And a Good Time Was Had By All

Our friend Lora had a happy celebration with a goofy bunch of friends, all of us laughing about all sorts of things and having fun. Lora, being the hostess with the mostest, decided we play some trivia games. I do believe it’s more fun when the moderator has had a couple glasses of wine. We teased her about being “judgy” while reading the questions and giving hints for the numeric answers. We were able to win some chocolates, diabetic variety for those who needed to limit their sugar intake. The peanut gallery happened to ask each and every winner it they were diabetic or not before handing the winnings over. What a bunch of goofballs we are. I love when we have fun, nothing somber or serious.

The last couple years have seen too much loss and sadness. This morning, Rachael Ray was in the Ukraine, bringing aid to the people. She taught cooking classes to a Catholic school class, complete with dessert. She demonstrated cooking from prepping still through dessert and packing medic kits for the thousands of troops who will receive them. Essentials like tourniquets, bandages, and surgical tape. Ray has delivered several thousand kits in previous visits and plans to bring more.

I was given some hope by watching Rachael Ray today; the Ukranian people have hope and light in their eyes that can only come from knowing they are free. Yes, the surroundings look like old photos from WWII, but they are, indeed, current photos of the landscape in the war zone. To be reminded about the importance of something we take for granted gives me a feeling tinged with guilt. We need to remember this, and express gratitude to God for as long as we still have the freedoms we do. Let’s make a conscious effort to be more mindful of life; blessings and hardships, excesses and shortfalls, and freedoms and dictatorships.

I’ve had quite a bit of seasonal sadness again this year; my life is very blessed, yet this holiday is hard. It started when I was 12, and our grandpa died on Christmas of a massive heart attack. Christmas was always hard, and has been exceptionally hard some years.

When Grandpa died, it was so hard to know how to act. Our other grandpa died of a heart attack the year before. We didn’t have a grandpa after that, and that was sad. Life changed for Grandma, she learned to drive, got a job, sold her house, moved to another one, and we didn’t get to have fun excursions with her any more. She was always sad. We didn’t know what to do.

Years passed and our extended family gathered again but on Christmas Day, not Christmas Eve. After I married and had young kids, Christmas was a lot of fun and very meaningful. My in-laws gathered on Christmas Eve, and my family on Christmas Day. After all, Dad worked nights, and sometimes had to go to work from the Christmas dinner table for the next shift. Work always came first in our home. Mom always made a big to do for Christmas, given the limited budget there was. Mom would make a lot of clothes for me, and that helped.

After my divorce, Christmas eve was always hard; the kids went with their dad for his family gathering, and I was alone. If was ok, I don’t remember how I spent the time until the kids returned home. I was always glad when they came home. One of the best Christmas eve’s I’ve ever had was spent with my son Frankie. He didn’t want to go with his dad, and while the younger kids were gone, we ate at McDonalds and talked about life, the situation with his dad, and a lot of things. I’ll never forget that Christmas eve. After all the sorrow experienced when I was 12, there wasn’t any that particular Christmas eve. Miles apart in emotion. Amazing how life does that.

All those years later, in 1997, the Babe asked me to marry him on – you guessed it – Christmas Eve. What a surprise! So many emotions over the same day, different years.

So yes, I have emotions all over the place during these holidays. The year dad died, Christmas was terrible. So was New Year’s (his 65th birthday). Thoughts of people experiencing major life changes after deaths, births, accidents, health changes, all makes my heart hurt. Life can be very hard. It can also be very confusing, uplifting, lonely, crowded, noisy and deafening quiet, all at the same time. Sometimes, it’s hard to sort out.

Enjoy your last full weekend of shopping and preparing for Christmas. We’re going to a play at McGuigan Arts Academy Friday night. It’s “Ugly Seasonal Sweater Soiree.” It will be just the mood brightener I need. These kids are so talented, I love to see it coaxed out of them. Their confidence grows, and before you know it, it’s a big hit! More about this tomorrow. Have a beautiful day, and we’ll see you tomorrow.

Just a Couple Weeks

I remember Christmas as a kid. It was so much better as a kid than it is as an older person. There is something about having little kids around that makes the celebration more full of hope and joy. When we were kids, our home life and Church life overlapped. Being Catholic, it thrilled us about Baby Jesus coming along with Santa Claus. We practiced for weeks for the big Christmas program, all our parents came (Dad didn’t, he worked nights and slept in the daytime); we sang every religious carol known to man at the time and all developed the high falsetto voice the Music Nun insisted we sing. To this day, I’m haunted by the excessively high pitch she had and expected us to all mimic. I am not even sure where my voice range is, I’m embarrassed to try singing. I admire those who can do it as easily as speaking.

Although we knew the real meaning of Christmas, it still thrilled us to think Santa would come and leave surprises for us. We didn’t ask about how he entered our house; we had a fake fireplace and knew it did not go to the chimney. We were happy for what we received most of the time. When I was about four or five, I wanted a ballerina doll so badly.

Photo by Javon Swaby on

At that age, ballet fascinated me. I must have seen it on television or something, because I didn’t take lessons. My cousin did. I was jealous of that. I never saw her dance, though. The dancing just blew my mind. I loved the costumes; they were unlike anything I ever saw in my brief life. The tulle, the sparkles, the slippers, were so different from other things in my life.

The big day arrived. My ballerina doll did not. Santa upset me that year. I received a baby blue teddy bear with a music box inside. You could wind it up and listen to a tune I’ve since forgotten. I set it aside and waited my turn to open another package. The usual clothes, puzzles, whatever else.

Later that winter, my brother and I had a lot of the “childhood illnesses;” we had severe chest colds with mumps, and maybe had measles or chicken pox, too. Maybe not all in one year. But we missed school a bit. When we missed school, Mom required we stay in our pajamas. And we stay in bed. Period. No matter what. Rules are rules.

That bear, who I named “Teddy,” became my best friend. I snuggled with him as I went to sleep, when I laid there awake, and I listened to his music to help pass the time. My dad would come in to see me and play a game or two of checkers. I loved playing checkers with my dad. It was always when I was sick, and always just the two of us. Mom didn’t have the patience or time to play games or entertain us. Dad did it enough to make it special.

Before my brother and I had any little brothers, Mom would read to us. She made us listen to her read “Tom Sawyer,” and “Huckleberry Finn.” I don’t think at our young ages it impressed us. Finances being what they were in those days were not so she could go out and buy books for kids. She read from her own collection of books. But we sat on the bed and listened to her. There were no pictures to see, either.

And the ballerina doll? I received it five months later for my birthday, from Grandma and Grandpa Bobell. I liked it, but I didn’t love it. It sat on the shelf with all my dolls. And she wasn’t anything special. I still loved the dancers, the tulle, the sparkles, and those toe-shoes; but slept with the Teddy Bear. As I’m now “mature,” I’ve realized how much of life turns out the same way.

We think we want something; it doesn’t happen; we find something else within our reach, so we take it and it’s better than our original “want.” That’s God; answering a prayer we make with a firm “NO,” and guiding us towards what will do us the most good. Once I learned God answers all prayers, some of them are a “no,” I was less disappointed in life. It frees us up to receive more openly. Try it, you’ll like it!

As you may shop today, prepare for Christmas, or visiting friends and family, make sure you’re safe. Even though we have a vaccine now, we may not receive it until spring, or later in some areas. Be safe. Be Careful. Be Thoughtful. Be Patient. Wash up and Mask up. I don’t want to lose any of you now. Thank you for visiting. I’ll see you tomorrow! Blessings!