Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Memories

When I hear the Beatles song "Yellow Submarine" my mind goes back to the Christmas of 1964. Not exactly a holiday song by any stretch of the imagination, but thanks to my sister, Libby, that Beatles anthem will forever be tied to Christmas Eve.

     Our parents owned an eatery by the name of The Bankhead Cafe in the little town of Lonoke, Arkansas (hereinafter referred to as LA). Back in the day, patrons included local judges, attorneys, the town plumber, the local police, relatives, friends, passers through on their way here and yon, and the occasional musical folks including, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and....wait for it...Elvis Presley and his crew. (I never saw Elvis, but Daddy told me the day Elvis died that he had come in on his way back home from Little Rock to Memphis several times.)  

     I'm certain that Libby, who was the waitress the day "Willie and Waylon and the boys" blessed us with their presence, would rather have been serving the Beatles. (And by the way...Willie had a normal braids.)

    But I digress...

    When I was little, Christmas Eve was generally a long, restless day. It always seemed to drag on and on. Momma and Daddy worked all day and into the night at the cafe. In those days, there was no cable TV. We had the three major networks and PBS. And you'd think since Christmas Eve was such a special day there would be Christmas movies and whatnot, but generally least until midnight mass. And since we weren't Catholic, that was a no-no. So there you have it. 

     That year we had this six-foot aluminum tree with blue ornaments. I never liked that tree. If I stretched my memory I can remember having several real trees. I can recall a regular green one, a blue flocked one, a pink one and a tabletop one that sat on the dining room table. Then my folks fell in love with aluminum. Can anyone commiserate with me on how awful those things were?

     This particular Christmas Eve, I think Libby and one of her girlfriends were just as bored as I. We loaded into the car and went to look at Christmas lights just after darkness stole over the town. And in Lonoke, whose population sign at the edge of town boasted a whopping 2358 souls in the sixties, looking at Christmas lights took less than thirty minutes (at least for us). When we hit LA's main drag (every little town has one), Yellow Submarine came on the radio and the two teens in the front seat began to sing it with gusto. "We all lived in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine...". I wondered what in the world it had to do with Christmas or Santa or Jesus. Was Santa arriving in a submarine that year? Did he move his residence to the bottom of the sea? Were the Beatles in his elf pack? Let's face it...Ringo was a little elf-like. A true bag of goodies, in his own right.

    The remainder of the night, as I stared in wonder at the aluminum tree and the prismatic relfections it made on the walls and ceiling, I hummed that iconic Beatles' tune. Just remember....I was about seven. I should have been humming "Here Comes Santa Claus". (Willie Nelson sang that on his hymns album or something.)

    So when you're caroling this year, or humming your favorite holiday tune, please be mindful not to forget the one and only "Yellow Submarine". Imagine, if you will, Santa in a bright yellow furry suit as he floats away, saying, "And to all a good night".


Monday, November 3, 2014

It's November...Time to Be Thankful

Thanksgiving. What's the first word that comes to mind when you hear that word? I must admit that the first thing I think of is Macy' in the big Turkey Day parade. I know....I know...the correct answer from a spiritual perspective should be something like giving thanks or helping others or spending time with family. But let's be honest. Our culture has turned Thanksgiving into a day when we stuff our faces, watch more football than our poor pea brains could possibly handle, put up with Aunt Matilda's "famous" sweet potato casserole (that really makes your mouth go numb because of some spice she uses WAY TOO MUCH of. And....if we think about it...we offer up a simplistic, generic prayer to the god of our choice, or to Mother Earth, for his/her provision...but not make it too heartfelt lest someone feel uncomfortable or think we are some kind of religious fanatics.

     You catch my drift. Right?

     I hope so. Because here's the reason I think of Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. When I was a child (particularly first and second grade, I suppose), our teachers at school asked us to draw pictures of pilgrims and turkeys and falling autumn leaves. My pictures were never anything to brag about (which is weird now because I sketch fairly well, if I do say so myself...and yes...I am tooting my own horn, thank you very much) and were never a part of the group that got hung up on the wall or shown to other classes. So I would go home with my bruised little ego and wait for what every other child of the 1960s waited for...a humongously (not a word, by the way...according to my spell check) long parade on television that ushered in Thanksgiving for all American families who would later celebrate according to their family tradition(s). I couldn't wait for the Kilgore Rangerettes (Texas's answer to the Rockettes). I was amazed...and extremely thankful....for how well they danced, how high they kicked and that they were from the South...just like me. I would begin to thank God for the Rangerettes because I knew it wouldn't be long until the great man himself and his substantial entourage, would make their grand entrance, ushering in the holiday season. You know who I mean....SANTA. Saint Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Pere Noel. When that happened, I knew it was officially Thanksgiving (not that Santa has anything to do with Thanksgiving, but I was a kid, all right?) and excitement suddenly filled the air (at least my air).

