Friendly Holiday Greetings

From a Hoarder in the Green

Listen, I’m not really a hoarder. In spite of my friends' ridicule, I am the most eco-minded among them. What I am is a sentimentalist, which causes me to hang on to things longer than the average person.
I’ve been keeping Christmas cards I’ve received through the years for,
um, let’s just say some of the card companies and senders are no longer around. The good news is that this season I’m letting go of them, recycling the vintage greetings to those on this year's card list.
Some may call this socially tacky, I call it environmentally kind. Every year, with my desktop publishing and PC art wizardry, I hand-design my card, spending hours working on a prototype, personalizing it, testing it, and printing all 100 or so myself, using tons of printer ink and paper. As sweet a gesture as it is, how wasteful and costly. When the season ends most of us collect the cards we exchanged and either toss them or keep them.
For those that prefer the old-fashioned postal greetings over e-cards, take some time to consider this recycling idea this year when the economy is so bleak? Here’s what you need and how to do it:
· Heavier 8 1/2x11 card stock printer paper, preferably recyclable brand
· Invitation or greeting card envelopes
· A pair of scissors or paper cutter
· Glue stick or double-sided tape
· Greeting cards received from holidays past
Slice off the front of each card with scissors or cutter. Fold each printer sheet into half page or quarter page to create a blank card. Attach the old card front you snipped to the front of each blank card using glue or tape. Inside the card, write, "Holidays Wishes!'' "Merry Christmas!'' "Kwanzaa Blessings!" "Happy Hanukkah! Sign your name. You're done.
The whole thing should cost less than $10, and you get a free conscience in the bargain. Maybe you can pass the idea along to your circle? If you didn’t save your cards from previous years, this season is a good time to start.
Haven’t checked with my dear friend, Letitia Baldridge (I really have met her and interviewed her for several articles on manners), but I’ll go out on a limb to say my only etiquette rules are: Do not recirculate the popular family photo greeting cards you receive. And, do not send last year’s card back to the same person that sent it to you. Now, that would be tacky!
Check out the ultimate in the green Christmas card and meet the accidental eco-pioneer behind it.
The Scene: October in Beantown
The 10th month on the calendar is designed for travel. Plan next year's escape to Boston, when the summer crowds evaporate, the company's fourth quarter earning are determined and the holiday mad dashing is leashed. I'm somewhat of an expert on this time of year in New England since half of my dozen or so visits there occurred in October. Here are my must-stops.

The Kennedy Library: With the Democrats back in office, it's time to revisit the era of our 35th president. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, a stunning I.M. Pei design, is located on the 10-acre waterfront park on Columbia Point. Take in the views of the harbor and skyline. The exhibits change, and if you're lucky, the dresses Jackie wore as first lady will be on display. Call ahead for exhibit information; hopefully the admission will keep at $10. There's a free shuttle to the T's Red Line JFK Library/UMass stop, which runs takes you to other key Boston areas and Cambridge. There's also free parking at the library. Did you know that 95 percent of Ernest Hemingway's writings is housed in the Kennedy library?

The Head of the Charles: My first venture into Cambridge a few years ago coincided with the October week of the world's largest regatta. Had no idea why there was such a hubbub, and I found the crowd around Harvard Square an inconvenience. Now that I know a Radcliffe Crew member that competes in the annual event, I'm a big-time fan. I got to see the competition from the Harvard Boathouse on the Charles River. That vantage point is by invitation-only. There are great spots along the river to cheer, gawk and marvel over the rowing sights in the best of fair-like atmosphere. Spectators from around the globe buzz about. It's fun to listen in on the accents and languages. Sponsors' vendors are among the most civilized I've seen. The smells from the wide range of food concessions, however, tempt you from every direction. Still trying to decide if I like fried dough. Speaking of dough, this event is free.

Wompatuck State Park: There arguably is no more beautiful colors of nature than New England's fall foliage. If you want to take it in in one vibrant fell swoop, visit Wompatuck, 11 miles from Boston in Hingham on the southern shore. Wompatuck is quiet in October, allowing nature seekers to take in authentic sounds of the woods' inhabitants. If you drive through, cruise at a slow speed so you don't miss the brilliance of maples in reds, yellows and oranges. If you're hiking or biking, along the way, stop and perch on one of the giant stones for one of the many panoramas. Ponds strewn throughout are covered with lily pads waiting to brace the occasional leaping frog. For sportsmen, horseback riding and boating (nonmotorized) are available. The cost of serenity is free.

