Happy Spring! — On Singing Birds, Baby Rabbits, and Our New Video “Springtime in Little Red Bear Land!”

Happy Spring!  Long awaited, Spring seems to have finally arrived here in the Central Midwest, while other areas to the north are still being buffeted by Winter-like storms.  Two days in the past week reached 80F degrees and doggone it the calendar says April 15th, so with all due respect to Jack Frost and Ol’ Man Winter, Little Red Bear and I are firmly declaring “Welcome Spring!”

As I write this, the windows are open and two Cardinals are singing lustily back and forth in the front of my home, while a House Finch sings for his enchanted in the back. An untold number of English Sparrows are embroiled in loud and urgent arguments over prime nesting spots behind outdoor lamp fixtures around the building.

Robins have been hopping along on the grass for a few weeks now, and I was blessed to see the arrival of a pair of Goldfinches yesterday morning, the first seen this year. The House Wrens have yet to arrive in my neighborhood, but they are usually among the last to arrive, along with the Hummingbirds.

Birds are dashing here and there hurriedly weaving and constructing new nests, while bear cubs, fox kits, and other babies are emerging from dens. A good time to remind to please be careful when driving or out and about with activities, to please be watchful for Mother Nature’s sometimes clumsy and careless new youngsters scurrying about, and to be mindful of spring families and nesting sites, including nesting shorebirds if visiting the beaches.

Because — Spring has arrived!


Little Red Bear has been hard at work on a new video celebrating “Springtime in Little Red Bear Land” and decided it was time to share it with everyone. As the Director of our videos, Little Red Bear has added a new wrinkle to this one, incorporating mini videos within the primary video.  Please let us know if you like our new mini “videos-in-a-video” approach because Red’s always trying new things to make them better and more entertaining for everyone.

Very special “Thank You’s!” to our dear photographer friends Adele Barger Wilson, Marilyn Schroeder, Matt and Delia of M&D Hills Photography, and Sallie J. Woodring Photography for the generous use of their images to create this video, along with images and video inserts from Pixabay.

Our hope is that even though some areas may still be held in Winter’s icy grip, Little Red Bear’s video will help bring warming thoughts of Spring to arrive soon.

We hope you enjoy Little Red Bear’s new video, and if so would truly appreciate a “Thumbs-Up” on YouTube to help other people find their way to it. Likes, Comments, and Shares are always appreciated! Happy Springtime!

When Spring arrives in your backyard — Open the windows! Listen to the songbirds! Watch the baby animals bouncing around! Walk barefoot in the new green grass! Plant a garden with some flowers for the bees and pollinators! Get dirty! Jump in a rain puddle! Take a hike and enjoy all of Mother Nature’s Springtime blessings!

If you have Dandelions popping up here and there in your yard this Spring, please check out “Please Don’t Pull The Dandelions — They’re Nature’s Gift!” before cranking up the lawn mower or reaching for the weed puller.


Jeffrey and Jolene are a pair of cottontail rabbits who live with their family beneath Red’s cabin in “The Adventures of Little Red Bear” stories, invited there along with others by Little Red Bear for protection against marauding packs of weasels. But not all rabbit families are so lucky to have a caring and helpful bear in the neighborhood. So, while pushing or riding the lawn mower this Spring, please be watchful to navigate around rabbit nests with babies in your yard.

A quick walk around the yard while picking up winter twigs and debris before mowing, searching for depressions in the ground and grass, can reveal any nests to be easily avoided later when mowing. Be on the lookout for fluffy tufts of the mother rabbit’s fur or for what otherwise may appear to be simply brown patches of dead grass. There may be a nest beneath, and a quick inspection will reveal it.

If you find one, simply leave a six-foot circle of unmowed grass around the nest, and then keep children and pets away for a few weeks. For more information and a quick little video, check out How To Spot A Rabbit Nest Before Mowing Your Lawn from Ontario Wildlife Removal, Inc. The mother rabbit rarely visits the nest during daylight hours (to avoid tipping off the nest’s location to predators), so not seeing any rabbits in your yard is not an indication that there are no nests. Please take a few minutes to simply walk around your yard before mowing to avoid any tragedies.

The baby rabbits only stay in a nest for about three weeks, so while leaving a circle of uncut grass around a nest for a few weeks is not really a big deal for us, it can be a lifesaver for baby rabbits!


