What is your favorite type of cookie (they’re called biscuits in Europe I believe)? If you mean Christmas cookies, it would be a tie between the sugar cookies in different shapes with frosting and a brownie with peppermint candy frosting (not technically a cookie, but my niece makes these every year as part of her gift of cookies).
Outside of holiday season, it’s homemade chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven! I don’t bake cookies in general, so we buy Tates – their chocolate chip cookie is thin and crispy.
If you could choose one age and remain that forever, what would it be and why? 65 – young enough to still have the energy and drive to travel and explore new things, and also be eligible for retirement and Medicare.
Do you have a traditional drink during the holiday season? Not this year, because we are not gathering as usual with our family, but normally it is Jolly Jolt. Jolly Jolt is basically warm apple cider with cinnamon cloves. My sister prepares it in a large coffee pot and everyone helps themselves! This year, I suspect it will be Cooper’s Hawk’s Winter Red wine, which we have a bottle of in our garage – also best heated.
Are you able to still believe in holiday magic as you did when you were a child? No, not really. Warmth, maybe, magic, no. When I was a kid, holidays like Christmas were always extremely exciting. We kids got to do the fun stuff, like picking out and decorating the tree, helping put up the creche, and singing Christmas carols. As an adult, there’s the work side of it – things don’t magically happen! I do very little decorating, except to put up my collection of creches and hang a Santa Claus on the door. Usually I have a Christmas tree but haven’t had one for the last three years. I do more decorating if we’re having guests.
The most magical and exciting moments during my childhood were early Christmas mornings. My dad put up a portable screen so we couldn’t see into the living room until my parents got up. So we kids would climb partway up the stairway to peek over the screen to find our stockings and all the presents my parents had added during the night. This is what I think about when I’m asked about holiday magic!
Now I look forward to simple gatherings of families and friends, noshing, drinking Jolly Jolt and playing games. It gives me warm feeling, but not the magic of childhood.
Gratitude section: I’m grateful to be alive and reasonably healthy! And I’m grateful that 2020 is almost over!
When it comes to giving money, do you view it as a thoughtful gift, or as a sign that the giver didn’t care enough to think about a “real” gift?
For years, my parents gave us money for Christmas and birthdays, and I looked forward to it! Usually I needed it to pay off credit cards, or for bills. So it was always welcome. My mother, however, would always give a wrapped gift also, which usually wasn’t fancy or expensive, so we’d “have something to open.”
I have followed basically the same custom with our kids which makes life much easier, instead of having to think of something cute or clever to give them. And this year, our daughter & son-in-law said all they want is money. I’m sure our son will appreciate a check also. But I will get them a few other things so that they’ll have “something to open” and also because Dec. 25 is our daughter’s birthday as well as Christmas! Since my husband and daughter (she’s really my stepdaughter) are Jewish, I always give them some little thing for Hanukkah also – they say socks and underwear are standard Hanukkah gifts! This year they are literally getting socks for Hanukkah!!
Although it makes life easier to write out a check (and as you said, I usually give more than a gift would be worth), I do like to shop, but I don’t want to buy just anything. I have been known to give a friend a gift when it’s not their birthday or Christmas because I happen to find something I know they will like. Sometimes a gift card is the solution when I don’t know what to get somebody. Gift cards are a bit of a cop-out but it’s better that they get an Amazon gift card to buy something they want than to go to the trouble of trying to find something I think they might like.
So with our kids I just follow my mother’s tradition, because they know they can rely on getting money from us but we always have a wrapped gift or two for them as well! I do usually get gift cards for my nieces and nephews, and this year especially, because mailing a gift card when you can’t get together because of Covid-19 just makes more sense!
And now for some related entertainment from the great musical Cabaret!
Do you enjoy skiing or ice skating or if it’s warm where you are, hiking or enjoying outdoor sports? I have never been good at sports of any kind, really. However, as a kid I did go with my siblings or friends to local skating ponds. We all had ice skates. I would get cold pretty quickly, sooner than the others. The best part was going home and warming up our frozen feet in front of the fireplace, while drinking homemade hot chocolate!
