Finding Christmas Memories in the Attic on a Hot Summer Day


I am on the move again which entails sorting, throwing out, and having serendipity moments of long-forgotten memories.  We are having a summer of consistent 100+ degree days, making work in the attic rough sledding.  I made another sweep through my attic early in the morning, the coolest it will be in the attic, and noted a box of memorabilia belonging to my son.  Before throwing the whole thing out, I thought I should take a peek.  I found many things which he would love to have including newspaper headlines of significant events which became historic such as Gorbachev tearing down the wall.  There were birthday and Valentine cards.  One from his sister (now deceased) which is sooo Karin.  On the envelope, she wrote, “GREG   :-|  Have a Day!”  (She was famous for drawing

Have a Day

everywhere — on blackboards at school, on papers, etc.  Her signature that she was there.)  Then she wrote, “who else? —- you’re the only twirp w/ a B-Day!” The card itself reads, “Brother, if Noah were filling his ark today . . .   . . . He’d have a hard time finding another one like you!  Happy Birthday!”  Then she wrote more Have a Day faces inside with more tidbits of her humor including a drawing of a bee and saying “Have a Bee-Day! (B-Day).”

Another card is sooo typical of his grandparents.  My son has a Christmas birthday (Dec. 23) as do I (Dec. 28).  So I am keenly aware of how Christmas birthdays can be overlooked.  He received a Christmas card from grandparents.  Before signing their name, they wrote, “Happy Birthday.”  A birthday card with an added “Merry Christmas” would have been a better choice.

Apparently,  in fourth grade, he was to ask a grandparent about how they celebrated Christmas.  My mother responded with a delightful, memorable letter.

“I never had to travel away from home to be with my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, because we lived all in a row.”  My children had to travel 12 hours to see their relatives.  “They would take turns each year to have the Christmas dinner and the tree, laden with all the gifts from each other.  After dinner dishes were cleared away, our gifts would be opened.  We were anxious to see what Grandad bought us as it would be something special.”  (One year Grandad gave his granddaughters a Lane cedar hope chest.  I have my mother’s.)  “Grandma sewed, making us things.


Frank L. Putnam

“Before Christmas, Grandad would give each of us children $2 and take us to Woolworth’s 5 & 10 cent store to buy gifts.  You couldn’t believe the lovely things, including toys, you could buy for $.10 in the 1920’s.

“Of course, each family had their own tree too, which had been cut down by our fathers on the hillsides.  When I was real young, our tree was decorated with red and green garlands.  I remember they were prickly to touch.  Also candles about 4 inches tall would fit into little metal containers, with a clip on the bottom that you would clip to the end branches.  (I still have one of these I put on my tree each year.)

“When I was 7 years old, electricity was available to Richburg, and we all had our homes wired.  Now, we could buy electric cords with sockets for little colored light bulbs.  Much like you have.  However, if one bulb burned out, all went out.  so, you would take a new one and search for the one that burned out.

“I remember our icecyles [sic] were made of tinfoil.  We always had tinsel on our tree as far back as I can remember.  I wonder what material it was made of.  Perhaps tinfoil too.

“Christmas was a very exciting time.  We cousins running back and forth to see what each bought for gifts to others in the family.  Then Christmas morning — to see what Santa brought each of us.  Then our Christmas dinner together — and the Tree!  It sure was a full exciting day!

“Maybe I will be with you this Christmas.  Love, Grandma.”

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Keys to Survival While in Debilitating Grief


Have you experienced debilitating grief?  If you have not, you are a lucky or a blessed one.  Sooner or later, most will eventually suffer unbearable grief.

Quote from Henri Nouwen:  “Who, in our lives, means the most to us?  Often it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, instead,  shared our   pain and touched our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in despair or confusion, grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

If you find someone who holds your hand, soothes your heart, as described in this quote, they become an invaluable rock to cling to.  Apparently, my husband found this type of comfort in his mistress after the death of our daughter.  Meanwhile my grief was doubled by his dalliance.  Fortuitously, I found such a friend, as the one described above, a lifetime friend to ease my griefs and help me find stability.  She tolerated my daily need for a rest before collapsing.  It even happened once during a dinner party to which I was invited.  Embarrassing, but better than falling off my chair.

The grief counselor who shared Nouwen’s quote, Helga Bender, writes, “Sometimes, grievers are advised, ‘Just keep busy,’ but you are too fatigued to do that. Grieving and mourning may be the hardest work you have ever done and that is why the Mourner’s Bill of Rights states, ‘I have the right to respect my own physical and emotional limits,’ and
 ‘I have the right to talk about my grief.’

