Tag Archives: friends

2 days until Christmas…

There’s not much time left until Christmas.  It will go by very quickly though.  Looking at the Facebook news feed, I get the distinct feeling people are ready for this to be over.  People are either extremely tired or they are frantically shopping.  Well, maybe they’re just tired of shopping.

It reminds me of what it’s like to take a road trip, the busyness of preparing for the trip, running around making sure you didn’t forget anything.  Is everything packed?  Did I give the key to the neighbor?  Are all of the important items checked off my to do list?  (it’s not even possible to complete all of them)  Should I check my email one more time?  Is the iron off?  Oh yeah, I don’t have an iron.  Okay, I think it’s time to get in the car.

Pulling out of the driveway, I’m going over the mental list in high speed, before I’ve driven too far to go back and get whatever it is I’ve forgotten.  Once I’m on the road for a little while, this restful peace sets in.  Ah, the blissful haven between life’s pandemonium and the inescapable reality of a final destination.

As I dream of the adventures, the gentle rocking motion of the Infiniti sleigh is soothing to me and I’m trying to adjust the volume of the radio.  Turn, turn, turn… to no avail.  Eventually I’ll replace the shocks and get the volume knob fixed… or maybe not.  The sleigh has character and it makes me smile.  Not because it’s been paid off for 8 years, because it’s my happy place.  The sleigh takes me to wonderful places and the unexplored universe of reckless abandon, a place once called home to someone.

I will be in the car for many hours.  I have my journal and camera ready for action.  What great adventures will I find?  On a trip to Austin with Amy and my boys a few months ago, whenever we saw something interesting, we wrote down the exit number, then stopped at all of them on the way back home.  The trip home took 3 times longer and was 100 times more fun.  What did we see?

I think back to the many road trips I have taken over the past several years.  The tiring anticipation of an arrival.  Will it be the ‘getaway’ I expected and needed?  As I wonder if it was worth going at all, the moment finally comes.  Arrival.

I’m here, the red push pin and the pulsing blue dot have finally come together.  For a brief moment, the purple cloud of excitement is overwhelming.  As quickly as it came, the cloud dissipates and reality sets it.   My chaotic life has just moved to a new location.  Plug in the computer, check email, unpack and get out the time-away to do list.  Did I turn off the iron?  No, because I don’t have one.  Maybe I should get one so I can check to see if it’s turned off.

Why does a road trip remind me of Christmas?  People are scurrying around trying to accomplish all of the last minute details to create their perfect Christmas experience.  What did they forget?  Before they know it, Christmas day is here.  Did they find any moments of tranquility or fulfillment?  Did they find their happy place?

I knew Christmas was coming and at some point, I did find a place of contentment and joy.  Now it’s so close, I’m apprehensive and too busy to enjoy it.  What will Christmas day bring?  Happiness?  Loneliness?  Joy?  Sadness?  I don’t know the answer to that question.

I have learned something about Christmas this year though, it’s about the journey, not the destination.  The fantasies and lofty expectations of Christmas are an unavoidable let down.  I plan to enjoy the journey when I can and embrace the Christmas chaos when I have to.  I will not get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, as it creates a false sense of pleasure, and in end producing a massive plunge into a materialistic despair.

I love the true meaning of Christmas and I hope to experience the joy of the day, but honestly?  I’m ready for it to be over.

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4 days until Christmas…

A friend of mine had a very interesting question for me yesterday.  He asked, “Would you still be blogging everyday if you were married?”  My reaction at that moment was yes, probably, but the process might look a little different.  I might just be blogging random stories, and would not have made the 25 day Christmas commitment.  I walked away and didn’t think much about it.

Yesterday was busy, at work in the morning, then a photo shoot scheduled for the afternoon and more work in the evening.  My Sunday afternoon photo shoots usually consist of driving to small towns and looking for abandoned houses with a group of people.  Yesterday, I photographed a band called Moving Colors.  They rock the house everywhere they play and I really enjoyed doing the shoot.  We did some silhouettes behind the big screen, what a blast!

