Merry Christmas

friday, december 25th, 2015

in a forest in the far, far East grew a great many pine trees. Most of them were tall trees, higher than the houses that we see, and with wide, strong branches. But there was one tree that was not nearly so tall as the others; in fact, it was no taller than some of the children in the kindergarten.

Now, the tall trees could see far, far out over the hilltops and into the valleys, and they could hear all the noises that went on in the world beyond the forest, but the Little Tree was so small and the other trees grew so high and thick about it that it could not see nor hear these things at all; but the other trees were very kind, and they would stoop down and tell them to the Little Tree. One night in the winter time there seemed to be something strange happening in the little town among the hills, for the trees did not go to sleep after the sun went down, but put their heads together and spoke in strange, low whispers that were full of awe and wonder. The Little Tree, from its place close down to the ground, did not understand what it was all about. It listened awhile, and then lifted its head as high as ever it could and shouted to its tall neighbor: "Will you not stoop and tell me what is happening?" And the big tree stooped down and whispered: "The shepherds out on the hilltops are telling strange stories while they watch their sheep. The air is filled with sweet music, and there is a wonderful star coming up in the east, traveling westward always, and the shepherds say that they are waiting for it to stop and shine over a humble stable in their little town. I have not heard why it is going to stop there, but I will look again and listen." So the tall tree lifted up its head again, and reached far out so that it might hear more of the wonderful story.

Bye and bye it stooped down again, and whispered to the Little Tree:

"Oh, Little Tree, listen! There are angels among the shepherds on the hills, and they are all talking together. They seem to be awaiting the birth of a little child, who will be a king among the people, and the beautiful star will shine above the stable where the little king will be laid in a manger."

The tree again raised its head to listen, and the Little Tree, much puzzled, thought within itself: "It is very strange, indeed.

Oh, how I wish that I could see it all!"

It waited a little longer, and everything grew quiet, and a great peace came upon the forest.

Then suddenly the town, and even the forest was illuminated with a strange, white light that made everything as bright as day, and the air was filled with the flutter of angels' wings, and with music such as the world had never heard before.

The people and the trees, even the stars in the heaven, lifted up their voices and sang together and the whole world was filled with music and joy and love for the little Christ-child who had come to dwell upon the earth.

The Little Tree was filled with fear and wonder, for so great was the excitement that the other trees had almost forgotten it, and it could not understand the mysterious sounds; but bye and bye its tall friend said, "Listen, listen, Little Tree! Such news I have to tell! The Christ has come--the King! And the whole world is singing such beautiful music. There are wise men coming from the East, bringing beautiful gifts to the Christ-child. The angels, too, are upon the earth, and they bear gifts of gold and rare, beautiful stones. Wait! I will tell you more."

The tall tree had scarcely lifted up its head when it stooped again and whispered to the Little Tree, "Look! Look! Little Tree! They are coming this way; the angels are coming here, into our forest! Lift up your head high and you will see them as they pass."

The Little Tree lifted up its head and saw the white flutter of angel robes and heard the weird, sweet voices of the heavenly host who came with precious gifts into the forest.

"Oh," said the Little Tree, "they are coming here, toward me! What shall I do?" And in fear it bent its head so low that it almost touched the ground.

But the music came nearer and nearer, and the Little Tree felt a tender hand upon its branches, and a soft, gentle voice said to it, "Arise, Little Tree, and come with us, for we have come into the forest to seek you. Yes, you, the very smallest among the trees, are to be our gift-bearer. Come; lift up your head."

In fear and trembling the Little Tree did as the angel bade it. But when it looked into the angel's face and saw the love and kindness there, all fear was gone, and it said to the angel: "Yes; make me ready. I will come with you to the little Christ-child in the manger."

So all the angels brought their gifts of precious jewels and shining gold, and fastened them upon the branches of the Little Tree. Then the leader of the angels' band took up the Little Tree from the ground and bore it, laden with its precious burden, to the feet of the Christ-child.

