A collection of distilled sarcastic wisdom, numerous photographs, discussions of books and stuff to learn and more stuff to think about from a retired economics professor turned blogger and photographer.
To save me from my lonely Christmas Eve, Ron, Lani, and Melanie came with delicious soup, cornbread, and peppermint fudge, besides bearing Christmas presents. Here is one of the presents:
As you can plainly see, Santa is definitely a Cougar fan. A Ute even tweeted that he feared Ty Detmer coming to coach the offensive line for the Cougars. How great a Christmas present is that?
And then, for the first time in many, many years I retrieved my big black heirloom bible and read the Christmas story from the book of Luke. Dear children, do you remember how we did this every Christmas eve for many years? So many memories, so many treasures.
What promised to be a sad and lonely Christmas eve turned out to be a cherished time spent with some of my family. I remembered so many wonderful Christmases past when I read from the book of Luke before sending the anxious children off to bed. And then they all grew up and left me alone with Velna. Yet Christmas eve was always something special, something with an aura of love and warmth and spiritual richness that made the evening and the following day a time to cherish and remember all of our days. Merry Christmas to everyone, and may you find many new ways tomorrow to share your love and generosity and kindness to brighten as many lives as possible. The Curmudgeonly Professor.
When I grew up in Penrose Wyoming in humble circumstances, one of the highlights of each Christmas was writing a letter to Santa and then reading Santa's letter back to us on Christmas morning. My mother was such a clever and devious Santa, we never ever suspected that she actually was Santa, even when I was sixteen years old during my last Christmas at home. My sisters may have saved some of Santa's ingenious letters, which I will have to try and track down so you can see them.
At any rate, I have never written another letter to Santa. Until now. And now I feel a compelling need to write to Santa once more in my lifetime.
I am not going to ask you to give me anything. I may ask you to give a few things to others, but you have given me enough during my 83 years and I do not need any more material gifts. What I may need are a few more gifts of the spirit, gifts of the heart. So here is what I want to ask, or tell, in my letter to you.
First of all, I hope your reindeer are all in good shape and for heaven's sake I do not want to hear about Rudolph and his Red Nose. I am not in Penrose Wyoming any more where on one cold and frosty Christmas night I and my sisters were standing outside and we know that we clearly heard your sleigh scraping on our isolated Penrose lane and so we hustled inside to make sure you didn't see us.
Most of all, I would like you to give my thanks and heartfelt love and appreciation for all who have done so much for me, recently and throughout my life. I include the following on this list, without meaning to leave anyone out. If I leave anyone out, you know who they are and you can make corrections for me:
I thank my wife Velna for nearly 63 lovely years together and for 62 memorable Christmas days. I would never have been worth as much without her and the gifts she freely gave that included encouragement, love, compassion, forgiveness, confidence, unselfishness, quiet serenity, support, a light in troubled times, faith that never waned, and the gift of her loving presence in my daily life. Where ever she is, Santa, let her know how I feel and how much I thank her.
I thank my children for continual loving support, for living good and honest and exemplary lives, for raising good families, and for embodying the principles so lovingly taught by example from their loving and supportive mother.
I thank my daughters in law and my son in law for continual support to Velna and me and for their contribution in raising their own children.
I thank my grandchildren and great grandchildren for their loving support and for their exemplary lives. Yes, there have been a few bumps and bruises but what has mattered most is how they pick themselves up and move on with faith and courage and determination to face each new day.
I thank my sisters and my brother for unstinting and unconditional love and support. We six are a tight-knit six, never wavering in our united support for one another.
I thank all my friends and neighbors and church members for compassion, concern, for continually checking on me, and for not forgetting me during my hours of trial.
I thank Velna's two loving sisters who gave so much to Velna during the last several years of her life.
So there is my letter, dear Santa. As you distribute your presents, please distribute my gifts of gratitude to everyone on this list, tie the gifts with a bright red ribbon, and add a dollop of hope and strength to help each one through whatever challenges they are facing. If you will do that, I will feel that my Christmas has been everything I could have wished and hoped for.
There was a little hill above a frozen pond by our student apartment on Michigan's North Campus. Russell liked to go down the hill, scoot across the ice at breakneck speed. We were always afraid he was going to break something.
During my two year stay at Michigan to complete my Ph.D. course work, we didn't see any family during that two year stretch. We didn't have a telephone, so we walked up by the mailboxes to call our parents on Christmas day. Somehow we must have salvaged just a few dollars from my meager assistantship and from Velna's hourly wages to make sure that Santa came to see Russell and Ron. Notice the relic black TV that was our first TV and got hauled all over the country.
Let's face it folks, Christmas is over. If Christmas was just a blur for you, here are some definitive ways to help to realize that Christmas is finally, definitely, surely over for another year:
You are still vacuuming up stray pine needles from your lovely Christmas tree, not only where the tree stood until way past its prime, but also on the trail from the tree out the front door. Never mind the detritus on the porch or on the path through the snow out to where someone has or will pick it up. You resolve to not get such a big tree next year or even to buy an artificial tree. Hint: artificial trees still shed stuff.
