Tag Archive | traditions

Sunday Afternoons and Ice Cream Cones

When I was a child, Sundays were always special. It started by going to church, going home, changing out of our “church clothes” into play clothes, having lunch and then piling in the old Buick for our Sunday afternoon ride.

The four of us0001With my brother and I in the backseat and my parents in the front, we’d head off for one of two destinations–a visit with our favorite cousins or a trip to a local park called Petrifying Springs for an ice cream cone. We could have had any flavor we wanted as long as it was chocolate, vanilla, or New York Cherry. You have to remember Baskin and Robbins 31 Flavors hadn’t come to town yet.

Even though my brother and I knew the outcome of our Sunday afternoon ride, we always looked forward to them. Dad always tried to make it exciting by taking different routes to the destination—but even as small children, we knew if we saw Lake Michigan we would see or cousins in just a few minutes. It didn’t matter where we would end up because we had a good time in either place.

Today it’s hard to imagine children would be delighted with a single scoop New York Cherry ice cream cone, but it was one of my favorite memories of my childhood. Our life was simple, but it was good.

Dad worked in a muffler factory and Mom stayed home. By today’s standards we were poor, but we didn’t know it. We always had enough to eat and a pair of shoes that fit. My mother had a knack for stretching a dollar as far as it could possibly go. She cut our hair, sewed our clothes, canned all the vegetables we ate, made jams and jellies, plus she kept our home so clean you could have eaten off the floors at any time day or night. (I never got that gene.) 

On Friday evening, Dad would take his meager check to the bank, cash it, save a couple of bucks for himself and hand off the rest of the money to my mother to buy the rest of the food, pay the bills and save a little for a rainy day. He also gave John and me an allowance of 25 cents–a dime for church, a dime to save, and a nickel for something we’d like to buy for ourselves. It wasn’t until we were in about Second Grade that we got a pay raise to 50 cents. Then it was a dime for church, a dime for girl scout dues, a quarter for the bank (we each had a Christmas savings by then), and a nickel to spend on ourselves.

Growing up like this taught us a lot about money and life. We knew having almost enough was okay. And I don’t think I could cope with my circumstances of my adult life if my childhood had been filled to the brim with new bikes, store-bought clothes and every toy a kid could imagine. Instead, it was filled with enough  love and an ice cream cone on Sunday. And that’s okay.

Childhood Memories and Growing Up

saddle shoes and toysChildhood memories . . . most of mine are pretty good. I grew up as the eldest child of four in a small village in Wisconsin. My father was first generation Italian American, who worked in a hot, dirty muffler factory. My mother was a stay-at-home mom, who did everything from cutting our hair to canning everything my grandpa could grow in his garden. Her heritage was a combination of Danish, Dutch and English, so one memory I have was we called ourselves “Danos” because of our combined heritage.

I remember all of the things shown in this picture — especially the saddle shoes.

I remember my Dad throwing a baseball with my brother and me in the backyard. Unfortunately, if we muffed the catch, we ended up breaking the glass in the backdoor more than once. My mother would yell at all of us, until finally my Dad replaced the glass with plexi-glass.

We had a blow-up wading pool to cool off in the summer with the neighborhood kids. In the winter we were always outside playing in the snow — or shoveling it. Usually the shoveling came before the playing. We only came in when our knitted mittens were so wet and heavy with snow we couldn’t feel our fingers any longer.

One of the fondest memories was when my cousins, brother and I made up plays on Thanksgiving afternoon. We had an old 55-gallon barrel filled with old clothes we used as costumes. Dad had brought a couple of pallets home from the shop, so we used them for a set and a stage. We’d practice and practice until we were ready for the grown-ups to come down, sit on the basement steps and watch the production we had prepared. The best part was to hear their applause at the end.

My favorite storybook growing up? To tell you the truth, I don’t remember. It was probably Cinderella, Snow White or some other tale about a damsel in distress who was rescued by a handsome prince.

AND THEN THINGS CHANGED — WE ALL GREW UP!

My generation had a dilemma. We were raised by women who had worked during the war, but were expected to give up their employment when their men came home. We were raise to be stay-at-home moms, but there was an undercurrent of discontent in that role. It’s no wonder their daughters were found on college campuses, burning their bras, and demanding equal rights. These young women threw out the childhood propaganda  a prince would come and they’d live happily ever after. They demanded the opportunity to have choices. They demand equal pay for equal work. They took jobs that were formerly known as jobs for men. And they had the audacity to demand control over their own bodies. All of that was great. We were liberated! Yeah!

