Friday, October 30, 2020

A Halloween Story

It was the 31st of October, so it was Halloween. But everybody knew that Halloween didn't officially start until after school was out, and after it started getting dark.
Ria was happy, this year her parents had finally agreed that 12 was old enough for her to Trick or Treat until 8:30. This year, she would Trick or Treat by the light of the full Harvest Moon with her best friends Erin and Tina. Ria's mother insisted on the buddy system any time she went anywhere.
When Ria got off the school bus that afternoon, she scanned the yard for Reagan, her cat, before she dropped her books inside her bedroom. Reagan was a completely black cat, and some people had some sick ideas of what to do with black furred animals on Halloween. Reagan had been kept inside the house for the last few days, just in case. He was going stir crazy and was trying harder and harder to escape to the freedom of the outdoors.
Their yard sided a wooded building lot on one side and on the other side was a narrow dirt road that led to a housing development that had gone bankrupt before any houses could be built. Reagan loved the woods. He would climb the trees and keep their yard free of squirrels, which Reagan considered Public Enemy Number One.
As Ria walked down the hall to her bedroom, her sister Katie said "Reagan is sleeping in the living room window. Mom says before we go Trick or Treating to make sure that Reagan is closed in a bedroom so there's no chance of him getting out."
Ria dropped off her books and then opened a can of cat food for Reagan. It stunk to high heavens, but Reagan didn't seem to mind. He came running from the living room to the kitchen as if he hadn't eaten in months instead of just hours.
When it came to eating, Reagan was finicky at all!
Ria called her mother to let her know that she was home. Then she and Katie went into their parent's bedroom to start getting their costumes ready. Their parents had a footlocker in their bedroom that had belonged to their mother since she was a teenager. Inside the trunk was pieces of every costume her mother had ever worn from the time she was a teenager until now. Even now, their mother shopped the after Halloween sales picking up more costume pieces and props.
The girls never had an actual, bought costume. Instead they had choices of one piece "cat suits" that they could accessorize with almost anything imaginable; ropes of plastic beads, cat ears, clown hair, a bald wig, a wig of long black hair, pompoms, grass skirts, pirate hooks, grass skirts and more. All they needed was imagination, and Ria and Katie had that in abundance!
After they decided on what they were going to wear that night, Ria popped a microwave dinner into the microwave oven. The family usually ate dinner together, but tonight they wouldn't. Their older brother Tom was still at football practice, and their parents wouldn't be home until just after they left to go Trick or Treating.
Reagan sat on the floor next to Ria as the girls ate their supper. Reagan was a polite cat. He wouldn't jump onto the table, or pull on their clothes as they ate. He just sat quietly, looking at them with friendly eyes that seemed to say "Won't you share?"
Suddenly, Reagan's ears pricked forward. His pupils grew so wide, that his eyes looked black instead of green.
"What is it Reagan?" Ria asked when she noticed him. "He must have heard something, look at his tail!"
"It looks like a bottle washing brush!" Katie laughed. "I wonder if Tommy is home?"
They waited a minute, but Tommy didn't come in the house.
"Tommy?" Ria called.
No answer.
Reagan's tail de-poofed and they finished their dinner. Then they hurried back into their parent's bedroom to put their costumes on.
Soon after, their was a knock on the door. Reagan jumped and landed with his claws out. He hissed at the door.
"Silly cat!" Katie scolded. "It's only my friend Suzy! You know Suzy." She let Suzy and her mother into the house. "I'm almost ready, I just have to get my Treats bag."
"Reagan looks scary." Suzy observed.
"I think it's more like Reagan is scared, but of what, I have no idea." Ria replied.
"I'll be bringing Katie back at about 8." Suzy's mom stated. "Will there be someone here?"
"Oh yes, my parents should be home by 5:30 at the latest."
"Will you be going Trick or Treating too?" Suzy's mom asked.
"Yes, I'm going with my friend Erin, and then we're going to be picking up my friend Tina."
"Good, I'm glad that you won't be out alone."
"Nope! My mom insists on the buddy system too."

Suzy's mom was satisfied, and they left.

Erin and her brother Dave came soon after. Erin wore a home made clown costume and lots of face paint. Ria could hardly recognize her. Her brother Dave was dressed, as he described it "like a big brother."

"I'll only be a minute!" Ria told them. "I just have to find Reagan and close him in one of the bedrooms." She began to look for him in all of his favorite places; on the living room windowsill, on her parent's bed, even in the pantry next to his cat treats. He was no where to be found. Erin and her brother joined the search.

They finally found him on the floor behind the drapes. Erin was petting him when all of a sudden, Reagan looked toward the back door, pulled back his ears and yowled so loudly that it scared them all.


"Yikes!" Erin looked scared herself. "What bought that on?"

"I don't know, but I'm going to go check out your back porch." Tom told them as he headed for the kitchen door.

"I'm going to go put Reagan on my parent's bed and close the door." Ria said. "He loves their bed."


