Monthly Archives: December 2015

Post-Christmas Confusion

SnowmanOne night, I lost my way in a blizzard.

“Don’t go out there,” advised my friend, whose apartment was located in the same complex. She knew that even on sunny days, I often arrived late at her place because I’d turned left instead of right.

Insulted, I blew her off. But as I trudged along, familiar landmarks disappeared. The dark gray-white sky changed places with the gray-white ground. My brain felt as fuzzy as my new Christmas hat. A faint stoplight finally guided me home.

I experience similar sensations every year after Christmas. Having plowed through a blizzard of holiday activities, I couldn’t find normal if I fell over it.

The dates of December 26 through 30 feel superfluous, like screws added to an “easy to assemble” Christmas toy because the sender had no idea what to do with them.

“Merry Christmas” doesn’t fit.

“Happy New Year” sounds premature.

Even the generic “Happy Holidays” doesn’t compute because many of us pretend to work between December 25 and January 1 (though nobody accomplishes anything).

Still, all these greetings sound better than the more accurate “Happy Demise of December.”

So, I propose we think positive about these “sort-of” holidays and establish some traditions.

Tradition One: Remember that Christmas music remains legal until January 2. I sing carols in store aisles, belting out “Do You Hear What I Hear?” without being hauled to a psychiatrist or audiologist for evaluation.

Tradition Two: Eat during this in-between time without guilt. Of course, some people claim to eat after January 1, but can rice grass and dried sweet potato rinds be classified as real food? This week, safely indulge in turkey and dressing sandwiches, Christmas cookies, fudge, and peppermint cheesecake with no reprisal from calorie/carb-conscious spouses or imprisonment by personal trainers.

Tradition Three: During the odd week after Christmas, enjoy cards that arrive late. These confirm we weren’t the only ones behind the entire holiday season.

Tradition Four: Consider this in-between week as prime bargain time. Save enormous amounts of money on a huge inventory of articles nobody wanted to buy in the first place.

Finally, let’s sit with our feet up to enjoy the Christmas tree while sipping a steaming cup of coffee, tea or cocoa. No longer do we fear the elves will get us if we’re not addressing cards, fulfilling Christmas lists or checking them twice. Granted, the Christmas tree – sans mountains of gifts – appears a bit naked. But during the frantic, manic and occasionally Titanic weeks before Christmas, every woman dreams of this moment.

And somewhere – after navigating that delightful, dizzy season – we’ll find normal again.

What’s your favorite “sort-of” holiday activity? How long before things return to normal at your house?



OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Christmas is Over?

O my God, the Christmas tree looks weird without gifts. I haven’t stepped on a Lego once this morning, and the quiet is deafening. Soon the last piece of Christmas fudge (argh!) will be gone. But OMG, I’m so glad that You share my coffee time today—Emmanuel, God still with us on December 28.


Small-town Boy

In newspapers, we read about local kids who play basketball, march in bands and strut on stages. Two thousand years ago, another small-town boy attended school, played catch and helped Dad run the family business. His name was Jesus. He was a country kid through and through.

Jesus was born in a small town, Bethlehem. The first smells that assaulted his tiny nose were straw and manure because his pregnant mom and adoptive dad, stuck with a “No Vacancy” sign at the Bethlehem Bed and Breakfast, took refuge in a stable. Perhaps Jesus appreciated his unique birth when he forgot to close the door and Mary yelled, “Oy, were you born in a barn?” Jesus could answer, “Yes.”

His parents raised him in Nazareth, where rush hour consisted of one herd of sheep going north meeting another going south. Nazareth boasted a ma-and-pa café where people exchanged marryin’ and buryin’ news. Nobody in Nazareth kept planners or wore watches. Yet when smoky fragrances of baking bread and roasting meat filled the air, Jesus and other village kids arrived for dinner on time!

They didn’t need video monitoring. All probably were taught by the strict old rabbi who instructed their parents. A student knew if he TP-ed the rabbi’s yard or tipped Mr. Moshe’s sheep, the Nazareth Nosy Network would kick into high gear. By the time he sneaked home, 200 relatives would have regaled his parents with sinful details.

Everybody knew your name in Nazareth, a great place to live – except for a teenage girl who claimed she was pregnant by the Holy Ghost. At Mary’s news, the Nazareth Nosy Network slammed into overdrive. Miraculously, Jesus’ parents survived their neighbors’ habit of stoning people who didn’t wait until marriage.