After I left the shoot, I had to run to the bookstore to find some Luke 2 images for a video.  As I was on my way there, having a small amount of time for personal reflection, I couldn’t help thinking about the question again.  Why did he ask that?  Curiosity got the best of me, I had to email him and find out.  I typed it at a stoplight, not while driving… just for the record.

I went to dinner with a friend, one whom needed a break as badly as I did, and had some nice ‘down time’.  Through the course of our conversation, it was apparent to me that nobody gets enough personal time or down time, especially during the Christmas season.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but certainly there has to be some holiday balance.  Where?  I have no idea.

I’m intrigued by the name Moving Colors.  I forgot to ask how they came up with the name.  As I look at it, it’s very descriptive of the way I see things in my world.  Life moves so quickly, it sometimes looks like a blur of colors in a time-lapse video.  The name is obviously based on their incredible talent and I’m quite sure, has nothing to do with a fast paced life.

I received a reply to my email, “…when you are married one tends to process life issues out loud with their spouse.  Since you don’t have one right now you seem to be processing life in your blogs.”  I had never really thought about it that way.  Hmm.  More food for thought.

Trying to live this Christmas more outside myself has been an extraordinary experience.  Spending time doing things for others, not for myself, is just an awe-inspiring way to spend time.  I plan to do this well into next year, not stopping after the Christmas season.  As Jim Johnson said in his message yesterday about living upside-down, we tend to forget the changes we have made to live differently and go back to the same daily grind.  Next year at this time, we’ll start the whole process over again.  Jim suggested we leave a Christmas item out of storage this year to remind us of our promised change.  Being the weird artist type that I am, I already do that, so I’ll have to choose something different that my usual Christmas lights.  Maybe an ornament.  One for me and one for each of my kids.

To answer the blogging question, honestly, I really don’t know what would be different.  I don’t really have a definite answer.  I might be blogging, I might not.  Blogging might be a substitute for adult conversation and relationships.  It might be a daily cure for loneliness.  It might be just for fun.  It might be my down time.  It might be a place for me to express my humorous and complex viewpoints on life.  Whatever it is, God is involved in it.  Maybe I don’t need to leave anything out of the Christmas box.  My blog might be the thing I need to remember the changes I have made.  I suppose I should read my blog every so often throughout the year so the tinselectomy changes don’t fade away.


7 days until Christmas…

I was sad yesterday afternoon as I watched the large group of people leaving for Mexico.  I so very much wanted to go with them.  They are bringing Christmas gifts to the children at Casa Hogar Elim, an annual thing started last year by Jeff Harrell.  We collect shoe boxes, fill them up with small age-appropriate toys and sugar-free candy, then wrap them up.  Now these gifts aren’t just for a boy, age 6, or a girl, age 10, there’s a package for each individual child with their name on it.  We can’t put bows on these boxes, as they would be crushed under the weight of all the supplies in the cars and vans.

There are so many people from our church that want to go to Casa Hogar, they don’t even need to advertise the trips.  If you’ve been there, you’re a walking billboard for CHE.  The Thanksgiving trip even had a waiting list this year.  The ‘regulars’ have gone so many times, they can’t even tell you how many trips they’ve made.  We love these kids, and for those of us whom visit often, these kids are our extended family.

You know the old saying, ‘you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family?’    I beg to differ.  I was thinking last night about family and friends, and all of the funny ways God placed them in my life.  God clearly has a sense of humor!

I moved into my house three years ago, although my kids didn’t start attending the local school until two years ago.  We live at the end of the street, walking distance from the elementary school.  I noticed a house that had some fun yard decor, more specifically, ‘little skeleton girl’.  She was out for Halloween, dressed in her hippie costume, but she stayed out for other holidays.  What!?  Could this be?  Could I really have a soul sister on my street?

I was intrigued.  Why did I think this was my soul sister?  I have a full size mannequin named Darla.  You can learn more about her on Facebook at facebook.com/luvplasticpeople.  Anyway, I wanted to meet little skeleton girl’s mom.  I did, and her name is Patty.

