Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The night before Christmas

T’was the night before Christmas, and I with my cart
was making my way around Super-Wal-Mart.
We’d just gotten home from a trip out of town.
There was nary a crumb in our house to be found.
“Aaaaaaaack!” I had shouted. “We’re going to be hosed!
I must get to the grocery before they’re all closed!”

And so I joined up with that last-minute crowd
in that wild mad-house – so chaotic and loud.
But though it was crazy, the people were merry
instead of all frazzled and angry and harried.

I inched through the isles. I’d stop and I’d start
and tried not to run anyone down with my cart.
There were shelves that looked like they’d been mowed through by locusts.
The food was all gone! Disappeared! Hocus Pocus!
Somehow or another I found what I’d need
for my Christmas Eve Dinner and family to feed.

I got to the check out and waited in line.
I browsed through a “People” to make good use of time!
Then finally, yes finally, I got out of there
all my food for the week; 15 minutes to spare!

I made my way home. I unloaded my stuff.
I poured up some wine. Is one large glass enough?
I started our dinner with no need to toil.
Green beans, mashed potatoes, a huge London broil.

I set up the table. They all gathered ‘round.
I put out the food, asked them all to sit down.
“How ‘bout”, said my husband “before we all start
we each can hold hands and open our hearts.
We all can give thanks, one by one, all around
Because we have been blessed, and goodness abounds.”

We took turns. We were grateful for family and friends
whose love, warmth and kindness, it seems never ends.
We were thankful for all of the loving and caring
and kindness and laughter and friendship and sharing.
We gave thanks for the gifts that have filled up our life.
(Especially Mike’s – he has such a great wife!)

Then we started to eat. What a fabulous dinner!
(Could it be this is why I don’t get any thinner?)
When we finished, we tucked the kids into their beds
so that sugar-plum visions could dance in their heads.
I checked on them once. They’d not made a peep.
Two kids so exhausted – already asleep!

We got out the paper and ribbons and bows.
Hold on now….. Just where did my wine bottle go?
We wrapped up the presents. We tried to be quick.
We staged up a visit from good old Saint Nick.

The stockings, hung up with meticulous care,
were stuffed to the brim, with no room left to spare.
The presents, in front of the stone fireplace
would bring a huge smile to each little face.

With a stretch and a yawn and a scratch of the head
I said to my husband “I’m going to bed.”
“You know that the kids will be up oh-so early,
all wound up, excited, incredibly squirrely.
And I need to sleep – to get some good rest
so when morning comes, I can be at my best.”

I brushed all my teeth, (I want them to stay white!)
climbed into my bed, and tucked myself tight.
And just one more thing as I turn out the light……

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm not sure, but I think I just got "parented" by my son......

Yesterday I told Landis, in no uncertain terms, to get in the car and put on his seat belt.
This was his reply: "When you can ask me nicely......then I will."

Ahhhhhhh, yes. There's nothing like the sweet, sweet feeling of your own words flying back in your face. Not to mention legitimately being taken to task by your three year old.............
(Deosn't he look like a little stinker?)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

I'm dreaming of a Norman Rockwell Christmas.........

I had a conversation with a friend the other day. She was telling me about the process she and her family go through to find the perfect Christmas Tree. They don't skip down the road to the local Home Depot, or Lowe's, or even to one of the little Christmas Tree "farms" that crop up around this time of year. No sir. They drive to the mountains, where the REAL trees are. And once they get there they search out the most authentic Christmas tree farm they can find. Nothing too commercial; she doesn't want to shop for anything in an on-site gift shop. However, she is interested in a horse drawn carriage that will take you and your family back into the fields where you can walk through a forest of trees until -- Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!! -- you stumble upon the perfect one for your living room. You cut it fresh, tie it to the top of your car, and drive for hours back to your home. And do you know why they go to all this trouble, every year, to get their Christmas tree? "It's because I want it all -- I want the perfect Norman Rockwell experience." she explained.

Hmmmmmm......... I guess the "Norman Rockwell experience" goes over better in her family than it ever did in mine. My mom had the same hopes and dreams too. Christmas time would creep up, and her mind would start to overflow with those perfect, all-American images. She and my dad would load my brother and me up in the car with a dreamy look in their eyes. "Let's go cut our family Christmas tree!"

