Tag Archives: Holiday

Home Ownership: The American Dream?

For Hubby, me and our newborn daughter, our rental house proved a sanctuary.

Apartments worked for Hubby and me — until a percussion major moved upstairs. Then, upon expecting our first child, we learned our complex was a drug trafficking center.

We rented a house.

The only upstairs residents were squirrels. They pattered across the roof, but none sold drugs or played xylophones.

We possessed three whole bedrooms and a garage. No more scraping ice off car windows. Hubby and I began to succumb to the American Dream. …

However, the driveway didn’t shovel itself. Our house boasted a real yard — whose grass never stopped growing. Flowers I planted attracted real weeds. We purchased a shovel, mower and garden tools. Lawn chairs. And …

The infinite to-buy list should have warned us about home ownership.

But tired of paying rent, I longed to choose the colors of walls and carpet. Bang nails to hang pictures without asking permission.

Our younger daughter welcomed her new brother to the little ranch we built. Thank goodness the water and sewer system had been connected!

So, we built a little ranch in a new addition … where roads hadn’t been completed. Also, water and sewage hadn’t yet been connected to the town’s system. During that inflationary era, the special 12 percent mortgage seemed cheap, compared to an earlier 21.5 percent prime rate.

We brought two newborns to that ranch. Mysterious stains marred my carefully chosen colors. I spent years watering grass and breastfeeding babies. Neither was ever satisfied. I also discovered I wasn’t handy. If I banged a nail into one wall, a gaping hole appeared in the opposite one.

The American Dream?

Our home for 24 years.
Before we knew it, the toddler had a prom date.

One other house we owned ate water heaters and softeners. Another featured a pillow-soft porch roof, as well as a toilet that randomly ran over and soaked anyone playing Ping-Pong in the basement.

We occasionally considered living in a grass hut in Bongo Bongo.

Still, Hubby and I have called all three houses “home.”

Home, where our babies took first, shaky steps. Where they learned to watch for traffic as they walked to school. Home, where we took prom and graduation pictures. Home, where they and their children now come for holidays.

Home is the only place where Hubby and I can put feet on the furniture. Where we can blow up and make up. Bake brownies, eating them all without anyone judging.

Image by Hans from Pixabay.

Our American Dream is no HGTV superstar, but at this address, we can be us.

At home.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What home-owning adventures have you experienced?

Laboring to Understand Labor Day

When did Labor Day first appear as a holiday on your childhood radar?

Image by Louise Dav from Pixabay.

For many, it occurred at school registration the Friday before Labor Day. Registration required rising early, cleaning up, and filling out cards. Labor Day didn’t rate a party — not a single piece of candy. We didn’t color smelly, mimeographed pictures, as we did even on St. Patrick’s Day.

Labor Day returned us to summer sanity. We picnicked and swam. However, at dusk, we were scrubbed in bathtubs, then sent to bed early.

Labor Day began as fun, but its ending? Not so much. Worse, we’d drag out before daylight the next day. The next 12 years!

Labor Day marked the onset of hard labor.

Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay.
Image by Ruslan Gilmanshin from Pixabay.

Once I grew accustomed to school mornings, though, Labor Day portended excitement: I’d play with kids besides my (yuck) siblings. I’d wear “new” hand-me-downs. Color with unbroken crayons. I’d get down to the business of learning and discover a world far beyond the cornfields.

No one explained how Labor Day began. Unions weren’t strong in my rural area. Labor Day parades consisted of Boy Scouts, tractor convoys, and bands with wavy marching lines and wavier tones.

Other than my giving up white shoes, Labor Day’s significance remained tied to school’s beginning — for me, then for my children.

Gradually, I learned the holiday was rooted in injustice, power struggles and political turmoil. I won’t attempt to untangle shame and blame. Instead, I’ll get down to the business of gratitude. To simply say, “thank you” to workers who make a difference in our lives.

Image by Alexa from Pixabay.

Thank you to the courteous, young server whose efficiency made me want to vote him in as President.

Image by An SiYu from Pixabay.

Thank you to factory workers who — despite repetitive, uninspiring work — care about quality.

Thank you to store greeters who offer real smiles. (You don’t think that’s work? Pretend you’re in a wedding reception line for eight hours.)

Thank you to housekeeping personnel who keep restrooms clean.

Thank you to all who labor with excellence when nobody’s watching.

I doubt the above would appreciate my coloring a mimeographed picture in their honor, but I hope my small tributes appear on their radar.

Though dedicated work may not be a picnic, it’s certainly something to celebrate every day.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you thanked a worker today?

For My True Love

Image by geralt from Pixabay.

Have you spent endless hours seeking Christmas gifts for your Numero Uno?

We search stores. Dig through photos, files, and websites for unique gifts that say, “I love you.” Right, guys?

We’re all inspired by “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” Mr. True Love went all out to find his sweetheart’s presents. Five gold rings notwithstanding, though, romantic zeal doesn’t always translate to gift-giving know-how.

Our first Christmas together, my true love gave me gloves. Hairy-looking, mottled red and gray gloves, the like of which I had not seen before, nor have since. Later, I learned his mother, terrified her 17-year-old was hurrying into something serious, had suggested a pair.

He should have asked her help.

My future husband’s gift-giving impairment didn’t surprise me, though, because my father was the world’s worst. The oh-is-something-happening-tomorrow? thought never occurred to him before Christmas Eve. Second, penny-pinching Dad comprehended zero about Mom’s preferences.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay.

Around age 10, I noticed their annual conflict.

Dad bought Mom a blue eyelet dress, perfect for running through daisies.

“Pretty!” I cheered. “Like the ones the eighth graders wear!”

Mom grated, “I’m not in eighth grade.”

True. Most eighth graders didn’t have five children. And even I saw the dress was four sizes too small.

The following year, Dad bought her a practical gift. A slip the size of your average city bus.

After 25 years of bombing, he finally welcomed his daughters’ help in choosing Mom’s Christmas gift.

My husband learned much faster. Now he’s so good, he should teach gift-giving lessons. Hubby could have helped the guy who teased his girlfriend one holiday season, insisting he’d give her an iron.

Image by stevepb from Pixabay.

She responded with cute giggles.

He purchased a super-cheap iron, gave it away, and packaged a romantic gift in the box.

She unwrapped it. No cute giggles.

He spent the rest of Christmas trying to persuade her to: Open. The. Box.

If it’s the thought that counts, a traveling salesman’s wife blew that aspect. She gave him a week’s supply of socks, all dotted with her portrait.

Having dissed all these givers, I tried to be fair, asking Hubby, “What Christmas gift for you did I blow?”

He shrugged. “None I remember.”

None? Our relationship has spanned almost five decades.

I threw my arms around him. “You’re so forgiving!”

“Forgetful’s probably the word.”

“At our age, same difference.” I hugged him again.

During the holidays, I often lie awake. Did I buy the teens’ gift cards from stores that will ruin their reputations for life? Are the in-laws allergic to blue? Do little ones’ toys contain kryptonite?

Hubby’s forgiving/forgetting my Christmas miscues is the best present he could give me.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s the best/worst gift your spouse has given you?

Classic Post: Loony the Lamb

This post first appeared on April 12, 2017.

For years, I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter, I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.

During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.

Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”

Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles.

Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®.

What other option existed?

God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.

However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?

Wrong.

Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.

The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.

Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.

Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.

Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.

Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.

One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”

Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God.” It meant daily life with stupid sheep and deadly encounters with wolves in sheep’s clothing. What God in His right mind would do that?

Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.

Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which, BTW, means “lamb.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?