My favorite Christmas memories

With new readers to, I’d like to share three of my favorite classic short stories from my Christmas memory pages posted December 2011.

It’s the peanutiest!!

Growing up in Eau Claire, Wis., my family belonged to Epiphany Lutheran Church.
Christmas meant the presentation of the Christmas Chorale, an event our junior choir practiced for weeks in advance.
At the end of the program, the choir members and all Sunday School students received lunch sacks containing an apple, an orange, a few pieces of candy and plenty of peanuts in-their-shells.
Being that I hail from a family of seven siblings, there were always several of us who were either in the choir, Sunday School or both. That meant, LOTS of peanuts! Upon returning home, the contents of our bags were pooled together and the peanuts poured into a large bowl.
Dad loved those peanuts! He ate himself sick on them nearly every Christmas. It became a family joke because Dad never learned!
When I remember Christmas as a child, I can’t help recall, of all things, peanuts!!
That’s why, when visiting Dad’s gravesite at Christmastime, I tote along one large bag of in-the-shell peanuts and empty them out onto the ground.
Yes, it’s in memory of Dad. But, at the same time, I smile thinking how much the squirrels enjoy the peanuts and must wonder if the peanut lady will show up again this year with their very own Christmas feast.   
And, every year I hope the squirrels don’t end up with a big ol’ tummy ache like Dad did!!!

December Campsite

Our son, Jon, was a little tyke when our family started a tradition we continued year after year.
In the morning, we hauled the Christmas tree inside, placed it in the stand, and gave it until evening for the branches to come down.
Then, we prepared hot chocolate, set out a tray of goodies, put on Christmas music and set about decorating the tree together.
The really fun part came when we turned off all the lights, pulled out blankets and pillows and “camped under the stars” that first night.
We’d hum or sing Christmas carols, reminisce about Christmas’ past, discuss the true meaning of Christmas, take in the fresh pine fragrance, and feel blessed for the love of family.
By the time Jon reached middle school, we no longer carried out our tradition. That is, not until his younger brother, Evan, came along, when Jon was finishing his sophomore year in high school.
A few years later, while Jon was away at college, Bob and I took up our camping ritual once again with Evan.
The funny thing was, “somehow” we didn’t remember it being as uncomfortable sleeping on that hard floor as it was when we had last “camped” about six years before!
Bob didn’t even make it halfway through the night before he hobbled off to bed. I forced myself to suppress a giggle!
And to think all this time, I thought he was the outdoorsman!!! Bah humbug!!!

“Diamonds” are a girl’s best friend

Bob’s dad, Ray, pulled a few practical jokes in his time.
I was rarely his target. But, one Christmas, he did a “gotcha!”
Throughout that season, leading up to Christmas, he let elusive little hints slip, often in hushed tones. The jest of it was that I would receive an extra-special gift that year.
Words such as diamond and pin were whispered just loud enough for me to hear.
What was a girl to think?
The time for unwrapping gifts arrived.
We took turns going around the family circle, opening one present at a time.
“Save that one for last, Kath,” Ray chuckled with a wink and a grin, after I had chosen one particular package. Like most things in life, saving something for last usually means it’s the best.
Finally, after the rounds had been made and I was down to my final gift, I picked it up again.
I was totally embarrassed because all eyes were on me as I tore off the paper, lifted the cover from the box and peeked inside.
There, nestled in tissue paper, was my much-anticipated Christmas gift.
Ray had taken an extra-large safety pin and glued a dime on it.
Yes siree, right before my eyes sat my very own “dime-on” pin!!!!

May you and yours have a joyful Christmas and be richly blessed in 2019.

