Blog, children, christmas, Family, gardens, grandchildren, Holidays, memories, mother, traditions

What a Wonderful Day

Day 86

Today was nice. It was a bit of normalcy after a few weeks of difficulty. We are still trying to take in the holidays a little and today was a last-minute bit of holiday spirit.

Winter Lights

IMG_8305We had tickets to go to see Winter Lights at the North Carolina Arboretum with our daughter and her family back before Christmas. We ended up canceling when we learned that Mom, sadly, would be going into hospice.

After Christmas, hubby and I decided we would like to try to get tickets to go see the lights and were delighted when our daughter and grandson wanted to go with us. We went last year and had such a good time we knew we would love it again this year.

Family Time

There is nothing better than just hanging out with those we love. The family came up and spent the afternoon with us. We went to a local pub-style restaurant for dinner and then drove up to Asheville to the Arboretum to see the lights.

It was much warmer this year than last. Last year was so COLD — in the 20’s F.  Brrr.  This year was in the low 40’s F so it was much warmer. We dressed warmly nonetheless.

The drive into the Arboretum was beautiful. Lights were strung in all the trees in the parking lot and throughout the grounds. It was beautiful and it was a clear night to boot. No rain in sight!

Chandeliers hanging from the trees, bottles of water lit in huge cylinders, lights synchronized to music, and trees decorated like ball gowns. It was fantastic!

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Times like this remind me of what is important. The time we spend with those we love just enjoying one another’s company is the absolute best. We are not promised any time, so take advantage of the time you have.

Mom wanted to come to Winter Lights this year. She had planned to come up with her sister and go see the lights with us. Unfortunately, she was not able to do so. I kept thinking over and over tonight how much she would have enjoyed it.

At the exit point of the light display, there is a Cocoa Shack. We had hot cocoa and I enjoyed a gingerbread cookie! It was a little bit of holiday joy in an otherwise tumultuous December.

That’s it for now. Time to publish this and hit the sack.

 

 

Blog, community, memories, parents, traditions

More Memories

Day 61

SuburbanPopI was thinking about my Dad and Mom a lot today. I don’t know if I miss them more this time of year, or if the memories are so much closer to the surface because of the holidays. My parents both loved Christmas and everything that goes along with it.

I was thinking back again on the silver Christmas tree and color wheel I wrote about that my Dad loved so much. I found a great picture on a very cool blog — Suburban Pop. I emailed Jenny to see if I could use the photo here and she was so kind to allow me to do so. Please check out her blog and this post on Buying a Vintage Aluminum Christmas Tree for more beautiful examples of these trees. They all remind me of my dad. (Thank you, Jenny!)

Daddy, Daddy, Daddy

My Dad could be well… a little overboard at times. At Christmas, he would put out lots of lights outside and lots of lights on the trees inside. He was such a kid at heart. He took home movies and bless his heart, he could NOT wait until Christmas morning to open gifts. We always opened them on Christmas Eve which made Christmas day a little anticlimactic to me.

We had a 33 1/3 record of a theatre production of A Christmas Carol. We listened to it so much I had it memorized. If I close my eyes, I can still hear the inflection of the actors’ voices as they played each of the roles.

One Christmas Eve, my Dad decided everyone in the community would love to listen to this as much as we all did. He rigged up some huge speakers in front of my grandmother’s house and blasted that recording for everyone to hear. I was fairly young so I do not remember the reaction of our neighbors, but I cannot imagine they loved it. Daddy did, though.

Parlor Games

I grew up in a small valley community nestled in the mountains. It was a small community of people and celebrations of any kind often included the entire community. We had a ‘community club’ which was originally a one-room school my mother taught in for a short time.

