nativity small

small nativity, children display item – candid re-sale

Just like your city, my city has a multitude of Facebook groups where you can post your buy/sell/iso items. These are my actual posts. I removed some of the details, but these are my items listed for sale along with my pictures partnered with my words.

nativity small

Small Nativity, Children’s Display Item
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

It’s hard to put a price on Jesus, but that is exactly what I’m going to do today.

When closed, this little nativity scene is a mere 5.5″ tall and 7″ wide and it can safely house Baby Jesus and his posse. Open, we are looking at a full 14″ inches and that is plenty of room for two sheep, a camel, three wise men, an angel, the obligatory shepherd, and the Holiest of all families, Mary, Joseph, and sweet baby Jesus.

Now this nativity, although it is ridiculously cute and appealing to children of all ages, is more for display than for actual action-type rough-and-tumble biblical reenactment.

Need a little Jesus in your life? Look no further, he’s right here. And as soon as you open your wallet, he can be with you.



NaBloPoMo November 2015

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because nineteen years ago sometimes feels like yesterday

My grandmother was an artist, self-taught. We received hand-painted items for every single event … Mother’s Day, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, our birthdays, and many times we received hand-painted items for no reason at all.

My daughter, Madeleine Rose, had my grandmother’s middle name. Her first name is because I enjoyed Madelyn Kahn, I thought she was a brilliant comedienne. I spelled it, Madeleine, because I loved how it looked when it was handwritten, there were so many vowels, and I loved the above the line loops.

This past Saturday, November 7, would have been Madeleine’s 26th birthday. She died when she was seven. Her official autopsy results declared it an undiagnosed degenerative neuromuscular disease.

This is the time of year that I usually crash emotionally, some days a little bit more than others. Madeleine will be gone twenty years this January, but today it feels as though it was yesterday. And the only thing that helps is writing about her because if I am telling her story, I’ve somehow convinced myself that her memory will live on even if it is only my version of her life.

Today was one of those rough days and I somehow needed to be closer to her. After Madeleine died, I packed all of her belongings into office file boxes and stacked them neatly. I went through the boxes several times but nothing in depth. I can vividly remember pulling her clothes out of the boxes, planning on donating the items to Goodwill but there was nothing salvageable. The stains from her tracheotomy tube and her gastro-intestinal tube were too powerful for my advanced laundry skills.

As the years went by, the file boxes wore thin and I eventually transferred the remainder of my tangible memories of her into a rose colored tote. There were so many things during her life that I could not control, but the things that I could … believe me,

I opened the solitary rose colored packing tote and on top was her jewelry box, a gift from my grandmother. I hadn’t opened her jewelry box in nineteen years. I set it aside, closed the tote, clutched the jewelry box to my heart and I left the attic. I didn’t know what to do next. I thought I would just take a nap with it, I planned on clutching the jewelry box and just sleeping. The sun was shining on my bed and I just wanted to sleep in the sun with the jewelry box. I was afraid if I opened it, the inside may have deteriorated. Today was a day that I could not handle another loss, even if it was just the decay of the fabric interior of her jewelry box.

I sat in the sun with a posse of nosy cats. I seldom sit, especially during the day. And now I fully understand why cats follow the sun. It felt good.

The paint on Madeleine’s jewelry box had yellowed and the lace had grayed, but this was one of my grandmother’s finest painting moments. Madeline’s fifth Christmas and my grandmother was beaming upon presentation. I took a deep breath and slowly, carefully lifted the lid. Everything was exactly as I remembered.

Inside was a tiny, delicate cross on a fine gold chain, a Christmas gift for Madeline. And a note, my grandmother always included notes and it felt good to see her handwriting again. Also inside was the novena my grandmother gave to me the day of Madeleine’s funeral. My grandmother had said, “I used this novena to pray for Madeleine every night and now she’s in heaven and no longer needs my prayers.”

It was my grandmother’s intent to have the necklace and the novena buried with Madeleine. I just couldn’t. I knew I needed things to hang on to for later, like today when I miss her so much.

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NaBloPoMo November 2015


rudders and periods

I walked to school with Roberta. She was a wealth of information.

On my first day of high school, she told me to never say the word “rubbers” because that topic could take a turn for the worse in just a matter of seconds. I squinted and nodded in acknowledgement. And then I thanked her. Roberta had thick eyebrows and when she said something, she had a way of manipulating those brows into one long brow and that facial gesture made everything she said seem true.

Once we entered the doors of high school Roberta completely ignored me because of protocol. She was a mentor, after all. I was a freshman and although she was two years older chronologically, she was a sophomore academically. Roberta only cared about the chronological. Everything else was school calendar birthday roulette.

