Happy Belated…

Is today the Fourth Day of Christmas? I’m not sure. Whichever, it’s a belated Christmas for us. All our individual families went in different directions on the 25th. We’re gathering today for Christmas for the grandkids.

You have a great day. I’ll be back tomorrow.

The Clan at Christmas

It is my habit to repeat special posts from the past. I’ve done so for this a few times; it fits this Christmas Season. It depicts a family, an extended family, Christmas from the past. For some of us, it wasn’t all that long ago.

A Gathering of the Clan

http://www.freeallimages.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/merry-christmas-nativity-facebook-banner-4.jpgWhen my Grandmother lived with us on the farm, Thanksgiving and Christmas was always a big deal. Many of our relatives lived at both ends of the state.

My Aunt Anna May (note: My Aunt Anna May, at age 99, passed from us last January,) and a bunch of cousins lived near Cairo, (rhymes with Aero. Kayro is a syrup. K-Eye-ro, another incorrect pronunciation is a city in Egypt,) Illinois. Mom’s other two siblings, Aunt Clara and Uncle Bill, lived near Chicago along with their batch of kids and cousins. We lived betwixt them with a local batch of cousins near by and therefore often hosted the gathering of the Clan at the farm for the holidays.

In the late 1950s, most of the cakes and pies were hand-made including pie crust. Betty Crocker was expensive and not to be trusted according to Mom and Grandma. A week or so before the guests arrived, Mom and Grandma started making pie dough. They would make it in small batches, enough for a couple of pies and then store it on the porch. The porch was unheated and was used as a large refrigerator during the colder months.

Mom and Grandma collected pie fillings most of the year. When cherries were in season, they canned cherries. When blackberries and raspberries were in season, they canned the berries—along with making a large batch of berry jelly and jam. When apples were in season, they canned and dried apples. When the holidays arrived, they were ready.

About the only things they didn’t can was pumpkins. Mom and Grandma purposely planted late to harvest late. I don’t remember a year that we didn’t have pumpkins or sweet-potatoes for pie filling.

The count-down started with the pie dough. When the dough was ready, Mom began baking pies. When a pie was finished, it’d go out to the porch covered with a cloth. The division of labor was that Mom would make pies, Grandma would make cakes.

Grandma liked sheet cakes. I rarely saw a round, frosted cake unless it was someone’s birthday. Grandma’s cakes were 12″ by 24″. Icing was usually Cream Cheese or Chocolate. Sometimes, when Grandma make a German Chocolate cake, she’d make a brown-sugar/coconut/hickory nut icing. The baking was done right up until it was time stick the turkeys, hams or geese in the oven.

The last item Grandma would make was a apple-cinnamon coffee-cake that was an inherited recipe from her mother. It was common-place that when everyone arrived, we’d have a dozen pies and another dozen cakes ready. That was our contribution. The guests brought stuff as well.

The holiday gathering wasn’t just a single day, it was several. Thanksgiving, for instance, lasted through Sunday. A Christmas gathering lasted through New Years. We weren’t the only relatives in the central part of the state, but we were the gathering place. Come bedtime, the visitors left with some of the local cousins and would gather again the next day at another home and the visiting continued.

It was not unusual for us to have twenty or thirty folks at the house at one time. Our barn was heated for the livestock, so the men and boys—and some girls, gathered there. Dad would turn a blind eye to the cigarettes, cigars and bottles—as long as no one started a fire. Grandma’s jugs of Applejack appeared as well.

The women would gather in one of our side bedrooms where Grandma’s quilt frame was set up. They would sit, talk, quilt and plan future family affairs. A number of weddings were planned in those sessions. Sometimes before the bridegroom was aware of his upcoming fate.

Come Christmas Eve, the women, along with a number of kids, put up the tree and decorations. At 11PM, those who wished went off to midnight services. There were a number of preachers in the Clan and those who didn’t want to drive to a service and were also still awake attended a Clan service in the barn. That was the only building able to house everyone at the same time.

