Monthly Archives: December 2013

New Year’s Resolution

Here’s a good idea for a New Year’s resolution.
Don’t argue with people who don’t listen.
Not literally.
Not figuratively.
Not no way. Not no how.
Let me tell you how I came upon this bit of wisdom. Mind you, I haven’t learned it completely myself. From time to time I still find myself in a futile conversation with someone who will not hear what I have to say.
About 25 years ago, far away in a beautiful little city called Temple, Texas, I decided I wanted to participate in community theater. The trouble was, in a town with the largest hospital in Central Texas, all the best roles always went to the doctors and the lawyers who donated the most money to keep the theater doors open. So a group of earnest though poor folks including me started our own little theater and put on plays at the local Ramada Inn. With limited expenses, a play that drew 45 to 50 people a performance was considered a success.
All went well until one spring when we needed someone to volunteer to direct the next production. The local high school drama teacher said she would do it—even though she was directing the students in Hello Dolly! at the same time—if she could have the lead in the next play 6 Rms Rv Vu. It fell to me to find a director for that show. I could not find anyone except the junior college drama instructor who was interested only if rehearsals began after June first when his semester ended. That seemed reasonable until the high school teacher announced the rehearsals had to begin the middle of May because of her summer schedule.
So there I was in a pickle. If I pleased the high school teacher there was no director. And, I felt, I would look foolish to the junior college instructor. If I accommodated the junior college guy I’d break the original deal and make the high school teacher mad.
Now, I know all this sounds petty and boring but I’m getting to the meat of the matter right now. The high school drama teacher was married to this building contractor who looked like the Norse god Thor, only stronger. This guy could lift two 8×4 ¾-inch plywood boards over his head and not even breathe hard. When his wife got mad, he got mad.
“How dare you treat Hortense (not her real name, but you could guess that) like that? After all she’s done for this group? And you were over at our house and didn’t even tell us!”
That’s true. I didn’t tell them when I had a chance because I was scared to death of their reaction. I had her best friend tell her. She didn’t speak to her friend for at least a year.
“There you sat in my house and drank all my wine!”
Yes, I did. He offered it and I drank it. What a baseborn ingrate I was.
“We’ve got to learn to work together in this group! How dare you treat Hortense like this! You should have seen the tears going down her cheeks!”
No matter how hard I tried to explain the situation to him I failed. He was too busy shouting at me to take time to listen to my explanation, no matter how wimpy it sounded.
Every time he saw me after that for the next six months or so he would lecture me on the importance of teamwork and cooperation. By that time I had learned to smile and nod. I got very good at smiling and nodding. But the damage was done. Half of the theater group thought I was terrible for double crossing Hortense. The other half thought Hortense and her husband were jerks. So we disbanded. Thankfully, the high school teacher shortly thereafter took a job at a junior college across the state and in a few years my family and I moved to Florida.
The point of this is that sometimes there are two groups of people, those who have to make hard decisions that they know will please no one and those who get mad. They are too busy exploding to be confused with the facts. It doesn’t have to be a community theater. It can be a church. It can be a business. It can be government, at all levels.
It always happens and will continue to happen. Most people who have actual problems with their ears get a hearing aid. The socially deaf don’t think they do anything wrong. The rest of us just have to accept this fact of life and practice our smiling and nodding.
One last thing, if you don’t like this commentary, or for that matter, anything else I’ve written, keep it to yourself. I’m getting a little hard of hearing myself.