If you would like to check out more of our videos, please visit Little Red Bear’s Homespun Videos page to see all that Red has produced to date.

Thanks always for visiting and spending part of your day with us!  Wishing you and your family a very Happy Spring! — Jim (and Red!)


“In spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” –  Margaret Atwood

“To pick a flower is so much more satisfying than just observing it, or photographing it . . .                        So, in later years, I have grown in my garden as many flowers as possible                       for children to pick.” – Anne Scott-James 


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“In springtime, love is carried on the breeze. Watch out for flying passion and kisses whizzing by your head.” –  Emma Racine Defleur


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.

Because together we can do so much!


” Spring is nature’s way of saying — ‘Let’s party!’ ” –  Robin Williams


 

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Little Red Bear’s Special Easter Recipes & Ideas To Please Everybunny!

When Little Red Bear and I are not trying to scrub Easter Egg dye from our hands (paws), we like to discover interesting and fun new recipes and treats to make for family and friends.

It has been a few months since Little Red Bear shared some of his special recipe finds with the holiday season so busy and everyone having their own family favorites, but with the Easter Bunny working overtime and the holiday drawing near he thought it a good time to get going again and share some Easter treats and information. Let’s get hopping!

Starting off with a healthier treat for the little ones because being about Easter treats and goodies it’s likely to become more sugary sweet as we go along.

As usual, simply tap on the link to view the original recipe and provider’s page.


Peep Fruit Kabobs

An alternative to sugary sweets, little ones should ‘Peep!’ with delight over these.

Peep Fruit Kabobs Recipe


Krispie Treat Goodies

Krispie Treats are among Little Red Bear and my favorites for Easter and any time of year!  Here are three different Krispie Treat ideas to make up for Easter.

Fruity Pebble Krispie Treats — My personal favorite kind of marshmallow cereal treat, made with Fruity Pebbles cereal for a different and fun take on the original.

Rice Krispies Treat Easter Eggs — Fun for the whole family!  Simply use plastic eggs to form the fun egg shapes for these.

Easter Rice Krispie Cake — Neither Little Red Bear nor I had ever seen a cake made from Rice Krispie Treats before and couldn’t imagine why we hadn’t thought of it sooner ourselves!


Easter White Chocolate Crockpot Candy Clusters

Creamy, crunchy, peanutty, and beautiful for a brunch buffet or candy dish. Three ingredients plus your choice of sprinkles, prepared in the crock pot while you do other things. What could be better?

Easter White Chocolate Crockpot Candy Clusters Recipe


Easter No Bake Birds’ Nest Cookies

Made with oats, corn flakes, mini candy eggs, chocolate and butterscotch chips, and peanut butter, kids (and adults!) will love this Easter treat.

Easter No Bake Bird’s Nest Cookies Recipe


Easter Sugar Cookies

Everybody likes sugar cookies! Wouldn’t the kids love to find a fun-shaped and brightly-decorated Easter Cookie in their basket? Little Red Bear wants one. Or, a dozen.

Easter Sugar Cookies Recipe


Easter Egg Cookie Dough Truffles

Another delightful and beautiful Easter treat to make up ahead of time for family and guests. And who doesn’t love cookie dough?

Easter Egg Cookie Dough Truffles Recipe


Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars

Cookie Bars are always a perfect treat for buffets and treat dishes for holiday gatherings, a perfect “hand food” as they say, and able to be made ahead of time. These Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars come with a sugar advisory — they are loaded!  Packed to the max with oatmeal, peanut butter, chocolate chips, M&Ms, springtime confetti sprinkles, and five (5!) different kinds of candy bars, this treat will not disappoint. You may want to put these delights up out of the reach of little ones if planning to get any sleep the next week. Little Red Bear is already busy whipping up a batch of these! I see some late night writing sessions on the horizon.

Easter Surprise Confetti Cookie Bars Recipe


Easter Trifles

Do you have a trifle bowl tucked safely away after the Christmas holidays? You may want to bring it back out for one of these delicious Easter Trifles!

Cotton Candy Easter Trifle — One white cake mix as the cake filling baked in separate smaller cake pans and dyed with food coloring, with cream cheese, whipped cream, and candy bits of your choice make for a colorful buffet presentation.

Mini Egg Trifle — Using brownies and chocolate pudding mixed with cream cheese and crushed Oreo Cookies, then topped off with whipped cream and mini eggs, this trifle will delight chocolate lovers.