Author Unknown, "The First Christmas Tree", A Short Story.

A Day In The Life

Sleeping-in until 8:30am on Friday, I remembered I'd been awakened at 2:30 and 4am from a dream(s), but remembered nothing about it, but yet can remember the times? Meh. At 34°F outside, it was a cold start, but the sun soon appeared thru the fog, and I could see the temp rising on the Win-7 weather bug on my computer screen. I grabbed my Turkish Bathrobe and cranked-up the condo's heat. After OJ, and with coffee, I scanned the news and weather, and checked email (working!). MS had more 2 more patches/updates (1.4Mb), and Windows Defender also had a definition download (1.2Mb). I had a 10:30am realtor's meeting just down the road, and an 11:30 investor's meeting over in Wrightsville. I left at 10:20.

Nothing happening from the contracted B-W Realty Co, and probably nothing until Spring, but I have a 'secret', about a very interested ***mega-surprise buyer***, which I can't divulge just yet. I was early to the investors' meeting at the John Wright Restaurant, and as I was sitting at the bar, having a lemonade, an old customer and friend, and his wife, walked in and over to talk. When my two partners arrived, I took my leave of them, and joined the guys at our private, very large table. Once again, lots of choices but no decision, and with Christmas upon us,

we decided to wait until after the new year to figure it out. After lunch, we left, with a pile of paperwork detailing the options. Back home by 1pm, I sat down at my desk/DR table, and looked more closely at the meeting's choices: here, and here and here. I'm just not sure I want to get into restoring and reselling $100-200k vehicles. Last time the three of us were down this road, I'd made-up MS-Excel Spreadsheets detailing the ROI, and we'd decided that collectively, we just weren't "there" enough to do it. Now, they seemingly want to go ahead with it, but I can't see what's really changed, other than they got massive year-end bonuses for some working capital. The old adage, "Go big or go home", seems to now apply here, as my two partners want to move-up into areas that I have extensive knowledge of, but no high-end local or regional connections for purchase/restoration/resale. It's somewhat rarefied territory at most of those levels. I'll have to think this seriously thru.

By 7pm, the news was on, I purposely skipped the demokkkRAT "debate", as I did with the GOPe circlefest debate (watch the hilarious SNL skit on YT!), watched several DVDs from my collection, and called it a day at 12:30am.

Saturday morning was bright and sunny at 9am, 28°F and very windy. Good night's sleep; no weird dreams. Same cold morning routine now: Turkish Robe, get the heat turned-up, OJ, coffee, fire-up

the computer, wait and see if I was hungry enough to warrant any breakfast, or just a muffin, and check the news, weather and email. I had errands to run in the morning, and some condo chores to get done in the afternoon, so the day would pretty much be used-up. I left at 10am to get after it. Back home by 2pm, I made a quick Chicken Salad Sandwich on Wheat Toast, and started the condo chores. Basement 'stores' inventory took the most time, and while I got 80% thru it, moved on to cleaning bathrooms and floors, and would get back to the basement tomorrow, along with laundry. By 6:30, my back/hip was 'talking' to me, so I stopped, took aspirin and parked myself to watch some evening news, and some NatGeo specials until 11. Lights out.

