Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Raising a glass to Janice

They think I remember her because she died, but that's not it. I remember her on New Year's Eve for a different reason.

I met Janice through an online writing course nearly 19 years ago. We became friends. She didn't have many; she had a lot of physical ailments and ... let's call them quirks. She didn't bathe enough, she loved cats too much, she talked to herself even when around people, she believed in elves and ghosts and aliens, and she would get too close to people she was talking to. Mostly she was lonely and lived too much in her head. She had been physically and mentally abused by her father, who was dead but deserved to be alive and suffering torments. Her mother was a quiet ghost of a person.

Sometimes I found being her friend difficult when she would wander to strange and dark places I couldn't follow, but let's be honest, I have my own list of quirks. I learned to be her friend on the days when she could let me and to give her distance when she needed it.

She had been ill and was diagnosed with cancer. The pain did a weird thing: it grounded her in this world like nothing else -- no medication -- had ever done before. She was alert, funny, articulate. The voices in her head were finally quiet. 

The cancer ravaged her. She had no money, and the care she received was mostly minimal. I learned my intense dislike and distrust of doctors and hospitals during this time.

One December afternoon, she was particularly sharp and started talking about her life and her parents, what she had hoped for, how life had tricked her at times. I listened as she slowly ran down. She was quiet for a long time and then she said, "Stephen, did you know that I was in Times Square once?"

I didn't, of course. "When?"

"I was there with all those people," she said. "All those laughing, dancing people. I watched the ball drop. The noise ... I was alone." She stopped for a long time. I thought she had fallen asleep, but then she said, "And in all those thousands of people, I turned and saw my old high school boyfriend."

"Wow," I said. "The odds against --"

"He was alone, too," she said. "And he walked over to me, and we kissed for ever and ever."

Her voice sounded weak. She was getting tired. I stood to go.

"And we married and had lots of children," she said. "We live in one of those old Victorian houses in Maryland like in Good Housekeeping. We're very happy." She turned her head and looked at me. And in her eyes, I saw that she wanted me to believe that for her.

"I'm glad," I said, trying my best to not cry and not doing it very well. "You're a lovely couple. Love the kids. Alan is so good in math. And Elizabeth is beautiful."

She nodded, smiled, and went asleep.

If this was a story, she would have passed away then, a gentle going away, but this isn't a story. She lived three months more, and the last two were a nightmare. They couldn't give her enough pain medication. She was either unconscious or writhing in pain. Her mother told me that it was a "blessing" when Janice finally died. I guess that's the word to use.

I kept this story to me. I wrote it in my journal. I think of her, less as the years have passed, but every New Year's Eve, I raise my glass to her and her lovely life with the love of her life. They have lots of children, you know, and live in a beautiful Victorian house in Maryland.

Just because a dream isn't reached doesn't mean it's not beautiful. Even though I know it's not true, I want to believe she's in Maryland, happy finally. It's as much comfort as I can manage at times. The world runs on facts, but we live on belief and hope.

Anyway, my wish for you is that you have a wonderful New Year's Eve, filled with love and laughter and contentment. I hope the whole year holds that for all of us. God bless you and keep you.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

2013 Christmas Celebration, 12th hour

This is the last post of this year's 2013 Christmas Celebration. 
I hope you enjoyed the jokes, recipes, essays, videos, quips,
and everything else we did. 
Here is the story of the First Nativity for our last post.

2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with Child.
2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the LORD came upon them, and the glory of the LORD shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD.
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us.
2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His Name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah:
for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
I hope you have a safe, happy, and healthy Christmas filled with God's love for us and the love of your family and friends.

Merry Christmas!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 11th hour

12 Wonderful Things About Christmas

      1. Presents. I like getting them. I like giving them. Here are some inexpensive gift ideas: Candles, candy bars, six-packs of favorite soft drinks, chocolate-chip cookies, small picture frames, bookmarks, Christmas ornaments, decorative computer printer paper, hand lotion, etc. We have a tendency to think that good presents have to cost a lot of money. They don't. Something to show that you're thinking of them this holiday season is all that is needed for your co-workers, friends, etc. It's not about the money.
      2. Lights. I love Christmas lights. I like to drive around my town and see all the displays. I appreciate the hard work that went into them. I like the way the way the lights gleam in the night. It's a metaphor for what Christmas really is about.
      3. Shopping. It's where I catch the bustle and hustle of the season. Yeah, it's hurried, and it makes my feet hurt. But I like thinking of people and what they might like.
      4. Christmas bags. Oh, I still wrap a few gifts, but otherwise, brightly colored bags have freed me of hours of wrapping.
      5. Carols. I like singing them. I like hearing them.
      6. Church and school Christmas children's programs. Nothing is as sweet or as funny. Makes my heart melt. No apologies for that.
      7. The way people will give more during this time to the needy. It's like we're reminded of how blessed we are and how much we really have. So we share. Some people say that it's guilt. I don't believe that's true for most of us. I believe it's compassion. It's where we show that we have incredible potential as a species. It's where we justify our existence.
      8. Food. I love turkey and dressing, pineapple adorned ham, fluffy garlic and chive mashed potatoes, fresh green salad, golden pumpkin pies … Hmmmmm ….
      9. Get-togethers with friends. We're all busy, we're all tired, we're all broke, but we all enjoy sharing time and raising a cup of cider together.
      10. Family time. They make me crazy at times, but I wouldn't give up any one of them. We're connected by blood and history. We're loud, opinionated, funny and brash. We love as hard as we fight. We're family. And that's that.
      11. Quiet, worshipful Midnight Masses and other church Christmas services. It's a time of quiet in this incredibly busy season. I remember sitting in the local Catholic Church at Midnight Night Mass a couple of Christmases ago as the day became new and listening to the silence between the prayers and songs. I felt renewed in spirit and grateful for the many undeserved blessings in my life.
      12. Nativity scenes. The heart of the mystery. The God coming to earth in the form of a babe. Remembrances that we were loved enough for someone to give up glory for us. The beginning of a journey that would change a world. A light in the darkness. A star in the ebony sky. A gift to humanity.

