Good Manners and Sportsmanship - Important American Values

For the last few Sundays, my pastor has been talking about relationships and family.  During one sermon, he noted the five things below that we learn from our family and shared Deuteronomy 6:7 with us.
1.       What to do with feelings
2.       How to handle conflict
3.       How to handle loss (and losing)
4.       What values matter most
5.       How to develop good habits

Child's Placemat Showing Good Table Manners
I think the teaching values and good habits helps with the other three.  Children used to be taught how to share, to be considerate of others, and of course good manners.  Being a good sport and congratulating the win team even when you were the loser was also taught.  We valued each other and respected other’s property.  Can we still say that today?

I can recall a time when my dad went to help someone work on their house.  Most of his children were there help by fetching items and otherwise staying out of the way.  During the day, we were given lunch by the people whose house my dad was working on.  We kids were politely asking please, saying thank you or your welcome during the meal, as well as yes sire and no mam throughout the day.  On the way home, my dad said how proud he was of our good manners and that the home mentioned them too.  It made us feel good that our mom had taught us how to behave in the home of others.  She did this by practice at home and reinforcing the preferred behavior at family gatherings and events outside the home.  For my mom, good manners were a true sign of respect for others.

Manners are not a generational issue; manners are a social issue. Recently I saw an example of generations at my local community center.  In front of me in the sing-in line was a Dad and his teenaged child.  The Dad signed in and to the reception said “Basketball, please.”  He was given a ball, said “Thanks.” Thanks” and went into the gym.  Then his child signed-in, said simply “Basketball,” took the ball without saying anything else and walked into the gym.  (Before anyone gets sexist and thinks “That is how teenage boys are…” the child was actually a girl.)   For societal view, you may want to read Smart Company magazine’s Why manners and courtesy are vital for successful sales, businesses and societies.

Now I will transition from manners and basketballs to the related topic of sportsmanship.  I also remember when contests and sporting events had winners and losers.  Now that only seems to exist in professional sports. Now, everyone gets a trophy for just showing up, so who was the winner?  What does that teach children about handling loss and being a good sport?  How do they learn to handle their emotions or manage themselves during conflict?  If everyone is always a winner, then what happens when they do not get a scholarship or a promotion later in life?

I know there are still parents out there teaching their kids to say thanks and please.  I have seen and heard them tell their children “What do you say?”  I have also heard parents say (and read on Facebook) how proud they were when someone complemented their children on their good behavior or excellent manners.   Would the world be a nicer place to live if we all could learn to practice good manners? I think YES!  Teach children manners at home so they have that as a habit and you may not have to remind them to do so outside the home.  Teach children how to handle losing and you may not experience whining when they do not get all that they desire later on.

Even if you may not share my thoughts on manners (and if you have good eyesight), you may want to check out this blog post, Five Reasons Manners are Important with quotes from Clarence Thomas and Emily Post.  You may also want to visit this home skills website and read How You Benefit from Proper Etiquette to see why manners are important for every generation.

How Can We Stop the Rudeness Infecting America?

Is it just me or do you see that people are becoming more and more rude with every generation?  Why is this? And how can we stop it?   Is it the fault of the ME generation that was deemed selfish?  Or is the problem really with X, Y, and Z (aka new GenME)?  Have we raised (or are raising) children that think only of themselves?  Are manners and thoughtfulness things of the past? 

I think the rudeness is part of incivility trend that has been crawling across the country for several years.  In the past, Americans respected government offices, such as president, and would never be disrespectful of the person holding the office even if they had lost trust in the individual.  The attacks on the new president when he speaks are not so different from those on other presidents when they were new to the office.  Trump (Republican) Obama (Democrat), Bush (Rep), and Clinton (Dem) were also disrespected by either the media or select politicians claiming to represent the citizens.  As you can see by the list, we show our discontent with a presidential party and their politics by selecting a different one the next time. 