One of my sisters and my brother used to downhill ski, and my sister got pretty good at it. I was always confined to the “bunny hill.” I wasn’t very good at stopping which of course was a problem since I sometimes stopped by running into someone or something! Good thing I wasn’t going very fast. However, every time I went, I did experience momentary exhilaration during my descent down the hill. More fun for me was sledding – that was a popular pastime among my friends in the neighborhood. Also making snowmen or snow forts. For a short time, I enjoyed cross country skiing, but I didn’t pursue it enough to get very good. But at least stopping was a lot easier! Again, I always looked forward to warming up back inside afterward with hot chocolate.
That said, I really have never been a fan of winter. I don’t tolerate the cold well. As an adult, it’s nothing but inconvenience and drudgery – cleaning off the car to go to work or before going home. And then shoveling. My husband would get on his snow blower, but my job was to clear the porches and steps. Sometimes we had to use the shovels to chop a layer of ice under the snow.
Admittedly, there are many opportunities for beautiful photography in winter. I have a great collection of photos of icicles and scenes of freshly fallen snow.
Do you give to charities or homeless that you might encounter, during this time of year, more than you do otherwise? I get more solicitations at this time of year but I have to pick & choose. I have a few charities that I give to consistently. As for homeless people, I don’t usually give homeless people money on city streets, but here in the suburbs, there are certain intersections where individuals go between the cars waiting at a red light to try to get money from motorists. Sometimes I give, sometimes I don’t. More recently, I did. How generous I am depends on how secure I feel in terms of money. Right now I have some to spare.
In normal times, I get volunteers from my church to either provide food or work at a homeless shelter site. Different churches take turns every week manning these sites and serving food that is donated. But of course, right now these shelters are closed, so I feel sorry for those people who depended on them.
What is the most enjoyable activity you engage in during December? Is it a tradition for you and your family? I used to love decorating the Christmas tree. I have a lot of ornaments that I have acquired over the years, souvenirs of different places and different times. After I persuade Dale to put on the lights, I play Christmas music while decorating the tree.
We haven’t had a tree the last couple of years – last year we had just moved and we needed a smaller tree which we didn’t get; and the year before that we were overseas at Christmas. So this year I really want to find a tree – real or fake – that’s about 4-5 ft. tall for a good price so I can enjoy those ornaments again.
I also love getting together with family for dinner, gift exchanges, Christmas cookies, and carol singing! Here’s a collage from Christmas 2016:
What changes will C-19 bring to your festive celebrations this year? Thanksgiving was a preview of holidays to come – the two of us sat at our little table alone and ate the Thanksgiving dinner we ordered for dinner here at our senior community. Afterward, we connected with several family households on Zoom, to chat and play games. I think Hanukkah and Christmas will be the same. The weird thing is that this year I’ve bought more “real” gifts than I have in the past – usually I give gift cards because I have no imagination, lol! So now I have to mail those gifts to people I would normally see. For our kids, we will probably go to their houses and leave gifts on their porches, and they will most likely exchange gifts with us then. (Besides, we usually give them cash.) But we probably will get together with my sister and brother-in-law, who live in this community too, at least on New Year’s Eve, which is our traditional wine and game night. We usually play Scrabble. If we do Zoom, we’ll have to do a game like Categories that doesn’t require any shared equipment.
GRATITUDE SECTION(Optional of course):
Please share a good will wish for the world!
There is good news on the horizon: vaccines for Covid-19, and for Americans, a new administration with actual leadership will be taking office in January. In light of that, my message is:
There is light at the end of the tunnel. May it arrive in 2021! Until then, stay safe, stay healthy, listen to scientists, and count your blessings during these dark times.