The whole time Ria carried the cat, he licked his lips nervously. "There, there, kitty." Ria tried to soothe. "It's alright." But as soon as she put him gently on her parent's bed, Reagan slunk off and hid under the bed. Ria had never seen Reagan act like that before and she half wondered if she should not go Trick or Treating with her friends and stay home wi th the frightened cat.

She got down on her hands and knees and lifted the bedspread. Reagan looked like a giant poofball, his eyes large, round black circles with the smallest outline of green.

"Rrrrrrrooooooooowwwwwwrrrrrrr!," he half growled, half howled.

Ria decided it would probably be better to leave Reagan alone and allow him to calm down in a quiet house.



Reagan's antics were quickly forgotten. Dave dropped Ria and his sister at their friend Tina's house and left.



The girls were stunned by Tina's outfit. She was an ice princess. Her costume had not been put together at home from bits and pieces, but had been professionally made. Her ice blue dress had an overlay by a light tulle that was studded with glass crystals and drops. Her beautiful blonde hair was up swept, and cascaded in curls along the nape of her neck. Her face was made up by a professional hand, probably her mother who was a cosmetologist, and even though her lips were an icy blue, and her eyelashes apparently had ice crystals on them, she looked completely natural.



Erin's red clown lips formed a perfect "o" at the sight of their beautiful friend. "Wow!"



Ria finally found her voice. "You look like you should be going to a party, not Trick or Treating."



"You are stunning! I bet you'd win a prize." Erin agreed.



Tina's face grew red under her white makeup. "Uh, thanks. C'mon, lets go!"



After getting Tina's curfew and saying goodbye to Tina's mother, the three girls left the house.



The neighborhood sidewalks had groups of costumed children. Adults had joined together with friends and guided virtual herds of children from house to house.



The sky was getting darker as the moon was slowly rising. The street lights were coming and Ria noticed that most of the little children were no longer Trick or Treating.

Pools of light came from the un-curtained windows of houses. More and more lit Jack O'Lanterns appeared on the porches of houses.



The girls met up with another group of friends from school and they all began to Trick or Treat together.



"Did you hear about Mrs. Robinson's cat?" Ria heard a scarecrow say.



"Isn't that your neighbor's black cat?" a gypsy asked the scarecrow.



"Oh, that's unique, a black cat story on Halloween. Boooooooo!" a boy dressed like a fedora wearing gangster said sarcastically.



"What about Mrs. Robinson's cat?" prompted a clown that wasn't Erin.



"He's missing. He's been missing since last night. Mrs Robinson has posters up at the supermarket, and she even offered to pay me to look around the neighborhood."



"Did you do it?" asked the fedora wearing gangster.



"I did it for free before I bought my little brother Trick or Treating. I didn't catch even a glimpse of him." the scarecrow replied.



"If I had any colored cat, I wouldn't let it outside anytime near Halloween." opined a girl dressed like a bag of jelly beans. Some of the children agreed and Ria was glad that Reagan was safely underneath her parents bed.



Tina was walking more slowly, and she waited on the sidewalk while the other children Trick or Treated. The second time she did this, Ria and Erin waited with her.



"What's up?" asked Erin. "You look kind of like you are in pain."



"Are your shoes hurting you?"



"No, but I'm starting to feel sick."



"Do you want to go home?" Ria asked.



"I think I'm ..... gonna toss my cookies." Tina said, and then she did.


Tina looked as though she was ready to cry. Ria handed her a bit of cloth from her costume to wipe her mouth.

She still looked sick. "I think I better go home." she stammered. "Go ahead and Trick or Treat without me."

"Oh no, I'm walking you home." Ria said quickly and Erin agreed.

"We really have enough candy already. My mom steals candy from my bag, so she'll actually thank you." She laughed and Ria joined her because it was true; parents and older brothers always took candy from the Trick or Treat bags.

Tina gave a half smile. "I don't want to ruin the night on you. Go on with out me. I can make it home by myself."

Her friends didn't leave her side the whole walk home. After making sure that Tina was safely home, they decided to walk to Erin's house together and ask Dave to drive Ria home, but he wasn't home.

"Look, it's not far from your house to mine. I'll walk home as fast as I can, and then I'll call you to let you know that I made it home."Ria decided.

"I don't know........." Erin argued.

"I'll be fine!" Ria said as she headed out the door. "Really, I'll call you in a few minutes!"

Ria saw her brother Tommy's tail lights disappearing down the street just as she was getting home.

'It figured!' Ria thought as she took off her necklace to get to the house key she always wore around her neck.

Once inside she hurried to the phone and called Erin. "Home just fine!"

"Are your parents home?"

Ria listened for a minute and didn't hear a single sound. "Nope, home alone."

"Aren't you creeped out to be home alone on Halloween night? Especially when Reagan acted that weird way before?" Erin asked anxiously.

"No, I wasn't, until you just bought it up." Ria said heatedly. Then she was instantly sorry. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to snap at you."

"It's okay, I understand. Sorry if I creeped you out even more than you were?"

"You didn't." Ria lied. She'd actually had been fine before calling Erin, now the house felt ominously quiet.

"Should I ask my parents if I can stay with you at your house until your parents come home?"

