Some welcomed 2023 with the same enthusiasm as author Jerry Spinelli: “I love beginnings. If I were in charge of calendars, every day would be January 1.”
Contrariwise, author Roald Dahl would “remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead.”
Thankfully, neither works for a calendar company. But their clash illustrates typical debate.
My highly scientific poll, based on Walmart eavesdropping, suggests that in January, most shoppers wilt like post-Christmas poinsettias.
Snow-lovers gripe because The Weather Channel sent only flurries. Snow-haters grouse because blizzards lurk behind every cloud. Kids hate January because they return to school. Babies, imprisoned in snowsuits Grandma gave for Christmas, raise loud protests.
Besides, everyone’s broke.
We’re all on diets.
Many people really hate January.
My mother, a pastor’s wife, loved it. Her Christmas responsibilities ranged from distributing food baskets to ensuring no shepherd in her pageant picked his nose. Plus, we children assumed Mom would make Christmas dreams come true … without money.
Though she loved Jesus supremely, Mom thanked Him when His birthday party was done.
I, too, savor January’s serenity. Time for unhurried worship of the Christ who dared enter our crazy world. A hot-soup-homemade-bread aura helps us settle down and settle in to savor good books. For Hoosier authors, January’s excellent writing weather. (How do unlucky novelists in the Bahamas finish anything?)
Mom and I have passed January preferences to my Michigan grandson. He, however, loves shrieking forays down the highest sledding hills.
My husband and other sports fans welcome January because they wallow in basketball. Mourn losses. Decimate January peace with insane celebrations.
January also gave the world distinguished citizens: Martin Luther King, Benjamin Franklin and Joan of Arc. Betty White, James Earl Jones, Elvis and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Hopefully, their birthday presents weren’t wrapped in leftover Christmas paper.
If this January sends snow, I’ll welcome snowflake kisses. Swish snow angels. Sled with my grandson, shrieking all the way down, “Jesus … he-e-e-elp!”
Then do it again.
Sorry, Roald Dahl. I’ll never vote these days off the calendar.
John Steinbeck reminds us: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness?”
Though, Charles Spurgeon offers even better advice: “Let January open with joy in the Lord.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Why do you like or dislike January?
O Lord, what a wonderful way to celebrate the New Year with these little guys, dancing to fun music, blowing squawky noise makers and bopping lighted balloons! OMG, thank You, too, that their parents counted down the “final” seconds of 2022 at 8 p.m. so the boys — and we — could go to bed.
Years ago, my husband and I prepared for a barbarian invasion.
We hid valuables. We said prayers. We kept watch, knowing they’d sweep away our well-ordered lives.
We charged outside … and retrieved the world’s most beloved barbarians, our 2-year-old granddaughter and 10-month-old grandson, from car seats.
Baby immediately yanked our books from shelves. When we interrupted, he reacted with a type A personality’s outrage.
His sister flipped light switches. “On! Off!” The little blonde goddess obviously controlled the universe.
Time to civilize barbarians — a little. We played with blocks, love-worn stuffed animals and an ancient Fisher-Price parking garage our children once enjoyed.
The grandchildren zoomed cars down the ramp, cheering wipeouts. The scene reminded me of Christmas parking lots. And (shiver!) future 16th birthdays.
I offered a Nativity set with soft finger puppets. Baby happily crawled around with Wise Men in his mouth. Retrieving bowls from my cabinets, his sister made imaginary applesauce for the Nativity crew.
Peace on earth reigned.
Too soon, they had to leave. Hubby and I helped their parents search for bag, bottles, coats.
We wanted to send the Nativity set home with them, an early Christmas present. Hopefully, gnawing the Wise Men would keep Baby quiet during the trip. Mary and Joseph bore evidence Little Girl had found real applesauce for their dinner party. We corralled animals, angels and shepherds.
Where was Baby Jesus?
Hubby sifted through the toy box again. I scanned refrigerator shelves, hoping Little Girl hadn’t decided Jesus needed air-conditioning.
“Is Jesus in the parking garage?” I yelled to Hubby.
Not a question I’d ever expected to ask during my lifetime.
Shaking my head as I raised the toilet lid, I hoped He wouldn’t be floating in a not-so-sanitary Sea of Galilee. No, but new anxiety seized me. Had someone flushed Him?
“I’ll find Jesus and mail Him,” I promised.
But I’d wanted our grandchildren to get to know Him during Christmas.
I dove under furniture again and discovered Baby Jesus behind the stereo.
“How did He end up there?” Our daughter dusted Him off.
