picnics, played games, and ate a lot. On Sunday afternoons, my Uncle Morry and Aunt Lil would pick us up in their big car and we would all take a Sunday drive to Chicago. They had three kids, so there were nine of us in the car. My Uncle Morry would drive about 30 miles per hour on the Outer Drive toward the Loop (he was the model for the original Sunday driver). I remember sitting in the back seat sucking my thumb and being lulled to sleep.

One evening the family was at our house for dinner. All the cousins decided to put on a skit. We dressed Cousin Jerry up as the Doctor and Cousin Howard as the patient. The rest of us were nurses and spectators. The skit went as follows: All the parents and grandparents were in the audience. We made an operating table from a couple of chairs and a tablecloth. The patient (Cousin Howard) was placed on the operating table and covered with a sheet. The Doctor (Cousin Jerry) proceeded to open the patient up. He dug around awhile until he pulled a can of Campbell’s soup out of the incision and declared, “Cancer.” He continued to dig and came up with two more cans of Campbell’s soup and declared, “No, Tumor.” Everyone, including us, was rolling on the floor laughing. In retrospective, it’s pretty gross. But, when you think about a bunch of nutty kids ages probably eight through twelve, that’s pretty radical thinking. This little play became legend amongst the cousins and one story we continue to laugh at after all these years.

I have many, many more memories, both happy and sad. I guess that's why I'm considered the family historian because I can remember so much. Most of all, however, I remember a childhood surrounded by lots of family and friends. Like most families, some of us were nutty and some of us were thoroughly nuts. That's what makes us so interesting. Through happiness and sorrow, we were all together throughout the years. I’m glad I remember so much.

If this is Sunday, it must be church

I remember when I was a kid my mother had an entire repertoire of songs that she would sing to us. Over the years, and during the time when my kids were still at home, I have tried to remember all these songs and, of course, sing them to my son and daughter. I now sing them to my granddaughters.

One of the songs my mother used to sing to us was about the days of the week and goes like this.

Today is Monday. Monday washday, all you happy people, we wish the best to you.
Today is Tuesday. Tuesday string beans, Monday washday, all you happy people, we wish the best to you.
Today is Wednesday. Wednesday sooouuuppp, Tuesday string beans, Monday washday, all you happy people, we wish the best to you.
Today is Thursday. Thursday roast beef, Wednesday sooouuuppp, Tuesday string beans, Monday washday, all you happy people, we wish the best to you.
Today is Friday. Friday fish, Thursday roast beef, Wednesday sooouuuppp, Tuesday string beans, Monday washday, all you happy people, we wish the best to you.
Today is Saturday. Saturday payday, Friday fish, Thursday roast beef, Wednesday sooouuuppp, Tuesday string beans, Monday washday, all you happy people, we wish the best to you.
Today is Sunday. Sunday church, Saturday payday, Friday fish, Thursday roast beef, Wednesday sooouuuppp, Tuesday string beans, Monday washday, all you happy people, we wish the best to you.

I have found slightly different versions of this old song, author unknown, but I think it kind of reflects what life was like in our house during the early 1940s. My mother had a routine and she generally stuck to it. When she washed clothes on Monday, she ironed on Tuesday, and so forth.

My mother was an amazing woman. When we were small, my parents ran a corner grocery store. I should say that my mother ran the store and my father worked as a cutter in a coat factory. When my dad wasn't working at the factory, he helped out in the store at night and on the weekends. Meanwhile, my mother not only ran the store, she also did all the ordering, meat cutting, stocking, and waiting on customers. She also cooked, cleaned, sewed all our clothes, took care of my sister and myself, shopped, and kept us all going through the War and through my father's illnesses and subsequent hospitalizations. But, most of all, I remember the songs my mother used to sing to us girls when she wanted to amuse us, put us to sleep, calm us down, or to express her love.

Jack and Sara, 1939

She was a strong, loving woman up to the day she died in 1993 and I miss her every day. I only hope I can live up to her strength and wisdom.

In her memory, I will continue to sing all the songs she taught us so many years ago.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Getting serious about life

I have decided, after re-reading my last two posts, that I really am getting too serious about life. It's upsetting to read the news nowadays and I'm afraid I'm becoming too emotional about all the bad things out there. So, on this positive note, I've decided that I would now, and in the future, contain my emotions and just write about Motherkitty, silly sorta stuff.

