Monday, November 29, 2021

My Life Should Rate Better than G

 At my age, I hope I have not fallen into a life of mediocrity - a boring one with no excitement or intrigue. This was all brought to my attention when I noticed the warning flashed on the TV screen with the opening credits of a movie. It read: "This film is rated TV14 due to its Suggestive Dialogue, Smoking, Foul Language, Violence, and Sexual Situations." Does this beg that I live a G Rated life? I hope I do not live in the Wonderful World of Disney, Father Knows Best, or The Brady Bunch. My world is not made up of a Pollyanna ideal or the innocence of Tammy. These references alone betray my age. But, I digress.

The issues listed above, with the exception of violence, don't concern me. That said, a film with a plot based around car chases and multiple crashes does not interest me. Nor does one with a lot of gratuitous violence. Interest and mystery, yes, but not with a plot line of gun fights and or fisticuffs.

All this brings to mind - a fear. Is my life now mundane, boring, one without excitement? Does it not even merit a TV14 rating? Have I sunk into a life of G?  I wish to live a life more daring than a romantic comedy. I hope there is "adult content" in there some where. That said, I do not care for pornography, whatever that is these days. In that case, the words of Justice Potter Stewart in 1964 are still timely and define it well, (paraphrased) - I cannot define pornography, but I know it when I see it.

Now that this state of reality has been brought to my attention, what can I do about it? It may sound trite but it all comes back to my mantra of "always grab the brass ring". Perhaps in dealing with everyday life I have overlooked the fun and excitement of the world around me. The rating of my life is within my control. Certainly I can attain better that a plain vanilla "G".

Sunday, November 28, 2021

As They Say, 'Tis the Season

As they say in the well known carol 'Deck the Halls', " 'Tis the season". Season for what? Frustration, angst, exhaustion? Aren't we supposed to be having fun? If so, I haven't reached that point yet.

But, I haven't reached the Bah Humbug stage yet either. I can still tolerate the Laying Geese, Calling Birds, French Hens, and Turtle Doves. I was able to rearrange the furniture and move a piece or two upstairs to make room for the tree, which is up and decorated. So far (fingers crossed) none of the glass ornaments on the decked evergreen have fell victim to the raucous play of the pups. Few needles have fallen off and it is taking up water daily. To be honest the fresh pine scent (alone) that greets me every morning when I come downstairs is worth the trouble to put up the tree.

My shopping list is down to those last "What the Hell do you get them's" and I swear I am not going the gift card route - yet. I am at that point when half the gifts I already have are wrapped and the remaining ones are scattered about awaiting my attention. I actually have enough paper, ribbon, tags, and tape to finish the job - miracles do happen. Naturally there is that "perfect" gift I bought this past spring, the location of which now alludes me. A gift I purchased for one of our great nephews is going to have to go into a larger box. The way it is packaged now, it was never intended to be wrapped - seriously - unless it involved some type of ballistic paper. 

My Christmas cards have been finished and put into the mail. God only knows when (and if) they will be delivered. So far, no names I mistakenly omitted have come to mind. No doubt they will, hopefully before Christmas Day.

I think I best stick to making a list of baked goods (and ingredients) I want to make and give to friends sometime before Christmas day. Many say it is the spirit of the season. I would say it is more like the devil in the details. Whatever. Isn't this the time when we are supposed to be enjoying family and friends? After all the dictionary defines "Holiday" as "a day of festivity or recreation when no work is done"  Personally, at this moment it is the swimming swans, milking maids, leaping lords, and that damn partridge someone left in a frigging pear tree that have me in an Ebeneezer frame of mind.

But to quote the great Roman stoic philosopher and statesman, Seneca, 'this too shall pass'.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

61 Christmases

 As I celebrate my 61st Christmas I think back on the past ones (that I can remember) and, not to be morbid, wonder how many more I will have.

Christmases when I was little, ages 2 or 3 until 13 or so, were always the same. Daddy had his Christmas Eve Drop in (and fall out) at the drug store. Christmas morning, my brother and I would go down stairs at the crack of dawn and open our stockings by ourselves but we knew not to "touch" what Santa had brought us until Mama and Daddy joined us.

Our Santa practiced the unwrapped delivery method. My brother and I each had an assigned wing chair. On Christmas morning all our loot would be distributed in the correct chair. We would stand and stare with wonder and joy at what the jolly ol' elf had left in those chairs. Finally, after what seemed like 2 days, Mama and Daddy would descend.

Daddy would have his fancy movie camera with its 2 foot long light bar mounted atop, ready to film. So we had to go back up to the stairs and make another entrance, so he could film our "initial" surprise when we saw what Santa had brought.We were very good at showing total joy. Looking at the camera was impossible unless you had sunglasses on. The three flood lamp size bulbs would blind you. And should something go wrong, either technically or poor acting on our parts - the gifts would be returned to their places and we would have take two. (Now these home movies are priceless. I would not take anything for having these memories saved on celluloid.)

Opening our gifts under the tree was always a surprise - in many ways. It was not unusual for gifts to be without tags, or worse yet, to have the incorrect name on them. This was in the years of Mama's proclivity for the bottle. I distinctly remember one year being a little puzzled when I opened a gift with my name on it only to find a pellet gun. Of course not as surprised as my brother when his gift was a Raggedy Ann doll. Such was life around our house.

