From the Private Diary of Candice Sylvia Farris, January 1, 1964:
“Happy New Year Candice! The weather was slushy, cold, and the roads were a mess so I didn’t go anywhere except to a little store. I bought a Coke for my dry throat. Last night of my Christmas vacation; tomorrow, back to the grind!”
Yes, I was a pompous-sounding eleven-year-old, inordinately fond of semi-colons and my own self-importance. My throat was always dry due to rotten sinuses and the little store we went to was George’s Store, a general store run by gypsies I believed (they were actually Lebanese).
At the end of that stellar entry, I added my New Year’s Resolutions:
1. Brush teeth twice a day
2. Read a book every day
3. Do the dishes
4. Clean my room
I don’t know what happened to number 5, but I can tell you I only kept one of those resolutions. You can guess which one.
I’ve made lots of New Year’s resolutions. I never keep them. Never. The word “resolve” feels right on New Year’s Day but by January 2nd, it blows up like the Goodyear blimp to hover over me, a bloated advertisement of what I said I’d do the next 364 days.
Sometimes we fool ourselves into making resolutions but call them goals. It’s the same thing, I think. So this year I’m making Reminders. My behavior won’t change drastically. These Reminder tickets are on my desk so I won’t forget.
I swiped the idea of displaying my Reminders from the latest issue of Scrapbooks, Etc. I already had this 7 Gypsies ticket holder (this company makes wonderful vintage-style display items). It’s small–11 inches long, 2 inches high and not even an inch thick, and made out of wood and brass. The ticket holder fits neatly on my desk without taking up much room.
Last night I made a list of 7 things I wanted to be reminded of throughout the year and created tickets: 1) Announce Iva and Rebel to the world (the only work-related reminder), 2) Walk (wear pedometer, aim for 10,000 steps–yeah, that kinda sounds like a resolution), 3) Travel (three places to go this year), 4) Family (keep ties tight), 5) Communicate (journal, blog, write), 6) Photos (Project 365, learn Elements), 7) Home.
I did not write down the number of books I’d like to write or vow to lose the last 5 pounds (though it’s on the Home ticket as a reminder to pay attention to those last five pounds). Work is like breathing–I just do it. And being reminded to watch my weight is better than saying I’ll lose those lbs by Valentine’s Day or whatever.
If you’re thinking about making resolutions tonight or tomorrow for 2012, consider reminders instead, the friendlier version. If you like the idea of creating “tickets,” you can make a ticket holder from a piece of wood with clothespins glued to it. Or tack your tickets to a memo board.
If you are wedded to this cute little vintage-style ticket holder, it costs $19.99. 7 Gypsies products are hard to find in stores, but you can order it (and a lot of other cool stuff) from my favorite online scrapbook store, Two Peas in a Bucket. Make your tickets out of scraps of cardstock, stick-on numbers, whatever inspires you!
See you in 2012!
Years ago when I was a size 4, wrote four to six books a year, and was very Type A, I would spring-clean my house by starting in the far upstairs bedroom, then work my way down and through the house, ending up on the flower-bedecked patio by Memorial Day with a glass of iced tea and the latest magazines.
Similarly, I would spend the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day taking down decorations (in those days I fancied-up the entire house like Macy’s), cleaning, de-cluttering, refreshing, and ending up in my office at the end of New Year’s Day to set up my calendar for the coming year, feeling virtuous and calm and full of vigor and resolve.
Fast forward to this year with my husband’s unexpected open-heart surgery and a book, the only book I’ve written this year, that can’t seem to get finished. I am no longer a size 4 (maybe one leg is), but I’m still a little Type A, which translates at my age into being impatient and ungracious.
For weeks I’ve been getting up every morning with expectations: “Today I’ll write Chapter 17 and walk two miles and make four kinds of soup to put in the freezer.” But with my husband’s complications–he’s now a cardiac/pulmonary patient–every day those expectations would be blasted like shrapnel and I would react by being cranky and resistant.
Finally, this week, I stopped resisting. I get up at 7:00 or 7:30 instead of 5:00 or 6:00. The cats get fed later. I get to the computer late or not at all. I don’t walk two miles at a fast clip but have a pedometer and am counting my daily steps (only 6000 steps short of 10,000). I don’t get to Curves. I’m still reading the same book I started two weeks ago (but I am, finally, reading fiction again). I have learned to take notes in waiting rooms or go crazy.
More important, I’m there for my husband who needs me. His expectations aren’t being met either. He expected to recover quickly and fully. His heart is fine, but the lung complication has stalled his recovery. A procedure he had last week didn’t work and he is looking at thoracic surgery, certainly not what we expected.
