Saturday, December 27, 2014

Running to the finish line....

Isn't this just the B.E.S.T. time of year? Christmas was wonderful (hopefully yours too), but it's behind us, and I know that for a fact because I was at Target yesterday and the only gift wrap left was Pepto Bismal pink or just plain ugly. So ugly that Cub Sweetheart said to me, when I considered buying it anyway, "Bev, that's really not very nice." Which may have meant he didn't want any of his packages wrapped in Pepto Bismal pink next year. Understandable. The shelves, full only days before, had all apparently been attacked by a hoard of locusts, til they were picked completely to the bone.

So I bought a few garlands of white things and brown things, to decorate for winter. Which will stay up in Idaho until May, and in Texas til March 1, which explains why we spend most of winter in Texas instead of Idaho..... March decor in Texas involves beach towels and flip flops and such.

Both of my daughters have earned reputations for stripping the house of anything Christmas at the earliest possible moment, and sometimes that's in the waning hours of December 25. I'm more of a 'leave it til mid-January' unless life is packed too full, and the stuff around me begins to get under my skin and the need for cleared out spaces takes over. Which likely explains why my daughters, with six  kids between them may undecorate so quickly. When I was at their stage of life, and it all started getting to me, I generally gave away pets and toys. They undecorate.

As of today I've got five days to finish up anything 2014, and one of them doesn't really count since it's New Year's Eve and that day will be spent baking and cooking for a get-together still to be planned I suspect.

Here's what's left:

Finish reading the Bible, and the books left would normally take three months, but I'm determined to finish. It's much like, in a very sacrilegious way, accomplishing the first few of the eating challenges on Survivor, only to quit when they get to live bugs or cow blood. If you can't make it through the whole challenge, then why did you eat the first few bugs and such? So I'll be reading the Bible every chance I get for the next five days, trying to finish. I'm thinking that I've already read Leviticus and Revelation (my two least-favorite books) will help ensure success.

Knit the rest of this stocking cap, which was coming along swimmingly until I left the pattern in the back of the seat in front of me on the plane, because someone was trying to escape her on-board crate. After a mere two hours of searching online, which could have been spent reading books of the Bible or knitting said hat, I finally, finally found it, and have learned to save patterns to my Ravelry library. I'm thinking this hat will stay on my head, but not smash my hair so that when I remove it I appear to have been on the deck of a boat, blasted by lake mist for hours on end. For any knitters out there it's called Sarah's Highlander Beret Knit Hat, knitted and designed by Catherine Basten - free on Ravelry and easy peasy to knit up. If you don't lose the pattern.

Spend several hours fretting over the fact that one of our Christmas boxes has yet to arrive, in spite of spending $45 to ship it through the post office, with tracking and insurance, which so far has not helped a whit to ensure its delivery. I sent the post office an email this morning, and they assure me they will respond in three days, and I have complete faith in that, based on their great service so far.....

Spend a few more hours trying to remember what was in the lost package, so if and when it doesn't arrive I will be able to file a claim and figure out how to show the value of my 20 year old snow pants, or all the hand-made gifts I spent hours making. Not bitter. Not crying. Not cursing.

Read Shepherd's Abiding again. When I'm not reading books of the Bible, because it is the perfect read between Christmas and New Year's. After meeting Jan Karon earlier this year it's an even more special read, so I'm copying my cyber-friend, Becky who rereads it every Christmas.

Make a starting list for books to read in 2015, half fiction and half not. Santa gave me Wild, and a book I think is called Me Before You, plus I've got a Shauna Niequist, two of Sophie Hudson's and Sally Clarkson's new book is coming out any day too. So many books, so not enough time.

Figure out my new phone, while being thankful for my new phone, rather than make noises under my breath while my face is scrunched up in an unattractive fashion.

Bake. Bake peanut butter blossom cookies because they're basically the easiest holiday cookie out there - especially when you start with a bag of peanut butter cookie mix. That and a bag of hershey kisses makes the house smell good, husbands and other various relatives happy, and I can at least say I baked something this holiday season.

Go to Goodwill and buy a hot air popcorn popper, and pop buckets and buckets of popcorn, then turn them into popcorn balls using my mother-in-law's recipe. Because my dear, sweet Cub Sweetheart firmly believes his mother's recipe is unique and makes the best popcorn balls and holidays are not complete without them. So I will make him a tin full, and when he tries to not share them with anyone I will not judge him, but rather love him all the more for his loyalty to her memory.

