Happy New Ear to Hugh too, Prances!

Ah, a new year…the time of promises, goal setting, renewal. It’s the only time on the calendar that January in Tennessee is akin to spring. Making resolutions and turning over a new leaf is like spring cleaning after a winter of stale air and dust bunnies. But it’s still winter, and in our area (Sorry to sound like Eeyore) it’s one of the darkest, dreariest months of the year.

As soon as we’re into the first week of January, I always regret that I didn’t ask Santa for a few sun lamps to sit around my home to ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder. Light therapy could surely help. Honestly, it’s the hardest time of year for me to fight my dark place. It draws me in like a bear to the cave. It’s not that I want to hibernate so much, as I just shut down spiritually and mentally, and ramp up emotionally. Trust me. It’s not a good balance.

So, one of the best things I can do for myself is to exercise more and eat healthier and get organized. This helps me tackle some of my depression issues. (Yes. I said the D word. I promised myself I’d be real and honest with my blog, and one day I will write a full post on this depression demon that I fight. But for now, don’t judge me on this, okay?)

Yes, my excel sheets of organization will help me keep my sanity. Just don’t ask my friend M. about this Obsessive Compulsive Disorder issue of mine. She will over exaggerate how I have a spread sheet for every day of my life, for shopping, for holiday meals, for gift giving, for birthday parties, for vacations, for ½ marathon training, for weight loss goals. She’ll tell you how they are color coded and how I have one going all the time. And her favorite thing to rib me about is how I have the Thanksgiving spread sheet organized down to which bowls to place which food item in, and how many burners will be going at one time.

Oh my gosh. I’m looking at this objectively now and she’s right.

I have a problem.

But I can’t help myself. I may be able to curtail my spread sheet habit, but there’s no way I can give up making lists.

For Christmas, my Dad gave me a little book of blank pages…always a good choice for someone who writes and journals. There is a verse about peace at the top of each page. I have decided that I will use this as my gratitude book, or my prayer-book. It will be a place where I will jot something that I’m thankful for and what I am hoping for on that particular day.

And something else that will help is that I plan on getting to work on some art projects. I shall sit the card table back up in Alli’s room when she goes back to school and get to work on some ideas I have only had in my head. I need to sculpt. I need to weave a rug. I have a painting that I can’t seem to get to canvas…

When Alli leaves again…It has been interesting having her home these 3 + weeks. As Bob, our friend and fellow empty nester and father of Alli’s best friend wrote in his Christmas letter, “We are in the same home, but we are in a different place.

I have to admit that I’m trying not to think of the fact that when Alli goes back to Texas, we will not see her again for 4 months. After having her home for the holidays, I know that this will be good for her, and for us. But she has expressed some anxiety over being gone so long and being so far away. Of course being the mom that I am, I am concerned. Well, not really concerned. More like worried sick. This is where I’m going to have to be strong and positive and hope that my child can bloom where she is planted. (That saying is so cliché, but it really does fit this situation.)

Oh Lordy, I’m wondering if I’ll be in a straight jacket by January’s end?

I can’t come undone. Not yet. So, I must walk, write, art, and keep making my lists.

My resolution list this year:

Quit worrying and have more faith

Have more patience with others and myself

Love the people who bug me

Bug the people who love me (just joking. Sort of.)

Do more to help others

Continue pranking and laughing

Clean out all of the closets in my dwelling

Carpe Diem, every day (Which would mean leaving the closets alone. Right? )

Okay, I’m done making lists. For today, at least.

Long before I was born, my brothers had a pet parakeet named Frances. On New Year’s Eve as everyone was saying Happy New Year and hugging, my brother Gary, (age 4) went over to Frances’s cage and said, “Happy New Ear to Hugh too, Prances!” That phrase has been perpetuated in our family. We never tell each other Happy New Year. It’s always Gary’s version.

And while I’m talking about my brother, I must tell another funny story about him. When he was little, he once signed a Christmas tag, P.L. Flow instead of Gary. We still wonder…

So, as you get yourself organized for a fresh start this New Year, I wish you happiness, laughter and good health. Be kind. Be brave. Share love.

