Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Uniquely Loved

Last Friday, Davis loaded Ruby in his truck and they headed to the vet clinic. The shelter had her all checked out and vaccinated, but they don't include a heartworm screening in their standard checkup and we wanted to get her tested as soon as we could.

Through the almost 14 years of having our Sugar, we'd grown accustomed to loving a dog with a surplus of phobias with a trip to the vet being at the very tip top of that lengthy list. Checkups were always just a miserable experience for everyone involved, so we were prepared and very experienced to deal with Ruby if it became apparent that she suffered from the same affliction.

They left and I was anxious to hear a report on her disposition at the doctor's office. I felt like a nervous, new mother, I guess. It wasn't long before Davis called and he was chuckling. He reported that Ruby went in and spoke to everyone with her wagging tail banging against everything in its way. It's important to become acquainted with your healthcare providers, I suppose. When they put her on the table to trim her nails, she rolled over on her back to give them easier access to her belly in the event that they should want to rub it. She was certain that they would want to. Davis said she didn't care what they did to her. She just licked them and stayed on her back, looking all around the room from her upside down vantage point with her hanging lips exposing her teeth as if she was smiling.

Bless it. There wasn't much that Sugar wasn't scared of and yet we've not found anything that scares Ruby. So far, we've experienced fireworks, heavy rain, the vet, gunshots (we live in rural Mississippi, so not to worry), vacuum cleaners, small children, strangers, UPS drivers, and nothing bothers her. All of those things would send our poor Sugar into orbit. Shaking. Panting. She was just a nervous sort from the very beginning, but, from what we've seen, Ruby couldn't be more unconcerned.
 These pictures may give you a glimpse into Ruby's personality. My apologies for the pose on the right. We're still working on the appropriate and inappropriate ways in which a lady sits. You can take a girl outta the streets, but you can't always take the streets outta the girl.    

Behavior and personality are other areas where they differ. Sugar stayed in our yard for the most part. Even in her younger years, she never bothered anything. Her desire for her world to remain calm and predictable kept her from getting into any trouble or doing anything unwise. She was a rule follower. And kind of a wallflower. She liked to keep to herself and her family. She was quite content to lead a quiet life.        

In contrast, the neighbors have seen me struggling to get our current pet back home.....breathless and toting Ruby, who's gone limp in protest, while clutching a turtle's shell between her teeth. (We can only pray it wasn't someone's pet.) I'm in my pajama pants, mumbling something under my breath about how she better be glad she's so cute. My hands under her armpits and her long body dangling between my knees as I walk; trying to get her hardheaded self home from introducing herself to the neighborhood. As we await our underground fence installation, she's brought home the neighbor's flip flops, chewed through the shoe strings of my new tennis shoes, faked tee-teeing in order to acquire a treat, continues to be vigilant in moss retrieval, and ate part of a Brillo pad, which resurfaced, the next morning, if you know what I mean. I find myself texting SOS messages to Davis. Pleas like the ones I used to ask of him when the kids were little and I stayed home with them....."Please, tell me you'll be home soon?!"

I was sitting on the floor with Ruby and stroking her head, the other night, and I told Davis that I didn't think I was going to love Ruby the same way I loved Sugar. I didn't mean that I wouldn't grow to love her as deeply, but I think it will just be a different kind of love. Sugar had needs and fears and dependence issues and so I loved her in an assuring, nurturing way. She really needed a lot. She relied on me a lot for peace of mind and encouragement.

Ruby. Well, she needs none of that. Since the minute her sedatives wore off from her girly surgery, we don't see where she needs anybody for much of anything except to fill her food bowl and throw her ball. She's pretty sure of herself. Confident. Under the impression that everyone should have the privilege of meeting her. She hasn't run to me for any kind of comfort or reassurance. She does love to cuddle, when she doesn't have more pressing matters to tend to like, say, moss displacement or turtle butchery. She's just an independent girl, which I suppose that comes from her former life. To love her the same way I loved Sugar would probably just get on her very last nerve and not meet any of her needs.  

During this completely different experience, I've been thinking how, like the two dogs, I guess we don't really love all people in the same way either. Our kids. Parents. Friends. Co-workers. Everybody has their own story and their own set of quirks, strengths, fears, needs, and experiences. Everyone we meet needs something different from us. And while we love all of our children the same amount, we may not love them in the same ways. We certainly don't parent them the same, because they each respond to things differently. We quickly learn what each person in our lives needs and we try to meet them there in those places. To love everyone the same would be to patch some spots that don't really need care and attention in some people and to leave other holes that they do have gaping and empty.

I don't imagine God loves us all the same either. I don't mean He has favorites or loves some more than others. I just think He knows all of us so intimately....down to the very center of who we are and where we've been. He made us and calls us His children, so if anyone would know what we need from Him, He would be the one. He knows where we're hardheaded and go limp in protest if we're reined in. He knows what makes us anxious and what we need to help us stop shaking. He knows what we're really good at and the places where we're most confident. He knows where we're weakest and the things that make us feel unworthy and self-conscious. He knows the kind of encouragement we need to carry out His plan for our lives. He knows the people to send to love and help us along the way. He knows that the kind of love one of us needs might be wasted on the next person. He knows us all by heart and I think He fashions His love toward us accordingly.  

