Once Upon a Time in the West: the new tradition

We have a tree this year, the first one in almost *thirty years, because it was free!  We chose a lacy looking Cedar from the Mountain Farmlet.   The tree is a natural shape which means that it is a bit sparse in places, but that’s OK, we think it looks traditional or old-fashioned.

Setting it up the day after cutting it down, we decorated it and pronounced it lovely.    Later that night we went to bed and when just falling asleep, we were awakened by a terrible crashing and tinkling; the tree had fallen!

Jumping out of bed we went in to clean up the broken glass and mop up the two quarts of water that was now pooled onto the floor.  The little tree’s trunk is just too small for the stand.  Now this is our little secret, to protect the tree from falling again, I have tied a bit of thin, black ribbon to the top of the trunk and up to the massive curtain rod above.  You won’t even notice it unless you are looking for it.


When I was growing up I often liked to be alone which wasn’t so easy with three younger siblings.  However, from time to time I managed it, and sometimes right in the thick of it!  The day after Christmas of 1966 was just such an occasion.

Carefully sliding between the wall and the Christmas tree I got myself into the corner.   The space was just big enough for me, and sitting in my pine scented privacy I began to examine the collection of ornaments placed onto the back of the tree.

You know the ones.  They are the ancients.   The relics of Christmas past.  Those who’s mercury glass has begun to bubble and fall off on the inside, and although they have lost their glitter they are the ones you keep, because they have the most memory attached to them.  Perhaps they are from a friend or a relative long passed, or a gift in honor of baby’s first Christmas.  They’re the ones that get hung where only you can see them, because you know they are there.

Sitting alone behind the tree I looked at the one ornament that had survived from my first Christmas, and suddenly had an idea!  Quietly and carefully I extracted myself from my hiding place. I went about the house and collected some paper, a pencil, and scissors, and returning to my secret space I set to work.

Knowing that on any Christmas in our family an ornament or two will perish I thought it would be fun to put a little memory inside.  A surprise for the person who’d broken it.   Something to make them smile!  Messages written, I carefully removed the little cap hangers.  Rolling the messages tightly, I slid them down through the tiny openings.  Then, replacing their caps, I hung them back onto the tree.

Sadly, I never heard back from anyone about the messages in the ornaments, but I remember **the one I wrote to myself:

I’m sitting alone behind the tree watching the sun going down.  It reminds me of my favorite song, “Red Rubber Ball”.  Christmas 1966.

The message is inside my first ornament, and amazingly it didn’t get broken when the tree fell this year, nor did Bob’s!  I will be reviving my tradition in honor of our first tree in so many years, and also the fact that our childhood ornaments remain unbroken.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat’s Bob’s on the left and mine on the right.

Merry Christmas!


Do you have a special holiday tradition?



*We gave up the tradition of a Christmas tree when they began to cost the better part of $100.  That first Christmas without one was hilarious!  My niece came in, looked around the room, and then  proceeded to go from room to room looking for something.  Finally she turned to me and stomping her foot down, crossed her arms demanding to know:

“Where’s your Christmas tree?”

To which I countered:

“Which would you rather have?  A Christmas tree, or presents?”

Her response was presents of course. 😉


**Yeah, I know, my message wasn’t really meaningful, but hey, I was thirteen at the time.  😀

Here is the Cyrkle’s Red Rubber Ball  :

Once Upon a Time in the West: a first kiss and a fisticuffs

fisticuffs:  to fight with the fists. 

First Known Use: 1605  ~ This correct definition is from Merriam Webster  and can be found HERE


Once when I was seven we lived in an unincorporated little suburb of Southern California.  Somewhere in the middle between Pomona, Montclair and Chino if I recall correctly. The little two bedroom house on Kadota Street was  surrounded by cows and cattle fence.  Smaller even than our current Farmlet, it was our family’s little bit of heaven on one-quarter acre.

I had a few friends, but being a bit of a Tomboy back then I really rather favored the friendship of a little blond-headed boy named Johnny.  We use to walk the pastures, build forts, climb trees, and play in the hayloft.  We loved to spin tales and then act them out.

