Monday, December 21, 2015

"Mature" Elves Aren't Scary

I was trying to explain to Hubby the other night the phenomenon known as "Elf on the Shelf".   Remember, (a) we never had kids and (b) he's a guy...this isn't big on his species' Top 10 List of "Things You Need To Know About Christmas".  

He listened thoughtfully, then pointed to a book case which houses more than one Elf and said, "But ours aren't creepy."

Nope, they're not.  They're part of our childhood.  And that makes them fun.

I received my first Elf as a kid from my Aunt. (The one I took care of at the nursing home).  Every year at Christmas Whitman's Chocolates came out with small boxes of candy and one of these guys...

I'm not sure how many of these we actually received over the years.
I just know when I got married, 3 of them came to live with me
while the rest elected to stay at Mom's house.

 When I first put them out, Hubby grinned.
A couple of years into married life, 
my Mom-in-law said she had something from Hubby's childhood 
but she wasn't sure if I wanted them.  

One look and I was hooked!
I'm wondering if my enthusiastic gratitude worried her.

Yep, Hubby had Elves too!
But his were slightly different.
These guys have bendable legs and came with musical instruments.  

Okay, so one of them was a little creepy.
There's something a little off about his expression.
(I call him "Creepy Clown Elf" and I have no idea why.. I don't hate clowns).

There was even a little Scottish Elf, 
complete with Tam o'shanter and tartan pants.

 No matter how you feel about Elf on the Shelf,
I love my little guys, 
with their storybook faced innocence and bell topped caps.

It's just not Christmas until they come out to watch over the tree.

NOTE: Yes, there are some "unusual" things on those shelves with the elves.
It's an antique book cabinet....filled with....antique things, 
many of which belonged to our grandparents and their generation.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Thank You Thursday

Thank You Thursday salutes: NASA.  That's right.  Those Apollo missions were one of the highlights of my childhood.  And this message from the Apollo 8 crew is a perfect reminder that we are all in this together....on the Good Earth.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Thank You Thursday

Thank You Thursday salutes my maternal Granddaddy: Hubert Howell. 

He lived in another state and I didn't see him often, but he crafted the most beautiful wooden creations. He made the doll cradle and chair in this photo for me, when I was three. It was October and he'd just finished them when he began to feel ill, yet insisted we receive these gifts at Christmas, no matter what. He died the next day. He was such a craftsman that I STILL have both of them, (plus the elephant in the cradle). 

The spinning spice rack he made for Mom is in my kitchen at work and I use it daily. Guess sentimental is in my DNA.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Yes, I Do Need To Share This. Why?

 I'm the one who gets the soldier requests for applications for our charity...and then follows up with the applications/documentation.  In yesterday's batch was one from a Marine who, while on his fourth deployment, tangled with a 160 lb. (72.5 kilos) IED which injured his back, gave him Traumatic Brain Injury and scramble some of his internal organs. He had to medically retire.

At the ripe old age of 28.

So for him and the other 154 on our ever growing Waiting List, please share with your friends and family.  Don't do it for me.  Do it for THEM.  Thanks!

(Crossroads Wounded Warrior Archery Foundation)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Buy Once....Give Twice. For the same price

 Let the gift you purchase make TWO people happy.
(Okay, 3 if you count me and my eternal gratitude).
Just click on the link to aid 
Crossroads Wounded Warrior Archery Foundation
when you shop Amazon Smile.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thank You Thursday

This past week while the world feels as if it's been put in a blender, on high, one phrase keeps coming to mind, "If you can keep your head when all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on you." 

For years, that's been my go to mantra when my life is unpleasant due to things generally out of my control.  It's my reminder that if I can keep my head, I'll probably come out fine on the other side of my crisis of the moment. It's from the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling.  Because of the world we find ourselves in at the moment, my Thank You Thursday salutes the wisdom of this poem written in 1909.  I posted it below just to read it again and reassure myself that the world will get better.  (Even if I can't become a "man").   :)


If you can keep your head when all about you   
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;   
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;   
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,   
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   
    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Rest of the Story

I appreciate everyone’s input on the nephew/gift dilemma.  Oh sure, it’s only a dilemma because I made it one.  Having a fully functioning conscience does make life tricky at times. 

I discussed everyone’s thoughts with Hubby.  He cautioned me that while he agreed in principle, I could be opening a Pandora’s box of family ire just to prove a point.  I thought about it last night.  I thought about it this morning, sitting in the tub.  That’s when something I’d previously written whispered, “It’s called compromise”.

Right.  It’s always tough when your own words come back to haunt you.

Okay.  Take 2.

