From our house to yours, may you have a very Merry Christmas Season!
When you feel harried, stop and take a deep breath. Look around you to see the beauty of the season: Houses lit up to delight the eye, a taste of delightful foods prepared with joy, and have a wonderment of life.
Too often, we get caught up in the to-do lists, doing for others to the point of exhaustion, looking for that perfect gift for everybody on your gift list, even going so far as to get deeper in debt (which causes more stress).
Remember yourself and how much energy you have to spend each day. Know when to stop and take five minutes just for you, or perhaps longer.
Life itself is so precious. Appreciate the people in your life. Share a smile to lift the spirit of those you see. It can do wonders. Even if the smile is not returned, it may add a kind thought to their mind. But usually even strangers will smile back. Of course, with masks on, you have to look in the eyes to see the smile there.
Try to think about a Happier New Year. Positive thoughts go a long way to heal your heart and mind.
Again, warmest wishes for a Merry Christmas, filled to the brim with all good things and great memories. Have a fabulous New Year, with wonderful feelings of hope and the joy of being alive.
Worry not about today,
Nor of tomorrow.
For in another day,
Short-lived will be your sorrow.
Time blessed both are
As history they will be,
Presenting another dilemma
For your mind to see.
As you concern yourself of the morrow,
And contemplate the day,
You will see that tomorrow never arrives
Because it becomes Today!
From a song on “Fiddler on the Roof”:
“Sunrise, sunset, swiftly fly the years…
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears.”
Following is a short version of a children’s book that I am currently writing. May the child inside of you (or perhaps your own children) enjoy this story:
Now I’ve already told you about the normal forest and how things were there, but deep inside the regular forest was the Enchanted Forest. This was a very special place that only a few of the little critters knew about because most of them were too busy living their normal lives. The few who did know would not tell others because the others would laugh at them.
Randy Raccoon knew, as did Chatty Squirrel and Tommy Turtle. Franky Blue Jay and Red Fox knew of it as well. However, Mr. Owl didn’t know, even though he had flown over it dozens of times.
You see, the truth is that the Enchanted Forest can be seen only by those who believe in Santa Clause, Elves, and Fairy Tales. Beautiful and amazing would be two words to adequately describe the Enchanted Forest.
Elves lived here, and all the trees, bushes, shrubs, and grasses looked different. Their leaves were as colorful as a rainbow and were edible. Even the water was fruit flavored. The Elves were almost as tall as Randy Raccoon, and they smiled a lot. When the critters were in the Enchanted Forest, they were able to speak like human beings and could talk to the Elves.
Franky was swallowing a sip of water and said, “This is delicious! What flavor is it, Ian?”
“Why, I believe that it is Raspberry,” replied Ian.
Franky didn’t bother to ask what Raspberry was because he wouldn’t know anyway.
Another strange thing about the Enchanted Forest was the fact that most children could see the colors and Elves (that is, if the Elves wished to be seen). However, almost all the adults who came into the enchanted part of the forest did not even realize it was there because they wouldn’t believe. As a result, all they saw was the regular forest. Somewhere, in some way, they had lost their sense of wonder and childlike love of things like Elves, Trolls, Fairy tales, Tooth Fairy, Santa Clause, dreams, or enchantments.
This brings us to a nearby village where a young girl named Jenny Mae Dottlespoon lived. Her father, Chester, worked as a shoe and leather repairman in his own shop. Her mother, Edna, was a stay-at-home mom and kept their cottage as neat as a pin, plus she was very good at making clothes for all of them.
Jenny’s sister, Doris Ann, was four years older than her and was forever giving her a hard time.
If Jenny didn’t do her chore just so, Doris would harass her: “Jenny, you didn’t clean the window correctly. You didn’t polish the furniture right.”
“Blah! Blah! Blah!” thought Jenny.
On this day, Doris told Jenny, “You can’t even clean the smudges off the mirror. I don’t think you know how to do anything right. Why, you can’t even part your hair straight!”
Her tongue lashing made Jenny cry, so she ran into the forest where she could be alone with her thoughts. Most importantly, she wanted to get away from her sister’s constant nagging. At ten years of age, she still had tender feelings, and her sister had hurt them.
