Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .

Friday, December 29, 2017

Rabbit Duck Turtle

I used to sew most of my children’s clothes.
Especially their blue jeans.
Let’s face it. When one’s son wears a 28 waist and a 38 inseam, you learn how.
Out of desperation.
Now any of you blue jean aficionados know that the back pockets are the face of the garment.
Pun intended.
It is on the back pockets that one can really show one’s artistic merit.
Okay, yes, my merit lacked oomph. But I tried.
I sewed designs.
And it is this last that brings me—finally—to the point of my story . . .
Our second son, Erik, was the boy who needed the ‘stretched out’ jeans. His initials were, understandably, E.T.
You probably remember the cute, classic movie of yesteryear called, simply, “ET”. And you probably also know of grade school children’s proclivity for teasing.
Somehow, I simply couldn’t expose my son (pun also intended) to that by putting ET on the back his jeans. So I went with option number 2. His full initials. ‘EBT’.
It worked. Comfortable jeans he liked.
And no teasing.
An important point.
Now the next brother, Robin, upon glimpsing the . . . ummm . . . work of art that was Erik’s jeans, loudly requested the same.
Thus the initials, ‘RDT’ appeared on his much smaller pair.
Unfortunately, the teasing I had avoided with my patented technique on the first pair of jeans found its way to this second pair. Via the boy’s father.
Dad: “What’s that on your pockets? RDT? What does that stand for?”
Son: “Robin Duff Tolley!”
Dad: “What?”
Son (a little louder): “Robin Duff Tolley!”
Dad: “No. I think it stands for Rabbit Duck Turtle.”
Son: “Robin Duff Tolley!”
Dad: “Rabbit Duck Turtle!”
Repeat ad nauseam.
Moving ahead 30 years . . .
I was making my now-thirty-seven-year-old son’s Christmas stocking. He’d had another. A classic. But somewhere between moving to the coast and LIFE, it had been lost and I needed to fill the hole it left in my Christmas display.
Me: “What should I put on your stocking, Son?”
Him: “How about Rabbit Duck Turtle?”
Sometimes it just takes a while . . .

Thursday, December 28, 2017


Just add child...
I just woke up from a fair night’s sleep. For me ‘fair’ is as good as it gets.
And I know because, once, I had a fantastic sleep. The best sleep of my life. It happened when I was eight.
Let me tell you about it . . .
Dad had taken my brothers . . . somewhere.
Exactly where they went is blurry.
The important point is that they were away. And that their wonderful bunkbed in the bedroom next to mine stood empty.
I should mention here that I had long coveted their beds. They were made of beautiful, solid maple and were soooo comfortable.
But I digress . . .
My older sister, Chris, and I saw an opportunity for some fun and adventure.
We’d stay the night in our brothers’ beds!
Okay, I admit it. We didn’t have a very exciting life.
Moving on . . .
Chris took the upper bunk and I snuggled into the lower.
We talked and laughed.
Mom made a couple of visits to the doorway to threaten to separate us and finally to *shudder* make us go back to our own beds.
It was this second warning that made me finally give up and close my eyes.
My shoulder started to ache so I decided I should turn over and get more comfortable.
I opened my eyes.
Sunlight was streaming into the room.
At first, I didn’t recognize it for what it was. I had never seen the world go from black to light quite so dramatically.
I thought someone had turned on the lamp.
I turned to look at the window.
Nope. I was right. It was sunlight.
Somehow, morning had instantly followed bedtime.
It took some time for me to realize that I had just had a night of deep, dreamless sleep.
I know it happens to other people, but it had never happened before.
Or since.
To me.
But I have that one night.
And, believe me, in the sleepless hours between midnight and four A.M., I often think of it.
Where’s a stolen bunkbed when you need it?

Monday, December 25, 2017

The Year That Santa Retired

“I’m too old for this,” sighed Santa, as he finished work that day,
“I have a pain here in my back that will not go away.
My eyes are tired, my feet are sore, my head is pounding so,
I fear its thumping may be heard way down in…Mexico!”

He sank into his easy chair, he closed his eyes and sighed,
He placed his feet upon a stool and very nearly cried.
“The miles and miles of snow up here are quite a sight to see,
But now I think that Florida should be the place for me.”

His wife brought in hot chocolate as he finished this remark.
“You silly man.” She chuckled. “You’ll be eaten by a shark!”
She looked into his troubled eyes and smoothed his soft, white hair.
“Now what’s the real problem, Dear? You know how much I care!”

He lifted up his chocolate cup and slowly took a sip,
Then in a thoughtful way, he pulled upon his lower lip.
He looked into her loving eyes, then down into the fire.
“The elves brought in a foreman elf they wanted me to hire.”

“With someone else to run the show, they won’t need me at all,
They said they could replace me with a schedule on the wall.
And someone kind of young would want to tackle greater things.
I feel the changes in the air this foreman’s presence brings.”

“He says he has a dozen plans to make our business grow,
He’s going to pay the elves much more and keep their hours low.
He says they’ll work much faster if they get more rest each day,
And all will go much better if I simply go away.”

