Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday Conversations: A Prairie Christmas

While preparing for Christmas, and all the whirlwind activities coming up in the next couple of days, I started to think about the Christmases of the past. Not as far back as the first Christmas -- Christmases from my past.                                                            
Living in a small town on the prairie, in the 1970s and 80s, had it's advantages. We had sledding hills that only the bravest would dare venture; and in some cases not the brightest bulbs on the tree -- but that's a different story. Everyone in town knew each other and celebrated Christmas as a community.

The main street was lit up from one end to the other - a total of four blocks, but it was the most amazing four blocks. I remember the clothing store window with the dressed up manequins wearing their finest Christmas offerings; the grocery store with displays of holiday delicacies and treats of every kind imaginable, the locker plant had meats and cheeses; the Rexall Drug store with all the perfumes and delicate gifts; but none of these compared with the hardware store - at least not from a kid's point of view.

For all the things we had, we did not have a toy store. The hardware store, this one time of year, morphed into something other than the lawn and garden, or snow removal department. It became Santa's shop so to speak. There were toys of every kind imaginable from sleds to dolls and doll houses.

Santa Saturday was the best. It was the one day out of Christmas vacation we kids looked forward to the most; other than Christmas Day. Santa came into town - mysteriously. We were always told that he was picked up at the small airport, all his stuff loaded into a farmer's truck and driven downtown to where the hoards of kids were waiting. I always wanted to go to the airport to see his sleigh and elves, but we will never know for sure what may have been behind the hanger doors. He handed out bags of peanuts and candy with a healthy orange or apple <-- I suspect to please the parents. There was a free Christmas movie in the City Hall. We had a theater, but there weren't enough seats to fit all the kids. There was a parade and a drawing for a new bike; one for a boy and one for a girl. It was a great day.

Christmas Eve was a different sort of day and night. All the commercialism of the holiday was neatly tucked under the tree and forgotten for a few hours. Family arrived from all parts of the state, and some from other states, congregating at the home of my grandparents. Hugs and smiles were passed around with the egg nog and other holiday treats my aunts and grandmothers had made. Men patting each other on the back with hearty hellos. Women racing to the kitchen to join the others in catching up about kids, work and other 'news' in the family. Us kids, we went outside and had our greetings - snowball fights, snow angels, fort building and sharing secret hopes for gifts we might get.

After all the family was gathered together, the true meaning of Christmas would descend upon the house as we made ready to go to Candlelight Services. We caravanned to the church at the top of the hill and went to celebrate with a different sort of family. His family. On that one night of the year, there was no distinction of who had what or didn't. There was no distinction of who gave more than another or who was what color or of what ethnic origin. We celebrated Christmas, the birth of Christ, as one family.

As a small child, holding the hand of my mother in the dark, I always wondered if it made God as happy as Grandma and Grandpa, to have all the kids home for Christmas.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Happy Saturday: Camouflage, Coffee and Christmas

I am a coffee-a-holic. I admit it. I belong to a select group of individuals in the world who live for the next delicious, aromatic cup. It is a wonder I enjoy writing. Coffee shops and writing have been coupled together since time immemorial.

I have been following a certain coffee related group on FaceBook that reminds me daily not to take my freedom to drink coffee, at will, for granted - Green Beans Coffee.

Green Beans Coffee Cafes are located on the bases where our troops are deployed. It is an amazing way for anyone to brighten the day of a soldier, sailor, airman, marine, or coast guardsman (ahem...person) who is stationed far from home.

Here is the gist of how the program works:

You log onto Green Beans Coffee <--- Handy link for your convenience.

You choose the amount you want to sponsor:

$2.00 - One Service Member

$6.00 - Three Troops

$10.00 - Five Troops

$60.00 - Thirty Troops

Or, any other amount you choose.

The program doesn't end with an anonymously purchased cup of Joe. The site has a developed a means for you to write a letter of encouragement to said Service Member(s) via email, which, when they pick up their well deserved cup of Joe, will be delivered with said cup of Joe.

As we busy ourselves with Christmas, here at home, we need to remember those who have chosen to wear the uniform of freedom.

When my grandfather, who also served as my dad, would talk about his years in the African and European Campaigns of WWII, he would say receiving a letter from home was the highlight of his day. It made all the difference in the world, and it didn't matter who the letter was from. It was the mere idea that someone back home took the time to remember he was in a foxhole somewhere, praying to live to see the next day.

We all have family members, past and present, like my grandfather. Fortunately, today we have technology that allows letters (and coffee) to be delivered in an instant.

I encourage you, if the spirit moves you to do so, take two minutes of your time to remember our men and women who are deployed around the world and buy A Cup of Joe for a Joe!

Nollaig Shona Dhuit one and all.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sunday Conversations: Merry Christmas Around the World


Nollaig Shona le mo theaghlach agus lena chairde. Bealtaine bhfianaise na Spéartha a bheith in éineacht leat i gcónaí. Bealtaine Dia teacht i gcónaí agat cá bhfuil tú, agus a bheith sásta é a cruinniú idir é agus an leat. Is féidir do bhliain nua a líonadh le sonas grá, agus áthas!

