Friday, December 30, 2011

Times Have Certainly Changed

Last night, I was online and saw a post by a friend who was talking about how much times have changed...yet we scarcely notice until we see it through the eyes of our children.  Life is so busy that we just rock along taking all technological advancements and social changes in stride.  Specifically, though, the discussion was around her amusement about her daughter's comment that using the land line telephone was "so 1990s" since the cell reception where they were left a lot to be desired.

"So 1990s..."  Wow.  My children were born in 1990 and 1992.  I scarcely remember that decade.

Oh, I'm kidding, of course...amid the diaper changes, late night rocking marathons, and endless readings of "The Foot Book" by Dr. Seuss...there were a lot of wonderful memories in the 1990s.  And many of you know that I read that book so much because Jill's "F's" sounded like "G's" it came out "The Goot Book."   I still smile when I think about it.  (Especially at the part that read "Fuzzy Furry Feet...")

I am obviously easily entertained.

It's true, though...the kids today think of the telephone in a completely different manner than we did.  As teenage girls we sat by the phone hoping that we'd find out what was going on or that someone "significant" would actually call us.  There was no texting...cell phones were more business-related than personal...Facebook didn't exist...and neither did e-mail for that matter. 

Some even remember party lines...or having knock-down-drag-out fights with a sibling over an anticipated incoming call and use of the phone.  We'd put long cords on the phone so that we could shut ourselves away in a closet or bathroom so that everything we said wasn't broadcast to the masses.

Why?  Because our houses really weren't that big.  Many of us were raised in a house with three bedrooms and one bathroom.

I know...*insert scream*

In our house, my grandmother had apparently had enough of that and put four bathrooms in her house.  We rarely if ever used two of them...but we could if the need arose.  But sometimes I'd visit friends...and they'd be banging on the door yelling at someone to "hurry up!"

I assume that most of this was due to some extreme hair maintenance that had to be done.  We didn't have hair straighteners...but we did have curling irons, hot rollers, blow dryers...and perms.

Oh, the perms.

The girls of today really don't know what they are missing looking all beautiful and airbrushed every time they leave the house when they could be all hosed down with Final Net like we were.  Most of us had someone help us with our eyebrows...our mother...not a spa employee.  In fact, most of us didn't darken the door of a spa for services such as pedicures and manicures until we were in our 30's...except for our wedding day.

That's another area of immense change, don't you think? 

When Big Dave and I got married, the wedding was held at 2 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon...and the reception was immediately afterward in the "Social Hall."  I was throwing the bouquet at 3:30 and leaving the church.  I wore my mother's wedding dress and my stepfather was the photographer (as a newspaperman...he was a professional).  My sister-in-law (now a she was already good at this) made our wedding cakes...and they were phenomenal.  A lady in town donated decorated mints as her wedding gift to us.  The bridesmaids dresses were handmade.  The catering was done by the hotel in town and the rehearsal dinner the night before our wedding was prepared by my in-laws.  The video was set up in the balcony of the you get the general idea of our fifteen minute ceremony as opposed to a clear rendition of exactly what transpired.

Can you imagine?

There was no venue, no band, no alcohol, and amazingly enough...we are still married 26 years later.  Shocking!

Actually, many of my friends had weddings just like mine.  I'm not knocking the beautiful functions that I attend in the present age...but with the economy being what it is and all...I hope that we will revert a bit back to some degree of normalcy before it's Jill's turn...

Which brings me to the fact that my daughter will be 22 next month.  The fact that I was 22 when I got married doesn't make me antsy at all.  Okay, I'm totally lying.  But the truth is...we just seemed so much older when we were 22.  Most of us had jobs, had learned to make do with less than everything we wanted, and our parents didn't expect to support us after age 18.  Oh, many helped us through college, but not all did or were able to help out.  If you wanted to pretty much had to make good enough grades for a scholarship or figure it out on your own.  For those who did have help...we also had four years to get that diploma. (Yes, I realize that some programs such as accounting or engineering take five years now.)

Let's just say that nobody helped us out of the cocoon.  We fought our way out.  And I believe that we were stronger for it.  I know I am. And I personally admire parents who cheer those little butterflies to get out on their own instead of slitting the edge of the cocoon to make it a little easier.  Without that struggle, they don't develop muscles that they'll need in this big game of life.

Today, we do the best that we can for our kids so that they can be the best that they can be.  There's absolutely nothing wrong with this!  But helping them when they can help themselves is letting them assume that life is going to be fair or easy and just setting them up for living in our basement.

Fortunately, we don't have a basement in this house...and we will welcome our children back to let them figure things out for a short period of time...but after they finish college...we pretty much expect them to be off doing something fabulous and productive.  Or at least something earning their keep far away from my checkbook.

Life has seen so many changes...and I think we'll continue to see more and more as time goes by.  What we think is new and improved is actually going to be laughable and antiquated to future generations.  And that's okay...that's the way of progress and creative thought and capitalism.

Assuming that we don't do away with all of those.

But I do remember the days when we had a "best" pair of jeans and didn't assume that we'd have clothes in our closets that we barely wore.  Shopping was something that we did on special occasions or when we had outgrown everything we owned.  Hand-me-downs were passed along...not sold at a consignment sale.  We weren't as selective with having the best of everything...we just wanted to make the best out of whatever it was we had.  And if not having enough made us want to work harder...well...more power to us.

Our cars were even hand-me-downs...usually some old beater that came from the family...or that we purchased for less than $1,000.  My folks even put recap tires on my car...and somehow I survived that, too.  I know this because the baby blue on the tires matched my car.  (Yes, I do believe that my folks loved me in spite of this evidence to the contrary.)