But we had no time to dawdle. We had to get dressed, select one gift, and get in the car. We had our agenda. First stop was Aunt Kat and Granny's home (my father's family) in Wagram. NC (pop 418). It was a good 3 to 4 hour drive. We would arrive there just in time to help Aunt Kat put the finishing touches on her Christmas supper. My great aunt and uncle, Auntie and Make, would join us for supper then presents, which usually equaled or topped Santa.

We would spend the night and the next afternoon it was  back in the car off to Blenheim, SC (yes, where they make the world famous ginger ale). Actually Granddaddy's farm was somewhere between Blenheim and Bennettsville,  Here we would be at my Mama's home with my grandparents, Aunt J'Nelle, Uncle Jimmy, and his children.

Unlike our Christmas at Aunt Kat and Granny's where the two of us as the only grandchildren were fawned over and granted our every wish, at Grandmama's there were 5 grandchildren. But it was great fun to play with the cousins we usually only saw once a year. And Grandmother and Granddaddy did not mind the havoc we all created as we turned their home into a palace, a fort, or a set for some secret mission. Of course there was another Christmas supper and another round of gifts.

Three or four days later we would return home to find the gifts we originally received Christmas morning waiting for us. I can remember those whirlwind trips like they were yesterday. The funny thing is I can remember so many details about Christmases at my Grandparents, but not so much about those at home. But then, we were only home on Christmas morning for a few hours.

In my early teens, my Grandparents were older and not up to the visits and we were spending more and more time at High Acres, the family farm in North Carolina. There would be the Christmas trips but often they were scheduled the week before Christmas - a bit calmer with much less ado.

Our new "norm" was to get to High Acres as soon after Christmas as possible and stay through the New Year. That started a new tradition that was a 'hole new ball game. In addition to our family there was the usual house full of friends. It was a raucous fun time with the usual quirks of the house. By now, frequent holiday guests were prepared for cold showers (if there was water), drafty rooms, and little sleep. 

Of course those times were followed by new traditions with our family. Christmas is so magical with young children. And, it is even better with Grandchildren. So I feel as if I have gone full circle from visiting my grandparents to enjoying our grandchildren. 

Friday, November 26, 2021

Ah, The Christmas Cards

I am in the process of sending out my Christmas Cards. Late is such a complicated word and often misused in our language. Yes, the year my Yuletide cards were delivered around Valentines Day - they were late. Getting them out before Thanksgiving only means one of two things: you either have too much time on your hands or you are OCD.  Either way you need help.

This year it took me awhile, but I finally found some cards I cared for. They are not fancy nor in foil envelopes. They are not large with an extended verse inside. They are rather simple, and I will spare my family and friends trite words of warm wishes and joy. 

I had my list of names and addresses from last year. By this time I tried to update the list, making sure I dropped the names from my list of folks I had not heard from in a while and probably would never again and those no longer with us. At my age you realize you are not going see all the folks you once knew before the end.

Getting Christmas stamps was another issue. Several years ago I found that by the time I made it to the Post Office there were no more Holiday stamps available. Some how using stamps with the flag on them was not festive.  Last year, I thought I would be smart and order my Holiday stamps online. Surely that would ensure that I actually got Christmas stamps.  And I did. However, the holiday stamps arrived several days before Christmas, a week or so after I posted my cards. Once again my cards were sent with a patriotic flare. 

Naturally I was lazy this year. Instead of buying regular stamps to use throughout the year, saving my holiday stamps for this year's cards, everything I have sent out so far in 2021 has had a holiday stamp on it. Having depleted my supply of festive stamps, this year I went to the post office 2 weeks before Thanksgiving and successfully found lovely Christmas stamps.

As I prepared my cards, I realized that there were more names on my list than cards I had bought this year. Luckily, I had cards left over from last year. As I finished addressing the envelopes, a feeling on mild panic came upon me. Last year I sent several different kinds of cards. I had no idea who got which card. What if I sent the same card I sent last year to some unsuspecting name on my list? What would they think? Then I realized I was being a bit arrogant to assume someone would remember what card I sent . 

When I finished I still had a few cards left over. There are always names I forgot about and new friends I did not have an address for. Worse yet, those I receive a card from who were not on my list.  My cards are addressed, stamped and ready to mail. I will wait until after Thanksgiving to post them. 

Oh, and if you are reading this and do not receive a Christmas Card from me, fear not. That indicates that you are on the list of those so special you do not need a card. I would not want anyone to think they were being overlooked.

PS - Last year, I would have saved myself angst, had I just checked with my friendly UPS store!

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Memories, Like the Fragrances of My Life

And while we are on the subject of fragrances, I still reminiscence about my Daddy, Auntie, and Hoyt's Cologne.  Those two had a running joke every Christmas - one of them was going to give the other a bottle of it - a very cheap toiletry found on the bottom shelf of any drugstore.  I was much too young to understand, I just knew there was much laughter when the gift was opened. Aunty always said it smelled "God Awful". I never thought it was that bad, although I stuck my nose up about it like everyone else, since that seemed like the party line at the time.

I have since learned that Hoyt's Cologne dates back to 1868 and was worn by gamblers, thought to bring them luck. It had notes of citrus and floral which are the scents I prefer. Guess it was best I kept my preferences to myself when I was five. Lord knows my Aunt Kat would have feared I was destined for a life on the wrong side of town, my Granny would have pulled out the Presbyterian Catechism, while Auntie would have been proud of me.

Of course my Aunt Kat wore Emeraude up until the day she died. My Aunt J'Nelle preferred Channel No. 5. I never asked, but no doubt if I had, my Auntie would have told me she preferred "Some type of toilet water." I just remember her smelling like the Salem cigarette she always had hanging out of the side of her mouth.