I shrugged. “Who knows? Jesus sometimes turns up in the oddest places.”
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where did Jesus show up during your Christmas season?
This maxim originated in 1949 with Air Force Captain Edward A. Murphy, Jr., who ran a bungled aerospace experiment. Perhaps his holiday gathering didn’t resemble a Hallmark movie’s, either.
Few do. Anyone celebrating Christmas wrestles with Murphy’s Law.
If you’ve decorated, young children/grandchildren will un-decorate.
If you hide medicines from them, you’ll have hidden them even better from yourself.
If you’ve moved plants and breakables to your bedroom, they’ll remain safe — until you and your spouse rise for nocturnal bathroom visits.
If light strings work, five minutes later, they’ll short-circuit your entire block’s electrical grid. Repairmen will come “after the holidays.”
Murphy’s Law also wreaks havoc with holiday feasts. Along with meeting fat-free, gluten-free, vegetarian and pescatarian (fish only) requirements as well as free-range partridges that have roosted in pear trees, hosts face numerous other challenges.
If everyone shares dinner responsibilities, COVID-19, flu, road construction, blizzards and/or meteorite showers will necessitate a host’s wild dash for a turkey that can thaw and cook in 15 minutes.
If you make real giblet gravy, older diners recall Grandma’s tasted better. Younger ones request gravy-in-a-jar.
If you overload grandchildren with sugar, parents will disappear for a week.
Then, there is the weather.
If half your family votes for snowmen, and the other half for clear roads, you’ll receive a compromise politely called wintry mix. Less politely: slop.
If eight grandsons visit, it will slop all day. Every day.
Murphy’s Law loves to tinker with generational differences.
If the eight grandsons play Monopoly, keep ice bags handy.
If you own five identical, yellow toy cars from Cheerios® boxes, all your future NASCAR drivers will claim the same one.
Mary, Jesus’ mother, might have welcomed a little drummer boy, but most moms of infants — and cranky, old adults — don’t.
Though … if grandparents turn up “Jeopardy!” volume to seismic levels, they still insist children are too loud.
If no one brings up politics or COVID, the don’t let-your-kids-tell-my-kids-there-isn’t-a-Santa discussion keeps communication flowing.
With Murphy’s Law on the loose, grinches could present an excellent case to ban holiday get-togethers.
But grinches don’t understand that Family Law trumps Murphy’s. It declares love is worth risks. Worth gravy, Santa and Cheerios® car clashes. Worth learning to pronounce “pescatarian.”
After Christmas 2020, who would have it any other way?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: How does Murphy’s Law affect your Christmas?
Merry Christmas! I’m the tree chosen by the Phillipses. I’m decorated and lookin’ good, if I do say so myself.
Though, I wasn’t always so full of holiday cheer. You wouldn’t be, either, if you’d hung around Lowe’s while everyone critiqued your figure and bald spots.
Still, we trees looked forward to seeing children — despite sibling arguments. Those mostly ended with the famous parental line, “We’re getting this tree because I said so.” Plus, hot chocolate bribes, which parents wanted anyway to medicate away seasonal frustrations.
While I missed kids when these seniors decorated me, I’d heard horror stories about toddlers scaling tree trunks. However, older people own nosy cats and dogs that would over-hydrate me. Or would these seemingly normal Midwesterners allow a pet boa constrictor to wind around my branches?
Like I said, I’d heard stories. But saw no animals, not even goldfish.
I like life by their picture window. None of my fellow fauna outside are bedecked with colorful lights and ornaments of every size, shape and hue like me. I love being a Christmas tree — even if the lady piles too much tinsel in the wrong places. She doesn’t like looking fat around the bottom. Why should I?
My owners bring coffee, tea and Bibles. Together, we worship our Creator, who gave Himself at Christmas. They pray for their family — 17 strong, who’ll arrive soon.
I can’t wait to see the grandkids’ shining eyes.
Their parents will breathe in my fragrance and memories. A miniature needlepoint mailbox holds a note in their great-grandmother’s handwriting. The figure wearing a serape was brought back from Spain. A one-of-a-kind collection of ornaments made of plastic lids, crayon-scribbled Nativity scenes and spray-painted macaroni reminds these grown-ups they can be children today.
If they spoke conifer, they could ask me what’s inside those packages. We Christmas trees eavesdrop, you know. We also could tattle on who’s shaking gifts, but why spoil the fun?
It’s a great gig. I work only a few weeks of the year. Afterward, I’ll stay in the garden, covered with food for hungry critters.