Eventually, villagers stopped counting months on their fingers concerning Jesus’ birth. Dr. Luke says the Nazarenes came to appreciate Jesus, a boy “strong in body and wise in spirit. And the grace of God was on him.”

When 30-year-old Jesus began sharing His wisdom with people throughout Galilee and Judea, his hometown enjoyed the “Small-town Boy Makes Good” headlines and boasted of his Nazareth roots.

When Jesus visited Nazareth, however, the Network rejected His claim He was God’s Son and stopped asking for his autograph. They nearly pushed their hometown hero off a cliff.

Escaping, Jesus continued ministering, mostly on the beach, mountainsides, in fields and other small towns. Finally, He volunteered to trade his life for the sins of the big-city bunch who killed him, for those of Nazareth’s Nosy Network (who wanted to) and for all since who need a Savior.

Many believed this country boy born in a barn was a hayseed wearing a fake halo. Really?

Or was He the Son of God?






OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: This Place is a Pit!

O my God, this house is a mess. But You weren’t fussy about your birthplace—a stable whose inhabitants weren’t potty-trained. A world even nastier than that. Today, You still knock at our doors, longing to enter our grimy houses and grimier hearts. OMG, thank You for braving our mess!

The Most Wonderful Songs of the Year?

WeirdSantaPeopleIIMy name is Rachael, and I’m a Christmas music addict.

Recently, I found a station that plays one 100 percent Christmas music. “O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “What Child Is This?” filled the room, sung by rich-voiced choirs and artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Sandi Patty and Perry Como.

However, intermingled “cute” Christmas carols triggered memories of long-ago kiddie programs in which I wore scratchy can-cans and pinched-toe Mary Janes while singing “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a way-too-much-information ballad, caused me, like the Chipmunks, to wish Christmas wouldn’t be late—partly so I wouldn’t have to sing that stupid kissing song anymore.

Fortunately, I missed out on other animal holiday favorites during that era, including “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” so popular that listeners raised funds to buy one for the 10-year-old singer. Her mother wouldn’t let it sleep in her room, so the girl donated it to a zoo.

Like every Boomer kid, though, I donned western gear to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with cowboy Gene Autry.

Even with annoying add-ons (“like a light bulb,” “like Pinocchio,” etc.) Rudolph can’t begin to compete with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” for holiday crassness. And yes, I held that opinion long before I became one (a grandma, not a reindeer).

Lately, however, I discovered a song that surpasses that twisted tune, a rap entitled “Reindeer Poop.” Although the lyrics laud a chocolate mounded candy, wouldn’t your mother have washed your mouth out with soap if you’d taught that to your little brother?

The Seedy Greedy Award goes to “Santa Baby.” This singer doesn’t welcome partridges in a pear tree from her true love. She goes for sables, a convertible, checks … and, Santa, baby, a platinum mine would be nice, too.

Actually, the gifts lauded by the English carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” aren’t so economical, either. Their cost totals $107,300, according to Kevin Bagos of AP News. If necessary, one can always go in for a less expensive version, Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck 12 Days of Christmas,” which includes three shotgun shells, two huntin’ dogs and parts to a Mustang GT, as well as nine years of probation and six cans of Spam.

Six cans of Spam? Not a Christmas dinner to settle the stomach. If that doesn’t make you squeamish, “Vincent the Christmas Virus” by Canadian band The Arrogant Worms will.

My name is Rachael, and I’m still an Advent music addict.

But some Christmas songs out there come close to effecting a cure.

Do you know one you’d like to fixate in your worst enemy’s mind till 2023?


OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Singing in the Stores

O my God, when I used to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” along with Walmart’s Muzac, my kids plotted to change their identities. Now, without their civilizing influence, I clear aisles. But, OMG, I can’t help singing. Christ is born!  



A Perfect Christmas Tree?

christmas_tree_afterAsk a thousand people to describe what makes a perfect Christmas tree.

You’ll receive 996 rapturous — and opinionated — answers.

What about the other four? A few Christmas-tree-impaired people don’t get it. My father, who loved trees, saw no sense in chopping down an evergreen, hauling it inside, and decorating it with expensive baubles.

