Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

      This is my 7th day of having this crud and I keep telling myself Grannie Annie said hers lasted 8 days so the end must be near for me.  My 3 yr old granddaughter had 104 fever when her mom took her to the Dr last week and he said she had strep and the flu.  So far 7 members of my family have come down with it but thank goodness not the baby or my daughter, Casey, who has been busy taking care of all of us.
      My two oldest grandsons came to have Christmas with me on Sunday and I had such a good time playing games with them.  I ran out of energy far too soon.  I would have played games for hours if I had not been sick.  Precious boys.

That is about all I have energy for today.  Thank you guys for being my blogger friends.  I can't tell you how happy I am to see your posts on your blogs and your comments on mine.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Good Things Happen

Good Things Happen...but we tend to forget.

What a great idea! We think we will set one up for 2014 and have each family member set one up also. It especially might be good for teens who so easily can get down in the dumps! 
 My niece posted this on Facebook and I have seen it on Pinterest.  I think I will do this in 2014.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

I Feel Like The People In NyQuil Commercials

Quick! Run to the grocery store and buy all of the boxes of Swiss Miss Candy Cane Hot Chocolate mix you can before it disappears since it is a seasonal item (I am guessing).  It is awesome.  Tastes so good and I am not really that big a fan of peppermint.  Seriously good stuff. (LOL! NOT a paid advertisement. You know me, when I find something I think is good I want to tell you about it so you can have some too.)

Bad  #1 & #2 from my less than cheerful Christmas day post (Dear Norman)?  Both my son and I feel even worse, and one of my daughters now has it, plus her stepmom. We are just hoping we all get well soon. We are praying the 8 week old baby boy in our life does not get it nor his 3 year old sister since they have been around all of us.  And praying it is not the swine flu.
  • Vaporizer going? check  
  • Vicks on my feet? check  
  • Lemon & honey by my bedside? check  
  • Orange juice & lots of ice water & cups of this wonderful Candy Cane Hot Chocolate? check (I'm working on my 2nd box and I am the only one here) 

I  have started reading The First Phone Call From Heaven by Mitch Albom, but can't stay awake long enough to get beyond page 6 then have to start over because I can't remember what is going on.  My brain is a little fuzzy.   Hope you are well.   

How Do I?

Since I am ready for the holidays to be over and move on to a new year I removed the Christmas tree background and then spent a good hour or so trying to figure out how to "fix" my blog, without success.  I want the pink margins on the left & right to be smaller, the space for text to be wider without scrunching up the items on the right (blog lists, etc) and the date header font to be larger.  Can anyone tell me what to do?

I still want to put a watermark on my photos.  Does anyone know of a way to do it that is free?

There is no cure for my wordiness.  It just takes me a lot of words to say anything.  Thank you for bearing with me and reading anyway even if I have long posts.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Dear Norman Rockwell,

Dear Norman,
    I feel like Linus out in the pumpkin patch waiting for the Great Pumpkin, but Norman, you did not make it to my house again this year.  Have you lost my address?  I have been waiting and waiting for that Norman Rockwell Christmas, and I haven't seen it yet but I am sure you will come next year.  Just between you, me and Santa I am sending my Christmas list for 2014 right now so maybe you will put me at the top of your list.
    Of course I want world peace, food in every kitchen, a cure for cancer and every other disease, love for every one, and good will and kindness toward all men and women, and most especially children and animals.
    Personally, I  want the same things as last year so just pull out my last letter to you.  You know, new car, new house, grass & trees in the yard. Santa doesn't seem to respond to me so maybe you could speak to him for me.  Maybe I need to write to The Great Pumpkin too.  Linus may know something I don't.
    How was your Christmas?  Actually, mine was good, bad and ugly.  A little heavy on the ugly end. But I have had worse.  I will tell you a little about it.
    Good? On Christmas day both of my daughters came over and had breakfast with me. Juice and blueberry muffins.  It was wonderful.  They didn't wake me until the muffins were hot out of the oven.  I talked to my sister in New Mexico, my son in Seattle, my granddaughter here although I can never understand her on the phone very well.  She is only 3 and my ears are not what they use to be, but I did understand her saying that she got playdoh.  :)  My daughter-in-law emailed me pictures of my granddaughter with a new little bike and a doll house too. Playdoh was her favorite gift though. The weather outside was not frightful, it was sunny and nice.  If you can't have a white Christmas then sunny and nice is 2nd best. There was no mud for the dogs to drag in today and I was grateful for that.
   Bad  #1?  My son here in town was sick as a dog.  He did not feel like getting out of bed except to see his children have Christmas, then he went back to bed for the day.  He and I got sick at the same time.  I was sitting at his house yesterday when boom, one minute we were fine and the next minute we had a bug and we knew it.  Therefore, I didn't get to go to their house to see my granddaughter open her presents, (her brother is only 8 weeks old so he probably slept through it) and none of them got to come to my house for turkey.  
Bad # 2?  I was sick as two dogs.  I don't even know what that means except I feel pretty darn crummy.  Sore throat, fever, coughing, aching, headache, sneezing, arms feel like they could fall off.  I pretty much stayed in bed the entire day. The turkey I didn't get to have at Thanksgiving didn't get cooked for Christmas either.  Maybe tomorrow.  Today I couldn't have lifted the thing much less prepare it.  Instead I made myself some mac & cheese since that would go down my throat easy.  Since I didn't feel up to anything but sleeping and staying in bed my daughters went to their dad & stepmom's for Christmas after breakfast with me.  I was so glad they had a place to go and good food to eat but before I got sick I had planned a great day for us at my house.  
Bad #3? My daughter-in-law went back to work last week after having my grandson 7 weeks ago and she chose someone else to babysit my grandkids instead of me.  I had babysat my granddaughter all her life except her first 6 months until her brother was born this fall.  Then I was at their house every week day for 7 weeks after the baby came, letting my daughter-in-law have a good nap. It was just a communication problem, mostly. I told my son & D-in-L I didn't want to babysit, I wanted her to stay home with her kids. If she had to go back to work I wanted to babysit 4 hours a day. Could they find someone to share babysitting. Well, they found someone, for all day.   It was a blow, a big blow to me, but the new babysitter has two boys for my granddaughter to play with.  Yeah, well, I am heartbroken. Stressed. Sad.  On Christmas eve said babysitter called my daughter-in-law to tell her that her two sons and she herself were suddenly stricken with "the flu" and may have passed the bug on to them.  I think my son and I got it, but thank goodness, not my grandkids so far.
   Ugly?  my son-in-law decided two weeks ago that he really wasn't cut out for being a family man and told my daughter he wanted a divorce.  She is devastated.  My grandsons will be too.  She didn't want to tell them until after Christmas.  None of us saw this coming. It is a family tradition we have evidently.  Another relative's husband decided the same thing two days before Thanksgiving this year.  4 years ago another relative's wife decided she wanted a divorce 2 weeks before Christmas. The same year another relative's girlfriend dumped him right before Christmas when he thought they were planning on getting married.   All four were a big surprise to everyone except the person wanting out of the relationship. And all right at the holidays.  Unbelievable. 
    No, this was not a Norman Rockwell Christmas.  But I Norman, I am grateful for a lot of things. A roof over my head, my dogs, food in the house, and electricity keeping me warm.  Juice in the fridge for my sore throat. I have a family that loves me. I have a stack of library books to keep me busy.  My grandchildren are healthy ... that alone is enough to make it a great Christmas. 
    I hope next year is my year.  No one heartbroken, no one sick, my entire family together to eat good food, spend the day laughing and playing games, to go see lights, decorating a real tree together, packages for everyone, making fudge and decorating sugar cookies.  See you then, OK? And if you could make that happen in a big, big cabin in the mountains of New Mexico that would be super!
   Until then I am looking forward to getting well, and to a brand new year.  And glad this holiday season is over. 
    Happy New Year,
             Aunt Betsy