See you next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 10th hour

Thought I would share some of my favorite photos
from the past couple of months!

We'll be back next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 9th hour


I've been wandering around my head lately, and in that vast echoing space, I found a few random thoughts about Christmas that I thought I'd share with you.

I don't like Santa Claus. I mean, those guys who dress up as Santa. Their suits never fit, and they always seem surly. Or drunk. I don't think they're happy, but listen, the Easter bunny's not having a good time, either. It's tough all over.

I also don't like ornaments or decorations that show Santa kneeling at the Nativity. That's just weird. Yes, I understand the symbolism of it, but it's still weird.

Do Santa’s reindeer poop as they fly overhead? Perhaps that's what happens to people who make the naughty list.

Playboy runs this ad where they offer a video of their Playmates in which the ad says "It's the perfect Christmas gift for your husband." Seriously, what wife buys that for her husband? None do. And I think they know that no wife would. It's just their way of trying to disguise the whole creepiness of it. Hey, it's Christmas. Let’s celebrate the season and watch some porn! Ho, ho, ho.

Why do the local weathermen always seem so pleased when bad weather happens? They can barely contain their joy as they tell us about icy sleet and dangerous roads. Are they that bored? The next time that Channel 19 guy starts grinning as he tells us how terrible the weather is going to be, I'm going to hunt him down and introduce him to the business end of a 2x4.

People in California and Florida receive too much sun in December. It bakes their brains. When you walk on their beaches, you think that you smell suntan lotion, but it's actually brains frying in coconut oil. The vendors sell them in cones.

I want to get too much sun, though. I want to lie on those beaches. I want to sip cold, fruity drinks with umbrellas in them and enjoy the sights and sounds of the ocean as the breeze brings me the faint hint of frying brains.

My Christmas village is cool. I've enjoyed setting it up. But the other day as I was moving the figurines around, my roomie came up to me, looked at the lovely and peaceful village and said, "It figures you'd like playing with dolls." He's funny. And fast, too. I missed him with both shots.

Gift bags are truly good things. I don't care what Martha Stewart says. I do like Martha, though. I think she's hot -- in that strange, horrible perfectionist way. If you dated her, you couldn't just kiss her or hold her hand. You'd have to make some sort of presentation of the whole thing with fresh cut flowers and ice cold caviar and handmade chocolate sweets. She'd be too much trouble. That's why I don't date her. That and the fact I don't know her.

And I think that's enough randomness for now.

We will be back next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 8th hour

A Christmas Prayer

We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
for the love that unites us,
for the peace accorded us this day,
for the hope with which we expect the morrow,
for the work, the health, the food,
and the bright skies which make our lives delightful
for our friends in all parts of the earth.

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)

Christmas Prayer of Pope John XXIII

O sweet Child of Bethlehem,
grant that we may share with all our hearts
in this profound mystery of Christmas.
Put into the hearts of men and women this peace
for which they sometimes seek so desperately
and which you alone can give to them.
Help them to know one another better,
and to live as brothers and sisters,
children of the same Father.
Reveal to them also your beauty, holiness and purity.
Awaken in their hearts
love and gratitude for your infinite goodness.
Join them all together in your love.
And give us your heavenly peace. Amen.

Pope John XXIII (1881-1963)

Nativity Prayer of St. Augustine

Let the just rejoice,
for their justifier is born.
Let the sick and infirm rejoice,
For their saviour is born.
Let the captives rejoice,
For their Redeemer is born.
Let slaves rejoice,
for their Master is born.
Let free men rejoice,
For their Liberator is born.
Let All Christians rejoice,
For Jesus Christ is born.

St. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-440)

Christmas dinner prayer by Martin Luther

Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.

My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient song,

Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given
While angels sing with pious mirth.
A glad new year to all the earth!

Martin Luther (1483-1546)

We'll be back next hour as the 
2013 Christmas Celebration continues!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 7th hour

This is one of my favorite Christmas songs. It's beautiful, but I can tell you that it's hard to sing. I had to sing it in choir many years ago, and we all needed a shot of oxygen when we were finished.

Carol of the Bells

Hark! how the bells, sweet silver bells
All seem to say, throw cares away.
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer
To young and old, meek and the bold
Ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song,
With joyful ring, all caroling
One seems to hear words of good cheer
From everywhere, filling the air
O, how they pound, raising the sound
O’er hill and dale, telling their tale

Gaily they ring, while people sing
Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!

