Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Amid baking tourtieres and gingerbread goats, I’ve dedicated more time to music lately, singing at our local Commission on Aging and developing more Celtic music (stay tuned for an important announcement in a few months). This time I tried something new, recording a song only using the instruments on GarageBand. I learned so much, particularly the process of adding new sounds and polishing tracks. However, I must admit that I prefer the “heart and soul” emerging during a live performance.

I recorded a holiday favorite, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Evoking memories of watching “Meet me in St. Louis” and Judy Garland’s stunning rendition, this song includes the bittersweet side of the holiday, reminding us that it’s ok to have some sad amid all the happiness this time of year. Or to quote a favorite toast, “To Life, it doesn’t have to be perfect, to be perfect!”

So here’s my gift to all of you! Take some time this holiday season to pause amid all the stress, relax in the moment, and enjoy your many blessings.

Thanks for reading!

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My Favorite Things: The Christmas Edition

Christmas quickly approaches! Only two days until school break starts for the kids, thought I better post something before the final, chaotic stretch to the holiday! I started journaling this morning about holiday stress but decided to tuck the negative away and focus on something positive. Instead, I’m sharing some of the season’s favorites!

nativity

Our Celtic nativity: Yes, Bethlehem is a long way from the Emerald Isle, but I LOVE my unique nativity, complete with Celtic knots and resin figurines that resemble stone. I searched for the perfect Irish themed nativity for about ten years and finally found one through an on-line store in England. Ironically, the shipping cost more than the set.

snowman earrings

My cheap, gaudy, snowman earrings: Chad bought them many years ago. Friends call them my “Summer diamonds…Summer real, summer not.” I love to dig them out of the jewelry box and wear them throughout the month of December.

stockings

Homemade stockings: My sister-in-law, Lissa, made my needlepoint stocking and her sister, Linda, made stockings for Chad and the kids. Linda’s are a particular favorite, complete with a Christmas tree to add mementoes over the years.

The Christmas seasonal culinary traditions: So many here…tourtieres, gravlox, sticky buns, overnight eggs, cheesy hash browns, fondue…nothing fancy, just simple, holiday traditions to look forward to every year.

Jesus:Santa

Santa and Jesus: Coming from a family of history majors, I love putting this decoration out and hear the outrage from Mom about the historical inaccuracy. I prefer to view this decoration for symbolic value, a reminder of the true reason for the season.

Of course what makes these favorites is the opportunity to share them with family and friends. Each Christmas season is a gift and chance to be with those we love, help those who are struggling, and remember the simple gift of hope and peace that arrived in a stable so many, many years ago.

God Bless!

Memories, Tales, and Finding Yourself

I am so thankful that Chad’s relatives take the time to write down their stories and share with the family. Aunt Carol is one of those women who appreciates the memories and the importance of preserving family history. In her words below, she remembers a much simpler time on Grandma and Grandpa Ruzgis’ farm:

Some of my best memories of Gramma R was how generous and hard working this amazing lady was, although we didn’t think of that then. I don’t ever remember her complaining, although she had a lot to complain about. When I would stay with her, she would let me sleep in bed with her, she and Grampa R were always up around 4 AM to milk cows. I got to sleep in. I loved it when they called for the ‘cows to come home’ late in the afternoon for 2nd milking… come boss, come boss…

They raised most of their own food… apples, vegetables and potatoes. After milking the cows, the milk was separated (milk from cream) in the separator room. One of my favorite cows was named “Daisy,” (all of the cows had names). They did not have a tractor when I was young, but farmed with big work horses. There was a hen house, the chickens roamed free around the farm. It was frightening when someone yelled ‘chicken hawk’, everyone ran. I didn’t know what Chicken Hawk was, and I didn’t stick around to find out; I immediately hid in the house. A time I didn’t like was when they butchered the pigs. I’ll never forget the scream. They would slit the throat of the hog and drain the blood for blood sausage. Uck! A delicacy was the head cheese they made from some unknown part of the pig.

When we visited the farm, most slept upstairs. There was no inside bathroom facilities, we always had a pot we carried upstairs, then emptied in the morning. I remember my mom and aunts sleeping in the front bedroom, giggling all night long.

I loved going on grocery shopping trips with Gramma R in Scottville. She always bought me candy. I yearned for a used Brownie Kodak Camera I saw in a store window. She bought it for me after a lot of whining on my part.. We often stopped at Johnny’s Tavern in Custer. Gramma R would drink a glass or 2 of beer. Mom, and usually Aunt Rae and/or Aunt Phyllis were with us (someone had to drive). Johnny eventually built a larger bar and roller rink on the north side of US 10 farther to the west, but still in Custer. Gramma always wore a babushka on her head. I wish I had one of her babushkas, and I wish I had her old crocheted sweater vest, it was dark green with some orange trim. Always worn to town or church.

Gramma & Grampa R’s English was very broken and both were difficult to understand. They called me Kedala instead of Carol. It was so exciting when the cousins (Joyce, Janice & JoLynn) came over and we’d play in the woods & creek across from the farm. Karen & Ron Evanauskis were occasional visitors too with their parents, Johnny & Doris. On holidays, Gramma R would make her kuguli, yummy! She let me drink coffee brewed on the wood stove, and she always let me add lots of sugar. Unfortunately, I still do.

Grampa Ruzigs had asthma very bad. At night, he used to sit in the dark at the kitchen table and snuff some black stuff off the top of the can lid. He wasn’t very patient with us young kids, thought we were too noisy. Mike & Jerry used to give him a lot of grief. He was a very hard worker, never drove, always walked or hitchhiked to work in Ludington. Life was very difficult in those days. I wonder what kind of person he and Gramma would be today. I can’t imagine leaving your home and family and coming to a strange country where you could not even speak the language. Especially difficult when they had to leave a daughter behind in Lithuania, always planning to send for her, but the money was never there. Gramma never spoke of her.

I was thinking about the fall/winter holidays coming up and all the opportunities for family time. These large, delicious meals and gatherings are the perfect opportunity to hear old stories and learn about those people who still live through you. Thanks for reading!