Trying On Furniture

There is something to be said for finding just the right type of furniture.  I’m sure that at one time or another you’ve been in the position of realizing that you have gotten every last gasping breath of life out of that stained, ripped, sagging and in all other ways spent place of relaxation  that used to be called a couch.

When my wife and I first got married, she owned a couch/chair ensemble that had decently tall backs and sides with big pillows that lined the back.  These pillows could be taken off and thrown on the floor which opened up ample space for cuddling on the couch.  We loved to sit on this furniture!  Until the inevitable moment when it decided that it had had enough and wanted to bow out.

It started with the chair.  Not a big deal, but we noticed that when the cushion was removed from the bottom of the chair, a broken spring could be felt, resulting in one of the rear corners creating a sagging feeling for the person sitting in it.  The couch saw this extra attention given to the chair, became jealous and decided it was not about to be out-done by something smaller than itself.  So the couch started getting saggy spots all over its base, with springs either poking through the cloth under the cushions or abandoning their assigned duties and providing absolutely no support whatsoever.  This resulted in sore butts and backs with the occasional realization, as we’re getting up from the couch, that our butts are totally numb.  Consequently, had you peeked through our front windows at the time, you would have seen us attempting to walk around the living room, our faces towards the ceiling with rather grimacing looks etched upon them as our hands massaged precious life back into our posteriors.

You can imagine at this point, then, how thrilled we were when my parents gave us their furniture–this time a couch and loveseat–which they were replacing with something newer.  It wasn’t the most comfortable set of accomadations  to use, but it was a far cry better than what we had at the time.  It didn’t take long to realize just how uncomfortable this furniture was, though.  It didn’t matter which one you sat in–they both felt the same.  Once you sat all the way down, you quickly realized just how far down you were sitting.  Soon after, it would occur to you just how quickly your back was feeling sore because the cushions on the backs of these iconic pieces of furniture had no support to them.  Then, upon realizing that your butt was getting numb (have we been here before?), you wouldn’t be able to just “get up” from where you were sitting.  You had to rock back and forth until sufficient momentum had been built up so that inertia took over and carried  you into the “getting up” position, where upon you planted your feet and rocketed into a standing position, this time with one hand massaging your butt and the other massaging the small of your back (same grimacing look upon your face as before, however).  This, of course, took longer, since only one hand had two cheeks to take care of instead of only one.  But eventually, feeling would return and the grimaced look was replaced with one of intense relief.

We got fed up enough with this set of foreboding furniture that my wife called the trash company and made arrangements to set them out by the road for them to take, even though we had nothing lined up to replace them with.  (We’ve got a summer-room swinging couch that was my grandparent’s.  We put that in the living room, but the cushions feel like you’re sitting on particle board–and the cushions that you lean against feel like you’re leaning against….well, particle board.)  As we were putting these out by the road, a car stopped and the couple inside asked if they could get their truck and take the furniture!  I told them that they could, totally forgetting to warn them of what lay ahead for their anatomy.

We have since sought out a couch/loveseat pair that shows itself very much worthy of being called “comfortable”.  Problem is, we won’t have it for another three weeks.  But this furniture is so promising,  it’ll be worth putting up with the particle-board-cushions until then….

A Christmas Carol

Christmas carols.  We all love them.  Usually.  When we don’t, it’s probably because we’re walking through Wal-Mart a week into November and already hearing Christmas music.  But barring those kind of episodes, most of us look forward to playing our favorite music and carols this time of year.

I’ve got my favorites, but in thinking about one to convey my best Christmas wishes to you today, I found it hard to settle on just one.  I thought of “We Wish You A Merry Christmas”.  Nice sentiment, but all the song is really about is singing until someone decides to hand out generous amounts of figgy pudding.  It’s an early English carol from the West Country of England about wealthy people giving “Christmas treats” to carolers.  Sure, that sounds like something worth singing for, except that these so-called “treats” were some form of figgy pudding, as previously mentioned.  This figgy pudding could have been made with figs, raisins or plums.  It really doesn’t matter, since my idea of a “Christmas treat” does not remotely involve these three…….(gag)…..things (something about fruit-cake-molasses-cookies comes to mind).