Because of our boyish friendship it came as quite a shock, when one day in the hayloft Johnny tried to kiss me!  On the lips!  He leaned in, and I defensively crossed my arms over my chest between us,

and then pushed him away…


He went flying back and over the edge of the hayloft.  Crawling to the edge and looking down, I could see him laying there, on his back, and underneath the cow.  He was looking shocked and shouting up to me he exclaimed,

“Well, what’d ya do that for?”

I told him,  “Kissing was for grown-ups”, then climbed down the ladder and ran for home.

Over the next few weeks I avoided Johnny at school.  So it was a complete surprise to find him waiting for me on my way home one day.  He was angry and trying to pick a fight!  I wasn’t having any of that, so I crossed the street and tried to walk on by, but he caught up to me, grabbed my arm,  and hit me!

Of course I got really mad and lit into him, punching him right back, until he cried and ran off for home.  When I got home I said nothing to my parents, because I didn’t want to get in trouble for fighting.

Later that day, his dad came to the door with him in tow.  His dad wanted to speak to my dad.  The conversation went something like this as I recall,

J’s dad:  Your son beat up my son and gave him this black eye!

My dad:  I don’t see how that is possible…  (he was cut off)

J’s dad:  You’re calling my son a liar?

My dad:  I have two son’s.  On is two, and the other is in a cast over there in the living room, and he can’t even walk!

J’s dad to J:  You told me he beat you up?  What’s going on!

J:  No daddy, not him, her!

J’s dad:  You let a GIRL do this to you?  (smack)  Get along home!

Poor Johnny!


Johnny and I never were friendly after that day in the hayloft, and he never tried to fight me again either.  😉

Of note, a favorite song of mine from about that time was Perry Como’s Catch a Falling Star.  I used to sing the refrain all the time, because it was catchy and I liked the idea. 

“Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket, save it for a rainy day…”

However, the whole song has a line in there that may have given Johnny the wrong idea?  Who can say?  😀

Once Upon a Time in the West: the art lesson

In California it is rare to have large cloud formations.  Huge cumulonimbus formations are unnecessary in a desert climate, perhaps.  That said, from time to time there were clouds, and they were lovely.

One of my favorite things to do as a child was to lay on my back and search the cloud’s various shapes.  I found that watching them morph into something recognizable was fascinating.

Fast forward to the 90s

We had a bit of rain and the inclement weather had kept us inside for most of the day.  The children were boisterous, loud and needing to get outside to run off some energy!  Thankfully, the sun came out and there were some cloud left overs up over head.

As we walked to the playground I asked my students:  “How many of you like to watch the clouds?”

Several responded with:  “What do you mean?” and “No.”  The rest just giggled.

I said:  “Your parents never told you the magic of finding things in the clouds?”

This comment produced more laughter from the group, so I told them to go and play, and when they got back I would have a fun activity for them to do!

While they were out I gathered my tools and supplies:

  • large tarps
  • white construction paper
  • pencils
  • lined paper
  • a book:  It Looked Like Spilled Milk
  • blue chalk

I then sent up a quick prayer that the principal would not catch us in yet another of what I termed a “*Teachable Moment” because he simply did not approve of them!  (He didn’t catch us by the way.)  😉

I met the kids on the playground with my tarps and told them to be very quiet so we wouldn’t be caught out here having fun.  We then went to the quietest spot, and laid out our tarps.  Cautioning them to remain quiet, I then told them to lay down and watch the clouds…

“Look at the clouds up there.  Do you see the shapes they are making?  Do any of them look like something you’ve seen before?”

It took a moment but then someone saw a puppy.  Then another saw Pikachu, and the fun was on!  So many shapes, so many things to see, and all changing before their very eyes.

It was magic!

Whispering, I told them to get up, and gathering the tarps we went inside.  Continuing in my whispered voice, I asked them to go to the carpet and sit so we could talk.  I read the book and then the lesson began.

Today we are going to draw clouds.  I want you to think of your favorite shape that you saw and then I want you to draw it on your paper.  I picked up a large sheet of white construction paper and clipped it to the stand.  This elicited several incredulous responses from the crowd, and in unison they said:

“Teacher, the paper is all white!  Clouds are white!  You can’t make clouds on white paper!”

I could see in their eyes they thought I had lost it.  Shhhhh… I said softly, let me explain!

“To draw your cloud you will have to make your pencil whisper on the paper.  Watch!”