Happy New Ear to Hugh too, Prances

-Libby Lu


Thahacking Abawt Christmas

When I look at this letter to Santa written by 7 year old me, I am rather embarrassed and somewhat fascinated at my phonetic spelling. Sad but true, I still can’t spell, and I still draw on things like a little kid, and the real kicker is that my handwriting was better then than it is now.

See, I’ve always been “special”  Thank goodness for speal cheeker.

Translation: I am asking Santa for a bike with a banana seat, handle bar brakes and butterfly handle bars, a Jane West doll, and a Baby First Step doll.

Hand bile bears. That cracks me up.

I had big plans to write a great blog post about Christmas humor, but guess what? I’m running out of time. Funny thing is I’ve “simplified” Christmas this year, so where has the time gone? We did not send out cards. Our family is drawing names for gifts. (We have a rule: Make it, Bake it, or Grow it.) Alli wanted a concert ticket for her gift. Larry and I bought each other a camera last month as our gift to each other. The neighbors and other friends have or will be receiving baked goods. It’s pretty laid back. For Christmas, that is.

Since I have kitchen duty and a few places to be today on this eve of Christmas, I’m going to just post some funny Christmas memories for you here. Please excuse the randomness. I hope they bring you a chuckle…

-Our friends, Nadine and Jim, put a plate of cookies and a note which read, “Merry Christmas, Thurston and Georgianna” in our mutual friend’s mailbox. Before they found it, the mailman came, took the plate of cookies and left a thank you note. Thurston and Georgianna were puzzled, as they had left nothing for the mailman. It took a while, but Nadine finally asked if they had found the cookies, then the mystery was solved.

-Shakespeare was just not keeping the attention of my friend Eddie. Christmas was right around the corner. We were in an English class where I sat near him and Vivian. Eddie loved to pick on Vivian. Not in a mean way, but in a fun loving, pranky kind of way. (I know and share this kind of love very well.) During this particular lecture, Eddie noticed that Vivian had left her purse open and in clear view was a sweet $10.00 bill. While the teacher droned on and on about Bill Shakespeare, Eddie took the opportunity to swipe the money. He kept it until Vivian noticed a couple of days later. He returned it, but said he had plans to buy his mother a Christmas gift and he would have given Vivian credit by signing the tag, “Merry Christmas, From Vivian”

-Until my Dad had his camera ready on Christmas morning, my siblings and I were banned from going in to the living room to see what Santa had left . He didn’t know that the reflection from the tree onto the fridge was like a mirror. We would stand in the kitchen and try to make out the items under the tree. Finally we’d get the word that we could come into the room and we’d run around the corner to our own little personal gathering of gifts. Dad always looked worn out and Mom looked stressed. I understand this now. She had probably been up all night with Daddy, getting our gifts together, and she had hours of cooking ahead. Anyway, one Christmas morning we went into the living room to find a letter from Santa apologizing for breaking the knob off our TV. It ended up being a good thing leading to the purchase of our first color TV.

Thank you, Santa and/or slick thinking, Dad!

The family Christmas card from 1966ish. Me, my siblings and Chester the cat. (named after a character on Gunsmoke because he came home limping one night.)

-My maternal grandmother, Momma Doye, had so many grandchildren that she would make us our gifts each year. Most years she collected the little plastic containers that margarine came in, and she would make each of us our own little personal container of fudge, complete with silver dragees for decorations. If you don’t know what those are…they are basically silver colored B B’s. Not really, but man they could break  teeth. I’m thinking that maybe they were not edible. 

One year, in the early ‘70’s, she decided to be a cool grandma and make all of us matching ponchos. After all, that year, ponchos were the in, groovy thing to wear. I wish I had a group photo of all of us in our ponchos. It was like the Partridge Family meets the Poncho Villa Family.

– My father had done some photographic work for an author in California. Evidently she was known for her hand made ornaments, and as a thank you to my Dad, she sent a few of her works to us at Christmas time. I remember the first one he opened. We gathered around as he took what looked like a pimped out miniature UFO out of its wrapping. Dad held it up for all of us to see.

THE ornament

We tried to be nice.

We really did.

Remember that we are a family who loves art and we have a great appreciation for any form of creativity.

Still. It was hard not to laugh.

