Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Announcing: Picture for 2015

I started a photo for the year my second year of blogging. Mary Demuth suggested it, as well as seeing it other places. At this time of year, you hear: word for the year, naming your year and the ever popular, forgetting the past year. We grow though in each year's passage and from what we learn we strive to achieve to a greater depth in the coming year.
My first year was the picture of an empty yoke with the sun shining through it. I could see it in my mind clearly on a frigid clear winter's day, but could not find such on the web images. Finally in August or September that year, I found the old oxen yoke at Munnell Run Farm. My verse and what I tried to do was take on Jesus' yoke, for it easy and His burden is light. I tried to surrender to Jesus.
The next year, a new sculpture at Buhl Farm Park of a stylistic lion set the scene of "Lion in Winter," my courage reminder. So often the Bible tells us to be strong and courageous. I snapped pictures of that lion, my inspiration for courage, through that year as I journeyed on the publishing path for Summer Triangle.
Last year, I chose the theme of "Abundance." I tried to shake off that pauper spirit lying that I never have enough, not just a supply of money, but sleep, time, health, dreams. ambition or resources. I had to stop saying, "If only I had more of..." Jesus plus nothing is still everything. I filed through my own photos of the year and came up with the early summer picture at Buhl Farm Park at the upper half of Lake Julia. Early summer with promise of a rich, fulfilling season before heat and humidity bog me down.
This picture came mid 2014 to me. I desired to make a half year picture, but as the theme of it rose to my mind, I knew I had to wait. My word for 2015 with this image is "Rest." I have schemed not only with my writing career but with life. I worried what is the best thing I can do to promote myself, as a writer and a witness to Jesus. I looked back on my life and felt very much like Jacob of the Old Testament, grabbing a goat skin to smell and feel like someone else to achieve a blessing. We all have a bit of Jacob in us. Jacob encountered his own cunning in his future father-in-law and uncle Laban, tricking Jacob into marrying Leah first. But God used Leah for the blessing of the world, not Rebekah, the one Jacob loved and wanted. Jacob tried to hold on to his family when encountering his brother Esau again after the initial tricking and running from him. Yet, Esau only met him with love, as far as I can see. Still we often need to be wary.
Jacob struggle the one night with God. At the end, his hip was touched by the divine wrestler, causing Jacob to never walk the same again. He also was re-named for a new identity. When we encounter God, we should never walk the same again.
As I settle into the second half of my life, I see I must rest in the Lord. Rest does not mean cessation of work, but I don't struggle to get ahead. I don't give up my dreams, but I place them in God's timing. I also see things are beyond my control. I can't manipulate people. I can love them, but love in return is not guaranteed. Not only be still in God's presence, but in others, as well. Or as the popular song chorus reminds us, "Let it Go."
This photo calls me to sit with Jesus. The bistro table and chair settles on busy State Street in Sharon, Pennsylvania. In the midst of my busyness of pursuing my dream of published writing, I repose at the table in communion with Jesus. And believing there is some truth in all religions, I find it interesting that this set is lime green. A card carrying Native American exclaimed when I pulled my stethoscope of that color out of my bag, "That is a healing color in our beliefs." When I choose to sit with Jesus this year, healing will come as well. Rest and healing I claim for 2015.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Teddy's Law Tuesday

I ran out of new material since the facebook page for Teddy's Law disbanded. I saw something the other day about not ignoring child abuse and shoving those excuses away from one's consciousness. Tuesdays on my blog are to raise awareness of child abuse. Also to encourage all to keep our eyes open and to report it.
I keep the childhelp hotline 1-800-422-4453 on speed dial. I thought of that one time as I traveled on I-80. What if I saw something amiss and yet, couldn't call because the number was on my computer? I hope to never use it, but the face of smiling Teddy hiding his abuse haunts me always.
If you are new to this blog, I encourage you to read about Teddy's plight. Child abuse stories assault us every day in the paper it seems. Teddy's story pierced my heart the first mention on the radio three years ago. Realizing afterwards, that I knew his mother through my work as a home health nurse, as she worked for another company, caring for one of my patients, just hit me how personal child abuse can be. We need to keep our eyes open. And more than that, we can't keep silent. You can report abuse anonymously. Don't let silence kill a child.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Visiting- Re-post from 2011

The week between Christmas and New Year's brought the Christmas visiting season. The relatives came to our house for Christmas Day to see Grandma. An open house all day for anyone to pop in, too. One year the chex mix was the hit as everyone had tired of sweets.
Visiting let you see the toys and gifts that the other cousins got. They were displayed under the tree and shown off. Coffee for the adults and pop for the kids, cookies and other deserts brought out so that rolling out of the homes was expected.
One year, I ventured out on Christmas Day with my new bike to my neighbor's house, the Powell's. That was highly unusual to actually visit on Christmas Day. The day had been one of those green Christmas and we were older.
I mostly remember driving around in the gray, everything seemed dull outside, but inside, oh, the fun of seeing the others' toys. One year, even Uncle Dale had a fun "toy," a cigarette roller. I rolled a cigarette or two that day.
As sisters grew older, they came home with children. One of my gifts from my oldest sister was picking out a movie to see over the Christmas break. Such a hard choice since this is when all the Oscar movies opened.
A cousin, Paula, insisted on treating us to lunch at the old Masion Buhl. We were amazed to see the price of coffee double for the evening meal. We dressed in our best clothes and enjoyed the "girl" talk in the rich, dark setting. It seemed a rite of passage to me, and the older nieces, too.