Discontent is no excuse for rudeness and disrespect!  How can anyone be rude to the president and claim to represent the majority of citizens when they were elected based upon a majority vote?  It is just an excuse; get over the politics of the election and give the new guy a chance to do his job. (This is basically what we hear every time a new party takes office.)  Stop being rude and start respecting the office!  Show respect until the new person actually does something to destroy our trust.  Those in power that are not supportive and overly apologetic (often without getting all the information) are showing disrespect for the office of president and for the citizens (most likely their own constituents) that voted for that president. 

I am putting politics aside now and explaining that I do not think we can blame any particular generation for the rudeness (aka era of incivility).  We need to lead by example and everyone must teach their children their own personal values and acceptable behaviors.  Plus, we all have to take responsibility for allowing everyone else to be rude and accepting incivility in the past if we want to change the future.  

On that note, as we grow from children to adults, we learn the difference between a privilege and a right.   The opportunity to protest is a privilege that not many other countries have.  Freedom of speech is a right, doing it unlawfully or violently is not.  

Below are a few books by psychologists, sociologists, and others on what rudeness/incivility is doing to hurt America.
- A Short History of Rudeness (2015) by Mark Caldwell – how it is hurting families
- End of Discussion (2015) by Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson – how PC is hurting this country
- The Outrage Industry (2013) by Jeffrey M. Berry and Sarah Sobieraj  – how media is confusing citizens
- Incivility (2010) by Phillip Smith, Timothy Phillips, Ryan King – how it is hurting communities
For books on how it is hurting business, read Is the Era of Incivility Goingto Destroy American Business?

This post is my opinion based on personal observation.  I have a right to my opinion and I respect anyone’s right to have a different opinion.  You are welcome to comment on this post if you do so respectively.  Personal attacks, rude text, and profanity are NOT welcome here.  Thanks for your understanding.

Super-easy Fabulous Fudge Recipes for All Holiday Seasons

Strawberry Fudge for Valentines Day
with  Heart Cookie Cutter
What do you think of when someone says fudge?  I think of 1-inch sort-of-square creamy fudge pieces Mom and I cooked on the stovetop.  It was a chocolate confection recipe made originally by melting marshmallows with butter, chocolate chips, and other ingredients.  Then sometime after I was married the recipe became Fantasy Fudge and was updated to be made with the marshmallow crème in a jar.  I still make this sometimes for Christmas. Of course, I may also think chocolate because ‘hot fudge” ice cream topping (which is my favorite sundae) is a deep rich chocolatey concoction.  Please do not forget to put walnuts (most recipes call for this nut) or pecans (most southerners substitute this nut) in your chocolate fudge to make it more delicious!

Turns put the definition of fudge is “a soft candy made from sugar, butter, and milk or cream.” In the past few years I have been introduced to more flavors of fudge made using the microwave instead of conventional stove.  The four that quickly come to mind are:  peanut butter fudge, caramel fudge, peppermint fudge, and pistachio fudge (click to see recipes).  I liked the flavor of the pistachio and coloring it green makes it a perfect treat for Christmas, Easter, or St. Patrick’s Day.  The red and white peppermint is also a Christmas favorite.

This year, I discovered super-easy fudge recipe for all seasons and tastes! It is requires only 2 ingredients and 3 basic steps.  All you have to do to make it is in the three steps below.

  1. Melt a 12 OZ  bag of white chocolate baking chips
  2. Mix in a 16 OZ container of cake frosting (any flavor you want)
  3. Put in refrigerator for at least an hour to set before cutting

  • If you plan to put anything on top or inside the fudge, have it ready before making the fudge as topping will not stick once the fudge sets. Make it more special by adding nuts into the mix or on top.  You may choose to put holiday or specialized sprinkles on top to make it more festive.
  • Vary flavor and color options of frosting for different events.  My first experience with this recipe was with strawberry frosting for Valentines.  You can make it for any holiday simply by selecting a frosting in the desired shade or flavor!  If you do not find the color you want, use a white frosting and add food color.  If you cannot find the frosting flavor you desire (say almond for instance), use a basic white/vanilla frosting and add 1 teaspoon of preferred flavoring. 

