Saturday, December 23, 2006

Tree-mendous Thoughts of Christmas

Its very quiet in our home in these early morning hours of the day before Christmas Eve. I love the quiet, particularly at this time of year when our lives are so full and busy. Willi is sleeping in on the first day of a much needed break. The sun is not up quite yet, either. Soon both will signal the start of another day. I remind myself that each day is like no other. It is easy to let them fly by paying little or no attention to their relevance. This morning I promise myself to look for the joy in the little things.

Willi's mom has flown in from Texas to join us for the holidays. We are soaking up every bit of her while she is here. Yesterday she made a yummy apple cake while we were both at work. When I came home, the wonderful aroma of fresh baked goodies still hung in the air. I made a note to myself, "It is good to have a mom in the house when you come home from a long day at work."

My daughter and her husband are sharing their first Christmas. I remember those years when your holidays are not your own. When families lay their claim, wanting all of your precious minutes to be spent with them. When really what you want so much is to hunker in and make memories of your own. I say a little prayer for them as they try to spread a little of themselves amongst us all. And remind myself not to be pinched when my minutes are few; theirs are young and tender and need room to grow.

Thoughts of Christmases past drift in and out, both bitter and sweet. My mother's dilligent preparation of the thin pastry in which she dropped measured spoonfuls of nut filling to make the mouth-watering Nut Horns we so coveted! The tears my father shed as he sat on the floor of the garage, one of his last Christmases, trying to make the stubborn tree sit straight in the homemade stand, as he had so many times with ease. Shopping with both of them as they selected the "perfect gift" for each other; plaid wool shirts for my dad and Chanel No. 5 for my mom, always the favorites!

I'm thinking about my son. Back in the day, his second grade teacher hosted the usual Christmas party for the students, and moms were invited to join in. After treats were served and the children had performed, we all took some time to enjoy the many examples of student work that had been dutifully posted on the boards and walls. Among them, 8.5 x 11 inch Santas marched around the room in perfect red and white harmony. Mrs. Thompson giggled as she asked me, "Can you guess which one is his?" I began at the first Santa in the row and continued around the room until I found one colored in purple. That was his. I have it tucked away with the Christmas ornaments. He still moves to his own beat. I pray he is healthy and safe.

Willi's children will be coming in tomorrow night, on Christmas Eve. They are growing so quickly and their lives have become so busy. In various stages of high school and beyond, too soon they will be planning Christmases of their own. He is the bridge of generations for his mom and her grandchildren, bringing them together to make some Christmas memories. They have welcomed me into their fold and for that I am grateful. They fill the chairs around the holiday table with warmth and laughter; and it is good.

Willi and I have made a few traditions of our own in the part of our lives we have spent together. Blending our pasts into our present has been interesting and often times a matter of compromise. Gracing our tree, is the angel I made so many years ago sitting atop his cowboy hat. Each of us clings to the paths we have walked; paths that led us to each other and help us appreciate the differences which make us who we are. And make us good together.

Well, the sun is up and the bustle begins. Willi has made a list of the things we need to accomplish in this day that will be too short. We will feast on apple cake, sip some coffee, and move forward toward the celebration that is over so quickly. As I listen to Willi strum and sing "I'll Fly Away", I give thanks. We will have a Merry Christmas. Best wishes for yours to be the same.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Tag! You're it!

I got tagged by Jay.

* Rules for this tag game are:
-Grab the closest book to you
-Open Page 123
-Scroll down to the 5th sentence
-Post the next 3 sentences on your blog
-Name the book and author
-Tag 3 people

"The teachers of Froebel School set up a soup kitchen so that families could receive food during the Depression. Each day at noon people lined up to receive their pail of food. Under the auspices of the Gary Public Schools, the child welfare department also distributed clothes and other articles needed by poor children."

Gary, A Pictorial History
by James B. Lane and Ronald D. Cohen

I tag...


Here is the picture that went with these sentences:

South Side Soup Kitchen, 1934

I'm going to go count my blessings now...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

WWC: Celebrate the Joy of Reading

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words are Celebrate and Joy.

Admittedly, I take great liberty in the Weekend Words Challenge, but Odd Mix has not booted me out of the game yet. So, today I am celebrating the joys of reading; and what better time than Christmas? I should probably tell you that I love children's books. Here are some of my favorites, both old and new. Graymama, this is for you and your family of readers!