This week, anyone could show up. Life held that wonder of who could walk through the door. Did anyone work that week? It sure seemed that no one did.
1978, Mom had the open house for all the family on both sides, the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's. Again, everyone dressed up and we all visited with a lots of food, probably the punch bowl set on the dining room table.
My dad's niece then took over for this party when the years and illness slowed down my parents. Christmas time, a time to be together and eat.
Come, visit!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Merry Christmas Morning

The sun shines bright this morning. I'm sharing a happier post from three years ago. A time of expectancy before some things crashed in my world, causing me to battle with disappointment. I must always remember the lavishness of God and that He knows best. Like the last verse of Longfellow's hymn, I must never give up hope for our dark world. Surely, when he wrote, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day, the world was dark then, too. A nation in a civil war, missing a spouse and physical pain from trying to save her from the fire. He buried her on their wedding anniversary. How much pain the human race endures, yet Jesus entered this world to give us inner peace through His offer of salvation. For that we must be grateful, a love that never changes.

 Christmas morning was a bonanza of toys and gifts when I was growing up. Mom shopped all year long and I know one of my favorite dolls, Baby First Step, was found by my sisters at Triby's Hardware very close to Christmas because it was so hard to find.
Mom and Dad put the turkey in the oven early Christmas morning. I believe five thirty or six am. My mom, not a morning person, still did this for a long time.
I believe I was six, the year I woke in the middle of the night, I thought. I crept downstairs to see the explosion of toys. This year, Dan and his friend Billy, stayed up putting together the Jane West set, with everything plastic, down to the skillet with eggs and bacon for the fire. She looked like the mold of her brother, Johnny West, only with a plastic blond pageboy haircut. A palomino horse and German Shepherd dog accompanied her with her tan pliable outfits for riding, and the saddle to put on. It was wonderful. I got a Barbie, books and learning books. A watch under the tree read quarter to seven, but I hadn't learned to tell time yet. Santa didn't wrap my gifts, every thing was in working order, the watch set and wound.
Excitement couldn't be held in, I ran back upstairs to the back bedroom to blurt out all that Santa had left. I think, now, how my parents must have just gone back to bed, so tired, probably shortly fell asleep. They joined me in my joy, acting as surprised as I was. I love them still for encouraging me in every way.
In fifth grade, I started suspecting that Santa didn't really set up these toys. My niece Debbie who spent most Christmases with us, along with her parents from New Jersey, didn't have unwrapped presents or the ones she did have left unwrapped, I saw my mother buy. I also pretended to not see the doll I got that year in the bottom of the hutch, because I so wanted to believe Santa came down our chimney. But the Velvet doll, with the growing hair, in her box is still etched on my memory behind that locked door.
Sixth grade saw the last of my dolls and my slipping belief in Santa or the beginning of the grown up belief in the jolly old elf. I got Baby Thumbelina, a soft body doll, that squirmed with a pull of a string from her body. She was small, and not as loved as my former dolls, like Baby First Step and Cheerful Tearful, but more than poor Dancerina, who was practically useless.
Christmas morning continued though to hold surprises through my teen years. A hooded red robe that lasted for many years, kept me warm in our drafty old textile mill apartment in Connecticut. A big box of Estee Lauder makeup brought a sixteen year old glamor. The fire and dinner preparations filled the home with coziness.
I often rode along with Dad to pick up Grandma for Christmas Day, and Bitsy, her terrier. The vacant streets, the gray day but joy of a special holiday gathered around. Grandma was jolly. Bitsy had a red bow on her collar.
Relatives filtered in late morning for the big feast Mom and Dad had made. The leaves in the dining room table, the best china, and pop, usually ginger ale, in gold color glasses that were for holidays waited. Everything was special for this day.
Happy Christmas morning! God rest you merry!

Thankful for parents who taught me the lavish love of God through

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Dawns Christmas

I wrote this poem last year.  I am sitting at Jesus feet. In a way, for myself, this Christmas is better, but I feel the world is less peaceful or at least America is not at peace.

 Dawns Christmas
Mollie Lyon

I'm not having a Martha Christmas time.
But I'm not much of a Mary either.
I'm reminded on a Sunday
God with us, me.
It came upon a Midnight Clear-
the angels I need to hear
In the dark, the plains, the sadness of the earth,
I hear the angels sing.
I'm coming back to the heart of Christmas
I'm sorry for the thing we've made of it.
It's all about You, Jesus.
I feel stripped of all the trappings, the fussing,
the gatherings, the family,
Gone to heaven or far away.
It's down to Jesus.

Dawns Christmas Morn
A Savior is born.
A relief, a breath.
It's done.
Put that pesky John 7:7 away.
A Baby is born today.
The world loves the Babe.
John 7:7 come another day.
Today is peace.
Today is still.
Today the Savior lives in a manger.
                                                                where He  poses no danger.

Tomorrow the trees go down.
Tomorrow we go back to the world
But today, today, we worship
the Lord
The Savior in the manger
Brings peace for a day and
poses no danger.

 New Living Translation
The world can't hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of doing evil.