A short life. But if I live and give more joy in a few weeks than some people do in a lifetime — who’s complaining?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: If your tree could talk, what would it say?
O Lord, this Thanksgiving, we give special thanks that our family knows You through Jesus. How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! (Psalm 133:1)—OMG, even if that togetherness is expressed through breakneck air hockey, euchre, Ping-Pong, and tossing sponge burritos at our relatives.
(In this edited version of my newspaper column, I recall a Thanksgiving when COVID ran rampant.)
Have your children or grandchildren watched “Sesame Street’s” Oscar the Grouch? I worried, lest my offspring adopt him as their patron saint.
Fast-forward to 2020. Thankfully, my children don’t live in trash cans. Nor is Oscar their role model.
I, on the other hand, sound more like Oscar every day. So, this Thanksgiving, I choose to be grateful, even for weird things.
Thank You, Heavenly Father, for the following:
I don’t have to mask when I talk with You.
Because of COVID-19, I rarely try on clothes in stores. No multiple mirrors!
Squirrels playing nut-soccer on our roof don’t weigh 400 pounds.
Delivery drivers bring life’s necessities — like apple cinnamon air freshener and SunChips® — to our doors.
Potholders that aid in taking golden turkeys from the oven have not, unlike everything else, gone digital. I haven’t had to recharge one yet.
Not all gas pumps show videos.
I also thank You that my husband has never, ever refused to open a pickle jar.
We use clean water I didn’t haul a mile.
Though some idiots — er, futurists — drool over human interfacing with technology, my Internet still has an off button.
Leaves filling my yard are not poison ivy.
I rarely worry about charging hippopotamuses.
Thank You, too, God, for pie. Any kind but mince.
Also for the fact no one has written or performed “Medicare Supplements: the Musical.”
For the color periwinkle.
For the rustle and fragrance of a real book that keeps me up late.
For phone calls from Little Brother. When I was a teen with a boyfriend, and he a brat with mirrors, I wished him 2,000 miles away. Eventually, my wish came true. Now, I cherish the bittersweet joy of hearing his voice.
Finally, Lord, I’m thankful for my two-year-old grandson who sings in the night.
You hear that, Oscar? Probably not, as you have clapped your trash can lid on tight.
Stay there, if you want. But if you change your mind, gratitude’s an excellent antidote for grouchiness.
Even for you, Oscar.
Even for me, this Thanksgiving of 2020.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: For which aspects of COVID’s wane are you thankful?
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.
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?
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.
Our American Dream is no HGTV superstar, but at this address, we can be us.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What home-owning adventures have you experienced?
When my car and I swerve to avoid someone hypnotized by a cell phone, I secretly wish for a water pistol. Though, even if I shot cold streams out the window, would the driver look up, confirming zombies have not yet conquered Planet Earth?
Only if I soaked her/his phone.
My generation did not allow rotary phones to tyrannize us, right? Though how many Boomers refused to leave the house, waiting for a special person’s call. …
Nowadays, I grab my cell phone too often. I do know better than to text around younger generation pros. With help-this-old-lady-across-the-street compassion, some with speed-blurred thumbs offer to assist me.
Poor, overworked thumbs need a break. In fact, we should give data use, phone bills, and ourselves a break. What cell phone alternatives can help me break the habit?
Hubby and I have discovered one way: holding hands. On walks, we radicals converse, laugh, listen to cardinals’ songs and luxuriate in autumn beauty.
Friends may walk together, too. Having only texted for 20 years, they may need to exchange photos for identification purposes. Soon, though, they’ll discover the joy of talking with a real person.
Wave at passing drivers. Imagine your town if all drove like you.
Splash in puddles for fun instead of being sprayed while texting.
Mentally rearrange someone’s outdoor furniture.
Plant an imaginary flower bed at a plain house. Enjoy landscaping triumphs without an aching back and dirty fingernails.
If walking past an elementary school, thank God you’re not the old woman who lived in a shoe. Or the unnamed wife of Feodor Vassilyev, eighteenth-century peasants with the Guinness record for number of children: 69.
While in educational territory, mentally recite U.S state capitals you memorized in fifth grade. Mrs. Baker would be proud.
Hop with one foot on muddy ground, so school kids think a single-footed alien visited.
Search for cars dirtier than yours. Write congratulatory messages on windshields.
I offer final, unsolicited advice to young cell phone zombies: The love of your life could pass while you’re playing Super MarioTM. Or watching cat videos.
Wouldn’t holding that special human’s hand — maybe forever — be much more fun?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What could you do instead of fiddling with your phone?