Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Crazies!

Everyone has a story worth repeating around the holiday season. I'm referring to an event like you stood in line thirty minutes to check out items you worked two hours to make a decision about. While waiting your turn you calculate how much you are about to spend, validate why it's alright to splurge, and picture how perfectly these items round out what is stashed away in the bowels of your closet. When the checker announces the total you reach in your purse to find everything except your wallet! Sure the store will hold the desired purchase twenty-four hours but goodness knows what is penciled in hour to hour between now and then but you are certain it didn't include coming back to this store!! You think to yourself this is suppose to be the season of peace on earth goodwill to men but what you really want to do is scream and punch somebody! I have many instances similar to the above I could share but have chosen only two for your reading pleasure so as not to stir up too many " ba humbug " feelings.

I had planned a Christmas morning extraordinaire in my mind. Rebekah and Abby wanted big baby dolls which I adored and Joseph was into being a fireman. This had all the makings of a storybook memory and I set out to make it the best ever for all of us. Just think of the pictures and video footage! We didn't own a camcorder but Jeff had already figured out he could reserve the one our church had. Just one of the perks from being involved in the children's ministry! I began smocking nightgowns for the girls with matching gowns for their baby dolls complete with " made by Mrs. Claus " labels sewn in for authenticity. I felt safe to smock when the girls were asleep but not when it was time to sew on the machine. Easy to overcome, I would work at Aunt Nana's house on her machine. Of course I pushed the limit nearing the deadline but not to worry, I knew my mothering adrenalin would kick in and everything would be finished with elf speed! Much to my surprise at midnight when I was about to start home it had been snowing! Merry Christmas to me, I thought. How fun and beautiful I thought as I drove home until I turned onto the foot of the monstrous hill that led to my house! Suddenly all the excitement of playing Mrs. Claus was melting as the wheels of my car began to spin and I found myself at the bottom of the hill again. I'm from Texas and am petrified at the
thought of crashing on ice! Remember it's after midnight and cell phones hadn't been invented but even if they had we wouldn't have one.
And why isn't Jeff out looking for me? Isn't he worried about me? I didn't begin to have on the right shoes or coat for braving the
nonforcasted white stuff glistening all around me! The best I could figure was to park my car on the side of the street and hike home. As I
felt confident this would work it didn't take too many attempted steps to learn I was wrong. All I did was slide back to where I started no
matter how hard I tried! My next plan proved successfulf as I crunched through the lawns of my neighbors till I reached our uphill cove
which was even more steep! Step by baby step delivered me safely at last to my front door. Jeff was cuddled sound asleep on the sofa
with a few embers still alive in the fireplace clueless to my icy adventure. But early Christmas morning with Bing Crosby caroling in the
background, the camera ready to capture the squeal of children flying down stairs, and the first comments of joy at the sight of wished for
toys, all the hours of shopping and sewing and sliding fulfilled every anticipated thought for this very moment with my family.

Where to hide Christmas presents can pose quite a challenge from year to year. The more children the bigger the challenge and since I have four I had to be creative as they got older and more tuned in to the process. I would save some to wrap on Christmas eve while
" visions of sugarplums " were dancing away! I always participated in televised Christmas worship services as part of my Yuletide tradition
while placing the finishing touches on packages and stockings. My hiding places ranged from the back of my closet to the back of the Suburban ( fondly referred to as my sleigh! ) to the loft closet of the Stitchin Post to the family boat stored in Sharon and Winston's garage to Jeff's storage unit not far from where we lived! I was methodical each year because as the magical night approached I might have to gather everything together to make certain every child's presents looked balanced with the layout beside them. Santa even remembered where each child's yearly place in the den was located for instant identification! Wouldn't you know the one year I didn't go through the inventory activity prior to Christmas eve there was an item missing for Anna Grace. Not really just a present but her main present! Everything in her pile revolved around the missing doll. I couldn't imagine that I could be so remiss about something so important! Obviously Jeff had to hop to and backtrack through the possible locations to keep Christmas morning from being a diaster! After looking everywhere except his storage unit we were still shy one Bitty Baby. We felt somewhat relieved eliminating everywhere possible he could get to before morning. It had to be in his storage unit and he could wake up before the kids, get Bitty Baby and be back in place before the first "it's morning" was heard! The perfect plan! When Jeff got to his stiorage unit the gate was locked even though it was always unlocked by this time. He had to call the
manager for access to finalize the case of the missing present. Hesitantly, he responded to Jeff's call and opened the gate. Jeff search every inch of the square unit but to know avail! No doll anywhere ! Jeff couldn't stand letting the manager know that after the disruption his mission was unsuccessful so he grabbed a small box and hid it under his jacket. As he went to thank the manager for being so helpful he
patted the box indicating mission accomplished but before he could get a word out the manager spoke up and declared, " 364 days of the year we are open and the one morning we aren't, you show up! " In the meantime I received a phone call from Sharon announcing the mystery had been solved and Bitty Baby could be picked up and placed in her rightful place under the tree! Success at last!? Falalalalalalalala!

