Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas 2009
The Holiday Store

The back stock in my domain
Just a fraction of the prepared food boxes

The site, in prep mode. Please note the lovely electric blue walls.

Cap knitters. The lady in the middle is our long-time volunteer Maxine.
Who just retired, at 84, to knit more caps.

Infants and Under-3's Table

Adult and Family Table

All set up and ready for shoppers
Anatomy of an Enchanted Forest
The table

The trees, ready to be unfurled.

The fixin's

Bare trees

More fixin's
Add one granddaughter, several 'discussions', lots of mind-changing and

The finished result!

With an added improvement by V.


The Nativity scene, waiting
White Christmas.
On Christmas Eve morning, Target and I were in the sewing room, finishing up one of her presents. She had just flown in the previous evening from Michigan.
I looked out the window and said "Oh, look- it's snowing."
"No, it's not," she said.
Um, yes- it was.
She was furious.
In spite of our worries about the Yarb's air trip to Florida, we enjoyed this unexpected Christmas treat.

Christmas Eve
In a big departure from tradition and to accomodate the Yarb's plans- we had a family dinner on Christmas Eve, then went to their house for the kids' presents. After that, we returned home to open our presents. Contrary to someone's predictions, the world continued to spin on its axis. Plus, she got some great presents, like a DVD/video player and a vacuum and a mixer from her Nanna.
Target, in spite of the snow

Morgan and her G-daddy. The children wore their pj's to dinner.

I don't know how to cut this. Ignore.

A little confused.

O and Bubs with their Santa gifts. He had come and gone when we were having dinner
as a special favor, because of the trip.

Romo in his present from Mimi- fat man in a little coat.
O: He must like it, Mimi- he's not biting at it.
Me: Darling, I don't think he can move his head.

Sarah, in her work shirt, and Bubs

Mass at the monastery
When celibates decorate...

The founding monks were escapees from Hungary. This lovely cloth was the table cover for the Nativity scene.
A lovely rest of Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.
-John Betjeman

A blessed and merry Christmas to everyone.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Dear Madam,
I realize that it is your prerogative to mutilate your body with as many tatoos as you like, but could you please refrain from lifting your shirt to show your friend the newest one on your stomach in front of a lobbyful of parents waiting for the elementary school Christmas program?
Thank you.

Dear Sir,
If a small child is standing and watching a performance, would you please not kneel in front of him, completely blocking his view?
Thank you.

Dear Virgin Wireless Phone,
While you may think your new ads are so very clever, hip and with-it ("My hot boss is going to be there. Oh, who cares if he's married?"), I think they convey that yours is the network of sluts and morons. As I am neither of the above, please consider our business association at an end.
Thank you.

Dear Young Male Cast Members of "A Christmas Story" (and you know who you are)
Seriously, guys- is it that hard to put a shirt on a hanger? Do you really want to go on stage looking like an un-made bed? Do you want - no, you know what? Never mind. Last two days- not really worth it.
Miss S.

on the other hand:

Dear Yes!, Ode, Newsweek, Mother Jones et. al.
Re: Anthropogenic Global Warming


Yes, I was laughing out loud at you at Barnes and Noble.

Not so grumpy.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In Which Americans are Great. Again.

So, Friday was my last official day working at the Holiday Site- but I went in on Sunday after Mass to snap a few pictures of the set-up before the store opened. I found Dru and Cathy there as well, who announced that they were in a panic because, according to our gifts expert, who's been in charge of that program for fifteen years or so, there were enough toys to last through, oh, Tuesday. When Fran tells you there aren't enough toys, you listen. And panic.

So, they had raised the points on all objects and converted stuffed animals, which are usually free into point items as well. Which meant that each family would still get toys, just not so many.

I decided to divert some of the kids' "in honor of" charity monies to the agency and promised to call back on Tuesday to see what was needed.
"Toys, of course," said Cathy, yesterday morning.
So, using V.'s genius suggestion that I shop at Big Lots, where they have the same Barbies and Fisher Prices as W-M, but cheaper- I got several bags of stuff and delivered it to the site.
Where everyone was much more relaxed because corporate volunteers and old friends had e-mailed all their families and friends and gotten out the word that we were hurting for toys and they had responded with the generosity that makes this such a great country.
No one's going to get a lot- but everyone is going to get something. Something good, too- not dollar store junk. Because that's how we are.
No one involed will see this- but THANK YOU!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


That's the only word for the home of the theater family who hosted the cast party on Sunday. Imagine a suburban custom home already decorated in a cozy cottage style. Then imagine it full of every Christmas decoration you can think of. Then double it.

"See" said our host, who also plays Ralph in "CS", to the set-building foreman: "this is why I was never able to stay late on Saturdays. I was getting all this stuff out of storage."

The focal point was the eight foot tall tree on a revolve, hung with hundreds of blown glass ornaments of all sizes, some of which revolved themselves. But everywhere you looked, there was a new delightful surprise. Like the row of little wooden angels on a ledge of the roll-t0p desk or the small tree trimmed with the vintage pasteboard village and little red elves that had belonged to our hostess's mother. Or the same type of nativity scene that was featured in our famous family photo. Etc., etc., etc. An extravaganza of color, frost, shine and glitter.

Now, decorating is not my sphere- the Enchanted Forest is my highest acheivement- but I can recognize the thought, time and effort that went into creating such a lavish visual treat for their family and guests.

