Ring it out! Ring it in!

I’m seeing out 2016 watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rocking Eve, waiting for the ball to drop so Casey and I can kiss and go to sleep…   Hey, did you know that Melissa is at Times Square with the Mariah Carey entourage?  Gives me some extra motivation to stay awake.


We’ve got lucky food lined up, mimosas to wash it down, and we’re kicked back.  Black-eye peas are soaking for some hoppin’ john tomorrow.

I want to thank you for reading my stuff this last year.  There are so many adventures ahead and I hope you’ll ride along with us in 2017.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

………………………………………..Alfred, Lord Tennyson


A last hurrah to Christmas 2016

Our plans to drive to NYC on Christmas Day were unavoidably changed, but that’s okay.  We’re free, now, to come and go as we please.  Here at Sonnystone, we’re still walking around going, wow you really don’t have to go to work, as we do the same old things we’d always do…put away the decorations, bring in the firewood (though it’s been unseasonably warm), and eat up the leftovers.

The Leftovers are from our Christmas Eve get-together with the Jrs.  Olivia and Samantha spent the night with us on the 23rd, and we met up with their parents for breakfast the next morning at IHOP.  (good enough, but I wish Eville had more diners)   Returning to the Acres, we quickly got down to serious christmas business:

Opening presents…


Playing with new toys…

Not just New toys, but old games, too…


New toys are great, but Samantha currently loves the harmonica the best.  Since she figured out how to make music with it a couple of months ago, she comes in pointing and asking  for it every visit.  She insists that I play one with her, and we’re quite a duo, but with or without me, she doesn’t let go of her blues harp.

We’ve got it all put away now and we’re busy working on the laundry room remodel…wait, did I say We?  I’m still putting everything back where it was (where was it?) before the holidaze, planning some trips, and vowing to not make any resolutions this year…like I never do.

New York at Christmas – 2016 Edition

Ya’ll know that I fill my new-york-minutes to the brim, but I think this trip was over the top.  I arrived at noon on Thursday, 12/15, but I’m going to take you through the 30 hours between 7:45am Friday and 12:45pm Saturday.  Get comfortable.

Emma, a 5th grader, attends a new school this year, and I had the opportunity to visit during an all-school holiday assembly.  The Town School has a mellow vibe and their approach to teaching is just what Emma needed.

After the assembly, Eric went off to work and Melissa and I had some breakfast and conversation, then ambled back to 333 so Melissa could change clothes.  A quick donning of the gown, and we were off again to Lincoln Center and the 2pm performance of Messiah.  My seats were Perfect, 6th row center, and I could make eye-contact with my choral friends, smiling and winking.  The performance was just as good as you would expect from the NYC Philharmonic, conducted by Alan Gilbert. When it was over, I sneaked out the side door and around to the stage door to wait for Melissa.  I had just arrived, standing about 3 feet from the door, pulling on my gloves, when the door opened.  I looked up and saw a man emerging, nice suit…shifted my gaze further upward and met the eyes of….Alec Baldwin.  Wow, I thought, that’s Alec Baldwin.  My eyes smiled, his eyes nodded…1-3 seconds of acknowledgment that, yes, indeed, he is Alec Baldwin.  The young fella following him closely said, there he is, and they strode off to the waiting Escalade (it’s all about escalades).  I admired him as he walked out into traffic and slid into the car…nice suit…

Melissa soon appeared, and after a nice catch-up with a friend, we grabbed a cab back to her apartment.  She did another costume change and we ubered over to St. Joseph School, where Eliza’s Drama Club was having their Christmas Play.  The play was a little short on plot, but full of enthusiastic singing and dancing.  I don’t feel the least bit biased when I say that Eliza rocked her moves the best…

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Eric and the girls went out for dinner, but Melissa had to work that night and took me with her.  Her “job” was at the Mariah Carey concert.  You may have heard of Ms. Carey, the Queen of Christmas.  She does 9 shows at the Beacon Theatre every Christmas, and recently the Gotham Group, for whom Melissa is some fancy title, started doing her social media work.  So it happened that I took my trusty Nikon (which is, by the way, quite antiquated,  and someone should start a fund to buy me a new one), wore my film/team working pass, and pretended like I was a big-time photographer/blogger covering the show.  I was snapping like a papparazzi, so there are way too many pictures…Here’s the best…

While Melissa was upstairs with the Talent, I hung around backstage, eavesdropping (and occasionally joining in) on conversations, working on my Long Island accent, or was it Brooklyn?

