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.   

Monday, November 19, 2018

Because I Have Been Given Much

I was driving to my first Christmas decorating job, today, and passed workers putting up the big Christmas tree out in front of our city hall. The weather has finally turned cool down here in Mississippi. The leaves were sporting their fall colors and the cool breeze sent them swirling down on my car. I passed a large group of boys playing football out in a front yard- enjoying their break from school. Several store windows were showcasing those twinkling Christmas adornments that announce the coming of the giving season. It's just that warm and wonderful time of year. Our church seemed extra full, Sunday morning....everyone wanting to worship, this Thanksgiving season, and family coming home for the holiday. Our pastor, of course, preached on thankfulness and he made a statement that we've all heard before and one that I'd agree with, wholeheartedly. He commented that some of the most grateful people are those who have very little and it made me think of a story that I thought was relevant to that point.

My parents told me, many times, about one Christmas, before I was born, when my older brother and two of his cousins, about the same age, spent Christmas Eve night together in the same house. Of course, where there are little boys on Christmas Eve, there Santa will land and unload goodies from his sleigh.

So, between the boys, there were three different sets of parents represented, that night, and also three different ideas of how much a child should receive in the way of Christmas gifts. They'd all done their shopping and, when the young boys went to bed, sure enough, Santa paid them a visit, leaving three separate piles of presents. Three separate piles of widely varying sizes, at that.

I suppose they were really young and, the next morning, they didn't really notice the disparity in the gift amounts that they'd received, but one thing surely stood out to the adults. The child, who received the biggest pile of gifts, seemed to be the least impressed with what was in all the packages. There were so many that he'd grab one, rip it open, and toss it aside, even before all the paper was off, so he could get his hands on the next one. With so much laid there at his feet, there was little time to stop and appreciate what had been given to him. The abundance had caused him to become less sensitive to the joy of his gifts, while the other two, with their less impressive accumulations, seemed more amazed by each thing they'd been given. They spent more time studying them, appreciating them, and relishing the whole experience of receiving.

We've all seen that. We've been to children's birthday parties, where the kid is covered up with more presents than she could possibly ever play with or even open for that matter. And they seem to be unimpressed with all of it. The gifts that the parents had thought about for so long. The ones the grandparents had special ordered for the occasion. The ones that were super expensive with all the bright lights, realistic sounds, and rechargeable batteries. Sitting there mostly unnoticed, while their boxes appear to be more attention grabbing. Somewhere in the sizable mound of gifts, the appreciation just got lost. The wonder and awe somehow was thrown out with the mountain of tissue, ribbons, and boxes.

This is that special time when we all gather with our families and friends and remember our many blessings and give thanks to our Creator for what He's given to us. Sometimes, I feel like that little kid, at her birthday party, who's buried beneath a mountain of gifts, and I can't even really fully appreciate any of them like I should. Sometimes, maybe I start to have the mentality that there's more where those came from and I'm guilty of not living in an attitude of thanksgiving, but more of an attitude of expectancy that I'll always have what I need and a lot of what I want. Most of us probably have "piles" bigger than we deserve. Definitely bigger than much of the world could ever even imagine having.

I'm a big House Hunters fan, but I think our overindulged society comes out loud and clear on that show, sometimes, when a couple walks into a beautiful kitchen and talks about how the whole thing would need to be gutted, because the granite is the wrong color and there isn't a farmhouse sink or double ovens. And they'd never even want to attempt to cook on an electric range, heaven forbid. "I just couldn't live here long with the kitchen like this." When there are people living in abject poverty, it makes me blush to listen to our coddled mindset being expressed audibly. Maybe because I know that I have a lot of the same kinds of thought patterns about certain things.

We are blessed, indeed. Not that most of us are millionaires or live in mansions with a slew of domestic helpers, but I think we all can recognize our plentitude. And I'm not saying it's impossible for us to stay aware of our blessings and be continuously grateful for them, but I do think that it takes more of a focused effort to remain in a spirit of thanksgiving when we live among such abundance. And maybe the best way to live in thankfulness is to use our gifts to glorify the Giver and to the benefit of others. Then, we can use our plenty in a way that really expresses our gratitude. "....Whoever has been given much will be responsible for much. Much more will be expected from the one who has been given more." Luke 12:48

I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving with your family and friends. We've already had one Thanksgiving meal and we'll have another big one on Thanksgiving night and watch the Mississippi State/ Ole Miss game for dessert. It'll be a night full of love and family and more calories than should be allowed by law. I hope that, wherever and however you celebrate God's goodness, it will be a lovely one.
Thank you, Lord, for everything.    