Santa on the Move

A lot of people don’t know this, but Santa Claus hasn’t always lived at the North Pole.
Way back in the Middle Ages, he lived in the Netherlands. His original name was Sinter Klaus which was Dutch. He got started carving those wooden shoes for the children. Soon he found out kids weren’t all that keen about shoes. Their parents got them shoes all the time. Who cared if he carved them to look like squirrels, rabbits and deer? Then he wised up and started carving toys and making dolls. The word got out, and Santa became a fan favorite in December.
All was cool for a couple of hundred years until the Goths and Visigoths began raiding the Low Country. He kept trying to tell them they didn’t have to steal the toys. He was going to deliver them to the Goth and Visigoth children anyway. At least some of them. Goth and Visigoth kids can be real little brats if truth be told.
“We don’t accept charity,” the leader of the pack said. “If our little boys and girls want a toy for Christmas I’ll get it for them.”
“Even if you have to steal it,” Santa said.
“That’s right. Even if I have to steal it. At least I know what they really want. They don’t have to settle for what you decide to give them.”
Now Santa knew why the Goth and Visigoth kids were horrible. Their parents were horrible. So Santa decided it was time for a change of scenery. Each Christmas Eve as he flew his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer around the world he noticed Florida was a nice place. Lots of sandy beaches, very warm and not so many people to crowd his space.
He, the elves and the reindeer packed up their stuff and moved right after the first of the year in 1492.
Bad timing. The Spanish were on the way, but he didn’t know it then. He knew when children were naughty or nice, but Santa didn’t have a clue about adults. When people got to be adults, they were apt to do anything, especially anything naughty.
Santa and the gang managed to last a couple of hundred years before the Europeans started to settle in. The worst part of living in Florida, however, was that the elves were completely distracted by the sandy beaches. It was too cold in Holland to do much except make toys; but in Florida the sun was out and the surf was up.
The big guy himself didn’t care to spend the day at the beach. His cheeks were rosy enough without getting sun burned. And that little round belly might look cute when all covered up in a red suit and white fur, but when it was exposed in a pair of cargo pants, well, fuhgeddaboutit.
The elves, on the other hand, loved splashing in the water and body surfing. They found a new use for coconuts. Santa thought it was cute to carve them to look like gorilla heads, but the elves liked to chop them open and pour in rum. Few people know the fact that an elf named Ralph invented the pina colada.
When the United States pushed the Spanish out Santa decided it was time to move on. First he considered the South Pole but there were too many penguins and walruses. They waddled around and knocked over all the tables, and they have extremely poor hygiene. The North Pole, on the other hand, was nice and secluded.
The elves, by the way, have never forgiven Santa for leaving Florida.
Especially Ralph.

Grandpa’s Secret

Grandpa had a secret.
Little Jimmy learned what it was on late Christmas Eve as he sat with grandpa watching the tree lights twinkling.
“I can’t wait for Santa to arrive.”
“Me too,” Jimmy said. Then he looked at grandpa. “Why are you waiting for Santa?”
Grandpa gave him a big hug. “I’m going to tell you a secret. Do you promise to keep it?”
“Of course, Grandpa. We’re best friends.”
“Well,” he whispered, “I’ve seen Santa Claus every Christmas Eve for the last 80 years. I caught him leaving presents under the tree, and he said if I promised not to tell anyone he would grant me special wishes. For years I wished for toys. Then I wished to get into a good college. Then I wished I would make enough money to give my children everything they ever wanted.” He paused to wink at Jimmy. “Sometimes you wish you didn’t get everything you want.”
“What do you mean, Grandpa?”
“Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but your daddy and your two aunts are awfully spoiled.”
Jimmy smiled. “Yeah, but I didn’t want to say anything.”
Suddenly there was a blast of cold wind and a soft “ho, ho, ho.”
“Well, James I see you have your grandson with you,” Santa said.
“Promise, Santa, I won’t tell,” Jimmy said.
“So, James, what’s your wish this year?”
”I don’t have a wish, except that Jimmy start having his wishes now.”
“He’s a good boy,” Santa said. “I think he can handle it. So, Jimmy, what do you wish for?”
“I just want grandpa to be happy.”
“Done.”
The next morning everyone gathered around the Christmas tree–grandpa, Jimmy, his parents and his two aunts. Jimmy opened each present and hugged and kissed his parents and aunts.
“Dad,” Jimmy’s father said, “you didn’t give Jimmy anything.”
“Yes he did,” Jimmy said spontaneously. “He introduced me to Santa Claus.”
“Introduce you to Santa Claus?” one of his aunts said with shrieking laughter.
Jimmy looked at his grandpa with terror. He had let the secret out. Grandpa nodded, smiled and told his family that he had visited with Santa for the past 80 years. Jimmy’s father scolded him for telling such silly tales to confuse the boy. The two aunts, almost simultaneously, accused grandpa of dementia, to which Jimmy’s father announced that if that were the case then grandpa had to be committed and all his funds taken into a guardianship handled by his three children.
“Oh, yes,” the other aunt added with an evil giggle, “I could take care of Daddy’s money very well.”
Tears filled Jimmy’s eyes as he sat in the judge’s chambers a month later with grandpa, his parents and two aunts. The judge sat at his desk and peered over his glasses at the stack of paperwork in front of him.
“I’m so sorry, Grandpa,” he whispered.
Just then there was a cold blast of air entered the chamber as Santa Claus appeared to Jimmy and grandpa. Everyone else was frozen.
“I wished for grandpa to be happy,” Jimmy said with a pout.
“But you were the one who told,” Santa reminded him.
“Is it too late for me to have a wish?” grandpa asked.
“No, I guess not,” Santa replied.
“I just wish this hadn’t happened.”
“Done.”
With another blast of air, Santa was gone, and the judge looked up from his papers.
“I’m sorry. What were we saying?”
“I was saying,” Jimmy’s father said, “my sisters and I have discussed it, and we think our father has given us more than we deserved throughout our lifetimes. We want our father’s will be changed so that everything will be left to his only grandchild, Jimmy.”
“Oh, I think that can be arranged,” the judge said.
“But Grandpa,” Jimmy said.
“Shh.” Grandpa put his finger to his lips. “It’s a secret.”