Hopefully there will be some time spent playing in the snow with our grandchildren, building snowmen and pummeling each other with snowballs, and making snow ice cream in spite of any harmful particles that might be in the air, because really how can that be worse for us than breathing in second-hand smoke outside the stores? And everyone needs to eat snow ice cream now and then.

Take a gift to our Idaho neighbors, our newly made friends, to thank them for running after our lawn chairs as they flew across the grassy area between us, watching over our place, and being the kind of neighbors people used to have, and used to get to know, and because we do and we did, we feel very blessed by them.

Fill in my new calendar, (and there it is in all its beauty), and thanks go to my daughter-in-law who told me about Whitney English . I love all things involving New Year's and planning and writing lists and making 50 resolutions or maybe 12, of which only 2 or so will stand a chance, but those two are better than none, so her planner was a treat to find, and I'm excited to sit down and fill it in. Riveting stuff for me, not so much for others? 

Call my Dad. 

Call my Mom. 

Because I am blessed to still have both of them, and need to hear their voices during the holidays. 

That's it for me - how about for you? What's left on your to do list for 2014? 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

'this will be a sign.....'

'for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord, and this will be a sign for you; you will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger.     Luke 2:11-12
Hold close those you hold dear, speak the words in your heart of what they mean to you. We have today. Christmas blessings everyone.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Traveling with Miss Lily, Heaven Help Us

When we adopted Miss Lily, or possibly when she adopted us, we told her she was going to have a much more exciting life than she would have as 'Diamond'. She belonged to a man and woman (okay, really the woman - what man names his dog Diamond?), she spent the entire day locked in a kennel while they were at work, she had an extensive pink wardrobe, took lots of baths and went for neighborhood walks. And that is all, and that is why the woman put her up for adoption. She was stifled.

We only groom her when her eyes disappear. She bathes in the kitchen sink when it's no longer avoidable, she has 8 grandkids who adore her, she has squirrels to chase in the back yard. A good amount of our grocery budget goes to chew toys and treats, which I can totally relate to. Most nights I can call a glass of wine, with chips and salsa or cheese nips dinner. And she flies or drives across the country multiple times a year. This year she flew three times and rode 7000 miles in a car, so she might be needing to get a frequent flier number? Now there's a life for a dog!

Yesterday we flew from DFW to Idaho, or actually to Spokane, Washington, with our first leg being 4 1/2 hours in the air to Seattle. Unlike me, she does not like to fly, and that may be because she can't read or knit. I'm quite content to sit there for hours on end, but she tends to scratch at her little travel bag and make barky sounds that sound like Angry Barbie, if Barbie could talk.

Knowing this, we went to the vet and got her drugs. I was amazed that our choice was xanax or something else, and we went with the something else, because the vet said the xanax could backfire and make her more anxious. We practiced drugging her the day before and she laid around looking weird-eyed, but calm. So yesterday we slipped her pills in with a glob of peanut butter that she readily slurped up, took her for a little walk to do her business, (which she didn't do, and this becomes an important fact I should have paid more attention to), and proceeded to the airport.

When you fly with a dog, they have to go in the place where your size 11 feet would normally, in a little bag and not a single limb can come out of the bag. She had a chew, a toy and a stinky cow hoof to keep her happy, but alas, as soon she started feeling the rumbling of the engines in her underside she remembered she did not like to fly, in spite of drugs. So the Angry Barbie barking started. And I got out the barking collar I'd sadistically bought her for Christmas and fastened it to her teensy, pitiful little throat, and within two barks she realized barking was not a good option. So she stopped. And I knitted and napped and read and it was lovely for the most part.

When we landed at the Seattle airport, which may have had about 99 gazillion people traveling for Christmas, we took her out of her little bag because we felt bad for her. We decided to let her do a little, teensy walkabout, and within ten seconds I realized she was behind me, on the leash, doing her business in the middle of the airport terminal floor. And I may have somewhat shouted, 'oh my goodness, oh my goodness, oh my goodness' as she continued to squat in an unladylike fashion, dropping gifts on the floor for all to see. When Cub Sweetheart magically produced a poo bag out of his pocket I remembered why I chose him above all others. Engineers are always prepared, for anything.