On that totally non-serious note, I will spend the day finishing the invitations to a Christmas party that I'm planning. Have a happy day.

And, remember, I love you.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Celebrating Veterans' Day

November 11 is the day our nation celebrates Veterans' Day. In honor of this holiday, schools, banks, government, and businesses across the country close and give employees and school children the day off.

The holiday was originally the anniversary of the Armistice which was signed by the Allies and Germany in 1918 to end World War I and was then called Armistice Day. By an act of Congress on May 24, 1954, the name was changed to Veterans' Day. "In October of that year, then President Eisenhower called on all citizens to observe the day by remembering the sacrifices of all those who fought so gallantly, and through rededication to the task of promoting an enduring peace. The President referred to the change of name to Veterans' Day in honor of the servicemen of all America's wars." (Excerpts from All About American Holidays by Mayme R. Krythe.)

Following are casualties of war statistics which show the true ultimate sacrifice our young men and women have made to our country in the name of patriotism since the United States of America was conceived:

American Revolution (1775-1783): Dead 4,435, wounded 6,188
War of 1812 (1812-1815): Dead 2,260, wounded 4,505
Indian Wars (1817-1898): Dead 1,000, wounded unknown
Mexican War (1846-1848): Dead 1,733, other deaths in service (nontheater) 11,550, wounded 4,152
Civil War (1861-1865): Dead (Union) 140,414, other deaths in service (nontheater) (Union) 224,097, wounded (Union) 281,881, Dead (Confederate) 74,524, other deaths in service (nontheater) (Confederate) 58,297, wounded (Confederate) unknown
Spanish-American War (1898-1902): Dead 385, other deaths in service (nontheater) 2,061, wounded 1,662
World War I (1917-1918): Dead 53,402, other deaths in service (nontheater) 63,114, wounded 204,002
World War II (1940-1945): Dead 291,557, other deaths in service (nontheater) 113,842, wounded 681,846
Korean War (1950-1953): Dead 33,741, other deaths in service (theater) 2,827, other deaths in service (nontheater) 17,730, wounded 103,284
Vietnam War (1964-1975): Dead 47,410, other deaths in service (theater) 10,789, other deaths in service (nontheater) 32,000, wounded 153,303
Gulf War (1990-1991): Dead 147, other deaths in service (theater) 382, other deaths in service (nontheater) 1,565, wounded 467

America's Wars Total: Dead 651,008, other deaths in service (theater) 13,998, other deaths in service (nontheater) 525,256, wounded 1,431,290

Post-Vietnam Combat Casualties
Lebanon (Aug. 1982-Feb. 1984):
Grenada (Oct.-Nov. 1983): 18
Libya (April 10-16, 1986): 2
Panama (Dec. 1989-Jan. 1990): 23
Persian Gulf (Jan. 16-April 6, 1991): 147
Somalia (Dec. 1992-May 1993): 29
Haiti (Sept. 1994-April 1996): 4
Former Yugoslavia(1992-2001): 9
Kosovo (March-June 1999): 2
Afghanistan (Oct. 2001 - Present): 124+ and counting
Iraq (March 20, 2003-Present): 2,000+ and counting

I guess we need a holiday to justify sending fresh young blood into battle for old men's causes. I guess we must fly our American flags, tie yellow ribbons around all the oak trees in every neighborhood, place service star banners in our windows, hold parades when we send the young titans off to war and hold parades when they return in their coffins or their wheelchairs. In honor of all these galant people who were given a hero's sendoff, hugs and kisses from their family, and dignified funerals, I hereby award them the Purple Heart.

My feelings about war are aptly expressed by the following song lyrics which were written during the Vietnam War and first recorded by Edwin Starr.

War (Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong)
Performed by Edwin Starr, War and Peace, C. 1970, Motown Records

War! - huh- yeah -
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing

War! - huh - yeah -
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again y'all

War! - huh - good God
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me . . .

Ohhh . . . War! I despise
Because it means destruction'
Of innocent lives

War means tears
to thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
and lose their lives

I said - War! Huh - Good God y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War! Whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me . . .

War! It ain't nothing but a heartbreaker
War! Friend only to the undertaker
War! It's an enemy to all mankind
The thought of war blows my mind

War has caused unrest in the younger generation
Induction then destruction -
Who wants to die?

Ohhh . . . War - Good God Y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it, Say it, Say it

War! Uh-huh - Yeah - Huh!
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me . . .

