Photos of Brady

Monday, December 27, 2004


I am hoping that this will post, as I have traveled throughh a long dark tunnel the past several days.

If you are regular readers, you are aware of the computer problems I have been experiencing over the last three months. My brother is an IT, and since he is visiting for the holidays, we have been attempting to straighten out what he calls a series of "operator errors."

Long story short, we completed a major surgery and system restore yesterday. Hopefully this will help the problem, and I can get back to business as usual in a few days. Hang with me, he assures me that things will keep improving over time. Sick IT humor. I have been expecting a crash for a day or two, but it hasn't happened yet. Keep your fingers crossed.

Until tomorrow, hopefully,


Saturday, December 25, 2004


Merry Christmas to all of you from Smalltown, Missouri, USA.

My prayer is that you will have a wonderful day with your loved ones and make warm memories you can remember for years to come. You all make my life richer each and every day, and I thank you for that special gift. May God richly bless you and yours. Happy Birthday Lord Jesus.

Love, Becky.....from here on my country road.


Friday, December 24, 2004


Although I posted this story last year, I wanted to share it again as it is one of my favorite Christmas memories. In fact, Mom and I were talking about this just last night. When we were little, she always made potato soup on Christmas Eve, for humility. Since the baby Jesus was born in a lowly stable, we also had a humble meal. Today however, she will be making a ham dinner. I hope you enjoy the reprise of this family memory.

I had only been married a month when I invited our family to Christmas dinner at our little home. The house was very small, and with the large Christmas tree in the living room, there was even less space. We had a couch and one chair but with the dining room chairs there would be enough seating for everyone. This would be my first major dinner as a new wife, and I wanted everything to be perfect.

I had been going through my little recipe box for days trying to assemble the perfect dinner. Family tradition dictated a ham for Christmas, which would be an impossibility for our tiny food budget. I had been worrying over what to do when a Christmas card arrived from my Dad in Shawnee, Kansas. Not knowing what we wanted or needed for Christmas he had sent a check for me to purchase Christmas gifts for my husband, my daughter and me. I was thrilled, for now I had the funds I needed to purchase a ham for Christmas dinner. By taking my portion of the money I had enough to buy not only a ham, but a Cure 81 ham, which was to me the very best.

Christmas morning I was up before dawn preparing dinner. I set the table with all of the new things we had received as wedding gifts, and cut greenery from the Christmas tree to put on the table around my red candles. It was such a joy to put the ham into the oven, knowing how beautiful it would be come dinner time. The rest of the morning went quickly, and by the time family began arriving, the house smelled wonderful. The ham was almost done, homemade hot rolls were baking, and the pies were cooling on the kitchen counter.
Mom and Grandma are such wonderful cooks that I have to admit to being very nervous about the food, but the real critic was my Grandpa. When I called everyone in to the table, it did indeed look like a picture. After the blessing, I went into the kitchen to bring out the ham. I had scored and glazed the ham, which was adorned with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries. As I set the platter on the table, I was rewarded with the oohs and aahs I had hoped for. My Grandpa did the honors of slicing it, and if I had worried about the meal, all of my worries dissolved when he ate so many helpings I lost count. He commented again and again what a ‘fine’ ham it was, and of course every time he reached for more ham it called for more mashed potatoes, gravy and trimmings.

My Mother and Grandma declared that my dinner was a resounding success, and for me, that was the best Christmas gift I could have asked for. We had a wonderful afternoon, opening the gifts, watching Jennifer play with all of her new things, and listening to Grandpa say over and over again what a fine ham it was as he patted his stomach. By the time we gathered around the table again for pie and coffee, dusk was falling.

It is one of my favorite Christmas memories, and in our family that Christmas ham became legend. My Grandpa talked about it every Christmas…here on our country road.

Merry Christmas Eve,


Thursday, December 23, 2004


Be careful what you wish for. Two days ago I was wishing for some white fluffy snow. Not a lot of it, just enough to bring out the holiday spirit and give the illusion of a winter wonderland. We not only have a white Christmas, but frigid temperatures and wind chills at three degrees.

The weather has me thinking of when I was little and we were home from school due to the weather. The weather patterns were much different back then, and we sometimes were home from school weeks at a time during the holidays because of the deep snows. Mom would have her hands full trying to keep three little kids occupied days on end. There were no VCRs or videos, no computers, and very little in the way of toys other than board games. We looked at the Sears Wish Book until the pages were dog eared. Mom gave us paper and pencils and we made Christmas lists for Santa again and again. When we had exhausted that we got to cut out pictures of the toys we wanted out of the catalog with little blunt end scissors. Mom would make us paste out of flour and water, and we would paste our precious catalog pictures onto paper. This was a laborious activity, and we spent hours at the kitchen table at it.