“On his schedule all is listed from the dawn to setting sun,
And if he’s right, by June the first, the toys will all be done.
The elves will then have time for play and do what they like best,
Or simply lie down in the sun and take a good long rest.”

He turned to look at her and wiped a tear from off his cheek.
“I’d time to think, they said, and gave me nearly half a week.
I said I’d answer right away, they didn’t need to wait,
I told them you and I would leave tomorrow night at eight.”

So Santa packed his things and sadly climbed into his sleigh,

And he and Mrs. Santa very slowly flew away.
In Florida, they found themselves a house down by the sea,
And soon they had a garden full of carrots, corn and peas.

They swam and fished and talked and laughed and lay out in the sun,
And no knew that Santa wasn’t really having fun,
For though they had so much to do—were always on the go,
He never could forget the snow. And work that he loved so.

One day while they were on the beach just lying in the sun,
They noticed someone coming toward their beach house on the run.
“It’s Ralph,” Said Mrs. Santa as they scrambled to their feet.
Ralph Elf was the last person that they thought they’d ever meet!

“You must come back!” Ralph panted as he sank into a chair,
“The schedule simply doesn’t work. We need someone who cares!
Eight months, we’ve worked for Foreman and, by rights, we should be done,
But to tell the truth, my friend, the work has barely been begun!”

“Come with me now, I beg you, for there is so much to do,
We tried hard to do without you for we thought that you were through.
We thought you were too old to really help us anymore,
But now we know it’s love, not age, that really writes the score!”

“We need you so the children won’t be sad on Christmas day,
And the elves all say they’ll work for you without a speck of pay.
Come with me, please. We need you. Could you try forgiveness now?
If you can’t forgive, just help us help the children anyhow.”

Santa’s eyes were dimmed with tears as he looked at Mrs. Claus,
He smiled at Ralph. “We’ll get our things.” Then suddenly, he paused.
 “My friend,” he said as he looked at Ralph, “Do the elves all want me too?
“Or do they just want someone who will work as hard as you?”

Ralph smiled and said, “Dear Santa, we have found it’s you we love,
We couldn’t work for someone else for all the stars above!”
We are a team, or better yet, a father, girls and boys,
Most families have a hobby. And ours is making toys.”

“We work so well together and together, we should be,
We’ll make the toys for everyone for all eternity.
Come with me now. We need you so. We each would like to say
If you’re with us, we’ll have more fun with each and every day!”

So Santa went with Ralph that day and started with a will,
By Christmas Eve the work was done and every packaged filled.
They worked so hard throughout those weeks, that on that happy day,
The children never knew how Santa had been sent away.

So now on Christmas morning when you see that he’s been there,
Remember that it’s love that brings your presents through the air.
And if we work together, loving as a family,
Love can accomplish anything that’s good. Take it from me!

Yes. Santa does recycle...
Merry Christmas, my friends!
And I hope that 2018 is the Best. Year. Ever!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Other Side

By Christmas Eve request, My Women's Night Before Christmas. 
With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore . . .

On the night before Christmas, long hours ahead
The toddler awake, I’d just got her to bed.
The stockings were hung in a haphazard row,
While Mama assembled new toys just below.

The kids were asleep. Well, except for the last,
Just waiting for morning to get downstairs fast.
I toiled on alone, ‘cause there wasn’t a dad.
I had broken a nail and my language was bad.

Then out on the lawn rose a terrible noise,
A talent that only my oldest employs.
I flew to the window, and thought as I ran,
‘What's he doing out there, my nine-year-old man?!’

It was bright (as can only the moon on snow be),
And I narrowed my eyes to be able to see.
And what did I glimpse, coming over the way?
But some deer, all in harness, and a stout little sleigh.

With someone in a coat that looked comfy and soft,
And clearly some magic to keep them aloft.
They flew like a Michael Schumacher on course,
While the driver attempted some will to enforce.

"Now Baby! Now, Jazzi! Now, Frolic and Jolly!
On, Cherub! On, Angel! On, Kitten and Folly!
I need you to get to the rooftop this time!
And a fine, gentle landing would be so sublime!"

To say that they flew like some leaves past the attic,
Would be perfectly true, it was quite that erratic.
I was holding my breath as they shot toward the sky,
And prayed that my windows and roof would survive.

Then finally (thankfully) up on the roof,
The unmistakable sound of twenty-four hoofs.
Then some noise in the chimney I’d not heard before,
And someone emerged, on their knees, on the floor.

The figure was dressed in a warm, sooty coat,
With some Uggs on their feet and scarf round their throat.
With toys, books and clothes in a gi-normous sack,
Which they dropped to the floor with the words, “Oh, my back!”.

And then sparkling eyes were directed at me!
From under a hat that was worn with esprit.
I surprisingly saw, not a man, but a miss,
With no  beard (though a tweezer would not go amiss).

In white teeth, she had clutched a short pencil end,
And a notebook, she held in one mittened hand.
Her round, wrinkled face shone with laughter and fun,
And I don’t think her happy laugh could be outdone!