By provocative, I don’t mean a question that will cause annoyance or anger. Nor do I mean a question intended to arouse sexual desire or interest.What I do mean is a question that is likely to get you to think, to be creative, and to provoke a response. Hopefully a positive response.
Last week I asked for some suggestions for potential provocative questions and a few of you came through with some good ones. This one comes from Paula Light over at Light Motifs II.Her question revolves around interpersonal relationships. She asks…
When it comes to your friends, your spouse, your significant other, or members of your family, is it better to confront them about things they say or do that bother or upset you or is it better to try to ignore those things in order to maintain peace in your relationship?
It depends on several things: how close I am to that person or how well I know them; what the issue is (really important or trivial); my mood; the kind of person I’m confronting.
With my husband, I sometimes ignore whatever it is that bothers me (like leaving the toilet seat up) or if I am in a prickly mood, I will say something like, “I really wish you would…” But if it is really important, I will say something right away. Sometimes Dale is on the verge of saying something inappropriate (well, I know it’s inappropriate – Dale has no filter sometimes!), and I intervene to stop him, so he doesn’t offend the people he’s talking to or embarrass me (because he rarely gets embarrassed – that’s part of having no filter). What really gets me is when he picks on me to correct a habit and then HE starts doing the same thing! Like turning off lights. OK, I know our monthly payment to this senior community includes utilities, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t care about wasting electricity! I am always concerned about the environment, and don’t like to waste resources unnecessarily. He used to tell me to turn off the lights, but now he is the primary guilty one. I often just do it myself, because he does a lot for me, for us: laundry, dishes, and other things for the umpteenth time without complaining.
There are some people who are very sensitive, however. I have a friend that I really have to be careful what I say. I don’t criticize her ever. Sometimes she’ll be telling me something, and I say, “Oh, really?” – which is a common response to show interest – she takes it the wrong way, getting very defensive as if my response implied that I didn’t believe her.
I usually don’t confront family members, either – I’m too accommodating. My sister, for example, does something that is really annoying – during a concert or play, when I’m sitting next to her, I hear her murmuring to herself. She always does this, so I figure either she doesn’t realize she’s doing it or she can’t help it. I don’t know why she does this. Maybe it’s not that I’m accommodating, I’m just chicken! I don’t want to provoke or offend her, and I know I have little habits that offend other people too. Would I want them to confront me? I guess I would if it were serious, like if I had really bad body odor. I would want my friend or relative to tell me so I could do something about it.
Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t confront most people about stuff that annoys me. Sometimes I avoid the person, if it’s possible – it depends on my mood. Dale is the only one that I do confront now and then. After all, I have to live with him, and nowadays, while we’re stuck at home, we’re together almost all the time.
In fact, when other people confront my son, I defend him even when I know they are right. That is because I don’t want him to be provoked because he easily gets out of control and starts yelling and swearing. He is very sensitive, so if someone hurts him, he overreacts. Then the other person gets mad and starts yelling and swearing back. But I know that he is fundamentally a kind person.
I’m also very sensitive. When someone hurts me, I tend to withdraw and lick my wounds, but if it happens often, I will confront the person. Dale sometimes yells “SHUT UP!” at me when he could react less strongly, or he yells at me from across the room in a tone of annoyance when we are on vacation, in other words, in a situation where others in our tour group witness it – that is very embarrassing. I do talk to him about this, but only when we are alone in our room. I have gotten into the habit of reminding him about this BEFOREHAND – because I know it’s going to happen when he gets annoyed when I linger to look at something or take a photo.
I think I know why I am reluctant to confront people about the things that bug me – I just want PEACE and HARMONY among the people I’m with.
I am admittedly lousy at keeping up with a daily challenge, so I am going to take this one by chunks, this time at least!
Dec. 1: Decorations Many people here at our senior community put wreaths and other decorations on the doors and shelves outside their apartments. Last year when it was too cold to walk outside, I instead walked the halls of the apartment building and took lots of photos of decorations. I will probably do the same thing this year. Because of COVID-19, to get us into the holiday spirit, there is a door decorating contest, so there ought to be even more doors decorated this year! Here are a few from last year. I especially like the ones that reflect different ethnic traditions.