As she walked in the forest, she wiped her tears away with her hand, thinking, “Why, if I were a princess, I would show Doris a thing or two!”
Jenny had been looking down at her feet with her head down, despondent, just following a little path. When she finally looked up, her eyes beheld such beautiful multi-colored leaves of shrubs, bushes, and trees. The sight was breath-taking. She decided to sit on a bright yellow tree stump.
“I have never seen anything so colorful or beautiful!” she gasped aloud.
She was still marveling at all the surrounding beauty when she heard voices speaking in excited but quarrelsome tones:
“Harry, I tell you I recognize her, and she is a princess!”
“She can’t be because she’s a little too young!” grated Harry angrily.
“I don’t care what you think about her age,” replied Ian, “but it’s true! McGregor will know for sure!”
Jenny looked at the two small Elves in total wonder and spoke, “I couldn’t help but notice you two because of your loud voices. You’re Elves, aren’t you?”
Harry looked at Jenny and smiled, responding, “Yes, we’re Elves. I am Harry, and Ian here is convinced you are a Princess.”
Jenny laughed and said, “Oh, no! My name is Jenny Mae Dottlespoon, and I live in a nearby village. My father is the village cobbler so you see, I’m certainly not a princess.”
As she looked at them, she noticed that both Elves wore the same type of clothes: Pointed-toed ankle boots, turned up at the ends and made out of soft leather; a tunic; a shirt with puffed sleeves; pants that came to the knees; striped socks from knee to boot; and topped off with a knit, cone-shaped cap with a tassel. Both wore full white beards with greenish-brown faces (which made their teeth look very white) and pointed ears.
Harry, the oldest of the two, wore a red hat, brown tunic, a red shirt, green pants, and red and white socks. Ian wore a yellow cap, green tunic, yellow shirt, and brown pants. His socks were yellow and brown striped. Altogether, they presented a very striking picture.
Jenny smiled at them and complimented them with, “I really like your clothing. It’s so colorful.”
Just about this time, another Elf came toward them.
Harry nodded in recognition, turned to Jenny and said, “Jenny, this is McGregor, who is our Elder and Leader.”
Jenny curtsied and said, “So happy to meet you, McGregor. Should I call you Mister?”
He laughed in response and answered, “McGregor is just fine, me lassie.”
She noted that the clothes he wore were similar to the others: A black cap, red tunic, black shirt, green pants, and red and black striped socks. But he also wore a broad black belt with a large, square, brass buckle. He looked older than either Harry or Ian. He also walked with a small walking stick.
“Harrumph!” McGregor stated as he looked unhappily at Harry and Ian.
“We were just coming to see you, Sir,” said Harry. “Ian here says this young girl is the Princess we’ve been waiting for all this time.”
McGregor sat down on a large mushroom and looked closely at Jenny for a few minutes. His direct, blue-eyed gaze was beginning to feel uncomfortable for Jenny.
She said, “McGregor, I told them I was Jenny Mae Dottlespoon from the nearby village. My father is the village cobbler. I am most certainly not the Princess you seek! But they did not accept what I said as the truth.”
McGregor rose from the mushroom with a smile and invited her, “Come with me, Jenny.”
Together they walked a short distance to a large, fallen, orange log. They sat down on the log while Harry made two tree stumps appear, red and blue, so they too could sit down.
McGregor cleared his throat and began, “Jenny, the simple truth is that you are, indeed, the long-awaited Princess. I want to give you some very basic rules about being just that, a Princess.”
Jenny was obviously struggling with his words, and responded, “There is just one problem, McGregor. I am not that Princess! I am just a young girl from a nearby village. I certainly am not anybody special!”
McGregor patted her arm and laughed. He then put his wand behind Jenny’s head and waved it.
A mirror appeared in Jenny’s hand and, as she looked into it, she gasped in amazement.
“How can this be?” she finally said out loud.
She continued to look in the mirror, holding it at different angles. What she saw was that her hair was combed perfectly with a straight part, and she wore a tiara sparkling with jewels. When she looked down, her dress was a beautiful, soft, multicolored material. On her feet were shining silver shoes which glittered and winked at her.
“I don’t know what to say. It is all so lovely,” she uttered softly.
