Tag Archives: holidays

Christmas Tree Traditons

Before my parents divorced when I was 12, our Christmas traditions centered around the Christmas tree. Dad, my sister Lacy and I always tromped through the snow in the mountains of our ranch to cut down the ideal silver-tip fir tree. We were a staunch No Fake Trees, Don’t You Dare Buy One From Town kind of family.

After my parents split, we still had the real-live tree tradition, but we three no longer searched the forest for hours looking for Mom’s perfect tree. During college one year, on the rare holiday when Lacy and I were in the same place, we tagged along with Dad to trim a couple horses. On the way home, we stopped the pickup and hacked down a fir by the side of the road. We’re not the kind of family that lets tradition get in the way of efficiency – or legality, for that matter.

Another year, my aunt and uncle were visiting from Oregon. On Christmas Eve, my dad took them to town, where they shopped, ate dinner, and swiped a discarded Douglas fir from a Dumpster. My first thought wasn’t “Oh, how embarrassing – my father Dumpster dove for a Christmas tree!” but “Wow, that is way too close to a store-bought tree.” What can I say? My parents raised me right.

Half the fun of hunting for our own tree (in the mountains, not trash cans) was debating the symmetry, height, and fullness of each potential tree. The other half of the fun was a proud refusal to purchase a Christmas tree permit. I’m sure this goes back to some self-sufficient, rural (backwoods, perhaps?) mindset of my dad’s. Or maybe it’s just more fun to feel like you’re getting away with something – the same theory that propelled Dad to teach us girls to sneak into the county fair, rodeos, and concerts. Paying admission was like admitting defeat.

Sometimes, we’d take a friend’s used permit and tie it around the trunk of our freshly cut Christmas tree. That way, if someone saw it from afar, they’d assume it was bought and paid for. Did you also know that at a rodeo, you can take an ink pen, color the design on your friend’s admission stamp, quickly press the back of their hand to your own, and forge your own admission stamp?

Did you know we are a bunch of mooches? If you invite us over for Christmas dinner, I guarantee Dad will eat all the lemon meringue pie and I will drink all the mulled wine. My aunt and uncle will wash and dry all the dishes. They’re pushy like that.

In high school, Mom and I got creative one year and had a themed tree. We used only blue and silver decorations. It was nice; very Martha-Stewart-meets-Walmart, heavy on the Walmart.

During a different holiday season in high school, Dad was too depressed to help me decorate. I had to set up a tall live Christmas tree by myself, which is extremely difficult. I cried a lot, and not just because the tree ended up crooked after dozens of adjustments of the screws in the metal base.

These days, we still have a decorated tree in the living room each year, its branches filled with ornaments made when we girls were in the single-digit years. The fun is I never know exactly what kind of tree it is until I drive home on Christmas Eve; sometimes it’s a thick, bushy Douglas fir, one year it was a Charlie Brown type, one year it was plastic and lit up in psychedelic colors.

Instead of a tree, Mom and I had a Christmas poinsettia one year. We stacked our gifts around it, propped an “Our First Christmas”ornament against the flowerpot, and laughed ourselves sick.


 This is Mom screwing my head back on after another gathering of our weird family.  Note the cowoy hat ornament.  It served the first part of its useful life hanging from the rearview mirror of my  Dodge Neon, wafting a pleasant fragrance throughout the cab.  Yes, we decorate with used air fresheners.  Is that tacky?  I don’t think that’s tacky.

Here’s me and my best friend, Casey, sitting in front of her parents’ tree and holding (of course) a wooden bowl over our heads.  I wish I could explain…an inside joke, bad instructions from our parents, an impending indoor hail storm…but I have no idea what prompted this pose.

I like how Casey is cowering on the corner of the couch, trying to blend into the furniture and out of the picture. Boy, Uncle Jerry and I are sure proud of our gifts we received at the White Elephant party! We do like our vino.


Dad's sure happy with his White Elephant gift. It's just what every 60+ year old ex-rancher wants: a Shape-Mate. Go buy one for the aging cowboy on your list today.


Dad and my oldest sister, Sara, demonstrating how to properly use the hands-free devices for their cell phones. Maybe they just shouldn't drive.


Mom, Sara, Lacy, me and Dad at my college graduation.


My stepmom, Susan, and my dad. She aged so much better than he did, don't you think?


Dad loooooves to put on a mask, casually sit down on the sofa next to me when I'm not paying attention, and scare the bejeebers out of me when I turn and look at his face. Notice how my mouth is screaming, but my body language says "I'm bored." He pulls pranks a lot. We get used to them.


Dad likes to tell people that I raised him through the divorce. I'm not sure I want to take the credit for this.

Well, I’ll find out what this year’s Christmas tree is like, plus see Dad’s new mask/snack food shoved in his facial openings, in a week and a half!  I’m pretty stoked.  I just hope Uncle Jerry brings more wine. 


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Post-Christmas Recovery

I haven’t written in a few days, as I have been staying at Copco Lake, CA, a remote locale with no electricity, running water, cell phone service, or high speed Internet connection.  Ok, we have lights and water, but I haven’t been around a computer in a while.