     I would spend the rest of the day thinking about the parade as our entire family (all the local members anyway) sojourned to our grandparent's house for a feast, which, by the way, was never turkey. It was roast beef and my Mamaw's amazing Southern Fried Chicken and every other known food of the southern world. 

     I have to mention what happened at this gathering the year I was in the second grade. My cousins and I were running through the house, which we'd been told NOT to do about a hundred times. I tripped over an footstool and landed face first into the corner of an old wooden desk and got a big old shiner. It was blue and purple and black and green and then finally that funky yellow color that shouldn't be a color at all. I was not thankful for that black eye or the footstool and especially not the desk. Today I realize I should have been thankful I didn't poke my eye out, except that goes with another story having to do with a toy gun and a boy named Ralphie, so I"ll defer that one to him.

     Stay with me people, there is a point to all this. Whatever we are reminded of when thinking of Thanksgiving, it's all a part of who we are. Growing up with fond memories of a televised parade to this day reminds me to be grateful and thankful to the One who is the great provider. I don't really care if people think I'm a fanatic when I say this: THANKSGIVING IS ABOUT THANKS...Not football (even though it's fun to gather around the tube and be mesmerized hour after hour), not gossiping, not spending countless hours cooking...It's about thanks.


     And by all means.....EAT. Weight Watchers will still be there when you're done!

Monday, October 27, 2014

What October is for Me

Ah, October. My favorite month of the year. The leaves are afire with color, the air begins to feel a little crisp and sometimes bites at the nose. Those of us involved in music begin to rehearse selections for the holidays (for me, it is never too soon to sing Christmas music). My birthday is in October and I always reflect on how graciously God has blessed me from year to year. But, I must admit, one of my favorite things of the past few Octobers is the Halloween candy commercial starring .... wait for it...THE HORSELESS HEADSMEN! I love that little dude. He arrives on the scene of some excited trick-or-treaters and says "I've come for your heads! I am the Horseless Headsmen!" One of the kiddos says, "You mean, the headless horsemen." He looks at that kid with a raised brow and says with much drama, "No!" and gives the kid a look that speaks of "I mean what I say and I say what I mean".  I don't even know what kind of candy they're selling on that ad. I just love the short, big-headed, tiny bodied, horseless, Medicare-aged hunter of heads.

     Another thing that happens in Colorado during October is the annual Women of Faith conference in Denver.  Our church, Rocky Mountain Chapel just outside Cripple Creek, sent a nice representation of ladies to the conference this year and what a time was had by all. For those of you who keep up with the Who's Who of Christian Music and Speakers who frequent the event, here's the Denver list: Sheila Walsh, Lisa Harper, Christine Caine (from down under), Lisa Bevere (Colorado's own), Priscilla Shirer,, Nichole Nordeman (also Colorado born and bred), Matthew West, Gateway Worship band, and the one and only Anita Renfroe.

     Anita Renfroe. What can you say about Anita Renfroe! Her parodies of pop culture music is second to none. At the conference she did a medley of pop music on the topic of MENOPAUSE. Among them were "You're Gonna Hear Me Snore" (Katie Perry's "Eye of the Tiger, You're Gonna Hear Me Roar"), "This Girl is On Fire", ode to hot flashes, "Crabby" (Happy). and "Let It Grow: (Let it Go from Frozen) a myth buster about older women needing to let go of their long locks and wear grandma dos. It was hysterical.

     One of my favorite sessions was Lisa Bevere's talk on "Girls with Swords" taken from her book of the same name. We must wear the armor of truth and fight with the sword of the Spirit, girls. Christianity ain't for the lazy, faint or tea and crumpets crowd. It's a battle everyday. Especially now. It's no joke that evil seems to be global. ISIS is a threat. Haters abound. We need to be wise. Take up your swords, ladies. WE ARE DAUGHTERS OF THE KING!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Autumn in the Rockies

Most every summer I wait and wait, anticipating the first hint of autumn in the Rockies. It's a beautiful sight. Aspens aglow, quaking in the breeze. It literally looks like gold with a background of azure skies. Our front yard is surrounded by aspens and we have often remarked that we feel as if we are encased in a cocoon of ore right out of the gold mines of Cripple Creek and Victor.