McGregor smiled. His blue eyes twinkled as he continued, “Dearest Princess, as I was saying, here are some basic rules: When you are in the Enchanted Forest, your wand has power. You can do anything which will cause no harm or bring pain to anyone or anything. Your wand can only be used in the Enchanted Forest. When you leave to go back to your village, everything will return to its natural pattern. You will return to your life without any of the beautiful dresses or jewelry. But, because you believe, Jenny, you will still be able to talk with us and see us.
Just then, Franky landed on a branch of the tree that McGregor and Jenny were sitting under on a log. He listened to their conversation.
He thought, “That is funny because I understand what they are talking about. That is a surprise.”
Then he looked down at himself and he yelped in excitement, “My feathers are blue and gold, as are my legs, claws, and beak!”
Below him, Jenny sighed, “I understand what you are saying, McGregor. I don’t want to cause any harm or pain anyway, especially not here. It is so wonderful!”
Franky flapped his wings, and Jenny spotted him.
“Oh, what a beautiful bird!” she exclaimed.
Franky preened before her, thinking, “She knows beautiful when she sees it.”
Jenny held her arm out with her first finger extended, speaking softly, “Come, pretty bird. I won’t harm you.”
“Why not?” thought Franky as he flew down and landed on her finger.
“Hello, beautiful bird,” said Jenny.
“Well, hello to you, Jenny. My name is Franky,” he said aloud.
Jenny looked at McGregor in surprise, asking, “He can talk?”
“Yes, he can,” laughed the Old Elf. “So can any animals who wander into the Enchanted Forest.”
“Do you live in the Enchanted Forest, Franky?” asked Jenny.
“Oh, no, I live in the other part of this forest, but I do come here now and then for a visit. Some of my forest friends will be around soon because they follow me, looking for food,” he stated matter-of-factly. “I can fly and cover more distances than they can so they listen for my calls.”
Jenny laughed and clasped her hands together, “Your friends are very smart indeed, Franky.”
McGregor laughed at the excitement in Jenny’s eyes.
He began, “Now Princess Jenny, here is your magic wand,” as he handed her a beautiful pink wand encrusted with sparkling jewels.
She tentatively took it from McGregor’s hand and gave it a close inspection.
“It is so fantastic. How do I use it, McGregor?” Jenny asked nervously.
“You can just call me Mac, Princess. As for the wand, hold it over this shrub which is blue and red, tap the shrub and say yellow.”
Jenny did exactly as instructed and poof! The shrub was now a dazzling yellow.
“Oh, my!” she responded, completely mesmerized at the change in the shrub’s color.
McGregor smiled at her and spoke, “It is really very simple to use, but just remember to do nothing which will cause harm or bring pain. Now, if the Princess will excuse me, I’ve got a few things I need to do. You can practice with the wand, and Franky will keep you company. I’ll be back in a little while.”
“OK, Mac, I’ll be careful.”
He then left.
Jenny looked at Franky and said, “Come on, Franky, let’s have a little fun.”
Franky liked Princess Jenny so he flapped a little and landed softly on her shoulder. She walked in the forest and came under a large pine tree which had shed some rather huge, red pine cones.
She picked one up and asked Franky, “What would you like to eat?”
He responded, “I’d like some of those peanuts that humans eat.”
Jenny laughed excitedly as she said, “Peanuts!” as she tapped the cone with her wand.
Poof! She had a handful of shelled peanuts. She laid them on a tree stump for Franky to feast on.
“Yummy!” stated Franky as he began to eat them.
Jenny picked up another pine cone and told Franky, “I believe I’ll have a warm scone with orange icing,” as she tapped the second cone.
Poof! She held a mouth-watering pastry which she began to eat with great enjoyment.
She stated happily, “This is not only fun, but it is delicious, too!”
She spotted a rather large blackberry patch and remembered how her sister Doris enjoyed picking and eating the sweet berries. She looked at them more carefully and could see that they were truly ripe and ready to pick. A smile covered her face as she formulated a simple plan in her mind.
Just then, a large yellow and blue raccoon with a red mask approached Jenny and Franky.
He said, “Say Franky, those peanuts sure look delicious.”
Frank laughed and said, “Jenny, this is my friend Randy Raccoon.”