Then there was “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  Sounds like it would be a better choice, right?  This is a song that was written for Judy Garland to sing in a 1944 musical.  Her and her family were to be moving away and she is singing this to her younger sister.  The problem was that the original lyrics were so depressing that she asked the song writer to rewrite them.  Get the tune in your head and put these original lyrics to it:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

It may be your last.

Next year we may all be living in the past.

Have yourself a merry little Christmas,

Pop that champagne cork.

Next year we may all be living in New York.

I know!  Who knew??  Thankfully, when Frank Sinatra recorded this song and immortalized it in 1957, he finished the positive lyrical change by requesting that the line “Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow” be changed to something more positive.  And so the line we’ve all since heard many times was created:  “Hang a shining star upon the highest bough”.  Interestingly as well is the fact that the line ” If the fates allow” was originally “If the Lord allows”.

Since it looks like most of this country will be having a green Christmas this year, “White Christmas” came to mind.  Written in 1940, it was sung by Bing Crosby in 1942.  It is the best-selling single of all time and is #2 on the “Songs Of The Century” list–second only to Judy Garland’s “Over The Rainbow”.  This song also has the distinction of being broadcast on Armed Forces Radio as the pre-arranged signal for the U.S. evacuation of Saigon on April 30, 1975.  There have been over 500 recordings of this song, but only a handful of musical artists have included the original opening verse (my favorite being the rendition by Karen Carpenter):

The sun is shining, the grass is green,

The orange and palm trees sway.

There’s never been such a day,

In Beverly Hills, L.A.

But it’s December the twenty-fourth,

And I’m longing to be up North….

By the way, both of these last two songs I’ve mentioned were extremely important and became the mainstays that we know them to be because of WWII.

Let’s finish with this one:  “O Holy Night” is a French Christmas carol that began in the French town of Roquemaure at the end of 1843.  The local parish priest was wanting to celebrate the renovation of the church organ and asked a local native to write a Christmas poem.  Pretty remarkable, since the local native that he asked to do it was an atheist!  Music was put to it soon after and a singable version of the poem was created in 1855.  What will follow here is what amounts to the first verse and chorus of the original English translation of the poem, with the singable carol that we are all so familiar with following it.  Compare the two  and remember that an atheist wrote this remarkable piece of poetry:

English Translation

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour

When God as man descended unto us

To erase the stain of original sin

And to end the wrath of His Father.

The entire world thrills with hope

On this night that gives it a Saviour.

People, kneel down,

Await your deliverance.

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer

Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!

Christmas Carol

O holy night!

The stars are brightly shining.

It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.

Long lay the world in sin and error pining,

Till He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees!

O hear the angel voices!

O night divine,

O night when Christ was born.

O night divine,

O night, O night divine.

Just an interesting thought about this that I heard someone share recently.  The night before this one was the last night Satan and sin and death would reign.  The night that Jesus was born (and it’s a fact that this night actually happened) was the first night that things would never be the same–ever!  As of that holy night, God sending His Son like He did forever changed life on this earth as we know it.  For all of mankind–past, present and future.

It is my prayer that you have a peaceful, relaxing and fulfilling Holiday season and that you are able to see the fullness of Jesus Christ and His love for you this Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas Cookie Mahem

I suppose it’s probably the same in your household.  The Christmas lights are up….the tree has been put securely in place….(ahem)….next would have to be the annual making of the family-favorite Christmas cookies.

So what is that for you?  Cut-out cookies with lots of frosting in all kinds of colors?  Sugar cookies?  Mexican wedding cookies?  Snickerdoodles?  Candy cane cookies?  Molasses cookies?  Oh, man, the molasses cookies….

Just about every Christmas during my childhood, my Mom would decide to make a molasses cookie recipe that my Dad absolutely loved–and my brother and I hated (which says a lot when you consider that usually almost any kind of a cookie recipe will leave a kid drooling at the smell and anticipated taste of said baked cookies).  I don’t remember everything that went into this recipe, but I have very distinct memories of my parents buying those nasty colored fruit bits that go in fruit cake and lots of molasses.  Mom had these really old wooden bowls that she loved to use for things like this and would fill the biggest one with a double-batch of this molasses cookie recipe.  She would let it sit for a day or two to let all of the flavors meld and then she’d start baking them up.