War! It ain't nothing but a heartbreaker
War! It's got one friend, that's the undertaker
War has shattered many a young man's dreams
Made him disabled bitter and mean
Life is much too precious to spend fighting wars these days
War can't give life, it can only take it away

War! Huh - Good God y'all
What is it good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War! Whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me . . .

War! It ain't nothing but a heartbreaker
War! Friend only to the undertaker
Peace Love and Understanding;
tell me, is there no place for them today?
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there's got to be a better way

War! Huh - Good God y'all
What is it good for?
You tell me
Say it, Say it, Say it

War! Huh - Good God y'all
What is it good for?
Stand up and shout it.

Of the 230 years since the United States of America was founded, we have been at war for approximately 154 of those years. Good God, y'all.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men (and women and children)

Today was one of those hectic days. You know the kind. Up early, hurry to get dressed and out the door, appointments, drive down the road, mind on a hundred different tasks. The weather is glorious for November 9 and you drive along awed by the beauty of the world around you. As you go about your errands, you are reminded -- way before Thanksgiving -- that Christmas is just around the corner. All the stores are decorated already and have set up special sale displays in hopes of making you shop early this season. In fact, most of my shopping is done and my mind is on Thanksgiving which is a short two weeks away. The weather is balmy today and there are many shoppers out in short sleeves and shorts. You feel so good that you take Husband out to lunch and think nothing of spending $40.00 on food (including tip). All's right in our world today as we eat heartily (and without guilt).

Peace on earth was the farthest thing from my thoughts today. I felt pretty calm and peaceful all day. In fact, what was going on in the world was inconsequential as I went about my daily chores. When I arrived home, however, I learned that three American hotels in Amman, Jordan, were targets of suicide bombers today. More than 60 innocent people died and more than 150 were injured. Al Qaeda was to blame, so they say.

Talk about ruining my day. Everyone should have nice days such as the one Husband and I just had. How could a few be so inconsiderate to those of us out enjoying ourselves on a peaceful day.

But then I think the most ridiculous thought! While some of us in the Western (civilized?) World enjoy our luxurious (by the world's standards) lifestyle, the majority of the Third World and other poor, deprived people around the globe live in squalor, filth, and poverty we will never comprehend. They are the most vulnerable for all the terrible diseases rampant in their part of the world, they are the first chosen to be victims of coups, cruel torture, death at the hands of others, and vicious domination (female circumcision, multiple partners resulting in numerous births and HIV/AIDS, stonings, beatings, and burkas). My stomach turns as I think of man's inhumanity towards man going on in this age of enlightenment.

The Law handed to Moses on Mount Sinai said we should love thy neighbor as thyself, regardless of race, creed, religious bent, country of origin, color of skin, last name, first name, dress, language, disabilities, mannerisms, or sexual orientation. It is difficult to love those neighbors, however, who are bent on annihilating everyone who isn't Muslim and part of Jihad. It is difficult to love those neighbors, however, who take pleasure in beheading, pirating, killing, torturing, and destroying people who don't adhere to their philosophy. It is difficult to love those neighbors, however, who accept blood money for their sons' and daughters' sacrifices of being suicide bombers all in the name of religion. It is difficult to love those neighbors, however, who don't love their neighbors as much as they love power, money, and domination over other creatures of this earth.

I am having a problem loving my neighbor who loves to cause death and destruction. I am having a problem living in the lap of luxury while thousands of our neighbors' children die unnecessarily every day of the week of preventable causes, such as lack of clean water, adequate food and shelter, and proper medicine. I am having a problem with heads of state who prefer to make a profit for themselves and their close personal friends to the detriment of the rest of us.

I have only one wish for all of us during this period of Thanksgiving, or giving of thanks. I wish for Peace On Earth, Good Will Towards Men (and women and children). And, try to love thy neighbor as thyself. I'm having a hard time but I promise to work harder at accomplishing this. By the way, I love you.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Grandparenting 201: What, Me Worry?

I should have known better. The weekend was purrfect and went without a hitch. There was no screaming, no temper tantrums, and no demands for mama. In fact, you couldn't have asked for two more darling girls to spend the weekend with.

We did a lot of nice things on Saturday: watched several TeeVee programs, an hour or so of Disney Silly Symphonies, ate a lot, drank a lot, and had Spaghetti-O's for supper. Little Sister even took an hour-and-a-half nap during the afternoon. We played "supermarket" several times at Dancer Girl's insistence. Dancer Girl, who is ever the "leader of the band," took our food orders (we have to be creative) and she eventually delivered our (play) dinners. This game is okay for about two minutes, but gets a little old after awhile. She loves it, though.