Jenny looked at Randy and smiled a welcoming grin as she spoke, “Hello, Randy. You are one of the most beautiful raccoons I’ve ever seen.”
“I’m glad you think so, Miss Jenny. Actually, I think it’s a little bit too colorful to suit me,” he chuckled as he munched some of the peanuts.
Franky corrected him, “It’s not Miss Jenny. It is Princess Jenny to us, Randy. By the way, where is Chatty?”
Upon hearing his name mentioned, Chatty answered as he was coming down the large pine tree, “I’m here above you, Franky.”
Everyone looked up to behold a wonderful sight: Chatty was orange with a yellow tail.
“You sure look unusual, Chatty,” said Franky.
He responded, “I don’t care as long as I can have some peanuts,” which were disappearing fast.
Jenny located another red pine cone, put it on the stump and said, “Peanuts,” as she tapped the cone with her wand. Peanuts appeared as the pine cone disappeared.
When Randy and Chatty saw her do that, they knew that she was, indeed, the Princess.
Mac appeared to them then.
Jenny handed her wand to him with a big smile and said, “I’ve enjoyed your beautiful forest very much, but I must return home. I wouldn’t want my Mom and Dad to worry about me.”
Mac answered, “Why, of course not, but you can come here anytime you like, and your wand will be waiting for you. Also, come with me, and I’ll show you a secret thing which only you and we Elves will know about.”
They walked to the outer edge of the forest. Mac let her up to a beautiful oak tree.
“You see this knot where there once was a limb?” he asked her.
She replied, “Yes, I see it. Why is this important?”
“Well, all you have to do is knock two times, then knock two times again. This will ring a bell which Harry, Ian or me will hear. One of us will come to you as quickly as possible,” Mac answered with a smile.
“Oh, I’ll remember, Mac. I promise I will. Thank you so very much for talking to me, the wand…and everything!” she said with tears of appreciation in her eyes.
He paused and said, “One more thing you should know, only believers can see this Enchanted Forest. Non-believers, including most adults, will not be able to see it because they have forgotten the magic of childhood.”
She responded, “OK, I understand.”
She let go of his hand and proceeded on her way home.
As she walked, she thought, “I can’t wait to tell my family about my adventure!”
As suddenly as the thought entered her mind, Jenny remembered what Mac had told her and decided she wouldn’t tell anyone.
“Yet,” she thought, “I wonder if my sister Doris is a believer, or if she has gotten too old for it?”
Two days later, while Jenny and Doris were completing their cleaning chores, Jenny said, “Doris, if my memory serves me right, I remember you like black berries a lot, yes?”
“Yes,” she responded, “As a matter of fact, I do like black berries very much. Why, do you have some hidden somewhere? I don’t know of any that grow close to here.”
“No, but I do know where there is a very large patch of them in the forest. We could go there and pick all we want. They look like they are ripe and ready to pick,” Jenny answered.
Doris emitted a little laugh, but the thought of picking some nice plump berries pleased her.
Aloud, she said, “Why, I can already taste some black berry cobbler and black berry jam on warm bread. We could go pick some this very afternoon, Jenny.”
“Actually, I think tomorrow morning will be a better time,” she suggested. “We can go after Father leaves for his shop.”
Doris agreed, “That will be just fine, Jenny. We’ll have fun.”
“We sure will, Doris,” Jenny smiled at her sister.
“My simple plan is already taking shape,” she thought.
The next morning after breakfast and their Father had left for his shop, both sisters hurried through their morning chores, gathered a couple of finely-woven baskets, and left to go to the forest.
When Jenny spotted the oak tree, she stepped beside it, making a pretense of retying her shoe laces. When she saw Doris move a little way ahead so she could not see her, she tapped twice on the knob and then tapped twice again. She trotted forward and caught up with Doris. Together, they walked on the path until Doris spotted the black berry patch.
“Oh, my, Jenny. There are so many, and look at the size of them!” she said excitedly.
Jenny looked at the beautiful variation of colors, but Doris didn’t seem to see them.
Curiosity finally got the best of her, and she asked, “What colors do you see?”
“Oh, mostly green, browns and grey,” Doris replied as she worked at picking the berries.
Jenny looked at the log where she and Mac had sat.