Autumn holds for me memories of a childhood spent raking leaves then running and falling into them, laughing so hard I could scarcely catch my breath. Back in the day, we were still allowed to burn our leaves and I can still, if I concentrate hard enough, smell the aroma of burning leaves on a crisp fall day.

When I was little and my big sisters were in high school, there were sometimes bonfires on an empty lot on the main drag of L.A. (what is commonly known to everyone else in Arkansas as Lonoke). These were, if I remember correctly, the night before a big football match against such rivals as Carlisle or Cabot or England High Schools in surrounding towns of our small farming county.

My grandparents lived on 88 acres on Mount Carmel Road just outside Cabot and I spend many fall afternoons wandering through the woods, getting lost in nature, but never far from home. My childhood memories are not unlike the memories of many other folks who grew up in Farmland U.S.A.  The crops might not all be the same: our farmers grew soybeans, rice and cotton and our town claimed the largest minnow farm in the world (can you imagine?). I also joked that Arkansas had another crop that most people didn't know about. We grew the biggest cotton-mouthed moccasin snakes known to man. I swear they must have been given steroids. I've seen my sister chase them around on her riding lawnmower, but that's a story for another day, which will give everyone a new opinion of the demure Southern woman.

One of the things I always gravitate to in autumn is apples. Here in Colorado we are blessed with lots of orchards, many of them close by. This autumn I have spent many hours canning apples. I've made such delectable goodies as apple butter and applesauce. And then there's apple bread, apple pie, stewed apples, chopped apples in salad. (I'm beginning to sound a little like Bubba Gump, so I'll stop now.)

I will reiterate how much I love autumn. I wait all year for that small window of time when the leaves reach their peak in anticipation of the first snowfall...which sometimes comes at about the same time in our neck of the woods.
Hopefully, you can dip into your memory bank and make a withdrawal of your favorite childhood (or adult) memories. Time has a way of slipping from our fingers...don't let the memories go with them.

Happy Autumn, All!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

We're Having Substantial Weather

The weather across America this Spring has been substantial, as an old friend of mine would say. Everywhere tornadoes or the threat of tornadoes, rain, hail. My home state of Arkansas, particularly the area I called my stomping grounds as a young adult, was devastated by killer tornadoes in April. My heart aches for the folks back there. But Arkansans are proud and strong. They will endure, rebuild, and be stronger for the trial.

Here in Colorado, we just had a springtime snow storm. In Florissant, where my hubby and I live, we measured eleven inches over a two day period of nonstop heavy snow. Living in the age of social media, I shared pictures and comments on Facebook about the snow and the poor hummingbird(s) that sought shelter on our front porch during the snow. I've had varying comments about the snow with "yuck", "is this normal" and "better days are ahead" being my favorites. My answers? "Yuck indeed!", "Yes, this is normal" and "I'm counting the days til summer in the Rockies".

Just when I thought the snow was over and it begun to melt, another "mini" snowstorm struck last night. My poor cats! You could also read the disappointment in their eyes. One in particular, Ricky, a seven-month-old Maine coon, would go to the door and wait for me to open it. (My cats are trained to potty outdoors. What a wonderful thing!) I opened the door, then the storm door and he looked out, looked up at me as if to say "What the.......", then turned and fled to the food bowl. Just like us humans, cats sometime soothe their woes in a good plate of comfort food (in this case, kibble for kitties).

Today is lovely. It is warming up nicely. Sunday, however, was a Mother's Day for the books. While we were snowed in, enjoying a day of solitude, movies and a Currier and Ives picture out our windows, my friends and family in Arkansas enjoyed a 90 degree day.

Substantial weather indeed!
Poor little hummingbird outside my window Sunday afternoon, Mother's Day.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Accidents Will Happen

Accidents happen everyday, so the old saying goes. And I am a living testimony to the fact that they do and that there is a clumsy gene that can be passed from generation to generation. There's a whole bunch of us clumsy folks in our family tree.