Ria gave herself a mental shake. "No really, I'm fine. I need to find Reagan and see how he's doing. Poor kitty!"

"You sure you don't want to stay on the phone until your parents come home?" At Ria's 'no,' Erin continued "Okay, but if you need me, call and I'll be there in minutes!"

Ria could just imagine her friend running down the road in her costume. She chuckled. "Okay Erin. You know you really are a great friend!"

Before looking for Reagan, Ria took off her costume pieces and put them back into the trunk. She didn't bother to take off her face paint before laying on her stomach and looking under her parents bed for Reagan. He wasn't there.

Ria went into the kitchen pantry and got out a can of cat food. Usually just opening the pantry door was sound enough to drive Reagan into the kitchen, rubbing against her leg, the wall and the kitchen chair legs purring, but not tonight.

"Reagan! Here kitty!" she called. Still Reagan didn't come.

Ria ignored the more quietly working, manual can opener for the noisy, electric can opener. As expected, the electric can opener whined and whirred and clunked as it laboriously opened the can of cat food. Usually Reagan would have been driven insane by now. Tonight he remained a no show.

Could Reagan still be freaked out by what he had heard earlier? Ria began to look for him in his favorite hiding places. It was only after she finished checking the last place, on top of the water heater, that Ria noticed the window curtain caught in the back door. She was sure she hadn't left the house with the curtain caught in the back door.

Did her brother come into the house before getting his car and leaving? Had Reagan gotten out?

Quickly Ria checked the usual message centers in the house for a note from her brother saying that Reagan had gotten out. There was none but it was the only answer because she had checked the whole house for Reagan and not found him.

Ria was angry at her brother Thomas for allowing Reagan to get out of the house, especially on a night that was so dangerous for black cats. She grabbed the open can of cat food and a small penlight and left the house.

She checked all the deck furniture before venturing into the back yard. Reagan wasn't in the yard, including his favorite napping spots inside the bird bath or on the wood pile.

Ria checked her neighbor's yard for Reagan before admitting to herself , with a shudder, that the only place left to look for the cat was the woods on the other side of a dirt road near their home.

Their street was the last block built before the building developer had run out of money to build any more houses. Behind Ria's house was woods. On the other side of her neighbor's house was the developers supply road. The road was barely wide enough for a truck to drive on. It was dirt and had sand and ruts in areas. It ran in the woods from the oldest part of the housing development to the abandoned part of the housing development for a few miles.

During the day, the woods were a friendly place for the neighborhood children to play. There were tree forts in some of the trees, and in some of the natural clearings the neighborhood children had picnics. The woods were a quiet place to do nothing more than walk and think about the day.

Even on moonlit nights, the sandy road was peaceful to walk on, and not threatening in anyway.

But on Halloween night? Ria's imagination ran wild, and she did not want to go into the woods at all.

Never the less, tonight she would have to because Reagan was most likely in the woods. Who knew what could happen to him if she didn't.

The moon was supposed to be full that night, but it was still rising as she crossed the thin wooded strip and stood on the dirt road.

"Reagan! Here kitty!" she called in a voice she hated. She could hear her own fear in it.

C'mon girl! she chided herself. Look around. These are the same trees that you've walked past a thousand times! You've sat at the base of these trees and read books.

Still, the woods seemed spooky.

Ria called for Reagan, pointing the flashlight at piles of leaves or among nests of roots as she walked along. She walked along for about thirty minutes before she saw a black cat rubbing itself on the rough bark of a leafless tree. From where Ria stood, she couldn't be sure if the cat was Reagan.

"Reagan?" she called softly. The cat didn't come to her, but it did meow in response. "You've come a long way boy. Why so far tonight of all nights?"

The cat stiffened. Its ears were so tuned into the sound, it seemed to Ria that they vibrated. Ria listened and at first she heard nothing. Then it seemed as though the ground was starting to vibrate. The vibration grew in intensity until it sounded like the thundering of the hooves of many horses.

People occasionally rode horses down the dirt road, although not at night. When that happened, the usual practice was to step slightly off the road for the rider to pass. But this time Ria felt a rising of terror, apparently shared by the cat, because it bolted off the road and into the woods. Ria could hear it's passage as it tore through brambles, making crackling sounds, only slightly ahead of her own frantic flight.

The sound of the oncoming hooves was unbearably loud now, and impulsively, Ria dropped to the ground and wiggled under a pile of leaves and bramble. She was so frightened that her lungs felt like they were burning, and her breath came in loud heaves that she prayed could not be heard over the sound of the horses thundering hooves.

It was only minutes later that the horsemen came in sight. There were six of them. The horses were huge, bigger than any that Ria had ever seen in her life. They seemed more likely to have come out of a nightmare than to be real. The eyes were rimmed with bright red, the eyes themselves were bottomless black pools. Great clouds of steam came out of the snorting nostrils.

The riders had stopped because the lead rider had held up a huge gloved hand signalling them to stop. In the distance, Ria could still hear the thunder of more horses approaching.

"I smell humans." the first rider growled removing his helmet. It was skull shaped with embossing around the brim.