So, as Davis and I wind down our child rearing and are shifting gears (bigtime) in our dog rearing, I'm reminded to be glad that we have a God, who tailors His love and care to fit each one of His children. We are all uniquely made. All uniquely loved by Him.
"See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!"
I John 3:1   

Y'all have a wonderful day!


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Where the Air Is Sweet

After Sunday lunch, Carson and I went to the new Mississippi Arts and Entertainment Experience, which is located in the city, where we live. Davis felt like Ruby needed a long hike at the lake since she'd been confined to her kennel, while we were at church, so Carson and I went by ourselves to check out the Jim Henson exhibit. I still have my Muppet Show lunchbox, so, needless to say, I'm a big fan. Mr. Henson was Mississippi born and spent his childhood here, so we like to think his creative genius took root on our sweet soil. You'd probably be surprised to learn of all the famous people, who are from this great state. I'll have to be sure to do a follow up post on just that.
Kermit the frog, here
Anyway, it was probably for the best that Davis wasn't coming along, because I was going there with one purpose and only one. To go and meet this certain man. I've known about him for many, many years and have worshipped him from afar, but never had I been given the opportunity to meet him in person. I'd heard he was in town for a little while, so this was my chance.

Carson paid our admission to the museum and we headed into the exhibit area. I felt my heart rate  starting to quicken. My palms sweaty. I scanned the room. Looking through the crowd of people. The interactive areas. The plexiglass display cases. The old sketches and photographs of puppets. Well, he wasn't in the first area I checked. I grew desperate and impatient to find him. I rounded another corner and, off in the far distance, I caught a glimpse of him. I would've recognized him anywhere. That head full of black hair. That manly face with its finely chiseled features. Such a strong chin. My heart jumped as I ran to him. Alas, I was face to face with the man I'd come to see. The Count.

Oh, you other ladies can have your Ernie, your Bert. Take the Cookie Monster and Kermit. Don't get me wrong. I love them all, but The Count is where it's at for me. I'm a sucker for a man in a cape, I suppose. He's always been first in my heart. Since 1970, when I was old enough to first tune in. And here I was meeting him for the first time.

For years, I'd imagined what this moment would be like. I'd rehearsed what I would say, a thousand times, but when I went to speak, I fumbled with my words. I couldn't even think of anything we could count together. Feeling like such a star struck fool, I blushed and could only ask to have my picture made with him. He was gracious and agreed even though the plexiglass kept us from getting too close. I suppose the barrier was in place to protect him from crazed fans such as myself, but it was good to finally be in the same room with him....even if he was shorter than I'd always imagined.
Two. Two dear, old friends. Ah, ah, ah.
 (Thunder claps)  
I imagine I'm just one of millions and millions of 70's kid, who spent a big chunk of childhood with those puppets. My kids watched them some, but they had so many other options. Cartoon Network. Nickelodeon. Disney Channel. They had their VHS tapes and then their DVDs. But, back in our day, there were no other options. You watched Sesame Street or One Life to Live...those were your choices....and what self-respecting Southern Baptist mother would allow the young'uns to watch the latter? Sandwiched between Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and The Electric Company, I'd tune in, every weekday. I'd plop myself in front of the television set.....not so close, though, as to cause blindness.....and I'd learn, laugh, and visit my funny friends for about an hour.

As a 50 year old woman, I can still sing the opening song, word for word. Who wasn't fascinated with that red ball rolling around on the metal track? Grover, the waiter, who couldn't grasp the concept of the in and out doors. The longing for someone to spot Mr. Snuffleupagus, so Big Bird could finally be vindicated. The "Alligator King" song helped us master counting to seven and the "Pinball Song" took us on up to twelve. The Martians and the rotary telephone.....yep, yep, yep, yep, yep. Kermit's News Flash reporting the grave news of Humpty's great fall....Hi-ho, here. And America's favorite game show host, Guy Smiley, and his recurring difficulty emerging from behind the curtain. Good times.
                                 Laidback Carson and uptight Bert

So, thank you for all the great memories, Mr. Henson and Sesame Street. Thanks for keeping us company in the 70's, while our mothers drank Sanka and started supper. Under the guise of educational programming, we were able to come in from the sweltering heat of your native land and have Kool-Aid, while you expanded our minds for an hour. Even on sick days, moms would put pillows and quilts on the couch, so we could watch you in our weakened state. You made us happy. You made us feel important. You taught us a lot of things. You helped stretch and develop our sense of humor by placing some of your punch lines just over our heads. And we're all better for it.

You were a faithful childhood friend.

Thanks for all the good times.

And my darling, Count, I'll never wash my left hand again.

I'll see you all again before week's end! Happy Monday!


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Allow Me to Introduce You

We weren't looking for a dog yet. It had only been a couple of months since we'd lost our sweet Sugar, but I saw a dog posted on Facebook by our local animal shelter, a few days after Christmas. We'd already decided when we did get another dog, we'd adopt one, who needed a home. I see all kinds of dogs on social media since I follow all the nearby shelters and rescues, but something about this one caught my eye. She was listed as a dachshund mix and you know how we love those, so I just called to ask about her size and age. It wasn't really a serious inquiry. Just a little curious. I told the guy I was just going to come down and see how big she was, but no commitment.

