Friday, December 20, 2019

A Holiday Tradition

Thought for the day:  North, south, east, or west, old traditions are the best.

Hi-ya! I hope you all have the merriest Christmas ... and happiest Hanukkah... ever. Lots of love and smiles from our house to yours.

I was gonna make last week's post the final one of the year, but some of you guys said you expect me to keep running my trusty ol' Christmas post every year... kinda like the annual Snoopy Christmas special. (But just a wee bit different. HA!)  What can I say? Don't wanta buck tradition. So with a few revisions, here ya go... again...

Traditions don't have to necessarily be classy, you knowSometimes, they're just plain fun... or funny. Candlelight services on Christmas Eve, singing the Hallelujah Chorus with the church choir, and caroling with the neighbors... especially when it's snowing... those things are all both traditional and classy. This post? Not so much. But this is the ninth year I'm running it, so I think it has now officially become a tradition. Because I said so. And because I'm lazy it's just plain fun... and funny.

 So, here it is, my classic tale, although not exactly in the same category as Dickens, about (ahem)  inflated dreams... 



Thought for the day: We don't stop laughing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop laughing.

No telling how many years this wreath has graced our front door.
We never made a huge production out of outdoor decorations, but every year, our kids made the same grand proclamation after we cruised our decorated-out-the-wazoo neighborhood on the way home from the candlelight service on Christmas Eve.

"The best one of all!" they'd lie as we pulled into our driveway.

Okay, so maybe they weren't really lying through their braces. Maybe anticipation of the hidden presents awaiting inside added a certain luster to their perception of our decorations.

Anyhow, I'd say decorating styles can pretty much be divvied into three categories: traditional, enlightening, and inflated. Us? We're traditionalThat means, except for an occasional new acquisition, I've pretty much used the same decorations every year. For a LOT of years. Like the ornaments that hung on my parents' tree when they were first married, some of which are now paper thin, and considerably faded with age. And a slew of decades-old goodies fashioned by our children with copious quantities of felt, glue and glitter, construction paper, walnut shells, clothespins, eyeglass lenses, and even a Mason jar lid. A black spider in a golden web and a huge decorated crab shell, both made by my sister-in-law. Boxes of tinsel painstakingly applied, strand by strand, and then painstakingly removed to store in a box for yet another year. Like I said, traditional. Well, to be more accurate, I suppose we've become more traditional cum lazy, because each year, I use less and less decorations, and some of them don't even make it down out of our attic anymore. This year, very few decorations found their way out of the storage boxes. (A RED tablecloth counts as a decoration, right???)

These carolers once belonged to my grandmother.

Everybody knows the enlightening type of decorator. They're the ones with so many lights blazing in their front yards, they risk causing a blackout across three states every time they turn 'em on. Very flashy. Sometimes, they even incorporate animation and music, too, and carloads of people stop by every night to ooh and aah over their winter wonderland. It isn't at all unusual for a competition of sorts to begin when multiple enlighteners live in close proximity. (Those neighborhoods can be seen from the space station.)

                                         We're more like the house on the right these days:

And then, there's the inflatedThis is a fairly recent category. I sure don't remember seeing this sort of display when I was a kid. Nowadays, you can purchase just about any character you can think of ... inflate it ... and stick it on your front lawn. And if you can't find a particular character, for the right price, you can probably have someone make one for you. Then, all those characters can weave and bob all over your yard.

Now then, to the point of today's post. Time for a tale about a Christmas inflatable of an entirely different ilk. This story originated in 1999, and was alleged to be the winning entry to a Louisville Sentinel contest about the wildest Christmas dinner. Turns out, no such newspaper ever existed, and the writer remains unknown, but the story lives on, thanks to the good ol' Internet. (WARNING: Better put your drink down before you read it.) Now here, after a bit of minor editing on my part, is that story:

As a joke, my brother Jay used to hang a pair of pantyhose over his fireplace every Christmas Eve. He said the only thing he wanted was for Santa to fill them, but what they say about Santa checking his list twice must be true, because every Christmas morning, the other stockings would all be bulging with treats, but Jay's poor pitiful pantyhose were always left dangling as empty as ever.

