Posted in Holidays

A Generous Spirit

Once upon a time, all I wanted for Christmas was a new car.  I believed Santa would grant my wish, I believed in the spirit of Christmas, and I believed I had been a very good girl all year long (my brother would beg to differ).

As a child I wanted all kinds of things, like a red, cowgirl outfit, baby dolls and a bicycle.  Although Santa did not always bring what I asked for (the cowgirl outfit), I always had gifts and we always had a tree.  Not true for many families these days.  There are so many folks in need, working hard to provide for their families.  We have only to open our eyes to see the vast opportunities to help others this holiday season.  St. Francis of Assisi said, “For it is in giving that we receive.”  This sentiment seems, at times, to boggle the mind, but I assure the doubtful, that once you truly give, you will receive the gift.  Like the Grinch, your heart will grow three sizes. 

 Generous people are the ones who give more than is expected of them.  And it is not strictly the giving of money or gifts, it could be the gift of time, the gift of help and the gift of a smile or a door held open.  Generosity of spirit.  Those that have it can’t contain it.  A generous spirit can’t stop itself, because to give is to live.  The spirit of generosity is a personal trait to be valued and admired, upheld and protected.  It is a gift to others and the one to whom it belongs. A cheerful giver has his reward from simply giving.  Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.(2 Corinthians 9:7)

My Boo is one of the most generous souls I know.  One example is that every year he gives a gift to the city workers that pick up trash and recycling in our neighborhood.  Last year, he thoughtfully wrote them each a thank you Christmas card and put fifty dollars in each envelope. After that, one of the workers generously rolled up our trash can every week for a month, and honked as he went by.  If Boo sees a lemonade stand, he stops for a cup and donation.  If he substitutes for someone who has had a particularly hard situation, he will leave them a gift card.  He is generous of spirit with all of us and asks nothing for himself.  

This holiday season, I hope we all take time to give.  “No one has ever become poor by giving.”(Anne Frank)  Even small things may be big to someone else.  You just never know what a smile might do.  Be generous with yours.

And I will leave you with one more quote by John Wesley,

“Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.

Merry Christmas from the Sittin’ugly Sistahs!

Posted in Family, Holidays

Big Santa by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Big Santa 1987Big Santa

In 1961 my dad created a 16-foot-tall Santa Claus.  At the time, he owned Keller Advertising and painted huge roadside billboards and local storefront windows. When I was 5, he designed, drew, and painted four wooden pieces that when connected made a smiling Santa that he would raise and attach to our 18-foot chimney. Our 1950’s ranch style home was at the end of a winding gravel road off of Highway 190 on the outskirts of town. Dad set a spot light on Big Santa so cars could see him waving as they drove by. Also, Dad made the back view of  a 7-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl waving at Santa. My red tricycle was set next to the  pigtailed girl to create a Rockwell Christmas moment.

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Santa circa 1996

Over the years, my feelings about Big Santa have changed.

In the 1960’s Big Santa added magical excitement to my kid dreams of Mr. Claus’s superpowers. Santa’s smiling presence also gave my family a touch of local fame as folks drove past our place each Christmas, and we even made the Eunice News once.

Fast forward to the 1980’s after my grandma died, and my parents bought her 100 year-old home and we moved to town. Now Big Santa needed an 18-foot pole to support him as he waved to sidewalk visitors and Second Street motorists.  Those days Santa was a novelty for me each December when I swooped into town for my mandatory college semester break.

In the beginning of the 21st century Big Santa loomed large in a different way.  After my three sons were past their “I believe in Santa” phase, they helped their Papa put up the Santa the day after Thanksgiving and take him down right after the Christmas day chaos.

Putting up Big Santa became a complicated family tradition.  In 2007 my

dad was 80, so he mostly directed his grandsons (my boys and their 2 cousins) in the raising of the Santa.  First, they hauled the four sections from the back of the garage and cleaned up Mr. Claus before laying him facedown on the front lawn.  Then several wooded 2X4’s were arranged and screwed to the Santa sections to pull him all together. Next, 4 or 5 guys lifted and walked Santa towards his standing pole and secured him with screws and wire.  Papa sat in a folding chair and barked orders to his grandsons. By 2012 he had his walker beside him, and the boys did their best to keep Papa from grunting and struggling to stand to correct their construction mistakes. Of course, mistakes were as inevitable as Papa’s complaining and cussing. Once my middle son Casey wisely suggested they buy new tools since my dad’s hammer head had a tendency to fall off its wooden handle, and the screws were more rust than metal. “This would be a lot easier if we weren’t using tools from the Stone Age!”

