Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Post-Christmas Wrap Up

We had a wonderful Christmas!  Just wonderful!   But, the whole Christmas season ate my lunch. 

So, we decided to take a quick, little post-Christmas getaway to the Smoky Mountains.  Just our little family and Blair's sweet boyfriend, John Samuel, who we basically consider one of us now.  We had a great time!  I'll hit the high spots with some pictures because who doesn't like vacation slides? 

Nine hours in the car together and the lines of personal space start to become blurred.  We had one in the backseat with a bladder about half the size of a walnut and two others who would've been up for eating at each exit if given the chance.  Davis is all about the ETA and I was the mediator betwixt them all.  By about hour #8, Carson best summed up the mood in the vehicle, "I think we're all starting to get testy."

Different people have different ideas about what constitutes a vacation.  The rest of my family lives with the delusion that vacation must involve vertical movement and accelerated heart rates while I maintain that just the opposite is true.  Our first little hike started out ok.  I was keeping up at first but everyone started pulling farther and farther ahead......except for Davis who was being chivalrous and hanging back with me.  Soon, the kids disappeared like they were part mountain goat and I insisted that Davis go ahead and catch up to them.  I mean there wasn't any reason for us both to be slow and miserable.  At about the point pictured below, small children and elderly Chinese women with canes started passing me.  I tried not to think about the warning posted at the trailhead stating that there had been a bear mauling death on this very plot of land.  I'm not sure what my family was thinking but could've been something like....."Hey, let's take Mom, who's been convalescing for the last couple of weeks, up the side of a mountain and run off and leave her for dead."   
Anyway, while I was back who knows where with the bears and the international elderly, they all ran to the top and took pictures.  I suppose so they could each remember where they were the day their mother was mauled. 

              
If I might add here......another clue that you might not be on a relaxing vacation is when the subject of death keeps coming up. 
 

I did try to appear somewhat rugged and outdoorsy for some of the pictures. 
 
 
You see that highest peak in the background of the picture below?  That is Chimney Tops.  Everyone in this photograph climbed to the top of that.  Not pictured: Joni.
 

One day, I did do enough to cause my Fitbit to refer to me as an overachiever.  So, there. 
                             
As if climbing mountains weren't enough, Blair would lead planking and ab sessions in the floor of the condo each night for anyone interested.  Not pictured: Joni.  She, being 4 months and 1 week away from a degree in nutrition, was also quick to interject a, "We don't need that," at each mention of fatty or fried foods.  Vacation killjoy.
We stopped on the way home at a random Buffalo Wild Wings to watch our Bulldogs win the Belk Bowl in an impressive way!  We're going to miss our senior quarterback, Dak Prescott.  Great player.  Great guy.  Great role model.   Here, he is climbing the wall after the game to kiss his grandmother.  In the South, we like boys who will do anything to kiss their MaMaw.  They're our most favorite kind of boys. 
So, we got home last night and I opened the door to the same awful mess that I'd walked away from 2 days after Christmas when we left.  I broke all of the rules that my mother had ever taught me about leaving town with your house in disarray.  I suppose the reasoning behind this is, in the unfortunate event that you don't make it back, (like because of a bear mauling) the greatest tragedy of it all would occur when your friends and family discover what a dreadful housekeeper you really were.  This explains why we'd always have to wait for hours to get on the road because Mama refused to leave even one cup in the drain board. 

Anyway, I came home and there it all was.  It looked like Christmas had vomited all over our house and it had been left there to dry for about a week.  Now, generally, I'm the one who is taking all the decorations down the morning of the 26th because I am a firm believer in "when it's over, it's over".  But, our schedule didn't allow that this year.  We did take the tree down on Christmas night because of its eerie likeness to kindling but we left the rest in its place.