I came up with a new plan.  Hubby smiled when I shared it.  The plan was simple, one which offered choices and essentially put the ball in nephew’s court.  After all, how will he ever learn if no one ever challenges him or points out that life consists of choices and consequences?  Suddenly, my “mountains out of molehills” sense of guilt vanished.  This wasn’t on me.  It was on him.  So I sent him this text at 8:31 a.m. this morning.

Good morning!

This year for your birthday I’m giving you a choice.  Do you…
1.  Want a gift
2.  Want me to make a donation in your honor to help a wounded soldier?

This choice is yours, but I need an answer by Friday.
 If I don’t hear from you, I will make the choice.  Have a good day.
Aunt (Me)

At 8:32 he replied:

Was his answer predictable?  Sure.  He’s almost 16.  But I wanted him to make a choice.  I wanted to discover if this kid, who spends a couple of weeks each summer on missionary trips with his Mom, would be charitable when it came to giving up something.  I wanted to gauge where he was on the growth scale.  And now I know. 

Did my experiment fail?  No, because I got an honest answer.  Hell, I was impressed to even GET an answer.  I even limited my reply to him to, “Okay”.   In the words of me, (see above)  ‘life consists of choices and consequences’. 

And I never said what kind of gift he'd receive.

UPDATE: Due to the speed with which I received an answer from the nephew, (who has ignored all 2 of the texts I've sent him in the past month), my final decision is he will receive a gift card for HALF of what I intended to spend....the other half is going to our charity.  At least I know the soldiers appreciate it.   :)

Monday, November 16, 2015


I've come to that fork in the road where being a relative expected to give a gift is about to be derailed by years of being ignored by said Giftee.  My only nephew on my side of the family (who's an only child and the only grandchild on our side) is not familiar with the term, "Thank You" when it comes to gifts.  Not even verbally.  As a small child he simply opened boxes as fast as he could, peeked inside, then tossed it aside for the next box.  He was finished with all his gifts (three times that of the adults) in less time than any of us could open one.  I've never heard him say, "Thanks."

His father and I were raised in the days of hand written thank you notes for any gifts received from a relative out of state.  That meant writing ONE note to the Grandma who didn't live next door.  Granted, as the oldest kid, I wrote more notes...but without prodding. When the nephew was a small child, they occasionally prompted him, but when he failed to comply, they merely laughed and rolled their eyes.

Well, eye rolling is not the way to instill manners.

I've tried being patient.  I grew up in a family where birthdays were a big deal: my sis-in-law did not.  They never celebrated birthdays.  When I asked why, thinking it might've been because they were military and away from home a lot, she simply declared they only celebrated Mother's Day/Father's Day.  Took every ounce of me to not gasp, "Really?"  I gently shared that when you marry into a family, you generally adopt some of their holiday ideas too.  It's called compromise.  For me it was easy because Hubby's family was even crazier about birthdays than my Father-in-law went to great lengths to create "Birthday scavenger hunts"...which is how I know which part of their home faces north.  :)  But my sis-in-law remained unmoved.  When the nephew was 3 she told me, "We can celebrate his birthday, but we're not participating in the others."  She's stuck to that policy.  

I finally stopped sending birthday cards to her and my brother, feeling slightly guilty.  But I haven't received one from them in almost 20 years and they didn't even seem to notice.  But every year nephew gets a birthday gift and a Christmas gift.  And I get....silence.

In two weeks this kid will be 16 and honestly, I'm getting a little grumpy about being the package delivery person.

I understand giving is an act of love.  I realize you can't fault a child for what his parents haven't taught him.  But I believe acknowledging a gift is an act of respect.  How to merge the two to benefit both of us?

I sent him a text last week, asking for Christmas ideas.  He ignored it.  I'm thinking it's because he's about to turn 16 and is...busy.  When I sent a text to my brother (because they don't answer phone calls or e-mail) his reply was, "He's on a weekend trip.  But since he ignores our texts, he'll probably ignore yours too."  So far, he has.

So, anyone have a suggestion on how to rise above without taking a swing at my brother for raising a son oblivious to the fact that the world is made up of give and take...not just gimme?

If not, I wonder if I can get a good family rate on a bucket of coal.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Thank You Thursday

Thank You Thursday salutes poet Kendrew Lascelles, who wrote “The Box”.  Below he recites the poem to commemorate his original reading of it on the Smothers Brothers show during the Vietnam War.  For some reason, probably because I was a child, I envisioned an old pirate chest, bound with yards of old chain and a huge padlock.

I can still envision Lascelles, sitting on a stool with a dark background, quietly reciting his cautionary tale of leaving war alone.  The lack of bright lights or flashy background made it all the more spine tingling.  The fairy tale beginning evolved into a darker tale, like the original Grimm Brothers stories, with a single line:

But someone did.

