Tag Archives: Christmas

A Tuesday Night in December

20 Dec

The Christmas Tree is lit up.

The Voice is on.

A performer from Lebanon may win.

My family is in the floor wrapping gifts.

Our dog Daisy is sitting in the chair next to me.

I am typing on my laptop.

How to Plant Your Garden

28 Dec

We had a busy Christmas that included four stops in four counties. We ate a lot of food; opened a lot of presents; and visited with a lot of family members. One of our stops was at the home of my wife’s grandmother.

I always like visiting with my wife’s grandmother because of my respect for her. Early in life, she faced tragedy when her husband was killed in an automobile accident and left her with three small children. She worked at a garment factory to support her family and provide for them. They went on to have families of their own, and those families surrounded her on Christmas Eve.

A few years ago, my wife’s grandmother faced the death of one of her sons. It was another time that she needed the strength that she has shown for her entire life. We tend to measure success in dollars, but I consider my wife’s grandmother to be successful. It is proven in her hard work and strength. It is proven in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

This Christmas, she gave everyone a copy of “How to Plant Your Garden.” In honor of Mama Ray and the holiday season, I offer it to you.Garden

For the Garden of Your Daily Living,

Plant Three Rows of Peas

  1. Peace of Mind
  2. Peace of Heart
  3. Peace of Soul

Plant Four Rows of Squash

  1. Squash Gossip
  2. Squash Indifference
  3. Squash Grumbling
  4. Squash Selfishness

Plant Four Rows of Lettuce

  1. Lettuce Be Faithful
  2. Lettuce Be Kind
  3. Lettuce Be Patient
  4. Lettuce Really Love One Another

No Garden is Without Turnips

  1. Turnip for Meetings
  2. Turnip for Service
  3. Turnip to Help One Another

To Conclude Our Garden You Must Have Thyme

  1. Thyme for God
  2. Thyme for Each Other
  3. Thyme for Family
  4. Thyme for Friends

Christmas Ramblings

23 Dec

My wife and stepdaughter just finished wrapping gifts. My job was picking up the scraps. Now, they are in the kitchen making banana bread. Yep, Christmas is upon us. It is time for family gatherings and reflection. For me, it is a time for rambling ruminations.

The other day, my nephew and I went to the movies, which meant that we had to enter the danger zone of a shopping mall at Christmas. As I made my way through traffic, I thought about the wise men who followed the star to that manger in Bethlehem. They had gold, frankincense and myrrh for the baby Jesus. I have often thought about that journey and its impact upon the world.wise men

Those wise men did more for our economy than they could ever imagine. Their bearing of gifts led to the shopping mania that accompanies this season. In other words, they created the traffic that bogged us down as we slowly made our way to the theater.

By the way, nowhere does it say how many magi journeyed to Bethlehem. It is the number of gifts that lead people to believe that there was the same number of gift givers. However, there is one thing for sure. The wise men were fireman. We know this because they came from afar.

Anyway, we saw In the Heart of the Sea, the new movie from Ron Howard. I was totally stoked for this one because I have my classes read the book. It is the tale of a whaling ship that was attacked by a whale. The men had to survive while floating in whaleboats. It is dramatic story of what people will do in order to survive. Unfortunately, the movie folks did not think it was dramatic enough.

I will not give up any spoilers, but the filmmakers added unnecessary embellishments to the story. The did it to create conflict between characters. Apparently, the conflict with the whale and the elements was not enough.

I understand that not all of history fits well on the screen. However, this story was an exception. The extras were not needed. Heck, they did not even talk about what happened after the survivors returned. Instead of talking about the true struggles of the survivors, they tried too hard to attach the story to Moby Dick.

Since I am on a movie rant, I will go ahead and talk about The Revenant. It is the story of Hugh Glass, the mountain man who was attacked by a bear and left to die by his fellow trappers. He did not die and pursued them to get revenge. It is another dramatic story. Once again, the filmmakers felt that being left for dead was not dramatic enough. They added the murder of his son, an event that is totally made up.

Oh yeah, Alejandro G. Inarritu, the director of The Revenant, stated that it is not a Western. He said that it cannot be a Western because there are no cowboy hats. Obviously, he is trying to distance himself from the genre, but he is wrong in his statement. The age of the cowboy lasted about twenty years in the American West. The age of the mountain men also lasted about twenty years. That means that a mountain man movie is just as much of a Western as a cowboy movie.

Oscar or no Oscar, I am beginning to think that Alejandro is all hat and no cattle.