On, on they send, on without end
Their joyful tone to every home
Hark! how the bells, sweet silver bells
All seem to say, throw cares away.
Christmas is here, bringing good cheer
To young and old, meek and the bold
Ding, dong, ding, dong, that is their song
With joyful ring, all caroling.
One seems to hear words of good cheer
From everywhere, filling the air
O, how they pound, raising the sound
O’er hill and dale, telling their tale

Gaily they ring, while people sing
Songs of good cheer, Christmas is here!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!
Merry, merry, merry, merry Christmas!

On, on they send, on without end
Their joyful tone to every home.
Ding dong ding dong

Here's a beautiful version from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

We'll be back next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 6th hour

Stuff envelopes while only wearing your underwear for $$$

         I’ve been looking at self-employment opportunities to pay my Christmas bills, which haven't got here yet, but will arrive with all the joy of a zombie apocalypse. There are all sorts of selfie-employee opportunities out there. You can stuff envelopes, sell timeshares, do phone sales (and in some cases actually sell phones), sell foreclosure information, etc. In all these diverse and mostly unbelievable offers, I found a common thread. They all seem to have a line somewhere in their brochures like this: “You can go to work in your underwear!”
         Now that made me curious. Other than people who work in Las Vegas, is there a large segment of society who go to work only in their underwear? And is that a goal a civilized society should be working for?
         I think going to work only in your underwear is a good example of casual Friday gone terribly wrong. Just the idea of seeing my former coworkers in their underwear is enough to give me the dancing heebie-jeebies. There’s a lot to be said for clothes. Particularly since they cover our flabby, pale, pimply, blemished, scarred, stretched, misshapen, and sometimes tattooed bodies.
         Speaking of tattoos, they're not right for me. I can barely manage to date the same woman for more than six months at a time before her sweet, endearing little quirks make me want to push her down the stairs; do you think I want a picture of a flaming skull on my chest for the rest of my life? (Just in case, that’s too subtle: I don’t.) And don't get me started about that guy who had the entire New Testament tattooed on his body. There are certain places Bible verses should not be, and armpits are among them.
         If you didn’t wear clothes to work, you’d have to fight about the thermostat setting all the time because your office would either be too cold or too hot for different people. You have to worry about sharp objects on your chair piercing your tender skin. And you might learn that hairy Ed in accounting wears Hello Kitty underpants, but did you really want to know that? I don’t think so.
         Some of the work-at-home brochures don't mention underwear, of course. Those say you can work at home in your sweatpants and/or pajamas. Once again, there’s that idea that wearing clothes is a bad thing. Apparently the work-at-home people are all closet nudists. Remember that kid who always seemed to lose his swimsuit on camp-outs? He’s working at home now.
         Admittedly, I’m not the person to ask about nudity. As has been pointed out more than once, I’m basically a prude. One friend once told me that he thought I had been born middle-aged. While there is some truth to that, I’d like to point out that, if I ever ran for President of the United States, the media would find little if anything racy to report and might be forced to focus on the real issues. Ha ha ha. Yeah, I laughed at the idea of a responsible media, too.
         There are at least two nudist camps in Oklahoma. You might be wondering how I know that — yes, you were. When I worked as editor for the OSU newspaper, two or three reporters would come to me and want to do a story about the camps. I’d always agree, but they never turned in a story. The camps value their privacy and don’t allow interviews or photographers.
         Being raised in the country, I know too much about ticks, chiggers, poison ivy, bees, hornets, rabid skunks, etc., to ever want to be naked outside. I think nudists are — and I hope I don’t offend any of my family, I really hope that — bonkers. But I’m a prude. And somewhat proud of it.
         The other selling point of the brochures is the money. Money, money, money. They say you can make thousands of dollars a week by using their secrets. You can change your life for the better. You can own a fancy car, a huge house, and take fantastic vacations. And all they need from you is your credit card number and expiration date.
         Oddly enough, they won’t let you use their secrets and then pay them. You have to pay them first. This seems to imply they don’t trust you, but who can blame them? It’s hard to trust someone who’s sitting around the house all day in their underwear.

Copyright 2011 by Stephen B. Bagley. Excerpted from Return of the Floozy. All rights reserved. No copying without express written permission from the author and publisher.

See you in the next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 5th hour

My wonderful friend Michelle shared the recipes with us several years ago. They are delicious. Enjoy!
Potato Cheese Soup

5 lbs Potatoes peeled, washed and cubed
1 white Onion chopped
1/2 stick of butter
White pepper and salt to taste
Chicken bouillon to taste (I usually use 2 large cubes)
4-8 oz Velveeta (depending on how cheesy you want it)
Cheddar cheese

Saute onion in butter until transparent. Fill pot with potatoes and water just to cover. Add sauteed onion, salt and pepper and bouillon. Bring to a boil and let simmer until potatoes are tender. Add Milk until broth looks creamy. Simmer for another ten minutes. Add Velveeta and Parmesan until melted. Add cheddar before serving (so as not to curdle the cheese). Serve with some fresh baked bread and a salad. Yum!


This recipe says it makes 4 dozen but I usually get about 6 dozen.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 stick margarine or butter
1/2 cup shortening
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
2 ts cream of tartar
1 ts baking soda
1/4 ts salt
cinnamon/sugar mixture (set aside)
1/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Heat oven to 400. Cream butter, eggs, shortening and sugar. Add flour, cream of tartar, salt and baking soda to form dough. Roll into 1 inch balls and roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture to coat. Bake 8-10 minutes. I usually under-cook them a little to keep them softer longer. I like my cookies chewy.