Patty loves to volunteer her time for great causes, so we cross paths quite a bit, not only walking down the street, but many other places.  Patty was at Victoria Gardens with me when I met Flo, the ghost of Christmas future.  I can’t wait to go to Casa Hogar with Patty!  I live in a great neighborhood, as it’s filled with fun, caring people like Patty.

As I said in yesterday’s post, I was an only child until my teen years.  I really don’t remember ever bugging my parents about wanting a baby brother or sister.  I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t want one or because I knew it was a horrible idea for my parents to have anymore children.  I guess God knew I needed some siblings, but decided to bring them in under different circumstances.  At the age of 14, I got a step brother, two step sisters, and soon after, a half brother.

The funny thing about this is my sister Jo.  We are not blood related at all, yet we are just alike.  Our beliefs, our personalities, our creativity… and the list goes on.  The more perplexing thing here is our kids.  My son Joe and her son Isaac, again, no genetic relation, not only look alike, but act alike.  Jo lives in Wisconsin, so we don’t get to see each other too often.  We were on vacation in Florida several years ago, Joe and Isaac both ‘sitting’ on their heads on the sofa watching TV.  Jo says, “Look, Isaac taught Joe to do that.”  I replied, “What?  Joe’s been doing that for months.”  Both kids had been doing this separately for months.  And just for the record, they look alike right-side up too.

This next one isn’t as much humor funny as it is implausible funny.  Let me just start by saying it’s an extremely rare occasion when I can find anything good to say about my ex-husband.  The aftermath of an interaction with him frequently results in misery and relational mass destruction.

Dawn and Genna live near Kansas City, so we don’t get to see them very often.  Genna is my step-daughter and Dawn is her mother.  The boys and I took our family vacation up there this past summer and we had a blast!  Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  You probably think it’s odd that we’re friends, so this next statement will really throw you.  We consider ourselves family.  Yes, family.  You may not be able to choose your genetic family, but through love and friendship, you do choose your ‘preferred’ family.  One of the definitions of family is “a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals…”   Yes, that’s us.  I’ve realized one thing this Christmas, one very big positive thing to say about the boys dad.  Without him, I would not have my boys, nor would I have Dawn and Genna.  As you can tell by the photo, they are obviously ‘related’, as they are a bunch of little camera junkies!  Genna is a very talented photographer and is doing an internship right now.  The boys like to make funny YouTube videos, a couple that have gone small-time viral.

God has brought many other people into my life in unexpected ways, from church and Facebook to a lady at church who accidentally door dinged my beat-up car.  I’ll take 100 of those kind of door dings!  Oh, wait, I have 100 door dings, but only one has a great story behind it.

So what does all of this have to do with Christmas?  This is the time of year when many people experience strong feelings of loneliness, seemingly endless despair and high levels of stress.  I’m no different, but as these feelings arise, I have this faint awareness of hope.  I appreciate my friends and family, realizing I don’t tell them that nearly enough.  I also appreciate you for taking the time to read my 25 days of Christmas blog.  🙂


8 days until Christmas…

I want to talk about ghosts, those scary, shadowy phantoms that haunt all of us.  The dictionary definition of a ghost is a dead person’s soul, imagined as a vague, shadowy figure.  My definition is a bit different.  Now maybe I watched too much Casper when I was young, but I think ghosts are typically friendly and they’re usually trying to teach humans a lesson.  Aren’t ghosts just people spirits in 32% transparent bodies with a 78% vivid light outer glow?   Yeah, okay, I spend too much time with Photoshop.  I do believe ghosts can be dead or alive.  Whether it’s the dead ones that are completely invisible or the live ones that are in plain sight, their presence is known.  Yesterday I visited one ghost, and two ghosts visited me.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I have to say, I didn’t want to see this ghost anymore than Scrooge did, but I reluctantly, yet intentionally decided to visit him.  This particular ghost is one that I usually don’t go searching for, but I thought it might shed some light on my Christmas beliefs and struggles with our existing Christmas culture.  This particular ghost is a vintage Poloroid camera, as the ghost of Christmas past has presented himself in photographs.  The person behind the camera?  My grandpa.  He passed away many years ago and I miss him terribly.  My grandpa was a shutterbug and also the designated family photographer.

