So today I feel overwhelmed by gratitude. That’s a good place to be. It's been such a fast-paced week, I'm only now getting this posted.
After last Saturday in Indy at the newspaper conference, Sunday it was off to Centerville where I visited with shoppers, colleagues and friends in the new Artisans and Java building at the Kids at Heart Publishing mini-bookstore.
Monday night was a speaking engagement at Fishers United Methodist Church’s United Methodist Women’s Christmas gathering. I am grateful to Linda Shimer who served this year as co-president of the UMW and is also active in the church’s book club. I appreciate her support and encouragement so much.
She also wows me! In addition to her leadership role, she went and picked up and returned home a friend who couldn't get there on her own. In fact, she left so quickly following the program that I was unable to get a photo with her. Not only that but I found out that Linda and her husband MOVED last week!
Even though my connection to the church’s book club had nothing to do with my husband’s 26 years working in Fishers schools, ironically, Linda told me that several were coming who knew him. It was such a delight to see these wonderful former co-workers of Brian’s – and look up to find their smiling faces near the front of the sanctuary as I spoke.
I took their photos and texted them to Brian. He was pretty pumped about their attendance and when I got home, he took a trip down Fishers Memory Lane, reflecting on all the wonderful people he worked with during those years.
Last summer, a surprise invite came from town library director Carrie Watson to give the opening program to children in the summer reading program. I spoke on the topic, “What’s Your Clue?” about looking for our gifts and talents – even as young kids, and then later in the afternoon, I gave a second talk to the adults in a program on our bucket lists.
Carrie told me she would invite me back during the annual town Christmas walk and library open house. She even gave me the date but I didn’t put it on my calendar. I thought I should wait and see if the invite came through and guess what? It did!
I got there at 5 and enjoyed delicious hot soup samples prepared by members of the library board, and hot cocoa, served by Carrie’s adorable daughter, visited with many of the more than 100 people (probably closer to 150) who came through the library to warm up and chat with their neighbors. What a bunch of truly nice people with friendly smiles and were interested enough to stop and chat.
Carrie’s mentor, Iraida Davis, even visited the library! At age 90, it’s been a while since she directed the place but I found it touching when the two librarians posed together. Carrie says Iraida was her idol. I think she still is.
Carrie is a woman of many talents. Not only is she library director in Farmland, she is the Union Modoc library director and teaches Title 1 reading. She is a mom, a quilter, and – I kid you not – a drag racer who shows her skills all over the country.
I tried to think of how to describe Farmland, an artsy farm community with something special. The best I can do is to call out two old-time TV shows. I think Farmland is something of a blend of the two: Northern Exposure meets Mayberry.
Carrie agreed to let me write about her in a future issue of her magazine for women. Yippee!
On the ride home, the moon was huge and bright, showcasing the lovely, peaceful Hoosier farms I passed as I made my way south and west through Randolph County, then continued straight west through Henry County, and home to Madison County on U.S. 36 most of the way.
By 9:30 when I landed home, I was so tired I could hardly get from my favorite chair to draw my steaming-hot bath. But I did, then headed for bed.
It's supposed to snow this weekend; just a Christmas Chamber-of-Commerce type dusting of a couple inches.
I hope so.
I have a new ornament on the family Christmas tree. It’s a small felt dove from the gift shop inside the President Woodrow Wilson Home in Washington, D.C.
I picked it up in January when I landed the last seat on the bus with State Rep. Tom Saunders’ Roaming Elephants, covering the presidential inauguration and related festivities.
The day before the swearing-in, we took a detailed tour of Wilson’s home, a time capsule filled with furnishings and memorabilia from his life there following his presidency.
I enjoy museum gift shops as they stock the most unusual souvenirs; keepsakes, really. The one in the Wilson home is packed with nice things, too, but the shop is fitted into a room the size of a large walk-in closet. Still, my eyes fell on something perfect to take home! It was a plastic bag containing a couple dozen or so white felt doves. The bag was sealed so I could only touch the flock through the plastic, but it appeared they were possibly strung together.
The price on the outside of the bag made the package a steal. My mind raced, imagining how the doves would make a beautiful tree garland, or since I’m a wreath junkie, the strand could adorn a wreath. Gosh, the doves were so lovely, I could even take them apart and offer them as small gifts to my Bible study friends.
There were no other plastic bags full of doves, or of any other decoration of its kind. Maybe these were on clearance. I just knew they were going home with me. I went ahead and checked out, then headed for the bus to get out of people’s way so others could peruse the gift shop before we rolled.
