Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm Thinking About Christmas!


The Cohen Brother's Dept Store Santa

I have many wonderful Christmas memories. My parents loved creating a Christmas Day that included plenty of toys, decorations and a morning that always brought us together as a family. There were never threats that Santa wouldn’t stop at our house or a complaint about an unwanted gift. My mother and father were successful at wowing me each and every Christmas morning for as long as I lived at home. The first year I was on my own and living in my own apartment, I decorated my small, sad looking tree with photos of Christmas mornings at home. In 1973, driving those six miles from my new apartment to my parent's home on that first Christmas away from home, caused me to wonder if I had made the right decision about leaving home. Christmas mornings would never again be the same.

Dad In his Christmas Shirt From Rosenblums

I Always had Great Transportation To Show Off On Christmas Afternoon - Thanks to Santa.





























My Father wasn't hard to please on Christmas. Mom and I used to come up with some great presents for him and we knew we hit a home run. His favorite saying while opening presents was always. "Hmmm, just what I wanted-but not very badly." He loved new golfballs or a new putter and he always wore all of the beautiful ties I picked out for him.

So many WONDERFUL Christmas Dinners-Just the four of us.
 Christmas day always included a big turkey dinner that my Mom would  labor over all day for us. She was a great cook. One year my Dad got the idea he wanted to cook a duck on the grill for our Christmas dinner. It was an all day effort, since he didn't realize how Duck + Fat = Fire was a full time job. No more duck experiments after that. Our table always included my favorite, a can of Jellied Cranberry Sauce sliced neatly on Mom's special cranberry dish. In later years, she made her own and it was so much better. She'd always check with me though to make sure I didn't need the canned version. I finally outgrew the can.. I wanted to learn how to make my own cranberry sauce and conferred with Mother about her secret recipe. She'd laugh and say, "Nothing special dear, the recipe is right on the back of the cranberry bag - Just leave out some of the sugar!"
One of Many Artificial Trees

We were one of the first on our block to have an artificial tree. My father was allergic to whatever molds and pollen hitchhiked in on the tree and he either broke out in the hives or had a stuffed up nose for duration the tree was in the living room. I convinced myself I was allergic to real Christmas trees also, but was told by George Winterling to WASH THE TREE before bringing it into the house. This worked for me. No more tree phobias.

My mother usually kept her robe or housecoat on while we opened presents and my father was usually quick to get dressed. Seeing him in a robe usually meant he was sick or in the hospital. Neither one of my parents wore bed clothes or lounge wear after 7:30am, unlike me who can stay in my pajamas for an entire day and think nothing of it.

The Wrapping Paper Mess Intrigued Spot
Spot had a strange penchant for tinsel. He managed to digest it quite well.
One thing missing from our living room on Christmas morning was that big black plastic Hefty bag to keep things neat and tidy. Our entire living room floor was an ankle high sea of torn Christmas wrapping paper and ribbon that we had meticulously wrapped our presents in. I was usually my father’s wrapping slave and became quite adept at creating neatly wrapped  masterpieces. We always had the latest bow maker, self making bows, curling ribbon or the coveted “Sasheen” ribbon that my mother probably purchased at the drugstore after the previous Christmas or at Woolworth’s or Sears’ after Christmas sale. I got wise to the gift wrap thing and looked for some compensation from my Dad to do his wrapping. He used to have me do his shopping for him and even come up with gift ideas for Mom. It was evident to Mom on numerous occasions that I had picked out my father’s gifts for her and she didn't appreciate that one bit. I had to tell him my cover was blown after being questioned by my Mother as to who thought up and purchased her gifts one year. I thought my father’s traveling on the road with his job would have allowed him some extra shopping time, but looking back now, he was probably so exhausted from driving all over North Florida and South Georgia, he opted to drive home instead of getting a hotel and going shopping so that he could sleep in his own bed. Motels didn’t exactly have Egyptian cotton sheets or mock Sleep Number Beds to entice you to stay the night. A broken “Magic Fingers” at twenty- five cents a pop was about all the luxury that was available in the sixties.