So one year, I decided to make his dream come true. I put on sunglasses, a fake nose, and a ski cap, and went in search of an inflatable love doll.

Know what? They don't sell those things at Wal-Mart. I had to go to an adult bookstore. By the way, if you've never been in an X-rated store before, two words: don't go. You'll only confuse yourself. I was there for an hour saying things like, "What does this do?" "You're kidding me!" and  "Who would buy that?" 

So anyway, I finally made it to the inflatable doll section. I wanted to buy a standard, uncomplicated doll that could also substitute as a passenger in my truck so I could use the car pool lane, but finding what I wanted was difficult. Love dolls come in many different models. The top of the line, according to the side of the box, could do things I'd only seen in a book on animal husbandry, but I settled for the bottom of the price scale: Lovable Louise. To call her a doll required a huge leap of imagination.

On Christmas Eve, with the help of a bicycle pump, Louise came to life. My sister-in-law was in on the plan, and she let me in during the wee morning hours. Long after Santa had come and gone, I filled Jay's pantyhose with Louise's pliant legs and bottom. I also ate some cookies and drank what remained of a glass of milk on a nearby tray. Then I went home and giggled for a couple of hours.

The next morning, my brother called to say that Santa had been to his house and left a present that had made him VERY happy, but his poor dog was very confused. She would bark, start to walk away, then come back and bark some more. We agreed that Louise should remain in her pantyhose so the rest of the family could admire her when they came over for the traditional Christmas dinner.

My grandmother noticed Louise the moment she walked in the door. "What the hell is that?" she asked.

My brother quickly explained, "It's a doll."

"Who would play with something like that?" she snapped.

 I had several candidates in mind, but kept my mouth shut.

"Where are her clothes?" she continued.

"Boy, that turkey sure smells nice, Gran," Jay said, trying to steer her into the dining room.

 But Granny was relentless. "Why doesn't she have any teeth?"

Again, I could have answered, but why risk it? It was Christmas, and nobody wanted to spend it in the back of an ambulance saying, "Hang on, Granny, hang on!"

My grandfather, a delightful old man with poor eyesight, sidled up to me, waggled his eyebrows, and said, "Hey, who's the naked gal by the fireplace?"

I told him she was Jay's friend, and a few minutes later, noticed Grandpa standing by the mantel, talking to Louise. And not just talking. He was actually flirting. It was then we realized this might be Grandpa's last Christmas at home.

The dinner went well. We made the usual small talk about who had died, who was dying, and who should be killed, when suddenly Louise made a noise that sounded a lot like my father in the bathroom every morning. Then she lurched from the pantyhose, flew around the room twice, and fell in a heap in front of the sofa. The cat screamed. I passed cranberry sauce through my nose, and Grandpa ran across the room, fell to his knees, and began administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. My brother fell back over his chair and wet his pants, and Granny threw down her napkin, and stomped outside to sit in the car.

It was indeed a Christmas to treasure and remember. Later in my brother's garage, we conducted a thorough examination to decide the cause of Louise's collapse. We discovered that Louise had suffered from a hot ember to the back of her right thigh. Fortunately, thanks to a wonder drug called duct tape, we restored her to perfect health.

After that, Louise went on to star in several bachelor party movies, and I'm pretty sure Grandpa still calls her whenever he can get out of the house.


 Merry Christmas! May all your dreams... no matter how inflated...  come true.

Hanukkah is the festival of light that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, and spirituality over materialism. Whatever our religion or non-religion, these are all things worth celebrating, don't you think? Here's wishing you all much light... and love.

I'll be taking off the rest of the year, and will be back on January 8 for the IWSG post.

                              Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Showing Love to a Stranger

Thought for the day:  I think it's incumbent on anybody born on the thirteenth to consider that number... lucky. 