We did spend a lot of time playing with decks of cards. Do kids really know how to play Slap Jack, Book, War or Crazy 8’s any more? I was partial to the brightly colored deck of Go Fish cards because they were shaped like little fish. We also had a deck of Old Maid cards. When all of that failed, Mom showed us how to play Concentration with the cards. That worked better when we were a little older, but while we were young it was too much of a challenge. Our card games would always deteriorate into shouting matches then to full blown accusations of cheating and rule changing, which resulted in a fast trip to our respective bedrooms for a nap.
What I remember most about those days of being shut off from the outside world by a barrier of white snow was the wonder of it. Many times we had drifts of snow up to the bottom of the window sills. Mom would make cookies or a cake and some homemade hot chocolate. While we enjoyed that we would talk about the presents under the Christmas tree and ask questions about Santa and the reindeer, the elves, and the North Pole. I’ll never forget the year Mom had been telling us stories about Santa and the sleigh. It was Christmas eve, and we were standing in the living room looking out the front picture window into the night sky. The only light was the glow of the Christmas tree lights on the tree. Mom had told us that when Santa came we would hear the jingle of sleigh bells.

As three little faces stood looking out into the snowy night, we heard them. As clear as anything I have heard before or since, I can remember the sound of those sleigh bells. We danced around the living room before being herded off to bed so that Santa could come.

I think what I miss so much about Christmas now is the wonder of it. It can’t be found at the store or under the tree, but in your heart. The first Christmas gift freely given to mankind in a little manger so many years ago is the greatest love story ever told. The magic of childhood memories, snow, the jingle of sleigh bells, and the smell of fresh baked cookies flood my senses.

Looking for the Christmas spirit? It lies within your heart….

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, December 22, 2004


Today in honor of my brother George's birthday, I am reposting the piece I wrote in his honor. He'll be here on Friday for Christmas and to celebrate his birthday with us. Happy Birthday, Pineapple Head!

Older brothers can be your best friend or the bane of your existence. This is true if the sibling is a brother, but if you are a sister of an older brother it is absolutely most assuredly true.

As brothers go mine fall somewhere in the middle. My older brother George and younger brother John were always in cahoots with each other, me being the focus of all their heinous and nefarious plans. They are the reason I am scared of the dark, afraid to open a closet door, and why I look under the bed before I get into it. Reading this will only validate their success and send them into raucous laughter and hoops of hilarity.

George was three years older than me and six years older than John, so our interests were quite different. Much of the time instead of playing games with John and me he could be found in his room drawing large sailing ships or historical manor houses. If we ventured into his room , he would launch into a lengthy oratory of his project. We never knew for sure what he was talking about, but he was so enthusiastic that somehow it was interesting.

For Christmas one year George received a large scale model of the USS Constitution and he sat by the hour working painstakingly on that model. He has always enjoyed history of all kinds and is knowledgeable about it. Athletic pursuits never interested him, but he mowed yards for extra money. He had a paper route for a time, and I remember how scared we were when he came home after being dog bit and had to go to the doctor for a tetanus shot.

John and I were always bugging Mom and Dad to let us go with George when he went places and got to do things we couldn’t. He was in scouting and had to put up with us tagging along to a lot of the functions because Dad was the scout leader and Mom helped with the special events. We made obnoxious pests out of ourselves I’m afraid.

After grade school George and I never attended the same school again. We seemed to start going our own ways as we grew older, but we all caught up with each other at the dinner table each evening when we sat down as a family to eat. This was a hard and fast rule in our house, and Mom made sure that the family reconnected during meals.

George started out in scouting as a cub scout, advanced to boy scouts, and finally to explorer scout. When he was only fifteen years old he was awarded the honor of Eagle Scout. It had been a long and hard fought victory, but we were all so proud of him at the ceremony. He also earned God and Country, Order of the Arrow, had made two trips to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico, two years at Camp Nash and made one canoe portage from Eli, Minnesota to Canada and back again.

After high school graduation George attended the local junior college for a year before enlisting in the Navy. This was the first time one of us would be going away for a long time, and when he left it was pretty traumatic. Several days later, his street clothes and overnight kit were mailed back home from San Diego, California where he was in basic training. It was such an odd feeling- like he was never coming home again.

George loved the Navy. His first ship was the USS Monticello, where he served for 2-½ years. He wrote wonderful and interesting letters home about his travels, but it only served to remind us how very far away from home he was.

One day we got a call saying that he had fallen from some scaffolding on the ship, breaking his arm and injuring his back. It was a very scary time, and I was sad that he was there in a strange place with no family while he was mending. This event proved to be a turning point for George. Due to his injuries he was reassigned to the disbursing office where he was trained in disbursements and payroll.

George was reassigned to the USS Oriskany for the remainder of his tour. After receiving his honorable discharge from the Navy, it was the training that he had received following his accident that secured him a job with the Department of Defense at the Marine offices in Kansas City, Missouri. He has been promoted numerous times and is now a certified PC repair technician.

John and I are outgoing personalities, where George is more reserved. He has always been a thinker and a dreamer, and because we are so different, he has remained somewhat of a mystery to me. He has had many friends in life, and he bought a home in the neighborhood we grew up in and lives across from his best friend and wife. George has a West Highland White Terrier named Murphy and a cat named Cheetah.

George lives as he has all of his grown up life, steadily, orderly and quietly. He is a good son, a loving brother, a loyal friend and a good man….a quiet man. I am proud of him and love him very much. He hopes to retire soon and build a home with us here in Smalltown…..on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Tuesday, December 21, 2004


If the weather reports are true, we are in for a white Christmas here in Smalltown. Wednesday it is supposed to begin snowing heavily and leave seven to eight inches of snow. By Friday the temperatures are to dip below zero. This is quite an event, as we haven’t had a real white Christmas for years.