She was joyful and glad, and just a bit plump,
Her smile made me smile, and her laugh made me jump!
She gave me a grin and then winked an eye,
All my fears passed away and I waved them goodbye.

She didn’t say much, simply nodded my way,
And I watched as she worked – like a pudgy ballet.
She finished her job, made a note in her book,
Then nodded and smiled and her exit she took!

I heard her footsteps as she ran to her sleigh,
Heard her call to her team as they all flew away.
Then this sweet woman shouted, as she flew o’er the town,
"Happy Christmas to all, don’t let life get you down!"

Merry Christmas, my friends! And a very Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Daddy's Footsteps

Today and Tomorrow, I'm reprising some of my most popular posts.
Some you may remember.
All are true! :)
My Hero
December. My four-year-old mind was a haze,
I’d been locked in the house as it snowed for three days.
Then quite suddenly, magically, sunlight appeared,
And my Daddy was pulling on snow boots. And gear.

I just couldn’t stand the house one minute more.
I had to get out. I’d help Dad with the chores!
So I zippered and buttoned and pulled on and tied,
Then stood by my Daddy with little-girl pride.

“I’m ready,” I shouted. “Let’s go milk the cows!”
I was set for adventure, quite done with the house.
He smiled and then, turning, stepped into the snow.
And I walked alongside. It seemed quite apropos.

At first the bright sparkles and crisp winter air
Made our walking, adventure, and senses aware.
But then I discovered as most children do,
That snow, though quite pretty, was hard to get through.

I struggled and grunted, broke into a sweat,
Then looked for the barn that we hadn’t reached yet.
My Daddy smiled down at my efforts inept,
“It’d be easier if you tried to step where I step.”

So I did. And my progress was much better then,
Soon we two reached the barn, and the cozy cow pens.
I sat perched on a stool and watched Daddy do chores,
Then followed him home, just like I’d done before.

I learned something that day, as we walked through the yard,
If I stayed in his footsteps, then things weren’t as hard.
His skill and experience, and his guidance, too,
Would make everything easier my whole life through.

Now, to my own kids, when there’s woe to be had
I give bits of advice that I learned from my Dad.
When Life dishes out dollops of good or of ill,
I find that I’m walking in Dad’s footsteps still.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Meat Mystery

Mmmmmm . . .

Every family has traditions at Christmas.
Some are fun.
Some funny.
Some weird.
Our family has several that fit into this last category.
One is Christmas stockings.
Okay, yes, I know that many, many families enjoy the custom of stuffing a stocking for each family member.
It's what goes into said stockings that sets our family apart.
Maybe I should explain . . .
On Christmas, after the kids have been shuttled off to bed, Mom and Dad (Spoiler Alert: Alias Santa) bring out the loot.
Erm . . . gifts.
Each stocking is laid out and stuffed full.
I look after the common, everyday, run-of-the-mill gifts:
2. Socks.
3. Underwear.
4. The orange in the toe.
My Husby looks after the strange and bizarre:
1. Various styles of catapults.
2. Magnets.
3. Quirky -- ie. strange – books, puzzles and games.
4. Expanding T-shirts. Just add water.
5. And little tins of meat.
I know what you're thinking.
Why on earth would someone give his kids catapults?
You weren't?
My mistake.
Sooo . . . tinned meats.
Every year, each of our children finds a tin of . . . something . . . stuffed into the inner reaches of his or her stocking.
And I'm not talking tuna fish here.
These are tins of something fancifully called: Vienna sausage.
In various flavours.
All neatly and brightly and attractively packaged.
And yes, I realize that there may be people around the world who love Vienna sausage.
My kids were raised on the prairie.
And served beef three meals a day.
With the occasional foray into the world of chicken or pork.
If the animal didn't originally bellow, oink or cluck, they regarded it with deep suspicion.
Or outright revulsion.
Okay, the ingredients listed on the Vienna sausage tins said: beef and/or chicken and/or pork and/or meat.
But it was mechanically de-boned and mixed with . . . other stuff.
So in the words of my kids, mystery meat.
Need I say that my Husby's gifts weren't received with gladness?
Probably not.
Oh, they tried it.
The very first year.
It . . . wasn't popular.
No tin was every willingly opened again.
And when the detritus had been cleared from the front room after the all-important opening of the gifts, the only things remaining were several tins of meat.
Left where they had been dropped upon being discovered.
Husby immediately scooped them up and stowed them carefully away.
Only to bring them out and drop them into another stocking the next year.
One particular tin of sausage re-appeared six years in a row. The last a few years ago. In Argentina (where our youngest son was living at the time).
His roommate ate it.
Something we didn't think was possible.
One of our kids asked their father why he kept putting those little tins of -to them- inedible meat in the stockings.
His answer surprised all of us. “Because I want you to appreciate that we live in a place where we have plenty. That tiny tins of mystery meat can be laughed over and disregarded. We are very blessed.”
We truly are.

