Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men Came with The Star of Bethlehem

For Christmas, I thought I’d share some prose from my dad, Ronald G. Robinson and a poem from my grandfather, Walter Harlow Robinson, who passed away when I was 2. I would have loved to have known Grandpa, but I know him through his poetry and his journals he left behind and I know one day I’ll see him again.

First, a status update my dad left on his Facebook today, Christmas Eve:

Contemplating Christmas this a.m. As Christmas approaches there are many things yet undone and I spend, maybe waste time thinking on the happenings in our country as Christmas approaches. Will ignoring such make it go away? Then there are friends facing serious sicknesses and going to funerals and the list goes on and on in uncertain times. Will not thinking about them make them go away? Were we better off before social media and did not know about so much? Well, I don’t know exactly but, I pray as we contemplate Christmas that the One who is the same yesterday, today and forever, the One who calmed the raging storm of fear on the sea of Galilee will calm the storms in our lives as we contemplate Christmas. May Good memories, hope and joy live still in your hearts this Christmas.

And from my Grandfather, an untitled poem he wrote for Christmas in 1967:

 

As the passing year comes to a close

A Sacred Holiday everyone knows.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men

Came with the Star of Bethlehem.

Shepherds came to a glorious light

A song was born – O Holy Night.

No room at the Inn, no crib for a bed

No place for Jesus to lay his head.

One man arose, willing and able

To Joseph and Mary he gave his stable.

It always remains through the years,

A comfort to man’s dispelling fears.

For all who are grown or yet a tot.

Remember ye well – forget it not

Night of nights each passing year

Recalls the Savior, he is always near

A place eternal for us to go,

Started on Christmas and we all should know

That whoever we are, whatever our ranks,

To Christ our Lord we must Give our Thanks.

W.H.R. Christmas 1967

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I’m on a Christmas romance movie binge. Help me.

As I’ve mentioned before here on the blog, we are in the midst of selling our house and have put in an offer on a new one. As anyone who has sold a house knows, this is a very stressful process. Between house showings looking at offers, and thinking about moving our entire household 40 minutes away, I feel like my muscles are extra tight and my brain is extra fuzzy.

In an effort to reclaim my sanity I’ve been attempting to shut my brain off at the end of the day with Lifetime Christmas romance movies on Amazon, which are pretty cheesy and don’t require much brainpower. Disclaimer: I am NOT being paid by Amazon and I am NOT an Amazon affiliate (they rejected me. I’m not influential enough. *wink* but also I just don’t write about enough stuff I would be linking to anything on Amazon. I just happened to find the movies on Amazon because we have Amazon Prime Video.)

Some of these movies are horribly written, terribly acted and lead me to fast forward through almost all of the movie, but a few of them haven’t been so bad and I’ve actually looked forward to seeing what happens at the end. I mean, of course, the guy is going to get the girl or the girl is going to get the guy and everyone is going to live happily ever after, but you know, maybe just one will have the girl kick the guy to the curb at the end and decide she can live her life without a man. I probably wouldn’t like that, though either, because I’m a bit of a romantic.

To be a Lifetime Christmas movie checks must be marked off on the checklist. First, there is always some sort of deadline for something that has to happen before … yes, Christmas or Christmas Eve, at least. Second, there has to be a woman or man who just recently broke up with someone or who hasn’t had a date in years, down on their luck. Third, there must be some sort of conflict with the person’s parents (if they aren’t dead) or sister or ex or boss. Then there has to be a love interest and after the love interest is met there will be some sort of conflict between the potential lovers, usually a secret that the main character finds out and then leaves because of. By the end, of course, the two will come together again after one of them decides to chase the other one down.

The main character also always has to have either a gay best friend or a fat best friend and they also always have to have either a dead parent, spouse, or sibling. The dead relative is a very common plot device in any movie, but it is a requirement for a Hallmark/Lifetime romance/Chrismas movie.

Since it is 2019 (almost 2020) these movies also need to make sure they are very inclusive, which means they all have to have at least one African American, one Asian, one Hispanic, one Indian (like from India), and a gay couple. It’s too bad they forget the Native Americans, but, come on, how much diversity can you have in one movie, right? (Is it just me or do the Native Americans often get shafted in our country? Still? Anyhoooo…) Seriously, though, it has to be stressful trying to make sure you represent everyone possible in a movie, so hats off to them for trying and I do like the diversity.