This situation, like any other, will resolve itself but on its own schedule, not mine. It’s a hard lesson for any Type A control-freak to learn. Some things are out of our hands. Best to roll with it.
The Saturday before Christmas I went to my local scrapbook store for a few hours of cropping in the hopes of finding a scrap of creativity left in me. I traveled light: a tote bag with paper and embellishments and my tools: paper trimmer, scissors, glue, pencil, one-hole punch. (Yes, that’s all I use.)
The other ladies wheeled in huge crop carts filled with electronic die-cut machines like Cricut, die-cut cartridges, laptops, phones, and a ton of supplies. I noticed they all worked neatly and efficiently on projects from kits. My stuff covered my 4 by 8 foot table. I sifted through papers, thought, muttered, made a huge mess.
After a while, the lady across from me came over to see my project. She asked what kit was I using. I said I was altering child’s storybook into a Christmas photo album. No kit. I finished the album last night.
I had a vintage Night Before Christmas storybook with illustrations I didn’t particularly care for (please tell me Sergio Leone, the famous movie director, didn’t once illustrate children’s books). I took the crumbling binding apart, kept the covers, made new inside pages, and bound the whole thing together with notebook rings.
I tore the text and some of the art to use over the backgrounds on the collaged pages. The pages are cardstock and/or patterned paper, glued together back to back. My photographs are usually printed small (3 by 3 inches, 2 by 2 inches) and often matted with contrasting cardstock. Then comes the best part–layering!
If you have an old kids’ book kicking around, consider altering it into a one-of-kind album. Get those photos off the computer and gather up patterned paper, cardstock and lots of fun embellishments: buttons, stick-on rhinestones, stick-on alphabet letters, die-cuts. It’s a great way to show off holiday photos (even if you didn’t do anything much, like us) and while away a few winter evenings.
And if anyone asks you where they can get that kit, tell them you created it yourself.
After a month of nearly daily outings that consisted of doctors’ waiting rooms, x-ray waiting rooms, blood work waiting rooms, handing over well-thumbed insurance cards, and leafing through even more well-thumbed magazines, my husband and I managed to get away one night to celebrate the season.
We went to Colonial Beach to stay in our beloved Bell House. Bell House is our home away from home and the perfect salve for our ragged lives. (The day before my husband had a medical procedure that we hope will send him–finally–down the road to recovery).
Innkeeper Anne Bolin welcomed us with her usual warmth and cheer. The house was decked out in fresh greens and candles and poinsettias and twinkling trees.
We all went to dinner and ate far too much. That night I gazed at the lights of the Maryland shore on the far side of the Potomac. It was so quiet and peaceful. We slept like stones.
After an enormous candlelight breakfast (chipped beef toast like my mama used to make), Anne sent us to Winkiedoodle Point to see the ducks. I had to go just so I could say I was at Winkiedoodle Point, which sounded like it should be in Oz.
The ducks were a motley bunch: muskovey, mallards, and one large white goose that thought it was a duck and led the others across the road in search of hand-outs. (Why I took the photo from the car–that goose made a beeline for me!)
The streets were quiet. Most people would have thought the town was deader than a nit, but it was heavenly to us. We went to Food Lion, the Dollar Store, ate lunch at Ola’s and everywhere we went people wished us a Merry Christmas and meant it.
Tonight we’ll stay in and “knick-knack,” as my mother used to call eating snacks, and watch my all-time favorite movie, “Meet Me in St. Louis.” Tomorrow I’ll fix breakfast, make my dessert (peppermint brownies) for my niece’s open house and then we’ll launch ourselves down I-95 to Mechanicsville. It’ll be noisy and chaotic with kids and in-laws and barking dogs plus one cardiac patient and his grateful wife.
How many of us watched the very first airing of “A Charlie Brown Christmas?” I did, and so did my sister, though she was married by then and had a little girl.
It was 1965. I was 12 and a big fan of “Peanuts” and animated cartoons (I wanted to be an animator for Walt Disney). But this show wasn’t like any other Christmas special. The main character, Charlie Brown, admitted to being depressed and the topic was the over-commercialization of Christmas. The animation was choppy compared to Warner Brothers and Disney cartoons. The voices were sometimes jerky. (That’s because some of the actors were so young, they couldn’t even read and had to be coached to speak their parts a line at a time).
Even more amazing was the music. Jazz with a little Beethoven thrown in. The music was melancholy and echoed the dark uncertainty of the season. Unheard of in a children’s show! As a kid, I always felt depressed at endings: TV shows, books, just about anything. I was always caught up in the moment and felt a jolt when forced to re-enter my world.