He told me she'd been picked up with a chihuahua after the two had reportedly been roaming the streets together for some time. I suppose they'd been living a lawless life of trespassing, loitering, and vagrancy until, one day, it caught up with the pair. Someone had called the doggie Po-Po on them. Maybe it was an overturned garbage can or a dug up flower bed that finally got them apprehended, I'm not sure, but, now, they were in the lockup. Doing hard time.

 The mugshots
I got to the shelter and the nice man took me back to the gate that led to where the dogs were. He told me the dog in question and her little accomplice had just gotten back from being spayed at the vet and he told me to wait there. He came back out with the groggy canine and the phone started ringing, so he handed me her leash and told me to get acquainted with her.

Well, she was just precious. I've always been a sucker for a hound dog. And her feet reminded me of the Basset hounds Davis and I had when we were newlyweds. I'd recognize those feet anywhere. Dachshund and Bassett.You can't get much more hound dog than that. "We have a big front porch that she'd look perfect lying on, while we rock in our rocking chairs and sip lemonade," I thought.

I sat down on the floor and spoke to her and she crawled right up in my lap and put her head in the crook of my arm."Oh, no.....this is not good. I'm just here to see how big you are. We shouldn't be getting this friendly just yet," I thought. I talked to her sweetly and she looked up at me with her big brown eyes and then laid her head on my chest and stared in my eyes.

"Oh, my word. Don't look into her eyes. Look away. You're not ready. She's too big. Look at those feet. And Davis wants to take some trips before we get another dog. It's rainy and cold and not a good time to have to housetrain anything." There were so many reasons to leave her there.

But, those eyes. They told me she needed us. Something about them had drawn me down there.

I knew I couldn't leave her....especially when a lady came in to adopt her chihuahua friend, while I was still on the floor playing lounge chair to my new sedated friend. The duo rubbed heads and licked each other as if they knew that their longtime companionship had come to a fork in the road, but neither the lady or myself was looking for two dogs. One of us wasn't even sure she was looking for one dog, but I filled out the paperwork, wrote the check, and brought her home. We named her Ruby and she started reeling us in.
Those feet though.
They think Ruby is a little over a year old and, needless to say, it's been a long time since we had a puppy around here. It's been a good while since Sugar wanted to chew on anything or run in circles around the sofa or chase after a ball. The other day, I was standing out in the blowing rain, chatting with two of my neighbors as we were all in our front yards waiting on our young dogs to do their business. Two of us in our pajama pants and all of us looking a bit frazzled, we were all senior dog parents discussing our recent shifts to puppy parenthood. We'd forgotten about this stage. We were used to Zoey, Sugar, and Princess and their sedate nursing home pace to which we'd become accustomed and now Izzy, Ruby, and Olive were giving us a run for our money. I mean, it's been years since I've had to reward anybody for urinating in the correct location, but here I am. Of all of her strong points, though, perhaps Ruby's most impressive skill is her ability to repeatedly bring me the moss out of the bottom of all of our houseplants. It makes me suspect that, somewhere along the way, she's received highly specialized training specifically for this task as she seems to have a real passion for moss removal. I mean, dogs with that kind of superior intelligence and dedication to their work don't just come along every day.
There's just been that something that was missing in our house since Sugar died and Ruby has brought it back to us. I can't explain it. Davis and I found ourselves stopping to love on other people's dogs and using our best baby talk to speak to them.....I suppose in an effort to fill the void that losing a pet leaves inside a dog lover. It doesn't take long for the bond to form between a family and a dog, but I'm not going to lie. The first three days were rough. I cried and cried some more, feeling guilty and just wanting Sugar back. I felt kind of like one of those men, who loses his beloved wife of many years and goes out and gets himself a new wife, two months later. It was just a weird few days of conflicted feelings, but I think I'm finally working through them.
Carson gave me a beautiful charcoal portrait of Sugar for Christmas. Such a wonderful gift with a lot of love and sweetness behind it. I hung it where I could see her from my chair. It was drawn from a picture taken the night before she died. She was looking up at me with her tired eyes. A precious picture of my dear, old friend, who knew she was so very loved. We did all we could to give Sugar a good life up to her very last day. And we grieved for her and are still grieving for her, but I think she would say it's ok for us to love another dog. It would be a shame for a home that loves dogs as much as ours to sit empty and void of squeaky toys when so many dogs need a family to care for them. Ruby has captured our hearts in just one short week. But, there will never be another Sugar. Just like, one day, we'll be saying there will never be another Ruby. We're hooked and in love and have signed up to face another heartache, one day. But, oh, the love and joy we'll have until
I was gone from here longer than I'd planned, but I've been having trouble getting out of vacation mode. We had a most wonderful Christmas and I hope you did, too. We ate too much and got too much, but it was such a sweet time with our family. It's just all over too fast.

