Tag Archives: Christmas

Two Deer And A Senior

Do you remember the M65 trash bag story I told you about that involved me and my best friend from high school?  That story is worth checking out, but to refresh your memory a bit, Rick and I go way back to middle school years.  I was usually the “straight man” while he was the comic, delivering various jokes, stories, goofs, pranks and the like which always resulted in laughter–if nowhere else but from Rick himself.  This, of course, brought laughter from those looking on anyway because he’s just got that kind of a laugh.  Ever known anyone like that?  It’s truly a gas!  (And sometimes that was also the reason he was laughing…..odors most foul.)  So with that little tidbit of background information, the following is something he shared with me when we caught up recently:

Rick has a large field behind his house that more or less separates his property from his Dad’s.  Sometime before hunting season, he and his son, Parker, built a deer blind for this season’s hunting escapades.  Here’s what it looks like:

 

Yes, you’re right, that’s him (apparently contemplating what took place in yonder field).  And yes, you’re right about that as well:  it is made almost exclusively out of old doors.  It’s rather ingenious, actually.  He made use of what he already had–these old doors came from an old barn behind his house–even cutting strategic openings into the doors to be able to shoot in any direction.  He and Parker have each gotten a deer from this blind, even sleeping all night in it to do so.  And, believe it or not, a high school senior actually had pictures taken with this blind!

That being said, this is where it gets…..interesting.

The deer that Rick shot, he gutted in the field to the left of the blind in the picture above.  To the right of the blind, his Dad keeps a trailer:

After gutting the deer, Rick got inspired with wisdom and grabbed his Dad’s trailer, bringing it over to where the deer was in the field and loading the deer into the trailer to avoid dragging it up to his property.  He then brought it into the old barn that he got the doors from to let it bleed out.  (To do so, he backed the trailer into the barn and hung the deer from a rafter that was over the trailer.  Then he put a bucket in the trailer underneath the deer to catch everything.  I won’t go into detail about what ended up being in that bucket, but suffice it to say that it was more than just blood.)  Once this was completed, he put the trailer back in the field where he had gotten it.

Shortly after this, his Dad needed the trailer to haul some Christmas decorations.  At one point while he had the trailer loaded with Christmas stuff, it was dark outside.  He needed to get something out of the trailer and with it being dark out, he just groped around in the trailer, trying to find whatever it was he was looking for.  His groping suddenly stopped, however, when he found his hand deep inside the bucket that Rick forgot to remove from the trailer.  I imagine Rick’s Dad completely forgot what he was even looking for, his focus totally absorbed with where his hand was at that moment.  It’s just my observation, but there probably should have been a second bucket to catch something else that was probably coming up as well.

Rick and his Dad share a similar personality, so I’m not surprised at all that apparently neither one saw that the bucket was still in the trailer, even during daylight.  Rick said that his Dad still isn’t laughing about it yet.  I wonder how long that will take…..

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…..

Hanging The Lights

It was somewhere around my middle-school years that I came up with what I thought was an astounding idea for a holiday project.  I mused over it for a few days and then proposed the idea to my parents.  I offered my labor in putting up Christmas lights on the house, garage and front bushes if Mom and Dad would foot the bill for the lights and other stuff I would have to buy if this was to happen.

I was given free reign!  I had a blast buying everything “we” needed for the project:  new lights for the roof and garage, plenty of extension cords and then, for the six to seven bushes at the front of the house, plenty of lights to cover them with little twinkling  sparkles of colored goodness–all in the hopes that they would be seen through an inch or two of fresh snow some time that season (there’s nothing like seeing the subtle glow of Christmas lights through a fresh blanket of snow!).

But then my inexperience kicked in.  Me being the virgin Christmas-lights-putter-upper, I had all of the lights on the bushes plugged together with a single outdoor extension cord supplying the power.  That resulted in the constant blowing out of single lights here and there, with the occasional blowing of a whole strand.  I would come home from school and plug the lights in at dusk only to find another strand of lights wasn’t working (usually due to one nefarious blown-out bulb that refused to identify itself).  And back then, you didn’t have the “one-light-out-and-the -strand-stays-lit” light sets that are out there today.  No sir.  It was either throwing the whole stinkin’ light strand away just so I wouldn’t have to mess with it or going through each light to see if it worked or not.  So inevitably I would be found outside with a flashlight in one hand and a new bulb in the other, following the circles of darkened lights draped upon any one of the many bushes out front.  With snotcicles forming under my nose, I would try to pry with my cold numb fingers (because–of course–you can’t perform that task with gloves on) each tiny bulb from its peaceful nest within the strand without breaking it–only to find that as soon as I did find the nasty culprit and replace it, a totally different strand would blow shortly afterwards.