I know that times have changed and will continue to fact, Big Dave was even entertaining stopping our phone service since nobody will ever get up to answer the telephone.  Only telemarketers trying to sell us septic tank products, time-share opportunities, or magazines...and political pollsters actually call us on our home number.  Sad, but true.

Magazines. They are trying to practically give them away at every opportunity for virtually nothing just to improve circulation and stay in business.  I remember spending hours looking over Seventeen magazine.  And Tiger Beat.

I know, I know...Tiger WHAT?  The only "Tiger" this generation knows about is Tiger Woods.

But perhaps all of this technology isn't so bad.  I've been watching the Hallmark Channel for weeks now...something that would have been impossible years ago when we had four channels - NBC, CBS, ABC and the dreaded PBS.  We actually read the TV Guide because we didn't want to miss anything.  We had to get up to change channels.  If we missed it...we missed it.  Now, we can DVR, channel-surf, and watch movies on demand.  If you think about it...that's pretty WOW.

And in all honesty...I'm glad that there were cell phones when my kids started driving so I didn't have to hand them a quarter in case they needed to call from a phone booth...another item made obsolete by technology.  Poor Superman.  I'm also happy that I can be in communication with my college age children every day...even if it is only a text message.  I used to only call my parents once a week...and sometimes "collect."

I won't even go there.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

On December

Although I made a promise not to whine anymore on my "status" on Facebook...I just needed the closure of reliving it all on here with commentary.  Why?  Because I am truly this sick about once every ten years...and I had the added bonus of having it occur during the week before Christmas.

No, THAT wasn't stressful at all.

I actually did quite well through the first two weeks of December because my uber-planning that began in October this year carried me up to that point. 

Oh, come on, I can see all...the majority of...some...okay...both of you rolling your eyes right now.

I had a Christmas project this year called the "Advent Bag" that was distributed to the recipients the last week of November to be opened each day from December 1st - 24th.  The number was chosen by just a feeling I had in my spirit (without a list...I'm serious) and so were the recipients.  (Sixteen of the seventeen recipients were I only mailed one.)  In case you are a math whiz, that meant that 408 different messages and packages had to be edited, copied, purchased, packaged, tagged, audited (to make sure that all of them were in the bag) and then delivered to the recipients.  While I cannot express to you the joy that it gave me that last week in November and in December when I'd get calls, texts, hugs, notes, and words of encouragement...I will tell you that in all honesty...sometime in November I thought I'd been given an idea that was too big for me to handle.  It wasn't, of course, because I believe that God wanted those bags in the hands that they were placed into...but let's just say that the stress started early.  Even if it WAS fun stress.

Then there was the whole commitment to have all of the Christmas presents bought prior to December 1st.  What kind of idiot does that?  Answer: Me.

Actually, I ended up doing what I do every year...and that is buying early and then everyone gives me their lists as soon as I finish buying what I had budgeted.  Even though I asked everyone to have me their lists no later than November 1st...that didn't exactly work out as planned.  I also admit that some of the early gifts were great "deals" that I got from  Of course, Jill's enthusiasm with the Pyrex set that I ordered for her apartment next year and the bowl set from Bloomingdale's was a little less than I'd hoped.  The other 17 presents I wrapped for her made up for it, though.

Yes.  I did say 17 presents (actually 19).  That was the most...but everyone had at least a dozen.  That means that I wrapped approximately sixty gifts plus two of my own and about ten for various Dirty Santa exchanges and a friend I exchange with every year, and we are up to 72.  With a gift bag ratio of 30% to 70% wrapped gifts...and each package taking at least five minutes to wrap...that makes a minimum of six hours wrapping gifts.  This pales in comparison to the 120 hours that I spent watching movies on the Hallmark Channel.  Of course, most of that time I was doing other lying in bed unable to move except to cough...but still...

Then we got caught up in our neighborhood's first round of being "Jingled."  I just cannot express how much fun this was to come home from the church's cantata  Christmas program...until I realized that I had 24 hours to get goodies to two of my neighbors to keep the thing going.  Since I had other plans for the next night (which involved Dirty Santa, awesome friends, a strawberry cake and a house that Southern Living really needs to know about), I went to Gigi's Cupcakes and bought those instead.  Of course, I couldn't leave them at the door because Black Dog from next door was standing right by me while I rang the doorbell at one house...and has been known to frequent the other.  So much for surprises!  I'm not exactly sure who "Jingled" us...but I'm fairly certain it wasn't my sorry next door neighbor who won't mow the one foot swatch of grass between our yards until I threaten to do it myself and Big Dave handles it for me every summer.

After a round of Christmas parties, office parties, and a delightful concert at a local church of "Behold the Lamb of God" as well as our church's musical program (formerly referred to as a "cantata")...I felt quite festive.  I even decorated a table at our Holiday Tea at church and had a wonderful time there and at an open house earlier that day.  The next weekend I attended a Christmas shower for a sweet local girl who is getting married in March.  Sometime before all of this...I helped a friend with her booth at a local church's Holiday Bazaar.  Actually, I ended up doing more shopping than helping...but whatever.

But the best was yet to come!  We had our family Christmas with the Mixons...where we got to enjoy time with our two "little guys" - Jacob and Noah. Babies really make the holidays seem so much more special. I know not why this is...other than it brings it all back around for us. And what's not to love about that while you are looking into the precious little faces of the next generation?