Once I got on the bus, I decided to open the sealed bag and see how my garland was structured. But when I opened it, I got a surprise. Inside were individual dove ornaments, not a garland. And each dove contained its own price tag -- the same dollar figure as appeared on the outside of the bag.
OH NO! It took but a second to realize my mistake that was not caught by the sales clerk, either! By my new calculations, not counting sales tax, I had just stolen a $288 flock of birds from Woodrow Wilson!
Evidently, the packaged doves were new inventory not yet opened or stocked properly. I was the beneficiary – er, criminal – who hoisted them!
I knew I’d make it right if the Secret Service or National Guard or IRS didn’t chase me down first. I would package it all up with a note and mail it back to the gift shop once we got home, keeping exactly one dove, for which I had paid.
But wait. Even better, the bus wasn’t yet full, so I sprinted back into the shop, and in a rushed flurry, told the surprised clerk what happened. He thanked me for my honesty as I headed out of the shop.
“So do you want just the one, then, or your money back?” the clerk asked.
“Yes! No! I mean, I’ll keep one—since I paid for it already,” and onto the bus I climbed in the nick of time.
Guess the price wasn’t so amazing, after all. In fact, $12 for a palm-size felt dove was actually a bit pricey but it came with a story. And in the currency of a writer, that makes it priceless.
On the day after Thanksgiving, just like that, we pass from fall to the Christmas season. Down comes the autumn-hued wreath; up goes the evergreen one with the pine cones and red bow.
My post-feast day is spent decorating the house. This year I cheated by assembling our nine-foot tree and getting the lights in place before Thanksgiving so today I could focus on the ornaments. This year I omitted a couple of standards: No icicles and no bows. I didn’t empty every single carton to fill the tree, but gave it a little breathing room. I also didn’t use too many shiny balls, but instead added quite a few from my herd of sheep ornaments. I’ve collected sheep for 35 years, finally accumulating so many that they outgrew joining the other ornaments on the family tree, and merited a tree of their own.
A few years ago, I stopped putting up the lamb tree but I missed those baaaa-d boys. So this year, I placed some of the 100-plus sheep on the main tree and others around the house in garlands and on shelves. Reggie would dearly love to get her paws on those lamb chops. In fact, she snagged one before I noticed and chewed off its rear end! Brian thought it was hilarious. “She’s a sheep dog disguised as a Boston terrier!” he said.
I didn’t find it humorous.
This year our tree has a new location. We rearranged the room and the tree fits great beside the TV, in front of the stairs. Along with the sheep go decorations that tell the story of our lives. The first ornaments we ever got as a couple were actually gifts to Brian before we were even engaged, Christmas 1977. Brian’s wonderful landlady, the late Mary Snyder, who lived in a lovely old home on Seminary Street in Liberty, next to Orrs and across from the Cohens. She gave him four pewter ornaments hung with the original red yarn. They’ve adorned our tree ever since.
There’s the little pop-cycle-stick sled I picked up at a craft bazaar at Indiana State while a student. There are Santas and angels from office ornament exchanges, tassles from graduation caps, a bat key chain from the Louisville Slugger factory, a glittery peace symbol from a show at the state fairgrounds several years ago, a glass corn ornament because I’m a corn-fed Hoosier farmer’s daughter, the little sign I waved when Sam and Allison left the church as newlyweds that reads “Wahoo!”
At the top of the tree is a topper I got from George Washington’s Mt. Vernon gift shop of a dove, symbolic of The Holy Spirit. There’s a glass ornament that was my mom’s and my brother painted the Brownsville Bridge on it. I love that.
There are other ornaments, too, like the accordion Kathy Thomas found for Brian. (It’s a nod to Brian’s brief hobby as a childhood accordionist. Don’t ask). There are vacation baubles. Almost everything on that tree comes with stories, memories or both.
Outside I hung artificial wreaths on the windows but only after replacing the faded ribbons with new ones.
I hung a lighted garland over a doorway. I filled a couple of baskets with greenery and changed out the kitchen tablecloth.
There is no doubt more that I will do but right now, I’m ready to call it a day in the décor department.
Today is remarkable for something that I do not recall doing in my 57 years of life, except on sick days: I remained in my pajamas all day while decorating. Right now, I’m heading to a tub of bubbles, and a stack of old Christmas decorating magazines I’ve saved for inspiration.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll emerge from the tub really inspired for round two.