"There are humans living just on the other side of those woods." The rider lifted up in the saddle as if to stretch his legs from a long ride.

"It be a shame if some of them were in the woods now." The first rider replied with a nasty chuckle.

"They won't be. They are busy gathering candy at this time of night. The children are anyway." It was the third rider who spoke. His saddle supported a long pole, from which hung a macabre lantern, a cat skull with a candle inside of it.

"And the mothers are home alone, just on the other side of those woods?" asked the first rider. "Mayhaps we have time for just a little bit of mischief, eh boys?"

They all laughed.

The fourth rider was silent. Ria studied him. He too carried a lantern attached to his saddle, it was a cat's skull, bigger than the first lantern. All the riders were dressed in black leather, but the fourth rider looked darker than the others. Ria imagined it was as dark as a black hole in space would be.

The rider that had removed his helmet slid to the ground from his horse. He was doing some stretches when he suddenly stopped. "I do smell human!" he said ominously.

"I told you, humans...."

"I mean I smell them here!" he interrupted. "Here!" he gestured around the general area. "Not in some neighborhood. Here!"

They all stood still, even the horses stopped their movements.

Ria wondered if they were sniffing the air too, catching her scent. She almost screamed with fright.

The sound of the other horses was getting louder. They were getting closer. Would they all dismount their horses when they arrived, to scour the woods looking for her? They would surely find her if they did.

The rider mounted his horse again, surprisingly quickly for all the armour and the long cloak he wore. He snatched a lantern pole from one of the riders and urged his horse into the woods.

"What are you doing?" one of them called.

"I said I smelled a human!" The horse walked heavily into the woods. Even fallen logs snapped under his mighty step. Ria froze with terror and began to pray that somehow, those mighty hooves would miss her.



The other riders began to arrive and the thundering of oncoming horses began to lessen. From her hiding place, Ria couldn't be sure of how many horses were there. Twenty? Fifty? Were there more? She couldn't be sure. The black horse was still plowing through the woods seeking her. Every so often, the rider would call out in frustration "I know you're here!"

The group parted and from their midst emerged a rider who must be their leader. His horse was as large as any of the others, but the saddle was of a much better quality. It's suppleness shone in the increasing moonlight. He had two lamp carrying riders on either side of him.

"Balfour! What are you doing?"

Balfour immediately stopped his search. "I smelled a human, my lord." There was the sound of muffled laughing from the group.

"Of course you smelled human, you half wit! There's a housing development on the other side of this median!" the leader thundered. "Get out of those woods and get into your position!"

The leader addressed the other riders. "Did you recapture that black cat?"

"No my lord." the other three riders answered almost shamefully.

"No matter, we're sure to come across another one along our ride." He turned to one of his lantern bearers. "Give the signal to assemble. We have far to ride before the moon is at it's height."

The lantern bearer pulled a goat's horn from his tunic and blew. The sound was nothing like a horn and yet indescribable. It made Ria shiver. The original four riders assembled into a column of two, and began riding forward. The other horsemen began riding behind them, also in columns of two, except for the leader who was still flanked by his lantern bearers.

The procession seemed to take hours to pass. Ria didn't stir until the sound of the last horse hoof had faded away. Then she cautiously got up, slowly, still listening, in case one of the riders had stayed behind without her realizing. Ria turned on her flashlight and scanned the woods, looking for the black cat. It was nowhere to be seen.

May-be Reagan had had enough of being outside by this time, Ria hoped. For herself, she had had enough of the woods for one night. She made her way to the dirt road and started to walk home, still listening for the sound of horse hooves.

When she was near home, she hear her name being called. "Ria? Ria!" called her younger sister Katie.

"I'm here!" she began to run toward Katie's voice.

"Ria! What were you doing in the woods on Halloween night? I'd never go in the woods on Halloween night!" Katie gave a shudder.

"I was looking for Reagan."

"In the woods? He was in the shredded paper box next to Daddy's desk. It was like he dug himself down into the paper. He's never done that before. I wonder why he did it tonight?"

I'm sure I know. Ria thought, but she only said "Hmmmm......." as they climbed the steps of the back deck and entered their house.




THE END


THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY WRITTEN IN 2010 BY MARY BENNETT as a BLOG CHALLENGE Copyright 2010 Mary Bennett All rights reserved


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

What Holds A Marriage Together

Pains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. That's what makes a marriage last - more than passion or even sex.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Sweet Calm of October

“The sweet calm sunshine of October,
now warms the low spot;
upon its grassy mould
The purple oak-leaf falls;
the birchen bough Drops
its bright spoil like arrow-heads of gold.”

William Cullen Bryant

Saturday, April 18, 2020

You Can Live to be One Hundred!