Today, I started taking all the decorations down.  You know how your house looks so empty when you take down your Christmas stuff?  I mean, you get used to having large trees and evergreen garland in your living room and then when they're gone, you're like, "Dang, we need more shrubs and landscaping in here."  Now, it looks like Cindy Lou's house after the Grinch got through with it.  Just a bunch of emptiness left.
So, I'm trying to get everything back in order.  Clean.  Organize.  Laundry.  Restock the kitchen. You know.......try to return to life as we once knew it.

It was so good to get away with my little family, enjoy God's beauty, and just unwind. 
Blair graduates in May so who knows where she'll be when our next trip rolls around.  I want us to enjoy as much of life just as it is right here and now.  You know....while we can. 

Y'all have a Happy New Year!  Hope it's one of your best yet!      

     
   

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Perfect Christmas?

The perfect Christmas.

I think we, women, put a lot a pressure on ourselves to achieve that for our families every 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 to finance 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 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, wrap them, decorate the house, send the Christmas cards, shop for food, cook, plan meals, coordinate visits, figure out family holiday schedules, and purchase things needed for all the parties everyone has to attend. 

Whew.

Some years, everything falls into place 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 are 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 B's.  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. 



Talk to you before the New Year!     

To all a goodnight!           

       

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Those Awkward Moments

So, I had a little outpatient surgery Monday.  Nothing major......or cosmetic.  So, I may or may not currently be under the influence of drugs as I write this post, so don't be alarmed if a sentence about purple flying squirrels or three-headed Martians in sequin jumpsuits appears in the middle of a paragraph for no apparent reason. 

Sometimes, you just have to find humor wherever you are and since I've haven't been anywhere else this week, we'll have to work with what we have.  Invariably, you can count on humor to rear its head in medical settings.  Awkward?  Sometimes.  Funny?  Always.  But, we've all been there at one time or another so we might as well talk about our awkwardly funny medical moments.       

-It is as sure as the sunrise that you will have to go to the bathroom at the most inopportune times in medical situations.  Ladies, you know how when you're at the gynecologist's office and you're laid up there in only what God gave you and a sheet waiting for days and days on the doctor to come in.  Suddenly, it hits you.  You've got to go.  Then, comes the dilemma.  Do I get up or do I wait?  Well, that happened to me yesterday.  We'd waited and waited and waited and I decided I had to go no matter what I had to drag behind me.  So, Davis held my bags of fluids and grabbed the back of my gown to guard the dignity and sanctity of his soul mate as we shuffled our way down to the restroom together.  It was a tender moment.  Kind of like a maid of honor following behind a beautiful bride with her long, flowing train in tow.....only not near that picturesque.  Because of its lack of poetic qualities, the vow to hold one's hospital gown up in the air to keep it from falling into the toilet isn't included in most traditional wedding ceremonies, but it is one of those nuptial requirements that is buried deep in the marital paperwork somewhere.   

-The nurse looked at my chart and saw my age, 47, and then I guess she looked at Davis and thought, "we'd better get a pregnancy test on these two young things just to be sure."  Maybe the muffin top resembled a baby bump or maybe Davis was looking extra virile in his blue shirt.  I'm not really sure.  Either way, a pregnancy test was deemed necessary.  And so it is with great joy that Davis and I would like to announce that we are not expecting a baby at this time.  And all God's people said, "Amen and Hallelujah" as we'd be 76 and 69 upon its graduation from college.             

-I think we all have the same unspoken fear when entering the hospital for a procedure.  What will we say while under the influence of drugs?  I mean, really.  Think about the things that pop into your mind all day.  What if drugs neutralize your filter and those things start falling out of your mouth?  Heavenly sunlight!  You don't even know where you are much less what you're saying.  I'm pretty sure HIPAA was put into place after someone really important said something really bad that they didn't want to get out.  No matter how it came to be, it is a blessed assurance to all mankind. 