I love not having cell phone service, because it’s a great excuse to fully immerse myself in the present company and enjoy the people I am conversing with face-to-face.  For Christmas Eve dinner, we ate crab with newspaper spread over the table and just made a big ol’ mess.  On Christmas Day, we drank a thirty-year-old bottle of wine and I laughed way too loudly.  It was fun 🙂

We (Dad, his girlfriend Susan, her son Matt and I) visited the neighbors’ ranch, where more neighbors stopped by and we had a two-deck card game underway.  The only way you could be heard is if you yelled at least three times, because someone always missed what you said the first time or two.  We played a Fitzgerald specialty called “Oh, Hell” and decided everyone should put in $2 to play, winner take all.  We ended up with $21 in the pot.  Most of us graduated Chico State.

We finished the night with a game of pool in the basement, eating Jelly Bellies while Casey and I schooled the boys in eight ball.  They claimed they were being gentlemen, but didn’t take us up on our offer for a re-match.

 At church on Sunday I saw my friend’s new baby, then visited high school and college friends I haven’t seen in a year.  Coming home is fun, but I’m exhausted!  So many people to visit in such a short amount of time!  I’m going to do some braiding with an old cowboy friend, so that will be an enjoyable afternoon of stories largely untainted by facts.  I’ll bring my tape recorder and call it a start on my book.

I received plenty of neat presents for Christmas, but the best one was being with the home folks.  Corny, I know, but the older I get, the more true it seems.  I’m able to go running about the country on my wild crazy adventures because I have so many people who love and support me.  I’m a lucky girl.

Mushy stuff aside, now we’re preparing for New Year’s Eve.  Around these parts, that means sweeping off the dance floor, tuning Smokey’s guitar, and gathering enough wood for a sweet bonfire.  If you’re not otherwise engaged, head on over to Eastside Road for the best (if not only) party in Scott Valley! 

Happy 2011!

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Family Christmas Letter

  Holidays 2010

 Dear Family and Friends,

 Greetings from the Fogelbergers! We send our best holiday wishes to you from a snow-encased Paradise Valley. The children’s sled marks run down the hillside opposite the driveway, hot chocolate simmers on the stove and bunny tracks criss cross the snow. So do coyote tracks, but no matter.

We seven have had a stellar year. Eunice is enjoying her new workplace for physical therapy and Herbert is growing his home-based computer cleaning business every day. The home fires continue to burn, if not sputter and smoke at times.

Richard is raking in tens of dollars cowboying each month. He acquired a four-year-old gelding as a Christmas gift from his last employer. He looks forward to starting the beast under saddle, once he locates and collects it from the BLM allotment where it jumped the fence and took up unauthorized residence. Ollie got out of jail last year and has retired the Grant County jumpsuit for good – we hope. He is planning to take night classes this fall and earn his AA through an accelerated 12-week program. We are very proud.

Stella Bell has taken up semi-permanent residence in Washington D.C. One of the perks of her new job is a company cell phone, so she calls home quite often. She appears to be enjoying herself, as she is usually hungover or preparing to be hungover when she calls. That’s our lush – I mean Stella Bell. She is busy saving the world by promoting and protesting private property legislation as each bill merits.  She has an apartment near Capitol Hill, a Metro train pass, and regularly attends big-wig political conferences.  More importantly, Stella Bell is doing something few graduates of Jefferson High accomplish: she wears a suit and heels to work every day.   

Nicholas has moved on to a new and different set of sorority girls, or, as he calls it, “transferred schools.” He will be spending the 2010-2011 academic year in Bozeman, Montana, studying agriculture business, local history and freshmen in mini skirts. He is looking forward to broadening his horizons and acquiring a deeper appreciation for culture and fine arts as they apply to keg parties.

Kenneth made the decision to not further his academic career at Golden Valley Community College after his first year. The decision was not particularly difficult; if Kenneth hadn’t made it, the dean surely would have. After a broken back suffered during a violent horse wreck (the horse was uninjured) and a summer-long recuperation period, Kenneth advanced his cowboy career by rez-hopping around Nevada. He day worked for several outfits, carefully saving his wages for fuel and beer to get to his next destination. Always a planner, that one. After a successful tour of the Nevada desert and…desert, Kenneth returned to Paradise Valley, where he immediately totaled his pickup (the cow was injured).

Margaret, our former exchange student from Little Valley, has transitioned from starting colts in her backyard to cowboying in northern Nevada. She has undergone much personal growth and learning. For example, she learned it is very difficult to get your dallies when the steer is running right and your horse is running left. A Mexican’s shouts of “Stop your horse! Stop your horse!” only added to the general ruckus and heightened the overall anxiety.  We fully expect to see her married by next fall, as she is one of one single women in the American Valley. She will be registered at JM Capriola’s.

That’s all our news. I hope you enjoy the holiday season, stay warm, and tell your dear ones you love them. Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

 Much love,

The Fogelbergers

 *Names have been changed to protect the innocent, as well as the guilty. 
**This letter is entirely fictional, and any resemblences to actual people is unintentional and coincidental. 
***The above sentence is not true.  At all. 

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