Two Christmas mornings stand clear in my memory. One when I was only in elementary school and lived in Lakewood and one when I was seventeen living in San Jose Manor. It goes without saying that these two Christmas’ were trumped after I had a child of my own and witnessed his disgust on Christmas morning with the mess that Santa’s reindeer left on our front porch after we were nice enough to leave carrots out for the reindeer to snack on. Leaving Santa a beer one Christmas Eve to go with his cookies seemed normal to me. On one Christmas, my granddaughter woke up to a brand new bicycle under her tree and the first thing she said to her parents was, “Hey, I’d like to have one of those!” 
The Storybook Princess
Imagine the look on my face on Christmas morning at age six or seven finding what I considered to be (and still do) the most magnificent doll ever created by The Madame Alexander Doll Company. Fashioned after a princess who read stories on television, The Storybook Princess Doll under my Christmas tree with her ball gown crisp and full waiting there just for me, knocked me either drop dead speechless or brought me to tears. Being the easy-to-cry kid that I was, it was most likely the latter. I approached this doll from Santa with a wonder and a disbelief that it was really for me. Her dark and neatly netted hair was adorned with a rhinestone tiara and in her hand was a small wand or scepter that is missing in the picture above. This wand was used on television to magically bring a story to life on the TV show. The doll’s gown was bright fuchsia satin and netting with small tea roses sewn under the netting. It was a large doll,  but much larger in my memory than it really was. I scooped her up and loved her until her hair fell off and her strung arms and legs sagged loosely out of their sockets sometime in the 1980’s when I finally had to dispose of her due to the smell of her decomposing plastic body and sticky rubber parts turned gooey and unsightly. Rather than see her in her deteriorated state of old age, I threw her away. I had painted her molded fingernails with a red ball point pen that had bled into her graceful rubber fingers turning them a bloody looking red. Naturally my Storybook Princess had a variety of hair-dos created by me. Anyone familiar with dolls knows that a Madame Alexander doll wig was never meant to be brushed. My mother stored all of my dolls in our oven- like attic, knowing I would not want them thrown away. When she finally gave the box of dolls to me, a few of the dolls had succumbed to the Florida heat. Others fared well and I enjoy them to this day. Even Suzy, the first doll I had, is still around. She hasn’t changed much (she’s the one on the left with her other buds). I don’t remember getting Suzy on Christmas morning and she was never very special to me until I was a grown woman. Suzy accompanied me to Hope Haven and was allowed to come home with me. All of the other gifts and toys I received in the hospital when I had polio were thrown into the incinerator according to my Mother. For some reason, Suzy survived the death squad and is even listed in one of my doll appraisal books. She is pictured and shown with the name “Crying Baby”. Her body is a little hagged out and her

The Christmas Suzy Was Under the Tree


Suzy Today ( Left) Hanging Out With My Mother's Childhood Dolls
voice box is rusted mute, but she looks happy to me. No wonder she had such a scowl on her face, having to go to the germy hospital. These dolls serve as reminders of the thoughtfulness that went into the gifts from my parents and the endless enjoyment I had playing and imagining with them.
 

The other Christmas I will never forget was when I was seventeen. Being born two days before Christmas and having a Grandmother born on Christmas Eve, it was mandated by her that my birthday gifts never be wrapped in Christmas paper. This particular birthday, it was slim pickings. Not only did I not have any gifts bestowed on me in the usual birthday manner, but my Mom didn’t apologize for the unusual lack of enthusiasm I was customarily spoiled with. I think I received a few pairs of much loved Vanity Fairs from my Aunt Marian and that was it. I thought that I maybe hadn’t deserved anything since my grades in school were unremarkable to say the least and being seventeen, maybe all of the birthday fuss had come to an end and I was too old to expect much. I certainly didn’t say anything about my disappointment, but I sensed in my mother’s eyes and voice that she knew. Christmas Eve came and went and on Christmas morning the same thing happened. Wrapping paper was all over the living room floor and my little terrier Spot sat dug in between my hips and the arm chair I was stewing in. No presents for Claire except for the ones that came from my relatives in Pittsburgh. It wasn’t until my brother Neil was assigned to clear away that sea of wrapping paper, that my Mother asked me to run get her slippers and sweater from her bedroom closet. It became evident that I had clearly fell off Santa’s radar that year and was left wondering why I, who had put a lot of thought into the gifts I gave that year, was honored with NOTHING. Your probably guessing by now that the slippers in the bedroom was a ruse to get me to the back of the house to behold a sight only second to that Storybook Princess. Out of the box and all set up waiting for me in my parent’s bedroom was the very expensive reason I had not received anything for my birthday and Christmas. My parents had bought me a brand new top of the line Singer sewing machine set in a gorgeous walnut sewing cabinet with the bench included. It was a beautiful beige model that would do a zigzag stitch and I noticed a few other features that were not on my Mother’s ancient black White Company sewing machine that I had finally convinced her to let me move out of her bedroom into my own. I learned to sew when I was very young and there was never an end to the knock-off Villager dresses and shifts that I produced for school clothes. Skirts, culottes, herringbone wool jumpers and fully lined wool tattersall pants were favorites of mine. My Mother rarely turned down a request from me for fabric as my sewing made me happy and I was always confidant and happy with my school clothes.
 