Then there were the "perfumes" Daddy sold in his drugstore in the 70's - Jean Nate, Faberge's StrawHat. Tigress, and Woodhue, Windsong, Cache and Shalimar. And, the men had their own with Old Spice, Brut, English, and Stetson.  I can't seem to forget you.  For the life of me I doubt I could tell any one those colognes apart. However, a few men's fragrances bring back memories of some of the men of my far distant past. Especially Polo. Ah, Polo . . . and that British Racing Green Austin Healey.  And, Royal Spyce and those blue eyes . . . but we will not go there.

Ahem. Anyway as I was saying, Daddy and Auntie always exchanged Hoyt's Cologne at Christmas. That was my introduction to colognes, needless to say it up from there. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Strength of Smell

 Of all the senses, smell is supposed to bring back more memories. I cannot speak for everyone, but this is very true in my case. The smells of the holidays always bring back memories of Christmases long past. Sometimes it only takes a light scent to bring a warm memory to mind. There are times a smell is very familiar and I know there is some tie to my past, but for the love of me, I cannot place it.

The smell of clove brings back memories of the orange we would cover with cloves to create a sachet as a gift for our mothers. In my case, Aunt Kat always seemed more appreciative of this gift than Mama. Cinnamon brings back memories of the Orange Bigelow Tea my Aunt J'Nelle served to teach me how to properly drink hot tea and appreciate it. A slice of orange reminds me of the ambrosia we enjoyed at both my Granny's and my Grandmother's house at Christmas. (Totally different recipes.) An oranges take me back to Christmas morning as a child, when Santa always left 1 or 2 our stockings along with whole walnuts - go figure!!

Cinnamon and Clove together bring back memories of Russian Tea, that concoction of Tang, cinnamon, cloves, and lemon flavored tea. I cannot count the number of jars of this "Tea" I made and gave as gifts, as well as received. It was one of the few hot beverages I ever cared for. (Until I grew up and discovered Espresso and Cappuccino.)

A whiff of Vicks Vaporub brings back those nights as a child when I was sick with a bad cold. My Mama would put a dab of Vaporub in the old hot air humidifier, filling my room with a warm mist of mentholatum.  

Citronella reminds me of outdoor summer suppers with my family. The brick patio would be surrounded with citronella candles to ward off the pesky mosquitoes. 

The smell of Camellias and Sasanquas bring back memories of the bowls of Camellias we would have in the entrance hall from November through January. My Daddy was a serious gardener. One of his passions was breeding and grafting Camellias. So we always had bowls of fresh Camellias from our yard.

The perfume "Charlemagne", takes me back to my bedroom, one night in December of 1975 when I was getting dressed for a very special date. 

One of the downsides of a lovely Leyland Cypress Christmas tree is the lack of scent. But, that could be handled with a can of "Fresh Royal Fir" by Claire Birke. Both the smell of a fresh Frazier Fir and a spritz of "Fresh Royal Fir" brings to mind Christmas trees of the past. A can of spray scent may seem a bit like cheating. However, it doesn't matter. Real or not, it is the smell that invokes the memory. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Why I Believe

As I have stated before, I am a true believer in the big man in red. I learned my lesson early. When I was five or six, thinking logically, I started calculating the number of hours in a night, the number of houses in the world, and the amount of time it would take someone to jump out a sleigh and come down every chimney. Funny, I believed that there was a chance the reindeer flew, he had an accurate list, and he lived forever. The idea of elves was questionable. Anyway, putting the package together, as Mr. Spock would say, "This is totally illogical". When I posed my theory to my father, in his wise way, he took it in stride, and said,"Well, you have thought this through and you have some good points." His answer really bothered me. I expected some argument.

As Christmas got closer, I tried to co-op my younger brother into my theory. He wasn't buying it though. He was holding out for that large yellow Tonka Dump Truck to go with the Tonka Road Scraper he got for his birthday. He had the page marked in the Sears & Roebuck Wish Book. 

Remember that wonderful red catalog that would come in the mail a month or so before Christmas? My brother and I would fight over possession of it for weeks. Each of us clearly marking the items we wanted from the incredible selection of toys in the back of the book. But I digress.

Every year, Santa would make one short visit to our small town and hold court at the local Sears store located on the town square. That particular year, my father suggested I go with him to take my brother. As we walked up to the store, there was a crowd of excited children with their parents expectantly waiting to see the big man. (I still had my doubts. After all, how did he have time to visit every town.) My father led us through the crowd.

As we walked through the door, a loud voice boomed from the back of the store. And, what followed changed my life forever. Santa called my name - loudly. The line waiting to see him parted and there he was sitting in his big chair. "Someone told me you no longer believe in me," he said in a questioning voice. "Come hear. Let's talk." Somehow I made it down the aisle. As I approached him, he looked down at me and smiled. 

"Oh, I believe," I quickly said. 

"I thought you did. Now let's discuss that Chatty Cathy on page 105 of the Wish Book. I think that was on your list." If I ever had a doubt, that night I drank the Koolaide.

As Daddy took us home, I just couldn't stop talking about how nice Santa was and how hard his job must be. Daddy just smiled. "Santa" was the local radio announcer, Mr. Guy Kirby, a good friend of my father's. Needless to say, Mr. Kirby had some inside information and was prepared for me. When I was older and learned the truth about my "Miracle on Russell Street" I was in awe of what a father would do to make sure his little girl did not lose the magic of Christmas.