Over the next few days, I'm reprising my Favourite stories of Christmas. Some you may remember. All are true! :)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Holding the Reindeer

He came!!!
The Stringam ranch was far out in the country.
Far out.
But Santa still managed to find it.
In fact, it was probably one of his first stops because he showed up even before the kids had gone to bed.
All of this happened several years BD (Before Diane), but fortunately my Dad still remembers it . . .
Christmas Eve. The sun had long since set and a sparkling winter evening had closed over the old two-storey farmhouse.
Two big-eyed children, ages four and two were listening to stories about the magical Santa and his gift-bearing sleigh and reindeer.
Suddenly, mid-story, their father stood up, apparently hearing noises outside.
“Oh! I think he’s here!” He grinned at the kids, then put on his coat and headed outside, into the blackness.
Both children crowded close to the kitchen door, trying hard to peer into the night and catch a glimpse of this mysterious ‘Santa’.
They didn’t have long to wait.
Or far to peer.
Because the door swung open and Santa stepped right into their kitchen.
Following some general ‘ho-ho-hos’ and some pats on the head, he carried his sack of toys into the front room and proceeded to arrange brightly-coloured packages under the Christmas tree.
The two wide-eyed children drifted dazedly in his wake, observing everything closely.
Finally, the little girl could stand it no longer. “Santa? Did you see Daddy out there?” She glanced toward the kitchen door.
Some general affirmative grunting from the man in red.
“Oh.” A long pause. Then, “Is he holding your reindeer?”
Myth comes up smack against the practical four-year-old brain.
Myth wins.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017


The truth behind the beard...
Husby and I come from a long line of designated drivers.
Generations of teetotalers.
It works for us . . .
Husby also spends the month leading up to Christmas dressed in red and sounding jolly.
These two facts go together.
Perhaps I should explain . . .
Santa lives at the North Pole.
Where it’s cold.
His wearing of red velvet and fur is out of necessity.
Here in Edmonton, Alberta, though it gets bone-snappingly cold outside, Santa’s helpers – like my husby - inevitably end up sitting in a warm room. Surrounded by hundreds of overheated people. And in very close contact with those people’s kiddies.
Let’s put it this way: The red suit absorbs more than ambiance.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Simply throw it into the nearest washing machine!
And that would be a great idea.
Except for the fur.
Fur and/or water and/or detergent don’t do well together. Just FYI.
And sometimes there is a long drought between dry-cleanings.
Now the need for some sort of odor-eater is most apparent just after Santa finishes a ‘gig’, when Santa and Mrs. are stuck in a warm car together for the entire ride home.
Sometimes it is a long ride.
On one such ride, our daughter (also closely closeted with us) mentioned a solution that the theatre costume authorities here in Edmonton use. They call it ‘French Dry-Cleaning’.
1 part Vodka and 1 part Water. Mix the two and spray all nasty odours away. "And it works!" she said, holding her nose. "It de-scents the unwashable!"
There was only one problem.
Our household did not have any vodka. (See above.)
Being people of the moment, we stopped in to the nearest liquor store and Santa girded up his suspenders and headed inside.
A quick question to the proprietor and he was walking down an aisle and procuring the cheapest bottle of vodka in the store.
Happily, he joined the queue at the checkout.
Let me describe: Man in an overcoat, paying for two bottles of whiskey.
Another, younger man, buying a couple of cases of beer.
A woman purchasing wine.
And Santa, clutching his bottle of vodka.
He looked up.
And realized that all eyes were on him.
Smiling, rather self-consciously, he said, “I know how this looks . . .”
The man at the front of the queue promptly responded, “No. Looks pretty natural to me!”
And another, "Hey, Mister, I've got no problem with it!"
Ha! Ever wondered how Santa makes it through the holidays?
You heard it here.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Santa's Fourth Report Card

Santa and I are in the midst of 'Santa and Mrs.' season.
So I've decided to re-share Santa's reports from past years. Just because these experiences are soooo precious! 

Last year...

