Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I'm supposed to be on a break, but you know how much I love donkeys so when I saw this picture I just had to post it here. 

I hope it will add one more SMILE to your holidays.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Merry Christmas

I love my old Christmas decorations, mostly made of wood and wool. Then there is the wonderful scent of a live Christmas tree. Too late I thought to check if one can buy it in a bottle. Of course one can. 

Scented candles and aromas from the kitchen. Music, Christmas music, old songs from Sweden, folk songs that I always thought were hymns sung in churches, so lovely. And our songs here, Chestnuts Roasting reminds me of Christmas season in New York City. Silent Night, sung in most languages around the world.

Even in this year, this most difficult year -- Christmas traditions, songs, decorations, and its spiritual meaning have lifted my spirits. 

The Santa my grandfather made well over 100 years ago gets a place of honor on the fireplace mantel. Behind is the Save the Date request from my god-daughter, Mia, who is an artist and drew their pictures and designed the card. And, as of yesterday, is married to her Kevin. Love you both.

The little straw goats symbolize the goats that arrive with Santa in Sweden. Strangely, or perhaps not, in the land of the reindeer Santa travels with goats. The card behind, which you can barely see, is from Gabrielle and her family. Gabby's mom was one of my best friends, gone from us way too soon. I've known Gabby since she was born and I'm glad she remembers me in her busy life, a realtor with three young boys and a handsome husband to look after.

I haven't really decorated my little tree very well. I may add some things, or I may not. Remembering Charlie Brown's tree, oh well...

One day, a few years back, I found these little houses in a local thrift store. My village has a feed store, a fire house and, as every village should, it has a church. I added some of my Swedish tomtar, who don't really like to be called gnomes, but there you are. The little animals that so wisely gathered outside the feed store, I purchased from the gift shop I managed, years ago, at the Donkey Rescue. The runner was embroidered by my grandmother.

The Christmas table cloth was also made by my grandmother, my dad's mom. Joyce gave me the amaryllis four years ago. It's done with blooming. 

Among my gifts behind the amaryllis is a gift bag from Walmart Pickup. I love it, a Walmart Pickup swag bag! I haven't looked inside, there are probably lots of promotions and ads in there, but it made me smile. 

Then Christina emailed yesterday to let me know there would be a Christmas concert at Konserthuset in Stockholm at 9:00 a.m. PT. It was fun to listen to. 

Afterwards, I felt inspired to bring out my own Swedish Christmas albums. This one includes a beautiful hymn, Bereden Vag, which translates to Prepare the Way.

While I was looking through my CDs, I found another one of Swedish Christmas songs in lovely renditions by, among others, two of Sweden's international opera stars, baritone Ingvar Wixell, and tenor Rolf Bjorling, son of our perhaps most famous opera singer, Jussi Bjorling. They are no longer with us, but their music, of course, lives on.

Grandpa's Santa, still going strong at around 110 years old.

Merry Christmas


A Wonderful Holiday Season

I may take off until 2021

If so,

Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Sunday Morning Reflections


To give light to them that sit in darkness

and in the shadow of death,

to guide our feet

into the way of peace.

Luke 1:79

Friday, December 18, 2020

My Mom's Birthday


Thinking of my mom today on her birthday. The second picture was taken on the street where I lived in Los Angeles. My mom came to visit me in 1978. She was here for several weeks and we had a wonderful time. 

She fell in love with the Mexican flavor of a neighborhood in downtown Los Angeles where we would eat Mexican food, a novelty for her, but she was game for it.

We saw the Tutankhamon exhibit at the LA County musem, which left us both in awe. We traveled to Solvang in the Santa Ynez Valley and, while there, we visited La Purisima mission, where mom met up with the first donkey she had ever seen in real life.

On Palm Sunday, we visited Mission Santa Ynez, and both mom and I learned how the day was celebrated in a Catholic mission, complete with palm fronds, something not seen in Sweden, of course.

I'm so glad friends of hers helped her to make this visit come true. I'm now left with so many good memories. 