But were we? When the reality hit home, we realized that we had created a monster. Society said, “You want to work. Fine. But you better damn well take good care of your home and children, too.” Now we had two careers instead of one — a professional career that gave us a check and a homemaker career that sucked the life out of us. The mistake we made was, we didn’t liberate the men, too!

For myself, I took a position of having one foot in both camps. After my children were born, I CHOSE to quit my job and stay at home so I could enjoy being a mom. I told myself I had waited long enough to have my girls; so I wanted the opportunity to see them grow from babies to toddlers to little girls to teenagers to women. However, I’m really not sure if that was truly MY choice.

But to this day, I’m not sure if I stayed home because I wanted to do so, or whether the people around me had brainwashed me that a GOOD MOTHER always put her children first and stayed at home.

After they were in elementary school and didn’t need me as much as they did when they were small, I was lost. Now I didn’t have a foot in either the feminist camp (where I truly belonged) and the status quo camp where I lived. The process of “finding myself” was just as hard at 35 than it was at 20. It took going to college to reclaim my true identity. I loved exposure to new ideas and learning things I hadn’t been exposed to as a girl or woman. I loved having intelligent conversations about things other than children and household duties.

Unfortunately, the people around me — my husband, some friends and parents didn’t see it that way. , and it ended in a divorce a year after graduation. And why? Because I had grown strong enough to stand on my own two feet.

My voyage of discovery helped me unearth Barbara again. No one’s wife or mother or even daughter. Just me. Deep down under my societal roles, I was a REAL person. . . not too much different from that little girl who used to make up stories and plays in the basement with her cousins. My childhood curiosity had resurrected again  I got back to writing something more than entertaining letters. It was exhilarating  In fact as I write this I’m excited all over again with that part of my life.

The only thing that had changed was my maturity tempered my viewpoints because instead of seeing only black and white, now I saw shades of gray. I’m not apologizing to my feminist friends for taking the path I did — exploring both a stay-at-home role as well as a professional one. I’m just glad I didn’t have the pressure to perform in both camps at the same time.

And the result of this effort?  I learned to feel the fear and do it anyway. An mantra I use to this day.

 

Heaven – Fact or Fiction?

November 28 006When I jump crawl out of bed, I always try to have a springboard of an idea to launch myself into something interesting to blog about. Like I have mentioned more than once, I use this wonderful tool as a kind of writing “warm-up” to get the old gray matter revved up for another day of writing. But this morning’s topic is EXTREMELY different from any of my other attempts to entertain.

This morning, I woke with a perplexing question. “When and where did the idea of heaven appear?” That’s right HEAVEN. Don’t ask me why that’s today’s topic, it just is.

After a brief walk through Google and Bing, one author pinpointed the date the heavenly idea of meeting God face-to-face was patented by the Jews  in 165 BC.  Before that time, heaven was just a place where God and his angels resided—no humans allowed.

But like all religious ideas, is heaven a human invention? Is there such a place? It’s nice to think of our loved ones going to a beautiful, comforting hotel to hang out around the pool with friends and family, drinking pina coladas for the rest of eternity. It’s a pleasant thought they will be happy, without pain, in the prime of their lives and best of all, we’ll get to  see them again when we die. It’s even nice to think we’ll get a reward from the Big Guy for living a good life. But it is real? Where does this place exist?

When I watch the Science Channel (most every night), I see images of asteroids, comets, neutron stars, pulsars, gas planets, darkness and cold. Surely, these violent elements of “creation” don’t offer a good place for a human to hang out for eternity; in fact, space sounds more like hell than heaven, doesn’t it?

So, if there isn’t a tangible heaven, how do you explain “near death” experiences when people are drawn down a long tunnel to a bright light? Isn’t that evidence there is life after death? Again, scientists are naysayers. Evidently, as the brain shuts down, it’s the peripheral vision that goes first, giving the impression of a tunnel. The center of your vision is what remains, giving the impression of a bright light. Bummer. There goes that “proof” of an after-life journey.