A wonderful "collective" dinner was held at a sweet friend's house and we had a delicious dinner with friends and the kids who were not working that night (sadly, Jill was) and had a chance to bless each other in fellowship.  I look forward to this every year.  The next day, I looked forward to the arrival of my sister, niece, nephew and my folks and my long awaited and highly anticipated week of vacation.  Yes!

After making "Santa Hat Christmas mix" from my friend Sonja's Pinterest find, reading to Jingle the interactive dog from Hallmark that felt it would be really funny to not respond when I said "Jingle was such a GOOD dog" (because he obviously isn't...although he has had a recent attitude adjustment and is now cooperating in France), and hearing my voice on another book (scary!) and a treasure hunt around my house...after a trip to Sweet P's (for lunch and a cupcake) I finally sat down at some point Monday evening after they left.  I was able to do a few more things that I had left undone...and I decided to do the baking later in the week.  I mean...I had plenty of time, right?  So, I did a few more things on Tuesday and all appeared to be well. 

The week was slipping by too fast...but when I got up the next morning - on Wednesday - I made an arrangement to have lunch with a friend...which was absolutely delightful.  Then I promised to help someone with a Christmas project and I went home for a nap.  It was Wednesday.

Needless to say, that help to a friend didn't happen and there was no baking at Casa Mixon. 

I should have known right then that something was amiss.  I don't nap.  Not when there are things to do, people to see and places to go.  I figured that I was just a little bit tired and so I turned on the Hallmark Channel and let it rip.

Actually "ripped" would be a more fair descriptor of my throat when I awoke sometime in the middle of the night unable to sleep because I was waking myself up snoring when I wasn't dying of thirst.

Yes.  Fun.

This same thing went on for Thursday, Friday, and the better part of Saturday.  Fortunately, a doctor that Jill was visiting called me in a Z-Pack so I could rejoin the land of the living.  I am firmly convinced that this got me through Christmas without an emergency room or urgent care visit. 

The wonderful "spread" that I had planned for my sweet friends on Christmas Eve was replaced by a roast in the crock pot and Big Dave's mashed potatoes.  Fortunately, two clients of Big Dave's had provided a homemade cheesecake and a homemade chocolate pecan pie along with the other half of Paige's wonderful pound cake that I had managed to snatch from my family to save for dessert was not a concern.  My friend brought the rest of the meal. 

I actually have photographic evidence of how "lovely" I was at this point in time.  I don't mean to scare anyone...but sometimes a picture says a thousand words.

Actually, this picture is saying "I am a "before" picture and a reminder that it is possible to look absolutely horrible while feeling immensely grateful at the same time."  Oh, it says a lot more...but I'll spare you my interpretation.  I'm sure that you have found your own...all beginning or ending with "bless her heart..."

Christmas Dinner also had to be revised from a spiral ham (we bake because Big Dave doesn't want to spend $60 for a Honey Baked ham unless we are having enough people to eat it all) to ham steaks...and from sweet potato casserole to baked whole sweet potatoes.


Everyone survived. 

I was able to enjoy Christmas morning and then I passed out for a couple of hours to awake at 7:00 p.m.  I made a call or two and lapsed back into my bed.  I use the term "my" bed because Big Dave figured that it was safer (and quieter) to be on the couch.  Rebel used it as an opportunity to sleep with "Mama" and we had quite a week of bonding.  Bless his little canine heart...he does love to cuddle.

The 26th was a holiday (fortunately) I was up and down and actually braved Hobby Lobby to try to get something for 66% off that I won't need for at least another ten months.  Other than the lady on the wreath aisle that was not only blocking the aisle with the wreaths that she had in the aisle...she was standing so that her arms covered them so none of us would take them from her.  Seriously, lady?  I looked at the price of those wreaths and even at 66% off...they weren't a temptation to me.  I did hog a few of the aprons and finally gave one up to a sweet lady who kept coveting the four I had in my I gave her one.  Yes, I'm all heart.

Somehow by the grace of God, I made it back to work on the 27th.  Not with makeup or a whole lot enthusiasm...but I was there.  I finally went to the doctor on the 28th after both ears started aching and received a diagnosis of an ear infection in both ears, endured a steroid shot, and got a serious BOHICA in the form of a $170 antibiotic prescription.  I'm assuming it is a good one for that price.  It certainly better be or some pharmaceutical company will be hearing from Towanda.

And here we are.

Last night was actually a really great night for a reason other than I felt better...but we'll just have to see how that all goes.

At 5:01 tomorrow...I'll be looking forward to another holiday weekend.  This time...much quieter.  Except for the snoring that is coming from my room.  This time it isn't me or Rebel,'s Big Dave. In spite of his best efforts, he seems to have a touch of what I had.  Not enough for him to miss work...but enough for him to snore louder than a cross between a chainsaw and a dying caribou.  Oh, I don't know what the latter sounds like...but it sounds like it would be pretty close.

I suppose that what I have learned through this Christmas season and this bout with illness is that it is possible to do everything that you want to do...but you may end up having to go with Plan B at some point during the holidays.  I got to enjoy everything because I had planned so far ahead.  I honestly believe that this is because God knew I was going to be taking a timeout and so He prompted me into getting everything done...and enjoyed...earlier than in past years.

On the bright side...I am well rested, Christmas is over and was wonderful, and a whole twelve months stretches out in front of us like a beautiful unwritten novel.  I hope that the pages of this book will include a story of success (Jill's graduation), travel (to New York in March and to France in May) and possibly some romance.  You just never know.  I know that it has some valley moments that I can already anticipate as we will walk through chemotherapy with my sweet, brave, mother-in-law...but I believe in my spirit that all will be well.  She's strong.  A fighter.  And we have her back.  I also hope that we will have a lot of laughter and deeper relationships with those that we are blessed to call our friends.