Someone opens up the lid and the horrors of war come spilling out of the box.  Like any good storyteller, Lascelles shares how to fix it, allowing you to discover the answer is YOU are part of the solution.  
Viewers were invited to write in for a free copy, which Mom did…along with 4 million other people.  It hung in a frame on the wall of my childhood home and effected me in ways I didn’t realize until I became older.  I honestly think the power of that single sentence wove itself into my writing style.
A copy of “The Box” still hangs in my office.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Most Important Post

This marks post number 1,000.  A milestone of sorts, but that's not what makes it the most important one to me.

No, the most important post began on Nov. 4, 2007 and went on for several posts.  It was also the starting point for the final journey of the MIA bracelet I wore as a kid.  It had always been an important story to me: not just as a writer who was able to put feelings onto paper, but as a little girl who grew up to give back.

After telling someone about our charity for wounded soldiers, the person asked how a civilian kid like me could be so connected to the military.  Well, my hometown was home to Shaw AFB and most of my friends were military.  At the same age I obtained the bracelet, while on a field trip I had a heartwarming encounter with a soldier who guarded the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  I was standing at Kennedy's grave, overcome with emotion as I looked at that eternal flame.  And out of nowhere, one of those soldiers materialized, placed a hand on my shoulder and stood silently with me for a moment, before nodding goodbye and walking away.  That night I was fascinated by the young couple at the next table: he in uniform, she swept off her feet.  My friends chided me for staring at a guy in a wheelchair.  A what?  I hadn't even noticed it.  I just saw the way he looked at her...and hoped for someone like that of my own one day.  Wishes do come true. Hubby's Dad was a Recon Pilot who retired in my hometown....and thus gifted me with a husband. 

I think the answer is that Bracelet was the starting point.  Although it has returned to the son of my Captain, I wasn't ready to let go of the story completely.  The actual bracelet was gone...but the feelings weren't.

So I turned it into a book.

A one-of-a-kind, just-for-me sort of book that chronicles my idea 
to find the son of My Captain and how that unfolded.

It includes e-mails sent between the son, Gregg, and myself, 
his sister's word of thanks...and the photo that finally allowed me to see 
who I'd worried about for all those years: My Captain.

The story itself.

The bracelet.

Greg's original post on a POW/MIA website that sent me down this path.

The poem that hung on the wall in my childhood home.
A copy has always hung in my office, no matter where I worked.

The last page.

May this post serve as a fitting memorial on this Veteran's Day for all who have served and continue to serve.  Still only two words, but truly heart felt:

Thank you.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thank You Thursday

Thank You Thursday salutes Mr.Know-it-all, affectionately known to other bloggers as the G-man.  He hosted a fun word play event called “Flash Fiction Friday”, in which we all had to submit stories which were no more than 55 words in length.  We began to refer to it as “Friday 55” and at one point it grew to almost 100 participants.  I remember quitting after a year…which lasted about a month and the bug bit me again.  I even compiled some of my favorite stories, (the kind you’re proud of and wonder where the heck they came from), and self-published a little book.  The G-man was like a proud parent when I told him.

And while I enjoyed creating those stories, usually out of thin air the night before, with the addition of our charity, my plate grew too full.  Reluctantly, I  let my Friday 55 go. 

But with Veteran’s Day coming up, I wanted to touch base with the G-man again, to let him know how one of my blog posts had come full circle.  It was a story I wrote years ago called, “The Bracelet”, about the MIA bracelet I wore as a kid during the Vietnam War.  That story, and the journey of how I was able to gift the bracelet to that Captain’s son, turned into another small book.  I just knew the G-man would be tickled pink to know that although my posts were infrequent, they still lived on.  And I still wondered about him.

So this morning I tracked down his blog, “Mr. Know-it-all”.  I always wondered if that title had anything to do with his position as an excellent car salesman.  Anyway, the most recent post was entitled, “Goodbye G-man”.


To my horror, I discovered this man who had aided in making me a better writer, had passed away on Dec. 9, 2014.  How could I not know that?  How could I have stayed away so long?  I read through 50 comments to discover he’d died of a heart attack at the car dealership.  I backed up a couple of posts and discovered on Nov. 20th he’d decided the time had come to let someone else run the Friday 55 playground.  He bemoaned that he’d miss it, but might even return in the winter.  He ended that post referencing another blogger who had a “Gratitude Quill”, where people were free to leave notes of what they are really thankful for.

Oh, the irony of finding that today.

So G-man, wherever you are, I’m sure you’re large and in charge of some corner of the universe where people laugh and love…even those they’ve never met.  And I think you'd get a kick out of being my 999th Blog post.  

Thanks for bringing a sparkle and a wink to my world.