Monday, November 22, 2021

The Christmas Tree

 'Tis the Season - Right? The Season for family, friends, frolicking, and, most importantly, the pièce de ré·sis·tance - the Christmas Tree. Whether live and fresh or synthetic and artificial, it is the symbol of holiday hearth and home. There are many interpretations of this festive conifer. In the 60's there was the silver (aluminum) tree with the multi color light wheel projecting a parade of colors on the tree. These days, artificial trees come in a myriad of colors (without the light wheel) pink, blue, purple. There has been the tree that hangs upside down from the ceiling. I had a friend who would decorate a tree then burn it. (If nothing else, this made a statement). There are the "designer" trees where someone pays a small fortune for someone else to decorate their tree. Personally, I think this defeats the purpose.

There is "a tree in the Grand Hotel, one in the park as well, It's the sturdy kind that doesn't mind the snow". The largest tree I've ever seen is the one at Rockefeller Center. And, of course, the simple sad looking tree Charlie Brown had.

Whatever the type, most of us grew up with childhood memories of our family tree. As a child I cannot remember exactly when we got our tree. I do remember where - a tree lot off the St Matthew's Rd. You know, the traditional area outlined by white light bulbs strung from pole to pole. It was a Frazier Fir, if I recall correctly. It is was not from such a lot, it was from the Piggly Wiggly. After all, the first site of the Christmas trees lined up outside the grocery store announced the official beginning of the holiday season. Like many homes back then, we had the traditional tree lights of the time, the ones the size of your thumb when an entire string could easily heat a room. At High Acres, we had a simple Virginia pine that we cut down on the farm.

When our children were young, we selected and cut down our tree on a tree farm. Usually it was a Leyland Cypress. And, we always got it the Friday after Thanksgiving.

When the Christmas Tree farm we frequently used closed, we found another one, about an hour away. In addition to Leylands, they had several different varieties we tried over the years. There was the Noble Fir, supposed to be the "King " of trees. A truly beautiful tree that unfortunately lost much of its needles before Christmas day. There was also the Blue Spruce- a lovely tree with a blue Hue. Unfortunately, the branches were so prickly that by the time the tree was trimmed, our arms looked as if we had been in a cat fight, and the cat had won.

When our family joined the episcopal church, I was surprised to learn that the tree was not to be  until Christmas Eve and stayed up until Epiphany, through the 12 days of Christmas. (Turtle Doves and all). Even as members of the church, we continued to put our tree up the Friday after Thanksgiving (and take it down before New Year's Eve). It was blasphemy but in the church's benevolence we must have been forgiven as we were never excommunicated.

Talking with friends, I find there are many traditions (and theories) about when is the right time to buy the tree. But, to each their own. Personally, given the amount of effort, time, and money, if the tree is not put up 4 weeks before Christmas, it is not worth the investment. So for me it is some time Thanksgiving week.

That being the case, this upcoming week is "The" week. Furniture must be rearranged, boxes and totes filled with lights, balls, and garlands brought out, a holiday playlist selected, and the "perfect" tree brought home. There will be the frustrating issue of getting the tree straight in the stand, rotating it to see the best side, untangling the lights, and then getting them straight on the tree. Too many lights on the top and we may run short at the bottom or vice a versa. At that point the process can slow to an enjoyable pace. I may take a day or 2 to carefully place each ornament on the best place. 

I think we often fail to realize the joy of pulling each ornament from its box. For each individual ball, toy, or whatever has a story. I cannot speak for everyone, but I find myself cherishing each memory as I hang the ornament. It may be a ball with a glass opening that shows a miniature scene inside. In one case, it is Charlie Brown and Lucy ice skating. This was a special Hallmark ornament from the 70's I got as a child from Daddy's store. (Hard to believe that 50 years ago.) There are the ornaments collected from places traveled. The ones that were gifts from special friends. And, always the precious ones made of Popsicle sticks, glue, and pipe cleaners.

There are the glass balls I found on sale when we trimmed our first tree. I never thought of the expense of trimming a tree until the Christmas of 1982 when got our first tree. It was only then I realized that it would take patience and time to collect enough ornaments to properly decorate our tree. From this lesson I started a tradition of giving our granddaughters ornaments each year for Christmas so they will at least be a bit more prepared for their first tree than we were.

So each year's tree is a labor of love, a family tradition, a trip down memory lane, as well as the ultimate decoration that is the center of the home's holiday tradition. Then like something akin to a castle on the beach that awaits its fate by the change of the tide, in a manner of weeks, the process will be reversed, and everything will be put back up, moved back out, and the tree retired to the rubbish or recycle bin. We will be as glad to see it go, as we were thrilled when it was first put up. 

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Julian Fellows Continues the Saga

 I recently learned that Julian Fellows has come through again. It has been announced that there will be another Downtown Abbey movie to be released in March 2022 -  Downton Abbey - A New Era. Based in the 1930's, it continues the saga of the Crowley family. 

But there are questions:

Who are the newly weds shown briefly in the trailer - perhaps Tom and Lucy who met when the King and Queen visited Downton? 

Just who was this mystery man of the Dowager Countess Violet's past? Were there more men in her life than the Earl of Grantham and Prince Kuragen? Is this who she visited when she disappeared to the south of France to get over being offed the Hospital Board?

What are George, Caroline, Sybil, Marigold, and Edith's second child up to?

Does Micheal Gregson reappear having been lost in Germany with amnesia since before the Great War, and complicate Edith's life? Or does Bertie tire of her and move onto another lady? Perhaps the Duchess of Kent? (Poor Edith)

Does the great house become way too expensive to manage and the family sell it to the Catholic church to be run as a home for wayward women (with Lady Isabel Merton - nee Crowley running the show)?

