Tag Archives: Holidays

Happy October (I Think)

Let me be the first to wish you a Happy October. Also, Happy Sun-Dried Tomatoes Month!

October’s traditional holidays — Columbus Day and Halloween — have recently come under fire. The Internet graciously supplies us with alternatives, so now we can venerate these dehydrated fruits? — vegetables? — this month.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to celebrate in July, when tomatoes truly become one in spirit with plump, red humans who also roast and wrinkle in blazing sunshine?

Just sayin’.

October is also Class Reunion Month. However, we do not have to begin emergency diets, because has anybody ever held a class reunion in October?

In a related issue, October offers a chance to enjoy Be Bald and Free Day.

But wait just one politically correct moment. Does this imply people who are not bald can’t be free on October 14? Sorry, but I doubt mass servitude of hairy people will fly as a holiday. Not even with Hallmark.

Neither do I celebrate Reptile Awareness Day (October 21). Are we supposed to kiss a crocodile? Snuggle with snakes? Once a family in my town discovered their new home’s previous owner had bequeathed them his pet python, who popped out of heating ducts to say hello.

I lived a half mile away. That’s as close to reptile awareness as I want to get.

If anyone wants to take up a better cause, I suggest he lobby to remove the bad-mood stigma from my favorite month.

True, our stressed society could benefit from the International Moment of Frustration Scream Day on October 12, releasing pent-up feelings toward TV political coverage, souped-up leaf blowers and motorists who honk at stoplights. Following up with National Kick Butt Day on the 13th might, paradoxically, prove a bottomless delight.

But October has gone overboard with National Grouch Day (the 15th) and Cranky Coworkers Day (the 27th). It has even been chosen as National Sarcastic Awareness Month. Gre-e-eat. We’re supposed to cheer every 16-year-old who rolls her eyes? Maybe even crown Miss Supreme Sarcasm?

We also are expected to choose a Menopause Queen to celebrate World Menopause Day on October 18. Riding a parade float, she and her royal court will throw plates at cowering crowds while a band plays “We’re Having a Heat Wave” and hot-flash drill teams fan each other with flags.

October used to be a nice, simple month.

I’d hoped November would improve the holiday outlook. But, no. November begins with Plan Your Epitaph Day (November 2). I see that on the 19th, we are to celebrate Have a Bad Day Day.

How about we skip ’em all?

Instead, let’s celebrate Thanksgiving every day!

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite way to celebrate October?

August: the Not-So-Special Month?

My daughter once wished for a different birthday month. I referred her to God for further discussion.

I do see her point, however. August boasts no holidays — not even a fake holiday like St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody throws big parties on the eve of August 1, as they do in January.

The hotter the weather, the more we chill. Dressing up is wearing matched right and left flip-flops. Days pass before we turn the calendar page.

When we do, though, a tiny tadpole of awareness wiggles into our days.

It’s August. Something’s different.

Outdoor projects delayed till warm weather now have been postponed till fall. Yards need extreme makeovers, but we’re so sick of yard work, we pay 4-Hers to release goat herds on our premises.

August presents an end-of-summer reality check. I purchased a “miracle” swimsuit in May. Now I realize the only miracle is that I paid big bucks for it.

August affects mothers in peculiar ways. They buy pencil boxes, though no one in human history has ever proved pencil boxes serve a useful purpose. Kids talk Mom into buying cool new backpacks, though 23 uncool backpacks languish at home.

Mothers also obsess about imminent changes in schedules: “Go to bed now so you’ll be ready when school starts.” My mother, who had five kids, did this. As of August 1, we went to bed at 4:00 p.m.

Even the sun listens to Mom and retires earlier in August. Yet during daytime, it unfurls golden rays as if leading an everlasting summer, ticker-tape parade. While eating home-grown, ice-cold watermelon in the backyard, we experience a different kind of reality check:

It’s been a great summer.

By August, every able-bodied person in the Midwest has ridden a Ferris wheel and consumed a warm, crisp elephant ear.

While still recovering from that gathering of DNA-related strangers known as a family reunion, we rendezvoused with cousins who long ago sneaked into drive-ins with us. We kissed sweet baby kin’s brand-new cheeks and gave grandmas and grandpas a smile.

In August, homeowners stop vying for the Yard of the Year. Instead, we concede the grand champion ribbon to God for His spectacular pastures of goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace and Sweet Williams.

He treats us to evening concerts by cicada choirs that sing their best in August. Fireflies, now veteran presenters, perform spectacular light shows at dusk with few technical glitches.

Whether we own farms or only farmers’ tans, the ripe cornucopia of gardens, tasseled cornfields and leafy rows of soybeans reassure us: After harvest, we will celebrate with plenty of food on our tables.

All during August — the not-so-special month.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you like best about August?

Heart-to-Heart with a Poinsettia

Ms. Poinsettia, you certainly look better than I do. Lush, with showy red blooms, you almost upstage the Christmas tree.