We scraped up that teensy poo and what was left of our dignity and proceeded to buy questionable chicken salad sandwiches, eating out of our laps, and not judging a single person we saw, for we'd just seen plenty of judging to last the day.

We reloaded onto the plane, bark collar in place, and she seemed good to go, literally. But this little prop plane we were on had loud engines that fell in line with her underbelly, and as soon as it started up, so did the crazy scratching to get out. And in a lick of a second she somehow caught the zipper and pulled it and she was out, 8 lbs of 'let me out of here' running down the aisle of the plane. And it's possible the sweet, young flight attendant may have run up to us to frantically explain to us that dogs must stay in kennels, and we may have tried to explain to her that we concurred, but Lily had other plans. Cub Sweetheart retrieved her, shoved her back in the bag, and one of us may have had to ride with their size 11 clodhoppers settled on her head, pressing down a bit to not give her much wiggle room, and an hour later we were in Spokane, all three of us a little worn out from the ride.

I'm sure if I think about it long enough I'll find the sermon in it. The needing drugs to stay calm, getting from point A to B, the having to be shocked just a bit to stop complaining, the making a spectacle of myself in front of God and everybody, and the need to have something heavy on my head to make me just be still. It's there - I know it is, but last night we were too tired to think that deep; we were happy to hug the necks of all those we love and hold dear in Idaho, then we tuck ourselves into our bed - all three of us - before 10 pm, just happy to be done with the journey.

And maybe that's a little bit of what heaven feels like? A warm bed, comfy pajamas, head nestled into your pillow, curled up and warmed by being close to those you hold dear, who are curled up next to you? Knowing you can stay there forever because you've made the journey, even if you're a little worse for the wear. Last night that was as much sermon any of us could handle. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

52 in 52 didn't happen, but....

I read more than I would have, if I hadn't tried.

Back earlier in the year, and I can't remember how early, I saw on Facebook, '52 in 52" and I jumped in. I'm not a forced-participation kind of girl, but I rarely lack enthusiasm for a group activity.

Which would explain why I got grounded for six months for sneaking out, in my pink ruffly oh-so-scandelous, spaghetti-strap pajamas, in the middle of the night, to throw pebbles at the window of a cute boy.

But back to books.

My oldest daughter, Sarah, years ago shared that she kept a journal, what she'd read each year. In 1990 I was 35, and she was in high school, so that was when I began. A little black, three-ring notebook, with a sheet of paper for each year, lined and the year written at the top. If I could have gone back to forever, I would have written down a good 50 Nancy Drew books, Sue Barton, Nurse, Perry Mason mysteries, and autobiographies and biographies that were chosen completely at random. Some of them were brilliant choices - Helen Keller, Ben Franklin, First Ladies, comedians, one book by a man who was dying of HIV. It's amazing my neck doesn't have a permanent crook in it, from all the time spent walking down the aisles of the library, head on my shoulder, looking at the book spines and choosing a book solely on the title.

In 1990 I read Old Man and the Sea, The Secret Garden, Lincoln, Roots, Centennial, Cheaper by the Dozen, Shell Seekers and Lonesome Dove. I don't know if that's all I really read, but possibly. The kids were 14, 7 and 5, so it's likely I had little time for reading, and when I did read, I was giving up sleep or personal hygiene.

Which makes it even funnier that in 1991 I read, among other books, The Sleep Management Plan by Dale Hanson Bourke. DHB is a lovely lady I've enjoyed following thru the years, but her book on how to learn to live without enough sleep is possibly one of the craziest notions I've ever attempted. I also read through the Bible for the first time, and maybe the lack of sleep led me to it? Maybe I was smack middle in her plan - cut your sleep gradually, over time, til you get used to it enough to kid yourself you're operating at optimum - so I just jumped into the entire plan. If you're going to read anything by Dale (which I recommend, BTW) go for her "Embracing Your Second Calling (have read it) or Everyday Miracles (wonderful for young moms).

Going back over the pages of this little book, I can see where I was at a specific time in my life. Some choices don't say much, but some do. Reading Parent Power, by John Rosemond in 1992 tells me we were possibly struggling a bit with raising kids. That was the year I read Chesapeake by Michener, my all-time favorite book by him. 1993 was 101 Ways to Simplify Your Life, and Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindburg, a book I hold dear.

