New traditions for the stroke of midnight  

Our one and only New Year’s Eve tradition is putting a coin outdoors before the clock strikes 12. Every year a coin goes out; every year a coin come back in. The husband insists the custom is supposed to bring good fortune and prosperity.

We are still waiting.

We’ve also had black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day a time or two, another tradition that is supposed to bring good fortune, but for the most part our celebrations have stagnated.

We’re so predictable it’s painful. Routine is our middle name.

I’ve been reading about traditions around the world and think we may go global this year.

People in Romania are about coins just like we are, only they throw them into the river. Maybe that’s where we went wrong. We held onto the coins instead of tossing them. This year we go to the river and throw.

In Spain, people eat a grape for every strike of the hour at midnight. I can’t quite visualize eating 12 grapes at a time (nor do I want to), but in the name of adventure, I’m not ruling it out.

People in Denmark save unused dishes and plates until New Year’s Eve and then, and I’m quoting here, “affectionately shatter them against the door of friends and family.” I have never seen anything affectionately shattered, but I’m willing to try.

The French often celebrate New Year’s by eating a stack of pancakes. I’ve always liked the French.

In some parts of South Africa they throw old furniture out the window. And to think of the years we spent watching the ball drop over Times Square on television when we could have been throwing furniture.

In Columbia people carry suitcases around with them in hopes of having a year filled with travel. It’s certainly worth a try.

People in Switzerland often drop a dollop of ice cream on the floor. I suppose as long as they all clean up after themselves there is no harm, but it’s still a waste of ice cream.

In several other countries people throw buckets of water out of the windows for good fortune. We thought cheese and crackers was a celebration.

In Denmark people often stand on top of chairs and literally jump into the New Year at the stroke of midnight.

We’re going to be ready this year. We will be standing on chairs by the river, our pockets bulging with coins and our hands clenching clusters of grapes. At the stroke of 12, we will throw coins, jump off the chairs and scarf down a dozen grapes.

We will then trek home carrying suitcases filled with unused dishes, which we plan on smashing against the doorways of close friends and family.

Should we actually make it home before we have been apprehended by our formerly close friends and family, we will feast on stacks of pancakes, drop ice cream on the floor and heave buckets of water out the window, as well as our old piano.

Out with the old, in with the new!

A few of my favorite things

Every Monday I post the column that I send to the outlets that distribute me, but because they all work almost a week in advance, that would mean you’d be reading a column about New Year’s today. So instead of rushing Christmas, I’m posting a few of my favorite things this Christmas season and hope you enjoy them, too.

Nativity scenes staged by little hands
One of our daughter’s little ones have a plastic nativity set that they rearrange nearly every day. These are a few of the pictures we have received, along with titles speculating as to what may have been going through their minds.



This ornament is a hoot!
A 10-year-old Georgia girl came crying to her mother that one of the Christmas tree ornaments was scaring her. The mother, who has several owl ornaments on her tree, investigated and found a real owl perched in the tree. The family tried leaving the doors and windows open, but the owl didn’t budge. They finally called a wildlife expert who captured the screech owl. They think it was in the tree as long as it had been in their house — more than a week.


The Sad Side of Christmas
We do a lot of pretending at Christmas — that it really  is the “Hap, happiest time of the year” when in truth, it is often a conflicting and sad time for many. Craig Aven, wrote a song titled, “The Sweetest Gift.” A member of Piano Guys lost his daughter last year, heard the song and asked Craig to record it with them. This song is dedicated to everyone who is missing someone and could use some comfort. Click here

But be sure you come back because there’s one more you have to see below.

Absolutely beautiful
This is a wonderful musical and visual portrayal of the nativity. A feast for the senses! Click here


From our home to yours Merry Christmas!

And wishing our Jewish friends Happy Hanukkah!

Family resemblances and the joy of Christmas

One day of the year over the Christmas holiday, our children and grandchildren are our prisoners for the entire day.

We lure them in with lights on the house, a wreath on the door, gifts under the tree, mugs of hot chocolate and wonderful aromas emanating from the kitchen. Once we get them all inside, we bolt the door.

They couldn’t escape if they wanted. Coats and jackets piled on the hall tree spill onto the floor beside mittens and gloves, puffy snowsuits, wet boots and bulging diaper bags, creating a virtual barricade to the front door.

If there were ever an emergency, we’d all have to bail out through the windows.

My favorite part of the day is “after”— after the gifts, after the meal, after the last piece of pecan pie has disappeared, after the last blast of aerosol whipped cream has been shot into a kid’s mouth, after the kitchen has been returned to some semblance of order and after the dishwasher begins to hum.

The energy wanes, the commotion quiets and a lull descends. A game of checkers unfolds on the rug. One of our sons-in-law falls asleep on the couch and the other often naps in a wingback chair. I like that. It tells me they feel at home.

During this brief pause I can watch and study the grands, noting growth and changes and see family resemblances.

A little one is on her daddy’s lap reading him a book. They have the same eyes. A toddler curls next to her momma on the sofa. Their skin and hair color differ, but she is the same spitfire her momma was at that age.

Three of the kids have double-jointed toes just like their dad. Our gatherings are highbrow.

Our son loved building when he was a boy and his sons are carbon copies. His youngest built a Lego contraption that will hold four drink cups and can be wheeled down the center of the table at mealtime.

The resemblances between parents and children are a wonder to observe as we lounge about in the aftermath of the holiday. Even more wondrous is the resemblance between another father and son that is the very heart and soul of Christmas.