On Christmas, the Clan dispersed to their more immediate relatives. Mom, Dad, Grandma, my Aunts and Uncles, my sister Mary Ellen, her husband Dick and their two kids arrived. Sometimes my Aunt Emily and Cousins Richard and Dorothy (Dad’s niece and nephew) from Dad’s side would come down from Mt. Vernon, IL for Christmas.

More often than not, Dad, Dick, my Uncles and I would go goose or duck hunting early on Christmas morning. The Muddy River was only a few miles away and if we arrived right at dawn, we were likely to find some Canadian Geese or Mallards sitting out of the wind on the river. We rarely spent more than three hours hunting before we’d return home, wet, cold and tired ready for breakfast.

We would have a large breakfast around 9AM and afterwards while Mom and Grandma started on dinner, we’d open presents next to the tree. I remember once that Mom hid a pair of snow tires for Dad’s pickup behind the couch. I really have a hard time believing Dad wasn’t aware of them.

Over the years, the Clan has dispersed. Most moving to locations where jobs were available. The elders have passed on and with them the traditions. Cousins have lost touch and few live on the old homesteads.

It was a different time, another era. Some families still maintain the old traditions. They are the fortunate ones.

May you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a Joyous New Year.


Christmas is over, the holiday, that is. My family celebrated ours with our son-in-law’s parents, our son-in-law, our daughter and the grandkids. It was typical of many family gatherings, probably the majority of households across the country—arrive, greet one another, open presents for kids, watch the paper fly, eat, talk, eat dessert, and finally waddle home.

However, every year, a memory haunts me. Years ago, a couple of decades at least, we were on our way to somewhere for Christmas. We passed a restaurant, one with an empty parking lot except for one car. An old man was looking at the CLOSED sign on the door. All over town, restaurants were closed for the holiday. So were grocery stores. The only businesses open were a few pharmacies and gas stations.

My wife, daughter and I watched him try the door and when it wouldn’t open, walk slowly back to his car. He was alone and had no where to go.

An internet friend found himself in a similar situation. He was a recent widower in his 70s. His wife had died this last year of a long illness, complications of diabetes, I believe.

CHRISTMAS-DINNERHe was a good cook. He had planned on cooking himself a nice Christmas dinner. He started preparing dinner on Monday, leaving the centerpiece, a pork-loin roast, for the last item. On Christmas Eve, all was ready, all he had to do was heat a few items, some rolls on Christmas morning and he was ready: dinner by himself, watch some TV, read, exchange a few emails…a nice Christmas. Alone.

On Christmas Eve, he met a neighbor in similar circumstances. The neighbor was distraught. A son was supposed to come and pick his parent up for Christmas. I don’t know if the neighbor was a man or a woman. The son had called. He was still coming but he was broke. No money to take his parent out for Christmas dinner. The neighbor was on Social Security and also had no money for an unexpected dinner.

My friend gave them his—his dinner he had spent days preparing.

Come Christmas morning, my friend went out looking for dinner. No restaurant was open. No grocery stores were open. He had cleaned out his larder preparing for a dinner he had given away and now had nothing for himself.

If he lived closer, I would have brought him home. Unfortunately, he lives across the country with no close relatives.

At last, he found a few food items on the shelves of a pharmacy. Instead of roast pork loin, he had a TV dinner.

I know people want to be with family on Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years and other holidays. People complain when they have to work, begrudging the time spent away from home and family.

When our next major holiday arrives, let’s remember those who no longer have families to join. Let’s remember the elderly who have outlived their spouse and sometimes their children. Let’s remember the divorced or separated, divided by events from family. Let’s remember those who are alone on the holidays, and lonely.

Who knows, it could be, in a few years…or decades, that lonely person may be you.

Merry Christmas!

May you all have the best Christmas!

— M & J, Crucis’ Court.


‘Twas Christmas Eve’s Eve…

Larry Stewart is gone now. He succumbed to cancer a few years ago. He was once homeless, destitute, when someone helped him and changed his life. That one act of kindness benefited thousands of people over the years; a $20 gift to a homeless man trying to scam a meal.