Parties were always held there and it was fun to gather the entire community together. For holidays, we often had cake-walks. If you are not familiar, it is an old tradition where community members baked cakes and donated them for the cake-walk. Long tables would be set-up end-to-end and one cake would be placed on the table. Participants would buy a ticket and line up around the perimeter of the table. Then someone would start the music and everyone walked around the table until the music stopped. If you were the person standing beside the cake when the music stopped, it was yours to take home and enjoy. I LOVED cake-walks.

I have such fond memories of my parents when we played parlor games. They were great at playing them and always so much fun to watch.

One of my favorites was Poor Ole Puss or Poor Ole Tom. Everyone sat in a large circle and one person would be Tom. They would get on the floor and meow trying person after person to get the person to laugh. The person sitting would have to pet Tom’s head and say Poor Ole Tom three times without laughing. My parents were hilarious!

We also had a game we called Diseases and Cures. The game was played in much the same way with opposing people. One person would say they had a disease and the other person would give them a cure. They were ridiculously named diseases and even more bizarre cures — all made up by some creative mind. The only disease I can remember was ‘Tizarism of the Bizarrium’. Again, the idea was to keep a straight face throughout.

There were many others: Scissors Crossed or Uncrossed, The Suitcase Game, Going to California, Tommy Tommy Tommy. I think they were fun because we didn’t have a lot of other distractions like television (we only had one TV station and the reception was poor) and didn’t have telephones for a long time.

The best thing about these games is they were inclusive — kids and adults. And everyone laughed and had fun. I know this is an era that is long gone, but it will live forever in my memories. Especially picturing my parents playing like they were kids. I can still picture them and it always makes me smile.

Our family continued to play some of these games or variations of them well into our adulthood. Even our children learned some of them. I know in some small towns or at county fairs, you can still sometimes find a cakewalk. That does my heart good.

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.” 
Jean Vanier

blessings, Blog, children, christmas, friends, grandchildren, Home, memories, music, parents, reflection, sister, traditions

The Floodwaters

Day 51

Today started off with our normal routine of coffee, a walk and then breakfast. Afterward hubby brought in all the Christmas boxes from our storage area so I could start unpacking and decorate the tree.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with one of our daughters in South Carolina. It was a truly beautiful day with lots of good food and conversation. Lots of children there, too, which always makes it fun.

Today I talked with my son. He spent Thanksgiving in Atlanta with his wife’s family. They are a wonderful group of people and I know they had a great time and a lot of wonderful food as well.

Christmas Memories

christmastreeToday I chose the Martina McBride Christmas channel on Pandora — decorating is much nicer with Christmas music. I love the mix of music on this station so it was perfect.

Hubby helped me start the lights because the tree is just too tall for me. I unpacked boxes and pulled out more lights so we could see if we had enough to go around the tree. Once the lights were low enough for me to reach he went back outside and I continued the lights.

All was going well until “How Great Thou Art” came on. I could feel my eyes welling up with tears. It is a song that touches me in ways I cannot fully explain. When my mother died, that song ran through my head as I flew back to Ohio where I was stationed while in the Air Force. I remember writing my Dad a letter on that flight and somewhere I have packed away the letter he wrote to me in return. This song brings the memory front and center.

As I unpacked decorations, my life from the time I was a child, until the time when my children were growing up through our life as we gained six grandchildren and all the way to this time of retirement poured out in abundance. I was overwhelmed with — not sadness — but a great wave of emotion for all the people who have come and gone in my life and those still here but yet so far away.

I was starting to struggle…

Thankfully, my daughters and my granddaughter video chatted me on Facebook. It was such a great lift. For most of the Christmas seasons in the 22 years since hubby and I were married, they were with us. We shopped together, had Christmas coffees together, and talked ‘nunya’s’ from Thanksgiving until Christmas when we would celebrate together. Now they have a daughter and seeing her enjoy the first Christmas she can somewhat understand is amazing.