I have written many times about winters in Shawnee, Kansas where I grew up. We had snow as early as October and it lasted well into the new year. We got out of school before Christmas, and many times due to the heavy snows our two week Christmas vacation turned into three or four.

I can remember standing at the front picture window in the evenings after supper, listening to Christmas carols on the record player and waiting for carolers to come by. We had numerous groups of carolers in those days, as people made it a staple holiday activity. Once darkness fell the world was a magical winter wonderland. The moon and the streetlights caught the ice crystals, making the snow look like diamonds.

One year in particular my brother George and I were standing at the window. Our family had opened our Christmas gifts Christmas eve, and it was almost bedtime. The tree lights cast a glow in the dark room and we could hear Christmas carols playing faintly from an outside speaker at a neighbor’s house the next street up. Standing at that window, with our noses pressed to the glass, a miracle happened. We heard sleigh bells. We looked up and down the street, as the family that owned the grocery store had a real sleigh. It wasn’t unusual to see them riding by in it. They were nowhere in sight.

And so it was that my brother and I heard the sleigh bells of Santa’s sleigh circling overhead. I can still hear them in my memory, and it still ignites the same excitement. For once, mom didn’t have to urge us into bed. Santa couldn’t come until we were asleep, and tucked into my warm bed in my new flannel pajamas, sleep was slow to come knowing that Santa was so close.

When life gets hectic, and the stress of dealing with the holidays as a grown up bogs me down, I recall that magical memory….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, December 20, 2004



Thank goodness I am able to report to you this morning that I have completed all of the things on my holiday ‘to do’ list. The packages are wrapped and in the mail, the cards are done and also in the mail, and all of the monthly bills are paid. The only thing I have to do yet is pick up a few little stocking stuffers, and since I am off on Friday I will do that on my way to the gym.

This week I am working in the office instead of with my crew, so I will have to deliver their gifts to them. I have a twelve hour block course to teach the first week of January, so I have four days this week to get all of that put together. I will be knee deep in flip charts and power point by noon.

I had a phone call last night from my boss saying that his dad had suffered a heart attack and had been air lifted to Springfield. Your thoughts and prayers would be most welcome, and if you just pray for Curly Long, God will know who you mean. If he is stable enough they will be doing an angiogram today to determine damage and course of treatment.

I know that many of you are also praying for Ellen Crush and her husband already, but for those of you who aren’t, I would ask that you remember them in your prayers. The doctors are working on a course of treatment for her cancer. Ellen is beloved in the blog community, and our thoughts should rest on her at this time. I am sure she would appreciate an email greeting from you.

As the clock on the wall indicates, it is time to rise up and get started on Kick Ass Monday. Look out world, here we come! Have a great day, and I’ll be right back here tomorrow…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, December 18, 2004


This is last chance weekend.

Today is the last chance to get my packages mailed and finish the loose ends for Christmas. While everyone is in the same boat, I don't relish rubbing elbows with all of them at the post office and WalMart.

I hope that your preparations are complete and you can relax this weekend, but if you are like me and still have a few things to get done, happy last chance weekend. This is it folks.

Off I go, and I hope the next thing you hear from me is that all is done and all is well.

Have a great weekend,


Friday, December 17, 2004


I posted this story last year at this time, but it is a family classic and felt it worthy of reprint.

It’s funny how things trigger memories. Yesterday I heard the March of the Tin Soldiers. I remember when my brother was in first grade he was in the annual Christmas Pageant. He was chosen as one of the toy soldiers, and Mom worked on his costume. All of the boys were to wear black slacks, long sleeved white shirts, wide red ribbon crisscrossed over chest and back, and they carried little wooden rifles over one shoulder. They had red dots of color on their cheeks. The night of the pageant we all went to the school auditorium for the performance. When the music started for the March of the Toy Soldiers, the boys began marching smartly from the four corners of the stage, crisscrossing in the middle of the X formation in the middle of the stage. This pattern was repeated again and again until the music stopped. I couldn’t have been more than 3 years old at the time, but I remember that like it was yesterday.

When I was in first grade, we were getting ready to begin practice for the annual Christmas pageant. We had 4 first grade classes in our elementary school, so there were plenty of parts for the children. My teacher, who was my favorite teacher, was Miss March. She was wonderful. The day we were to begin practice, all of the first grade classes met in the auditorium. The girls who wanted to be snowflakes were instructed to line up by the piano which was set up adjacent to the stage. The minute Miss March gave the instruction I took off like a shot, reaching the piano several seconds before all of the other girls. I was rewarded for my enthusiasm by being chosen to be Suzy Snowflake. All of the other girls would wear white snowflake costumes, but mine would be a beautiful icy light blue. I would carry a little wand with a silver glitter star on the end, and as I danced around the stage with the other snowflakes, I would touch the snowmen with the wand thus bringing them to life. Our vignette was of course acted out to the tune of Frosty the Snowman.

