Make yourself at home. Put your feet up. Grab your favorite beverage and prepare to enjoy the reads.



Sweeping Out the Old Year

Shirley stood in the doorway, broom in hand, fiercely shouting out into the 15 degree night, her dogs jumping excitedly about her feet. "BE GONE! BE GONE!" I was absolutely sure that whatever or whomever she was shouting at, most certainly had high-tailed it out of there. Still, it felt weird to observe this elderly gentile lady turn into a New Year witch.

Though she was a practicing Episcopalian, I knew she also had "aulde ways" about her. I couldn't quite join the two together in my mind, but she was fine with it. There had been times when she seemed to glow with with lunar light, or sprinkle the stars over a room full of people with her exuberance and wisdom. I remember the time we sat against the tree trunk and I felt enfolded by it as she introduced me to her own special source of strength.

When I think about it, I realize that her ways were little different from anyone else. As a society, we make a lot of noise celebrating the New Year. We leave the past year and all the mistakes we made in it behind us, sweeping it out of the way to make room for the fresh future with a new freedom in our hearts.

As I wrote about last year in this blog, my mother, raised in the hills of Pennsylvania, sent me out in the snow on New Years day clanging pot lids together to scare away all the bad luck from the previous year. Later that day, she scoured and cleaned the house from floor to ceiling. Another form of sweeping out the old year. From an early age, I learned about resolutions, promises we make to ourselves for self improvement. I asked myself how I could stop myself from being a naughty girl throughout the whole year, not just through the Christmas season, and I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish. Some of which was not always so high minded.

I know many people do not observe this old practice of resolutions, but I do. I take stock of my life. Like the ancient pagan God, Janus, I look back over the year and contemplate how it unfolded. Sometimes I am disappointed that I didn't achieve a certain goal. But, I don't allow myself to dwell on it as I am always pleased about some aspect of my life that turned out well. And like Janus, I look forward to the future with eyes open to possibilities.

When Shirley slammed the door against the night demons, she turned to me with a fire in her eye and said,  "No regrets! Just go out there and live it with determination and spirit!"

Breakfast Treats

Cinnamon coffee cake muffins and mini donuts. That's what I bought before getting ready to drive to Los Angeles. There would be many family members and friends present. I was sure breakfast would be forgotten. And, it was! I forgot to bring the many boxes of muffins and mini donuts. Because they were sitting there waiting for me when I arrived home, that is why I threw it all in the garbage yesterday. Oh, I could have eaten them. I could have eaten them all, given enough time. I could have scarfed them down in a matter of days. But, after the plethora of sweets and treats laden upon the table during those Christmas days, and the nauseated, heartburn pay-back of my innards, I knew eating them would be the worst thing I could do. Still, being the junk food junkie, I knew I would be tempted to make myself sick again. Therefore the toss into the garbage. They sit there now beneath other garbage, there insidious vibrations mocking me.

At least I have the presence of mind to NOT go digging down to fetch the "treasures" in a rescue attempt. Even the Lindt chocolate truffles still in their wrappers are laid to rest. I will not tell myself it is a sin to waste them. I wish it would stop raining long enough for me to haul it all to the outside trash, as it sits here in the house smoldering in angry rejection that they will not be eaten. "Too bad" I say. My new sweets and carbohydrates are going to be the kind Mother Nature has prepared for me! Yes, yes. I know. They are still sweets and carbs. But, if I'm going to crave them, better they be fresh. Eh?

I remember the first blood orange I ever had. Charles and his wife had a dozen shipped to them from Florida to California at great expense. Someone they knew owned one of the first productive orchards. Marlys held one in her hand as if it were a precious baby chick. "Guess what I have." She seemed to shimmer with anticipation or was it just the odd winter light behind her from the window? Before I could hazard a guess, she turned to the counter, grabbed a large knife, and with one precise quick slash, it was open. Blood orange is a good name for it. Blood red, the juice leaked onto the counter as Marlys quickly lapped it up with her fingers.

She handed me half, cut in thin slices, keeping the rest for herself not even asking if I wanted any, or even if I could eat oranges. What if I were allergic? But, thankfully, I am not. It was the most delectable thing I'd had in a long time. Afterwards, I enviously eyed those other oranges sitting in the bowl wondering if I would be offered more. But, alas... no.