Me? I might wow observers, but for different reasons: my ratty bathrobe and jammies. What else would you expect of a grandma writer juggling Christmas?

What’s that? Your Creator made you to be strictly decorative?

I told my husband a similar story. A little tired of my ratty bathrobe, he didn’t think so.

However, when Dr. Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, met your ancestors in 1828, he brought several home. Before long, your forbearers became wildly popular.

Poinsie, how did you become an important floral symbol of Christmas? Not that the Bethlehem stable was landscaped with holly or mistletoe. Jesus probably didn’t even have a Christmas tree.

Does it make sense, though, that Americans celebrate a winter holiday with a tropical plant that hates the cold more than Midwestern snowbirds? If you had your choice, Poinsie, would you have stayed in Mexico, where you and your kin reach tree size?

I thought so. For a long time, you’ve lived out of your comfort zone. Still, you strut your colorful stuff every Christmas and brighten the holiday for us all.

Until one minute after midnight, December 26, when you wilt a little. A lot, actually.

Admittedly, we all wilt, and wrinkles eventually find us. But after one grand entrance during Christmas, you begin making demands. If I cherish any notion that you will bloom again, the light must be just so. The temperatures must be just so. At night, you like to be moved to a cooler area. I must ensure your beauty sleep in complete darkness from 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. from October through December. Even headlights shining through shades can disturb your blooming.

You do remember, don’t you, Poinsie, why I keep pet plants instead of pet animals? Let me remind you: because plants don’t bark or lick. And they’re easier to care for.

I used to coddle fussy poinsettias. I lined windows with scraggly, leaf-shedding plants. I watered and fed. I plucked. I pampered. I encouraged.

But they wilted all the more

Finally, I tossed them all out behind the garage. Every. Single. One.

Now don’t you think you could act a little less fussy?

What do you mean, I could be less demanding, too? I don’t ask for much. Just my favorite snowman coffee mug with my brand of coffee. My solo bathroom. My schedule. My music. My hot-food fetish fulfilled, though I have to re-microwave my plate three times during supper.

Poinsie, you’re saying I should demand less?

And it wouldn’t hurt if I lost the ratty bathrobe, too?

Now, you’re just meddling. Flowers should be seen and not heard.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you had a heart-to-heart with a plant lately? Did it mess with your life, too?

Angels Came to the Night Shift

Have you ever worked the night shift?

Years ago, I waitressed from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m. at a Denny’s Restaurant in Oregon.

I often served coffee to drunk cowboys wearing menus on their heads.

I didn’t see angels.

As a nursing home aide, I sometimes drew night shifts around holidays. Ghosts wandered dim hallways, one hunting chickens to fry for threshing crews who had labored 60 years before.

I didn’t see angels.

As a young mother, I frequently drew the night shift. My babies wailed, slimed, puked, and worse.

No angels anywhere. I couldn’t even see my shift’s end.

I should have realized that millions throughout the ages have worked lonesome wee hours, too. Take Joseph, a first-century carpenter. When busy, practical Joseph worked night shifts, angels never appeared.

Not until his fiancée told him she was pregnant — and that God was her Child’s Father.

No amount of coffee could clear her head. Or his.

Then an angel interrupted Joseph’s midnight hour: “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

No cutesy cherub, that other-worldly being was so impressive that Joseph bucked family and culture. He married the girl who generated snickers wherever she went.

“What are you thinking, Joseph?” His friends rolled their eyes.

He wasn’t thinking. He was listening to an angel.

When the baby was born, did the shepherds’ arrival mean as much to Joseph as Mary?

For angels had invaded their night shift, too — a huge choir who lit up the sky like Vegas, singing about God’s peace and goodwill through Baby Jesus.

Their story convinced Joseph that Jesus was the Messiah. The stepfather continued to listen to angels.

Even when one instructed him to take his family to Egypt because a king wanted Jesus dead. Even when, after finally adjusting to their new life, an angel told Joseph to return to Israel.

All during night shift.

I rarely work overnight hours now, but Denny’s servers do. Nurses, doctors, and many others: stock clerks, factory workers and truck drivers.

Soldiers, police and firefighters. Plumbers and heating technicians. Students and professors finishing semesters.

Those caring for sick children and elderly parents.

Many who battle demons of loneliness and misery throughout the night shift.

Few expect to see angels.

But the Bethlehem angels’ song still echoes, announcing Jesus, God’s Gift who offers peace to everyone — especially those laboring in darkness. Those stuck with tough hours. Those who have drawn life’s short straws.

 

Our Extraordinary Ordinary: When the angels show up, will we listen?

Thanksgiving at Christmas

Yes, Thanksgiving has passed. Though the holiday virus has infected my mental workings, I’m not out of touch with reality yet. After all, it’s only December 1.

It’s not?