A Lifetime of Enjoyment

My Mom

So those are my favorite Christmas memories. I believed in Santa Claus to the point of actually hearing sleigh bells while trying to get to sleep Christmas Eve. My husband makes the same claim. These things are why I enjoy Christmas and all that goes with it. I don’t mind the shopping or coming up with ideas for gifts. I don’t attend church like I did when I was young, but instead I love watching “Christmas at the Vatican” in a dark living room with only my Christmas tree lights on. One of these days I’d like to return to Rome and witness the crowds at St. Peters on Christmas Eve. Until that happens, you will find me here at home in my living room wishing I still had that Madame Alexander doll in mint condition with box to auction off on eBay. More likely than not, you’ll find me sewing.

Here's to you Mom & Dad - Merry Christmas!
Love,
Claire




 




Friday, October 8, 2010

Billy Graham


Dr.Stephen Pirris
Big day coming up Thursday, October 14th. I’m heading back to Mayo Hospital for another spine job. Unlike a boob job or any other kind of “job”, this go-round will be even more challenging than my last experience in February. From T-9 to S-1, my surgeon, Dr. Pirris from Pittsburgh is going to shore up my ailing lower spine with more rods, screws, bone and glue. The glue really beats those staples any day. SOOOOOOOOOOOO, this weekend I am headed out of town for a day trip with my buds Joyce, Shirley and Mary Jo for a mind diversion and special day with my friends. We are headed to Bunnell, FL to enjoy looking at fabric and having a special lunch before I head for that drug induced hell of hospital germs and such. I can’t say I am looking forward to being served breakfast in bed since “Diners-Drive-Ins and Dives” WOULD NEVER do a show on Mayo Clinic cuisine. I WANT THE SAME FOOD THEY SERVED REV. BILLY GRAHAM when he was a patient there. Trust me when I tell you, they didn’t feed him what they fed me...At least, I hope not. It sounds so tasty on the extensive menu I get to order from each day, but GGAAAADDDDDDDDD it’s some kinda bad.

 It was probably his "birthday" every day at no extra charge.
From the Mayo Website:
"Gourmet Menu"
"We are happy to help you celebrate a birthday, anniversary or other occasion with a special meal. The gourmet menu offers lobster tail, filet mignon and other delicacies. Modifications can be made to accommodate special diet limitations. There is an additional charge for this service."

You can think of me, but don’t worry about me. I’ll be
under the watchful eyes of  Lon and Andy and the rest of my great family and maybe even some big hunky Physical Therapy guys if I’m lucky. This go-round may end up with a post-vacation stay at Spa Brooks, but if it does, there will be more hunky PT guys there. I’m hoping to lose some pounds and gain some height (maybe two to three inches) which will improve my pathetic BMI. Here’s the formula I am counting on adding height to:

You can figure out your BMI (Body Mass Index) with this formula:
(Weight in pounds) divided by [(height in inches) x (height in inches)] x 703
Once you've determined your BMI, use the following chart to determine where you fit in:

Below 18.5: Underweight  (not likely)
18.5 - 24.9: Normal (never)
25 - 29.9: Overweight (oh yeah..we're getting there)
30 and above: Obese

I think we all know where I fall without getting out the calculator.


So wish me luck again and know I remain optimistic and as always, that this too shall pass and add another adventure to my already too good to deserve life. I‘ll have some really great x-ray pix after this one!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Was It the Hair or Was It the Music?