Papa scoffed at such nonsense: “Give me that damn hammer! I’ll do it.”

So the grandsons worked with worn-out tools and rotting wood as they maneuvered around a short-tempered, crooked-backed, bossy-coach of a grandpa. Big Santa became a dreaded sort of family tradition. “If we get up early enough tomorrow, we can get Santa up before Papa wakes up,” said Evan, my youngest, on the fortunate Black Friday of 2014.

Despite the frustration and anger that accompanied Big Santa’s arrival, family and friends still loved to pose in front of him each holiday. He made a dramatic backdrop, and passers-by often stopped to snap their own Big Santa moment.IMG_4299 (1)

At age 90 Dad moved to live with us in Texas, leaving Big Santa’s fate in cousin Chiquita’s hands since she had bought Grandma’s home. Last year she had him out on Second Street greeting the passers-by.  I’m not sure if he will be out during the pandemic, but I believe his appearance would be welcomed.

Dad passed away this June, and I can’t think of Christmas without remembering his creation and the way Santa waved hopefully to the folks of Eunice, Louisiana.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

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Big Santa, 2014

 

Posted in Holidays

Christmas Corsage by Nancy Malcolm

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We love Christmas time.  Our house is decorated inside and out.  There are so many ornaments on our Christmas tree that have special meaning.  Wherever we go, we purchase an ornament from that location.  A red lobster from Maine, bear paw from Yosemite, cable car from San Fransisco…you get the picture.  But, there is one decoration on the tree that is above the rest, a Christmas corsage.

 

For as long as I can remember, my Daddy always loved to decorate for Christmas.  When I became older he showed me a silk, red poinsettia corsage that lay on one of the Christmas tree branches.  He told me that my mother was in the hospital her last Christmas and one of the nurses had brought her the corsage and laid it on her pillow, as a token of the season.  She died that January and from that time on, my Dad would place that corsage on the tree in her memory.

 

As time passed, my brother and I divided Daddy’s ornaments between us, and  I received the corsage.  Every year as I place it on our tree, I whisper my mother’s’ name, inviting her to enjoy our tree and know that she is not forgotten.
A simple red corsage laid among the baubles and bells.  A simple act of kindness that carried a mother’s love all these years later.

Posted in Holidays

Nannie and PaPa’s Guide To A Hoppy Easter

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Nannie and PaPa’s Guide to a Hoppy Easter:

Hippity Hoppity Easter’s on its way!  Every year we host our annual family Easter extravaganza.  Our children and grandchildren convene at our house for this eggstra special time and we pack in a full weekend of fun!  Here are a few of our must haves:

DSC_0401    Eggs, eggs, and more eggs:  Plastic eggs filled with candy, money, gift cards, stickers, toys, and chocolate!

Eggs, eggs, and still more eggs:  Dyed eggs and the contest to see who has the most creative; deviled eggs, egg salad, quiche and the most popular among the little ones….Cascarones!

Bunnies:  Blow-up Bunnies in the front yard, bunny plates, napkins, and cups; bunny coffee mugs, bunny candy jars, bunny chair covers, bunny magnets, bunny garland and a small ceramic bunny village!DSC_0377

Church:  We always go to Church as a family and cherish this time together.

Baskets:  Everyone has their own special basket….a tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket!!!

Outdoor activity:  We usually enjoy some type of outdoor activity whether it be a long walk, letting the kids play in the park or taking a family bike ride.  With our crew, it’s a must to get outside!

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Food:  We have our big family meal on Saturday night.  It varies with turkey or ham, scalloped potatoes, deviled eggs, cake, veggies etc.  But, one of our must haves is Sister Schubert rolls!!!!  Sister Schubert’s dinner rolls, and then her cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and the ones with sausage.  If you’ve never tried them, you must!  Run to your nearest grocery store and check the frozen food section!  

The Hunt:  After Church, after brunch, after pictures and after a change of clothes…we have The Hunt.    The younger kids hunt just with themselves and we divide the yard, so each one gets the same amount.  But then, the “older” kids have their hunt.  No child is too young or too old to hunt!     For these kids, we fill the eggs with money.  We line them up oldest to youngest and hunt the backyard first.    After all eggs are found, we line up by the one with the fewest eggs found going first and the most found go last, then we head to the front yard.  We have our usual hiding places, but my husband and I like to shake it up by finding more creative spots each year.   Then we come inside and count!  It’s not really tooooo over the top, but it gives each child a little extra fun cash for whatever they want.

