Good bye 2014….

A year ago today, hubby and I sat and talked about the past year and the upcoming year.  We had a strong feeling about 2014.  We knew it would be a year of events.  A year of change.  A year that was different.  We anticipated it, we felt it coming.  Little did we realize the impact it would have on us.

This year has flown by.  I mean that, it really has.  To me, it seems like it should still be March of 2014.  But, sitting here in my living room with my tree still decorated, I know that it is December 31st.  The last day of this year.

I started out writing often.  I was encouraged and thrilled that I was consistent in writing.  But, as is so often the case, life took over and writing was squeezed in when I had a few minutes to sit and put my thoughts together.

During this year we have spent two and a half months in Pennsylvania.  We tramped through old paths.  We shared memories long dormant.  We held hands where we first held hands together.  We remembered those high school kids who fell in love, got married and travelled the world together.

We remembered family members no longer with us.  We remembered laughing with them, talking with them.  We remembered.

This year we saw Little Man turn two.  We saw him go from a toddler unsure steps to running and jumping and snapping his little fingers.  We saw him put puzzles together, recognize the shapes of the states, name the states and sing songs to melt our hearts.  We shared our Christmas with him.  We counted going up steps and down steps.  We cried when he had to go back home with his Momma and Pappa.

We met Little Miss this year.  She was a surprise to us, which added to the excitement of 2014.  She captured another part of our hearts.  She fascinated us as we watched her squirm in her little bassinet, eyes wide open, ready to move and explore if only her feet could hold her up.  We know from experience that won’t be long from now.

I was in California for seven weeks this year.  I said a proper good-bye to the city I called home for almost 28 years.  This good-bye was a slow one, not hampered by the rush of packing and moving and schedules.  It was a good-bye in a visit.  I was able to ramble through and recapture good memories and times.  I then packed those memories away in my heart scrapbook that holds all the precious times of my life.

Yes, 2014 was a unique year.  I have no idea what will happen in the next 365 days.  But, being the age I am, I know there will be wonderful days filled with the very best of things.  There will be days that will strike me in the core of my being.  There will be days filled with questions and no answers.  There will be days that seem to stretch into eternity.  This time next year, though, I know I will look back and remember fondly.

May your new year be filled with the best of everything.  Health, wholeness, laughter, and tears.  Happy New Year.  Thanks for stopping by, DAF


Each year I hear Karen Carpenter’s song, “Merry Christmas, Darling”.  I love that song.  It makes me cry.  Of course, many Christmas songs bring tears to my eyes, I’m just like that.

This song, though, returns me to 1983.  No matter what year it is, I am immediately taken back to the Christmas of 1983.  Maybe because, that year, I was alone with our two daughters.  Our oldest was four years old, about to turn five and our youngest was three months old.  Hubby had left when I was seven months pregnant and he hadn’t met our youngest yet.  It was our first Christmas in our own home.  Hubby hadn’t seen it yet, either.  I mean, he saw it when we decided to buy it, but, he hadn’t seen it with our furniture in it or our Christmas tree in it.

It was a long Christmas season that year.  It seemed that every other song on the radio was Merry Christmas, Darling.  It haunted me, it reminded me that I was alone, dealing.  Dealing with a car that refused to stay working, children who kept catching colds, and a bank account that refused to stay healthy too.    I was sad that Christmas.  It was a different Christmas.

But, I had good friends to keep me going and our girls had a wonderful day, filled with gifts and love and laughter.

I remember clearly that Christmas, because, each year I often hear the strains and the lyrics of that song.  It is a reminder to me to appreciate my hubby and having him near me.  It reminds me that there are many, many military families who are apart this season.  There are wives missing the normal, frustrating things that happen during this time.  There are parents putting children to bed, trying to make them calm and not so homesick for a missing parent.   There are those spouses who sit in the dark rooms, lit only by the tree lights hoping that their mates are safe, warm and okay.

Yesterday, I heard that song and these thoughts flooded my mind.  I wanted to share them with you, along with the words of the song.  And, to those who are serving this country of ours, thank you, Merry Christmas to you all, may this season pass quickly and may you be in each other’s arms soon.  God Bless you and keep you.

Merry Christmas, Darling
Greeting cards have all been sent The Christmas rush is through But I still have one wish to make A special one for you
Merry Christmas, darling We’re apart, that’s true But I can dream And in my dreams I’m Christmasing with you Holidays are joyful There’s always something new But every day’s a holiday When I’m near to you The lights on my tree I wish you could see I wish it every day The logs on the fire Fill me with desire To see you and to say That I wish you Merry Christmas Happy New Year too I’ve just one wish On this Christmas Eve I wish I were with you The logs on the fire Fill me with desire To see you and to say That I wish you Merry Christmas Happy New Year too I’ve just one wish On this Christmas Eve I wish I were with you
Merry Christmas, darling

The Peach Ornament…

The first house I remember living in as a child was beside a home where two brothers lived.  It was their family home and the two of them lived there all their lives.  My sisters and I would visit next door when one of the men would sit on his front porch.  I can remember going over to his porch and visiting even though we moved from that house when I was going into the first grade.