So today, when I bought spinach salad makings, irish cheese, a chicken breast, some apples, bananas and blackberries, I turned in surprise when I saw them. Blood oranges!

Guess what I did next!


Santa Hat Grandbaby

My youngest Great Granddaughter discovers Santa Hat


She's got the right idea! Yes?

That was fun!

Okay, I'm done with this. What's next?


Confessions of Christmas Indulgences



Five flavors of Lindor truffles, imported puffy crisp cookies, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, rasberry streusel cakes...

Yeah! Yep! Yes! That's right! 
All of them... in the garbage! 

Whatever happened to Christmas?

Whatever happened to Christmas?

It's gone and left no traces,

Whatever happened to the faces or the glow.

Whatever happened to Christmas,

to Christmas way of living?

Whatever happened to the giving,

the magic in the snow?

Remember the sights and the smells and the sounds,

And remember how love was all around,

whatever happened to it all?

Whatever happened to Christmas,

bells in the streets are ringing,

Whatever happened to the singing,

the songs we used to know.

Where was I, and whatever happened to you?

Whatever happened to Christmas and you?

Lyrics written by
Jimmy Webb and Frank Sinatra


Memories of Christmas Past

We practiced memorizing songs for weeks ahead, carefully choosing in what order to sing them. We decided that from one house to another we would jauntily sing Jingle bells, loudly, to let people know we were on our way.

Caroling late evening snow with Maria DeRosa, her little sister, Linda and the Milan girls, Maureen and Janet,  I remember trudging through unshoveled sidewalks to houses where people wouldn't answer the door, though we could see their shadows behind the curtained windows, and there were some who offered money. We were confused by these unexpected occurrences and thought we were doing something wrong or would give into it. 

Weren't people supposed to stand in their doorway, smiling, with the light shining behind them as they listened in joy and reverence as we belted out our three songs in the cold?

We were surprised too of the offer of coming in for cocoa. It had not been on our itinerary. We politely but firmly turned them down as any good girl should. After all Santa was watching to see if we were naughty or nice. Besides, I had timed all the songs to get us finished on our block and back home at the time promised to our parents. Another naughty-nice ratio to consider. Just the same, we were late anyways as I forgot to consider the hampering of the snow in that plan. Luckily our parents didn't mind, and assured us Santa probably approved of our caroling.

I have always looked back on that experience with fondness not for the final act for which we worked so hard to produce, but the time together, the bonding we had those weeks beforehand and the incredible love of music so easily memorized and engraved in my mind.

Then there was the short marriage with the husband, who shall remain nameless. He picked out the best tree in the lot, asked for it to be flocked, and did not pick it up until after the lot closed!

He had waited until the last minute and stole it on Christmas eve with my child in the car! What could I say? I wasn't going to spoil the magic for my daughter.

I've never liked flocked trees and I certainly haven't considered having one again. We lived on Chatauqua Lake in western New York state at the time. The evergreen woods behind our house abounded with heavily laden branches shimmering in the moonlight. There is no comparison to an artificial flocked tree.

One Christmas the local Mall in Indianapolis had a clever promotion supported by the pet shop located within. I took my cats in to see Santa Claus and have their picture taken. We stood in line a long time with all the other pets that had been brought for this special event. It was a cacophonous Christmas event!

My calico, Keli sat on top of her carrier sniffing the air with curiosity, inviting people to pet her, and daring the doggies to look her way while Boo Boo, my Siamese, cowered inside. When it came time for the photo shoot, I couldn't have them both together as I'd planned. Miss Keli calmly posed like a professional model.
But, Boo hated Santa and struggled so hard, Santa had to keep a good grip on him while the picture was taken. I wonder how many wounds that dear man suffered that evening. To this day anyone who looks at that picture of Boo, comments, "That is one pissed off cat".

Do you have unexpected Christmas memories dropping in to visit your psyche?


Wishing You Warm Fuzzies!

May your season be bright

with laughter and light

and whatever makes you

feel all warm and fuzzy

Funny Pictures


Elizabeth Munroz

Great Expectations

Wrapping gifts tonight, it started to sink in. The time draws near when the big day arrives. Will I still be in this Grinch mode? I hope not.