I also like that modern Christmas/cheesy Lifetime movies don’t even blink at portraying interracial couples and romances because once upon a time those movies segregated themselves with either an all-black cast/romance or an all-white cast/romance. Is it odd that I’m even noticing this? It is odd to me, probably because I’m not really someone who usually has hang-ups about so-called “politically incorrectness” in movies.

Anyhow, a couple of the movies I watched were intriguing and less predictable than usual, so, in other words, I could stomach them. Also, the acting wasn’t so bad. The storylines of three of them were okay, the others – yeah, pretty awful. If nothing else, there is usually something to mock during the movie so it is at least distracting from the stresses of life.

Trading Christmas

Back when I tried to get into Debbie Macomber books (I never did, but I like her as a person!) I bought (yes, bought) Trading Christmas, mainly because Tom Cavanaugh was in it and I love Tom Cavanaugh. Faith Ford from Murphy Brown fame is in it as well. I was also surprised with the appearance of Gabrielle Miller from Corner Gas, a Canadian sitcom we got hooked on this year. The story is about a woman (Ford), whose daughter (some actress) decides she isn’t coming home for Christmas from college. Ford’s character, who lost her husband a few years before, is sad and decides to try to find a way to visit her daughter in Boston.

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Tom Cavanaugh’s character needs to find a way to finish his book and is a big Christmas scrooge so the two begin looking online for places to “trade” for a couple of weeks. The fun ensues from there, especially since Tom’s brother is back in Boston and starts to get to know Faith Ford’s character (*wink* *wink*) and Faith Ford’s best friend comes to her house for Christmas, not knowing she isn’t even there.

Christmas Pen Pals

Sarah Drew (she’s also in Mom’s Night Out, which my family really enjoyed) plays Hannah Morris who is a tech-obsessed business owner who runs an online matchmaking company that is spiraling into the toilet. Her business partner tells her to go take a break and live in the real world for a while so they can figure out how to save the business so Hannah returns home to visit her father and sister (popular plot point – Mom is dead. Apparently Lifetime is now like Disney; always killing off a parent or parents.)

MV5BOTgyMzk0OTM2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjUxMDQxMTE@._V1_Niall Matter (who I know from Eureka as the hot scientist dude) plays Sam, an old boyfriend of Hannah’s (predictable? Yes, it is.) and Michael Gross portrays her father. The acting is charming and pretty natural, compared to other movies of the same type. The plot? Well, you know – it’s a Lifetime Christmas movie. The plot isn’t going to be very deep. The plot is essentially the small town mail lady suggests a Christmas pen pal program that the town used to do in the 1940s and Hannah agrees to try it if her widowed father does. There you go. Let your imagination run wild with that and you might be able to figure out the ending already. The characters are likable and how they get there is a little bit interesting, however, so it’s probably worth a watch (if you want to put your brain away for a little while, at least).

Christmas Around the Corner

This one was unique because the acting was spot on and nowhere near as cheesy and awkward as other Lifetime movies I’ve seen. The characters were very likeable (though the movie was a little preachy about the gay priest and his husband, but whatever. It’s 2019. We have to be preached at or we don’t know what to think, right?)

919ztXvTJJL._RI_The basic premise is that the main character’s business is falling apart (yes, another one of those) so she travels to Vermont for a month to stay in an apartment over a bookstore her mother (yes, dead) once visited. Apparently part of the deal of staying there is that she has to manage the bookstore while she’s there. (I’m sorry…what? Really? Who does that?).

As always, she has a month to turn everything around for this little store before Christmas or it will be sold by the (hot) owner.

Gift Wrapped Christmas 

Gift Wrapped Christmas was enjoyable to me, mainly because the main character reminded me so much of my cousin Sue. The male main character was fairly stoic and stiff in his acting but the movie was saved by the actress (Meredith Hagner) and again, probably because she was all bubbly, quick-witted, pretty and fun like my cousin.

Of course, it employed the usual cheesy movie tripe where the love interest has a mean girlfriend who threatens the main character and reminds her she’s the girlfriend (who thinks she is getting a ring, of course), but oh well, it wasn’t a deal breaker for me to finish the movie.

The Christmas Cabin

iglzg-68CRFCXT9PP-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1572883902041._SX1080_The Christmas Cabin was a little bit different because it was mainly two people stuck in a cabin, talking. There wasn’t the normal “He has a girlfriend already” or “she has a boyfriend” already and they would need to dump said girlfriend/boyfriend to pursue a relationship. In fact, this one wasn’t even really about anyone pursuing someone, other than the man pursuing the woman to sell her half of a cabin so he can make money off of the “treasure” that is supposedly on the land.