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas!

I hope you are having a wonderful Christmas day!

I love fresh flowers but seldom spend the money on them.  Yesterday I splurged $13 and bought this bouquet for myself at the grocery store.  

Christmas eve morning I was playing with my grandchildren when the sore throat I have been nursing along suddenly felt like razor blades in my throat, and I had that feeling that tells you oh fudgebucket, a cold is coming on.  My daughter had a cold last week. I should have expected it.  I have been under a lot of stress that I have not mentioned and that always lowers my immune system. 

This year I did not put up any Christmas decorations.  I just did not feel up to it. When I saw these flowers at the grocery store I decided I needed them because I am sick and stressed and sad, so this is my Merry Christmas to me and my Christmas decorations all in one.  Works for me. :)  I love them.

And because I absolutely love the pictures it paints in my head, and because possibly someone is here today that did not see it last week, and because I have recited it to myself a dozen or so times a day for weeks (it makes me happy) here again is my favorite poem:
In Winnipeg at Christmas

In Winnipeg at Christmas there’s lots and lots of snow,
Very clean, and crisp and hard
And glittering like a Christmas card
Everywhere you go;
Snow upon the housetops, snow along the street,
And Queen Victoria in her chair
Has snow upon her snowy hair
And snow upon her feet.

In Winnipeg at Christmas they line the streets with trees-
Christmas trees lit up at night
With little balls of coloured light
As pretty as you please.
The people hurry past you in furry boots and wraps;
The sleighs are like a picture book,
And all the big policemen look
Like Teddy Bears in caps.

And oh! The smiling ladies and jolly girls and boys;
And oh! The parties and the fun
With lovely things for everyone-
Books and sweets and toys.
So, if someday at Christmas you don’t know where to go,
Just pack your boxes up I beg,
And start at once for Winnipeg;
You’ll like it there I know.

-Rose Fyleman  

And the new year is just around the corner!  You never know what it will bring. 

Knocked My Socks Off!