On New Year's Eve, we ate with friends and came home before midnight, because that's just where we are in life, I suppose. That night, I dreamed that I was called to Washington to stand in for Melania in the official White House Christmas card picture. Apparently, she was sick and, after scouring the country for a look alike, I was the one chosen to be photographed as her double with the President and their son. I mean, clearly, I was the obvious choice. So, I'm not sure what all 2019 has in store for me, but I guess you could say that I must be feeling awfully confident as I head into this new year.

Y'all have a good day trying to adjust to back to normal life. It's going to be rough for a little while.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Expectations and Reality

Davis, Carson, and I took our seats at church, Sunday night, after we'd had a little bit of family squabbling among us. The service began with scripture reading and Christmas carols and I wasn't thinking about much of anything besides how mad I was at the men sitting on either side of me. I'm sure I'm just totally alone in this, but, sometimes, even at Christmas time, I could wring the necks of those whom I hold the most loving way that a person could possibly wring a neck, of course. Well, it's hard to concentrate on the birth of the Christ child when all you really want to do is slap some nearby people silly, so that's exactly what I was thinking about, mostly. Then, everyone in the congregation was given a candle and the lights were dimmed. So, my thoughts went from wringing to slapping to possibly just scorching them with my candle. Not setting them on fire or anything, because, well, I wasn't that mad, but a little singed earlobe might do the trick. Church was over and we continued our little misunderstanding back in the car until we finally all got over it, while delivering Christmas gifts. I'd been looking forward to that candlelight Christmas service and, sadly, it didn't turn out quite like I'd expected.

I didn't send cards out, this year. I just never got it all together. I haven't been happy with our Christmas tree since we brought it home. Work schedules are going to cut some visits short, this time around. One of our favorite Christmas gatherings with friends will have an absence, this year. I've had some last minute doubts about a couple of my gift choices. And, yes, sometimes, our family members get on each other's nerves and we take the nerve irritation into church and sit it down on the pew right next to us, ok?

Three years ago, I wrote about imperfections at Christmastime and, partly due to being too busy to write, right here before Christmas, and, partly because I don't think I could write myself a more timely reminder, I'm going to do a repost from a few years ago. 

The perfect Christmas.

I think we, women, put a lot a pressure on ourselves to achieve that for our families, each year.  I mean, let's face it....we do carry most of the burden of the Christmas bustle and preparation.  Not knocking you, men, and I know there are exceptions, but Christmas is usually our domain. Of course, Davis works hard to finance a huge chunk of Christmas and, yes, he climbs up the attic stairs and gets all of the boxes down when it's time to decorate. Oh, and he does cut a couple of inches off of our Christmas tree trunk and secures it in the tree stand. But, let's talk straight here.....past that, the ball's in my court. A majority of the things that the kids open on Christmas morning, well, he'll be just as surprised as they are by them.

Now, I'm not complaining. I love it and wouldn't have it any other way, even though it does become a draining task to buy all the gifts for both sides of the family and for friends, wrap them, decorate the house, send the Christmas cards, plan meals, shop for food, cook, coordinate visits, figure out complicated family holiday schedules, and purchase things needed for all the parties everyone has to attend. 


Some years, everything falls into place perfectly and Christmas goes off without a hitch. It's a beautiful experience. Other times, it's just a bumpy ride all the way to the New Year. Nothing seems to go right and you're just ready to pack up the decorations and move on. 

As moms and wives and aunts and grandmothers, we just want to make things nice for everyone at Christmas time. We want to give our family the kind of Christmas we see in the Hallmark movies.  Everyone is happy and there are no complicated family dynamics with which we have to work around. The tree is perfectly decorated and the lights are all working. No one is under the weather.  Travel goes smoothly. The food has never been better....just enough moistness and seasoning and browned to the peak of perfection. The gifts are so perfectly suited for each recipient that there are shrieks of joy and tears of gratitude. There is a nip in the air and a light snowfall lays a blanket of wintry beauty upon the landscape. A fire is crackling in the fireplace. Everyone is all warm and cozy in the embrace of kith and kin. All are full of love for one another and sentimental emotion wells up from the depths of each heart. Each Christmas dream comes true. 

As women, that's the gift we want to give our families, every year. 

In reality, we may find things to be not quite so ideal. Sometimes, the cornbread dressing is dry and the rolls get too brown on the bottom. Sometimes, we realize, too late, that we should've doubled the sweet potato recipe. Even the recipients of our gifts may want to know if we kept the receipt. Sometimes, as it is for us this year, Christmas is forecasted to be 80 degrees and the sound of the air conditioner will take the place of a crackling fire. Could be that half the family is sick with a terrible cold thing that's going around and it has them sounding like a bunch of barking seals. Maybe there are some undercurrents of family strife that could make things a little awkward. Could be that scheduling didn't come together this year and there will be some empty chairs at the table. Sometimes, the middle string of tree lights go out and you can't find the problem bulb to save your life. 

And, no matter how smoothly we think Christmas goes, it's always a letdown to clean up all the ripped boxes and torn paper off the floor. To wave at the family as they pull out of the driveway. To pack it all up.....those decorations we were so excited about less than a month ago. 

All that time. All that work. All that excitement. All that buildup. All that preparation. Over. And, often times, the reality didn't quite live up to the weeks of picturesque visions we'd had leading up to the big day. 