Below are a few more make-it-special ideas:
  • You may want to experiment with seasonal fudge flavors (like pumpkin or mint) by using the special flavored  baking chips made for a particular holiday (instead of the required white chocolate) and using a white variety of frosting, if you cannot find the desired flavor in frosting,
  • If you are making it for a chocoholic, you can do a triple chocolate version using dark chocolate chips, chocolate frosting, and on top put mini-chocolate chips, chocolate sprinkles, or shaved candy bar bits! 
  • Taylor it to a special occasion by using a mini-cookie cutter to create shapes other than the standard 1-inch square.
  • For a different holiday look, for a birthday party, or for bridal/baby showers; you may also desire to put the cut pieces into special mini-cupcake liners to make it look like fancy candies. 

If you try a new flavor of the quick fudge or come up with a neat specialty idea you want to share, please put it in a comment on this blog post.  Or if you have a different favorite fudge recipe you would like to share, please put a URL to link to that recipe in the comments for this blog post.  Thanks!

Greenery Gemstones for This Year’s Fashionista

Last year, I did a post of Pantone’s 2 colors of the year.  This year, they chose a color nomenclature that has an “everything green” thought behind it, even though they mean a specific color of green.  As a result - fashion, jewelry, and interior designers are going crazy using all sorts of versions of green or telling us different combinations of color to use with green.

If you want to be fashionable but don’t like want “fashion jewelry” because you prefer to wear the “real stuff.” You are in luck! There are a lot of gemstones that come in green to mix and match with this year’s color greenery.  For example, you can get the two birthstones of emerald (higher priced precious stone) and peridot (low to high price due to quality and color semi-precious.  These two should be the easy to find at your local jewelry or department store.  If you want different green gemstones that others may not have, you can check the chart below for ideas and check on-line shopping sites for the colors that best fit your style or color season.  These is by no means a complete list of green minerals, consider it a place to start for stones you may actually find, most are affordable but not all…

Green Gemstones
Transparent to Translucent Gems
Semi-translucent to Opaque Stones
Garnets: Demantoid + Tsavorite

Dad’s Christmas Lights on the House: The Story Continues

I have told the story of my Dadstarting to put lights on the house when I was small.  The lights did not stop after his children were gone or when he moved to a new house.  They actually seemed to be a bigger deal!

After their first four grown children were moved out of the house, my Dad wanted to build a house and move from town into the country next to his two brothers.  So, not long after their first grandchild was born, my parents with their two youngest sons moved from their large 2-story 5-bedroom house into a medium-sized 3-bedroom in the country.  My Dad and his two brothers put lights on all three houses working together over a weekend.  Since the lights went all around the ease of their roofs, this process took more than the three of them.  Each year, they had friends from work and their children helping out.  The day of light hanging include free meals made by my Mom and aunts.  Dad said these lights were for the joy of the grandchildren, many of which were born to households built around his.

In much later years, my parents moved to a smaller home further away and deeper into the country-life.   May Dad continued putting lights around his house eaves, this time with the help of grown children and grandchildren.  Not only did he do lights on the eaves, but they were wrapped around porch posts and rails.  His little country home had an open rafter ceiling in the living room, so those rafters were wrapped in twinkle lights as well.  Lights were now being enjoyed inside and out by his youngest grandchildren and great grandchildren as well.

My Dad did not have any elaborate displays, but he did ride along with others to see them.  He was amazed at the engineering feats of people and organizations that made their lightsdance to music on radio stations or projected major displays on their buildings.  I am pretty sure, though, that if my Dad was still here for this Christmas, he would be at some department store right now buying the new projector lights.  However, I am not sure whether he would go for straight dotted lights, blinking ones, shapes, or color changing - maybe he would take a few great grandchildren with him and let them pick it out.

If you are interested in the history of Christmas lights and styles, check out this interesting post with lots of links site or this more informative technical page linking to more than just lights.

