Category Archives: Holidays

Resolved

As we near the end first week of January, I’m proud to report that I’ve kept all of my New Year’s resolutions. Or I would have if I had made any. Perhaps I’ve kept yours.

I don’t typically make New Year’s resolutions. Or perhaps I should say, I don’t make typical New Year’s resolutions.

Let it be noted that this week, I took a Zumba class, attended a Weight Watchers meeting, started a new book (reading, not writing), cleaned out and reorganized my refrigerator and tried to donate a pint of blood. Tried, because I apparently didn’t have enough iron for the Red Cross. I then went out and bought a gargantuan head of kale.

If I had resolved to exercise, lose weight, read more, get organized, do for humanity and buy healthful foods, I’d have aced it this week. One down, fifty-one to go.

Notice I said, “healthful,” not “healthy.” Things are healthful. People are healthy. Kale, anyone?

1 Comment

Filed under All Things Wordish, Food, Health, Holidays, Sports and Recreation

A tough act to follow

Over the last 10 days, I’ve approached the keyboard to spill my latest observations. I’ve started several blog posts, all of which remain unfinished, like the homework assignments of my less productive youth.

Each time, a distraction beckoned and I fled my desk chair—to tend to a client, an errand, a chore, a phone call, a doorbell, a cat, a newspaper, an egg timer, or a call of nature. Let’s just call it seasonal attention deficit.

A week’s worth of grocery shopping, cooking and cleaning are finished now, on the eve of December 23rd, as finally I sit quietly, with my feet on a pillow, laptop atop my lap, glass of wine nearby, committed to reflect quietly before the Yuletide.

It’s times like this I wish I could communicate with my late mother-in-law, who used to make the most wonderful Christmases.

Many years in a row, on December 23rd, we pulled into her driveway in Shelby, North Carolina, where the streets were lined with luminaries. We walked into the house to the smell of pot roast and pound cake. Her pound cake was the best, but at Christmastime, it snuggled beneath a warm blanket of caramel frosting. For days, she pampered us with our favorite drinks, savory hors d’oeuvre, special ordered breakfast ham, homemade pecan pie, ambrosia that took hours and hours to make. The house was beautifully decorated and the bed sheets crisp and line dried.

Christmas morning brought one thoughtful gift after another, perfectly wrapped. She would sit straight up, on the edge of the sofa, hands clasped between her knees, delighting in our smiles as we opened our gifts. Every year, after all gifts had been opened, she brought out one last surprise for each of the three of us, my husband, his brother and me. It was always the same sized box—three inches square, tied with an elastic gold ribbon, and holding inside a crisp one-hundred-dollar bill. She and my father-in-law likely didn’t have it to spare, but they knew how deeply we needed, wanted and appreciated it.

She allowed everyone to nap or watch sports until dinner and then again after the big meal, while she and her husband washed all the dishes.

When it was time for us to leave, she packed turkey sandwiches with Duke’s mayonnaise and sliced dill pickles wrapped in foil into a cooler, along with several cans of Coca-Cola (and occasionally a can or two of Schlitz) for the ride home, and waved good-bye from the porch.

As a young bride, I never gave the first thought to what kind of preparation this all required. She made it look so effortless. No sighing, no brow-wiping, no complaining, no asking for help in the kitchen.

She passed away right after Thanksgiving in 1993. After the funeral, her sister asked my help in cleaning out her things. We came to the closet where the Christmas decorations were stored. Her sister regarded the stacked boxes of glass balls and garland. She turned to me and said, “Nancy always hated Christmas.”

Nancy, if you can read this, please know you’re my hero and my inspiration. I’ve tried to make a beautiful Christmas for my family, as you did. I just can’t seem to control the sighing, brow wiping, complaining, or asking for help in the kitchen. How ever did you do it?

18 Comments

December 22, 2011 · 11:13 pm

Annotated astrology

The great cleaning-out project has yielded yet another artifact.

There’s no trace of a date, but we can see that the one-inch-by-three-inch clipping is quite yellowed and worn. It might be 10 years old or more. It reads, and I annotate:

IF DEC. 13 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: Your unorthodox views separated you psychologically from one or both parents.1 You are frank, outspoken and romantic.2 You are drawn to people whom others consider “weird.”3 You travel more than most4 and constantly will fight for the underdog.5 Taurus, Leo and Scorpio persons play major roles in your life,6 could have these letters in their names: D, M, V.7 Your most romantic, profitable month of next year will be May.”8

1 I’m the one with the unorthodox views?
2 Yes, a typical Sagittarius.
3 They are drawn to me.
4 Thirty-one cities this year; yeah, I’d say that’s about right.
5 I’d like to think so. Underdog was one of my favorite cartoons.
6 Cindy Canz, Brother John, Aunt Patsy.
7 In a good year, DMV plays a minor role, if any.
8 Romantic and profitable? Is that possible?

