Christmas Past – Maligayang Pasko

Well it seems I am on a roll – memories of Christmas past just continue to occupy my mind – especially at bedtime.  Maybe it’s just that I am getting old.  Maybe it’s spending this Christmas in a new home in a new state far from what was familiar.

The memories are for the most part happy ones although the last post I made did include one Christmas that was sad and lonely.

Christmas Past – Laughing Through the Tears

Still, I’m thankful that the happy times far outweigh the sad ones.

For a girl growing up in the Midwest Christmas has always meant:

  • Christmas trees and decorations

 

  • Caroling

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  • cold temps

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  • sometimes snow

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But I will never forget the one Christmas I spent without all the trees and decorations, without caroling, no cold temps and certainly no chance of snow.

I spent Christmas of 1991 at the beach on the island of Panay in the Philippines.

My husband and I had gone to the Philippines with our youngest daughter to teach in a Bible school.  While there we also spoke and often gave classes to the ministerial staff at local churches.  Our daughter began a Kids Klub with the local neighbor hood children.

I wrote about her experience there in:

The Piped Piper of Iloilo City

It never really felt like Christmas there.  The temperature was much too warm.  It was  lonely thousands of miles from our family.  There were few bright lights.  In the gated community where many of the other missionaries lived there were trees and lights.  But in our neighborhood no one could afford such luxuries.  Many of our neighbors did not even have electricity for any lights.  Most struggled to provide food for their families and there would be few, if any, presents and certainly no Christmas tree.

There were decorations in the stores downtown, but none like we were used to.  The mall downtown had some beautiful ones made from bamboo.

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The only Christmas decoration we had was a nativity set we found at a local store.  It was amazing to us that even in the Philippines, the nativity set portrayed Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus as white.  Clearly Jesus would have been dark-skinned like those from the Middle East but somehow we have made Him into an image totally foreign to what He would have been.

We held a birthday party for Jesus with the kids in the neighborhood.  We had a birthday cake, played games and had so much fun with the kids.  It was a joy to also share with them the story of the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas day we shared a picnic at the beach with another missionary couple from Norway.  Like us, it seemed strange to have no snow or cold temperatures.  As you can see, from the pictures, we really dressed up for the day.  NOT!

As I look at these pictures today I wonder where those children are now.  How many had the privilege of completing school?  How many even survived to adulthood?  It is my prayer that we did make a difference in their lives while we were there.

This year as we feel the cold temperatures, I do think how nice it was that year to enjoy sunshine and the ocean.  But I still am glad to be here with my family.  Wherever you are, whatever your Christmas is –

Maligayang Pasko – or Merry Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Past – Laughing Through the Tears

Recently I posted a blog on my memories of my favorite Christmas gift ever.  After posting that I have found myself awake in the middle of the night thinking of other Christmas memories.  Seems this first post has now led to more.

Christmas Past – My Best Christmas Present Ever

In my second post I shared how my future husband proposed to me on Christmas Day 1968.  We had thirteen wonderful years together and were blessed with two beautiful daughters.

One of the memories that came to me in the middle of the night was a Christmas that was lonely and difficult.  In March of 1982 my husband (whose proposal I wrote about in a previous post) was killed in an accident.

Christmas Past – I Said “Yes”

This was the first Christmas my young daughters and I spent without him.  Although it has been 36 years since that Christmas I can close my eyes and still feel the pain, the deep unspeakable sense of being alone.

But along with these sad thoughts comes one that makes me smile.

That year a friend had given my youngest daughter a book for Christmas that brought us some laughs.  Called the “Ugly Joke Book,” it had the usual jokes like:

  • Beauty is only skin deep …but ugly goes all the way to the bone!
  • I was such an ugly kid. When I played in the sandbox the cat kept covering me up.
  • You know you’re ugly when it comes to a group picture and they hand you the camera.