Rainbow Peeps Trifle — This vivid trifle features swirled cake pieces, Cool Whip, lemon pie filling for a touch of spring freshness, and colorful Easter Peeps for decoration.


Chocolate Easter Eggs With Cheesecake Filling

I love traditional Cadbury Eggs and these remind me of those — with a creamy, lemony cheesecake filling and yummy apricot sauce for the ‘yolk’.  If the kids turn up their noses at these and opt for the sweet treats, that simply means more of these amazing creations for the adults!

Chocolate Easter Eggs With Cheesecake Filling Recipe


Easter Cathedral Candy

Another amazing no-bake recipe to prepare ahead of time, these beautiful candies require only three ingredients — vanilla flavored melting wafers or almond bark, colored mini marshmallows, and sweetened coconut.  Mix, chill, slice, and serve!

Easter Cathedral Candy Recipe


Easter Eggs and Creative Hunt & Craft ideas!

For anyone who may be new to hard-boiling (or struggling with it as we seemed to somehow always do each year) and coloring Easter Eggs, or who may be looking for some exciting and different new decorating ideas, check out the helpful links below.

How To Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

A Handy Food Coloring Custom Mixing Chart

Making Tie Dye Easter Eggs

How To Dye Easter Eggs with Kool-Aid

Decorating Natural Brown Easter Eggs

How To Make Marbelized Easter Eggs

How To Host The Best Easter Egg Hunt Ever

Tips for Dying Easter Eggs With Toddlers

More Tips for Dying Easter Eggs With Small Children

Fun New Easter Egg Hunt Ideas

Fun (and Educational) Easter Egg Hunt Ideas For Children

18 Simple Easter Crafts for Kids



Find over 600 more Easter Holiday features on my Easter Treats, Fun Crafts, and Activities Board on Pinterest. To find today’s features and all of the recipes we have shared so far, visit our Little Red Bear’s Hand-picked Blog Recipes Board. Visit and Like my Writer’s Facebook Page to see daily recipes and features we share.

Thanks as always for spending part of your day with us! We would be honored if you recommended our site and pages to friends and family.  Little Red Bear and I look forward to your visits here, and hope that in our own way we help to make your day special, too! And if you are not familiar with Little Red Bear yet, I invite you to tap on the links below to find out more about Red and his family-friendly adventure stories.

Wishing everyone a safe, healthy, and Happy Easter! — Jim  (and Red!)


“Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.” — Janine di Giovanni

“Easter combines the best of the present with the traditions of the past – like Cadbury Cream Eggs with hunting and gathering.” — Melanie White 


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Easter is so disappointing. You suffer all the way through Lent, and what do you get for it? A ham.” — Garrison Keillor   


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes. Because together we can do so much!


             “Behind every young child who believes in himself is a parent who believed first.”        – Matthew Jacobson


 

 

 

 

Happy National Oreo Cookie Day!


Did you wake up feeling a little happier and bouncier than usual this morning and perhaps wondering why?  Chances are it’s not your birthday.  Or Christmas.  Or anniversary. So, what is it then?

It’s March 6th —  National Oreo Cookie Day, of course!

Oreos — That little creme-filled bundle of crispy, chocolaty goodness we have come to love over the years. Since its introduction years ago, the Oreo Cookie has become the best-selling cookie in the United States. No surprise there. A mere glance at my cupboard would confirm that fact.

Nabisco (originally The National Biscuit Company) first developed and produced the “Oreo Biscuit” in 1912 at its Chelsea factory in New York City. The block on which the factory was originally located is now known as “Oreo Way”.  Wouldn’t you like to go to work each morning to a place called “Oreo Way?”

Here are some other fun facts about Oreos from the National Day Calendar folks —

  • The name “Oreo” was first trademarked on March 14, 1912.
  • The first Oreo cookies in the United States sold for 25 cents a pound in clear, glass-topped novelty cans.
  • In 1912, the Oreo Biscuit was renamed to “Oreo Sandwich”.
  • In 1948, the Oreo Sandwich was renamed to “Oreo Creme Sandwich”.
  • William A. Turnier developed the modern-day Oreo design in 1952 to include the Nabisco logo.
  • Nabisco’s principal food scientist, Sam Procello, developed the modern Oreo cookie filling.

