Ode to Santa’s Christmas Tree

•December 24, 2017 • 9 Comments

In 1999 I wrote this story as a Christmas gift to my late Father-in-law.  On Christmas night, two years ago, I lost this beloved man to a battle with cancer.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of his death and the day that we in America, recognize the day of Christ’s birth.  It is my hope that each and every one of you will reflect upon the Promise of all that He has brought us.  We are all blest beyond measure, we may not feel that we are, but each of us will come to realize a moment in our life when that ultimate truth reveals itself.  Have a very wonderful Christmas Eve, and a beautiful Christmas Day.  Merry Christmas and Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward All.

It began the Friday

after Thanksgiving and would continue throughout much of my young life.  Little would I know that it would become a gift, one to be treasured and reflected upon as my youth would generate into my older years.  To this very day this treasure sits patiently, tied with memories far more grand than words can merely tell.  Today I would like to share my gift in hopes that I can hand you a part of me that I deem so special.  Special, because of who gave it to me, and special because you remind me so dearly of the goodness of this man.

My Grandfather was

a simple man.  He collected pennies in a coffee can above his desk.  He worked a gentleman’s hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.  An auto mechanic, skilled in his trade simply by a love for cars and all that entailed this “wondrous” invention.  I never saw him study his trade, I merely saw him tinkering with hands and fingernails embedded with diesel, or car engine oils.  I’d many times witness a grown man’s sense of “wonder” as he pondered over some piece of an engines inner workings.

Yet this gentleman

captured more from his modest life than simply a love of car engines.  He held the respect of many of his peers, yet it would be years later before I would truly understand the depth and the reasons he was so valued.  Earlier this Holiday Season (which always begins for our family with the beginning of Thanksgiving), I found myself soul-searching as I reminisced over those who are no longer here on Earth to share these moments with me, and likewise have not (in my mind), yet been introduced to my beloved family.  Those of you that are a part of who I am on this place called, Earth.  Anyway, onward to my, “Ode,” may I capture a spirit and relate it to you in honor of my, “Santa”.

“Yes, it’s Thursday,

and Grandma has once again managed to cook the goose and prepare the plum pudding.  There’s bread dressing and mashed potatoes, gravy and freshly made cranberry sauce.  Pumpkin pie, mincemeat too (the real thing, made with venison stewed with raisins and brandy), relish trays and glasses of wine at each setting.  Including the children.  It was a tradition, and whether my folks preferred it or not, one will never know.  My Grandmother was not heavy into spirits, but the holidays meant a time to revive some of her time-tested traditions.  Her Mother and Father were native to France; the northern region.  Wine was a sacrament to the dinner tale at such festive times.  Today would be no different.”


It was time for

Grandpa to eat heartily, not because food was ever lacking from the table.  It was a time to stock himself with the nourishment that would sustain him over the next few days.  They would be busy days, hard days, long days and could possibly be quite cold and perhaps a bit concerning.  For every year, the Friday after Thanksgiving met that he and several of his cronies would venture up into the Colorado mountains for their annual trek.  Their mission?  Christmas trees!  They would spend the Friday through Sunday, not only cutting trees, but hauling them from the mountains and loading them onto trucks for a trip homeward.

Once home, the trees

would be “sized’ and placed into height arrangements out behind Grandpa’s garage.  After they were sorted, they were moved inside of the garage and placed according to height.  Then the pricing began.  (the most special of trees, those with height and favored beauty, considered to be the finest, were placed to the side.  (One tree belonged to my Grandmother, the others were gifts to local churches.)

Appropriately, the wood

burning stove in Grandpa’s garage would become less stocked over the next few weeks.  Heat would bring the sap to the forefront of the pine, moisture content would be compensated.  If the trees were to hold well for buyers, then it was the duty to keep them at their freshest.  Daily, folks came to buy their trees.  Some would travel the fifty or so miles south out of Wyoming.  Others would travel from Boulder and Denver.  Was it the beauty they came to expect, or perhaps the visit to see my Grandfather?  In my youth I simply thought there was no other Christmas tree salesman.  If there was, did I notice him? or them?  No, I never did.

