Monthly Archives: December 2014

Memory Ornaments – II

For a quick reminder of Memory Ornaments – I.

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I saved the category of extra special ornaments until after Christmas for reasons that will become apparent at the end of the story. Because, you see, all of the extra special ornaments are about our children and many having been gifts each year, couldn’t be revealed before Christmas.

We have three children and the year each child was born, we purchased a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament. Starting with our first son,

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and then our daughter,

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and then our second son,

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they each have their special ornament that always holds a special location on our tree—a reflection of the specialness each of them holds in our lives.

Over the years, we’ve also given them ornaments as gifts that find their way onto the tree each year.

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But of even more significance are the hand-made ornaments our children brought home over the years to hang on our tree. Seeing these always tugs at the emotional strings inside of both us.

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All of these ornaments will be passed down to their rightful owner in years to come. Hopefully they will be to our adult chirldren, the same treasure that they have been to the two of us all of these years.

But there is one more ornament category to discuss. If you read my post right after Thanksgiving, you already know this was to be a different Christmas this year—a Christmas away from home for the first time in 35 years.

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And it was a wonderful Christmas out in California where we celebrated with almost all of our family including our newest family member, our first grandson. Here was launched another category of Christmas ornaments—“Grand Child’s First Christmas.”

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When I went to the Hallmark store to see if they even made one, I couldn’t believe my eyes. What more special ornament could there be for the child of our son-in-law who as a professional, gazes at distant stars, than a moon for a Grandbaby’s first ornament? I said earlier I’ve always loved Hallmark ornaments and this new addition literally knocked it out of the stratosphere for me.

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But this ornament will be different than our others since it will hang on the tree his parents put up, the tree his little hands will help decorate in years to come creating all new memories for his parents and for us, his grandparents.

Merry Christmas to everyone!

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35th Wedding Anniversary

Tomorrow will be our 35th wedding anniversary. And while it will be a different anniversary, I can’t let the day go by without first paying a tribute to my wife of so many wonderful years.

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Our anniversary will be different this year in that we will be flying out to California to celebrate Christmas at the home of our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson.

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Last year, I gave a thorough accounting of the difficulties we’ve encountered trying to celebrate our anniversary just three days before Christmas. Since our anniversary would mark a significant milestone this year, I wanted to celebrate in a special place, a new place neither of us had been before. But knowing this never works three days before Christmas, we took our anniversary trip this past spring to Paris!

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So how can I outdo a trip to Paris and make this a special day? By telling the stories of my special wife.

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First she is my best friend. I don’t know how many couples can say this but there is no one I would rather spend time with doing fun things than with my wife. Sure we have our own fun things to do separate from each other. For me, its watching college football or building a miniature model, and for her its knitting or estate sale browsing. We both enjoy reading and while we tend towards different types of books, many a night this is how we end our day, reading together (although I might do a little less reading).

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She is my daily companion. She is the person I wake up to every morning and kiss good-bye before I leave for work. On weekends when I am not running errands, she is the one I would be doing things with. Almost a day doesn’t go by that after work is done, we don’t sit down together in “the Club” to share an adult beverage and talk about our day. It gives us a chance to connect and to stay connected.

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She is the person I can confide in completely and the one I can be the most open. There isn’t a topic I can’t share or a subject I can’t broach with her. She is the first person I throw out ideas to no matter how off the wall they may be. I have tremendous trust in her.

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She is the wonderful mother to our children and now their families as well. I am sure I am a little biased but I believe she is the best mother a child could ever want or have. I have truly been amazed over the years in how she has interacted with our children, the wonderful ideas she has come up with for things to do, the guidance and the example she has set for them. There is no doubt in their minds or the minds of their families that she has unconditional love for them.

She is also my travel companion.  We have seen many parts of the world together and there is no one I would rather travel with.

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She is obviously the love of my life, the one person I have loved now for over 35 years. I am a habitual hugger and she is the recipient of more hugs than anyone. Because I always hug the ones I love and she is the person I love the most. It is a rare day that she doesn’t get at least one hug from me, as I share my love for her.