-Then, there's this new Q&A they do now......I guess to avoid operating on the wrong part or the wrong side which seemed to be so popular for a while.  You know, just so there's no confusion between you and Mr. Clarence Clodfelter who's on the other side of the curtain.  Everyone who comes in your room is like, "Now, Mrs. Miller, what are we going to be doing for you today?"  You know, kind of like you're at the window at the Speedy Oil Change.  Well, you, in turn, are to tell them what procedure you're there for.  I understand that it's part of their verification system, but after the 3rd or 4th person asks what you need done, you can't help but start to wonder if what you're saying is news to them.........and maybe think, "well, I would've thought y'all maybe would've kind of already had a game plan at this point......maybe read up on it some.......watched a few You Tube instructional videos."     

- Then, there are those awkward couple of days when you're instructed not to shower or bathe.  Sure, you can do what you can do with a washcloth and the sink, but by the end of day 2 you're starting to feel and smell awfully similar to a farm animal on a damp day.  Even the dog starts to back away when she sees you coming.  It's best to just quarantine yourself so that no one else will have to suggest it.  Tomorrow, I will shower and I anticipate having a new lease on life.  It will be a breath of fresh air for my family. 

And as a side note, let me just say that nurses are incredible people.  Maybe we are apt to most admire people in fields in which God has given us absolutely NO ability.  But, nurses.....they do it all.  Not the least of which, they pat and love on us at the times when we need it the most.  And we never forget that.  So, hats off to you, nurses.                   

And as a follow up to my last post, let me just say that my family has been so very helpful.  Blair, especially, has been the one here with me during the day and she's the most awesome caregiver.  She's run my errands, changed sheets, done laundry, cooked, shopped, cleaned.  That girl is on it before I even ask.  I will even go so far as to say that having surgery on the heels of having a meltdown achieves maximum results.  I mean, you know, if you want to take it that far.

Hope y'all have a great Wednesday. 



       
   

     

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Never Underestimate the Power of the Meltdown

Well, it's the holiday season.  We all know what that means.  School is out or about to be out for an extended period.  Your kids, their friends, and all of their abounding personal effects will be strewn all over your house.  From one end to the other.  Husbands will be home from work more than usual.  Relatives will be coming by to visit.  Friends will be stopping in. 

Having everyone at home for Christmas is a wonderful thing.  Oh, such a wonderful thing.  There are even numerous songs written about the enchantment it brings and the resulting warm fuzzies.  But, in all of our excitement,  it's important for us, women, the keepers of all civil living and residential order, to lay out some basic ground rules on the front end of the season in an effort to maintain our mental stability and sense of structure throughout these coming weeks of Yuletide chaos. 

So, speaking of that, I had a meltdown this weekend.  You know how we have to do every now and then when we need to reestablish our authority and reiterate the expectations we have of our fellow inhabitants in regards to cleaning?  This emotional display must be done with a delicate balance of just enough feeling and emotion to evoke pity yet with enough rage and passion to evoke fear.  Too heavy with the emotion and you'll have them whispering, "Mom's lost it."  Too much anger, however, and resentment will dampen their desire to embrace productivity.  The meltdown is an art form, passed down from generation to generation, and must be practiced regularly in order to achieve the desired results.  When executed properly, it can be a very effective tool on every woman's workbench.  

Well, one night, I came home from work and the kitchen was a mess.  The dog was licking her dry water bowl.  Backpacks were dropped by the door.  Shoes everywhere.  Dirty laundry filled the laundry room floor.  Cups and empty wrappers covered the coffee table.  Clothes needed folding.  Counters needed wiping.  Floors needed sweeping.   

Davis was staring at his laptop screen.  Carson was zoned out between his Beats and You Tube.  Blair was propped up with pillows, her iPad, and coffee watching sappy Hallmark Christmas movies.  And homemaking mayhem was making its mark everywhere.  Now, don't get me wrong.  They're all generally very helpful but I'd began to detect an air of "This is my Christmas break" coming from them which I thought needed to be nipped in the bud.

