Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It’s The Wind Up

Christmas is almost here, in case you missed that little fact. Maybe you’re way more organized than I am and, by now, are sitting around your toasty fire (or swimming pool for my southern hemisphere friends) sipping a mocha latte. Not me. It’s more fudge making this morning, gift wrapping, house cleaning, and then fudge delivery (but I LOVE that part).

I don’t have a great deal in the way of family traditions passed down, especially from my father’s side of the family, but THE FUDGE is one thing I do have.

It was my great-grandmother’s recipe and is only handed down to the next generation when their complete discretion can be counted on. I didn’t qualify until I was in my 30’s which probably speak volumes about my character. That’s when my aunt took me aside and made me swear an oath never to reveal the secret except to my own children. It would seem it’s the original See’s recipe and I honestly cannot tell the difference between the two so I’m likely to believe it.

The fudge is requested each year with great anticipation by some of my friends and neighbors and my girlfriend’s nine-year-old son, Andrew, even requested the fudge – in a pan – for his birthday cake two years ago. I found out at the Christmas parade that he wanted it again this year but she wouldn’t let him ask me. DIANE. The child can have a pan of fudge ANYTIME he wants one! Andrew!! Don’t ask your mother! Call me directly! I’ll slip you my number later today.

And I’m back from my travels to Bakersfield to see dear, life-long friends, Jeannette and Jo Ann. We’ve known each other since I was three and those friendships are more like family……well, family you want to see. Jo Ann was here from Missoula, Montana so we had to grab the visit while we could, even amidst the Christmas rush.

Officially, I’m saying good-bye until after the New Year and will be taking some time off to have family time and maybe get a project or two done. I pray you all have a blessed experience celebrating in your own particular way and I want to thank you for all the gifts you’ve given me this year. Your sweet support and comments are gifts I can return to and they continue to bless me. I wish I could sit across from each one of you, hold your hands, look into your eyes and thank you for being my friends, walking with me through this year, and sharing your lives with me. I’ve learned so much from you.

I’d like to rerun my Christmas post from last year when I was just starting out in the blog world because it still warms my heart and I hope it does the same for you. Here it is:


A Christmas Story – But Not The One With The Leg Lamp

I don't think I can top the Bumpkiss' dogs or the fish-net leg lamp. I can identify with Ralphie in "A Christmas Story" when he has to suck on a bar of Lifeboy soap. I became a regular connoisseur of the latest "on-sale" bar soap when I was a kid. Lux, Lifeboy, Dial, Ivory. Apparently getting cleaned from the inside out was the way to approach child rearing. Maybe it was a chaser for the bleach I accidentally drank from a Ball canning jar several years earlier. My heart may have its stains but my intestines are clean as a whistle.

It was during this same period my Christmas story takes place. It wasn't humorous but it was definitely happy. I remembered it today when the kids and I were part of the follow-up team for handing out Christmas food and gifts collected by the company Grizzly works for. We volunteered for the privilege because who doesn't want to be part of that kind of Christmas cheer? Of course, I groused about schedule logistics (note last blog) even though I truly, truly wanted to do it. I mean really, WHAT is my DEAL?!

We drove across town to the warehouse, picked up seven boxes of groceries and a few toys, and headed to the home of a single mother with lots of children. The neighborhood was down-trodden but several neighbors stood against the blight with cheery light displays and decorations.

The home sat on a quiet corner, surrounded by a chain link fence. A chewed rope hung limply from a metal pole advertising a dog no longer tethered there. I walked up and tapped lightly, feeling slightly awkward and apologetic. The door creaked open and out peeked little shining faces, obviously excited to see strangers bearing gifts. A teenage son arrived home just in time to help unload the car and serve as translator. His mother spoke only Spanish and I spoke only English. He stared at us through dark-lashed eyes that were guarded with a mixture of suspicion and embarrassment. He couldn't have been much older than Hunter. I wondered if my son wouldn't have felt much the same. I sensed his gratitude but also felt the sting that charity might bring to a young man. He quietly complied with my request to let his mother know I had been on the receiving end of a Christmas delivery when I was child. I suppose I wanted her to realize (and him to understand even more) that I knew how it felt on both sides and it was a blessing to give back. Her shy smile showed her appreciation, and discomfort as well. It truly is more blessed to give than to receive.