I know at one point the brothers had given my parents a couple of boxes of Christmas ornaments.  They were beautiful ornaments, all mostly glass and hand painted.  They were ornaments they had grown up with and some were as old at the early 1900’s.  I loved those ornaments.  They were different from the modern ones that we had bought as a family.  Each year some would break and we would look at the shattered pieces on the floor, sweep them up and continue to decorate.

In a few years two boxes went to one box of these ornaments.  I married and went on my own.  On one of the visits back to visit our home town, my Dad was clearing out excess ‘stuff’.  He had his hallway stacked with things from my childhood and as we were leaving, he said, ‘if you see anything you want, grab it now, because it will be gone.’   There were things I wished I would have grabbed, in hindsight, but, I did have sense enough to grab the box of the old ornaments.

Hubby looked at me like I was crazy in grabbing the box of ornaments, but as I talked about them on our way home miles away, he understood.  We put the ornaments into a stronger box as we were preparing to move overseas at that time and I wanted them to survive the trip.

The ornaments travelled to Japan with us.  They went to Maine and then onto California.  They were mixed in with our ornaments and for years I was the one to hang them on the tree.  They were fragile and most likely filled with lead paint and toxins I don’t even know about.

My first ornament I put on the tree each year was a special one.  I had loved it since I was a child.  It was a beautiful round peach ball.  It was made of some material like paper mache.  It was peach in color and was covered in glitter.  My description doesn’t do it justice, it was just my favorite ornament.  Over the years the glitter had faded and the peach paint had worn down to show the paper inside the ornament, but it was the ornament I cherished.

It was always the first I reached for and hung in an honored place in front of the tree.    To me, the other ornaments, although pretty, never held a spot in my heart as this one did.

You may notice that I am using the past tense in talking about the ornament.  When we were getting reading to set up our tree for the first time in South Carolina, I pulled out the decorations.   The tree was up, the lights were on and I opened the boxes for the ornaments.  A box was missing.  I looked at hubby.  He went to the garage.  I went to the garage.  An hour later we were still in the garage.  We moved to another room to look for the box.  We had moved in mid November, so that we were still unpacking while setting up a tree at the beginning of December was a bit crazy anyhow.

We looked for a very long time.  We had lost our box of ornaments.  We still have not found them.  I keep hoping that somewhere in the dark recesses, there is a box, waiting to be opened with our ornaments in it.  The ornaments from our children, our ornaments that were handmade.  The little stocking that we got the year we were expecting the child we lost, and my beloved peach ornament.

Tears filled my eyes when I realized there were no ornaments for the tree.  A small box of six ornaments were in with the decorations, but that was all.

Since that time, I have gotten some lovely ornaments.  There is a hand painted one from my supper club party.  There are some that I bought from the gift shop I worked in.  I have a beautiful one from my youngest, and I have two crazy bright ones from my oldest, a neon colored moose and a hot air balloon, I have one from Ireland a neighbor bought for me while visiting there.  I like the looks of my newer ornaments, they are lovely and I have memories of when I got each one.

I miss my old ornaments.  They held memories of Christmases past.  They were my heritage.  Looking at the ornaments in the box (that is lost) I could remember visiting a porch of a long-lost neighbor, of hearing my sisters banter with each other, of seeing my Dad tell us a spot was bare and needed something.  I could remember my daughters gently touching an old ornament and finding their favorites.

Christmas brings us memories.  The good and the bad.  Pieces of glass and plastic and paper return us to times that were maybe simpler, or hard or filled with anticipation.  These memories make us who we were and who we have become.

As I sit writing and looking at my tree with these new baubles on it, I hope that this season will bring you memories that confirm your heritage. May your day be filled with joyous memories.  DAF

When there is no tree….

Thirty five years ago, hubby and I were living in Japan.  We were waiting the arrival of our first child.  We were excited beyond words during that  time.
We were living in government quarters on an abandoned WWII Japanese airstrip.  The housing area was situated along two very long, wide roads which once were the runways for the Japanese planes.  Our house was situated at the end of the runways, the half circle area where the planes taxi from one strip to the other.  It was a beautiful place, as we had no neighbors, except the other side of our duplex.  There was a big open field in front of our house and looking out past the field, some farmlands and the bay that was below our area, was a magnificent view of Mt Fuji.  We were able to see this view from our living room and bedroom.  It is a view I will never forget.

