100 And Counting!

It seems only fitting that this last blog post of 2015 is my 100th.  I never really intended to write a blog.  I was humming along three years ago, writing on a regular basis but only sharing my stories with family and friends.

where to buy baby benadryl Corona Junior, Model S

At Christmastime that year, my two sons sat me down and gave me a “talking to”.  They said, “You’ve been writing for the last 30 years but you aren’t doing anything with your work.  What’s the point of having this body of work if you don’t show it to anyone?”

Matt's wedding 050

Oh my, the tables had turned.  They made me promise to submit my writing for publication and then my oldest son added, “And you should really be writing a blog too.  I can help you figure out how to do that.”

There’s nothing like getting a swift kick in the pants by one’s adult children.

Fast forward to today.  I have one book (The Button Box) published and a second one (Which Came First) coming out in early 2016.   I wrote both stories many years ago.  I’ve been a contributing writer for Lifestyles of Denton County Magazine for two years, and I will celebrate the second anniversary of my blog in early March.

Your Own Blog (100th Post)

Today, I’m writing my 100th post for Walk Down The Lane.  The name of my blog and the concept for it, were inspired by my grandmother, Pearl Ritchie Barrett Wood.   If she were alive today, she would be 101 years old.

scan0102My grandmother and my daughter in 1994.

According to the United States Census Bureau, only 0.02 percent of the American population lives to the ripe old age of 100.  Women tend to live longer than men and four-fifths of those over the age of 100 are women.

According to a paper published in the Scandinavian Cardiovascular Journal, people who live to be 100 or older have seven things in common:

  1. They don’t smoke.
  2. They have a good socioeconomic status and can afford healthcare.
  3. They have a mom who lived to an old age.
  4. They maintain high cognitive function.
  5. They have a healthy weight and good posture.
  6. They use a walker if they need one and thus are less likely to fall.
  7. They wear glasses and are less likely to have an accident.

So now that you know how to live to be 100, here’s some fun trivia about the number 100 in honor of my 100th post:

*One hundred years is called a century and those who live to be 100 or older are called centenarians.

a 100th Birthday Party

*A googol (not to be confused with Google) is written as the digit 1 followed by one hundred 0s.

*The United States $100 bill is the largest denomination that has been printed since 1969 when the larger denominations…$500, $1000, $5000, and $10,000 bills…were retired.

*Benjamin Franklin’s portrait is on the $100 bill and the denomination is commonly referred to as “Bens”, “Benjamins” or Franklins.

[Download the file]

*The Roman numeral for 100 is the letter C.

*The only NBA player to score 100 points in a game is 7’ 1” Wilt Chamberlain who played for the Philadelphia Warriors at the time.  This happened on March 2, 1962 in a 169-147 victory over the New York Knicks and his record has held for 53 years.

Philadelphia

*At any given time there are about 2,000 thunderstorms around the world and approximately 100 lightning strikes to earth per second.

*There are 100 senators in the United States Senate…two for each of our 50 states.

*100° Celsius is the boiling point of water.

*The first coast-to-coast phone call between San Francisco and New York City was 100 years ago in January of 1915.

What might phone calling be

*The synthetic element Fermium has the atomic number 100.

Element 100 – Fermium

*According to Zillow, the median home price in the United States today is $177,600.  According to census records from one hundred years ago in 1915, the median home price then was $3,200.

*If you save $100 a month over 20 years at a 7% rate of return, you would have $52,092.67 after 20 years.

*Finally, there is a current television series on The CW Network called “The 100”.  It’s set 97 years after a nuclear war has wiped out almost all life on Earth and the only known survivors are living on 12 space stations when the war happens.  In the show, 100 juveniles are sent back to our planet to see if it is possible to live on Earth again.

The 100 (TV Show) The 100 cast

If you know of other “100” trivia, feel free to post it in the comments!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year in 2016!

Happy new year 2016 wishes

 

Deck The Halls And Savor The Moments!

I found a package of silver tinsel while Christmas shopping this past week.  Why is that remarkable, you ask?  If you’re under the age of 40, you might not know that it used to be customary to adorn Christmas trees with lots of the thin strips of shiny, metal foil…the same tinsel that is mentioned in many Christmas songs.  It’s been years since I’ve seen tinsel for sale at Christmas time.

Christmas decorations 2015 028

When I turned to show it to my husband, he smiled and said, “It used to come in a box.”  Yes, it did.  I remember both my mother and my grandmother giving me the job of adding the tinsel to their trees.

