Wednesday, December 31, 2008





Singing Bear, wherever you are, this most definitely includes you, my friend.

I'm sure you recognize the U.S. postage stamp above.

Second Award

The second award for the year's end came to me from Lisa, The Butterfly Farmer.

This one is more serious, and much harder to comply with. You are asked to list ten honest things about yourself. I suppose this could also be taken rather lightly. But I didn't think of it that way - especially since I read the lists of a couple of other people, and they were quite serious. So, here goes.

l. Forgiveness. This is a concept I have trouble with. I try- I really do. But I find it difficult, if not impossible to forgive Amanda, who was the woman my father married after my parents' divorce. The same thing goes for one of my nieces, for the way she treated my sister. And then of course there are people like GWB. I find it hard to forgive him. And Adolf Hitler and so many others throughout history for their crimes against humanity. How do I forgive that sort of thing? I wrestle with that idea.

2. Prejudice. Everyone has them. Me too. I think my strongest prejudice is against prejudice itself. For instance: within so many religious groups are those who truly believe that their way is the only way, and the rest of us poor souls are doomed to hell. "Born agains" have told me they can't even pray for those who do not believe their way. Yes, I am prejudiced.

3. Honestly, I spent too many years searching for a religious group to call my own. I was raised in the Episcopal Church. Attended the Lutheran Church with my best friend, and joined them. Had occasion to attend many others. In 9th grade I wrote a thesis on Comparative Religions. Much later became a Catholic, but was soon disillusioned there. I have for some years now found peace in realizing that my Faith is my own, and am very comfortable in my present relationship with God, without attending any formal church.

4. On a less deep and possible disturbing note - I am a terrible housekeeper. I've always said my house is clean, just not neat and tidy. More recently, since I cannot do some of the physical chores I used to, I'm not too sure it is even clean. My daughter's visit over the holidays took care of some of that part, thank heaven. But there will always be piles of paper, and things not put away because I will want to use them again soon.

5. I can't drink. I enjoy a drink on occasion, but I can't take more than one. Well, maybe one and a half. More than that, and I'm tipsy. I don't like being tipsy.

6. I am never really comfortable in a really fancy restaurant. Can't relax. I don't really enjoy being waited on, there or anywhere else. I like to do things for myself. Well, it's just as well. Being diabetic, I shouldn't eat all those sauces and things. And they always serve you much too much. I don't eat that much.

7. Speaking my mind. This one works both ways. When I was in high school, I didn't speak my mind enough. I had all these wonderful (or so I thought) ideas and responses running around in my head, but never voiced them. Once I was more or less an adult, I spoke up, probably too often. And now, here I am writing a blog, and may have way too much to say at times.

8. Playing dumb. This started in my teens. I found that there were times during a date when, since most boys were basically nice anyway, if I played dumb when they made suggestive remarks or gestures, they usually decided I was a "nice" girl and cut it out. Then I found when I was out in the working world that the same tactic worked with co-workers and bosses in other situations. Playing dumb can be your best friend.

9. I had two "best friends" throughout my school years. If I have to be honest, only one was my best friend. Or I was to her. The other, I really didn't like all that much. We got along fine. There was just something about her I never really felt comfortable with, and I couldn't quite trust her.

10. Practicality. I am really not practical. Never have been. Guess I never will be.
If I am down to my last couple of dollars, and I have a choice of buying a loaf of bread or a bunch of flowers, I'm going for the flowers every time. I mean, if things are that tight, I'm going to starve to death anyway. Why not have the pretty flowers to enjoy in my last moments?

OK. That's enough honesty for a while. Lisa, it was an interesting exercise. Thank you very much for the award. I'm not going to pass it on. Not this one. But I'm glad you offered it to me. I kind of enjoyed thinking of honest things about myself that I don't normally drag out to view.

Two Awards

As 2008 ends, I have received two awards. The first is the Tree of Happiness, which I received from my dear friend Gina, otherwise known as The Pagan Sphinx.

I was so pleased to receive this award. As I told Gina, I love trees. Trees make me happy. The rules require you to list six things that make you happy. That is very easy. I can name a lot more than six.

1. well - Trees. And the smell of Spring, and sunshine and a soft breeze.

2. Crocuses. Because they are the very first sign of Spring, even before the season starts. After the long, cold winter, when we are despairing of ever seeing Spring again.