My first exploration took me to a large box in the garage, filled with old photos that belonged to my grandparents.  I enjoy looking at the past, captured through my grandpa’s eyes, on these little black and white squares.  I love visiting this box, but you couldn’t tell that from the amount of dust on it.  I searched though the box, looking for any Christmas photos I could find.  I found Christmas photos of my dad, aunt and cousins.

The second part of the search took me to my own childhood albums.  These albums were meticulously organized by my mother, every photo page referencing my age in years and months.  I can only imagine what these albums would look like had they known scrapbooking back then.  Not only do these albums contain photographs, but every birthday card I ever received as a child.  There must be hundreds of them, and I would venture to say, there are as many cards as photos.  I guess that explains why I don’t like cards.  All those cards are symbolic of how many superficial contacts my parents had, it was the number that meant something, not the depth of the friendships.  Christmas was no different, there were hundreds of cards taped on the wall, creating an oversized map of  numerical acquaintanceships.  It looked to me like the US, and if anyone looked closely enough, I expect they would have seen tiny little cars driving aimlessly all over it, looking for an unknown destination.

I was an only child until the age of 13, and I was the poster child for ‘spoiled brat’.  The photos I found depict the excess of gifts, boxes in such large quantities they spilled out into the room from under the tree.

I remember getting so many gifts, my mom always shuffling me toward the things she liked best, asking me how much I liked this and how much I liked that.  She was buzzing around the gifts, all the while, reminding me how lucky I was to get all this stuff.  As a child, I remember it being fun getting so many presents, but the moment it was over, the emptiness set in.  I saw my friends and neighbors celebrating Christmas and I could tell, even at that young age, that they were experiencing something I wasn’t.  It looked nice, felt warm and seemed surreal, yet I had no idea what ‘it’ was.

The ghost of Christmas past brings a melancholy gloom, but visiting with this ghost gives me hope.  A hope that I might be able to find ‘it’.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Get it?  Christmas ‘present’?  I crack myself up!  The really funny thing?  This crazy ghost manifested herself in the form of a present, and yes, she led me into the abyss of retail madness.  The human ghost behind the present is Candy.

Remember me telling you a few days ago that I needed to buy one more gift?  Yesterday, I set out to find a pair of mismatched shoes for Candy.  No, you couldn’t pay me enough to go to a mall to shop this time of year, although you could pay me to go there and people watch.

I made my usual discount store rounds, looking for a specific ‘Converse’ style pair of shoes, but in two different colors and patterns.  Now I haven’t been shopping in a long time, but when did all of the shoes turn brown and black?  What happened to all of the fun colors and styles?  Boring!  I received some strange looks as I asked for help, and as I’m guessing, nobody actually goes to the store to purposely purchase a pair of mismatched shoes.

I have to say, I was very excited to find a pair of Sketchers for $16.99.  Yeah!  All I have to do is find another inexpensive pair in the same style, now how hard can that be?  Let me just say that I never intentionally bought a pair of mismatched shoes.  My favorite pair?  One came from Kelly Tuggey, the other from a thrift store.  I really needed to get back to work.  Where should I go to find another pair to stylistically match?

Running out of time to find a deal, I had to settle for a higher priced place.  I finally found a pair of orange Ed Hardy shoes.  Yes Geoff, I paid $49.96 for these puppies!  I know I will never hear the end of this.  That was about half of what they would cost at the mall, but it’s way more than I would ever consider spending for a pair of shoes.  And don’t get me started on the statement part of this!  Ed Hardy… phssshhh.