Nine o'clock FINALLY rolled around and we all went to bed. I slept with the girls and Husband had the queen-size bed all to himself. That is until about 1:30 a.m. when two little kids sorta kicked me out of bed by spreading all over the mattress. So, I headed for my own bed and they pretty much slept the entire night by themselves (except for one crying episode with a cold wet pull-up).

The next day was spent pleasantly. We played all day and then decided to go out and eat around 3:45 p.m. Darling Daughter and Hairy Husband were on their way back from Nashville and the girls looked so pretty in their Sunday dresses. The only place we could find open on a Sunday afternoon was Pizza Hut, so off we went. Everyone had fun, ate well, drank well (the girls consumed an entire glass of sweet tea which I shoulda known would keep them up and hyper until all hours).

Darling Daughter and Hairy Husband arrived around 5:30 p.m. and the kids were so excited to see them. After passing out presents for the girls, they decided they were too tired to drive home and would stay the night at our house instead.

Minnie Mouse

Pictured above is Little Sister in her Minnie Mouse dress purchased in Nashville by her parents. You can't get any cuter than this!!!

The evening was spent with the parents in a daze on the couch and the kids in a hyper state from all the sweet tea and excitement of the parents' presence. Sorry mom and dad. We all finally fell asleep, but I was up around 5:00 a.m. to get the dishwasher loaded and breakfast started.

Our company left around 11 a.m. and we got ready for our day. First stop, out to lunch then on to my MD appointment to see if I had suffered a stress fracture in my left foot. My little toe and foot have been swollen, red, warm to touch, and awfully sore since last Wednesday or Thursday. My MD ordered X-rays but I won't know the results for sure until Wednesday when I go back to see him. Meanwhile, I think I'll be off my feet trying to recuperate. It was kind of difficult keeping up with the girls over the weekend, but hubby helped a great deal, so I'm thankful for little favors.

I was so worried that the girls would be fussy or difficult, but I should have known better. They are angels, and what can you expect from angels but sweetness and light (from their halos).

Friday, November 04, 2005

Grandparenting 101, or What Have I Gotten Us Into?

Tomorrow will be a first for us and for the granddaughters. Darling Daughter and her Hairy Husband are bringing the girls for a sleepover at grandma and grandpa's house while they go to Nashville, TN for a concert. The girls will only spend one night at our house but this will be the first time Little Sister will sleep here without her mother and her milk supply. Little Sister is 19 months old but she has never spent more than a few hours apart from Mama. So, we expect initial excitement, then panic, frustration, a lot of crying, and finally exhausted sleep.

Or, it could go swimmingly well and we won't have any trouble at all. (Hah!)

Did I mention what a temper Little Sister has, or how long she can sustain ear-piercing screaming when she gets frustrated? She got her nickname "head banger" because that's what she tends to do when she's in the middle of one of her temper tantrums. We just have to ensure that she doesn't hurt herself in the process. (The last time I watched her for a couple of hours she cried for 20 minutes straight until she fell into a stupor all the while continuing to hiccup in her sleep.)

Pictured above is Darling Daughter and Little Sister who sports a great bedhead hairdo after just waking up one morning at grandma's.

No doubt we will do everything humanly possible to amuse, with plenty of food and drink inbetween, with TeeVee, every Disney DVD and video in grandma's arsenal, books, dolls, Legos, Tinkertoys, Go Fish, swinging and sliding outside, playing with the cats, running around in the yard, and maybe going to the park or Mickey Dee's as a diversion.

We expect Darling Daughter and Hairy Husband to return some time Sunday afternoon. It's only a two-hour or so drive from Nashville, so they should be pretty rested if they make several rest stops along the way. We, however, should be ready to collapse as soon as they walk in the door.

What could I have been thinking of?

I did the unthinkable the other day. I sent e-mails to various friends and family and gave them my blog address. And, to make matters worse, I put a counter on my blogsite. What could I have been thinking of?

Now, I spend my time cruising the counter to see who's been looking at my posts. And, I feel as if I should be writing a new entry every day. The pressure is on to produce. It's no longer fun to write something just for the heck of it. My audience awaits with bated breath my next epiphany and reveal to them the secrets of life (I think). Oh, the pressure. It's almost unbearable.