I recall childhood Christmases, and filter them through this age's interpretation and get frustrated with myself that remembering doesn't necessarily make the same feelings arise that once created impetus for future Christmas seasons.

It's similar to no longer enjoying that great car you once bought, and no longer care for.

It's like watching a movie of some kid who is enjoying herself, but her thoughts are her own. I remember little things that once meant a great deal to me. I think it is a lot like Ram Dass' book, Be Here Now. It's what I was doing then, but I cannot go back and recapture it all.

I realize this is the point I am missing. I'm looking backward and wishing I was there now, and I'm not. I'm here, of course. It's not like I want to eradicate the deliciousness of those childhood memories. A lot of them have come to visit me lately, carol singing in the snow with other kids, wrapping gifts for Mom 'cause she was "all thumbs", making all our christmas cards by hand. Great expectations of forcing those feelings is unrealistic.

By clinging to the idea that I might re-capture those previous experiences and renew my "joys of the season", I've made an effort to examine what might bring about new sensitivity on my part. The logical mind wants so badly to have it diagrammed in plain black and white. The reality is if I did have those answers, it would only be understanding and not satisfaction in "knowing". I mean the knowing from the heart, the knowing that passes needing explanations.

So, I wait to see, even in my mild anticipation, how things will be this year. I think I have a big chance to have a good time, as I will be seeing my kids, grand kids and great grand kids. Surely, their joy is contagious. So, it will be nice to soak it up like sunshine.

I have hope for a renewal, or perhaps a new way of experiencing the season, here and now.


Winter Beach Memories

Sitting on a bench at Capitola Beach today, children nearby chasing seagulls reminded me of Linda and I, with our kids at another shoreline. Today the beach is deserted, no tourists. We've had a lot of rain lately, so only the locals come out to watch the sun drowse into the deep.

I've been feeling very blue most of today. I hate it when I get like this. It's such a miserable loneliness and longing. I miss having a close friend living nearby at times like this. Someone I can spend time with right here, right now. We can dump on each other all the woes of the world, and lighten our load. Whenever Linda and I got together for a session like that, it always ended up in laughter.

She had a great sense of the ludicrous and could see how silly some melancholy of mine could be. She was able to turn it into a joke. Although I often didn't think it was funny at first, by the time she got through with me I could laugh and realize things were not so bad as I had imagined. She was the only one who could insult me, hurt my feelings and still be there to cheer me up. It's not that she purposely insulted me or hurt my feelings. It was that I felt insulted, felt hurt. As she often pointed out, I chose to feel that way. Why not turn it around, feel happy instead? If not happy, then at least not wallowing!

My method was different of course, all serious. Linda was not subject to fluctuating brain chemistry as I was, but If there was something she was bummed out about, I always wanted to guide her in what to "do" to make it better. I showed her how to analyze it and tear it down so it wasn't so overwhelming and make a new plan for improving the situation. We were a fine compliment to each other. Yin and Yang. I need her ridicule, she needed my hard core rationalizations. It's odd how we could never employ our own techniques upon ourselves!

When Linda died, I went through three months of numbness and denial, always thinking I caught a glimpse of her in a crowd, and mistaking others for her. Then it hit me, and for three years I grieved and dreamed of her laughing eyes.  Occasionally, like today, she nudges my memories.

Losing my Soul-Sister, I had hoped for a new friend to replace her. But, she was so unique; irreplaceable. New friends have come into my life. And I have finally realized that the empty space Linda once occupied in my heart is not meant to be filled up with someone else.

I still miss her.

The sun has set. A cold wind blows, more rain to come. Time to go home.

Linda Duran Watkins
November 24 1949 - November 24 1982

Note: Thank you to Peter Wall for permission to display his photo of sunset children.


Finding Meaning

Some said I was wasting my time, just ignore it, or take happy pills. But, since the old way wasn't working, I've been fervently seeking new meaning of the holiday season. I questioned if we were all living in delusion, going along with what everyone else was doing in order to get through until New Years. I felt like we were all sheep just following the siren call that no longer has purpose. It all seems so buried under hype, TV shows, overwhelming competition of lighting displays, ridiculous holiday songs assaulting the senses, too wrapped up in ribbons and bows to be true-hearted with one another, too many shopping days filled with forced sales, too much of everything obscuring any possibility of clarity of the heart joining us together in spirit.