I was thinking about the imperfections of Christmas both past and present and its failure to, sometimes, meet our expectations. The first Christmas was anything but perfect. My goodness. Talk about a Christmas gone wrong, at least, from where we stand. 

Mary, God bless her, didn't plan on being a young, unmarried, pregnant virgin and experiencing the whispers and judgment that would've come along with that. She wouldn't have imagined going on such a treacherous trip as pregnant as she was and her baby being born while she was far away from the help of her mother and the other women in her family. She likely didn't expect there to be no place for them to stay when they got to Bethlehem. She probably wouldn't have chosen a barn as the perfect setting to have her first child. Joseph didn't prefer that Mary would mysteriously become pregnant and having to deal with the embarrassment and doubt that caused him. They wouldn't have chosen to place their first baby in a feeding trough or have the stench of animals nearby. Strangers from out in a field weren't who they'd imagined would be surrounding them after their child's birth. And they wouldn't have expected to soon be on the run for their new son's safety. From our human viewpoint, there was nothing that went right on that first Christmas. Not a birth story that we'd ever want to experience. Not the beginning we'd wish for any child in our family.   

But, maybe God wanted Christmas to be a little less than perfect. Maybe He came in that way to show us that we can triumph in the imperfections of this life. To give us hope in all of our Plan Bs. To demonstrate that good can come from flawed situations. To remind us His plans are better than our plans. To show us that sometimes greatness has unexpected or lowly beginnings. To prove that life doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful or useful. To display how He can work with less than ideal circumstances. To reveal to us that His idea of perfection may not always be the same as ours.  

Maybe when Christmas doesn't go off without a hitch is when we're actually experiencing Christmas in its truest form. Could be when we look around and it doesn't look like the pictures in the storybooks or the glittery front of a Christmas card is when we're closest to the spirit of that first Christmas. 

Maybe, we could dial back our pursuit of the perfect Christmas and take some of the pressure off of ourselves if we remember that the Son of God came into the world in what seemed to be the most imperfect way. It was a day when nothing appeared to go right. It was a day when expectations were not met. And yet, it was an event that had been planned from the very beginning. With all the time in the world to prepare. With any and all resources at His disposal. And that was the way He decided it should be. A King carried in an unmarried mother's womb. Birthed in a smelly stable. Surrounded by animals and strangers. 

To the human eye, it was all wrong. But, to Him, it was perfect. 

It was a perfectly imperfect Christmas.

And so I hope that your family embraces the spirit of Jesus' birth. 

And I hope you and those you love enjoy a very Merry Christmas! 

Its warts and all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Christmas Handbook, 2018 Edition

I feel it's my duty, as your friend, to make this public service announcement as we round the corner to that most special time of year. I know we're all excited about the Christmas season, but we need to take a moment to be reminded that we're being told that we can't go out and celebrate Christmas just any ol' way we please anymore. No, in today's society, there are new rules to which we're being asked to conform in order to keep others from being forced to run for their safe spaces, this holiday season. We certainly wouldn't want that, would we? In order to avoid being labeled insensitive to the diverse population, here are some reminders of what is now deemed appropriate and inappropriate during this celebratory time of year according to news stories from around our country.

First off.....the candy cane, which was created 350 years ago, should now be dispensed with caution and extreme discretion. The red and white confection is formed in the shape of the letter, J, which stands for Jesus, which can induce anxiety and uncomfortable feelings for some. The sight of a J or any object that resembles a J should be avoided in consideration of those who might take offense. So, out of respect for others, I am changing my name to Oni. From now on, call me Oni.....that is, until someone becomes offended by O, which stands for the Omega.....and then I'll just be Ni. But, Jesus was from Nazareth and the N might be a reminder of that, so just call me I. Nobody appears to have a problem with I, these days. It's all about I, it seems.

Of course, even the PC amateurs among us know that you no longer refer to this time of year as the Christmas season. Please, don't ask when the schools close for Christmas break and make everyone around you shift uncomfortably in their seats. Geez. Schools have winter breaks. And when referring to the tree in your den, please remember it is a holiday tree, so not to offend. Even the word, holiday, is now hanging by a thread as it suggests religious tradition. Some religions don't have a December holiday. How are they supposed to feel when you put up a holiday tree in the office? The word is safe for now, but is rapidly becoming a trigger. I'll keep you posted on the word's status for next year. To satisfy yet not offend, we're encouraged to bring trees in and decorate them to celebrate "Winter Festival". Winter is a season, which is all inclusive. It offends no one and excludes no one. They don't think so, at least. 

For 70 years now, generations have enjoyed the catchy jingle, "Baby, It's Cold Outside". We've memorized its lyrics and countless singers have recorded their versions of the timeless favorite. Thankfully, it has been brought to our attention by the enlightened that this song is actually a song about sexual assault and I know that I am, personally, embarrassed that I've hummed along with such filth all these years. Apparently, it's the widely recognized theme song for predators. Please, for your own good, turn the dial if you hear this song being played on the radio and boycott all singers, who have ever put this garbage on one of their winter albums. The singers' careers must be destroyed for ever having encouraged such sexually violent behavior. And any statues erected in the likeness of those late singers, who have passed on, will likely need to be removed. They'll be coming for your stars on the Walk of Fame, Mr. Martin and Mr. Sinatra.  