Santa's Report Card: 2016

Guest Post by Santa Claus (aka: Kris Kringle)
Kris and Rebecca Kringle
Photo by: Kimberley Laaksa Photography.
As has become our tradition, Mrs. Santa and I would like to share with you the joys and delights we receive from visiting the world when it is at its cheeriest and most positive. There truly is a wonderful Spirit which accompanies the Christmas season.
My Beloved and I have been recreating Santa and Mrs. Rebecca Claus (there – you heard her first name here first!) for some years now, and each year it is a special treat. We sincerely hope it also is for the people with whom we have the pleasure of visiting.
This year, for about the last five or six weeks, we have visited some 25 organized events and several spontaneous ones (disorganized events?), and they have each and every one been special to us.  We have sat over 1000 little ones on our collective knees this year, over 200 not-so-little ones, and we have had the great pleasure of visiting with some 450 seniors, some of whom were not able to sit on our knees, so we bent ours to them.  As it should be.  And our knees are still working!  That in itself is a great Christmas blessing!
We were privileged to visit a Seniors Lodge to which we have been invited for several years.  My failing memory notwithstanding (as my Beloved would say, ‘ooh, good word!) many faces are familiar – though I still struggle to put a name to most faces. I enjoy the smiles elicited when I flatter the ladies with the thought that they have seen what, now? 29 or 30 Christmases?? And the men always seem to enjoy my un-pretended envy of their beautiful white hair (mine still takes a little dye and paint to remove the last of the colour).  After visiting with these dear folks for a moment or two, we ask them not what they would like for Christmas but rather “what is your Christmas wish – for you, for your loved ones, or for the world?”
Many—having endured the ravages of war themselves—many wish for the proverbial Peace on Earth; the Christmas-time phrase that many of us toss off without really thinking about its meaning. These folks are sincere.  In their age and disability and declining health caused by a lifetime of caring and struggle, they truly are burdened with the weight of war and strife in the world. 
We assure them we will do what we can to end the strife. We assure them that the secret to doing so is in working with the children of our little corner of the world. Chidlren who will need to know joy in their life, that they may be armed to stand up to the evils they will inevitably encounter.
Amongst the senior crowd this year was a dear little old woman, 93 years old, assisted by a wheelchair due to an aged, bent body that could no longer keep up with her sharp mind.  I knelt down to greet her, took her hand in mine and asked, “What would you wish for this Christmas, Estelle? (We love the beautiful ‘old-fashioned’ names that we encounter!). Estelle looked up at me as best she could, caught my eye and said: “A kiss from Santa Claus”.
I know that I hesitated, noticeably, with this request, as the possible implications of fulfilling her request ran through my mind. I must add here that I am most grateful to have Mrs. Santa at my side, who does a magnificent job of monitoring ‘players’ of all ages, even the 93-year-old ones. (A tangent to follow, if you will indulge me for a moment: I have, over the years, received some, shall we say, ‘interesting requests’ to intervene in the love-lives of teens and twenty-somethings. The most interesting and strident one this year was a request from Jackie, who asked me to stop off at Dave’s house in San Diego to let him know that Jackie was expecting him to bring back a ring – ‘a big one’ -- this Christmas.  “Have you taken this up with Dave yet, or will this be a surprise when I tell him?” “Oh, Santa,” said Jackie, “He knows who he is! And he knows alllllllabout the rock I want!” I assured Jackie that I would deliver a reminder to Dave. ‘Nuff said. Merry Christmas to Jackie and best wishes to Dave!)
Estelle was still waiting for her kiss from Santa, and while my mind was still on pause with the request I asked her “Why would you want a kiss from this whiskered old face?” Estelle paused a moment also, and with a tear forming in the corner of her eye she breathed quietly, “I have not had a kiss from anyone for over 25 years . . . . “.   Estelle’s grip on my gloved hand tightened, but this was not the cause of a tear welling in my own eye.  As I returned the firmness of the hand grip, Santa and Mrs. Santa both granted a Christmas wish that, in the grand scheme of things, was easily granted and that cost nothing but a bit of the ‘milk of human kindness’, as Dickens so succinctly summarized it in the words of Jacob Marley. While delighted to grant so simple and meaningful a request, we were saddened by the tale of neglect that had sparked Estelle’s Christmas wish.
I will end this 2016 Report Card with the story of Isabella, a gangly and quiet-spoken 10-year-old who had been on Santa’s knee, in turn with some 30 other children at a lively community-league Christmas event. Once all of the children had had their turn and had gone off to unwrap their gifts, two young ladies hovered nearby. One was a delightful 5-year-old who, with the full approval of her mother, had suspended a dozen or so candy canes in the neck of her crimson Christmas dress, delivering them to various and sundry at will.  Mrs. Santa and I were the grateful recipients of, I think, more than half of her deliveries.  Isabella hovered nearby until the candy deliveries were mostly completed, and until I noticed her there, again.  I waved my hand for her to ‘come over’, which she did, slowly.  “Would you like to sit on my knee again, Isabella?” (I actually remembered her name this time!).  She nodded, and I hoisted her up onto my lap, feeling that maybe she had forgotten to tell me something during her first visit. I tried to strike up a conversation with her.
“What grade are you in at school, Isabella?”
“Do you like school?”
“What’s your favourite subject?”
A shrug of the shoulders.
“Do you like sports?”
“Do you like to draw, make art?”
With each question, Isabella had snuggled closer and more closely into Santa’s warm furry suit.  After several more attempts at eliciting some information, I finally figured out that Isabella was sending me the only message that she needed to hear back from me.
“Would you like Santa to be quiet now?”
She snuggled right in close and leaned her head on my shoulder. “Yeah.”
I wrapped my arms around her and granted two wishes, one of which was unspoken. I realized that Santa’s blathering on, trying to learn something about this lovely little lady, was masking the unspoken request she was making, which was simply to be loved.
Isabella spent some twenty minutes on my lap that night, encircled by my arms.  A priceless moment in time we shall never forget and shall always cherish.
My Christmas wish for 2017?  That each and every one of you will experience the milk of human kindness in the coming weeks and months and years.  God bless, and Merry Christmas to all!
With our love to you at Christmas 2016,
Santa and Rebecca Claus

Monday, December 18, 2017

My Shopping Pocket

Not exactly. But close...
‘Twas Christmas. My Mom had us all in the car.
It was time for the shopping. We had to go far,
To Lethbridge ‘most seventy miles away.
We talked and we laughed—just enjoying the day.