So, as a public service to mothers and wives everywhere, I thought I would list the four simple steps to execute an effective meltdown in case you're finding yourself at the starting line of the holidays and you don't like where you see it heading.  I've also put the steps in a easy to remember acronym for your holiday convenience.  Consider it my gift to you.   

V.E.T.O.

1)  Vocalization-  This is an all important first step.  It lays the groundwork for each of the subsequent steps.  This is your one chance to vocalize all of your exasperation, disappointment, and frustration.  It is best to use a firm tone when listing the mounted evidence of their inaction as you look around the house.  An example of this step would go something like this......"Oh. My. Word!!!!  This place is disgusting!  What have y'all been doing all day?  Look at all of these shoes in the floor!  This mountain of laundry!  These dishes in the sink!  Really?  Could someone not, at least, unload the dishwasher?!?  Is that too much to ask?"
           
2)  Exhaustion-  Exhaustion is the step in which you bring down the volume a bit.  It is the segue from anger to the more tender emotions which will help you garner sympathy.  This is your chance to recite all of your responsibilities inside and outside the home and then describe the depth of your fatigue at the present time.  At this time of year, it is also important not to forget to mention the task of shopping for their Christmas gifts and wanting to make their Christmas so special.  This is sure to get their attention.  An illustration of the exhaustion step would be......"I'm just so, so, so tired.  I work all day long and then have to do the grocery shopping, the meal planning, the laundry, endless errands, and getting you where you need to be.  And then I've been trying to finish all of the Christmas decorating, address the Christmas cards, wrap the gifts, coordinate the meals, and run all over town looking for the perfect gifts to make your Christmas perfect and I am so very weary.  And I come home to this.  I just can't do it all by myself."             

3)  Tears- Step 3 is where you seal the deal.  There is nothing more powerful on the face of God's earth than a mother's carefully timed tear.  Do you remember when you would make your own mother cry and how that made you feel?  You wanted to go stick your head in the oven.  Be careful here, though, not to put too much into it.....no sobbing or anything like that.  That could cause them to look at each other wide eyed and discount your outburst as "that time of the month" or "the change" or something.  No, you just want to go for a quiet display of emotion.....just enough to make your mascara run.  A pregnant pause is useful here, too.  It gives them time to look at the crying woman from whose loins they were pushed and reflect on their individual roles in her current suffering.   
 4)  Orders-  If all steps are executed properly, step 4 is the point at which everyone starts asking what they can do to help.  It's best not to answer too quickly.  Perhaps, let a couple of more Maybelline streaked tears run down your face, place your head in your hands, and take a big sigh before you start barking out orders.  This will make them more eager to help you through this difficult time you're having.  Something like this might be appropriate....."Well, you could empty the dishwasher, I guess.....and you could fold those clothes.  That would really help me a lot.  And, maybe, you could clean the bathrooms while I start supper. Sniff."  In most cases, the sight of a mother crying is enough to get everyone moving. 
Sometimes, we just have to stop the snowball's roll before it gets too big.

Is it time for a meltdown at your house? 

Just V.E.T.O..


Y'all have a good day! 

    
     

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The Trappings of Christmas

So, last week, I had this vision that this week would be so much better for writing.  I just knew after the long and laborious week I'd had that I'd be so overwhelmed with relief, joyous emotion, and excessive amounts of free time that inspiration would flood over me and I'd be writing timeless works from the deepest depths of my soul.....so touching, so masterful, so brilliant that they would surely find their way into the annals of literary history.   

Well, here it is Tuesday at midnight and I'm just trying to peck out enough gibberish to count as a post.  Of course, last week, in my visions, I didn't see a pile of 100 unaddressed Christmas cards in my sunroom or hear dead needles falling off of my tree and onto the presents every time the air conditioner comes on.  Yeah, you heard me.  The air conditioner.  My visions didn't include a continuation of this freakish Memorial Day weather we're having down here....which may have us all throwing the turkeys on the grill with a pan of baked beans if it keeps up.  I also don't recall thinking that this week would still find me so busy that my pots and pans would not get above room temperature for a second week in a row or that my to do list would grow to approximately 3/4 mile either.