It's been noted that the nativity story has some parts that are teetering on the line of being sexist, seeing as how there were no wisewomen among the three, who traveled to Bethlehem. Surely, there were women, who were well qualified to fill one of the positions. Certainly, there was one woman capable enough to follow a star and carry the myrrh or the frankincense to Jesus. And, yes, even the gold. The fact that they were excluded makes many women feel inferior and oppressed. Think of the message this sends to young can never be among the wise. So, when telling the story of the birth of Jesus, in a religiously-safe setting, of course, it might be just as well to leave that part out to avoid the reminder of historical discrimination. If you must remain Biblically correct and include them, please refer to them as wisepeople, which is more palatable. And while we're on the subject, if it snows, make a snowperson with your children. Snowman leaves half of the world's population wondering why their sex can never be formed from wintry precipitation. It's just an unnecessary pain inflicted on others. The same applies when singing traditional carols. New versions...."God Rest You, Merry Gentlepeople" and "The Little Drummer Person". So, so much better.

And when you speak of Jesus being born a man, in a religiously-safe environment, well, that is an oversimplification of the issue of gender. You can't just say someone is born a man. This is why, in your winter festival celebrations, you should refrain from using pronouns.You could be fired for something so appalling. Just ask the professor in Ohio, who's in the unemployment line for making such a gross and horrifying mistake. They and their should now take the place of the he, she, hers, and his, which were used erroneously from the Garden of Eden up until 2017. Don't we all feel silly now?   

In the event that you organize a live nativity, please make it culturally sensitive and not dress the characters in costumes that would have been typical of that day. Wisepeople wearing those headpieces, for example, might be viewed as poking fun and generalizing an entire culture of people. For this same reason, Halloween costumes, which include items such as sombreros or hula skirts should also be avoided. College campuses have prohibited these disgusting displays and with good reason. With that in mind, wisepeople, as an alternative, could wear khakis and a t-shirt....of course, t-shirts without offensive print on them like American flags, Washington Redskins logos, or any brands which make or sell firearms.  

When traveling, this holiday season, here's another gentle reminder. This one will be especially difficult for the Southerners. You can no longer ask people where they are from. This is very important. Since the beginning of time, we've ignorantly asked strangers this ice breaking question, but we're enlightened enough now to know this implies an attitude of superiority. It suggests that "you don't belong here". Our past ignorance makes me blush every time I think about how many people I must have offended. Let's try to do better, people.  

When you sing "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Winter Festival", please omit the first verse as it assumes that Janice and Jen want a doll and Barney and Ben want a pair of boots and a pistol. Well, that is wrong on so many levels. You can't just sing stuff like that. If Janice or Jen wants a pair of boots, well, the song makes them feel abnormal. And you'd have to be a fool to sing about a pistol anyway.....especially one "that shoots". And giving them to children? Which brings me to another reminder to throw away your DVDs of The Christmas Story. Children and gun violence are clearly rooted in these types of songs and movies. It's obviously what's wrong with our society, today. I can't think of anything else it could be. Additionally, protesters should attack Nerf employees where they live and work for their violent influence on our society with their foam shooting weapons. Just despicable.

When asked to send paper products to the kiddos' Winter Festival parties at school, it has been requested by some school districts to avoid the colors, red and green, as they are too closely associated with Christmas, which is associated with Christ, which causes stampedes toward safe spaces, everywhere. Instead, please consider their requests for white or silver plates. Nothing says "this is gonna be a fun, fun time" like white paper tableware. These are winter colors, though, and, as I stated earlier, they can't think of any reason winter would offend anyone. I can only assume when these same people approach an intersection, they are thrown into panic. Green lights. Red lights. I know I immediately think of our Savior's birth when I see that traffic-controlling color combination. Which is why we shouldn't be surprised if 2019 is the year we see traffic lights changed to white for go and silver for stop. With such a subtle color difference, there are sure to be more accidents, but, at least, no one will be offended as they're loaded into the ambulance and that's what's most important in this day and time.

And if you're a teacher or childcare worker, it is advised that you not make any holiday tree ornaments at craft time. This just assumes that everyone has a holiday tree, which assumes that every family participates in Winter Festival. It should go without saying, but making holiday cards are frowned upon, too, as a child might offer them to someone, who doesn't celebrate any December holidays and the tragic ripple effect of that would likely never see an end. So, no more construction paper embellished with glitter stuck to mounds of Elmer's glue. Basically, anything related to Santa, stars, carols, or obviously angels, should not be included in any classroom activities, because of their link to Christianity. More acceptable crafts would be images of neutral objects like sleds, hats, earmuffs, hot chocolate, and gingerbread people. Oh, and snowflakes, which we're seeing more and more of now. There's practically a blizzard of "snowflakes". But, winter is all inclusive. So, just go with that.  