Refrigerator Fudge

If you aren't into candy baking like me, then this is a great way to get creamy fudge in just a couple easy peasy steps.

2 pkgs semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cans sweetened condensed milk

Mix both ingredient in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave in 3 minute increments to ensure that you don't scorch the mixture. Once it is thoroughly melted and mixed, pour into a glass baking dish (greased with cocoa powder to prevent sticking) and put in the fridge. In a couple hours, you have rich and creamy fudge.
You can sprinkle the top with crushed candy canes, nuts or broken up candy bars to make it look festive.

The Twelve Days of Christmas

(This is making the email rounds.)

December 14, 2006

Dearest Dave,
I went to the door today, and the postman delivered a partridge in a pear tree. This was a delightful gift! I couldn't have been more surprised or pleased, darling!
With truly the deepest love,

December 15, 2006

Dearest Dave,
Today the postman brought me yet another of your sweet gifts. The two turtule doves that arrived today are adorable, and I'm delighted by your thoughtful and generous ways.
With all of my love,
Your Agnes

December 16, 2006

Dearest Dave,
You've truly been too kind! I must protest; I don't deserve such generosity. The thought of getting three French hens amazes me. Yet, I am not surprised -- what more should I expect from such a nice person.

December 17, 2006

Dear Dave,
Four calling birds arrived in the mail today. They are truly nice but don't you think that enough is enough? You are being too romantic.

December 18, 2006

Dearest darling Dave,
It was a surprise to get five golden rings! I now have one for every finger. You truly are impossible darling, yet oh how I love it! Quite frankly, all of those squarking birds from the previous days were starting to get on my nerves. Yet, you managed to come through with a beautiful valuable gift!
All my love,

December 19, 2006

Dear Dave,
When I opened my door, there were actually six geese a-laying on my front steps. So you're back to the birds again, huh? Those geese are dear, but where will I keep them? The neighbors are complaining, and I am unable to sleep with all the racket. Please stop dear.

December 20, 2006

What is with you and those stupid birds!? Seven swans a-swimming! What kind of sick joke is this!? There are bird droppings everywhere! They never shut up, and I don't get any sleep! I'm a nervous wreck! It's not funny, you freak, so stop with the birds.

December 21, 2006

O.K. wise guy,
The birds were bad enough. Now what do you expect me to do with eight maids a-milking? If that's not bad enough, they had to bring their cows! The front lawn was completely ruined by them, and I can't move in my own house! Just lay off me or you'll be sorry!

December 22, 2006

Hey loser,
What are you? You must be some kind of sadist. Now there are nine pipers playing, and they certainly do play. They haven't stopped chasing those maids since they got here! The cows are getting upset, and they're stepping all over those screeching birds. The neighbors are getting up a petition to evict me, and I'm going out of my mind!
You'll get yours!

December 23, 2006

You rotten scum,
There are now ten ladies dancing! There is only one problem with that! They're dancing twenty-four hours a day all around me with the pipers upsetting the cows and the maids. The cows can't sleep, and they are going to the bathroom everywhere! The building commissioner has subpoenaed me to give cause as to why the house shouldn't be condemned! I can't even think of a reason! You creep! I'm sending the police after you!
One who means it!

December 24, 2006

Listen you evil, sadistic, maniac!
What's with the eleven lords-a-leaping?!? They are leaping across the rooms breaking everything and even injuring some of the maids! The place smells, is an absolute mad house, and is about to be condemned! At least the birds are quiet; they were trampled to death by the cows. I hope you are satisfied -- you rotten vicious worthless piece of garbage!
Your sworn enemy,

December 25, 2006

The Law Offices of
Badger, Rees, and Yorker
20 Knave Street
Chicago, Illinois

Dear Sir,
This is to acknowledge your latest gift of twelve fiddlers-fiddling which you have seen fit to inflict on our client, one Agnes Mcholstein. The destruction of course was total. If you attempt to reach Ms. Mcholstein at Happy Daze Sanatarium, the attendants have instructions to shoot you on sight.
Please direct all correspondence to this office in the future. With this letter, please find attached a summons for you to appear in court and answer these charges.
Badger, Rees, and Yorker

See you in the next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 4th hour

Merry Christmas in Many Languages (including some you won't expect!
Afrikaner: Een Plesierige Kerfees
Argentinian: Felces Pasquas y felices Ano Nuevo
Arkansas: All y'alls have a mary Christmas ya hear
Armenian: Schernorhavor Dzenount
Bohemain: Vesele Vanoce
Bulgarian: Chestita Koleda
Chinese: Kung Hsi Hsin Niene bing Chu Shen Tan
Computer: 01001101 01000101 01010010 01010010 01011001 01000011 01001000 01010010 01001001 01010011 01010100 01001101 01000001 01010011
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Danish: Glaedelig Jul
England: Cherrio! Hav'a cuppa, goven'r! Happy yules
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian: Roomsaid Joulu Puhi
Finnish: Houska Joulua
Flemish: Vrolike Kerstmis
French: Joyeux Noel
German: Froehliche Weihnachten
Gore: Christmas lights contribute to global warming so turn them off
Greek: Kala Christougena
Dutch: Vrolyk Kerfeest en Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Iraqian: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish: Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
Italian: Buon Natale
Japanese: Meri Kurisumasu
Jugoslavian: Cestitamo Bozic
Klingon: (Nothing because they’re not real. They’re fictional. The Federation doesn’t exist. Get a life.)
Lettish: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu
New York: Shut up and get out of my way, you freak
Norwegian: God Jul og Godt Nytt Aar
Oklahoman: Merry Christmas, y'all
Polish: Boze Narodzenie
Portuguese: Boas Festas y Feliz Ano Novo
Ridiculously inoffensive: Happy non-specific occasion
Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele
Russian: S Rozhdestvom Kristovym
Serbian: Hristos se rodi
Slovakian: Vesele vianoce
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul
Texan: Merry Thankgivin'
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian: Chrystos Rozdzajetsia Slawyte Jeho
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