Merry Christmas

 Years past. So far no snow this year. Calling for it on Christmas Day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December Twenty Third

December twenty third in my novel- Summer Triangle:

Allison crept into the family room that welcomed her as the cozy lights in the new dark glowed. Her mother slept with her empty tea mug depicting Santa Claus on the stand beside her. Allison looked in shock and wonder at her mother, appearing so young in this subtle light with her blossoming belly. She was beautiful, she had to admit.
She hadn't seen her mother since homecoming weekend in the beginning of October. She came up to help Amber adjust to all this drama. She wanted to string her parents up then for both being incredibly selfish, worse that it was in Amber's senior year of high school. They should be enjoying each other, like the past years. These were supposed to be happy years. Allison wondered where her dad was. It was after five and he should have been home. Maybe he was doing his last minute Christmas shopping. So like a man.
Allison hung her coat up and dropped her bags in her old room. She passed the den and saw the permanent bed her dad set up. What has happened to this family? This was going to be a banged up Christmas. Unless Jesus intervened. Mom could believe that, but Allison didn't. If He had wanted to help, Mom would never had been raped. Grimm would be following her around right now. Amber would be loving her senior year without wondering when Dad would leave the household. He was already living like a separated man.
Allison returned to the family room and got comfortable on the cushy love seat. Maria opened her eyes, “Oh, Allison, I didn't even hear you come in,” she jumped up to hug and kiss her oldest daughter.
Hey, Mom. You looked so beautiful and peaceful in the Christmas lights. It seemed like a Christmas card. How are you feeling?”

As they conversed they walked into the spotless white and cobalt blue kitchen. Maria turned on the gas stove burner under the tea kettle. Then opened the refrigerator, “You feel like chicken?”
Sure, Mom.”
I made those homemade noodles like Dad's mom and grandma used to make. All I have to do is heat them up.”
You were busy, huh?”
Always for my family.”
Mom, you are the greatest. I can understand why you want to keep the baby.”
Why, Allison, that is nice, but unusual.”
You are such a good mom. You should have had more kids. You did so much for us and you still do. I bet you were feeling a little sad about Amber moving on, too, in the spring.”
Well, I wouldn't have gotten pregnant, if that's what you mean.”
No, I know you felt you were done, but this unfortunate event has led to something that gives you a glow. I'm sorry Dad is having a hard time accepting it.”
Well, it is a stranger's baby. I just couldn't get rid of the innocent child. I mean what did he have to do with it? He has no voice, yet. I'm afraid, though, he's going to be from a single parent home. I have a feeling after Christmas and the New Year, your dad will make a decision.”
Why do you say that?”
I overheard him asking Larry for a divorce attorney's name. Larry is the family lawyer and he couldn't fight against me.”
Mom, are going to get a lawyer, too?”
Not yet. Praying for a Christmas miracle.”
Me, too,” as the tea kettle screamed.
Tea? Since I have the water hot.” Maria smiled. She felt such a closeness this evening to Allison that hadn't been there for a long time. Maybe because Allison showed a genuine concern for her mother and didn't show a favoritism toward one parent or the other. She was rooting for the family, which is what Maria was doing also.
The chicken, breaded and on the pan, baked. The noodles would only take a few minutes to heat up in some boiling water. Maria hardly ever used her microwave. She like the way things tasted not cooked in the microwave. Pizza was too soggy. The meat had a metallic taste. She did like hot chocolate with milk and Hershey's syrup in the microwave, if she was just making it for herself, other wise she dragged out a pan and warmed it up on the stove top.
Allison washed the dishes as they went along or put the dishwasher safe ones in the dishwasher.
Brendan still hadn't arrived at the house. “Is this now the normal, Mom?”
No, he has still been making it home for supper. You know, he'll read the paper before, clean up from being at the mill. I did tell him Amber worked until six and we wouldn't eat until six thirty.”
At six fifteen, Amber strolled in, “Mm. Chicken. Like Grandma's, huh, Mom. Homemade noodles, too?”
You know it, girl,” Allison hugged her sister, “How was work?”
Crazed. All those Christmas shoppers and tired, whiny kids. Everyone had their last day of school today. Mom, I'm glad you like to cook.”
That's encouraging to hear. I may get spoiled with you two girls complimenting me.”
Amber crooked her eyebrow at Allison. Usually by now, Allison has managed to make some argument, from Christmas isn't actually Jesus birthday to all the pagan traditions. She just couldn't leave Mom to her Christmas celebrations. Well, if anyone would ruin Christmas this year, it would be Dad, with his talk of divorce.
He tried to hide it, but Amber read the writing on the wall. Dad was ticked about Mom deciding to keep this baby. Not that she blamed
Dad, but oh, these adults. Up to the kids to keep the Christmas spirit going. Too bad, Allen wasn't coming tomorrow for Christmas Eve. That would so brighten everyone up, especially Mom. She loved Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day.
Brendan arrived right at six thirty. He acted glad to see Allison. He hugged and kissed her. Asked her how her trip was through the West Virginia mountains.
Not bad. Actually I made good time. I was all packed and left from work, which is just that half hour closer without the rush hour traffic. I could just hop on I-70. No problem.”
I'm glad, I'm glad,” he glanced at Maria, “You made my mother's dinner.”
Yes, and your grandmother's”
She did like to make it the day before Christmas Eve,” Brendan breathed in the fresh smell of baked chicken.
The table was set with the Christmas china. Creamed green beans, the chicken gravy, the homemade noodles and the crispy oven fried chicken arrayed the plates. The pitcher held ice tea. Tall glasses with ice cubes sat at each setting.
I just wish Barry and Allen were here. Oh, and Amy, too.” Maria flushed.
They sat down and looked at Amber. She bowed her head and prayed for a blessed Christmas season. Brendan engaged the girls in conversation. They joked and laughed. This was the first non silent meal at the table for quite a few months. Maria smiled.