3. Goslings and ducklings. They usually appear around Mothers' Day. So sweet.

4. Puppies. Or to be more precise, the feeling of their soft little bodies as they squirm in your hands and nip at you. They always give me a thrill.

5. Slipping into a warm bed on a cold winter night. So luxurious!

6. Laughter. Especially the laughter of children. But anyone really enjoying life.

7. There has to be #7. The memory of my husband. Specifically, he liked to walk, and almost always had himself dropped off after work several blocks from home. On nice days I would often walk up to meet him halfway, with our youngest. We would see one another coming, and his face would light up with that beautiful smile as Kitty would run ahead toward him. Remembering that smile makes me happy.

This is a fun one! Everyone who reads this should award themselves the Tree of Happiness, and write down at least six things that make them happy. But I am going to send it to my daughter of Fetal Positions, because she loves trees so much too. and to Lisa of Ramblings of a Villas Girl, just because.

Thank you so much, Gina! Thinking of things that make me happy, makes me happy!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy Birthday, Ruth!

Everybody is celebrating! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RUTH!

My first born! It was so good to see you at Christmas! Don't make it so long between visits next time. Love you!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Breather Between Holidays

I guess you could call it a breather. I still feel as if I'm going...going...going...

Hope everyone of you had as wonderful a holiday as I had. Those who celebrate Kwanzaa are still going with it. The rest of
us are trying to sit back and gather our strength for the next one I suppose.

Santa was good to me. He even put a wonderful Air Lingus plane in my stocking. He always remembers to put a plane of some kind in my stocking. He knows I love to fly. This one lights up and makes the sound of a take-off. Well - we must have our toys at Christmas.

Among my other gifts was a beautiful new hummingbird feeder for next spring. I never had one like this before. I'll be interested to see which feeder they are attracted to.

Of course, we have pictures fro
m California, where Isaac was visited by St. Nick as well. I think Mom and Dad were a little pleased that the Postal Service did not manage to get all the east coast gifts from various aunts and uncles to him in time. He had plenty without them, and it gives a little breather before the arrival of a new batch of toys . Some did arrive in time. (Mine did!) But Santa also brought him a track and toy cars and trucks, and a big wheel and a number of other things.

I had to laugh at this one though. This is his dad, happily playing with the tiny dog I had sent his son.

They did not spend all of their time at home. They took advantage of some sunshine between rain storms - Yes, even in usually sunny Monterey - and went over to Pacific Grove for some fresh air. Isaac spent some time on the beach.

And some time just sitting in a tree, enjoying Monterey Bay.

Meanwhile, back at my son's house critters were part of the festivities as well as people. This pair would be Leo (cat) and Eli (dog). They get along pretty well most of the time.

But they are not alone. There is also Murph, seen here with a small child.

Murph does not confine h
imself to visiting toddlers. He likes to climb over adults as well. Ruth normally looks much prettier than this. She was in the midst of a story about yet another cat, illustrating its expression of...what, I'm not quite sure, when Murph decided to pay her a visit, resulting in what I find to be the amusing picture of the week.

Say, remem
ber when I showed you my "Dr. Seuss plant"? It was my mandevilla, brought in out of the cold, which decided to go crazy in my living room. Then I was crazy enough to decorate it for Christmas. Twelve days ago, on the 16th, it looked like this.

Now it looks like this.

Here's a close up of its curly top .

What do you think? Will it eventually take over the living room? Will the new year find me hacking my way out with a machete? Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion to this adventure.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shadow Shot Sunday #32

Hello again. I hope that everyone had or is having a truly wonderful holiday.

I found an entry for Shadow Shot Sunday purely by accident the other day. My daughter was sitting at the computer, and the light sent her shadow onto the door nearby.

Shadow Shot Sunday is hosted by Tracey at Hey Harriet. Thanks, Tracey! I never congratulated you last week on your 100th post. That's quite an accomplishment!


Friday, December 26, 2008


"Kwanzaa is a celebration of family, community and culture, for repairing and renewing the world", according to its founder, Dr. Maulana Karenga. It is celebrated starting on December 26th, until January 1st.

There are seven principles of Kwanzaa. I think we can all agree that these are fine, strong principles, and those who try to live by them are fine people.