Nadolig Llawen i fy nheulu a ffrindiau. Mai ngoleuni'r Heavens fod gyda chwi yn wastad. Mai Duw bob amser yn dod o hyd i chi ble ydych chi a boed yn cyfarfod yn hapus rhwng Ef a thi. Efallai y bydd eich blwyddyn newydd yn cael ei lenwi â, hapusrwydd cariad a llawenydd.

God jul till min familj och vänner. Kan bakgrund av himlen vara med dig alltid. Må Gud alltid hitta dig var du är och oavsett om det är ett lyckligt möte mellan han och dig. Må din nya året fyllas med kärlek, lycka och glädje.

Merry Christmas aan mijn familie en vrienden. Moge het licht van de hemelen altijd bij je. Moge God altijd vinden waar je bent en of het nu een gelukkige ontmoeting tussen Hij en thee. Moge uw nieuwe jaar worden gevuld met liefde, geluk en vreugde.

Frohe Weihnachten an meine Familie und Freunde. Möge das Licht des Himmels sei allezeit mit euch. Möge Gott dich immer finden, wo du bist und sei es ein gelungenes Treffen zwischen ihm und dir. Möge dein neues Jahr mit viel Liebe, Glück und Freude erfüllt sein.

Hyvää joulua perheeni ja ystäväni. Toukokuu valossa taivaan kanssanne aina. Jumala aina löytää missä olet ja olla se onnellinen tapaaminen Hän ja sinun. Olkoon uusi vuosi täynnä rakkautta, onnea ja iloa.

God jul til min familie og venner. Måtte lyset fra himmelen være med deg alltid. Må Gud alltid finne deg hvor du er og bli det et lykkelig møte mellom han og deg. Måtte din nye året bli fylt med kjærlighet, lykke og glede.

Glædelig jul til min familie og venner. lyset af Heavens være med dig altid. Må Gud altid finde dig, hvor du er, og hvad enten det er et lykkeligt møde mellem Han og dig. Må jeres nye år være fyldt med kærlighed, lykke og glæde.

Veselé Vianoce moja rodina a priatelia. Môže byť s ohľadom na nebesá, vždy s Vami. Boh mája vždy zistíte, kde ste, a nech už je to šťastné stretnutie medzi ním a tebou. Môže si na Nový rok bude plný lásky, šťastia a radosti.

Feliz Navidad a mi familia y amigos. Que la luz de los cielos estén siempre con vosotros. Que Dios siempre te averiguar dónde se encuentra y sea un feliz encuentro entre él y yo. Que tu nuevo año sea lleno de amor, felicidad y alegría.

Merry Christmas to my family and friends. May the light of the Heavens be with you always. May God always find you where you are and be it a happy meeting between He and thee. May your new year be filled with love, happiness and joy.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Happy Saturday: A Few of My Favorite Things

I have never been a huge fan of The Sound of Music. There I have said it for the whole world to see. Truth be told, I am not a big fan of musicals in general. Although, I must say, I will forever love Mary Poppins and Popeye (Robin Williams).

As the Christmas season is upon us in full vigor, I thought it appropriate to list some of my favorite things and people from this year.

Lady Gaga - I am a strong proponent of anti-bullying strategy development. I admire Lady Gaga's continual support of anti-bullying groups and her determination to create change in this regard.

New Babies - I like babies, especially new babies, and babies that go home with their parent(s). Several new babies have entered my life recently and they make me smile everytime I see them. I absolutely adore my grandbabies - although they aren't really babies anymore.

My Young Mothers - As many of you know, I am a mentor mother for the Young Mothers Network in Cass County, ND and Clay County, MN, one hundred and five young women who are making a difference in their own lives, by leaps and bounds. These young women have made me very proud this year. There are some pretty spectacular dads in this group too, who love and take care of their families.

My Mother - My own mother has been such a wonderful support for me this year with all the changes that have happened. She has always been my mother first, but most importantly my best friend for years. I am so thankful that she is still a part of my life. Love you, Mom.

My Friends - This year has been a really difficult year full of obstacles, challenges and changes. My friends are among my favorites, because I know they are people I can count on when I need them and we love each other just the way we are.

When we talk about our favorite things in life and seriously sit down to consider what those things are, invariably it comes down to the people who share our lives. Things and money come and go like water, but the people in our lives stay with us forever. So this Christmas, my favorite things are those who travel on my journey of life with me - yesterday, today and into tomorrow.

Happy Saturday and may your life be filled with love, laughter and all the joy your heart can hold.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Thursday Treasure: Incident Report: Claus 12/24/Infinity

The Night Before Christmas, Legally Speaking ~ Author Unknown

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter.

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtent to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter "the Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter "the Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named "Rudolph" may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House,and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" Or words to that effect.

Respectfully Submitted, s./ The Grinch, Esq.

For other versions of Twas the Night Before Christmas visit: