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.
During my childhood, Christmas cookies had such a short life expectancy that baking them hardly seemed worth it. The December appearance of a mixing bowl at our house ignited a war to determine who would “help.” When Mom or I dared take a restroom break, the kitchen was plundered by cookie-starved barbarians.
The first holiday stay at my future in-laws’ home completely muddled my Christmas cookie worldview. Perfect reindeer, Christmas trees and Santas were baked, with no fear of masked marauders. After decorating them like a culinary Michelangelo, my future mother-in-law openly displayed her creations on kitchen counters.
It was like visiting an unguarded art museum.
A kind woman, she chose not to prosecute me. When I married her son, she gave me her recipe!
Forgetting my brothers now lived hundreds of miles away, I baked a typical triple batch. My new husband and I ate little stables and mangers until Valentine’s Day — and loved it.
When our eldest, aged two, took her debut Christmas-cookie-baking lesson, the initial batch of dough hit the floor. Experimenting with the mixer’s beaters, she distributed another batch on the ceiling. Finally, I shoved a bowlful into the refrigerator to chill. She parked in front of it.
Toddler: Cookies ready yet?
Mommy: No, honey. They have to get cold.
Toddler: (Yanking on fridge door) Don’t want cold cookies!
Mommy: We’ll bake them, but first, they have to get cold.
Toddler: (Suspiciously) Okay.
Mommy: I’ll set the oven timer—
Toddler: For the ’frigerator??
Mommy: (Looking heavenward) When it dings, the cookies will be cold.
Toddler: Okay. (Sits in front of oven.) Timer ready yet?
Later, she mixed frostings so that her mossy green and dark blood-red Christmas cookies could have graced a vampire’s holiday table.
New sons-in-law, however, scorned cookie cutters as insults to their rugged individuality. They custom-designed mutant mittens, alien reindeer and Christmas carburetors. With the appearance of additional little helpers over the years, we once again turned out dozens of Christmas vampire cookies.
Worst of all, Grandma sneaked store-bought dough into the equation.
Now, a few years later, the grandchildren make their own — circumventing Grandma’s appalling shortcuts — and bring them to family gatherings.
With them taking charge, our family’s Christmas cookie history should flourish for generations to come.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What favorite cookie will you bake (and sneak) this Christmas?
O my God, thank You for Thanksgiving! Feasting, fussing, playing and praying, our four generations celebrated Thanksgiving with everything in us. Today, however, I will make lunch for two instead of 18. I walk without laming myself on Legos. Quiet reigns again in our empty nest …
OMG, how I miss that marvelous mess!
No doubt, our Creator appreciates gratitude for freedom to worship Him, for family, friends, food and shelter. But my cornucopia also bursts with weird things for which I am thankful, including:
- Avocados. As a missionary kid in Mexico, I picked them up like apples under big trees. I still am a guacamole junkie. How many other fattening foods are good for me?
- Shots. Immunizations don’t rank as my preferred activity, and certainly not my grandchildren’s. But because of shots’ protection, holiday hugs and kisses induce only mild winter plagues.
- Black, washable pants. They love sparkly holiday tops and simple ones. They’re immune to stains and grandbaby spit. Roomy in the rear, they don’t desert me after the holidays, as many of my clothes do.
- My piano. I don’t own a grand or even a baby grand. But my little Baldwin comprised our first major purchase after Hubby finished medical school. I thought we should spend his first paychecks on practical items. He insisted, “You miss having a piano.” Whenever I play, it still sings a love song.
- Our baby trees, whose lanky little branches and colorful fall foliage inspire me with lavish dreams for their future.
- Our camper. The one Hubby purchased when I was too sick to fight it. Even sitting idle, it sets us free. Already, we picture days in the green woods and s’mores around campfires on starry nights.
- Gummy worms. Incredibly lifelike, they possess magical powers. When decorating a grandson’s birthday cake, they enable me to resist eating it.
- Our brown sofa. Thank God, Hubby talked me out of buying a red one. Otherwise, after eight years, it would present a less-than-artistic mosaic of peanut butter, jelly, pizza, mustard and gravy stains. Because of, um, the grandchildren. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
- My neighbor’s yard. Raked and pristine, it gives me a goal to shoot for when I grow up.
- Free chips and salsa. A highlight of dining in Mexican restaurants.
- Laid-back drivers. People who drive sl-ow-ly on two-lane highways annoy me to the point I pray aloud to occupy mind and mouth. They even force me to notice the loveliness I miss when whipping by as usual.
- Accelerators. Cars wouldn’t be much good without them, right?
- Ditto for brakes. And headlights.
- Paper towels. While living in Ecuador for two months, I missed them terribly. (Thank goodness, Ecuador did manufacture toilet paper.)
- Baby smiles. They always ruin a bad day.
A critic might protest, “Your list goes on forever!”
True. I never run out of weird things for which to be thankful, because my Creator never, ever stops giving.
He’s weird that way — and wonderful.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What odd reasons for gratitude pop up on your list?