Do Daisy and Andy marry and turn Mr. Mason's tenancy into an organic jam operation?

Do Mr. Mason and Miss Patmore find true love?

Who is the glamorous blond who appears briefly in the trailer entering the Abby?

What becomes of Thomas's relationship with the King's Valet?

Do Violet and Maude make pretty and move to the South of France?

And who owns the yacht? Perhaps Harold?

Oh, so many questions. A lot can happen in the years between the mid 20's and mid 30's. 

Here is the trailer: Downton Abbey - A New Era

Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Muff or Not

 Most of you know I was brought up in South Carolina, a state where "winter" weather is limited to 6 weeks in February and March. Maybe every 4 or 5 years snow will fall, generally just enough to cover the ground and cause mass pandemonium. 

All that said, my mother had certain ideas in her head of things that were proper. Not necessarily practical but proper.

There was a piece of "Winter" apparel Mama thought I needed to have and use. Beyond a scarf and gloves which were rarely used, Mama decided I needed a muff, a full white rabbit hare muff.

For those of you not familiar, a muff is defined as "a tube made of fur or other warm material into which the hands are placed for warmth". Such as this one as seen in the 1880's, in Europe where there is a true cold winter 4 months of the year. Memories of the snowy sleigh scenes in Dr. Zhivago come to mind, not the "chilly" winter days in South Carolina where the temperatures rarely drop below 40.

This is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of South Carolina. 

So in December, I would be dressed for church in my short sleeve velvet dress, black patent leather shoes, short white socks, and a muff. If it were cold enough I may have had on a sweater or a coat. But this begs the question - if it is not cold enough to wear tights or a coat, what in Sam Hell's name does one do with a muff? Well, in my case, thankfully (or maybe not), it came with a lanyard that went around my neck, preventing me from losing the blasted thing. Just for the record it is a very efficient hand warmer.

This all comes to mind the other night when I was watching a movie (the story line being in Europe) and one of the ladies had a brown fur muff. In that instance, it looked appropriate. Of course the story line was based in the Victorian Era and it was the winter season. (As in snow on the ground and temperatures in the low 20's).

I spared my daughters of this ridiculousness. I'm not sure they even know what a muff is. 

Don't get me wrong, in the right weather  (very cold), and the right situation (one that includes a lot of snow and a sleigh), a muff would be an appropriate piece of apparel. And next time, I find myself in that situation, I will no doubt be unprepared without a muff.

Perhaps, I should thank Mama. If nothing else, she prepared me for the $500 question on Jeopardy,  under the category of "Obsolete Victorian Winter Accessories" -  the clue being "The fur tube Victorian women used to keep their hands warm." Ding, Ding, Ding - "What is a muff?"

Friday, November 19, 2021

Silk Purses, Sows' Ears, and Wet Hens

Every once in a while random thoughts go through my mind - not necessarily world peace type thoughts or questions of the universe. But, there are some things I just have always wondered about.

I'm pretty sure pigs don't fly but do the cows ever come home? 

How actually mad does a hen get when doused in water? Does it take dogs and cats?

Exactly how drunk was Cooter Brown any way? 

And, just who was Sam Hill?

I didn't know frogs had hair, if so it must be pretty fine.

Do grasshoppers have knees?

And, God help us if that creek ever crests.

Can the pot and kettle really speak, and, if so why is the kettle black?

What is the difference between a doohicky, thingamajig and whatchamacallit?

Certainly a cat would know better than to walk across a hot tin roof.

Is there a antonym for  "Highfalutin"?

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Frustration in the Check Out Line

 Do I look like I care? Seriously!

A day or 2 ago I was in line at the grocery store. The lady checking out 2 folks ahead of me, apparently did not realize that she would have to pay for her groceries. So after the cashier had checked her out and filled her bags, the customer started digging into her large purse to find, of all things, her check book. Then there was the issue that she seemed to have misplaced her pen.

Meanwhile the lady in front of me had a toddler in her buggy. She was on her mobile chatting - fairly loudly. "Well honey, I'm sorry but I figured you would not have the day off." Silence. "Sweetheart, you work in retail, that's the day after Thanksgiving - Black Friday. No one at the mall will have that day off." Silence. "No, I know you cannot drive 6 hours home Wednesday night, then 6 hours back Thursday. It makes no sense." Silence. "No, I'm afraid I cannot buy you an airline ticket." Silence. "I'm sorry, but I just can't." Silence. "Honey, I just can't."

Now, to get the full picture, the entire time of the phone call, the toddler was throwing a toy on the floor, and crying for her mother to pick it up. The mother would pick the toy up (all the while continuing her phone conversation) and give it back to the child, saying,"Don't do that." But, the child immediately did just that. After several of these out bursts, I wanted to grab the toy, put in in my bag, and inform that child that if she cried again, Santa Claus was not coming. But, I held my tongue, after all the child was not mine - thankfully. And, obviously the child and the mother would repeat this exercise until the child tired of throwing the toy down and having a fit.

When her phone call ended, the lady turned to me and announced, "She just hung up on me." As she put her phone back in her purse, she continued,"That was my oldest daughter. She just got her first job at a mall and thinks she should have Black Friday off." She stopped, picked the toy off the floor, gave it to the child and admonished her that 'If she did that one more time. . .'

