Monthly Archives: November, 2021

Reindeer Revolt

Rudolph said that he had received a belly full. He noted that his kids needed braces on their teeth and that he had been sick with Covid for two months and that his North Pole insurance did not cover the at home care that he received all November…nor the constant haranguing telephone calls from Santa’s Aid…Brittany…who would first ask a cursory question as to his health and then came the real question…when was he going to return to work… He told the Reindeers that were assembled at the Union Meeting that he had tried in vain to contact Santa directly…but could not reach him…as he was in Florida…seeing his doctor…or as Rudolph asked the group, ‘How many of you would like to have a doctor in Florida…or how many of you have ever been to Florida?

Comet said that he had been counting on his Christmas Bonus and that he not only had seen nothing of it…but that his wife Bridgett…was very upset as he had promised her a holiday in the Caribbean after Christmas… He mentioned that he had spoken to Mrs. Claus about his families need for a pay raise to keep his kids in Charter School and Bridgett in new shoes and Holiday Apparel.

Cupid proclaimed that the roof on his house needed to be replaced and although he brought toys to every good little boy and girl…his kids often went wanting…due to lack of funds. He wondered if the message of their dissatisfaction had ever reached the ears of Mr. Claus…or had been stopped by his underlings… He went on to say that Mrs. Claus was super protective off the Old Elf…and did not want to see him upset.

Blitzen chimed in that he did not think that Santa was aware of the problem…or he would provide a solution. He said that Santa had told him that he would help him get a condo in Destin…if he wanted one. Blitzen told Santa that he truly enjoyed the Beach Air and the white sands of Destin, Florida.

Santa appeared in the midst of the assembled Reindeer. ‘What is wrong my faithful children, Santa asked? ‘Without each of you…I could not be a joy to the world’s children…you are more important than I am, Santa said! ‘I just got back from Destin…and I feel much better after a little time on the beach…and I want to give you each a small token of my appreciation for you, the Jolly Old Elf said. ‘I am giving each of you a new condo and a 30% pay raise…and a membership in the Jelly Of The Month Club,’ laughed Santa…

Billy B. and Chet were watching the Reindeer meeting of the AFL-CIO… The Reindeer began to dance and sing, ‘Who is the King of Christmas…You are the King of Christmas!’

Humphrey the Elf…heard the joyful singing…and wondered what the Reindeer were so happy about…

Christmas Peace In Our Pandemic

It is warmer today…and it will be warmer tomorrow…and Thursday is forecast for a high temperature in the 70’s. A possible meteorological record for December 2nd. Jonathon and I have carefully placed the remainder of the Christmas decorations…although I am pondering getting two more Nativities out of the blue storage bin. The Omicron variant of COVID – 19 is frightening the world. We are nearly 2 years into our Pandemic…with no end in sight. We all have things to do…and places to go…and people to see…but our Pandemic is not only not cooperating…but it continues to illustrate with non-partisan ferocity…that it is not only real…but is a problem for all of us…that is not easily solved.

Our forbears dealt with many devasting diseases. From Polio to Tuburcleois to Small Pox…disease has ravaged the human population. The Spanish Flu Pandemic began in February 1918 and ended in April 1920 with an estimated 500 million cases. I was in our local Cracker Barrel Restaurant Sunday and observed that although the facility was packed with people…almost no one was wearing face masks. Several people stared at me…and my Van Gough Face Mask. Perhaps they were admiring ‘Starry Night?’

We may not see the end of our Pandemic if the United States does not commit to vaccinating the world…America First…is not an option…variants that develop in other countries…come here…and kill our people. We must learn the tearful lesson that we are all members of the same human family…and that, ‘We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea. and we owe each other a terrible loyalty. G.K. Chesterton

When a Christmas Card is More Than Merely a Card

A wonderful Jonathon Brooks Blog!


2008 was the first year I gave out Christmas cards. That season I bought a pack of 8 Christmas pop-up cards by legendary pop-up book and card maker Robert Sabuda. I recall the cards had a mouse in a festive red hat popping out of a Christmas stocking with joy on his face. Giving out those cards brought me tremendous gladness.

I continued the card giving tradition every new Christmas season until the year of 2020. Alas, Robert Sabuda did not create a new pop-up card design last year. Without the legendary Sabuda I was discouraged regarding Christmas cards and I did not purchase any or pass any out to friends.