      This is the link to a dialect quiz from The New York Times and it just knocked my socks off!  I took the test and it said my dialect matched Amarillo and Lubbock, Texas, (and Shreveport, LA because I say y'all and the NYTimes says people in Shreveport say y'all. I don't know if they do or not).
     Well, that is just goofy----everyone in the Texas panhandle says y'all and all of y'all.  More than 2 people would be y'all and a bunch of you would be all of y'all.... as in y'all come inside now, or do all of y'all have a ride home?
      But back to the test...out of the entire country my answers indicated my dialect matched my city, Amarillo, Texas.  Lubbock is  122 miles due south of town, so I am not surprised I match them as well.  How amazing is that!??  My oldest son took it and it matched him to Amarillo, Lubbock an Oklahoma City. I am emailing the link to my youngest son that moved to Seattle last August and see what his test indicates.  Tomorrow I will get my 2 daughters to take the test when they come to my house. They were all raised here in Amarillo.
       I think I have no accent at all.  I think I talk just like everyone else, but perhaps I have a slight accent.  I can't hear it, but possibly a Texas twang or a southern drawl, or combination of the two.  A dozen or so years ago I had a part time job.  I worked at the library from 9 to 6 and then 7 to midnight at an Xcel Energy call center.  I took calls from northern Colorado, Michigan, Minnesota and the Dakotas.  Often customers would say "where are you from?"  One year I went on vacation to Utah and more than a couple of people there asked me where I was from, which amazed me because I am sure I sounded just like them.  It was not an "oh, you are visiting our state, and where do you live?" but more like I opened my mouth and then they said "where are you from?"
       I know we have phrases that are regional.  I have used them, but very seldom.  Ohkay, sometimes I have been know to say them.  "I'm fixin' to" is something I say all the time, as in I'm fixin' to go to the store, meaning I am about to leave.  I have been known to say "I feel like I have been rode hard and put up wet" which means you are just exhausted, like a horse ridden hard.  
        "Close enough for government work" means that will do or that's good enough (we would say that at work all the time).  "You can't beat that with a stick" means that is pretty darn good.  Uh, yes, I say that fairly often.  "I wouldn't trust him any farther than I could throw him" means I think he is dishonest. I said that several times just this week.
      "You would argue with a wood post" is something I often said to my kids when they were being argumentative.  I've said "don't get your panties in a wad" a million times to my daughter when she would get ballistic over something as a teenager. LOL! I often said, when talking to my kids, "let me tell you what, I 'm gonna tell you how the cow ate the cabbage" meaning I am fixin' to straighten you out and tell you what's what.
       I would say to my kids "we are burnin' daylight" meaning we are wasting time here.  Whenever something good happens or things are going right I say "We are in high cotton." If  someone is telling me something I already know I  say "you are preaching to the choir."
      Dr Phil uses phrases that are pretty common here where I live.  (He was raised in Oklahoma and north Texas)  Dr Phil often says "that dog won't hunt" which means that idea will not work.  When he says "this isn't my first rodeo" he means "he didn't just fall off the turnip truck"  or that he has some experience in whatever he is discussing.  "All hat and no cattle" means someone is all talk, or trying to act like something they are not.
      Our local grocery store chain uses this one in their radio advertisements... "You can put your boots in the oven but that don't make 'em biscuits." That would be a response to someone who is saying something contrary to the facts. "You can bet the farm on it", "you can take that to the bank" or "you can hang your hat on it means "that is the truth."
      If you take the test, it is maybe 25 questions, please let me know if it matched you as closely as it did me.  That just knocked my socks off! (and if y'all don't say that, it means it surprised me big time).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Now, On To Local News

Cold and snowy, watching The Sound of Music (the Julie Andrews movie) for the hundredth time-- at least, and reading the local news on the 'net.  I will share:

From our newspaper, Amarillo Globe News...
(note from me:  I told you Amarillo does not have the best drivers, but in their defense we did have heavy snow yesterday.)

DPS reports 119 accidents in less than 48 hours 

updated 7:13pm The Department of Public Safety responded to 119 accidents across the region from midnight Saturday to about 4:25 p.m. Sunday, DPS Trooper Chris Ray said. 
“Tell everyone to stay home.”  Snow and freezing rain fell across the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles, causing wrecks, road closures and power outages.

From our News Channel 10 website:

(note: I have never made this myself but I have made this recipe except rather than using Kool-Aid you add one small can of pink lemonade--just the concentrate, no water added)

Kool-Aid Pie

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
1 (8 oz.) bowl of Cool Whip
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 package of any flavor Kool-Aid (lemonade is a really good choice)
1 graham cracker crust
Mix Cool Whip, condensed milk and Kool-Aid.
Pour into crust.
Chill for 1 hour.
We say MERRY CHRISTMAS here...  (from our newspaper's Facebook post)

The salutation "Merry Christmas" on the Toot'n Totum Support Center sign greets motorists passing by on South Taylor Street.  Sean Steffen / AGN Media
Sean Steffen / AGN Media
The salutation "Merry Christmas" on the Toot'n Totum Support Center sign greets motorists passing by on South Taylor Street.  (note from me:  Toot 'n Totum is a local convenience store with 72 locations in Amarillo.  You can't get lost here because there is a Toot 'Totum just down the street from wherever you may be.  About that name, according to Toot 'n Totum "When we were founded in 1950, guests would drive up, toot their horn & we'd tote the order out to the car. Hence, our name!" (another note from me: Unfortunately, Jr High age boys for decades have called it "Fart 'n Fetchum.") 
And remember my October 25th post about Andy Beagle's baby?  Here is Andy tonight trying to put his baby to bed...
Good night and stay warm!

What's In Your Fridge?

Granny Annie issued that challenge I participated in on my last post. LOL!  She saw my jar of Miracle Whip in my fridge and commented that she didn't know anyone used Miracle Whip.  Well, I didn't think I knew anyone who didn't use Miracle Whip.  Makes me wonder what else I think everyone has on hand all the time.  So, my challenge is:  What is something that you always have in your fridge?
Here is my list of "always have" items:
  1. Miracle Whip---I put it on sandwiches & hamburgers, in potato salad and pasta salad.
  2. milk---I don't drink it but put it on cereal.  I eat a lot of cereal.  Raisin Bran Crunch is my favorite.
  3. eggs---I don't really like to eat eggs but have them because scrambled egg & toast sandwiches are cheap meals, and I make cornbread a lot, requiring an egg.  
  4. Apple Cider Vinegar---because I think it has a lot of healing properties.  I try to drink it every day....a cup of hot water, a Tablespoon or so of honey, a Tablespoon of Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother, and a packet of Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Drink mix.
  5. Catsup (or is it ketchup?)---to have with the OreIda Crinkle Cut Fries I bake in the oven.  Yum!
  6. Thousand Island & Hidden Valley Ranch Dressings---because I like salad with dressing.
  7. Some kind of margarine and/or butter---for mashed potatoes & toast mostly.
  8. a jar of water with lots of ice---because I drink a lot of water but only when it is icy cold.
  9. Grated Cheddar Cheese---because I eat a lot of Mexican food with cheese, use it in casseroles, put on top of chili or baked potatoes.
  10. Iceberg lettuce--for salad and because I can't eat a sandwich without it, even though it is tasteless.
  11. Sweet pickles--- for tuna salad, Dill Pickle Chips ---for hamburgers, and my granddaughter & I like to just eat them for a snack.
  12. Mustard ---for hamburgers and potato salad.
  13. a can of some kind of carbonated beverage---because that is my biggest weakness.  Coke, Dr. Pepper or Squirt
  14. a jar of jelly, jam or preserves---for toast.  Right now I have apricot and blackberry. Usually I have strawberry.
  15. Orange Juice---because I love it.  Start your day with a glass of sunshine!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

I'm Up To A Challenge

I have never participated in a blog challenge before but here goes...