So what is the secret? What should we believe? Is heaven just a childhood dream? There is a good chance that the scientists may be right. But what if they are not? No one will ever know for sure—until–you got it–until we die.

So, what do we do? Is there no hope of a happy ending?

I think the answer is right in front of our nose. Instead of hoping there is a heaven where all our earthly lacking is fulfilled, we should live a full life while we’ve got it. While we have time, always do the best you can. Be curious.  Find that “inner child” and marvel at the world around you. Enjoy life. Have parties with friends. Celebrate milestones. Hell, Heck celebrate the littlest occasions. . . like it’s Tuesday! Make the most of the time you have.  Be kind and generous. Love everything with all your heart and soul. Be thankful. And most of all, embrace each other in love.

And if it turns out there is a celestial after party—we’ll all shout, “ Hallelujah!”

 

Barbie & Chuckie – A Little League Summer

Sunday Morning Story Time – Another romp with Barbie and Chuckie

book clipart

Barbie and Chuckie – A Little League Summer

Copyright 2013 Barbara Celeste McCloskey

Second grade was finally over, and both Chuckie and Barbie were looking forward to a long, fun summer with no school and no homework before they had to face third grade in the fall. They made plans for climbing trees, riding bikes, swimming, and baseball.

Today, Barbie and Chuckie rode their bikes down to the park to get the permission slip for Little League baseball. They each reached for a form and Chuckie was the only one who was given the form from the head coach.

“Hey Mister, you forgot to give my friend, Barbie a slip.” Chuckie said to the adult coordinator.

“Baseball’s only for boys, kid. She can’t play.”

“But that’s not fair. She can hit, field and even slide into home as good as any boy.”

“She’s a girl, kid. Rules are rules.” The man said and then turned away from Chuckie.

Chuckie looked at Barbie and realize that she was almost crying. “Come on, Barbie. Let’s go home.” He put his arm around her.

Barbie was still stinging from her rejection. “I think that dumb ol’ coach thinks I’m just supposed to sit around and play with dumb dolls all summer.” Barbie said as she kicked the dirt with her tennis shoe.

Chuckie laughed. “Yeah, that’ll be the day.” He paused before he said, “I don’t think I feel much like playing baseball this summer.”

“Don’t be silly, Chuckie. You like baseball. You should play.”

“But it won’t be fun without you out there.”

“Sure it will be. We’re best friends, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up something you like to do just because I’m a dumb ol’ girl.”

“I would.” Chuckie said with pure honesty.

“I know you would, but that’s silly. After all, you’re a boy and you can’t go to Brownie Day Camp.” Barbie reminded him.

Chuckie thought about it. “I guess you’re right.”

“And I’ll come to your games and cheer for you.” Barbie smiled.

“More like you’ll yell at me to run faster, hit better, and slide lower. I can hear it now. ‘Get in there and swing, Chuckie’.” Chuckie laughed.

Barbie laughed, too. “Last one home is a rotten egg!” She jumped on her bike and pumped her legs as fast as they would go.

“Hey no fair! You’re supposed to say, ‘ready, set, go!’ before it’s a fair race!” Chuckie yelled.

“Oh, quit whining, little boy.” Barbie laughed as the wind blew her hair back. Before she knew it, Chuckie was beside her and in another moment he led the race. He always did.

A few weeks after the Little League fiasco, Barbie and Chuckie were in the park swinging on the swings.

“Next week I’m going to Brownie camp.”

“Yeah, I know. You tell me about every five minutes.” Chuckie teased.

“I do not.” Barbie defended.

“Do you get to ride a bus like we did when we went to swimming lessons last year?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s neat. What else do you think you’ll be doing?”

“I’m not sure. I know I have to bring a sack lunch.”

“Do you have to wear your uniform?”

“Nah. Just shorts and a top.”

“Hmm . . . so you don’t know anything about what you’ll be doing?”

“Well, not exactly. Mrs. “Z” our Brownie leader said we’ll learn new songs and make stuff like lariats.”

“What are lariats?”

“I don’t know. But she also said we’ll learn about plants in the woods, so we don’t step in poison ivy.” Then she said, “One cool thing we’re going to learn to do is build a fire for a cookout.”

Chuckie’s eyes were as wide as jumbo marbles. “You get to build fires? Wow! My Mom would beat me silly if I ever touched a match!”

