Dear Santa …

December 25, 2007 at 8:05 am | Posted in art, blogging, Christmas, cookie recipes, country living, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, gifts, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, Santa Claus, snow | 6 Comments

All I want for Christmas

Love hurts (sometimes)

February 5, 2007 at 5:47 pm | Posted in cookie recipes, country living, dating, faith, family, food, free knitting patterns, Holidays, knitting, love, marriage, photography, recipes, relationships, romance, yarn | 24 Comments

New! Be sure to check out my new I Live on a Farm website!

Pretty Ball of Yarn Zero degrees. Not complaining, just sayin’ … it’s zero degrees. And this is a relatively warm winter. I told my husband last evening this has been a good “intro” winter for me. It has snowed pretty much every day for the past three and a half weeks and we have had some sub-zero weather but mostly the temperatures have been between zero and thirty-two. This week will be particularly cold and we might get quite a bit of snow today.

I have had plenty of opportunuities to use my Sorell boots, the J. Crew “puffy” coat I inherited from my son during a move a couple of years ago, and I have learned the art of layering and suffered the consequences of over-doing the layering. I even did some driving alone on slippery roads Friday night, so I can check that one off on the list of new experiences as well.

Last weekend my husband and I took a walk in the woods out behind the corn fields. When I was a child in North Carolina we had a stand of woods out behind our house and I spent much of my childhood out in those woods running, exploring, climbing trees. You don’t know this about me yet, but I was so skilled at tree climbing when I was a child that I had a sort of celebrity status with all the other kids on our street as the tree climber, thought to be part monkey by some. Even the older kids and teenagers had this sort of awe about my ability to climb a tree if the tree could be climbed at all.

That little bit of nostalgia was just to point out the fact that I love trees and the woods in general. In Southern California on many camping trips in the mountains I loved taking walks among the pines, because it reminded me of the woods in North Carolina. Here, the woods are primarily deciduous. Oh and how lovely. I had been back in there with him in the summer, but the beauty of winter with snow puffs on every little branch and twig, blankets of snow and ice on every limb was breathtaking. Of course, walking through deep snow in heavy boots with too many layers of clothes trying to keep up pace with my husband steps so we could hold hands while walking was breathtaking in an entirely different way. (Gasp.)

There were tracks from animals everywhere and my husband knew them all and could tell me what they were. It was an interesting way of learning what kind of animals inhabit those woods, because the evidence was so abundant and clear. For instance, I had no idea there were wild turkeys in there.

Our river is frozen over … I might have mentioned that before. I have seen frozen lakes before, but a frozen river is altogether different from a frozen lake. It is so interesting to see evidence of the current still there, yet everything is standing still. And the lovely, ever constant sound of the river walking and running as it makes it way past the farm is gone … suddenly. Everything is still and quiet.

Fireflys River After the Ice StormSnow is piled in frozen piles upon piles all over the river and the entire mass of water has spread high and far as it expanded during the slow freezing process. A river is an organic living, moving, writhing thing. And ours has come to a stand still for a little bit. Awe … that is what I feel.

I have seen our lovely river now in almost all of its stages, from rushing by in early spring to this quiet sleeping giant and everything in between then and now. After our ice storm I saw it transformed into a magic glistening palace of sparkling, tinkling lights against a brilliant blue sky. I believe the only stage I have not witnessed yet is the cracking and breaking of the ice when the thaw inevitably begins … almost there, just a few weeks to go.

This weekend I finished knitting the puppy blanket for my son’s new pup (free pattern here). I will packaging it up along with my favorite doggie bone (made by Hartz) as part of the Valentine’s package of love and goodies I mail to my son this week. I will also be baking up a batch of my delicious Chip Chips cookies (perfect for Valentine’s cookies I think) and will send at least a dozen as well as a batch of brownies to him. I found some funny little farm yard animal Valentine cards for school children at the store the other day, so will include some of those as well.

Valentine’s Day used to be, according to my husband, the “being alone suckiest” holiday of them all. Not now, no not for us.

Which of course brings me to that moment at the airport in New York when my husband and I first met, face-to-face. When I last wrote of that day, I was in the restroom at the airport having just gotten off the plane. My hands were trembling too much for me to freshen my make-up, so I gave up trying and went back out into the corridor to make my way to him.

It was a small airport, and he was waiting for me between the gate and baggage claim. He spotted me first, and evidently I looked rather silly because from his vantage point I was wandering down the corridor looking aimlessly up at the ceiling … or something. (In fact, I was searching for signs telling me which way to go because I was so nervous I wanted to make sure I didn’t wander off in some wrong direction.) I had warned him also that I am prone to falling down and that he should not be surprised if I was walking toward him smiling one moment and splat on the floor the next … not to freak out or anything because it happens often enough I will most likely be okay.

