Archives for category: Holidays

I’d been married less than two months on the first Valentine’s Day of my marriage.   We were in college, at Oklahoma State University, and I found the perfect Valentine in a shop by campus.  The year was 1967 and here was a goofy dog made of then cool burlap in a stand-up card.  Little did I know that the funny valentine would be with us all the way through our marriage.

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Every year, for 31 years, I pulled the card out of hiding and set it on my husband’s dresser so he would see it first thing.  He always gave me his big grin, our start to every Valentine’s Day.

No, that wasn’t all we did.  There were flowers and candy and cards and dinners and jewelry and other traditional gifts through the years.  I still have some of the valentines he gave me that I read once in a while.  My husband was a romantic guy and liked to do it up right.  He was 6’4″ of cuteness bringing in his surprise gifts which might range from grocery store roses to lovely jewelry, depending on our finances at the time.  He wasn’t one of those guys who picks up something at the last minute and, even if he did, he would have thought about it all week.

But, I can pull out that first card and remember it all.  It’s such a fun look at how we were, two kids starting out.  It was so simple in the beginning when you loved each other and just knew with all your heart that it would all work out because of that.  Sigh…

Today, we’re celebrating a day of love, no matter where you find it.  It can be with pets, friends, family and special loved ones.  Feel lucky that you have love of all kinds in your life.  And treasure it!

Karen & Alan

New Year’s Eve used to mean getting together with friends to toast in the next year together, complete with hats and horns.  Those days gave way to staying home with the kids and banging pots and pans while listening to the sounds of the celebrators in the distance.  And then it became a day to end the old and bring in the new, whatever it was bringing with it.

I’m trying to remember all my New Year’s Eves, especially the ones that came with promises of lives changed.  There was the year right after my father died, helping my mother get through it.

There was the year my husband had cancer.  We went to a Bowl Game with the strength he found somewhere and flew home while my mother was having quadruple bypass surgery.  That was a year that started off with us knowing there would be changes.

The millennium 2000 celebration was hard because I’d always pictured it coming in while I stood by my husband’s side.  Who knew he wouldn’t be there with me?

I don’t know.  New Years are always full of hope and promise.  This year I’m thinking of turning the calendar differently.  We’re all older, which goes without saying.  We’re celebrating the fact that we’re here, kind of like we celebrate our birthdays.

This year, I’m going to celebrate that it’s 2015 and not 1915 or 1815 or before.  This is a great time to be alive, a time when we have possibilities not even imagined earlier.  There are more chances for learning, for exploring, for creating than ever before.  If we want to change our lives, there are resources available.  If we are sick or injured, there are more medical options than at any time in man’s history.  If we want to play, there are more exciting places to do so.

I’m going to take this year to be grateful for all I’ve been able to see and do and all the wonderful people I have met.  I don’t know how this year will stack up with the others I’ve known, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s all a journey where some years are smooth, some are rough, and some are thankfully boring, but all are steps forward to being who we are.

My husband told me once that we always pray for strength.  I was taken with the surety in his voice when he said it, so I’ll follow his words.  We pray for the strength to face what the year brings us as we rejoice in the fact that we’re here to face the future.  May I see you here next year, facing the next year and then the next and then the next…

Happy New Year!

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Looking back over the holiday season, starting with Halloween, it’s been a different one.  For sure.  Nothing was the way it usually is in my life up until Christmas Day, which was its typical madhouse of family and fun.  Thank goodness for that.

Maybe I’m more aware these days, now that I’m not caught up in all the things I did in my past lives, things like racing four children around to Christmas programs and parties, cooking madly every day, sending out Christmas cards, running a retail store during the holidays, preparing for a Christmas fundraiser (several times at various stages of my life), or wrapping a million presents.  I still do cook and shop and wrap presents, although I don’t have to run around town or the whole state looking for a rare Star Wars character or a special purse or all the “had to have” gifts for my kids that we had to physically look for in the olden days.  I shop both local and online, so I can find what I want pretty quickly, unless I don’t have a clue what to get.  Still a problem.