I had no idea the extreme physical exhaustion I experienced was caused by grief.

Karin_L Tomc

A month from today eight years ago, we learned the cause of my daughter’s back pain – kidney cancer which had metastasized to many places.  I still speak of her daily!  She is always on my mind.  And today, in preparing for my move, I came across the hundreds of photos we have of her wedding.   What a beautiful, happy event.  The wedding of the decade!  Though my heart wants to soar with the felicity of that day, my heart recognizes the loss of her talents, effervescent personality, and contribution to life at church, in her neighborhood, professional organizations, plus family and friends.

Everyone deals with grief differently.  Some say there is no wrong way to grieve.  I disagree and grief counselors do as well.  It is important to walk through your grief appropriately and not burden yourself with issues which will not help you to heal.  If you are in the throes of grief, you can contact Helga by e-mail or call 403-775-9335 (phone and Skype available).  She offers a free 30 min. coaching phone chat about your situation.  “It will help you understand the crazy journey, get your bearings and provide support.”



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10 Maxims for Life

clouds bright orange

These maxims light my path and sustain me:


  1. Stop to smell the flowers.  If, while traveling, I see a sign for a local attraction which interests me, I stop.
  2. Don’t worry about what other people think of you.  You already know what you think of them.
  3. Always do your best.  No one can expect more of you if you give your all to a project.
  4. Be a friend.  “The man that has friends must show himself to be a friend.” Proverbs 18:24  Be hospitable.
  5. Admit your failures and try to do better.  Apologies go a long way.
  6. Trust in God.  His promises are true.  He is ever present.  He is our lifeline to peace.  His precepts are the highest moral standards.  He brings hope to any situation.
  7. Love everyone.  Everyone may not be your friend, but you can still love them.  Remember – God is no respecter of persons.  He loves everyone.
  8. Family is your God-given circle.  Treat them as such (unless there is abuse involved).
  9. Use the good china.  Your house is not a museum.  Enjoy what you have.
  10. Remember – chocolate is a vegetable and can cure all ills.  At least, it makes you feel better!


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Stretch Your Life in Positive Ways

Covered Bridge pictures, free use image, 11-01-18 by

Stretch means to expand, elongate, extend, bridge, span, reach.  Each definition has a slightly different meaning.  Some have positive connotations and some have negative.

The term, stretch, has come up in conversation several times recently:

*My grandson’s swim teacher says that the stretching of swimming will help him                    to grow tall.

*My physical therapist suggests I need to stretch my spine to alleviate twinges of pain.

*It seems perpetual that budgets need to be stretched.

*Stretching the truth means it no longer is the truth.  Beware of politics!

*Cheating is a form of stretching the truth.

**This summer my grandson participated in a sports camp playing a  different                   game every hour.  He was appalled at how many kids cheated in the games.  I am so pleased he has a solid grasp of what is correct and what is not.

**A relative related to me this week about employees who cheat concerning the work they have done in order to pad their pay checks.  Even the boss contributes to this dishonest practice.  It places an honest person in a difficult situation.

Oct. 17, 14-dWe often wish to stretch time, to give another hour to a project or another hour of daylight for fun in the sun.

Sometimes we desire to stretch ourselves in new directions – to try new activities or to improve upon current talents.

However, stretching values might negate the advantage of clinging to what is circumspect and deemed to be Christian behavior.  On the other hand, stretching other values could be a very Christian act to do —to be loving and inclusive.

A meal can be easily stretched.  If the main dish is not quite enough for the group of diners at the table, adding additional side dishes of fruits or vegetables or cheese can add enough to the meal for all the diners to leave the table satisfied.

Stretching in bed as a cat stretches, reaching the arms as far as they can go while pushing the toes to the opposite extremity, relaxes the body before sleep and awakens the body after sleep.

Consider the many forms of stretching you do in a day.  And which of your stretches are beneficial and which are unnecessary or harmful.

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Beauty Is In the Eye of the Grandchild


It is fun to realize your grandchildren can teach you!  My grandson, who is now 12, spends summers with me.

A friend called to ask if she could drop by my house, so I told him we needed to clean things up a bit before she arrived. 12 year old boys do tend to mess things up just a little.  I straightened my coffee table to look like this:  my coffee-table book at an inviting angle with the main decoration on the table off to the upper side.