(PHOTOS: Jean Nash Johnson)


And who can blame them? From Labor Day to Thanksgiving, I obsess over a fruit that got its roots far away from the Lone Star State. Did my obsession subconsciously began when I learned that the mother of all gourds was responsible for getting Cinderella to the Ball? Or, was it when I discovered in Peanuts that Linus' "Great One'' almost made a hero out of George Schultz's block-headed Charlie Brown? No. My righteous lusting began fall 1989 when the Jersey Girl escorted me and The Pumpkin Tot out of a Texas "pumpkin patch'' carting our over sized lopsided prize, insisting we carve it. "Carve what, how and why? I'm not an artist!" I had protested. Jack 'O Lanterns belonged in Halloween storybooks, my Southern childhood had taught me. But Pumpkin Tot was intrigued and grew to be Pumpkin Girl, and the masterpieces were crafted and a new tradition born. I have been fixating ever since on all things pumpkin. Pumpkin kitsch, all sorts, and pumpkin scented candles. Pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin bread, toasted pumpkin seeds (with sprinkles of Cajun spices), pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cheesecake. (The ice cream is store-bought). Where's the pumpkin pie, some may wonder? That's where I draw the line on tradition. There is no "traditional'' pumpkin pie at my Thanksgiving dinner? On Turkey Day, my adoration ends, and the pumpkin turns into the humble sweet potato. Like magic there's the irresistible Sweet Potato Pie, and I turn back into a Southern Lady until next Labor Day.

(The Texas-sized carving pictured is courtesy of the Pumpkin Girl, who at 19 is still turning out award winning work. It could not have been easy the last two years pulling off prize winners in Jersey Girl country!)

Pardon me, but, speaking of Turkey Day, check out this funny!

That gal, Sarah Palin! Wow!

Disclaimer: (Pardon me, again, if you've been awake the last 24 hours and already have seen the video.)


Long-Awaited Historic Vote Spawns a Family's Legacy

Less than two days away from the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, and still I am in awe of the Nov. 4, 2008 election results. Considering where this country was 48 years ago, I hadn't seen its outcome coming.
In the Southwest Louisiana city of Lake Charles, population 63,000-plus, Friday, Oct. 7, 1960, was the end of another ordinary workweek, capped off that evening with the television broadcast of the second of four Kennedy-Nixon debates.
Issue No. 1 for Sen. John F. Kennedy had been the Soviet Union and the Cold War. Vice President Richard M. Nixon had made much to-do over Kennedy’s youth and inexperience, insisting he could not be trusted.
Routine as the day seemed for residents, it was a defining moment for Mrs. Alce Nash, my mother, who early that morning had registered to vote for the first time.
She was 33, a child of The Great Depression, daughter of a cotton farmer. A wife of a World War II veteran-turned-oil refinery worker, homeowner and stay-home mom of six. A born Catholic and Southerner – and an African American of Creole heritage.
Fueled after the Depression by the growing petrochemical industry, Lake Charles, the bustling seat of Calcasieu Parish, about 60 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, had become an economic enticement around the state for those in search of a better life.
My parents had laid down roots there after the war. For my mother, finally having the right to vote along with my Dad in the upcoming presidential election made her feel privileged, meant that her family would move closer to living the American Dream.
Getting there hadn’t been easy. Though the 15th and 19th amendments granting blacks and women voting rights had long been enacted, many Southern blacks, women especially, were reluctant to participate, leery of the process and afraid of repercussions, my mother had explained in later years.
Mama died prematurely in 1982 at 55. She carried in her wallet the worn 1960 voter’s registration card until the day she passed away. Through her experience she gave her descendants a strong voting legacy.
During Jim Crow in the Deep South, underhanded voting tactics created frustration for black people. The poor were disqualified from registering because they couldn’t afford high poll taxes. Colored people and poor whites that couldn’t read and write and sign their name were barred. Powerful whites pressured the few eligible Negroes that had means and education into voting the interests of those controlling the polls.
Distrust of the process “was all hush-hush, but it was there,’’ says my mother’s youngest sister, Emily Lawrence, 69, now a Californian. (My aunt and I chatted by phone last month during her visit to Louisiana.) “I guess the thought was that your vote wouldn’t count, and even if it did, was it worth risking your life? At that time, there was talk about poll violence in other states.’’
When Kennedy arrived, so did a greater urgency among the disadvantaged to take part in the process. Among African Americans, Kennedy represented a new spirit, as blacks slowly began inching away from strict segregation. The Supreme Court had overruled Plessy v. Ferguson, and the Brown v. Board of Education decision emerged. With the help of an Eisenhower Administration Justice Department voting rights’ policy, separate but equal was taking on wider interpretation.
To retrace Mama’s steps that October day based on family storytelling (I was only 7), that morning, she woke up at 5:30 and put on a pot of Seaport chicory coffee. My Dad was due in from the graveyard shift at Cities Service Oil Refinery Co. in an hour, and her brood would be waking up for breakfast and the school day.