In my search, some little glimmerings came my way, things that made me smile, warmed my heart. But nothing connected, until I found the one thing that opened up the gateway. This video represents the pouring out of joy to be shared with others, to bring upliftment without all the trappings of "things" in the way.

I came across this accidentally, watched out of curiosity. I like to observe people so I waited in anticipation to see the reactions. But, quite dramatically it became more than that. It was visceral. Music speaks to me deeply, and the energy it takes for a voice to put soul into the melody is contagious. Smiles and tears, that's the way I like it.  

I'm not saying this is the only way of doing it. I saying this is symbolic to me of what purity of spirit that needs to be present in order to open the heart to the season. And since I felt so lost and separated from it all, this has triggered it for me. I feel like I'm heading in the right direction to "make the season bright".


Scrooge Says Scroo the Christmas Lights!

A cacophany of color dripping from house to house, flowing over roofs, front yards, covering bushes and wrapped about tree trunks, I cannot avoid the Christmas lights. How did they get all those lights up there? How long does it take to perform the feat? Do you know there are professionals who can come to your house and install all the lights you want... for a price?

Of course the lights are not alone. Angels, stars, reindeer and Santa proliferate, and oddly shaped lawn sculptures I cannot identify. A sordid carnival of grotesque artifacts soon to be forgotten in someone's garage for the next year. I cannot appreciate the simple beauty of what once was. Am I too blind to see? I avert my eyes.

I count in my head the possiblity of how many watts are in each bulb, how many kilowatts in each string, how many strings of lights are used to blanket a house, a yard, a neighborhood, a city, a country. A house at 1953 Eucalyptus street in San Carlos, California has a December bill of $5,000 according to the news. For 5,000 dollars one can buy a lot of LED lights! All the houses on the street, it seems, participate to have the show of decorations. It's such a popular neighborhood that it is closed off to traffic and you must walk to see it.

How much is it all costing? I don't mean just in our electric bills, but how much fossil fuel does it take to maintain Christmas? Am I Scrooge counting money, overlooking the value in the significance for the overabundance of Christmas lights?


Real Snowmen Melt

I heard children screaming and headed outdoors to see what was happening. Two houses beyond mine, the little ones were running in circles like wild puppies. The adult among them, who I couldn't see, was inflating a fifteen foot Christmas snowman. I smiled. It is interesting how the screaming of a child, whether in terror or joy, sounds very much the same.

Yet, I was perplexed. We take these things for granted this time of year. Yet, I live in Coastal California, where the nearest snow is a long drive up through the mountains, about a five hour drive. Rarely do we get snow at the lower elevations in the mountains that separate the shore from inland San Jose area. So, how did the kids know to be excited about a blow up snowman? Perhaps simply because of the novelty? I'm sure some adult in their lives has told them about Frosty. With TV access in their lives, they've probably seen a number of programs with cute stories connecting Frosty to Christmas. And what child does not know the lyrics to "Frosty the Snowman"?

I was raised in Western New York State with snow in abundance every year from late October to the end of March. Some of it is pretty, in fact beautiful. I've made my share of snowmen, many times and not by inflation, but with real coal for eyes. and guess what? Just like the song, real snowmen melt. Snowmen are fun.

But, the majority of the time, snow is too real. I've stood in the cold, with red face and stiff fingers, snow stuffed down inside my boots, melting into my socks, helping others push on the back of a car that swerved in a ditch more times than I can count. I've huddled under blankets fully clothed, shivering, when the electricity failed during an ice storm. Frosty the Snowman was a cute song, but not something that exhilarated me and had little to do with Christmas. I wonder why Jack Frost is not as popular, as he was in my childhood. He was the ice artist that decorated my window pane. Now that was magic!

Yes, I smiled to see the children down the street. I understood their exuberance. I remember it continued in me long into adulthood. But, I want to know what happened to it? Am I too old to experience anticipation and joy over the upcoming holidays? Is that it? Have I lived too long? Seen too much? Been there, done that until it can't be done anymore? Okay, I know that was trite, but so what!