In this day of PC I suppose these jokes would not be appropriate to many.  That Christmas night, seeing the sad faces of my little girls, I was determined to not let their Christmas night end in terrible sadness.  Out came the book.  I had us all get in our pajamas, climb into bed and read the jokes.  Some of the jokes were funny, others not so much.  But I laughed at each one as if it was the funniest thing in the world.  After reading the book and staying up way past their bed time, I laid with them asleep in my arms and thanked God that in the midst of sorrow, if we look for it, we can also find joy.

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We had spent Christmas Eve with our extended family.  We were made so sad because during the entire day no one said anything about our husband/father.  It was as if he had never existed; as if his absence was of no importance to anyone.  Before returning home, I expressed my hurt to my older sister.

I think I made her cry as she explained they had all agreed not to mention his name because they were afraid of causing us pain.  They thought they were doing the kind thing.  Sadly they had not.

So – if you have family or friends who have lost a loved one this year – or really any time in the past – don’t be afraid to mention them.  Say how you miss them.  Share memories you have of them.

God has blessed us and He brought a good man into our lives a few years after this Christmas and my daughters have married and have a family.  Our Christmas this year will not be lonely and we are happy.

But we will always remember this wonderful man that made that Christmas one to remember.  And in the midst of our celebration, our thoughts will remember dear, dear Lonnie Lott.

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Christmas Past – I Said “Yes”

Christmas always brings memories of the past as I reflect on all the years that have passed.  I remember:

  • The little wooden ornaments I painted for my little girls that they now hang on their trees.
  • The Christmas plate three of my grandchildren painted for me.
  • The live Christmas tree my husband and I purchased the first year of my marriage and how our son planted that tree in the front yard.  How quickly it grew and how sad it was when we drove by the house years later and saw the new owner had cut it down.

One special Christmas remains in my heart forever – Christmas of 1968.

My boyfriend had just completed basic training at the USMC base in San Diego, California and was coming home on Christmas Eve.  He was traveling home by bus and his parents were going to call me as soon as he let them know he was at the bus station in St. Louis.  They would then swing by and pick me up and we would go to get him.

Lonnie

It was late when the call finally came and I was so excited!  After we picked him up at the bus station we hurried to his home where his eight brothers and sisters were anxiously waiting to see him.

By the time the family reunion was over it was early morning Christmas Day and Lonnie got the keys to the family car to drive me home.  Sitting in the car before I went inside he asked me to marry him.

I said YES!

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Sadly, the wedding would not be for a while as he was headed to Vietnam shortly after the New Year.

The holidays were both happy, but sad.  So good to be together, to celebrate our engagement.  So sad to face the months ahead of separation and danger for him.  Would he survive the war?  Would we really be married?

This Christmas I think of all the service men and women who are far from home protecting our country and of their family – parents, spouses, children — who will have an empty spot at their table.

If you know someone who is serving overseas, send them a card and let them know you are thinking of them.  If you know a family who has a member who will be absent this year at the festivities, give them a call.  Encourage them and share your appreciation of the sacrifice both they and their family member are making for us.

My story had a happy ending.  After 13 months my Marine returned home and we were married.

 

Christmas Past – My Best Christmas Present Ever

This will be my 71st Christmas.  In that time I have been given a lot of Christmas presents.

Christmas gifts

  • Some I loved
  • Some I pretended to like but really did not
  • Some were expensive
  • Some were not so expensive
  • Some were store-bought
  • Some were homemade
  • Some shown that the giver had really put a lot of time and love into the gift
  • Some looked like the giver had just grabbed something off the shelf at the last-minute

But every year as I reflect on Christmas past there is one gift that stands out to me.  It was the best Christmas gift I ever received.

It is also the first Christmas I remember.  I was five years old and I believed in Santa Claus.  There were two gifts I was hoping he would bring me:  a doll and a toy stove with some dishes.

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Although I never felt our family was poor, looking back I realize we certainly were not affluent.  We lived in a three-room house – Mom and Dad, two sisters a brother and me.  I was the baby.  Mom and Dad shared the one bedroom and my sisters and I had beds in the kitchen.  Fortunately the kitchen was very large so the stove, refrigerator and table was at one end and our beds at the other.  My brother slept on a roll-away bed that we opened at night and put in the pantry just off the kitchen.