She continued her story. "She has been our problem child and I have just had to do tough love. She makes poor choices. She dropped out of school. She is living in this horrible little place in a sketchy neighborhood. The boy she dates is horrible. And, this is her first job - at 19. Now she is upset about missing Thanksgiving." Just then, the mother turned to the toddler and once again told her, 'Not to do it again.'

I looked ahead and hoped the older lady had found a pen, written her check, took her groceries and left. But, alas, it was not be, she was chatting with the cashier. At this point, I wanted to wake up from this frustration dream. But, the sound of the toy being thrown on the floor, made me realize it was not a dream, just a nightmare in real life.

The mother continued,"I just don't know what we are going to do with her. She just makes poor choices. I just don't understand. I have given her everything - given her money, a car, and paid her rent. She keeps saying she is going back to college, but this boy she lives with doesn't want her to. Thankfully, she finally has a job."

Just then she realized that the lady ahead of her had moved on and she needed to get her groceries on the counter and check out. Thankfully that turned her attention away from me. Just when her groceries had been bagged, the toddler, once again repeated her throw-the-toy-on the floor- and cry routine. The cashier was losing patience. I did not fault her. The lady turned to the cashier and laughed, "I guess I need to pay." She opened her purse and started rumbling around, I assume to find her wallet. 

As she did, she looked at the cashier and started up, "I'm sorry, but my oldest daughter just called. She's upset because she cannot come home for Thanksgiving. See, she has made poor choices. . ."

All I could think was - Shoot me now. I need to develop a visage that shouts, "Don't share - I really don't care!"

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Yearning for Our "Old" Norm

 This is the time of the year when we start thinking about the new year coming up. Just saying 2022 is as if one is talking about the distant future. 55 years ago, I pictured life in 2022 like the Jetsons lived. Certainly by now, we would having flying cars and robotic maids. (Well, thanks to Hazel, at least one of those is true.)

But rather than go to the future, I find we are more likely looking back to the past for comfort. Remember the days when one could visit anyone anywhere with no concern over vaccinations and masks? Think of the family holiday get-togethers when our only trepidation was Uncle Howard showing up, three sheets to wind telling his very inappropriate jokes about the fairer sex and politics.

As I age, I long for the family Christmas dinners of years past. The one with my mother's family that was always a great time. My brother and I got to see our cousins and run free through my grandparents' rambling home. As a younger child, it was Christmas on their farm in Marlboro County. My memories of those holidays were of a dining room table covered with dishes of wild game my grandfather brought home, and all the other familiar foods of a holiday dinner. Thankfully the distant memories of those days are well documented on the home movies my father took. 

Christmas dinner on my Daddy's side was a whole different ball game. My brother and I were the only grandchildren, and according to my Aunt Kat and Granny, we could do no wrong. This visit was always a quiet affair until Auntie (my 300 pound Great Aunt) showed up with her ever present pack of Salem cigarettes and off colored stories. Then the fun really began.

Those years until now seem like a movie reel that is running at reckless speed - way too fast. As we age time really does go by faster. (I wrote a post about that phenomenon a while back.) Just when we are mature enough to appreciate every minute of everyday, we find they passing at lightening speed. 

This year I only yearn for our "old" norm - days when we will no longer be confined by a pandemic. Now I am frustrated by the knowledge that this could quickly go back to that normal if more of the country's population would get vaccinated. But, I digress. 

Once again, I am looking backwards to get to the future, hoping time slows down, and trying to enjoy every day before it slips away. 


Friday, November 12, 2021

First Class Any Where in the World, Except Down Under

 I'll be the first to admit that I find the USPS (United States Postal Service) frustrating. However, I know of no other service where, for less than 60 cents one can send an envelope across the country (all 50 states). And, they deliver your mail to your home. And, let's face it, the post office is an American Institution, first introduced by Benjamin Franklin.

I was horrified last year to learn that the new Post Master General was going to "revolutionize" the postal service by cutting hours, doing away with postal machines, and, as of September 3, 2021, suspended service of First Class US Mail to Australia (Honest truth!). What did Australia do to deserve that? What's next? The United Kingdom? 

Seriously, I agree the postal service needs some updating, but I question cutting worker's hours, deciding that the latest machines that quickly read and sort mail are no longer needed, and, oh yes, who wants to send anything to Australia. I checked and one can still send a First Class letter to Tibet and the Seychelles, but not Australia. Needless to say, the Post Master General does not have the USPS in his best interest. Perhaps his personal investments in shipping and mailing services in the private sector have something to do with his trying to kill the Post Office by a 1000 cuts - just saying.

All this said, I needed to drop a package off at our local Post Office. I had gone online and already paid the postage, printed the label, sealed and labeled the box. All I needed to do was put it on the counter. It was just a little bit too large to put in the regular mail box. Our local post office is only open from 10 until 4 (and closed for lunch between 12 to 1). 

When I arrived at 10 am, it was not open. It was not long until there was a short line of patrons waiting for it to open. By 10:15 there was much conversation about the post office operating on "Postal Time". Quips were made about the shortened hours. One lady gave up and left. Then a young man standing with us just laughed. "We are going to be here until tomorrow. I just remembered it is Veteran's Day" - a national holiday when all federal government office are closed.

With all the stress and pressure the service is under, they definitely deserve a day off. Now, I just need to find another place to drop off my package. I'll have to come back to my local post office to buy my stamps. However, I need to plan my visit after 10 am, before noon, after 1 pm, before 4 pm, on a weekday (Monday - Friday), and not on a Federal Holiday. Doing the math, that gives me 25 hours in any given week without a federal holiday. I'll mark my calendar.