I began to draw an outline on the paper of a simple cloud, and explained about how soft the lines needed to be so that they wouldn’t show up when we were done.  Then I took my pencil and ever so lightly pulled it across their arms so they could feel how softly I was drawing.

“Do you understand so far?”  Nods of acknowledgement.  “Good, now watch, this is the magic!”

Taking my blue chalk I carefully outlined the pencil marks.  Then, taking my finger I softened them into the inside of the cloud.  Next, I laid my chalk on its side and began to fill in the background.  Instantly, there were sounds of Oooh, and Ahhhh…

The children went back to their desks and began their work.  It was one of the most focused portions of our rainy day, and when they were done, there wasn’t a single complaint from the group about the next part of the lesson.

“Tell your table partner about your cloud.  Describe it to them and explain what you saw and drew.”

While they talked I passed out the lined paper…

  “Now, please write about your cloud.  I want details about what you saw, and also about how you drew it.”

It was amazing to watch them write.  Some were only able to write a paragraph, but all were engaged in the task, and all gave me their best work.  Even the non writers in the group!

Later we would have to do the requisite re-writes from our rough draft, but they were proud of their work and excited about the prospect of sharing it on the Parent Teacher Night.

I feel it was a wonderful experience for all of us.  They learned about cloud watching, negative space in art, and had a lesson on drafting and re-writing to boot!  However, for me, the experience was an affirmation of the use of  Art, and a Teachable Moment.  A special gift brought to us on a cloud.



From the movie ~ Mr. Holland’s Opus:

“Well, I guess you can cut the arts [and teachable moments] as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.”
Jessica Di Santo ~ at the Blog by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

“Beethoven *needed* to compose.  As Mr. Holland states, we *need* the arts.  Students *need* exposure to creativity. Children *need* to let their imaginations run wild.”  (You can read her whole article HERE)


NOTE:  Some of you may have previously read this topic here, but I wanted to share it again because my friend “Z” (aka: Lisa) at Zeebra Designs & Destinations is guiding us in a quest to draw, to express ourselves, to stretch our ability and in my case, to break out of my need for perfectionism.   The thought of what you are about to look at just curdles my stomach, but here it is with all its warts.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt isn’t even the current assignment, but I had to just DO IT, if you can understand.  So, for the record I thought my photograph of the original cloud looked like a Gnome laying there on the mountain. 

OK, I’m hyperventilating now…

Well, even Monet had to start somewhere.

Didn’t he? 😉

Once Upon a Time in the West: memories of may day

When Bob and I met in high school and began dating he introduced me to his mother.  The introduction would be a fateful one, as over time she would become my “Mom away from Mom.”  (But, that’s a story for another day…)

Her favorite flowers were daisies, so on May Day I made her a  May basket and filled it with, what else?   Daisies.


Quietly I snuck up to her doorstep, placed the basket near the door, rang the bell and then ran to hide! 


It was a childhood tradition, the running and hiding. 

She was too fast in answering the door, and caught me.  It spoiled the fun of watching her wonder “Who did this?”  but time would reveal that my actions that morning had endeared me to her.

May Day observance and its meaning are long forgotten by most folks today, but not by me, and not for its original meaning.  For me, May Day brings back old memories of my Mother in Law, a basket of daisies and her love for me.

I loved you too, Mom, and some days I miss you terribly.

Happy May Day!  


For your interest…

Here is a video which shows a more traditional May Pole dance, which was, and still is, a part of the May Day Celebrations in England.

Such merry-making!

You may like to know that the dance is well choreographed, and when done correctly the May Pole will not just be wrapped in ribbons, it will be laced or woven in ribbons! 


Image courtesy of Deaf Pagan Crossroads.  Please click the image to be taken to her site and a well written post about the May Pole!


A Special thanks to Steve Schwartzman of Portraits of Wildflowers as the inspiration for my post today, and also to EarthSky for the information on May Day celebrations.  Both sites deserve a closer look!


You still here?  Well then, here is an extra tidbit.  If you are on WordPress and write a post that includes the words  may pole dance  you will be inundated by  many suggestions for tie ins regarding the POLE DANCE!  Which interestingly, seems to be promoted much differently than my understanding of the craft.  😉  That aside, Google made the distinction and offered up useful and germane information, whereas WordPress could not.  😉