The first moment I saw him is burned in my mind as a crystal clear, moving image. Everyone else in the scene is a big blurry in the peripheral, but there he is at the end of the corridor with this big smile on his face. He was laughing of course, because I had looked so silly looking up the way I was, but to me it was just a very big, broad smile.

The funny thing is that my nervousness instantly disappeared. I thought I would have a nervous stomach, but nope. I had the feeling that I had come home and that everything would be okay. When I reached the spot where he was standing we just smiled at each other and hugged and that was it. Ease. Comfort. Peace.

Fireflys Hand Knit Puppy BlanketIt is such a remarkable thing to come face to face with someone for the first time and to just have everything slip right into place. Men have always made me nervous, made my stomach turn … at times made me feel as if I was going to hurl … even given me hives. But not this man. With him, it was all right and good and I could just be. Be.

Oh, and ah. I had arrived and he was there and we were together. Wow, what a rush but what a peaceful rush.

It was about eight-thirty or nine at night, so on the drive “home” (what a thought) I didn’t get to see much of the environment. He picked me up in his pickup truck, and I saw right up next to him as we drove along on backroads and country roads making our way to the farm.

When we pulled up in front of the place, I was struck by how large the house was. He pulled into the long, sweeping circle of a drive that goes from the side-yard area back through some trees and comes up to the back of the house and garage. Even at night, it was all so beautiful and fine to see. I caught a glimpse of the barn … a farm and a barn and so much space surrounding us everywhere.

This would be my home. He would be my husband. How life can work out sometimes.

Inside the house, he gave me a tour and introduced me to the various rooms and amenities both upstairs and down. We went back downstairs and stood in the dinning room. He smiled down at me and then put his arms around me and slowly lifted me up into a big bear of a hug.

Suddenly, one of my ribs pulled right out of place and we both felt it happen because of the closeness of the up-in-the-air hug.


Our eyes got very big and we both said, “What was that?” He gently put me down and I felt my ribs to see if I could tell what had happened. It was a very wierd feeling, because it didn’t hurt when it happened. I just felt strange to feel this bone move very noticeably out of place … and for it to be a big enough of a feeling for the someone else who was hugging me to feel it happen as well.

Fireflys Hand Knit Puppy BlanketAs my five-day visit progressed, so did the pain in my rib. I felt so bad for him, because I knew he felt awful for initiating the hug that made it happen. We both laughed about it … although I winced whenever I laughed … and we laugh about it still. It really is funny when you think about it, to start off this perfect romance with that kind of mishap.

More importantly, a little while later that evening he gave me a special ring passed on to him from his grandmother and asked me to officially if I would marry him. Of course, I said I would. Joy. Comfort.

A couple of night later we went out to dinner for the first time, at a wonderful Chinese restaurant up near Rochester. It was our first date, but we were already engaged. And, before we were engaged we had already set a date for our wedding which of course had happened before we had met. Everything was out of order and backwards, but perfect and divine.

That evening and the following day I made phone calls to family and friends, telling them I was engaged to be married and would be doing so one month later and moving to New York. The shared joy along with surprise was a thrill to experience; the feeling of happiness was intense

That was last spring, and here we are not even one year later. Things are even better than I thought they would be with us. He is even more than I had hoped for. I hope I am that for him as well.

So now you know the whole story … or the parts I was willing to share … of how I met my husband.

Have a gracious day.


The Story of Christmas Joe

December 21, 2006 at 2:02 pm | Posted in charity knitting, Christmas, cookie recipes, country living, faith, family, fiction, food, Holidays, humor, knitting, love, recipes, relationships, stockings, yarn | 14 Comments

Christmas in My Pocket

“Christmas in My Pocket”
The story of Christmas Joe and a particular important experience.

by J. L. Fleckenstein Christmas 2004

And so it was Christmas.

And, there I sat … all alone, on a stoop, outside of the remains of what used to be the inn where most of my life I ate, drank, and made merry with my good friends.

Friends. That was something I still had and was glad for it.

But, the inn, much of the town, my home, the fields … all were gone. There had been a bad flood and about half of us lost pretty much everything we owned. Luckily, no lives had been lost but many were pretty close to ruin.

The folks who had been left with nothing were taken in by those whose homes were left standing; but it was the loss of the fields that really hit the entire town terribly hard. Some folks were already talking about moving away. ‘Course, they said it would only be temporary; they’d make a little money and come back as soon as they saved enough up to rebuild. That wasn’t likely to happen though. Usually, once someone moves away from a little place like this, they don’t ever look back; the tracks of their footsteps disappear entirely leaving no sign in their hearts of any way or any reason to come back home.