The smell of these cookies baking was….well….pungent.  I like molasses cookies.  But these were–shall we say–intense.  Every year I would try to convince myself that I could handle eating them (what kid in his right mind refuses  a fresh hot cookie from the oven?  Especially when enough time has passed that he forgets just how much he hates that candied fruit?).  Those cookies had so much molasses in them that they were almost black, which worked very well for hiding all of the red, green and yellow bits of fruit hiding in each one, just waiting to explode with nauseous viciousness on the unsuspecting taste buds of an innocent child such as myself.  I would try my best to find one with the least amount of fruit bits showing, but it was a gamble on what I would find once I bit into it.  Then my Mom would frost some of them.  I love frosting!  So I already was faced with the obvious problem that none of these cookies had enough frosting on them to sustain my taste buds for any length of time.  Besides, I knew that the frosting would do something for hiding the taste of those vile, evil bits of colored nastiness.  But that only went so far.

I never did develop a taste for those.  And year after year I would inevitably try.  I’m devoted like that.  So my Mom made up for it by baking up some amazing cut-out cookies with an amazing recipe (that my wife still uses every December) and lots of wonderful frosting in plenty of holiday colors.

Merry Christmas to me!

Putting The Tree Up

Yup.  It’s that time, too.

First, the Christmas lights outside.  Then the Christmas tree inside.  Fake or real, they’re beautiful when they’re finished, aren’t they?  But what about the work it takes to get to that point?  Uh-huh.  I know.  Me too.  But it’s worth it, isn’t it…

We grew up  with an artificial tree (probably a six-footer) with big round colored lights that had “ice crystals” on them (remember those from the 70’s?).  Had that set-up for years.  Then eventually my parents decided to go the “real tree” route.  Talk about a learning curve.  Between the tree sucking up all of the tree juice (if you’ve had a real tree before, you know the stuff I’m talking about) and finding dried up pine needles in the carpeting 6 months later (and by “finding” I mean that a pine needle is embedded in your foot because you stepped on it), it was downright hard at times to keep it looking lush and green and alive until Christmas.

If you aren’t familiar with the “real tree” experience, part of that project is cutting a couple of inches off of the trunk of the tree before you put the tree in the treestand.  That cut needs to be even–for a reason.  One of the first “real tree” seasons for us found us wrapping up our decorating of the tree one night.  We’re all standing around the tree, admiring our work.  As we’re looking at it, the tree appears to be leaning to the right.  And leaning more.  And it’s not stopping.  That’s right, it’s not leaning–it’s falling.  We all saw it at the same time and leaped for the tree trunk to grab it before it totally fell over.  We caught it just in time and only had a few glass bulbs fall off.  Once we righted the tree, we found that it wouldn’t stay–probably due to an uneven cut at the base of it–and so, our MacGyver solution was to pound a nail into the trim around the windows on each side of the tree and tie a piece of sewing string from one nail, wrap it around the trunk a few times and tie it off on the other nail.  Believe it or not, it worked for the whole season!

So let’s fast-forward to my first Christmas season on my own in my own house.  I had recently moved into this house and was looking forward to my first Christmas tree being a real tree!  And not just any real tree–I wanted a white pine (remember my story about white pines?).  So I drove out to a “real tree” farm where you cut the tree down yourself.  I saw a group of three or four trees together and saw the smallest one.  All the while trying to picture the small sitting room in my house that the tree was going to go in.  That “small” tree that I saw next to the other ones was looking just perfect!

So I cut it down and brought it home.  I couldn’t wait to get it in the sitting room and get it all decorated!  I got the room all cleaned out and ready for the tree….I got the trunk cut off nice and even….I got the door open and ready for the tree….and found that I could hardly get the tree into the house.  By the time I got the tree into the sitting room and had it set up in the treestand, it came close to filling up half of the room.  But nonetheless, it was beautiful when I was done!  It sure made my Dad laugh, though.  It dwarfed the room and made for a very memorable Christmas season…..