Monday, December 14, 2009
Many of you may know about this, but I just found it. I've been talking about it, wanting something like it, and I just discovered this has been here on SparkPeople while I've been dreaming about it.
It's the Stay-On-Track calendar and it gives you a birds eye view, month by month, of everything you have tracked on the Spark Planner, the food tracker, and your weigh-ins.
You can look back over any month and view a day when you ate exactly what you planned to eat, so you can give yourself an instant replay. The same goes for your calories burned, your exercise, etc. etc. It's a good way to find that favorite meal you had two months ago, but you can't remember what day it was.
I think it's a very handy, helpful tool and I wasn't even aware it was here. So I want to share it with all the teams I've joined in case others aren't aware of it either.
PS - In case you aren't familiar with the Spark Planner, the link is below. Map out your appointments and have it send you a reminder via email.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Angie was my aunt. She was more than that, really. She was my Other Mother. Always there. Always patient. Always happy.
The love of her life never came home from WWII. She never married. Never had children. She became Mother to me and many of my cousins and all of us thought of her with the same love you have for your mother.
She fought to get her job at the telephone company during the war. They didn’t want to hire her because she had polio. She wore a heavy leg brace, ugly built up shoes and walked with a limp. No, it was much more than a limp. Her uneven legs and her weak side threw her into such a meandering gait that every eye turned her way whenever she moved. She convinced the phone company that as a telephone operator she’d be sitting down all day so it wouldn’t matter. They were worried about all the work she’d miss.
I’d love to have been in the room during her interview when she convinced them to hire her. She eventually received an award for 30 years PERFECT ATTENDANCE.
She worked a late shift at the phone company, most of the time, getting home after midnight. Still, she was there every morning, carving my pancakes into faces with grins and big square eyes. She was there when I got home from school, with my snack, and with dinner ready in the oven before she left for work, so my mother and my youngest aunt would have food when they got home at 6 PM.
She walked her walk beside me through countless school halls and stores and trips. Never bothered that my little girl legs ran circles around her wherever we went. And what a nurse! It was almost a delight to be a sickly little girl with asthma, bronchitis and bouts of pneumonia. I spent days in a sunny bedroom, with a kitten, a book, a doll, and Aunt Angie. She made me soup. She buttered my toast. She handed me anything I wanted. And me too little to ever think of her and her painful steps, or what it meant to watch her cut callouses off her uneven feet.
No one ever thought of her crippled state. And that was her glory.
For the most remarkable thing about Angie was that she was crippled, and no one ever remembered it.
What did she feel inside about never marrying or having children? About loving to dance and having a body that fought her? About not being able to run, to take long walks, to ride a bike? I was too young to ever wonder.
Her smile, her eyes, her deep, true kindness radiated from her and met you right up front; filled your senses with delight and joy, so that you were blind to any defect, any pain she had. A spinster who lived her life with other people’s kids, in someone else’s house. Dear Lord, if I can only live in such a way to be remembered with the sweetness and fondness and love that we all remember Aunt Angie, I will die happy.
This is a poem to Angie,
Not as my Aunt, but as a woman.
A woman who never knew
that she was beautiful,
Nor remembered she was crippled.
Who, though thoughtless, ignorant people
laughed at her,
Found a reason to laugh with all.
Who loved all God's creation so intensely,
That speaking of children and animals
and ordinary people,
Brought tears of joy to her eyes.
Who loved everyone so much,
It was difficult for her
to love one person exclusively.
Who was not religious,
But was God-like in her truly Universal love.
Who could laugh until her sides ached,
And defy the strongest of the unjust.
Who never, never quit,
Until the end,
When she could not place her burden
of old age upon those she loved.
This is a poem to Angie's beauty,
Which, after her crippled body faded to dust,
Saturday, December 05, 2009
Once upon a time, my husband and I and our two sons lived on ten acres overlooking Stillhouse Hollow Lake in Central Texas, near Salado. Our little plot of land bordered the Army Corps Of Engineers land that surrounded the lake.
Our house was high on a hill and the land dropped away behind it in shelf-like layers. On the second layer was the barn and workshop. On the third layer was a small field and a pond, which is Texas is often called a “tank”. The final layer was the lake itself.