My son Andy alerted me to a ticket giveaway that he thought I might be interested in for a show at the Civic Auditorium called "YESTERDAY & TODAY: The Interactive Beatles Experience" (click here)

All I had to do was submit an entry about one Beatles song that is attached to a memorable event in my life. I had finished writing what would be my entry and checked the flyer again only to discover that it had to be 50 words or less. Well, I couldn't tell you how to thread a needle in 50 words or less. Editing what I had to say only got me down to about 242 words, so I decided to submit it here on my blog and forget about sending it to Folio Weekly. Final word count: 697...Here goes, Andy....


In 1965, I tried my best to convince my mother and father that I should be allowed a short five minute reprieve from the television restriction I was on in order to watch Paul McCartney sing his new song from the latest Beatles album “!HELP!”. The song was “Yesterday”. I can’t recall why I was on restriction, but know that this was not a punishment taken lightly or dealt out frequently by my parents. They would not give in. No TV. No Beatles-period.


I am sixty years old and my parents are no longer living. The magical mystery called McCartney has captured my heart with his music and poetic lyrics and is the only performer I have not been able to see in a live performance. But when I hear the song “Yesterday” what stands out in my memory is that night in my room spent crying because I would not be allowed to see him on the “The Ed Sullivan Show” to witness what was the biggest event on the planet short of a space shot. If you experienced Beatlemania first hand, then I don’t have to explain it. It is something not easily put into words. It was all consuming, unimaginable and looking back on it now, just plain crazy. Was it the hair or was it the music?

I would spend endless hours playing my 33⅓rpm record “Meet The Beatles” and studying the album cover fixated on the faces of the four clean gorgeous boys in black turtle necks. In contrast, when the cover of ”!HELP!” containing “Yesterday” was released, the album cover revealed the Fab Four doing semaphores sporting longer hair and still not winning any points with my Dad. They called it “looking grubby”.

It was the hair.

I did not have a record player of my own and my father’s prized Garrard turntable and it’s HI-FI components he bought separately and assembled himself was entrusted to me under the condition that I not manually move the needle, but rather let the mechanical mechanism that lowered and lifted the needle be allowed to do its thing. My father loved good music and introduced me to the great vocalists, jazz musicians and band leaders of his time. He loved Ella, Ellington, Shearing and Vaughn. My father disliked the Beatles and was never one to carry on a conversation about them. His car radio homed in on WKTZ Jones College Radio and I don’t recall ever having the nerve to change the station. John Lennon was the only Beatle Dad ever talked about and you can only imagine what he had to say about him.

I resigned myself that I would miss seeing McCartney sing my favorite song and at the top of the hour I buried my head in my pillow mad at the world. Thirty seconds before McCartney was up to perform, my father knocked twice on my bedroom door and released me to watch our small portable television in my room advising me I could watch Paul and only Paul and not a minute more of the broadcast. Since our television in the living room was considered “the big screen”, allowing me to watch Paul on the small portable was still punishment because if you touched the volume knob, the set would crackle and sometimes never calm down. There were also sensitive horizontal and vertical issues with this TV besides being black and white.

I lingered on every word of ‘Yesterday’ as the perspiring Paul McCartney sang by himself looking as if he was singing to me and only me having no clue millions of girls were holding on to every note. I did not sing along for fear of missing his voice.

When I hear ‘Yesterday’ (video) I am reminded of my father, his moment of weakness and his concession to his crazy daughter who loved The Beatles. Had I only known that someday I could see the same performance on YouTube in the year 2010, I would not have wasted those tears. 

I know my Dad would never believe that Paul keeps my Starbucks card loaded for me.
It was the music.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ivan Browning, Old Valentines, Women in My Life and Where is Bosnia?