Looking back I think how hard it must have been to try to buy the presents we four children were hoping for.  How they must have agonized over not having enough money to buy all they would have liked to buy for us.

Christmas Eve my dad took me with him to my grandmother’s house where he added coal to her heating stove and set the fire for the night.  When we returned home I discovered Santa Claus had come.  So excited, I opened my one present and found the doll I had requested.  Looking around I realized there was not a second present for me.  There would be no toy stove and dishes.  My doll was so pretty and I slept happily that night holding her close.

stove

The next day my parents explained to me that Santa Claus had so many kids to buy for and he did not have enough money to get everything on everyone’s list.  However, my dad said he and my mother had a surprise for me.  They had a toy stove for me with some dishes.

Dad brought out the stove.  He had taken a cardboard box, turned it upside down and drew burners on the top.  He then cut out small openings in the front and had put in some little wooden knobs that were painted red, yellow and blue for me to use to turn on the burners.  He also had an oven door painted on the side and cut so that I could open and put in a pan.  Mom had rummaged though her pots and pans and found some older ones that I was able to use.

I was one happy little girl!  I had my very own stove and dishes.

Today I realize most little girls would be upset with such a gift.  But to me it was a treasure.  As I have grown old, the memory of that gift has increased in value.

As a parent trying to make ends meet I realize how much love had gone into their decision to make that gift for me, how much they must have hated that they could not give me a real toy stove and dishes.

Of all the gifts I have received over the years, none mean as much to me as that gift coming from my parents’ heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Conversations with Grandkids

Thanksgiving – a time with family.  Over the years the family gathering has gotten smaller as kids grow up, move away, have kids of their own.  But at this time of year I always remember some of the great interactions with my grandchildren.

There was Robert:No automatic alt text available.

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Growing up Robert loved to talk.  I always tried to give him my undivided attention.  Picking him up after school one day, I had a stressful day at work and all I wanted was some quiet time.  As soon as he got in the car, he began talking away non-stop.  Our conversation went like this:

ME:  Robert, Grandma has had a busy day and I just need some quiet time.  I really am not up to giving you my attention and listening.

ROBERT:  That’s okay Grandma.  You don’t have to listen.  I just want to talk.

And Abby:

 

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Sitting on our kitchen counter making cookies with her Aunt, Abby was chattering away non-stop (does talking a lot run in my family?).  Her grandpa came in the kitchen and gave her “the look.”  She responded:

ABBY:  Am I aggravating you Grandpa?

GRANDPA:  As a matter of fact, you are.

ABBY:  Good!

Then Matthew:

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The one that makes me still laugh so much is the conversation we had with Matthew after he came home from kindergarten roundup.

ME:  Matthew, what do you think?  Are you going to like going to school?

MATTHEW:  It is going to be great.

ME:  What do you think is going to make it great?

MATTHEW:  All the girls are going to love me!

These 3 are all grown up now (I just posted the pictures of them that I love best).

But our youngest granddaughter, Zoe, has given us some of the funniest conversations.

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ZOE:  Grandma, tell me a story about Jesus when He was a boy.

ME:  Okay.  When Jesus was a little boy.

ZOE:  No, Grandma.  Say “Once upon a time.”

And the one my husband loves the most is when she was only three years old.  Waiting for our food at a restaurant my husband excused himself to use the restroom.  As he was halfway between our table and the men’s room Zoe calls out in a loud voice:

ZOE:  Grandpa, it’s the one with “M” on the door.

Grandchildren, what a blessing.  Tomorrow I will miss being with most of them.  Living in Michigan, I have grandchildren in Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee and Missouri.

But my memories will keep me laughing.

And since Zoe will be at my house, I’m certain we will have some more interesting conversations to remember.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.  If you are with family, enjoy and make lots of new memories.  If you cannot be with family, remember and treasure those times you had.

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Wanted: A New and Improved Tree House

 

Summer 2017

Last year my husband built our youngest granddaughter a tree house.  He called it “Odd Squad Headquarters” as she was a fan of the show at that time.

