Good-bye Christmas 2016


Today I am still recovering from a combination of too much sugar and ears that never popped after the plane I was on made a nose drive to escape nasty weather.  It was such a rough flight that stewardesses remained in their seats the whole way. We didn’t even get peanuts!img_2446

The winds pushed ashore monsoon rains, making my dream of Christmas Eve at the Cantina seem more like a nightmare.  Instead we stayed close to home and made Christmas cookies and gingerbread houses.


Not bad for two five year olds and a three year old!


Love means going through a security checkpoint with a special present handmade by five year old Audrey for Pretty Kitty.


He seemed pleased, however he didn’t know exactly what it was.  A scratching post, silly kitty!

Flying home I sat on the western side of the plane and watched the sun set over marshes at the southern tip of the San Francisco Bay.



I hope you all had a magical Christmas!  Onward we march towards 2017. God help us all. Perhaps homemade cookies and milk will save us.  Well, it couldn’t hurt.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

I don’t have many pictures of Christmas mornings when my kids were small because let’s face it – who wants to have their picture taken after you’ve stayed up until 5 am putting together a bicycle using instructions written by someone of dubious technical skills and then been woken at 6:30 AM by children anxious to see what Santa brought?  img_2429


The above picture was taken the year my Aunt Gloria knitted us all brightly colored beanies.  Didn’t help – I still look like a bloodless vampire.


This picture was taken after I’d opened a  box of fortune cookies from my “Secret Santa.”  Look at how excited and happy I was. Thanks Cousin Penny; exactly what I wanted!  Of course that was the year my sister and I drank a bottle (or two) of wine while making our contribution to dinner: scalloped potatoes. Dinner time came, everything was ready to go but whoops! We’d forgotten to turn on the oven. My step mother was not amused.

Eventually your kids become teens and it becomes impossible to wake them before noon, even on Christmas morn. When you finally get them out of bed, they look like this all day long.


At least Boo was attempting a smile.

At one time I was so good at the Christmas thing that my children got into fights at school with non-believers. Now Christmas Eve my daughter and I have been spotted enjoying Happy Hour at the local vegan, gluten-free beach shack as the sun sinks into the Pacific.  Shhhh, don’t tell Santa.img_2422

Can you see my daughter Boo in the above picture? I’d gotten her up early and started taking pictures before her shower and beauty regimen so she refused to have her picture taken. What do you think Cam was excited about getting?


Happy Christmas from Boo, Cam, and their buddy Bobart (a nickname). 

I’ll be away for Christmas – here are a few posts from past Christmases in case you miss me:

And my favorite Christmas song.

War won’t be over; fear won’t be a thing of the past but all is not lost.  Down at Henri’s Beach Shack wine will be five dollars a glass until 7 PM.  There might even be a jazz band.

The Ghosts and Sillies of Christmas

Happy Holidays everyone!  I will be mostly
 off-line for the next week 
so I'm leaving you with a post 
from a few years ago! Jan

In my opinion (which you can take or leave) the best Christmas stories don’t include a visit from Jolly Saint Nick.  They are stories you can read any time of year and enjoy.


Illustration by Lisbeth Zwerger. Extra credit if you can name the story!

Below are quotes from my favorite Christmas stories.  See if you can match each quote to its author:  Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote, James Joyce, Anton Chekhov, Arthur Conan Doyle, Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Dickens or O’Henry. (Hint: many of the quotes come from just one author or rather poet.)

1. Favorite intros:

a. “I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. “

b. “Imagine a morning in late November. A coming of winter morning more than twenty years ago.”


Also by Lisbeth Zwerger and in the same book.

2. Favorite Metaphors:

a. “Bells the children heard, were inside them…”

b. “The postman with a rose on his button nose…”

c. “Mittens made for giant sloths…”

d. “Making ghosts with their breath…”

e. “Uncles breathing like dolphins…”

3. Lines/scenes I wish I’d written:

a. ‘”The goose, Mr. ####! The goose, sir!” he gasped.

     “Eh? What of it, then? Has it returned to life and flapped off through the kitchen window?”


From bing images

b. “Oh my,” she exclaims, “it’s fruitcake weather!”

c. “What would you say if two hippos were coming down the street?”

4. This is the way I feel after last minute X-mas shopping:


Lisbeth Zwerger

“There was clearly nothing to do but flop down on the shabby little couch and howl. So Della did it. Which instigates the moral reflection that life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.”

4. Best Endings:

a. “It [the snow] was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

b. “And what is in there?” he asked, pointing to a closed door.

Andrei drew himself up at attention, and answered in a loud voice: “The hot douche, your Excellency.”

Image from

c. “That is why, walking across a school campus on this particular December morning, I keep searching the sky. As if I expected to see, rather like hearts, a lost pair of kites hurrying towards heaven.”

d. “Your loving Santa Claus Whom people sometimes call “The Man in the Moon””

5. Let the sobfest begin! “And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety–they were with God.”

The answers here.