Thanks to Facebook, I traveled the holidays with friends far and near, watching the preparations of the younger families, sharing memories with my older friends, delighting in masses of photos of how the kids and grandkids are growing.  It’s a gift that keeps on giving, this sharing of lives.  Thanks for Mark Zuckerberg and whoever invented Instagram for that and don’t let me hear your gripes.  It is what it is and you don’t have to be a part of it if it’s not your cup of tea.

Mostly, I’m taken with the people I know who have suffered through the holidays, suffered with loneliness, depression, health issues, grief, anger and bitterness, debilitating illness.  There are a lot of people battling demons during the season in which we are supposed to be jolly.  There were political issues and divides and scary world threats and all kinds of things that should have made the season not so great.  No matter how hard we try, we can’t make the world perfect even for a few days to celebrate the rituals of our faith or the beginning of a new year that we hope will be more perfect.

But, we keep trying.  I watched as people I love reached for the joy of the season to stave off the realities of the days that will follow, days of realization that a loved one is gone, days of facing new situations in life due to job loss or illness or more days of loneliness ahead.  Some are beaten too far down to lift up for the holidays at all.  They suffer through, waiting for it to all be over.  Our hearts are touched, even in our own days of celebration.

So, we’re mostly past the season of being jolly, just waiting for the end of this year, waiting for the new year that will bring us…well, we really don’t know what it will bring us, do we?  So the message is to celebrate each day we are here, celebrate the good things in our lives, reach out to those who need us to be there for them.  There are no guarantees in this life and we really have no idea what lies ahead, no matter how much in control we think we are.    The best we can do is to love – love life, love nature, love others, love ourselves.  The love of this season and every season and every day is the message.

I hope your 2014 was good and that your 2015 is the best!

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There are so many ways to mark the history of a family.  Birthdays, holidays, seasons, vacations, school events and every day activities are signs of passing years.  Before photography…well, I can’t even imagine what they did. There weren’t that many paintings or drawings per family that I’ve ever seen.

I don’t know when the first pictures with Santa started, but they were probably with department store Santas as a way to get customers in the door.  I know there were visits with Santa before that, but the photos were a commercial addition to our holidays.  When I was little, we didn’t seem to do it every year.  In fact, I only have one.  Here is me with my brother and another one of my husband, both photos taken in 1950 when my husband and I were both 5.  SANTAAlan with Santa - around 1950By the time my children were born, it became an annual event, part of the traditions of the holidays.  I took them to shopping centers and later to Santa House, a non-profit fundraiser which I worked on for years.  Here is one taken in 1975 with me as the elf, weeks after giving birth to my son.  The matching dresses were made by my mother-in-law.  Don’t ask my youngest daughter about having to wear those hand-me-downs for years.  I was President of the group that year…with four children.  To be that young and energetic again…Santa House 1975Here they are a few years later, towards the end of our Santa picture years.  How in the world did I ever get the four of them that scrubbed up for a picture?  xSo the years went by and those children grew up and started families of their own.  Our first three grandsons were born the same year, all within 8 months.  This was in 1997…  1997And those little families grew and had Santa pictures of their own…1452295_10202508196683924_1336243979_nIMG_7009148290_1699078767564_1555751205_31657769_3390214_nAnd these children grew older and then their cousin came along…eAnd she is the last of this generation to visit Santa.

We measure our lives in so many ways, counting the years through as many memories as we can.  Photos like this are a mirror of the years, the generations, and the commitment to making more memories for those we love.  No matter what your beliefs, I’m sure there are special events to record.  It’s nice to be able to look back and take it all in, put it in the perspective of Santa visits for this particular memory thread in the ever-weaving pattern of my life.

Cheers to more generations to come, adding their own memories and love.

There is no formula to my family Thanksgivings except for family, food and love.  The traditions have evolved through the years and change all the time as we lose and gain family members.  You learn to keep it loose and fun, being thankful for the chance to even plan whatever you’re doing.