The duplex we lived in was small.  It was a one bedroom unit.  We had a dining room where we usually put our Christmas tree.  That Christmas, 35 years ago we had no room in our dining room.  We had divided our dining room in half to make room for a crib and changing table.  It was crowded but cozy.   We decided to forgo all Christmas decorations, except for our nativity set.

We also decided to not exchange gifts, as we knew we would need money for the baby.  We were content with this decision.

A part of us missed the planning and shopping though.  I wondered how we would feel on Christmas day without the flourishes that go with the day.

What I found out is this….  and a part of the story of the Grinch confirms this to me.  When the day dawned, it was still Christmas.  There was something in the air that spoke Christmas.  The air is different on Christmas day.  It is special.  I don’t know what it is, but it is a holy mixture of awe, faith, giving, sprinkled with pine scent and candy canes.  At least that is how I see it.  It is like the Grinch who discovered that although he took everything away from the Who’s, they still celebrated.  They sang and they rejoiced, even in nothing.  This made the Grinch’s heart grow, and he obviously returned everything.

In the passing of these 35 years, I often remember that Christmas where there were no outward signs of Christmas in our house.  I remember that the decorations are nice, the presents are nice, but the true gift of Christmas is the celebration of Christ’s birth.  We have tried through the years to do something for someone else during the holidays.  Most of the time, it was just having someone over to share our meal.  This is a small gesture, but sometimes those are the moments that scream the loudest.

Today, I was able to have several outpourings of love given to me.  All have made me realize the love that is in the hearts of people.  My heart is glad and I am blessed.  I hope that this season you will be able to recognize the special scent in the air and experience an unexpected gift of love.  Thanks for stopping by.  DAF

The Angel….

When Hubby and I were first married, we were young and poor.  We had enough to do things, to eat, pay bills, but there was not much extra leftover.  We were married almost a year when our first Christmas came around.

Hubby was stationed at a command that had access to some land and the members of the command were allowed to cut Christmas trees for their families.  So, one afternoon he went out and cut our first tree.  It was an ugly tree.  Very large and sparse.  I cried when I saw it.  I had dreams of going to a tree lot and picking out our tree together.  Instead, hubby had gone out,hunted, cut and delivered this big monstrosity of a tree.  It was a Thursday when we got our tree.  That night we went out to scout out how much lights, ornaments and garland would cost us.  Payday was Friday and so we needed to know where to put the budget.

We walked into a store the equivalent of today’s Wal-Mart.  We found the lights, the ornaments and then we looked for a tree topper.  I grew up having an angel on the top of the tree, hubby had a star.  He agreed to have an angel on our tree.  We looked at the beautiful angels for the top of the tree.   They were all way out of our price range.  Then, we looked on a lower shelf.  There on the shelf was a solitary cornhusk angel.  She was lovely.  She was the only one.  She was fifty cents.  She was affordable.  We hid her!  We wanted her so badly and we didn’t have fifty cents on us, and we wouldn’t until the next day.  So, we did what we had to.  We put her clear behind some things and we walked out of the store, hoping that she would still be there the next day.

We went to work, got paid, cashed our checks and headed back to the store.  There she was, in her safe place waiting to be taken home with us.

She served us well.  She got a little mildewed over the years, but we didn’t notice.  We loved her and the memories she held.  She knew us from the beginning.

One Christmas, when hubby was deployed on a cruise, I was home with our oldest and our youngest, who was three months old.  It was the first Christmas in our home, the one we were buying.  I went to the garage, retrieved the tree, the ornaments and the box that held our angel.  Opening the box, it was obvious that a field mouse had visited our ornaments during the year.  Our home is on a canyon and field mice are a common sight in our garage.  Some ornaments had been chewed, but our poor angel was hit the hardest.  Her head had been gnawed off and most of her body was in shreds.  I cried.  She was not going to be with us forever.

I wrote hubby and told him the sad news.  I went out and purchased another angel.  This one with a ceramic head and a pretty face. She has a beautiful purple gown on.  I was pleased with my purchase.  I put her on top of the tree and went to bed.  In the morning the angel was on the floor.  I replaced her to her spot and within hours she was back on the floor.  Although she is lovely, she is top-heavy and will continue to do nose dives off the tree top.

I again wrote hubby and told him what was happening.  I kept putting the angel in her place for the entire Christmas season.  Hubby wrote and said he found us an angel while he was in the Philippines.  I was anxious to meet her.

