Friday, December 24, 2010

Where's Waldo?

Last year, when my oldest daughter was just days short of her high school graduation, I got my feelings hurt.

See, it is a tradition here for high school Seniors to place an ad in the back of their yearbook. It is mostly photos, sometimes there is copy and the size can range from 1/4 of a page to a whole page ad.

Initially, I wanted to surprise her and pick the photos and write some sweet message to her about how beautiful she is and how proud we are of her....but, she wasn't good with that. My choice of photos was questionable and then she was actually on the yearbook staff and I couldn't pull off the surprise part anyway. Sooooo, she composed her own ad. I originally paid for a 1/2 page, but she frantically called me from school one day to say that she couldn't possibly fit all her friends and family on 1/2 of a page....I paid up.

Now, this is where the hurt feelings come in.

When the yearbook was published and she brought it home, I immediately turned to see the ad, and.....where's mommy? Wait. Is that me? The smallest photo in the whole lot? Not even an individual, but a group shot? The size of the head of a pin? Me? The woman who made this life happen? The center of the home, the hub of the wheel, the wiper of tears, the one who pays for the "cut and color"?

Nada. It was like the "Where's Waldo" photos, only worse.

Somehow, when I opened my eyes this Christmas Eve morning, I was remembering this silly thing.....and then I opened my eyes a little wider.

In the collage of my Christmas Activity for 2010, where is the photo of my LORD? You know Him, right? The "reason for the season"?

What is He thinking of me? Have I overlooked Him? Is He too small a part of my Christmas? Is he like a "Where's Waldo" game?

Let's see.

I have decorated.
I have baked - oh, sugar, have I baked!

I have participated in gathering with friends,

and carrying on traditions.

I sent out cards, blogged, made hot cocoa, pickled shrimp, potatoes au gratin.... the way....I didn't kill the poinsettia.

But have I given proper focus to the Creator and Author of Christmas? The ONE WHO GAVE HIS LIFE FOR ME?

How big has HIS picture been in my ad?

How about you?

Have you ever given your child a Christmas gift and they seemed ungrateful or actually appeared to not appreciate it? Doesn't that hurt? Have I rejected Him again?

I challenge us all to not treat Jesus Christ like Waldo this isn't too late for any of us.

We can forgive somebody. That would be a nice gift for Jesus.

We could lend a hand to someone that needs it. That would be a nice gift for Jesus.

We could treat all people (especially the difficult ones) with love and respect. That would be a nice gift for Jesus.

Give to the poor, comfort the sick, shake hands, drive slow, breathe deeply, count your blessings, attend church, read scripture, give hugs, befriend the lonely, remain hopeful, spread the news....

"In all your ways, submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight". Proverbs 3:6

Where's Jesus? Place Him at the center of your Christmas collage.

Merry Christmas, everybody.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Big Cookie

Back in the days of old, while still living in my hometown and raising up a flock of babies, a friend and neighbor gifted us with a homemade gingerbread house every Christmas. It was a confectionery dream-come-true....covered in coconut and pasted with all sorts of candy. Its' arrival was much anticipated and celebrated. Each year, the miniature house held court in the center of the kitchen table until Christmas Eve, when Rob, Carol Anne and Martha were allowed to pick it apart and eat it all up.

When I watch old home movies of Christmas' past, I can catch glimpses of those gingerbread houses as the video camera pans around the room capturing another sort of Christmas magic. The gift giver probably has no idea what an impact those houses had on our traditions or that years after we moved away, and after the "little" children had grown up and grown out of so many other traditions - they still reminisce about the annual gingerbread feast on Christmas Eve.

Three years ago, those "little" children gave me a book and a Kitchen Aid mixer and said "build it, and we will come". And I did. And they do. A new tradition has been born.

It is a project that last for DAYS.

There are templates.

There is the baking of the gingerbread.

Rolling it out, cutting it into a pattern.

Assembly. Oh, Lord, the assembly.

There are some bad words said. Disagreements. Hilarity.There is so much Royal Icing that I feel nauseous just from smelling it.

There are late night candy runs and gnashing of teeth. They all participate in the planning and construction - Rob (20), Carol Anne (18) and Martha (15). We stay up late for days. We spend time together.

When we get overly stressed about how perfect it should look, or a piece breaks off or the icing cracks - we remind ourselves that it really is just a giant cookie and we are perfect only in our efforts to love one another and enjoy the time we have.

Then, when it is complete, we proudly display it and take pictures and post them on Facebook. We laugh about the disagreements.

We don't eat it.

I mean, after rolling and beating and trimming and licking your fingers and eating the scraps as you decorate....I am sick of gingerbread....until next year!

I was thinking we should start baking the smaller house. Maybe do several. Give them away to friends with small create a tradition and a million more memories.