A few years ago, I was driving by the Southside Library on Hendricks Avenue with my friend Viviane Weil and began to tell her a story about my 6th grade teacher at Englewood Elem. (Mrs. Jacobson) and all the time I had spent at the library alone in the evening looking for things to write about for an on-going report I was expected to do on Yugoslavia, the country assigned to me. I am still embarrassed to say, I didn’t give the project my all and spent much of my library time looking at Life Magazine, American Girl and National Geographic. I also spent much of that time thinking about a boy named Ivan Browning.  Upon turning in my report at the end of the year I failed to provide the teacher with any of the newspaper clippings I was supposed to be collecting about my country. I wasn’t in the habit of reading the Times-Union back in those days and unbeknown  to me, all kinds of things were happening in Yugoslavia in the early 60’s. I’m talking earthquakes, alignment with the Soviets and Tito, the dictator,were always in the news. I didn’t know this, but Mrs. Jacobson, my teacher, HAD been reading the TU and after telling her I couldn’t find one single article about Yugoslavia in the newspaper, she emptied out an envelope on her desk with dozens of clippings pertaining to Yugoslavia that I just happened to miss while reading the paper . Hey, if Ann Landers or Dear Abby didn’t print it, I didn’t know it. Little did I know that within about twenty minutes after talking about Ivan Browning and Yugoslavia, I would again be able to relive this moment in 6th grade with the very same 6th grade teacher, Sheila Jacobson.

I attended Englewood Elementary School for half a year after moving back to Jacksonville from Gainesville. My father had rented a house on Welaka Road off of Emerson until he could get us back to the Lakewood-San Jose area. I included in my story to Viviane a lengthy narrative about my old neighborhood and this really tall, good looking kid named Ivan Browning. Looking back now, my 6th grade mind was actually thinking Ivan and I would surely get married. I even met a 6th grade girl in another class who also had a crush on him. Nell  told me in no uncertain terms that he was hers and to forget about him. Sixth grade girls back then had only two things to worry about….exactly what was Kotex for and who would I be getting a Valentine from on February 14th in the Valentine shoebox I had decorated meticulously in “Art” for this extra special day at school.

Viviane and I had just left the American Cancer Society office where I had taken Viviane to work on the Cancer Society Fashion Show scheduled to be held at Belk’s Department Store that year. Viviane wasn’t driving and I was more than happy to get her out of the house to attend the meetings she missed so very much…fashion..fashion ..fashion ..Viviane’s love. As we approached Lakewood, I asked Viviane if she would like to stop by the yarn shop before heading home. Having spent much time and even more money in this shop, I knew Viviane hadn’t been there in awhile and neither had I, so left we turned.

By the time Viviane and I finished looking around, the shop was filled with customers and a particular customer was at the register picking up a piece of needlework she had left at the shop for framing. I overheard her giving the clerk her name and I swear, standing within five feet of me was my 6th grade teacher who I had been talking about in great detail not twenty minutes earlier.

I HAD to speak to her and after introducing myself, Sheila Jacobson apologized for not remembering me. I related my mortification story to her about Yugoslavia and the newspaper clippings and after we determined what year I was in her class (me using a calculator), she told me that she remembered only one kid from that class and that kid was Ivan Browning. I began to laugh.

Mrs. Jacobson had retired from teaching many years earlier and asked me what my life’s work had been. She said that my chosen career was a great choice and pleased her. Her parting words to me were wonderful. With a singing tone she said, “’I’ll bet you can read, too!

As for Ivan Browning, I never saw him again, but found he is Facebook friend of a friend and looks a lot different after fifty years (but still very tall) and the other 6th grade girl competing for his attention was dear Nell. She is still a friend mine and we continue to keep in touch. If it weren't for Ivan, I probably wouldn't still be friends with Nell.

I don't know how these situations happen to me. I'm am consista-ntly amazed at my mind that can remember that decorated Valentine shoebox from the 6th grade and with the same mind (well, almost) can walk into a room and in a split second forget why. I really don't like getting old.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Painted House




In 1983 I married. In 1984 I bought a house. In 1985 my son was born and in 2001 I retired from my lifelong job. In 2010, I am finally getting my living room and dining room painted. I’m finally getting new carpet. For most people, this might not be one of those beautiful life changing events that you cherish the rest of your life. But for me, I’m getting that same warm fuzzy once in a lifetime feeling about  newly painted living room, dining room and hallway walls. Not to forget, new carpet and new furniture. So why is this a big deal for a girl who has just about everything in life a person could ask for? I wish I knew. I can only blame it on my own laziness.  >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

My old walls tell a story, like most probably do. The patched hole (but never painted) that Lon’s recliner made when he leaned too far back and the corner of his chair crashed into the wall leaving a head sized hole. He was holding Andy over his head in the baby airplane position and each time he would lift him up high over his head, Andy would let out a giggle that sounded like a symphony. He was about six months old. My brother repaired that hole for me.