I wanted to share my own story with them but I couldn't invade their emotional space. He needed me to leave; she needed me to leave; and they couldn't have been more quietly gracious about it. I drove away remembering a Christmas that wouldn't have happened but for the intervention of friends and strangers.

I was ten and my sister and brother several years older. It had been a year of great upheaval. Well, come to think of it, I guess all of our years were years of great upheaval but this one came with even less money. My mother had just landed a good job but found out right before Christmas there would be no paycheck. It was a government job and the policy was to withhold the first check to be used for future severance pay.

The morning of Christmas Eve arrived but there was no sign of Christmas at our house. We had often gotten our tree on Christmas Eve because they were rock-bottom priced then. But on this day there was no discussion of a trip to the tree lot. The pantry was pretty bare and there hadn't been any talk of presents except to say there wouldn't be any. I don't remember being worried that we would eat beans for our Holiday dinner, but I do recall wondering afterwards what the menu would have been.

I think, on that day, I must have been in that beautiful place children live in their minds; the place that helps them believe everything will be alright somehow; the place where magical thinking rules and reality doesn't have a prayer. And it was in that moment that a knock came to the door. My sister and I opened it and saw our mother's friend, "Aunt" Fran. She had her husband with her and much more importantly, to our minds, the most beautiful white-flocked Christmas tree in tow. Now, our trees had been pretty much the bargain variety and we had never entertained the idea of a tree this grand. This was purview of the rich; the domain of the entitled. We were suddenly and at once part of this club of exclusivity. Aunt Fran was the prosperous owner of a nursery school that was much in demand. It was always immaculate and beautifully appointed. Each year, at the school, she prominently displayed her faith in God and her exquisite tree. It would normally have remained up through the New Year but this year she and "Uncle" Austin dismantled it and brought it to our house, along with the ornaments.

We had barely begun redecorating the tree when there was another sound at the door. Representatives of The Lions Club stood on our doorstep with arms full of boxes filled with ham, canned goods, and items far more tempting than beans. They left everything on our dining room table, wished us well and "Merry Christmas" and were gone. Here was food and here was a gorgeous tree. How could it get any better? In a matter of minutes it did. Another rapping at the door brought members of First Baptist Church bearing more food and wrapped presents. I can still see the white tissue paper and red ribbon wrapped around what I knew was a game. I couldn't wait to open it the next day. I don't know what the other gifts were that year but I was the happy recipient of "Sorry" and it's the game the kids and I still use after all these years.

Apparently, Aunt Fran had placed us on a few "needy family" lists and I'll be forever grateful that she did. It wasn't until years later I realized how close we were to having a very different Christmas experience. It was nothing short of a miracle to me and yet it lived up to my faith that all would be well. And for that time and for that day, it was. And that was enough.
I hope it will be the same for the dear family we met today. I pray a bright memory of Christmas miracles lives on in the hearts of the kiddos there and, if only for a short while, a burden is lifted for a weary mother. I hope a tentative young son feels compelled to drop his guard. I think that might be the case. I hugged his mother and then turned to him to pat his arm. He started to lean in for a hug, too, then caught himself. But it had happened, nonetheless, and in that moment, if only for a moment, I think all was well.

May you have the merriest of Christmases, my friends, and may God richly bless you.

With Love,

© Copyright 2008/2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Trouble With My Vowels

If you’re a gal who pulls all vowels and one weird consonant when playing Scrabble, then you have to marry a guy who pulls all consonants and one weird vowel.

It says so in the marriage handbook.

On Thanksgiving, this was how it shaped up. After 23 years we finally figured out why we’re together.


On a fundamental level we understand each other. My vowels are a problem and he’s consonated.

And you know what that spells: romance.

© Copyright 2009

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Goofballs Keep Me Sane

This guy on the left keeps me crackin’ up. That’s my Wild Man. (Blurry photo as I try to sneak up on them.)