A Christmas Joke that Always Gets Me in Trouble

Three men died on Christmas Eve and were met by Saint Peter at the pearly gates. St. Peter said, "In honor of the season, you must each possess something that symbolizes Christmas to get into heaven."

The first man fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter. He flicked it on. "It represents a candle," he said.

"You may pass through the pearly gates," St. Peter said.

The second man reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, "They're bells."

St. Peter said, "You may pass through the pearly gates."

The third man started searching desperately through his pockets and finally pulled out a pair of women's panties.

St. Peter looked at the man with a raised eyebrow and asked, "And just what do those symbolize?"

The man replied, "These are Carol's."

We'll be back next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 3rd hour

And now we will talk about the dangers of Christmas crafting ... with me.

Danger During the Holidays!

      It was a few days before Christmas last year, and I was talking to Linda on the phone. "Do you want to come over and help me with my Christmas crafts?" I asked.
      "Good heavens, NO!" she shouted. "I'd rather strip naked and run through a rose garden that's been sprayed with lemon juice."
      "What time will you be here?" I asked.
      "I'd rather to be strapped to the speakers at a bagpipe concert," she said.
      "Is that yes or no?" I asked. "I don't understand."
      "You're not trying to," she said. "Rather than crafting with you, I'd sit through the presidential debates again! Sober!"
      "I'm beginning to get the odd feeling that you might perhaps be reluctant," I said. "Why is that?"
      "Because it's dangerous," she said. "People get hurt when you do crafts."
      I sighed. "Is Adam complaining about his eyebrows again?"
      "Stephen, they fell off!"
      "Actually, they peeled off," I said. "And I told him not to stand over the chemicals when we were etching glass. Well, I meant to tell him."
      "And about Cynthia?"
      "That was an accident," I said. "I had no idea enough paint fumes had accumulated to explode. But she'll be out of the bodycast in a couple of month. Personally, I think she's enjoying the rest despite her threats and her vows to have me killed."
      "Yes, there's nothing more restful than having nurses turn you every hour and orderlies feed you through a straw," Linda said.
      "So you'll come over?" I asked.
      "Not that I'm agreeing, but what exactly are you going to be doing?"
      "Just papercraft," I said. "There's nothing dangerous in papercraft. We'll be tearing up paper and mixing the pieces with water and a few chemicals, most of which aren't toxic."
      "Well, I guess ... What do you mean most?! she snapped. "No, no, NO! Papercraft is out."
      "We could make Christmas candles," I said. "Those make good gifts."
      "Didn't you have a wax explosion a couple of months ago?" she asked.
      "No one was seriously hurt, and my kitchen has already been repaired," I said. "If I could find my cat, everything would be fine. I tried to follow the smoke trail she left, but the wind was high, and I lost her around Oak Street."
      "No candles," she said firmly. "Don't you do wooden projects?"
      I used to," I said. "But the police took away my electric saw after that regrettable incident when I was trying to help those nuns repair a pew and I sneezed."
      "Oh, yeah, I forgot," she said. "Do you still get hate mail from Sister Mary Margaret?"
      "Just hate postcards now," I said. "I think she's getting over her anger. I hope so. It can't be good for her spiritual growth."
      "What about painting?" she suggested. "I mean, watercolor painting. Yeah, watercolors are safe. I couldn't get hurt doing watercolors."
      "Okay, we'll do that," I said happily. "Come on over."
      Later that night as we huddled under a blanket provided by the fire department, she glared at me. "How oh how did the watercolors catch fire?!" she asked.
      "Well, the pigments looked a little thick," I said. "So I thought I'd try thinning them with alcohol." 
      She didn't say anything. 
      "I think short hair is a good look for you," I said brightly.
      Fortunately they were able to pull her off me before she could finish choking me. Because she's a friend, I didn't press charges.

Copyright 2010 by Stephen B. Bagley. Excerpted from Floozy and Other Stories. All rights reserved. No copying without express prior written permission from the author and publisher.

We'll be back next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 2nd hour

Here are some Christmas cracker jokes! 

What do monkeys sing at Christmas ?
Jungle Bells, Jungle bells...

What do you get if you cross an apple with a Christmas tree ?
A pineapple.

What do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees?

What would a reindeer do if it lost its tail?
She'd go to a re-tail shop for a new one.

Why is Prancer always wet?
Because he's a rain-deer.

Which of Santa's reindeer has bad manners?

What do reindeer always say before telling you a joke?
This one will sleigh you.

How does Rudolph know when Christmas is coming?
He looks at his calen-deer.

What do you give a reindeer with an upset tummy?

How do you get into Donner's house?
You ring the deer-bell.

What's red and white and gives presents to gazelles?

Did Rudolph go to a regular school?
No, he was elf-taught.