I apologize for allowing the movies to get me off topic. This post was supposed to be a rumination of the holiday season.

The shopping malls are bad, and, at times, I wish the wise men had not been bearing gifts. However, Christmas is always a special time. Families gather. People talk and laugh. Great food is eaten. In the middle of all that, we remember that Christmas is a special time of year that cannot be ruined by traffic or bad movies. It is a time of love and peace.

A Lack of Respect for Frosty the Snowman

27 Dec

Like a lot of people, our house gets all decorated up for Christmas. This year, we had two Christmas Trees. One was called pretty. The other one was called tacky. Take a guess which one was my favorite.

Anyway, we had Christmas stuff everywhere. Figurines. Snow globes. Stockings. Each one of them had their place of prominence. However, one piece of Christmas decor did not receive the respect that I think it deserved.

Frosty the Snowman is a classic character and the star of one of the holiday’s best cartoons. You just would not know it at our house. Our Frosty sat on the couch in the bonus room, which should have been good because that is where we have the big television. However, that could have been his demise.

When someone hit the couch to watch television, Frosty always ended up on the floor.image-20

Most times, he lost his hat, too. Naming myself the fixer of Frosty, I gave myself the job of putting Frosty back into his proper place and putting his hat back on his head. Through the weeks, I have lost count of how many times I had to come to his rescue. I must admit that I started feeling sorry for him.

Tomorrow, we will be putting the Christmas decorations back into the attic, and Frosty the Snowman will go back into his box. I have determined that next year Frosty will be placed in a more protected place. There is no reason for him to spend his furlough on the floor. He should at least be allowed to sit up.

My iPod Has Issues – The Eve of Christmas Eve

23 Dec

Christmas is almost upon us. All those hours of decorating, shopping and “ugly sweater” partying comes down to a couple of days.

In our family, Christmas is spread over a couple of days. The afternoon of Christmas Eve is spent at the home of my parents. Christmas Eve night is a bit of a puzzle. Traditionally, my mom’s family and her mom’s family get together at the exact same time in two different counties. For that reason, we compromise and alternate years. This year, we will go to her mom’s place.

Through the years, Christmas Day has been less hectic. We go to my brother’s home for breakfast with his family. For me, that used to be the end of it. We used to celebrate with my dad’s side of the family, but most of them are no longer with us. Since out marriage, we drive a couple of counties away to visit my father-in-law’s relations.

In other words, the next couple of days are going to be crazy. Of course, Christmas is like that for a lot of people. We are lucky that our families do not live half way around the world.

Drive. Eat. Open gifts. Drive. Open gifts. Visit. Eat. That is a ton of activity. Then, it is all over. The decorations come down. The food leftovers are put into Tupperware. Normalcy returns.

In anticipation of the craziness to come, let us explore the craziness of my iPod. Unfortunately, it will not be Christmas themed because there is only one Christmas song on the playlist. However, I will cheat a little and start things off with that solitary Christmas tune.Bing Crosby

“Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” by Bing Crosby and David Bowie

“Green Green Grass of Home” by Porter Wagoner

“You Must Believe in Spring” by Tony Bennett and Bill Evans

“Mumblin’ Guitar” by Bo Diddley

“Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell

“Jump, Jive And Wail” by Louis Prima

“Soul Francisco” by Tony Joe White

“Season In Hell” by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band

“Blood And Roses” by The Smithereens

“Farther Along” by Mississippi John Hurt

“Youth Gone Wild” by Skid Row

“The Heart Of The Matter” by Don Henley

“Rockin’ The Joint” by Esquerita

“Walk Away Renee” by The Left Banke

“The Fat Man” by Fats Domino

“Mercado Muevo” by John Murphy

“Contempt – Theme De Camille” by Georges Delerue

“Jailhouse Rock” by Elvis Presley

“Before Today” by Everything But The Girl

“Walk On By” by Dionne Warwick

If I do not get back to the blogging world before Christmas, then I hope everyone has a great one.


The Problem With Christmas

15 Dec

This blog began as a sarcastic view upon the world. Simply, I was going to write about the dumbness that we encounter in our everyday lives. There was a diatribe about gas pumps that used to get tons of hits. Then, there was part of the Sonic Drive-In business model. Recently, I went after people who choose to drive big ass vehicles.

It is now the season to discuss the problem with Christmas. Actually, we should make that plural.Christmas

Food – I have no problem with the food that is prepared for Christmas. I think it is awesome. In fact, it is awesome enough that it should be prepared all year. That, therefore, is the problem. If something is good enough to eat in December, then it is good enough to eat in June.