Listed first in Swahili and then in English, the Seven Principles are:

Umoja (Unity) - of family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-determination) - to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective work and responsibility) to build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative economics) to build and maintain our own stores, shops and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose) - to make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity) - to do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith) - to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and the victory of our struggle.

- Maulana Karenga


Thursday, December 25, 2008

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

Music Credit

I am not able to add anything below the video above, but I want to thank Deborah for reminding me of this carol in one of her recent posts. I had forgotten it completely, and I love it. Please enjoy the song.

Happy Christmas

To all of my Christian readers, I wish the Happiest of Christmases.

May the Peace of the season fill all our hearts and remain with us throughout the coming year.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve

My mother always burned a pair of tall bayberry candles on Christmas
Eve. They smelled delicious. They were always real bayberry. Artificial scents are not the same, no matter what the commercials tell us. She would never blow out these candles. I don't remember Mother being superstitious about anything else, but she said it was unlucky not to let them burn down to nothing on Christmas Eve. If they hadn't burned all the way down by the time we went to bed, she would put them into the bath tub so they would finish safely.

After my brother was married, we went to his house on Christmas Eve. (The candles went into the tub while we were gone.) That means we spent most of the night just waiting. No one in the world moved slower than my brother and sister-in-law. And they spent a great de
al of time discussing what their next move might be. First, we waited for him to pick us up. He was always late for everything, and he would tell us the time he would come for us, but he was never, never there anywhere near that time. Mother, who was compulsively early for everything, would sit there with her coat and purse next to her and keep asking where he could be, and did I think something had happened to him? I knew my brother, and just laughed it off. He would finally arrive, and drive us slowly to his house.

When we finally arrived, we waited some more. Nothing was ever ready for company. They never were even quite finished trimming the tree. Unlike our "gingerbread" multi-colored tree, theirs always had a color theme, which I found depressing. Every big, round ball was precisely placed, uniform in color and size. Their tinsel was placed - never thrown - onto each branch, slowly and carefully. At some point, growing impatient, I would ask to be allowed to help with the tinsel, and I would toss it, just to annoy them. They would say nothing, but followed my efforts by correctly smoothing it and hanging it straight from each needle. (My brother was no fun, His wife was just as bad. Any time that ice cream was served in their house, it was half melted by the time
you got it because they moved so slowly.)

The first time I ever over-indulged in alcohol was at my brother's house on a Christmas Eve. I'm not much of a drinker. It doesn't take much to make me tipsey. I only remember one other time when I had way too much. Normally, one drink is my limit. I think I was just bored to death that Christmas Eve and kept sipping wine. I don't even like wine very much. I was sitting on the floor that evening, all the ch
airs being filled. It wasn't until I stood up to go home that I learned I'd had too much to drink. No harm done. He drove us home, and I fell into bed. My stocking had been hung much earlier, while we were waiting for him to pick us up.

Christmas morning was much more fun. After church my sister and her husband would come to spend the day, and friends would drop in. And usually, there would be snow on the ground, often deep snow. Ah yes, those were the days - when I actually enjoyed snow!


Meantime, back in CA, my daughter is getting carried away with this flashback to other Christmases thing. She is offering not one, but three (or was it four?) memories of past years with Isaac. Letters to Santa and all. I LOVE IT !

Looks like the chickens like sledding in the snow.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Kind of Gift We All Want to Receive

I always feel that Christmas is the Second Thanksgiving. So many wonderful things happen at this season that I am thankful for.

Today I am thankful for my landlord. I am well aware that many people have little reason to be thankful for a landlord, and I am extremely fortunate. When I was about to retire I really wanted to rid myself of the house that I owned with its various financial and physical burdens. I asked a realtor friend what sort of rentals might be available. He came up with this little house, and the rent was surprisingly reasonable. That is when I asked one of my daughters if she would be interested in buying my house. For her, it was like going home, since she had lived there for a number of years herself before finding her apartment. After some time with a trial arrangement, she decided to buy it, and I was happily settled in this little place.

My wonderful new landlord assured me that if I had any kind of problem, I should just call him and he would come right over. He has kept his word. I have
n't called often. If there is some small thing, my son is glad to take care of it for me. In eight and a half years, I have called the landlord about a new roof, and about the back deck which was really in rather desperate need of replacing. I called when the neighbor's tree fell into my yard and said neighbor was not about to do anything about it. Once, when he was forced to raise my rent by $50, he apologized to me. Has that ever happened to another renter? Not likely! He always assures me that I am the best tenant he has ever had. I think that really means that I pay my rent on time, and don't do anything to destroy his property.
He's had some pretty bad tenants in the past.

