Saturday, December 27, 2014

My Love/Hate Relationship With Christmas: Confessions of a Christmas-holic

It is two days after Christmas and I have been reduced to a drooling, mumbling, pajama-clad couch potato. In December a few years ago, I made a trip to the dermatologist where my daughter, Stephanie, works. I had burning, itching hives covering my neck and chest that felt like a hundred stinging ants.  “Well, looks like you were here last December for the same thing,” said the doctor.  “That’s it! It has been confirmed. I’m allergic to Christmas,” I replied.

I love Jesus. I serve Him as closely and faithfully as I can, but I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love everything about it. I hate the amount of work that it entails. I confess, I am responsible for much of my Christmas to-do list. All those cookies I bake – dozens and dozens – to give to neighbors, family and friends. And my family reproduces like sex-starved rabbits, so my gift list is a continually growing, demanding parasite.

Thank God gift giving is my love language. Otherwise, I would eradicate that leech-list – set fire to it and cackle like the Wicked Witch of the West. Even though I purchase sale items all year long, I find myself scrambling and searching in a psychotic frenzy at the last minute every December. This year I had tons of little boy gifts, but many more little girls than boys in the family. Seriously, though, why can’t a three-month-old baby girl get a set of Hot Wheels as a gift? Who makes these rules anyway? I have a confession: little boys are easier to buy for than little girls, but men are harder to buy for than women. That is my truth, so there!

Then all the meals! Somehow I manage to keep up my usual “everyone-comes-to-my-house-for-lunch-after-church-every-Sunday” ritual. I had not fully recovered from all that cooking/baking I did for Thanksgiving when the kitchen fairy – that cursed, wretched, slave-driving creature – reminded me I have much to do in December.

And don’t ask me why I drive myself to be the Queen of Christmas Decorating. I even do the front yard d├ęcor with lights and everything. But I have learned a valuable, sanity-saving secret. Let there be no item set out at Christmas – or any other time – that is more precious to you than the tiny hands that may break it. My younger self was not so gracious about this. But now I let my grandkids and great-grandkids rearrange my village, take baby Jesus out of the nativity, touch Santas with not-so-clean fingers….you get the idea. And every year, something gets broken. And I always ask the tearful offender, “What do I love more? You or (that thing) you broke? Of course, I love you more.”

To make this December worse, I started off the first week with some coughing, achy, sneezing, fatigued virus from hell. It lasted a week. Then the Sunday night before Christmas – after having thirty plus people here that day for lunch and to play that steal-the-gift game – I got a horrid bug that kept me up most of the night with some demonic minion twisting a burning knife in my stomach.

I had to babysit a grandson Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. To top that off, my youngest daughter, Heather’s, husband ended up in ICU, so I had those three grandkids too. I was facing a Christmas Eve meal and festivities for 20-30 family, plus preparing a complete meal to take to the in-laws in another city on Christmas day.

Heaving a heavy sigh while every bone and muscle in my sixty-six year old body groans in protest, I am forever grateful for Jesus Christ, Incarnate God, who chose to be born as a helpless newborn with a destiny to sacrifice His mortal, human body because of His profound love for mankind. Words are inadequate to express the depth of my love for my Lord and savior.

This Christmas, I am especially grateful that my son-in-law, Bobby, got released from the hospital to be with his family for Christmas. Also, my sweet grandson, Nathanael, and his wife, Jessica, handed me a box of Cerrata’s Chocolates, and said, “Our other Christmas gift is that we’re going to have a baby.”  A miracle I have been praying about for almost two years. Only a handful know the significance of that announcement. 

And because I love my family and friends, I will always look forward to Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014 at My House

Ah, Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving 2014 is now a thing of the past. I trust yours was filled with family, friends, food, fun, fellowship, and gratitude for all the many blessings in your life. Please don’t say you have nothing to be grateful for. The fact that you are alive is a blessing.

My family is huge. Okay, I know I’ve said it before about my huge family. Make no doubt, I KNOW I am blessed and I wouldn’t have it any other way. But the human dynamics when you get so many people together usually has an element of stress for me and my sweet husband, Jeff. We are peace-loving, no drama, let’s-just-all-get-along people. Conflict keeps us awake at night.