Do you have a special Christmas memory? If you do and would like to share it with our readers, send your short story to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Oh, boys!!! Here we go again…

Our youngest son, Evan, is a fun and funny guy. Even as a little kid, he always, ALWAYS marched to the beat of his own drum. His even-keel older bro, Jon, is like a ship… steady as she goes! Two brothers, two different paths.
Well, Jon’s boys, Jackson, 11, and Bryson, 9, are Jon and Evan all over again. Jackson is calm, quiet and, for the most part, collected. Bryson on the other hand, is free-wheeling!
When our family got together with Jon, Sara and the boys, and before Bryson was old enough to walk, he was really afraid of Evan. He wouldn’t let Ev hold him… he’d squirm and squeal if Evan tried to take him from someone else’s arms. We could never understand it.
Then, one day it hit me. Evan is 16 years younger than Jon. He’s a big guy, but because he was, and still is, so full of energy… basically wired liquid… I wondered if it was plausible Bryson couldn’t figure Evan out. Evan looked like a grownup… yet he acted like a kid. And a HUGE kid like that was bound to scare little Brycie!!!
It took awhile for Bryson to feel comfortable with Evan. However, as Bryson has grown, guess what? He idolizes uncle Evan! When our family is together, Bryson sticks to Ev like Gorilla Glue!!!
The two of them even think alike. Once, when Ev was a kid, he was deer hunting with Bob, Bob’s Dad, uncle and cousins. They stopped for lunch. When the waitress asked Evan for his order, Evan responded with, “I’ll take a cheeseburger, without the cheese.”
The waitress asked, “Sooo, you mean you want a plain burger?”
“No, I want a cheeseburger without the cheese.”
They went back and forth a couple of times and, by now, the hunting crew was in stitches and the waitress was probably wondering what planet this kid was dropped off from. It’s a story Ev will NEVER, EVER live down!!!
Then, there’s Brycie!!! The other day, he told his parents, “I like onion rings, but without the onions.”
SAY WHAT???!!!
Sara and Jon couldn’t wait to tell us! It is SO Evan!!!
We thought there could only be one Evan. BUT, LOOK OUT WORLD, EVAN No. 2 IS ON THE LOOSE!!!!!

The good, the bad and the ugly!!!

Recently, our family’s late summer plans included a Milwaukee Brewers’ Weekend, in part to celebrate grandson, Jackson’s, 11th birthday. (It seems like yesterday he was just a little squirt!!)
Of course, when families get together, unplanned events are a given. We all know the scenario, don’t we?
The Brewers’ were hosting the Pittsburgh Pirates. Friday night’s game turned into a hard-fought battle, going 15 innings before The Brew Crew finally pulled off the victory, 7-6. Our “crew” made it 12 innings before we packed it in and called it a night.
The most fun we had during the game was a surprise none of us expected. We had arrived somewhat early. Some family members were wandering around Miller Park while a few of us took in the view from our seats.
We were really surprised when two young ladies from The Brewers’ organization came up to us and asked if either Jackson or Bryson (almost 9) would be interested in announcing Brewer players in the 4th inning, a tradition at Miller Park. Jackson had the first opportunity, because of his age. However, he declined. Bryson? He was all about going for it!!
One of the ladies showed us where Bryson and a family member should report by the middle of the 3rd inning. Bryson was psyched! When the time came, he and his Dad, our son, Jon, left for the area. Grampa tagged along to record the event.
At the bottom of the 4th inning, Bryson appeared bigger than life on “The Big Screen” introducing Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas (Bryson’s fav) and Erik Kratz.
What turned out to be even more fun was later, when we watched Grampa’s video of Bryson before his big moment in the spotlight. Be sure to check it out.
The next day, the guys went to Golf Galaxy in Brookfield, while we girls headed out to shop. We were on our way to The Corners of Brookfield, a newer shopping center, when KABANG!!! We were sideswiped!!! Sara was driving our Jeep. She did everything she could to avoid the lady who hit us, including blaring the horn and moving over as far as she could. However, we were up tight against a median with nowhere to go.
Our new Jeep took the brunt of it. We were grateful no one was injured and called the guys. When they got there, and after some debate, Evan said, “We need to call the police.”
We spent more than an hour with the officer, who took our statements while we filled out forms. The lady took full responsibility for the crash. The Jeep could be driven, but the front passenger door wouldn’t open.
That evening was the family’s second game where we saw The Brewers get hit hard, too, in a 9-1 loss. OUCH!!
The Jeep is in for repairs and will be good as new. But, it’s unlikely we’ll forget the events of this Brewer trip - The good: Jackson’s birthday and Bryson’s big-screen debut. The bad: The Brewer’s 9-1 loss. And, the downright ugly: The accident.