So what did I learn from this ghost?  I learned that sometimes it’s good to do things you wouldn’t normally do.  The cost, whether financial, emotional or otherwise, is very worth it.  Even though I won’t be there to see Candy open her gift, I know that she will love the shoes.  I’m going to write her a note and have it translated, telling her that she is special and loved not only by me, but everyone.  Yes, Candy is a very special ghost.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

I met the ghost of Christmas future last night and her name is Flo.  She was at the nursing home where our church was hosting a Christmas party for the residents.  This is a photo of Flo talking to one of the kids at the party.  The little girl was asking what her name was and Flo replied, “My name is Flo.  Pretty crappy name, hey?”  She had my full attention now.

Flo and I have the same hair philosophy, wash it, go to bed, and whatever you wake up with is the new style of the day.  Capturing Flo in a photo was a difficult task, as she was working the room at an unbelievably rapid pace.  Her walker, with tennis ball feet, must be jet propelled.

During one of the Christmas songs, she was dancing.  I later told Flo that I captured her dancing on video.  She asked, “Is this the New Year’s party?  You got me dancing?  I don’t remember doing that.  I’m not leaving this party until I see myself on TV.”

Flo is cute and spunky, and in her day, I bet she was a blast to hang out with and had many friends.  Flo disappeared from the party early, I’m assuming to get ready for bed.

A while later, a large group of us went caroling down the halls.  There were four wings, and I so desperately wanted to find Flo again.  Toward the end of the last hall, there it was, Flo’s room.  She and her roommate were sleeping.  I see Flo as the ghost of Christmas future because that will probably be me in 40 years.  We were not allowed to take photos in the rooms, you know, all that HIPPA junk, but when I saw the painting hanging over her bed, it took my breath away.  I had to secretly snap a photo.

In the nursing home filled with small traces of personal artifacts, arranged into the same basic, beige shell, this colorful painting spoke loudly about Flo.  I knew the moment I saw it hanging over Flo’s bed, that she loved color… and loved life.  I so terribly want to know her story, but Flo’s memories have been stolen from her.  Sadly, Alzheimers, or whatever she has, might have taken her memories, but it made me happy that it did not rob her of her wonderful personality.

I told my kids about Flo last night during our prayer time.  Joe prayed for her not to die before he had a chance to meet her.  She might be his ghost as well.

We can all learn from our ghosts, and whether you go seeking them or they come to haunt you.  Don’t be frightened.  Also, don’t ignore them.  Remember these are friendly ghosts, and they want to show you something in your life through their own human experience.  The Christmas spirit?  Yep, it’s a ghost, and I think I’m a little closer to it now.


9 days until Christmas…

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

Only 9 days now.

Tick.  Tick.

Christmas will be here soon.  I have this gut feeling… I’m forgetting something.  What is it?  There’s no time to think about it.

Tick.

Time, our most valuable commodity.  Time, our best friend and our worst enemy.  Time is money.  I think the Eagles understand the meaning of time.  In their words, “…you can spend all your love making time.”  I don’t pretend to even come close to understanding love, but isn’t it something about relationships?  Isn’t it about people?

I was talking with my friend Thom the other day, complaining because I didn’t have enough time to get everything done, and he asked, “If you’re saying you don’t have enough time, isn’t that like telling God he didn’t give us enough of it?”  Hmm.  I think he’s right.  Why are we so busy?

I’ve received a few Christmas cards so far this year.  I don’t send Christmas cards anymore, mostly because it’s a Christmas expectation.  It’s that feisty, non-conformist part of me that just won’t do it.  I don’t want to send a meaningless, mass produced piece of cardstock to someone, only for it to get lost in a sea of empty tidings.  Everyone complains about no having the time to prepare their many Christmas cards.  If it’s such a hassle, why do it?  Do we even notice if one of our friends doesn’t send the obligatory Christmas wishes?

I do like seeing the family pictures, as this makes the cards more personal.  This is also where people get creative, maybe because they need to top last years photo or make their card funny so it’s more memorable and stands out from the others.  I have some friends that not only create the funniest cards, they have the next eight years’ ideas planned.  And we all think the same thing, “My, how everyone has changed since last year!”  Time really flies.