O my God, today I’m scrubbing bathrooms. Feeling thankful? Not much. Till I recall that visiting my grandmother included “over-the-river-and-through-the-woods” trips to an outhouse.
OMG, have I ever thanked You for two-and-a-half baths? With 16 precious people coming for Thanksgiving, I’m thanking You now!
Perhaps Uk and Ukette of prehistoric fame discovered the extra rocks sitting around their cave were gathering dust. Some authorities on ancient civilizations claim the Egyptians, disgusted at having to rent extra Pyramids to accommodate junk their kids brought home from college, decided they’d had enough.
Whoever originated the concept did so without the aid of the Internet. In consulting websites, I discovered one (researched by a Ph.D. in Junkology) that listed 101 tips for running a successful sale. Googling “garage sale” produces more than six million results. Not surprising, because every single respondent visited our small town during Labor Day weekend.
Because of our city-wide, garage-sale tradition, hundreds of women price their husbands’ lucky 1979 The Doobie Brothers tour T-shirts and golf clubs, while men sneak wives’ five-closet shoe collections and 537 Longaberger® baskets out to garages and driveways. All hope to dispose of such “useless” clutter before spouses discover the absence — only to realize that by holiday’s end, the men have bought six sets of used golf clubs and the women have purchased purses to match all the shoes.
My passion for cheap sometimes has strained the seams of my house and my husband’s patience. So I prepared for this garage sale mega-event with moderation in mind.
Besides, Hubby hid the truck keys.
I chatted with half the town as I bought storybooks and toys for my grandkids, CDs to replace favorite cassette tapes, and a muffin pan to replace those I’d received at a wedding shower — 42 years ago.
I’d have to write a book to list all the excellent, useful items I passed by. (Sigh.) Certainly, not all garage sales present such a tempting array. Nowhere did I encounter the used toothbrushes, deodorants or surgical instruments (!) some Internet cohorts encountered.
Unlike one yard sale queen, I didn’t buy a white toilet plunger decorated with a bride and groom, labeled, “We took the plunge.” Nor did I buy a fountain constructed of five stainless steel bedpans with a frog (also created from a bedpan) poised to dive in.
Call me deprived. But I arrived home only $30 poorer with a backpack full of “valuables.”
Miraculously, my husband, who rates garage sales only slightly above taxes and lima beans, had changed his tune. Seeing the multitude, he sold our old lawnmower within an hour.
I was glad he reformed his attitude toward garage sales. But next year, before I make my annual rounds, will I have to hide all my shoes?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your all-time favorite garage sale find?
The U.S. government’s recent studies concluded that women purchase 85 to 90 percent of all greeting cards. How many thousands that report cost, no one is saying. Uncle Sam could have asked any mall shopper and received the same information for free. But we women consider the research money well spent … because we like to be proven right.
Let’s discuss the origins of these fascinating communication tools. The Chinese sent Happy New Year cards centuries ago. Apparently, the Egyptians also shared in the ancient greeting card market. I find elegant Oriental characters and pictures easier to imagine than a card containing hieroglyphics. Gushy sentiments conveyed by zoned-out, staring people and creepy birds and snakes? Egyptians no doubt could distinguish between “I love you madly” and “Death to you, neighbor, and your loud 2 a.m. parties,” but I would find it challenging.
With polygamy the norm among ancient families, spending statistics might have been reversed: perhaps men spent more on cards than women. Take, for example, King Solomon, who boasted 700 wives. Every day was his anniversary.
No records have survived to tell us how much Solomon, Confucius or Cleopatra paid for a card, but I’ll bet contemporary consumers shell out more. Gone are the days when we “just bought a card” to commemorate an occasion. Today, it often proves cheaper to “just buy a gift.”
Craftsy folks have returned to creating handmade cards. Recipients of these works of art ponder how special they make them feel — and suffer intense guilt if they dare toss them. (The cards, not the givers.)
No grandmother can dispose of a card sporting a pink seven-legged puppy and two purple Doritos that states, “Gadma U nice.” My current grandkid card count is 937. I’m thinking of building an addition to house my collection. Or at least, adding another refrigerator or two.
However, the following are greeting cards I would rather not receive:
- Thoughts of you . . . make me want to leave the country.
- Congratulations … We heard you’re expecting twins!
When illness strikes, I don’t want cheery thoughts. What I’d really like: “Enclosed is an official edict from God commanding you to stay in bed three days, during which no one is allowed to ask you about dinner.”
Most women would treasure Mother’s Day cards with similar language: “Mom, I love you enough to clean bathrooms.” Or, “To the perfect mother of my children: you have not, do not, and never will look fat.”
Brace yourself: I am about the reveal the ultimate romantic card that knows no gender prejudices, covers every occasion, and never becomes obsolete.
- one piece of paper, folded in half.
- one pen (or crayon if the kids have absconded with all your pens)
Front sentiment: I love you.
Inside sentiment: I’m sorry. You were right.
Sign your name.
What card would you like most to receive?
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?
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” — what God in His right mind would do that?
Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which means “lamb.”
Have you participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?