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After the festivities….everyone goes home!(that’s a must!)  While we are all together, it is fast and furious.  We hop, scamper, hide, munch and laugh!  But, after all the excitement, my husband and I prop our feet up, finish off the chocolate, enjoy the quiet and begin planning for next year!

Happy Easter Everyone!

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See Soulspeak2016.wordpress.com for “What Happens at Nannie and PaPa’s Stays at Nannie and Papa’s!!!!!”

Posted in Grandmother, Holidays

Letting Go by Ginger Keller Gannaway

 

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Geraldine Latour Keller

As Dad shuffled out of his 122-year-old home, he went back to his bedroom to take down the large wooden-framed portrait of his daughter, Kelly Ann. Kelly died on September 25, 2004, and he sobbed while he unsteadily carried the picture towards the front door. I met him there and took the picture, wrapped it in a Christmas angel blanket and stacked it atop the miscellaneous mess crammed into Dad’s Pontiac Vibe. After he painfully plopped himself in the passenger seat he remembered Momma. “I forgot Gerry,” he said as he started to struggle to get up out of the car. I stopped him with, “I got it. I got it. The big photo on the hall table, right?” He nodded sadly as I hurried back into the lonely house to retrieve the black and white photo we had blown-up to display at Momma’s memorial in 2014. These were Dad’s farewell actions before I pulled shut the heavy front door of Grandma’s house. (Even though my parents had lived there since 1972, 420 S. 2nd St. would always be “Grandma’s house.”)
In Annie Hall Woody Allen says, “A relationship is like a shark. It has to keep moving or it dies.” Does the simile work for life in general? We keep moving on or we die, either literally or figuratively. And a big part of moving on is learning to let go: of places, of things, of people. The week before Christmas my sister Gayle, our close friend Mark, and I started cleaning up and clearing our Grandma’s house. We organized items in piles: Trash; Goodwill; KEEP; Leave for the house. (My cousin Chiquita had bought the house and she let us leave all the stuff we did not want to take! Merci beaucoup, Chickie!) Gayle kept quoting the book about decluttering: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up , “Does it give you joy? No? So throw it.” Mark would sometimes argue over the value of an item. “This old kitchen clock is wonderful! It would remind your dad of his home. Take it.”
Since we had limited space in Dad’s car, I had to make tough decisions. I wanted Momma’s china and Mama Joe’s pie safe. Period. But then a portable hair dryer from the 1960’s and a stack of old 45’s would remind me of the freedom and freshness of being 12 years old. I caught myself putting a tube of lipstick from my momma’s winter coat in my own pocket and setting aside the dented aluminum bun warmer Momma used a lot. I opened stiff books and touched the handwritten dedication from a dead relative to a dead friend.img_3494
Later my brother Emile arrived and he made piles of old things for his three children and five grandchildren. Then someone thought of gift-wrapping unique or sentimental items to put under the Christmas tree: a tarnished tennis trophy, a pair of iron wolf book ends, a biography of Carl Sandburg. The gift tags read “from Grandma’s house” or “from Eunice” or “from Mr. Snowball.”
From December 17 to the last day of 2016, we were slowly saying good-bye to Grandma’s house, to Momma and Kelly’s memories, and to our own childhoods. We let go of stacks and even rooms of furniture, clothes, knick-knacks, and even some treasures. However, each of us took the items we needed to hold on tightly to ( two audio cassettes of an interview with Grandma, a Latour coffee cup Uncle P.J. gave Momma, Kelly’s copy of Walden.)
I let go of almost 60 years of objects from that home even as I squirreled away an LP here or a cast iron skillet there. I know that the things I took are just things, but they hold powerful memories of parties and suppers and stories and games and bad times and good times. Dad and I did not finally drive off in the Vibe until I ran back in for my final treasure from Grandma’s house: the extra-large Bulova kitchen clock from the 1940’s. Time to let go and move on down the road.img_3492