Over the years, I’ve watched the show. The music is often played in stores and malls and is instantly recognizable. And yet I feel as melancholy as I did when I was 12, watching the show by myself and dreading yet another ending.
My sister and brother-in-law came to see us Thanksgiving weekend. My sister brought me this Charlie Brown tree. I love it! It plays the music from the show. I especially love Linus’s blanket around the base.
My sister bought one of these trees for herself, for me, and for her two daughters, now grown with families of their own. Every year the four of us will set up our trees around Thanksgiving. A new tradition had begun, celebrated in households in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Mechanicsville, separated by miles but connected by the love of a TV Christmas special.
Earlier this week when I opened the box from my friend Connie and pulled out this jolly fellow, I finally felt like the season had arrived. Isn’t he gorgeous? He is so much from my era, plumply stuffed with a twinkle in his eye that hasn’t faded over the decades. He stands firmly on his booted feet and told me, just as firmly, Christmas is here, girl. Get the lead out.
I did. I put up our pink tree that very evening and played Manheim Steamroller and Transiberian Orchestra and that redneck song from the “Country Christmas” CD I bought last Saturday.
Connie also sent me this wonderful storybook, Santa’s Surprise Book. I collect both Little Golden Books and Whitman Tell-a-Tales, but actually prefer the Whitman books because they aren’t so franchised and branded and are more individual, somehow.
My Santa was made by Rushton, a toy company started by Mary Rushton in 1917, in Atlanta. Her daughter, Wight, designed the plush toys. This Santa, called “My Toy Santa,” is from their popular Star Creations line that flourished in the 1950s and 1960s. I am thrilled he has come to live with us.
Santa stands on an oak icebox, along with a vintage stocking I bought last year, my husband’s 1930s “Junior G-Man” flashlight, and an old car my stepfather bought his little brother Carl Brooks one Christmas. The oak icebox was my mother’s. It is filled to the top with series paperbacks I wrote for Scholastic years ago.
I love setting up vignettes, little scenes that tie together old and new memories, draw together people from the past and present. That’s what the season is all about, isn’t it?
Since Thanksgiving, it has been rough around the Ransom house. My husband took a turn for the worse and our lives revolved around nearly daily doctor’s appointments, x-rays, blood work, visiting nurses, trips to the pharmacy.
But finally, at the end of last week, we saw a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Recovery will be slower due to this setback, but my husband will recover. He’s getting out more and we have a few little outings planned between appointments.
Saturday we hopped in the little red truck and drove to Culpeper, about 30 miles west, to take in some holiday cheer. I love the way people in the country go all-out in decorating. No sedate Della Robia wreath on the door of the house above!
We stopped at the post office first–none of our local post offices are open on Saturday any more. I loved this post office! The clerks didn’t look like they were in one of those old British Airways commercials and customers chatted like old friends. It’s 13 miles to this post office but I’ll be using it from now on.
My husband starts cardio rehab this week. So our next stop was Wal-Mart for some work out gear. Believe it or not, he doesn’t own a pair of sneakers!
I plucked this CD from the $5 bin. My pick was the hilarious redneck song by Montgomery Gentry called “Merry Christmas from the Family.”
The breakfast crowd had just left Frost Diner, but the lunch rush was gearing up and the cook was soon juggling many orders on that grill. I learned she was an expert teller of raunchy jokes, her brother had been in the pokey and she had to go “back home” to house sit, but was back at work now and expecting her first grandchild.
We ditched the low-sodium, low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. My husband has lost weight and needs every calorie he can get. Open-heart surgery affects appetite and taste for months, so if he has a craving for a meatball sub, we go get one. Everybody at the counter but me ordered beef stew.
This is my lunch. Come to me, my greasy, yellow beauty . . .
It was so relaxing in the diner, the clatter of dishes, Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” on the jukebox, followed by Elvis singing “Love Me Tender,” the thrum of people eating, talking, taking a break from their problems and holiday hurry.
Next we went to Knackel’s Bakery. The homemade donut smell, that wonderful warm, yeasty, powdered-sugar sweetness, almost makes you swoon when you walk in. I must have blacked out because when I came to, I was outside the store with three bakery bags in my hand. I can’t be held accountable.
At least I resisted stopping for roadside pulled-pork barbeque, though. Funny how I can stick to my no-red-meat resolve much easier than the no-sugar vow.
Home again. Yes, this is me, seventeen and a half pounds thinner.
Well, until I get hold of these! How did all those cookies get in the house? And that red velvet cupcake? And what happened to the two chocolate donuts . . . ?