The guy on the right keeps me crackin’ up. That’s his sidekick, Mr. Drama.


They have a ball together and could talk all the legs off a centipede. They could power a small country with jaw movement alone. They regularly injure one another in wrestling matches trying to establish who is dumb and who is dumber. Right now, it’s a tie.


They’re killin’ time here between performances in a production.

At least they weren’t killing each other.

The Wild Man has one wrist in a brace and an injured thumb on the other side after the smack down a few days ago.

Yep, it’s good to be fourteen, heavy on testosterone and energy, light on gray matter. Hopefully, this will balance out when he gets older.

Probably around 75.


© Copyright 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like HOLIDAY?


Okay. So I was watching a commercial on television with my nearly grown children (who undoubtedly were basking in the glow of my presence) when onto the screen loomed a mother, Christmas shopping with her teenage son. Said son whipped out a gift he bought to give to a sibling and mom replied to him in surprised tones, “You bought a holiday present for your brother?!”

“A holiday present?” my children and I replied in unison.

And this would go under the holiday tree? What holiday would that be exactly? I don’t know……Christmas?

I know retailers, in an effort to be financially correct and carve out any possible green from all wallets of any persuasion, have assumed the position of neutrality. “Holiday” and “Holiday Tree” are the new correct terms. But there IS no neutral and there is no need for correction. Guess what? It’s Christmas! It’s about Christ. Being born. For us. In a manger. In Bethlehem. Around this time of year.

When Meredith Wilson penned the now famous words “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” she had an opportunity to use the term “holiday.” She didn’t. And there’s something about, “I’m dreaming of a white holiday,” that just doesn’t have the same warm, fuzzy glow to it. Irvin Berlin knew what worked and called it "the best song he, or anyone, ever wrote." And he was proudly Jewish.

But if the word “Christmas” isn’t safe, what other words might become fiscally or politically offensive to those who want our dollars or would seek to control our beliefs?

What will we do with the song, “O Christmas Tree?”

O holiday tree, O holiday tree,

Thy leaves are so unchanging (well, except of course we understand that nothing is cast in stone and if you want to change we will support your decision),

Not only green when summer’s here (or rather, we mean that time of year when the position of the earth – be it northern or southern hemispheres – is closer to the sun….it is not our intention to limit you to the term ‘summer’),

But also when ‘tis cold and drear (understand that we are not attempting to cast judgment by intimating the positional rotation away from the sun is in any way negative),

O holiday tree, O holiday tree,

Let’s just forget we sang of thee.”

And can “A Charlie Brown Christmas” ever be the same if we must now call it “A Charlie Brown Holiday?” What will we sing when we hear the theme song? This?

Holiday time is here……”

Perhaps we should change ALL special days to reflect greater inclusion of every possibility and build in apologies as well. Maybe New Year’s Day could be “Culturally and Historically Egocentric Day of Western Civilization Time Marking.” Definitely makes you feel like popping a cork on the bubbly.

We in America err gravely I’m sure to celebrate Independence Day each July Fourth. Far less divisive to call it, “Lack of Cultural Sensitivity Day Wherein We Did Not Strive to Be Good Citizens by Working in Unison With A Somewhat Oppressive, Albeit Temporarily Misguided, Overseas Monarchy That Seemed Unwilling, Or Perhaps Unable, to Represent Our Interests.” Pack that in your fireworks and explode ‘em.

And in celebration, as we raise aloft our sparklers, let us not hail that Star Spangled Banner over the “land of the free.” Let us sew a picture of the whole world onto one flag so as not to celebrate that we in America, with our stars and stripes, are the home of the brave. We may be sending a message that “you, over there, are not.”

So, lift your spiced egg milk product, throw a cement log on the gas jet, let Jack or Jane Frost nip (no, that sounds distinctly like drinking and could be misconstrued as an alcohol endorsement), er, touch you on the nose (if that’s agreeable to you and you do not feel it creates a hostile holiday environment), and sing your non-descript carols. And have yourself a happy little holiday now.

Wow. I feel sort of tingly and sentimental. Don’t you?