In hindsight, I understand what my mom was conjuring up. A walk through a winter wonderland, with all of us bundled in our scarves and hats and mittens, laughing and holding hands as we made our way through the trees. In her mind we'd find the perfect one, and then gather around it. Maybe we'd even "Oooooh" and "Aaaahhh". Then my dad would pat my brother on the back, and say something like "Well son, whaddaya say we go with this one?" And then the two of them would proceed to cut it down while my mom and I held hands and drank hot chocolate and talked about how wonderful this tree was, and then perhaps we'd all sing 'silent night' in three-part harmony. (Sigh......... Doesn't that sound nice?)

Anyway, I'm pretty sure that this was the beautiful picture my mom would conjure up every year. And, of course, every year the reality was something else entirely. Like I said, they'd load us up into the car with that dreamy "this is going to be a Norman Rockwell moment" look in their eyes. Then we'd back out of the driveway, and my brother and I would start arguing. After that, we'd hit each other all the way to the tree farm. Once we arrived, we'd spill out of the car and start hoofing it back into the fields. My brother and I would go in the opposite direction of my parents in search of the biggest tree we could find. My parents, being far more practical than my brother and me, would go in search of one that would actually fit inside our house. Once we each found our respective trees, we would begin the yearly argument. Josh and I would cling desperately to the trunk of the 12 foot tree that we'd found and exclaim over and over again that this was the ONLY suitable Christmas tree in the place. My parents would try to explain, repeatedly, that it wasn't possible to get a 12 footer. That, in fact, we had to get a 5 footer so that we could actually stand it up in our living room. With the understanding that we might be losing the battle, and yet refusing to be swayed away from our 12 foot giant, my brother and I, in our desperation, would begin to hurl insults: Their tree was stupid. Who wanted such a puny tree anyway? What could they possibly be thinking, wanting to get such an ugly tree?! We'd keep it up until my mom had finally had enough and sent us to wait in the car; Her dream of the perfect Norman Rockwell moment dashed for yet another year.

I'm not exactly sure how many years we went through that routine, but I do know that one day, just as the Christmas season was getting started, I walked in the front door to find a Christmas tree in our living room -- totally decorated! "What the......? How come you guys got the tree without us?" I stammered. My mom made some remark about how everybody was so busy it just seemed easier that way. But I think the truth was that my mom had given up on the dream. And I also think that maybe it was a relief. I don't know about you , but it seems to me that Ol' Norm sets up some pretty darn high expectations. I mean, who can really live up to those beautiful, all-American, perfect images?

So I started looking up some of Norm's paintings, and as I perused through all of them I came to a very different realization: Even though we all tend to conjure up the perfect American family when we think about Norman Rockwell, maybe Mr. Rockwell knew a thing or two about capturing the imperfect moments too. I found a painting of a boy being spanked by his teacher -- a man who had clearly been pushed to the very end of his rope. I found another of a young girl looking completely tousled, yet incredibly smug, sitting outside the Principal's office. And then there was one of a group of boys who were obviously having a heated argument over who was going to be stuck with the short kid on their basketball team.

And I have to admit that seeing those paintings made me feel better about my own failed attempt to create the perfect Norman Rockwell experience around the Christmas tree this year. Because once I actually took the time to really look, I saw that not all of Norm's moments were perfect. Somewhere, among the shards of the smashed and broken ornaments that my three-year-old tried so valiantly to put on the tree (against our express instructions, I might add) was a good moment. There may have been stress, and there may have been frustration, and there may have even been a time when I thought to myself "Why Oh Why did I think that this was a good idea!?!?" But without a doubt, there was also a good moment; A moment that Norm could have made pretty if he had chosen to capture it on a canvas. And that's good for my soul. Because after all, it's Christmas time. And a mom has to have a dream............

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Christmas Shopping

Here are 5 things you can catch your child carrying around when Christmas shopping at Lowe's Home Improvement Store:

#5. Rolls of wrapping paper

#4. A small pot of pansies

#3. Garland

#2. A box of large jingle bells

#1. A dead bird

Small-Town Girl

I take a yoga class on Fridays. I love the class and I love the instructor. And I could post about the awesomeness of yoga for days, but that's not the point of this little tid-bit. The point is this. After class, which happened to be the Friday before Thanksgiving, I was talking to my instructor. I told her I wouldn't be there next week, since I was traveling to Ohio to see my family for the holiday. My brief statement led to a long discussion about "going back home" and all of the old habits and anxieties that can bring up -- for her, not for me. I love going home and getting pampered by the folks. In any case, she did most of the talking, and I did most of the listening, nodding and smiling. And as she went on about how easy it is to fall into the old habits of restlessness and depression, eating excessively, worrying about how your body looks, and wondering how your life is stacking up, I was all smug, thinking about how glad I was that I am genuinely happy to spend time with my family and how I don't fall into those old "high school habits" she was ruminating about. (Well........except for the eating excessively part, and then obsessing about why my pants are hard to zip up. But isn't that what the holidays are mostly about?)