Here's looking ahead...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A List of Thoughts With My Thoughts Added

I didn't write the gems below, but I (of course) couldn't just leave well enough alone.  So, here are my comments after each of these.  Okay, fine, they stand on their own...but humor me...:)

1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good. (The fact that life isn't fair will not stop the majority of people from trying to make it so...and in so doing will make it seem truly awful sometimes.  Just stay grounded...because quite frankly...most of us are already so indecently lucky that we'd better be dang glad that life isn't fair.)

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step. (This will usually occur either after whining about it to your best friend or because you have no other options.  Plus, if you are headed in the wrong direction...most of the time this will become incredibly obvious soon enough.  If it does...go ahead and turn around and take another small the opposite direction.  Do not fear.)

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone. (But, honestly, there are going to be times when you're going to make exceptions to this rule.  Just throw your fit and move on.)

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch. (But since many of us have benefits through work the proper respect as well.)

5. Pay off your credit cards every month. (Or better without credit cards.)

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree. (Unless you are dealing with a political or religious situation.  You're going to have to accept that some people view the world in a completely different manner.  We think they are crazy...they think we're loons.  Personally...I go with biblical truth and common sense.  Anything else seems to smack of trying to make heaven on earth.  Heaven is heaven.  Earth is earth.)

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.  (Preferably tears of Depends-worthy laughter.  For me...that is either the "Awkward Family Photos" website or "D#&@ You Auto Correct!")

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it. (I can personally attest to this.)

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck. (Seriously...retirement comes out of nowhere.  I was just in my I'm 48.)

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile. (True.  But sometimes it has to come in the form of chocolate pudding made with Splenda.  Just saying.)

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up your future. (While easier said than done...there are a couple of things to remember: A) Most of us are incredibly stupid before age 20 in some way or other; B) We all make mistakes...some of us are just more public about it than others; C) Sometimes we build a wisdom base that is used exhaustively to help other people later in life; D) God will go to great lengths to bring us back from some of the most awful places just to prove to us how much He loves us.)

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry. (Just be selective about how often.  It is upsetting to see that kind of vulnerability every day.)

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.  (Nothing is really ever as it seems.  Be grateful for what you have.)

14. If a relationship has to be secret, you shouldn't be in it. (Unless, of course, you are working for the CIA.)

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry, God never blinks. (Yes it does and no he doesn't.)

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.  (So does Tylenol PM.)

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful. (Storage fees are ridiculous and clutter is exhausting.  Plus, how can you possibly accept anything else into your life with an open palm when you are grasping onto all of the unnecessary stuff you are holding onto for some reason?)

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make your stronger. (I agree with this from an emotional standpoint...from a physical one...not so much.)

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else. (But if you want to share...count me in.)

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.  (It is permissable, however, from time to time to take "Wait." as an answer instead.)

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special. (Exactly.  Plus, if you're like me, had I not worn the fancy lingerie when I actually owned it, I never would have been able to get myself into it now.)

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow. (This is a Southern woman's mantra along with making sure that you have way too much of anything so you won't accidentally run out.  Overpreparation is actually a way of showing that you are giving it the proper respect...and too much of something is just "Southern Hospitality.")

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple. (Eccentric in a good way like "she really loves Christmas and has a huge village display she sets up every year" not "she is being featured on 'Hoarders' next season.")

24. The most important sex organ is the brain. (Um.  Okay.  I think that the Cialis ads that run every 15 minutes beg to differ.)

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you. (Although other people can seriously help in this regard.)

26. Frame every "so called" disaster with these words, "In five years, will this matter?"  (Or "In five minutes, will this matter?"  Some folks have daily disasters...which is indeed tragic.)

27. Always choose life. (Amen.)

28. Forgive everyone everything. (Including yourself.)

29. What other people think of you is none of your business. (True...but happy thoughts are always nicer, yes?)

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time. ("Almost" is the operative word here.  Do your best to do your part as well in your healing.)

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change. (And for those of you who aren't there yet..."the change" isn't always pretty.)

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does. (They are more concerned with taking themselves so seriously.)

33. Believe in miracles. (Every single day of your life.)

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do. (Amazing Grace...)

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now. ("Life is what happens when you were busy making other plans" - John Lennon)

36. Growing old beats the alternative--dying young.  (But being saved trumps both.)

37. Your children get only one childhood. (Make it count.)

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved. (Because nothing can go to heaven with you except other people.)

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere. (I know on days when I see a rainbow...I feel like God is sending me a special kiss on the forehead.)

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab our's back. (Well, I might trade with someone who threw in "I just can't gain weight whatever I do...")

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need. (Envy is also a tool of Satan to make us think that God doesn't love us as much as he loves other people.  Stay out of that snare.)

42. The best is yet to come. (Always.)
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up. (Makeup optional.)

44. Yield. (To God.)

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift. (Sometimes that "gift" is much like the ones that Dixie and Rebel leave in my living room from time to time...but even so...)

Okay, so I went lazy tonight...but I wanted to write...and I'm tired.  Bless you for reading...and thank you, Michele, for posting the original list. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

On Awkwardness

This morning...for some reason...I found it necessary to peruse one of my favorite websites -  I came across this little virtual snack of awkwardness...

Why this is hilarious to me, God only knows...but it did get me to thinking.  Awkwardness really is part of the holidays isn't it?  Not the part that we celebrate...but it is just bound to happen just the same.  Here are some examples...some from reality...some from my memories or those of others...and some just flying free from the right side of my brain (which has taken over my entire being because I don't need the left brain really while I am on vacation other than to remember to pay American Express on the 21st.  But I digress...)