Pay it forward.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

Say NO to Christmas Porn

Last night, I had a wonderful and merry "night out" with my gurlfriend, Heather. We do this from time to time, on special occasions, but it isn't often enough! We eat decadent food, prepared by someone else, and it always includes dessert. For our special meal, we chose the Chive Blossom restaurant because it never disappoints - this choice is always difficult since we have so many good restaurants in Pawleys Island!

The food (trout, short ribs, risotto....) was terrific! What really inspired me and warmed my heart was the conversation. Heather and I have an easy rapport and an intuitive understanding of each other. We were speaking honestly about the highs and lows of the Christmas season and how hard it is to keep treading water and not just let the under-tow pull you under!

A light bulb turned on in my brain and illuminated this thought: we (women), are inundated, poisoned, consumed, imprisoned, propagandized and degraded by Christmas PORN.


Did I just say that?


What I mean is.....the media, the commercial lords, the retailers....they tell us that Christmas is not Christmas unless it looks like Norman Rockwell or Currier and Ives or at the very least, the Budweiser commercial!

We have, because of exposure to this Christmas porn, come to believe that Christmas should always be extremely fulfilling, beautiful, arousing, sensational, delicious, satisfying, wildly enjoyable and perfectly decadent.


I can't stop buying those magazines. The ones with the BEST gift ideas and recipes for an award winning, fat-free dinner - not to mention the right outfits (for my shape) that will bedazzle my friends and neighbors.

I stay up late watching the Food Network and making lighted orbs for my outdoor trees and baking massive gingerbread houses.

I can't live up to the ideal. The porn.....

Neither can Heather.

Because of Christmas porn, she doesn't try....and I die trying. Together, we negate Christmas. Or do we?

I love Jesus. I am grateful for the gift of His life for mine. I don't want to downplay that fact.

I love the look in the eyes of my children when they smell gingerbread baking in the oven.

I loved making these cupcakes for Michael's church choir Christmas party....

Martha helped me slather the icing on and I sprinkled and such....

I was content with the fact that I bought the rest of the food from the local grocery store and didn't have the right serving bowls or table decorations.

The "Chinese gift exchange" was a big hit and all the kiddos had a blast!
Heather is doing a good job, too. She is doing the things that really matter and having a good laugh at the things that don't. She lives right in the middle of a neighborhood where outdoor Christmas lights are OUTDOOR CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. With music.

She went and bought a simple garland of pre-lit snowflakes for her front porch. They have blue lights. They look like a string of the Star of David when lit at night. Or the Starship Enterprise.

What would Martha (Stewart) do?

Tomorrow, my family is reading the Advent litany during the 11 o'clock church service. It is the 4th Sunday of Advent and we will be reminded to be faithful as we light the 4th candle.

There is a funny-hard-to-pronounce-name in the scripture that I am reading.

I am throwing caution to the wind, ignoring the possibility that I am pronouncing it wrong and reading it with courage and confidence.

So what if it isn't perfect?

My house isn't clean. My washing machine is broken. I can't cook fabulous meals because I am baking gingerbread around the clock. There is a good possibility that I won't get to the sugar cookies this year.

But tomorrow, I will say "Restore us, O Lord God Almighty, may God's face shine upon us, that we may be saved.

Restore us.

Be peaceful. Be hopeful. Be joyful. Be faithful.

Don't fall prey to Christmas porn.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Gift of the Unexpected

Today was THE DAY.

It was THE DAY to get those cards in the mail (check).

It was THE DAY to get the ingredients for the gingerbread house (check).

It was THE DAY to make chili and cornbread for dinner (check).

It was THE DAY to taste test the Gingerbread cocktail as mentioned in a previous post (check).

It was also THE DAY for the unexpected.....(check).

I didn't expect that two college kids at home for the holidays equals ten college kids at my house within 12 hours....
But it was so good to see them....

I didn't expect that Carol Anne would make "puppy chow" (rice chex, peanut butter, chocolate chips, powdered sugar) and that she and her friends would drink all the soda from the extra fridge and bring merriment and mischief into the homestead. They all wanted to hug me - goodness what a compliment!

Anyway, just as I was getting back into my "as planned" agenda for THE DAY, Martha arrived home with my pretty-much-adopted-daughter, Kate. They were headed to the Varsity Cheerleading Christmas party and Secret Santa gift exchange. They were so spirited and generally happy that they let me take an actual you will recall, Martha doesn't allow photos. I didn't expect that!

Purty, huh?

So, after the house was cleared of the extra cast and crew and the chili/cornbread supper was served and kitchen was clean.....whew! I needed to step right into that Gingerbread cocktail!

Gingerbread is intriguing.

