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Smile Awhile
Sara Blair

Wagons Ho (Part 3)

As I mentioned last week the Continental Breakfast at our hotel was not free. When Ronnie came back to the room empty-handed all he could do was walk around in a shocked stupor repeating the phrase, “Nine dollars for an egg!” But then he was still suffering PTSD from having to pay extra for the brown-paper poke at the liquor store the previous night.
That evening we ate at Ronnie’s favorite San Francisco restaurant, Sodini’s (a Sicilian eatery on Green Street that serves the best Tortiliini in the world).
The next day we attended a bitter-sweet reunion on Lombard Street, the crookiest street in the world. (Watch the movie Bullitt again). Our friend, Don Bellmer, had lost his battle against cancer and there was a celebratory gathering in his honor at his home.
Don was one of the most interesting guys you would ever want to meet. As a young Marine he was at the Bay of Pigs. He was also trained to break out of prisons, and did, indeed, escape from several during his training. He once lived with his pet wolf in a cabin he had built in the North Woods; and he was a gourmet cook. In fact, Don was Clint Eastwood’s first chef when he opened his world famous “Hog’s Breath Inn” in Carmel, California.
Ronnie said Don was a gentle man, but he stood for no foolishness. During an altercation in a bar one night he threw a guy through a plate glass window.
At the Wake, every time Susan, Don’s widow, would stroke a little Chinese bell someone would perform a song or play an instrument.
I could write at length about the people who were in attendance that day but, alas, all good things must come to an end.
Our checkout the next day went much smoother and everything was fine until we headed back to the airport to turn in our rental car. Since the freeway maze in that area resembles a plate of spaghetti I asked Ronnie if he was sure about where he was going to which he replied, “I once worked as a driver for a messenger service out here and I know the Bay area like the back of my hand. In fact, I used to make deliveries to this airport everyday’”
The FIRST wrong turn he took pointed us away from the airport toward the city of Colma. When Ronnie finally found a ramp that would circle us back toward our original destination, he assured me, “OK, I know where we are now.”
When Ronnie took his SECOND wrong turn the language emitted from him could have stained the seats of our car.
In the finest tradition of “I know a short-cut” we finally pulled into the Alamo rental center where nothing was said between us; but then, we hadn’t been speaking for some time at that point.
After a lengthy monorail ride to the airport our check-in went much smoother than before as there was no dangerous contraband in our luggage (after all, they had confiscated all of Ronnie’s bullets on the way out!).
We had been worried about “time” all morning, but now it seemed we had plenty of it with more than an hour to kill. So I planted myself in a comfortable lounge chair as Ronnie scurried down to a snack bar for some eats. Little did I know my relaxed breakfast was about to be interrupted.
Stay tuned next for the final episode when I tell Ronnie, “I think that woman left a bomb in that seat.”
Have a great week and don’t forget to Smile Awhile’


Poison Oak
Clyde Pack

Today’s communication is amazing indeed




I can’t help but be perplexed that I can sit in my recliner and talk to my grandkids who are in another state and actually see them while I’m doing it. It’s called “facetime,” and that’s all I know about it. Of course, it’s no big deal to them. They have no earthly way of understanding what communication was like without instant access to any part of the world.
I suppose what would surprise them is the fact that when I was their age, one of the most popular ways to correspond between two people -- other than face to face, of course -- was when one individual wrote a message on a piece of paper, usually with a No.2 lead pencil, or an instrument referred to as a “fountain pen” (something today’s kids likely have never seen, let alone used) placed it in an envelope, carried it a mile or so to the post office, bought a three-cent stamp and mailed it. Almost instantly, sometimes in less than week or ten days, men from the C & O passenger train would throw off a big canvas bag full of mail and there’d be an answer to the letter.
It was a pretty big deal, too, when some of the neighbors began getting telephones. Of course, as far back as I can remember there was a phone hanging on the wall in the office at the company store. I never got to talk on it, though. It was only for emergencies, or the like, when people needed to call a taxi or something.
For some reason, Dad was never overly eager to join the world of technology, so we were the last family around to get a phone. But even before he finally agreed to, it was just plain exciting to know I could step out my front door, walk in any direction and use one of the neighbors’ phones. But everybody was on a party line and the line wasn’t always open. Anyway, Dad finally agreed to get one, but it took a week or so to get it all hooked up because the phone company had to set a telephone pole in the corner of our yard and that took a while. I don’t think anybody else had their very own telephone pole.
At that time, TV was still a few years away, but when it finally arrived, those who could afford one could only get one channel (WSAZ out of Huntington) and that was only after they had climbed the nearest hill and put an antenna in the top of the highest tree they could find. Then, they had to string wire on brackets from tree to tree back down to the house. Color TV didn’t come into its own until I was in college. I remember the first full show I ever watched was in the lobby of the dorm. It was Bonanza.
Sometimes my memory of such days are as clear as a bell. No wonder I’m amazed at the fact that I can now watch a hundred channels, in living color, and look at the grandkids while I talk to them. While, at times, it all seems unbelievable to me, wonder what Samuel F. B. Morris and Alexander Graham Bell would think about it?