The other day I did call him again about a plumbing problem. He not only arrived promptly and repaired it, he brought me a gorgeous pointsettia.

I love this man!

Thematic Photographic #29 Part 2

This week's theme for Thematic Photographic is Quiet. I have published three photos on the theme already, but it intrigues me. I think that it is so appropriate to the season of Peace that I want to publish a few more. At least one of them has appeared before in my blog. I find them all so restful to look at.

First is a green frond with a couple of visitors who seem to be very still.

Next is a sunrise over Cape May Harbor.

And finally I return to one of my favorite spots in this world, at Leaming's Run Gardens.

For more quiet photos, see Carmi at Written Inc.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Happy Birthday

Christmas is almost here!

Although December 25th is an arbitrary choice of dates - who really knows when Jesus was born? - we should remember that Christmas is the day we celebrate as His birthday. That's what it's all about - the partying, the gift giving, the whole thing. We do tend to forget this in today's world.

When our kids were growing up we always had a birthday cake and ice cream on Christmas, just as we always had at any birthday party. I have a set of small tier cake pans, and a pedestal to put the tiers on. Nothing huge - a very small cake. I usually iced it in white with sprinkles, and topped it with one birthday candle. When they were little, we sang Happy Birthday before we cut the cake.

For some reason, I do not seem to have taken any pictures of that cake, so I can't show it to you, but I'm sure that isn't necessary.

Before the big day we also had an Advent Wreath. And I made a set of ornaments for the tree, some of pellon, some of heavy paper. A star (because he was Jewish - a lot of people tend to forget that too), the sun, the crown and scepter, the lamb, and various things to represent Biblical events such as the apple minus a bite, Jonah in the whale, Jacob's ladder, manna, the Arc of the Covenant, the burning bush, Noah's ark, the three wise men, the town of Bethlehem, several others. I believe if a tree is decorated in this way it's called a Jesse Tree. They were always the first ornaments we put on our tree.

Over the years some have become very badly discolored and marked up.

We should not
forget the Old Testament. We should not forget that the Holy Family was Jewish. We should not forget His roots. We should not forget that it was not the Jewish people, but the Romans who persecuted Him. Somehow, over time, some people's thinking has become twisted on this point. The Holy Family were good Jews, always practicing their Faith. What we know as The Last Supper was actually a Seder. Their devotion is a good thing for us to remember at this time.

Sorry. I don't mean to preach. The season brings it out in me I guess, and I think I'm instructing my children again.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

What I've Been Reading - and Happy Birthday, Mike!

Well, really, only a very little of what I've been reading today.

First, I visited Maithri's blog, Soaring Impulse. I found inspiring words there, as always. He gave me much food for thought, starting with the words of David Hawkins: "What you are for empowers you. What you are against weakens you." and going on with his own thoughts on the theme of Power: "I don't fight against prejudice. I fight for love and tolerance and the celebration of diversity."

I think that I must try hard to remember his words.

In a lighter vein, I have also been reading, as always, my daughter's blog, Fetal Positions. She has decided to do a retrospect she calls Flashback December. I got a chuckle from it. Maybe you would too. The little guy who started it all is now fast approaching his fourth birthday.

Haven't read much more today. Still not feeling too great, though much better than yesterday when I was really out of it.

Happy Winter Solstice!

And Happy Birthday Mike!

Happy Hanukkah

To all of my Jewish readers, I want to wish you a very Happy Hanukkah.

Please forgive me if I have not spelled it right. I have seen it spelled three or four different ways. In any case, I wish you the joy of the season.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shadow Shot Sunday #31

Good morning Australia, this Sunday morning - U.S. this Saturday morning. I'm always glad when it's time for Shadow Shot Sunday, with Tracey at Hey Harriet. Thank you, Tracey, for hosting this meme for us.

This shadow is not terribly strong, but I like it because it is almost Christmas, and this ornament is one we display every Christmas. I made it quite a few years ago.

Please go to the Shadow Shots site and see all the great pictures submitted today. If you have a photo with an interesting shadow, join in yourself.