Sales would be brisk

throughout the weeks before Christmas.  I have no idea how the monies were split, but common sense would tell me that it was divided equally amongst those faithful cronies that made those yearly treks into the snow-covered wilds of Northern Colorado .  Yet there is still the ambiance of something that occurred every Christmas Eve.  This is where my Santa, arrives before Midnight and delivers something far more grand than brightly wrapped gifts bearing expensive trinkets of joy.

Every Christmas Eve

at 8 p.m., an unusual “hustle and bustle” of traffic filled the garage.  Northern Colorado had, and perhaps still does, a large number of migrant farm workers.  In a region known for feed corn and wheat, their work hands are in great demand.  Their monetary means were/are meager.  Their Spirit of Christmas though, is as grand as yours and mine.  These folks knew simply by word of mouth (I know it had to be this, no advertisements announced this event, and none of our family knew their native tongue), that Christmas trees were available to them.  These trees had no pricing, no expectations, no reciprocal requirement attached to them.  They were a gift, a treat, a “Thank you,” if you will.  I wonder if they knew my Grandfather was, Santa?  Would it take them the many years it took me to realize it?  I don’t think it really matters.  I believe Santa knew just exactly what he was doing.

Dad, I made this Christmas tree for you in honor of my Grandfather.  I believe you deserve this.  I didn’t head up a mountain, trampling through snow to find it.  I learned from a 13-year-old Girl Scout* how to make it, but I learned from my Grandfather the value of what it symbolizes.  He’s not here for me to thank, but you are, and there is treasure you behold for me that is simply as grand.  I know and trust your word.  I understand that a handshake coming from you is worth more than a written contract, and more importantly, I value the expectations you hold for your children.  

*A tree crafted of ribbon pieces tied to a dowel.

Margie (Warden) L.




A Journey Unfolds…

•August 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Wild Mustang Grapes


Begin the Process to Yeast Conversion



Do Not Wash Your Grapes…


Wild yeasts exist on the surface of grapes.  When preparing a grape starter, use organic grapes.  Also, when creating your starter (this is sometimes referred to as, Mother), organic flour is preferred.

I gathered a small batch of grapes while walking thru our local park one morning.  Once home, I went to work Googling how to begin a starter using grapes.

The grapes were squeezed and placed into a clean mason jar, covered, and allowed to sit for four days.  Removing the lid, it was obvious that things had become lively.  Note photo #4 in the first row.  Fungi and mold had begun their work on the grapes.  It was now time to skim the surface and discard the mass (relatively easy, it peeled away from the juices, seeds and remainder of the skins, and was discarded into the compost pail).  Next, I poured the mixture into a small strainer and separated the skins and seeds from the juice (once again dumping the discards).  I measured out my juice, a mere three tablespoons, added three tablespoons of water to it, and enough flour to make a heavy paste-like consistency starter.  Mixed thoroughly, and covered with a tight wrapping of plastic wrap, this sat, untouched for approximately three days.  (Time variance depends upon temperature, wild yeast activity and a little bit of luck.)  Some people report that they see activity, bubbling of yeast, at one day.  I saw very little and opted to push my parameters.

On the third day I noted a very active culture.  I removed half of it (tossed the remnants into the compost pail), and replenished the starter with more water and flour.  I continued to dump and retain for a period of about three weeks.  NOTE:  It is not necessary to discard the take-away, it can be used in your waffle, pancake or any other pastry items.  Simply convert by using Baker’s Math (Google, it’s out there, and it’s REAL!).

Into my fourth week, I began discarding less starter and adding more water and flour.  NOTE:  Flour weighs approximately one half the amount of water.  Keep this in mind.  You will want to ALWAYS add twice the amount of flour to the water ratio.) The speed and consistency of the build were determined by how quickly the starter began to bubble, drop and rise.  (Don’t be fooled, this is not a difficult process to learn and is easily explained in detail by many resources.  I will also be happy to explain further, just zip me a note in your reply.) Also, at the fourth week, I began adding more flour than water, opting for a thicker, and heavier build.  This allows for a stronger sourdough flavor.