HERE IS A CHALLENGE (from my blogger friend Granny Annie at http://granan10.blogspot.com/2013/12/here-is-challenge.html )

Try taking a selfie of you and your pet/s.  Let me know in the comments that you have posted your efforts and I will link you on my blog.  If you don't have any pets, let's see the inside of your refrigerator.  You can tell I'm not preparing any Christmas dinner.  Are you?

My cell phone is a cheapie... only good for talking and texting so I can't do a selfie but here is a photo of my 2 dogs and my grand-dog, who lives with us.  Zoe and Gracie DO have eyes, but they are asleep and in need of a grooming so right now you can't see their eyes.  Andy is the sweetest Beagle ever. Gracie is the black blob next to Andy.  It is hard to get a good photo of her. Zoe blends in with my couch.

 Zoe, my schneagle ~ Andy, my grand-Beagle ~ Gracie, my little Schnauzer
Yes, I am cooking.  I don't know who might be here but I am cooking a turkey, dressing and fixings. I bought a turkey at Thanksgiving but I did not cook it since I later learned that none of the kids were coming to my house until the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  By then they would have had turkey for lunch and dinner Thursday and Friday so I didn't think they would care to have it on Saturday as well.   That turkey is still in my freezer so I am going to thaw it out and cook on Christmas day.  I have invited my 3 children and their families that live here in Amarillo but they also have a dad & stepmom, and in-laws, and want to have Christmas at their own homes, so I am not sure who will be here at a meal time.   Good thing this challenge made me think of it, I guess I need to put that turkey in the fridge to thaw.  :)
Anyway, here is my fridge...

       I am constantly taking photos and carry my camera in my purse all the time but even this was strange for me ... my daughter asked me why on earth I was taking a picture of the inside of the fridge!!!


Not A Pleasant Post

    I live in a city of around 200,000 residents.  Traveling around town is fairly easy because of our highway system.  The city limits are encircled by Highway Loop 335.  Amarillo is intersected east/west by I-40 and US 66, and north/south by US 287/I-27. It is sort of like a pie cut into 4 pieces by highways.

       If I go anywhere in town I use these highways --- usually multiple highways, multiple times a day.  I see a fair amount of billboards, although those are becoming extinct.  However, there are some very sobering new signs.  Last year Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) started posting the number of deaths on Texas highways on extremely large digital signs along Texas highways. 
       Every time I drive to my son or daughter's homes I pass a TxDOT sign.  Yesterday, in large red lights on a dark background it said:
3,061 deaths on Texas roads this year 
and it was wrong.  I believe the sign is updated once a week and I know that 4 people died on roads & highways in or around Amarillo just in the past few days.  I have no idea how many deaths in the state for this week. 
      The point of having the signs is that maybe Texas drivers will think before they drink and drive, text and drive, speed, fail to buckle up, or whatever impairs their driving.  It does me.  It makes me think.  I see that sign and I think 3,061 souls left home one morning and didn't ever come back.  In a second their family's lives were changed forever.  Do I slow down, pay more attention, drive more careful?  You betcha.  
      I don't know about anywhere else, but here in my city it was common to see someone driving and talking on a cell phone until last year's law went into effect.  From my observation not too many people are complying with the law as of yet. Is it a stupid thing to do? Yes!  I recently heard on the news that Texas is way up there on the list of states with terrible drivers. 
      As per TxDOT reports, there was not a deathless day on Texas roads in 2012. There was a total of 3,399 deaths on Texas roads last year.  On average a person was killed every 2 hours and 35 minutes.There were 63,610 serious injury crashes in Texas last year with 87,087 people sustaining a serious injury.  
      A young woman ran a red light while looking down at her GPS and hit me last year.  While I suffered a concussion, broken bones & a totaled vehicle I realize my wreck would not even be considered a serious injury crash.  I have no idea how many less severe wrecks occurred.
     If you are driving somewhere for Christmas, please be careful.  Make it home in one piece.  And before you drive away tell your family you love them.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


This music calms my soul.  You may have seen them on GMA recently or on Today. I just wanted to share:

ThePianoGuys O Come, Emmanuel  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iO7ySn-Swwc

No one plays the piano like ThePianoGuys  http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/entertainment/music/the-piano-guys-put-a-new-spin-on-holiday-music

Where Are You Christmas?   http://thepianoguys.com/portfolio/where-are-you-christmas-live-in-concert/  That precious little girl singing at the end is pianist Jon Schmidt's daughter, Sarah.  When she hugs and kisses her daddy at the end ... my eyes were swimming.