Okay, enough of that. Yeah, I admit that I did it, but I think it will give me the impetus to communicate with those near (and some far away) and dear on a different level. One of my previous posts asked the question, "Writing our thoughts in a blog is like a tree falling in the forest. If no one's there to hear, does the tree falling in the forest make a sound?" My question should further ask, "What's the purpose of a blog if not to talk to others and reveal what's on your mind?" I, therefore, will continue to write what's on my mind and hope that some kindred spirit will communicate in return and tell me what's on their mind.

So, because I have thrown caution to the wind and revealed where I reside on the ethernet, I would hope that you will continue to "read me" and maybe some times you will feel free to join in the conversation. You are always welcome in my house.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Countdown to Christmas

Ye gods, it's the first day of November and I'm already looking at Turkey recipes in preparation for Thanksgiving. I've also started receiving countless Christmas catalogues from Harry and David, Crate and Barrel, Chef's Catalog, Disney, and other places I have purchased from in the past. I leaf through all the shiny, pretty pages and wistfully long for the lovely china, linens, pots and pans, gadgets, furniture, and other gee gaws that I absolutely have no room for. I wish Cash in the Attic would come to my house, pick out all the things I don't want anymore that might have some intrinsic value, and then auction them off so I could buy more things to fill my house with.

I try to decide what to buy Son for his upcoming birthday but remain decidedly undecided. Anything I choose must be purchased online and shipped directly to Son and Wife at her office. Then, there's the Christmas presents to send. I would love to purchase lots of nice things for them, but we have already decided to adhere to the K.I.S.S. principle this year: Keep It Simple Stupid.

Believe it or not, other than purchasing the above-mentioned items for Son and Wife -- drum roll if you please -- I am finished with my Christmas shopping! This is a first in my lifetime. My usual modus operundi is to wait until the week before Christmas and then shop in one fell swoop because that's when the retailers are panicking and mark everything down to the prices the items should have been all along.

But, not this time. Husband and I have already done the deed and everything is sitting there patiently waiting to be wrapped in lovely Christmas paper. And, we didn't spend a fraction of what we usually spend every year. What we did purchase, however, will no doubt please everyone as much as usual.

Now that the majority of our Christmas shopping is done, I can concentrate on Thanksgiving. Son and Wife will be unable to join us this year, so I again ponder whether I wish to go through all the bother and expense of fixing a Thanksgiving dinner. Tradition in our family states that EVERYTHING for this special meal must be made from scratch. The menu is ALWAYS the same: deviled eggs, fresh salad, olives (both black and green), cranberry relish, real mashed potatoes slathered in real butter, real giblet gravy, real sweet potatoes slathered in real butter, real maple syrup, brown sugar, raisins, cinnamon, and topped with marshmallows, homemade bread slathered in real butter, beautiful turkey that has been marinated for 24 hours in mother's secret marinade, real stuffing made with homemade chicken broth, and real, homemade pumpkin pies topped with real, made-from-scratch whipped cream. It's a meal meant to tempt your sense of smell, tantalize your taste buds, and clog your arteries for a lifetime.

I usually spend hundreds on the ingredients, weeks in planning, days in preparation, and minutes in eating. (Last year we actually got up to 20 minutes.) We all end up with distended guts, heartburn, added pounds, and lots of leftovers. By evening, I'm usually so sick of looking at and dealing with food, that I threaten every year to take everyone out to dinner the next year, but of course I never do.

This year, however, might be a first. Husband has already said that since Son and Wife wouldn't be here and my knees are so bad, we should just go out to dinner and forget about all the hard work. Ummmm. Now, that's an original thought. The problem with going out to dinner is that the food won't taste like mine, you have to pay for seconds, and there won't be any leftovers. Plus, we would have to dress up for the occasion to go out in public. Now, what's the fun in all that?

What will going out to eat Thanksgiving dinner say to Dancer Girl and Little Sister -- that their grandma doesn't want to cook for them anymore? My most precious memories of my long-dead mother are of all the time my sister and I spent preparing meals with her and how her food tasted. The wait for the food to get done cooking was almost unbearable but the results were worth every minute spent salivating in anticipation. Pavlov would have been proud of us. Even her chipped beef on toast was a gourmet treat! So, I'll just have to think twice about the tradition of it all before I decide whether I want to eat someone else's tastless bird and their puny fixings.