The Carnival of Christmas


26 Dec 2008 09:26 pm

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While other family members are out shopping I am content to stay home this day, full of comfort and joy, taking stock of our wonderful Christmas.

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Choirs of angels are singing as they stand on a remnant of French made fabric from a little shop in Ribeauvillé, France.

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In the kitchen the deer gazes at the tree decked with redbirds. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen today catching up on things that were neglected in the frantic attempt to get everything wrapped before Christmas Eve. The dishes were washed. The laundry folded and put away.

Later I took time to have a cup of coffee and a piece of rum cake. I’m trying to renew the old silver tea service we stored in my brother’s attic when we left for Germany in 1999.

I neglected to retrieve it when we came home in 2002 until finally this past Thanksgiving my brother brought it down from his attic and we brought it home. It is so tarnished that I am ashamed I neglected it so badly. I have been polishing and polishing. I actually like to polish silver but this task is a very big one. So far there are no pits. That says something for Reed and Barton.

Okay, it’s not that valuable being silverplate but I should have taken better care of it.

One of the nicest things about having a two week vacation is having time to do things at home that I just wouldn’t do on a weekend.

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Asta watches out the window for birds and other interesting visitors. He, Amos and Sabby have been excited about the returns of their favorites, Charlotte and Maine to the Charlotte Wing and the other whimsical visitors bringing music into our home.

Lucy, my sister is a special favorite of Sabby’s (a story which needs to be told) and he’s spent a lot of time on her lap this Christmas season. The cats seemed to know from Thanksgiving on that special days were approaching. Like Sissy Willis’ Babe, they have been high with expectancy, and scampering around the house like kittens.

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A gift of heirloom crystal from their aunt is a Christmas surprise for the girls.

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O Christmas Tree is the theme of the Donoho Mantle this year. It’s a more streamlined Christmas for us. We gave the angels their own pride of place on the piano and put out less Christmas frills this year.

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One of my favorite gifts received this Christmas is The Book of Exodus, inscribed and illustrated by Sam Fink. The calligraphy is exquisite.

I loved all my gifts of course, especially the beautiful photograph of my gorgeous grandson, Noah and the gift I always need and always ask for, socks.

The best part of Christmas for me was watching the faces of my loved ones as they opened their gifts. When my son, daughter-in-law and five year old grandson return from Louisiana and open up their gifts, then Christmas will be complete for me.

The strangest gift I got this year? A Carney Lansford Bobblehead.

What is next? The annual Fletcher Family Football Tournament. My husband and I are the hosts for this annual event and it is coming up very soon. I take care of the food, my brother takes care of drawing up the tournament roster, my husband provides the half-time band entertainment and my Dad takes care of the prizes.

26 Dec 2008 12:04 am

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May this Christmas Day bring all those who visit here at the Wide Awake Cafe the happiest and most joyful blessings of the season.

24 Dec 2008 10:58 am

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I painted Santa on my parents’ mailbox a long time ago. His image is still there, although weathered by the years.

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I still believe in the Child born in a manger who brought all of this hope into the world and inspired a Christian bishop to give gifts to children.

On this Christmas Eve take a pause that truly refreshes. Visit The Carnival of Christmas for posts that will inspire, entertain, and provide delicious new Christmas cookie recipes, as well as a host of other Christmas surprises.

Have a blessed Christmas.

17 Dec 2008 02:01 am

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My brother, Bobby and I, visiting Santa when we were three and four years old.

I was never a practical little girl.

One Christmas Season when I was ten years old I was jittery with excitement because I was going to get to go Christmas shopping for the first time in my life, with money I had earned. I had saved the money and was going to spend it on my mother.

My mother was going to be the recipient of my hard earned money. I cannot remember how I earned it but I suspect it must have had something to do with my paternal grandmother. She was everyone’s fairy godmother in our family and, for that matter, everyone who lived within ten miles of her were beneficiaries of her kindness.

My grandmother was a one woman Salvation Army. She most likely put me to work separating buttons or safety pins from straight pins or something like that at her dry cleaners. I was always eager to work and earn some money.

So when I found out that we were going Christmas shopping, I decided to spend my Christmas money on my mother. I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She told me that she wanted something practical for the kitchen. That suggestion went in one ear and out the other. I can’t even remember what that practical something was and I doubt I even remembered back then. I knew I had no plans to give my mother anything that even remotely resembled a small household appliance.