You can live to be a hundred, if you give up all the things that make you want to live to a hundred.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Midnight Hour

That Midnight Hour

The Virgin Mother kneels upon the floor
And holds her baby in her arm,
Her heart is gladder than her lips can say,
To keep her new born baby snug and warm,
A babe more sweet and fair and dear
Than any rose bud in the bright sunshine,
Whose little eyes look straight into her own,
O, blessed maid, God's son is also thine.
Twas holy midnight, when He came to earth:
As pours a sun ray through a limpid glass,
Not leaving any mark upon its face;
A drop of dew upon the fresh green grass,
A little star that fell upon her lap,
A cooing babe, that seeks her virgin breast.
The hopes of all the sin-cursed world
Upon this baby's eyelids rest.
And ever since the midnight hour is holy,
And millions of human hearts are stirred
To wonderment and love for Him who came,
To save the world, God's own incarnate Word.
He came in darkness, He who was The Light,
His godhead shone from clear blue baby eyes,
The curse of earth's first sin was lifted then,
That midnight hour reopened paradise.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Preservatives

I stay away from natural foods. At my age I need all the preservatives I can get.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The gates of Heaven open at midnight on Christmas Eve. Those who die then go straight to Heaven (an Irish belief).

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wisdom

Wisdom doesn't automatically come with old age. Nothing does - except wrinkles. It's true, some wines improve with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Grace

Grace

Lord bless us now and bless this food.
Bless our minds and bless our mood.

Divinely bless this humble meal,
The way we think and the way we feel.

Please, bless each one within this place
Every time that we say "Grace"

And lead us, Lord, away from sin
Every time we say, "Amen".

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Between 50 and 70

The years between fifty and seventy are the hardest. You are always asked to do things, and you are not yet decrepit enough to turn them down.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Twas the Night Before Christmas...

'TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugarplums danced through their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap,—
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash;
The moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a luster of midday to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be Saint Nick!
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name:
"Now Dasher! now Dancer! now Prancer! now Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!"
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So, up to the housetop the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys,—and Saint Nicholas, too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
Down the chimney Saint Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes, how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf;
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spake not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And, laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod,—up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight,
"merry Christmas To All, And To All A Good-night!"

Clement C. Moore

Monday, April 18, 2016

Wrinkles

Wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Thought and Spirit of Christmas

This was a poem children were encouraged to memorize in 1916


Not what we give,
But what we share;
The gift without the giver is bare;
He gives but worthless gold
Who gives from sense of duty.

Give aid if thou canst;
If not, a kind and gentle word.
It's loving and giving
That makes life worth living,
It's loving and giving
That makes life a song.

What is the thought of Christmas?
Giving.
What is the spirit of Christmas?
Love.

I don't know the author, but please feel free to repost because I am told it is in the Public Domain

Saturday, May 30, 2015

In Flanders Fields

Does anyone remember World War I anymore? as a different time then.  For so many immigrants, the conflict wasn't in a strange land, but in a place they were at least vaguely familiar with, it might even have been home.

And for all the horror that came from that war, especially mustard gas, people still had manners.  In fact for Christmas one year, the combatants stopped fighting, met in "no man's land" and sang Christmas Carols and shared food.

Because Catholic prayers were not said in the vernacular of the people yet, Catholics were able to come together and pray in Latin together.

After Christmas, the war continued.

I have always found this poem poignant.  Truthfully, it brings a tear to my eye.  I hope you enjoy it this Memorial Day... and don't forget to say a prayer for the souls of all the soldiers of every nation that died while fighting for their country.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
In Flanders Field - Copy of Signed Original
Courtesy of Bee MacGuire

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Middle Age

Middle age occurs when you are too young to take up golf and too old to rush up to the net.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Life Begins at Fifty

Life begins at fifty, but so does bad eyesight, arthritis, and the habit of telling the same story three times to the same listeners.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Intrepid Reader

My mother was not the kind of mom that made birthday cupcakes to celebrate my birthday at school.  She would never have bought soda or juice, because she had read Adele Davis and Carlton Frederics and she knew that sugar was poison.

If you were over the age of three, my mother didn't hover over you as you  played in the sandbox that my father had made for us, swung on the swings, or went down the slide.  If you could finally swing very high on the swing and ran in to proudly tell her and get an approving audience, forget it.    She'd occasionally check on us through the kitchen window but there is something that is needed to be known about my mom, she detested a hot or beating sun, she got prickly in any but the most benign spring sunshine, and she was scared to death of insects, especially bees.  Watching kids, even her own kids swing on swings or dig in a sandbox bored her to death.  She was the absolute antithesis of attachment parenting or the helicopter mom.

Before becoming a wife and mother in the 1960's, my mother had studied not just to be a nurse, but to be a registered nurse.  My mother was a professional.  Soon she went from being just a registered nurse to being  a head nurse.  She was responsible for supervising nurses and nurses aides, for taking a doctors order and supervising patient diets, giving out medicines.  She interacted with highly educated people every day.  House work and making meals, doing laundry and watching kids mould sand into tunnels or sand cakes just didn't measure up.

What she carried over from her former life was a love of books, a love she had since almost as soon as she learned to read.  It was a family affair because her mother, my Meme loved reading also.  The high spot of her day was after lunch, when all kids were taking a nap and she could read a book.  It must have been a bittersweet time, connecting her too her youth, her single life and present all at one time.