I made this collage of some of the door wreaths.
Dec. 2: Family I have a large family so we don’t all gather together. Mostly we get together with the kids and grandkids of my sister and brother-in-law, who live in this same community. Last Christmas, our daughter & son-in-law hosted the celebration at our old house (where they currently live).
Dec. 3: Traditions We have several holiday traditions, such as putting up my collection of creches (Nativity scenes – I have quite a few), a Christmas tree decorated with lights and ornaments, and games – we always play some games! We also sing carols around a piano (if there is one). My sister has two Christmas carol games and we also love to play Charades and Categories. Last year our daughter and son-in-law had a new game for us, where everyone at the table takes turns unwrapping a large ball of cellophane full of little prizes. One person unwraps while another throws dice. When the dice come up as doubles, the person unwrapping has to stop and pass on the cellophane ball. It was frustrating and fun!
I think we will have to forego the games this year, because we can’t get together – but maybe we can play Categories via Zoom!!
To what degree have you been able to control the course that your life has taken? Or is being in control of your life just an illusion?
I watched a science program the other day that discussed unanswered questions posed by quantum physics, such as the possibility that everything that happens in the universe was predestined at the time of the Big Bang. Other people see it in religious terms, that God has control over us and sees our past, present and future, that God can decide whether to make something happen or not. I don’t believe God controls my life and quantum physics is too confusing for me.
We as human beings don’t have total control over our lives. We might be born in a wealthy, powerful country or in a poor, underprivileged country. Within that country, we are born into a particular race and class, both of which have repercussions in a society – culturally, politically, socially, economically. Within that race and class, we are born into a family that is loving and supportive, one in which there is abuse and violence, one which values education, or one that does not. Then there are individual limitations: inherited or nurtured. We have talent for something but our limitations hold us back. Within all these parameters, we have choice, or a modicum of control. Will we choose to develop our natural talent or pursue a more difficult course? Will we let our physical or mental limitations hold us back or will we overcome them or at least find coping mechanisms?
So yes, I do believe I have had SOME control over my life but a lot has been given to me by being born white, upper middle class, in the United States of America, which in spite of its faults, has provided me with privileges unavailable elsewhere. My parents had the money for me and my siblings to go to college and in our family we never fought over money because we had enough (not an excessive amount, but enough). I have been able to travel due to this. My parents encouraged all of us to pursue careers: whether we were girls or boys, they had the same expectations for us. They did what they could in terms of love and support to make us happy. I was also given intelligence, which is probably largely inherited, although it took motivation to develop and use it to my advantage, something I have not always done. I am lucky to be reasonably healthy, and I can control whether I stay that way – by eating healthy and staying fit – but I can’t control the fact that I have a heart problem inherited from my father. However, having the knowledge of this problem gives me control over how I deal with it. The more education we have, the more knowledge we acquire, the more we can control our lives. I was able to get a master’s degree in teaching and also have acquired knowledge in the ways of the world.
BUT, I did have limitations and caused disappointment for my parents because some of the choices I made were because I was afraid to challenge those limitations. I have often been afraid of decision-making because I have trouble making decisions, so sometimes I made NO decision (which was a decision in itself). I didn’t have to marry my first husband, for example, I shouldn’t have – that was a disappointment; but the second time around I chose a much better match. I chose to have a child with that first husband, who inherited mental illness as well as abuse from his father, which has greatly impeded his life. I chose to change careers in my late 40s, and decided to go into teaching, which in the end was probably not the wisest choice but I did the best I could. Many of the hurdles were beyond my control – discovering I have ADHD, trying to complete as a 50-year-old woman with a master’s degree with 25-year-olds with a undergraduate degree, the emphasis on high stakes testing, bad administrators who weren’t held accountable, the low esteem that our society seems to hold in general for teachers, the negative view of bilingual education (which was my field), etc.