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Santa always came last.

We went downtown one evening for the annual Christmas parade and had plans to shop afterwards. Back then there were no malls, no big shopping centers, no K-Marts, no Wal-Marts, no Marts at all. Just the Kress Store, McCrorys, Woolworths and the elegant Boston Store where we would have our picture taken with Santa Claus.

The city merchants firmly believed in decorating their windows for Christmas. I was in awe of the lights and sounds as we walked down the main street of town. There were crowds of people but they were not unruly. Moms and Dads had their children firmly in hand. Families and kids walked down the sidewalks peering in the windows resplendent with merchandise of all kinds. Beautiful dolls, dollhouses, and elegant clothing were displayed in windows. I paused to look and almost found myself lost until I got a tug on my shoulder. My little brother always had to play the big brother with me.

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Christmas in 1957. My brother was five, I was six, and my doll loving, little sister was three years old.

On to another store. We went from window shopping to serious store shopping. This became much more serious. So much more serious for a very unpractical young lady with five dollars burning a hole in her handbag.

My mother kept steering us by the practical kitchen things and I kept wandering away from them. Potato peelers were boring. Collanders were boring. All of my hard earned money was not going to be spent for something so work-a-day.

I wanted to get my Mother something pretty.

My mother’s Aunt Ivy was very rich. When we went to visit her home she always had beautiful dishes set on her tables. On the rare occasions Aunt Ivy came to visit us my Mother was always in a full state of panic, urging us to clean our rooms and have everything in our tiny home perfect. I wanted to find one pretty platter that Mother could set on the table with pride. Surely McCrory’s would have something like that. I saw an eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim. It had a price tag that was within my price range. I looked at it and turned and walked away.

I suppose I wanted to do some comparison shopping. I found myself in the doll aisle. McCrory’s didn’t carry Madame Alexander dolls, only The Boston Store carried that kind of elegant doll. I wanted a Jo doll more than anything. Jo was the practical sister in Louisia May Alcott’s Little Women series and since I had already read the book I was captivated by the main character, Jo.

I’d had a glimpse of Jo earlier in the week when we’d taken the bus downtown to visit my maternal grandparents at their business, The Rightway Cleaners. As always, Mamaw Webster took us to The Wide Awake Cafe for coffee and cream and then we went to the Boston Store.

My grandmother picked out some beautiful blue velvet fabric to make some pretty dresses for my sister and me. While there, we passed through the toy department and I saw the section full of the inimitable blue boxes. I hoped there were still some Jo dolls left. I didn’t care for Amy or Beth or Meg. They were fine of course being Alcott characters but Jo was the character that captured my imagination because she thought for herself and was a tomboy.

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The Fletcher Kids going to Church in 1957, my snaggletooth smile brought to you by my brother’s left hook

I was a tomboy too. I was the second fastest female runner in school. At that age I could outrun my brother. I’d put on boxing gloves and boxed my brother when I was seven years old. So what if he’d knocked out my front tooth and I’d swallowed it, missing the visit of the tooth fairy? I got him back a few years later when he didn’t want to go to football practice. I put on his football uniform, put my hair up under the helmet and went to his practice. I’d managed to fool the coach until I got tackled and the hair fell out of my helmet.

I also identified with Jo in Alcott’s depiction of the March sisters’ haughty, Aunt March. I’d thought of my Aunt Ivy when I first read about Jo’s wealthy aunt. Of course, all my silly notions were part and parcel of my vivid imagination. Except for Santa, I’d told no one that I wanted Jo for Christmas. Not even my sister, Lucy. I pretty much lived inside my head back in those days.

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Still, my mother always seemed to know everything. If I didn’t tell her about something that was worrying me she seemed to read my mind anyway because she was a quiet person who always had her eyes on her children and was always listening to us.

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The Fletcher Family in 1956, thanks to Kodacolor

In the Boston Store I passed by the boxes of dolls and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a Jo doll inside one of them. My brother tugged me on the arm and we walked back to the Rightway Cleaners where I found the little wooden box toy my Grandfather always had for me to play with. I thought about the doll a lot since that day and the pretty satin dress and blue and white striped pinafore she was wearing. She would be a perfect Christmas present. Why hadn’t I told my family about her anyway?

