Tag Archives: Holidays

Cleaning Combat

Who likes cleaning out refrigerators and freezers?

Not me. And especially, not mine.

But I refuse to feed my garden’s fresh veggies to whatever life forms lurk in fridge and freezer.

Confrontation time.

I review my checklist. Bucket of hot water and disinfectant. Rubber gloves. Body armor. Samurai sword. Hey, past-expiration yogurt gets testy when evicted.

The apron sewn by my husband’s grandma.

I also don an apron sewn by my husband’s grandma. A gentle soul, she nevertheless fought a fierce, lifelong war against germs and dirt.

Her brave spirit pokes me with a scrub brush. “Be strong!”

I straighten, grab my sword and slowly crack the fridge’s door.

Nothing stirs, but I’ve been fooled by silence before.

I throw it open wide.

Ack! Half-filled bottles of lavender salad dressing. Pudding that resembles petri dishes. Mashed potatoes that give a whole new meaning to the term “green vegetable.”

Did something move? A-a-a-a-a-ack!

My chance of survival seems better in the garage, where I slowly open the freezer. No tentacles. I lay down my sword, though I won’t remove body armor or apron.

I summon Golden Oldies to fool my back and muscles into thinking they’re young. A rhythmic tune boogies me across the garage: “Mission Impossible.”

My Cold War almost morphs into peaceful coexistence when the song changes to the “Purple People Eater.” Will Hubby return to find nothing but my eyeglasses and piles of defrosted food? Will he weep more for my demise or the expensive loss of pot roasts?

Thankfully, the music changes to the Star Wars theme: Da, da, da-da-da da da! Retying my mighty apron, I plunge into the freezer’s alternative universe.

White, amorphous, furry-looking packages meet my eyes, their age detectable only by carbon dating. Identifiable or not, each package/container evokes a question:

  • Why did I shred four dozen bags of zucchini? My husband hates zucchini bread.
  • Do Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys grow exponential sets of giblets?
  • Did this single serving of tuna casserole preexist with God in the beginning?

While pondering cosmic questions, I toss out piles of mystery food, moving to the pulsating background of “You’re No Good.” “A Hard Day’s Night” demands endless elbow “Grease,” but eventually the fridge, freezer and I graduate to “Splish Splash.” We revel in unfamiliar spotlessness.

I play H-O-R-S-E with the giblets, shooting them into trash cans. Alas, in attempting a three-pointer, I hit a garbage man.

He doesn’t seem to take my poor aim personally, though he dives for the truck. It roars off to background strains of “Hey hey hey, goodbye. …”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you done recent cleaning combat? (If not recent, I won’t tell.)

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?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: No Tracking Needed

O, Lord, I hope all the gifts I ordered arrive on time. Um … exactly what did I order? But OMG, when You sent the greatest Gift of all, Your Son, You knew exactly what You’d given. You got Him in the right place at the right time — even without Amazon Prime.

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?

The Amazing Corn Maze Adventure

In autumn, we Midwestern grandparents like to complicate our lives by taking our families to corn mazes.

On our first outing, my husband eyed me. “Some people need 12 hours to find their way out.”

“Ha!” I say.

But that’s all I can say. Maybe, I’ll exit before Thanksgiving. Or Christmas?

Like my mother before me, I possess zero sense of direction. Unfortunately, our daughter inherited something of our deficiency.

Her husband and mine took over. “No way are these kids getting lost with you.”

One grandson wailed, “I don’t wanna get lost with Mommy!”

His brother backed away. “Grandma’s trying get rid of us!”

The men hurried the kids into the maze. Onlookers, fingers poised to dial 911, glared at my daughter and me.

The maze looked friendlier. I have always liked rustling cornfields, with thousands of leafy stalks whispering autumn secrets. Once we entered, though, other participants vanished. Where, exactly, were we?

My daughter said, “Let’s retrace our steps. We went this way, didn’t we?”

At the next intersection, I boldly pointed the way. “We came from this direction.”

“You think so?”

“Uh …”

Cornstalks moaned with the wind. My skin prickled, but I summoned the confident tone that faked me through years of parenting. “As long as we see the barn, we’re fine.”

The only problem: the barn kept moving. Farther and farther away.

Suddenly, from the opposite direction, it pounced on us like a daytime goblin.

My daughter, who once hitchhiked a Mexican highway without fear, halted, eyes wide.

I checked my phone’s GPS.

“Recalculating …” The GPS Lady snickered. “Recalcu — bwahahaha!”

My daughter’s GPS Lady joined in. They loved the corn maze.

Us? Not so much.

We switched off those annoying voices. But those of our family? No. This corn maze tale would be repeated at holidays forever.

Even if we never returned to eat pumpkin pie. (Sniff.)

Finally, my daughter straightened her shoulders. “We’re going about this all wrong.”

“We are?”

“Sure. Let’s walk away from the barn. At the next fork, close your eyes. Pick a path, any path. At the next one, I’ll do the same.”

“Right! That always works with interstate ramps.”

We found an exit. Before relief gave way to gloating, the guys emerged from another.

“Grandpa and I figured the way out from the sun’s angles!” one grandson crowed. “Did you do that, Grandma?”

“You used a GPS.” My husband sounded as if we were running a Ponzi scheme.

No, we had used our own special system, based on navigational instincts those guys couldn’t begin to understand.

My mother would have been proud.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a corn maze adventure?

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?