In the deep of night, long ago, there was another lull, one of a most holy sort. A baby boy was born to peasants in a manger stall. The birth of Christ is celebrated because the son bore far more than a resemblance to his heavenly father—he was the exact representation of the father, a mirror image of heart, intention and purpose.

The healing hands of Christ worked the will of the Father. His teachings and commands spoke the words of the Father, and his anguished death demonstrated the love of the Father.

That is the true wonder of Christmas, worthy of reflection.

Santa will see you now

I-PASS is the nifty system where you stick a gizmo to the windshield of your car and automatically pay tolls from an online account, which lets you forgo stopping at toll booths and fishing around for money to throw in the basket.

Now comes FastPass, a similar concept but with a Christmas spin. Instead of breezing through toll booths, a Santa FastPass lets you move to the front of the line to see Santa. It’s pay-to-play Christmas.

You go online, reserve a time you’d like to see Santa at the mall, choose a photo package to buy and get a FastPass.

Elves no longer assemble toys at the North Pole, they patrol Santa’s perimeter to make sure parents do not take personal photos of children with Santa. Hey, the guy only works one night a year, he’s got to make some money to get him through the other 364.

Still, you basically invite the guy to come to your house in the middle of the night, give him total freedom to wander around while the family sleeps, but taking a personal photo somehow crosses the line.

FastPass is a smart convenience when lines are long, but you have to wonder what the kids who have been standing in line without a FastPass think when they see other kids cutting in front of them.

I’ve seen that happen in the self-checkout lines and it’s not pretty. I suppose parents can tell the kids there is a nice line and naughty line – better luck next year. Or they can just read them my poem, “The Days Before Christmas.”

T’was the days before Christmas and inside the mall,

The line for Santa had slowed to a crawl;

Kids were tired, shifting from foot to foot,

A baby wailed because she wanted her Nuk.

A Mom yelled, “Up off the floor, don’t mess up your shirt;

We don’t want a photo of you smeared with dirt!”

All of a sudden there arose such a clatter,

A security guard sprang to assess the matter.

A family of five flew like a flash,

To the front of the line, ducking under the sash.

“No cutting, no cutting!” the crowd started to jeer.

“We didn’t cut!  Our FastPass allows us here!”

The father waved it overhead for all to see,

A Santa FastPass for his children three.

The kids raced to Santa and sat on his lap,

The elf took their pictures—snap, snap, snap.

Clutching their premium photo package, they ran out of sight,

The dad calling to those still waiting, “Patience to all — just hang tight!”

Dash away, dash away, dash away all,

But buy your Santa FastPass before hitting the mall.


101 Reasons why sleep is not an option

We have met the resistance. It is high energy, has sun-streaked hair from endless hours outside, considers Carhartt canvas overalls high fashion and has dirt under his fingernails.

What is he resisting? What every child who has mourned the setting of the sun has resisted since the beginning of time — bedtime.

He has been out of bed for a trip to the bathroom, a drink of milk, a drink of water, followed by yet another trip to relieve his bladder and, several minutes later, an emergency trip to the bathroom because he forgot to brush his teeth.

He is back in bed now, but I can guarantee you he is not asleep.

Next on the agenda will be the lighting phase of resistance.

“Grandma! It’s too dark to sleep in here.”

“No, it’s too light to sleep at your place in Chicago. This is what night looks like. Dark.”

I plug in a night light. I am nearly out the door, when a sweet voice whispers, “Can you turn on the hall light?

I turn on the hall light. I close the door halfway. I reopen the door. I adjust the door to precise specifications and return downstairs.

Five, four, three . . . “Grandma?”

“Yes?” Grandma says in a sweet voice, although it may not be entirely sincere.

“Grandma, I think I need a guardrail.”

“You’re in a double bed with a younger brother half your size, who I might add, has been asleep for an hour. Why would you need a guardrail?”

“He flops around. You don’t know what it’s like. He’ll be all over me, arms, legs, punching, kicking. I’ll have to roll to the side to get away from him and I’ll fall out.”

Grandpa puts in a side rail. We both head for the door, when a plaintive voice cries out, “You have ghosts!” He bolts upright, eyes bulging.

“We do not have ghosts.”

“Yes, you do. Listen.”

“That’s not a ghost. That is the neighbor’s Airedale, Ollie, singing. It’s kind of pretty once you get used to it.”

“Does he know any other songs?”

“No, Ollie is a one-hit wonder. Now go to sleep.”

Five minutes pass, six, seven . . . no footsteps, no running water, no toilet flushing.


“What now?” I call in a whispered yell, bounding up the stairs.

“The stars are falling!”

“This is the last time—” I walk in the bedroom and he’s right. Stars are falling.

“I thought you’d like to see it.”

“Of course, I would.”

They are glow-in-the-dark stars that our son put on the ceiling years ago. The adhesive has dried and they’re falling, one here, a couple over there, like an indoor meteor shower in slow motion.

I sit on the side of the bed and together we watch the stars fall.

His little chest slowly rises and falls and he is at peace with the night.

“What did it take?” the husband asks when I reappear.

“Nothing much, just a few falling stars.”


TheWhat Happens at Grandma’s Stays at Grandma’s” book tour is breaking for the holidays and will resume with an engagement at the Carmel-Clay Library in early 2020. Stay tuned for specifics! Books are available for purchase by clicking the “Shop” tab at the top of the page.  All books purchased at will be personally signed.

Books are also available on amazon.