Practice went very well, and Mom worked diligently on my beautiful Suzy Snowflake costume. They were little ballerina style dresses with silver glitter stars around the skirt. The dresses were made from crepe paper, so were fragile. Mom didn’t let me try it on but once so she could make sure that it was going to fit properly. The night of the big performance, Mom carried my costume to school where all of the students were to dress. All went well until I danced out onto the stage with my little wand. As I turned to face the audience, the lights hit my eyes, but I could see people sitting out in the darkness of the auditorium. I was temporarily stunned into a frozen position, wand raised, and me in mid curtsey. I don’t really remember much after that, but my mom assured me it was a very tense minute as Miss March kept stage whispering directions to me. Evidently whatever she said spurred me to action, because I did eventually dance around the stage with the other little snowflakes, bringing the snowmen to life with my magic wand. It has been a family joke ever since. Probably because I have rarely known a shy moment in my life. At any rate, the show went on, and the rest is history, as they say.

My mother saved my little Suzy Snowflake costume, and it is in the family cedar chest with all of the other precious childhood mementos Mom saved. I am quite sure that the whole event will be retold this Christmas….here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, December 16, 2004


I took piano lessons when I was a young girl, and after many years of practice on the basics I was able to play beautiful music. Great Aunt Beulah gave us her piano, an old upright that I believe my cousin Dale also took lessons on. It sat in the corner of our living room, and I spent a lot of time sitting on the bench practicing.

When I was little older, I was able to play Christmas carols. This was always so much fun, as we all liked to sing along. I grew up I the early sixties, and sing along with Mitch, Shakey’s pizza, and singing as a family around the piano were popular. On rare occasions we would go to Shakey’s for pizza, and while waiting they played sing along songs that they projected the words to on a screen. It was always lots of fun.

Once the Christmas tree was up I would begin to practice Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and other traditional Christmas carols. In the evenings, we would gather around that old piano and sing. Of course I am sure that the three little kids singing along to crudely played carols was a sight and sound to behold, but we got high marks for enthusiasm.

We always had an abundance of Christmas cookies, fudge, and other Christmas goodies to eat, and mom had homemade hot chocolate at the ready. At the grocery stores there were huge bins of nuts, ribbon candy, and chocolate drops. I remember that mom had a red poinsettia candy dish that always held the beautiful ribbon candy, or sometimes the divinity. Just choosing a piece out of that dish made it more special.

Every time I hear Christmas carols, those memories come flooding back. I still love to sing carols, and I always remember playing them on that old upright piano in the corner of our living room in the glow of the colored tree lights.

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Yesterday I got out my address book so that I could address Christmas cards. I have had the same address book for more years than I can count, and it is in sad shape. In the same drawer that I keep it in there are two other brand new address books that I bought with the intention of updating mine. Sadly they are still in the wrapping they came in.

My address book isn’t even attractive. I got it free as a welcome package when I signed up for telephone service 31 years ago. My first entries were rendered in ink pen, which was a mistake. As I updated addresses I have had to cross out, write over, above, under or to the side of the original address. Some of the entries have never changed in all the subsequent years, but most have been changed several times. I have learned to enter new addresses in pencil in case changes need to be made. It is a journal of the dear ones I call friends and family. Many entries are merely address labels I taped into the book as I noticed a new or updated address. There are post-it notes with addresses on them, torn envelopes bearing a new address stuck into the back, and business cards tucked into the pockets- all needing me to enter them in my book. I will. Someday.

My address book is like a friend. It is falling apart, but nothing a little duct tape can’t fix. There are entries for people I no longer correspond with but hate to remove as you just never know- I may need to some day. Several entries need to be removed because they are no longer part of the family circle due to divorce. Some of the entries belong to those who have died, yet I cannot bring myself to remove them from the listings.

My address book is essential. I have taken it on every vacation, business trip or hospital stay. It is my link to checking on animals at the vet, calling the doctor or dentist, and family. How can you send postcards without addresses? My Christmas card list is in the back pocket. Every year as I get it out to address Christmas cards I leaf through the pages of my address book. It is always a journey….here on my country road.

Until tommorow,


Tuesday, December 14, 2004


I suppose it is thinking about the Christmas decorations going up everywhere that triggered the memories of our family Christmas trees when we were little. There were no artificial trees back then, and if you lived in the city like we did your tree came from one of the many Christmas tree lots that appeared like magic the day after Thanksgiving. We would go as a family to the Christmas tree lot and pick out a tree that fit into the slim family budget.

For some reason what we could afford usually had flaws that only turning to the wall behind the tree could fix. Once the tree was purchased, it was loaded into or on top of the family car and taken home. Dad would put the tree into the red and green metal tree stand and stand the tree in the garage for 24 hours so that the tree and the branches could relax. Any problems with balance could be taken care of during this stage of the process.
After the tree had been deemed ready to bring into the house, Dad would bring it in and stand it in front of the big picture window facing the street. Once supper and the dishes were done we gathered in the living room where the boxes of Christmas decorations had been put. Mom always turned on Christmas carols while we worked, but there was such a excited chatter going on once the ornaments were revealed it was hard to hear them. We used the same ornaments every year, blown glass ornaments with glitter that sparkled in the light of the colorful Christmas tree lights. There was also a box full of ornaments we made in art class at school and in Cub Scouts and Camp Fire Girls.