Well, that ornament has been passed back and forth for years. There have been times when I have been gazing at the tree late at night and been surprised to find it hanging deep within the branches. It’s about time for it to either show up back at my parents, or maybe it’s time for it to show up on one of the younger generation’s tree…

-True confession; my sophomore year of high school, me and my friend Sandra would go off campus with our friend, Vicky for lunch. Vicky’s home was right across the street out the back gate. Her mother was at work during the day. We didn’t do anything bad, except commit an act of truancy. It was nice to just go hang out for half an hour, have lunch and visit away from the crowd in the cafeteria. One day, before the Christmas break, another friend (I shall keep them anonymous.)  joined us. He went into where Vicky’s family Christmas tree was and switched all the name tags on the gifts. 

I know. It’s mean and cruel. But when I think about what must have been utter confusion on Christmas Day at their house, it makes me laugh.I bet they still talk about that and have no idea whom to pin the blame on.

-One year when Alli was 6  we went to the beach for Christmas.  We used up most of our suitcase space to pack the gifts that Santa was bringing. Everything was all planned out and running smoothly for us to keep up the Santa story. Then late Christmas Eve night, Alli asked why Santa never answered her letters, and proceeded to write him a letter and ask for a reply.

Oh my.

As soon as she was asleep, I went to the lobby with a $10.00 bill and asked at the counter who would like to make some easy money by writing a letter for me. Some poor guy with bad handwriting took on the task and saved Christmas for us all.  Bad part was, she asked Santa to bring bikes for her parents, and in this letter the desk dude/Santa told her he would. But, he never did!

Larry and I still wait….

From our Christmas card, 2001. Alli at her very best!

-Each year, at historic Mansker’s Station north of Nashville in the town where I grew up, they hold a Yulefest the first weekend of December. Its’ a 1780’s celebration down to the candles, the homemade decorations, the story telling, the A Cappella singing and the oxen drawn cart rides. It became an annual event for me, Alli and her friend Mackenzie to attend, and we did so for a good 10 years.

There is too much to tell you about the adventures we seem to pack in on this 2 hour event each year, but I will tell you why to us, Yulefest is known as Neilfest.  The first year we attended and joined in on the folk dancing, there was an adorably handsome boy whom the girls had an immediate attraction to. We found that his name was Neil. Alli and Mackenzie were always hopeful to see him at Yulefest in subsequent years, but after the first 2 years, we never saw our elusive Neil. Still, we had tons of fun at our little annual Christmas outing tradition, which officially became Neilfest to us.

The singing of carols was held in the historic Bowen Campbell House (home to the Leverett-Crew wedding reception of 1984 ♥) It was usually pretty cold, so everyone squeezed into the house, and kept the door closed in the small room. The leaders of the singing were up near the fireplace. The 3 of us always stood in the back to sing. We shared music books. We also share the same warped sense of humor. On some songs we sang out, doing our best harmonies. On some, Mackenzie who has an operatic, soprano voice, belted out her best exagerated vibrato. And on some songs, we all sang off key or flat. We did this with serious faces. We call this “Terrorizing the General Public.”  The best part of all was the reaction of the people around us. Most were trying not to laugh. Parents tried to keep their kids from staring. The leaders up front tried to stay on key. It’s some of our best work. Ever.

Terrorizing the General Public with Mackenzie and Alli

We knew last year when we attended Neilfest that it would be our last for 4 years, as the girls would be off at college and would not be home when it came around. I really missed it this year, but I’m holding out for December of 2015!

-It’s so hard to always be politically correct, but I do try to be respectful and say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas this time of year. One of my favorite things to do is when someone wishes me Merry Christmas, and I can tell they are jokable, I reply, “Thanks, but I’m Jewish.”

-A tradition that we began several years ago, is to ride around in our PJ’s and look at the Christmas lights late on Christmas Eve. Sometimes, singing is involved.

The Wright's house. We cruise their place each year.

No matter what your beliefs, what your background, what you celebrate or don’t celebrate -Keep love in your heart and share it with those around you. Enjoy the peacefulness of this season – The quiet reflection of winter, the birds in the trees, the glow of the sun on ice, the crisp cold air upon your face, and the warmth of friends, neighbors, pets and family.

The Family Crew, 2011

Happy Holidays,

-Libby Lu and all the Crew