Well, a new holiday season is happening and I’m happy to report I mailed off 12 pop-up cards earlier today. I had a total of 16 cards to give out this season. The cards consist of two different designs…

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No Room

Twenty-four degrees in Carbondale…with a chill factor of 12 degrees. It was cold enough to cause pain almost immediately. Raul and Rebecca had been staying in an apartment that had been cold on a mild late fall day. The door had a wide gap along the threshold and the single- paned windows rattled as the wind shook them to the extent that Rebecca believed that the glass would break. Raul had lost his job picking fruit in the orchards of Little Egypt…and the remainder of he and Rebecca’s money had been spent on doctor’s visits as Rebecca was ‘Great with child.’ Raul was a proud man and he and Rebecca had journeyed to the United States…fleeing for their lives from the local drug lord in Guatemala…who had threatened to kill them if they would not sell drugs for him. Raul had witnessed his brother being murdered by the Drug Cartel.

Mrs. Westbrook lived upstairs and coughed inncessantly from either a cold or Covid…and Rebecca fixed her hot soup and baked bread for her neighbor. Rebecca looked in Mrs. Westbrook’s refrigerator and found one egg and a half can of dog food for her dog Bruiser…a Boston Terrier. Mrs Westbrook had been a teacher at Carbondale Grade School. She had no family left…and far less money than her monthly expenses allowed for. She often had to choose between her prescriptions or food…and her thermostat was set on 50 degrees. Bruiser was a loyal companion to Mrs Westbrook. He was 12 and had seen a lot of life. He remembered when he was two years old and he and his friend attended a Christmas dinner invitation from Beth, one of Mrs. Westbook’s former third grade pupils. His friend laughed more than he had ever seen her. She talked of old times and her years teaching and her husband, Jock, who had passed away twenty years ago…and then they came home…and warmed themselves by the fireside of their memories.

Ronnie lived in the other apartment of the three in the complex. Ronnie was somewhat autistic…but he had worked all of his life. He spent his career at first KMart and when it closed he began working at Walmart and Kroger. Ronnie always greeted everyone that he met with, ‘Greetings, my friend!’ He loved people…and he loved Jesus. His mom lived with him until her death in 1989. Ronnie lived on a small Social Secuity Check that he received monthly. He enjoyed eating peanut butter and french fries. During the Christmas Season he put out his mom’s aluminum Christmas Tree and the Nativity that he had purchased at KMart…30 years ago. He loved to watch Christmas movies on his 12 inch tube television. He had rabbit ears on his little TV…as he could not afford cable… Ronnie had a red Santa Hat that he wore during the Holidays…and for the past several years he had served as a Bell Ringer for the Salavation Army…which was a point of great personal pride for him. Ronnie did Mrs Westbrook’s grocery shopping since she had fallen ill…and he saved $50 for Rebecca to see her doctor…before her baby was born…Ronnie called the unborn baby…Baby Jesus…

Christmas Past

Jonathon and I finished putting out the Christmas Decorations. Each year when we do so…it seems that it was but a short time since we had placed them back in the Christmas Closet. I remember with great joy MJ and my careful placement of the new Nativity scene in a place of prominence in our little four-room house in Elkville, Illinois…for Aaron’s First Christmas. Christmas 1981 was a special time…we were parents…and I had searched the bungalow for the instruction manual for New Parents… The Nativity was handmade and hand-painted and it was like nothing that we had ever laid our eyes upon. In those halcyon days of our local University Mall…it was literally full of patrons and Christmas Kiosks and Holiday revilers. When we found our Nativity…we knew we were on the road to a bright parenting future… Along with the Nativity we purchased a six-foot Christmas Tree and all of the ornaments to rest upon it…many at the DuQuoin Walmart. Nothing would do for us but to buy Aaron all manner of age-appropriate toys…Fischer Price and more…but he enjoyed nothing more than the wind-up swing that he swung in for hours on end…especially at night…when he…and thus we…could not sleep.

Of the few photos that I have of my early childhood in Chicago…there is one of me sitting between my mom and dad…under an enormous Christmas Tree. The picture illustrates our holiday cheer and mom is decked out in her slacks and a Christmas Blouse with her ever-present red lipstick… Dad looks quite happy and content as the breadwinner and provider for our Holiday Revelry. I am about 3…and I remember the Christmas Photo being snapped. That Chicago Christmas was magical…as seen through the eyes of a 3-year-old. My favorite gift that year was Laughing Santa. He was a little Santa with a crank protruding out of his back that when you turned it…he laughed the most unique laugh. Laughing Santa’s annual appearance through the ongoing Christmases resulted in my affinity for the Jolly Old Elf…to this day.