When I was little, we drove to my grandparents home in Oklahoma City to have dinner with my aunts and uncles and cousins.  My father and grandfather would go quail hunting in the early morning while dinner was being prepared.  The hunting goes back to Kentucky where both of them were born.  My grandfather and his brothers always had dogs and hunted, bringing home all kinds of game for the family to enjoy.  Those Kentucky burgoos were born of those Kentuckians hunting long ago.

As my generation of the family grew up, one of my cousins married a man who lived in Chandler, hunted and had property for the hunting.  My husband learned to hunt from my father, growing to share his love of working the dogs and walking the fields in the early mornings and later in the afternoons of fall, bringing home the birds for delicious dinners later.  Alan with Guy (1)

For several years, the Tulsa relatives met the Oklahoma City relatives in Chandler, repeating the routine of hunting in the morning and then dinner.  Football in the afternoon was added about that time and our family continued to grow and add to the memories.

I forgot to mention the awkward years when we were first married and tried to go to both family Thanksgiving dinners, coming home exhausted and way too full.  We all make that mistake when living in the same city.  You can’t please everyone.  You just can’t.

At some point, there were moves and changes and the families stayed in their own cities, each gathering their own on the holiday.  At our house, the routine was pretty much the same with us going to my parents.  My in-laws had moved out of town, so we spent some holidays with them.  When home, the hunting, food, football tradition continued.  We had added the tradition of walking to nearby Utica Square for the Lights On celebration in the evening, a good way to work off the big meal.

Through the years, we’ve lost all our hunters, adjusted to some family members going different ways, sometimes go to a movie on Thanksgiving night, added recipes, kept the ones we like, still set the table with our best crystal and china and silver, even though we come dressed casually.  The grandkids play football or hang out, the adults sit back, and we all get lazy.

For the past decades, Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays.  Even when I was working, I loved cooking all the dishes I only made once or twice a year.  I had my routine compressed so it wasn’t too exhausting and I loved the early morning, alone in the kitchen getting everything ready for the kids to come over.  It was a comforting time of year where I could count my blessings quietly.

Today, I’m thankful for my healthy, happy family.  We’re about to change as the grandkids start leaving for college and there will be new members added and our family will begin to grow again in the not too distant future.  I’m so grateful to be here to see it all.

In our family, the traditions are family, food and love.  What else do you need for a great holiday?

 

My husband was a man, a big kid actually, who loved Halloween and everything about it.  Every fall, we drove out into the country, when it didn’t take so long to find the bare countryside, to look for the perfect pumpkins.  Everybody had to have their own, with his being the biggest one.  This was one of those holidays when I was along for the ride because I wasn’t good at making costumes and he was in charge of the carving and I just made popcorn balls and caramel apples and handed out the treats on the big night while he walked the streets with the kids and other fathers in the neighborhood.

We didn’t take as many photos in those days of film and flashbulbs, but I treasure the ones I have, especially now that my husband and son are both gone.  I’m pretty sure they have pumpkins in heaven however.  No doubt in my mind that they are getting ready for the big night in whatever afterlife they inhabit.  Scan 19Scan 16By the time our grandchildren were born, the pumpkin patch had expanded with animals and rides and photo ops galore.  Taking the grandkids to the patch was a way to keep my own kids’ memories alive and well.  So there are lots of pictures of these kids, now in high school, getting their pumpkins, just as their parents did.   Scan 19 86777-PH-5Oct2001-012 86777-PH-5Oct2001-017 Zac

86777-PH-9Oct2002-002And their parents take pictures that are part of the family tradition, the things that remind us of the best of times and hold us together in all times.   All my grandchildren are in middle school or high school now, except for the youngest, my son’s daughter.  He went to the patch with his nephews and niece when he was in college…Scan 19And took his own daughter for her first visit, his last before he died.  IMG_1476She gets to go back now, following family traditions, making her own.  DSC_0051They say that all we can really give our children are memories, and these are some of the best.  These days I look at my family and go back to look at the years that have done by way too quickly and I’m strengthened by the continuity of the traditions and the love I see in the photos.  The Pumpkin Patch is important in our family, but so are other traditions.  We can all make our own…and should.  IMG_5221

Over the Fourth of July, I was watching some of my grandchildren, ages 4 to 15,interact with each other and other kids around.  I have a friend who believes that kids make up games and rules that are always fair.  He believes it’s instinctive for them to be fair when left alone by adults.  I remember this from my childhood and watched these modern day kids who are poster children for organized sports and activities.