IMG_0638Then I noted he had rearranged my table as if I had not already fixed it.  He didn’t seem to like my arrangement and changed it to this:

IMG_0639It was a bit too blocky for my taste, plus one is not invited to pick up the coffee-table book if something is on top of it.  My response to him was, “You shouldn’t put something on top of a book!”  He insisted his arrangement was much more pleasing to the eye than mine.  So I suggested we look up coffee tables on the Houzz app.  I was sure he would see that books on a coffee table are to be accessible to potential readers.

We did a search for “coffee tables.”  The first picture to come up had a plant on a stack of books!  Really?!  A plant which could leak water onto the book it is on?!  Coming from a librarian, that is NO WAY to treat a book!!!

Moving on. . .  there were three small stacks of books neatly squared in line with the edges of the coffee table.  The next few photos showed a decoration on the table with a book or small stack of books jauntily placed.  My style!  Thus inviting a guest to pick up the book and not feel inhibited by something sitting on top of the books.

In the end, there were as many photos with an object (often a plant or a vase of flowers with water — HORRORS!) on top of a book or books.  I had not won my argument, and the stemmed dish of glass balls remained on top of the one coffee-table book.

However, in the end, he did demonstrate how to have a “jauntily” placed book beside the table decoration:  You have a few books angled just so, to create a pleasure to the discerning eye.

IMG_0637Actually, I should have had him take these photos.  I am sure his photography would have superseded mine!

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When You Embark on a New Path, You Are Leaving a Known, Old Road


“Path” insinuates a relatively untraveled route and perhaps recently created.  “Old road” brings a vision of a well-trod roadway.   Perhaps paved; perhaps not.  But well traveled.

I know people who lived in the same house for their entire lifetime.  I know others who moved frequently.  Too frequently.  I fall into that category.  It was not my choice. I expected I to marry, settle down somewhere and stay there the rest of my life.  My parents, after leaving their childhood homes for marriage, lived in three houses.  The first house was very small and was owned by a former beau of my mother’s.

When my father began working for my mother’s grandfather on an oil lease, the Putnam Oil Company owned a home on one of their leases and needed an employee to live there to tend to the oil wells on a 24/7 basis.  The house sat on a hilltop among the Allegheny foothills on a little-traveled dirt road.  The property allowed my father to have a “gentlemen’s farm” with large garden, pigs, chickens, and a cow – all intended to bring food to the table. They lived there for over ten years, through the Depression and World War II with no telephone and their electricity came from their generator.  All three of their children were born while living in that house, a span of eleven years.  On the day of my birth, my mother’s grandmother was buried.  A few months later, we moved into the grandparents’ home located in the center of town.  My parents lived out the rest of their lives there.  My mother never left the township of her birth.

My house

My husband, being the son of a minister in a denomination which moved pastors every two or three years, considered frequent moving a normal way of life and desirable.  During our 42 years of marriage, we lived in 13 homes in 5 states and 1 province, an average of 3.2 years per house.  Reality is we resided in 8 homes for only 1 to 2 years, and in 2 homes for over 10 years.  Our 13th and last home was in a townhouse development of 13 homes, ours being #13! Spooky!


After locking him out of our home and questioning that decision, then passing this angel in my garden, I heard a God-voice tell me very clearly:  “You did the right thing.  You should have done it sooner.  Move as far away as you can.”  I moved 1400 miles away to be close to grandchildren.  Since they left me after 2 years, another grandchild began begging me to narrow the distance of 1200 miles to a few.

With that many moves, I have experience in establishing a new life.  While the current chapter of my life will leave many facets of a fulfilled life behind, a well-worn path I created, a new road opens presenting new experiences, challenges, and, happiness living close to loving family.  Amazingly, that family, not biological, but forged through marriage, adoption, death, and remarriage.  God is good!


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Celebrating the Stars and Stripes


“The Stars and Stripes,” of course, refers to the American Flag – something VERY dear to my own heart, and probably to yours as well, if you are American.

Primarily, we think of our country’s founding today and what it means to us:  how we love the USA for the freedoms, benefits, and diversity we have in this country – a conglomeration of many countries, customs, and traditions wrapped into our flag.  We proudly display Old Glory and may even wear red, white, and blue today.  We celebrate with hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad, and many other goodies unique to each family.  Then the day concludes with fireworks, declaring to the skies our pleasure of being American.

We cannot help but remember our military which defends our freedoms and way of life.  They ALL are STARS and bear the STRIPES of their efforts on our behalf.  We gratefully praise our military daily, but especially on a national holiday such as this.




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