Today’s was boring, so I’ll stick with the one from nineteen-whatever-it-was.

In case you missed it last year, take an amusing stroll through The Washington Post of December 13, 1959. But no horoscope in 1959. Too unorthodox.

Leave a comment

Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays

Waring thin

December relics, part two

This time of year I spend a lot of time standing at the intersection of Memory Lane and Frustration Freeway.

Yesterday, I took you on a tour of my aging crèche. Last December you kindly indulged me in accounts of favorite holiday movies (including a really old one), traditional cookies and some pleasant and less pleasant family rituals.

Today, I remember Fred Waring.

From my youngest days, the definitive holiday album in our house was The Sounds of Christmas, by Fred Waring and The Pennsylvanians (sometimes called His Pennsylvanians). I’m pretty sure this record made its way into our home about the same time I did.

You can go online and read all about Fred Warning who, by the way, was also promoter, financial backer and namesake of the Waring Blendor. Yes, with an o.

There were songs on that album that you don’t hear—at least I haven’t heard—on other collections:  “I Wonder as I Wander,” “Go Where I Send Thee,” for example. I always loved his rendition of “Caroling, Caroling.”

The pops and cracks of the LP are essential elements of the audio experience, and they transferred well when my mother copied the record to a cassette tape for me one year. Short of digging a boom box out of the basement, though, there’ll be no easy way for me to enjoy The Sounds of Christmas this year.

Amazon would be happy to sell me a CD version for 99 dollars. Another site offers a CD copy of the LP for $24, but “to abide by copyright laws, you must own the vinyl record to buy the CD. If you don’t already own the record, you can purchase one with your CD.” I wonder (as I wander) what proof they require that an LP exists somewhere in our family.

While browsing the Fred Waring shelves in cyberspace, I was offered an opportunity to acquire a Waring carol as my ringtone. Having never tapped into an online ringtone, I stupidly completed three steps on a site called Jamster which, by its name, should have clued me in that they’d have no Fred Waring. Indeed, despite the come-on, they didn’t and my mobile account was charged $9.99. I then spent 20 minutes on the phone with a gentleman in the Eastern hemisphere who finally agreed to send me a hard copy refund check via snail mail.

But I digress. Literally.

What’s your definitive holiday album?

8 Comments

Filed under Hearth and Home, Holidays, Music

Crèching down

It isn’t 2011 years old, but the little replica is getting up there in years.

Our family crèche was bought in December 1959, just before I was born.

Every year that it is lifted from its tattered box, as it was yesterday, our nativity scene shows more wear. The stable has become unstable. A couple of figures have lost their hands, one of which remains attached to the end of a camel’s rein. Two animals are each missing an ear.

One shepherd has lost the bundle of twigs he once carried on his shoulder. I know where it is—behind a heavy buffet in our dining room. If we ever move, I must remember to retrieve it. In the meantime, it’s been replaced with a shred of mulch from the yard.

The roof is in terrible disrepair, resulting from angel-induced erosion. For the first 35 or so years of use, we affixed the angel—which has a hooked wire in its back—to the roof by poking the wire into the thatching.

One year, our young son asked why we attached the angel that way: “Why don’t we just hang it on the hook?” He pointed to a tiny loop in the ceiling, which none of us had ever noticed. Sure enough, that’s where the angel was meant to hang.

A few things have also been added.

In the 1970s, a plastic cow from my brother’s toy farm set joined the cast. In the 1980s, my husband added a plastic California Raisin to the trio of processing Magi—to proclaim that he had “heard it through the grapevine.” The raisin has since disappeared mysteriously.

Between this nativity scene and my frail and dusty birthday Washington Post, the 1950s-era relics are looking pretty badly aged. (Dare I look in the mirror?) Watch this space for more citings.

Speaking of things acquired in December, 23 years ago today, at 8:49 a.m., we welcomed one blessing of a boy into our little house. Happy Birthday, kiddo. (And thanks for locating that hook; you’re an angel.)

And to the rest of you, Happy St. Nicholas Day. Read what St. Nicholas’Day means to me, from the ‘Nymph one year ago.

6 Comments

Filed under Hearth and Home, Holidays

Charmed, I’m sure

This year, as in years past, charm bracelets are a hot holiday gift item.

Most of the ones I see advertised come ready-made, with the decorative trinkets already dangling from them: bulbous hearts, seashells, and other, dare I say, gaudy baubles that may or may not bear any special significance to their wearer.

There do seem to be individual charms available for those who might like to personalize their bracelets to reflect their love of cats or ladybugs.