Oreos now come in a wide variety of flavors, including Banana Split, Berry Burst Ice Cream, Birthday Cake, Candy Cane, Candy Corn, Cool Mint, Creamsicle, Pumpkin Spice, and many others. And of course, not to leave out Golden Oreos, and maybe my personal favorite, the Double Stuf Oreos!

What is your favorite way to enjoy an Oreo Cookie?  Do you dunk it?  Bite into and crunch it?  Or are you a twister, like me?  My favorite way is to carefully twist the two cookie halves apart, crunch and enjoy the plain half first, and then slowly savor the creamy goodness of the other half.  Mmmm — creamy goodness.

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Now, go treat yourself — it’s National Oreo Cookie Day! — Jim  (and Red!)


“Happiness is a tall glass of milk and Oreo Cookie in each paw.” — Little Red Bear

         “Health food may be good for the conscience, but Oreos taste a hell of a lot better.”          — Robert Redford


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


 

Walking A Mile In Another’s Moccasins — What Tracks Will We Leave Behind?

The name of this heartfelt poem by Mary T. Lathrap (1838-1895) was originally titled “Judge Softly” when written in 1895, and has later come to be known by its most famous and quoted line — “Walk a Mile in His Moccasins.”

This line was quoted by my Mother to me over and over growing up, and has been attributed to various Native American tribes, but comes from this poem by Mary Lathrap. Whether she was inspired by a direct Native American contact or not I have yet to find, but it reads as heavily influenced by the conditions of Native Americans both on and off the reservations at the time.

Regardless,  it is not the title which is significant in the end,  but rather the meaning and true message of the words of Compassion, Kindness, Empathy, Tolerance, Acceptance, and Understanding still so relevant and needed in our world today, over a hundred years after it was written. Have you walked in another’s moccasins?


“Judge Softly”

“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.

Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.

You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.

Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.

For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.

Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.

I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.

Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”

~ by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895


“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave,” is a Lakota Native American proverb. Words of wisdom to be kept foremost in mind when choosing our actions and reactions, and the individual impacts each make upon the world around us today. And the far-reaching effects on the world we will be leaving for our children and posterity. What tracks do we each choose to leave when confronted with choices of kindness and peace, or exclusion and violence?

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us. When we find ourselves rushing to judge others, we reveal more about ourselves as being someone who feels the need to judge, than about the other person. We never know what storms others may have been called to walk thru in their lives, and each of us is carrying a burden, whether seen or unseen.

Choose to brighten someone’s journey and share your smile, a kind word, or gesture today, and truly be the change you wish to see in the world.  — Jim (and Red!)


“Empathy is seeing with the eyes of another, listening with the ears of another, and feeling with the heart of another.” – Alfred Adler

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”  — Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’)             


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

“Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up.” – Jesse Jackson


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Open your mind to the world and the many different ways that can be found in it, before making hasty judgments of others. After all, the very same thing that you judge from where you are— may very well be something totally different in meaning on the other side of the world. The problem with making hasty judgments is that it will emphasize your ignorance at the end of the day.”  — C. JoyBell C.


Making the World Worthy: A Timely Reminder For Our Children and Us All — “You Are a Marvel”

Sharing an illuminating piece from Pablo Casals, applicable not only for guiding our children but for reminding ourselves, as well.

For those not familiar with the name, Pablo Casals was from Catalonia, Spain (December 29, 1876 – October 22, 1973), and is generally regarded as the pre-eminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century, and one of the greatest of all time. Also a composer and conductor, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.

His comments seem especially relevant as so many search and attempt to find their way and place in today’s world.


“Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children? We teach them that two and two make four, and that Paris is the capital of France.

“When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to each of them — Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the way you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michaelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel.

And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel?

The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world will not be, another child like him.

You must work, we must all work, to make the world worthy of its children.”

— Pablo Casals


These instructive words of wisdom seem very applicable today, as so many in our society struggle with self-image issues, self-doubt, personal worth, learned hatreds and prejudices, resulting in lashing out more and more frequently with heartbreaking episodes of violence, with families and communities shattered and forever changed.

People the world over share a desire for happiness and a better life for their families. If we truly desire a peaceful, kind, compassionate, and forgiving world, not only for ourselves but for our children and children’s children, then it must start now with each of us taking responsibility for our own actions and for the age-old resentments we harbor, continue to nourish and pass along to future generations. No one is born with hatred and prejudices — they are learned.