Guess what?  They still like to play.  First, at the swimming pool, the 14 and 15 year old made up dunking games, where they dunked each other, basketball games played with a small ball, a large beach ball, whatever they could find.  DSC_0409Then there were games on the slide with the ball, games off the diving board, and games with a sister/cousin and her friend.  They never stopped moving.DSC_0400DSC_0420DSC_0413Everything was discussed for a few minutes and then they played.  And played, moving from one part of the pool to the other with a new idea.  The next day, we added a 12 year old and a four year old cousin to the mix.  This changed it up a bit while they learned the new rules.DSC_0013DSC_0023There was no complaining about being bored, no arguments, no tears or whining.  Later, we met for dinner and I brought Pop-Its or Bang Pops, about 50 boxes of them.  They found more ways to pop them than I could imagine.  Very creative popping going on…DSC_0006DSC_0007And we ended the day with hundreds of kids waiting for the fireworks display.  Impromptu games of soccer and frisbee broke out with boys and girls of all ages playing their own version, mindful of the difference in ages and sizes, but all playing.  They didn’t ask names or wait to be introduced, they just threw a ball out there and it began.  They must have played for an hour or two without anybody stopping before they came back to the blankets at dark.  DSC_0020When I watch kids, all kids, playing like this, free of adults to hover over them or tell them what they are supposed to be doing, it gives me great hope.  If kids can figure out how to get along, shouldn’t we all be able to?  If kids can play together, shouldn’t we be able to live together, even with our differences?  Our children have wonderful imaginations when left to use them.  I’m hoping they use those imaginations plus the happy memories they have to build an even better world.

As their grandmother, all I know is that they are just so much fun to watch!

My daughter and I were off the highway, driving rural roads in Oklahoma and Arkansas, when we came around a curve and saw this…

DSC_0003I snapped a picture as we were moving by and realized it was the Easter story, so I kept snapping…  I pulled this from the long shot, realizing we have Palm Sunday, The Last Supper, Jesus in the Garden, and the walk with the cross

DSC_0003 - Version 2Then the crucifixion…

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DSC_0005It was so fast that we could barely take it in with cars behind us on the highway.  There wasn’t even room to stop on the two lane road.  But, it will stay with the two of us because of its unexpectedness.  I’ve counted over 50 figures, handmade life-size dolls, that someone or some group made, not to mention the scenes.  There was no signage, the metal building doesn’t appear to be a church.  The scene spoke for itself and the faith and devotion of its creator or creators.

Whatever your faith, you would be touched by such a scene appearing out of nowhere on a rural road.  Our viewing of it took seconds to get the message across.  We saw the familiar story in a flash that triggered all we’ve ever learned or felt about it.

Happy Easter Week!

 

I love you, my oldest daughter, because you were the first and you were the only one with blonde hair and blue eyes and you were somewhat patient with me while I figured out how to be a mother. Oh, you did roll your eyes and I knew I was “doing it wrong,” but you hung in there with me until you were old enough to boss your sisters and brother without any help from me. I always knew that you would be happiest when you had your own children and I was right about that. And I love that you are my frilly girl and became a boy mom. I love you because you are loyal to your friends and picked the best husband and are always there for all of us. And I love all your accomplishments. You are a beautiful woman, inside and out!