You can buy my novel on Amazon:

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Monday, December 22, 2014

Reflections from Christmas 2014

Fifty three years of Christmases. I see twenty years ago, my mother-in-law holding new born Mary Ellen as I lead the Advent devotions with Katie. The baby's eyes shone as we lit the candle on the wreath we made. Another baby still in arms, Katie, six months old, rests in Dad's arm I wash dishes with my mother on Dad's last Christmas here on earth. In my mother's last years, brunch with David and the girls, then grabbing a free cappuccino at Sheetz on our way to Mercer to visit my mother at the nursing home.
This year, I have been surprised by tears of joy. The season changes by the years. I'm not the wide eyed child or the teen, loving all the family home sometime during the holiday after stressing at school. Or the adult coming home for Christmas, or staying in New Hampshire after an early visit to Pennsylvania the first week of December. I see the decorating I relished in my textile mill apartments in Norwich, Connecticut, holding my friend's little girl. I don't stress anymore at this time of year, I resigned to not getting it done years ago and truly am OK about that. I only have to shake off the tension as I talk to others who worry about all they have to do.
My house is not ready. My gifts aren't wrapped. I hardly do cards, but always have the intention this year will be different. Decorations declined to a minimum. On the outside, I don't look like I'm ready for Christmas and maybe for the earthly one, I'm not.
When people ask that frequent question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" I always reply, "In my heart I am." This year, my heart beats tender.
I love to see others decorations. I love the piped Christmas music overhead, especially Joy to the World, as I dance at my med cart at work. I haven't overdone the music of the season, and I welcome the songs flying into my head.
Last Saturday, David and I drove over to Mercer to see Dr. Kenneth Bailey's Christmas play, Open Hearts in Bethlehem. Trinity Presbyterian Church performed it. I knew the premise, he wrote it after years of living in the Middle East, using their culture as a basis for this blessed event of Jesus' birth. The Messiah's young family welcomed into a distant cousin's home with Mary having plenty support. We had to shake off the traditions we grew up with. The last lines in the play by Mary, after the shepherds run to the Baby, unexpectedly brought tears to my eyes as well as my husband's. He never carries a hanky, but that night he had some. I was overwhelmed by the simplicity of Jesus entrance into this world as a baby.
Tears came too, as on a rare Wednesday night, I made it to my church, we sang Away in the Manger with only guitar accompaniment, (yes, the way it was written.) The last stanza, with the plea for Jesus to fit us for Heaven, pulled those tears out of me. The children's carol, the cradle song, touched me in depth this year.
I read Renegade Amish by Donal B. Kraybill this month. The bishop of the Bergholz Barbers, Sam Mullet, is first cousins with a dear man I know. As I read, the faces of Bert and his family were always in my mind. I trembled as I realized how vulnerable they were to the attacks. Yet, they were spared. The forgiveness these dear people of Amish culture have embedded in their lives reached deep into my soul. These lines about the Nickel Mine shootings grabbed me:
The world learned in October 2006 that forgiveness is a highly lauded virtue in Amish culture when Charles Roberts IV, a non-Amish neighbor in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, took twenty-six children hostage in a one-room Amish school. A short while later he shot ten young girls, killing five of them, and then took his own life. Within hours, several Amish men spontaneously visited Roberts' widow and his parents and conveyed words of empathy, grace and forgiveness. This almost instant forgiveness startled people worldwide, who were accustomed to forgiveness coming slowly, if ever, from victims of violence.- footnote: this is from Kraybill, Nolt, and Weaver-Zercher, Amish Grace, 17-52.
Saturday, I finished Renegade Amish. The same day, I received a Christmas card from the family, a homemade card about dear friends near and far and the Savior's birth. The wife's old-fashioned handwriting reminds me of my grandmother's. She invites me to visit and I so want to return to that gentle landscape with their black buggies and flat farmland, subtle differences from the New Wilmington Amish hillsides. A hint in the written names that even though nothing has change, one daughter had to return home as unspeakable events happened in her life. Still, I know they live forgiveness. Tears swim in my eyes.
This year, the reality of Jesus being Man fills me with the surprise of tenderness and joy. I find tears swell in my eyes at unexpected moments. So I leave with one more quote:
"Christian faith is fact, but not bare fact; it is poetry, but not imagination. Like the arch which grows stronger precisely by dint of the weight you place upon it, so the story of the Gospels bears, with reassuring strength, the devotion of the centuries to Jesus as the Christ. What is music, asked Walt Whitman, but what awakens within you when you listen to the instrument? And Jesus is the music of the reality of God, and faith is what awakens when we hearken." Kenneth Cragg, "Who is Jesus Christ?" An unpublished sermon preached by Bishop Cragg at All Saints Episcopal Cathedral, Cairo, Egypt on Sunday, January 16, 1977. In the introduction of Dr. Kenneth Bailey's book David bought me at the play, signed by the author- Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes.
Listen for the music Jesus is. As Emmanuel, let His music touch your heart and awaken the wonder of Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Christmas Music

