Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year-Redux

Happy New Year, 2009! The couple above represents how we celebrate the holiday in our house. Actually, we are usually awake at midnight, but we may not be awake immediately before or after the hour of midnight. We long ago gave up partying on New Year's Eve because we choose to steer clear of holiday revelers who have had too much to drink. I used to be a little disappointed to be staying in, but now I like the quiet way we celebrate. Well, I do wish we could still rent some movies like we used to, but then I guess we'd have to get a new DVD player.

Like any year, 2008 had its ups and downs, but probably both were magnified a little more than usual, making it definitely a year to remember. Of course, there was a financial crisis that has affected life in the U. S. for many. Gas prices hiked to an outrageous high this past summer, taking about $300 a month more out of our pockets than should have been. There was a very long presidential campaign before the November election of a new president. The biggest crisis of the year was my dad's failing health. He started with a MRSA infection in February and continued to have a series of crises throughout the year. He is currently on 3 antibiotics for several different conditions, but we believe and pray that he is finally on the mend and that 2009 will be a better year for him. Doug and Kellie have been a casualty of the housing crisis, continuing to make payments on a house in which they do not live while waiting for it to sell in a slow market.

On the plus side, we are thankful that both of us seem to be quite healthy, aside from the usual aches and pains that accompany aging. After Terry's bad year in 2007, 2008 was quite a relief. Also on the plus side, we bought and furnished a lovely new house and then moved into it! And while our portfolio suffered some losses this year, we still have sufficient income from our investments , and we both have pensions. The financial crisis that is direly affecting many has not caused us great hardship. All of our kids and grandkids are doing well. Doug and Kellie moved to the farm and started on extensive renovations Chip got a better job and a substantial raise, allowing him to quit his second job. Alissa held on to her job in spite of cuts by Murray State. Nobody in our family has to depend on the taxpayers to support them. We are surrounded by a loving family and friends. Overall, we have been blessed, and life is good....Happy New Year, 2009!

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Return of Mr. Christmas

Once upon a time, there lived a man who loved Christmas and all the decorations that make a place look festive. Mr. Christmas loved decorating his house for Christmas every year, and he couldn't go to a store in the fall without perusing the Christmas section to see if he could find something new for his collection of seasonal items. He started with simple things but soon progressed to animated displays. It got to the point where it seemed that Clark Griswold lived in the Christmas house. There wasn't a surface or wall that wasn't adorned with shiny tinsel or lights and figures. Mrs. Christmas loved decorations as much as the next person, so she just smiled and enjoyed his hobby along with him. He was retired from his job, and she still worked, so much of the decorating was done without her help, except for the tree, of course. Every day she would come home to something else to look at. Eventually, the Christmases had over 30 storage containers of decorations. It was a good thing they had a large storage building for all the stuff! Of course, neither Mr. or Mrs. Christmas loved taking the decorations down as much as they enjoyed putting them up, so they often hired one or more of their adult children to put them away.
Mr. Christmas was always very cheerful and happy about his decorations until one day about five years ago. All that changed a few weeks before that Christmas when Mr. Christmas had a slight stroke. While he had no physical damage from the stroke, he had damage that wasn't so easily seen. The worst was to his emotions. He felt unsure of himself and lost all interest in his surroundings and what was going on around him. He wanted nothing to do with Christmas, and he only tolerated the decorations that Mrs. Christmas chose to put out. It was not much better the next few years. He would grouse about decorating and going to all that trouble when nobody but him and his wife was there to enjoy it. The Christmases would only use a fraction of their vast collection of stuff. Then two years ago, Mr. Christmas had a hip replacement which was followed by serious complications. That year he had absolutely NO interest in Christmas and refused even to have a tree. Mrs. Christmas finally convinced him to allow her to put up the small artificial tree so there would be someplace for the presents to be displayed. That was the worst Christmas season the couple had had in their entire marriage.
It took Mr. Christmas almost a year to recover from that experience, but by last Christmas he was beginning to come to. The Christmases were going to move to a new home, and so they chose a few new decorations and picked the ones they liked best from their huge collection. They gave a few treasured pieces to their kids, too.
This year when the Christmases went to get the decorations they had set aside for the new house, Mr. Christmas just looked at it all and said it would never all fit in the new place. Well, once he got started, he couldn't stop. He was having such a good time, they went back and got more stuff from storage. They bought new things, especially for outside, and now the house and yard are very festive, probably the most elaborate in their neighborhood. Mr. Christmas is back! And Mrs. Christmas is glad to see him having so much fun. Life is good!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


We are sitting here watching Jay Leno, and he is hosting the "Battle of the Jaywalk All-Stars." While watching it makes me laugh, I can't help but being appalled and dismayed at the pure ignorance of these young people that he puts on. If they had a lick of sense, they would and should be horribly embarrassed at their lack of basic knowledge of geography, history, and science. Things that everyone should know, like who was Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln, are way beyond these kids. They think that Alaska is an island and that it's all the same as Canada. They don't know the three states in which water exists. And they just laugh when their ignorance is pointed out to them. I have seen others, including older adults, exhibit such ignorance on the show in the past, too.

It all makes me, a retired teacher, wonder what is actually being taught in school these days, but I actually know. The questions asked were basic elementary facts. I taught them myself many times, although I figured they would have to be taught more than once before it sank in. When I was a child in elementary school, we learned the multiplication tables by third grade as a matter of course. By fourth grade, I could identify all the states and their capitals. By fifth, I could identify at least half of the U.S. presidents. This was all memorized information that took a lot of practice before being imprinted on my memory. However, once I knew them, they were mine for life. I tried to emphasize this to my own kids and to my students, but it was like pulling teeth to get them to learn anything that they had to memorize. You had to make a game of it, and they still might not learn. Why learn multiplication facts when there are calculators? Why learn geography or history facts if you can look them up on the internet? Well, one reason why is so that you don't end up on Jay Leno looking like a complete idiot! Maybe this stuff is considered trivial to learn these days and of not much use in everyday life, but old person that I am, I still think there is value in learning to memorize certain facts. If you have kids, please don't give up when they don't want to put forth the effort to memorize facts. Keep at them if you can. After all, they may end up on "The Tonight Show" one of these days! Life, in spite my rant, is good...