Besides choices, there is attitude. I have always been a more or less optimistic person, believing in positive outcomes, but I am also skeptical by nature because I analyze everything. I try to figure out the “why” of mistakes I’ve made. Not everyone can or will do this. I want to fix problems but within the limitations of my own life, I do control what I choose to do about problems that plague a wider world. I try to get people in my community here to recycle, for example. I can’t control if they actually do it, but I can make myself heard to encourage it. I write letters to people to encourage them to vote. I may be demonstrating in the streets if Trump tries to undermine the results of the election. But I could choose to do none of those things and just live my life doing the things I prefer doing – reading, writing, drawing, etc. Within my own patch of the world, I do have some control.
All alternative paths in life I could have chosen maybe play out somewhere in the universe. But here in 3 dimensions on planet Earth, I look back on my life with some disappointment but mostly with gratitude.
Right now we are living in a very scary time – in the middle of a pandemic with a president who is threatening to overthrow democratic norms in order to make himself dictator or king, as well as all the other things happening – strained race relations, climate change as evidenced by out of control wildfires out west and hurricanes down south (I am fortunate, I guess, to live in the Midwest where neither of these things are happening or are likely to happen), the numbers of people dying from Covid-19 increasing at an alarming rate, etc. It’s easy to think we have very little control over our lives right now. Yet I admit I am pretty secure in my life. But I don’t kid myself that I have total control – it’s only a matter of attitude and choice in how I respond to things that are beyond my control that I have control. Self-control, that’s about it.
What has been the strangest, weirdest dream that you can remember? What do you think triggered that dream?
I’ve had many wild dreams in my life! In periods of creativity, my dreams also become creative and I have been able to remember a few of them quite clearly. But the craziest one I ever had (that I remember) was when I was a kid – it was a recurring dream, which is why I still remember it.
My mother was worried – we were having a very dangerous weather phenomenon. It was raining clams! I looked out the window to see the clams falling from the sky. Just then, my brother appeared (outside) with a happy smile on his face. He had his arm around a gorilla the same height as he was, and the gorilla also had his arm around my brother’s shoulder. The gorilla was also smiling. We were elated – the gorilla would get us out of the danger of raining clams! And he did.
My brother had recently made friends with the gorilla. They really enjoyed each other’s company. I was glad he had such a valuable friend.
What triggered it? I have no idea! Since it was a recurring dream, maybe it had something to do with my brother – he was always teasing me mercilessly. Perhaps I first dreamt it in the summer and there was a tornado warning. Then my mother would insist that every family member (including the dog and the cat) go down in the basement. Sometimes it was just a tornado watch, but whenever she saw black clouds overhead, she worried. The gorilla and the clams, though? Just random, I guess!
I’m ready for another Share Your World Meets Harry Potter! The Harry Potter questions this week are inspired by The Goblet of Fire, but you don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to answer them. These questions come from another blogger, Roger Shipp, who is collaborating with Melanie and her Share Your World, which are the second set of questions.
Roger’s Magical, Mystical Questions:
Many local regions, especially rural areas where I live, have haunted houses. Have you ever spent the night in a house that was supposedly haunted? Anything ‘strange” happen? No, the closest I came was when my son was a little boy and we would take walks together. The route we usually took passed a 2- or 3-story, dark gray house on a large lot. It always seemed dark and that no one lived there. My son had already made up a monster, who plagued his dreams. So I told him that the monster was actually nice and wanted to make friends. Even so, he was spooky and so was that house. That house became the monster’s house!
The Quidditch Cup (riding broomsticks while chasing a small ball) was a huge sporting event in the land of Hogwarts. What is the largest sporting event (or concert, etc.) that you have ever attended? Not being a sports fan, I doubt the crowds were as big at the Packers games I attended as the concerts I went to.