“We have to build a fire to cook stuff like hot dogs and marshmallows on a stick, Chuckie. We’ll learn how to do it safely.”

“Yeah. you better, or ol’ Smokey the Bear will eat you if you start a forest fire.” Chuckie laughed. “I wish I could go to camp with you.”

“I know. But no boys allowed.”

“Why is that, Barbie? Why do we always have to be separated?”

“I don’t know, but it sure seems like the older we get, the more stuff we can’t do together.”

“Yeah. Getting older kinda stinks.”

“Not really. We’ll just have to teach each other all the stuff we learn when we’re apart.”

“Good idea. But so far, you know more about baseball than what I’ve learned.” Do you think you could help me hit better by pitching me some?”

“Sure. What’s the problem?”

“I whiff a lot, and then the kids laugh.”

“Are you watching the ball all the time? You’re not closing your eyes again are you?”

“Well,” Chuckie didn’t want to admit he was afraid of the ball when it was coming toward him.

“Come on, Chuckie. That little old “hard rocket” is a lot smaller than you. It won’t kill you. You’ve got a helmet on when you’re in the batter’s box.”

“I’m just afraid, Barbie. And if you tell anybody, I’ll kill you personally!”

“I’d never tell. But I’m going to help you get over your fear. Come on. Let’s go play some baseball.

The two kids got on their bikes, went home, picked up their baseball gear, and then pedaled back to the park.

“You stand there at home plate, Chuckie, and then I’m going to throw the ball so it hits you.” Barbie commanded.

“On purpose?”

“Just stop being a wienie. I’m not going to hurt you.”

Barbie did a pitcher’s wind up and let the baseball fly. It hit Chuckie in the arm.

“Hey!” Chuckie yelled. “That hurt! What are you doing?”

She threw another one that hit him in the hip. “Cut it out, Barbie!”

She threw another ball that hit him in his butt.

Chuckie ran toward her with his fists up. “You hit me again and I’m going to pound you! I swear it Barbie! Girl or no Girl!”

Barbie was laughing. “See, you got hit by a baseball –three times—and you didn’t die did you?”

Chuckie was still fuming. “What?”

“I had to show you, if you got hit, you wouldn’t die. Yeah. I hit you. And you’re still standing. Would you have believed me otherwise?”

“Well,” Chuckie paused. “You didn’t have to be mean about it.”

“I’m not mean. Now get back in the batter’s box. Watch the ball come out of my hand. Pretend you’re seeing it slow down like in the cartoons.”

Chuckie walked back to the batter’s box rubbing his butt.

Barbie was still busy giving him orders. “Hold the bat up and get ready to swing. And when the ball is right in front of you, swing—with your eyes OPEN! I know you can do it, Chuckie.”

Chuckie kicked the dirt. He pounded the wooden bat on the ground and assumed the batter’s position. Then he set his jaw tight and glared at Barbie. She let the pitch go and he watched it flying toward him. He thought about Barbie’s instructions, after all, she could hit the ball further than anybody he knew.

He watched the ball get bigger and bigger as it got closer and closer. In a split second, it looked as big as a grapefruit, and he swung the bat with all his strength. He watched with unbelieving eyes as the ball sailed out into the outfield.

“Run, Chuckie. Don’t stand there! Get to first!” Barbie was jumping up and down. That was the the furthest Chuckie had ever hit a ball.

Without thinking he took off and ran the bases all the way around.

Barbie laughed as her friend rounded the bases with his superior speed. She yelled, “And the crowd went wild!”

He jumped on home plate and pretended he was his favorite baseball hero—Eddie Mathews who played for the Milwaukee Braves. He yelled. “I did it, Barbie! I did it!”

“Yes you did. And before we go home, you’re going to do it a dozen more times.”

“Okay, coach. I’m ready!” Chuckie had confidence he could hit it out of the park every time.

“The two little friends practiced all afternoon and Chuckie felt ready for the tryouts next week. As they were leaving the park to go home for supper, Barbie said, “After I get home from Brownie camp tomorrow afternoon, let’s work on your throwing.”

“What’s wrong with my throwing?”

“We’ll you’re not the most accurate kid on the field.”

“Good point. Fielding it is.” Chuckie jumped on his bike and smiled at his best friend. “And you have to promise me you’ll teach me something you learned at Brownie camp.”

“I think you’re trying to turn me into a teacher, Chuckie.”

