Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye 2012

Have you ever heard a comment that bothered you?  I did recently.  I was out doing some last minute Christmas shopping (okay, all my Christmas shopping was last minute) when I ran into a friend of mine.  He is twenty plus years younger than me, has a great wife, a cute little daughter, and a good job.  We talked about shopping, both of us hate it.  We talked about family, friends, and his job. 

Then I said, “It’s hard to believe it’s almost the end of 2012.”

He looked at me and said in a serious voice, “That’s okay. It’s been a ho-hum year.”

He must have read the expression on my face because he continued talking, “Oh, it wasn’t a bad year, nothing bad happened.  But it wasn’t a good year either. Nothing note worthy happened this year.”

That last sentence, “Nothing note worthy happened this year” caught me off guard and truthfully bothered me for several days.

As I look back on 2012, I’ve come to discover it is the “little” things that really stand out.  They are the things that made me the happiest.  Here are a few of them:

First and foremost is my wife, Char.  Enough cannot be said here so I am not even going to try.  But a few simple examples are when you help Santa deliver pre-Christmas presents on a cold winter morning then crawl back into bed and place a cold hand on the small of her back and she wakes up immediately you know you're ‘somewhat’ lucky.  Or when she tells you someone needs a kid’s friendly meal and asks you to make it – you know you are lucky. Or when she gives a Dutch oven which you wouldn’t exchange for the winning lottery ticket – you know you are lucky.  Or when she wants to celebrate our anniversary at a local restaurant  – you are proud and know you are lucky.  Or when you see the time and effort she puts into her volunteer efforts - you know you and others are lucky. And the list could go on and on and . . .

My son, who is three states away, will call just to chat.  Neither of us have anything really important to say we just want to talk.

My daughter, who since she has moved back to town, makes an effort to come over and have Sunday dinner with her aging Grandmother.

A daughter in law who I talk to every other day just to hear her laugh.  Knowing full well her and I have talked about things most father in laws and daughter in laws will never talk about.

A son in law who will stop by to fix the internet or the TV when I screwed it up.  He can do in five minutes what would take me a week to figure out.  Sitting up my new printer is a prime example.

A daughter and daughter in law who sends me pictures which always brings a smile to my face.

A Granddaughter who is in college and seems to be enjoying it. Her major is culinary arts and she is doing a great job.  Her meal at Christmas time was a big hit.

A Grandson who enjoys being outside and who sells me Halloween Whoppers with a reasonable mark up.  And who, although he is a person of few words, always talks to me on the phone.

A young Granddaughter, who says, “Hi BaPa. I wuv you” when I walk into the house.

Or, you have friends like Cliff and Marilyn who you call and tell them that you will be passing through and was wondering if you could spend a night or two at their house only to have them say in a somewhat disgusted voice, “Well, you KNOW you can.”  Yeah, I knew it – just thought it would polite to ask.

Or watching a three year old open up several packets of gum on his birthday because he is now old enough to chew gum.

Or having a 96 year old lady tell you she absolutely loves your strawberry shortcake during cooking group at the nursing home.

Or golf partners who celebrate your good shots while ignoring your bad ones.

Or friends who drop in at dinner time knowing there will be enough food to go around.

And the list goes on.

No, it wasn’t a ho-hum year.  It was a great year.  It was the “little things” that made 2012 a year to remember.  We need to celebrate the little things – they are what make up the majority of our life.

I hope 2013 holds more of the same for me and for you.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sunday Truth

The Sunday Funny is below.

I check facebook once a week, at the most, but saw this and decided it was good enough to share. A friend of mine put it on facebook.

Sunday Funnies

The Baptist church had a small congregation of very faithful people – except for one man who had quit coming to church. The Pastor went to his farm, and asked him why he didn't attend anymore. "Gee, Brother, I only have these coveralls and old boots, and I don't want to come to the Lord's house dressed like this."

The Pastor said, "I've have a spare shirt, sports coat, slacks and shoes I'll give you if you'll come back!"

The man agreed, and the Pastor came back that afternoon with the clothes. The following Sunday the man didn’t show up for church.

The Pastor went out to the farm and asked, "I gave you all those clothes, why didn't you come to church?"

"Well, brother," the man said, "I got up and showered and shaved, and I put on those neat duds, and I looked in the mirror. I looked so darn good I went to the Episcopal church instead!"

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas 2012

I never get anything for Christmas that is out of the ordinary.  Just basic, useful, well thought out stuff.  For example this year I got - the bald man's comb.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sunday Funnies

It was the Sunday after Christmas and Father John was looking at the nativity scene prior to packing away the figures when he noticed the baby Jesus was missing.

Immediately, Father John head into the church to call the police. But as he was about to do so, he saw little Harry with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant, Jesus.

Father John walked up to Harry and said, “Harry, where did you get the little infant?”

Harry replied honestly, “I took him from the church, Father John.”

“And why did you take him?”

With a sheepish smile, Harry said, “Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to Jesus and told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would give him a ride around the block in it.”

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Twelve Days of Christmas

At 5:00 AM this morning I heard it again - jingle, jingle, jingle.  I knew I had exactly 45 seconds to hop out of a nice warm bed, throw on some clothes, grab a coat, and get outside.  It’s been like this for a week now but, on the positive side, we are a little more than half way through.