How about these...

Someone fails to tell you that the game "Dirty Santa" is more figurative...meaning that you can "steal" gifts rather than literal (I'll let you use your imagination...but let's just say that the Starbucks gift card was wrapped most creatively)...and you are at WORK.

The gift limit increased from $25 to $30 and you weren't told.  And the primary gift that year was in gift cards.

You fail to see the words "dressy casual" on the invitation and you show up in your football hoodie and jeans.

You are at a party hanging out with the girls and the gift exchange starts.  A gift exchange that you weren't aware existed...although everyone has gifts for you.

Grandpa thinks he is hiding the fact that he smokes a cigar while he goes out for his morning drive...and then receives a box of cigars from one of his kids.

You purchase a bible for someone you are dating for Christmas...with their name engraved on it...and the breakup occurs on December 15th.

The Christmas cards are out and you've sent every one you have...and then you get cards from people that you somehow left off your list.

The hostess gift you brought to someone you don't know particularly well is something that they cannot possibly enjoy...a bottle of wine to someone who has been sober for two years...a box of chocolates to a diabetic, or a nice assortment of salted nuts to someone who just spent three days hospitalized with diverticulitis. 

A friend calls you on Christmas Eve upset because her husband has gotten all tanked up on holiday cheer and knocked over the Christmas tree in front of the children. 

You forget to bring the gift card you purchased for the parents in October to the family gathering...and now it looks like you are at at best...forgetful.

After laughing at the fact that you think fruitcake/Snuggies/The Clapper is the worst Christmas gift EVER, you sit down to discover that someone purchased you one. 

The Christmas gift that you wanted and told everyone about meant that you ended up with three of them.

Your son or daughter opens up a lovingly chosen gift by someone and announces, "I already got one of these.  Can I take it back to WalMart?"

You "regift" something to the person who originally gave it to you because you erroneously thought someone else gave it to you.

The sweater for a female is two sizes too big...or the reverse awkwardness...the sweater for a male is two sizes too small.

The new recipe that Grandma is so excited about was misread and the 2t of curry powder that the recipe called for turned into 2T instead. She doesn't notice THAT but she does notice that nobody is asking for seconds.  So, she serves it until it is gone...which seems like that oil in the lamp that never burns out in the Bible...except instead of oil... it is curried fruit.  Amazingly curried curried fruit.

The list gets lost for the family gift exchange and one person gets two gifts and another person gets none.

At a Sunday School party, someone dares to take the silver reindeer that you had your heart set on at the ornament exchange.  For whatever reason (okay...your competitive nature), you end up storming out of the party.  A couple of years later, someone takes the awesome plaid blanket that you thought was yours...and left you with a skating pig...which you leave on the table at the party...until someone notices and says, "Hey! You left your gift!"

I could actually go on...and talk about things like meeting the new boyfriend/girlfriend of someone after the breakup/divorce, too much eggnog/punch/Jack Daniels, wishing our Jewish friends a "Merry Christmas," Christmas sweaters and obnoxious lawn displays, but those kinds of awkwardness are almost past awkward and into the realm of "OMGosh."

I don't know about you, but sometimes the awkward times during the holidays are the most hilarious.  I mean...not at the time.  But later.  Sometimes that awkwardness becomes part of family lore. 

For generations.

I don't know if you have had any of these bouts of awkwardness...but I strongly believe that you probably have.  My advice?  Embrace the awkwardness.  Laugh.  Try not to let it steal your joy. 

If you end up being at the giving end of the awkwardness...see what you can do to make it right...but don't let it spoil your holiday.  If you are at the receiving will have a story to tell for the ages.  I suppose that's the best advice I can offer.  Except for one last thing...

Beware the curried fruit. 

Merry Christmas!  (Or Happy Hanukkah!)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Christmas Music

In about an hour, I'm leaving to go to the church for the annual trek to the cantata.  I don't care if you call it a "dramatic presentation" or "evening of merriment" or me...if it is at the church and is not a Living Christmas's a cantata.

I know that it is wonderful because everybody who went last night has already told me so.  I attend a church with uber-talented people, and my friend, Beve (and her very talented daughter, Courtney), is in the choir.  I always love it when I go...but much like hospitals (unless you have just had a baby)...cantatas hit my "no-fly" list early in life.

Why that is, I can't exactly say.  It may have been sitting in church for what seemed like hours as a child or having to sit so close to other people that I swore to myself "never again" at some point in time when I was old enough to decide for myself.

So, every year...this battle.  And every year that I go...I'm blessed.  And I'm sure that will be the case tonight.  If it is as wonderful as it probably is, then I'm going to consider it a Christmas miracle and consider myself cured of future anti-cantata behavior.  Trust me...this WOULD be a miracle.  (Last year helped a lot in moving me in that general direction).

Although I am not a choir person, and I don't really sing in front of people...this past week I put out a Christmas challenge to sing a Christmas song at the top of your lungs in your car.  I figured that this would be a fun way to just throw a little bit of Christmas spirit your way...and that it wasn't expensive or even that difficult to do.  It also means that other people don't have to be subjected to this unless you wanted to "share your joy" so to speak.

Unless, of course, you are listening to Mix 103.3 here in Montgomery as I've been doing when I'm not listening to Rush Limbaugh, Greg Budell, or something else.