So, thank you, H. family, for a wonderful evening that will be remembered for a long time.

Oh, and the cake apparently made of truffles? That was good, too.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

My Daughter, the Junkman
Target calls from the Berkely of the North with her Christmas list and a little work-related story:
"So, we pick up the fridge in the house- where she hasn't lived in three years- and something falls out of the bottom-"
"Please don't tell me what -"
"- and it was a CAT SKULL! And she's like 'oh, I thought one of the cats had disappeared'. So, we're pulling away and she comes out of the house with a plastic bag and asks if we can throw it away for her and it's the rest of the cat!"
"So, she just swept Kitteh up in a dustpan and gave him to you?"
"Well, it was only bones and some fluff. But yes."

There better be some adorable piece of free furniture in a pick-up this week to make up for that.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

One Thing
I really enjoy about Christmas is the seasonal opportunity to write post after glowing post about all the volunteers we get at the Holiday Store. Even among those who are there sort of under duress- Boy Scouts, youth groups, Key Clubs, student councils- you seldom get a total grump. Plenty of Klass Klowns, or the somewhat inattentive among the kiddos, and possibly a guy who has a Bright Idea he's determined to implement among the grown-ups, but the vast majority are simply good folks who want to give to their community and are grateful for the chance to do something tangible for someone else.

If I stop and really think about it, the sheer size of our operation is staggering. We have 1000 + families signed up. Experience tells us that we might have a no-show rate of 20%, but we have to prepare as if everyone will be there. In my department, that means constructing 1400-1500 pre-made food boxes (about 40% of our families will qualify for two boxes).

This entails receiving the donations, setting up a sorting station, supervising the sorting crews who sort through the foodstuffs and box up not only the categories we'll be keeping on site to make boxes, but also the items we want to send back to the agency to use there. Besides the actual sorters, we have someone taping and lableling storage boxes, someone handling the trash from the donations- bags and boxes-, someone carting the filled boxes to their proper spot along the storage wall and someone handling the food we won't be using.

Filling the food boxes is the same, but in reverse: we empty the storage boxes onto tables, fill the boxes from a specified list, fold them shut and stack them in another storage area in columns of five ('cause it's all about the decimal system). And taping new boxes and handling the trash. The din created by twenty-five LDS Scouts and their leaders is not to be believed, but they made over 100 boxes in an hour.

It looks impossible on the surface. But dozens of people come through our volunteer program and it all gets done. Like I told the group this afternoon who sorted a pile of food about 8' x8' x5',
"This is like a holiday miracle." Even if I know it can be done- because I've seen it done so often- it still amazes and gratifies me.

Everyday people forming a small, short-lived community to benefit others. Other people being as generous as they possibly can, even in difficult economic times. Seems as if everyone is convinced that everyone else is worse off than they are- and they should do something about it.
We've been asked so often if donations are down and are so happy to say that they aren't. People who've worked hard for two hours hauling around canned goods checking to see if we have any more open volunteer spots because they can come back if we need them.

And that's just the food service. Don't get me started about the toy sorters, and the set-up teams who lay out and decorate the store, and the people who bag the stocking stuffers, and put together bikes and the dry-cleaners who cleans our gently-worn coats ( the only not-new items in the store) for free and the folks who stock the tables with gifts and shop with the families and carry their purchases and their food boxes to the car.
Because that's too much generosity for one post.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Busy? Oh my goodness...

"A Christmas Story" opened Friday. All went well and almost all performances are sold out. V. was going to take O on Sunday, but they had another engagement with Granna, who was in town, so he and I went together- admiring his set, which I helped decorate, the costumes and our turkey.

I don't think I've mentioned the turkey: our director was hauling around a bag of great big styrofoam balls out of which he had to construct a prop turkey. So I volunteered Sarah, to relieve him of one job, and we all collaborated on the most luscious, golden brown fake turkey ever to grace the stage at TC.
I made the basic body out of carboard, large papiermache eggs and a cut up styrofoam ball to fill in the open spots and Sarah covered it with papiermache. V. made the drumsticks, out of medium p-m eggs and dowel rods. We taped those on and I swathed the whole thing in muslin. Once it had dried, I put on a base coat that I liked, but V. decided it was too orange. So he put on a glaze of brown and he was exactly right- it looked perfect! They loved it at the theater and we always enjoy it when they pull it out of the oven.
If I'd thought, we should have recorded the whole process in photos.

It occurs to me, that perhaps little boys do not hang up their costumes because they don't know how to hang up clothing. Don't laugh- one of our actors had never worn a shirt that buttoned before. I think there will have to be a lesson, as well as the usual CTJ about respecting the costume.

Holiday Store is underway. We open outrageously early - the 13th- because of Christmas falling on a Friday this year and depriving us of a weekend of distribution. That means that we will have to continue to fill food boxes during distribution, which means that the box-building station will have to stay up, along with enough back stock for however many boxes we need. We can estimate that fairly accurately, but it still entails taking up a lot of space we wouldn't otherwise.
A new wrinkle- we have lost our freezers, so we are giving out gift cards for poultry, instead of the actual birds.
The good news is that donations are not down, in spite of the economy.
And all the items we got as year-end tax write-off from corporations are good stuff.

More later- must go organize food sorter.