Does anyone remember the Ideals Magazine? My mom used to get it back in the day. This one, published in 1958, shaped my perception of Santa Claus and just what must have been happening in the North Pole in the days preceding Christmas.

I remember laying on my tummy in the living room , getting lost in the pictures even before I could read the words. There are two pages to read between every two-page picture. I share this book with a first grade class every Christmas and they love to find the details in the pictures, just like I did.

Here are some of the newer books that have been added to my list of favorite Christmas stories:

Olive, the other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh: This is a neat little story that was made into a Christmas movie a few years back. Olive, a pup, hears the song Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer and believes the verse "all of the other reindeer..." is a summons for her to head to the North Pole to be Santa's helper. She becomes an integral part of the Christmas Eve happenings in a very useful and exciting way.

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian: Not really Christmas, but great for winter-time, this true story is a Caldecott Medal book about Wilson Bentley, a Vermont farmboy. He was so fascinated with snowflakes that he worked with a microscope and camera to capture them on film, thus the name Snowflake Bentley. This became his life's work and many of his photos are still used today. Last year I told this story at a Student of the Month Breakfast. We talked about how each snowflake, like each of us, is different. In Snowflake Bentley's words, "Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated." It was pretty neat. We linked to this site with a laptop and projection unit to make snowflakes. The illustrations are outstanding in this book.

Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco: This is a great Christmas heart-warmer about a little boy named Welcome Comfort. Being a foster child, Welcome moves frequently and at each school he becomes a magnet for bullies. He is befriended by the school's custodian and things begin to look up. You can probably guess who the custodian turns out to be! There's more...but I don't want to spoil the ending for you. You will love it!

A Wish for Wings That Work: An Opus Christmas Story by Berkeley Breathed: I love this story! Opus longs to fly, but finds that he is much more valuable as a swimmer to save the day for Santa. As always, the illustrations are the best and you know I love Opus. It just doesn't get any better than this. Unless of course you want to read my all time favorite...

Red Ranger Came Calling by Berkeley Breathed: In this book the author retells the story his dad shared on the Christmas Eves of his youth. It takes place in 1939, when his then nine year old father, called Red (short for Red of Ranger fame), requests an official Buck Tweed Two-speed Crime-stopper Star-hopper Bicycle from a hermit named Saunder Clos. What a Christmas morning surprise! This is one of those books that seems to be written on two levels; one for the child in each of us and one that speaks to us as adults. I love this book and the way it makes me feel each Christmas when I read it again!

May joy be yours as you celebrate this holiday season...maybe with a little Christmas reading!

In a Nutshell

A place set aside to answer
201 autobiographical questions

from a mother for her daughter.

This may take awhile...
join us if you like.

1. One of mom's traits I admired was: that she always seemed to be quite the lady. Even when she was working in the garden, she wore a hat and gardening gloves. As I look through the pictures that remember her life to me now, I see a very elegant woman where a young farm girl once stood. To me, this is quite something.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday's Feast 122

Feed your mind
with thought-provoking,
mind-stimulating questions…

visit Friday's Feast:

a buffet for your brain.


What was your very first job with a paycheck?
My first paying job was at Jo-Ann Fabrics. It was a pretty cool gig. They had a really nice incentive program for employees to sew garments for display. You received everything including patterns, fabric and notions, with a 50% discount as long as you let them display your product for a month when it was sewn. We always worked a season ahead so my clothes were off of display just in time to wear them. Of course in the end I was working for my wardrobe and a little spending money...but when you are in high school, that's all you really need!

Did you ever lose something really important to you?
Once I lost a little diamond studded band that was my mom's. I was crushed. I tore the house apart looking for it. Months later it turned up when I pulled a desk away from the wall to vacuum. It rattled in the vacuum cleaner and got spit out. What a save!

What is the best Christmas present you ever received?
The last Christmas we had with my dad I was at Purdue and the snow was so deep and coming down steady. It looked like I was staying at school for the holiday until my mom called to tell me to be ready - dad was coming. And sure enough, he did. It was so neat to see him plodding down the street in front of my dorm. I still don’t know how we made it home. I-65 looked the same as the fields on either side. I guess that would be one of my best Christmas rememberings, and a gift for me.