On January 24 I slipped on black ice on our driveway as I was attempting to get into the car. Whoosh, bam, bang...and what the heck just happened!!! Before I knew it, I was laid out on the drive, staring down at my right leg that had become contorted into a position I couldn't have imagined assuming if I had tried. The wind was knocked out of me, I was dizzy and faint, and the pain in my right hip was reminiscent of pain that only comes with a fracture. HOLY COW! A HIP FRACTURE! Now, I am a SENIOR, but not ancient...and never really thought this would happen (the fracture....not getting old). I cried out to my husband, Don, who I can only imagine was stunned and thinking "oh my goodness, what just happened here!!!" He came running to me and stooped down asking what he should do. Me, in all of my mind-boggling brilliance said something like "I don't know. Just let me sit here in the ice and snow and get numb for a minute." I honestly didn't know what to do next, but the cold of the snow and ice felt good on my hip and did, in fact, numb it just a bit. After a little while I asked him to help me into the car, which he did with great hesitation amid his suggestions at calling for an ambulance. 

I shall save you all from the whining and moaning and under my breath swearing that ensued and get down to brass tacks. He drove me to St. Thomas More Hospital in Canon City, Colorado, which for us is just as close as Colorado Springs. And must say, it must have been by divine appointment because I have never received such fine care in all my days. And believe me, with all my bone and joint problems, I've received LOTS OF TREATMENT.

I did feel sorry for the xray folks at the hospital because they received the brunt of my crying and screaming (yes, screaming) and whining as they positioned and repositioned me for different views of the hip. I clearing recall repeatedly crying out in pain then following it with "I'm sorry for being such a baby." There was a student there that day from a local radiology school. I would almost bet if she lived through that experience with me as her patient...well, she will receive an extra star in her crown when she meets her Maker one day. Bless her we Southerners say. To the xray folks I extend my profound apologies for screaming and crying and...well, you get the picture. 

I was in the hospital for over a week. From the surgeon, Eric Carlson, M.D., to the nurses, nurses' aides, OT and PT...I humbly thank them all for the outstanding care I received. The folks from the administrative side who visited me regarding insurance, etc. were kind and considerate and mindful of the situation. Everyone was amazing. (And the drugs were outstanding!)

I have to laugh. Whenever the nurses listened to my breathing they always said it was nice to listen to clear lungs. Also they were also amazed at someone my age who had a hip fracture. With that in mind, let me say this: ladies, we are all at risk for osteoporosis. Lots of risk factors: lack of calcium, too much caffeine, not enough exercise, bad diet, certain medications for different things such as autoimmune problems. Please take good care to do whatever necessary to avoid osteoporosis. I have severe osteoporosis because of the meds I've had to take for RA all these years. I urge you to do whatever you must do to avoid what I am living right now...the aftermath and recovery of a severely fractured right hip.

Bless my heart!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Train to Christmas Town

All of my life I've wanted to take a ride on a train. Not a subway, not a light or monorail, but a real passenger train. I even put it on my bucket list. When my husband, Don, entered a drawing a couple of weeks back for a trip on Alamosa, Colorado's Christmas train, I never dreamed he'd win...but win he did. And yesterday was the big day.

I didn't know what to expect, but as it turns out, the train is an original from way back when the railroads were making their mark in Colorado. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad is kind of a big to do and it was our pleasure last night to take a ride on one of their trains.  Our tickets were in the observation car with tables and beautiful windows, that if we had been traveling in the light of day, would have yielded magnificent view of the beautiful Rocky Mountains that surround the San Luis Valley.

As we boarded the train, a light snow began to fall. Everything about this reminded me of a scene from White Christmas. Remember when the group sat up in the car and drank coffee and malteds and sang "Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow", but there was no snow?  It was like that except we had snickerdoodles, the best hot cocoa ever and SNOW!

We sat across the table from a young man and woman, Jeff and Darcey. Darcey lives and works in Alamosa and Jeff is currently living in Leadville. They were delightful and made the trip even more enjoyable with their tales of growing up in Colorado and giving up little tidbits of what their lives look like today. They were the perfect table-mates for us visitors from the other side of the state.

The Train to Christmas Town is a children's book that comes to life aboard the train with elves, woodland creatures and, in our case, an elfin Santa. He was a jolly old soul, slight in height, and perfect for the part. Even though this trip is specially made for children, this old lady and her hubby loved every minute of it.

If you ever get the chance, make the journey yourself. You won't regret it for a minute. It certainly made my holiday season and memorable one.
Meet Jeff and Darcey

Don and I had a blast!

Jeff and Darcey watching as Santa comes into our car!
Don gives Santa his Christmas wish

View of the front of the car from our seat

Don got a rise out of this kitty when he told him we'd just given away two litters!

Hot cocoa, anyone?

This guy's name is Bumblebee

Smile for the camera!