Light in the Window

Buford hunched his shoulders as he trudged through the slush toward home after a long shift at the factory. He lived in a big city, though at times he forgot which city it was. Other times he decided it wasn’t worth the effort to remember what city it was because they were all alike anyway.
Then he reminded himself to be grateful he had a job. It was 1934, and most people were out of work. But his job drained his soul so much he could not enjoy the Christmas season. Besides that, he had no one to share his life with. Seven days before Christmas. What difference did it make?
In the gloomy twilight of his big city street, a glimmer caught in the corner of his eye. As he turned to look into a street level room of a tenement building Buford saw a young woman place a lit candle in the window. No one would have given her notice if she walked along the street, but flickering candle revealed her face in such a way that made him feel both sorrow and affection for her.
The next night Buford did not hunch his shoulders quite as much as he had before walking home. He automatically looked toward the tenement window. The young woman placed two lit candles on the sill. He studied her face as best he could and thought he sensed quiet desperation in the curve of her mouth. His sleep was restless that night.
The third night Buford thought he detected a tear glistening in her eyes as she put three candles in the window, and his heart began to break a bit. He hardly ate any of his supper at his boarding house and again had a restless night sleep. The vision of the young woman and the growing candle illuminations haunted him.
Buford’s step quickened the fourth night. His shoulders were full back, and his face took the sting of the sleet straight on. Hoping the woman would be putting out another candle, he dreaded seeing her face tinged with pain. There she was, in the tenement window putting down four candles. This time a sweet smile graced her face, which make Buford smile.
Work at the factory went swiftly for the next three days. Buford’s mind was filled with thoughts about the young woman. Would she place yet another candle in the window? Would the shimmering light reveal despair, hope or joy? On Christmas Eve Buford walked briskly toward the tenement building. He felt his heart beat faster. Would there actually be seven candles in the window? And would the angel be smiling? He was startled by the image that crossed his mind. Yes, she had become his angel.
When he stopped in front, he saw the young woman carefully place the seventh lit candle in the window. He could no longer contain his curiosity and affection. Buford went toward the tenement and tapped on the window. He smiled as she noticed him and raised the window.
“I’m sorry. I couldn’t help but notice you’ve been putting candles on the window sill for the past seven days.”
“Oh.” Her eyes widened. “I’m sorry. It’s just some silly dream I had.”
“Dreams are never silly.” Buford had never given much thought about dreams before now, but now he wanted to believe in them. “What did you dream?”
“Promise you won’t laugh?”
“I promise.”
2
“I dreamed Santa Claus told me to light candles for seven nights and I would get my Christmas wish.”
“And what did you wish for?”
“I wished for someone to love.” She smiled gently at Buford. “I think I wished for you.”