Forty two people were at my house for Thanksgiving and we all did get along. We usually do. BUT….there’s always that potential for fireworks. The majority of my family is Christians, but we welcome all family whether they’re believers or not.

We also have some drama lovers, some who struggle with drugs and alcohol or other issues. Every family has those. We even have a couple of ultra liberals. That’s like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole when you come to my house.

Well, the alcoholics stayed sober, the drama lovers kept their actions and attitudes in check, and the ultra liberals kept their mouths shut. It was a very blessed day, indeed.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV) “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”

It’s not the great food that people will remember when they come to my or your home. It is the love and acceptance they feel. Always be kind and loving, even when it’s thrown back in your face. Love covers….everything. 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

While Fires Burn in Ferguson

A shared post which is the best I've read so far about what is happening in Ferguson.

At some point while I was playing or preparing to play Monday Night Football, the news broke about the Ferguson Decision. After trying to figure out how I felt, I decided to write it down. Here are my thoughts:
I'M ANGRY because the stories of injustice that have been passed down for generations seem to be continuing before our very eyes.
I'M FRUSTRATED, because pop culture, music and movies glorify these types of police citizen altercations and promote an invincible attitude that continues to get young men killed in real life, away from safety movie sets and music studios.
I'M FEARFUL because in the back of my mind I know that although I'm a law abiding citizen I could still be looked upon as a "threat" to those who don't know me. So I will continue to have to go the extra mile to earn the benefit of the doubt.
I'M EMBARRASSED because the looting, violent protests, and law breaking only confirm, and in the minds of many, validate, the stereotypes and thus the inferior treatment.
I'M SAD, because another young life was lost from his family, the racial divide has widened, a community is in shambles, accusations, insensitivity hurt and hatred are boiling over, and we may never know the truth about what happened that day.
I'M SYMPATHETIC, because I wasn't there so I don't know exactly what happened. Maybe Darren Wilson acted within his rights and duty as an officer of the law and killed Michael Brown in self defense like any of us would in the circumstance. Now he has to fear the backlash against himself and his loved ones when he was only doing his job. What a horrible thing to endure. OR maybe he provoked Michael and ignited the series of events that led to him eventually murdering the young man to prove a point.
I'M OFFENDED, because of the insulting comments I've seen that are not only insensitive but dismissive to the painful experiences of others.
I'M CONFUSED, because I don't know why it's so hard to obey a policeman. You will not win!!! And I don't know why some policeman abuse their power. Power is a responsibility, not a weapon to brandish and lord over the populace.
I'M INTROSPECTIVE, because sometimes I want to take "our" side without looking at the facts in situations like these. Sometimes I feel like it's us against them. Sometimes I'm just as prejudiced as people I point fingers at. And that's not right. How can I look at white skin and make assumptions but not want assumptions made about me? That's not right.
I'M HOPELESS, because I've lived long enough to expect things like this to continue to happen. I'm not surprised and at some point my little children are going to inherit the weight of being a minority and all that it entails.
I'M HOPEFUL, because I know that while we still have race issues in America, we enjoy a much different normal than those of our parents and grandparents. I see it in my personal relationships with teammates, friends and mentors. And it's a beautiful thing.
I'M ENCOURAGED, because ultimately the problem is not a SKIN problem, it is a SIN problem. SIN is the reason we rebel against authority. SIN is the reason we abuse our authority. SIN is the reason we are racist, prejudiced and lie to cover for our own. SIN is the reason we riot, loot and burn. BUT I'M ENCOURAGED because God has provided a solution for sin through the his son Jesus and with it, a transformed heart and mind. One that's capable of looking past the outward and seeing what's truly important in every human being. The cure for the Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice and Eric Garner tragedies is not education or exposure. It's the Gospel. So, finally, I'M ENCOURAGED because the Gospel gives mankind hope.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

All About Grammas and Grammar

“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  That pretty much sums up my life. It probably wouldn’t be as much of a problem if I wasn’t a procrastinator. And exactly what kind of plans do mice make anyway?

I love everything about this time of year – Halloween through the New Years – especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. But my family is so huge that I usually work myself into a frazzle. After cooking, baking and planning a big family celebration for my husband, Jeff’s, 50th birthday this past Sunday, I decided this week I would drag in the tubs from the garage and sort through them. I mean, that shindig on Sunday didn’t wear me out enough, right?