The cards I find the most interesting, are the ones containing family updates.  I’m not quite sure where this process originated, but I suppose if you only hear from people once a year, it’s important to catch up on the entire time span.  Limit: one paragraph per person please.  These updates usually reflect the family busyness in a comical way or highlight the achievements of the role-model kids.  If someone read these, without knowing the people, one might believe they have achieved worldly perfection.  Where are the ‘reality cards’, the ones saying it’s been a tough year?  My kids are struggling in school, I lost my job and oh, by the way, you can take his name off the card.  He doesn’t live here anymore.

Tick.  Tick.  Tick.

It takes a lot of time to achieve excellence in anything we do.  This blog is taking a good amount of time to write everyday, so why am I doing it?  I’m doing it to enhance my writing skills and to communicate my Christmas story.  My story is filled with the hatred of consumerism, the love of watching people interact with the ‘season’, the sadness of our culture, the happiness of watching people change that culture, the lack of time and the process of making more time for the right things.

Honestly, when I start writing at 5am, I’m trying to create a masterpiece instead of just writing from my heart.  I don’t spend enough time in my heart, only in my head.  To me, it’s a much safer place to be, although C. S. Lewis would disagree.  Time to reevaluate my goals.  Regroup.  If I’m doing things for the right reasons, not because of an imposed cultural burden or a self-inflicted nonsensical expectation, wouldn’t that give me more time to do the important things in life?

Tick.

I think we try to take all of our normal activities, which there still isn’t enough time in the day to do, add the Christmas craziness on top of it, and we turn into a bunch of crabby Christmas robots, programmed to accomplish, not experience.  No wonder everyone is stressed out.  If it’s how we function as a society all year long, why should Christmas be any different?  Could we change this?  Do we even want to?

Instead of focusing on society’s definition of success, I think I’ll define my own.  The word balance comes to mind again.  Balance of time and achievements.  So what if Cole can’t tie his shoes yet?  Who cares if my kids don’t want to learn to ride a bike?  I don’t want to teach my kids that they have to do what everyone else is doing.  They don’t have to keep up with the Jones’.  Who chose this family to represent our portrait of success?  The thing I find funny here is that nobody has ever met them, although you’ve probably receive a Christmas card from them every year.

Tick.  Tick.

My Christmas cards, if you choose to call them such, are different this year. It’s giving away tiny little gifts to people I know and to those I don’t know.

Your time is valuable, so no, you don’t have to click on other links to figure this out.  Here’s what is posted on the blog:

Why did we give you a tiny envelope with words?  To wish you an inspired, fun and very special Merry Christmas!  There’s a few more reasons, but first here’s a few things you should know.

  • The first thing you need to know is that we did not hand select your words.  All of the words were randomly placed into small envelopes and sealed for your safety.  🙂
  • There are Spanish words because we are encouraging everyone we know to learn a few words.  Then you can go with us to Casa Hogar Elim.
  • We want you to place your words on a metal surface that you look at frequently so you can always remember this – everyone is creative in their own way.  What is your gift?
  • Christmas is about relationships and we want you to remember all year long that we’re glad you’re our friend!

In a nutshell, words are great, but we don’t take enough time to use them.  Once Christmas nears and the exhaustion sets in, and we are all worn down, trying to figure out this whirlwind called Christmas, we might take a few moments to remember something about the birth of a baby.  A baby named Jesus.  Yes, that’s what I’ve forgotten.

Time goes quickly.  Life will pass us by.  Maybe we need a visit from the ghost of Christmas past.


12 days until Christmas…

I’m at the hospital this morning.  My friend Elizabeth is having her final surgery this morning.  E has been battling breast cancer, and is fully expected to beat it.  I’m at Medical City Hospital, and this is one crazy place.  The cute little old man at the information booth sent me to the wrong floor.  After visiting a few restricted areas, I talked to a friend that gave me the correct info.  I found her and got to spend some time with her before her surgery prep.

Last night was the Chateau Cinema showing of It’s a Wonderful Life.  Block parties in my neighborhood are always a blast!  We had to wait for some warmer weather to do this one, so it was a last minute thing.  I borrowed the extra projector from work, yes, the one that says ‘replace bulb’ which always makes me nervous that it will choose to die when I have 20+ people watching it.