And, as a caveat, I dropped my USPS box off at the Friendly UPS that is opened every day and does not close for lunch.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

The season of Lords, Ladies, and Turtle Doves are Upon Us.

 It's that time of year again. That time, when like it or not, the Christmas season is upon us. Once again Thanksgiving is overlooked, much like the red headed step child relegated to the table in the kitchen. Anyway, a true look at the economics of the day, is the price of the 12 Days of Christmas. 2020 was a bit short, given due to Covid there were no: Dancing Ladies, Leaping Lords, Pipers, or Drummers. But as we get back (close) to our old norm - if it exists, all twelve gifts are once again available. Here is the list of the cost of the gifts.

  • A Partridge in a Pear Tree - $235.40
  • 2 Turtle Doves  -                 $567.00
  • 3 French Hens -                  $264.60
  • 4 Calling Birds -                 $755.94
  • 5 Golden Rings -                $1,190.70
  • 6 Laying Geese  -               $775.20
  • 7 Swimming Swans -         $14,700.00
  • 8 Milking Maids -              $64.96
  • 9 Dancing Ladies -            $8,461.82
  • 10 Leaping Lords -            $11,200.00
  • 11 Piping Pipers -              $3,078.73
  • 12 Drummers -                  $3,328.92
For a grand total of $44,623.27

Of course 2020's cost was only $16,168.14 due to the lack of Ladies, Lords, Pipers, and Drummers. 2019's cost was $38,953.59. The 2021 total clearly reflects the inflation that dominates the front pages these days, as compared to 2019, the cost has increased by a little less than $6,000.

Now, as a caveat, with the shipping issues and shortages, the Golden Rings may be a little hard to find. The Lords may have issues getting here, given the Covid travel restrictions and flight cancellations. 

A bit of history here. The song was first published in England in 1780, although its origins are probably French. The current version is an arrangement first published in 1909 by English composer Frederic Austin.  The first day starts with Christmas day and run the 12 days until Epiphany. 

But, all said, and God willing, the 2021 Christmas season will once again enjoy these 79 delights.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

When You Care Enough . . .

There is one holiday tradition that I hold dear - Christmas Cards. In these days of texts, emails, and e-cards, I feel the least I can do is take the time and effort to send a pen and ink, authentic paper Christmas card to my family and friends. At this point I long for the obnoxious letters included in cards I received years ago touting the accomplishments of the sender's children. You know the ones, when everything from an Olympic medal to a Fullbright Scholarship to being the 3rd string short stop on the local Little League team was regaled in lengthy text. As tedious as those were to read, I found the ones lamenting over every ache and pain, Doctor's visit, and medical prognosis to be the worst. 

I think this tradition on my part goes back to Daddy's drug store. In the 60's and 70's, he was the only Hallmark dealer in our town. Each year around September, the Hallmark Representative would come to our home. He would have with him this huge (24 x 18 inch) dark green loose leaf book. Each page had a different card attached with the accompanying envelope. Mama and Daddy would sit with him and select the cards that would be sold in the store that year. Also, Mama would place an order for the personalized card our family would send. Later that week, Daddy would let his customers know that the book was in the store and they could order their personalized cards.

As dear a place in my heart as Hallmark has, I generally try to find some unique card to send each year, be it by Hallmark or not. I usually start in late September looking for the right card. Some years they are handmade, others they have been designer and fairly pricey. This year I found some precious ones that were not that expensive. After all, it is the thought (and effort and follow through) that counts.  My list rarely changes. I may add new friends I have made this past year. OK, I'll admit that I may drop a name or 2 off the list. But only if I no longer want to encourage that relationship. Fear not, if for some reason you do not receive a card from me this year, no doubt it got lost in the mail.

Also, each year I look forward to receiving holiday greetings in the US Mail from friends and family. For some, it is the only time I hear from them. So my holiday season begins each year as I sit and address my cards. Perhaps I'm old fashioned, but there are some traditions I feel should be carried on. 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

My Nemesis

 As with anyone who has attained my age, I have accumulated several nemesis along the way. I think my earliest foe was a girl named Rhonda in 6th grade. That was followed by Algebra in 10th grade, Biology my freshman year in college, and Astronomy my sophomore  year. I shudder with just the thought of cell structure or the Andromeda Galaxy, But, I digress. And I'll spare you my entire list of antagonists.  

However, the most evil enemy I have encountered over the years is my bathroom scale. The status of my day is made or ruined by this small flat electronic device. I learned years ago that the only way (no pun intended) to control my weight is to subject myself to this device of torture. I have an acceptable range of weight that I need to stay within. A bit over the range tells me that I need to "seriously watch" what I eat that day. Within the range means I just need to "watch" what I eat. If the God of the Scales blesses me with a number below my range then I am free to eat without worrying so much. But reckless abandonment is never on the table. That joy ended many years ago.

Coming in at a close second to the evil scales is my clothes. I despise tight clothes. Not only are they unsightly and uncomfortable, they are an undeniable sign that my weight is edging up. Since I refuse to buy larger clothes, the tight material around my thighs and weight is a constant reminder that portions need to be decreased and sweets eliminated. 

So I live in a constant tug of war with my weight and size. Each year nature makes this a miserable tussle, one I lose more than win. So while most people would chose unlimited money if granted a wish from the genie,  I would choose the ability to eat with reckless abandon, needless to say, followed by the a second wish for the monetary resources.