Retirement can be a lonely time sometimes and tonight I am a little melancholy. Putting up the tree and decorating is always emotional for me. Our tradition has always been a ‘memory tree’. When we hang the ornaments, each one is named for someone who has passed on or simply someone we love who just cannot be with us at Christmas.  I have not started the ornaments yet. It is always an emotional time for me. So, why do I put myself through it?

I do it because the love I have been fortunate enough to experience in my life is worth the remembering and the tears. After the ornaments are hung, each time I pass the tree, I will think of and remember those people whom I love and miss so much.

I am Blessed

The early part of the Christmas season is always this way for me. I am so blessed and so thankful for everything I have in my life. We have much to look forward to this year. Two grandchildren’s birthdays are upcoming. We are going to see the lights at the North Carolina Arboretum with our daughter and her family. We also have a Christmas band concert and a piano recital to attend as well.

So, dear readers, I will love and enjoy this Christmas season as I always have. It holds every memory about where I come from, who I have been and who I am today. For me, it is symbolic of the faith I hold close and all of those things bring me great joy. I just need to get through this part. The tearful, wonderful and sacred memories of all the people I hold so dear to my heart.

And to my children. When I text too much or call too much just know it is because I am missing you. I am so thankful that each of you has full and meaningful lives, but it does not make me miss you any less. That’s the stuff that moms’ hearts are made of.

“Christmas is not a date on a calendar. It’s more than a state of mind. It’s a condition of the heart.” 
Toni Sorenson

 

 

Blog, christmas, memories, Spouse, traditions

The Perfect Christmas Tree

Day 50

Finding the perfect Christmas tree is a tradition in our house. When we lived in Florida all those years, it meant going to a tree lot where we found a Frasier Fir trucked in from the Carolinas or even further north. Now that we live in the Carolinas, we get to go select our tree from the farm and they cut it down for you, tie it, load it in the truck and you’re on your way.

Trees of Christmas Past

My Dad loved Christmas so much. He was quite a kid about it for as long as I can remember. He will resurface several times here in my blog as we get closer to Christmas.

Growing up, we had two trees — both artificial. If we ever had a fresh tree, I do not remember it. One tree was green, with branches that looked nothing like a real tree. The other — Dad’s favorite — was a 5′ silver tree. They were the rage at the time and Dad absolutely loved it. He put multi-colored glass ornaments on it. In addition to the ornaments, we had a spinning color wheel that sat on the floor and shone red, green, blue, and orange light on the tree. Everyone thought it was hideous except Dad.

Each branch was stored in a stiff brown paper sleeve and was color-coded to the location on the tiny cylindrical trunk where it should go. I can still remember the whoosh sound as the branch was pulled from the paper tube.

Today, these trees are considered vintage. You can buy one on eBay and other retro sales sites, but they are quite expensive now.

Trees of Christmas Present

IMG_7854Hubby and I have been married for 22 years and every year we buy a real tree. The first year we were married was the first time he had celebrated Christmas in his own home in a long, long time. That first tree was sentimental and big and full. It seems he always tries to find a tree that either meets or exceeds his memory of that first Christmas tree.

IMG_7865Today we got up and took our normal trek north toward Waynesville. It was a very cool morning and the wind was cold. We usually buy our tree at Mehaffey tree farm near Waynesville, NC. The drive up was beautiful and when we got just past Canton, we could see snow on the mountain tops. So exciting!

We tromped through the farm and finally came to a decision as to the best tree for us. We stood up on the hill for a long time waiting for the helpers to come and cut the tree for us. While they were tying the tree up, I paid for it and had my complimentary cup of hot cocoa. (I prefer apple cider but it wasn’t hot and in the low 40’s, my complimentary beverage needed to be hot!)

Preparations

IMG_7871Once we arrived back home, the tree was trimmed up and carted into the house. It is a lot for the two of us to get an 11′ tree in the house but we did it. It takes a bit of time to get it straight in the stand, trim it up and then clean up the mess!