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She was so excited and she spent the first day going up and down the stairs so much it made me tired just watching.

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We celebrated the opening of Odd Squad Headquarters with a bubble display.

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This was followed by a puppet show and then we read books.

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We even had visitors on this opening day.

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During the puppet show her Papa kept interrupting her and making silly comments.  Finally she told him he was kicked out for disorderly conduct and being a nuisance.  It was such a fun day – one we will always remember.

We ended the day with pizza before closing the Odd Squad Headquarters for the day.

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She wanted to sleep in the tree house but the old folks overrode that idea.  As we headed into the house for the night she informed us that she was staying for five nights and four days. Don’t think it’s because she loved Papa and Grandma so much as she loved the tree house!

Fast forward to summer 2018

Her Papa had anticipated several years of enjoyment for her in the tree house he built with such love.  However, this week she just moved with her parents to another state.

Although she was sad to leave the tree house, she has a plan!  She told her mother:

“Papa did a good job on the tree house.  But now that he has experience building tree houses, he will build me a new  one.  It will be much better than the old.  The old one was good but this one will be even better.”

Not sure what Papa will say about this but I think he needs to get busy with the blueprint for a new and improved tree house.

 

Going to Miss You Mighty Mississippi

Most of my life I have lived near the Mississippi River.  Living in southern Illinois near St. Louis, Missouri I crossed the river almost every day as I lived in Illinois but worked in Missouri. The arch dominates the view as you cross into downtown St. Louis.

Mississippi

Taking over two years to build (1963 to 1965) the Gateway Arch is the world’s tallest arch and the tallest stainless steel monument in the world (630-foot).

The arch was built to celebrate the westward expansion of the United States and has become a famous symbol of St. Louis.

As a young bride my husband and I often fished along its banks.  Sometimes we would fish at night and I would love seeing the riverboats with all its bright lights and imagine myself taking a cruise down the river on one of the steam boats.

 

 

Fishing was good then but I’m not sure I would want to eat any fish caught along the river near St. Louis now because of all the pollution.

When I moved to northern Illinois 24 years ago I began my commute crossing the river from Illinois to Iowa to go to work and also to go shopping or eat at the many wonderful restaurants on the Iowa side.

There are several bridges crossing the river between the two states but I one I love to see at night is the Centennial Bridge

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This bridge was the first tied arch bridge to cross the Mississippi River. This bridge is unusual because it has five spans rather than a single main span common among tied arch bridges. Reportedly these spans symbolize the five largest cities in the “Quad Cities” area.  Originally this was a toll bridge and as I crossed the bridge going to work in Iowa, I had to stop in the middle of the bridge where the toll booths were located.  A few years before I retired, the tolls were removed and today all that remains of the toll booths is the canopy that had been built over them.

Another interesting bridge is the Government Bridge.  This bridge, also known as the Arsenal Bridge includes a swing section to accommodate barge traffic navigating the locks at Lock and Dam No. 15.  The current bridge is the fourth in a succession at this location between Rock Island Illinois and Davenport Iowa.  The first bridge built at this site was the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi.

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Because it is a swing bridge and is built very low close to the river itself, I was afraid to drive across it when we first moved to this area.  However, the closest way for me to get from work to home was to cross this bridge so in time I overcame my fear.

We will be leaving this area soon moving hundreds of miles from the river.  I am going to miss this mighty river.

  • The Mississippi River is 2,340 miles long.
  • From its source in northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi River drops 1,475 feet.
  • The Mississippi River is home to 360 species of fish, 326 species of birds, 145 species of amphibians and 50 species of mammals.
  • The Mississippi River is the third largest watershed in the world.
  • It takes 90 days for a drop of water to travel the entire length of the Mississippi River.
  • At Lake Itasca, the river is between 20 and 30 feet wide, the narrowest stretch for its entire length.
  • The widest part of the Mississippi can be found at Lake Winnibigoshish near Bena, MN, where it is wider than 11 miles.
  • The Mississippi River lies in the following ten US states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Roll on ole man river!  I will miss you!