I love you, my middle daughter, because you were second and never let us forget that you were different from your sisters. I love that you got your Daddy’s dark brown eyes and hair. I love your stubbornness and your unrelenting competitiveness and even your inability to make a shopping decision. I love seeing you be a boy mom and then getting a girl that you really weren’t sure what to do with. I love your pride in your children and your determination when you start something and your talents with a camera and writing. I love that you found the best husband for you. I love that you know yourself so well and can laugh at things that used to bug you. I love that your favorite look is athletic wear. You are a gorgeous woman, inside and out!

I love you, my youngest daughter, because you were the baby girl and followed the other girls around until you got a little brother to boss around yourself. I love that you had that streak in your hair and were “Temper Tantrum Turtle” sometimes, but mostly you were a sweet little girl. I love that you found your true love in high school and keep that love as fresh as it was when you were just a kid. I love your mathematical mind when none of the rest of us have one and your frustration in understanding how we just don’t get algebra. I love that you too are a boy mom and love their sports and love teaching preschoolers and exercise classes and are a runner of races and marathons. I love that you have your own rockin’ look and can hold your own with the big girls now. I love that you are compassionate and caring. You are a stunning woman, inside and out.

I love you, my daughter-in-law, because my son brought you to us and you were the perfect person to spend his last decade with him. I love that you loved him so much and took care of him and “got” his sense of humor. I love that you appreciated the things about him we all loved so much. I love that you are now one of my girls and that you are such an incredible mother of your uniquely wonderful daughter and that you hold your own with my strong daughters and we all love you so. I love that you are accomplishing so very much with your life while raising your daughter. I love that you let us all share in her life. I love your intelligence, your love of crafts, your humor and your determination. I love your devotion to your friends and your family. You are an incredibly radiant woman, inside and out.

I love all four of you for being the role models that your sons need to learn how to treat women and that your daughters need to become the best of our fair sex. I miss that you aren’t little girls any more, but I love that we are friends and can talk and laugh and share with each other. Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweeties!

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A friend once commented that the only thing we can really give our children is memories. That’s a pretty important statement because it covers a lot of ground. Memories can be of lessons learned, like my mother teaching me manners or how to make a bed, or they can be painful, like hurt feelings or physical injuries or loss of loved ones. He was referring to the good ones, the fun ones, the special ones.

Watching my four year old granddaughter, who has already lost her Daddy and her other grandmother in her short life, I am amazed once again at how much little ones observe and remember. She’s at the age where she says “remember when…” a lot, already placing her memories in her ever so short past. But they are definitely stored there and who knows when she will bring them back into a conversation or how they will ultimately affect her life.

For Christmas, I gave my family a trip, a long weekend together, to Austin and San Antonio. The weekend after Christmas was the first time we could find that their schedules weren’t bogged down with sports or school or work, almost an impossibility to bring four families, 16 people together. But we did it. We spent four days traveling in four cars to two cities with eight adults and eight kids ranging from 12-16 with one four year old.

The gift for me was watching them all together, enjoying each other. We all live in the same city but it’s hard to find time to just relax and enjoy each other. The bigger kids go to school together and are close friends, so there was no teenage drama, no teen rolling his or her eyes at the parents. The little one was silly and the older ones were amused and helped with her antics. The parents all parented all the kids. I just got to sit and watch. And love them all.

Looking back at my own life, I have every kind of memory, good, bad, sad, funny. In all our lives, there are things that can’t be avoided, things that hurt, events and people we would like to forget. At best, we can learn and grow from them and put them in perspective. But, it’s important to have good memories, sweet memories, funny memories, to help balance it all out. My obsession with photos helps me with that. Not every memory has to be as elaborate as the trip we took, but it was great. We have many memories that cost us nothing and happened right at home. And, when we gather, whether it’s all of us or with some absent, all those memories are part of the conversation.

The gift for me is that my family has grown into a loud, laughing, loving bunch where there are no awkward silences, no sulking members, no hateful scenes and lots of the very best kind of memories. My resolution for 2014 is to make more of the good kind for everyone I know, family or friend. Happy New Year!

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