IMG_7872Finally, it was time to cut the twine off the tree and let it fall out. The water is in the tree and I am sure it will be gone by morning. After it gets nice and saturated we will start to put on the lights and the ornaments.

We don’t buy a lot of presents or shop a lot, so the tree and the decorations are what we do to keep us in the Christmas spirit. We will find a worthwhile cause to donate to and just sit and enjoy the ambiance of Christmas from now until the end of December.

Now We Enjoy

I hope that you have something in your life that also brings you this kind of joy. I am a Christian, but I am well aware that many of my close friends celebrate other holidays. I really love reading about their traditions and feel enriched by learning about how others spend this holiday season.

Now it’s raining and we are under a winter storm warning for ice and sleet. We have everything we need and there is no pressing reason for us to go anywhere. Now we just relax and enjoy!

“The Christmas tree is a symbol of love, not money. There’s a kind of glory to them when they’re all lit up that exceeds anything all the money in the world could buy.” 
Andy Rooney

Blog, christmas, Cooking, Family, Home, thanksgiving, traditions

Easing Into the Holidays

Day 45

It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving. Normally we would be caught up in the swirl of preparations, but not this year. Our family will be spread hither and yon, so we decided not to cook a lot of food just for the two of us. Our daughter who lives fairly close by invited us to join them and we happily accepted.

Morning

It was another beautiful day here in the foothills. We had our coffee and took a morning walk. Ugh. I am really out of shape, but I am determined to get some exercise and move a little more.

The morning was cool, but not brisk like it has been. It felt good to be out in the morning air. It’s getting harder for me because I am showing signs of arthritis in my knees. But, we walked and after a short distance, it became a little easier.

The neighbors have horses and one was grazing by the fence that runs alongside the road. I noticed it had a blanket on this morning. I paused long enough to snap a quick picture on my phone. As we made our trek back toward the house, I stopped again to take a picture of all the horses grazing. The leaves and the grass are slowly disappearing into winter.

IMG_7827Breakfast was simple this morning. Hubby had cereal with organic blackberries and organic raspberries. I scrambled an egg in avocado oil and had a sliced avocado. It was really tasty. I am trying to be cognizant of all the unhealthy fats we add to our food and breakfast can be one of the worst! Afterward, I had a handful of organic blueberries. It was a marvelous way to start the rest of the day.

Afternoon

I spent the afternoon catching up on some blogs of my friends and responding to comments on my own blog. It is nice to take a few minutes to see what is going on in everyone’s life — it makes you feel closer somehow.

Today we planned a simple evening meal — chorizo, kale and potato soup. It’s simmering on the stove now, almost ready for consumption.

IMG_7834While I cooked, I decided it was time to turn on the Christmas music. Normally I wait until Thanksgiving day, but since we aren’t cooking this year, it just felt right. Next Friday we will make the trek to McAffey’s tree farm in Waynesville to pick out a Christmas tree. This has become a tradition for us. They cut the tree and then we get a cup of hot cider or hot cocoa. It’s a great way to kick off the rest of the season.

We have never shopped on Black Friday and I doubt we ever will. Our gift-giving is limited and we just enjoy the lights, the feeling and the meaning of the holidays. It doesn’t matter to me what any of us celebrate. For me, it’s Christmas, but for many of my friends and family, it is Hanukkah. What is important to me is that we cherish the reason for the holiday, be kind to one another and focus on what is important in our lives.

It is a time of giving. I encourage everyone to think about giving outside of your own family. It does not need to be a lot because every donation matters. There is so much need right now, especially following all the hurricanes and fires. Then add in all those struggling with health issues and work issues and financial issues, there is a lot of good to be done.

I cannot help but think back to the two times I worked for companies that decided to ‘downsize’ the first week of December. I pray that companies do a better job in managing their own finances so families will not endure such a hardship at the end of the year.

Off to have dinner. I am ringing in the holidays in my own simple way.

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them,
is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” 

W. T. Purkiser