OMG these were so tacky

Some years, my grandmother would buy two boxes of tinsel and I remember how her live pine tree would be transformed into a giant silver shimmer in the glow of the Christmas lights.  It was her signature Christmas decorating.  Most of her ornaments had a 1960’s space age look and went perfectly with all the silver tinsel.

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One of the ornaments from my grandmothers tinsel-covered Christmas tree.  It’s all rusty now but I put it on my tree every year and think of her.

How I wish I could have one more Christmas Eve at her little farmhouse with her and her silver tinsel Christmas tree.  Her house used to be packed to the brim with family and food and presents.  We all knew that no matter how busy each of our lives were, we could count on our whole, extended family showing up and being together on Christmas Eve.

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Some years, we had family members living far away or serving in the military who couldn’t make it home, but they would call and the home phone would be passed around so that everyone could wish them a “Merry Christmas” and tell them how much they were missed.  It was an important, family tradition for us to all be together.

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When the family outgrew my grandmother’s house, we moved our Christmas Eve celebration to a local park pavilion.  That tradition continued for a number of years until the family growth and geography deemed it necessary for us all to establish new Christmas Eve traditions.  I guess it happens over time in every family but I can’t help missing the way things used to be.

moment, until it becomes a. “

When we are in the midst of this fun, crazy, busy time of year, we don’t always recognize just how meaningful the people and traditions are in our lives.  This Christmas, hold your families close and savor the moments you share with them.  They will become the memories you cherish down the road.  And should you happen upon some silver Christmas tinsel, by all means, add it to your tree!

Christmas decorations 003

Wishing you a Christmas full of love, laughter, traditions, and meaningful moments with your family and friends!

A Very Special Gift

I’ve already received my favorite Christmas gift.  It came in my email this week.  In fact, it’s up there with my best gifts of all time.  But to tell you about it, I must first go back in time a bit.

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In July of this year, I found out that my high school, Elkhart Memorial in Elkhart, Indiana, had created a “Wall of Heroes” to honor all alumni who served in the four branches of the United States Military.  They held an unveiling ceremony at the end of April for the veterans, family members, and friends.

The wall consists of four large wooden plaques, one for each branch, and metal nameplates with the names of the people who served and the year they graduated from Elkhart Memorial.  If the person saw active combat, they have a special designation beside their name.

Brother on wall of heroes

It was the brainchild of one of the history teachers and he worked on the project with the 40 students in the military club at the school.  They secured a grant to partially fund the project and the rest was raised through student fundraising.

In July, I emailed the teacher who coordinated the project to ask if my brother’s name was on the wall and if so, would he be able to send me a picture since I live so far away.  He wrote me back the same day and said my brother’s name was not on the wall but he would have a nameplate made for him in the fall when they added more names.

In November, he emailed me again and said they had collected several other names to add to the wall and would be going to the engraver soon.  He told me he would let me know and would send a picture when my brother’s name was added.

Yesterday in my email, I received a picture showing my brother’s name on the Wall of Heroes.

Brother2

What a wonderful gift and how meaningful it is for me and my family!  My brother, Jeff, would have loved to be honored for the four years he served in the United States Army 82nd Airborne Division.  I’m so proud of him!

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My brother, Stephen Jeffrey Bolinger

This will be my family’s 10th Christmas without him.  He didn’t die during his military service but later, after a major surgery.  Those who have lost a close family member or friend know that the holidays can be a difficult time.  We miss our loved ones and we remember past holidays when they were with us.

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This Christmas season, I will cherish my memories of my brother, Jeff, and I will smile to myself every time I think of the special gift of his name on the Elkhart Memorial Wall of Heroes.  Hopefully, someday soon I will be able to travel to Indiana and see his name on the wall in person.

Brother3

Brother on US Army wall of heroes

 

 

Meet Me Under The Mistletoe!

When my sons were little boys, they would stand under the mistletoe at Christmastime and call out to me, “Mama, I’m under the mistletoe!”  Of course, they knew I would scoop them up and cover their little faces with kisses as they giggled and squirmed.

scan0099I like to hang mistletoe every year because I think it is simply another fun, Christmas tradition!  This year, I put up two because I was able to find some of the dried, real mistletoe to add to the decorative mistletoe ornament a dear friend gave me a few years ago.

Mistletoe 001

College tree 004

The Yuletide custom of kissing under the mistletoe is practiced all over the world, and has its origins in ancient Scandinavia.  A sprig or ball of the mistletoe plant is hung over a doorway and the tradition goes that if a man and a woman meet under the mistletoe, they must kiss.  In earlier times, when live mistletoe was used, a berry was plucked from the plant with each kiss.  When the berries were gone, no more kissing was permitted under that plant.