So... What? I want my Christmas Mojo back! That's what!



Doctor's said I would not be able to have any more children after I had the cancer. When I found myself pregnant, I chose to take the risks, and this wonderful child came into my life and has blessed it everyday. Thank you for being you, my son!


Christmas Songs - Are They Kidding?

This is what plagues me. I question why Christmas no longer has meaning for me. The answer eludes me. I want to know what's missing. There's plenty of stimulus all about me. I can't turn on my favorite radio stations in the car without "the music". I don't think of them as Christmas Carols anymore. Who wants to listen to Silent Night with a Jazz-Rock flavor? How about "A Pimp's Christmas Song" by Snoop Dogg?

I drive in silence.

Did you actually listen to this?

I wonder what ever happened to Christmas Carols?


Disconnected Christmas Season

I feel like I just dropped in from another planet, when I consider what's going on around me. A television show this evening was about one character searching for the meaning of Christmas. Where have I heard that one before? I am in a similar situation, searching for what is meaningful about this time of year that everyone is so involved in. I mean no offense, dear reader. I find some folks are so stressed by keeping up with traditions and social norms I wonder if it is worth it. I truly feel disconnected and outside, looking in, on what now appears so unfamiliar to me.

Bah Humbug doesn't even sum it up. It's more like what the heck is going on? At one point in my life I was very absorbed in Christmas with all the trimmings. I started my Christmas shopping in January, when everything was marked down and continued to shop throughout the year. I had a long list of people I bought gifts for. Those gifts sat in my closet waiting for the momentous occasion when someone would unwrap them, eyes aglow, and smile with satisfaction. Though that was not always the reaction I saw, I still felt good for my succeeding in providing a gift for everyone. And best of all, I thought, I wouldn't be stuck in last minute shopping hoards exhausting myself. Just the same, as the clock ticked down I found myself shopping. One cannot have a successful holiday season without stocking up on all those required food items. Then, of course, someone must prepare all that stuff, and someone must also eat it, not only at home, but at every opportunity that arises.

Today, I spent the afternoon with some friends in festive attire and shared great food and conversation. Lots of laughs and hugs accompanied the fun. This can happen any time we would like, and I wonder why we just don't do it more often. Do we really need Christmas season as an excuse to get together and have fun? Surely not. We were all dressed up in the colors of the season, red and green. Have you ever noticed that?

There seems to be an unspoken agreement among us that certain colors are to be worn at certain times of the year. Valentines day brings on the red and white. Easter has pastels. Red, White and Blue for Independence day. Black and Orange for Halloween. Brown, yellow and orange for Thanksgiving. I really don't look good in orange, nor pastels, either. I gave up dressing up in the appropriate colors a long time ago. It had no meaning for me to just go along for the sake of appearances.

Are we all pretending to have a good time so that we don't spoil another persons good time? Are we not pretending, but just caught up in the mania and following the flow of what others do? If so, then, are there others who wonder about all this besides me? Maybe I'm missing something here.

I know that getting together with family to party surely counts highest on the meaningfulness of the season. But, I'd like to believe that getting together for a family party is meaningful any time of the year.

It's not just the parties. The one I attended was lovely. But, how many parties are obligations? I overheard someone the other day say that she had 3 events to attend over the weekend and she was hosting another and it was all a nightmare for her to juggle life and family in between all that. We are not even into the second week of the month yet? Where do we draw the line?

Unlike the character in the TV show, I'm not searching for the meaning of Christmas. I'm wanting to understand how much meaning others are getting out of it all. Perhaps, then I wouldn't feel like such a Scrooge.

Lost in Translation

Are you confused about Christmas? I certainly am. I ask myself, metaphorically, if the Emperor has new clothes and if anyone else sees this besides me.

DEFINE: Christmas
a Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ (Princeton Perl)

Christmas  is a holiday  observed generally on December 25  to commemorate the birth of Jesus, the central figure of Christianity.


The word Christmas originated as a compound meaning "Christ's Mass". It is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038.

In Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Churches, the celebration of the Eucharist or a sequence of prayers constituting the Christian Eucharistic rite; "the priest said Mass"

When saying to another person, "Merry Christmas", one is wishing them a happy, jolly, celebration of the birth of Christ in performance of prayers and celebration of the Eucharist.