My brothers and I would wait excitedly while Dad put on the strings of lights. Not the mini lights that are popular now, but the big bulbs that were all that was available in the 1950’s. Once the lights were secure and turned on, we got to put on the ornaments. Mom and Dad supervised my brothers and I during this process because all of us wanted our favorite ornaments on the front of the tree. I am sure that once we were in bed asleep Mom rearranged them to her satisfaction. After the ornaments were up we had to hang the silver icicles. This was a painstaking job. Each one had to be hung separately by hand. My older brother George always got mad at John and me because we would soon tire of it and begin hanging them several at a time and then resort to throwing handfuls of them in the general direction of the tree just to get rid of them. This usually resulted in Mom plying John and I with hot chocolate and cookies so that George could repair the damage and finish hanging the icicles. He never seemed to tire of this job, and was very good at it because each year every icicle was placed in such a way the tree looked beautifully glistening with ice.

The last step in the decorating process occurred once the tree was finished, the boxes cleared away and everyone had hot cocoa and freshly baked cookies. The Christmas carols would be replayed, and we gathered around the tree while Dad would turn out the lamps so that only the tree lights illuminated the room. I thought there was nothing so beautiful in all the world as the sight of our Christmas tree in the glow of those brightly colored tree lights.

Fond memories are what Christmas is all about. The memory of three little kids singing Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer at the top of our lungs while we chewed Mom’s cookies warms my heart….here on our country road.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, December 13, 2004

Happy Monday!

I am beginning the week with all Christmas shopping done and all of the cards ready to mail. Yahoo. It was a good investment of time to get it done this weekend. Now, only mailing the boxes. While I was working on the holiday preparations I thought about all of the holidays at home as we were growing up.

As a child growing up Mom made Thanksgiving a major event. All holidays and birthdays were special, and duly prepared and decorated for, but Thanksgiving was the big one. Living in Shawnee, which is a suburb just outside of Kansas City, put us in a central location for all of our relatives that lived elsewhere.
Since none of our relatives wanted to travel at Christmas time due to bad weather we usually had a house full of guests at Thanksgiving time.

I am not exactly sure who came up with the original idea, but we did have an odd tradition. All of the relatives coming to the house for Thanksgiving brought their Christmas gifts for our family and whoever was going to be there. While we were all together we opened our gifts so that everyone could share Christmas together. This was usually done after Thanksgiving dinner, and my brothers and I believed this to be a capital idea. Two Christmases instead of one?

Now I am sure that in the beginning this tradition had practical reasons for coming to fruition. The mailing of packages has always been a burden, and most of our relatives were retired when we were kids. Somewhere along the way however, this tradition gained momentum and popularity with all concerned. As my brothers and I grew up, it gave our long distance relatives and Grandparents the chance to share the pure joy of three little kids awed by the wonder of Christmas.

Our house was a modest three bedroom ranch style with one bathroom. This provided all of the usual challenges, but in the end everything came out okay. Our family usually slept on the floor allowing the guests the beds. My brothers and I pretended we were camping, and was it was exciting in the extreme. The other neat thing was watching my Great Grandmother combing her hair every morning. She had never had her hair cut, and she wore it on top of her head in a braided bun. At night she unwound the bun and slept with the braid down. In the morning she would come out with her braid over one shoulder. After breakfast we would watch as she unwound the braid and combed her hair, carefully rebraiding it and pinning it once again into the bun atop her head.

We were a little afraid of her, as we had never seen anyone as old as she was, but also because she was an austere woman. She didn’t talk very much and didn’t like silliness, so we were always warned to be on our best behavior. The ritual of her combing her hair was amazing. She would bend over from the waist and with a small comb would begin combing from the bottom, untangling the hair as she worked her way up. Once at the scalp, she would begin combing from the top down again. When this was done, she would bend over again and begin separating the long strands of hair for braiding. After the braid was done she wound it back into a bun and secured it with large plastic hair pins made for braided buns and coronets.

I am sure that my mother was grateful for our fascination with Grandma Stricklett’s morning ritual. It kept us occupied and tickled my Grandma. She would hum sometimes or occasionally ask a question but mostly remained silent. Thinking about it now I wonder at her going through the morning combing and braiding every day all of the years she was old. Simply amazing.

After a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner toward dusk we got to open the presents. Of course gifts in the 1950’s and 1960’s were different than Christmas is today. We usually got children’s classics books that Mom read to us a chapter at a time before bed each night. We also received homemade flannel pajamas, socks and underwear, and board games. Mom would give handmade gifts I had heard her knitting as I fell asleep each night. Stocking caps, socks(yes, hand knit socks), scarves, mittens, and sweaters. All in all it was a lot of fun.
Great memories are precious, more so now that most of our relatives are no longer with us. We cherish our memories and hold them in our hearts as we celebrate each holiday. Although we talk and laugh as we share them with each other now, there is a deep sadness that our loved ones aren’t here to share the moments with us. The magic of the holiday season is that although they made not be here in a physical sense, their presence is felt in every way….with love.

What special memories do you have of holiday events?
Until tomorrow,


Saturday, December 11, 2004


Good morning friends and family.