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Over the River and Through the Woods

Recently, I got out my calendar and initiated talks with Blair and John Samuel about this year's Thanksgiving and Christmas schedules. With each new marriage in a family, the holiday season becomes a more difficult puzzle to solve. The Rubik's cube could be solved blindfolded with greater ease. To a marriage, we each bring our life experiences, our raising, our beliefs and values, our dispositions, our idiosyncrasies, and all of our longstanding family tradition schedules for the holidays, which are only slightly more flexible than concrete. The likelihood of one spouse's holiday schedule fitting perfectly with the other's is almost a statistical impossibility and, therefore, a great deal of thought and coordination must be implemented ahead of time.

Now, I'd say that my son-in-law's family's schedule fits pretty nicely with ours during the holiday season, but extended family events are where it can get messy. Just in my mother's family alone, there are about 40 of us, who celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas together and, from that group, there are about 12 sets of in-laws, who must be worked around in order for us to all gather. It's like herding attention deficient cats. Things will be looking promising for everyone to get together on, say, Christmas Eve, and then....wait a minute, you lose two or three or four. "Well, that's when so and so's grandmother does their Christmas or it's so and so's year to be out of town on Christmas Eve." And back to square one, you go. Before it's all over, sometimes, you have to get pretty far out from the actual holiday to find a suitable time for everyone....How does April 26 sound for everybody?

So, this year, I was trying to get an early reading on the whens and wheres of the approaching holidays. I'm kind of a planner and like to have things sorted out in my brain. When Blair and John Samuel married, they decided to do a rotating schedule for where they'd be on Christmas morning. This year is "our year" to have them then and his parents will have them on Christmas Eve. That works out easy enough, but then there are multiple grandparents' homes and other family events that must be squeezed into that time period and that's where the whole deal gets tricky, I mean, if you want to slow down the car and actually get out at each stop.

And southern grandmothers can get offended if you show up at their house and you're not hungry. I mean, if you had a huge Christmas breakfast at one house and then a big Christmas lunch at another, the grandmother of Christmas dinner, whoever she may be that year, will not take too kindly to you coming to her table without a ravenous appetite. I mean, she went to Winn-Dixie way back in October just so she'd be sure to get the French's french fried onions, a case of Borden's sweetened condensed milk, the Campbell's cream of mushroom, and the Honey Maid graham crackers for the crusts. You have to shop early to ensure you get the good brands before they're snatched up in the holiday frenzy, you know. She got up at 4 a.m. and baked that hen just for the broth to go in the dressing, because Swanson's would never do and she had to wrestle that turkey into her cart that weighed as much as she does and you're telling her you're not hungry? And don't get her started on the bushel of pecans she shelled. You know, we've talked about the food love language that is spoken fluently down here in these parts. We don't like it when people are too full to receive our love language.....and seconds and thirds of it.

And then there are other obstacles like when couples have their first child and they start wanting to be at their own homes on Christmas morning to begin their own Santa traditions and, well, there goes another set of wrenches in the plans, especially if they live out of town. And then, there are those things called jobs. When Christmas falls in the middle of the week, out of towners can have a hard time getting home for more than a day or two. Try splitting that up into 8 equal parts in a way which is satisfying to everyone. You might as well try splitting an atom at your kitchen table with the carving knife.

The families in Rockwell's paintings never seemed to have these problems. There were no empty places at the table. No one had to leave early to get back home for work, the next morning. No one missed Grandma's legendary Christmas lunch, because it wasn't "her year". No one looked stressed or exhausted from traveling farther than the wise men one day. No one looked nauseated, hurriedly excusing themselves from the table, due to eating three different cornbread dressing one day. And no one's overstimulated children were screaming after receiving a minivan full of gifts resembling a toy one day. Imagine it.  
So, yeah, Hallmark Christmas movies are on and Little Debbie is making her Christmas Tree Cakes, which makes it time to get out those calendars and put the pencil to the paper. We all need to nail down some dates and times, people. Grandmas and Mamas, everywhere, are sitting on pins and needles, wondering how big the Butterball needs to be, this year. There are favorite dishes to prepare and food allergies to consider. There are placemats to count. Kid tables to set up. Extra chairs to bring in. Gifts to equalize.

And they're waiting on us.

So, y'all have a good weekend and don't forget to call your Mamaw, Gran, Nana, Granny, Grandma, Big Mama, Mimi, Grams, Nanny, Grandmama, Grammy, Grandmother, or MawMaw. Hopefully, y'all can work something out.