Friday, December 19, 2008

Remembering...

 

 

Focusing on the little things that bring a smile... or a sweet memory. Every year when I see Hannah tenderly unwrap this little Santa from all his tissue and bubble wrap and carefully place him on a sturdy branch - I SMILE. When she was a little kid she received this ornament from our neighbor who lived two doors down - a teenager.  Emily was Gretchen's age, and a teenager in high school when she gave this gift to Hannah along with a framed photo of the two of them hanging out together at Emily's house. Hannah was just a little girl then... maybe 5 years old at most. 

She LOVED going down to the Mielke's house.  They always had animals..dogs, rabbits, hamsters, fish... you name it!  And Mr Dan was always cookin' up special treats that he might let you sample if you showed up at just the right time! Miss Yvonne was always welcoming, always had a hug and smile to give you... always interested in what was on your mind.  There was Emily who always played with Hannah, played board games with her and included her in whatever she was doing and made her feel special, like a big girl! And there was always our Zach and Emily's younger brother Andrew to play ball with in the side yard. I never worried when my little ones were up there because Emily's mama and daddy treated mine just like their own!

From all our kids growing up in the deep south in a history-rich  town nestled on the banks of the Alabama River, in an old historic district which was half revived from the previous century - we retain some of our very best memories!

Our block was filled with families young and old, who actually became a FAMILY! We had babies together. We had the "grandparents" of the block who enjoyed watching our children grow up.  They always had time to listen to the important things that little people had to talk about! We had the other young families scattered up and down the block so every child had several "mothers" looking out for them. We visited in each other's homes and spent many happy hours sitting in rockers on our southern front porches, watching our children playing in side yards. Sometimes we had to break up fusses and disputes and send kids home to cool off.  LOL!  Within hours they were right back together again, the disagreement long forgotten!

We ate meals together. We admired lost teeth, good school work, crafty creations.. of ALL the neighborhood children and not just our own.  We watched the city's huge 4th of July fireworks from the backyard in the neighborhood that had the best view. Elderly Mrs Pope had a sweet spirit and a backyard with a clear view to just over the trees where the fireworks were launched in the city stadium parking lot... just across the creek from our neighborhood. Everyone brought their lawn chair and a cool drink (and mosquito repellant!) and positioned themselves in her backyard to "oooh" and "aaaah" over each brilliant rocket that fired and lit the summer skies - in our sleepy southern small town. Afterwards as we each made our way back to our houses, you could hear the laughter of kids and the conversations of adults, carrying in the slight humid breezes of the  summer night air. And as we stepped onto our porches, we would turn around and wave "GOOD NIGHT! See ya'll tomorrow!" And we would.

All our children came to each other's birthday parties year in and year out. They were usually simple yard parties where games were played... or slip and slide was brought out... simple parties. And those children grew up right before our eyes.. but we didn't notice at the time.  We were living "in the day."

I used to think we were practically poor back in those days, struggling to raise a growing young family. And it was a struggle but now looking back, I see that we were rich. Rich in friendship... rich in playmates... rich in compassionate shoulders to cry upon... rich in generous friends who regularly opened their homes... rich in encouragement when times were hard... rich in laughter and love on a daily basis. We were RICH!! And I didn't even know it! 

OH HOW I MISS THOSE BLESSSED DAYS!!

Today Emily is married and has two children of her own and lives several states away! Her brothers are married as well. Mr Dan and Miss Yvonne live alone in the big old house now... and in the old neighborhood still. There are no little children running in and out from house to house, begging for cool water and a treat at each stop. There are no longer the "block grandparents" for sadly, they have mostly died.  Our favorite "grandparents" moved. The families grew up; they moved away. The houses in our old block are mostly vacant and run down - worn by time and neglect... perhaps missing the life that used to grace them and keep them strong and sturdy. 

I wonder how often Dan and Yvonne walk out their front door and PAUSE... and see the ghosts of children playing in the side yard.. see the porch rockers swaying slightly in a breeze and recall the hours spent there visiting with friends. I wonder if they look to the left, down the block which used to be vibrant with life - and in their minds conjure again, the sight of neighbors sweeping sidewalks, kids on bikes, on skates, in wagons, on little hot wheels... kids drawing with chalk on the sidewalks... neighbors waving from their front porch and calling out "come on down!" I wonder if they cherish the memories as much as I do!

Hannah FONDLY remembers life in Selma... on the banks of the Alabama River... in the old Historic Riverview neighborhood... where she had a dozen siblings, at least half that many mamas and daddies, and grandparents galore! Every day was fun. Every day was filled with laughter and love. Every day was an adventure with the old historic cemetery to explore behind our back yard, and the creek at the end of the block... and the river just two blocks over... and friends, blessed friends just steps away from our front door.  Those were best times of her life, she said.