I could write a lot more about my mom, but when I came upon that picture, all the memories from her visit came back, so I wanted to share them. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

This Made Me Smile


Our entire canyon road has double yellow lines, so cars are not allowed to pass. I usually drive the Jeep at about 45 mph in the canyon. When someone who is in a hurry or just wants to drive the 55 mph speed limit comes up behind me, I rather pull over and let them pass than feel their frustrations building up behind me.

Some people give me a grateful wave as they pass, others do nothing. 

Yesterday, on my way to town, I pulled over for a woman driver with a car full of kids. 

After she passed me, she turned on her emergency blinkers and the rear of her car was happily blinking a "Thank You!" for as long as she saw the Jeep and me in her rear view mirror.

This made me so happy, made the rest of my day happy, made me grin, as the saying goes, from ear to ear.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Come With Me On A Trip To Town

Thank you for your kind comments on my last post. I knew some of you knew Fran through her blog and wanted to let you know of her passing. 

I drive the Jeep now, the Honda is sick and will stay parked until spring. I usually go to town once a week, sometimes twice.  

Tens of thousands of trucks move goods on the state highway that passes through here from the Central Valley to other highways and freeways across our country.

This is the main street, bleak looking this time of the year. But, as you can see, not much traffic.

Our town has that symbol of country towns across America, a water tower. Ours is handsomely decorated, which you can't see in my picture. This happens when you stay in the car while taking photos.

On my way to the bank, I pass one of the murals that enhance many buildings in our town. This one depicts a blacksmith shop and is located on the road where shepherds drove their sheep to the railroad, from where they were then transported to markets in the valley below our mountain town. 

At the bank, only one car is ahead of me in line. These days, I only use cash to pay Jeanne when she picks up a rotisserie chicken or some blue cheese for me.

Then on to the post office to pick up my mail and any packages I may have.

Leaving the area, I drive the back roads and pass our Adventist Health hospital. It's a new hospital, before the pandemic I would meet my dietitian and friend, Kathy, for lunch there. One pleasure gone by the pandemic wayside. 

In the Jeep, I prefer to take the road home. With the soft top, the wind up here, and its weak front end I avoid freeways when I can.  

Cattle graze on dry weeds that look more like burro food. Hopefully, they also get proper feed, they are a business after all. 

After I pass the cement plant, I will pass the dump, or the Disposal Site, as it's politely called on the sign and soon be at the entrance to the canyon.

Soon, I'm home. Thanks for coming with me. We'll do this again in the spring, when everything will be so much prettier. 

And from now on I pledge to do my writing and blogging in the afternoons, after my morning chores, my walks with the dogs, and all the rest is done. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

In Memory Of My Friend Fran

 My friend Fran passed away last week after living a long and very good life. 

I met Fran through Errol, who many years ago built an addition to her house that became her art studio. Fran was a talented artist, but then she was so much more. Fran was an original, a unique woman, she was generous, always helpful and kind.  

Best of all, Fran had a wonderful sense of humor, she was funny in an entirely original way. After Fran read some of my posts here, she became interested in blogging and soon started her own fishducky, finally blog. There she shared brilliant stories from her life and cheered her followers up with lots of funny posts.

Once upon a time, Fran decided our well-known old fairy tales needed a do-over to better fit in the modern world. And what hilarious makeovers many of them got in a book called Fishducky's Fables

Fran once showed me pictures of what she and her kids did to their VW bus. They painted it! I don't remember exactly how it looked, but Fran and her kids painted the entire bus in fun patterns and colors. I can only imagine the joy this would bring to a child.

Fran was a talented artist and for a long time I posted pictures of her art here on my blog. 

After her husband, Bud, died, Fran moved to an assisted living facility. I kept in contact with her through her son, Blake. 

While there, for some reason, with no Irish heritage that I know of, Fran began to write limericks. And then, according to her, she couldn't contain herself, so the limericks kept coming from her forever brilliant mind and wonderfully mad sense of humor. 

I have three sets of her limericks. I will treasure them for as long as I live. 

I also have copies of her pen and ink drawings and a mirror, set  in a most original frame that she created. I treasure everything she gave me.