I can not imagine how his brain works that he can play upside down ... http://thepianoguys.com/portfolio/rudolph-merry-christmas/

Little Drummer Boy

      If I posted this before I'm sorry --- you know my memory --- non-existent but I just love this video of The Little Drummer Boy by Pentatonix ~~~ an American a cappella group of five vocalists, Scott Hoying, Kirstie Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan and Kevin Olusola, originating from Arlington, Texas.
     Quick, turn off anything else making sound and turn up your volume to listen to this a cappella group sing Little Drummer Boy.....

and if you enjoyed that here is the link for them singing Carol of the Bells

and Angels We  Have Heard On High

      For this old grandma some of the sounds are a little strange -- I don't like singers to mess with carols. I want them to sound like I expect them to sound -- but overall I love them! Listen to an entire song before you decide if you like it or not.  Since I can not carry a tune in a bucket I am amazed at what these talented people can do with their voices.  If you listen to any of these links let me know what you think. Bet you smile!
                       Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My Second Best Christmas Ever

     The 1990's were good years for me.  Both of my best Christmases ever were in the 90's.  My 2nd best was not on Christmas day but a get-together I had mid-December one year.  I will try to not be wordy but I have to give you a little background.
     I do not have a single memory of Christmas when I was a child.  I grew up in a weird family.  We had Christmas, per say, I just don't remember it.  My older sister does not remember Christmas either.    I will just leave it at that.  I DO remember frosted sugar cookies from a bakery at my school parties.  I thought that was the most luxurious thing in the world.
      Christmases during the time my children were small were very good.  Christmases after they grew up and left home ---eh--- lonely mostly.
     Normally, I don't do parties.  I am an introvert.  I am a homebody. I don't like socializing. But I always wanted the big loving family experience of a family meal or get-together or something.   Aunts and uncles and cousins.
     I did not win the family jackpot, not counting my kids and grandkids, and my sister. My sister and I are in contact almost daily now but for a good 40 years we barely knew each other.  That weird family thing.  (I remember when we started to be close.  My mother had died.  Me in my 30's, my sister in her 40's, and us at the florist when I had a thought. The thought was that we were orphans. I said something like "We are orphans now. Maybe we should get to know each other.) We rarely ever see each other since she lives in another state but email has brought us together.  I have a much older step-brother that lives on the other side of the country and I wouldn't know him if he were standing behind me in the grocery check out line.  Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, significant other, in-laws, out-laws....no.  None.
    Well, one year, this was back before my sister and I really got to know each other, I decided I was going to have that big loving family experience come heck or high water.
     I made my own big family.  I wanted to have a very simple dinner with my "big family" and I wanted to do something "Christmas-y."  Something a family would do together.
    A large church in town, not mine, had a magnificent Christmas program each year.  It was wildly popular.  It was presented numerous times during December. Tickets were free, but you had to have a ticket.  I called the church office.  The largest amount of tickets one person could pick up was 50.  I picked them up.  Now I knew my own big family would number 50 souls.  The first 5 tickets were for me and my children. Now I needed 45 more "family members."
     I prayed about who could I adopt for the evening to be my family.  I prayed and pondered and thought and made a list.  I didn't really have but a couple of close friends. I was busy with my kids when I was not working. I had a lot of acquaintances though. The first name that came to me was my favorite grocery store checker.  I didn't even know her last name.  Our only connection was that she was friendly, always smiling, funny and I liked to get in her line when I bought groceries.  She seemed like the kind of person I would pick out for a cousin.  
    I knew another lady that was single and without much family.  I knew her holidays went about like mine.  She became a cousin too.   Other names came to me.  Patrons from work that I felt a closeness to; a special teacher from my kid's elementary school days.    
    I was active in my small Mormon church and people there were very good to me.  Now Mormons know how to have big loving families.  Big families.  I am a convert.  My 4 kids and I were a small family at church.  :)  I invited some of my church family that were important to me.  The first "church people" I thought of was an older couple that I just loved to pieces.  If I could have chosen them for my parents or grandparents I would have.  Of course they became part of "my big family."  Several of the women from church that had been so good to me became aunts and sisters and cousins, along with their husbands.  Now I had uncles and brothers and male cousins.   Some people were in their 70's, a few were children, and all ages in between.  I was soon sorry I only had 50 tickets.
    There was no way on earth I could afford to take 50 people out to dinner.  There was no way on earth I could cram 50 people in my home for a meal.  I could barely afford food for us five, not for a party.  December in Texas might be mild but too cold for an evening picnic in a park.   My church had a room big enough but it would not have been appropriate to ask to use it and few of my new "family members" were members of my church so I didn't want them to think I was trying to convert them.  I finally came up with a meeting room I could use for free so now on to coming up with food for our family dinner.
    I wrote a letter to my prospective family members, told them what I wanted to do, that I had the tickets for the Christmas program and invited them to be my family for the evening.  I said I couldn't afford food for 50 but I could provide beverages, disposable bowls, plates, spoons, napkins etc if they could bring one thing to share...a crockpot of soup or chili, or bread, or a dessert for a potluck dinner. I would bring my crockpot of soup too.  We would eat and then all go to the program together. 
    We had the best extended family dinner that I ever had.  It was awesome.  Most of the people did not know each other so before we started to fill our bowls I asked them to find a seat at a table and let me introduce everyone.  I went to each family or individual and told why I felt they were special to me and why I wanted them to be my family for the evening.  There were lots of hugs, laughs and some happy tears.  We had a great time.  It did not seem like a roomful of strangers at all.  We all visited. We ate delicious food. Had tons of leftovers. Several offered to bring the paper goods and beverages so it turned out to be no expense for me except my soup offering.  The church was only a few blocks away and we all enjoyed the Christmas program so much.
    One of the nicest things I heard that night was from a woman of considerably more means and status than me.  She told me she and her husband had a calendar full of holiday parties and events to attend but this one was the least stressful to think about attending and the most fun.  That it was truly like a big family gathering.
   If you are like me and Norman Rockwell family gatherings don't happen in your life and you want to do something fun for Christmas, or New Years, or for a random Saturday night I highly suggest you create your own family.  You never can tell, it might turn out to be one of the best times of your life.  Merry Christmas!
P. S.  I would like to add that we all became one big happy family and stayed in contact, but no.  My very best friend has passed away, others moved, others I just no longer see -- the grocery store checker was no longer there one day.  Life happens, but for that one evening it was very good.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Shut Your Eyes And See Christmas