Santa Claus once again picked my cul-de-sac as a test area for his pre-Christmas flights.  Twelve days before Christmas he shows up and leave a small gift for the kids living around us.

He asked me to help again this year.  Fortunately, it’s a pretty simple task.  All I have to do is evaluate his approach to the cul-de-sac and his take off.  I need to report if he comes in to fast or if on take  off he needs more clearance because of the cars, light poles, etc.  It’s a pretty simple job – if you like getting up at 5:00 in the morning.  So far he has done an amazing job flying that sled.  This morning was no exception.

I was shivering when I climbed back into bed, then Char and I had the following conversation:

Ralph:  Man, is it cold and dark out there.

Char:  You know, you can tell him you don’t want to do it anymore.  He’ll find somebody else.

Ralph:  WHAT?  You can’t tell Santa Claus no!  Besides, I owe him.

Char:  What do you owe him?

What Char didn’t know was earlier this year I asked Santa for a favor - a huge favor.  Our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter had moved back to town and I had asked Santa if he would include our granddaughter, Taylor, in his pre-Christmas flight.  Santa doesn’t like making more than one stop in a town so I fully expected him to tell me no.  Much to my surprise he just smiled and he and said he would be glad to.  I owe him.

Each morning, just like the kids in my cul-de-sac, Taylor, gets a small gift leading up to Christmas.  Our daughter, Tiffany, sent me this picture. It seems like Taylor really likes her Santa hat.

Getting up at 5:00 AM isn’t so bad if it makes kids smile.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Adventures at the Home - Return of the Prayer Box

Last week my cooking group at the nursing home was just wrapping up when I was asked the usual question, “What are we doing next week?”  I really hadn’t given it much thought but knew I had to come up with something quick.  Out of my mouth came the words, “I think next week we will celebrate December birthdays and talk about the prayer boxes.  We did the prayer boxes last year and decided to make them a Christmas tradition.  Does anyone remember that?”  A few people said they did.

One lady who rarely talks looked me in the eye and said, “I still have mine from last year.”  Three other people acknowledged they still had theirs as well.  I stood there in amazement.

This week we talked about the prayer boxes and as like last year everyone loved it.  Below is my original post.

My cooking group at the nursing home recently celebrated Christmas. I took in a Christmas cake and egg nog at the suggestion of one of my assistants. It was a good suggestion – everyone loves cake and eggnog.

When everyone was served I started talking about Christmas traditions. I told them about our family traditions and the tradition Santa Claus started in our cul-de-sac. I them asked them to share their family traditions. There were about forty people and to my amazement many of them started talking. The assistant activity director came into the room and asked me, “How do you get them talking like that?”

“I ask them a question” was all I could come up with.

We heard about many time honored traditions. Then one of the residents said, “Jesus is the reason for the season." Another added, “Jesus Christ is why we have Christmas.” And yet another chimed in, “It’s Christmas, Ralph. It’s not the Holiday season.” The door had been opened and I stepped through the threshold. “That’s right.” I said, “and we must never forget that fact.”

I told them about the birth of Christ in the manger and many of the residents added in things – good things, meaningful things. Then I said, “Maybe it is just me but it seems a little odd that on the first Christmas the only one to receive gifts was Jesus. Jesus received gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. No one else got presents. Mary didn’t get any. Joseph didn’t get any. For sure the inn keeper didn’t get any presents. Just Jesus. Yet today we feel we have to buy for everyone we know. Why is that?”

The room erupted in chatter again.

Then I continued, “But the Christmas story doesn’t end there. Thirty-three years later that little baby, Jesus, was a grown man who was crucified on the cross. There were no presents. Mary received no presents, the Roman guards received no presents, and Jesus received no presents.

No one was talking now.

Everything appeared to be okay so I continued, “Three days later God gave His gift to me, to you, and to the world. Mary Magdalene and a few other women walked to the tomb of Jesus only to find it EMPTY! God had given us the perfect gift, a gift no value could be placed on. The only perfect gift that has ever existed. So why do we search every year for the ‘perfect gift’? I don’t know. We already have it.”

Then I pulled out a one inch box designed to be a Christmas ornament and hung on the tree. I told the residents we could start our own tradition and transform that ornament into something more - a prayer box. I told them the box was bright and shiny, which represented the star the night Jesus was born. I showed them how the bow on top could become a cross with just a slight tug. Then I said, “But most importantly the box is empty. Do not open it. There is nothing inside – just like the tomb on Easter morning.” And with that I gave them each a prayer box.

I then asked them not to place it on the Christmas tree but rather to put it on their bulletin board, their nightstand, their window sill, anywhere they would see it daily and be reminded to pray.

One resident asked me, “How many prayers can this box hold?”

“None,” I replied. “All our prayers go straight to God. This box is to remind us to pray and the value of prayer.”

Several residents looked at me and smiled.

Then, one lady said in a very sincere and calm voice, “Praise Jesus.” Many residents nodded their head in agreement.

At the end of class a few nurses and other employees who had been listening from the back of the room asked if they could have a prayer box. One of my assistants asked if I had extras because if any of the residents lost it they would really be upset.

The prayer box is not the perfect gift – it just represented it.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sunday Funnies

God said: "Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no-maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long-lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles."

St. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord, the suburbanites. They started calling your flowers 'weeds' and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

You better sit down, Lord. The suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

'Dumb and Dumber', Lord. It's a story about....

Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.