Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

A Christmas to Remember

My brother Todd & I at Grandmamma Feemster's

The Christmas Eves of my youth growing up in Rock Hill (SC) seem so long ago.  Every year my parents would load my brother, sister, and myself into the car and take off to our grandparent’s house.  Our first stop was the Russell’s where grandmamma would be playing Bing Crosby or Jim Neighbors on her stereo with the sweet smell of fresh baked cookies, pies, and cakes in the air.

We would have a large supper with all the other relatives including my Aunt Terry and her family.  There was turkey and dressing with vegetables grown from the garden and my grandmother’s specialty – Quail Pie.  My favorite was her little biscuits.  My cousin Kim had nicknamed Grandmother Russell “Bumba” and I affectionately referred to her delicacy as “Bumba’s Biscuits” and there was simply nothing on earth quite as delicious.

The Russell's 1964 Christmas - Guess who's hiding their eyes!

We all had to save room because round two was with my Grandmother Feemster who worked just as hard in the kitchen with her turkey, macaroni pie (Mac and cheese to my Yankee friends), cornbread dressing in little cakes, and a fresh pound cake.

Sadly, the Grandparents are all but gone with Grandmother Feemster in the twilight of her life.  The onset of dementia has robbed her of most of her memories though mine still fondly recall our family Christmas gatherings.

This past week, our Lake Norman Kiwanis Club sponsored a holiday social for our Kiwanis Aktion Club.  The Aktion Club is a group of young adults 18 years of age or older who deal with some type of physical or mental disability.

Growing up, I never thought about the families who face Christmas Season with a loved one who deals with an impairment.  There are 35 million Americans who deal with a severe disability but roughly 46% of those are still employed.  In totality, there are more than 54 million Americans that deal with some type of disability, or one in five.

Last Friday night, we all enjoyed a wonderful dinner and gave awards out to our hard working Aktion Clubbers.  The joy in their face spoke volumes as they stood front and center clutching their awards tightly in their hands.  We then installed our new officers for the year.

One young lady, Chris Hunter, walked up front with the aid of her crutches and “signed” to me with her hands how she would be a good treasurer and promised not to spend all of our money.  She then hugged me as tears of joy ran down her face.

Her mom Tracy explained how proud she was as we both stood there and embraced, her arms wrapped securely around my waist.  I felt her warm tears on my arms as we pulled apart, but not before I saw her face beaming with joy.

One of our Kiwanians had brought an IPAD and they had programmed streaming Christmas Carols.  Our crowd had all but drowned out the music which had been playing softly in the background, but as Chris and I parted, I heard Crosby’s version of, “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas…” playing in the background.

Chris Hunter, Aktion Club Member

If your family is healthy, thank God and pray for those who deal with their challenges each day.  Spend extra time this coming year volunteering to help someone who needs that helping hand.  Give a little more to the organization of your choice that is trying to find a cure or at least making life better for us all.

The Christmas Eve’s of my past are filled with warm and special memories of those I love and miss very much.   My Christmas Eve’s of the future are filled with hope that we will make strides toward defeating those disabilities.   That would truly be a Christmas to remember!

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December 21, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Congress Strikes Out

As news that home sales fell 27 percent in July, the steepest one-month drop since figures were first compiled in 1968, and Americans grow even more concerned with the cost of the healthcare plans which are forcing companies and small businesses alike to delay any hiring of new employees, our U.S. Congress is taking decisive action in Washington, D.C.  They are holding hearings on steroids in baseball.   That’s right, while the American public stares at staggering unemployment numbers, our country annually spends roughly $1.3 trillion more than it takes in, and the economy still appears to be anemic but not altogether dead, our Congressional leaders are taking aim at the greatest nemesis of our time – Roger Clemens.

Rocket during his days with the NY Yankees

William Roger Clemens, nicknamed “Rocket” is a former Major League Baseball Player who won seven Cy Young Awards, more than any other player.  He played for 13 consecutive seasons for the Boston Red Sox before a stint with the N.Y. Yankess where he had his first World Series success.   The Rocket is accused of using Performance Enhancing Drugs and lying about it to Congress.  While I do not condone using steroids, nor do I know if there is definitive proof that the Rocket used them, the fact he is being accused of lying to a group of people, who habitually lie to the American public, is on the face of things – laughable.

The bigger issue is when our national leaders should be huddled in a room trying to solve the budget crisis, sorting out how to put Americans back to work, and reaching consensus on a fiscally responsible approach to taxes and regulations, they are focused on holding a retired baseball player accountable for telling them lies when it comes to using steroids which were not even banned by baseball at the time.

Gaining a competitive edge by the use of injections is nothing new in baseball.  The book The Baseball Hall of Shame’s Warped Record Book, written by Bruce Nash, Bob Smith, and Allan Zullo, includes an account of Babe Ruth administering himself with an injection of an extract from sheep testicles.  It didn’t improve his game, however, and it is recorded that he pulled himself out of the game with a “bellyache.”

I’m not sure I ever took anything that could be considered a performance enhancing drug but I do admit that I was allowed to go outside and participate in a neighborhood pick up game of football only after I lied to my mother.  I think the statute of limitations has long expired on what I now admit was nothing but a complete falsehood – an out and out deceitful act on my part.

Glazed Rutabagas

Mama was cooking those infamous rutabagas, which if you have never experienced their unique aroma, is both quite distinctive and breathtaking.  In a word – “revolting”.  Dad was attending a meeting of the Rock Hill Jaycees  and informed mom he would be missing our dinner.  Mom took that as an opportunity to prepare her cornbread, rutabagas, turnip greens and ham.  While the aforementioned meal was most delicious and I long for the days of her cooking, I could do without those copper colored rutabagas.

Anxious to rejoin my buddies waiting out in the yard for my return, while mom wasn’t looking, I scraped my helping of rutabagas on my brother’s plate.  Todd, who was likely five or six at the time was left defenseless as mom now required him to clean his plate before he could leave the table.

I, on the other hand, dashed madly outside to rejoin the football game still in progress and my rightful place as a legend in my own mind when it came to athletic prowess on my backyard gridiron.

My Brother Todd - His angelic quality perhaps came from the rutabagas - who knows

I now humbly and with deep humility apologize to my brother Todd for what I did.  And I ask my mother’s forgiveness for not only not eating the copper colored yucky square things but for telling a fib about the whole affair.

Now, with that off my chest, perhaps I will not be called up to Capital Hill for my chicanery and they can get to the business of solving the real issues facing our country.

Actually, there’s a better chance I’ll eat a plate of rutabagas for breakfast!

September 1, 2010 Posted by | Personal | , , , , , | Leave a comment