And then, came my tenth Christmas, when the majority of my gifts were books.  She scored 100 out of 100 with the books!  I loved every one of them, and two of them I actually made part of my personal library as an adult, and I read them to my children at certain times during the year.  My enthusiasm was all the encouragement that my mother needed.  From then on, I was never without my own book, bought by my mother.  No more having to depend on the library.

My mother's tastes were eclectic, never in a rut.  Some times she would get me favorites from her youth like the Cherry Ames, Nurse series, other times it would be Five Little Peppers And How They Grew.   A new Bobbsey Twin or Nancy Drew book from the series would be a gift for a birthday, then The Girl In White Armor.  She got me to read a few books from the Mary Poppins series when I was sick, and sure I was too old to enjoy it.  I was wrong, she was right, and the Mary Poppins series is in my personal collection now.

Even as a married adult, in the midst of taking care of littles myself, my mother supplied me with books like Evergreen and Light A Penny Candle.  Later in life, when I was feeling a bit down and isolated because my husband had become an over the road trucker, a box of books, the Debbie Mac Comber Cedar Cove series, arrived on my doorstep.  While I was in the hospital getting chemo for my cancer, the books Marley and Me showed up, followed by The Help.  And then while recovering at home, The Distant Hours, a hefty book that I never would have looked at twice showed up at my home.

All the books bought comfort, my mother even as an elderly mother to a middle-aged woman was still watching out for me, trying to distract me and bring me comfort.  All her choices were great.

I don't know how she does it.  She doesn't belong to a book club.  Instead, she goes into a book store and picks up books that look interesting, reads the cover, and if they still seem interesting, she buys them.  And she doesn't just do it for me.  She finds out what subjects my kids are interested in, and then buys books to match them, often challenging them with books that I think might be too old for them, and then the kids rise to the challenge.  One example is The Girl From Limberlost, a huge book that my 12 year old daughter finished reading because she found it so interesting.  I haven't attempted it yet.

My mom has aided making my children into the voracious readers and book lovers that they are.  What an enduring legacy!


The Girl of Limberlost - free e-book

Evergreen by Belva Plain

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Secret of Staying Young

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Cooking Under Pressure

I think all but the luckiest of us have cooked under pressure.  Some of us have cooked under pressure night after night, trying to make a dinner that will be apreciatated.

But in this case, cooking under pressure refers to cooking using a pressure cooker.

Pressure cookers have come up in the world, now they are electronic or electric.  They are filled with safeties to protect us from the specacular explosions of the past.

But try finding a basic recipe book for one. I think I've made it pretty well known  that we are basci people, not fancy shmancy, so recipes using quail or dried apricots are not for us.

Give us the basic info on how to cook rice or spaghetti in one.  How to cook a chicken breast, or better, a frozen chicken breast.

Those recipes would better serve us.

In the meantime, I've been searching You Tube.  I've found some great recipes, never to be found again.

Now this is cooking under pressure, without the cooking!

 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

How Blogs Move Us

Blogs are mostly unsung and ignored.  Unless you happen to read them.  I've been reading them for about 5 years, and I've seen new ones, or new to me, ones come on, and  I've seen them leave.

The ones that left have done it without drum roll, just me showing up and the blogger not.  And that has left me feeling sad.

Other blogs are started for a purpose, like what it is like to live off the power grid, which is something I've always wanted to try, but never have, and after my adventures of being powerless after a storm, I probably will never do willingly.  This blogger is starting to question if this is the lifestyle she wants to follow.  It's a hard life, so I can understand. But the thought of not having this blog to read in the future, is saddening.

Blogs, maybe they aren't as light weight as they are treated by society!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Advent Wreath

 
The Advent Wreath, and indeed the whole season of Advent is ignored by the general public, these days it seems.                                               
Not so when I was growing up. Yes, the municipalities put up the Christmas lights about two weeks before Christmas, but in our hearts, we knew it was Advent.                                            
Advent, the time of waiting for Christmas.
First came out the Advent Wreath.  My father would bring a small hand saw with him into the back yard and cut some greenery.  This was artfully arranged to cover the golden Advent wreath and from out of no where, my mother would whisk out brand new candles for the season.  The Advent Wreath was put in the middle of our dining room table, and stayed there in prominence until after January 1st when it was finally taken down and put away.                                    
Considering how easy it is to make an Advent Wreath, and how inexpensive they are now to buy, it seems a real shame that more people don't practice this tradition.   All you need is something round; a round plate, a wreath, anything.  You don't have to use the usual long taper candles either.  In the past, we have used fat pillar candles and candles in glass globes.  If you have little children, you could even use battery operated candles.                        
Decorate the wreath with evergreens, or we've used garland wrapped around the wreath.  We've left it simple with no adornment, we've put a small nativity inside the circle.  We've even hung it from the ceiling over the dining table.                                
A good book to read about Advent, and indeed many Catholic Traditions is "Through The Year With The Trapp Family Singers" by Maria Trapp.    
Why not give the Advent Wreath a try this year?
 