Main Course
Tell about a favorite "hang out" place for you and your friends when you were in high school.
We didn't really have one, unless you want to call Broadway from about 61st Avenue to Ridge Road a hang-out. When I was in high school we would cruise that stretch of road most evenings beginning about dusk. Once in awhile we would park, sit on the hoods of our cars and visit. That was back in the day when gas was relatively inexpensive and you didn't have to worry too much about the boogey man.

Name something that always brings a smile to your face.
Hearing children laugh always makes me smile. Willi's jokes always make me smile, too. And there are plenty of them! Snow makes me smile. Music always makes me smile, too! I could go on and on...

Monday, December 11, 2006

WWC: Labor of Love

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words are Honor and Love.

In honor of my dad, this is a little story about his labor of love.

I think of my dad as the consummate outdoorsman, jack-of-all trades, father, husband, provider and just about any other good thing you could think of. I was the child the doctors said my parents would never have. When they finally gave up, just before age 40, that is when I came along. I believe he thought of me as the son he didn't mind not having. From my very earliest recollection, what he did I.

As a side note, Willi and I got up at 4:30 this morning to pick up some risers he had taken to church, before we started our work day. We had a concert to benefit Coats for Kids and the musicians needed a "little lift". *snort* Anyway, as we were driving to the church Willi commented that he enjoyed getting up early; it brought back many good memories of time spent with his father. I had not made the connection until he did, then I got this warm and fuzzy feeling with my rememberings.

I loved getting up in what seemed like the middle of the night to crawl in the car and ride with my dad. Sometimes we would go hunting at Willow Slough, or fishing at my grammas on Lake Dale. In the winter he would ice fish and I would take my skates for when the sun came up. For awhile he owned a dump truck and would make some extra bucks on Saturdays hauling black dirt. We would get up way before dawn to get the first load out early, squeezing in as many loads as the daylight hours would allow. I would ride alongside him all day with a bucket of crayons and my coloring books. Those early morning hours were the neatest. The roads would be empty and the sky big and dark, but I was always safe, sound, and glad to be with my dad.

This picture was taken when I was two. My guess is that I couldn't quite keep up, or maybe I wasn't old enough to hang on to the sled yet. I do know that he crafted the box so that I could ride on the sled as he pulled it. Some might not have had the time or inclination for such a project. Some might have called it work. By the look on his face, I think he enjoyed it and might have considered it a labor of love.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Little Homemade Christmas

My daughter does not remember a Christmas without this nativity at my mom's house. We were trying to place an age on it and guess it was made around 1980. It definitely was back in the day when I was a stay at home mom and had time to craft.

It is made from salt and flour dough, baked, painted and then varnished. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, along with the angel were made the first year. My neighbor made the creche out of spare lumber, and then came the star.

The wise guys came on foot; the next Christmas they brought their camel along with the shepherds and other critters.

The donkey might bear a slight resemblance to Eeyore, however unintentional.

My mom always kept all of her Christmas ornaments and decorations in boxes in the fruit cellar, but we found this in the original box in the hall closet. For awhile she kept it out all year round.

This is the first Christmas for my daughter and her husband in their new home. So, today I am boxing this up for her. It will fit perfectly on her mantel. From my mother to my daughter just feels so right. Merry Christmas Sarah!

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday's Feast 121: A Pearl of a Place

Feed your mind
with thought-provoking,
mind-stimulating questions…

visit Friday's Feast:

a buffet for your brain.


Which language would you like to learn and why?
I'm pretty happy with the language I have actually, although sometimes I probably don't do it

What's the funniest thing you've heard or read so far this week?
My friend's husband is retired. He was determined this morning to do their grocery shopping in an effort to give her a break, as she is still working. He literally followed her around the house until she unwillingly gave him the list. A few hours after we were at work she received an e-mail from him outlining his trials and tribulations. It began with:

I bought Coke, but not the one that was on sale, so I will return it.
I was not able to fill the prescriptions since the pharmacy does not open until 8:00.
I'm not quite sure what Ghiradelli's are.
I could not find the Wisk that was on sale.

There were about four or five more items, followed by this...

I did get the eggs, Shout, milk and bread.

I'm going to take a nap now. I'm tired.

He called a little later in the day to report that he had indeed returned the Coke and purchased
the size that was on sale.

He had forgotten about the prescriptions.