Seventh Grade Band Concert 2014
From December 2011:
 A few days ago Katie borrowed a Julie Andrews CD from the library. Her clear crisp voice and the songs that were from the album we had many years ago reminded me of the Christmas music we heard. I Saw Three Ships come sailing in on Christmas morning, on Christmas morning.
We had a gray and white record player that you could load up to five 33 1/2, long playing records. You could also play singles, 45's, on it with special insert for the wider hole. I didn't do the 45's much until I was in sixth grade.
For Christmas, Julie Andrews sang, Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians from a church in a snowy place up north entertained, and several albums from Firestone filled our house with this music as we decorated, rested and relaxed. The Guy Lombardo tweaked my imagination as I listened to the crowd murmuring between songs, a big Christmas gathering, probably recorded in hot August. My favorite was Here Comes Santa Claus, right down Santa Claus lane.
As I got older, I liked my music. I had John Denver's Christmas album. My roommate in nursing school played Bing Crosby's White Christmas album. I liked the Hawaiian Christmas song. Again, I harken to that warm Christmas I love. I think ever since Denise from South Africa lived with us and said they went to the beach on Christmas Day, I have loved the idea of a tropical Christmas. Maybe why I liked the red pepper lights in the desert as well.
So many of our Christmas songs are really glorifying snow. Do we really have to have snow at Christmas? Well, it is better than rain and dreary. (And the endless gray we have had this year-2014)
Christmas concerts growing up were fun, as well as in younger years learning Christmas songs in school, like Up on the Rooftop and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas. My favorite year in sixth grade under Mrs. Joy Tobin(with a name like Joy, she had to be enthusiastic), we sang Lo' How a Rose 'ere Blooming and our great finale, either Joy to the World or Let There Be Peace On Earth thrilled us as the Vietnam War was over, at least some peace treaty was being signed by Kissinger. Up on that auditorium stage looking over the audience, my spirit soared in the moment.
Now we enjoy Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and general snow songs with riding in sleighs at the concerts. I had the choral and string concerts this week. (and in 2014, still at the school for Jacob's concert. I love them.)
Then there were the cantatas we labored so many months for in church or the Sunday School Christmas programs. Eugene Peterson wrote many of them. The last one I was in, Mary, Did You Know? had many great songs to find pleasure and meaning in singing. My favorite line about Mary knowing she is looking into the face of God, the Great I Am, crescendo surging. Hard to keep my feet on the ground with that one.
What would Christmas be without the music? The words to the carols telling the whole story from birth to redemption to the new Heaven and Earth. Joy to The World.
Or enjoy Burl Ives singing about the mistletoe, "Kiss her once for me" We have all types, but listen now, for it will all be gone December 26...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Children Program

It may be the weekend for children's Christmas program or yours was last week. Either way, I remember with fondness of the crowning of the year in my youth's classical community:
 Oh, my! When I was a little girl, our Sunday School Christmas programs rocked. They were an all day affair, it seemed. A-L had to bring sandwiches. My mother made Isaly's ham salad and cheese spread from Margaret's recipe. M-Z brought cookies. The bulletin announced it for weeks.
The kids did their program of songs and the manger scene. We would have a magician. The kids ran around the whole Fellowship Hall and educational wing. I did want those cookies, but not the sandwiches so much. We played silly games while waiting between segments of the program.
We got blue boxes with Christmas pictures of Mary and Joseph and Baby Jesus, filled with hard candy and sometimes some cream filled chocolate candies. The boxes were so pretty, and the candy, too, but not my favorite. I don't believe they tasted too great for me. Dad usually finished them off.
When the sandwiches were almost gone, Santa arrived to hear the kids' requests
1971 Christmas Program

for presents. As we got just a little bit older, we knew it was some man dressed as Santa, but could never figure out who. One year after Santa had listened to everyone and I mean everyone, he went to the bathroom. We stood for hours(well, maybe not hours)by the door, peering under the crack and trying to figure out if it really was Santa. Where was his sleigh, anyways? On the roof? Whoever was Santa that year waited us out, until we were whisked away by the preacher and our parents.
We always thought Reverend Hatch could be Santa because he was very jolly. But I guess he would be missed the most and the most obvious.
These programs promoted a family feeling. Any adult was free to scold a kid, if he got out of hand. We ate at the long tables. Many showed up at these events, probably two to three hundred. A mingling crowd of well wishers sang Christmas carols.
An older Mollie on Santa's lap. Still didn't know who it was, but didn't lurk around the bathroom door this year to find out. I was sixteen.

Dad serving at one of the gatherings. I think it was a Christmas program.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas Lights

Re-post from three years ago:
 I drove by a house today with an almost gone roof on its porch. Yet, Christmas lights were hung on the door and windows. At night, they beautify the home. This evening, I drove my daughter out to Tara, a country inn, and basked in all the outdoor lights while her choral group performed.
Christmas lights in and out brighten up a home, no matter what it looks like otherwise. Sure we enjoy the tastefully decorated homes that look like post cards. I, though, am amazed at the transformation from dull to that warm glow even little LED's add to a scene.
A star in my window shines warmly to the neighborhood as well as bathing my living room. Steven, the Siamese cat, looks magical in the red glow of my poinsettia lights on my banister as he eyes me going down the stairs. A little light changes the mood of the room.
I love to lay under the Christmas tree lit up with all the other lights out. Growing up we had the fireplace as well to add to luminescence of the living room. In Christmas lights, it seems anything could happen. Expectancy and magic fills me.
That is the power of Christmas. The belief that miracles can happen. The lights symbolize that. With God all things are possible, like Jesus' birth in a manger, the Light of the World wrapped in human form.
It is no mistake Hanukkah is also this time of the year. A miracle holiday, the Festival of Lights, points to the Messiah. Let your lights shine as they transform your home to the glory showing the Light of the holidays.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Kraynak's Part Tree- Re-post from 2012