Define: Holiday

A holiday is a day designated as having special significance for which individuals, a government, or a religious group have deemed that observation is warranted.


The word "holiday" comes from the Old English word hāligdæg. The word originally referred only to special religious days. The word derived from the notion of "Holy Day".

Merry Christ Mass and Happy Holy Day?


imagine that

Thirty years ago John Lennon faced death and died. That day, I awoke from my seventh cancer surgery and survived.  I can never think about his death without ultra gratitude for my life. I never imagined that it would turn out that way.



"...experience for yourself the potential of poetry to heal by feeling its power through your own voice. Many people have an intuitive sense that voice in general and poetry in particular can be healing. We have all experienced the comfort of soothing words. Finding the words to articulate a traumatic experience can bring relief.

.... People are frequently moved to write a poem in times of extremity. In mainstream culture there are subjects that are not talked about. They are taboo. For example, each of us is going to die, but we do not talk about dying. We are all in the dialogue of illness, death and dying, whether or not we are talking about it. Poetry gives us ways to talk about it.

...In the United States many people are scared of poetry. They have had bad experiences with it in school. People often believe that poetry is difficult or inaccessible or not relevant to them. Modern poetry is based on voice, and must be passed through our ears. This is where the sense is made. So, when you read this article and you see poetry,

Read it aloud
pass it through your ears
enjoy the
ride, and
the difference between poetry and prose
is that poetry is broken
into lines—
that is all.

Multiple ways of utilizing poetry for healing, growth and transformation will be presented including the Poetry and Brain Cancer project at UCLA. Particular attention will be given to issues of Palliative care. The reader will be directed to the scientific evidence of the efficacy of utilizing expressive writing. The developing professional field of Poetry Therapy and The National Association for Poetry Therapy will be discussed."

"Finding the Words to Say It: The Healing Power of Poetry" by Robert Carroll

The National Association of Poetry Therapy

Note: Thank you to Mimi Olsson for sending me this information! 


How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me

I bought the book but never read it. I really didn't need to, I'm sure. You see, I have the same disorder as the author.

Today is one of those days, when the brain chemistry has taken over. I have to fight it. In the past I didn't and followed the inclinations of it's power. Despondency was the key. It hits me now and then, even with proper medication.

For years the diagnosis was not recognize and life was pretty much a roller coaster of heaven, hell and numbness somewhere in between. Of course, in those early years, the diagnosis really didn't have a name as it was clustered within Schizophrenia. But, it is a separate condition and now treatable.

Still, here I am with overwhelming feelings of despair and unwarranted grief. My friends tell me to call them when I'm like this. They will help me. But, you see, that's not what I do. There is no desire to reach out for help.

Something that has helped me in the past has been journaling. I've got page after page of misery written down. There's something to letting it seep out of me into the pen onto the page, now transferred to the keyboard in these modern times.

I will ride through today as best I can. One thing I've learned that helps is to distract myself. Go to the store, a restaurant, the library, a ride in the car, up into the hills, down to the ocean. Sometimes I cry. But not anymore. Seems impossible now. If I cannot drag myself out of the house, which is not a good sign, I will crochet, paint or draw, make digital art, read, write, listen to music, or watch movies on TV while petting my purr babies.

I am going public with this because I haven't forgotten what it was like when it was unbearable, when the suicidal thoughts were invasive and all encompassing. I didn't have the internet back then. How valuable it would have been for me to find others in the same situation, where I could read that there was hope. If I can help just one person because of this posting, then it is worth it being out with my own history.

There is hope. No matter how desperate the situation, if you can ride it out, like the roller coaster, there is an end to the ride. Just hang on for dear life. And yes, there is value in life. There is value in your own life, even if it doesn't feel like it. Even if you feel like you don't deserve to live, you do.

Just hang on. Get help. Keep seeking help, even if it seems to not help, keep hanging on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Suicide is not the answer. I promise you.

Don't worry. I'm not suicidal anymore. I haven't been actively considering it for many years, though sometimes the feelings arise. The meds help with that.

But, here it is. The despondency is in the forefront of my mind, and like a sad old friend, I must take her hand and comfort her, distract her, and hang on!