And for the love of winter, please, don't allow your children to watch Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It's nothing but an hour packed with non-stop bullying and characters imposing their feelings of superiority upon others. Since 1964, this classic has polluted the minds of boys and girls and is clearly the reason for the spike in bullying that we're seeing here in 2018. There are no other conceivable reasons why bullying would be on the rise besides this brain washing cartoon. What else could we possibly be doing to create the spike? If only we'd known sooner, we'd be so much better off today. How foolish, we've been.

There are other things to consider as we celebrate. Singing "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire" might induce anxiety in those with nut allergies like my son. End of fiscal year parties are suggested for annual office parties instead of Christmas parties. Might be hard to find a tacky end of fiscal year sweater, but ok. Christmas music is now strongly discouraged at holiday parties. An upbeat playlist of popular music is now suggested. I know for me, at least, nothing says Christmas is here like "Love Shack" or "Funkytown".

So, I know there's a lot to remember, but I wouldn't want anyone to accuse you of being insensitive or unenlightened, this Christmas. There are new rules being written, everyday, that make it less and less acceptable to publicly celebrate the real reason for Christmas. Admittedly, I don't see a lot of these kinds of stories down here in the Bible belt buckle, but I know they're coming as more and more institutions cave to the pressure of the PC crowd, each day.  

I guess I'd just like to say to all of those guideline-writing people.....

Merry Christmas.

and Jesus loves you.....even though I'm having some trouble.

He's the real reason for your winter festival season.

And no new rules will ever change that.

"She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name, Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21   

Monday, December 3, 2018

A Humble Beginning and Ending

When I left for work, just before lunch, President Bush's casket was being loaded onto Air Force One and his family was boarding the plane. When I got back home, mid-afternoon, his body was being carried up the steps of the Capitol as the U.S. Army Band played "A Mighty Fortress is Our God". Just beautiful. Before his eventual burial, he'll lie in state at the Capitol until Wednesday, when his state funeral will be held at the Washington National Cathedral. Then, his body will head back to Houston for a couple of more ceremonies before lying in repose at St Martin's Episcopal Church, where another funeral service will take place on Thursday. Then, the casket will leave by train for College Station and there will be another ceremony at Texas A&M before he is finally buried next to his wife and daughter behind the Bush Library. I'm tired just from typing it all out, so I can't imagine how his family will feel by week's end. It'll be hard to find a channel on TV that won't continue covering his life and his death until he's finally laid to rest. He was our president and it's what you'd expect when someone of his importance dies.

Our country has beautiful ceremonial traditions when it comes to saying goodbye to its leaders and its heroes. I always enjoy watching the meticulous details of the ceremonies and especially the precision of the soldiers' movements as they perform their duties. We've had several chances, lately, to see those played out with Billy Graham and John McCain's deaths. A lot of pageantry and solemnity on display.

Not long ago, we all watched the televised funeral of Aretha Franklin. It was the climax of a week long trail of events, which ended with quite a lengthy funeral service. Politicians, famous ministers, musicians, actors and actresses. There weren't many unrecognizable names written in the star studded guest book. It was like a red carpet event. She was the queen of soul and was honored by the masses, who wished to recognize her notable contributions to the music world. I mean, who didn't love Aretha?  

At the opposite end of life, Prince Harry and Meghan are expecting their first child in April. The press had a complete fit when they heard the news. They tend to do that when royals reproduce. They'll be waiting breathlessly to hear any new information concerning the birth. Any hint of the smallest new detail will spread like wildfire. And, surely, when they emerge from the hospital in the spring, holding the bundled royal, there will be cameras going off like mad....just like they did when Harry's brother introduced his children, heirs to the throne, to the world for the first time. Any sort of outing the couple has with their baby, from that day on, will be on magazine covers before dark falls.

Well, there's one thing, for sure. Most of our parents weren't greeted outside the hospital with an army of reporters and cameras waiting to get a glimpse of our newborn selves. I know that the public, at large, wasn't much interested in seeing Doug and Carolyn heading home with little Joni wrapped in her pink blanket back in the late 60's. Not much headline there. Ordinary parents welcome ordinary baby in ordinary Mississippi town. Well, I did have an extraordinary head full of black hair, but I still don't think that would've sold many papers.

And let's face it....most of us won't be honored with a state funeral or a flyover or a 21 gun salute. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but I feel certain my dead body will never see any kind of rotunda and my casket will not be allowed to sit on the same wooden platform used for Abraham Lincoln. There won't be a guard of honor anywhere around unless they're in the vicinity for someone else. And I haven't picked them just yet, but I have a feeling my pallbearers won't be quite as skilled as those guys are and I would probably end up at the bottom of the 300+ steps leading up to the Capitol. Sprawled out there on the ground with all of them scrambling to figure out how to get me back in the box in the most dignified manner. I can't imagine there would be many distinguished ways to do that. Kind of like somebody trying to get you up on a pool float, you know? Yeah, it's probably just best that I'm not a dignitary.

But, we're not alone. There's somebody else who didn't get that kind of grand welcome or that type of impressive send off either. A stable wouldn't be the setting we'd choose for a VIP to be born with only unkept shepherds and stinky animals there to share the parents' joy. Not quite the paparazzi, huh? And, at the end of His life, Jesus died in the most humiliating way. He died while being ridiculed and degraded. And talk about a small and understated funeral. Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus prepared Him for burial with spices and linen and placed Him in a tomb. Only the two guys and a couple of Marys are mentioned as being there. That's it. No procession of chariots or large crowds or famous singers or pomp of any kind.