Friday, November 30, 2012

The Christmas Prayer

Hail and blessed be the hour and moment In which the Son of God was born Of the most pure Virgin Mary, at midnight, in Bethlehem, in the piercing cold. In that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee, O my God, to hear my prayer and grant my desires, [here mention your request]through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of His blessed Mother. Amen.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Advent

The four candles :
* First Candle (purple)--Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope (Romans 15:1...
2-14)
* Second Candle (purple) Bethlehem.candle or Candle of Preparation (Luke 2)3:4-6)
* Third Candle (pink) - Shepherd Candle or Candle of Joy
(Luke 2:7-15)
* Fourth Candle (purple)- Angel Candle or the Candle of Love
(John 3:16-17)
 
This Sunday starts Advent, and if you would like to have an Advent wreath this year, I thought I'd give you a guide on the candles and what they represent.

 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Joys of Chili

   Yesterday I gave you a chili recipe from my husband but I neglected to give you some ideas on how to use it.

     First off, you can have it the purist's way and just serve it in a bowl without any toppings.  If you want, you can top it with any of the following: sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded mozzarella cheese, oyster crackers or saltine crackers.

      The next day, using only the thickest and least watery parts of the chili, you can put the chili into a tortilla, with sour cream or ranch dressing, lettuce, tomatoes, olives, shredded carrot, shredded cheese.  Try this once, and you'll be hooked.

       The third day, take any remaining chili and serve it over spaghetti.  Top with Parmesan cheese.

        The fourth day, there should be precious little of the chili left,  but try it inside a bowl of tomato soup, topped with shredded cheese.  Or not.

         Chili is really a grocery stretcher because there are so many ways to serve it, and things to serve it with.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Home Made Chili

        My friend Kat from the blog Homesteading on the Internet recent post on her husband's family's chili recipe made me think of my husband's new recipe.  It is not as hot as other chili's that he has made, and for my easily upset stomach, this is a good thing.  I really enjoy this recipe and Nathan even said it was okay to share it with you.

What you'll need:
                               2 pounds of hamburger meat
                               2 cups combined of chopped onions and peppers
                               vegetable oil to cook in
                                1 tsp garlic powder
                                1 large can of Goya black beans, undrained
                                1 small can of black beans, undrained
                                1of tomato paste
                                2 TBSP of taco mix
                                1/2 tsp of paprika
                                1 tsp chili powder
                                2 small envelopes of Goya Sazon
                                1 cup of water with a beef bouillon cube mixed into

Directions:
                               Put about two tbsp of vegetable oil into bottom of dutch oven that has a cover. Brown the hamburger into it. Drain of fat.
                               Break up hamburger into small pieces, then add all ingredients. Mix everything together. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Let the chili simmer an hour or more, stirring occasionally.  If the chili gets to thick, add water a 1/2 cup at a time.
                               Serve.  Refrigerate with cover any leftovers.  Taste better every day after making it.

Note from Mary - this is delicious in a warmed tortilla and/or with shredded cheddar on it!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Super Storm Sandy, What We did Wrong

As promised, a list of what we did wrong.

When we left this blog yesterday, the Bennett family was in the cold and dark, had two extra household members with them and had limited access to hot water and cooking utilities.

1. We didn't have enough batteries.  Although the batteries never ran out on us, if we'd been in the dark any longer, we would have, and we had no replacements.  Further, the crank radio was not made for comfort cranking and took an awful lot of cranks to keep it running.  In retrospect, it would have been better to have a smaller, battery run radio with a back up set of one or two to keep it running and depend on the crank radio for when things really got dire, which they didn't.

2.  The camp stove was a great idea, but on our fifth day, the first canister of propane ran out.  We should have had at least two canisters available to us.  Not that we needed to overload and buy great quantities of propane canisters, but we were cutting it a little too close.

3.  We should have had more wood ready to use in the wood stove.  Though we hadn't used it in three years, the amount of wood we were able to scavenge from our yard, that was aged enough to use was getting a bit thin.  And the wood stove really took the chill off the house and made the difference between miserable and somewhat comfy.

4.  We bought the wrong types of food.  We had soups and vegetables and beans.  What we should have had was stews, chili, hash, things that could be cooked in one pot because the washing of pots was limited and primitive.

5.   We weren't prepared to have visitors, so my sons did not have their own flash lights etc.  Not something that tells them that they are welcomed guests , if you know what I mean.

6.  For everything, we should have just had more.  The government website says to be prepared for two weeks, and that should be the bare minimum that we were prepared for.

7.  The dice game was a bust.  It was too easy to lose the dice in a dim house.  The Uno cards on the other hand were brightly colored, easy to see and provided a break to boredom.  I would like to add a few more simple board games to our collection.  I will look for the printing on the board to be big and have a minimum of set up and small pieces.

