All in the Family featured the curmudgeonly Archie Bunker. Archie was television’s most famous grouch, blunt, blustering, straightforward and untouched by the PC crowd. He was the archetype of the conservative male. Michael desprately tried to reeducate him, but he persisted in his breviloquence.

Looking back at the last 40 years, we realize: ARCHIE WAS RIGHT!


A Kind Word for the LDS

Those of you that have been around blogging with me the last 7 or so years are probably aware of my intense dislike for Mormons. This has to do with an event in my life involving a Mormon girl and some surrounding unpleasantness.  Anyway I once said if they ever did anything good I'd be sure to point it out.

Well here I go.

My sister is married to a youth minister.  He was working for a ministry (run by a group of evangelicals) that ran a boarding type school for troubled teens.  As it happens this school is located in Utah.  They decided to move the school and fire a number of staff persons to reduce costs.  My brother in law was one of the employees to get the ax. My sister was 9 months pregnant, when her husband lost his job.  They had baby girl last week and everyone is doing fine. 

In the midst of all of this they needed to have someone watch their kids and they went to use the day care that they had been using.  The lady running the day care (LDS, go figure its Utah) told him not to worry about paying since she was aware of what had happened at the school.  My brother in law told her that not letting them pay was no way to run a business.  She told him to do the best he could getting another job, take care of his pregnant wife and let her worry about her business.  She happened to know that my folks would be coming to visit after the baby was born.  So a full sized Christmas type dinner of ham potatoes and all the trimmings showed up.  All they had to do was put it in the oven for dinner.

I should point out that this kindness was more than the local "Christians" associated with the ministry did.  In fact, the guy who runs the program wanted everyone to donate their last paycheck to the ministry before the move. Apparently there was a bit of pressure for them to do that. I don't know how many that "donated" their paycheck got to keep their jobs at the new location.

There is no likelihood of me changing my religion or my over all stand on Mormonism. But a least one Mormon is a great person and has earned a public pat on the back.

Ground Up Soup

My family has a rich tradition of foods at holiday time.  Christmas typically has a lot of cookies for example.  Mom makes up about 12 or 14 different kinds of cookies and plates them up for friends and neighbors for delivery on Christmas eve.

One tradition involves a  concoction known as "ground up soup".  The story goes, that back during the first great depression, the family was living out in the north woods someplace and it was an especially bad winter.  All that was in the house on Christmas eve was a bag of potatoes, a bunch of carrots and some salt pork. So they took the potatoes, carrots and salt pork and ran them through a meat grinder.  Then the ingredients were put into a pot of boiling water.  It may have been melted snow water as the pump might have been frozen, the details here are somewhat lost as my great grandma has been dead over 12 years and she was the last surviving person to be there for the start of this tradition.  In any event, they made soup out of it, as there was noting else to eat.

My mothers side of the family has been making this soup once a year on Christmas eve.  As a kid I hated the tradition.  I was always much more found of peanut-butter balls, Santa's Whiskers, butterscotch bars and my favorite Church Windows.  Even my brother and sister hated this culinary adventure into yesteryear's poverty.  We called the stuff "gruel"  and swore we would never eat it again after leaving home.  Which with the exception of visits home at Christmas time remained pretty much true.

Except this year.  I made a batch.  Not the big 5 gallon batch my grandmothers and mother would make.  It was a more moderate gallon and a half sized batch, as I don't have a 5 gallon pot to make it in. Christmas eve I sat down and ate a bowl or two.  Traditions apparently never die. They do however go well with cookies.


Seasonal Ramblings

Christmas is almost here.  I'm done shopping.  All I have to do is wrap up some gifts.  I'm still waiting on one item I ordered to get here and I'll be finished with the whole deal.  I've really been rethinking my thoughts on the whole holiday and I'm a little surprised at where I've ended up.  While I am a Christian, I do not believe Christ was born in December, and therefore I've never celebrated Christmas as a religious observance. As a kid I was taken in by the whole Santa thing but generally disappointed by the way things turned out.  You see growing up Christmas gift giving was about getting stuff you needed more than getting fun stuff.  Gift giving was similar.  Mom and Dad got gifts from the kids that were slightly dumb and not greatly desired.

Growing up gifts were 80% stuff you needed, like cloths and maybe 20% toys or other fun stuff.  Despite my never asking for socks or underwear, Santa always brought some. Christmas of 1977 was the sole exception in my childhood.  For those of you who don't know or care, the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977.  Me and my friends all believed that Star Wars was the coolest thing ever.  That year Santa came through with an X-wing Fighter and action figures.  While he also no doubt showered me with socks and the required whitey tighties, the overwhelming coolness of Stars Wars made up for it.  With the exception of 1977, my over all outlook on Christmas has traditionally been someplace between slightly annoyed and mystified that people would bother with it at all.

