Archive for December, 2010

There and Back Again

The tree at Em's with real candles lit

We’ve been back since Christmas Day and enjoying our memories of Christmas at Emily and Ingmar’s home with two little girls dancing about, being so excited by all the beauty of the tree and the seeming thousands of gifts brought to them by baby Jesus and loving relatives. It was truly a magic time. Today my daughter Alice and her family are driving eastward to celebrate the rest of the week and New Year’s Eve with them.  And I must think about resolutions for 2011 and assessments of 2010. But I’m still working on that mantra of “one day at a time”.

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Nathan and Santa Stephen in front of the tree.......

Gingerbread Man in his Wheelchair after Andy ate off his legs

Andy and I went out to lunch today and afterward did several errands and ended up at Alice’s house with some Christmas dvds for them to enjoy during the vacation.

Stephen was given an amazing Santa Claus outfit from Mike’s Aunty Maria and here he is all dressed up in his big brother Nathan’s lap, only slightly in danger of sliding off. They look so lovely to me. Of course, I’m just the grandmother. I couldn’t be biased, could I?

I had given Nathan a set to make a gingerbread house and he and Alice made it today. I think they did an awesome job, though this picture doesn’t show off all the special features. It does, however, show the sad plight of  the gingerbread man whose home it is, after Andy bit off his legs! Good heavens! And then he suggested they make a candy wheel chair for him. We all think he still looks happy. It’s just his sweet disposition, I guess.

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Christmas Tree Last Year

This afternoon I am decorating the Christmas Tree and putting up a few more decorations, but it will again be a potted Norfolk Island Pine…I’ll be playing some favorite Christmas CDs while I do this to try and get myself into a better mood, and I’m sure I will succeed.

But it was a sad morning. I attended the funeral of a friend’s husband, a man who also died of Alzheimer’s. When Paul was ill, Suzanne was pastoral minister at our church and a kind and sustaining friend during the last two years of his life. So was our pastor, Father Steve, who officiated at the funeral mass this morning.  He came and gave Paul the last rites more than once, and visited several times. But it brought back many memories of those days…..But in the spirit of not being sad because it is over, but happy because it happened, let me remember all the wonderful Christmases I have been able to experience.  Paul loved Christmas so much and we went to great efforts to have a traditional Hungarian Christmas and I wonder if we did not enjoy it all as much as or more than our children!

On the other hand, I realize that for many people it is a tough time of year. Many people have suffered many sorts of losses, this year and throughout their lives. Many feel like outsiders looking in at what may seem more perfect than it actually is, and from which they feel excluded.

I am praying for all of them to find the blessing of Christmas, and am wondering what I can do to make that happen, more than I have…..Perhaps not in these next few days, but during the year to come.

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Snowy Days and Dr. Seuss

Statue of Dr. Seuss and the Cat in the Hat in front of UCSD's Geisel Library

While enjoying the snowy landscape outside (and they are saying we may have 24 more inches by Wednesday) I’m doing a little research on Dr. Seuss and reading a mystery – Death in the Garden by Elizabeth Ironside – and some Christmas stories – A Rumpole Christmas – and Children’s books – Why Christmas Trees Aren’t Perfect – and watching Doctor Finlay DVDs. Can you guess I’m not going out today……..Bummer! My table top Christmas tree, a potted Norfolk Island Pine like the one I decorated last year, is at my daughter Alice’s house “over the river and through the woods” and I’m staying here for now. So it won’t be decorated today, though I’d enjoy doing that while listening to CDs of favorite Christmas carols.

I was launched into the  Dr. Seuss research by a quote I liked when I read it on a friend’s blog this morning. I’ve discovered that there is some dispute over whether he actually said this, but I like it very much indeed. It is “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

This is a pretty good philosophy for living because everything changes and everything will be “over” on this Earth, at some time. But all the things that have happened to us can remain part of us forever. Perhaps that should influence us a bit on what we allow to happen, what directions we let ourselves move into. Oh, this quote can be applied in so many ways, and all of them, I think, good.

I was at this point in my blog post  a bit ago and lost everything when I tried to cut and paste the quotation into the blog. Not the first time this has happened, so I think I will just type from memory from now on!

I think some of my grandchildren are getting a few of his books this Christmas. It’s ridiculous, because they are already getting lots of books from me. But we are all readers, so I don’t mind and I think they won’t either…..

If you would like to read more Dr. Seuss quotes (I’m not brave enough to try again and loose everything) you can read some good ones here:


Paul and I always had a running joke that part of his job as a husband was to cultivate my sense of humor. I do have one, but I can also become a little too serious at times. I think I need some Dr. Seuss, too.

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morning view from an upstairs window

After the most warm and mellow September, October and November, truly golden days, we are fairly suddenly plunged into real winter with the arrival of December. And early December. Today is the feast of St. Nicholas. Winter isn’t officially here for a few weeks.  But when I looked out the Paul’s office window this morning I knew that it was truly here!

It’s really a winter wonderland and still falling, slowly and steadily. I’m afraid the trip that my friend Penny and I had planned for tomorrow, to drive down to Charm in Holmes county and see what’s new at Miller’s Dry Goods, is pretty much off – certainly if the weather reports are right and the snow is going to continue falling, it’s no time to drive down to Amish farm country.

the view from my workroom window, right next to the computer

I’m sure many plans will be changed with this!  It looks like time to remain cozy at home!