     When I worked at the library I worked in the Youth Department.  We were on the second floor of a large library and our area took up almost half of the floor.
     Being in our own little world upstairs we had opportunities to do things not available to every department.  One was that from Thanksgiving through Christmas we played Christmas CD's at our desk.  Not loudly, just loud enough for the two employees manning the desk to hear and not so loud that phone calls to the desk could not be heard over the music.  I lost a good bit of my hearing about halfway through my 20 years at the library so much of the time I could not hear the music, even with my hearing aides, if the volume was low enough for someone with normal hearing to quietly listen.      
     We had one children's CD that we especially loved and even after hearing became difficult for me if no one else but staff was in the department I was allowed to turn the volume up when this particular poem came on.  The CD was Fred Penner's The Season: A Family Christmas Celebration ... a wonderful CD and not your typical children's CD .. this one is beautiful, not chipmonk-y.  Mr. Penner recites a poem and then it is followed by a verse of "I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day."
      The poem was written by Rose Fyleman, an English writer and poet.  In December 1929 she was invited to Winnipeg, Canada to be a guest speaker at some women's clubs.  One evening Ms. Fyleman and a president of one of the women's clubs took a walk from her hotel to the Manitoba Parliament Building to see the statue of Queen Victoria on the front lawn.  Ms. Fyleman went back to her hotel and wrote the poem "In Winnipeg at Christmas."
      I have never been to Canada.  Every Christmas of mine has been spent in the desert of New Mexico or the plains of the Texas panhandle.  I have had white Christmases but more often than not the weather has been sunshine and fairly warm.  Most often children have no trouble at all riding new Christmas bicycles in t-shirts and jeans, maybe a hoodie or jacket. Even as a child I saw Christmas as something totally different than my experience, obviously colored by things I read.  Then, and now, in my mind I see Christmas as snowy ... 4 feet of snow, at least, and snowmen everywhere.  The colored lights of Christmas decorations blurry because of the big fluffy snowflakes falling.  No matter where you are Christmas carols playing.  Everyone offering Christmas greetings, laughing, happy. Christmas trees, and wreaths and decorations on light poles.  "Ugly Christmas sweaters" that are not ugly to me.  Decorated sugar cookies, beautiful Christmas packages piled under trees, homes packed with loving family.  You can see how I fell in love with the poem below.
      If your library has Mr. Penner's CD check it out and shut your eyes and listen.  You will see Christmas.  If you can't get the CD then shut your eyes and ask your favorite person to read it to you.  If you live alone like me then memorize the poem and recite it to yourself.  It is lovely.
In Winnipeg at Christmas

In Winnipeg at Christmas there’s lots and lots of snow,
Very clean, and crisp and hard
And glittering like a Christmas card
Everywhere you go;
Snow upon the housetops, snow along the street,
And Queen Victoria in her chair
Has snow upon her snowy hair
And snow upon her feet.

In Winnipeg at Christmas they line the streets with trees-
Christmas trees lit up at night
With little balls of coloured light
As pretty as you please.
The people hurry past you in furry boots and wraps;
The sleighs are like a picture book,
And all the big policemen look
Like Teddy Bears in caps.

And oh! The smiling ladies and jolly girls and boys;
And oh! The parties and the fun
With lovely things for everyone-
Books and sweets and toys.
So, if someday at Christmas you don’t know where to go,
Just pack your boxes up I beg,
And start at once for Winnipeg;
You’ll like it there I know.

-Rose Fyleman

Merry Christmas from Betsy to you

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Twelve Days of Christmas, or Our Best Christmas Ever

I have no idea who gave my family our best Christmas ever.  I tried to find out so I could not only thank them but let them know what they did for my family.  They worked so hard to keep it a secret and after awhile I realized they didn't want me to know so I gave up trying to figure it out.  Besides, I had given it my best shot and came up with nothing! No clue!
     It was back in the early 1990's. I was divorced, working at the best job in the world (library) but for a tiny bit above minimum wage and I had 4 children.  I didn't have a lot of money to do fun things for my children during the holiday season. My Mother had died the year before right at Christmas and I was dreading the season coming around that year.  A couple of other difficult things were going on.  It was not going to be a Norman Rockwell Christmas. 
     Whoever it was knew my schedule well.  Two weeknights a week I worked until 9 p.m. I worked every other Saturday and the other week days until 6 p.m.  I lived in a bit of a scary neighborhood and I think they realized anything they left on my porch would disappear if left alone for long.  They left us 12 gifts, at random times, but always just shortly after I had picked my children up and arrived home at night.  Being December it was always in the dark.
     The first gift came early in December.  It was a thin tree branch, maybe about 5 or 6 feet tall, with a pear attached to it and a little note ... "On the first day of Christmas my true friend gave to me a pear tied to a tree."  My children, ages 8 though 14, and I thought it was fun that someone rang our doorbell and left this on our porch.  I assumed it was meant for one of my daughters and from one of their friends. We did not expect another gift.
     A week later, the doorbell rang again. No one there but a gift was left on our porch.  I am sorry to say I don't remember what it was, but it went along with the song and had a little note... I am pretty sure it was a box of Chocolate "Turtle" candies and a bar of Dove soap.  It definitely brightened our day.
    We thought there might possibly be a 3rd gift so the kids tried to listen for a car to stop at our home but we never heard or saw a thing.  At a random time the doorbell would ring and they would be out of sight before we opened the door. 
    We asked everyone we could think of if they were leaving the gifts. No one admitted to it but many friends of mine and my children would ask daily "did you get another gift?"  It was fun & holiday joy for a multitude of people, especially my co-workers!  Never knowing when a gift might come or what it would be created suspense, anticipation, and happiness that made that December fun when we were sorely missing my Mom and their Grandma. 