In 1994 I finally read How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie; it was strongly suggested to me by my high school typing teacher when I was 17 and sassy, and I don't think she meant it as a compliment. I'm sorry Mrs. Dupue. You were right, but you were also still mean.

Years 1998 - 2001 are completely missing, and that speaks loudly. 2002 was sketchy, and in 2003 I spent a good amount of time reading about home budgeting - likely because we had kids in college and were broke! That the financial books are accompanied by 'Calm My Anxious Heart' makes sense.

Surviving the Death of a Sibling, by T. J. Wray, in 2004 speaks volumes. I've since recommended that book to many others. It was a year I leaned toward philosophy and Debbie Macomber, which may be the same thing.

Since then, skipping across the years, there was Safe People, Blue Like Jazz, A Girl Named Zippy (loved!), Obama's autobiography, Kite Runner, Water for Elephants, Jan Karon's books - all of them, Snow Flower, The Good Earth, Island of the Blue Dolphins, several by Geraldine Brooks, Night by Elie Wiesel which everyone should read once in their lifetime; The Help, Same Kind of Different as Me, Howie Mandell's autobiography, To Kill a Mockingbird (again), everything Sally Clarkson, Elegance of the Hedgehog (a favorite), When Helping Hurts, Story of Edgar Sawtelle, The Underneath (hard but beautiful read), Anna Karenina, Wrinkle in Time, A Christmas Carol (not at Christmas), Midnight in the Garden of Evil (hated!), Sarah's Key, Kisses from Katie, Ragamuffin Gospel, Blessings by Quindlan, What Every Church Member Should Know About Poverty, The Giver, The Book Thief (loved, loved), My Antonia, all books by Kate Morton which robbed  me of time, kept the house dirty and no cooking done, but was worth it all.

Which brings me to 2014; this year I read Notes from a Blue Bicycle by Tsh, Nesting Place by the Nester, Kitchen Counter Cooking School which made me love my knives more than I had previously; several Laurie King were a delight; Looking for Me made me see I / we needed a dog, so we adopted Miss Lily. Church Planter's Wife gave me a look at my daughter's life now; I discovered Shauna Niequist (Bread and Wine) and love her wide-open, honest way of sharing her life; Oliver Twist was, of course, wonderful, and Extreme Grandparenting was life-changing.

Rather than the 52 I attempted, in actuality I got 27 books read, a little more than half of my goal, but I am richer for the pages I made it through. Snow Child was my last read, finished days ago and it was a mesmerizing read. Orphan Train made me want to stay in the bathtub til I shriveled up, just to read one more chapter. My favorite of the year was probably Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good; meeting Jan Karon was a delight, she was lovely as I was sure she was, and her writing poured over me like fairy dust, taking me to an entirely different place when worries and ISIS and the stuff of life was nibbling at my core. And isn't that what a book is supposed to do? Take us away, make us think harder, see life differently, or more clearly? Re-remind us of how hard life is, how beautiful it is, what a gift it is in between those two?

I haven't made my list for 2015, but the nightstands and coffee table and shelves and basically any horizontal spaces in my home bears up an offering. I'm planning to read both of Sophie Hudson's books (one already in my hands, and the other pre-ordered), Sally Clarkson's upcoming Own Your Life, a book on church history thick enough to use as a doorstop, but one chapter at a time, and Making a Literary Life - those are my non-fictions; Fiction choices I usually wait for Sarah to recommend, or check out lists on Facebook, what others are reading, or I discover a new author. And sometimes I still find myself walking down the aisles of the local library, head on my shoulder, perusing spines and choosing by the title.

So happy reading everyone, feel free to leave me your favorite read of 2014 or your all-time favorite. I'd love to hear what you've got your nose into.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

First Annual Polar Express...

We're splitting Christmas this year - most of December here, then heading up to Idaho a few days before actual Christmas day. When we started making plans for how to celebrate together this year, our daughter-in-law asked if we could do a homemade Polar Express. Daniel and JaeBeth are 3 1/2 and almost 5, so we skipped the version that involves paying to ride a train, long lines, etc. That might be a possibility later down the road, when they can give us more notice that they need to go potty. For the next few years, homemade and simple seemed a good choice.

First step for me was to buy some new Christmasy pajamas, versus the ratty leggings and t-shirt I usually sleep in. Thank you Ross.