Is it baking day yet?  Nope!  ( I’ve been baking sourdough bread from a seed starter for several years and have grown accustomed, as you will, to “flying by the seat of my pants,” or as others might say, “winging it!”)  It was time to appropriate for a recipe that could convert for those trying this for the very first time.  I went back to my all time favorite bread baker, Peter Reinhart, and referenced his book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. 

I chose to retard my dough, twice, overnight, this allowed for a continued enhancement of dough flavor, and some time for me to plan my days around when I wanted to bake.  A firm starter was compiled using a measured portion of my starter, a percentage of flour along with a designated amount of water.  These were mixed together, lightly sprayed with oil, covered in plastic wrap and allowed to ferment for about five hours before being refrigerated.



Almost, but not quite ready to bake!  The firm starter is removed from the refrigerator and allowed to come to room temperature (approximately one hour, maybe longer, depending upon kitchen temperatures).  Now cut the firm starter into ten small pieces.  The remaining ingredients: flour, salt, and additional water are then measured, combined, along with the addition of the pieces of the firm starter until all are thoroughly mixed.  Move the dough onto a lightly floured counter top and knead by hand for twelve to fifteen minutes.  It should pass the windowpane test (The Kitchn has an excellent tutorial here.)

Lightly oil a large bowl, placing your dough and covering it with plastic wrap.  Allow it to ferment at room temperature for three to four hours or until it has nearly doubled in size.

Gently remove the dough and divide it into two equal portions.  Mine came to 22 ounces each (I cheated, using a baker’s scale, but one is not necessary…just eyeball it the best you can).  Shape it into boules, batards or baguettes; I chose boules, they simply are the easiest shaping method for me.  Now mist the shaped pre-baked dough with oil, or gently rub with an oil of choice.  Cover lightly with plastic wrap, being careful to leave enough room for expansion, but not open to air.  Place the covered items into the refrigerator.

HINT:  I opted to use a large cookie sheet, first placing a piece of oiled parchment down, setting my boules atop, sprayed, with room apart, onto the sheet,  I then topped them with a sprayed sheet of parchment before covering them lightly with plastic wrap before they went into the refrigerator.  


The Journey’s End


Wake up!  We’ve arrived and we are ready to bake, ALMOST!  Remove the dough from the refrigerator (Do not remove the plastic wrap just yet), and allow the shaped dough to sit for approximately four hours before you bake.

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  (The preferred method of baking is to add steam to the oven right as the loaves are placed.  To do so, take an old roasting pan, set it one shelf down from your baking shelf.  Have it in the oven as you are preheating.  Once the bread is placed, pour a cup of hot water into the pan.)  BE CAREFUL, STEAM IS NOT ONLY DANGEROUS TO YOU, BUT WATER SPILT UPON OVEN GLASS WILL CAUSE THE GLASS TO SHATTER,  LAY A HEAVY BATH TOWEL OVER THE FACE OF THE GLASS BEFORE POURING.  THIS PROTECTION WITH SAVE YOU HEARTACHE AND MONEY.  Trust me, I know from personal experience.  An alternate method of steaming is to use a spray bottle.  Once your loaves are placed, spritz the sides and back of the oven with water.  FIVE MINUTES into baking, lower your oven temperature to 450 degrees.  At ten minutes, rotate your loaves 180 degrees.  Close oven and continue to bake for ten to fifteen minutes.  The internal loaf temperature should register between 185 degrees to 195 degrees, Fahrenheit.



Allow bread to cool for 30 to 40 minutes before slicing.  Also, do not store baked bread in plastic wrap, but rather, place it cut side, down, and cover with a towel.  Sourdough bread is treated differently than sandwich breads.  Enjoy!

“All that glitters

•December 16, 2016 • Leave a Comment

need not be gold”


Officers DOWN!

•July 17, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Another shooting, another ambush, more funerals to come.


Don’t stand and dare say to me, “Black lives matter,” and tell me that this is the motto we should accept. My son-in-law, nephew, best-friends son, are all law officers.



Heartbreak never wins the day…

•June 15, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Hope, love, prayers,  and the thought that we never walk alone in our hour of need is the promise that helps us endure.