Dad’s Christmas Lights on the House: The Beginning

Seeing all the houses decked out in lights made me think about the lights my Dad put on his house and back to the first time he did so.  To understand why this was a big deal to us kids, you have to know my Dad rarely bought things when they first came out.  He always waited a couple years to make sure the manufacturers worked out the kinks in their products and that the prices would come down, plus he did not like to follow fly-by-might fads. We kids realized it was the start of the Christmas season when my Dad brought out his big ball of tangled lights and begin to unwind it to test that the string still worked and replaced any burnt out night-light style bulbs. 

I remember when I was very young; a few of our neighbors had decorated the outside of their houses in the years preceding us.  Dad took us down the street to look at them, where of course his many children oohed over houses that seemed to us as bright and colorful than a store display.

One year, my Dad did his annual untangle and test of the lights in the living room.  I’m not sure when or how, but those large lights disappeared from the living room floor.  Mom brought out the new twinkle lights, Dad did something to some of the bulbs, and then he and Mom wrapped them around our tree.  When they finished, all the children were called in to watch as the lights were plugged in.  We were so enraptured by the blinking lights that we did not notice Dad sneak out while Mom put ornaments on the tree.  She let us children add tinsel icicles to the branches we could reach.   While we were decorating, we heard noises outside the curtained picture window behind the tree and were a little concerned.  Mom told us it was nothing to worry about.  Sometime later, Dad comes in the front door and loudly proclaims “Kids, come and see!” 

Outside we saw Dad had put our old-fashioned multi-color lights all around the big picture window!  Mom had left one of the windows opened a crack behind the curtains and Dad had feed the plug end of the string through the window.  Mom plugged in the lights and then came outside to join us.  We kids were thrilled to have lights on our house too.  We thought that big rectangle of bright lights was beautiful.

The first time my Dad put up lights outside was the year we switched the tree lights from the colored night-light style bulb to the twinkle lights.  From that year on, I remember there being Christmas lights around that window as long as my parents lived in that house.  For many years after, before the lights came out my brothers and I would ask, “When are you going to put up the lights Daddy?”  When the ball of lights came out and began to be untangled, the boy’s question would change to “Daddy, can I help you put up the lights?”  The first time they asked, Mom said “No, you might get electrocuted.”  Dad pointed out that electrocution could not happen as the lights were not plugged in until they were all up. However, we were only allowed to watch him put them up until my older brothers were in their teens, and then they could help. 

I only remember one year in which my Mom worried that my Dad would get electrocuted by putting up lights.  That was because it was a very rainy night with lightning when he did it.  He was going hunting that weekend and told Mom, “I need to get the lights up for the kids before I go.”  It was pouring while he hung the string of lights, and they were plugged in as the porch light did not illuminate well enough in the pouring rain.  We kids were not allowed to go outside and watch because of the rain, so Mom opened the curtain over the big picture window so we could see Dad working.  (I think she was actually waiting to see if he got hit by lightning so she could quickly call an ambulance but she did not tell the children that.) When Dad was done, he came in drenched with a big beaming grin and an “I told you it would be okay.” directed at my Mom.  It may seem like a little thing, but to the children Dad seemed like a big holiday hero that year.

Do you want to know what happened in much later years?  Go to The Story Continues.

Best Christmas House Light Display

This Christmas house video is titled as "worlds best Christmas light display to music."   Do you agree?   If not, put the link to a video you think is better in the comments of this post.

Where did all the Christmas Nativities go?

Large Yard Nativity Scene
The weekend following Thanksgiving, while I was out running errands, I noticed lots of my neighbors had inflatable snowmen, penguins, or a Santa in their yards.  I remember thinking, “Where did all the Nativities go?”  Has Christmas become just a winter holiday?  Does no one remember that the reason for the season is to celebrate Christ’s birth?

I decided that the reason I see so many inflatable decoration in yards is probably because they are more convenient to put up instead of a multi-piece nativity.  Convenient in not just putting them up but also in buying them, as I cannot remember the last time I saw a yard-size Nativity in a store. This of course made me wonder, do they make an inflatable Nativity I asked my spouse that question just before surfing Amazon to find out.  I found that Amazon does have inflatable Nativities of all sorts!  Not only that, but the next day my husband informed me that he saw an inflated nativity on the next street over on his way home from shopping!  So if the only reason you do not have a nativity in your yard is convenience, then go on-line shopping for one before they are gone!