Well, many years have come and gone since then–with every Christmas season seeing me outside and up on the roof getting the lights situated on the house and surrounding landscape.  It went from the lights at my parents’ house up through my mid-twenties to my own house for a few years to the house my wife and I have been in since we got married fourteen years ago.  The concern of having too many strands of lights plugged in together and blowing bulbs or fuses is no longer an issue.  Now, instead of having four or five strands plugged in together and blowing lightbulbs, I have LED lights that actually tell you not to plug more than thirty strands of lights together at one time.

And now I find myself instilling the same tradition in my boys.  We just finished getting the lights up for this Christmas season on Thanksgiving morning.  My boys are soon-to-be 11 and just-over 12 and they both already have plenty of memories of helping me up on the roof with Christmas lights.  (Granted, the first few years of them being old enough saw them only coming up on the roof for a picture or to “help me” by just sitting in one spot and not moving.  But now they can actually help!)

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Their help this time cut what has taken 7 to 8 hours of time in past attempts at hanging the lights down to 3 1/2 hours.  I was very happy!  And they look wonderful.  I don’t have a recent picture, but here’s one that is very similar to what we just did:

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They’ve been bugging my wife all week about “getting the lights up”.  And all morning while we were up on the roof, I heard both of them talk about how much they love putting up the Christmas lights and that they can’t wait to be doing this with their kids.

And so it lives on!

A Pilgrim And A Turkey

As we all know, Thanksgiving is only four days away.  Which brings to mind the fact that I’ll have to put away my Pilgrim/Turkey ensemble for another year.

You’re probably already asking yourself, “What on God’s green earth are you referring to?”  Well, let me take you back to my 2nd grade school year.  What would I have been….seven years old? (I would have turned eight that year, but not until May).  So we’re talking 37 years ago, since I don’t turn 45 until May next year.

It was Mrs. Frank’s class.  My first recollection of that school year is an oriental kid by the name of Moon Kim.  What makes him so memorable for me is the fact that he stabbed my hand with a pencil.  An accident–I think.  He was “acting” like he was going to stab me with his pencil, so my lightening-quick reflexes kicked in and my hand shot up in front of me to protect my sensitive person from this sudden threat to my well-being.  And before I knew it, I had a pencil stuck in my hand.  I remember turning my hand over, watching the pencil rotate with it, and distinctly thinking two things:  1) I feel no pain…that’s odd; and 2)  What the….???  You can still see the gray pencil-lead coloring where it happened (it’s the dark spot at the bottom of my middle finger–the picture and 37 years of skin growth over the pencil-lead don’t do it justice, but you get the idea):

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So where do a pilgrim and a turkey come into this story?  Well, Mrs. Frank was quite the “art-class-involved” teacher.  Which meant that every season through Christmas Break we were in the art room working on some sort of seasonal masterpiece.  October was a witch and a spider (the witch made out of an empty glass Coke bottle and paper-mache, the spider made out of an empty dixie cup, paper-mache and black pipe-cleaners for the legs); November saw a pilgrim (male for the boys, female for the girls) and a turkey (again, the pilgrim made from the classic empty glass Coke bottle and paper-mache, the turkey made of a styrofoam ball for the body, a half-ball for the base and a combination of paper-mache and feathers covering everything);  and December saw us making three things:  a Santa (don’t remember how we made him), a Christmas tree (made out of a cone-shaped piece of styrofoam and plaster-of-paris, with a base of a dixie-cup filled with hard plaster–which comes off of the stick in the bottom of the tree, making it a tempting prospect to fling at someone if they get out of line) and a chimney (made out of the body of an empty grade-school pint-sized container of milk).

As is the same with you, the years have come and gone.  And over those years, most of those things have not survived (carelessness and mice being the two biggest culprits).  But I still have the Christmas tree, and the pilgrim and turkey are alive and well!  The pilgrim lost his gun and his bucket a long time ago, but everything else is just about like I made it 37 years ago:

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So Happy Thanksgiving!  And may your memories live on as well….

Bethism #2

So the other Bethism that my wife likes to periodically repeat occurs in the kitchen and usually involves the use of her KitchenAid mixer.