“Well, you gotta admit it. You’re pretty good at it.”

Barbie smiled. She was happy, even though she was a girl.

Life Without Chuckie — Part IV

It’s Sunday Short Story time. So, settle down with your favorite hot beverage and read another installment about two great friends, Barbie and Chuckie.book clipart

 

Life Without Chuckie

Part IV – The First Communion

2013 Copyright Barbara Celeste McCloskey

 

The winter months went by slowly in 1958. Chuckie and Barbie could only play on the weekends, which actually meant Saturday. They spent their one day a week building snowmen when the snow would stick together, skating on the ice rink that was flooded in the village park, and building snow forts and tunnels behind the grocery store where the snow was piled as high as the roof. But, as  much fun as the winter brought, both children waited patiently for Spring, when they didn’t have to be cold to have a good time outside.

One warm day in April, the children were able to play in Chuckie’s sandbox again after the long Winter. Barbie liked playing there because a chain-link fence kept out her little brother, John Robert. Nowadays, whenever she wanted to play with Chuckie, her little four-year old brother tagged along and butted into the her fun. Worst of all, if she didn’t willingly bring along the little pest, her mother would scold her and then tell her father how bad she was when he came home from work.

“Where’s John Robert?” Chuckie asked Barbie.

“He’s at home, taking a nap. Thank God.” Barbie replied as he carefully honed out a tall spire on her sand castle.

“Why do you say that? He’s not bad.” Chuck didn’t mind having John Robert around because he always wanted a little brother, but instead he was the youngest in his family.

“He’s such a pest. He gets into my stuff, even when Mom tells him to stay out of my room. But he never gets a spanking. Man, if I would disobey like that, I’d get a whack on my butt and then have to tell the priest in confession, too.”

“What are you talking about? What the heck is “confession?”  Chuckie screwed up his face when he said the word.

“Well, I’m just learning about it right now. When you do bad stuff, you have to go to church and be really, really sorry for your sins. Then go into this little dark closet and tell the priest all the bad stuff you did, and he gives you a penance.”

“You’re kidding?” Chuckie thought she was making it up. “That’s crazy! I thought you said God saw everything.”

“Well, he does. He knows everything, too, Chuckie. We talked about this before.”

The whole concept of confession confused Chuckie. “So, why do you have to tell some other guy about what you did when God knows already?”

“I don’t know. But that’s the way it is. If I don’t tell, I can’t make my First Communion.”

“Communion? What’s that?”

Barbie looked at Chuckie like a teacher. “Communion is when you get to eat the body and blood of Jesus.”

Chuckie stood up and looked at her with fear in his eyes. “You can’t do it, Barbie. That’s just wrong. You’ll get sick and die!”

“What are you talking about?” Barbie looked up at him.

“You can’t eat somebody. That’s being a cannibal like on Tarzan! Only guys living in a jungle do that kind of icky stuff!’

Barbie looked at Chuckie like he was stupid. “It’s not real a body, Chuckie. It’s just a little piece of fake bread the priest puts on your tongue as he says, “Body of Christ.”

Now Chuckie was really intrigued. He sat down again. “So, this communion thing is just make believe?”

“I guess.” Barbie pondered. “I really don’t know how it all works, and I’m afraid to ask because good ol’ Mrs. Pink gets mad when we ask questions. She thinks we’re not paying attention if we have a question.”

Chuckie’s lowered his voice. “So you’re going through with this communion thing?”

“I’ve got no choice. Everybody in the whole second grade is doing it on May 10th. Mom’s even making me a pretty white dress and a bride veil to wear for the ceremony.”

Chuckie looked at Barbie with new eyes. Going to Catholic school certainly required her to do a lot of weird stuff, and she never complained. “Can I come?” Chuckie was curious about this whole concept of eating another person.

“I’m afraid not, Chuckie, ‘cause you’re not Catholic. There’s only enough room in our little church for Catholics.”

“Do you have to have a special decoder ring or something to get in?”

Barbie laughed. “No, silly. I guess the guy at the door just knows.”

“Oh.” Chuckie wasn’t convinced and felt a little hurt he was excluded from such a big deal in his friend’s life.

Barbie said. “And besides, you wouldn’t like it anyhow because everything is in Latin.” Barbie said with authority, and then quickly added, “But I want you to come to my party, after all the church stuff is done.”