I wandered around the aisles of McCrory’s, looking at the china figurines. None of them would do. My mother really wouldn’t like them because they would serve no useful purpose whatsoever. I sensed that somehow. I knew that my Aunt Ivy would turn her nose up at them and sniff something about dime store pottery and how would that help my mother? Besides, my mother’s mashed potatoes were delicious the way they were. She really didn’t need a new potato masher or peeler, but that pretty milk white glass platter with the gold trim needed another look.

Looking back I was a natural at rationalization.

We can bake some delicious peppermint cookies, I thought, with white icing and sprinkles and then we’ll place them on the platter next Christmas and when Aunt Ivy and Uncle Roy come over they will see how delicious and pretty they look.

I walked back to the aisle and picked up the white platter and examined it again. It was made in Japan. There were platters just like it that were in boxes under the shelves so I picked up one of them and headed to the cash register. I made my purchase and looked for my brother. He was buying a gift for our Dad. I can’t remember what it was but it probably had something to do with sports.

We met up with our parents and little sister and went home. As I wrapped the present for my mother I imagined how happy she would be when she opened her gift. I tried to make the wrapping as pretty as I could. I painted a watercolor picture for a card.

Christmas couldn’t come soon enough. My brother and sister and I counted the days. We went outside at night to breathe the cold December air and look at the Christmas scene our Dad had created.

We looked up into the sky for the star of Bethlehem.

When Daddy came home with a new issue of Christmas Ideals we gathered around to see it. Later Mother would pull out an older issue which had the illustrated version of The Little Match Girl. That story had quickly become a tradition in our family. The line drawings illustrating the poor little girl in that particular issue still stay in my memory and spurred me on in my desire to be an artist.

When there was a newly wrapped gift under the tree we were worse than our dog, Cookie at sniffing around it. When our mother wasn’t looking we picked up the gift to examine it. One of the bolder siblings would shake the gift. A certain little sister would actually take the tape off the end of the box and with her skillful fingers would open up the paper to discover the treasure inside the box.

I preferred the element of surprise.

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On Christmas morning I woke up early, but not as early as my little brother. I crept into the living room and there he was, asleep under the tree. He did it every year. He woke up sometime during the night excited about Christmas and went into the living room to wait on everyone to wake up, then when we didn’t wake up, he would fall asleep under the tree.

So there was my brother under the tree.

And there was Jo.

Santa had listened. I knew he would. Even though kids at school had argued with me, telling me, I was stupid, I was a little kid, and I needed to grow up, I wouldn’t listen to them, I argued with them that there is a Santa Claus. I had more than one reason to believe you see. I was the oldest in our family. I had had my doubts and skepticisms but for the sake of my little brothers and my sister I chose to believe.

And that Christmas morning I had proof. There was my Jo, my Madame Alexander Doll. Yes, there were also some other sweet gifts too. A jewelry box, and a bride doll. (I’ve always loved bride dolls) And as always, the night before at our traditional Christmas Eve get together at my paternal grandparents’ house I had received a pair of knitted socks from my great grandmother, Kathryn Ford Mackey Morrison. Other things too but those knitted socks I could always depend upon.

I woke up my brother and we both went to wake up our sister, Lucy but we had to wait on our parents to awaken because we had a year old baby brother who was sleeping.

I couldn’t wait for my mother to open up her present from me. Meanwhile we could enjoy all the presents Santa had left for us because they were not wrapped. We three kids whispered oohs and ahhs until we got too loud and our bleary eyed parents came walking into the room with our little brother Guy.

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Now there were four of us

That Christmas morning was bliss. Mother made hot chocolate and biscuits. We opened our wrapped presents and laughed as Guy opened his presents. Daddy asked Lucy and me to sing some Christmas carols. We had discovered our ability to harmonize and we were regular wrens, singing all the time around the house.

Then the moment came. It was time for our parents to open their presents. I don’t remember what my father received from my brother. The only thing remembered from that Christmas is what I gave and what I received. I wish I could say that my mother beamed with joy when she saw the beautiful white platter with gold trim but I would be fibbing.

It wouldn’t be true. My Mother smiled at me, and gave me a hug and said thanks but later in the kitchen she reminded me that she had asked for something practical.

My heart sank.

I had failed my first big test of giving and the irony was that this was the Christmas that I had received my most favorite gift. I was heart sick that I had let my mother down. I hadn’t listened to her when she told me what she wanted for Christmas. She had explained to me that she wanted something practical because there was not enough money for her to spend anything on kitchen things so she wanted them as gifts. I had ignored that. My parents were always generous with us but not so with themselves. I remember wondering why my mother wore the same coat for five years in a row.