Here’s the thing about the rubbers, I thought she said “rudders” and because I was so naive, I really didn’t even know what a rudder was for sure, much less rubbers.

My first class of the day was Business English. I always called it “my first class” or “first hour” while some kids called it “first period”. Ha, not me. I read a Catholic Girls Guide To Sex” and I knew what a period was and no way was I going to live with the double danger of these two words: rudders and periods.

Anyway, I stopped at my locker and brought along my dictionary to my first-hour class and as soon as I had the chance I looked up the word rudder to see what kind of trouble could possibly come out of this word. And that is how I learned that a rudder had something to do with a boat.

So if period also meant period, that meant that rudder could mean rudder and rudder.

Whew, this was obviously crucial information. I avoided any conversation that had to do with boating, sailing, swimming, and apparently even synchronized swimming was now taboo. Well, basically anything to do with water was now forbidden.

Considering I grew up on the sandy shores of Lake Michigan, my conversation bank had just about been tapped empty right there. All I needed was for one person to say, “cooler near the lake” and I would panic.

One day, Roberta and I were trekking home from school and I remember explaining to Roberta that way too many people seemed to have sex on their minds. She nodded her head in agreement and then looked at me with that one eyebrow and said she heard about a girl in eleventh grade that got pregnant from sitting on a toilet seat in a public restroom. We decided we were going to start putting down a double layer of toilet paper and squat so nothing like that would happen to us.

And, of course, that is why I still shy away from water sports and public restrooms.

NaBloPoMo November 2015


when you were young and your heart was an open book

It was the summer of 1973, I was fifteen. I saw my first James Bond movie. Live and Let Die. Roger Moore. Very scary. And there was a guy named Harold. He was a cousin to my friend, Rita. We were all meeting at the theatre to see Live and Let Die. I stood in the pre-arranged meeting place and waited for Rita and Harold to arrive.

I had limited information about Harold. I knew he was from “up north.” Rita said he was popular, a year older than we were, and he was going to try to kiss me. Sure, I was scared but with my sixteenth birthday right around the corner I was a little tired of hearing “sweet sixteen and never been kissed” and I was anxious to get this kissing ordeal done with so whenever the cliche was mentioned I could just laugh to myself at their expense. Wasn’t I the clever one?

Anyway, what Rita eliminated from the description of Harold was that he had one leg two inches shorter than the other and, as a result, he walked with a very obvious limp, not that there is anything wrong with that but even decades later I still don’t understand why Rita would not have worked that into the conversation before introductions.

Harold was also significantly shorter than me. Not that there is anything wrong with that either, but this was the kind of short that people would mention to their friends. I think he was as tall as my shoulders. As an adult, I maxed out at five feet four inches tall, I have no clue how tall I was that summer, but I do remember that Harold was what short people would call “ridiculously short”.

In addition to these unfortunate shortcomings, Harold seemed to have the longest trunk of any human being on our continent. Certainly there is nothing wrong with this, but I’ll never know why Rita wouldn’t mention these things to me.

Now, the truth is I am not even sure if Harold had thighs. He might have had just had a trunk and then some knees. I am not sure. Back then handicapped parking hadn’t been invented but this is the kind of guy that would certainly warrant it.

Now I understand all of those things were beyond Harold’s control. So as Harold approaches me at our meeting place in front of the theatre, he smiles and says, “Carrie, you look just like Rita described.” All I could say back to Harold was, “And you have kind eyes,” and it was at that point I noticed the left eye wandering.

So Rita had explained to Harold how I looked? I could not comprehend this. Well, perhaps because Harold was the older cousin, he may have few years of suave and savviness under that extremely low slung belted trunk of his and told Rita to describe me in more detail than I had ever asked about Harold.

There were many things going on with Harold, and through no fault of his own he could not do much about his appearance. He was certainly chipper and in my defense, both eyes were kind even though they rarely focused as a team.

Harold offered to buy me a soda and I accepted his offer. In hindsight (with my eyes looking backwards in the same direction), I might have agreed to do just about anything Harold was asking because I was so desperately trying to be sure my attention was directed to the correct line of vision.

Once we got in the theatre, the true Harold literally rose to the occasion. Because of his extraordinarily long trunk, he gave the illusion of being remarkably tall. I felt protected, safe just being in his shadow.

This theatre has recently been renovated as part of our Historic Downtown. At the time, we were there to see the movie it was just plain old run down downtown. I am sure there are tremendous theatrical terms to describe the ceiling; however I am not privy to them so I will describe the ceiling to the best of my ability.

The ceiling was meant to be beautiful. There were tiny holes punched in jagged shapes that gave the illusion of twinkling stars. You knew you had to take your seat when the overhead lights went dim and the stars became very bright. The next phase brought the stars brighter and brighter and eventually the theatre was almost completely lit only by starlight. Romantic, right?