(Be sure to view the video of Bryson’s Brewer antics on our home page at


The magnificent monarch... and more

OK. I’ll admit it. The Outdoors Guy’s outdoors’ interests have gotten into my system… at least a little bit.
Still, I haven’t changed from my girly-girl interests as much as does a caterpillar when it metamorphoses into a butterfly.
Two weeks ago, I noticed a caterpillar creeping across the pot of one of our ferns on the patio. The next day, a green chrysalis hung precariously toward the bottom of the pot. I wondered how it could hold on in strong winds and rainy weather. I needn’t have been concerned. It has hung from that thin strand, attached by something stronger than Super Glue, through days of high winds, heavy rain, and even when I move the pot out of the way for our “Mow Joes.”  
That same evening, I discovered another caterpillar inching its way across our patio steps. The next morning, a second chrysalis hung from the top step by our patio door. I knew this one would require taking extra precaution so neither Bob nor I accidentally dislodged it.
Also, that evening, I saw yet another green chrysalis dangling from our landscape edging and still a fourth suspended under a hydrangea leaf.
I have noticed a number of chrysalis over the years, but never four in such close proximity and so easily visible.
I’ll admit it. I always thought butterflies hatch from cocoons. However, through my research for this blog, I learned, “butterflies hatch from chrysalis, a life stage made of a hardened protein.” In contrast, “A cocoon is spun from silk and surrounds the pupa of many moths.”
Not knowing how long it takes for caterpillars’ metamorphosis, I searched websites for info because even The Outdoors Guy wasn’t sure.
I learned from one website by Lynn Rosenblatt, Monarch Butterfly USA, there are five generations of monarchs in a single year. Then, the process begins again.
“The total time frame for one butterfly’s life cycle (one generation) is about 6-8 weeks… egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly. It grows inside the egg for about 4 days. It then munches milkweed and grows as a monarch caterpillar (larvae) for about 2 more weeks. The caterpillar’s life inside the chrysalis (pupa) lasts about 10 days and its life as an adult butterfly lasts from 2-6 weeks.”
According to the website Science Learning Hub, ”A monarch larva moults 5 times. The final moult reveals an adult butterfly. The enlarged abdomen is full of fluid. The butterfly pumps the fluid into its crumpled wings until they become full and stiff.”
Returning to Monarch Butterfly USA website, I learned “The 5th generation… does NOT mate or die in 2-6 weeks. In November/December, the monarch’s inner compass directs it to MIGRATE south and this generation will live 4-5 months in Mexico or Southern California. They begin awakening and mating in March of the NEXT SPRING, and then lay their eggs! Withered and tattered from their migration and hibernation… they finally die.”
I was excited when I went out to the patio on Sept. 17 and discovered the second chrysalis had its final moult. It was hanging on the edge of the step, fluttering its wings, with the chrysalis shell next to it. I checked on the monarch several times, always finding the it in the same spot. Finally, a couple hours later I witnessed this magnificent creature take its maiden flight! Awesome!
The first chrysalis is still dangling from the flower pot as is the one hanging from the landscape edging.
Sadly, the fourth chrysalis, the one suspended under a hydrangea leaf, will not have its final moult. When I first discovered it, the chrysalis was black. I thought that seemed strange, but wondered if it was a different kind of butterfly.   
However, according to the Missouri Botanical Gardens Butterfly School website, “Pupae” (when the caterpillar is in chrysalis its called a pupa) may die instead of completing the transformation into butterflies. A black or very dark chrysalis could indicate that the pupa died. If you gently bend the chrysalis at the abdomen and it remains bent, the pupa's probably dead.”
Tentatively, I did as instructed. Not only did the chrysalis remain bent, it felt empty...kind of like I felt at that moment. It was another lesson for me in nature’s ways. Some aren’t always easy to comprehend or accept.
Yet, there is a plan. “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven - a time to give birth and a time to die.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
It is not our job to understand. God only asks us to accept HIS divine will. By believing in His Son, Jesus Christ, who did His Father’s will and died and rose from the dead to pay for the sins of the world, we will be saved. Then, unlike the monarch’s incredibly short life cycle, or our unpredictable earthly life span, we will be forever with the Lord. Even the wonders of nature can’t compare!!!
 "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9.