“Wow! Sure enough, my wand is on top of the log among some sticks,” she thought.
She slowly walked over, picked up her wand, tapped her head and said, “Princess!”
Poof! She wore a beautiful pink sequined dress and a sparkly tiara, with multi-colored shoes.
Doris was bent over busily picking berries, concentrating so she wouldn’t get a sticker in her fingers.
Jenny tapped her shoulder and said, “Doris, you are now 8 years old!”
Poof! Doris was now that age and much smaller than Jenny.
“Doris, did you know I’m a Princess?” she asked.
As Doris looked at herself, she had to look up, asking, “What just happened? Why am I smaller than you all of a sudden? Why are you dressed like that?” Then she began to cry loudly as she was so frightened.
Jenny was holding a large hand mirror, which she gave to Doris, who looked into it and let out another scream of fear.
“I’m little again, and you are now my big sister! What will Mom and Dad say?” as she continued to cry, with big tears running down her cheeks.
It took Jenny a few moments to calm her down.
Finally, she asked her, “What colors can you see?”
Doris looked up, stopped and turned around, looking around her.
“Why, I see such beautiful colors! Why didn’t I see these before?” she asked Jenny.
“Well,” she responded, “perhaps you are so busy trying to grow up that you forgot magic.”
Neither Jenny nor Doris realized that Mac, Harry, and Ian were sitting on limbs in the big pine tree, watching the two sisters, both of whom were now busily picking the berries.
Doris wailed, “Ouch! I’ve got briar thorns in my fingers!” and began crying again.
“You are such a whine bag! All you do is complain,” Jenny told her. “Hold out your hand to me.”
Doris complied, still sniffling as Jenny tapped her fingers with the wand, said, “No thorns.”
Poof! No thorns, no pain, and no redness – her fingers looked perfectly normal.
“How did you do that?” Doris asked in wonderment.
“Well, you know I am a Princess, after all,” she replied.
Jenny looked into Doris’ basket, noticed all the smashed berries, and asked, “Can’t you pick berries without squishing them? I declare, Doris, you can’t do anything right!”
Doris responded with big tears running down her cheeks, “You aren’t very nice to me!”
Ian was becoming upset by Princess Jenny speaking loudly and angrily with her sister, thinking she was hurting her on purpose. He was about to speak out loud in protest when McGregor motioned to him to remain quiet by placing his finger over his lips in a shushing sound.
Doris continued, “How can you be so mean to me? What did I ever do to you?”
Jenny laughed and responded, “How can you say that? You are always telling me I can’t do anything right, I don’t do a chore correctly, and nothing I do is ever good enough for you! How do you think that makes me feel? You are my big sister and I love you, but all you ever do is criticize everything I do instead of instruct me in how to get better. You show scorn and contempt instead of tender care as an older sister should display toward me.”
Doris looked up at Jenny and stated, “I didn’t realize I was being bossy, pushy, and mean to you. I am really sorry. You’re absolutely right. In the future, I’ll concentrate on being gentler with you and not so bossy.”
McGregor looked at Ian and Harry, smiled, and then gave them a big wink.
“I am very pleased with the way Princess Jenny dealt with her problem. It showed wisdom and maturity, which are rare for one so young,” he told them.
When the baskets were full of juicy black berries, the sisters began to leave the Enchanted Forest.
Before they left, Jenny tapped Doris on the shoulder and said, “You will not remember being eight years old and smaller than me or that I am a Princess with a wand and lovely clothes. However, you will remember to be a better big sister and how much fun we had picking black berries together.”
Poof! Doris was again Jenny’s older sister.
Jenny laid her wand against the oak tree.
As they walked, she said, “Let’s see if Mom will make a wonderful black berry cobbler for our dinner tonight.”
“Fantastic idea,” laughed Doris as they continued on their way home.
Back in the Enchanted Forest, Ian looked at Harry and then McGregor, and said, “You know that Princess Jenny could be a Princess even without a tiara or wand?”
“That’s true,” agreed Harry, and Mac laughed.
“Since we all agree on Princess Jenny, let’s go to our own humble abode and round up something for our dinner!” said Mac.
This simple little story teaches us that family members should respect, help, and love one another whether they are inside or outside of the Enchanted Forest.