Now I knew.

So my Mother didn’t pretend to be overjoyed by the milk white round platter with gold trim. My mother was always honest with me. That is how our parents raised us.

Unpractical little girls can learn.

The next Christmas I listened when my mother mentioned in passing what she wanted for Christmas. I wrote her wishes down in my diary. I saved my money and I bought what she wanted and yes, it was a practical kitchen appliance. She was very happy with her gift. My mother was always a skillful and ambitious cook and the things she wanted for her kitchen made it easier for her to cook. And bake. And what a mighty baker was she! My mother’s pies are still in demand.

One day Aunt Ivy came over and as usual we scurried around to clean up the house before she arrived. I walked into the living room and there on the coffee table was the eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim. We weren’t given enough notice to make homemade cookies so we had to make do with Lemon sandwich cookies.

In recent years I’ve discovered that I am my Mother in more ways than one. I’ve caught myself being too frank and honest when I have received a gift from my children that wasn’t quite up to my hopes or standards. (although, I will admit, I never give them much guidance) That it is more blessed to give than to receive is so true. I admit I love to give to those I love. I have found joy in giving gifts to friends and family.

To this very day the eight inch milk white round platter with gold trim has a place of honor on the center shelf of my Mother’s china cabinet. I noticed it a couple of years ago and it brought back the remembrance of my first Christmas shopping trip. I remain hopelessly impractical but I am thankful my Mother gave me the guidance, direction, advice and practicality I needed when I was growing up.

Christmas is about God coming down to earth from Heaven in the person of a tiny baby. Through Jesus Christ the world gained pure Love, forgiveness, and reconciliation to God through Him. In our little Fletcher Family we experienced all that joy every Christmas, no matter how much or how little we had and we continue to do so but that Christmas when I was ten, I began to awaken to the world, and to get a small glimpse of the worries and the sacrifices that Mothers and Fathers make for their children because of their great love for them.

That was the last year I asked Santa for a doll but it wasn’t the last year I asked Santa for a present. My doll, Jo wisely supervised my daughter’s dolls as they grew up and she sits in the pink room in our house, anxiously awaiting the arrival of our granddaughter this coming March.

Merry Christmas!

Welcome visitors from The Carnival of Christmas!

31 Dec 2007 04:55 pm

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

Yes, Virginia, I ought to be wrapping presents. Occasionally I need to retreat from all the hub-bub of this busy season to collect my thoughts. Thoughts of Christmas present and past. So many memories are inspired by the present. Nowadays, I am hoping someone will take me up on my request for socks for Christmas. When I am asked, that is my stock answer. I have everything. A loving husband, a home, food, healthy children, a grandson, and one on the way. I have collected too many things in my life and while some have their place and create sentimental memories I am always willing to pass them on to my kids if they ask.

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Getting back to socks. I remember the Christmas Eves spent at my paternal grandparents’ home. Included were my parents, my two brothers, sister and me, our Dad’s brother, Uncle Max and Aunt Jeannine and their four children, and occasionally, my Aunt Imy and Uncle Eddie and their three sons.

My grandmother always took people under her wings. For quite a few years, Vietnamese immigrants, Yon and Kim shared in our celebration. My cousin’s Jeanne and Junior sponsored them when they arrived at Fort Chaffee. Yon had been a doctor in Vietnam and Kim was a very intelligent and beautiful lady. Eventually, they moved to New York and Yon was able to practice medicine.

My great grandmother, Kate was always present at Christmas Eve at my grandparents. She lived a long life and died when I was nineteen. When I was little, I remember unwrapping the packages from “Grandma Morrison” and being somewhat disappointed to discover socks. Knitted socks made by hand. I didn’t appreciate the handiwork and the love knitted right into them, although I did wear them.

How wonderful it would be today to receive socks knitted by my great grandmother.

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When I was in my twenties, my grandmother gave me Grandma Morrison’s angel. It still plays Silent Night and looks like my sister, Lucy, when she was little.

My great grandmother lived in an apple orchard in Rogers, Arkansas on Walnut Street. When we went to visit her my siblings and I loved to go out into the orchard and play. The orchard hadn’t been cared for in many years and was full of tangled vines and limbs, making it much more of an interesting place to be. It was like the Secret Garden before Mary Lennox tamed it.