Why did Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer cross the road?
Because he was tied to a chicken.

Why do reindeer wear fur coats?
Because they look silly in snowsuits.

What do elves learn in school?
The Elf-abet.

If athletes get athletes foot, what do astronauts get?

Why was Santa's little helper depressed?
Because he had low elf esteem.

Why does Santa have 3 gardens?
So he can hoe-hoe-hoe.

Where do polar bears vote?
The North Poll.

What do you call a cat on the beach at Christmas time?
Sandy Claws.

What do you call a bunch of grandmasters of chess bragging about their games in a hotel lobby?
Chess nuts boasting in an open foyer.

Where do snowmen go to dance?

What do snowmen wear on their heads?
Ice caps.

What do you call a reindeer wearing ear muffs?
Anything you want -- he can't hear you.

How do you know Santa is a man?
No woman would wear the same outfit year after year.

Here's another quick and tasty recipe from my older sister. This is perfect for a holiday get-together.

Graham Cracker Cookie Treats

1 box of graham crackers
2 sticks of butter
1 packed cup of brown sugar
1 cup of finely chopped nuts
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Line rimmed cookie sheets with foil. Then lay out rows of graham crackers on the cookie sheets. Mix together butter and brown sugar in pan. Bring to boil over medium heat. Boil for two minutes. Add finely chopped nuts and vanilla. Pour over the graham crackers. Place cookie sheets in a pre-heated 350 degrees oven for ten minutes.

We'll be back next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration, 1st hour

And now a bit of music. Sing!

We Wish You a Merry♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Christmas♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪We Wish You a Merry ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪Christmas ♥ ♥ ♥We Wish You A Merry ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪Christmas ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪...And A Happy New Year!♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪...

Did you sing? I didn't hear you. Let's do it again louder!

We Wish You a Merry♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪ Christmas♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪We Wish You a Merry ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪Christmas ♥ ♥ ♥We Wish You A Merry ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪Christmas ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪...And A Happy New Year!♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸♥ ¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪...

There! That was much better!

Mexican Salsa

3 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup fresh or frozen corn
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1/4 cup lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients and let sit for two hours in fridge so flavors mingle. Serve with baked tortilla chips. Good eating!

The Black Dog

What really annoys me -- among all the other things that really annoy me -- is that depression doesn't leave us alone at the holidays. One of the reasons I try to celebrate Christmas with such abandon is to hold off the gathering darkness. So I buy presents, put up lights, decorate my tree, display my Christmas village, send Christmas cards, watch Christmas specials, and generally make myself too busy to think about failures and losses. Yes, I know, not very Christmasy, but true nonetheless.

I know people who dislike the holidays because it reminds them of what they don't have, be it loving family or someone who passed on or the money to buy their kids the latest gadgets. A friend of mine who lost her mother at Christmas many years ago still holds Christmas responsible. She doesn't celebrate it. In fact, she hates it. I mostly avoid her during this time of year, or if I see her, I make sure we discuss everything except Christmas.

I also try to avoid people who enjoy sharing their misery. I have friends who have made discouragement into their daily diet. They say they don't want to bring anyone else down, but they do. Oh, they're funny and cynical and modern, but I have to stay away from them because my darkness doesn't need feeding. Maybe the difference is -- or the reason why they can be so cynical without it affecting them -- is my darkness has teeth. It's hurt me both physically and mentally in the past. And while I'm miles away from that bleak point, I'm still close enough to see how easy it would be to fall into the abyss.

So I celebrate Christmas. That one light in the darkness, the lowly manger, the Child King. There's a lot of hope in that stable if you can make it past all the things we put in front of it. A lot of hope and joy. Bear with me if you think I overdo Christmas and remember why. And if you want to join me, then come on. Together we'll have a great holiday despite ourselves.

Here's Andy Williams with a couple of songs to get us in the spirit of Christmas.

See you next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration Begins!

Welcome to the 2013 Christmas Celebration! 
Each Christmas, 51313 Harbor Street offers these stories, jokes, recipes, songs, photos, and more as our way of brightening your holiday. There will be a new posting every hour until midnight.
Let's get started!

Factoids about Christmas 
(Some of which could be true)
Excerpted from Floozy and Other Stories

Kissing under the mistletoe dates back to a 17th century English kissing game. Back then, a berry was removed from the mistletoe every time a kiss was made, which meant no more kisses when all the berries were gone, and then everyone would laugh and laugh. Yeah, I know, but you have to remember that they didn’t have TV so they had to fill their time as best they could.

Mistletoe, by the way, was used by the druids in their secret ceremonies. The druids, a happy-go-lucky group, used to place mistletoe wreaths around the necks of their victims before the victims were sacrificed by having their entrails nailed to an oak tree. You don’t see that on a lot of Christmas cards, do you?

Christmas trees started in Germany in the 16th century. On Christmas Eve, Martin Luther was walking home under a starry sky, which was so beautiful he wanted to recreate its beauty for his children. He decorated a large evergreen with lit candles. He followed his creation of the First Christmas Tree with the development of the First House Fire Caused by a Christmas Tree.

Since 1947, the people of Oslo, Norway, have given a Christmas tree every year to the city of Westminster, England. The gift expresses Norway’s gratitude for Britain’s help during World War II, despite the fact that the tree is never on Britain’s Christmas list. Britain would prefer a gift card.

