Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!



My gracious thanks to Donna at D's Designs for these great graphics!  Wishing you all a great new year and all the best in 2008! 



Monday, December 24, 2007

A Christmas Story

The renowned blogger and artist Judith Heartsong is very timely this month with her chosen topic for her monthly Artsy Essay competition.  Although I don’t enter every single month, I try to enter as often as I can and I encourage other journalists to enter as well.  It’s a fun competition and a win, win situation for all.

This month Judith challenges us to write about:

The Funniest Gift
I Have Ever
Given or Received

There is no explanation needed... let's light up the holidays with some laughter here and make sure you spell-check, use colorful and descriptive language, and tell your tale in an engaging way!

You have until the very last minute of the last hour of the last day of this holiday month to spin a yarn to share.

I have taken many days to consider this topic, and almost passed on this assignment, because I don’t have that many funny gift stories.  An interesting thing happened during this process.  I forced myself to sit down and really try to reflect on the Christmases of my past and the gifts I received through the years.  The memories started flooding back in. 

I am one of the fortunate ones that had a great childhood.  My parents loved my sister and me very much and did everything in their power to protect and nurture us.  They didn’t let us get away with much, but their discipline was meted out with our welfare in mind and with much evident love.

Every Christmas Jan and I were asked to write out a wish list early in November.  Mom always hoped she got it well enough in advance that we would forget exactly all that we put on our lists.  You see, the lists were guidelines and she never wanted us to think they were absolutes.  We may have gotten one or two items from the list or, some years, not even one item depending on costs and availability of our requests. 

We never went wanting, though.  Christmas morning Mom and Dad always made sure we would enjoy a great Christmas under the tree and we never went away disappointed.  Sometimes the occasion would call for extreme action to ensure that happiness, but if it was within their power, they would do it.

One such occasion was the year 1964.  That year I wanted a model car racing set.  Not the little tiny ones, but a set with the larger race cars, oh, say, six to eight inches long.  The track was a figure eight design and could be set up in our living room without much problem and plenty of room.

We were living in Smyrna, Tennessee that year.  My father was stationed at Sewart Air Force Base and we were about twenty miles south of Nashville.  This part of Tennessee is of temperate climate and gets snow on the ground for one or two days perhaps twice a winter on average.  1964 was the year that Smyrna would have a white Christmas.

The snow began to fall late in the afternoon on Christmas Eve, big white flakes, wet and sticky.  Much different than the almost dry, tiny flurry type of snow we were more accustomed to.  The kids in the area were elated and hopeful.  Too many times we had snow start only to stop a few minutes later and disappear like a phantom in the night, silently appearing and leaving with no notice or trace.

Every few minutes I would leave the comfort of my usual spot in front of the TV, where I would be ensconced on the couch in our den.  I would run to the picture window in the living room or open the back door and peer out.  Once assured that the winter onslaught was still coming down, I’d march through the house and deliver the great news to any I happened upon that, “Yes, it was still snowing and it looked like it was sticking!”  Or, “Yes, it’s still snowing and it looks like an inch deep now!” … and so on as the evening progressed.  By bed time we were assured we would have some snow on the ground come morning.  The only question was, how much?  I fell asleep that night with that wonderful feeling that we would finally experience a White Christmas.

Until that Christmas, a White Christmas was only something I had seen in the movies or heard about from adults who had been raised in a colder climate.  The linking of Christmas with snow on the ground was like magic to me, mystical in a sense that I could not fathom.  When I awoke that Christmas Morning, I sprang out of bed and hurried to the front door.  I opened it on a magical scene that I will never forget. 

Every tree was covered with a white blanket.  The road in front of the house was indiscernible from our front yard.  There were two or three feet of snow out there and it was still falling lightly as I stood in awe.  The term, “winter wonderland,” seemed no exaggeration at the time. 

It was cold on that door step and I pulled myself back into the living room, withdrawing from the cold and reveling in the warmth of our house, my immediate attention fixating on the tree in front of the window.  The lights were twinkling like a thousand stars beckoning to me.  Pretty colors played from the lights and were reflected on the wrappings of our collective gifts.  There, on the floor in the center of the room, my race car track had been constructed and two shiny cars were poised at the starting line, set to speed off at the drop of a flag.

Our custom was that the kids did not do Christmas without Mom and Dad.  I danced around the house as I waited for everyone to assemble in the living room so we could open the presents.  It was pure torture that Mom insisted on taking the time to brew that cup of coffee before we began.  But, alas, the time finally came.  My opportunity to feel the controller in my hand and press the accelerator control had arrived.  I pressed the button and waited with great anticipation for the little race car to roar to life and command that little figure eight track … and waited, and waited!  Nothing happened!

I checked the power cable, I checked all the connections.  I read the instruction manual forwards and backwards.  The car still would not budge.  My racing set did not work.  In today’s retail parlance it was an out of the box failure.

There I sat on Christmas morning with a toy that did not work and, for the first time in years, we were snowed in.  Two feet of snow in that part of Tennessee pretty much paralyzed travel in those days.  There was no equipment available to plow the highways; all you could do was to wait for it to melt.