Here are few samples of Fran's art:

Thank you, Fran, for all you did to help Errol so many years ago. He never forgot your generous support and, most importantly, your trust in him. He loved you so very much.

I know you wanted fireworks at your funeral, this probably was not possible. But so worth a mention here. You were an original,  a unique, brilliant and kind woman. 

I love you.


Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sankta Lucia Day And Third Sunday In Advent

This morning early, while still dark, I light three Advent candles and take a moment to think about the meaning of this season.


Today is also Sankta Lucia Day in Sweden:

In the old calendar, December 13th was the longest night of the year. It was also the most dangerous. A night when animals could speak and fairies, trolls, and giants roamed the forests. In the countryside, young people would dress up in costumes and go from house to house, singing songs, eating and drinking with their neighbors. 

The custom of a Lucia dressed in white was first recorded in 1764, but didn't become popular until the 19th century. 

The tradition continues today. On December 13th, Sankta Lucia Day is celebrated in Sweden with festivals of light across the country. At the darkest time of year, people are reminded that our earth will soon begin to turn toward the light of spring.

According to tradition, the eldest daughter in the family, wearing a white dress with a red sash and a crown of candles, brings coffee and Lucia buns (lussekatter) to her parents in bed. 

Yes, that's me, bringing coffee in our best cups to my parents in bed. 

During the festivities, the Swedish version of the old Neapolitan song Santa Lucia is sung in schools, homes, and during Lucia parades in cities and towns across Sweden.

Please click on the link below to hear Andrea Bocelli sing a gorgeous version of the original Santa Lucia song.

Friday, December 11, 2020

A Sicilian Saint Inspires A Festival Of Lights In Sweden

This has been posted previously at this time of the year. 

It's believed that the story of Saint Lucy was brought to Sweden by monks. This would be similar to the story they told:

Saint Lucy was a Sicilian woman who was martyred in the year 304 AD. A common story suggests that she would secretly bring food to persecuted Christians who lived in the catacombs of Rome and, in order to keep her hands free, she wore a crown of candles on her head. 

Another legend tells us that she consecrated her virginity to God through pious works. After she refused to marry her betrothed, a pagan man, he became infuriated and reported her to the authorities. When guards came to arrest her, she was so filled with the Holy Spirit that they couldn't move her, even with a team of oxen. The guards then gathered materials around her and set them on fire, but she didn't burn. In medieval accounts, Saint Lucy's eyes are gouged prior to her execution and she is often depicted in art carrying her eyes on a tray.

Saint Lucy, by Domenico Beccafumi, in a 1521 recasting of an iconic Gothic image. It was said that Saint Lucy was tortured with eye gouging, hence this rather disturbing image. The picture, as well as some of the history of Saint Lucy, are courtesy Wikipedia. 

Saint Lucy is the patron saint of the blind. Her name is derived from Lux, Latin for light, and she is presented with light in art and literature.  Saint Lucy is one of only seven women, aside from the Virgin Mary, commemorated by name in the Canon of the Mass

Beginning in the 19th century, she became celebrated on December 13th as Sankta Lucia in Sweden. 

I will tell that story -- one most of you have read many times over the years -- on Sunday, the 13th of December.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

Becoming Very Swedish For The Month Of December

It looks like I always revert to my Swedish roots, beginning in mid-December. 

I guess this is because my mom and dad made Christmas so very special and joyful. Here they are, newly married, wrapping their presents.

In our home, each package had a verse attached to it. The verse had clues to make you guess what was inside. The ribbons, tied around the packages, were secured and stamped with bright red sealing wax. Both my parents were good writers and my dad excelled at these Christmas poems.

I remember the wonderful spirit of Christmas, which was a time of harmony and love, perhaps not always present during the rest of the year. At least not to that extent. 

So I like to wander back there in my mind this time of the year.

For the rest of the year I'm pretty much an American.

I hope you will find something to enjoy in my holiday season posts.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Dogs Of My Life ~ Post No. 12, Part 2 ~ Faith

While Faith has that strong  me first personality when it comes to living in a two-dog household, there's another, much deeper side to her.

It soon became clear that Faith understood grief and would find ways to make my tears dry up, make me want to play with her, to take her and Samson for daily walks. 