If nothing else, I could purchase a kinder set of bathroom scales that would not torture me each morning. And to think some people fear speaking in public or crossing a street. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Hazel is Under the Weather

Hazel is ill. I found her this morning on the rug, lifeless. Oh, she has been ill before. But, overall she has always been active, discreet and dependable. Usually, each morning, I find her tucked away in her little place. She brings me great joy. She gets herself in most interesting situations. There have been times when she loses her way. I will find her in the most random places - under the sofa, by the back door, hiding in the corner. She has a habit of getting so full she can go no further. 

It is not unusual to find her tangled in charging cords, stuck under a chair, or in a tiff with one of Marshall's many toys. But, this morning was different. There she was lying there, deathly quiet, lifeless. For those of you who do not know, Hazel is my robotic vacuum cleaner. She is the best thing since sliced bread, Post-it Notes, or the Swifter Sweeper. 

For years I thought such a device was only for the privileged. Those with disposable income who saw a commercial and were determined to have the first one in the neighborhood. What an expensive toy. How could it clean, just randomly moving this way and that across the floor. 

A year or two ago I received her as a birthday present from one of my daughters. After hearing testimonies  from others about how efficient they were, I had added her to my list. The thrill of finding one's floor each morning clean without lifting a broom and dust pan is most satisfying. I have her programmed to starteach morning at 1 am. This prevents her becoming a sparring partner with Marshall.

 I am believer. I worship at her charging station. In my life, she is an angel. (Perhaps even an Archangel). She is the death of dust bunnies, dog hair, and bits of anything finds on the floor (thatthe dogs have not already consumed). She gladly takes care of a task I despise - sweeping.

When I first brought her home, I read the directions, programmed her (with her handy remote), placed her charging station under the buffet, gently placed her on it, and named her Hazel (after the delightful show I watched as a child about a funny, loud, dedicated family maid). My grand daughters are most amused. Grancurrie has a vacuum cleaner she calls Hazel. Later I found that I was not the only one who loving named their faithful device. The list of names often used includes: Jarvis, Jeeves, Rosie (re: The Jetsons), Minion, Wallie (as in Wall-E), Roberta, Rover, to name a few. And, yes, the name "Hazel" made the list.

To me, she is the 8th Wonder of the Modern World. Just like a fax machine, I do not understand how she works, but she does. How can something her size randomly know how to awake at 1 in the morning, leave her charging station and clean the floor. How can she cover the entire floor in her the random and circuitous route, weaving in and out of the legs of chairs and tables, moving on and off the rug with grace, and gliding underneath the sofa.

Each morning I pull out her dust bin, delighted in the amount of trash she has collected on her early morning tour of my den and kitchen. By this time, she is safely on her charging station. I am content to know that the following morning, she will have again completed her task, be back in her place and the floor will be clean.

Now, I need to find her user's manual and see what it suggests I do to make her better. If need be, I'm not sure where my broom is, not having used it in a year or more. I need to fix her, so my life will return to normal and my floor will be clean again. Oh, I have a conventional, large, bulky vacuum upstairs. However the idea of dragging that thing down and, heavens forbid, having to use it, is not a delightful thought. This just won't do. How did I ever live without her.

Monday, November 1, 2021

St. Columbanus , Patron Saint of Motorcyclist

 Given this is All Saints Day, I was curious to see a list of Saints. In my mind, there are saints named as Patrons for such things as Travelers (St. Christopher), Children (St. Nicolas), and Animals (St. Frances of Assisi, as well as St. Anthony of Egypt and St. Cornelius). But who knew accountants have their own saint, but low and behold they do - St. Mathew the Apostle. For all the brewers, you too are covered. In fact there is a trifecta of saints for  Brewers - St, Augustine of Hippo, St. Boniface, and St. Wenceslaus. Divorcees fear not, for you too have a patron saint watching over you - St. Helen. (Although how does one know which side she takes?)

Anesthesiologists are protected by St. Rene Goupl. Sore Eyes are assigned to St. Augustine. Volcanic Eruptions (I kid you not) are protected by St. Januarius. St. John the Baptist protects Road Workers. St. Micheal the Archangel looks over EMTs.  

Not being of the Catholic persuasion, I had no idea what exactly an "Archangel" was. I learned that he/she is the eighth order of the ninefold celestial hierarchy. The Nine Celestial Order of the Divine Angels (aka the Choir of the Angels) is made up of the Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, Dominations, Powers, Virtues, Principalities, Archangels, and Angels. Who knew Angels themselves are on the longest rung of the totem pole (so to speak).  But, I digress.

From Skiers to Singers to Storms, there are dedicated saints watching over them. Television has 2 saints (St Claire of Assi and St. Martin de Porres), while Teenage Girls have only one (St. Maria Goretti). Lightening has a saint (St. Victor of Marseilles) and well as Large families (St. Richard ).  However, I wonder just how many children constitute a "large family".

There are saints protecting Fevers (St. Petronille), Funeral Directors (St. Joseph of Aremathia  ), and Girl Scouts (St. Agnes of Rome). St. Teresa of Alvila is assigned to Headaches and Ice Skating is watched over by St. Lidwana of Schiedam. Notaries look to St. Mark the Evangelists for protection. 

Of all the many saints,  I feel for St. Kateri (the Environment), and St. Eugene of Mazenot (Dysfunctional Families), for they have a heavy load. But, I feel a kindred spirit with Rita of Cascia, the Saint of Impossible Dreams.

All in all, there are over 10,000 saints recognized by the Catholic Church. Doing the math, it would take 27 years and 142 days to honor each of them if each was assigned a day.