I like getting together like this, however organizing events is not my gift.  I have to do things spontaneously, not planned.  Jay has the best plan, just do something and invite people on your Facebook status.  Now that’s my kind of inviting people!  I did print small invites for everyone on the street and the boys and I taped them on every door.

Every neighborhood has a creepy house that everyone avoids and ours is no exception.  The boys were taking turns going from house to house, and we were quickly nearing the dark angel house.  I had every intention of skipping this house and thought if I distract my kids, we could walk past it without them knowing.  As I tried to execute my plan, Cole noticed we were skipping a house, and as he proceeded to the door, he made no secret that he was irritated about me even considering the possibility of excluding someone.

They just rolled E down the hall.  She’s ready for surgery, well, as ready as anyone can be.  We lined up on both sides of the hall and did the sporting event hand slaps as they rolled her toward the restricted area.  We love you E and we’ll see you in a few hours!

Everything was set up in the front yard for the outdoor theater.  Movie screen, check.  Projector and speakers, check.  Patio furniture and fire pit, check.  Inflatable Santa, check.  No, not really, but my next door neighbor has one.  Yes, we’re ready for sunset and an awesome time with friends, drinking hot chocolate and toasting the giant pillow-sized marshmallows I brought back from Mexico.

We started the movie and many people showed up, not only from our street, but from the Facebook invite.  The kids had fun playing while the adults watched the movie.  Toward the end of the movie, the temperature dropped significantly, then the kids came to snuggle with their parents.

The hospital just moved us to the pediatric waiting room, although I’m not sure why.  Maybe because E, like me, is a kid at heart.  Or maybe it’s because all of us, her friends, act like children in the waiting room and they don’t want us disturbing the grown-ups.  Well, either one makes sense.  We’re going to go downstairs and grab a bite to eat before heading to our new location.

The movie ended and everyone helped me do a quick clean up, then they headed home.  I went inside to my warm, cozy house and was immediately overcome with sadness.  I thought about all the homeless people that endure this bitter cold every single night.  I want to help them.  I don’t know what that means yet, but it’s on my heart.  Maybe I need to start the ‘shares‘ program here like they have in Chicago.  Maybe I need to go downtown and experience the homeless situation in my own area, meaning Frisco and Dallas.  This feeling won’t go away, maybe it’s part of that Christmas spirit I’m so desperate to find, although it’s not what I expected.

I’ve had this feeling for a long time, but it’s been getting stronger lately.  I was hoping to cross paths with some homeless or impoverished people on my trip to downtown Dallas last week, and as I said in an earlier blog post, I was ready to help.  I’m glad I didn’t see any of them, as it was very cold that night and I was hoping they all found warm shelters somewhere.  But more than that, I wanted an education that night.  I want to know their stories and how they got there.  This photo is staged, but makes me think this might be a likely scenario one night when we are at home in our suburban palaces.

We just got word via a small scalpel icon on the large FamilyVue plasma screen that they’ve started E’s surgery.  A little impersonal, but it’s good to know what’s going on.  They have a little icon that looks like stitches when they start sewing people up too.  Again, this seems a little odd, but again it’s nice to know what’s happening.  I suppose that keeps people from pacing and wearing out the carpet like they did in the olden days.

I miss doing photo shoots with E.  She and I are the ones that started the ‘photo safari’ group.  We’ve had some great times scoping out small towns, looking for abandoned houses or any other interesteing places we can trespass.  Just for the record, if “keep out” or “no trespassing” is posted, then we don’t go in.  But that doesn’t mean we stay out of trouble.

I keep thinking about these feelings I have, the ones of concern and love.  I’m aware of worrying about my close friend and also thinking about homeless people I don’t even know.  These feelings are very similar, although very different.  I realized today, whether it’s my closest friend or someone I don’t even know, all of these people mean a lot to me.  Life is the greatest gift and we should cherish it.  The Christmas spirit feels closer today.  It really is a wonderful life.