Fruitcake for Christmas

Fred would have been the perfect catch for any young eligible woman—he was smart, kind, gentle, considerate and rich. His only problem was that he looked like a fruitcake. Not crazy like a fruitcake, but lumpy and round like a fruitcake.
Diane worked at his computer services company. As owner Fred found a reason to go by her desk everyday to see how everything was. She would look up from her paperwork, smile and say, “No problems.”
This smile was kind, professional and beautiful. Her straight glistening white teeth were framed by full red lips and surrounded by soft, clear skin. Her blue eyes showed respect, friendliness but nothing much beyond that.
Fred was devastated. He tried to find ways to show Diane that he was more than a good boss and all around good egg, but she never seemed to notice. He did impress her with his all-encompassing knowledge of the technical world of computers. Diane laughed at all his jokes because he really was a funny fellow. She went, “Aww” when Fred showed her pictures of his nieces, nephews and cousins who were always climbing over him in gleeful play. Diane was the first in line to pet Andy, Fred’s basset hound which he brought to the office often. But nary a romantic glint ever entered her eyes when Fred appeared at her desk.
He hoped that would change at the Christmas office party. Fred cooked all the cookies and snacks each year himself. Besides all his other talents, he was a gifted cook. Fred learned all the tricks of the trade from his grandmother who passed down loads of recipes guaranteed to make guests go “Yum.”
His ace up his sleeve was Grandma’s fruitcake recipe. Even people who hated fruitcake loved Grandma’s recipe.
“It’s good enough to make people fall in love,” Grandma told Fred with a wink. “Be careful. This is mighty powerful stuff.”
The day of the office party everyone had turned off their computers, put away their files and lined up at the long table filled with all sorts of goodies.
“Would you like some fruitcake?” Fred shyly asked Diane.
She shook her head politely. “I don’t eat fruitcake.”
“Why not?”
“How do I know this isn’t one of those fruitcakes that’s been mailed around the world a couple of times?” she said with a laugh.
“I baked it with fresh ingredients last week,” Fred replied, trying to hide his hurt feelings. “It’s been soaking in Jamaican rum ever since.”
Diane furrowed her brow a bit. “Oh, I’m sure it must be very good because you made it. Everything you cook is good. I just don’t like fruitcake.”
“How do you know you won’t like this fruitcake?” Fred asked. He didn’t want to sound too aggressive. “I mean, when was the last time you ate fruitcake?”
“I don’t know. An aunt sent it to me for Christmas.”
“Oh, then it must have been filled with all sorts of preservatives and chemicals.”
“You’re probably right about that.”
“Then why won’t you try my fruitcake?”
Diane reached out and lightly touched Fred’s arm. “I’m sure there are a lot of girls out there who like fruitcake and who would take a slice of your fruitcake willingly.” She paused. “But I don’t like fruitcake.”
Fred was beginning to feel a little frantic. His neck was warm, and he was sure his face was turning red. “Of course, everyone has a right to eat or not eat anything they wish.” He stopped and collected his thoughts. “But think of all the wonderful things they miss out on because they just assume everything that looks round and lumpy isn’t right for them.” He looked into her eyes. “Do you like a nice lean steak?”
“Well, yes.”
His heart started pounding. Fred could tell he was beginning to aggravate her. “How many times have you bitten into a nice looking steak and found it to be tough and stringy.”
“I guess a lot.”
“But it didn’t keep you from eating steak, did it?”
“No.”
Fred took a slice of the fruitcake on a paper plate and held it up. “I know this doesn’t look as delicious as a steak. But it doesn’t taste as bad as other fruitcakes you’ve seen. It’s my fruitcake. It isn’t like anyone else’s. It tastes good. It tastes good every time because I care enough to make it taste good every time.”
Pinching a bite off the slice, Fred carefully held it up to Diane’s perfectly formed red lips and held his breath.
She looked at him and then at the fruitcake, sighed and bit a portion from the slice in his hand. Diane looked up and her eyes widened. She ate the rest of the cake from his fingers, and smiled. Then the smile changed.
In those eyes, Fred could see the respect and friendliness, but now there was something else. Diane leaned forward, gently placing her hands behind Fred’s head and kissed him.
Wow, Fred thought, Grandma’s fruitcake does taste good.

9 ½ MINUTE CAN’T FAIL HOLIDAY FRUITCAKE

2 ½ cups of sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 jar (28 oz Borden’s Mince Meat)
1 15 oz Borden’s Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
2 cups (1 lb. jar) mixed candied fruit
Butter 9-inch tube pan. Line with waxed paper. Butter again. Sift flour and baking soda. Combine eggs, mince meat, condensed milk, walnuts and fruits. Fold into dry ingredients. Pour into pan. Bake in slow 300 degree oven for two hours, until center springs back and top is golden. Cool. Turn out; remove paper. Decorate with walnuts and cherries if you desire.