Last week, I was out driving again and passed several Churches on my way to and from my destination.  Again I wondered, “Where are all the Christmas Nativities?”  Remember when almost every Church displayed a large plastic Nativity in front of their building for the Christmas holidays?  I didn’t see any last week.  Then this week, I was pleasantly surprised, as I passed those same Churches, to see the Nativities had been set-up.  I guess they waited until the first weekend of December when they could get volunteers to help set-up.  A few Churches had the old fashioned light-up plastic versions, others had painted or silhouette Nativity versions in wood, one had a drive-through full-size scene using mannequins, and a few were advertising a date for a live Nativity or Christmas program.  If your Church does not yet have a Nativity on the outside grounds or in their foyer, perhaps you can suggest one or donate a set…

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for [f]all the people.  For this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign for you: you will find a Baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.” – Luke 2:10-14 KJV

Thank you to all the Churches and homes that highlight the true meaning for the season: Christ’s birth!

Handmade Mom and Grandma Gifts

In an older post, I talked about making Christmas Stockings for all your family members as gifts or decoration.  This time, I want to just focus on gifts for Mom or Grandma, whether for Christmas, birthday, or Mother’s Day.  Most mother gifts can be easily turned into a gift for grandma with just a little added creativity.

One year for Christmas (December 1986),  I made my mom an apron with the hand sizes of her 9 grandchildren on it.  She wore it on a few occasions but never to actually cook in, as she was afraid she would stain it and it was one of her greatest treasures.  To make the apron, I had each of my brothers’ wives trace their kids’ hands and send them to me.  Then I traced them onto a white sheet, embroidered the hands in red and green (for Christmas, however you could do it in pink and blue for Mother’s Day).  Then I cut the apron skirt out, as well as a bib that I embroidered with the name she preferred the grandchildren to call her.  I then cut out ruffles and ties with along the bias.  I also added the date on one of the ties so we would remember how old each child was when it was made.  My mom got 4 more grandchildren years after the apron was given to her.  When we moved my mom closer to us and I was packing I found the apron in her stuff and packed it for the move.  Then after my Mom passed, I found the apron again and passed it on to one of the mothers whose child’s handprints were on it.

A similar gift we gave my mom was a purchased necklace that said “grandmother” and had baby shoes with the birthstones of her grandchildren on it.  That we kept adding birthstone booties to that until it was too heavy for her to wear.  She wore it often until then though because she liked it when people asked her about it and she could tell them about her grand-kids.

Other handmade gifts I have shared over the years with new moms were quilt blocks made for hanging on the wall.  These blocks included the applique Dutch boy or girl pattern with the child’s name and birth date embroidered on it.  Baby showers usually got crocheted booties, caps, or blankets.  Most of the people these were given to kept the handmade treasures even after the children outgrew them. 

A Poem Asking America to Be the United States Again

Due to the recent voting protests in our country, I got to thinking about the unnecessary whining and wrote a poem that hopefully will be re-uniting.  Sometimes I think people forget that democracy means will of the majority.  The election is over - everyone voted and every vote was counted.  It is now time to get on with life and accept the transition.

In case someone does not remember the words to our nation’s Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem, or Constitution, I looked up links. For unification, is it time to pull out our flag pins again?

Please check it out the poem below and let me know what you think in comments added to this post.

America, Be The United States
by Shirley Fine Lee, copyright 11/11/2016

America, be who you really are
Show the world proof that your flag is still waving
And that your interest in grace is unchanging.

America, be who you should be
Pledge your allegiance to the country’s flag
Standing respectively with hand over heart to brag.

America, be a great nation again
As the land housing the freest of mortals
And the home of the bravest with unfailing morals.

America, be who you would be
By holding fast to words of the U.S. Constitution
And confirming this is still a great institution.

America, be a united people
Understanding that you are an indivisible nation
Connected via the liberty and justice for all causation.

America, be who you could be
Because your vote counts before the dawning light.
You decide what twilight falls on your inalienable rights.

America, be the United States!