It did have the usual storyline that the two people hate each other to start off with and then they fall in love  . . . or do they? The lead actress’s acting was not the best but the male lead made up for it.

Wrapped up In Christmas

I will not lie. I pushed fast forward through most of this movie. Terribly cringeworthy. A mall executive has to close down stores in the mall at the urging of her boss but in the midst of this dilemma she meets a handsome man who she doesn’t know is the nephew of the owner of one of the stores being shut down.

The handsome man is an ex-lawyer who is painting and working for his aunt while he figures out what he wants to do with his life, but who talks himself up after the main character’s niece tells him (while he’s dressed as Santa) that her aunt needs a man for Christmas and what she likes in a man. I think that by reading the above paragraph you can figure out why I fast-forwarded through the majority of the movie.  I was too lazy to even lookup the actors names for this one but I’m guessing they don’t mind their names not being attached to it.

I’ve pushed play on another one of these movies while writing this and my husband and son just asked if I’m okay. They can’t figure out why I keep watching these movies because most of them are so awful. Yesterday my son said “Oh my gosh, mom. Why are you watching this?” I said “Hey, I can go back on social media and start talking about  politics again.” And he said “Nope. Nope. That’s good. Please keep watching your dumb movies.”

They did both agree with me that Trading Christmas was okay, however.

I think I keep watching the movies because 1) I need to check my brain at the door and 2) I keep hoping I’ll find a good one.

So, are you a fan of the “cheesy” Christmas movies from Lifetime, Hallmark and wherever else? Let me know in the comments.


Lisa R. Howeler is a writer and photographer from the “boondocks” who writes a little bit about a lot of things on her blog Boondock Ramblings. She’s published a fiction novel ‘A Story to Tell’ on Kindle and also provides stock images for bloggers and others at Alamy.com and Lightstock.com.

 

Because she would want us to

My aunt Dianne was sitting in her recliner bundled up in a thick sweater pulled over her plaid button-up shirt she’d been wearing almost every day for two months with a thick, fluffy blanket across her legs. A knitted shawl with a hood was draped around her head and shoulders.

She looked – as she might say herself – like a tick about to burst.

“Lisa, is that heat on?” she asked and when I assured her it was she shivered. “Well, good gravy, I don’t think it’s working.”

On the TV Ree Drummond was pouring half a quart of whipping cream into a bowl of potatoes and telling viewers “Now, don’t judge me, or judge me if you want, but I just think these mashed potatoes are so much better with all this whipping cream.” Then she smiled at the camera.

“I can’t believe she’s not 300 pounds,” I said.

“All that cream is a little overboard isn’t it?” Dianne asked, rhetorically.

We both knew it was overboard.

We laughed a little and shook our heads.

We watched The Pioneer Woman whip up the potatoes and set them aside.

“Now it’s time for my famous chicken fried steak, which cowboys just love,” Ree said and smiled at the camera again, dimples showing.

I rolled my eyes.

“How hasn’t anyone in that family had a heart attack?” I wondered out loud, the irony not lost on me since my aunt had had at least two heart attacks already. I hoped she didn’t take my comment as a personal jab at her.

“Well…..” Dianne said and shrugged a little, leaving the rest of her response to be guessed.

The Pioneer Woman drives me nuts with her fattening recipes but her chipper personality and knowing I can modify the recipes for a healthier option make looking away hard to do.

Next to me the Christmas tree was bright with lights and ornaments. Out the window Dad’s star was shining bright against the dreary winter clouds at the edge of the field and woods.

 

Before long my aunt was asleep in her chair, chin into her chest. She’d been falling asleep a lot like that lately, sometimes almost in mid-sentence, and I knew her health was getting worse. So that day we enjoyed her when she was awake and tried not to think about how much longer we might have her with us.

A couple weeks before she’d been messaging me, asking me for gift suggestions for my son and daughter and I knew she was anxious to spoil them and see them smile as they opened their gifts. She was planning how to make sausage balls, a Southern tradition, without “poisoning me”, knowing I was allergic to corn and had also gone gluten-free. I told her not to worry about me and simply make the treats for the rest of the family. I offered to make some as well so she wouldn’t have to do all the work. We messaged back and forth and then I accidentally bumped the video chat button in messenger. The button is annoying and most days I hate it because I rarely want to video chat with anyone, especially via Facebook. I missed her call but she tried to call me through the ap and her voice was recorded. It was only for 17 seconds,  enough for me to hear her voice call my name, thinking I’d picked up. I didn’t discover it for a couple months, when she was already gone.