8.  We lost every last bit of food in our freezer.  Short of buying our own generator, which is out of the question for us, I don't know what I could have done to prevent it.  Maybe put in more ice packs to keep the food cold?  I don't know, but I'm done crying over spoiled meat.  It is something I will continue to think about how to prevent though.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Super Storm Sandy: Lessons Learned

  Like so many other people, I'm still a bit frazzled by Super Storm Sandy.  Unlike so many other people, my family was left relatively unscathed by Sandy.
     By two o'clock pm, the winds of Sandy were starting to intimintaly whistle around my home and I thought "Well, if it stays like this, it won't be too bad." No sooner than I had this pleasant thought, than there was a huge "BOOM" and our internet and electric left.  The house immediately became a few shades darker.
       The winds began to pick up and become more strong, more frequent and longer lasting. I was very happy that my husband's work had been cancelled and he was home and that my two son's from NY were visiting also.  I couldn't imagine being in a storm like Sandy alone, or with only people significantly younger than myself.
        That night, we ate a very simple and forgetable cold supper since my stove is electric. My body ached for my heated blanket, buy without electicity, it wasn't to be.
         The next morning, the storm was mostly over, and we expected to have our electric power back by that afternoon, the same as last year's October storm.
         It wasn't to be.  This time around, not only were we without electric power for nearly 6 days, we also were the last block in our development to get the power back.  I expected our sons to leave us and return to Long Island every miserable day because their area got almost no rain or wind and never lost cable, never mind electricity.  But they stuck it out with us.
         Well now I've taken stock of the situation and I'm ready to share with you what we did wrong, as well as what we did right.  May-be you can glean some information that will help you to be ready for when you are in a storm situation yourself.

Ready?  Here goes!

What we did right:

1. We removed every tree in our yard that could possibly fall on our house.  Other trees were drastically pruned to make them "lighter" in a storm. Note, we didn't leave pokey branches that would punch holes into the side of our house. Just lightened them up.  We did this months before storm season.

2.  We have an electric stove, so my husband bought a small, inexpensive "camp stove" to cook one skillet dinners on.  And an extra canister of propane.  This was done in the summer, before any danger.

3.   Because we live in shivering cold New England, we found out what was involved in putting a wood stove into our house legally.  We did everything by the book and had it done in late summer.

4.   We bought canned food for almost a full two weeks, extra toilet paper and paper towel, paper plates and plastic cups as soon as there was talk of a hurricane starting.

5.   Dear husband bought flashlight battery kits when they were on sale, enough for our family, and stored them under the sink.

6.   After last years October storm, WalMart was selling small battery powered lanterns for about four dollars.  We bought one, put it on a shelf in the bathroom and left it there in case of an emergency.

7.  We bought a deck or Uno cards and a package of dice and left them unoppened in case of a spate of no power so that we'd have games to play to relieve the boredom.

8.  We bought a crank powered emergency radio

9.   As soon as we found out the storm was supposed to hit the next day, we all put our cell phones on chargers to make sure we had a full charge when the storm hit.

10.  Had a huge collection of jar candles with easy access too and a collection of box matches.

Tomorrow?  What we did wrong!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dump Cooking


It seems like every ten years or so, a type of cooking becomes popular, promising that it will provide nutrition, save mom time in the kitchen and be easy clean up.



Anybody remember the “Meals In The Freezer” movement? Or the crockpot movement? Caserole Movement? One pule one cooking? Personally, I still practice all of these movements when I

can. I might not be able to have a full 30 day supply of dinners in the freezer, but it is still nice to have five meals in the freezer. Or even one, truth be told.



So how did I misss the “Dump Movement” of cookery? Oh did you miss it too?



The “Dump” method calls for you to have some recipes and supplies like zippered freezer bags, measured amounts of chopped onion etc on hand. Then quickly, because you are dealing with frozen food, package each raw meal and place it in the freezer to freeze solid. When you want to use the meal, let it defrost in your refridgerator all day and then back for about an hour in a caserole dish in your oven. Easy peasy. And the recipes seem really yummy.



The problem for me is one, the use of so many non safe to recycle freezer bags. Second, the components for some of the yummy sauces are bound to stick to the bag and be a real pain to try to get onto the meat. So for me, the “Dump Meals” as they are written, are out. I still plan to cook them, but not in my oven, I plan to get everything ready in my crock pot, and not have to worry about honey sticking to the bags.



But check out this wonderful website for some delicious Dump Recipes:

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Happy Birthday America


This could have been the unexpected , double -dip of Fourth of July Celebrating if anyone wanted to take advantage of it. I guess the word wanted, could have also been replaced by the word able also. Nate was off from weekend to weekend, so if we had chosen, we could have really had a celebration that lasted all week, or two celebrations. We didn't though because we are suffering from Big Family Turned Small Syndrome, just like the child who can't play by himself, but must have many companions.



First one son couldn't make it, then the second son couldn't come either, third son was iffy, and I had to go to the hospital.


To paraphrase from “A Christmas Story” - goodbye meaty scent of BBQ, so long creamy tater salad, adieu toasted marshmallows, not even the heady smell of a charcoal fire.



We'll celebrate later in the month, even with some birthdays thrown in, but no double dipping this year... Just memories of a red bell grille, flag cakes of culinary kitchens passed, Frisbee and softballs and water balloons, fire fly hunting, and fireworks.



Happy Birthday America!!!

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