Sausage balls are one of my favorite foods, but I only get them at Christmas. That is a ridiculous concept that needs to be immediately changed. They should be a staple of the daily diet.

I also like boiled custard. Those of you who drink eggnog are doing the wrong thing. You should be drinking boiled custard. You should also be drinking it all the time.

Music – There is only one good Christmas song, and it only has one decent version. The season is not complete without hearing Bing Crosby and David Bowie singing “Little Drummer Boy.” However, even it should only be played on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. There is no reason to start playing Christmas music the day after Halloween.

That, therefore, is the problem. Christmas songs are played too early and too often.

The Three Wise Guys – They traveled from afar while following the brightest star in the sky. They bore gifts for the child that they knew would be found under its light. The journey must have been difficult and long. The three men, being wise, had plenty of time to contemplate the importance of their mission. I wonder if they knew the impact their trip would have on the world’s economy.

Three men bearing gifts for a newborn child created a tradition that would overwhelm the holiday designed to honor that very child. That, therefore, is the problem. The giving and receiving of gifts dominate Christmas. People fight to grab products on Black Friday. Stores cannot wait for the end of the year because they know that is when profits will be made. The holiday has become a contest to see how many gifts we can cram under a tree.

If the three wise guys had left the gold, frankincense and myrrh at home, then things would be quite a bit different.

Paganism – I have no problem with paganism. In my opinion, women can dance naked in the woods all they want. That, therefore, is not the problem. The issue is that people fill their houses with pagan symbols and do not realize it.

All of those Christmas Trees that people spend time setting up and decorating. Yep, it is a pagan symbol. It may come from some nature rite. It could be a way to bring nature into the home during a long winter. It could be a lot of things, but it definitely comes from a time before Christianity reached Europe.

Oh yeah, we cannot forget the wreaths. These things have a long pagan history. Heck, Roman emperors even wore them on their heads like a crown. Those would be the same Romans that Pontius Pilate worked for. Yep, paganism.

Characters – Santa Claus. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Frosty the Snowman. The Grinch. Heat Miser. Cold Miser. There are a ton of characters that have been created for Christmas. That, therefore, is the problem.

All of those Christmas characters have come to dominate Jesus, the character for which the holiday was created.

Reason for the Season – We spend a lot of time doing a lot of things at Christmas. People prepare special food. People spend a lot of time listening to songs. People spend a lot of time spending a lot of money. People spend a lot of time decorating their houses. People spend a lot of time watching television specials and taking pictures with Santa Claus.

That, therefore, is the problem. We spend all that time and forget about what Christmas is all about. I am not the most religious person in the world, but we should not forget that Christmas is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of a man who greatly altered the world.

This is not meant to be a religious debate. Some people believe, and some people do not. Millions upon millions believe in other religions and religious figures. However, no one can deny that this is a holiday that honors the man who one of the world’s major religions is based on. All of this other stuff just takes away from that.

The Day the Christmas Tree Adventure Came to an End

11 Dec

The last episode of the Christmas Tree Adventure ended with the tree in the garage. Things were going well. We were relaxing in the house. The tree was relaxing in the garage. However, we needed to water the tree. That was a job that I could handle, so I braved the cold garage with a bottle full of water. Then, I went back into the house and back to relaxing.

Despite all of the relaxing, I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that something was wrong in the garage. I went back and found that the tree had fallen over. Had the addition of water made it shift? I had no idea, but I knew we had an issue. The tree couldn’t be on the ground all night. My wife and I stood it up, but it wouldn’t stand up. We knew that was a problem but decided to prop it up in the corner and deal with it later.

Later turned out to be the next afternoon. She grabbed the top of the tree, and I grabbed the bottom. Off to the front door we went, and, as we made our way through the door, leaves and small branches went everywhere. The floor looked like the green carpet of a forest in a Disney cartoon. There was stuff everywhere.

We had picked out a corner by the fireplace to put the tree and got it in position. But, it wouldn’t stand. We shifted it. We tightened the screws. We did everything we could think of, but it wouldn’t stand. My wife wanted a perfect tree, and I had been saying that there is no perfect tree. However, this tree was far from perfect. When we let it go, it would always fall.