Finally, she is my greatest treasure, not in the sense that she is a possession, but she is the person I treasure the most. For all of these reasons and a million more, she is my quintessential treasure. And she knows this as I often tell her so.

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So Happy Anniversary to you, my wife, my love, my trusted companion, my treasure! May we have many more together.

Bro Go 2014

This past weekend, my brother and I got together just the two of us for what has become our annual get together—Bro Go—this year in Disney World! Last year for our first Bro Go 2013, we spent a fun-filled weekend in Memphis enjoying beer and conversations together. But as we planned last year, we went all out this year with a four-day weekend in Orlando.

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I really have to give my brother all the credit for planning the whole trip. I have never been to Disney World before so I didn’t know any of the tips or tricks for getting the most out of the time there. But through my brother’s organizational skills and past experience, he planned an excellent trip.

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We arrived at the Orlando airport from separate cities around noon on Friday. We were glad to see each other and excited about what the weekend held for us. We talked about the fun we were going to have on our bus ride from the airport to our hotel.

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After checking in to one of the more budget-priced Disney hotels and a quick lunch, we took another bus ride over to Epcot.

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For my first ever visit, I must say I was most impressed with how Disney takes care of the details. They have obviously been very successful at figuring this out with multiple parks throughout the world. Being someone who always pays attention to the details, I really appreciated this. In Disney, queue lines—never fun to stand in—were packed with activities and visual stimuli related to the ride. What an improvement over the continuous rope queue lines of other theme parks to be able to wander through Andy‘s bedroom on your way to the Toy Story ride with you being at the scale of the toys in his room.

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Upon arrival, with his vast knowledge from prior visits, my brother pulled out a typed list of rides, shows, and activities he had prepared in advance for us each day. We began with a ride on “Mission Space”, a ride that gives you the realistic sensation of being launched into outer space on a rocket. There are two levels—Green and Orange—and we chose the more aggressive Orange. Before we were strapped into our capsule, I was impressed that the trainer for our mission was a well-known movie star, Gary Sinise, star from the movie Apollo 13. I continued to see this through out our time there with narrators and video tour guides being movie stars such as Morgan Freeman and Judy Dench. But then I realized, Disney was also a movie company and had ready access to professional actors.

We followed that up with a ride where you design your own roller-coaster and then get into an aircraft-like simulator to ride on your creation. It was a thrill ride but afterwards having trouble getting my balance and feeling a little queasy in the stomach, I probably wouldn’t include as many inversions in my next design.

One of the rides I had been hearing about for a number of years from my brother was “Test Track”. It was next on our list but unfortunately, when we came out from our roller coaster ride, we found there had been a downpour of rain and the ride was closed. But since we had a Fast Pass for that ride, we found out we could come back later. It turned out to be our last ride for the day and wow was it ever memorable?

Lines and wait times can be long in a Disney park, particularly for the more popular rides but with my brother’s excellent planning and the use of “Fast Passes”, we waited very little.

Our dinner that night was at a French restaurant in the World Showcase that looked so much like a brasserie I ate at in Paris earlier this year that I really thought I was back in Paris. Another attention to detail is that the wait staff all seemed to be from France, a facet that held true for other workers in other country establishments in the World Showcase.

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Dinner was excellent but I ate so quickly, I forgot to get a photograph so I had to settle for capturing a photo of my dessert before it was consumed.

To get the most for our money (which I am sure what most people want), we were up early every day and back late every night. This was not a vacation to sleep in. We had an equally fun time at Magic Kingdom on Saturday and Hollywood Studios on Sunday taking in the exciting rides and well-done shows. Monday was Animal Kingdom, a day we mostly spent in the rain. The nights were filled with light shows, one of Cinderella’s Castle where lights projected on to the exterior made it look like a frozen castle that then thawed and then exploded into a rainbow of colors and images.