Leaders and politicians may bluster, give speeches, form committees and convene hearings. But change, true change in society never comes from the top because attitudes and morals cannot be legislated. True changes in society invariably spread and percolate up from the bottom.

Peace and kindness for our children and the world begin with each of us as we go about our daily lives, starting with how we view and treat ourselves, our families, and our neighbors.  We must step up and “Say ‘No!’ to Violence”, and become a kinder and gentler people. Because violence and hateful rhetoric are dividing and ripping us apart.

You, like a child and along with each and every one of us, are a marvel, unique in all the history of the world and time to come. There has never been and will never be another “You!” A gift to the world. A perfect marvel capable of so much more than we imagine.

You and I each have within us the power to change the world for the better or worse. It is up to us. Do we choose to allow our light to shine, encourage, and show the way for others, or to keep it hidden while those around us continue to stumble thru the darkness and our world becomes ever more violent and intolerant? Our country and the world are in urgent and dire need of more Light.

Thanks for visiting and spending part of your day with us.  Brighten someone’s journey with your smile today, share a kind word or gesture, and truly be the change you wish to see in the world. Lead with your light for others to follow, and help to make the world worthy of its children. — Jim (and Red!)


“In music, in the sea, in a flower, in a leaf, in an act of kindness . . . I see what people call God in all these things.” – Pablo Casals 

“When we see God in each other we will be able to live in peace.” – Mother Teresa


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

                           “In this world, hate never dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate.                         This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible.” – Buddha


“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.” – Gandalf, “The Hobbit” – J. R. R. Tolkien


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help my friend Little Red Bear and me to continue this as an ad-free site,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


                            “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . . . ”  – St. Francis of Assisi


Opting for Millstones or Milestones — “The Desiderata”

My first exposure to “The Desiderata”, an inspiringly beautiful piece written by the American writer Max Ehrmann, was when it became popularized in spoken-word recordings during my college years in the early 1970s. Written in 1927, the piece was largely unknown during the author’s lifetime, with it first being published in ‘The Poems of Max Ehrmann’ in 1948.

The title ‘Desiderata’ is Latin, meaning “Desired Things”. Approaching graduation from college and about to embark on a new career and adventures, “The Desiderata” was and still remains a hopeful and illuminating guide to shaping and living a life of peace and purpose.  The enlightened counsel contained within is certainly as applicable or more today as when first penned by Mr. Ehrmann over ninety years ago.

“The Desiderata” by Max Ehrmann —


The Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.  Strive to be happy.


Thank You for visiting and spending part of your day with us! We will always encounter pitfalls and obstacles as we go along. Do we view them as defeating roadblocks or opportunities to overcome, grow stronger, and learn? Do you choose to fill your life with Millstones or Milestones? How we choose to respond to life’s challenges is always up to us.  It truly is a beautiful world. — Jim (and Red!)


“You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars.” — Max Ehrmann

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in                    silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.”                — Max Ehrmann


Old-fashioned, Family-friendly, Multi-generational Stories and Fun for All Ages!
~ About an Uncommonly Special Bear and His Friends ~

                                 “I wish I could show you when you are lonely or in darkness,                              the astonishing light of your own being.” – Hafiz


Like and Follow My Writer’s Page on Facebook For Daily Inspiration and More!


“Share your smile with the world. It’s a symbol of friendship and peace.” – Christie Brinkley


This is a purposefully non-monetized, ad-free site to be able to offer the most enjoyable reading and viewing experience for everyone, with all content freely shared, and generates no income to offset the costs of maintaining and operating. If you enjoy your visits and time with us, Join our new Patron Community today. Patrons help to continue this as an ad-free site for everyone,  dedicated solely to entertainment and educational purposes.


“Peace, like charity, begins at home.” — Franklin D. Roosevelt


 

Christmas Trains — Tracking Memories Beneath the Tree

Looking back now over Christmases in my childhood, railroad trains were as integral a part and essential to the holiday itself as Santa Claus, Snickerdoodles, and Christmas trees. We are not talking 1940 as in Ralphie from ‘A Christmas Story’, but not far removed, being more early 1950’s for me, being born at the tail end of 1949.

Every year my family would devote one December Saturday for an annual pilgrimage to downtown St. Louis to see the big department store window displays with their trains running around and around, shop a bit, crane our necks up at the tall buildings, and have lunch at Miss Hullings’ Cafeteria. It was magical, at a time when all meals were made at home and “going out” was something that just wasn’t done except on rare occasion. The annual Train Window Displays certainly counted as a special occasion.