Have a wonderful Christmas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, whatever you are celebrating!

Please forgive if I don't comment on yours. Down with flu or whatever this thing is everyone seems to have.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thematic Photographic #29

This week Carmi, at Written Inc. decreed that the theme for the week should be Quiet. What a wonderful theme. Quiet. Peace. So many pictures floated through my mind.

I decided on these three.


Snow fence


If you would like to join this interesting meme, go visit Carmi and learn the simple rules.

Meantime, I wish every reader a holiday and a new year filled with Peace


This summer I enjoyed the mandevilla, which bloomed cheerfully under the hummingbird feeder. When cold weather set in, I decided I would bring it inside and try to overwinter it. As soon as it was established in my living room, it decided to take off for the ceiling. Strangest thing you ever saw. I now call it my Dr. Seuss plant.

I don't really want this weird looking plant in my living room. And yet, I would love to try keeping it through the winter and see if I could coax it to bloom again next spring. There is no other place for it in this tiny house except the back bedroom, which I do not heat unless someone comes to sleep over. Nothing
lives there if left during the winter months, much less a tropical plant.

I looked at this silly plant the other day and said, what the heck - I'll decorate it for Christmas. Here it is: My Dr. Seuss Plant.

None of that tall, curly, green part existed before it came inside. I think it may reach the ceiling very, very soon, unless it decides to suddenly sag and sweep the floor. There are two more shoots now, each about 5" tall. Who knows what path they will decide to take.


Since I took the picture, 3 days ago, it is a few inches above the top of the wi
ndow, and those shoots I spoke of are now 6" at least.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sky Watch #23

Sky Watch Friday again. And winter will be here in just a couple of days. I
guess that's official because it has been way too cold for my liking. Cold and windy. But that does make for pretty skies and it churns up the bay the way I like to see it.

Sky Watch is hosted by a great team of people: Sandy, Louise, Wren, Fishing Guy, Klaus and Ivar. Our thanks to all of them for keeping us going so successfully every week. Please go to the Sky Watch site to see more beautiful skies from all over the world.

I won't be participating in Sky Watch for a couple of weeks.

I want to wish everyone a Happy Hanukkah, a Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice, and to all of those people and everyone else I haven't included, a New Year full of happiness, good health, and most of all PEA
CE for all, throughout the world.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

An International Tree

I have had what I call an international tree for years. Kitty has been backpacking through Europe more than once, and has been to Mexico a few times. She had a double major in college - both Russian and Latin American Language and Culture, lived for a time in the International Dorm, and spent eight weeks living with a family in the Yucatan. She often brou
ght me ornaments from her travels.

But one year we actually had an international group helping me decorate the tree. There was a Russian exchange student at school, and Kit brought her home for the holiday. A Pakistani boy drove them home and stayed overnight before making the trip back to his home in Ohio. They all joined in the fun. I can't quite get the chronological sequence of Kitty's boyfriends during her college days clear in my mind. Was that the period of time when she was going with the Indian boy? It may have been. If so, it was he who came to drive them back to school. If she was here, I could ask. Oh well. You get the picture. The international flavor was there.

I have learned more from my youngest child than I ever taught her. Bits of language - Spanish, Russian, Japanese, even a bit of Egyptian hieroglyphs - were only the beginning. Talking with her and with her friends, traveling around the country, and even once to Europe to visit her, learning and experiencing things I would never have had opportunity for otherwise, she has certainly broadened my horizons. I do love young people.
Teens and Twenties! They have such
enthusiasm! My own are no longer in that age range, but I still enjoy their company and that of their friends. It certainly beats hanging around with old fogies like myself.

The tree pictured here was not the one from that year, but I must admit, each year our tree looks very much the same - at least until we finally decided the big one was too much, and opted for a smaller on on a table. Always the star on top, an angel below it, and lots and lots of all sizes, shapes and kinds of ornaments from people, places and times we want to remember. The tree shown here is a very poor quality picture. I tried to sharpen it up , but failed rather miserably, which is why it's so small. The square ornament and the marzipan Santa are from Hungary, the ball from France of course. I'm sure you recognize the two Paddington Bears.They did not travel here from London however. They are simply representing their country.

There are too many others to show them all.

I really miss having a tree. But am still enjoying the ornaments, as you can tell.