Monday, December 13, 2010

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, How Loaded Are Thy Branches

I love this season of the year! Starting with Thanksgiving through New Years Day I am in my element! From baking to decorating, Christmas carols to festive gatherings, coffee in holiday mugs to poinsettias, I become one of Santa's helpers to make certain I am spreading Christmas cheer! Although I do my share to boost the economy, shopping isn't the crux for me. I especially like the worst kind of shopping Susie Orman preaches to avoid, last minute emotional spending. If I recall her theory correctly, all purchases should be made by the end of the first week of December but I consider it my patriotic duty to extend the deadline a bit! I am referring to the purchases made with the thought, just one more for Jeff and the kids, or I think I will buy a gift for all fifteen great nieces/nephews, or the ever so popular that looks just like so and so, I can't pass it up! A commmon trap for me and I'm sure others as well. This year a new approach had to be considered so thanks to my daughters our house is glowing with holiday decor in all the typical places. For years I was a greenery snob and made my own fresh garland from clippings on the ground at the tree lot. But as the season's activities increased with four kids, nine.years of participating in the Nutcracker with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and eventually adding work to my schedule I was forced to give in and purchase garlands with no fragrance but easier cleanup. But the tree is another thing. We still support Frazier tree growers by finding the tallest, most perfectly shaped tree on the lot! We have tree shopped in all kinds of weather and have been unaffected by the hassle of getting the tree in the house, in the stand, and in the position showing best side. I purposely have a few ornaments that are the right size to hide the holes that never seem to show up in the selection process! The best tree adventure to date began with a family trip to the tree lot followed by breakfast at McDonald's and ending the day by trimming the tree with holiday music blaring. The third part of our Norman Rockwell day didn't go as planned. As Jeff and the kids began the process to get the tree ready for ornaments I received a phone call from Rebekah. She informed me that the tree didn't have a good side and daddy was mad! I immediately shifted to mom mode by saying all the appropriate statements to turn a bad situation around. At that time I worked at a specialty fabric store part time, trading my hours for fabric and lace instead of a paycheck. I thought I had devised the perfect plan so that I could participate in my favorite part of the tree experience, taking the kids to choose a tree and hanging the ornaments in just the right place. Skipping the whole getting it in the stand and in the house routine was my least favored part. It's the moaning and groaning from Jeff toward an innocent evergreen that I like to avoid! When I got home I was certain I could redeem all the critical remarks made toward our tree selection. Wrong! They were right, it was a horrible tree with no good side! I tried my best but to no avail! So on a cold, windy Saturday evening that tree was strapped back on the car and taken back to the tree lot to be exchanged for a more attractive one! Last Sunday evening as I watched the kids decorate the tree I had to chuckle inside as I reflected on the collection of memories encompassing this holiday beginning with my childhood to the present. I treasure their comments about certain ornaments or memories they have from Christmases past. I also had to heed my own suggestion from Puzzle Pieces of Parenting, Part Three, number fifty-five; allow some ornaments to stay where your children have placed them. It continues to be a challenge for me but somehow this time didn't seem to matter. Maybe I am finally growing up!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Wakeup Call