Teddy Ruxpin Christmas was special in remembering the short life of Mr. Ruxpin. Jonathon had asked for the Talking Teddy Bear…Teddy Ruxpin for some time. MJ and I were so pleased that we had one for him to open on Christmas Morning. When he saw the mysterious bear who could talk and his mouth moved to illustrate that he was really saying the words that were on the cassettes tape that fit in a player in his back…he was mesmerized… Teddy was the height of 1980’s technology. As we sat enjoying our Christmas Wassail…Jonathon entered with a question…why wouldn’t Teddy Talk? In an effort to cause Mr. Ruxpin to speak more rapidly…Jonathon had accidentally removed his lower lip…

Santa Is…Missing

It became clear on Sunday, November 28th that Santa was missing. Clarence…his valet and special assistant had gone to wake him at the customary time…and he was not in his massive mahogany bed. He and Mrs. Claus slept in separate bedrooms due to Santa’s habit of loud snoring. Mrs. Claus was not herself without her usual 10 hours of sack time. However, since it was less than a month to Christmas…both of the Claus has been working 18 hour days…and Santa…at times slept on a hideaway bed in his office that is adjacent to the Toy Factory. He had recently hired his first two children as his Special Assistants in Charge of Toy Satisfaction…

Billy B. and Chet had applied for the jobs last Christmas but due to the Pandemic, they were not able to join the Toy Production Team at the North Pole. But this morning…they were the first two people that Clarence reported to…that Santa was neither in his Big Bed…nor sleeping in his office and that the last time he was seen was at noon yesterday. Yesterday around 9:00 A:M: Santa had told Jane, his factory floor manager, that he was not feeling well and thought that he might go and get a Covid test to ensure that he did not have the virus. Humphrey, the elf in charge of packaging and shipping, said that Santa had told him that he was so cold that he felt, ‘Chilled to the bone.’ Humphrey went on to speculate that Santa might have gone to Florida to warm up…

Suddenly, Daryl walked into Santa’s Office with his dad, The Wiz, and he suggested that they take a couple of reindeer to Destin, Florida to determine if Santa was at his condo on Miramar Beach. It was an established fact that Santa loved Miramar Beach and his condo. He spent at least 3 months per year enjoying the ocean and the wonderful warm sunshine…which eased the arthritic pain that he suffered…especially as he had gotten older. It was out of character for Santa to leave the North Pole prior to his work on Christmas Day…but then again…everything had been different during the Pandemic.

Toy Satisfaction came with a Toy Bag Full of Responsibility… Chet and Billy B. quickly agreed that The Wiz had a good idea and they subsequently all climbed into Santas personal sleigh that he used for quick trips to individual children…usually those who were ill…or very sad…and they flew to Destin. Jane joined them…and in the blink of an eye…they were there. You see the Santa Sleighs all ran on Santa Magic and Yuletide Good Cheer…which was very fast…indeed! They knocked on the door to Santa’s condo…and out came Mrs. Claus. She said that they were just getting ready to return to the North Pole and had flown to Destin…for an overnighter to visit Santa’s Doctor to take the Covid Test…and then take a dip in the Ocean and sometime in the Hot Tub…

Chet was awakened by his pastor closing the Sunday Church Service with a Blessing for the Congregation. There was his mom, Thelma, and Billy B. and Jane and Daryl and The Wiz…and Santa…sitting on the corner pew…winking at him…and disappearing…

Lemp Mansion

Thanksgiving was a lovely event with Ron and Ira Kaye joining us in the festivities. There was smoked turkey and dressing and cherry pie and pecan…as well. The family favorite of Brocolli Casserole…made an appearance and Green Bean Casserole… her companion. Ira Kaye brought some wonderful bread and MJ made well-buttered mash potatoes to complete the ensemble. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was on all televisions and that followed by The National Kennel Club Dog Show. Baileys Irish Cream for our coffee and vodka for our orange juice…kept us in the holiday spirit.