Yes they were... and I didn't even know it at the time.

(Merry Christmas Emily!)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

9 Days Til Christmas 2008.... 10 Days Til It's Over....

 

Trodding along here... enduring. I photographed another of my favorite ornaments hanging on the tree. I really like this one. I love the prophecies from the Old Testament, foretelling of the birth of the Messiah.

I have an idea, if I only had the money to do it.  I bought this one from Family Christian Store in the Panama City Mall several years ago after Christmas. Anyway, I'd like to buy a number of these ornaments with various prophecy scriptures on them, and wire them into a thick garland, weave a gold ribbon through the length of the garland with gold bows to accompany the scrolls. Weave tiny white lights throughout... maybe a gold trumpet here and there... can you picture it!?  The names of the coming Messiah, Jesus, as foretold in the Old Testament... strung along the length of the garland. I think it would make a nice royal looking garland for the mantel. Basically it would be in earthy colors, similar to this ornament to the left.

I've had this idea in mind for several years now, but never had the extra money to purchase any more of  the ornaments like the one above. At the time I bought mine, they had different ones - "Prince of Peace"... "Lamb of God"... the one above that says "Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God".. all were scrolled like this one. I haven't even been in a store this holiday season so I don't know if they still carry this line of ornaments at the Family Christian Bookstore. I hope they do. I hope they keep them year to year, until I am able to buy them! I'll be sad if I never get to make that garland.

As you might imagine, I have some patriotic ornaments on the tree as well. One of them is a Snoopy I bought for Gretchen several years ago. She was excited about getting to vote for Bush that year! I really was proud of her interest, her thirst for knowledge and her duty of participation. So When I saw the "VOTE" ornament, I knew she had to have it! The flag goes on the tree every year! (LONG MAY SHE WAVE OVER THE LAND OF THE FREE & BRAVE) I would love to have some of the White House ornaments on our tree, especially from the Reagan and Bush years, but never could afford to purchase any.

Santa Claus LOVES the Alabama Crimson Tide!! Even Hallmark knew that! They featured a Santa ornament several years ago with Santa dressed in his Crimson Tide sweats!  We have quite a few Alabama ornaments on the tree... here are two of those ornaments.

In a couple of days I'll post a few more pictures of treasured ornaments. I like photographing them!

On another subject, there are some good articles on JackLewis.Net.  Check it out. The articles are brief, easy reading, to the point. The top article today was a shocker. Firefox has topped ZDNet's  list of 12 most vulnerable apps!  I don't use Firefox but I know a lot of you do! I never could really get comfortable with it, and continued to come

up on some sites that just would not display properly, if at all, in Firefox.  After giving it a try, I decided I was more comfortable with IE. If you are a Firefox fan, you may want to check the article.

One more ornament for today. It's a snowman that my friend Susan sent to me a couple of years ago. I can never place it on the tree without immediately thinking of Susan! WHO loves snowmen more than her!? LOL!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bits and Pieces...

Several years ago I took some pictures of various ornaments on the Christmas tree. Like most of you, I collect ornaments and every year when I unpack them and handle each one, I remember the Christmas it came to reside on our tree. I remember some of the circumstances (whether good or bad) of that year. Isn't it wonderful how looking at things can bring back memories associated with another time and place in our lives! I haven't taken any pictures yet, this year. But I did dig through my picture folder and retrieve several I had taken on previous Christmas seasons.

This Peanuts ornament is one of my favorites (get used to the phrase "one of my favorites! Everything I hang on the tree is "one of my favorites!" LOL!) But I do love the simplicity, the whimsy, the purity of this ornament. It's just plain SWEET!! And it is God's transforming truth for a lost world... "Unto you is born a Son..a Savior, tis Christ the Lord!"

Another ornament that is just plain SWEETNESS to my heart is this one...Christopher Robin reading to Pooh! Every time I look at this one, I smile and my heart gets a warm feeling. My Zach was a Pooh lover when he was a little boy. So when I see Pooh I think of my baby Zachary. These are pleasant memories so I love that silly ole bear!

We have lots of ornaments on our tree that feature Pooh and his friends at the Hundred Acre Wood. Yes we do love that silly ole bear and his friends!