Except that in our city’s pre-historic days, we had bat problems in our downtown theatre. When the overhead lights were dimmed, it signaled the bats to begin their swooping. Which made me shiver and shudder and obviously that was a signal for Harold to make his move.

Remember describing how safe I felt in his shadow? Well, as he raised that arm to move up and around me, my nose came directly parallel with Harold’s armpit. I have no scenario to describe that odor except to wonder if he lived so far up north that they were unable to deliver deodorant during the offseason.

I can sympathize with the wandering eye, the internationally award-winning elongated trunk, and the short leg, but a man’s got to keep himself pretty tidy to overcome those strikes.

I leaned as far away from Harold as I could while his arm was perched up on top of the back of my seat. We drank our sodas in silence as the starlight diminished and the theatre hushed. Rita smuggled in JuJu Bees and I declined. JuJu Bees were not going to make up for this fiasco.

The bats settled, previews began and at the very last moment an usher seated an appropriately proportioned man directly in front of me. I was thankful for his abundant love of Brut cologne because that was my salvation. I leaned forward in my seat, inhaled the average man’s cologne and sipped my soda. I was anxious for the movie to begin.

There had been a tremendous amount of hype surrounding the Paul McCartney and Wings song and I couldn’t wait to hear it blasting away at me in Dolby Stereo. I knew all the words and I was prepared to sing the theme song loudly in my head.

The theatre rumbled as the music started and Harold’s newest pitfall presented itself. Apparently the fizz of the soda was causing Harold to burp. Did he try to hide the burping? Nope, the burp was more Dolby than the Dolby Stereo.

When God grants so many of life’s challenges to one individual, you think God might have been omnipotent enough to up the ante in the self-awareness department regarding personal hygiene.

What kind of man would eat onions prior to a date? Harold from up nort’, that’s who. Yes, I swore I wasn’t going to tell you this part because it would seem like I was mocking him but he said he was from up nort’, like with a silent “h”.

Uh huh, just when I think it can’t get any worse than underarm odor I was confronted with bad breath from raw onions. Seriously, it is one thing to be in the kitchen with someone who was frying onions and have that scent remain on your clothing. Even at fifteen I could comprehend second-hand kitchen odor, but to knowingly serve yourself a slice of raw onion prior to a date? After you declared that there will be a kiss attached to that date?

My first thought was not only did this guy smell like body odor and raw onion, this man reeks of self-confidence. Yes, I was young and my heart was an open book, but not young enough to have that thought linger in my head too long. I had a fleeting thought that this might be the smell of arrogance. And by fleeting, I mean faster than bat crap can fall from a theatre ceiling, fleeting.

And my next thought was the most accurate thought. In my head, the guy just plain stunk stupid.

I needed a plan. The movie was extremely sophisticated with an incredibly intense soundtrack. I was unable to follow the plot line because it involved the forbidden world of tarot cards, voodoo, drug lords, heroin all woven together with hungry crocodiles, turbo-charged speedboats, perhaps an airplane or two and way too much Caribbean accent. Besides, I was already going to hell because I was at a movie with a boy and my mother didn’t know it. I detached myself from the on-screen action. I needed to think. No way was I getting kissed by Harold from up nort’. I didn’t care how close I was to sixteen.

The movie ended, no one moved because Paul McCartney was on the giant screen singing the theme song, an incredible moment in music history.

I looked at Rita’s well-focused eyes. She was doing the eyebrow-raising thing as if to say, “So, what do you think?”

“I need to call my mother, I’ll be in the lobby.” I scooted out quickly hoping the balcony traffic hadn’t been released yet. I fished a dime out of my pocket and placed it in the payphone. I called my house and told my mother I needed a ride home, I said that Rita’s mom was a nurse and had to go into work and Rita’s dad refused to pick up more than two people.

Yes, I was a good Catholic girl and I had no experience in lying. Rita’s mom was not a nurse; I don’t even know why I said that part. I don’t know why I said Rita’s dad would only take two people. What kind of dad would say that? I’ll tell you what kind, the kind of dad who had a daughter named Rita who had a cousin Harold from up nort’ that stunk stupid. That’s who.

Harold and Rita approached the payphone. I wrapped myself in the safety of the silver umbilical cord that attached the handset to the wall-mounted portion. “He’ll never get past this,” I rationalized. I waved at them to go on without me, but they kept approaching. I waved them on with more animation and added an angry head shake and what I hoped look like an evil eye.

I blame that after movie behavior on the power of big-screen voodoo, I got lost in it. That often happens with the extremely innocent.