Sunday morning was the coldest we've had so far, at a numbing 19°F and windy. I was up at 7:30, did the morning routine, remembered I had a very skilled carpenter coming to Dad's at 1pm, to meet about making a new TV stand for his 45" flatscreen. But meanwhile, I had things to do here. While finishing-up the last ~15% of the basement stores inventory, I prepped the Char-Broil® Patio Grille, for Winter use. I love grilling/BBQing/smoking during the Winter months, Gas and diesel prices at the pump, have all dropped bigtime, just since Saturday, December 12th: Unleaded Regular (87 oct) is down 6¢ to $2.13/gal, Unleaded Premium (89 oct) is also down 6¢ to $2.33/gal, Premium (93 oct) is also down 6¢ to $2.53/gal, and Diesel Fuel/Kerosene K-2 is down 18¢ to $2.51/gal. instead of using the condo oven. And the neighbors love the aromas, too. I skipped breakfast and lunch, left for the 1pm meeting at Dad's, at 12:30. Bill and his wife, Karen, who's one of my two monthly cleaning ladies, arrived, as did Becky. After an hour we had the TV stand problems – dimensions, upgraded materials, finish –resolved, and Bill will get back with an estimate in a few days, or just after Christmas. I spent some time visiting with Dad, and left at 3:15. High for the day was only 51°F. After getting back home, I grilled-off a 10oz Allen Bros Kobe-Style Wagyu Steak Burger w/ Fries, and got the loads of laundry started. I spent even more time reviewing the 3 MS-Excel Spreadsheets I'd built, to see if I'd "missed" anything, or entered any data wrongly. By 6, laundry was done, and put away, the evening news was on, and

I didn't have anything on the calendar for the coming week, except Christmas Dinner with Dad & Becky, on Friday at 1pm. I switched the computer's CATV modem over to NatGeo's well-produced series, Eat: The Story of Food for some new episodes, until 12 midnight. After shutting down, arming the place, "I called it Yankee Doodle" and went up to bed.

I slept-in until 8:30am on Monday, and the 44°F outside felt like an early Spring morning. OJ was good, coffee was great and Eggs Benedict, Mushrooms, Tomatoes, Artichokes & Hash Browns, I checked weather, news and email. I streamed the Chris Plante Show 9-12 on WMAL, from DC, for 45mins, and moved the Jeep outside to grill some breaded white cod fish and 10oz (Allen Bros) Steak Burgers for Dad; the steak burgers were still partially frozen and needed another 24hrs in the 'fridge to thaw. The grilled fish went into Glad® Containers, for later transport to Dad's; the burgers will have to wait until Tuesday. My insurance agent for the Old 20ac GC&N Complex called, and needed my signature on several renewal documents ASAP. They're located in Dover, about 20 miles northwest, so I left at 11:30 to get those docs signed and done.

Well, my Christmas Holiday is now complete: Barry & Wookie 0sambo sent their "official" Happy Holidays 2015 Card from The White Hut/Crib!

Driving back thru West York around 12:45pm, I made some stops at Cabela's and Gander Mountain, but bought nothing firearm-related; I didn't need/want anything special, right now. Driving thru York

and then into East York, I stopped at The Galleria Mall complex, and walked around for a while, just looking at all the stores' Christmas Holiday displays. Multo bene. Home by 3pm, I had a growing pile of filing on the desk/DR table, to get done, before Friday's Christmas Dinner, so I could clear-off the table. Under control by 5, I heated-up some 2-Alarm Chili, watched the evening news, put a load thru the dishwasher and settled-in for an evening of Triple D, until 11:45pm. Done day.

Up at 6:30am on Tuesday, I noticed the difference in condo/outside temps right away. On this First Day of Winter, it was a "balmy" 51°F and rainy outside, whereas last year, it was a bitter -10°F. Quite a wild swing year-over-year. Since I turn-off all furnace heat at night, unless hell is freezing-over, outside, the furnace brought indoor temps from 68°F to 74°F, quickly. OJ and coffee, weather, and news. Even email was even working. I listened to Chris Plante Show for 45mins, had some errands to do, picked-up my mail at the CHCA community mailbox, and left at 10am. First stop at Dad's, to drop-off the baked fish and start his snowblower and JD riding mower. He had a box of old GC&N tax return files for me to take back to my basement shelves. I left at 11:30, noticed traffic was getting heavier-than-usual, and got 3 of 5 of the other stops done, and headed home around 1:15pm.