I would love to sit and chat, but you see, my sleigh is couble parked, and I am late for doing my Christmas shopping. I know, I know. If everything I have to get has to be mailed out of state, why am I just now going? Madness! Ask anyone, I don't always display good sense.

Actually it is just my turn. Knowing time is fleeting and the date to mail packages out of state was last week, I'd better get cracking. The reindeer are getting restless. Next time I post, I will have finished shopping, wrapped the packages, packed the boxes for mailing and finished my Christmas cards.

I'll see you in June. (only kidding).
Until Monday,


Friday, December 10, 2004


Christmas is for giving. When you are a little child this is a concept that is hard to understand. Growing up in the fifties and sixties, mothers stayed home and took care of the family. During the month of December we were usually home the biggest part of the month due to heavy snow accumulation and Christmas vacation. By the time Christmas eve arrived, Mom was usually frazzled, getting everything finished for the holidays, wrapping gifts, and trying to keep three little kids from driving her crazy in the process.

My Dad was a mailman, and at Christmas time he worked long hours delivering packages. At that time the postal service was the only way to mail packages, and the mailmen worked very hard to get all of the packages delivered by Christmas day. This left Mom with the job of keeping us occupied until Dad got home and we could open our gifts. One particular Christmas we were especially excited and anxious to open our gifts. Mom had been trying to impress upon us that it was better to give than to receive, a concept that was both confusing and unwelcome. My brothers and I had no money to buy gifts for each other, and after some discussion Mom told all three of us to go to our rooms and pick one gift for each other from our own things. This accomplished two things. It kept us occupied for some time, and taught us a valuable lesson in the process.

I looked all around my room. There was absolutely nothing I could see that my brothers would want for a gift. I was just about to give up when I saw the box of Chum Gum I had received at our class gift exchange. I loved bubble gum. I had been thrilled when I drew the gift that held a whole box full. My brothers had of course wanted some, but I hid it under my bed and wouldn’t let them have any. It was the most precious thing that I had, and after some thought I decided it would be the only thing I had that my brothers would want. I counted out the same number of sticks for John and George, and ran into Mom to get some wrapping paper.

After wrapping the small packages, I took them into the Christmas tree and hid them among the other gifts.
I was aware of several things. At first I had been unhappy that I had to part with my bubble gum, but that feeling had been replaced with the anticipation of seeing my brothers opening their gifts. I knew that they would be very excited, and in giving away what was most precious to me I had a feeling of great joy instead of sadness. I really do not remember what the boys gave to me, but I do remember the wonderful feeling of happiness that giving brought to my child’s heart.

After Dad finally came home and we had our supper, we gathered around the Christmas tree to open our gifts. It was with the greatest joy that I watched the boys open their little packages. Their looks of unbelief and surprise were all I needed to tell me I had chosen well. Mom’s lesson of it is better to give than to receive hit home in the hearts of three small children. It is one of my favorite Christmas memories….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, December 09, 2004


One of the best things about the Christmas season is driving around to see the Christmas light displays in Smalltown. There are many houses already brightly lit with themed displays which revolve around the nativity. There were several houses that were just lit up like winter wonderlands. Quiet, peaceful, beautiful. The icicle lights make the illusion of icicles and snow drifted on the rooftops and eaves, and the blanket lights make bushes and hedges look like mounds of snow.

Whenever I see beautiful lights I am reminded of that excitement I felt as a little girl. They were magic, creating a fantasy of color and light. I used to love to sit in our living room with all of the lights out but the Christmas tree lights, which cast a multi colored glow in the room. The light made the Christmas ornaments sparkle as the glitter caught the light. I could sit and look at the tree for hours, which always gave way to dreaming about what the pretty packages had inside them.

Another thing I miss at Christmas now are the carolers. When we lived in Shawnee, we had several bunches of Christmas carolers a week. We would line up at the front picture window and listen to their singing, waving as they left and wishing them all a merry Christmas. It was a lovely thing to do, and almost a thing of days gone by.

During the Christmas season, neighbors would come by after the supper hour and bring platters of Christmas cookies and candies that the lady of the house had made. I especially liked the peanut butter fudge the neighbor across the street made, the divinity our next door neighbor brought, and the chocolate heath candy neighbors on the next street made. We looked forward to the goodie exchange each year, and Mom always made plates of fudge and cookies to take when we went visiting.

Christmas is a time of sharing. As the Christmas cards arrive, it is good to hear from family and friends around the country and what they have been doing in the months since last year. Taking the time to experience the sights, sounds and foods of the Christmas season, and celebrating the relationships we share with family, friends and loved ones makes the holiday more meaningful…

I think that I will turn out the lamps and just sit and look at the beautiful Christmas lights…here in my little home.

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, December 08, 2004


Every day is Christmas. When I arrive home each day it is my habit to walk out to the rural mailbox to check the mail. It is always a chance for me to reconnect with Grandpa as well, as he set the post my mailbox sits on almost forty years ago. As with everything my Grandpa did, the post has stood the test of time.

Opening the door to the mailbox is like opening a gift each day. Laying atop the usual grocery store ad and other advertisements are brightly colored envelopes. With a smile I reach into the box to retrieve the mail and push the door back into place. I used to stand there on the road by the mailbox and leaf through the mail to see what I had received, but now I tuck it into my briefcase and wait until I have gone inside the house.