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Each night also ended with a firework show. I particularly love fireworks displays and those at New Year’s and 4th of July are just two infrequent for me. Getting to see three different firework displays three nights in a row was a real treat.

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Disney is obviously a kid friendly park with designated stroller parking lots.

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And includes very easy access for those unable to walk the long distances, with many little scooters everywhere.

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Another attention to detail was the creative use of three little circles for Mickey’s head in a multitude of places.

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And thanks to this little wristband, Disney makes it so easy for us to part with our money without ever realizing it. From opening our hotel room door, to buying food, drink or souvenirs, to gaining accelerated access to rides, this wristband was our constant companion. I haven’t worn a wristwatch in many, many years but feeling it on my wrist; I must have looked at it a dozen times trying to check the time before our next ride. Maybe Disney could co-develop the next generation Disney band with Apple.

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Even though this was just my first visit, I quickly discovered my favorite rides that I would want to ride again.

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And shows that I would gladly see again. The filming of a car chase scene with cars zooming just inches apart was one I particularly enjoyed.

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But thanks to my brother’s expert help, it won’t be my last trip, as I feel like a seasoned Disney goer ready for another visit. And now that I am of an age to have grandchildren, I have even more reasons to go back again (and again…and again).

But what of souvenirs you ask? Well I had been forewarned before the trip that I would see a lot of people wearing Mickey Mouse ears and if I bought those, I wouldn’t likely wear them when I got back home.

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For me, instead of mouse ears, I chose a book about the man that brought those little mouse ears to life. I look forward to a good read about how Walt created all that wonderful world of magic!

Memory Ornaments – I

It’s no secret I love Christmas Magic. Soon after Thanksgiving each year, I look forward to all of the fun activities associated with the Christmas season. And I am a traditionalist who loves to do many of the same things year after year. Even though this may sound routine and boring to some, for me, each repeated activity brings back many fond memories of that same activity in previous years.

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One of those repeated activities is obviously putting up the Christmas tree. But beyond just putting up and lighting the tree, getting out the ornaments and hanging them on the tree is a special reward savored after the effort of getting the tree up. And many of those ornaments hold special significance—as if they hold a little bit of Christmas magic in them. I know I have my favorites and my wife has hers. And this is a story about all those little magical objects.

Almost all of our ornaments live inside their original box in which I meticulously wrap them in following Christmas. As I get each one out of its box and hold it in my hand, I invariably pause to recall when we got that particular ornament. Some I pause for an extended period of time to marvel at the wonderful memories brought back looking at the miniature item. And then I pick that special spot where that ornament will show up well on the tree.

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Our ornaments, some of which are seeing their 35th Christmas this year, fall into one of several different categories.

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When we first got married and had very few ornaments, we had to buy a fairly large number just to keep our tree from looking bare. Some of the ones we purchased were boxes of four or more similar ornaments to try to get the most for our money. Seeing the ones left that haven’t gotten broken over the years takes me back to that very first tree decades ago.

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Probably much to my wife’s chagrin, I have always had a special attraction to Hallmark ornaments and we have a large number of those.

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Some of the ones we had on that first tree date back to even before we were married and are some of those round satin, year-dated ones.

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The year after we married, we were in the town of my birth where a Christmas festival is held every year. But before seeing the lights on the river, we went to the gift shop of a dear friend of my parents that carried Hallmark ornaments. Although being on the pricey side for a single ornament, they were all half price since it was after Christmas so we were able to get several. This is probably what started my love for Hallmark ornaments, the vast selection they have (even more so today 35 years later).

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Each year, year-dated editions of different “collector” series were released and I have numerous issues of their train series,

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multiple car series,

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and pedal-car series (see a trend here?).

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Some of the ornaments we have are ones where we exchanged ornaments with friends as gifts to each other. Getting these out always brings back fond memories of the gift giver.

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And some of the ornaments are ones we collect while travelling. So opening these always take me back to the trip we were on that year.

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But part of this story is labeled “Do not open until Christmas” so it must be continued until after that special day…