For this Christmas Eve’s Eve, here is the story of Larry Stewart, the Secret Santa, Kansas City’s own.

“Thirty-five years ago a cold, hungry, and homeless young man walked into the Dixie Diner in Houston, Mississippi. With no money in his pockets he concocted a plan of petty crime to get something to eat and then pretend he had lost his wallet. He had no idea what was in store for him.

A single act of kindness by a man named Ted Horn, the owner of the diner, changed this young man’s life forever.”

The young man never forgot that act of kindness and as a result Secret Santa was born.

larry_stewartLest we forget…


Today’s serving of Celtic Woman Christmas video is Cloë Agnew.

 Tomorrow is a repost of a Christmas Gathering.

Another Pass

I am still not sick. I may have the symptoms of being sick, but I’m not sick.

Today’s post will be short. I saw something today, that I’ve not seen in a long, long time. An editorial in the New York Slimes that was pro-conservative. It was a guest editorial, of course.

John Boehner’s Betrayal

Op-Ed Contributor


WOODSTOCK, Ga. — THERE’S a political axiom that says if nobody is upset with what you’re doing, you’re not doing your job. We’ve seen this proved time and again in the liberal attacks on conservatives like Sarah Palin and Dr. Benjamin Carson, who provide principled examples to women and minorities and are savaged by the left for doing that job so well.

But cheap-shot politics isn’t relegated to Democrats. Last week the House speaker, John A. Boehner of Ohio, attacked conservative groups who criticized the budget deal, hashed out by Representative Paul D. Ryan, Republican of Wisconsin, and Senator Patty Murray, Democrat of Washington, for failing to reduce spending and for raising taxes.

“They’re using our members and they’re using the American people for their own goals,” he said, calling the opposition “ridiculous.”

In one way, Mr. Boehner is correct. The goals of groups like ours are those that congressional Republicans once espoused: smaller government, less spending and lower taxes. Alas, those who demand such things today from their elected officials face unfounded attacks.

Make no mistake: The deal is a betrayal of the conservatives who fueled the Republicans’ 2010 midterm shellacking of Democrats.

It raises discretionary spending above $1 trillion for 2014 and 2015. It reneges on $63 billion of sequester cuts. Its $28 billion in deficit reduction over the next decade is a pittance compared with the $680 billion deficit piled up in 2013 alone. And it raises taxes, particularly on airplane passengers through new travel fees.

Perhaps most troubling is that the deal locks in spending for President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, ensuring that the worst parts of Obamacare will continue unfolding to the shock of increasing numbers of Americans.

But the budget plan is about more than taxes and spending. It was a slick means by which Senate Republicans could appear to oppose the deal while in fact allowing it to sail through the chamber.

Take Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, the minority leader, who opposed efforts to defund Obamacare earlier this year while claiming to do everything possible to stop it.

After attacking conservative groups for their efforts to prevent the funding of Obamacare, Mr. McConnell, who is facing a primary challenge in his 2014 re-election race, is now seeking to portray himself as a conservative darling, championing fiscal austerity by voicing opposition to the budget proposal. (My organization has not endorsed a candidate in that race.) Doing so gives him some nifty talking points that align with most conservative groups, but it is little more than parliamentary sleight of hand.

Consider how he handled the vote on the bill. To defeat a filibuster, its supporters needed 60 senators to win cloture and move to a final vote. Instead of rallying his troops against the vote, Mr. McConnell allowed a handful of Republicans in battleground states — who needed to be seen as supporting the bill — to vote for cloture, while he and the rest railed against it, casting themselves in the role of budget hawks.

The second half of the column can be read HERE.

In short, it was all Smoke and Mirrors, a ploy to give some RINOs in battleground states, the appearance of being fiscally conservative.


Continuing the theme of this week, here is the Celtic Woman with another Christmas video.

Pass, for today.

I am not sick. On the other hand, I’m not completely up to par. Today will be a continuation of Celtic Woman Christmas videos. This particular video is a twofer—a solo at the begining, and the entire group in the second half.

Please, enjoy.