After I have changed clothes, made a pot of tea or poured a glass of wine, I settle into my chair read the mail.
Christmas cards come from all over the country. Family and friends that have moved far away send Christmas letters in their cards. I used to hate seeing those letters, as I thought a handwritten message to be more personal. Over the years I have come to understand the necessity and value of those letters, and enjoy reconnecting with the families they represent. I used to write my Christmas messages longhand in each card I send myself, but this year I wrote a letter on the computer and printed it on pretty Christmas stationary. It saved an incredible amount of time, and was an enjoyable experience.

After reading the cards and letters, they are placed into the basket on the table by my chair. As I sit in the evening relaxing before bed, I often reach for the basket and go through the cards again. It is just one more way that I reconnect with loved ones throughout the Christmas season…here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Monday, December 06, 2004


It is hours until dawn, yet I woke in the night wide awake. I suppose that my body knows it is kick ass Monday, and wanted an early start. Attempts at going back to bed and to sleep were futile. Once my mind is awake sleep will not come again. I gave up and put some music I love to listen to into the stereo. Immediately the beauty of the words and music washed over me, and my spirits calmed.

Music speaks to my heart and soul, lifts my spirits, and touches me unlike any other medium. If my heart could be heard, beautiful music would pour forth. I have always wanted to sing, not just in a choir as I have in the past, but have a good enough voice to sing solo professionally. In that way, all the emotion locked inside me could find a voice. I was not blessed with a solo voice, but I do love music. I will never inspire others with a beautiful voice singing love ballads, but I can touch others in different ways. That is why I write.

Someone special to me had a birthday a few weeks ago, and I was trying to decide what I could give him that would be a meaningful gift and express the way I feel about him. It was a short leap to put together a collection of love songs that reminds me of him every time I hear them. It took me weeks to listen to Cds, choose just the right songs, and decide on a format that would arrange the eclectic collection in a way that would flow flawlessly. Oh, it is an amateur attempt, but the result is something I love. I made several copies for myself so that no matter where I was I would have a copy to listen to. I gave one to mom, and made one for my friend in KC.

At three thirty in the morning I sat on the couch, the beauty of the music filling the room. In no time, my eyes got heavy again. As I went back to bed, the beautiful song Amazed by Lonestar serenaded me back to sleep.
This morning dawn is still an hour away. The cats are asleep next to me, and a pot of tea is steeping. My heart however, is soaring to the strains of Celine Dion’s Because You Loved Me. What a way to start the day.

I hope that music is also a part of your life, and that this holiday season you are lifted up and blessed by the beautiful music of Christmas. If you have a special someone, I hope that there is music that reminds you of them each time you listen to it. If you don’t have someone, it is just a matter of time. Listen to the music you love, think of that person you hope will come, and be ready. You just never know who might come looking for you. One day, my special someone came driving….down my country road.

Happy kick ass Monday everyone.
Until tomorrow,


Sunday, December 05, 2004


Today I slept almost two hours later than usual. I don't know why, but for whatever reason, I did. Knowing that I would have to hurry for the next couple of hours to accomplish everything I would need to get done before Mom's dinner for Rocky's family, I pushed into overdrive.

The biggest thing on my list was grocery shopping. Normally I love to do that, as I can take my time and pick out fresh veggies and fruits for the week. This morning I had a list and stuck to it. Period. Mom called me to say the guests were going to be considerably later than we had planned, so that was a relief. The bad thing is that Rocky's son-in-law won't be able to attend because his mother is critical and not expected to live. He was enroute to St. Louis. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, and hope that he is able to get to the hospital in time.

Coming out of the store with my cart, rain had started falling. I quickly unloaded my cart into the car, and was looking around for a cart corral when a man appeared out of nowhere and offered to take my cart. What a nice gift. The best kind as well, as it was so unexpected. I thanked him, blessed him with a big smile, and he walked off with it.

Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, and at every turn. Look for them, and they will be right in front of you.

Congrats to John, who qualified for Boston yesterday. Godspeed and blessings on your new journey. We are so PROUD of you and the accomplishment. It is bigger because you shared it with us.

Until tomorrow,


Saturday, December 04, 2004


It is still a few minutes before sunrise, and I am working on the list of things I have to do this weekend. I need some more hours in the day! I am leaving for the gym shortly to workout, then it will be a marathon weekend of cleaning, shopping, cooking, and other things of life during the holiday season.

Today is getting away from me, so off I go. A pot of nice green tea is steeping, and I can enjoy that during the twenty five minute drive to the gym. Have a wonderful day, whatever you decide to do with it. Just a reminder to send out good thoughts to John, who will be starting his marathon soon.

Christmas eve is twenty days away! Deck the halls with boughs of holly, falalalala, lala, lala. Oh just listen to that Christmas spirit….here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Friday, December 03, 2004


Sacrifice. Hard work. Discipline. Determination. Focus. Goals.

It is inspiring to set a goal and then set up a plan to achieve it. Last night I upped my weights at the gym to the next level. Although it is a good thing, in that it means progress because the other levels had become too easy to lift, it was a difficult thing. Every exercise was a struggle, and I had to reach to hit personal best on every one. But, I did it.