So when we arrived at my parent's house in Ohio, I had practically forgotten the conversation I had with my instructor. However, certain relevant bits of our little chat must have made themselves at home on my internal "radar-screen of self-awareness" because we hadn't been there very long when I made a discovery............. indeed, I do fall into an old "high-school habit" when I return to my old hometown. It's not depression, it's not restlessness, it's not "Am I a failure in my life?!?!", it's not about my body. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I was in the bathroom for the 10th time, applying "touch-up" mascara to my already made-up eyes, and yet another layer of hairspray to my 3 inch long hair. I was staring at myself mid-spray and it clicked. When I return to Lebanon, I'm a primping fiend. It's ridiculous. And I can't stop. Why all the primping? Well, in this particular case, it was for a trip to the grocery store. But I do it before I step out the door to go anywhere in Lebanon. Gotta' go get gas in the car? Hang on! I have to check my hair. Want to run into town and pick up a movie? Sure! But let me just check and make sure my shoes go with my pants first. Who wants to take the kids swimming at the pool? I do! But first, has anyone seen my eyeliner?!

So this got me thinking. Why, when I'll go run my errands with yesterday's mascara and this morning's bed-head in Charlotte, do I compulsively do my hair and make-up when I'm in Lebanon? And I think I know the answer. It's because I'm a small-town girl. When I was growing up, Lebanon (if you want to say it right you'll pronounce it "Leb-nhun") was home to approximately 6,000 people. The population increased slowly over the years, but what this basically meant was that you knew everybody. You had family cookouts with your dentist. You went to school with his kids. And the hygienist's kids, and the receptionist's kids. Heck, you went to school with your family doctor's kids, and the local bank manager's kids. You went to school with the minister's kids, and the sheriff's kids, and the Judge's kids too. (And you knew that if you were interested in stirring up a little trouble, you should go hang out with the minister's kids, the sheriff's kids, and the judge's kids.) You knew every single person in your own class, and could probably name 80% of the people in the classes 2 years ahead of you and 2 years behind you. Practically any place you went you could be sure of 2 things: You knew the people there, or they knew you -- even if you didn't know they knew you. Make sense? It does in a small town.

What in the world does all of this have to do with hair and make-up? I'll tell you. It's because even though Lebanon's population has grown to almost 17,000 people, lots of the folks I grew up with are still there. (And why not? It's a great little town.) And having come from a small town, I've been privy to many, many, many, many, many conversations that go like this "I saw Sally Smith today! Wow! She looks fantastic. She has 3 kids and they are so sweet and cute..... You know, she's teaching now....." or, "You'll never guess who I ran into today! Bethany Brown! She's not looking too good. She's really let herself go. It's too bad too, because she was such a cute girl......." or even "You know, I saw Cheri Terri with her new 'partner' over at the Y. You know who I mean....... Thomas Brown's brother's niece? She looks good. I think they are living in Florida now....." Conversations like these happen every day because, like I said, you know everybody. They're meant to be informative. An update, if you will, on someone you may not have lain eyes on in 15 years, but someone you once knew well. And if, on the off chance that I run into an old high school friend, or the parent of an old high school friend, or anyone else who might "report" on me, I want the report to go something like this: "Whoa! You'll never guess who I saw at the grocery store today! RACHEL HAYNES!! I haven't seen her in 15 years! And she looks GREAT!"

So, I go back to Leb-nhun (home of the Wah-yaahs) and do my hair and make-up like a self-obsessed 15 year old. I can't help it, and I'd vow to stop except I know I won't. I guess some old high-school habits are too hard to break. What if I see my 7th grade crush at the gas station? What if it's one of my old neighbors? Or what if I see my old high school boyfriend when we go swimming at the Y? Or maybe I'll run into the girl who hated me because she thought I liked her boyfriend! What if I run into her old boyfriend??!! If you'll excuse me, I have to go buy a case of hairspray, and maybe some new eyeshadow. We'll be in Lebanon for Christmas.