 After the delightful Santa Lane stroll, we enter the other part of the store that also seems to go on and on. Trees are decorated here, displaying so many fun and unique, as well as absolutely beautiful items to buy.We spend time here, speculating what would be great ornaments for different people. I think of my nieces in Emporium that would love the Steeler tree.
Coke signs, as well as root beer, and other pop icons are for sale. Angels serenely stare down at us as we amble through the isles. A variety of Santas from old fashioned to modern, some wearing flannel shirts and jeans wink at us. We do wonder why garland smells vaguely of cat pee.
The acorns are about eight inches long, four in diameter, silver and gold. Beautiful and different. Mary Ellen entertains recording her voice into a stuffed animal that plays back what she says. I think she mostly amuses herself. She is pretty funny, though. Katie belly laughs out loud.
I promise we will come back because we just scratched the surface of this end of the store, let alone not really looking at all the toys on the other side, as well as candy. There is also the subdued florist, gift shop area with the breakable, expensive merchandise. And a whole section devoted to trains.
Local or not, I highly recommend Kraynak's for that hard to find gift, as well, as the easy to find gift.
I think every interest is addressed on State Street, Hermitage, PA.

Kraynak's Santa Land


 After playing some in the toy isle we reach the opening to Santa Land that the Kraynak's staff works on all summer. The first one about 1970 or 71, was very simply a display of decorated trees on one end of the huge store, then they added animated electronics. A family of white poodles in a basket that moved their heads slowly back on forth. The Holy Family, with a blond Mary, serene, in light blue, her head also motorized. They added music to drown out the motor sounds.
Over the years, a whole isle of many displays joined the store.
People used to throw change into the displays, but now they are asked by a sign to leave a donation at the end, that they give to local charities.
 I have only posted a few pictures of the many scenes delighting our
eyes. Some did not come out, like the purple Christmas tree. Others were blurry of the Peanuts characters and Bert and Ernie. I do love the trombone playing bear. Mary Ellen did not share in my enthusiasm. Right, she didn't pay five hundred dollars for her daughter to play a trombone.
The Coca-Cola picture is for my niece, Michelle.
This says it all for Christmas

The meaning of Christmas


From 2012
 We love taking children to this display. They stand in awe or run ahead to try to see it all. When Katie was a baby to preschool, I came at least once a month as an outing. Buses of many special groups could be seen here in the mornings.
The Christmas music is piped in and beautiful pleasant scents filter in to promote the candles they sell. I liked the Gingerberry.
We wander and explore, spying favorite things. Penguins, Scotty dogs, colors, characters and old fashioned Christmases, thanks to Currier and Ives.
The Nativity scene reminds us that we still celebrate the Baby's birth.

Next we transition into the green house and the display of a multitude of trees.

Kraynak's Part One- re-post

 Kraynak's, a family run store,grew famous in the Shenango Valley and beyond. I believe Kraynak's started as only a garden store. The building exudes that sixties' feel. It is also huge. I remember shopping there as a child of six or seven. I could get lost in the building. Being a child, though, I was drawn to the toy department. My parents knew to look for me in the toy department. I was never lost. Well, maybe in thought.
The store still carries the kind of animals I loved when I was kid, playing "Animals." The hard plastic, realistic kind, but now they display so many more. These pictures are just a sampling.
Mary Ellen's favorite, kitties
 One weekend day, I know I was in first grade, my dad bought me the kangaroo couple. I took this gray hard plastic couple, with the joey molded into the wife, to school on Monday for show and tell. I loved kangaroos. I had forgotten that love until a few years ago,  at the Pittsburgh Zoo, I walked through the then new kangaroo display and almost floated away, I felt incredible, being so close to these marsupials I could almost touch them.
The other day we took a half hour to venture into Kraynak's. It is still overwhelmingly big. This time of year, you're wise to go during the week. The weekends, the line to go into the store stretches out to the parking lot, in all kinds of weather.
The attraction in the fall is Santa Land and in the spring is Easter Land. They decorate and set up these displays for months. Santa Land is dismantled Christmas Eve, so if you don't get there from September to December 24th, just forget it.
I'll write more on that later.
I direct everyone to Kraynak's for toys of all kinds. John Deere, trains, all kinds of dolls, baby dolls to Barbie and in between, board games, stuffed animals and these hard plastic animals. Also, candy you haven't seen since childhood, Mal lo cups, hard candy, popcorn balls. Kolachi sits on the shelves, too.