Where to Find Mistletoe

The ancient Greeks exchanged kisses under the mistletoe at festivals as a promise to marry. At marital ceremonies, a kiss under mistletoe was believed to lead to good luck and a lifetime of love, happiness and fertility.

While mistletoe is still very much a part of our modern holiday decorating and tradition, most people don’t know that it is actually a partial parasitic plant (a hemiparasite) and comes in many varieties. It grows as a shrub in the branches of trees such as oak and apple, and sends its roots into the host tree for nutrients.  When the host tree goes dormant and brown for the winter, the mistletoe plant living in its branches is still green.

American Mistletoe grows naturally in Texas, so I always begin looking for mistletoe in the trees when the weather turns cold and the leaves fall.  The mistletoe seems to grow high in the trees and is never low enough to reach.

Mistletoe trees 001

Mistletoe trees 012These pictures were taken about five minutes from my house.

Usually, the mistletoe we hang during the holidays is either a plastic decoration, or a dried version with plastic berries.  Mistletoe berries are poisonous to humans and should not be eaten, however they are an essential food for birds, butterflies, insects and mammals such as squirrels and chipmunks.

mistletoe at hd

Mistletoe extract has been used as an herb to treat many human ailments, including headaches, and circulatory and respiratory system problems.  According to the National Cancer Institute, mistletoe is currently one of the most widely studied alternative medicine therapies for people with cancer.

Mistletoe has long been considered a sacred plant and folklore has it that it has many magical and mysterious qualities.  During the Middle Ages, branches of mistletoe were hung from the ceilings and over doorways to ward off evil spirits.  In some parts of the world, the mistletoe plant symbolizes peace.

to ward off evil spirits.

In ancient times, if one encountered an enemy while out walking in the woods, and happened to be under a tree with mistletoe in it, it was the custom for both parties to lay down their arms and declare a truce until the next day. This act of goodwill may have been what eventually led to the custom of kissing under the mistletoe.

Mistletoe 012

As you decorate your home for Christmas this year, consider hanging some mistletoe for both fun and good luck. Whether its powers are real or mythical, you never know what might happen the next time you find yourself under the mistletoe. It might even spark some romance!

Mistletoe cartoon 1 of 39

Author’s note:  My husband swears there are “mistletoe trees” all over our neighborhood.  Whenever we go for a walk in the evening, he will constantly stop under trees and point up and say, “There’s mistletoe!”

Love It

O Christmas Tree

Some folks in our neighborhood had their Christmas trees and lights up before Thanksgiving.  It probably feels good to have the task completed, but we’re too old school to put our decorations up that early.  It seems like we would be cheating the Thanksgiving Holiday out of its time to be center stage.

We have only just begun to decorate for Christmas.  In fact, if truth be told, we don’t even have all of our fall/Thanksgiving decorations put away yet.  It’s fun to savor the decorating process and do a little each day until there’s nothing left in any of our Christmas storage bins.

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We do have a Christmas tree up and decorated.  It’s one of the two Christmas trees we will put up this year.  When my husband and I married two years ago, we each had our own tree.  So, instead of getting rid of one, we decided to keep them both.  We combined our ornaments for one tree, and we started a fun, new tradition with the second.

Christmas 2013 002

Since all of our children are adults now and five of the six are college graduates, we decided to make the second Christmas tree into a “college” tree.  So now, we have the Purdue University, University of Michigan, University of Arkansas Monticello, Depauw University and University of North Texas Christmas Tree!  We have several ornaments from each college, and glass ball ornaments in all the school colors to finish decorating the tree.

College tree 001

As you buy, cut, or pull your tree from storage this season, you may not realize but the tradition of having a Christmas tree is fairly recent in this country.  To fully appreciate the Christmas tree, it’s good to look even farther back in history.

Before Christianity and our Christmas tree tradition, evergreen trees and plants had a special meaning for people.  The evergreen tree was an ancient symbol of life and people decorated their homes with pine, fir and spruce trees and with evergreen boughs over their doors and windows during winter and to celebrate the New Year.  In many countries, people believed the evergreens would protect their families from evil spirits, ghosts, and illness.

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People would celebrate the Winter Solstice which is the day of the year with the fewest hours of sunlight.    According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the word “solstice” comes from the Latin words for “sun” and “to stand still.”  The winter solstice is the day winter officially begins.  In the Northern Hemisphere where we live, the winter solstice normally occurs December 21st or 22nd.  In the Southern Hemisphere, it occurs June 20th or 21st.  The 2015 winter solstice for us occurs on December 21st at 11:48 p.m. EST.

winter solstice: Illustration

Ancient peoples believed that the sun was a god and winter came every year because the sun god had become weak and sick.  They celebrated the winter solstice because it meant the days would begin to get longer and thus, the sun god was getting strong and well.  Since evergreens reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again in the summer, they decorated their homes with the symbols of life during the winter.