Long ago, we not only bought one of these fine machines but also purchased the “splash guards” that fit the top of its mixing bowl.  They’re apparently handy for preventing ingredients from flying up out of the bowl and attaching themselves to your face, hair, clothing and any objects in the immediate vicinity.  We wouldn’t know, though, because all they have done in our family is sit around and collect dust.  Whenever either one of us grabs the mixer, we always set the guards aside, figuring we really aren’t going to need them.  After all, what could possibly happen?

Enter my wife, stage right.

She is very good at what she does in the kitchen!  She had a great teacher in her mother as my wife grew up, and she has learned many tricks of the trade over the years that we’ve been married.  But whenever I know she is going to do something that involves the mixer, my antennae is up, alert to any peculiar sounds emanating from either her or her equipment as she works her mojo in her kitchen.

The most recent event occurred about a year and a half ago, probably involving Christmas cookies.  I was in the other room and heard a whoop from the kitchen.  I had a feeling that I knew what had just happened as I made my way to her domain with phone camera in hand.  Sure enough, I entered the kitchen to see her standing in front of the mixer with flour and miscellaneous ingredients all over her front.  I found out from her that she dropped one of the attachments in the bowl as it was running (I later realized that I never thought to find out why or how this happend).  I looked down on the floor and there’s dough and flour splayed out in a perfect “V”, an arm of it spread out on either side of where she was standing.  Then I looked up.  The same V-shaped splay of dough and flour was cast acrossed the ceiling, the dough hanging in suspended strings of floury goodness as it spread out from the location of the mixer.  It was a masterful display of Bethism finesse and prowess if ever I saw it!  So I promptly took pictures and video to record this, her most daring and artistic Bethism to date.

(I still have the pictures and videos of these events for promotional purposes.  They are not for public use as of this juncture, but for a fee, I could let you “borrow” them….)

A Rabbit Trail

It’s a beautiful day, isn’t it?  We’ve gotten some snow since we last walked.  Take a look over there to the right.  See those prints in the snow?  They’re rabbit tracks and they look pretty fresh!  I’m sure this rabbit trail will come back out onto the main trail on up ahead of us.  C’mon…..

Because it’s just that time of year, and this is the Sunday before Christmas, I thought we’d talk about a certain Christmas song:  “Have A Holly Jolly Christmas”.

Most everyone knows this song by the voice that we’ve all heard sing it–Mr. Burl Ives.  He wasn’t the first to sing it, however.  He sang it in 1965, but the Quinto Sisters (I know, me too–who??) sang it first in 1964, the same year that it was heard in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer–yes, sung by Burl Ives, but an official holiday recording by him wasn’t made until the following year.  The song was actually written by a man named Johnny Marks, along with the Rudolph song, for the Rudolph show itself.

So where am I going with this?  Well, there are two lines of lyrics in this song that have always seemed to jump out at me–like when something makes you do a double-take and causes you to ask yourself, “Did I hear that right?”.   Check this out:

Ho ho the mistletoe
Hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you
Kiss her once for me

“Kiss her once for me???  Ok, Johnny, why are you wanting to kiss my wife?  First, if a woman is actually waiting for me at the mistletoe, do you really think I’m going to kiss her for you?  And second, the only woman that would be waiting for me at any mistletoe would be my wife.  So, Johnny, why are you wanting to kiss my wife?  Hmmm??  You know what that makes me think?  “Them thar’s faghtin’ wards, ain’t dey?”  How many men have you ticked off with those two lines, Johnny?  I’ll bet quite a few and they’re probably thinking, “Hold it, bud.  You want me to do what for who?  That’s my woman, dude.  Oh, I’m about to go off on you!  You want summa ‘dis?  Game on!  Here Comes The Boom, Baby!  Jingle BAM!!  Didja feel that one?  Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee!  I’ll deck your halls….”

Hmmm.  Ok, that’s a bit over-the-edge.  But what if….anyway, one thing is for sure, Johnny.  You have accomplished something that, to the best of my knowledge, no one else has done:  You have forever immortalized flirting with another man’s woman….in a Christmas song.  But, in the big scheme of things, I guess that’s ok.  I suppose there’s no harm done (as far as we know).  Just find your own mistletoe, Johnny, and steer clear of my wife.

That’s really an amazing feat, isn’t it?  Want to know something equally as amazing?  I’ll bet you won’t ever be able to hear this song again without reflecting back on what you’ve just read….and finding a smile has crept across your face at the memory of it.

So, hey–HAVE A HOLLY JOLLY CHRISTMAS!!!