“Gee, thanks.” Chuckie was happy to finally be included. “What kind of present do you get for going through this communion stuff?”

“You don’t have to get me a present. Just come over and eat with us.” Barbie smiled at him.

“Oh, okay.” Chuckie paused for a few seconds and then asked. “What’s Latin?”

Barbie had to think hard on how to explain something she didn’t understand either. “Well, it’s this secret way the priest talks and sings in church. I think he wants to keep what he’s saying a secret because nobody is supposed to know what he’s saying ’cause he’s talking to God.”

“That’s pretty weird.” Chuckie wondered why anybody would want to such a church if they couldn’t understand what was going on.

“Yeah, I know. It makes sitting still for an hour really hard.” Barbie confessed. “And we have to sit through Mass everyday.”

“It sure is hard going to that Catholic school.” Chuckie felt sorry for her.

“Tell me about it!” Barbie said. “You know, I still ask Daddy if he would switch me over to your school every once in a while when I can’t take it any more.”

Chuckie nodded. “Can you say something is this Latin?”

“I know this: In nomine Patris et Filli, et Spirtus Sancti.”

“What’s it mean?”

“I don’t know.It must have something to do with the sign of the cross because he always does this when he says the words.” Barbie said as she crossed her chest.

“I’m sorry, Barbie, all this Catholic stuff seems pretty nuts-o.” Chuckie started to laugh.

“You take that back, Chuckie. It’s not nuts-o! It’s Jesus talk, that’s all. You don’t understand because you’re a PUBLIC!”

“I’m a what?”

“A PUBLIC. You go to the public school.” Barbie said with confidence.

“I am not a PUBLIC. That’s dumb.”

Barbie got extremely irritated with her friend. “You are too a public. Teacher says there’s Catholics and everybody else. And Chuckie, you’re going to HELL! I didn’t want to tell you, but you are!” The little girl put down her sand tools and stomped toward the gate.

Chuckie chased after her. “Take it back, Barbie. If you weren’t a girl, I’d pound you! I’m not going to HELL! I’m not going anywhere! I live right here on 97th Street, and I’m staying here with my Mom, Dad, Ronnie and Carol forever!”

Barbie could see he was really upset and she calmed down. She stared at her best friend.  “I guess Jesus wouldn’t want us to fight like this, Chuckie. I’m sorry.” Barbie took a deep breath. Knowing her best friend would have to go to hell just because he didn’t go to her church weighed heavy on her. “Maybe you won’t have to go to hell because you’re such a good friend.”  Barbie crossed her fingers behind her back as she felt like she just lied to her best friend. Now she had a big sin to confess to the priest on May 8th.

“Let’s not talk about Catholic stuff again. Okay?” Chuckie spit in his hand and offered it for Barbie to shake. She spit in her hand and the two friends sealed their deal with a strong handshake as they smiled at each other.

“Let’s get our bikes and ride to the park.” Chuckie said as his bright blue eyes lit up.

“Good idea. I’ll push you on the merry-go-round.” Barbie smiled.

“Deal.” Chuckie ran to the garage to get his two-wheeler out, while Barbie did the same.

They never talked about religion again.

Understanding the Chinese New Year

chinese dragon animatedLiving in Wisconsin, the Chinese New Year comes and goes with little fanfare. But across the world, it’s a really big deal. I got to wondering about this two-week celebration and went out into the Internet-land for a little research. I’m sure all of you are teeming with curiosity, too, right?

This year, the Year of the Water Dragon is celebrated from January 23, 2012 – February 09, 2013. The Water Dragon is a symbol of good fortune and a sign of intense personal power. In my book, it should be a great year.

In my research, I found a wonderful website called, “Mirth and Motivation,” and found a wonderful article about the yearly celebration. Here’s an article that Elizabeth Obih-Frank posted: http://eof737.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/happy-chinese-new-year-ten-blessings-ten-things-to-know/. I thought it to be most interesting.

If you don’t have time to read the article, here’s the “Cliff Notes.”