These tubs contain gifts I’ve collected all year because my gift-giving list for Christmas is enormous. But I get a text Sunday night asking can I watch my five-year-old granddaughter, Jocelyn, because she’s sick and can’t go to pre-school. Jocelyn thinks my purpose on earth is to entertain and play with her every minute she’s here.

Yesterday amidst making cookies with Jocelyn (her idea, not mine), I get a phone call from Miranda asking can I pick up my five-year-old great-granddaughter, Ariana, from school. Uh, sure! I mean, I am Super-Mimi and I seriously do love all my kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids more than words can say.

Between the chaotic mess of two little girls – who aren’t all that sick – and mystery tubs scattered around, my house looked like a tornado hit it by the time my husband, Jeff, got home from work yesterday. And I looked like the tornado was still sweeping over me.

This whole process with Jocelyn and Ariana is repeated today. My morning consists of, “I don’t want Fruit Loops like Jocelyn. I want Coco Puffs” – “What are you making, Mimi? Pumpkin pies? Yay, can we help? How come? Then can we make cookies?” – “Can we have marshmallows? This isn’t too many" (said through giggles and chipmunk-cheeks stuffed with marshmallows). – “I’m still hungry after marshmallows. Can I have M&M’s? Why not? No, I’m not hyper, Mimi.” – “Can we go outside and jump on the trampoline?”

Today is officially Jeff’s birthday, so despite the chaos, I decided to send him a mushy text in the manner of that book Love You Forever. My text:  “Happy birthday to my precious, wonderful husband. I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m alive, my husband you’ll be.”  After hitting send, it was back to pie making. I heard my phone ding. Jeff: “I love you, too. Who’s Alice?”

Alice?  Stupid autocorrect changed alive to Alice. “As long as I’m Alice, my husband you’ll be.” Stupid autocorrect also recently changed my facebook post from, “We’re on our way to the RWA (Romance Writers of America),” to, “We’re on our way to Rwanda.”  As if I have time for foreign travel.

Back to pie making. Seriously, whose idea was it for ME to bake a pumpkin pie to celebrate Joy’s birthday at our blog group tomorrow? Not me. Or maybe it was me. Anyway, then on to overseeing Jocelyn and Ariana as they rolled out, cut, baked then decorated cookie dough. Oh, and can I pleeeaaase help them built a house with Legos. And please take our picture on the trampoline. I should feel so good when I’m sick. I can barely jump on the trampoline when I’m well.

What’s a Mimi to do, huh? Well, for now, I need to get a birthday gift together for Joy, fix myself up so Jeff and I can go visit some friends, then to dinner with the hunky birthday man. That is, after these adorable girls get picked up.

Just call me Alice. Maybe her plans never go awry, I think, as my gaze travels over these darn tubs.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I Could Be A Reality Star

Do you watch reality television shows? I could be a reality star. Honestly, it seems it doesn’t take much to be on reality television nowadays. You can even have your own reality show. In the 1960’s I missed my chance, I guess. Teen mom – that was me. Teen Mom on MTV seems to be fairly popular. Who knew back then?

Those girls have nothing on me. I had my third baby when I was nineteen years old. My first, Tammy, was born when I was sixteen, a month before my seventeenth birthday. I guess I was kind of unique in that I was married and was not pregnant when I got married. I was….a virgin when I got married.

Somehow I survived – my babies did too – without much help from anyone except for friendly advice and the occasional offer to babysit. You know what else? My friend, Sande, did too. We were both teen moms with three babies.

We had no idea that what we were doing could someday be viewed as a potential for stardom. We spooned baby food into tiny mouths, rinse and washed soiled diapers (there wasn’t such a thing as disposable diapers), rocked cranky or sick babies, went without sleep, did laundry that we hung outside to dry, and juggled schedules while keeping our sanity.

We did it because we wanted to be mommies. I can’t imagine being a teenager and doing all of those mother things in front of a television camera. I value my privacy. I can’t imagine, either, that anyone behaves as they normally would without a camera recording it all.