    Of the other gifts I can only remember four.  Instead of 3 French hens we found 3 frozen Cornish hens and other food items to make a meal.  Our five golden rings was a can of pineapple rings.  Instead of 10 Lords a Leaping we received socks. Pretty socks - argyles, stripes, bright colors - not just plain old white socks.  A pair for each of us totaling 10 socks.  They were pinned to something, I can't remember what, but pinned as if hanging on a clothes line.  The last gift was a party in a box ... items to "drum up a party"....cans of Sprite, cookies, snacks.  It was the best Christmas ever.
     I so wish I had the list of exactly what we received.   I kept all of the notes that came with each gift but somehow I lost them over the years.  I recently googled "gifts for the 12 Days of Christmas" and found this wonderful article: http://familycrafts.about.com/od/christmascrafts/ss/12-Days-Of-Christmas.htm.  It has great examples of things you can give for the 12 days.  If you can ever afford it and know someone who needs some holiday cheer I promise this can't be beat.  It doesn't have to be expensive gifts, just requires some imagination.  We appreciated the can of pineapple as much as any of them.  20 years later when I see a pineapple ring I remember that feeling of bliss finding our "5 golden rings."  20 years of thinking someone loved my family so much that they created gifts, came by my home and left them 12 times during what most likely was an already busy month for them.  Somebody cared about us. 
    Go out and hug somebody, and give someone a Christmas surprise if you can.

Friday, December 13, 2013

On a Roll ...

     I've been feeling a little under the weather, just a sore throat, but my daughter came over last night and made me comfort food ...  Pumpkin Cake Roll, the recipe from the Libby's Pumpkin can or their website.  Powdered sugar, pumpkin cake, and a cream cheese filling ...  Heaven to Betsy, that is good!  Very easy to make and such a pretty dessert.  
    Twelve days until Christmas ... are you A, B or C?
A.  Ready and just waiting for the big day.
B. Still having shopping & decorating to do.
C.  Waiting for it all to be over and looking forward to a new year.

I am A and on a roll ... presents purchased and wrapped just waiting to be with grandchildren, but also C.  

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Christmas Jars

Last month I listed some adult Christmas books I like.  One was The Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright.  If you have read it and enjoyed it you might like to read this short follow-up story by the author:
I enjoy reading his newspaper columns.  If you are interested you can read them here:

Saturday, December 7, 2013


       Good Morning, Amarillo!  6:26 a.m. and it is a chilly 4 degrees but the wind makes it feel like -10, that is 10 below, people!  
       On days like this I am SO glad I am retired and don't have to get out, scrape a windshield, and go to work. Today I think I will:
  • Finish reading a cozy mystery
  • bake some bread
  • wrap Christmas presents
  • work on a jigsaw puzzle
  • clean my bedroom & bathroom
  • write a letter to my son
  • watch an old DVD The Family Stone
  • work on a photo album for my granddaughter 
  • Read Reader's Digest online with my library card 
What do you like to do on days when it is too cold to go out and about?       

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Santa Came Early This Year

 Santa knew just what I wanted.  The best Christmas present I could ever ask for came a little early this year ~~~ a new grandson to love and spoil!  My granddaughter will make sure he loves books as much as the rest of the family.  I need to talk to my son & d-i-l ~~~ their new baby is 5 weeks old and does not have a library card yet!

Santa came early for Andy, Zoe & Gracie as well.  He dropped off three new dog beds. This large one pictured here was for Zoe since she is a big girl, and two smaller ones just like it for Andy & Gracie.  Well, Zoe has claimed a small one and Andy & Gracie both want the big one, preferably alone!  

Back in the day (a long time ago) I received many Christmas cards and mailed out quite a few cards.  I absolutely loved getting them in the mail and loved sending them, but like most people I know my budget is strained and cards & stamps are on the extravagant list so I mail very few.  A sad tradition to lose.  Question of the day .... do you mail out many Christmas Cards?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

I Can't Remember My Mother's Voice

We had these every Christmas in the 60's. So pretty

      I just saw this photo of Christmas candy on Pinterest and immediately thought of my Mother.  When I was a child my Mom almost always had a dish of this exact same kind of Christmas candy for us every year.  Not in a beautiful glass such as this, more likely in a cereal bowl.   It would have been one of the few Christmas-y things in the house. 
     That this photo of candy brought back a memory of my Mom also reminded me that she died in December. 21 years ago.  She was 72, I was 38.  I hadn't forgotten that she died in December, it was just the second thought I had upon seeing this candy.  I wondered if she had this Christmas candy that year before she passed away. Probably not.
      The last time I saw my mom was on Thanksgiving that year.  We had Thanksgiving at my sister's home in New Mexico.  I rode from Texas to New Mexico with a friend.  His car broke down on the way on a long stretch of two lane road way off the beaten path in the middle of nothing but cow pastures out in the middle of nowhere, and thus I made Thanksgiving dinner late for everyone because they had to come looking for me.  She was livid at me. This was before cell phones and I had no way to call and explain why we were late or that we were walking as fast as we could.  She was also mad at me that my kids were with their dad for Thanksgiving and I was not bringing them to see her.  And then she died about 2 weeks later, still mad at me.  I hate holidays.  
     To stop thinking about sad things I started thinking about pleasant things about my mom.  Not the easiest task.  She had the most difficult life of anyone I personally know. Truly difficult and not because of anything she had done. Her mom died when she was a child and life was a struggle from that point on.  It was like the devil said no matter what she had before her in life he was going to make it as difficult and horrible as possible, forever.  Not too long ago I was talking to my sister and remembering our Mother's funeral, actually her casket.  My sister picked it out.  It was shiny ivory painted metal, with oval things on each corner with pink roses painted in the oval thing.  I guess it had brass trim.  I told my sister that it was sad that the prettiest thing our Mother ever owned was her casket. My sister agreed that it was the prettiest thing she had ever had (and she didn't even  get to see it.)  Anyway, to stop remembering all the harsh things and sad things I tried to think of good things.  
       She made the best chocolate pie I have ever had.  She sewed beautifully and made all my clothes. She crocheted and quilted. The first time I ever slept under a blanket rather than a quilt was when I got married.  She sewed Barbie doll dresses for me.  When I moved away she wrote me letters.  I can't really remember what her handwriting was like, and I haven't saved anything she wrote but I think I might recognize her handwriting if I saw it now. Whenever I needed help she was there for me.  I know she loved me even though she never kissed me, she was not a hugger, and she never said the words "I love you."  She loved my children and she would certainly love my grandchildren to pieces.
      While I was trying to think of pleasant things it dawned on me that I can not remember what her voice sounded like.  I can not. I can barely remember what she looked like.  I have just a few photographs of her and there is only one in which she is smiling, sort of.  She didn't smile much.  I can't remember what color eyes she had.  I know they weren't blue so they must have been brown or hazel but I don't know.  How horrible is that??  My eyes are hazel.  I am going to assume her eyes were hazel too. Her hair was light brown, gray when she passed away.  I remember her hands.  She had a crooked finger, broken and never heeled correctly.  Her veins were large and very pronounced on the tops of her hands. Her knuckles were large and arthritic. I never saw polish on her nails.  Her hands were for working, not to be pampered.  I remember her arms because they were heavily scarred from terrible burns she suffered.  I remember her feet because I used to rub them for her.  She had huge bunions and corns and callouses and her toes were bent oddly.  I can not remember a time when her feet did not hurt her.  I remember she was thin.  Even in old age she didn't get fat.  I can not remember her ever laughing, I have no idea what it would have sounded like.  She did not sing. That I can not remember the color of her eyes or the sound of her voice just stuns me.  I wonder what my children will remember about me.    
    This is not meant to be a downer of a post.  Really it isn't, it just is what it is.  I'm not fishing for sympathy or anything like that, nor do I want it, but I wonder ... do other people forget what their parents sounded like???   I am stunned that I can not remember her voice, barely remember what she looked like.    