Suffice it to say that Christmas is not the most productive time for a blogger of my low caliber.  But, I will limp along through the holidays with you as I refuse to bail ship.  You may, very well, want to jump overboard.......with a concrete block tied around your neck.....but I will not abandon the blog.  It may not be pretty, but I will drag myself across the finish line which is Christmas. 
                  
So, in an effort to increase this post's word count, let's talk about our tree not drinking......for the second year in a row.  Kelly left a comment on my last post that she'd seen an article on how to solve this problem.  You pour boiling water into the tree stand and the hot water melts the hardened sap and allows it to take up water.  Well, that sounded reasonable to me....with my BS degree in Horticulture with an emphasis in Retail Floral Management and all.  There was only one problem......the tree stand was already full of cold water.  What was I to do?

First of all, there was no room between the tree trunk and the tree stand in which to scoop water out, so I got the pump out of a spray bottle and decided to spray the water out into a large bowl.  And so it came to pass that I slithered up under the tree in a prone position into the tight 8 inches of clearance between the floor and the lowest branches.  With needles sticking into the back of my neck and pushing presents aside as I went, I stuck the end of the pump sprayer into the tree water and started spraying it into the bowl.  Squirt, squirt, squirt, squirt.  After what seemed like the life expectancy of a hamster, I had siphoned all of 8 oz. of water out of the 45 gallon stand and my right hand was gnarled with cramps.  Every now and then the sprayer would slip out of control and I'd spritz myself in the face but I thought how that would feel pretty good in the event of my electrocution.  I decided I needed to change hands, so slid out of the tree, flipped over onto my back and went back in so I could pump a while with my left hand.  Squirt, squirt, squirt, squirt.  The dead needles falling into my corneas as I looked up through the maze of wires, lights, and extension cords. 

Finally, I'd lowered the water level enough to pour in the boiling water.  I filled the stand with the scorching, hot liquid.  It looked like a witch's cauldron bubbling and steaming.  I filled it to the top and couldn't wait until morning to see how much water it had taken in. 

Well, I'll tell you how much.  Not a drop.  I feel like this would've worked if I'd tried it sooner.  I'm thinking it was meant for trees that weren't as far gone as ours was.  Ours had apparently long since flat-lined......and already had a toe tag.  Not only had it seen the light, but it had gone to it.  No amount of boiling water could ever bring it back.  And it wouldn't want to come back even if it could. 

So, I continue to listen to the needles fall gently onto the wrapping paper and I close my eyes and think of it as really loud snow.  And we all know there's nothing more beautiful than a loud snow.      

I was taking inventory of all the things about Christmas that make us crazy.  Trees that won't drink. Christmas lights that go out after you get them strung.  Standing in line behind those irritating people who don't have their method of payment ready when it's their turn.  Drivers who don't have any business operating a moving vehicle.  Back to the store for that one missing ingredient.  Parking.  Coupon codes.  Children screaming.  People coughing.  One checkout line.  Out of stock.  Some assembly required.
                     
Christmas can get like that.  We've got our lists.  Our shoulders start to tighten.  We get so busy.  Places to go.  Parties to attend.  Groceries to buy.  Food to cook.  People to visit.  So many details to oversee.  So many gifts to wrap.  So many dead things to water. 

We can be swallowed up by all the trappings of Christmas and walk right past the baby and not even notice Him.  The quiet, little baby.  He doesn't scream out for our attention like all that other stuff.  He just waits for us to remember Him.   

Christmas gets so loud and off course. 

When it gets to be too much, we can find quiet at the manger.

There is always peace there.         


Night y'all!