We have our ways of treating people, who are seen as important in this world. Some of them are deemed important just by being born into a certain family. Others gain their importance, later in life, by some achievement or status they acquire. But, nobody really noticed a baby born to an unwed mother in a barn. No national day of mourning was declared after He died between two criminals with the spittle of His killers on His face....even though, no other man has ever been born of both God and man as He was. He was royalty straight from the throne of Heaven. And no other man has ever achieved anything close to bridging the gap that sin put between God and us like He did. No other man could ever offer more to the world than eternal life like He did.

And He did it all so quietly. So humbly. And with no fanfare.

Not to, in any way, bash our longstanding national traditions or take anything away from the lives and contributions of our dignitaries, but no matter how large their funeral attendance or how many days their farewells last, when the bands quit playing and all of the limousines pull away, they're just like us...their only hope lies in a man, who came into the world and left it in the most unpretentious and humble ways.

Jesus is the only way.

Our humble King.
"Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges, took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form, He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross."  Philippians 2:6-8
"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
Hope to be back before the end of the week! Have a good one!


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

A Pictorial Post

I'm in the middle of one of the busiest weeks of the year for me and so I apologize in advance for the excessive use of pictures in this post. I don't have a lot of time to write, so there's not much substance here, but I wanted to check in with my people. Think of this as Motherhood and Muffin Tops, the board book edition.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving! We never have anywhere to go until Thanksgiving night and so I stayed in my pajamas until 4:30 and that was glorious. We had a big crowd, even though we were missing six. One was playing in the Mississippi State band at the Egg Bowl (Hail State!) and the other five were in Kansas City, because it was their year to be with the in-laws for Thanksgiving. You know, we talked about holiday scheduling challenges, recently.
 My mother and Aunt Gloria always use Grandmother's recipe for the dressing, which I also have hanging in my kitchen in her handwriting. It calls for "2 pones of cornbread", but I'm pretty sure it took more than 2 pones for this crowd. It was divine is all I really know for sure. I think Grandmother would be so proud to know her memory is still very present at our Thanksgiving gatherings. She worked so hard in the kitchen to make so many wonderful Thanksgiving memories for us. I'd say it's safe to say she'd also be amazed at how much her family has grown. 
Here are the creators of all the goodness.
Aunt Gloria, left, and my Mama on the right.
We took the annual "kids on the stairs" picture even though four were missing. And the ones at the top of the stairs are starting to grumble about still having to be in the picture. Like marriage or college enrollment would exempt you from things such as the annual cousin photograph. Psshhh.
So, the next morning, with our cornbread dressing hangovers, we drove to south Alabama to participate in the 2nd Annual Blair and John Samuel Move on Thanksgiving Weekend. They were leaving apartment life for a house and both families went to help. According to my calculations, this is the 3rd move in 15 months that we've all assisted with, so we're hoping they'll be here for a little while.  
Blair fed us well, while we worked for them. Breakfast was candied bacon, which should be illegal because of its addictiveness, cheese grits, and orange rolls that were NOT made from busting the can like her Mama taught her.
She's such a wonderful cook and, later, turned the leftover cheese grits into this....
It's hard to keep newlyweds on task for very long.
But, we got it all done and left them all settled in by the glow of their Christmas tree in their new place.
When we got home from that project, I set out to get us a fresh Christmas tree, but, apparently, the Monday after Thanksgiving is the new Christmas Eve as far as selection goes. I paid way too much for a minimally attractive tree with flaws that are hard to ignore. Davis and Carson thought it was smaller than usual, too, but I couldn't help that there was only kindling left to choose from by the time I got there.
Blair and John Samuel gave me my very first gift of the season, which I obviously adored.
 It's been a month, but it seems like an eternity since I loved on my Sugar girl. Melissa, who is a sweet Muffin Top reader, sent Sugar's picture to her artist friend, Katie, who did this amazing portrait for us, a couple of years ago. It meant so much to me when it arrived then and now it means that much more. It hangs above my desk and warms my heart to think of the years we had with our old girl and the dear and thoughtful hearts that were behind this most precious gift.    
The inside of my house is mostly decorated for Christmas now. My mediocre tree is decorated and, yet, pumpkins and mums still adorn the front porch. Kind of like a mullet.....Thanksgiving in the front, Christmas in the back. My goal for the weekend is to take Christmas outside and roll the pumpkins in the woods.
I'm just exhausted, y'all, and it's starting to show. Last night, while I decorated our Christmas tree, I washed a load of laundry.....except I forgot the laundry, so that was productive. Those were two Tide Pods that died in vain. Then, I got my lighted trees all hooked up behind the nativity and plugged them into the power strip and the lights didn't come on. "Dang it, these stupid trees," I said as I watched the plug of the power strip dangle down by my feet. Sadly, it took a minute for me to realize the problem. But, at least, the inside of my washing machine was being washed, while I got it all figured out. Don't say I can't multi-task.
If I can get through this week, I'll be in good shape.
Let's meet up, next week.