She is lovely.  She has silver wings and a beautiful white dress on.  She stays on the tree top and she is very special.  She is sitting on top of our tree as I write this.  Starting the following year, which was the Christmas of 1984 our girls have taken turns putting the angel on top of the tree.  I have kept a record of the year and who put the angel on the tree.  There are notes like this,  Our oldest had the flu, so Daddy put the angel on the tree.  As years passed, there were no disagreements about who put the angel on the tree.  Soon, it was just me putting the angel on.  This beautiful angel that has hair like Princess Leia…  we laugh at that now, but, we love her.

Today, as we were putting up our tree with our oldest who is winding down her visit with us, I pulled out the box with our angel in it.  I took out a pen and wrote, ” 2013 –  our oldest put the angel on the tree” .   I never thought all those years ago when I started writing down who placed her on the tree that I was recording history.  I saw it as a way to avoid arguments during Christmas time.  But, it is our history.   Reading through the years I remember.  I remember pajamas going from footie pajamas, to nightgowns, to flannel pants and tee shirts to seeing our girls dressed to go out and can we please hurry up with the tree?

Today, I saw my oldest place an ornament and step back to make certain it was well placed.  I laughed as we decorated together, as we centered the tree after I moved it the wrong way and it started to lean.  We talked and shared memories and all the time our little Princess Leia looking angel was looking down from her perch smiling.

Thanks for stopping by.  What do you have on top of your tree?  Just wondering.   DAF

Not a Creature was stirring…

It is the quiet of the evening after a day of Thanksgiving.  The house is silent except for the ticking of the clock in the dining room and the rumble of the train on the tracks a mile or so from the house.

I sit here wanting to get up and start to put away the fall decorations and pull out the Christmas decorations in the dining room.  I don’t want to disturb those sleeping and yet my mind is full of a wonderful day, thoughts of what tomorrow will bring and memories of Christmases past.

We have had a tradition that the day after Thanksgiving is the day we picked out our Christmas tree.  It started the year my hubby was doing an isolated tour of duty.  Friends took the girls and I to a tree farm in the rural part of San Diego.  We picked out a tree and had it cut.  Up to that point we had an artificial tree which worked fine.  It was on its last legs and it was natural looking complete with leaning off to a side.

After that time of visiting the tree farm, it became a family tradition.  Each Friday after Thanksgiving we would drive an hour out of the city and pick out our tree.  At that time we reserved the tree and returned a couple of weeks later to pick it up, take it home and decorate it.

The day after Thanksgiving was the day that heralded the beginning of Christmas to us.  We would get up early, put on Christmas sweaters and pile the girls into the car.  We always played a cd (yes, it was that long ago) of a Disney Christmas tape.  It was not a high brow tape, it was the characters singing songs and it was delightful.  We would sing along and hubby would give me glances that were a mix of loving it all and hating the cd’s sound.

The music played all the way out.  When we arrived at the tree farm, the girls would go one way and hubby and I the other.  It took us over an hour to pick a tree, mainly because we all played a game where we would each disappear and then we had to find one another.  Usually, we had each picked out a tree we liked and figured we would remember where it was when we got back together.  Hubby would measure it and make certain the trunk was straight.  (Mine never are, I still pick out crooked trees!).  Then the arguments would start.  We would not like something about each tree.  And then, we would forget who picked out the tree the previous year.  It was great fun.

When the girls were little we would picnic after reserving the tree.  There was a park across from the tree farm and I would pack leftover turkey sandwiches and hot chocolate and the girls would play on the equipment at the park.  There was a set of a circular monkey bars and when we started going to the tree farm our oldest was just able to climb over the monkey bars, our youngest could not.  Through the years we saw the girls master the monkey bars and then the picnics stopped.  We then went to lunch at a little cafe down the road from the farm.

We did this until the girls started to move away, or their schedule could not fit ours.  The last visit we made to the farm was six years ago.  It was just hubby and I.  We drove the hour, listened to nice Christmas music and it took us five minutes to decide on a tree.  It was a bittersweet experience for us as the trees echoed memories of laughter and squeals and discussions of  which tree to get.  The fun had grown up and started their own lives.

Now, we are across the country, and trying to find new traditions.  We have searched Christmas tree farms and may try one this year.  Our oldest will go back to her home in San Diego and in another week go to our old tree farm.  She and her boyfriend and his daughter have started carrying on the tradition of the tree farm.  I am blessed that it means enough to her to continue it.

So, I sit here on the night after a holiday, reflecting on the joys of seasons past.  The parade of memories is strong and it pulls my heart down many paths of my memory scrapbook.

Christmas is a time to remember.  A time of making new memories to remember later.  A time for family, faith, friends.  A time to be thankful for what we have and whom we have in our lives.    Thanks for sharing this time with me.  DAF