The lights on your artificial tree died so you take it apart and stuff it in the garbage can or dumpster. You resolve to skip a tree next Christmas.
You get your credit card bill, open it, and nearly faint from shock. OMG (oh my goodness), you say, who spent all this money? We will have to take out bankruptcy or go to the poor house. We will not be able to buy Froot Loops, buy $5 lattes, or super-sized burgers and fries this year. We will starve. I'll have to get a part-time job. Our kids won't be able to go to college. We'll have to sell our house and move into a mobile home park. If only you hadn't spent all this money, you say, not having spent any of it yourself, we wouldn't be in this dire predicament.
To forestall such a financial dilemma next year, you set out a one quart mason jar to put pennies and nickels in with hopes of getting at least $50-$75 saved up for next Christmas, a mere 2% of what you will need.
All the stuff you bought and knocked yourself out for at 4:00 a.m. Early Owl and Dumbbell Sales has quit working, has fallen apart, has holes in it, has come unraveled, has been broken.
The kids are tired of Robot man or whatever fad toy they breathed and died over and wonder when they will get their own upgraded iPhone so they can twiddle their days away texting nonsense.
You make a run to Costco and skip the rotisserie chicken in favor of a case of batteries to keep all the stuff running that you bought for Christmas.
You get rid of the last of the bubble wrap and Christmas wrapping in your overstuffed garbage cans after four attempts to get rid of the stuff. Now you add the stuff that got broken or that doesn't work any more and can't be fixed to your crowded garbage can.
You realize that you can't keep your New Year's Resolution to lose weight because the Super Bowl is coming up, the most gargantuan feast of the year. Cocktail meatballs! Shrimp! Five kinds of dip! Ten kinds of chips! Booze!(if you are so inclined). Giant appetizer trays! But after gorging myself one more time, I will definitely, certainly, indubitably, necessarily, one hundred percent, lose a few pounds.
The retail stores all stopped playing loud records of the Chipmunks Christmas, Rudolph, and I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, and plunk out all their Valentine's Day goodies.
You realize with a sharp pang of pain that 19 days have already faded from the calendars since the last Christmas and that time is running down to get ready for the next one.
Your neighbors have all divested their homes of flashing lights, schlocky inflated snowmen, deer and santas, and you no longer feel that you are getting an MRI or something when you drive down the street. All except Heber. Heber leaves his icicle lights up all year to save the trouble of putting them up next year. Besides, do you know how many people die from falling off step ladders while doing their Christmas lights each year? Just think about it.
You have only until the third week of January to eat up all the ham, turkey, and other leftovers from the Christmas season, so enjoy the leftovers, day after day, night after night. We'll start cooking something new in February.
You vow not to give Christmas presents or send money next Christmas. Instead, you will send a free e Christmas card on your computer which saves you postage and having to write out a card. Well, some of the ecards are actually quite snazzy.
So face up to it folks, Christmas is over. Suck in your gut and pay your credit card bills. Smile when your kids gripe that they didn't get enough for Christmas. Smile when stuff breaks or doesn't work.
Hallmark Channel has gone back to its usual wonderful fare of running reruns of the Waltons and the Golden Girls 24 hours a day. If you didn't record their Christmas shows, you'll have to wait until October or whenever they start to show them again way before Christmas so that you're left without much to watch by the time Christmas rolls around.
TV watching switches to BBC and Downton Abbey and startups of other much liked series like Foyle's War and Mr. Selfridge.
So Happy New Year, and may all your days be merry and bright (after you figure out how to pay your credit card bills). The Curmudgeonly Professor.
Here is my wife's needlepoint Christmas picture to brighten our Christmas day. It's 8 o'clock and no children are around to erupt into nervous and excited urchins while going through the Christmas morning Santa bounty. The house is quiet as we reflect on the magic of Christmases past and the countless blessings of this Christmas. In five homes, our children are celebrating their own Christmases with their families surrounding them. In five other homes, my four sisters and brother are celebrating Christmas while all of us remember the Christmases in Penrose Wyoming where we all grew up.
This year has been a year of many adventures for my wife Velna and me as we have gone through countless doctor's visits and health challenges. But here we are, relatively unscathed from the ordeals of the year, and ready to enjoy each other's company and share our memories and our gifts to each other. I told my wife last night I was thinking about our marriage and that the wonder of it all was that we were both able to smooth over the rough spots and watch them vanish while we grew old together and fully realized the blessings of our life together. I told her I thought it was like river stones that get smoother and smoother as the running waters go over them in countless years until all the hurts and mistakes and regrets are worn off forever and all that is left is a smooth and precious stone.
I want to thank all of my readers and blog followers for your patience during my temporary lapse in blogging during my illness as I recovered from vertigo. And I want to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May our Christmas day be measured in terms not of how much we were given, but how much we have given and can give to others, not just in presents under the tree but in those often unspoken moments of renewed love, forgiveness, support, help, and concern. The presents will often soon vanish, but the love we give lasts forever. And we all need an emotional teddy bear on some days in some moments as we garner the courage and wisdom to continue our lives and do what we can for others.