The 10oz Steak Burgers were almost thawed, so I prepped the grille, and opted to grill them off for Dad, tomorrow morning. I made a quick Ham & Swiss on Rye Sandwich and a large bowl of Lentil & Vegetable Soup, for lunch. I sat the box of GC&N tax return folders/files on my desk/DR table and sorted for the next several hours. All would need to be kept for 7yrs, according to the IRS. Meh. I'm

just finally getting used to dark at 4:15pm, and light at 7:30am, now. I caught the evening news at 7, watched new episodes of History's Curse of Oak Island and Hunting Hitler, until 11, and called it quits for the day.

Awake and up at 7am on Wednesday, it was still dark, 59°F warm and drizzly. While making OJ and coffee, I checked the weather and a ***DENSE FOG ADVISORY*** was posted, as massive warm fronts moved north from the Gulf and enveloped the East Coast. Finally light by 8am, the rains arrived. Not much in the news, except that NYC is looking like an armed camp, after a "credible terror threat", yesterday. The massive 10oz burgers were fully-thawed, so I grilled them up, added cheese slices, containerized them and drove them to Dad's at 10;30. They weren't kidding about the fog advisory; it was d-e-n-s-e. But not nearly as bad as the South got hit.

I made a few stops on the way home, as traffic was building again, and as I decided to clean the Char-Broil® Patio Grille, after it cooled, the rains arrived with a vengeance. The warm air got warmer and high for the day was 63°F. I couldn't believe the paper-thin layers of black carbon which had built-up on the burner, over the past 10 years, and once the inside was cleaned-out, burned many times better than I remembered it had in years. I grilled-up a burger for myself, for lunch. I'd missed yesterday's and today's Chris Plante Show, from 9-12, so I dialed-up the podcasts for those days and listened while I worked on the Condo Budget for 1st & 2nd Qtrs of 2016, in MS-Excel. until 6pm, when the evening news came on. I watched in horror and sadness at all the destruction and death from the tornadoes in the South. I checked the Prime Rib's thawing progress, and it's coming along nicely.

Merry Christmas to you & yours!

Tomorrow I have to prep the kitchen, food, set the DR table, and a few other things to be ready for Friday at 1pm. The rain continued, and it was still 62°F at 10pm. I watched American Pickers for a few hours, checked the late news, and shut down at 11, for the night.

Up at 6:30am on Thursday, it was still raining, still dark and now 63°F. Imagine that, for Christmas Eve Day, we'd hit a high of 70°F. If all the rain we've gotten over the last 2 days was snow, we'd be under a 30" cover. I made OJ and coffee, checked the weather sites, news and finally at 7:45, it lightened-up outside. Heavy fog and more rain in the forecast. I had everything I needed for tomorrow's dinner – Prime Rib, Baked Potato and Roasted Potatoes and Peas – but my list of "condo chores" to get the place ready was going to take most of the day. I also needed to top-off antifreeze and windshield wiper fluid, in the Jeep. Plus, if I had time, I needed to reassemble my scoped Henry Big Boy .357 Magnum in the basement workshop, after a cleaning/oiling, on Tuesday. I got started around 11am.

After taking a short break at 1:30pm to grill-off a 12oz Allen Bros Prime Rib Eye for lunch, I went back to work on the chores. By 4:30, I took a break to catch-up on the news and weather, before finishing the last of the chores at 6pm. My back/hip needed some rest, and the rifle reassembly can wait until Saturday. Not much on the evening news, and a forecast record 75°F on-tap for Christmas Day. Swell; I'd rather have snow and cold. Discovery had a Alaska The Last Frontier marathon on, and although I should have gone to Church tomite, I opted to rest my back and watch some CATV. By 11:30, I was nodding-off, closed down and went up to bed. Tomorrow would be a busy day.

Friday starts a new week and the final days of 2015. My dr app't was rescheduled to January 8th, and except for a trip south to the Old GC&N Complex to do a final check before Winter arrives, I have nothing major planned. I always stay off the roads for Nerw Year's Eve, after seeing more carnage than I care to talk about. I need to contact two friends whom I haven't seen in a long time and take one to lunch, that or the next week. Medically, it's been a less-than-good year for me. Hopefully, 2016 will get better.

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