After Errol died, Samson became depressed, he wondered what had happened to his beloved dad. I had never seen a dog grieve before and was at a loss about how to best help him. But Faith was there for him, as she was for me; she played, she didn't take no for an answer, she demanded walks, she demanded playtime, she offered her ears for Samson to lick. He has a thing for ears. And somehow the three of us made it through.

Let's run and play in the snow! 

Faith rarely leaves my side when we're in the house. She follows me around, she reads my moods, my diabetic ones particularly. She knows when my blood sugars are low and I need to eat immediately. She understands when it's time for both dogs to leave me alone in the kitchen so I can quickly fix my food. She has the brains and understanding to be a low blood sugar alert dog. 

Talk about brains. Faith is my 12th dog and I've never known a dumb dog. They each had their own personalities, joys and fears. I've known city dogs that understood cars, the danger of streets, how to behave when you met another city dog out for a walk. I've known country dogs who could run around acres of land and never get lost, who could herd cattle, who knew a rattle snake when they saw one. All of them had the smarts to do what they needed to do. 

Faith is a smart dog, there's no doubt. But more than any other dog I've lived with, she has an intense desire to please me. I think one reason is the Labrador in her, another is that I trained her from when she was little. Through that we bonded and our bond is very strong. 

Faith is only the second puppy I've trained, the other was my Dalmatian, Troll. He had a very hard head, much like Samson he understood everything, but decided when it was a good idea to do as asked. Troll also had a sense of humor, which made living with him a delight.

Faith loves to retrieve, she loves her orange balls. She always loses them under the couch. Then she chews on her bone until I get the balls out. I have one of those ball thrower things and she loves to play and chase the ball more than anything. And she can run, this dog is incredibly fast -- and was even more so when she was younger. 

Faith has never been to a lake, but I'm sure she would enjoy a swim if given a chance. I often wonder what else she is, but I never had her DNA tested. 

Errol was right, Faith has been a good ranch dog and then so much more. She's my support dog and one of the greatest loves of my life. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

The Dogs Of My Life ~ Post No.12 , Part 1 ~ Faith

Faith is a dog, yes, but she's also my best friend. Living here together during these unprecedented times, we've grown even closer. Faith sleeps on my bed, where she has her own blankie. She has several blankies, they are soft.

This is how I introduced her on my blog:

Hello, my name is Faith and I will be three months old on Monday, the 28th. This is how little I was when I first came here back in June. Looking at this picture, I think my legs have grown the most

First picture ~ 6/9/2014

Exploring the outside ~ 6/14/2014

My mommy's favorite picture of us playing. 6/14/2014


I have learned SIT, DOWN, STAY, COME (but that COME I don't always obey, depends on how much fun I'm having, running around) and I learned my name: FAITH. 

Those were the early days. Faith's personality: I have to be first; I must have the ball; I am in charge here; and while cautious, I am totally unafraid; was there from the beginning. 

After spending the first night crying for what she lost, she was out there exploring, and challenging Samson, who must have looked huge to her, to run, play and stay away from the ball she found.

Faith: Hey, you! It's mine, I saw it first.

Samson Says: Yes, but I'm bigger than you. Faith: Try if you dare, you big old fluffmonster, you!

Faith's Story

Errol was diagnosed with liver cancer in May of 2014 and was treated at UCLA Medical Center. One day in June, he went to Tractor Supply to get some snake deterrent and came home with a six-week old puppy.

He was numb after the diagnosis, depressed, no doubt. He said, "she's life-affirming." Then he said, "She will take good care of you, she will be a great ranch dog for you." "For us," I said. And went to town to buy some puppy food, which of course he had not thought to get.

Sitting in the Jeep outside the store, I wondered what we should call her. Faith, seemed about right considering everything that lay ahead. When I got back home, Errol said,"I think we should name her Faith." 
Come on, Samson, I'm taking you for a walk! 7/20/14

After Errol died, Samson was terribly depressed. He was Errol's dog and their love was strong. Faith was a great distraction for both Samson and me and truly helped us both through our grief.

Part 2 will post tomorrow.


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