Yesterday we attempted to recreate our wonderful experience of a Ghost Tour in Edinburgh, Scotland…by attending a Ghost Tour of the Lemp Brewery in St. Louis, Missouri. We had a delicious dinner at the Lemp Mansion. ‘The Lemp Mansion is a historical house in Benton Park, St. Louis, Missouri. It is also the site of three suicides by Lemp family members after the death of the son Fredrick Lemp, whose William J. Lemp Brewing Co. dominated the St. Louis beer market before Prohibition with its Falstaff beer brand. The mansion is said to be haunted by members of the Lemp family.’ ‘According to the Missouri History Museum, Life Magazine included the Lemp Mansion in an article on America’s nine most haunted houses in 1980.’ Wikipedia

Last night we took a tour of the neighborhood surrounding the Lemp Mansion and the Lemp Brewery and concluded the tour by going into 4 of the Lemp Brewery Basements. The Tour included information regarding one of the residents of the neighborhood…being a prime suspect for Jack the Ripper… Also discussion about a serial killer in the 1980s murdering his victims in the basements that we were standing in… The excellent presentation regarding the Lemp Family was the best part of the Tour and was the highlight of the event and it took place on a very cold evening outside the Lemp Mansion.

As I lay in bed last night I wondered…what possessed me to want to spend the night in a haunted house. I was reminded of the funny movie with the actor, Don Knotts, ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. The suites were a fantastic representation of 19th Century Architecture. Our Tour Guide spoke of learning that one of the women that was murdered by the serial killer during the 1980s had been kept in what was called the pit…and we were standing in close proximity to it. He went on to say that once when he was in the area alone he heard a voice which told him, ‘Don’t Leave.’ When he subsequently began to leave he heard…’ Stay.’ A few years ago he said that he had a Psychic Researcher who specialized in auditory psychic research…who told him that the spirit of a young woman had told her that she was kept captive in a white room. At that time the Tour Guide said that he had been in every room that he had access to and that there was no ‘White Room.’ Two years later he gained access to additional parts of the Brewery and discovered a white-tiled room that had been the vault of the Brewery.

Turkey Tomorrow

The wind is blowing 22 miles per hour and is forecast to gust at 40 – 45 miles per hour…later today. A change in the weather is on its way. MJ has been busy in the kitchen all morning…’And I haven’t touched a single bite.’ I remember the wonderful Thanksgivings that we had in our little four-room house in Elkville, Illinois. Many of the participants are no longer with us. One year we had 22 people…in four rooms…and it was grand and glorious. Grandpas Berl and Earl would be in the corner comparing war stories. Mary Jane and Ron and Tara would regale us with stories of Tara’s Volleyball games and tell us when and where we could go to watch her play…and she was a terrific volleyball player! Grandma Neva June would enjoy a shot of rum…and sometimes 2 shots of the brown elixir. Mrs. Moore was sitting and smiling and enjoying every minute of the Thanksgiving Celebration. Aaron and Jonathon were but wee children and they were excited about everything. We ruminated about our Black Friday plans…that almost always entailed a trip to St. Louis to shop…and in later years to St. Charles, Missouri to see Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim and Mr. Scrooge…and Santa Claus from all over the world…

MJ’s love for Thanksgiving made each celebration…special. It is her favorite holiday of the year. When I looked at each smiling face and felt the happiness of every member of our Feast…I knew that God was in his Heaven…and all was right with the world. So often we are divided by petty differences like political affiliations or choice of churches…when there is much more that unites us than will ever divide us. Thanksgiving is a Torch Bearer of Light…that illuminates the darkness of our concerns and suffering…and worries about tomorrow. Each year in that little house in Elkville…I felt like that I lived in a Castle…

Love was in abundance…we would not have it any other way. After dutifully watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade…then came the Kennel Club Dog Show and the Christmas Classic, Its A Wonderful Life.’ Sometimes cards would be removed from the desk drawer and games of Rummikub. Jake and Josh would come over to see what Aaron and Jonathon were up to…or Aaron and Jonathon would go to their house which was just around the corner. I grew up with Jake and Josh’s dad, David, and my heartfelt sorrow and prayers are with him and Josh… following the tragic news that Jake lost his life… this past Sunday… Jake was such a wonderful young man…so full of happiness and the exuberance of living. He had a giant heart and love for all…he reminded me so much of his dad…

Look to your right and you’re left this year…love everyone that you see…we are all temporary visitors in this world…cherish every minute…

Thomas Turkey’s…Point Of View

Logan’s Farm was buzzing with excitement. Grace Goose had been honking all morning about the upcoming Thanksgiving Day Dinner and the fact that this year…instead of the two customary Thanksgiving meals…one for the animals and one for the people…there was to be one combined feast… Todie…Thomas Turkey’s wife…had been chatting with Paula Pig and Paula had said that it was really true and that there would be one long table for all of the farm’s inhabitants to sit at and break bread together. Peter, Paula’s brother, came out of the barn and said, ‘It is not right…people and pigs are not meant to eat together…why it has not been that long ago that people were still eating…pigs!’

