Archive for the ‘christmas tree’ Tag

12-10-2015 Journal– A Korean Christmas Story!   1 comment

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I’ve talked a great deal over the years about my experiences while serving in the Army. As with any young man or woman serving outside of this country, being away from home and family during the Christmas season for the first time is difficult.  In my case I was not only away from family, I was in a non-Christian county that seemed to be more than a little primitive to me.

Their religion was primarily Buddhist and the Christmas holiday meant very little to them. They at times pretended to understand but that was motivated entirely by their desire to make money from visiting Americans.

At the time I was stationed in an area that was primarily populated by rice farmers living in small villages that dotted the northern countryside. There were no paved roads and most villages only had electric power for a few hours a day.  For those of us from the United States it was like traveling back in time a hundred years.

I was living almost full time in a local village and actually had my laundry taken to a local river where it was beaten on the rocks with wooded paddles and soap.  That certainly took some getting used to for me.  My Korean friends seemed totally befuddled by the entire Christmas holiday bro-ha-ha and sat silently as I tried to explain it to them. They were interested in my stories of Christ and the Magi, but the virgin birth story had them all silently giggling a little.

Regardless I was determined to have a Christmas celebration so I asked a few of my them for their help in putting up a Christmas tree.  They agreed to help but weren’t exactly sure what I was up to. As that project was progressing I had a little old mama-san ask me through an interpreter why would any sane person put a tree inside their home. I was hard pressed to answer her because I didn’t know the reason either. They continued to humor me as I explained other peculiarities that they couldn’t quite grasp.

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A week or so later with two Korean friends I hiked up a nearby mountain near a small Buddhist temple to find a tree. We ended up dragging back the sorriest looking bush you could ever imagine, set it up in my hooch, and started to decorate it as best we could. There was a hand-made star on top of the tree (my doing) and a number of pieces of charcoal tied to the branches with twine (their doing). I never had that fully explained to me but it was what they wanted to do. It had something to do with good luck or good pregnancy or something. Since we had no electricity they suggested placing candles in and around the tree but I nixed that immediately. The last thing we needed was to burn down my hooch and a portion of the village when a little, dry, and nasty looking tree, bust  into flames.

I had some GI decorations I made from C-rations that looked stupid as hell but they loved it. Later we ate most of the decorations and drank a bottle of really cheap brandy that I’d brought along for the occasion. I presented them each with a small gift of candy and got a little kiss on the cheek from everyone.

I was still a little homesick but that weird little celebration came to mean a lot to me over the years. It was cozy, friendly, and more than a little strange but it was also genuine. They forever became part of my extended family because they’d made an effort to help get me through a very difficult time. Christmas, the holiday, had very little meaning to them but they realized how important it was to me. 

I still wonder to this day if any of them have fond memories of that night and think about it occasionally. I also hope that all of my comrades-in-arms who are away from home this Christmas are lucky enough to find some friends like I did.

Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers.

14 SHOPPING DAYS LEFT TIL THIS ONE

11-26-2015 Journal – The Madness Begins!   Leave a comment

It’s Thanksgiving morning here in Maine.  No snow, no sleet, no high winds, and fifty degree sunny weather. What’s wrong with this picture? I wait all year for this holiday when I can put on a heavy coat, take a walk in the cold fresh air, eat a great meal, and relax the day away.  Warm weather? What the hell?

Yesterday was the big day for us. My better-half finally was finally bitten on the butt by the Christmas bug and all of the cherished peace and quiet in this house is over for the foreseeable future.

I was given my marching orders early which required me to make a visit to my least favorite place . . . the attic.  A spooky, dirty, and buggy place filled with boxes of holiday crap stacked everywhere. Pick any holiday of the year and I can find a few boxes of decorations to dig through for that day. Christmas is the worst because the better-half seems to have saved every Christmas decoration going back to her birth. As you can see our family room looks like Santa’s sleigh had some maintenance issues and crashed and exploded right here.

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Wrapping papers, boxes of lights, then more lights, then tinsel, then more tinsel, then tree ornaments, and then more tree ornaments. I’m hip deep in the stuff and there’s still more boxes left in the attic. God help me!

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My main chore each year is to unpack the tree, find all the pieces (it’s not a real one), drag everything into the living room and put it all together. It’ll be much easier this year since we purchased a new tree at the end of last year’s holiday season. The previous artificial tree was seven feet tall and almost five feet wide and huge pain to assemble. It consisted of at least forty different limbs and parts and took quite a while to construct as well as shedding about a pound of plastic pine needles every time it was touched. This new one went up with a snap in five minutes and then it only needed a little TLC and tweaking to make it really nice.

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Hopefully by the end of today the tree will be up and decorated, the furniture rearranged or moved into other rooms, and the Christmas tunes will be firmly imbedded in my skull for the next month. After Country & Western music I hate Christmas music the most.  Unfortunately once those damn songs get stuck in my head I’ll be humming them until the middle of January.

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‘Step One’

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‘Step Two’

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‘Done’

This is one of the good things that happened today. My better-half has a tradition of supplying freshly baked cinnamon buns soaked in sugar icing the morning of each holiday.  I watched her prepare the buns, letting them cool, then pouring that glorious sugar sweetness all over them. I  hijacked a couple, scurried off to another room and quickly wolfed them down.  That’s my payment for today’s Christmas chores and like it or not I’ll probably eat a couple of more tomorrow.  I can at least give thanks for them.