When very young, let’s just say around three to five years old for discussion purposes as memories before that are a bit more foggy, we lived in Kirkwood, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis. Every year, Santa Claus would arrive at the Kirkwood Railroad Station on a train pulled by a huff-chuffing steam locomotive, complete with whistles and bells. Santa would be greeted by applause and cheers by the crowd, step out of the train, wave, and then come inside the station for each of us to take our turns sitting on his lap for a photo while confiding our seasonal wish list.  Memories like that tend not to fade over the years. And I still have the photos of me on his lap. Somewhere.

I have not submitted to an official DNA test but would bet the next rent check that I inherited my train-loving gene from my father. Beyond the real world Santa train and department store window displays, my father was as big a train fan as I remain today. My third birthday (yes, I remember because it was that special) brought a Marx Passenger Train set from Santa, just like the one he arrived in at the station each year. Within minutes my father had the little train circling around the base of the Christmas tree. There is no doubt that train logged as many miles circling the tree as Santa’s reindeer that Christmas.  For an over-the-road truck driver, my dad made a crackerjack engineer!

The following Christmas brought another train, a Lionel Freight Train with a huffing, puffing steam locomotive that actually had a working headlight and put out tiny puffs of smoke as it ran around the tracks. The technology was advancing by leaps and bounds in the early ’50’s! We had two trains circling the Christmas tree that year, in opposite directions so the make-believe engineers could wave at each other as they passed each time around. It was dizzyingly awesome.

That was to be my last complete train set package for many years, as each subsequent Christmas brought more Lionel train cars, buildings, tiny people to be painted, bridges, trees, telephone poles, tunnels, and accessories. Adding on to the established base. Before long, my father and I had a complete, working Lionel model train layout going each holiday, complete with plastic buildings, Cowboys and Indians, army men, horses, pigs, and cows. It continued to build and grow for several years.

Buildings were lit from the inside.  Working switches were added.  A new transformer arrived later with a whistle button and a cool, side-mounted throttle. Two pre-fab tunnels were added, one tunnel with a little blue lake painted on top and the other, longer tunnel curved to fit over a matching curve at the far end. A tall tower with a revolving red and green lantern at the top arrived one year, along with crossing gates that blinked red lights and went down and then back up as trains rumbled by. We had a long, silver metal bridge which merely sat on the floor, bridging over nothing, but it was neat to see the train travel thru it. A few years later, a new flat car appeared, which at the push of a button launched a helicopter flying off thru the air in someone’s direction. The future had arrived right in our living room!

Meanwhile, apart from the ever-burgeoning Lionel empire, the old Marx passenger train dutifully encircled the Christmas tree on our living room floor each year. I don’t think our Christmas trees would have remained upright without that Marx train holding their roots in place over the years. It had a job and it did it well.

At some point around the age of nine or so, my older sister moved out to be on her own, leaving her bedroom vacant. It was just the right size to fit a 4′ x 8′ plywood board atop sawhorses for a permanent set-up, and it wasn’t long before my father and I were hurrying to construct a bonafide model train layout to be ready by Christmas, just a few months away. It was awesome and took up nearly the whole room.

But, and please pardon me if I get a little technical here in explanation, it wasn’t long before we reached the inherent problem presented by the old Lionel trains, the point where the train layout reached its limits. There was no more room for expansion.

In model trains ‘Scale’ represents the ratio of the model size to the real-life prototype. Lionel trains were ‘O’ scale, modeled on a scale of 1:48, where 1 inch on the model equals 48 inches in real life, making for fairly good-sized model trains which required a goodly amount of space to operate. Especially around curves, since trains do not handle 90 degree turns as well as automobiles and bicycles, having a much larger turning radius. Which in turn limits how much track and modeling can be done in a given space.

Still with me? Good — because now we’re getting to the dramatic part. Reaching my eleventh birthday, buoyed by a decent fifth-grade education by this point and having been exposed to Boy’s Life Magazine and the modern world thru the Boy Scouts, I had become aware of the newest, modern new thing in model railroading — ‘HO’ scale — ‘HO’ itself standing for “Half of O” scale.