Friggatriskaidikaphobia is a freaky cool word that means fear of Friday the 13th. Since Friday is considered by some to be an unlucky day, and thirteen is feared by some as an unlucky number, it should come as no surprise that when the two converge, superstitious fears multiply accordingly. We could say that

Unlucky Friday + Unlucky Thirteen = Unluckier Friday

Me? I'm not superstitious. Matter of fact, I think of thirteen as a lucky number. It's the day I was born, and I always think it's extra cool when my birthday falls on a Friday... like today. Yep, today is my birthday. (whoopee)  I'd like to send all kinds of good wishes to someone else who's celebrating a birthday today. Please join me in wishing  Jon a very happy birthday... and many more. [Happy birthday, cowboy!] If you've never visited his blog before, go check it out. And if you enjoy poetry, check out his books, too. Well... no, don't just check 'em out... buy 'em! His Love Letters to Ghosts is an unforgettable collection of haunting poems that resonate like an anguished cry in a darkened room. Trust me, you'll treasure them and  read them more than once. I sure have. And his collection of poems for children is absolutely delightful. I gave a copy to one of my granddaughters last year, and she loves it. Birthday wishes also go out to Geo, another one of my favorite blogger dudes, and to cat, sweet lady and poetess extraordinaire. Not sure exactly which day their birthdays fall on, but it's right about now, give or take... Guess that makes us all Sags. Some of us more than others... :) (I prefer to think of it as a loose fit...)

 So anyhow, if you folks in the southeastern part of the United States happen to see a massive glow in the sky today, fear not. It's not Armageddon, or anything. It'll just be the blaze atop my birthday cake. (You know you're getting old when the candles cost more than the cake!) I have a feeling our local firemen are sick and tired of coming to our house every year to extinguish the bonfire... which wouldn't be necessary if Smarticus didn't light the darned candles with a blowtorch... so maybe it's time for us to think about skipping the candles from now on. The truth is, I'm creeping ever closer to that age where there'll once again be a single candle on my cake, and everybody will tell me what a good girl I am if  I can summon enough hot air to blow it out in a single try.

Know what? Maybe it'd be better to skip the cake too, and just have a glass of wine.

Hey! I'm OLD. I can do that if I wanta.

Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.  [Stanislaw Jerry Lec]
                      (Too bad my work of art is being painted by Picasso...)

You don't stop laughing because you grow older. You grow older because you stop laughing.  [Maurice Chevalier]      

I'm happy to report that my inner child is still ageless.  [Jane Broughton]
You can't help getting older, but you don't have to get old.  [George Burns]

I am old enough to see how little I have done in so much time, and how much I have to do in so little. [Sheila Kaye Smith]

[image courtesy of unsplash]

Attitude, a sense of hope and humor, along with the feeling that one is not alone, is vital to a person's well-being, especially when fighting a deadly disease like cancer. Over the past few months, I couldn't help but notice some patients were at the cancer centers... alone... with no family member or friend along to share the burden.

Sure, we spoke to each another. Matter of fact, it's astounding how much and how quickly camaraderie develops within the confines of a cancer center. It's as though everyone's a member of the same club that no one wanted to join.

Still, it troubled me to see people there alone.

I told Smarticus that once we get him healthy, I'd like to volunteer at one of the centers. Maybe some of those loners would enjoy having someone with them during their lengthy chemo infusion...? Someone to chat with or play games with...? (Smarticus and I played a LOT of Yahtzee.)

He said maybe those people WANTED to be there alone. That thought had never crossed my mind, but it gave me something to chew on.

Still, it bothered me to see people there alone with no visible sign of support. Surely I could do... something.

Then serendipity struck. An article in the newspaper alerted me to a non-profit group that sends handwritten letters to breast cancer patients. The opening paragraph of this article, written by Erika Mailman, stated: A single card, written by a stranger, became a touchstone for a woman who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She read it every night before bed. She brought it to every appointment. 

Ah HA! thought I. Such a simple... yet profound... way to offer encouragement and show support.

Girls Love Mail was started by writer and breast cancer survivor Gina Mulligan, and to date, this group has collected and forwarded 145,000 handwritten letters and cards to cancer centers all over the U.S. The article went on to express how much these letters mean to the women who've received them. In a world of sometimes social disconnection, these letters buck the trend... and they make a difference in these women's lives.