Yesterday at Community Bible Study the last part of the morning was dedicated to the annual Christmas Program presented by the children of all the moms involved in the study. Children starting as young as age two and extending to preteens provided a few minutes of holiday delight ranging from traditional carols to memory verses put to original melodies to the pledge of allegiance. As always there is at least one child that captures some extra attention and this year it was my grandson, Hamilton! Not only did he look adorable in his funky reindeer printed long john, but the way he would stop mid song and say " hi mom, hi mommy, hi mom. Hi nana (his great aunt) hi mom! He ended his presentation running up the aisle to where we were seated but because I was positioned just outside the pew in my wheelchair I received his grand finale with a, " hi Nan" and a big hug! Merry Christmas to me! Instantly I was taken back to the first year I attended CBS with one
child, Abby, skipping on one side of me and baby boy Joseph propped on the other hip. That's why women have hips, you know! One of the fall trends that year were scarves and I had purchased one from the Limited along with large earrings covered in jewel toned stones. Can you tell it was the eighties? And yes there were shoulder pads in everything I wore! I thought I was quite the fashion statement! So on this particular morning I wanted to dress the three of us in a way that would demand a second glance. Abby and Joseph looked like
Christmas cards in their smocked outfits accompanied by finishing touches of a perfectly created hair bow for Abby and polished white high top shoes for Joseph! Yes I dressed my son in smocked garments I had made so all three children coordinated but not matched. You never know when you might take a picture! And don't concern yourself about Joseph, half of our garage looks like Bass Pro Shop with his hunting and fishing gear. Wonder where he plans to put all of it in the one bedroom apartment he and Bethany will live in after their January wedding! With the two of them ready to go, I proceeded to get dressed and was excited to wear my new scarf! When I purchased the scarf the sales clerk showed me several ways to wear it. It seemed so easy when she did it but somehow it wasn't looking quite as sharp as it did in the store. Adding to my frustration was the the time on the clock and I didn't have mascara on yet and mascara is a must in my book! So I loaded us In the car and planned to finish my makeup while driving because Abby needed to arrive early since the Christmas program was scheduled for the first part of morning. I knew it wasn't the safest thing to do but this was kind of an emergency after all. Plus I am a female and capable of doing two things at the same time! All of a sudden I looked away from the mirror and back to road to find my car headed straight into the back of the truck in front of me! I swerved to avoid a crash and came to a stop in the grass beside the interstate. I felt like an idiot! Here I am investing time and energy in the best bible study I had ever been a part of with a children's program that embraced teaching children as opposed to just babysitting and I just missed what could have been a serious accident all because of a scarf and masacara! What a wakeup call! I was intent on achieving an appearance that took precedence over everything else. We arrived just in time for Abby to march in with the other kids. As I watched my sweet four year old sing about the birth of baby Jesus complete with hand motions and smiles, I was impressed by how much she had learned. I had learned a valuable lesson myself.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Webster's definition of the word forsaken is to abandon, to refrain from, to renounce. This evening that word is constantly on my mind. Actually it is more than on my mind, it is how I feel. Not because I was by myself today or this evening, I seldom get to be by myself now. I feel forsaken by God, abandoned, renounced, refrained from by Him. Where is He with regard to what is occurring in my body everyday There are no improvements, nothing is easier. Frankly speaking, every day seems to present new and more difficult challenges. Daily I receive cards, emails, or Facebook messages indicating prayers are being offered on my behalf. Daily someone tells me, " I am praying for you." Daily I experience no positive changes. We may figure out a better, more efficient way to help me up, prop me up, dress me up so I look most like myself, get me up in the car, clean me up, and pick me up when I fall! What works today may not be safe and effective tomorrow because nothing about me is stronger, better, healthier! NOTHING! NOTHING! I am accustomed to scripture flashing across the screen of my mind when I encounter personal, parenting, marriage, or any kind of life challenges that channels my thoughts and actions toward the correct response or approach. This evening the scripture I keep hearing is Jesus crying out, " my God, my God, why have you forsaken me!" In the gospel of Mark, chapter 15, Jesus is on the cross when he experiences this emotion. His mother, brother James, and disciple John were there with him. He was not alone when he expressed this strong declaration. Nor am I void of family and friends fully committed to do whatever is necessary through my terminal digression. A faithful friend initiated a two week prayer and fasting vigil and as much as I believe in the disciplined, sacrificing effort what I experienced during that time was an even deeper decline physically. Today's visit to the ALS Clinic left me facing the reality of this cruel disease with a wheelchair, bi-pap machine, and feeding tube in my immediate future due to less physical strength/balance, decreased respiratory function, and weight loss. ( go figure that I would find myself in a situation where weight loss at the doctor's office isn't a good thing! ). I have lived and taught my children that we make decisions based on what we know, not how we feel. Relying on my feelings with regard to my physical condition will only cause more disappointment and frustration. Although I typically try to look on the bright side to approach my life, today I needed to present a very realistic view to offer fair balance.