Stand with me in sharing a random act (or acts), of kindness in honor of those who have been affected by the multiple tragedies in Orlando, Florida.  It matters not how you reflect your selflessness, with whom, or even, what.  It may even be a gift of gratitude to yourself, that pat-on-the-back.  In the next 24 hours, let your light shine.  Let us give Orlando our best.


We Talk About Everything that Affects the Mentally Ill but Eugenics, Why?

•March 31, 2016 • Leave a Comment


Please note the original blog title.  I found this via Robert Goldstein’s blog.  Original submission comes from,  Truth-out

Some things in life we chose to ignore, others, if we are truly filled with humanity, we must not.

Art by Rob Goldstein

Vanished                                      Vanished

From Truthout:

“In many communities, jails have become the only option for police confronted with a person in mental health crisis in public…

The reason behind this is obvious: the virtual shutdown of the nation’s public mental health care system for which Dorothea Dix fought. From 1970 to 2002, the per capita number of public mental health hospital beds plummeted from 207 per 100,000 to 20 per 100,000…

The plan was to dismantle large, often punitive mental institutions and replace them with community-based facilities that would have a more patient-centered ethos. Unfortunately, these closures took place at a moment when neo-liberalism was on the rise. In the name of fiscal responsibility, most states simply did not replace mental health institutions. In many instances, jails became the quick fix to handle poor people who had mental health crises and no access…

View original post 1,686 more words

www.pactforthecure .. Offering Hope for the Helpless Suffering PPD

•March 28, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Thank you to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill , for this initiative.  I will forever be indebted to your servitude.

This past week I noticed a story on CNN of an upcoming app that was to be released. I am submitting this after receiving an email today giving me permission to submit my article to the organization responsible for this International study of women suffering/or having suffered from Post Partum Depression, and/or, Psychosis. It is my sincere hope that you will spread this information in an effort to draw attention to this program. They are looking to collect thousands of participants for this study.  You can find the app, for free.  Look for PPD ACT app.  I found it through the Apple Store.

I literally had tears running down my face when I read that this initiative was taking place. In 1984, at the time of my episode, there was not much information readily available to women suffering from PPD. This study will no doubt change that, and with it, the lives of thousands upon thousands of women. It is my understanding that one in five women will experience some sort of the so called, ‘baby blues’ and some will not be as fortunate as those of us who have survived the mayhem of insanity that swallowed our souls. Thankfully, we have returned to tell a story, using genetic markers they may one day find the answer to helping others from being driven into the abyss.

Bring hope to those who have lost theirs by sharing this initiative.  Again, I thank you.


This original post was submitted in May 31st of 2013.Story of My Life Challenge…Etched upon my heart…

Jenni, It’s Day 31, and a Friday. Somehow I managed to write for all 31 days of your May Challenge (although, somehow a post of mine is time-stamped for the last day of April?…we’ll count it anyway, okay girlfriend? Thanks, I knew you would understand).

Today’s post, our last one, is writing about:

“A Vivid Memory”

This may take me all of today and well into the night. I had written in an earlier post that I would revisit something. I made a special promise to my oldest daughter. And today is the day I fulfill that promise. It began the day that she was born.

She arrived three weeks early. And, just like any new child’s arrival she came without a warranty clause, a type-written instruction manual and no return address label.

I’d practiced the natural birthing process, The Bradley method. The 8.25 months of pregnancy went without a hitch, except for mom catching the flu at five months of pregnancy.

Birthing went almost according to plan. No pain meds, no spinal block, but after several hours from having my water break, the doctor(s) where concerned that infection or stress of labor may cause concerns to the unborn baby. They prescribed Pitocin, and with knowledge I’d gained in birthing class, I clung to my hope of having a natural child-birth, but was also warned that the induction could produce rather strong contractions, and it did not offer a buffering from any pain that I would incur by its introduction. I kept with Plan A. Let me bear this baby, naturally. (The following link provides further details on Pitocin via Yahoo)


Now, I have to give my doctors and St. Francis hospital in Tulsa, kudos for the way they helped my delivery. My labor had begun at work, around 8:30 in the morning, and by 10:00 a.m., I was strapped to a gurney, and plugged into all the machinery a labor and delivery room can offer for the monitoring of baby and mama. Noon came, but no lunch, who cares though, laboring the birthing of a baby you really have hunger on the last of your lists of wants.