  • The tradition of the holiday is to forget and forgive old grudges you’ve been lugging around for the past year. Then you SINCERELY wish peace and happiness to EVERYONE. How cool is that if everyone could do it? After all, there would be no more war if there were no grudges, right?
  • The color RED is very important in Chinese culture. Is it a symbol for prosperity. (Makes me want to go out and buy a completely red wardrobe. Maybe that will bring some prosperity into my life instead of his ugly brother poverty.)
  • One of the most important tradition of the holiday is to have a special meal with friends and family. I find this very interesting that throughout human history, sitting down and sharing a meal is an integral part of our holidays. Just try to think of one where eating together is not important. Even Jesus had a “Last Supper.”
  • Finally, firecrackers are lit to drive away the evil spirits because the bad guys don’t like loud noises. I think firecrackers would also drive away pesky, bothersome critters. (Perhaps I should pass this tip along to my friend, Bob, who is battling neighborhood squirrels because the little varmints are eating his gourmet bird seed.)

So to all, I wish you peace and happiness for the Chinese New Year–but I don’t need a holiday to do that. I do that everyday.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

When Coffee Gets Cold, The World is a Dark Place

woman, computer and coffeeI’m a coffee drinker–a hard-core, black as it gets coffee drinker. I’m not a “coffee snob” who insists on the finest blends at the swankiest coffee houses. I’m just a person who loves the rich aroma and warmth of a hardy blend. The only thing I insist on is I be allowed to drink my brew in a mug–not one of those paper cups with the cardboard finger protector wrapped around it. How uncivilized!

Even though coffee stains my teeth, promotes bad breath, and gives me the shakes when I drink too much, I must have it. You see, it’s the fuel that powers me every morning. It turns the key in my ignition. It’s the spark that lights my fire! Well, you get it, right?

Even on hot summer days, which are a welcomed thought when temps are frigid as they have been for the past week, I have to have my morning cup (or two). I can’t think of anything more pleasant than reading a good book on my patio under an colorful umbrella with a full mug of the brew.

Now that I’m writing full-time, I believe my cup of coffee is the one thing that signals the beginning of a new day. When I’m writing, I lose track of time, forget what day it is, and usually stay in my jammies until noon. But with coffee in my favorite mug, I’ve got the world by the tail. I’m ready for whatever the day brings. . . that is, until the brew turns cold.

My coffee turning cold is the biggest hardship of this career. As I focus and create my lines, my brew sits abandoned. In revolt, of me neglecting it, the hot brew turns into iced as a punishment for my neglect.

I’ve tried an electric cup heater thingy, but all that does is make the coffee muddy and bitter. Yuck! I’ve tried putting it in a carafe, but it does not stay hot for long periods of time. The best solution for keeping  my cup of inspiration hot has been my husband, who asks me several times a morning if I could use a warm up.

My practical side assures me writing is like all jobs; there will be a part of it I don’t like and would rather not do. Having my coffee turn into an iced beverage before my eyes is the drawback of focusing, like all writers must. I lose time as I transport myself to other surroundings and time periods, I guess I can’t expect my coffee to wait for me as I do my exploring., but if somebody could come up with a device to let my coffee transport with me, he or she would be a millionaire.

Until then,  ‘ll just have to grin and gulp it. It seems to be the only answer.

 

WARNING! There’s a “Hugger” the Loose!

hugsI’m a “hugger.” Yeah, I’m one of those gregarious nuts who reaches out and hugs people. Whether I’m saying “hello” or “goodbye,” if you’re in my world, you’ll probably get a hug from me. You see, I have this belief most of us suffer from “hug deprivation.”  Think about it. During the day, don’t you touch a machine more than any other human, right?

I’ve made hugging is my personal quest.

I attribute this trait from  my Italian heritage. When I was a child, I was expected to greet my aunts and uncles with a kiss and a hug when we entered their homes; we had to repeat the process when we left. It didn’t kill us. We didn’t think anything about it. It was normal. Our family greeting was a sign of love and respect. And if you didn’t do it the minute you stepped foot in an elder’s home, you’d get a clip on the back of the head with a parent asking, “Hey! You forgot something!”

Hugging is more than a gesture of greeting, though. It’s a human need. Our skin is our antennae that “feels” the world. We feel love through hugging. We feel acceptance through hugging. Even good chemicals that save us from heart disease are released when we hug each other. We NEED HUGS. And I’m not just talking through my liberal, touchy-feelly self, either. If you don’t believe me, take a look at all the studies out on the Internet. (And we all know that everything on the Internet is true.)