That’s when my wife said that we should have gotten it at a nursery. They deliver it and set it up and everything. I immediately wanted to know why I had never heard of this before. We have a tree that won’t stand. That could be because the tree is crooked or because we don’t know what we are doing. Either way, I knew the perfect place for this tree.Woods

We went to the nearest nursery and got a tree. They had that thing delivered and standing within 30 minutes. This may have been the greatest thing I have ever seen. When my stepdaughter got home from school, we started laying everything out to decorate. We got the lights. We got the ornaments. Then, this happened.Praying Tree

Unbelievable, the tree that was straight and that was put up by experts had fallen over. We lifted it. We tightened the screws. We got it to stand. Let the decorating begin.

The lights. The ornaments. We had finally gotten the tree finished, and it looked great.Christmas Tree

My stepdaughter went to bed, and we sat down to enjoy our work. That’s when my wife said something that caught my attention. The tree looked like it was leaning. I looked up and knew that it wasn’t leaning. It was falling. I jumped up and caught the tree before it made it to the ground.

There I was holding up and fully decorated tree. What happens now? As I held it, my wife crawled underneath and started messing with the bolts. I let it go, and it fell the other way. It was my turn to mess with the base. She held it, and I crawled underneath. It still wouldn’t stay up. For an hour, we took turns holding it up and crawling underneath it.

That’s when I made the big declaration. If it falls one more time, then we are taking everything off and throwing it in the woods. We will get the artificial one and decorate it. My wife messed with the screws one more time. I don’t know what she did. She doesn’t know what she did. All we know is that the Christmas tree is standing – for now.

The Traditions of This Time of Year

4 Dec

December has arrived, and that means we have entered a time of year filled with traditions. For many, that means getting ready for Christmas and all of the trappings that go with it. For those of us in higher education, it means something different. This is the time of year that brings End of Semester traditions. There are many, but these are just a few.Panic

This is the time of year when students:

Ask if extra credit is going to be offered.

Want to know their average going into the Final.

Try to turn in an assignment that was due a couple of months ago.

Wonder why they have been given a zero for something they didn’t turn in.

Question the grade scale even when that grade scale was explained to them on the first day.

Ask if they can take the Final early.

Say that they have another Final scheduled at the same time, which is impossible.

Want to know if they can do an extra assignment to improve their grade.

The list could go on and on, but you get the point. This is the time of year when people panic about their grade and scramble to do something about it. Unfortunately, this is the time of year when it is too late for that. There was an entire semester to get things done.

I tell all of my classes that if you do what I say and do what is in the syllabus, then you will pass the class. I guess that doesn’t sink in until this time of year.

Boiled Custard, Dead Hogs and Black-Eyed Peas

3 Aug

Every Friday, a group of us guys has lunch together. Same restaurant. Same table. Usually, the same meals. Through the years, some people have taken to calling us the Mafia. We don’t get anything accomplished, but we think the world would be a better place if people listened to us.

One member of the group of full of old-time ideas about such things as the weather. For example, he says that if you hang a dead snake over a fence rail, then it will rain. It has rained a lot lately, so, today, I asked him if he had been killing snakes. His reply was that he hadn’t seen any snakes. Maybe, they knew it was about to rain, so they stayed out of his way.

Since lunch, I have been thinking about superstitions and traditions such as this. I have heard them all of my life, and they sound like something that you would find in the Farmer’s Almanac. I wonder if people in different parts of the country have different things like this. I mean, is the dead snake idea universal, or is it a southern thing?

There are a lot of southern things that have come down through the generations. Prominent in my family is the idea that you should eat black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Day.Black Eyed Peas

If you do this, then you will have good luck for the rest of the year. When I was a kid, I hated the idea of eating black-eyed peas, but my dad insisted that we do it. Surprisingly, I liked the hog jowl. Overall, I suppose it works. As a family, we have had pretty good luck.

Another tradition is making boiled custard at Christmas. When I say boiled custard, I don’t mean egg nog. This is completely different, and it is completely good. I don’t know what’s in it, and I don’t know why people only make it at Christmas. In my mind, anything that good is worthy of year round consumption. Being a strange child, hearing people talk about boiled custard always made me think of George Custer.George Custer

There is another tradition that is dying out, and I want to experience it before it does. In these parts, people have always killed hogs on the day after Thanksgiving. In the old days, my grandfather had a hog-killing on his farm. Obviously, it involves a lot of blood, but it was necessary to have enough meat for the winter. Also, they needed the hog jowl to put in the black-eyed peas for good luck.Hog Killing

Few people still do it, but the family of one of the Mafia members continue the tradition. This year, I’m taking part. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. I bet the hogs wish they were out shopping.

These are all traditions of the south. Are they also traditions in other places? What’s the old-timey way of doing things in your part of the world?