I may be in trouble now --- I will never get anything done around my house.  My library is now offering magazines for check out online... digital magazines.  One of the little things I miss about working in a library are the magazines.  During my 20 year career I almost daily read a magazine on my breaks or lunch hour.  I don't remember how many magazines my library subscribed to but many --- over 100 I seem to recall.  Now there are 42 magazines available to me online for reading on my laptop or tablet.  I will skip some, like Car & Driver, but 22 of them are of interest to me ... including Prevention, Reader's Digest, Weight Watchers, Newsweek.  What a cool opportunity as I can't afford to subscribe to magazines. I love my library.  Are you a library user?  I hope so.  Check in with your library and see what they have new for you.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

November Best Book, And Another About The True Meaning Of Christmas

     Some of the good books I read in November included Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, Meet Me At The Cupcake Cafe, and Servant's Hall.  I enjoyed the ten cozy mysteries,as always.  And I started the month out telling you I was reading My Story: Elizabeth Smart and that hands down, it would be the best thing I read in November, and it was.  Right before Thanksgiving, in the middle of a snow storm I wrote about some of my favorite Christmas books.  I read some of those in November.  One I read in November and then again today, December 1st, so I could say it was the best of the bunch for December.
      Before I get to talking about that little book I need to clarify.  At the end of that post I asked about your favorite Christmas books.  My list of favorites did not include the Bible.  Not because it is not a favorite, especially Luke 2:1-20.... IT IS, but because, for me, my spiritual life is sacred and I keep it pretty close to my heart.  I don't mind other people who speak of their's, or who post "Christian" things on Facebook and the like.  It just is not how I am.  Please don't misunderstand.  No one is wrong, we are all just different in how we handle our religion.  I just like to keep mine real personal.  But then, sometimes, I feel moved to share my spiritual feelings and when I feel that feeling I do.
      Yes, I will be reading scriptures all through December, they just won't appear on my list. To me that is separate. I didn't want you to think I was ga-ga over a list of Christmas books I read every year, --- fiction --- but didn't suggest the Bible might have a good Christmas story, or that I did not read it (and it is not fiction).  Whew. Now that I took all that time to explain that I'm going back to the best book I will read in December.  The title is The Modern Magi by Carol Lynn Pearson.  And I guess I will give you a little glimpse of my religious life by saying I have heard that still small voice and I know from whom it comes.  In The Modern Magi  the main character, Annabelle, wants to give Jesus a gift.  Her story is about how she is trying to do that in her own way, and then she hears a still small voice. Again and again.  Some people may read that and not really understand.  I understand, because I have heard that voice and felt that voice and know that voice.
      I love that little book.  Little it is, only 65 pages and smaller than a 5" x 7" picture frame.  The author, Carol Lynn Pearson? I don't know her, except what I read in the 5 line bio on the book jacket. It was first published a long time ago, in the early 90's if not the 80's. She also wrote another powerful little book in the 80's, A Stranger For Christmas.   What is it about those two little books, especially The Modern Magi?  You will have to read them for yourselves.  I just know it touches me.
     A long time ago, 15 or 20 years, I taught a Spiritual Living class.  At Christmas I told the story of  The Modern Magi.  In a church singles class at Christmas I included it in a lesson I gave.  One year at church I was a speaker in December and I shared the story.  When I taught a Sunday School class for teenagers at Christmas ... you guessed it.  That is how powerful the book is to me.  How much I think that simple story can reach people.  I hope your library has them and you can enjoy them.  If you want to share two wonderful little books about the true meaning of Christmas with your friends you can pick them up from places online such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble for less than $5 a piece.  $5.00 including shipping!  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Ms. Pearson --- they do not know me, they did not ask that I give them a plug, I just want to share these little books with you. That still small voice? He knows me and I know Him. I feel Him when I read these stories.  Merry Christmas.