I had two more babies – five children total – by the time I was twenty five. I did it all without a – television show. And that’s not the only reality show my life could fit. I am – was – a cougar before I even knew there was such a thing. I recently celebrated my twentieth anniversary to Jeff, who is sixteen and a half years younger than me – a second marriage for both of us.

But that’s a story for another time. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Pecans and Pumpkins or How To Waste Not

What is a poverty mentality? If I didn’t coin the phrase, I should have. My definition of poverty mentality as it pertains to me is that I can’t stand to waste anything.

I grew up poor, only I didn’t realize we were poor. Mom was the queen of recycling – before it became popular – and resourcefulness. She made use of everything, either for our own needs or to sell. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am like her. Fortunately, because I can stretch a dollar until it rips, or unfortunately, because I find it hard to throw anything away. I am a smidgen of a hoarder. Think of that reality television show Hoarders. NO – that is not me.

I was recently in Stephenville, Texas visiting family. There are pecan trees all over Stephenville. Pecans lay in yards and on sidewalks and streets. Many people use them but many pecans go to waste. People step on them without giving it a thought. Think of fingernails on chalkboard. That was me, cringing whenever a pecan was stepped on.

I did come home with a big bag of unshelled pecans, compliments of some friends there.  But it was all I could do at times to keep walking over pecan lying on the ground or sidewalks. I wanted to holler, “Stop! Wait!” to my family while I scooped pecans into my purse. All I could think of was how much I pay for walnuts and pecans, especially this time of year when I do so much holiday baking. To see pecans wasted caused me to hyperventilate and have heart palpitations. I thought I’d swoon just like Scarlett in Gone With The Wind.

I made it home without having heart failure.

I bought three LARGE pumpkins before Halloween. I’ve never done that before, but I needed them for my Trunk R Treat theme at church. Well, Nifty-Thrifty me can’t let those pumpkins go to waste.

I discovered I am not a pioneer or pilgrim woman. My shoulder is sore from carving those pumpkins to cook. My kitchen floor had more than one disaster of spilled cooked pumpkin. I swear pumpkin seeds are like insects – they just crawl off and end up all over the place. I made six pumpkin pies today and that was just from one pumpkin. I cooked another pumpkin today. Ugh! I have one more pumpkin to cut and cook. Maybe I’ll throw it away.

NO, I won’t. My poverty mentality won’t let me. There are starving people in other countries – even in my country. God bless the USA!

And why am I bothering with pumpkins? I am knee deep in NaNoWriMo – National Writing Month. I have a word count to meet. Pumpkins or writing? Grrrr. I'm so torn.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lone Star State

Texas! I think if I had to pick another state to live in besides my beloved Arizona, it would be Texas. Perhaps it is my misconception, but it seems friendlier to the gospel (more church signs and billboards about God/Jesus/faith/Christianity). For the most part, the landscape is beautiful.

My dad, God rest his soul, was from Texas. I love the Texan accent. I think I’ll write a a book based in Texas. Oh, wait, I am doing that already.

We are currently in Texas in a smaller town of Stephenville. We’re visiting our son, Jason, his wife, Danielle, and granddaughter, Kate. We stay at Danielle’s grandparents’ bed and breakfast. I’m not a bed and breakfast kind of person, but Marlene and Ed have become great friends.

This is all the perfect setting for a novel. Are other writers like me? I view everything now through the eyes of novel settings. On our trips to Stephenville, we fly into the Dallas airport, rent a car and drive to Stephenville. To get to Stephenville, we pass through the small town of Tolar, population 681. It looks like a town that has endured hard times, at least from the appearance of abandoned, dilapidated buildings on the main street. All I think about when we pass through is the possible story plots.

Or how about the current Ebola threat in America? On our flight from Phoenix to Dallas, the passenger aboard the plane in the seat directly in front of us was wearing a particle/germ mask over his mouth and nose. I whisper to my husband, “Is he afraid of catching something or spreading something?” All the possible story plots from that alone are endless. Besides the fact it truly did concern me.

Keep your eyes and ears open, and a notebook handy for jotting notes. Story plots are around us every day and everywhere. I love to get story plots from the sermons our pastor preaches. I’m constantly scribbling during Sunday services.