Education and Common Sense
Advent: What an intriguing concept

Last Sunday evening our church celebrated the First Sunday of Advent. We combined the lighting of the first candle with “The Hanging of the Greens” and got the church decorated with the help of each age group while singing Christmas Carols and learning about why each decoration symbolized a part of the Christmas story. The program was especially intriguing to me, as my sixty years in a small country church did not include celebrating the Advent season.
The West Broadway Advent Wreath contains five candles, each candle is to be lit on the four Sundays preceding Christmas Day. According to Wikipedia, the first candle represents Isaiah and the other prophets in the Bible that predicted the coming of Jesus to earth.
The second candle represents the Bible.  The third represents Mary, the mother of Jesus. The fourth candle represents John the Baptist, Jesus’ cousin, who told the people in Israel to get ready for Jesus’ teaching.
The center candle in our wreath is bigger, and it represents Jesus, the Light of the World. It is lit on Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, depending on family or local custom.
I think we sometimes get mixed up in Santa Claus, reindeer, Christmas presents, and Christmas cooking that we forget to be filled with awe at what a unique and marvelous gift to the world God’s coming to earth as a baby that night in Bethlehem of Judea was.
For many years, God had been sending messages to earth’s residents about who He is, and how we need to behave to have a good life that is pleasing to Him.
He gave Abraham the Promised Land. He delivered Abraham’s descendants out of Egypt where they had become slaves.  He gave Moses the Ten Commandments to teach His people how to have a good life, had the first five books of the Bible written down so they could read His commandments if somehow, as a people, they had forgotten them.
God’s coming to earth, as a BABY HUMAN is the most wonderful  Advent in the history of the human race!  Jesus’ Virgin Birth was miraculous; Joseph’s acceptance of Mary’s pregnancy was evidence of his faith; the shepherds and the Wise Men from the East were told of the miraculous birth by an angel chorus and a Star; an old man and an old lady at the temple where the Baby Jesus was circumcised and dedicated testified that they could die happy; they had seen the Lord’s Christ.
The Baby grew up to live a perfect life, thus making Him the only candidate to substitute for our sins and die for us, because we are all sinners. He taught us how to live a godly life in the three years of His ministry.
“What Wondrous Love is this? O my soul?” The most wonderful Advent in the history of the world!   Lighting the Advent candles should remind us that through Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice, God’s love for His creation is manifested. And if we trust Him to save us we can live with Him in a place He has prepared for us for all Eternity.
How great is our God!