Rows and rows of toys

A child's dream

Remember paddle ball?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Neverland at Kraynak's

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Teddy's Law Tuesday-a re-post

From the first time I heard about Teddy's death, a movement in my soul captured me. This has been a journey. I wanted to post this again near the  anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Many more shootings have occurred this year. Many more kids have been killed due to abuse. Become aware,pay attention and reach out to that kid you know is acting differently this year. Defiant, moody, withdrawn are some symptoms that signal abuse. Pay attention. All our children are precious.
This is a controversial post, not for the squeamish. It lays heavy on my heart. Teddy woke me up this morning. I wanted to write last night, but I was too disturbed by the story and I got other bad news about a friend. I am a Christian and conservative, so my thoughts on solutions may not be yours. I make no excuses for what I am. I don't want to inflame, but I feel I need to write for the Teddy's in our country.
I heard this story first on the radio, as I was driving. Immediately, sickness overtook me. Then I saw Teddy's picture last night in the Vindicator out of Youngstown. Just over the line in Struthers. I've had patients on Creed Street, I know the area.
Harm can happen anywhere. In the print paper, the article on the right side reported on Brother Steven, an athletic instructor at a Catholic high school in Warren, accused of sexually molesting boys. He killed himself on Saturday. This sickens and saddens me, as well.
A line from the story on Teddy, is the ex-boyfriend's unemployment ran out two weeks ago. Now I get controversial. Men need to work. Young men. The man accused is forty three. The scenario in my mind, is he's bored, frustrated, agitated, taking it out on this innocent young boy. Teddy also has ten year old twin brothers. They are in protective custody.
The mother of the boys, isolated them from their natural father. (Who happens to live in Sharon). I see a desperate woman wanting any kind of attention and "love." Although, the accused is an ex-boyfriend. Is she so tired from the responsibilities of single motherhood and did not know where to get help? Does she work? Need free babysitting? I don't know these answers now. I'll find out more as the case unfolds and I read the comments of the neighbors.
How often are there Teddy's next door and we don't have a clue? Although, this woman was investigated often. She punished the children by throwing their toys out in the front yard when they told her about the abuse. She said they were lying. She pulled the boys out of school in October.
Evil is everywhere. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Like the Sandy Hook shootings, this is shocking because it happened in small town America and involved children. In this case, only one boy was killed, suffering over years, and no gun was used.
Do we need a change of heart in this country? Do we need Jesus? Do we need a revival? For the Teddy's, I say we do. This has driven me to my knees and I hope my Christian readers will also be so moved. God is weeping for our disobedience, our hard hearts, our thumbing our noses at him. I'm reading I Timothy. The law is not for those who do good, but those who murder their father or mother or other people. The laws are for those people who are sexually immoral.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Why Do We Celebrate Snow at Christmas?

Posted first in 2012, then again last year. Yes, just like TV, I'm running the Christmas specials...

 As the low milky sun visits my window in the fifty degree weather, I'm amazed every year at how people marvel at the mild weather. I want to scream, "It's still fall in early December." Winter will come. It always does in the North. Maybe not as wild as some years, but we have a change in seasons. The winter solstice remains on December 20 or 21, depending on the timing of all that solar stuff.
December of 2001, the forsythia bloomed. Last year and the year before, I saw violets in October and late November. The year Mary Ellen was born, 1994, an extremely warm December, made it difficult to dress a newborn. I felt guilty not bundling her up, but we saw seventy degrees on Christmas Day. I wore a red light weight skirt and a white and red blouse, but it didn't look Christmas-like to me. I still felt warm, thank you, hormones.
Some years, I have seen snow start in October and early November. Two years ago, snow came before Thanksgiving and we didn't seen bare ground until April. Then it was muddy through June because of all the rain. Fifty days out of sixty one in April and May of rain. Now, that was depressing.
So why do we think we have to have snow and cold for Christmas? Folk lore, Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, Clement Clarke Moore, Santa living at the North Pole? Or is it my idea about the magic of first snow, that symbolizes cleaning the earth. Our sins will be cleansed by the blood of this Baby born on Christmas Day. I don't think we realize this consciously, but in our spirits we are open to a new start, being a new creation. Is that why we want snow at Christmas? Why we are disappointed when no snow shows on December first? We're ready for purity, the innocence of Christmas. Jesus said,"Unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven." Mathew 18:3.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Christmas TV

The other night, Rudolph, played on the TV. I heard the music as I passed my medications. Oh, that music never leaves you in doubt this special time of year arrived. I remember when these specials were all new.
One year after the all afternoon Sunday School program, we came home to watch a delightful new special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, on our black and white television. So many of what we call classics now, sparkled with newness when I was a child. Some had copyright laws and we didn't see them as children, like It's a Wonderful Life.
Beginning in December the parade started of all the cartoon specials, the celebrity specials and any other Christmas TV you could imagine. And they had to be watched then or you missed it till the next year. Along with the specials during this month, all the TV series had their own Christmas show. They dealt with a Christmas miracle or change every time. A church service with a Christmas message threw a dart into a character's heart. They may never have gone to church any other day of the year, but most TV families showed up on Christmas, with the children in the program, only performed on Christmas Eve.
 The Twilight Zone didn't follow that mode of church service. Drunken Santas or something bizarre carried the storyline. Still, they all ended with good will toward men and the like.
I think during the 50's and 60's, the United States TV land lulled us into thinking we were all Christians and safe with our faith. Because at least on Christmas, everyone proclaimed the birth of Jesus and how that holiday changed the world. No one made a big deal about the greeting "Merry Christmas," because we didn't have to.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tree Lighting Ceremony

We had the most beautiful sunset last evening here in Hermitage. Even though the sunsets come early this time of year, a magic fills the air with them. The Christmas lights in twilight of a bright red sky catches one's breath, as well as the cold weather.
I finished watching our DVD set of the Gilmore Girls that I have been referencing often. We love the small town. We love the memory of home. Today, I re-post a piece I wrote about West Middlesex tree lighting ceremony.
The old bank in West Middlesex had a circular drive with a grassy medium. A large pine tree grew there. The town had a special lighting of the tree, usually the first Thursday of December. Festivities for Christmas waited until December back then.
I walked down town to watch this ceremony. We sang Christmas carols and songs. Treat bags, probably from the Women's Club, filled with popcorn balls and oranges, candy canes and maybe a candy bar, delighted us. A sense of community filled the cold air, as well as, our vapor breath.
Always a chance I'd see some cute boy. You know, the boy of the week. Dark night sky brought those cuddly imaginations. Reality brought me my girlfriends. And loud singing, treat bags and a wonderfully large lit Christmas tree. A walk home under the street Christmas lights with magic in the air of small town America that we seem to never recapture. We try, though.
Downtown Sharon last evening. Courtesy of Visit Mercer Co. PA