© Copyright 2009

Photo Courtesy of:

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I’m Such A Child

Does marching up and down the street pretending you’re actually IN the parade and embarrassing your children count for anything? I believe this type of activity is important to desensitize my progeny. This way, when they walk out of the bathroom with toilet paper trailing behind them or they accidentally spit food on their date, it will be child’s play. They will say, “We survived our mother. Humiliation has no power over us.” And they will have me to thank.

You're welcome.

Aren’t you obligated to march around and be filled with wonderment and joy when you hear music, see twinkling Christmas lights, and have a party of twenty five friends all determined to have a merry time in the nippy, windy cold?

And the first thing down the street was my FAVORITE entry each year. I have no idea what it’s called but I want one. These photo effects could call my sobriety into question…….

(click to embiggen – good luck)


image See?

The people ride in the center and I wanna be one of those people.

The drought’s been so bad here we have to put our boats to use on land.imageAnd hey, it’s Clovis…….we’re a rodeo town….we gotta have our horses…..


image……and country music. Advice to KISS Country - Allison Krause should be on the side of that bus.


And Jeeps……being a Jeep gal myself I think this is a vital part of the parade.




This one had so many lights he ran with a generator on top. Bo spotted that. I could see her making plans for our Jeep and generator.


And then other 4x4’s got in the show……

image This one was a favorite. I’d use it for my Christmas tree and shove the presents under the differential.

imageAnd no self respecting cowboy town would be complete without its semi trucks (this was AWEsome)…..imageAnd the really old cars….

image And the rare cars… this Kaiser Traveler.

imageIt’s older than I am and I appreciate that about a car. I ran down the road after it just to keep getting photos. My son was hollering after me, “What are you DOING?” Gee whiz. Doesn’t he know by now?

imageThe marching band has to get in there and if you’re having Irish Coffee while you’re staring at this it should look just perfect to you.


This one as well. But check out the light trails on the drumsticks. Whoa. Dude.


Here come the sweet ones with the kiddos.


image And finally, the float that sums up the season. The one about CHRISTmas. Love this.



So there you have it. Proof (on the banner over the street) that you’re supposed to be a child to attend. I qualified. And I’m proud to be a Clovisite, or Clovisian, or a Clovisonian…..whatever it is we’re called. We have an identity crisis around here. We used to be a little bitty town. Now we have over 100,000 people and no one’s ever heard of us. They never give the weather for Clovis, only Fresno. We aren’t on the maps on the local news. Shoot, we can’t even elect our mayor. It’s an appointed position that harkens back to the time when we only had three people in the town and they had shoot-outs over who got to be mayor and wear the three piece suit. (I'm sure I'm next in line to be town historian.) We have one guy whose been mayor about 48 times. Hi Harry.

But we are who we are and you can see we don’t let it stop us. If you’re ever in central California, slow down, turn east, and you’ll find us at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

Our official town motto? “Clovis Is A Way of Life.” And all I can say is, “Boy Howdy!”

Thanks for coming to the parade with me. :-)

© Copyright 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Small Town Christmas Fun


No, it’s not a float but doesn’t it look like it could be? This is some hearty soul’s house and I wish he lived next door to me. I don’t have one light hung, no tree, well, it’s leaned against the shed out back being hosed down with water as I write. (Gets rid of dead needles and spider hitch-hikers who FREAK me out when I reach into the tree and they reach back.) Shudder.

Back to floats…….Tonight we’ll be seeing lots of them and some will probably look like this. Downtown Clovis always has an electric light parade the first weekend in December and we try never to miss it because it’s so homespun. There’ll be semi-trucks, Jeeps, horses, marching bands, decorated dogs, and kids wrapped up like presents.

Usually a few friends join us and we huddle up and drink hot chocolate or Starbucks and munch cookies and popcorn while we talk about how we’re freezing. However, this is California – low level elevation California. Freezing is relative. It’ll probably be clear down in the 40’s for those of you in snow country who would probably be in swimsuits here. But we’ll shiver anyway and bring blankets and coats and love every minute of it. And I’m breaking with tradition and making iced cranberry and orange scones. For the moms. And LOTS of friends are coming this year so it should be a blast. All I can say is…..