Making one person smile can change the world. Maybe not the whole world, but their world. 

Although these letters and cards currently go to breast cancer patients, maybe if the organization receives a large enough volume of them, they could be sent to other patients, as well. I dunno... but maybe. And although this organization serves patients in the U.S., maybe there are similar non-profit groups in other countries, as well...

Try to be a rainbow in someone's cloud. [Maya Anglou]

Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love. [Mother Teresa]

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

My Crystal Ball's a Little Cloudy

Thought for the day: Wise old ladies don't plan too far into the future. [me]

Yep. It's that time again.Time for our monthly IWSG posts. As always, thanks to our fearless leader, Alex Cavanaugh, for founding this fine group, and thanks to all the other nurturing guys and gals who've helped turn it into the thriving community it is today. I'm telling ya, this group offers better support and lift than the world's most expensive bra. (No pesky underwires, either!) To join this super supportive group of writers and to see links to other participating blogs, please go HERE

Writing is still taking a back seat right now, but with the end of scheduled chemo and radiation now in sight, if all goes well, maybe I can invite my muse back into my life after the first of the year. We shall see.

In the meantime, I'm gonna vent a little. As I write this, it is Saturday afternoon, and maybe the issue will be resolved prior to the publication of this post on Wednesday, but I'm gonna spit it out anyway.

I firmly believe in writing and posting a review after reading a book, because I KNOW how important that feedback is to writers...  especially the insecure ones. (Which pretty much means ALL of us.) Typically, I post on both Goodreads and Amazon, and to date, I've posted a bazillion of 'em with no problems.

Until now.

For some reason, Amazon has rejected my last four reviews. I tried resolving the problem via email messaging with someone in customer service this past week, but that didn't go well. I ended up getting an email the next day from someone with Amazon in INDIA... saying I needed to have a password-protected account in INDIA... and spend such-and-such amount of money per year on INDIA Amazon before I could post a review.


Last time I looked, I've never even BEEN in India. (Musta been some other Susan Swiderski...)

My attempt to respond to that email proved worthless, so I hope to resolve the issue via telephone next week. I mean... what the heck? I'm curious: have any of you encountered the same issue? 'Tis annoying...

At any rate, I'm gonna tell you guys about one of those rejected book reviews, because I think You Beneath Your Skin is well worth promoting. It's the brilliant debut from one of our very own IWSG members, the talented Damyanti Biswas. Not only is her book an eye-opener about the horrors of  acid attacks on women and the dismal living conditions and difficulties for the poverty-stricken children of India, but it's also a thought-provoking story of self-identity and inner strength... and it's beautifully well-written. But wait! That's not all...  All proceeds from book sales are being donated to organizations that help these women and children. We can't all be Mother Teresa, but we can all benefit by becoming aware of the issues that so touched her heart. If you treat yourself to a book this Christmas, I humbly suggest this one.

Now, for this month's question:

Let's play a game. Imagine. Role-play. How would you describe your future writer self, your life and what it looks and feels like if you were living the dream? Or if you are already there, what does it look and feel like? Tell the rest of us. What would you change or improve?

I think Snoopy's got the right idea.

To tell the truth, I don't look too far into the future, especially since Smarticus got diagnosed. I'm taking each day as it comes and making the best of it. Besides, I'm getting old enough that I have to seriously consider whether or not it's a waste of money to buy green bananas from the grocery store... (HA! Just kidding on that one. It's perfectly safe to buy green bananas, no matter how old you are. More likely than not, they'll be overripe by the time you get them home, anyway...)

Seriously, if I'm gonna imagine the future me living the writer's dream... it'd be great if a kind-hearted publisher read my books and knocked on my door like The Millionaire used to do on the old TV show. He can keep his money, though. I just want him to fall so in love with my books that he wants to publish and promote the second two books in my trilogy. Heck, if you're gonna dream, might as well dream big, eh? (If he wants to toss some moolah into the deal, I guess that'd be okeydoke, too...)

                               Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.