Hubby and I logged miles around the nurses desk and lobby. Too many to count, and at one point a nurse beckoned me back to my appointed room for a vitals check and centimeter observation. I tried resting, but I was too anxious. I was on top of the world and could not wait to see my, Megan Kathleen. I had dreamt of this moment for so long. The afternoon rolled on, more walking, more monitoring, and finally at six p.m., my doctor arrives and tells me that he thinks it’s time we get this baby something to speed up her arrival. It’s that drug, Pitocin. I agree, but only after he can confirm that I can still birth her naturally, no pain meds, spinal taps, nada, zip and zero. He assures me he will follow my directive, but warns me that the drug used to induce labor can also cause severe labor pains, and if the time came that he felt it was too much for baby and me he would medically do what he needed. I couldn’t fight with him there. He’s the educated soul. He graduated medical school, a certificate that required 12 years of laborious studies. Let’s rock and roll! You carry the knowledge and I’ll try marathon walking until this unborn baby charges to the finish line. Deal?

Shortly after six my husband’s family arrived from Texas. Someone mentioned they were hungry. The folks had spent four hours en route, and I know that Cliff hasn’t eaten since breakfast. I knew that I couldn’t, but more importantly, as the Pitocin’s effects began to work on my body, and labor earnestly began, eating was the furthest thing from my mind. I asked them to go, give me a breather, grab some food, enjoy themselves. Linger if they wished. Why hell, I’ve been here all day and it looks as if I’ll be here all night trying to birth this baby.

8:30 p.m., and where in the heck were those fools? Did they not have any clue about what I was going through? I’m not a screamer, but I do enjoy a hair-pulling now and then. The R.N. assisting me was becoming less than jovial as I started practicing my Bradley method of breathing. Every now and then she would ask, “Are you sure you don’t want something for your pain?”

“Sister, where were you when I gave my directive? Is my clipboard of info missing from the foot of this bed? Has the doctor given YOU the board certification to overtake his assigned SEAT at my party?”

I tried to deliver it humorously. I tried to cajole her into seeing my side of it. She tried to get me to see her side. We both failed, Communication Skills 101.


The little girl dances into my world after midnight. Drug free from day one, but moms chucking her insides out and there are four nurses pummeling me, explaining something about blood flow, placenta, oh hell, I don’t know the jest of it all! I was too busy loosing my insides, suffering a notorious headache and begging for water.

Now, the vivid memory.

I am not sure how to write about it, other than to say that it belongs to my Megan. It belongs to her and I. Beginning early in the days before we even left the hospital, something was amiss. Sadly, I felt no maternal bliss, and I feared that I knew nothing. All those books I’d read on childbirth, the before and after. None of those had prepared me for the roller-coaster ride , the journey in to hell and the fear that would one day it would descend into thoughts of infanticide.

I warn you. This is not an easy read, and although Megan is almost two thousand miles from me today, I would give anything to sit beside her and hold her hand as I attempt to answer her questions and to allay her fears. But I can’t, and since I have promised that I would find a way to communicate something to her within the 31 days of May’s Challenge, today is our day.

I could not sleep. For three days in the hospital, and for days, off and on, once we were home. Irrational fears would enter my head and I would quickly try to change my thinking. I cuddled my angel. I played with her. I fed her and I connected with her as best I could, but I was afraid that those so-called baby blues would consume me. I tried talking to my husband about them, but he didn’t get it, and how could he, had anyone in the male species been through this birthing thing?

Days dragged, literally. I became consumed with schedules. I laboriously centered my life around a list of ‘to-do’s’ to fill my time, to keep me busy. But, I still was not sleeping. And then one day I could not eat. Literally. I could not swallow. I choked each time I tried. But I had to eat and drink, I had to sleep. I had a little one that relied upon me and I was breastfeeding, so it was more important than ever that I find a way to get ahold of myself.