Thursday, December 11, 2014

White Christmas

I'm not sure of the year, but it is during the second World War in Macon or Marietta, Georgia. Uncovering little details as I remember her stories, I wish Mom were still alive.
The young Lewis couple was
in the deep South with the land lady who spit tobacco in a spittoon while she talked to them in the evening. A small Christmas tree propped on suitcases for the appearance of a bigger size decorated their corner. Bing Crosby singing White Christmas on the radio filling the room with music and their hearts with homesickness. No snow in Georgia.
The sergeant catches a few extra pieces of silverware from the mess hall, so they can have some at home. Jean ecstatically told her boss at Westinghouse, that after two years her husband was returning stateside, and she was quitting to join him.
He urged her, "No, don't quit, just visit him for two weeks."
"No, my husband will be in Georgia and I'm going to him to stay," she emphatically proclaimed.
Jerry got her a blue velvet suit for Christmas. Her blond hair and blue eyes complemented by the outfit. He thought he had the prettiest girl in the world. She knew she had the handsomest man.

When I hear Bing on the radio like this morning, I imagine this young couple again, especially in the rainy warm weather we're having today. Were love stories better in the 1940's? Or am I just lucky to have parents that love each other forever?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Back entrance to Hermitage Historical Society

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Pearl Harbor Day- A Love Story

I think of a couple engaged for 6 months. A thin blond beauty, a skinny red head, she, just 18 by one day and he, 20. The red head has been working at Sharon Steel. He already has served 3 years in the Army in Panama. He lied about his age before his senior year in high school because he couldn't afford a suit. It was the Great Depression.He's been home about a year.
They met at Idora Park in Youngstown, OH, the summer before. The girl wouldn't accept a diamond on her graduation, but said yes a week later. Her dad tells her she is "crazier than that dog over there" His mom sees them "necking" in his living room, "I see what you're doing Gerald."
He replied,"I don't care, Mother."
Pearl Harbor, an unbelievable event happens, and their plans are changed. December 10, he signs up for the Army Air Corp for the duration of the war. I'm not really sure what their plans were before Pearl Harbor, probably get married in the spring.
So, I guess in a way, that didn't change.
He got a 24 hour pass from Roosevelt Field(I may be wrong-I could scream for not remembering all the names), came to Sharon, PA on May 17, 1942 and married the girl in a Methodist parsonage. They had a dinner in a restaurant in Mercer, PA where his sister lived. She was there, with the dog Mike. Billy Boal and Frances(not sure if they were married, yet) stood up for them.

She joined him two weeks later in New York City for their honeymoon. She rode a train with cars from the Civil War or so she thought since they were old and rickety. She covered with newspaper to save herself from the soot. But her face was black. He didn't care.
It's a story of patriotism and love that I grew up hearing. I wish now I could ask a few more questions. I never tired of hearing their love story.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Mom's Birthday, December Sixth

December 6, 1923 Mary Jean Evans was born to William Lewis "Lew" and Hazel Evans. I wrote before that Grandma labored all day on December 5 while preparing Lew's birthday dinner. Mom was the second child born to my grandparents.
Mom reports she was a sickly child. Very thin and didn't walk for awhile. She didn't believe Grandma thought she would live.
But Mom did live. She was eighty five when she died. One of her childhood birthdays was recorded in the Sharon Herald. Grandma made her a checkerboard cake without the special pan.
Mom did feel a little cheated having a birthday so close to Christmas. She received many combination gifts and I must admit I was guilty of that when I was younger. She also had to share her birthday at times, first with her father, then with her youngest granddaughter. I don't think she resented the combined family parties we had for her and Mary Ellen.
I thought today, Woodland, her nursing home, had a spaghetti dinner fund raiser, always seemed to be on her birthday. My brother, his wife and daughter and the girls and I went, enjoying the entertainment as well. I wonder if they still have that fund raiser. Her last birthday, in 2007, she didn't join the festivities, preferring to stay in her room.
We also had pizza and cake many years. When she still lived in her apartment, we crammed into it with an extra friend of Mary Ellen's. After I took the girls, Mary Ellen, Katie, Sarah, and Cassie to Kraynak's for Santa Land and pictures with Santa. I bought them all a photo.
The year I was large with child we went to a restaurant in Transfer. We relished being together. Afterwards, I took chocolate chip cookies to our new neighbors. Ambling up the hill with my oversize belly. The next night, I was in labor.
I can't remember many of her birthdays when I was little. One year, she bought shrimp cocktails in special glass bowls. Grandpa like shrimp cocktail, so I know it was for him, whether for his birthday or Christmas is hazy. But Mom always thought of her family first.
I miss my mom, but I know she has been having the best birthdays ever these last six years. Her last years on earth, she slowed down much and I'm sure she missed my dad. I know I miss them both and so does my family, but I am so thankful for all the memories.