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Here we are visiting my great grandmother. My back is turned from the camera. I think I am watching my cousin, Jeanne cut up. She was my idol back then. Actually, she still is.

So, memories of the past are entwined with the present. They come to my mind at odd times, enriching the day. I was late getting the trees up and the house decorated this year. I wanted to do the whole house this year to celebrate our son and brother’s safe return from Iraq.

Sunday, December 23rd, 2007.

I still didn’t have time to do the Christmas card. One day I will. Last night my daughters were at odds with one another. My oldest daughter is great with child and my youngest daughter just had all of her wisdom teeth pulled. They love to help get Christmas ready and have been shopping. It’s making them too tired. There is a baby shower for my daughter today.

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A diaper cake. Almost pretty enough to eat.
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Later.

My mother arrived home from the shower and was tending to her nineteen and a half year old cat, Toni, giving her a pill for her cold, and she died in her arms.

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Toni came along right when my Dad had open heart surgery. We were home that June for my Dad’s surgery. Toni was a stray kitten born in my parents’ back yard and my children played with her and my son named her. At first we thought she was a male and her name was Tony. When we discovered she was female we spelled her name, Toni.

Monday, December 24th, 2007, Christmas Eve.

We went over to my parents this morning to help bury Toni. My brothers arrived about the same time and we were there to comfort and help. My son dug the grave near where the late great cats, Bear and Esther were buried. My mother carried Toni outside in her little bed, and I helped her to place Toni in the box. My youngest brother said a blessing. It was all a spontaneous visit. None of us had to coordinate with each other as to when we would go over to my parents house. We just all showed up. It was a clear cold day and a sad occasion.

Bless little Toni. I really believe she had a lot to do with my Dad’s recovery from heart surgery.

Christmas Eve, six pm

We always go to my oldest brother’s house for the family Christmas Eve celebration. Last year was the exception. We didn’t go last year because he was in Kuwait and other plans were made. But this year, we will all be there. The big question is, how late will my parents be? That is now a tradition.

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My brother and sister-in-law’s home in all its glory.

Later.

My parents were fashionably late this year. We had a great time together as a family. I got an interesting gift from “my friends at the DNC.” When I have time later on, I will post a picture of it.

Now it’s time to wrap some presents and fill some stockings. (Just to help Santa)

Christmas Day, December 25th, 2007

I was up early. My daughter (who is great with child) came over with her husband before anyone else. We decided to make a breakfast casserole. I had planned to do it the night before but ran out of energy. We opened a can of big flaky biscuits and flattened them in a 13″x9″ casserole dish. I made a white sauce while my daughter whipped eggs with some milk. I fried some bacon, about ten pieces. I added a little nutmeg to the white sauce. My daughter added some shredded swiss cheese to the egg mixture. We combined the eggs and white sauce and poured it over the flattened biscuits. We sprinkled the crumbled bacon over the sauce. We crushed some crackers and added melted butter to it and sprinkled it on top. My daughter wanted to place some cheddar cheese on top so I did it under protest.

We baked the casserole at 350 degrees for about forty minutes. It turned out great. Next time, I will stick with the swiss cheese and add a little more nutmeg to the sauce.

Soon all the children arrived and we opened the presents. When we were kids, my sister and I always invited our next door neighbor, Ellen, to come over to see our presents. She would bring over her favorite present too. We would play all day long. It’s sort of that way today. For the first time in my married life I got a complete set of red Kitchen Aid pots and pans. They are beautiful! I can’t wait to use them.

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Opening the stockings

Christmas is my absolutely favorite time of year. It’s hard to let go of the day. I try to slow the minutes on the clock but they don’t cooperate with me.

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Christmas Future

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Christmas Past

We watched our favorite Christmas movies, A Christmas Story and Love Actually and some of us dozed in our chairs.

Thursday, December 27th

I slept in. My husband was up already and told me of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. A really sad event. Yes, she was corrupt but also very brave to attempt to run again. I believe she wanted to help her country. I expect there will be some very desperate days for Pakistan in the future.

My daughters and I went shopping yesterday so the day was a blur.

Friday, December 28th, 2007, The Annual Fletcher Family Football Tournament is today!

This day will be very busy. We are putting together a spread for the football tournament tonight. We will have sweets and savory. Lots of bread, cheese, meat, smokies, dips and chips and baked beans. Deviled eggs, nuts and other yummy stuff. This is no night to worry about the weight. My sister-in-law, Lisa is bringing some Christmas Wassail.