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Sometimes, when I’m missing Dianne the most, I scroll back to the recording and listen to her call my name. Of course, I always cry. When I first discovered the recording I hit the play button without thinking. Her voice could be heard throughout our house and my son’s head lifted quickly. He looked at me in confusion and then we burst into tears.

My mom said many days Dianne could barely make it from the bathroom to her chair without needing to sit down and catch her breath but she sat the kitchen table for hours and made the sausage balls, kneading the meat and flour and cheese together and rolling them to put in the oven to be cooked.

“She just seemed so delighted she could do that,” Mom remembered. She grew quiet and I saw tears in her eyes. “Well, anyhow…” her voice trailed off and I knew she was trying to stay happy and not bring the mood of the day down.

On my phone is a video of my aunt opening a gift from her grand-nephew, my son. She could barely catch her breath, but she seemed excited and hugged him and told her how much she loved the gift.

Four days later my husband’s phone rang and I heard him from upstairs.

“No! Oh no!” I heard emotion heavy in his voice.

He came downstairs and held the phone against his chest.

“It’s your mom,” he said.

I didn’t want to take the phone but I did.

“Dianne died,” Mom said in a voice mixed with sadness and shock.

She’d called my husband first to make sure someone was with me when I was told, just as she had when my grandmother had died 15 years before.

Though I knew it was coming my head still spun when she said it and I had to sit in the floor because my legs didn’t seem to want to hold me.

I sat in my parents living room the other day.

The chair was empty.

The Southern accent couldn’t be heard.

I couldn’t kiss her soft cheek or try to squirm away when she blew “zerberts” (messy, slobbery kisses) against my cheek.

I couldn’t feel her arms around me or hear her laugh when one of the kids said something funny.

Somehow it feels a lot less like Christmas this year with her gone.

Still, I know she would scold us for dreading gathering without her.

So we’ve promised each other to cook the sausage balls, decorate the tree, wrap the gifts and to cook the collard greens I forgot to get her last year, even though she asked.

We will drink hot cocoa while we watch her favorite Christmas movies: “It’s A Wonderful Life” and the black and white version of “A Christmas Carol.”

We will share the funny stories and laugh as we remember her.

We will, somehow, find the joy in the midst of sadness and enjoy those who are still with us because that is exactly what she would have wanted us to do.

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Carrying the star

This year there was no snow to make the truck slide but there was mud so the star was walked up the hill, instead of driven, to the end of the field and edge of the woods, by the father and son while the grandfather prepared to make the Star bright. This year there were new light strands on the same wood, the same star he built many years before, replacing the old lights that had burned out.

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They carried it up the steep hill and then the pulley was looped around the trunk of the tree and the ladder was climbed. Down below I took on the role of Grandma (Mom), since she can’t walk the hill, by saying things like:

“Someone hold the ladder.”

“Be careful.”

“Don’t lean out too far.”

“Don’t go up there on your own. Someone should be here to hold the ladder.”

“The ladder is tied to the tree,” Dad said, looking down at me with the expression parents give children when they know more than them.

“Oh. Well… still…”

So they pulled the star up to a place on the tree where drivers from the main road can see it, where people who need a sign of hope can find it.

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DSC_0711I thought of the post I wrote about this annual tradition last year and thought I’d share it again:

The star

They carried the star up the steep, snow-covered hill because the truck’s tires spun and sent the hunk of metal skittering sideways toward the old dirt road. In the end they left the truck in the field and slid the star, made of wood and strands of Christmas lights off the roof. Their breath steamed patterns out in front of them as they walked and the sun, a misleading sign of the outside temperature, cast long shadows onto the untouched surface of the snow that fell the day before.

Ropes were looped and tied and hooked on a pulley, the ladder was climbed and the star was hoisted with a couple reminders from father-in-law to son-in-law to “be careful of the lights! You’re hitting the lights on the tree!” But finally it was high enough and nails were hammered in to hold it in place.

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Dad built the star several years ago and put it at the edge of the woods, at the top of the field and where people driving by on Route 220, across the Valley could see it. It has become a beacon, you could say. A beacon of good will, or peace, or joy or whatever it represents for each person who sees it.

It can mean a lot of things for a lot of people but for Dad it is a sign of hope and the real reason behind Christmas. After all – isn’t that what the birth of Jesus was all about? Bringing hope to a hurting, fallen world?

So on this little hill, in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania my dad hangs his homemade, 50-some pound star, and with it hangs a little bit of hope – hope for health, for peace, for love for all, hope for the broken, the weary, the shattered souls.

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