Then I married Mrs Ipsa. She grew up Lutheran.  Her family celebrated Christmas as religious and a family holiday.  I do mean celebrated.  Christmas was an all out great big deal for her family.  My mother in law starts asking for Christmas wish lists in July.  No kidding!  The forth of July kicks off her Christmas shopping.  Year one of marriage I discovered that Christmas would be a BIG DEAL.

As I remember it, my idea of a great first married Christmas, involved some festive seasonal red fashion ware from that great Christmas retailer, Victoria's Secret and some not too subtle hints about a certain elf and visits to the south pole. The men reading this will no doubt agree that, with some slight modifications to accommodate personal tastes, my general concept is a sure way to enjoy the holiday season. Women reading this should take note as well.  If your man gets grumpy at the holidays, maybe you're putting too much time into "the season" and not enough time into the "happy" portion of "happy holidays".  Less sex and more of your mother, sister and other family members is a guaranteed recipe for "Grinch". 

Reality didn't go along with fantasy.  Our first Christmas was exhausting and not for any of the good reasons.  Christmas Eve services, staying the night at her folks house (no we can't do it here), up at 4:00am, her sisters bratty kids TONS OF GIFTS and a 2 hr car ride to my parents, the lack of joy that I traditionally have about Christmas at their house, Santa made sure I got some more socks, dinner, a long ride back to our house after a 18hr day of holiday fun, no elf action.

I made a couple decisions after that first Christmas.  Number one, NEVER would we do Christmas at every-bodies house on the same day again.  It was just way too much.  Number two, Christmas still sucked every bit as much as I thought it did, but she loved it.  I would go along with a minimum amount of griping, since apparently sharing my insights into the activities just made her upset.

So for the last 13 years I've been going along and getting along.  My mother in law has been doing her thing and the wife has been doing hers.  I've been doing my best to keep my mouth shut, and hang lights as required. 

Res Jr. turned 4 this year, which means that he remembered from last year what was coming this year.  Talk about excited.  For a week before Thanksgiving he keep asking Mrs Ipsa about putting up the tree.  She promised him they would do it the day after Thanksgiving.  Mom broke down and had it up Thursday afternoon.  Friday morning I was woken up by sounds best described as "weeping and gnashing of teeth". My son believed that with the erecting and decorating of the Christmas tree, Santa would come and the living room would be filled with presents.  It wasn't, and the great comforter known as mom wasn't able to get things under control before the great protector known as dad arrived on the scene looking to kill whomever was murdering his son.

The youthful excitement of my son and wide eyed wonder of my daughter has been tugging on my heart these last few weeks.  I've been rethinking Christmas in my heart as well as my head.  No Jesus wasn't born on 12/25 but something is being born in my heart.  This year my wife asked me for suggestions for grandmas wish list for the kids.  I started giving her a list of things, all very practical things mind you, like the socks and underwear I hated as a kid.  She stopped me and told me that her mom would say buying that stuff was a parents responsibility and not real Christmas presents.  I huffed off.  What she said has stuck with me.

The wife and kids have been gone since the middle of week before last visiting the grand parents.  They get home on Monday.  Last Friday they had Christmas with my folks.  A no toy Christmas and one game for the boy.  He was less than thrilled.  Just like me growing up.  This morning they had Christmas with her folks.  Yes the kids got some cloths, but they were shirts with pictures of things the kids liked on them, and every box of practical gifts had a couple toys of some sort stuck in to go with it.  It was fun, they got cool stuff.  It sounds like they had a blast.  The best Christmas ever!!!  I missed it.

Socks and shirts are things a parent is supposed to buy for their kids.  They never made me smile as a kid.  Christmas time comes once every year but childhood only comes once a lifetime.  I intend for my kids to love Christmas every bit as much as their mother does.  The only way for that to happen is to make it as great for them as I can.  As this attitude has been taking root my enjoyment of the season has been growing.  I've even been wishing total strangers a merry Christmas.  Some of them simile and wish it right back to me, which is great. 

Friday I waited on a rather stern looking older man.  I finished up his paperwork and wished him a Merry Christmas.  He gave me a rather peeved look and said, "I'm a Jew".  I could tell from the look on his face he was less than pleased with me.  Not knowing what to say and a little lost for words, I just said, "That's OK so was Jesus".  He broke into the biggest smile and laughed at me.  "Merry Christmas to you".