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It's a dog's life

Growing up in a large family, it was out of the question to hope having a dog or other pet would happen.
Oh, we asked, but there were seven kids in our household. A pet would have translated into our parents having yet another mouth to feed. Besides, Dad believed dogs belonged in the country, and we were city dwellers.
In sharp contrast, The Outdoors Guy was an only child. For most of his life, his family had black labs for hunting. I’ll never forget the first time I met his last lab, Bing. Bob lived at home and we had stopped at his parents’ place. In a flash, Bing stood on his hind legs and plopped his monster-sized front paws onto my shoulders. We stood nose to nose, eye to eye. Since I wasn’t used to dogs, plus this too-close-for-comfort contact, I nearly passed out! Meanwhile, Bob was having a good laugh knowing Bing simply wanted to make a new friend.
After we were married, we tried adopting dogs a couple of times. But, it never was the right fit.
Both of our boys own dogs. Jon, daughter-in-law, Sara, and grandsons, 11-year-old Jackson and 8-year-old Bryson, have Guinness, (pictured) an adorable Yorkie who is 3+ years old.
Because Jackson has allergies to most dogs, a Yorkie, which is hypo-allergenic, was one of the breeds that was safe for him. Jon would have liked a larger dog, but was happy to bring a “foo foo” dog into their family for Jackson’s sake. The funny part of this is, Jon is Guinness’ favorite… and Jon kinda likes him, too… lol!!
Before Guinness, Neely, their elderly rescue beagle, was a treasured family member until sadly she disappeared into the woods behind their home in August 2011. They spent days searching for her. Then, reflecting on Neely’s age and condition, they eventually accepted it was her time for rest.
Evan’s adopted dog is Bibi (pictured on cover). She is also an older beagle. Bibi is lovable and gentle until she’s out for a walk. Then, true to her beagle lineage, her nose takes over and her good behavior goes AWOL!  
Like our family, my sister, Brenda, and brother-in-law, Stu, didn’t have pets when their girls were growing up, either. Now, their daughter and son-in-law, Kristin and Matt, who have 14-year-old twin sons, Tanner and Blake, and an 8-year-old daughter, Madison, have a yellow lab. Madison named her Mea Mae (pictured in photo gallery). She blended into their family from day one.
Since Brenda and I came from a no-pet family, and because our two families didn’t have dogs when our kids were growing up, we weren’t into them all that much. To that end, it seemed bizarre that on one of Brenda’s and my recent weekly marathon phone visits, we went on and on about the granddogs and how much we enjoy them… almost as much as the grandkids... LOL!!!
When we finally took a breath, I asked Brenda, “Do you realize we just spent 20 minutes talking about the granddogs?!!!!” We both burst out laughing!!!
After all these years, we remember how much we wanted a dog as kids. Now we have a front-row seat, not only observing, but being involved in the delightful way they add to our families’ well-being.
Brenda, however, still hasn’t taken one major leap… she can’t bring herself to smooch Mea Mae. Whereas for me, I’m like the lyrics in The Pointer Sisters’ hit song “Automatic:” “No way to control it, it’s totally automatic.”
The old saying, “It’s a dog’s life” means life is difficult and unpleasant. Yet, from first-hand experience, I can attest that both the lives of dogs and the families who dearly love them are not only the opposite, they are truly infinitely better!!!