Actually, Mix 103.3 plays Christmas music all day long every day.  That's all this station plays from Thanksgiving until Christmas.  Except for those ten minutes each hour when it runs commercials.  Darn that capitalism!  Sadly, I always seem to tune in just about when they break for this necessary but annoying interlude.  However, while the station does play a lot of music that I love, and I've been very impressed that they haven't run anything into the ground too much yet...I want some songs that I actually know the words to so that I can sing along.

As of now, the only song I heard over the last hour while I was in the car that I knew the words to was the Hanukkah Song by Adam Sandler...which a Christmas song.
And for the record...why, no, I DIDN'T know that all Three Stooges were Jewish.  Except that there were more like four or five Stooges...but whatever.

I didn't know the words prior to this Christmas, so I'm thinking that Mix 103.3 has been playing it a wee bit much, yes?  Or maybe I'm just on Adam Sandler overload.  A little bit goes a long way.  Don't believe me?  Rent "Don't Mess With the Zohan."  Try not to lose your mind.

Should you actually watch it?  No-no-no-no-no-no-no...

Speaking of losing your mind...there are three songs that absolutely grate on my nerves historically...Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" and that "So This Is Christmas" song.  The first because it is just downright annoying, the second because it quit being funny in the 1980s, and the third because of the line "Another year older..."  I mean, SERIOUSLY, who wants to be reminded of THAT at Christmas. 

Not me.  The only thing I can think of worse would be "Twenty pounds heavier..."

Oh, who am I kidding?  This song was written in 1983...which probably means that I stopped liking it sometime around...1983.

Amazing how that one line just shot the whole song for me.  That, and the fact that they play it every 33.7 minutes.

Which brings me to...what would I love to hear instead?  Well, that's pretty easy, actually.  I love classic Christmas music.  I don't really care who does "Do You See What I See?" because it is going to sound pretty awesome regardless.  Unless, of course, Eminem were to do a version.  Or Roseanne Barr.


How about this version...

Or this one...

Or finally...
To me, it matters not if this song is done by Carrie Underwood, Bing Crosby, Destiny's Child or Whitney just stands on its own and is magnified by their rendition.  Somehow "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" would probably only appeal to me if the Foo Fighters did it.  Which they haven' there.

I don't know what songs speak of the joy of the season to you.  It may be that you like that gosh-awful hippopotamus song...
They may want a hippopotamus for Christmas...but frankly, I'd rather have a goat from World Vision (in spirit...the actual goat would be delivered to a needy family somewhere far away from here).  In fact, a few years ago, my friend Carol gave our scrapbooking group a goat as a Christmas gift.  It was awesome of her to do...and it felt good to know that someone out there was going..."Cool.  A goat." in some language I cannot speak in some country I'll probably never visit. 

When World Vision starts putting hippopotamuses in their annual book for gifting, I'll get off of this song. Until then...

Tomorrow I'll try again to do a car concert.  C'mon a sister out.

Friday, December 9, 2011

On Decorating

One of the great challenges of growing older is that the closer you get to the bottom of the bowl, the faster the rotation.  Sorry for the toilet analogy, there, but hey, you know what I mean.

As a child, Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive.  I'd start combing the TV Guide in early December for fear that I'd miss "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer," "Frosty the Snowman," or "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town."  I also looked out for the Charlie Brown Christmas special, but I wasn't as attached to it as I was the others.  Now it saddens me that I can go to the local Costco and purchase all three of these as a collection.

I feel like part of my childhood is sitting in a box with a price tag of $12.99 on it. 

Along with trick-or-treating, Schoolhouse Rock, and Saturday morning cartoons.

I can't bring myself to buy them...although I've entertained the idea numerous times. 

I've come to like the haunting music from the Charlie Brown Christmas as an adult.  Probably because it doesn't involve a hippopotamus...

Although barking dogs totally rock...
Oh, come on.  You know it's cute the first fifty times you hear it each Christmas unless you are a serious cat person or are currently medicated from Christmas overload.

Anyway, where was I?  Time going quickly...

Oh.  Yeah.  Sorry.

This Christmas, I vowed that it would be different.  I'd finish a Christmas project before Thanksgiving...and I did. I'd shop early...and I did that too.  That I'd simplify and attempt to freak out less. 


Well, here I sit on the eve of the 10th of December with numerous boxes waiting to go back into the attic.  My Christmas china is not unpacked, and every conceivable surface of this house is covered in something in transition.  I have a broken Santa figurine that Big Dave needs to fix, an empty fruit bowl, and five thousand (exaggeration...but only slightly) pieces of paper on my dining room table.  My sideboard has chargers from the ladies' tea last weekend, four candle holders, and Spode items scattered randomly (still in their boxes).  I have two unwrapped gifts, some loan papers from a rate modification that Chase insists that we need to do so that we'll love them forever (and save $60 a month) and some Ritz crackers shaped like snowflakes sitting to the left of this computer. 

On the kitchen counters is a huge platter that just screams denial with the message "Christmas Calories Don't Count" on it.  And they don't in December.  But come January...O.M.Gosh.

The letters that will eventually spell "NOEL" and "JOY" look more like "YOE" and "LNJO" right now and there are two empty gallons of tea sitting on the stove for reasons that only my nineteen year old knows.  There is also a quarter inch of diet root beer in the container that I bought for fifty cents at Publix last night that was just apparently WAY too much for Big Dave to fit in whatever glass he was using. (Or he was waiting for me to take it to the trash...more likely explanation.)

Needless to say...other than the fact that my tree is "Ho Ho Ho" is more like "No No No" right now.