My brothers and sister had done this before,
Gone shopping for Christmas with Mom at the stores.
But for four-year-old me, this time was the first,
I was way beyond eager, nigh ready to burst.

But when she had parked and I looked from the car,
From the ranch to the city was more than just far,
I had somehow moved on to a whole other sphere,
And I stared at the thousands of folks that were here.

I was used to my world, I’ll admit it. It’s true.
I was here, I must shop. What else could I do?
All my siblings had spread—in the crowd, disappeared,
I slowly climbed out, tried to swallow my fear.

Mother picked up my brother and gave me a grin,
As I stood there so anxious on trembling limbs.
“Let’s go shop for Christmas, Diane,” to me, said.
And I nodded and shivered and wished I was dead.

But then she said something that filled me with hope,
As she showed me the pocket attached to her coat,
“Now you hold on tight and we’ll wander along,
And no one can hurt you and nothing go wrong.”

So I did and I found that my mother was right,
Holding tight to her pocket, I let go of my fright.
I discovered that shopping for Christmas was fun!
If I held Mother’s pocket till the shopping was done.

Years have passed, I forgot ‘pocket shopping’ with Mom,
Till one day, with my kids, we had errands to run,
And with my arms full with the baby and all,
We started our tour of the stores in the mall.

A tug on my coat and I looked down to see,
A toddler’s hand clutch my pocket. And me.
I knew how she felt—the security. Calm.
I’d felt it myself with a pocket. And Mom. 

Mondays do get knocked a lot,
With poetry, we three besought,
To try to make the week begin,
With gentle thoughts--perhaps a grin?
So Jenny and Delores, we,
Now post our poems for you to see.

And when you’ve read what we have brought,
Did we help? Or did we not . . .

And next week, from my friends, and me, 
Our 'Christmas Wish' for all to see!

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Santa's Third Report Card

Santa and I are in the midst of 'Santa and Mrs.' season.
So I've decided to re-share Santa's reports from past years. Just because these experiences are soooo precious! 

Santa's Report Card 2015

A guest post by Kris Kringle

I told you last year that I thought Kris Kringle had a great thing going, and that I fully intended on encroaching on his territory.  And I have to admit that I do it willfully and intentionally, and, to some degree, selfishly.  I find that I get soooo much out of being Santa Claus, I often feel like I am taking more out than I am putting into the real purpose of Christmas.  Notwithstanding my own misgivings, I still maintain it is the best job going.
My Beloved and I have been recreating Santa and Mrs. Rebecca Claus (there – you heard her first name here first!) for some years now, and each year it is a special treat. We sincerely hope it also is for the people with whom we have the pleasure of visiting.
This year, for about the last five or six weeks, we have visited some 25 organized events and several spontaneous ones (disorganized events?), and they have each and every one been special to us.  We have sat over 1000 little ones on our collective knee this year, over 200 not-so-little ones, and we have had the great pleasure of visiting with some 450 seniors (who were not able to sit on our knees, so we bent ours to them.  As it should be.  And our knees are still working!  That in itself is a great Christmas blessing!).
During Christmas-time 2015, my beloved Rebecca and I have been fĂȘted by young Irish Dancers, world-class Figure Skaters, Madrigal Singers, Farmers’ Marketers, school children galore, hockey players, patients in the Sick Kids’ hospital, and many dental patients–all of whom knew the song “All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth” (and most of whom asked me ‘Please, PLEASE don’t sing it to me, Santa, you sound like my Dad!’.)
Amongst the middle-aged crowd were a myriad of parents who, without exception, wished only the best for their children and families.  It was good for Santa to see and hear that.
One very special young man, in his mid-20s, had never before encountered our western incarnation of the Santa Claus legend.  He was a large fellow, who asked if he could hug me; of course I replied it was expected!  He put his burly arms around me and literally lifted me off the floor – not an easy task in itself when you think of Santa’s size–all the while giving me the best bear-hug I have ever had!  After I regained my ability to breathe and speak, I asked a bit about himself.  Turns out he had only been in Canada two weeks, a Syrian refugee who after many months had found a new home with some wonderful caring people.  When I asked him what he would like for Christmas, he wished for peace and a new home for all of his family and friends still enmeshed in the war and strife in his homeland.  He wished me a Merry Christmas before I could even mutter the words to him.
On the campus of the local University, we had been invited to the home of a professor and his family who were hosting a Christmas party for his family and about 20 or so international graduate students studying with the professor–students from Iran, Turkey, India, Syria, Japan, Israel, China, and a couple of other far-flung lands.  To my knowledge none were Christian, but each insisted on visiting with Santa and Rebecca to learn more about what must have been strange western Christmas customs.  We spent more time that we probably should have with these bright young people. Each of them sported a huge smile and returned wishes of peace and success and prosperity–for us, for their hosts in a new country, and for their families and friends back home.  Not one of them hesitated wishing me a Merry Christmas, and I received with great gladness many wishes for a happy Hannukah, a good Ramadan, and several other upcoming holy-day festivals that I am still studying up on.  I will celebrate each of them with glee and gladness for new-found friends.
The most moving experience for Santa this year was a delightful young 9-year-old Irish dancer–Natalie.  She came to my knee with a little less than her usual smile or her usual brightness for the season.  When I got around to asking what she would like for Christmas, I certainly wasn’t expecting to hear: “I would like the bombing to stop.”  This was just a couple of days after the terrible events in Paris, and I could tell little Natalie was carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders that night.  “Yes, Natalie, I would like the bombing to stop too. [Long pause].  I will see what I can do about that, okay? In the meantime, is there something that you would like for Christmas, something just for you?”
Natalie was not to be deterred.  “No, Santa, I just want the bombing to stop.  Is there something I can do to make it stop?”
Another long pause.  But then the words came into Santa’s mind.
“Yes, Natalie, there is something you can do to make the bombing stop.  In fact, there are two things you can do.  First, you can keep smiling!  You have such a beautiful smile!  Share your smile with everyone in the world, because that tells everyone that you lovethem—and the bombing will stop.  And second, dear Natalie, just keep on dancing!  I promise you that if you keep on dancing, and show the world that you love everyone like I know you do, the bombing will stop, one day.”
I had a great Christmas in 2015, my friends, thanks mostly to the Natalies of the world.  I hope and wish that yours has been a wonderful one too.
Peace on Earth, Good Will to Women, Men and Children, Always!
With much love,
Santa and Rebecca Claus
From all of us to all of you:
a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Santa's Second Report Card