And this pewter heart ornament is special because it represents friendship across the miles. It's from my friend Tera who lives WAY UP NORTH... a LONG way from where I am in the deep south! I LOVE the ornament and I love Tera and Jason and Emma! Their friendship is precious to me.  I'll share some more special ornaments over the next several day. But today I'll end with this sweet heart... it's appropriate!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

BAH HUMBUG!

 j0313791 Sigh... things are just NOT going well around here! Feeling so NOT in the Christmas spirit, it took every ounce of energy I could summon to go up into the attic and drag out the Christmas boxes this past weekend.  Katelyn was worrying me to death, anxious to  bring out the Christmas things. We assembled tree #1... a normal sized 61/2 ft artificial pre-lit tree (we have some serious allergy issues with bringing a live pine tree in the house!) Got it together, got all the branches fanned out nicely and plugged it in. Well wouldn't you know.. a row around the top and a row around the bottom would not light up. So we had two large sections of the tree that remained dark!  Poor Bobby crawled up underneath the tree and got all into the wiring of that pre-lit tree to try and discover why these lights were out. After about two hours of fruitless effort, he crawled out, yanked the tree apart, mumbled something under his breath as he took it outside and put it on the curb for garbage pickup. Thirty minutes later it was gone (someone stopped and picked it up - good luck to you, "someone!")

Back into the attic to drag out tree #2... a very large, full tree we used one Christmas several years ago. It was pretty but way too big for our house. But out it came. It's not pre-lit so we had to also search for enough strings of lights to go around it. Alas, we couldn't find them. So off we went to Wal-Mart where Bobby convinced me that we should buy those led lights this time because the other lights would be phased out of production soon, and we would not be able to buy replacement bulbs. So we bought them.  Two boxes. I told him it would take at least 3 and more likely, 4.  He would shortly learn that I was right but hey, they have to learn the hard way, right.  We got home, he strung the 2 strings of lights, and they made it halfway down the tree! UGH...

Mad about having to go back to Wal-Mart on a Sunday afternoon in December - he went very grudgingly. Came back with two j0331489 - Copy more strings of lights and put them on the tree. Then he sat down in a huff and said he was THROUGH - the rest of it was my job! Those  lights looked a strange shade of dull blue, but I dared not say a word! They looked very strange... but I kept quiet. Got that tree all decorated and turned it on and it was AWFUL! Those lights were DARK. They didn't look like regular lights at all and they cast no light on their surroundings, so all the ornaments were in virtual darkness. All you could see was these strange pale bluish lights.

Monday morning I got up and took another look. I hated it!! The girls hated it!!  They said it was ugly and embarrassing!  LOL! So when Bobby called later and asked how the tree looked when it was all finished, I said "UGLY!" Long story short... he said "take the lights back then!"  Oh my goodness! That was not something I wanted to contemplate! But after I hung the garland on the mantel and plugged in the tiny j0434407lights for it - and they glowed with their soft golden light like warm little candles - that tree looked even uglier!!!  It WAS embarrassing! The two did NOT go together in the same room.

So yesterday afternoon I took off every decoration. Then I took off all those lights (and carefully repackaged them) and then I went back into the attic and searched every box until I found the lights that had been bought for this huge tree several years ago. Found all but one string, I restrung lights, redecorated that tree and finished up about 12:30 a.m. this morning. It had been about an 8-9 hour ordeal from start to finish!  This morning I took those (UGLY)lights back to Wal-Mart and they gave me a gift card for that amount. I promptly turned around and went back to the seasonal aisle and bought the candy, lifesaver books, candy canes, gum etc.. for all the stockings.

The tree looks so much better even though it is far too large for our living room. But it has a nice warm golden glow now. Of course j0295218all the boxes and mess are strewn all over the living room still.. so today I need to clean up the mess, find some other decorations and complete this task of Christmas decorating. Katelyn said "hurry up and get the presents under the tree!"  Presents??  Bah humbug! There are no presents. Tough year kid.. be glad your daddy still has a job at all. (They've laid off a number of folks, and his hours are  limited.)  A competitor company across town closed their doors this past Friday.. a shock to the employees who were told on Wednesday.. given two days notice, two weeks before Christmas.  This is so sad. Bobby worked there until about a year ago. It could have been us receiving this news. We've been there before, where these friends are now - back in 2001 after 9-11. I DON'T want to revisit that horrible time.

j0436274Then I had an idea... go back up to the attic and bring down all those cute little gift boxes I have collected over time. They are  adorable and would surely dress up the tree!!! Of course there would be much weeping and wailing in the land come Christmas morning when they discover those boxes are empty, put there only for decoration!  I better not do that. Much better to have to face and deal with reality now, than to be on the cruel end of a decorating scheme come Christmas morning.

I've heard some of the guys on talk radio (Glenn Beck specifically) say that this Christmas is hard, yet people are buying gifts as best they can. But he predicts next Christmas in America will be so drastically different that we won't recognize it... that people will be worried about buying food instead of presents next Christmas.

Can this really be true? Of course it can... it's already "next Christmas" in our household.

FOCUS..... Got..... to......FOCUS.......... bjs1

Monday, December 01, 2008

Wanna Play?

He's very gentle and loves to play! You can click the center of his wheel and he'll run on it. You can click anywhere in the box to drop pellets for him to eat. He'll drink if he's thirsty. If you move the pointer around, he'll chase after it! What a sweet little furball!