Empty house, from center stage…


But, wait, there’s more…  We woke up Saturday morning to about 2inches of snow, the pretty kind.   We arrived right on time at Radio City Music Hall for the Christmas Spectacular—and Eliza stayed awake the entire time!!!


This is worth staying awake for…

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We followed up the show with some good grub at Bill’s Burgers,

then came home to find that Eric had put up the Christmas Tree and lights…

The following 24 hours…

Eliza had started in with a cough that really annoyed me, and I soon heard some wheezing.  Long story short, she had pneumonia, diagnosed Sunday morning at the NYC version of MEC.  She got a breathing treatment, some antibiotics, and slept all day.  I went to church with Melissa after the doctor visit, then met up with Emma at the Barnes & Noble.  She helped me pick out presents for her and her little sister and we spent the evening back at the apartment playing.  Eliza was feeling much better and able to go to her Polar Express Pajama Party on Monday, when I flew out on a flight that arrived Early in Evansville…charmed, I’d say.

New York at Christmas–the sights, the sounds, the Love…



Christmas Musings

I’m finishing up the cookie-baking with the chocolate chip and the snickerdoodles.  I always start with the oatmeal so that I can eat them while I’m cooking the others.  Gives me Fiber, saves me from eating all the cookie dough,  and the oatmeals just aren’t as popular as the others.  This year’s treats are going out to INDOT to add to the celebration of Casey’s last day on Friday.

I’ve worked through a few of my fears regarding his imminent retirement, but several things have gone off track for us.  For one, we got our health insurance through the Govt. Marketplace.  It was easy and we got a policy that is better than the one the State has been providing.  While I realize that the whole system can’t be dumped in a day, it is still a worry. When I made the first payment, I accidentally paid it twice, effectively making us broke for 3-5 business days until one of them is refunded.  For another, they won’t direct deposit his final paycheck, due on 12/28, digging us a slightly larger hole until it arrives.  Thirdly, I thought the social security would start in January, but it will be at the end of February before that gets rolling…   We will be laying low in January, living off the land until our ship comes in…(did I mix too many metaphors?)


One thing you can count on is that Christmases at Sonnystone are always changing.  I played the organ for a couple of lutheran congregations for 20+ years.  It all started back in 1987 and I was there solid for the first 10 years, then started job-sharing for another 10.  I then filled in for 2 years at another church, finally leaving for good in 2012.   I loved the whole show–the Children’s Pageant, the choir practices, the Advent Services, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day.  My daughter sang in the choir at another church, so we had plenty of great music for the season and our annual duet of the Hallelujah Chorus was the stuff of legend.

Even though I climbed down from the organ bench, my daughter had taken up Church Work in NYC and our Christmases were limited to the times between her obligations, usually the week after Christmas.  Michael spends Christmas afternoon with his wife’s extended family, so the Actual Christmas Day often became a bit of a bummer.  Not to be daunted, we spent one Christmas Day in New Orleans, another in Gatlinburg, another wandering the labyrinth in New Harmony. One year we drove to Florida on The Day to meet up at WDW, cruising through Atlanta, where we saw maybe 2 cars, if you can imagine that.  By now, I rather enjoy the freedom from stifling expectations and overwhelming pressure to have a perfect Christmas.

One thing hasn’t changed: For the past 10 years I have taken the Jose’ girls to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.  One time,  Jess and Olivia got to go with us while they were visiting for Thanksgiving.  The show has changed over the years, but the dancing Santas are still going strong, though Eliza, now 5, has still not been able to stay awake to see them!

I’ll be catching an early flight out to NYC tomorrow, going through Cooold Chicago, and arriving about 1pm.  On my itinerary is a  Friday matinee performance of The Messiah,  featuring my daughter in the NYC Philharmonic Chorus.  For Saturday we have tickets to see the Rockettes at 9am–hopefully Eliza won’t be sleepy!   I’m taking my Macy’s coupons for some shopping and Santa-visiting at the flagship.  On Sunday, Melissa will be performing in another Christmas Choral Event at Middle Collegiate.  I’ll fly back home early Monday and start Casey’s Retirement…

The rest of the Christmas plans involve plenty of mashed potatoes with the JRs. on Christmas Eve, then driving back to NYC on Christmas Day for some PawPaw Christmas Time with the E’s.  Weather permitting.  Because Melissa now works at a synagogue,as well as a christian church, there is just no time for her to come to Evansville this year.  We adjust.

Wherever we are, we are joined together by the bonds of Love, celebrating with music, with sharing, and with Peace in our hearts.