The first president to decorate the white house Christmas tree in the United States was Franklin Pierce. This is the only notable thing Pierce did while in office and as such should be remembered, but not by me. I’ve already forgotten it. Franklin who?

Traditionally, Christmas trees are taken down after Epiphany or whenever the husband has been nagged beyond human endurance.

“The Nutcracker” is the most famous Christmas ballet and was used by the Chinese to break the wills of political prisoners. It is outlawed by the Geneva Convention as is the playing of “Jingle Bells” more than 1,754,322 times during the holiday season.

If you received all of the gifts in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” you would receive 364 presents, none of which you could return. By the way, why are there so many birds in that song? Doesn’t it seem fowl?

Holly berries are poisonous, which does explain why holly berry cookies aren’t popular even though there was a heavy marketing push for them during the 1950s. It joined the ranks of other failed food products: stone ground hemlock bread, foxglove fajitas, poop pie, and of course, green tea.

In 1843, A Christmas Carol was written by Charles Dickens in only six weeks. Many of us feel he should have taken more time with it and added some spaceships and several hot alien females.

The first state to recognize the Christmas holiday officially was Alabama. Afterwards, Alabama had to lie down and wasn’t able to recognize other things for years, which is one of the reasons they lagged so far behind in civil rights.

Christmas became a national holiday in America on June 26, 1870. When the news was announced, many retailers swooned.

Coca Cola was the first beverage company to use Santa for a winter promotion. This would be the beginning of a lucrative career as Santa signed endorsement contracts for all sorts of products, including gardening tools (Hoe, Hoe, Hoe!), dynamite (Hole, Hole, Hole!), laser removal of facial disfigurements (Mole, Mole, Mole!) and even Viagra (Pole, Pole, Pole!).

The government actually banned a Christmas tree decoration. Tinsel was once made of lead. (It’s now made of plastic.) The tinsel maker’s jingle – “Decorate your tree with silver rain; You’ll be happy as you damage your brain” – was remade into a hip-hop hit in the ‘90s.

Rudolph was created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930s for a holiday promotion. The rest is sheer greed and marketing history.

The Christmas card was created in England in 1843. Louis Prang, a Massachusetts printer, printed the first Christmas card in the United States in 1875. There’s more to the story, but I got bored. Feel free to look it up.

Merry Christmas!

Excerpted from Floozy and Other Stories. Copyright 2010 by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. No copying without express permission from the publisher and author.

Here's a quick and delicious recipe from my sister.

Microwave Fudge

1 lb. box of powdered sugar
1/2 cup of cocoa
1 stick of butter
1/4 cup of milk
1/2 cup of chopped pecans or crushed peppermint and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint flavoring
1 teaspoon of vanilla

Prepare an eight inch square pan by lining with foil and then buttering the foil. In a microwaveable container, mix the sugar and cocoa. Place butter on top of the powdered sugar/cocoa mix. Pour in milk. Microwave on high for two minutes or until the butter is melted. Stir and mix well. This mixing process will take a few minutes. When it begins to thicken, add chopped pecans and vanilla. (This recipe can be adapted using crushed peppermint instead of nuts and adding 1/2 teaspoon of peppermint flavoring.) Pour mixture into pan and let harden. Delicious!

If you had to work in retail this holiday season, God bless you! Here are some hints to help you.

From The Anti-Customer Service Training Manual

Customer Service Tip #13: Not only is the customer not always right, sometimes they are batweasel crazy. When this happens, take a deep breath and remember they're not worth you going to prison.

Customer Service Tip #56: It's not your customer's fault he/she is loathsome. That's what happens when first cousins marry. Be kind.

Customer Service Tip #87: I don't care what Willy in Receiving says; drinking when you're busy on your job is a bad thing. For one thing, you might get fired ... Wait, let me think about this some more.

Customer Service Tip #134: In most social circles, it's considered impolite to leap the service counter and snatch your customer baldheaded. Remember this, and you'll be welcome everywhere.

Customer Service Tip #159: If the customer has money and you'll do anything to get it, this means conventional wisdom is wrong: Customer service IS the oldest profession in the world.

Customer Service Tip #176: Bad breath and body odor will only drive away the most sensitive customers. It's not worth the risk of tooth decay and disease. So go ahead and brush your teeth and shower once in a while. Deodorant is, of course, optional.

Customer Service Tip #211: Bitterness is never attractive. Learn to fake sincerity, and your customers will love you until you turn on them like a mad badger and gnaw their legs off.

Customer Service Tip #236: Never tell a customer you're going to have him/her hunted down and killed in the street like a dog. It will upset them. No, let it be a total surprise when it happens.

Copyright 2013 by Stephen B. Bagley. Excerpted from The Anti-Customer Service Training Manual. All rights reserved. No copying without express permission from the author and publisher.
We'll be back next hour!

2013 Christmas Celebration starts at noon!

The 2013 Christmas Celebration 
starts at noon today! 
There will be stories, essays, 
jokes, recipes, 
songs, photos, and much more!
Join us as we count down the hours
until Christmas! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

My song for 2014

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Fantastic sale on "Tales from Bethlehem"!

Right now, you can purchase "Tales from Bethlehem"
from Amazon.com at 51% off! Here's the link:

Ada Writers Christmas!