The Downhomer
A month of special events

That November month, now gone, was a month filled by special events. Right off, on the 4th of the month, we finally had our election day. To voters, it was either a time of defeat or a great victory, and to some, a time of wait and see.
After this, there was a thankful day of special remembrance. The forerunner of the one on the 24th, November 11th was a nationally designated time set aside for honoring veterans.
Back when my stepfather Robert (Applejack) Siferd was the Commander of the Local D.A.V., my family was often involved in Veteran‘s Day celebrations. These days, with Pop gone and the rest of us so much older, we no longer are. Just the same, we are all well aware of the day and what it means. Bottom line is that it behooves everyone to remember the Veterans, give them the honor and thanks they deserve. There are lots of veterans in my family, some still here and some who have gone on to a soldier’s reward. This is just as true for other families in the area. For we are a people who routinely answer the call when it comes. Sometimes our veterans are recognized for this, and unfortunately, sometimes not. I don’t know if they still do this sort of thing, but when my husband Edward Parrigin died, we received a special letter of commendation from the government. I gave it to my son, Robert Edward Parrigin, and framed, it sits proudly on his coffee table. Back when this award first came, I was deep in the stages of grief, and read it only briefly. Since then, I’ve had occasions to reread it, and am awed that my government would recognize the ending of a veteran’s life in this manner.
Edward was involved in many naval battles, wounded more than once, and had several medals. Yet he was actually no outstanding hero (according to the accepted point of view), but was just one who faithfully served. Yet we were privileged to receive this letter. Probably others in the area may have gotten the same letter when and if their own veteran passed away. However, as I say, I do not know if the government still does this, and if not, that would be a shame. In our case, when our dear one died, the certificate, which came to us was from the then President of the United States, it saying; “The United States of America honors the memory of Edward C. Parrigin. This certificate is awarded by a grateful nation in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States”, and is signed by Gerald R. Ford; President of the United States.
Now, returning to the recapitulation of the month of November, after Veterans Day was over, we anticipated our next upcoming holiday. From the 11th of the month till the 24th we planned and debated; should we have this or should we have that. Who’ll make this, and who’ll make that. Will this one come and if not, why. Somehow it all worked out, in spite of those schedules that were necessary to follow, with some having to leave early to go to other families for a second dinner. Happily, that evening, they all came back again to Bob and Vanessa’s house to say goodbye which was not goodbye, but rather a bon voyage for grandson Zack Parrigin who left on Sunday for Africa. So the week following Thanksgiving Day was spent worrying about all that food we consumed, praying for Zack, and figuring out what day of the week it was. I loved that so quickly over Thanksgiving, and not just for the food. Nope. For me it was the gathering of the family, in particular just being with the great grandchildren. Those mommies and daddies, who live close enough came, brought their babies. Blessedly, some not living in the immediate area also came, like Scott and Sarah Parrigin with their precious Auggie, (short for August Parrigin), who is now almost two months old. These made that drive from Lexington to come. Ditto Benjamin Keith and Andrea Fannin coming home with their little Adelynn from Ohio to see everyone. Zack and Jennifer Parrigin who live in Paintsville were here with their children, also Mandy and Tyler Webb with theirs. At one point I sat with Nataleigh and Brantlee Webb, Lexie and Lilly Parrigin at a coffee table as they colored the pictures they had drawn, I was the one to ohh and ahh at every exhibited creation. At one point young Brantlee went over to my computer desk to pick up that star I wrote about last week. “The Star!” he said. “Yes”, I answered, it’s your star.”
“My star!” he said, as he went back to his coloring. Then after everyone left, I went to my computer to find some pictures of stars I could print out for him. It pleased me to find a picture of the star of Bethlehem; the best one by far. So when I share this printed picture with my dear ones, I will tell them the story of that most special star which came when the Christ child was born those long years ago. We honor this as we celebrate our next big holiday, Christmas, just around the turning of the wheel of days.


The Soapbox

The Soapbox: Making holiday memories

Not to sound like the Grinch, but when did Christmas get to be so much stress and work?
I used to think it was the fault of the stores, putting out their Christmas decorations earlier and earlier every year until trees and decorations had to battle back-to-school sales. But I’ve come to realize that they were bowing to popular demand.
I used to think it was because there were too many events jammed into the month of December, packing special events, visits from family, shopping for presents and holiday traditions so closely that I have to wait until January just to get the laundry done. But considering my mother gets her shopping done by September and still confesses to feeling stressed around this time of the year, I seriously doubt a compressed schedule can account for it.
When my children came into the world, that was when the holidays stopped being a light-hearted visit with family and turned into an endurance event. It was one thing to revisit holiday traditions of decorating a Christmas tree or setting out cookies for Santa with tongue firmly in cheek, but now, I am trying to teach these traditions to my kids and attach warm happy memories with the practice.
The stress to make every tradition beautiful and picture perfect (Yes, I still blame you Martha Stewart!) with designer linens, gourmet food and cocktails, thoughtfully personalized Christmas cards is overwhelming.
It is exhausting!
When I think back on my own childhood, my mother seemed to make Christmas effortless. A nice Christmas Eve dinner, baking cookies with her, sitting by the beautifully decorated tree with soft candlelight all around, it was simple and very happy. Meanwhile I feel as if I am baking a new batch of gingerbread cookies every night as the male hoards of the household descend on my efforts, ordering and wrapping presents is costing too much in the way of money and effort, and unlike the majority of what feels like the entire country, my tree still isn’t decorated.
When I asked my mom how she did it, she laughed, “It was never that easy.” She suggest using candlelight to disguise the fact that household chores have been neglected, and tasking my kids with making the cookies would cut the demand to nothing. She does admit that as a kid, I was always enthusiastic about decorating the tree – this must be something I have grown out of.
So this increase in stress during December is nothing new. It existed back when we were kids, and it will be there long after we are gone. All we can do is try our best. What I hope my kids remember is spending time with them to build our own traditions and the happy memories associated with them. If this means that our family traditions include ordering pizza, playing Christmas music and making a game of throwing non-breakable ornaments to decorate the tree in our pajamas because we were too lazy to get dressed, so be it.



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