The Ice Storm Cometh

Part Two (and Conclusion of) Dem Dam Hippies’ Christmas in Have-You-Been-Saved Missouri

The day before Christmas an ice monster crept over the town of Greenwood, his goal, to flash freeze everything living and lock us in houses where our illusion of safety would be challenged by falling trees, downed power lines and out-of-control fires.   Between the ho, ho, ho of jolly Christmas songs, we heard horror story after horror story over the radio, pleas from officials to stay off the roads.

044ba2f4fe013fdd236b3606d515e75fChristmas Eve the Ice Monster still controlled the town. We had no tree, no stockings, no presents.  Family managed to get through on the phone, disappointed we hadn’t gotten the packages they’d sent. But there was no mail delivery service in Greenwood.  Just a tiny one-room post office two blocks away where you went to “call on” your mail and neither Jo or I had had the strength to walk down there.  Christmas lights across the street flickered in the frozen boughs of trees kneeling to the gods for mercy.  We went to bed early, fully dressed and under every blanket we could find.

In the morning the ice covered windows acted as prisms, sending the colors of the rainbow through the room as the winds outside whispered – the Ice Monster has fed upon the innocent and is moving on. For the first time in days I’d woken with a growling stomach and not a headache. “I’m hungry,” I said to Jo who stumbled from the bedroom. Outside we heard children yelping as they mounted new sleighs and took to the ice covered streets.

“Hot damn!  So am I!” Jo opened our sole kitchen cabinet. “Look what I found! A bran muffin mix and it only needs water.  Good thing cause we bloody well don’t have anything else.” She turned on the water but nothing came out.  “Whelp, no water either. The pipes are frozen.”

“I thought we weren’t supposed to drink melted ice.” I said as she melted one of the icicles formerly hanging from the eaves.

“Why the hell not?” I had no idea why the hell not and so I just watched as she whipped up the bran muffins and fired up the old gas stove.  “And I also found some hot cider mix!  I do declare, we’re in for a real feast now.”

I can still remember children shrieking as they slid  down the closed roads, the hot apple cider and bran muffins tasting better than any gourmet meal I’d ever had. Happy to be alive, we danced to Jefferson Airplane:JeffersonAirplaneOne pill makes you larger, the other makes you small, and the one mother gives you doesn’t do anything at all.  Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall!! 

As we danced around the room, townsfolk walking past and hearing the unholy ruckus, shook their heads, “Dem dam hippies sure are crazy.”

Ah yes, no Christmas since as ever been so sweet.

Dem Dam Hippies’ Christmas in Have-You-Been-Saved Misery

The year the Hong Kong flu swept across America killing scores of people and leaving others begging for death, I was a “Christmas Helper” assigned to the home goods department of a Macy’s in downtown Kansas City Missouri.  If you’ve ever taken a seasonal job selling products you know nothing about then you’ll understand why I spent most of my time in the stock room. No one ever found anything in the stock room and I could sit in there forever wondering why anyone would want a tangerine colored crockpot. th

The store was located not far from the abandoned stockyards in an area where few businesses still survived but I was just a teenager with few lines on my resume. And so I’d quickly and without thinking taken a minimum wage job an hour by bus from Greenwood Missouri where I “crashed” with a friend (Joellen) a few years old and much wiser than me.

Joellen’s husband had made the unfortunate decision to sign up for the National Guard in 1966. First, he was shipped from Reno Nevada to Missouri and then to Japan. She’d followed him to Missouri (they were newlyweds) and, thinking they’d be there for awhile,  enrolled in graduate school. Now she was stuck in Greenwood, a town south of KC with a welcome sign that included the phrase  Have You Been Saved?

After high school, my first attempt to voyage out into the world had ended  in a Mennonite cornfield with one friend hospitalized, the other pregnant, and me with a fork stuck in my leg, “Come live with me,” she’d written,”and get your shit together.” She had more faith in me than I did.



We were known in Greenwood as “dem dam hippies” who lived in a three room shack with little insulation, leaky windows and a wall heater that barely kept the place warm. The car was stored in an attached lean-to but in order to keep the engine block from freezing, we had to run an extension cord out to a lamp underneath the hood. It didn’t always work.  Every morning I drove with Jo to the campus of the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC) then took a bus down to Macys.

Five days before Christmas my body began to ache. The bars, barbecue joints, and Victorian boarding houses along the route back to the campus were decorated for the season with blinking lights and Santa Clauses but in my worsening condition, santathey were as sinister as ghouls in a carnival funhouse. I remember seeing my reflection in the window on that dark, cold night.  Instead of eighteen I looked eighty (or as my mother would say “death warmed over”).


I cried as I waited for Jo outside her class. All around were murals Thomas Hart Benton had painted in his lean and feverish years, scenes of farm life that felt so cold and lifeless I decided he must have hated his subjects. I tried to convince myself that a good night’s sleep was all I needed but deep down I knew it was the Hong Kong flu.

The next morning I was barely able to lift my head from the pillow. I managed to call Macys only to be fired but didn’t care.  I was about to die so what did it matter. Some time during the next three days Jo stopped checking on me which meant she’d also been stricken. The phone rang and rang and rang until whoever was on the other end gave up.  Finally  I was able to stand for longer than a few minutes without swooning but, as so often happens when you think the worse has come and gone, you find out it was only a teaser for the main event.

Click here to read the conclusion The Ice Storm Cometh.