We started the evening with our new traditional meal, frito pie. I made the chili too spicy so the kids ended up eating more fritos than chili, but whatever. Then I donned my elf hat, and we headed out in our 'reindeer sleigh', to drive across town and change into pajamas.

The kids loved riding in a car with antlers (picked them up at Party City for $14.99). 

When we got to the kids' house, and they were inside changing into pjs, Papa donned a blue jacket, a polar express conductor hat (antique store and cricut machine) and a mustache (Party City), and started hollering 'all aboard' at their front door. At 3 1/2 and almost 5, they didn't even recognize him at first! He started punching their tickets (Pinterest) with a hole punch, and warning them they had to hang onto the ticket since it was a round trip. 

Once they recognized him, and Daniel started hollering 'It's Papa!' they were much more willing to give him their ticket and proceed. 

We rode through town, listening to Christmas music, eating Krispy Kreme Donuts, drinking cocoa in sippy cups and checking out the lights of several townspeople who are known for going overboard. It was such fun to see Christmas displays through the eyes of a child - they definitely think more is better. 

Afterwards we rode home, opened Christmas gifts with them and ate brownies and ice cream in front of a fire. Papa got huge points for the Barbie he'd chosen for Jae Beth, and Daniel was crazy about his Dinomeal game. 

So about three hours after we started, they loaded up into their car to head home to bed, a little zingy, a little sugared up, but happy. And that was the point. 

It's not going to be too many years til they're telling their friends they have to spend the evening with their ancient grandparents, and all they'll be hoping for is money to take to the mall. But for right now, while they're little, it's sooooooooooo fun, such a gift, to just let them be little and share in the magic with them. I grew up in a family that had very little tradition, and Cub Sweetheart's wasn't big on celebration of any sort, so it fills a hole for me to make sweet family traditions, and celebrate life every chance we get. I'm blessed that our daughter-in-law feels the same way. 

And I highly recommend the reindeer kit for the car - with all that crazy traffic and grouchy, stressed people out there, a little reason to make others smile is a good thing. 

So maybe there's something you can start as a tradition for your family? Going to the nursing home to visit the elderly? Donating food to the food bank? Volunteering somewhere together? A ride around town to see the lights, then coming back home to cocoa and cookies? An entire day spent in pajamas watching old Christmas movies? Inviting a neighbor you don't know over for coffee, tea or wine? How about lunch with girlfriends and no exchanging gifts allowed? How about a get-together for all the tired mamas to get their presents wrapped? A day spent phoning old friends to catch up with each other? The possibilities are endless, many don't cost much or anything, and can be done with little fuss. 


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Spending time with the guest of honor.....

It's the week before the week of Christmas. I'm in that mode of 'all things Christmas', sewing and cooking and wrapping gifts and shipping packages, writing Christmas cards, making catch-up phone calls. Doing this, I've learned, tends to put me in a weird stage come January 1. That stage of being so used to being busy all the time that I forget what real life feels like.

Can anyone relate?

Is there anyone else out there who has hopes of hand-writing a personal note in every single card, being calm in traffic, choosing thoughtful gifts for everyone on the list, rather than grabbing stuff at random off the tables at Kohls and TJ Maxx? Deciding whether you really want to put out all those decorations just because you have them? Not going to the cookie exchange?

Yeah, me too.

So this morning we got up, after not enough sleep, to get ready for church. Stumbled out to the coffee pot, hit the switch, let the dog out, grabbed the paper, and sat down on the couch for a bit of devotions before jumping back on the hamster wheel of it all. And I decided to just say 'no' for one day, even to church. To stay home in my pajamas, drink coffee, make homemade donuts, and not hurry anywhere.

And then I read this:
"Rest in me, my child, forgetting about the worries of the world. Focus on me - Immanuel (isn't that the name given for Jesus at his birth?) - and let my living presence envelop you in peace. ..... If you live on the surface of life by focusing on ever-changing phenomena, you will find yourself echoing the words of Solomon: "Meaningless! Meaningless! Everything is meaningless!" *
Then we stayed home. Cub Sweetheart might have mentioned that it would have been helpful for me to feel this way before we went to sleep last night; we could have slept in rather than getting up with not enough sleep, but alas I don't have it that together right now.