The big six foot scrape across the wall of the foyer was the result of my long gone sofa that I purchased from an estate sale of the Flagler Hotel. While I owned the sofa, the long scrape was hidden by the sofa. Because it had old wooden casters, it used to slide against the wall wreaking havoc. After parting with the sofa, the brown line was a constant reminder of the missing sofa. The reason Flagler College was unloading many of the original hotel furnishings, was because most all of it contained live, active dry wood termites still munching away at sale time. That sofa was the first piece of antique furniture I restored. It was also the last. I’ve told that story too many times, so I won’t go there again. That very visible waist high long brown scrape down the wall line is finally gone.

My picture of Ringo Starr posing as the sister in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” was covering up another unpainted drywall repair that I think was caused by someone’s fist.  I wasn’t home when that happened so I never got the real skinny on that incident. I do know that the person who made the hole now knows how to repair drywall. I always wanted to hang this favorite drawing that I bought from the old "Some Place Else" bar and restaurant just after it first opened. They sold it to me right off the wall above the booth I was eating in. I didn't expect it would ever be prominently hanging in my living room to cover some one's bad temper.

There are a few ankle high tantrum dents near the laundry room caused by a kicking and screaming kid who was in a bad mood at the time and the proverbial hand marks down the hallway from dirty little (and big) fingers. These are now gone.  Whenever I hang a picture or painting (and I have many), I don’t measure and plan for the hanging. I just hammer in the picture hanger and hope for the best. My final hole usually has six or seven holes surrounding it sort of like the bulls eye of a bad marksman. The one hole dead center is always the last one I make. All the extra holes are gone now too.

Near my kitchen wall, I measured the growth of my son with a pencil and a ruler. Since he ate like a horse and grew like a weed, his growth spurts show on the wall, but I mostly remember the smile on his face each time he was taller than the last mark. The last mark is probably 6’ 2”. I jotted down the dates and heights (which also include measurements for Leola and Stella) and plan to re-write them on the newly painted wall.

Picking out the colors for my new walls was difficult. I deal with color in my quilting and you’d think I would know exactly what I wanted for my walls. I started out with several purples and used the small samples from Lowe’s to see what purple would look like. That was a no-go. I then switched to green shade that looked like pale celery on the paint card, but on the wall, came out looking like that green stuff spewing out of Linda Blair’s mouth in “The Exorcist”….another no go. "I must have been on drugs"

I gave it all a rest for awhile hoping that the walls would speak to me and was really discouraged when they remained silent until one day an impulsive shopping trip to Tuesday Morning resulted in a beautiful $150.00, 8’x10’ wool area rug with all of the colors that I love. The soft terra cottas, muted blues, soft yellows and greens in the rug became my starter pallet.

The main reason I bought the rug was to cover up some big obvious stains on my carpet, thinking that I would never be able to re-carpet the house. I used the colors in the area rug as my color pallet and finally, the wonderful process began. While picking out a new recliner for Lon, I ended up with another new recliner for myself, two new sofas, new carpet and newly painted walls. The new colors are called “Opium” and “Ingliss”. They are peachy…literally and they are beautiful.
My painter, Jack,  referred to the original color of my walls as “dry wood primer” and if it weren’t so pathetic, it would be funny. He did a wonderful job, showed up each morning at 9 o’clock sharp and brought along with him his good disposition and bologna and cheese sandwiches for his lunch.. The new colors are called “Opium” and “Ingliss” (?????). 

The “Carpet Man” has been standing by eagerly waiting for my call that the painting is finished and the furniture store is holding my new furniture until the carpet is down. He sent his two carpet experts to the house post haste and after piling all my furniture in to the kitchen and laundry room, set out to finish the job. I’m glad I wasn’t here to witness the preparation phase. When I arrived home from visiting the physical therapist, phase one was finished. I naturally tried to practice some Spanish with one of the carpet “professionales”, but had no luck there. He was either the quiet type or from a region in Mexico that didn’t speak my FCCJ Spanish. It didn't help that my husband kept telling me to give it a rest either. These guys could have at least cleaned up after themselves. The motor on my vac cleaner shut itself down due to excessive fuzz overload. The manual for the vacuum suggested a thirty minute cool down time and the vacuum would be as good as new. None the less, these two men worked very hard and seemed eager to please me, the customer. Laying down carpet is not a job where the word “ergo” comes into play. These guys use a carpet stretcher operated by the force of a knee kick that will surely have them limping way before their time and most assuredly will have no medical benefits to visit a doctor in fifteen years when this knee kicking contraption has done irreparable damage to every carpet worker's meniscus. Back in the day, laying carpet for your father's carpet business would have been a dream summer job. I know for sure that today, a young person today having already experienced his first "sports" injury would say, "No way, José." to this job. This is precisely why the men doing this job are named José.