In my day (that’s what ladies of my age say when we reminisce), we accumulated charms based on our interests, hobbies or places we’d visited.

I started adorning my charm bracelet early on, with tiny pendants I collected in my younger years. My mother insisted we have the charms soldered on to the bracelet so they didn’t fall off. I’m pretty sure that somewhere I have a pouch of charms that we never got around to having soldered.

Last night, after seeing several holiday commercials for charm bracelets, I decided to dig mine out. I wondered what people would learn about me—or at least who I was as a child—simply by what hangs from my bracelet.

There are 20 charms, not counting the ones that were never affixed. Almost every one has a story of one kind or another:

  1. A train engine, representing a cross-country trip my father and I took in 1969
  2. An Alpine tram car, from our family trip to Switzerland in 1970
  3. A Christmas tree
  4. A crutch, representing my brittle ankles
  5. An ice skate, right next to the crutch
  6. A telephone, on which I spent many hours when I was young
  7. A space capsule, representing man landing on the moon
  8. A house; in particular, 4615 Duncan Drive, Annandale, Virginia
  9. A swimmer (technically it’s a diver wearing a light blue swim cap), from when I took swimming lessons–and failed
  10. A piano. You’ve already heard that story.
  11. A pendant bearing my astrological sign, Sagittarius
  12. A four-leaf clover, engraved with Lucky 13 for my 13th birthday on the 13th
  13. A framed photograph of my best friend, Mary Engdahl, who I hope will one day Google herself and find me here, because I sure as heck can’t find her
  14. A church, with a tiny window through which you can read the Lord’s Prayer
  15. A cowboy hat from the Ponderosa Ranch, a souvenir from Mary Engdahl
  16. An Amish buggy, from my trip to Lancaster, Pa., with Lisa Vernon and her family
  17. A dachshund, representing Gretchen, an early pet that used to belong to my Nana Marie
  18. A yellow and green flowered sleeping bag with the words Slumber Party engraved, representing a time when family friends stayed with us for an extended period. The charm was a gift from Becky Sterago who, when she gave it to me upon leaving, said sharing my room had been like one long slumber party
  19. Ballet slippers, representing another attempt at something I never mastered
  20. A black cat, representing Gus, my first feline friend

Somewhere I have an Eiffel Tower, a Sweet 16 and a few others, but I have no idea where they are.

I’ve already shared accounts of the family trip to Europe, a little about my love of the phone, my dislike of piano lessons and my zodiac sign. Many of the others could easily be woven into blog tales.

Which ones would you like to hear? Or do you prefer I keep my memories to the quiet jingle of the bracelet?

Better yet, what’s on your charm bracelet?

16 Comments

Filed under Beauty and Fashion, Family and Friends, Holidays

Part-timers disease

Now then.

More than two months ago, I announced here that I’d be letting out a little slack in the blog, to free up mental energy for a busy work season. I was buckling down to pressing obligations and, until those were tended to satisfactorily, there’d be no time for frivolous writing. Big mistake.

If you’re wondering how my September 23 resolutions turned out, I indeed completed the work, meeting all deadlines. To top that off, I pulled off the largest closet cleaning in 20 years.

Then, I erected more barriers. Believing I couldn’t clear my head enough to get my blogging groove back if obligations remained, I addressed, signed and stuffed 230 Christmas cards and finished 95 percent of my shopping. I even have most of my out-of-town packages ready to go in the mail.

But every time I sat down to tap out what used to be a free-flowing daily ditty, my skin itched. My teeth clenched.

Oh, sure, I’ve sneezed out a handful of posts this month, but they’re not my best work. And they’ve troubled me all the more for their awkward sparseness.

In an attempt to reverse my blog atrophy, I spent yesterday afternoon re-reading my blog posts of last November and December. I didn’t even recognize the writing.

This setback has proven the validity something my father once said. Over the last few years, people asked if he had considered shifting his writing and performance schedule into a lower gear. His answer was always that part time doesn’t work. The frenetic schedule kept him sharp and productive and able to maintain the rhythm. I see now that he was absolutely right.

(To give equal time, my mother suggested that, if I cleaned out my closets, things might flow more freely in other areas of my life. She too was right.)

Today is the first Monday of the season of Advent. Yesterday our priest encouraged us to take up renewed discipline—of the spiritual kind. I do intend to do that and, now that I’m ahead on many of my Christmas preparations, I might even have energy left to artificially resuscitate my inner Erma Bombeck, William Safire, Roseanne Roseannadanna, or whoever else I feel like being this season. Maybe even myself.

Did I really begin with “Now then?” That makes no sense.

4 Comments

Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Marketing/Advertising/PR, Technology and Social Media