Which movie was so bad you couldn't watch the whole thing?
We don't generally mess with watching movies unless we are pretty sure we will like them. Lately I have been thinking about watching Lonesome Dove again. Maybe over the holidays we will get a chance.

Main Course
If there were a holiday in your honor that didn't use your actual name, what would the day be called?

Name one movie which is coming out soon that you would like to see.
Oh, man. This is not a good question for me. I don't even know what movies are out now, let alone coming out. I was going to see DaVinci Code for the first time at church last month and wasn't able to make it!

I'm sneaking in one last post about our Texas trip. Willi and I ate at a great oyster bar and it's
right on the trolley line!

You will find S & D Oyster Company in this historic brick grocery in the Uptown area.

The oysters, shucked at the front counter, were fresh and very clean. No sand, grit, or pieces of shell for me, thank you very much! The hostess mixed the sauce using condiments at our table.

It just doesn't get much better than this...oysters on the half-shell with a nice cold Shiner Bock!

Next time you are in Dallas, be sure and visit S & D Oyster Company on McKinney Avenue. Oysters on the half-shell, barbecued shrimp, well smoked beef brisket, and pork ribs are served with New Orleans style.

Next time...
a little homemade Christmas!

Monday, December 04, 2006

WWC Part 2: I love you, trolley

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words are Change and Persist.

This is a story about change; something that I, for one, do not take to very easily. It's ok. I acknowledge that I am the one with gnashing teeth being drug feet first into change. Particularly if it is not my idea. Then I generally have to sit in it for awhile and maybe pout a bit before recognizing that it may be a good thing after all. Although some changes eventually lead us right back to where we started. That is what this story is about.
Meet The Green Dragon, Streetcar 186, a McKinney Avenue Trolley in Dallas, Texas. She was built in 1913 and served for 43 years before retiring in 1956 when the streetcar system was abandoned. Mass transit had given way to our love for the car. Stripped of running gear and electrical wiring, the Green Dragon was sold to a North Dallas farmer for use as a hay barn. She could store 175 bales.

She received a facelift in order to be used for display in 1979 and was restored to full running order in 1989. After 33 years in retirement, she was back. What a change. Seats were salvaged from other Dallas streetcars while the running gear and electrical equipment came from a car in Melbourne, Australia.

186 actually carried students on the SMU line on McKinney Avenue. They affectionately called her "The Green Dragon" which remains her nickname after restoration. Willi and I certainly did appreciate the opportunity for a ride, getting on and off several times along the way to the West Village.

It was interesting to find out that The Green Dragon is actually operated from both ends. When the operator reached the end of the line, he removed the controllers to the left of the seat and placed them in the same location on the opposite end of the trolley.

The trolley pole reached from the roof of the car to an overhead electric wire. At the end of the line, the trolley pole is switched, in effect "changing ends", instead of physically turning the car around. Pretty interesting stuff, for me anyway.

If you're ever in Dallas near McKinney Avenue, park your car and take a ride on The Green Dragon. The change will do you good.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

WWC Part 1: Chicago to Dallas

Courtesy of Odd Mix, the words are Change and Persist.

This was the scene from our back door Friday morning as Willi and I headed out to Dallas for his nephew's wedding. The forecast called for as much as 12 inches of snow on top of the two days of rain we already had. Much of Northwest Chicagoland was under heavy snow and traveler's advisories. Although flights out of O'Hare had already been cancelled, Midway was up and running. I would have caved, but Willi was persistant.

The flight was delayed, but only an hour or so. Crews were busy clearing the runways in order to move the flights out. The problem was getting flights in since so many had been cancelled or delayed from other areas.

Ice Man 4 de-iced the planes as we readied to take off. This was comforting in an unsettling kind of way, if that makes any sense.

Finally on to the warmer southern climate, or so we thought. They were experiencing the same cold snap that continued up north; temperatures from 50 degrees in the daytime to 20 in the evening. But yet we persist!

Welcome to Dallas, where the sky always looks so big and blue. I love this picture looking up through an overgrowth of trees.

I'm so glad we made this trip. The wedding was beautiful and lots of fun. Although my photographic ability leaves much to be desired, to see the kids clowning for the camera was great!

Much love to Mr. and Mrs. who are currently south of the border in newly wedded bliss!

Tomorrow...WWC Part 2: I love you, trolley!