Later

The tournament was exciting, intense and fun. There were 29 competitors and most played to win. This year we had my brother and son home. My brother, Bobby was the official official. Unfortunately, this wasn’t his year to win. In the single elimination tournament he lost his first game. I played my sister-in-law, Dorinda and led for most of the game, 10-0 but she came back the last half and on a football return, ran it back for a touchdown. I lost.

My cousin, Gary, a graduate of SMU, and former baseball player, won the tournament again this year. It was two o’clock in the morning when the tournament was finally over. Another generation of boys and girls are learning about football.

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Gary beat Jessica in the finals

Here’s a look at the 2004 Football tournament. The women prevailed that year.

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My gift from the DNC showed up at the football tournament. Look closely at the red tee shirt. As I have said, when my children ask me for anything, they usually get it.

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My cousin Jeanne made it into the semi-finals and she laughed all the way.

December 31st, New Years Eve

We are getting ready for New Years Eve. The family is coming over for pizza, games and later, a little champagne. Tomorrow? Blacked eyed peas and cornbread.

Happy New Year!

22 Dec 2007 04:54 pm

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“Merry Christmas”, one of the most treasured phrases in my life, is not on the wane after all.

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Walmart and other corporate entities are allowing these two happy words, Merry Christmas, back into their employees’ lexicon.

Even the pols are donning their gay apparel.

Where I live, the words were never forbidden. We don’t have a Target in our city, and as much as I can, I don’t shop at Walmart anyway. I simply don’t like the crowds.

But even here, it seems the Christmas spirit is especially bright this year. The children at school have been wishing Merry Christmas to each other and their teachers since after the Thanksgiving Break.

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Perhaps my strong perception that this is a special Christmas is due to two other treasured sentences:

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My son is home from the war.

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My brother is home from the war.

Unlike Time Magazine’s choice of Vladimir Putin as Person of the Year, there is no doubt in our family. My brother and son are our choice for Men of the Year. General David Petraeus should have been the choice for Time but the minions of the left always prefer the KGB types.

But there is no bitterness here. Life is too sweet and immediate for a family who collectively held their breath and said their prayers 24/7 for the past two plus years.

Merry Christmas

07 Dec 2007 06:35 pm

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Mona Lisa’s Christmas Tree

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I placed the drawing of Mona Lisa I did several years ago in the window of the door. We are required to cover the door windows for security purposes so I used the old drawing which announces that the old mobile building is the Art Room. Part of the drawing is faded from the sun.

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When we lived in Germany I fell in love with Schwibbogens, decorative, arched candle-holders, usually made of wood. I loved going into our local Kathe Wohlfarts in Heidelberg to shop and I was always tempted to buy one. Many Germans place these Schwibbogens in their windows during the Christmas Season. Since I didn’t make it home with one I decided to make do with paper cutting. I made some symmetrically cut paper Christmas trees. The students are learning how to draw with their scissors.

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The Art Room

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When no one’s looking, these Christmas trees dance.

You can learn more about Schwibbogens here.

27 Dec 2006 02:18 am

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The moment Ralphie’s teacher tells him, “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

This Christmas Eve was different. For the first time in so many years our family didn’t gather at my brother’s house because he is deployed to the war zone. I remember at last years Christmas Eve gathering my brother told me he wouldn’t be home for next Christmas and it turned out that, as usual, he was right. My brother also predicted that my son’s unit would be shipping out and that came about too, just as he said.

So our plans for Christmas Eve changed.

Family scattered….my daughter-in-law took our grandson to visit her family this Christmas and since she lives in our city, that was only fair but still I missed them too. But I was able to talk to them both frequently and on Christmas Eve our three year old grandson was so excited about Santa and talking to his Daddy in Iraq that my daughter-in-law said he was pacing around in circles while talking on the phone to me.

My sister-in-law decided to travel to share Thanksgiving with her youngest daughter in Arizona and Christmas with her oldest daughter in New Hampshire. So, no Christmas Eve in the yellow house. We decided to carry on the tradition of our family at ye old Donoho House.

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The morning after Christmas Eve.