Meanwhile, at the home front, Andy has been playing with his rather amazing 3D printer from China. It prints real object in plastic from a spool. And now he is printing components that can be put together to make larger structures.  His gerbil Master Tesla is testing the results of these masterworks…………….

Master Tesla Himself

Tesla checking out Andy's latest creation

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The lap pool

Outside the Nat at Night

In 2006 after Paul had had a stroke and then a brain injury during an operation to place a stent in his carotid artery, and had spent about six months in various hospitals and rehab hospitals and a nursing home, and was finally home again, we looked for a place to do some sort of exercise that might be helpful to him, in addition to the outpatient therapy he was doing.  My daughter Alice and her family had recently joined the Natatorium in the nearby city of Cuyahoga Falls and they were so enthusiastic about it that we decided to try it for ourselves. First I went and when I realized they had family changing rooms as well as a current channel to walk in, we joined.  We went seven days a week to walk in the water and many people told me that Paul had really improved in his ability to walk upright and not lean to one side from this exercise.

some of the pools with the current channel under the water slide

It was a wonderful opportunity. The drive from our house to the Nat was twenty-five minutes through some lovely green spaces, including a good part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. We watched the seasons change through the rest of 2006 and through the summer of 2007. We drove down into the valley and  past a heron nesting site which was very busy in the spring and summer, and up the Bath Road hill into the Falls. We also began shopping at a wonderful grocery store which advertised itself as “German Deli and Health Foods”, a combination which always made us laugh.  But indeed, it was both, and Paul loved to choose the fruit for us from their great selection, mostly grown in Amish Holmes county just south of us.

We often felt that we were living as only kings could have lived in earlier times and both loved it.  With Paul’s Alzheimer’s, the daily routine of getting up, driving to the Nat, exercising, shopping, and returning home – with lunch out at times or visits to our daughter’s home – was ideal. And with my arthritis, this was ideal as well. I’ve continued this since his death and have found it very important for my health, perhaps mental as well as physical, so I missed it greatly after the two surgeries in August and October meant I couldn’t immerse myself in any water.

the children's pool and frog slide in the distance

And I think it does affect my ability to walk any distances when I don’t have this exercise at least three to five times a week. So I was overjoyed on Tuesday when the surgeon said I could return to the water! I am so happy!!! I’m on my way this afternoon and hope that I’ll be able to do the regular hour of walking. If I need to stop sooner, I’ll still be thrilled that this great benefit is available to me again…When my granddaughters are in town, they love to swim in the kids pool and so does my grandson Nathan. There are also exercise machines upstairs and downstairs, a gym and courts for racket ball and classrooms for yoga, chi tai, spinning and other things. Plus a subway restaurant and party rooms for kids. It’s really a wonderful facility and the best bargain in the area, I think.

p.s. I realized I don’t have a picture of the real deepwater lap pool with diving boards here. You’ll just have imagine it. Or come and see for yourselves.

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A small tree two years ago

Advent has always been a season I love. I almost wonder why, since it comes at such an often dark, cold and dreary time of year. But I think it is because of the Advent customs our family practiced and the fun of celebrating a Hungarian Christmas together.

Every Sunday afternoon during Advent,  in the years when my children were growing up, we gathered together around a small round table on which the Advent wreath lay. We lit the right number of candles for that Sunday and then sang Advent and Christmas songs in English, Hungarian, German, and even a few in Latin. Around the circle we went, each in turn getting to chose the song to sing next. When there were young children we brought out small bells that they could ring when we sang Jingle Bells. Often there was a  cozy tea party afterward.

There was a lot of harmony of more than only the musical sort and we felt close and happy. I still try to have one or two of these events every year, though they may not be in my house, and everyone is not together anymore. Every other year Emily and her family go to Germany for Christmas with Ingmar’s family. And when they are in the US for Christmas, Andy and I have been driving to beautiful Bellefonte to share their Christmas. That’s what we plan to do this year, as long as no giant snowstorms interfere with our plans.

Everything does change, but we can try to continue and pass on those things which seem good.  The Hungarian Christmas needed a lot of organization because Baby Jesus and his Angels brought the tree and decorated it and left the presents under it on Christmas Eve. We were very greatly helped by Paul’s oldest sister Isa who invited our children to spend a day with her, sometimes the night before as well, and brought them to our house after sunset on Christmas Eve. We met in the kitchen, lit only with candle light and had our Advent singing there. At some point Paul would read the nativity from the Gospel of Luke and then we would sing a little more and suddenly, mysteriously, a bell rang and it meant that the Christ Child and his helpers had finished their work and were leaving and we could go to the living room and see the tree for the first time and all the gifts.

A traditional Hungarian tree is very beautiful because it is hung not only with ornaments and lights but with many many cookies and special candies which are wrapped in fringed tissue paper with the center covered in foil. It took a lot of work, and I wouldn’t probably want to try to do it all again, but it was so beautiful and I treasure these memories.  I remember hearing how my nephew Bob as a small child saw his first American tree and burst into tears, wailing, “There’s nothing to eat!” Everyone was encourage to sample the cookies and the candy called ” szalon cukor “.

I hope we never lost sight of the story of the miracle of  the birth of a small baby in a stable, long ago and far away, who changed the history of the world!  I know we always felt the love which caused all these miracles to happen.

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