So for one day, just one day in the middle of all the stuff of December and Christmas, I chose to wear pajamas, graduating to yoga pants and a ratty t-shirt, eating warmed up macaroni and cheese, sitting on the sofa to read a book for a solid hour, and putting on a pot of soup for supper later this evening.

So what can you say no to? Cross off the list? Not do? Where can you not go? And what can you do instead?

I don't want to feel like Solomon, having it all and feeling like none of it means much; to wake up January 1 feeling like I'm hung over on Christmas stuff. Maybe, just maybe, less is more. Is there anyone else out there who thinks maybe Jesus never intended us to spend an entire month getting ready for a birthday party, but being too busy to take time with the guest of honor.


* Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hump Day Happiness - Memories of Christmas magic....

For your December enjoyment - our Texas grandkids' annual visit to Santa. Our granddaughter, who will be five on Christmas day, is quiet and shy. She hates being in the spotlight, and it takes her awhile to warm up to people. She likes the idea of Santa, but up close and personal is too much for her. I'm thinking he understands :-)

We call our 3 1/2 year old grandson 'party in a body'. He loves everyone he meets, but tends to take cues from his older sister. If she's scared, he's scared. If she wants a pink popsicle he does too. This year he somehow overcame her hesitation and enjoyed his Santa visit more than years past. I can totally see him, someday, dressing up for his own kids' Christmases.

Each week I ask them what they want for Christmas. So far the list includes a bunny, many things 'Frozen', a baby that wets, dinosaurs and a harmonica for him. I advised that the bunny may not be a big possibility because Santa somehow knows not to bring things parents don't approve of. Generally anything alive falls in that category.

Their visit to see the big guy made me think back to my own childhood.  I don't remember ever actually going to see Santa anywhere. There weren't malls back then, so maybe Santa wasn't available? I think we mailed him letters. I do remember family rides in the car, all six kids in tow, as we drove through downtown Beaumont, Texas. Bright red and green lights swung between streetlights. The downtown stores had corner windows filled with big, beautiful displays that moved and played music, pure magic to me. All that artificial snow looked convincing to a little girl who had never seen the real thing.

In the evenings, after it was dark, the six of us walked down the streets of our neighborhood, singing carols at neighbors' doors, and they'd reward us with hot cocoa and treats. Imagine that today! Going into the houses of neighbors, and eating and drinking what was offered to you - how our times have changed, and not for the good.

We never had a fireplace. It wouldn't have been very necessary in southeast Texas, and we didn't have real stockings either. Instead, we took my father's socks and hung them somewhere. After Christmas they were inches longer, from having an orange nestled down in the toe overnight.

I remember the year I asked for a Thumbelina doll, and got her. Oh how I loved her. I remember brothers with hair sticking up on Christmas morning, and everyone in pajamas that did not match, and scrawny trees decorated with strings of popcorn and boxes and boxes of icicles that fell all in clumps, and mama left them that way. I remember getting up way too early and being sent back to bed, and the laying there staring at the ceiling, waiting for time to pass.

I remember the white tissue paper and red squiggle ribbon wound around the packages. In later years I would recognize it as my mother's signature. And there was Daddy always, always sitting in the living room in his post office uniform, so he could go back to work on Christmas afternoon, delivering 'specials' to pay for our presents. I still remember to this day the year I gave him an ash tray, even though he didn't smoke. I wonder if he remembers that?

When I was about eight or nine our parents' friends, John and Claire, who were from Massachusettes and had a funny way of talking, showed up for a 'surprise visit' on Christmas Eve.  While Daddy and Mama were busy visiting, my older brother took me out to the driveway, showed me the blanket-covered pile in the back seat of their locked car, and told me the truth. The magic of that night died for me, only hours before bed. For all the debate on 'yes' to Santa or 'no' to Santa, I still love knowing that young children, for a handful of years, go to bed on Christmas Eve and try hard to go to sleep so Santa can come. The angst of that night, the belief in the magic of it all, is something dear to my heart still.

Fifty years after that night, there's sweetness in knowing the struggle my parents must have had, to put any presents under that pitiful tree. To buy fresh oranges and candy canes for each of us, to come up with a Thumbelina doll, a BB gun, a record player for my big sister. That's the real gift - looking back and knowing who was really giving, and how much it cost them to try to live up to the magic of Christmas morning.