But seriously, this simple act of hugging has physical and emotional healing power. Here’s a list I edited from Kathleen Keating “Hug Therapy”:


– it feels good; it’s natural–even organic!
– it cures loneliness and depression
– it overcomes fear
– it opens doors to feelings
– builds self-esteem (WOW, SHE actually hugged me!)
– fosters altruism (I can’t believe it but I actually want to hug that old son-of-a-gun!)
– slows down aging (huggers stay younger longer)
– helps curb appetite (We eat less when we are nourished by hugs and when our arms are busy wrapped around others we can’t pick up a fork.)
– eases tension
– provides stretching exercise (if you are short)
– provides stooping exercise (if you are tall)
– it strengthens your immune system
– offers a healthy, safe alternative to alcohol and other drug abuse (better hugs than drugs!)
– affirms physical being and a connection with another human being

That’s a pretty long list, wouldn’t you say?

If you’re not a hugger, give it a try. Get comfortable reaching out to others. It’s been my experience if you hug a person who isn’t used to the activity, the next time you’re together, they will initiate the hug.  If they are a hard-core, non-hugger, it may take more than one hug to get the ball rolling. But it will be worth the effort for both of you.

 

When a Good Thing Ends

ChristmasThe day after Christmas, and all through the house,

the wrappings and ribbons were lying about.

The boxes were empty, and the lights have grown dim,

It’s time for the house cleaning now to begin.

Momma with her vacuum, and duster and rag,

Papa stands ready with his full garbage bag.

And what do my wondering eyes do appear,

The yard is free of Rudolph for another year.

Okay,  okay . . . it’s not Robert Frost poetry, but I made another attempt at writing poetry. Tell me to stop!

What I’m trying to say is the hype of the  holiday has come and gone and in another week, the decorations that we painstakingly put up to make our houses and apartments look festive will once again be packed away until next year. The coziness of moving furniture together to make room for the Christmas tree will go back to its assigned spot when the tree is hauled to the curb or stored downstairs under a tarp. The warm glow of the colored lights will be replaced with glaring light bulbs in lamps, which will help us limp through the January, February and March. (If you live in the Northern Midwest, you might also include April and sometimes May before the promise of spring appears.) It’s barren when the red, white, green, silver and gold lights and bobbles won’t appear until December 2013. Even a little sad. But every year we sense when it’s time to put away the toys and decorations and once again get back to work.

For me, it’s two new novels and a book of short stories. That’s my New Year’s goal–to keep writing, striving to improve and getting my tales out there where others can enjoy them. That’s my profession and my curse. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So enjoy the last few days of the holiday with friends and laughter. I thank you for making my acquaintance through this blog, and after we turn the page of the calendar, I promise to put away my nostalgia, too.

When a Funk Sets In

frustrated writerHave you ever had a time in your life when procrastination took over?

I’m in the midst of one of those times right now. It’s Dec. 11 and I still haven’t put up my Christmas tree. I’ve hauled out other decorations and spread them around the house, but I just haven’t been able to move myself to decorate the tree this year.

I told myself over the weekend, that the cold, rainy day would be perfect for getting the tree up, but I watched football games instead. After yesterday’s post, I’m sure that all of you are quite surprised by this news–seeing I made myself out to be “Mrs. Christmas Tree.”

Well, it’s not just the Christmas tree I’ve been putting off. It’s everything. I’ve failed to go to the grocery store, so the cupboards have little to offer. I still haven’t wrapped Christmas presents. Heck! I don’t even know if I have a gift for everyone. Sending out Christmas cards is completely out of the question. Even making a simple, good, meal has been a chore lately, and I LOVE to cook.

Worst yet, besides my blog, I haven’t written too much of anything for weeks. I have cranked out a short story for Sunday’s “Story Corner,” but that’s it. No work on the novel, nothing. I’ve been a slug. I hate it when I get this way.

Could all of this be a simple case of the holiday blues? I truly have nothing to be blue about. After all, last week our family rallied around us and gave us a beautiful wheelchair ramp for Ken. They also blessed us with a very generous Christmas present of cash so we’d have presents under the tree this year. I feel ashamed that I’m dragging my feet, but all I want to do is play Facebook games.

So, if you have any great ideas to help me “get off the dime,” so to speak, lay it on me. I could use a good kick in the pants.