I will never forget my father for what he did the next morning.  We still had more than two feet of snow on the ground, (it had snowed some more), yet he loaded me and my defective race car set into the family vehicle.  There were few cars on those snow covered roads as we made our way the twenty miles into Nashville, back to the store where the toy had been purchased. 

I thought there would be no chance that the store would even be open with that much snow on the ground, but, lo and behold, we made it there and was able to make the exchange.  The ride back home was one of the scariest I’ve ever made.  Shortly after leaving the store, the snow began to fall again.

The visibility on the highway was about ten feet.  The slippery roads became even slicker.  We almost got pushed off the road by a trucker barreling down on us trying to get out of the area before being stuck there and losing precious time.  The car lurched as we went into a skid, sliding across an unseen tarmac, frantically trying to maintain our path.

We made it home without further incident.  I saw a side of my father that morning that I had not seen before.  It was only after I returned home that I realized to just what extent my father would go and what he was willing to risk to insure the happiness of his son.  Yes, that was truly a magical Christmas that year and one I will never forget.

Thank you, Judith Heartsong.  I may not win a prize in this Essay Contest, because my gift was not a funny one, but the memory I retrieved was priceless.  Merry Christmas everyone, and a very Happy New Year!


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Caroling Through J-Land

Thanks to Donna at D's Designs for this great graphic!

My apologies to those who have dial-up.  This is my first Video Only Post.  If you can't get it to play, Email me and I'll let you know what it is all about.


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Happy Holidays!


I hope everyone is having a Happy Holiday Season.  We are all doing fine here in Georgia and enjoying this unseasonably warm weather spell.  Who can get upset about the weather when the highs are in the mid to high seventies each day?

My Thanks to Donna for the graphic above which really spruces up this place!

Our household is not that much different than most of Y’all’s.  We are still doing Christmas shopping, most of our cards are in the mail, and we are still decorating the house.  Oh, and I am performing my usual Christmas screw-ups.  Yesterday I mailed a beautiful card to my sister and did not realize until after it was in the post that the gift card had not been put in the envelope.  So, today I wrote another card and ‘fessed up to the deed.  A second card is in the mail and fully armed this time.

I was given eighteen postcards yesterday to take to the post office.  My instructions were to, and I quote, “Buy some Christmas stamps for these and get them in the mail. “  So, I wait in line for a good twenty minutes, get up to the clerk and do my Priority Mail transactions and ask for eighteen Christmas Stamps.  I take the stamps over to a counter top and stamp all the envelopes and stick the cards in the mail bin.

Last night when Paulette got home I got the third degree.  Did you get receipts and tracking numbers for the priority mail?  (Yes!)  How many stamps did you end up having to buy?  (Eighteen, honey, there were eighteen cards.)  What?  Eighteen stamps?  How many stamps did the larger envelopes take?  [Suddenly I knew I was a cooked goose].  (Honey, you said to buy Christmas Stamps for the cards and mail them.  That is exactly what I did).  No, what I sent you to do was to hand the eighteen cards to the clerk and have the clerk weigh and size them and affix the proper postage on each for you.  [We are now in danger of four cards being returned for insufficient postage]

I held my tongue and did not ask why she did not explain it to me if she wanted it done in a certain manner.  I am a typical guy who does not keep track of postal rates and wonders why a thin, light card would cost more than normal airmail postage no matter what the dimensions are.  After all they are all about an eighteenth of an inch thick for goodness sake. This is a normal part of marriage, and next year SHE will be in that postal line no matter HOW busy she claims to be, LOL.

On a positive note, I have maintained my diet that I started in July and now have officially lost thirty pounds.  I’m pleased, but the goal is to lose twenty more.  I may not get there for another few months, but I know I’ll make it.

Just how many months it will take will depend on what I succumb to during the Christmas Season.  I have lost the three or four pounds that Thanksgiving threatened to stick me with, now it will be the battle of Christmas’s repast, not to mention those innocent looking stocking stuffers.  We have always loaded our stockings with little trinkets and lots of nuts, fruit, and chocolates.  We may break with tradition this year; Paulette and Sandy have gone into diet mode, too.

Last Christmas I wrote a post about the music of Christmas that filled our house every year growing up.  I even recorded the song, “Here Comes Santa Clause,” and included the video in the entry.  It was fun and well received.  This year has been no different than previous years.  I held true to my annual pattern of practicing my guitar playing through the holidays and into spring time.  Then, as work got busier, I put the guitar away for the summer.  The vicious cycle continued.  All the progress I had made went by the way side and all the songs I had memorized became faint memories and had to be learned all over again.

I have said it before, but this year I mean it.  I am not going to put the guitar down this summer and I will not let this progress I’ve made go by the wayside this year.  When I set my mind on a goal, I don’t often fall short.  So, I think next year’s post may have a much higher quality to the home grown music offering.

All this is leading up to this year’s offering which is quite short, and … if I get really industrious… may be joined soon by another song if I can get another one on tape, so to speak.  I get real nervous when the camera is on and don’t perform very well.  30 years ago it was a much different story, but this is the reality of today.  So, for those of you who have requested another Christmas music offering, here it is.  Merry Christmas, everyone, and I wish you all a very happy holiday season.  I hope to post at least one more time before Christmas, but I have a lousy track record and don’t know if you should trust me on this.