There are 10 days until the start of Hanukkah.

There are 11 days until Christmas.


Christmas Cards

I just got the Christmas cards mailed out.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably not on the ever-shrinking List.

Funny how the Christmas card went out of style.   Thanks to social media, we have every chance to wish our friends a merry season without the Work of signing, addressing, and mailing.  I miss getting cards, but I’m quite happy that my list has been whittled down to Old Relatives and People-who-send-me-a-card.

I spent the last hour or so down the rabbit hole of googling animated christmas cards, leading to watching Youtube Christmas videos, and trying to decide which of my options would best express what I want to tell you in a bloggy christmas card.  The Charlie Brown videos are a whole other blog post; Jibjab cards cost actual money;  the greeting cards were especially corny.

So I decided to let Steve Martin express my *Holiday wishes for you…(well, sorta for you, kinda for Me)…

*for you young’uns who are of an inappropriate age to be viewing this video, I think he meant to say “origami”



We’ve had a wood-burning fireplace for 30 years, and about 20 years ago we began adding sage (from my garden) to our first fire of the season.  I believe burning sage and smudging clears the air of negative energy, a sort of spiritual house-cleaning as I’ve heard it called.  It’s just a little ritual of the seasons that has become a tradition.

Three years ago I read an article about Yule logs and adapted it to our First Fire Ritual.  We find a barkless log and write our wishes on it–Peace, Love, Joy–all that good stuff, and personal wishes, as well.  Then we put it into the fire, cover it with the sage, and wait for our wildest dreams to come true.  While there is still no Peace on Earth, we keep sending our wishes up to the universe for consideration.   This year, we asked the grandkids to tell us Their Wishes so we could write them on the Log:  Emma-place at oireachtas; Eliza-no homework and live at Disney; Olivia-pretty teeth (she’s getting braces in January);  and for Samantha we figured she wishes she could Be a Big Girl, too…

Temps are going down to 21 tonight…time to put another log on the fire…



December 6, 2016–St. Nicholas Day

Happy St. Nicholas Day!  Did you remember to put your boot out so the Tall Guy could fill them with chocolate and fruit?  Hey, I’m not sharing…


Have you ever read about the St. Nicholas tradition in Holland?  They celebrate All Day on the 5th… I like this Sinterklaas guy…

St. Nicholas’ day is on the 6th December, but in The Netherlands, the major celebrations are held on the 5th December.

It all starts on the second Saturday of November (the first Saturday after 11th November) when Sinterklaas travels to a city or town in The Netherlands. Dutch tradition says that St. Nicholas lives in Madrid, Spain and every year he chooses a different harbour to arrive in Holland, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him.

Sinterklass travels with his servants called ‘Zwarte Pieten’ (‘Black Peters’). When Sinterklaas and the Black Peters come ashore from the steam boat, all of the local church bells ring in celebration. Sinterklaas, dressed in his red robes, leads a procession through the town, riding a white horse. Every town in The Netherlands has a few Sinterklaas helpers, dressed the same as Sinterklaas who help give the presents out. (and sometimes you might one see one or more Zwarte Pieten with Sinterklaas!)



Children are told that the Zwarte Pieten keep a record of all the things they have done in the past year in a big book. Good children will get presents from Sinterklaas, but bad children will be put in a sack and the Zwarte Pieten take them to Spain for a year to teach then how to behave!

On the evening that Sinterklaas arrives in The Netherlands, children leave a shoe out by the fireplace or sometimes a windowsill and sing Sinterklaas songs. They hope that Sinterklaas will come during the night with some presents. They also believe that if they leave some hay and carrots in their shoes for Sinterklaas’s horse, they will be left some sweets or small presents. They’re told that, during the night, Sinterklaas rides on the roofs on his horse and that a ‘Zwarte Piet’ will then climb down the chimney (or through a window) and put the presents and/or candy in their shoes.


The evening of December 5th is called St. Nicholas’ Eve ‘Sinterklaasavond’ or ‘Pakjesavond’ (present evening). The children will receive their presents during the evening. There might be a knock at the door and you might find a sack full of presents!

On the 6th of December (his birthday) Sinterklaas leaves the Netherlands on a steamboat from Rotterdam and travels back to Spain.

So I guess we missed out on that party…maybe next year.  It could be a nice alternative to folks needing to be in 3 different places on the 25th.  Not sure  Black Peter (and I thought it was just a Dead song) will effectively take over the spot of the Elves, but we could work on a movie, churn out some PR…and there’s already some great St. Nick carols to warble…


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