Tag Archives: December

Thankfulness after Thanksgiving

Have you already decorated your Christmas tree(s)?

Not me. Pumpkins, fall leaves and acorns still adorn my fireplace mantels and front door.

This decorating delay doesn’t indicate inefficiency on my part — perish the thought! It does reflect autumn’s short season. Thanksgiving items are placed on clearance before kids trick-or-treat.

Given that many hate winter, why do we forget fall so fast? Why not linger in Thanksgiving Land?

It was wild and wonderful, wasn’t it?

Even if I had to shovel out spare rooms and wash sheets.

Even if wrestling the defiant turkey into the oven resembled a Friday Night SmackDown sans tights and sparkles.

Even if appliances didn’t feel blessed. Our disposal rebelled Thanksgiving morning. Worse, our oven adopted a relativistic philosophy, insisting if its controls read “350,” the actual 500-degree temperature was irrelevant.

Even if, having stocked up on dark meat because we ran out last year, I was asked if our turkey was a mutant. Ditto for yeast rolls that resembled trolls.

Even if drains and conversations occasionally clogged.

And I can’t pretend I have six months to Christmas shop. …

Still, with four generations feasting and sharing gratitude to God, our Thanksgiving was a blessed celebration.

Admittedly, the grandchildren’s sugar energy levels could have endangered not only our house, but the entire city block. Thankfully, we all defused at a large community room I’d rented.

No one sent the Monopoly game airborne when he landed on Boardwalk with hotels.

Everyone ate mutant turkey and rolls.

Not only was there enough pie for all 17 diners, plenty remained for Grandma and Grandpa’s post-host-survival celebration.

Despite that, I still can zip my jeans! — and ignore nasty online pop-ups advertising tent-sized attire for New Year’s Eve.

Bottom line: Our family arrived safely, rejoiced, loved, and gave thanks together, then returned home, grateful to again sleep in their own beds.

Can such a rich celebration be considered a mere practice run?

We can correct whatever went wrong at Thanksgiving to improve Christmas gatherings. Hosts can repair the carbonizing oven and replace air mattresses that flattened overnight. Hubby watched a YouTube video that helped him fix the disposal. I might even practice making rolls that look like … rolls.

Image by Richard Duijnstee from Pixabay.

Soon autumn decorations in our home will give way to poinsettias, evergreens and jingle bells. A Christmas tree will grace our living room window.

But thanksgiving won’t be packed away until next November.

I pray it saturates my Christmas season … and New Year’s … and Easter 2024 … and …

Image by Deborah Hudson from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What are your reasons for thanksgiving, even after Thanksgiving?

Classic Post: The Perfect Christmas Tree?

This post first appeared on December 9, 2015.

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

You’ll receive 966 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.

Image by Michelle Raponi from Pixabay.

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 Weed eater. 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.

With my background, I am not choosy. I always allowed Hubby 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.

Image by Meelina from Pixabay.

On the other hand, 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.

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. Hubby, 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.

Our straight and fresh Christmas tree.

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 Hubby 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 as we 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.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What makes your tree the most beautiful in the world?

Christmas Classic Post: The Most Wonderful Songs of the Year?

This post first appeared on December 16, 2015.

My 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.

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

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: I Love Orange

O my God, You are the Giver of all good things, especially Jesus! This year, You’ve also given us an extra week of November to give thanks. To enjoy autumn and all things orange. OMG, You know I love Christmas. But can’t glitzy green and red wait until December?

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?

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?