I will not miss my carpet of outdated color or its dust, dirt and spilled coffee stains that marked a path to a “certain someone’s” easy chair. I will miss the stained area in front of the television where my son grew up eating his dinner while watching “Jeopardy” and the spots and stains he left behind after meals. I guess that marked his territory. He used to put a piece of newspaper under his dinner plate to keep the carpet clean. The newspaper ink left more marks on the old carpet than Andy ever did!

This morning after I got out of bed, I walked in to the living room and felt like I was Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" after her house landed post tornado. I opened the door from Kansas black and white to the vivid color of Munchkin land. Only Coroner Meinhardt Raabe wasn't there to sing to me.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

** Cleaning: The Removal of Clutter Off The Dining Room Table

The last time I posted my blog, I was 59….It’s January now and I have made it to 60 years of age. Never thinking about my mother’s age as I was growing up, it would have been 1979 when she turned sixty. I’m sure I either made her a cake or bought one from my beloved Goode’s Bakery and I’m sure we all went to “Patti’s”, our favorite family restaurant for celebrating family events. She and I ordered lasagna (ooh, the best), my father ordered spaghetti with either roasted peppers or Italian sausage (with the sauce on the side-always). I'm not sure what my brother's "Patti" favorite was. I miss those dinners at “Patti’s” more than you would ever know. On my sixtieth birthday, I wanted no fanfare or cake just travel and some new Miami watchdogs for my front yard. Lon took me to the “Tai Palace” where I enjoyed what I think is the best Crab Rangoon and sweet iced tea in town and made my dinner out of two other appetizers on their menu instead of ordering an entree. Lon also gave me a trip to Paris and enough mad money that should have lasted longer than it did. ….and the remainder of my birthday time??….oh yes, it’s all coming back to me now….cleaning** my house and preparing for a Christmas Eve dinner I had planned for my brother Neil, Kim, Kat and VA.

At least that’s what I was supposed to be doing. I was probably over at BJ’s perusing pomegranates or at JoAnn’s looking for a bargain. But, my family dinner turned out to my satisfaction and there were very few leftovers, so I guess I pulled it off. I don’t think I would have been able to make my 5pm dinner bell if it had not been for my twenty five year old niece, Kara Millennor whose culinary skills were put to use sectioning grapefruit, helping with the baked beans and just being there to help me with whatever I needed. While draining pineapple juice out of a can for the fruit salad, she even doubled as my impromptu bartender, making me a few “Pineapple Upside Down Cakes” with what she could scrounge from the various nooks and crannies of my pantry/bar. The vodka I had squirreled away came in handy…Her drinks were the best because I’m almost sure she stirred them with her sweet little pinky finger for that added sweetness.

This last Christmas season was running in a kind of slow motion for me. I had a lot on what’s left of my mind and had to seek assistance from my niece Kathryne to decorate my tree at the last minute. In true Fleming fashion, she did the tree perfectly.

After finally taking my tree down just last night ( January 20th), I realizedwhat a nice job she really did by placing the ornaments just the way I like them. In January 2009, I set the goal of making quilts for all of my girls. I managed a favorite Christmas quilt for Traci King, one for my special nephew Billy, one for his wife Cindy, one each for Kat, VA, Leola and precious Stella . A good quilt was had by all thanks to the help I received through the year from Joyce and her magical long arm sewing machine. Joyce is too good to me. Andy, Lucinda, Lon & I had Christmas dinner at Traci and Justin’s and Traci out did herself as usual with ham, turkey, her great Christmas

goody assortment and I know she loves us because she never misses a detail that she thinks will please everyone. She is one of a kind.

So that’s how my holiday went. Pretty nice, I think.

HAPPY NEW YEAR. Say Cheese!!!!