We had some mallard ducks, but they were slowly ravaged and eaten by the many critters that lived in the land. A few hardy, crafty hens and a drake survived. One hen layed a large clutch of eggs near the tank. But that didn’t last. Eaten by a fox or a raccoon or a opossum or one of any number of varmints that shared the land with us. So she layed another clutch of eggs on the next higher level of land, near the barn. Same ending.
The poor duck would not give up and finally she deposited her eggs in a nest she created right next to the chimney of our house, which was right outside our picture window. (Remember those?) Each day we could look out and see her sitting there, patient and confident that she was taking care of her eggs. It worked.
A few weeks later she hatched about 9 or 10 little ducklings! The cutest things you ever saw. Hours later she took them down to the pond. Can you even imagine how many tiny steps those little webbed feet took to get down there??
They swam in that pond for a very short time. The catfish we had stocked in the pond opened their wide mouths and swallowed them like bugs! I was horrified for a while, but this is MOTHER NATURE, folks. She’s never seen a Walt Disney movie. Only the strong or the very lucky survive.
Back at the house, the boys were looking at an egg that didn’t hatch. It was still in the nest, but had a little hole in it and you could see a tiny little beak moving and weakly chipping away at the egg shell. MOM, we have to help it! Wow. My husband was a Game Warden and had always told me there is a reason some eggs don’t hatch. The bird inside is weak or mal-formed and just won’t make it anyway. But two little boys didn’t want to hear that, so we gently helped that little duckling fight his way out of the egg, slowly, a little at a time, as natural as we could make it. Put him in a box and sat him on the dryer with a light above him to keep him warm. Fed him, got him to drink. Over the next days, he spent a lot of time in one little-boy-hand or the other, watching cartoons on tv, lol.
We named him, of course. Donald, of course. He grew up fine and healthy, except he walked with a little limp and one of his wings was so crooked it stuck out like an artificial limb not quite correctly attached, so he couldn't fly.
The only thing we forgot to do was put him in water and let him swim. So, he never did want to swim. Wouldn’t go near the water. I often took him out and turned over rocks so he could find crickets and other bugs to eat, lol. He was a very plucky ducky, lol.
In the summer, the boys took him down to swim in the tank with them. He wouldn’t have it. We made a boat from the lid of a styrofoam ice chest, and the boys put a rope handle on it and pulled Donald around the tank on that lid when they swam. He would settle down on that lid and seemed to enjoy the ride! He certainy NEVER jumped off, lol.
He lived a long and happy life, was a real pet, just a little funny looking and certainly the only duck we knew that couldn’t swim, lol.
(Inspired by JUSTJO66's blog, A Lesson from a Duck.
Thursday, December 03, 2009
Thank you all for reading my Christmas Story blog and for all the nice words you wrote me about it. That was a Christmas memory from my adult life.
I also have sweet memories of childhood Christmases.
Even though I was the only child of a single parent, I was very fortunate to live next door to my grandparents. My mother was the middle child of ten and most of her brothers and sisters lived nearby. So it was easy for all the holidays of the year to be celebrated next door at my grandparents’ house. This continued even after they passed on, because both the oldest and youngest children of the family weren’t married and continued to live in the family home.
My mother and I decorated a tree in our little house. Sometimes a few of my cousins helped. Then I got to join in decorating the tree next door, where all the family gathered on Christmas Eve. We all exchanged little gifts. Before we began, we stood in the dark, with only the lights of the tree glowing, and sang Silent Night.
Sometimes we went to Midnight Mass; sometimes we went early Christmas Day. We were all in our own homes on Christmas morning, awaiting the arrival of Santa Clause, of course!
We had a small, red, pot-bellied Santa light. Santa was holding a globe with a long clear glass tube coming out of the top of it. It had water in it and once the light heated up, the water would bubble. When I went to bed on Christmas Eve, the only lights in the house were from the tree and the Santa light, and the single tiny light over the nativity scene we always set up. I loved holding all the tiny figures of Mary, Joseph, the Baby, and all the animals. I have a nativity set just like it even now.
I always woke up in the night, and tip-toed into the living room to peek under the tree and see if Santa had come. He ALWAYS beat me there and I would see the gifts he left, but wouldn’t touch them. I’d crawl back into bed and wake up the next morning, ready to open my gifts. Anticipation!