‘HO’ scale modeling was at a 1: 87.1 modeling ratio, meaning one inch of model equaled 87.1 inches in real life. The decimal point alone made it much more scientific and cutting edge to the knowledgeable fifth-grader. In short, ‘HO’ model trains were about half the size of the old (and “out of date” in my young mind) ‘O’ scale Lionel trains while at the same time being much more detailed and realistic. The early train sets were truly more ‘toys’ while the new ‘HO’ trains were ‘models’, and to me at age eleven and now a Boy Scout, a vast difference. Madison Avenue and the marketers had my full attention. “Models” were for serious folk, while “toys” were for kids. And at age eleven and going on campouts and hikes, I no longer considered myself a kid, already being a Second Class Scout, after all.

In addition, it was all supported by the obvious fact that our Lionel train ran around on three silver tracks — Three! — while the new ‘HO’ trains ran on two more realistic, copper-colored rails with faux-wooden ties. Two tracks, like trains in the real world. Not to mention that my best friend down the street had an American Flyer set which ran on two rails like the real trains, which he constantly reminded me of.

The new ‘HO’ scale meant that in the same amount of space one could do twice as much modeling, track, and scenery work, with a much more realistic than “toyish” (three rails!) layout. Converting to HO meant that suddenly our 4′ x 8′ layout would not be maxed out, after all. The wonders of the modern age!

But, this is where my father and I parted ways. His affection for our early Lionel trains was deep-rooted and his opinions set in stone. I suppose, looking back with an understanding not yet acquired by age eleven, that he was emotionally invested in them. By advocating for the new ‘HO’ model trains, as far as he was concerned my position was pure heresy spoken by a greenhorn still wet behind the ears who didn’t know anything.

But, of course, in the fifth grade,  if really not quite knowing it all, I was aware of the unfortunate fact that if anything ‘HO’ related was going to appear under the Christmas tree that year, it wasn’t going to be delivered by Santa Claus. I negotiated, bargained, pleaded, and threw myself on the mercy of the court that year to no avail. Ol’ Dad wouldn’t budge. — No ‘HO’ — period.

And that’s where it stood for another three years. In my mind, he was being hard-headed and unreasonable, denying modern science. In his mind, I was simply out of mine. The ‘Marx’ train locomotive eventually wore out and was dutifully replaced under the tree by the old Lionel train set each Christmas, no longer running along the rails on the bedroom train layout which had long since been dismantled following the Great ‘O’ vs ‘HO’ debate of a few years past. As well as our having grown bored with it since any more work or expansion was out of the question due to having run out of space. The big Lionel was reduced to annually running its course on the floor, around and around and around beneath the tree once a year at Christmas time.

My father and I still had a good relationship, mind you. We just seldom if ever spoke about trains anymore, except in debate. With the determination and fortitude of Ralphie and his “Red Ryder BB Gun With A Compass In The Stock”, each year I would ask, plot, scheme, and maneuver for an ‘HO’ train set for Christmas, only to find myself with a pair of gloves or something else “more my age” now.

And then something happened that still to this day I cannot explain. Perhaps it was a Motherly Intervention. I have no idea and can only relate the event as it occurred.

One chilly, late October Friday night my Scoutmaster appeared in our home for an inexplicable reason, with three ‘HO’ scale, little ore car kits he was working on and building. He was seated at the kitchen table with my mother and father, explaining all about them, showing a completed model, one in progress about half-finished, and the other in pieces, still untouched in the box. I was called in to see them, and of course, I was mesmerized. The idea of building your own rolling stock from kits was fascinating to someone already loving to do handwork, and this was all being demonstrated by my Scoutmaster, nonetheless. The man who had taught me how to put up a tent, build a fire, and to make a foil pack hamburger dinner in a campfire!

If I had ‘HO’ fever already, I popped the top off the thermometer that night. After a while and having talked about all things ‘HO’ over a few cups of coffee, the mysterious discussion was over and he left. None of it ever to be discussed or mentioned again over the following months. I can only compare the strangeness of it all to Thomas Edison suddenly appearing unannounced in a colonial town square, switching on a light bulb, and then everyone going back to their candles and never mentioning it again.

And then followed the Christmas of my fourteenth year, two months later. With my birthday on December 16th, nine days before Christmas, one soon gets used to birthday and Christmas presents being combined into one, which worked out well sometimes for a larger gift than one might expect singularly for either event on its own. Other times not. But number fourteen was one of those auspicious times when it did.