The biggest might have been when a friend and I went to see the Beatles in concert – we were in the 104th row of an old stadium in Chicago. From our vantage point, the Beatles were about an inch tall and we couldn’t hear anything they played because most of the girls (including my friend, but she tried to restrain herself for my benefit) were screaming. I think I heard later that the Beatles sometimes just pretended to sing because the screaming was so loud no one could hear them – so why waste their voices?
The other times there have been huge crowds when I was attending were at Ravinia. Ravinia is an outdoor concert venue with a bandshell and stage in front located in the north suburbs of Chicago. They have a schedule of performers starting in June and ending in September, which they mail out to people. (Needless to say, there wasn’t a schedule this year.) People pay much less to sit on the lawn and it has become popular to bring snacks, wine, tables and chairs (Ravinia also rents these out) and share with one’s friends during the concert. The largest concert I ever attended there was last year, when Ringo Starr and his band were at Ravinia. We tried to go early but the crowd was already so huge that it was hard to find a patch of lawn for our folding chairs. If you wanted to get up for something, you could not help but step in other people’s set-ups. I ran across several friends there while I was walking around – they weren’t together nor did they know each other, and I didn’t know they were at Ravinia that night. I wanted to see Ringo and his band but anytime I lingered near the bandshell, guards shooed me away. At least no one screamed!
When you go for a swim, do you prefer an ocean, the seaside lakes, or a pool? I enjoy the ocean because it is warm, but prefer a bay where the water is calmer. Since I rarely go to a beach, except when on vacation, the rare times that I swim is in a pool. I don’t like it much because afterward my hair smells like chlorine.
Ron Weasley received a horrid robe to wear as formal wear to the Christmas dance at Hogwarts. Tell about the most ‘ghastly’ fashion statement that you have ever made. It was probably in the late 60s, when everyone (including me) wore inside-out sweatshirts, long strings of beads and huge bell bottoms. But I have to say, I still like bell bottoms better than straight-legged pants!
Muggle Questions (from Melanie):
What is the last song you sang along to? I’m not sure – there’s always music in my head, and sometimes it isn’t what I’d like to have repeating ad nauseum, but I think the last one I sang along with the recording was Old Man River a couple of days ago. What was your scariest nightmare about? I can’t remember it anymore, but I screamed out loud and it woke both me and Dale up. What food do you crave most often? ice cream, cookies, chocolate in general What’s your grossest bug story? The grossest and most horrible bug I’ve ever seen is a giant cockroach. Any cockroach, really. They usually appear where I least expect them and they run incredibly fast.
When I lived in northeastern Brazil with my first husband, we had all our personal effects shipped to us, and they arrived in these huge boxes, so we had large cartons sitting around the house for quite awhile. One day I was sitting on the couch in our living room and I heard a scratching noise. I went to look for the source and found a giant cockroach climbing up one of the boxes! These cockroaches lived in the grass in the surrounding area, which is why I never, ever, laid anything on the grass there. We also had a cesspit, and had to get it cleaned out occasionally – of course, that pit was crawling with them. It makes me shiver to think of even now. I thought of downloading a picture from Google and posting it here, but I can’t bear to even look at a picture of those horrible things!!
I haven’t participated in Thursday Doors lately, since I rarely go anywhere where there are interesting doors. But last week was my sister’s birthday and we went to Highland Park to visit her daughter. My sister had heard of a Caribbean restaurant in nearby Highwood called El Burén, where there are Cuban and Puerto Rican dishes on the menu. Her husband is part Puerto Rican and loves Puerto Rican food, so she made a reservation for the four of us.
The food was wonderful – we ate outside and it was a very pleasant day – but the service was quite slow. So I got antsy and decided to walk down the block. Next door to this restaurant was a bakery with a very charming – and very pink – façade. There were miniature old-fashioned ovens on display in the window.
Here are the doors of the bakery.
I took this last photo next to my car across the street.