Visit the Ada Writers site, which has writings from Stephen B. Bagley, Mel Hutt, Don Perry, Martha Rhynes, Jim Sanders, and Loretta Yin on Christmas, Winter, and the coming New year!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Christmas Celebration, Day 1

Poor Christmas

By Stephen B. Bagley

Poor Christmas. It doesn't stand a chance. All the pressure people put on it. New Year’s Eve is about starting over; no one expects anything from it except maybe a kiss at midnight. But Christmas is expected to redeem the year. To make better everything that passed before it, to rewrite our failures and sorrows, and to make all of the setbacks worthwhile.

Poor Christmas. The odds are against it. It has devolved into a shopping frenzy. Retailers place their hopes on Christmas sales each year. “We can get back into the black if the man in red shakes loose enough green.” Not that people don’t notice. There will be at least a million people blogging, preaching, griping, nagging, complaining about how commercial Christmas has become. People will proudly not celebrate it because they want to show their disapproval of this overwhelming greed. Or so they will say.

Or maybe they’re not celebrating Christmas because they’re showing their disapproval of Christianity in general. They will bring up the Crusades and religious wars and The Inquisition or how the church disapproves of their particular unseemly affection for Volkswagens. Not that the ultra-self-righteous don’t attack Christmas, too, because it is based on a pagan holiday, you know, and the Christmas Tree actually is an instrument of the Beast Below and you don’t want to know what a garland really symbolizes, but it’s nothing good. 

And let’s not forget how Nativity Scenes offend the delicate sensibilities of some fragile people. In fact, the offended parties must often sue for millions of dollars because seeing just one Nativity Scene in a public building damages their psychological well-being to the point they can’t function and have suicidal thoughts, all because of those shepherds, Wise Men, and angels.

Who doesn't hate Christmas with its get-togethers and parties and all those presents people give us that are just wrong, wrong, wrong and obviously they don’t really know us and don’t care what we like and now we have to return them or re-gift them or finally throw them out with all the other trash? You’d have to be a dolt to like this miserable holiday and all those boring, long elementary school programs it inspires. And there’s the endless, sappy, sad, stupid TV specials and movies where little Jo is dying, but Prancer delivers the life-saving miracle drug just in time for Romeo and Juliet to finally tie the knot and honeymoon in Paris.

We’re all so busy these days. We have important jobs and civic responsibilities, and Christmas means cards to send, presents to buy and wrap, gatherings to plan, people to call, programs to attend, sales to catch, and a thousand and one errands to run. We just don’t have time for a holiday now, much less any of the things that go with it.

Let’s be honest. A lot of us are angry at Christmas. At the miracles never delivered. The presents Santa never brought. The people who leave us or pass away at the holidays. We don’t like our families. We don’t like our lives. We want something better, and we want it at Christmas, and it better deliver or else. If you wish us a ‘Merry Christmas,’ you need to back it up or we’ll let you know exactly how we feel.

Poor Christmas. You could write a book — and hundreds have — about how Christmas became what it is and how it needs to change and why we’re so severely disappointed in it. And it takes the abuse because it must, although it shouldn't surprise us if those Wise Men show how wise they really are and file a class action suit against humanity for our inability to grow up.

Christmas is what it is. It offers presents, trees, elves, Wise Men, stars, sales, family, tinsel, mangers, lights, decorations, food, and much, much more. We turn our noses up at it. It isn't exactly what we want so we refuse everything because we want it our way or the highway. I don’t know why it comes back year after year.

But it does. Right before the changing of the year, it returns. It offers its gifts again and again and again. Unlike all the other holidays, Christmas tries. It attempts to bring out the best of us — and does in soup kitchens and food pantries, with Meals on Wheels and Toys for Tots. Christmas has hope. Kind of silly really to keep believing after all these years that humanity is still worth it when so much evidence points otherwise, but Christmas refuses to learn better. Despite our ingratitude, it keeps offering a message of good will and good cheer, as tired and hokey as that is to our modern ears. 

You got to admire its sheer stubbornness. It keeps going. Year after year. Eggnog and fruitcake sustain it in ways science can’t understand. Every year it makes the trek to Bethlehem to a stable carved out of a hillside where a virgin gives birth to a king. All the smart people say it’s a fable or parable or who knows what, but Christmas doesn’t care. Christmas is only interested in that first miracle, the beginning, the chance for the world to start over, the beginning of what was to come, the Redemptive plan for humanity finally in motion.

Always when I think of Christmas, I think of that moment. That expectancy before the event. When the world held its breath. Shepherds and wise men would come later as would angel choirs and a multitude of great and terrible things as time advanced, but not yet. 

In that moment, there is only a young frightened man holding the hand of a young frightened woman in a stable in an insignificant village. 
The animals rustle in the darkness. 
The air is cold. 
The sky is clear.
A star is giving forth a river of light.
Then there is the cry of a babe.
And it all begins.

Copyright 2013. Excerpted from My Opinion & Welcome to It! by Stephen B. Bagley. All rights reserved. No copying without permission from the publisher.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Photos from Sunday afternoon

There is a small lake -- more of a large pond -- a mile or so from my house. A friend and I drove over there in the snow this afternoon to take photos. Here are my three favorites.

These ducks and geese were at the far end of the lake, near the limit of the lens on my camera. The light wasn't great, but I like how it turned out.

This was the last photo of the day. It really doesn't do justice to the sky and the delicate beauty of the scene.

The Christmas lights on the hedge in front of my house. I really like this photo. The camera did a good job in capturing both the light and dark.