Santa and I are in the midst of 'Santa and Mrs.' season.
So I've decided to re-share Santa's reports from past years. Just because these experiences are soooo precious! 

Santa's Report Card 2014

Santa’s life is not an easy one.  Oh, there is plenty of the joy and happiness and ho-ho-ho laughter, all those things that Santa stands for in the world.  But in today’s enlightened, social-media-friendly world where information can be passed seemingly faster than the speed of light, Santa faces several conundrums that are not easily dealt with.
Case in point: Santa’s 3-year old granddaughter, Linnea, whom we most affectionately call Linnie, she of the firm mind and undaunted spirit.  Linnie, along with her 12 cousins of the Santa and Mrs. Santa lineage, had observed in our Claus career last year that Grandma and Grandpa would occasionally put on the red velvet suits and go out and about as the happy couple.  The questions were inevitable, so Grandma Claus and I decided to be proactive and tell them all the truth before the questions started – that Grandma and Grandpa were only some of Santa’s ‘helpers’, because the real Santa needed lots of helpers to visit all the little boys and girls in the world.  The plan worked well – last year.
So this year, little Linnie was present when Santa emerged from his ‘dressing room’ – and Linnie’s face lit up like the star on top of the Christmas tree.
“Grandpa, you’re Santa Claus, aren’t you.”  No question – more of a declaration.
I started in with my pre-arranged explanation.  “Well, Linnie, Grandpa is not Santa, I’m only one of his . . . “
Linnie interrupted, fists on hips and with a stern look on her face which said that she wasn’t putting up with any more of Grandpa’s stories.  “NO, Grandpa!”  She said, with a look that would put any man to cringing in his fur-topped boots.  “You ARE Santa!” 
And she stormed away, having put both Grandpa and Santa Claus in their rightful place.
I guess I’ll just have to live with it.
Santa survived that encounter with a sure-minded 3-year old to enjoy something in the neighbourhood of about seven hundred children on his knee this Christmas season.  I am pleased to report that my knees survived, along with the rest of me.  (It was only due to the TLC that Mrs. Santa brings along on every visit). 
I have spent my life studying people, and the Santa believers are the most interesting people I have ever encountered.  About 75% of the under 2 crowd will NOT go anywhere near Santa, suffering from what social scientists call ‘coulrophobia’: fear of clowns.  I understand this affliction perfectly.  Whenever I look in the mirror, I wonder that anyone would want to come near.  We always reassure the parents of the coulrophobic little ones that “s/he’ll feel better about Santa next year.”
At the other end of the spectrum are the late pre-teen crowd, who have discovered the truth about Santa and who are reluctant to sit on my knee and participate in what they feel is an elaborate deception, somehow meant to make them seem silly.  Many of them will still come, reluctantly, and I try to reassure them that they are not silly, rather that they are only helping to bring some happiness into a world that desperately needs more of it.