I am still a long way from my fitness goals, but I am not alone. The people at the gym are extended family. Every night we are in the same boat. We have worked all day, we’re tired, many times haven’t eaten supper yet, but we have the same goal. We have a desire to be healthy and fit. Last night I visited with a young man who is just in the fourth week of his new plan. He has a long way to go, but I always try to encourage him, as he doesn’t seem to know anyone there, and it is easy to get discouraged without a little positive feedback.

This weekend my brother John is finally going to realize the goal he set for himself months ago. He has put in an astronomical number of training miles, and every step brought him closer to this race. It has been a journey. There have been good days, bad days, personal bests, illness and injuries. But he has persevered. Whatever the outcome, he is already a winner. There are so many things that determine success, but the biggest one has already been achieved. He will be at the starting line on race day with hunger in his eye and the finish line in his sites.

I know that you all are with me in wishing him the best of luck, a hope of good weather, and a personal best time. Good luck John, you have already been declared a winner in my book. Like everyone else, I’ll be waiting to see the results. Let the good times roll!

Until tomorrow,


Thursday, December 02, 2004


Yesterday morning was our coldest of the year so far. I had been busy getting ready for work and all that entails, so it wasn’t until I went out the front door with my briefcase and lunch box that I noticed we had had a visitor in the night. Suddenly the rush went out of my morning and I was reminded once again of the glory of nature.

There was a beautiful glistening blanket covering everything. Briefly I noticed my windshield would need to be scraped and that I was already late, but the irritation was fleeting. Taking a deep breath, I took in the crisp clean smell of the frost. Our first heavy frost of the year.

The landscape and the big woods had been painted with sparkling ice crystals while I slept. The sun glinted off of the frost so beautifully. Jack Frost had taken a pocketful of diamonds and made a wonderland that took my breath. Smiling, I walked to the car, started it and turned on the defrosters. Taking a few minutes just to enjoy the beauty of the morning, I smelled the wood smoke from the neighbor’s wood stove. The smoke was hanging in the trees, giving the big woods an ethereal quality.

There are so few moments in the day that speak to me like morning, and as mornings go, this one was stunning. Looking up and down my country road I could see smoke rising from every chimney. Each household was still fast asleep, snug and warm. That is a wonderful thought.

As I turned to get into the car, a familiar sound drew my attention to the highest branches of a tree across the road in the big woods. Against the stark bare branches of the black jack tree, a cardinal was singing to his mate. His beautiful red feathers were a magnificent contrast to the frost glinting in the morning sun. My heart swelled, and I whispered a soft thank you as I got into the car to leave.

In the short time it had taken to admire the beauty of the morning, the windows were clear. Blessings come in all shapes and sizes. Today I pray you will take the time to notice those that have been sent your way. I can’t wait for the sun to come up so that I can see what is out my window…..here on my country road.

Until tomorrow,


Wednesday, December 01, 2004


Temperatures plunged overnight, and this morning we are experiencing the first real taste of winter blast. Cold winds blew all day yesterday bringing in the front, and it rained all day. I didn’t get in from the gym until almost eight-thirty, and knowing it was to be colder today I put on a pot of chicken breast to cook for soup. This morning I will have a nice hearty meal to pack for my lunch at noon.

I have been fighting the demon of high cholesterol for several years, and last night when I weighed in at the gym I was down another two pounds and just three from my goal weight. The inches I have lost are mind boggling even to me. But the best thing is that I am feeling great. I don’t think I have ever felt this strong or fit, and although I am still a ways from the fitness goals I set for myself, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. My lifestyle and eating habits have been completely transformed in the past two years. Once I am finally at my goal weight, I will share those final totals with you. It may not be the marathon my brother John will be running, but the enormity of the accomplishment is as hard won.

Aside from the weight loss and lifestyle changes, I began lifting weights seriously six weeks ago when Matt and I were Mexico. He was a tremendous help to me, and together we put a plan into motion that would hopefully achieve my fitness goals. This past weekend I saw him while I was in Shawnee. What a joy to have him notice the results.

The other big change I made this year was learning how to run. John suggested his online coach Dr. Mike. He was instrumental in getting me past the injuries I had suffered trying to teach myself to run. Matt also was helpful here. When I told him what Coach wanted me to do and then he saw what I was doing, he showed me where I was making my mistakes. Baby steps meant just that. Now I can run, and have so enjoyed the experience. It feels good, I feel good about myself, and the toning benefits are great.

Hard work is wonderful. Goals are essential. Discipline is key. But without feedback and encouragement I would have given up. I have great people around me, I read good books and listened to the advice given me. Now I am trying to pass on that feedback, advice, and encouragement to others who are beginning fitness regimens. Giving someone a hand up is the best way to continue the journey.

Most of us are constantly struggling with bad habits, improper diet, and an inability to stick with a plan of exercise. Nike has it right. Just DO it. Anything is better than nothing, and before long you will be amazed at the results you are getting and how strong and fit you are becoming. Good luck to all of you who will be making health and fitness your New Year’s resolution again this year. You CAN do it!!

The longest journey is begun with a single step.

Until tomorrow,