Then I found myself dwelling on a pair of scissors. I’d been in the baby’s room wrapping a gift. I saw the scissors, and I remember thinking, “These could kill the baby.”

The thought became obsessive. It overwhelmed me with grief and shame. And try as I might, I could not shake the image, nor the auditory, “These could kill the baby.”

I tried hiding the scissors, but I couldn’t find a place to put them, somewhere that was ‘safe’ … someplace where they couldn’t talk to me.

I forced myself to put them back in the spot where I always kept them. If they could talk to me. I could talk to them. I could tell them, “NO!”

For days I fought this battle, until I realized it was beyond me. I attempted to express my concern for the baby to my husband, but I did not tell him about the scissors, or the voices.

I became so exhausted. And then the hallucinatory began its foray. I was fighting an army, and I was ill-equipped for its challenge.

I no longer felt connected to anyone except for my baby. I felt as if I could protect her I could win the inner war, but I was losing.

The phone would ring. I wouldn’t answer it. I had nothing I could communicate.

Postpartum depression accompanied by psychosis

This is not a war to win. It cages a soul and will not allow reason of any kind. I prayed, I begged and I pleaded. You can have me, but you cannot have my daughter.

On this particular morning I thought I’d heard a knock at my front door, or was that coming from the back door? I trusted nothing. I sat in the nursery until the pounding stopped, and the sound of what I thought was my name being called, ended. Rocking my angel. I sobbed so violently. I wanted the voices and the visions to go away. I wanted nothing more than to save my baby from myself.

Something made me pause. Was that the front lock-set being opened, the door flinging open, where those real voices?

They found me. Jo and Prescilla. They found me, and they did not let go of me. One took the baby, the other took the phone directory.

And every chance I get, I tell them, “Thank you.”

I spent the following three and a half months in a locked Psych ward.

Each one of us has a story that shames us, it can trap us in a sort of hell, but sometimes to escape hell, we must find words to express its grievance. I used to think this would be one that I could not share for fear of losing someone whom I love(d). Now I fear that if I don’t share it, someone may lose their way, they may find themselves lost, alone, aberrant, and of course, crazy. I would rather lose every friend I have for the sacrifice of gaining that one that reached out to me in need. The one that discovered hope, when they felt there was none left. But, if you can find clarity, if you can trust that there are people in this world that care first for others, and second for themselves, than you, and they, will walk with you through hell. When we have true friends, they don’t leave us when the going gets rough. They stop at nothing to see that we realize how important we are, in their life. They don’t call you, Pyscho, MisFit, Crazy. They call you, Friend. That having us is a joy, a blessing, a God-send. A true friend does not judge, does not keep a score card and knows that we are them, should they ever need us and not out of guilt or because a favor needs returning. No, a true friend stands by knowing that without our connection we are only half of ourselves.

When others walked out, you walked in. You asked for nothing in return. You never used my illness to shame me, to discount me, to write me off. You stood beside me, carried me through my darkest hours. Prescilla Senn, Jo McCormack, thank you for seeing me when I could not see myself. But more than anything, thank you for saving my Megan from the psychotic lunatic that I had become. We have fought hard to win, and without each of you, I would have lost. It took three and a half months, out-of-state, in a mental institution, numbers of medications and therapy sessions, but I came home, loving and vowing that one day I would share this story.

Never give up hope. When you are at your weakest, grasp for straws. Dial for help. Swallow your pride. Do not fear that you will be labeled, CRAZY, for the rest of your life, even by those you thought would stand behind you through thick and thin. One of the best pieces of advice given to me were these words:

“They already think you’re crazy. Nothing you do, or say, will change their opinion. Absolutely nothing, therefore, be yourself. Only you know the journey and the victory.”

To Megan,

I promised you I would finish a tale that I had begun earlier in one of my posts. I think I even noted Day 16 as the day that I would write it. Day 16, arrived, but the time didn’t feel ‘just right’. Today it does. I believe you will recall the post, original, and if not, I’ll help you retrieve it.