That birthday was a swing and miss with something I do not recall, being told that we were just exceptionally poor and money was tight that year. I understood as we were admittedly and firmly entrenched in the “middle class — lower third” and subject to its economic ups and downs over the years, never in that “upper class” which we talked about in school.

On Christmas Eve, I opened the unusually large package which had been cleverly buried and hidden behind the Christmas tree in utter disbelief and amazement to find a brand spanking new ‘HO’ train set including my favorite — a smoke-puffing steam engine! An exact, half-size version of the old Lionel steam engine! Birds sang — Bells rang — Angels smiled — and I did a Happy Dance! The Universe was once again back in order.

Over the next year, my Father and I worked together again, in the basement this time, on a new 5′ x 9′ layout even larger than the old one, with a special “quieter” board he had come home with one day from the hardware store made specifically for train layouts, he maintained. Later as we went along, Dad protested, grumped, and griped all the way in typical fatherly fashion, complaining about the tiny ‘HO’ parts and concept in general to save face, but couldn’t hide the fact that he loved it all every bit as much as I did.

We ditched the old, pre-fab Lionel tunnels and constructed towering mountains from screen wire and plaster in their place with cuts and tunnels at two different levels. We sculpted rock cliffs, constructed trestles, built buildings, and formed trees and bushes. We wired automatic switches and every building with lights, had a working sawmill with its saw going up and down on mock logs, and a turning water wheel on a riverside mill. We had a building which “caught fire” (flickering lights, of course) and at the turn of a switch, firemen pumped real water into it to extinguish the “blaze”. To top it off, right before the next Christmas, we added an honest-to-goodness working waterfall behind which the trains passed thru another tunnel while real water drizzled down the mountainside in front. We were back loving our trains. Trains had made us “We” again.

A few years later brought the most-prized Christmas present I ever received — ever. Something I had wanted for years and had little hope of affording myself at the time — “The General”. Unwrapping the package, I remember being so excited that my sock-covered feet slipped out from under me on the newly-waxed floor! I hung suspended in mid-air for a moment and then crashed to the floor in a heap, all while carefully cradling the box in my hands to protect my new prize.

“The General” was a famed, wood-burning steam locomotive involved in a daring raid in the Civil War, when on April 12, 1862, Northern infiltrators stole the locomotive and headed back north, intent on sabotaging rebel railroad lines and bridges deep behind enemy lines as they went. They were pursued by another locomotive, “The Texas”, and eventually captured before much damage could be done. But, Fess Parker, of Davy Crockett and Walt Disney fame, had made a 1956 movie about it, “The Great Locomotive Chase”, and that was enough to have peaked my interest. “The General” was not cheap, and there it was in my hands!  I still have “The General” safely stored in its original box. Best Christmas present ever. Magic under the tree.

Nowadays, the old Marx train, worn out as it is but much too valued to be discarded, rests in a box. Emotional investment again, I suppose. The old Lionel train, together with all the attendant pieces and accessories, waits in two boxes on top of it. My collected ‘HO’ trains and materials gathered over the years? They reside in three boxes alongside. Boxed treasures of Christmases and times past. I cannot think of Christmas without thinking about trains. And cannot think of trains without recalling the times with my father. And perhaps my mother’s inserted influence. Hopefully, all to be resurrected and shown the light of day again soon following another move in the coming year, even if inoperable.  Memories on display and stories yet to be told.

Memories. And stories. That’s what holidays and Christmases are all about, aren’t they? The cherished memories we build together in our families and with our friends over the years?  Most are good.  Others maybe not so much, sometimes.  That’s the way life is. But, some of them are outstandingly special that remain with us forever.  My fondest family traditions and Christmas memories seem to run thru tunnels, over bridges, and along train tracks thru the years.

What memories of Christmases and family do you hold close to your heart? What are your most-treasured holiday traditions and stories?  Please feel free to share them in the ‘Comments’ section with us! And, I encourage you to visit my wonderful author and blogger friends listed below as they each share their cherished holiday traditions and reminiscences with us, as well.

Cat Michaels — “Holiday Traditions To Ring In Our Season”

Sandra Bennet — “Tis The Season For Holiday Traditions”

Rebecca Lyndsey — “Let’s Talk Holiday Traditions”

Rosie Russell — “Holiday Traditions Blog Hop” 

K. Lamb– “The Smell of Christmas”

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