But tomorrow will change all that...because I'm not resting until the

Twelve massive boxes
Eleven china Santas
Ten place settings
Nine swags of greenery
Eight odd snowmen
Seven strings of lights
Six outside wreaths
Four Christmas trees
Three stuffed Santas
Two poinsettias and
One half done house...are dealt with.

Or I'll be chronicling that failure here.  Probably with photos if I can get batteries for my backup camera since my main one is no longer with us.

But my point (lost with personal renditions of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and the barking dogs) was that time is really going by quickly.  Too quickly.  Even for a well intentioned over-planner like me.  I'm almost ashamed that it is the 10th of December and my house doesn't look like "Redneck Living" would bother to have a photo shoot here...much less "Southern Living."  Sad but true.

Tomorrow that changes. 

Or not.  

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Tea (with Photos)

I am writing this a few days into December. I've been listening to Christmas music instead of talk radio some of the time and have now learned that the Hallmark Channel is channel 312 on DirecTV.  I've watched every imaginable Hallmark movie and actually got weepy during a couple of them this afternoon.

What is up with that?

I spent the entire weekend doing events that were somewhat festive and the time flew by just like the weekends always do.  I spent Friday evening setting up a table for a ladies' tea at the church where I hosted a table.  At first I panicked a little bit because I really wanted the table to look beautiful...but I do have Spode Christmas Tree china and friends that know how to make a table look lovely. 

Funny how when you ask God to give you opportunities to stretch beyond your comfort zone...He is always willing to answer that prayer.  The ones to have eighty pounds mysteriously drop off of your body or have someone leave you a gazillion dollars because your name begins with the letter K...not so much.

Anyway, I'm rolling the suitcase that I purchased for Big Dave in with the china that I have collected over the past twenty-five years toward the Fellowship Hall.  I know!  Ingenious, right?  Leave it to a bunch of church ladies to figure out how to transport an eight piece place setting of china, a teapot, decorations, and whatever else in a suitcase.  Actually, I'm already a professional in transporting tons of stuff from point A to point B because I'm a scrapbooker. 

So, I arrive...and I'm desperately trying to find a spot where there aren't many people who have "that table"- you know...the one that looks like Martha Stewart did it or is just so dang cute that you have to fight that urge to wish ten pounds on the girl who put it together.  Because my friend Nedra was creating the center part, I was trying to get two tables together.  I finally decided that it would be best to just choose some by the door as the ones in the back were already set up and were super-cute.  I started unloading my suitcase...the gold chargers to go under the china...and was just happy to be a part of this whole female bonding ritual...and competition.

Anyway, Nedra used some red burlap and some greenery that she "borrowed" from some bushes that were located within walking distance of her front door.  She tucked the burlap and turned it all into a lovely presentation.

(I like to use words like "presentation" because I'm actually a frustrated society page writer wannabe...but whatever.)

After fifteen cell phone calls and delivery of a cool music CD by a friend who thought I needed to expand my musical horizons (and it was Christmas yay!) was done.

Except that while I was doing all of this...another lady showed up to decorate her two tables.  I should have sensed that it was going to be some serious decorating on that table when I saw the wooden reindeer sitting atop a bed of pooled gold lame' fabric.  (That's pronounced "luh-MAY" as opposed to "lame" for those of you who are not entirely sure if I'm dissing the fabric or not.  Just think of it as something that Liberace would wear and leave it at that.)

For the record, I absolutely adore gold lame' fabric.  I'm not entirely sure what that says about me.

Or perhaps I do.  Yikes.

I left that night feeling pretty good about everything.  Yes, I recognized that there were tables that looked a lot like mine (apparently Spode Christmas Tree china is ridiculously popular)...and I saw that I could have stepped out a little bit and added a few touches here and there that might have added just a little something more.  Frankly, I thought just adding Splenda packets to the table was a big deal.

And it was.

Plus, everyone really loved my teapot.  My folks bought it for me after our 2006 trip to London...and I have enjoyed it more as a decorative piece than as something actually functional.  But, hey, if you have to have a teapot, and everyone has already raided T.J. do what you have to do.  I was also happy to note that it is as much substance as it is style.

Rock on.

The next morning, I attended a wonderful holiday open house where I had the chance to stop and speak to a number of folks that I don't get to see all of the time.  I got to handle that peppermint bark craving I'd developed from looking at the Williams-Sonoma website one too many times...and had a lovely time.  After a run through CVS and Petco (coupons, know how it is...) I went back to the church to complete the whole setup and get ready for the ladies to arrive.

All 200 or so of them.

I had the chance to photograph all of the tables and I'll post them below...but before I was my table.

Okay, you have to imagine that there was a Spode tray with goodies where you see the red burlap to get the full effect.

I went into the kitchen to pick up my goodies and then went to photograph all of the tables.  My camera either fell out from exhaustion or because it knows that the warranty is up and that it is almost Christmas.  I'm not accusing Kodak of a conspiracy...but I suppose it's possible.

After everyone arrived, there was a charming table of ladies including my sweet friend Judy...and we ate and enjoyed what had obviously taken a lot of time to prepare.  Everything tasted delightful...and the ladies were so excited as we watched a fashion show spontaneously begin shortly after everyone was seated.

Following the fashion show, we were treated to a wonderful talk by Bonnie Whitaker - who took out her makeup bag and reminded us of how we should be looking at our inner beauty as we put on each cosmetic each day.  When she finished, a beautiful girl did a mime routine to "You're Beautiful" that just brought tears to my eyes.

See, it isn't just the Hallmark Channel that is capable of doing this.