Thinking about it all as I sat there on the stoop just made me let out a sigh as my shoulders sagged a bit further toward the ground.

Well sir, I was sitting there feeling a bit sorry for myself, which I hate to admit but it is the truth. You see, like I said at the start, it was Christmas and I wanted to give something to my friends but I had nothing, nothing at all. The only “belongings” I had been able to find in the place where my house once stood was some pieces of broken glass from my windows and a handful of tangled, thick wire of some kind.

It might sound kind o’ silly (and it probably is) but I carried the broken pieces of glass and tangled wire around in my pockets all the time. It was all I owned at that point, and though it wasn’t much, it was comforting somehow to reach in my pockets and feel something there. I never looked at them after that first day, because if I looked at them I would see it was little scraps of junk. As long as I didn’t look, and just felt them in my pockets, I could pretend there was something in there of value, something left for me.

I was having me a real bad case of feeling discouraged and it didn’t feel very good. I’d been carrying that bad feeling around with me for a long time, but it was getting worse now that Christmas had arrived. It felt like I was falling into some big black hole in my heart when the next thing I knew, this white haired man came walking down the road, heading my way.

He was wearing a nice warm coat, good looking boots and a hat and he just looked plump and happy, like he was doing okay. He came right up to me smiling like we were good friends and said, “Why hello there Joe, how are you doing today?”

Don’t ask me why, but I just fell right into answering him as if we were old friends, without really thinking anything about it. “Oh, I’m doing okay I guess. How about you?”

“Why, thank you so much for asking. I’m doing fine, just fine.” And he smiled in this real content sort of way and for some strange reason it made me smile a little bit too, even though I really didn’t think I had anything to be smiling about. When I noticed I was smiling, it didn’t feel right because I hadn’t smiled in quite some time. So, I sort of fought against it a bit, and I think my face started twisting around and I was probably making some strange faces or something, because that man, he started looking at me in a real curious way, turning his head this way and that … and I just went right on trying to make that little smile go away.

Well, all that effort sort of wore me out, so I just gave in and let the little smile go right on ahead and show on my face, unnatural though it was. The strange thing was, if you want to know the truth, once I quit fighting it, it sort of felt good to smile a little and then it felt natural and then I felt like it was okay, and that maybe I must have something to smile about, even though I hadn’t figured it out yet.

Okay, well, to get on with my story here … the man, he said to me, “Joe, when I was walking up to you, you looked as if you had something important on your mind. Is there anything I could help you with?”

I looked into his eyes and I could see he was a friend, and I just couldn’t really stop myself from telling him about my problem. I told him I was feeling pretty down with it being Christmas and all, and for the first time in my life I had nothing to give my friends, on account of having lost everything in that flood. He nodded with much understanding, listening carefully to everything I had to say. When I was finished, he said, “Yes, yes … I see now. Hmm. That is very interesting, very interesting indeed.”

Well now, that puzzled me, I just have to tell you flat out. It was not at all what I was expecting him to say after hearing what a terrible position I was in.

“So, Joe, you have nothing, nothing at all, is that right?” and his eyes kind of flickered down at my pockets and then I was sure I saw some kind of a little twinkle dash across his face or something.

“What? Oh, oh well … I do have some, ah, things … a couple of little stupid things in my pockets,” I explained to him and then I started feeling really embarrassed about the “precious” pieces of junk I’d been carrying around.

I pulled my hands out of my pockets real fast and held them down tight at my sides, trying to sort of cover up my pockets and act like there wasn’t really anything there.

With a tender, reassuring smile he said, “Oh, come on now Joe. We’re old friends, aren’t we?”

I thought about that for a minute. I couldn’t rightly remember being his old friend, but I couldn’t remember not being his old friend either, so I just kind of stared back at him with a blank look on my face. But then I started to have an odd sort of melting feeling all inside me, and the next thing I knew I was reaching in my pockets and pulling out my two handfuls of junk.

Well, I’ll tell you, he got real excited about that time. He got this big ol’ smile on his face and said, “How beautiful, where did you get such treasures?”

“Huh!?”, and I looked down at my hands too. Well now, there really isn’t much explanation for it. There, in my hands, where there ought to be a couple little piles of junk I saw two little boxes made of frosted glass held together with real fine melted metal of some kind, sort of like a stained glass window but made into a box.

Gasping for air and pretty much jumping right out of my skin, I said, “Whoa, whoa … what the heck?”

He didn’t seem to even notice I was close to having a fit, and all he said was, “My, my, my Joe. You are quite an artist aren’t you. Why, those are the most beautiful little gems I have seen in a very long time. Is this what you are giving your friends for Christmas?”