Winter Solstice Meme (06)

Germany is credited with beginning the Christmas tree tradition.  The first record of a Christmas tree in America was in the 1830’s in the home of German settlers in Pennsylvania.  At that time, Christmas trees were seen as odd, pagan symbols and were not accepted by most Americans.  The Germans also brought with them other Christmas traditions such as gingerbread houses, advent calendars, and cookies.

Christmas Tree With Candles,

Even though we declared our independence from England in 1776, Americans were still heavily influenced by the British and especially the British royals.  In 1846, a sketch was published in the London News showing Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, (who was from Germany) standing with their children around a Christmas tree.  Queen Victoria was very popular with her subjects and whatever she did immediately became fashionable.  Christmas trees became popular in Britain and this tradition spread to the United States.

popular Queen Victoria and

By the late 1800’s Americans were decorating their trees with homemade ornaments as well as ornaments imported from Germany.  They also used apples, nuts, berries, popcorn and cookies to decorate their trees.  Candles were used to illuminate the American Christmas trees until electricity was discovered and Christmas lights were born.  Today, lighted Christmas trees are an American tradition.

Christmas tree with

When I was growing up, we always had a live Christmas tree.  I continued this tradition with my own family until the year our real tree fell over twice spilling dirty water on the carpet and breaking some old, family ornaments as well as the star tree topper we had used for twenty five years.  At that point, I decided it was time for an artificial tree.

While some folks like us have artificial trees now, many Americans still like the tradition of having a live one.   According to the National Christmas Tree Association website, www.realchristmastrees.org, 25 – 30 million live Christmas trees will be sold in the United States this year.  There are 15,000 Christmas tree farms in our country, employing 100,000 workers.

Christmas Tree Farms in

While all 50 states grow Christmas trees, the states which produce the most are Michigan, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington and Wisconsin.  Currently, there are 350 million Christmas trees growing on Christmas tree farms in America.  It takes four to fifteen years to grow a Christmas tree with the average growing time being seven years.  For every Christmas tree harvested, one to three seedlings are planted the following spring.

The 2015 White House Christmas Tree is an 18 feet tall Fraser Fir grown on Bustard’s Christmas Tree Farm in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.  It will be displayed in the White House Blue Room in honor of our United States Military.

The 2015 White House Christmas

Here is a list of our top ten most popular live Christmas tree varieties from the www.garden.org website.  I’ve copied some good information word for word to help you choose your tree:

  1. Balsam fir: The traditional Christmas tree. It is tall and slender with ½-inch-long needles. It lasts a long time and is very aromatic. Great for tight spaces.
  2. Douglas fir: One of the top sellers in the country. Good for a big room as it is a full and elegant tree. Needles are longer than balsam and radiate in all directions from the branch. Sweet fragrance.
  3. Fraser fir: Needles are dark green on top, silver underneath. Branches turn slightly upward. Frasers are perfectly shaped trees with good needle retention. Needles range from 1/2 inch to 2/3 inch long. Pleasant aroma.
  4. Noble fir: Popular in the West. Beautifully scented, rich green tree with short needles that turn upward, exposing the underside of the branches. Known for its beauty, the noble fir keeps well, and its stiff, upward bending branches make it a good tree for heavy ornaments, as well as providing excellent greenery for wreaths and garlands.
  5. Scotch pine: The king of Christmas trees and the top-selling tree in the country. Branches curve upward, making them perfect for holding cherished ornaments. Stays fresh for a long time. No needle drop even when the tree dries out.
  6. White pine: Known for its soft, flexible, bluish-green needles, which range from 2 ½ inches to 5 inches long. Not good for heavy ornaments. This tree has good needle retention but no scent.
  7. Colorado blue spruce: As the name implies, needles are bluish-gray. It is very symmetrical and has good needle retention, but an unpleasant odor when the needles are crushed.
  8. White fir: Needles are 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches in length and last a very long time. This tree has dark-green needles and retains its pleasing fragrance throughout the Christmas season.
  9. Leyland cypress: Popular in the Southeast. This tree is dark grayish green and has very little aroma. When kept in water it will last a long time. It doesn’t shed needles or produce sap.
  10. Virginia pine: A top seller in the South. The dark green tree has dense foliage. Its stout branches support heavy ornaments. The trunk is thinner at the base so it easily fits in most stands. Retains needles for a long time, has a pleasant pine scent, and has natural cones— an added bonus.

Scotch Pine

Scotch pine tree