Ah, the evil eye worked. Rita grabbed Harold’s fat hand. Alright, I didn’t tell you his hands were fat but now you know everything. Yes, there was a left hand and a right hand and they were attached to the appropriate limbs. Honest, that is all there is to tell you about him. He wasn’t a complete freak, you know.

Basically, I am not a rude person except for what I just said to you a second ago. I don’t even think God gave me the gene that allows me to be rude. I just knew that I had to make sure that kiss never happened. Even if that meant lying to my mother and rudely dismissing a sixteen-year-old boy that had one leg shorter than the other, an unnaturally elongated trunk, a vagabond eye, perhaps a unibrow and definitely fat hands.

Besides, very soon I would another chance for that first kiss with Philip.


NaBloPoMo November 2015


ten hail marys and an our father later

It was hot. Not by today’s standards but for June of 1976, it was hot. I was right on track to graduate, all my ducks in a row, always the good girl. Until that morning.

It was a Monday like any other Monday, but the plans were already in motion to change the course of history. I was going to skip school. My friend and I were actually going to go through with it this time. To hell with the rules baby we were going to skip school, punch out, cut class or whatever the really popular kids were calling it back in the day.

We phoned in each others’ absences by reading a well-rehearsed paragraph off of lined 3×5 index cards. We chose our words carefully, used our best penmanship as we wrote out our scripts. My friend and I even practiced the phone conversation several times on Sunday afternoon. We couldn’t use identical phrases because we didn’t want to tip off the feds and we were cautious not to stumble over our statements right at the onset of our premeditated crime spree. We synchronized our watches and called school to report in a matronly voice that an illness had fallen upon our child.

So here’s the skinny, my friend had a pool in her back yard and we were going to lay in the sun and get the tan of a lifetime. We were seniors, life was grand, and as far as we were concerned we were committing the perfect crime. Move over Oceans Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, and Thirteen Point Five. We were now wanted felons. Criminals. We were seventeen and truant. We told a lie. We faked our parents voices and we were so cool.

We slathered ourselves with Coppertone and suited up. I vividly remember that swimsuit, too. I got it at J.C. Penney with my babysitting money. It was a red one piece Speedo that was identical to the ones they were wearing in Montreal at the 1976 Summer Olympics. So, by 7:40 a.m. we are poolside and ready to soak up the rays. I had my spray bottle of lemon juice so that I could spritz my hair and obtain golden highlights as a token of this illegal adventure.

At about 7:55 a.m. we were racked with guilt. We told a lie. We faked our parents voices and we were so going to hell. I think I started the hysteria. What if a teacher noticed that I had lighter hair than I had last week on Friday! How would I explain that one? Simple, it happened over the weekend my friend the voice of reason explained. Whew. Brilliant. This is why she had a 3.8 GPA and I only had a 3.5.

OH MY GOD! What if we got a sunburn!?! A sunburn would certainly look fresh enough. If it happened over the weekend it wouldn’t be as severe on a Tuesday. They could figure this out easily enough just by touching our cheeks. Sunburn was only hot the first day and a half, never longer. If this happened on a Saturday there was no way it would still be hot. HOLY CRAP, we were about to be busted. Even worse, we were sinners. On purpose.

True story, 8:20 a.m. we were in the Main Office of North High School asking if we could see the Principal, or the Vice Principal, or the Assistant Vice Principal. We wanted to turn ourselves into the authorities.

We told the secretary what we did and she had some kind of a buzzer that summoned the Commander in Chief. I think it was the Assistant to the Assistant Guidance Counselor In Training’s Student Teacher. We once again recited our tale of how we faked our parents voices, lied about being ill and we would like to surrender. We couldn’t stand the gut wrenching ache that was so often associated with leading a double life.

I remember the stomach pain more than I remember the exact words of the Commander in Chief but it was something to the effect that since we were honest and forthcoming and could see the error of our ways the Powers That Be would be able to keep this off of our permanent records.

Thank you, Sweet Mother of Jesus. Good things come to those being honest. It pays to tell the truth. Confession is good for the soul. A penny saved is a penny earned. The cows will come home to roost. We were not going to burn in the fiery trenches of hell.

We went to tell the priest of our wrong-doings the following Saturday during our weekly confession and asked to be forgiven by someone more powerful than the Assistant to the Assistant Guidance Counselor In Training’s Student Teacher. We planned to beg for forgiveness about thirty minutes apart so that the priest wouldn’t suspect that when I confessed that I had lied to my parents and my friend confessed that she had lied to her parents … well, he simply could not know that we had been co-conspirators.

Ten Hail Marys and an Our Father later we met by the bench at church to walk back to our neighborhood. Was it worth it? Hell, yeah. We never told our parents about our escapades and my mom quit reading everything I wrote several years ago so my secret remains safe. Sssh.