So it begins . . .

01-12-2015 Journal–L&C and My Superbowl Tree!   Leave a comment

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Before I get any further into this post I thought I’d give those of you interested in history my Lewis & Clark expedition update. The journal of their travels begins on May 14, 1804, the day they left the Mississippi River, a day or two after they arrived back in St. Louis. They left from a river camp near Dubois and proceeded up the Missouri River under full sail. The party consisted of one ship and two perogues (their spelling for canoes). Those first few weeks were rainy with the river running higher than normal. They suffered difficulties with sand bars and a broken mast when it struck an overhanging tree but they found game plentiful and plenty of fresh water.

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Their group harvested dozens deer and three bears along the way and any meat not eaten was dried and made into a jerky for later use. They’ve met a few French traders roaming along the river and have only seen fresh Indian sign but no actual Indians as yet

On June 6 commander Clark reports himself as suffering from a high fever and severe headaches and here’s his actual quote on the general health of the expedition:

”The party is much aflicted with Boils and Several have the Decissentary, which I contribute to the water.” (This is his spelling not mine.)

On June 13 they made camp near the Carlton River near a beautiful open prairie and that’s where I left them last night. Using modern day maps it’s still difficult for me to determine their exact location due to the confusion in names and descriptions.  An educated guess would be that they’ve traveled between thirty and forty miles up river from St. Louis.

One last quote can better explain how discipline was carried out back in the good old days.  Any current and former sailors will cringe when they read this:

[Clark, June 29, 1804] Camp mouth of the Kanseis June 29th 1804. Ordered a Court martial will Set this day at 11 oClock, to Consist of five members, for the trial of John Collins and Hugh Hall, Confined on Charges exhibited against them by Sergeant Floyd, agreeable to the articles of War. Detail for the Court Sergt Nat. Pryor presd. mbs: 2 John Colter 3 John Newmon 4 Pat. Gass 1 J. B. Thompson John Potts to act as judge advocate. The Court Convened agreeable to order and proceeded to the trial of the Prisoners Viz John Collins Charged "with getting drunk on his post this morning out of whiskey put under his Charge as a Sentinal and for Suffering Hugh Hall to draw whiskey out of the Said Barrel intended for the party" To this Charge the prisoner plead not guilty. The Court after mature deliveration on the evidence abduced &c. are of oppinion that the prisoner is Guilty of the Charge exibited against him, and do therefore Sentence him to recive one hundred Lashes on his bear Back.

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Back to the present and this lovely Maine winter we’re enjoying.  The temperature continues to hover in the single digits and I’m still freezing my ass off.  I’m hoping for a little relief sometime soon but who knows maybe I’m just kidding myself.

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Go Steelers Go Pat’s’

Yesterday was football day in this house and as the games were being played my better-half and I decorated our new Super Bowl tree (formerly our X-mas tree).  If you remember we decided to keep the tree up for the entire year and to celebrate as many holidays as possible. As you can see by the photo the tree contains a lot of Steeler paraphernalia even though  they were soundly defeated last week.  After the Pat’s victory last night over the Ravens  they’ll soon be properly honored on our tree as well.

Our next tree will be celebrating Valentine’s Day.

01-06-2015 Journal–Winter Cleaning   Leave a comment

After having a couple of weeks of beautiful sunny and moderately warm weather, the fun is apparently over. These last few days have brought winter back to us with a freaking vengeance. It started two days ago with just four or five inches of snow which living in Maine isn’t all that much.  Then came the freezing rain which put down a sheet of ice on top of the snow.  Then it decided to just rain for a while to make things even worse.

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I was so thrilled to be able to pay some much needed attention to my poor lonely snowblower. Everything was fine until the cold air arrived from somewhere near the arctic circle. For the last twenty-four hours the temperature continued to drop with wind chills ending up well below zero.  They say, those dumb ass weather people, that it will continue for another day and will warm up just in time for the first of two snowstorms working their way towards us.  Hooray for me! Couple that with my soon to be experienced colonoscopy and 2015 is already not my most favorite year. I could say it’s becoming a real pain in the ass but that pun’s even too corny for the likes of me.

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Since all of the snow, sleet and rain have eliminated any possibility of my starting a forest fire I made the decision to clean out my workshop and to have a cute little bonfire to get rid of the wood scraps.  I figured even this stupid town we live in wouldn’t attempt to arrest me for failing to obtain a burning permit. That’s just another one of those small fine-print freedoms we’ve lost somewhere along the way.  The job was done and the fire was very satisfying for some unknown reason, maybe because I got one over on the town government.  Now I can start my bathroom remodel and have enough room left in the workshop to actually do it.

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‘’Early Spring Cleaning’

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‘Burn Baby Burn’

As I mentioned a week ago my better-half and I decided that we’d make further use of the former Christmas tree throughout this entire new year.  We put Christmas to bed this week and packed away all of the decorations for another year. We’ve been slowly collecting appropriate decorations for the next celebration which is the Super Bowl. Unfortunately the Steelers (our favorite team) have been eliminated from the playoffs this year but they’ll be properly honored on our Super Bowl tree.  After that’s over we can then plan our decoration of the Valentine’s Day tree.

I’ll be supplying photos of these trees as they happen and yes I know it sounds a little crazy. I’ve always been a big fan of crazy especially outside-the-box crazy.   It’s time to turn this year around after a suspiciously sucky start.

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