Posted in Food, Holidays

I Dread Christmas by Ginger Keller Gannaway

I Dread Christmas

by Ginger Keller Gannawayimg_1589

     Like the cliched tangle of several strands of colored lights, I am a mess of knotted stress and on-and-off joy. For me, the Christmas smiles and laughs of surprise get swept away by the demands and deadlines of consumerism. First of all, why do we put so much money, effort, and worry into a holiday season? We spend hours spending dollars we cannot easily spare on presents most folks do not truly need or want. We drag out dusty decorations and spend more hours making our homes “merry and bright” for a few weeks of over-hyped, commercialized holiness. Why?
Perhaps when I was a kid or when my 20-something sons were kids, I enjoyed the getting and the giving. Back then we had Santa’s magic and loads of brand new playthings. Now I mainly see just the aftermath of the Christmas explosion: cookie crumbs, dirty napkins, discarded toys, and dead pine needles. And after the overdone turkey, off-key caroling, and cranky kids, all the cleaning and organizing and putting away looms large. Why?
I know. I know. “Jesus is the reason for the season.” But how do days and days of shopping and decorating and shopping and planning and shopping and cleaning and shopping and cooking and shopping and traveling and shopping and visiting and shopping add up to celebrating the birth of a savior who praised love over possessions?
Call me Scrooge or the Grinch or just a grumpy old lady. This is my truth. Christmas comes too soon and demands too much from our bank accounts and our time sheets. I enjoy holiday time with my family . I savor our delicious holiday meal. I enjoy the thrill of opening presents (and watching others do the same). I still get misty-eyed when singing Christmas carols. But I need to turn the whole thing down several notches. Today is December 14 and I have not bought my sons a single present. May I stick with my “single gift for each person” plan. My home has not a single decoration. May we simply trim the tree on December 24 and call it Christmas.
A picture of a Finnish proverb is taped above my desk:
“Happiness is a place between too little and too much.”img_3375
May this thought rule my life and especially my Christmas this year. A shorter and simpler holiday leaves me more time for true joy and peace.

Posted in Holidays

Christmas Corsage by Nancy Malcolm

corsage

We love Christmas time.  Our house is decorated inside and out.  There are so many ornaments on our Christmas tree that have special meaning.  Wherever we go, we purchase an ornament from that location.  A red lobster from Maine, bear paw from Yosemite, cable car from San Fransisco…you get the picture.  But, there is one decoration on the tree that is above the rest, a Christmas corsage.

 

For as long as I can remember, my Daddy always loved to decorate for Christmas.  When I became older he showed me a silk, red poinsettia corsage that lay on one of the Christmas tree branches.  He told me that my mother was in the hospital her last Christmas and one of the nurses had brought her the corsage and laid it on her pillow, as a token of the season.  She died that January and from that time on, my Dad would place that corsage on the tree in her memory.

 

As time passed, my brother and I divided Daddy’s ornaments between us, and  I received the corsage.  Every year as I place it on our tree, I whisper my mother’s’ name, inviting her to enjoy our tree and know that she is not forgotten.
A simple red corsage laid among the baubles and bells.  A simple act of kindness that carried a mother’s love all these years later.

Posted in Holidays

Orange is The New Red and Green! by:Nancy Malcolm

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Halloween is the New Christmas

A few weeks before Halloween, the stores are filled with Jack-O’-Lanterns, costumes, candy and all things pumpkin spice. ( Pumpkin spice ice cream, creamers, bagels and more..)  But, like three or four days before Halloween, BOOM!  Everything goes on sale and Christmas decorations are being stocked on the shelves, advertising lay-away plans and Santa’s arrival.  When did Halloween become the new Christmas?  

And, where is Thanksgiving?  Oh sure, there’s a few Pilgrim pictures up, lots of turkeys and a cornucopia thrown in for good measure, but, basically that’s it.  The most unbelievable yet is that Sirius Radio began their Christmas Music station on November 1st.  I hadn’t even eaten the last of the Halloween candy.

Hurry up!!!  Be thankful!  But, more important….Be Good!  Be Nice! And avoid the ‘Naughty List’ at all cost.  Yikes!  I’m beginning to feel that stress creeping up…..hurry, hurry, “It’s” almost here!

Let’s make a pact to slow down.  Let’s finish that last fun-size Snicker bar.  Let’s make a gratitude list and name everyone and everything we are grateful for.  More importantly, let’s calm that outward hype to start the mad countdown to Christmas.  Let’s at least stop and smell the pumpkin spice!  Is anyone with me?

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