But the most special part was those lights glowing in the dark, the bubbling Santa, and me peeking at the magical gifts, all alone in the quiet darkness.
So, it’s the Mystery of Christmas I remember most. Not the gifts.
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
One year, after my sons had gone to live and work on their own and Christmas was approaching, I was looking around trying to think of what to buy my husband for Christmas. After I while I realized I was really trying hard to dream up a gift for him. I knew he’d be having an even harder time thinking of what to give me.
This got me to thinking about the whole meaning of giving and of Christmas. I’ll try not to make this terribly long, but this is the idea that came to me and what we actually did for Christmas that year -
My husband was a Game Warden. He often confiscated game killed illegally. What happens to it? We tried giving it to facilities like orphanages, but too many government and health regulations kept that from happening. So he always had a list of people he found who were down on their luck and needed food for their families. Most were country boys who could come retrieve the game and dress it and prepare it for eating. This included venison, wild duck, goose, quail, doves, sometimes fish.
Many of these people in our rural area supported their families off the land, too. They hunted and trapped and sold hides. So Jim would also stop when he saw a hide-bearing animal on the roadside - hit by a car - retrieve it and give it to someone so they could sell the hide. This little extra money made a big difference to some families.
Christmas was close and Jim found a huge raccoon that had been killed so he took it to the house of a construction worker who had hurt his back and was out of work. He knew the man would get a nice sum of money for it, enough to buy a few groceries for his wife and 5 kids. The next week Jim stopped by the man’s house and the kids came running out to greet him. One little boy said, “Mr. Jim. Thanks so much for the raccoon. We haven’t had meat in a long time.”
When Jim told me this, we were both horrified. These people were not only eating something most of us wouldn’t, it was a road kill, intended for the hide sale only. But they hadn’t wasted any of it! I’ve eaten roasted raccoon and it’s ok, but not what I look forward to having for dinner, and certainly not when it’s picked up off the roadside.
So here is the plan I put forward to my husband: This year we will not exchange gifts. We will use the money we would have spent on each other and we’ll buy groceries for this man’s family. The important parts of this are:
1. We are not just giving food to a poor family at Christmas. We are doing this instead of giving to each other. You and I will NOT exchange gifts.
2. We will not tell anyone about this.
A part of the Bible that has always made a huge impression on me is Matthew, Chapter 6, Vs 1-7. To put it in the vernacular - Do your good works in secret, don’t blow your own horn. (You can read it here: tiny.cc/verse
There was a friend at our house when we were discussing this. He did not like the idea because this man was often arrested for one thing or another - misdemeanor crimes. Jim knew lots of people like this and helped them feed their families anyway. They knew if he caught them breaking the law, he’d take them to jail and then take some food to their families. We talked about it for a while and before he left, our friend added his own money to the contribution.
SO, on December 23rd, I left work early and went to the grocery store. I mentally prepared meals for that family of parents and 5 children - 7 days worth, and bought everything that would be needed to prepare them all. That included a turkey dinner for Christmas day and dessert and candy for the kids. I had more than one grocery cart filled. Christmas Eve morning Jim delivered the entire load, including cash we had collected from our friend. I didn’t go.
He came home crying. The gratitude of the entire family just overwhelmed him. It overwhelmed me, too. The father came to our house later to thank me himself and tell me how hard times had been and what this meant to his family. I can’t tell you the deep joy that filled me that Christmas. It was THE most wonderful Christmas I ever had. It became a tradition I repeated many times, but that first time was the most awesome.
So why am I telling you about this now? I want you, most of all, to hear the SEQUEL. The very next year, this man and his family were in better shape. He came to our house again, to let us know that he and his family were doing the same thing for someone they knew that was in bad shape! He was so thankful to us, not only for the gift of food and money, but for the gift of the GIFT. Of seeing the GIFT in action. I went on to hear, in subsequent years, how the GIFT was being passed on, throughout a community of working poor, and yes, people who were often in our jail for one thing or another. Still people with families to feed and needs to be met.
Even though we didn’t tell anyone what we did, the word spread around, mostly through a community of people that most good citizens ignored or wouldn’t associate with. I still hear about it now and then, 25 yrs later. I certainly still reap benefits un-imagined from it. The memory of that first time still gives me chills.
That’s my Christmas Story.
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