Fortunately, Mom overruled him. Because of Dad’s reluctance to contribute, though, we celebrated with a tree that looked as if it had been mugged by a Grinchy weedeater. But Mom filled our tree’s gaps with strategic placement of greeting cards. We decorated with our scanty string of big-bulb lights, the ornaments we and our pets hadn’t yet broken, plus glittery Sunday school paper bells and stars. We draped random garlands of popcorn and, as a finishing touch, tossed on wads of shiny icicles. Finally, we gathered outside the picture window, shivering and marveling at the most perfect tree in the world.    

My husband makes great tree choices. While flexible, he insists upon one stipulation: the tree’s trunk must be straight, as in a perfect ninety-degree angle to the ground. No leaning, even if it’s a little tired of the holidays.

With my background, I am not choosy. I always allowed Steve and the children to select our tree. If it appeared undernourished, we dangled extra ornaments and strategically placed large greeting cards á la Grandma. If its lower layers stuck out too much, I sympathized, as mine tend to do that around Christmas, too.

I only ask that the tree look fresh and green. No yellow needles. And they must cling to the branches like a scared-of-Santa toddler to his mommy. Please, no needles scattered abroad, their prickly presence lodged forever in my socks, sweaters and undies.  

Although we miss the kids, our empty nest simplifies the selection process. Steve, measuring trunk angles with a protractor, will get his Christmas tree wish. I, giving each one the super-shake test, will, too. We’ll haul home a fresh, green tree with a straight trunk.

So far, we’ve never found a flawless one. But that makes sense. Advent is all about God’s coming because we — and our world — are flawed. A Christmas tree reminds us what He can do with imperfection.    

After we’ve decorated our tree, I will drag Steve outdoors by the picture window and force him to enjoy the view.

“It’s straight,” he’ll say proudly.

“Yes, isn’t it?” I’ll answer. We’ll hold each other close in the darkness, shivering with delight.

No, our tree is not perfect. But it’s the most beautiful tree in the world.       

What’s your “Charlie Brown tree” story?

Stuff I Shoulda Done … before December

ChristmasList BWhat’s wrong with this calendar I bought last March? Perhaps I should expect flaws in 90-percent-off merchandise. But my bargain declares we soon will see Christmas. This cannot be. As of November 30, I was supposed to have conquered the world.

Or, at least, defrosted our geezer freezer. This faithful appliance contains a prehistoric package of meat, the remains of a five-year-old Dairy Queen cake and 2,000 pounds of ice—mainly because I didn’t defrost it by December last year. Soon it won’t close. Then it will do its wheezing, freezing best to turn our junky garage into a Winter Wonderland.  

I shoulda cleaned my oven before December. Yet, why scour if I’m going to grease it up again at Christmas? Turkey-flavored Christmas cookies aren’t so bad.

The kids who formerly helped with raking have scattered farther than the leaves. Now my husband and I hold annual competitions to see who can crack their vertebrae the loudest. This year, some leaves are hanging around for Advent. Maybe delusional oaks think they’re Christmas trees?  

I shoulda renovated my flower beds, too. Bags of bulbs have lingered in my garage since 2003, when I last anticipated conquering the world. Maybe those underachiever bulbs already snoozing under blankets of soil will show up next spring. Raising perennial flowers resembles raising children: parents drown in guilt about nurturing miscues, yet their progeny spring forth in brilliant glory. Other times, when we lavish attention on them, they sulk and refuse to get out of bed for years on end. 

At least, I never left my kids on the porch after frost. My house plants are another matter. I stuck them there last spring, hoping for improvement. (Holiday gift tip: Giving a writer plants is like sending them to a plant concentration camp.) As frost approached, I reminded myself repeatedly to bring them in. But the “improved” plants now resemble greenish hat racks.

I shoulda “winterized” my car by now. (Why do we never “summer-ize” cars?) I detect a few sniffles from my Ford. I’d better let the grease gods give it a flu shot.

I did obtain my shot and tune-ups with doctor and dentist. But repairs on this (ahem!) mature body resemble maintenance on my 1960s ranch home: for every check off the list, five more materialize.

Now, with Christmas coming, to-do items on my list are reproducing like – like – Easter bunnies!

Wrong season! Maybe they bought discount calendars, too?

Feel free to add your to-do list moans and groans. We can moan and groan together.

But please don’t let your to-dos get too friendly with mine!