No wonder my gas company turned off the heat. …

Back to the original subject. Every year we celebrate Christmas at Thanksgiving. At Halloween, even. Yet, doesn’t Thanksgiving at Christmas make more sense than Black Friday? Let’s start a new trend! I’ll go first:

  • I appreciate energetic individuals who decorate their homes with flair during Advent. Their stunning light displays delight my grandchildren without this all-thumbs grandma hammering a single thumb.
  • Blessed are the procrastinators who, like me, have not removed pumpkins from their porches. The same people leave their Christmas lights up until July. You have no idea how you spread good cheer to me and others who will show up two months late for our own funerals.
  • I’m also thankful for online Christmas shopping, as my grinchy feet have nixed walking marathons in malls and stores. What a boon for me and for others with cranky, uncooperative body parts; cranky, uncooperative children; or cranky, uncooperative spouses.
  • Yet, I am thankful that my feet, in their more magnanimous moods, have allowed some shopping trips. Miss the opportunity to sing along with background carols? Never! Miss people-watching at the most interesting time of the year? Perish the thought!
  • Nasty store clerks are legendary; yet yesterday, I encountered one who, amid coupon craziness, promised me the best deal possible — and delivered.
  • On the receiving end of gift-giving, I am thankful my husband has developed excellent judgment in selecting presents. The past few decades, I have received nothing like one of his early gifts: a dried-blowfish lamp brought back from Florida.
  • Nor have friends given me a Santa Yoda yard ornament or singing deer head. One friend, whose sister gave her a plunger-waving snowman that asks restroom guests what they’re doing, has never re-gifted me with him. For that I am deeply grateful.
  • Also for commercials on TV that do not revolve around spending buckets of money for Christmas. Both of them.
  • Finally, for my car clock that ignores the time change. While an initial glance at it strikes me with panic — “I’m an hour late!” — I savor the rush of relief when I realize I’m not.

Hubby threatens to change the clock. Sure, it gives a false sense of security. But it allows me to chill.

After all, it’s only December 2.

It’s not?

Oh, well. There’s still plenty of time to celebrate Thanksgiving this December.

With every “Merry Christmas!” I’ll remember and thank the One whose birthday it is.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How do you celebrate Thanksgiving at Christmas?   

 

 

 

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

O my God, when a squalling baby interrupted a Christmas brass choir concert, I inwardly grumbled, “Why did those parents bring that kid?” Then, OMG, You reminded me: “The group is playing ‘What Child Is This.’ But you think babies shouldn’t be allowed at Christmas?”

 

Fall In!

I exert considerable energy to avoid store lines at Christmas, purchasing gifts while Rudolph is still reddening his nose on the beach.

Then, in December, I stumble through Walmart’s doors at 10:30 p.m. to escape lines. I won’t recall how I got there or that I parked my car at Lowe’s. But I’ll have plenty of time to search for it.

Many Americans, like me, despise standing in line — strange, as we spend our lives queuing up. During preschool years, we line up to bawl on Santa Claus’s lap. As elementary children, we form lines to go outside and inside. We broaden our horizons as adults, waiting in wedding reception and funeral home lines, queues at hotel desks and ballparks.

Even at church, we fear the potluck will run out of KFC before we reach the front. And will the sins of those at the head of confession lines rank higher than ours?

At best, we grit and bear it. At worst, we yak on phones.

Interestingly, people who declare there is no right or wrong morph into Moses when someone crosses a certain line: Thou Shalt Not Cut In. Businessmen, Harley riders and little old ladies all want to stone the criminal with Old Testament zeal.

Yet neither God nor OSHA has specified that we stand in lines. Why do this? Especially since we should be first. Always.

Part of the answer lies in our culture. Americans stand in line for the same reason we drive on the right, not the left; eat Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®, not blood pudding, for breakfast; and wear clothing in public — most of the time. It’s what we do.

But I like to think there are better reasons.

Bottom line, standing in line means we put others first.

Years ago, my husband and I entered a McDonald’s in Madrid, Spain. No lines formed at counters. Instead, customers rammed each other like football linemen. Hubby and I waited in vain for game’s end. Eventually, our hungry stomachs won. Readying elbows, we dove into the pack.

If only my elementary principal, Mrs. Talley, had arrived to tame us. If the ghost of my childhood Sunday school teacher, Mrs. Mamie Skeet — wearing her usual weird hat — had admonished us with Jesus’ Golden Rule, we might not have sold slivers of our souls for Big Macs.

Now I appreciate more than ever you who keep your elbows to yourself and wait patiently in line. And this December, if we allow others to go first, we will light up Christmas lines like the natal Star.

Mrs. Talley and Mrs. Skeet would be proud of us.

Jesus, too.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What will you do while waiting in line this Christmas?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: What, It’s December?

Merry, um, fall.

O my God, I’ve already received two Christmas cards. My neighborhood blooms with lights and holiday trees. But other than a drippy winter cold arriving with a promptness Amazon would envy, my Advent is running behind. Again.

OMG, maybe I’ll catch up with Christmas in heaven?