The preparations became a Marathon with little sleep and a lot of work before the actual appointed time on Christmas Eve. Thank Goodness I had some help from my special Elves. (my daughters and son-in-law)

My son-in-law pulled out the fifty year old wool carpet in the dining room and refinished the beautiful hardwood floor underneath. (the living room is next)

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We had to move the furniture back in, as well as do a little decorating.

The Christmas decorating spirit was missing in me during the early weeks of December and I had too much to do at school to have any energy left for the end of the day. No Christmas card was finished again this year, unfortunately, although it was drawn.

It was just very hard to contemplate the first Christmas without my son…..and my brother.

But back to the Christmas Eve festivities. My parents arrived first. Then, there was a steady stream of family coming in the door and the room seemed brighter and warmer. My sister’s father and mother-in-law were flying in from Maine and they were supposed to come to our Christmas Eve celebration but their flight was cancelled. We wondered if it was because of the incident on the flight from New York to Portland. They had to fly in on Christmas Day.

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Maine samples the shrimp.

We had a buffet kind of supper and then sat around talking and halfway watching The Christmas Story and A Wonderful Life. Most of us have memorized most of the lines in both of the movies.

The youngest among us were so impatient to open the presents that we finally relented. It was a typical Christmas Eve. We were all very happy to be together and were wondering how my son and my brother were celebrating Christmas when we got a phone call from my brother. We were all able to hear his voice for the first time in a few months. A very nice call. Especially for our parents.

We had already heard from our son on Christmas Eve morning.

We celebrated family near and far with hopes that Christmas, 2007 will have everyone home safe.

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The day after Christmas Sabby surveys the room.

25 Dec 2006 10:38 pm

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Our daughters have kept up a Christmas tradition started when they were little. When they unwrap their presents the ribbons go on top of their heads as well as on top of the heads of our pets. Sabby has never minded that tradition.

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He wears his ribbons with pride.

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Captain doesn’t much care for the tradition.

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He does like to watch us open the presents.

The 145th Carnival of the Cats, New Years Edition is being hosted by Watermark. Go see the cats!

25 Dec 2006 06:08 pm

An email from Iraq…..

Hope is everywhere, even in Baghdad, check out this article Mom.

*****

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Umm Salam draws her curtains across her windows, then settles
into an armchair in a living room festooned with colored lights and a portrait
of Jesus on the cross. Her Christmas tree glitters in the corner.

One of Iraq’s estimated 800,000 Christians, the 56-year-old widow
celebrates the holiday quietly with her children and grandchildren, as violence
sweeps the country.

“It is very risky to go the church in our neighborhood, so we will have a party
at home and some of our relatives will come to celebrate,” she said. “They’ll
have to stay the night at our home due to the security situation and the
curfew.”

The evening service at the local church was canceled for security reasons.

The spirit of Christmas is still alive in Iraq, but it’s tucked away behind the
closed doors of Christian families, who represent about three percent of Iraq’s
26 million people.

Most of the fighting in Iraq involves Sunni and Shiite Muslims, but Christians
have also become targets. Church bombings and other sectarian attacks spiked
amid a wave of anti-Christian anger over comments by Pope Benedict XVI in
September that seemed to link the prophet Muhammad’s teachings to violence.

In October, a priest in the northern city of Mosul was kidnapped by a group
demanding that he retract the pope’s statements. He was eventually found
beheaded.

According to the United Nations, more than a million Iraqis have fled
since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, with about 3,000 people now leaving daily.
About 40 percent of those leaving are Christian, the U.N. says.

Umm Salam, who goes by her tribal name meaning “mother of Salam” out of fear she
will be targeted if she reveals her Christian name, said Sunday she has no
choice but to keep her religion a secret.

“We cannot show our happiness (about Christmas) to neighbors. But every single
Iraqi has his own wounds, and life must go on,” she said. “Happiness is for the
children when they will awake tomorrow and find their gifts near the tree.”

*****

Even though the AP writer attempts to cast a negative slant in the article, readers may draw other conclusions, including those who are in the middle of the whirlwind.

Do you not think an angel rides in the whirlwind and directs this storm?'’

Michael Graham writes in the Boston Herald….

This Christmas, I am with Longfellow. My outlook is dark and angry. Why must our enemies love death as much as we love life? Why must they see our good will as weakness? Why are we so weak we cannot admit that their hatred and violence will not fade beneath our wishes of peace and understanding?

You must read on to understand that there is hope despite the pessimistic outlook.

Hat tip: Michelle Malkin

More on Christmas in Iraq.

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