After the tea, we repacked our bags, cleaned up, and made our way back home.  We made new friends and had our hearts warmed by seeing old ones.  We created something beautiful...and made the effort to pamper the ladies at our tables with just a few minutes of "girl time" during the busy holiday season. 

It was tiring...but worth it.  Here's the photos that I took before my camera breathed its last.  Enjoy them...and imagine how lovely it was to be a part of this.  It was, you know. 

This is what a gazillion little cranberry thingys look like.

These scones totally rocked.  However, there were leftovers, and a certain Sunday School class (not mine, sadly) is going to be anti-scone at some point in time or victims of aversion therapy.  They have plans to serve them for the next three weeks.  Scones will freeze, right?

This is some kind of bacon and tomato tartlet thing that was quite awesome.

Amazing lemon squares with a blueberry on it just to make it classy. 

Seriously, folks, red velvet just about anything is amazing. 

Hi Elizabeth!  She's holding a tray that went on each table.  I kid you not.


This was the oh-so-fabulous reindeer table done by my friend Debbie.

Is this not cute?  I loved the little red square and the jars with cranberries floating along with greenery, water and floating candles that sweet Emily put together.  It was so original and creative.  Loved it! 

Pretty, yes?  The little gingerbread men were lovingly made by Lynn Autrey for all 200 of the guests.

I loved the silver tea service and tray on this table.  Not to mention the cute thing they did on the plates.

On top of the tea tray in the center of the table was a really pretty Andrea Chipser ornament.  Great idea.

Martha Stewart wuz here

I loved the nutcrackers on this table and the cute little green plates.

This was one of my favorite tables done by my friend Jennifer who doesn't have Christmas china but she managed to pull off a seriously cute table.  Look at how the ornaments and silver items just make this table! 

This table was right behind mine and I was talking to one of the ladies and then the other before I had a minor freak out at the revelation that they were identical twins.  I thought I was losing my mind for a minute.  Is this table not gorgeous?  They used little floral stems around the paper napkins as napkin rings.  Added color and oh-so-cute!

Folks, this table is just classy to me.  Loved it.

This is my sweet friend Nedra's table.  She is such an original...look at those chargers and that beautiful Johnson Brothers platter she used.  It belonged to her grandparents. I didn't breathe easy until I put it in her hands today.

Loved the angels and the simple greenery with the red placemats.

Another Martha Stewart table.

So elegant!  Love the gold and white.  Simple...but definitely elegant, yes?

Loved the cute little party favors, and this whole presentation.  (See, I snuck in that word again! :))

Cutest Santa teapot ever. :)

Sometimes less is more...and just right.

Loved this one as well because of the multilevel plates for the food, the ornaments and Santa and the red chargers.  I seriously need some red chargers!

Pretty table...and those red chargers again!

Another presentation of Spode Christmas Tree china with a gorgeous silver tray!

Okay, maybe I need silver chargers too...

Okay, this was "Best of Show" in my humble opinion.  The next photo is a closer up version of the centerpiece.  This was such a lovely table.  Lots of work and love went into it.

The promised...

Snowmen!  Such a cute table, yes?

Beautiful plates and teapot.  Very lovely.

This was another of my favorites.  Such a pretty table!

More Spode Christmas Tree china with a brown cloth underneath and wooden tray.  Nice change of pace...(that I'll be ripping off here at home...)

I loved the crystal ice water glasses along with the stunning silver that Miss Rolena had on her beautiful table!

Colorful and absolutely lovely!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Packing the Boxes

Last night I went to church to help "stuff" boxes for the deployed military church members. Several people donated items and the person who heads the project up donated a considerable amount of her personal resources to make sure that there was enough.  The boxes included personal items, food, and all of those little comforts of home that we all take for granted when we get off of our couches from watching football all afternoon or the Hallmark Christmas movie marathon that is on and head to the pantry. 

Of course, at the risk of mocking people for giving what they have, I will tell you that I always find it interesting that people will use times like these as an opportunity to clean out that drawer, shelf or medicine cabinet to get rid of stuff that should have long ago found Mr. Dumpster.  I found this same phenomenon to be true when the church was collecting items for the Tuscaloosa and Elmore County tornado victims last April.  My take on donations is this: if you wouldn't want to receive shouldn't give it.  That goes for the weird can of something you bought for a recipe that you never got around to languishing in your pantry when it is food drive time. 

What I guess I'm saying is that it is fine to give out of your abundance...especially you couponers who have a stash of perfectly good "stuff" that you paid nothing for sitting in a closet in your house.  But I think that we are called to give sacrificially.  I want to believe that some people who gave had an honest appreciation for what our military does, and they marched to the store and bought a few items that they thought might be appropriate.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that this was the case because I saw two Nerf basketball goals, batteries, and some dog toys. 

Dog toys?

Yes, there are usually dogs around most of the places that the soldiers are deployed.  I remember seeing the stories of dogs being shipped back, and know that these four-legged friends add comfort for a lot of the soldiers who are missing being at home terribly. 

I hope that this season you will find something that you can do for the military that is deployed, the families that are left behind, or those who you come in contact with as you go through your daily life.  I know that I often see soldiers eating in restaurants or walking through the parking lot at Wal-Mart because we have two military bases in Montgomery (Maxwell and Gunter).  I always smile, but I've never worked up the courage to just say "thank you for serving." 

That changes this week.  Because without them...the freedom that I think I have is a mere illusion. 

In a few weeks, there will be opportunities to donate to "Toys for Tots" and there's always a way to give to the Wounded Warrior Project ( if you have the means and the inclination.  I know that times are tough...but truth be told...we don't know tough. 

Not like they do.