The middle grouping, from about age 3-10, are the smiling, happy crowd for whom Santa exists fully and benevolently.  And this is my report card for 2014:  the world of my future will be in good hands, because today there are THOUSANDS of young ones who have a smile that will not stop.  From 5-year old Arrabella whose smile was so infectious I still smile to myself, filled with the love of happy child, when I think of it; to 10-year old Jake, afflicted with Down’s, whose smile told me that even with his challenges in life he was as happy a young man as he could be.
This smile phenomenon tells Santa much, without a word being spoken.  It tells me that today’s parents are in fact bringing their children up in happiness, teaching them, raising them with love and a hope for a better future.  It tells me that in a world that appears on all fronts to be going to pot, that there are still plenty of smiles out there amongst what I can only conclude to be the quiet – and happy – majority.  Yes, of course there is much to be done, much sadness to banish – but there are plenty of smiles out there with which to fight the good fight.
It tells me there is hope for the future.  And that any time now, when my daughter puts me in a seniors’ rest home as she often threatens to do when I tell groaner jokes or silly stories, that there will be plenty of smiling people around to look after me, when I need it the most.
I’m glad to have had every one of those 700-odd smiles this year.  I hereby dub 2014 the Year of the Smile!
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a very merry 2015!
Keep Smiling!!

Friday, December 15, 2017

Coming Home

“Turn up the stereo, Hun! Let’s bake up a storm! Then we can go get our tree and really fill this place with good smells. Mmmmm . . . Baking and pine!”
“Okay, Sis.” Obediently, I hit the button on the remote and strains of ‘Christmas in Killarney’ in the Crosby’s magical voice drifted through the room.
Now you have to know that, normally, this song can totally get my holiday gears running. Within seconds I’ve been known to be dancing along to the tune and kicking up my heels.
So to speak.
But, let’s face it. This year was . . . different.
Oh, the season had arrived, right on time. As always.
And all through the neighbourhood, lights and assorted decorations had appeared, magically bedecking otherwise unremarkable homes and making them . . . magical.
Nope. The difference this year was me.
And my sister, Norma.
Or rather, the absence of my sister, Norma.
For any of you who have been following our story, you know that, in typical I’m-Norma-and-I-suffer-from-a-complete-lack-of-forethought fashion, my elder sister had gone to the ‘other side’. For a visit.
And by the other side, I mean the OTHER side.
Oh, I have no doubt that she is still living. She just isn’t doing it in the same room—or on the same plane—as I am. You who know Norma also know that last isn’t unusual. The ‘same plane’ thing. But now the plane she is on isn’t visible to the naked eye.
Or any other eye for that matter.
Moving on . . .
I hear from her often. A little too often in fact.
In the living room when I’m attempting to meet the needs of Reggie, her certifiably mad macaw. (In my defense, he has never really taken a like to me. The feeling’s mutual.)
In the kitchen when I’m trying, once again, to make something edible out of one of her recipes. (Again, I will cite justifiable confusion here. Her writing is illegible and her instructions . . . well, the word ‘nutty’ comes to mind.)
In the bathroom when I’m . . . powdering my nose.
On the stairway when I’m vacuuming. (Now that’s a story!)
In fact, she seems to pop up (in a manner of speaking) at the most inconvenient times.
But I’m finding that now, as Christmas approaches, I’m . . . missing her. Her physical presence. The goofy things she does—appearing in the doorway carrying who-knows-what and completely oblivious to why she’s doing so.
Finding her atop a ladder, a new addition to the ‘I’ve-quite-lost-my-mind’ contingent.
Toting suitcases.
I sat down as this last thought struck me. She was toting a suitcase the last time I saw her. I turned to look through the front room into the hallway. Right there. She had been pulling it . . . and talking . . .
I sighed and got back to my feet. Better to keep on moving. I picked up the recipe I had set out before my sister’s voice told me to turn on the stereo. ‘Swedish Meatballs’. A family favourite since there was a family.
“Norma,” I said, pointing at one of the ingredients. “Is this a pinch of pepper? Or a pound?”
“Have you never made anything?!” my sister’s exasperated voice came from somewhere near the corner of the ceiling above the stove.
I shrugged. “You know I don’t cook. I explore the freezer.” I set the recipe down and turned toward the door. “I tell you what. I’ll go over to Costco. They have it all. And I won’t have to do anything more than open and reheat!”
I sat down again and folded my arms. “Well I don’t know what else to do!” I shouted at the corner.
“I’m over here.”
I swiveled my head. Sure enough, the voice now emanated from the small patch of peeling paint in that corner of the room. “Stop doing that! I’m getting whiplash!”
Norma laughed. “You can’t get whiplash from turning your head from side to side. If that was so, tennis audiences would be in a lot of trouble.”
I rolled my eyes and reached once more for the recipe. “I’m just so . . . lost, Sis.” A tear blotched the ink on the card, effectively erasing the oven temperature and baking times. “I . . . miss you.”
A hand gripped my shoulder and I spun around.

Use Your Words is a challenge issued by Karen of Baking in a Tornado.
Each of her followers submit a series of words which are then re-distributed among the group.
One doesn’t know what words one will get or who they will be from.
It’s fun!
My words this month?
addition ~ stereo ~ bake ~ pine ~ freezer
They were submitted by:         
Thank you, my friend!
Got a minute?
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