Barney Boston Terrier had begun the discussion with Logan and Lucinda regarding the combined Thanksgiving Party. Barney lived in the house with the Larues and he slept with them in their bed. Peter Pig even, snidely whispered, that he had seen Barney perched on the human toilet seat and when he had completed his job…he flushed the…’shitter.’ Peter had heard the term ‘shitter’ on the movie Christmas Vacation when Cousin Eddie was emptying his chemical toilet into the storm drain in front of Clark Griswold’s house. Peter told Paula that if they did attend the human Thanksgiving…he certainly would not use their ‘shitter.’

Daffy and Donald…Duck…were in the midst of a lively quacking discussion. ‘Will we get to sit at the fine dining room table’, asked Daffy? Donald sputtered and replied, ‘They will probably throw us some Duck Feed on the basement floor and push us down the steps…and lock the basement door!’ Daffy said, ‘I have always liked humans…and especially Logan and Lucinda…do you remember the nice neck scarfs that they got for us last Christmas?’ ‘I like them too…but when I smell them it makes me sneeze…I think it is the human perfume,’ said Donald.

Along came Sylvester Sloth. He seemed to be in a hurry…but it was very difficult to tell. Sylvester yawned and smiled…for a long time…and then he said, ‘I was here when Lucinda was ill with Covid…and almost died…and I sat by her bed each night so Logan could get some sleep…Logan told me that he loved me…and I cried…’

‘Come and get it,’ Lucinda bellowed from the front porch that encircled the entire house. Up came Grace Goose leading the way. When she got to the front door she asked, ‘What is the main dish?’ ‘Goose,’ said Lucinda…Tofu Goose… Logan invited Peter Pig to sit next to him and the two got on famously…so much so that they enjoyed cigars after dinner…in the den…and Peter asked where the restroom was…with a large grin on his cherubic face. Sylvester sat on Lucinda’s lap…with a wide smile on his face…as she fed him grapes. Donald sneezed and asked Logan to please pass the oyster dressing.

Thomas and Todie seemed especially satisfied with the magnificent Horn of Plenty. Barney the Boston Terrier began tapping his wine glass with his knife and calling, ‘Speech…speech…Thomas…’ Thomas arose from the goodie laden table and said, ‘I have often heard that if we would all just set down and break bread together…and learn of each other…we could live in peace on the earth that God has given us.’ Thomas went on to say that his ancestors had been the Thanksgiving Dinner for hundreds of years…but today had convinced him that there is a better way…

Barney laughed and said…’Wait until you start sleeping on a Beauty Rest Mattress…

Open Your Heart

Thanksgiving cold has landed on Little Egypt. The low temperature is forecast for 22 degrees…tonight. I like the cold…but not as much as I used to. At one time in our much earlier years…MJ and I considered moving north when we retired…but now we are happy in Southern Illinois. Below 0 temperatures do not excite me. The lovely leaves have almost all fallen to the ground. A few are holding on for dear life…much as we humans do. It has been said that ‘hope spring eternal,’ and I have found this to be true…but you must open your heart to receive hope.

Nature assists me in the hope department. When I see the glories of God’s creation and ponder my little place in his Grand Design…I am filled with hope…once again. Hope is a bit like your automobile…it runs out of gas and must be refilled on a regular basis. Recently I have seen the most beautiful carpets of leaves on the ground. Leaves of gold and red and yellow…seemed to be illuminated by the Sun. As I walked the Campus of Southen Illinois University @ Carbondale this morning…an old friend saw me and came up and gave me a hug and commented how they had not seen me for some time and how happy that they were to see me. Suddenly I was full of hope and the bright promise of tomorrow. I reminisced on the many Thanksgiving Weeks that I had been employed at the University. They were by and large happy weeks. Everyone was in the spirit of the holidays…and the preparing of their Thanksgiving Turkeys. Many years ago I was talking with a couple of members of the skilled crafts and one mentioned that he was going to smoke his Turkey while the other gentleman said that he was going to drink his…’Wild Turkey Whiskey!’ The Campus was a Ghost Town just prior to Thanksgiving. Just a handful of staff…here and there…thinking about the year past and their hopes for a better year to come.

Advent begins this Sunday. The patient hope for all Christians…that Jesus is to be born…and peace will reign throughout the land.

‘Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will perform this.’ Isaiah 9:7. KJV

‘And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Revelation 21:4. KJV