Slow and Deliberate Change

After seeing four of us off to classes, she and Daddy, dressed in their Sunday best, traveled about 15 minutes with the two younger boys in the family’s '56 Chevy to the downtown courthouse. Entering through the “Colored’’ entrance in the rear, she would register to vote.
By all accounts, she and Daddy intentionally played down the historic moment in the presence of whites they encountered in the court house building. They returned home and eventually voted Nov. 8.
“When Kennedy came along, it seemed to change everything,’’ says Mrs. Lawrence, my aunt, recalling the excitement in rural St. Landry Parish where my mother was born and raised, about 100 miles east of Lake Charles.
In 1959 and ’60, when my aunt wasn't going to school or working on my grandparents’ Opelousas, LA. farm, she and other 11th and 12th graders at the black high school were volunteering to help illiterate adults learn how to read and fill out voter registration forms and practice signing their names.
Kennedy energized once disenfranchised blacks. He pledged a New Frontier and space exploration and vowed to grow the economy. There also was the promise of his age. Black Americans were convinced that Kennedy’s youth and “Yankee’’ roots would better equip him to preside over the inevitable groundswell of civil rights activism.
Older black women were reticent, Aunt Emily explains. “Women knew their place. It wasn't in the voting booth.’’ Staff from the parish registrar’s office and volunteers in the community worked hard to convince would-be voters that voting was a right and that women didn't need permission from their husbands, my aunt recalls.

Quiet Heroes and Unsung Champions

In Lake Charles, similar steps took place. It’s likely that my mother had been turned away in previous attempts to register when she had been unable to recite verbatim the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution. This only was hearsay. The
memory was too painful for her to retell, I suppose. But I have a clearer understanding of why in our schoolwork she had browbeaten us into memorizing the Preamble and The Gettysburg Address. To this day I can spout both at a moment’s notice.
Voting the first time was sacred though anticlimactic, Mama once confessed. Conquering the registration hurdle had been the greater triumph, and the Election Day result was even more exalting. Her vote had counted. The Life Magazine January ’61 issue heralding the inauguration remained the centerpiece on the living room coffee table a year after the vote.
The fortitude ignited by the Kennedy-Nixon race had a lasting effect on that generation and the future. After the 1960 vote and the passage of the voting rights bill in ‘65, my once reserved mother and my father became uncompromisingly active in the Democratic Party, volunteering to give voters rides on Election Day, canvassing neighborhoods to get out the vote, working the precincts and preaching the gospel, according to the founding fathers, of a most precious citizen’s right.

A Legacy for a Louisiana Family

“The country passed through challenging times back then. Kennedy’s assassination. Selma. March on Washington. Martin Luther King Jr., Bobby Kennedy. Then, Roe v. Wade and Bakke (University of California v. Bakke),’’ Aunt Emily lists off. “So much changed, and we all wanted to have a part in it so that we could make it better for our children and their children.
“When I reflect back, I think about how similar these times are. In 2004, I got so angry at young people when they told me, ‘I don’t need to vote. It’s just one vote.’ I screamed back at them, ‘Your vote counts, and people died and fought hard for that vote.’ Hopefully, this time they got the message. This (2008) election is very important.’’
Much has changed since my mother’s Depression-era girlhood. She and my father and many other African Americans of the time helped redefine the once Jim Crow- influenced Democratic Party in the South. They have passed the baton.
In this post 2008 Election Day time, parallels to 1960 can not be overlooked. Barack Obama’s candidacy has fired up a new breed of citizens dramatically similar to the grass roots electorate JFK inspired.

Still, the idea of change looms as large as the notion of how little has not changed. This election season with its disturbing news accounts of robo calls, vote fraud, race baiting, faulty machines, assassination attempts and underhanded campaigning maneuvers, remind the voting public of how much more this country has to grow up.
That my mother’s children and grandchildren in 2008 could choose to vote in primary elections for the first viable woman candidate for president, and on Nov. 4, could help to elect the first black U.S. president, has no doubt exceeded her dreams.