Wish YOU were here!

Oh yeah, and I also wish Santa would visit while I’m gone tonight and decorate my house but not before cleaning it and doing all my laundry. Why can’t a girl get what she REALLY wants?

© Copyright 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why, It Was Only Yesterday

Well, and the 364 other yesterdays.


That’s when I pushed my pin into the blogosphere map and marked out my territory….my little spot in the blog world.

This was my original post (obviously the blog name changed but my sentiments remain identical):

I'm Finally Here!

For all who have waited breathlessly for my opinions, reflections, and life-changing insights,(both of you), I have arrived.I named my blog "Laugh Til You Die" because I can't handle life without finding something to laugh about on a nearly daily basis. While it's true there are experiences in our lives which come without any humor, most of the time we can find a chuckle even in the dark. For me, the laughing lights a light so I can navigate. If I must face all difficulties with intense sobriety and "appropriate" seriousness, I forfeit joy. And joy is God's gift to me. I hope to use it until I leave for heaven and then I hope to get new material.

What was I hoping for and what did I expect?

I hoped for readers and just maybe followers as well.

I expected myself to write. I wasn’t worried about subject matter because I’ve always been able to make much ado about nothing. That didn’t offer my reader the promise of anything substantial but I figured I could fill a page.

I had no idea how time consuming it would be.

I had no idea how important it would feel…..the sense of responsibility I would develop toward it.

(All my sentences are beginning with “I.” It’s the mark of a superior writer.)

I wanted a place to be accountable for consistent writing. A book felt a tad overwhelming back then but a post every day or two or three? Doable. Most of the time.

What I didn’t expect was actual friends.

I figured a few hearty souls would belly up to my bombastic bar, drop a comment or two in the tip jar, and be on their way to partake of finer fare available at the more posh blog houses in the village run by professional proprietors. Finding out I had regular patrons who actually made my humble establishment their destination of choice was heady stuff. And I let it fuel my desire to write and connect. It made me feel as though I had something to say. (Not sure if that's true but I said it anyway.) Maybe I couldn’t consider it my magnum opus but I decided to carpe diem even if it meant the occasional mea culpa. After all, caveat emptor.

(I have wanted to trail out my Latin for awhile but will now cease before I hurt myself. All I have left in the arsenal anyway are my conjugated verbs about love and I get those mixed up with my Spanglish.)

But you and I became friends. And miles and face-to-face visits weren’t necessary to find myself invested in your lives, your health, your relationships, and your hearts. And, likewise, you took me in. I began to speak of my friends on the east coast, or in the Midwest, or Canada, or Sweden, the U.K., or Australia. A few came in from African countries and sometimes Russia would drop by, or China, or India, and other places. And my world expanded and I had NO IDEA what it was I could possibly say that brought any of you here in the first place. But you came. And I thank you for your faithful visits and time and words and words and WORDS of encouragement. I could stop right now and have enough loving words to drag me out of any depression for the rest of my life. You are TOO good to me and that isn’t humility on my part – it’s fact. I’m not nearly as terrific as you all make me sound.

I’ve always told Grizzly I want to have my funeral while I’m alive so if anyone has anything good to say, I’ll be able to hear it, and look here – I have. (He likes to remind me that in my regular life people will like me a lot better when I’m dead and will be inclined to be more generous then. He's such a riot.)

So yahoo! I made it. I read statistics somewhere – unverified though they may be – that 70% of all bloggers wash out before a year is up, or at least quit posting. Do you think that’s true? Who knows but I’m happy to look back at 250 posts (including both blogs) and think, “I’m still at it.”

Life happens. Breaks happen. If you’re really lucky, vacations happen. And I have GOT to write my books so I know that will take me away sometimes. (I’m sure I could sell at least 14 copies if four of you would be willing to buy one and I buy the other ten.) But I don’t want to say goodbye. I am a citizen of this place now and we’re walking through life together – messy, lovely, funny… name it.

Who knew all this was waiting on the other side of that little door I peeked through?


© Copyright 2009

Photos courtesy of