Ginger root is so ugly and yet it smells so yummy! I love it in Pioneer Woman's Beef With Snow Peas. And I was anticipating another love relationship with the cocktail....

But there ain't no love.

I didn't expect that.

This drink had so much going for it (in addition to the ever intriguing ginger root)....espresso and Kahlua....chocolate liqueur.... and cinnamon.

It is too sweet. It is too....espresso-y.

It lingered on my kitchen counter, untouched, for an hour or so. I was avoiding it. Michael mistook it for my "usual" - diet coke. What a face he made after the big sip he took! I didn't have my camera ready for that unexpected, hilarious expression! Darn it! But take it from Michael...don't bother with this recipe. Sorry, Giada.

There is more ginger in my future, though. Tomorrow, we begin making the gingerbread house! Last year's was such a hit that we have made it a tradition.

This was our Southern Plantation from 2009.

We will be attempting a Victorian for 2010.

Stay tuned.....

It was THE DAY. It was THE DAY the Lord made....and He always likes to keep things interesting. I think He likes to remind me that I can make all the list and plans I want, but HE is in charge of the actual agenda. I didn't know I would be enjoying puppy chow and abundant hugs and that my toes would curl up from sipping liquid gingerbread!

I hope that today was THE DAY for you, too! And tomorrow as well....Expect the unexpected!

Rejoice and be glad in it!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Pondering Japanese Wedding Boats

The festive tree "orbs" are finished.....they were inexpensive to make, but if I were to sell them in the retail market, I would charge an arm and a leg for them! Just FYI: chicken wire can cause scratches and puncture wounds that kill!

I had to sit on the floor to make them. In fact, I also have to sit on the floor to wrap Christmas gifts. I think I may never stand upright again. When did it get to be so hard to sit on the floor??

Anyway, it was like wrestling a wet cat trying to form the rectangular sheets of chicken wire into round balls. You definitely need a good pair of wire cutters and if you happen to have a basketball laying around - that helps, too (in case you forget exactly how to form a round shape)! Some HELP would have been convenient. Martha was there, on the floor, with me. She quickly realized what a tangled mess the chicken wire job had turned out to be and she declared,
"I have recognized that my skill is in the light-wrapping part".

The "light wrapping part" takes 10 seconds and doesn't involve wire cutters.

We had a goal of 8 lighted tree ornaments. We made 5. My skin and hands can't take the pressure of 3 more.

I am kind of proud of them.

They look so insignificant and transparent and average. But they have made my scraggly, dormant crepe myrtle look like a Japanese wedding ship floating in Tokyo harbor....poetic, eh?

Sigh. I can see them from my kitchen window. It was worth the pain(s).

In theory, I have a husband who might lend a hand with these types of projects. I couldn't possibly begin to explain what an oxymoron it is to use you know who's name in the same sentence with lend a hand.

He is a basketball coach - it is basketball season - the world as we know it has stopped turning - he keeps his clothes here - eats an occasional meal -uses the phone after hours to call in scores and such - doesn't understand the artistic significance of lighted tree orbs that you have to make sitting in the middle of the floor.

Say what? Yeah, I am talking to you! Er, about you! Is there a problem? How 'bout those tree ornaments, honey?

As my gurlfriend, Jenny would say.....Peace like a river....

Now, can someone help me up off the floor?


Monday, December 6, 2010

Asking These Questions of Myself

Here is what I am pondering this cold winter's eve....

1. Can my recently purchased (beautiful) white poinsettia stay alive until after Christmas? Why do I kill poinsettias year after year? Too much care? Too much water? Will the "pretend to ignore it but not really" method work for 2010?

2. Why do I love a church pot-luck dinner? Is it really a proper church pot-luck dinner if there isn't any sweet tea to drink? Can you have too many dishes? Is dessert the best part? The deviled eggs? The pickled okra? The spiral sliced ham? Fried chicken?

Did these people just come for the food?

3. Can anyone deny the fact that Christmas + church choir + 7 year old boys = mischief and stifled laughter? Did the big sister in the audience cause any of the laughter?

4. Don't these church services bless every generation from now until eternity? Will Martha remember being a part of the blessing?

5. Will it be possible to make 5-7 lighted tree "orbs" from chicken wire and miniature lights and hang them in the front yard - all by the time my college kids come home for Christmas?

6. Does Giada's Gingerbread Cocktail look tempting to you? It looks really good and tempting to me...

7. Will the above links work after I publish this post?

8. Would you believe there was an episode of CSI: Pawleys Island filmed at my beach rental this morning?

(This is where the 42" flat screen TV used to be....)

9. Are other people as full of .......ahem, questions as I am?

10. May I please order a gingerbread cocktail? Please? Wait. Make that a double.

Note: Answers to some of the above questions may be answered in this lifetime.