“Well, I … I … well, I … I ah, I guess I could do that.” I was truly and completely amazed as I held the little boxes up and looked at all of their fine details. They were truly grand, grand little Christmas boxes. Tears of happiness started burning the heck out of my eyes.

And then, something occurred to me right then and there. I looked up real quick at that man and I leaned forward and squinted and looked right into his eyes. And he leaned forward and squinted and looked right back at me. And we just stood there leaning and squinting that way for a couple of minutes until I said this: “You’re him, aren’t you?”

“Who?” he said right back, straightening himself up.

I straightened up too and said, “You know who. HIM.”

“Joe I don’t have even the slightest idea who or what you’re talking about.”

“Come on, I know it’s you. Saint Nick, the Big ‘Claus’ man … S-a-n-t-a.” And I looked at him in a very clever, satisfied way, rocking up and down a couple of times on my heels to really make my point.

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“Am not.”

“Are too.”

“No, I am not.” He looked at me in this real tough, strong sort of way which I have to say did make me shut up for a minute.

“Okay, well then how in the heck did these boxes come to be?” I asked.

“Why don’t you tell me,” he said softly.

“Look, I’ve just had some old junk in my pockets for a while now,” and I told him all about finding the pieces of broken glass and the tangled wire where my house used to be and how I had carried them around in my pockets but never took them out to look at them, and just kept fiddling with them and pretending they were something really valuable so I wouldn’t feel so bad.

Suddenly he said, “Ah ha, that’s it!”

“That’s what?”

“That’s IT!”

“It’s what?”

Chuckling he said, “Well, you did it. You made them. You just said so yourself.” Now that sounded like a very peculiar explanation to me (doesn’t it sound peculiar to you hearing it right now?) and I wasn’t quite sure I could abide by it. I stopped talking and just thought about it for a little while. Then I sat back down on the stoop and thought some more, and he sat down and watched me think for a while.

After a bit I said, “Now, for me to believe that’s what happened, why I’d have to believe in … magic.” I whispered that last word and sort of looked around to see if anyone was listening in on us.

Whispering back he said, “Yes, well … you do seem to.”

“Seem to what?”

“Believe in m-a-g-i-c. I mean, just a little while ago you did accuse me of being … well, you know who,” and he sort of raised his eyebrows up a couple of times to rub it in.

“Hmm,” I thought to myself.,

“Hmm, hmm, hmm,” more thinking, “is this something I can agree to?” He did have a point. I mean, I know I’m a grown man and all, and I do believe in Santa. Everybody I know believes in Santa … and I had to admit that Santa is definitely magic.

I looked at him again and squinted and looked real close at him, but this time he just laughed, patted me on the shoulder and shook his head as if I was hopeless.

Well, I got sort o’ distracted at that point, because I was starting to feel a lot better. It really was starting to feel like Christmas and I had two wonderful gifts I could give my friends. And, as long as I was getting the hang of believing in magic, I came to realize I had Christmas in my pocket … it was there whenever I needed it. All it took was a little imagination.

That jolly old man and I parted company about then. He said he had some things to take care of and thought he ought to leave. Without even stopping to think about it, I reached out and gave him a big hug and said, “Merry Christmas!”

He hugged me back with a big, warm bear of a hug that left me feeling safe and secure and, well, sort of magical all inside and out.

As he started to walk away, he turned back and said, “Oh, Joe my friend, I almost forgot. I have something for you. That’s why I came over this way today.”

“Something for me?” I smiled.

“Oh yes, of course. You didn’t think I would forget my old friend Joe at Christmas, now did you?”

And with that he pulled a little package out of his pocket and said, “Here you go Joe. Have a warm Christmas memory on me.” As he handed it to me, his eyes twinkled again, he smiled a smile at me through his nice fluffy white beard and mustache and gave another hearty laugh.

Now, I have to tell you, when he laughed, it really did look like that stomach of his moved like a bowl full of jelly. And he did have this very merry sort of way about him, and it did seem like I had known him all my life, even though I couldn’t quite remember him exactly. But, I’m not an argue-er, and if the man said he wasn’t Santa, who was I to tell him he was wrong?

Oh, and do you want to know what was in that little package he gave me? Some big fluffy marshmallows, hot cocoa mix and a few cookies. That night I shared my marshmallows, hot cocoa, and cookies with my friends when we were all exchanging Christmas presents. It is a truly good, warm Christmas memory.

So, now it’s sort of become this little tradition of mine to tell people my story and give them a few marshmallows, hot cocoa and cookies.

And so, it is Christmas.

Have a warm, Christmas memory on me … a guy named Christmas Joe.

Copyright © 2004, 2006 J.L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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