13 days until Christmas…

Bright and early yesterday morning, I got a glimpse into a new world, one I had not experienced before.  The new world?  Wrestling.  My son has been doing this for a couple of months now, but this was the first time I had the opportunity to take him to a tournament.

The night before, we drove across town to get him weighed in.  They weighed him and inspected him, in a very non-personal manner, writing on him with a Sharpie every time something was determined.  If I was nine years old I would want to wrestle too, just so I could have the marker art all over me.  When the process was complete, the coach said, “You can go over there and see what bracket he’s in and you can buy your brackets for tomorrow.”  I smiled and said, “thank you.”  Buy what?!  Surely I didn’t hear that correctly.  He said they might change before tomorrow, so I figured we would just do the bracket thing tomorrow, whatever that was.

We arrived 30 minutes early the next morning.  There were people everywhere, I couldn’t even find a parking spot.  I parked on the grass with a few other cars that were also on the late side of early.  We walked in and I had no idea where my child was supposed to go.  The ‘brackets’ on the wall are in a special, secret code that everyone else understood but me.  Where are the decoder rings?  I never found one in my Cracker Jack box.  There were no less than 30 sheets of paper taped to the wall with lines and fine print.  Where is Carla Moss when you need her?  She probably wouldn’t even need a decoder ring.

Joe found his coach and we finally got tot the right place.  Joe was on mat 8, match 4, so we had a little time to find a seat and wait for the tournament to begin.

Let me just say that I don’t get organized exercise.  Sitting there, I had a flashback to third grade kickball.  I wanted desperately to play, but I didn’t understand the game.  Back then, I suppose they thought all kids should know how to play that game, but I had not learned that at my last school, nor from my parents.  One day, I finally got to the front of line.  It was my turn to kick the ball and have people cheering me on to accomplish running around in a circle before the ball could catch up with me.  Here comes the ball… kick!  I kicked, I ran and the cheering began, only it wasn’t cheering, it was people yelling at me because I ran the wrong way.

Now it was time for Joe to wrestle.  He does and he wins his first tournament match, not just the today, but his first ever.  Yeah!  After he won, it was time to find out where he’s supposed to go next.  One would think that the coaches have this knowledge and would be willing to share it.  Nope.  One of Joe’s coaches said that I could go look at the brackets on the wall in the other building or I could just buy one.  What?!  The was the second time I heard the word ‘buy’ before ‘bracket’.  Okay, let me get this straight, I have to pay to know where my kid is supposed to be?  Seriously?!  The only cash I had was a $10 bill, neatly folded in a tiny envelope to give to an impoverished person if I happen to run into one.  No, I wasn’t expecting to run into one there, but the envelope was in my coat pocket if the opportunity presented itself.  Feeling odd, I took the cash out and bought a bracket.  And for those who know me well, no, I did not throw it away and yes, it will be an art project.  😉

Now I’ve heard about these crazy parents at sporting events, but this was my first time experiencing them.  The word ‘wow’ came to mind.  The parents were giving their kids advice, telling them what to do and what not to do.  Some were practicing moves, one guy even had his kid standing on his head to practice balance.  Hmm, maybe that’s how we’re supposed to achieve balance in our lives, let’s all stand on our heads.

Studying these intense parents, I had to wonder if I’m a sucky parent because I just want my kids to enjoy what they do, support them and cheer for them without trying to make them into competitive animals.  We had to wait a long time in between matches, kids and parents pulling out their electronic pacifiers to deal with the boredom.

It was almost Joe’s turn again, but first ‘Hoss’ was up.  I won’t even get started on that.  His parents were right in front of me, yelling at him, shouting loudly at him, all of the moves he’s supposed to do and not do.  It seemed to me like Hoss was struggling to do his best, distracted by his obtrusive, pushy parents, attempting to listen to his coach and sporting a look of confusion and defeat.  At the end of this particular match, his mom looked over to his dad, as she had no idea what just happened.  Did he win or lose?  She was as clueless as I was.

Yes, that was a long-winded story and I know you’re asking, “What does any of this have to do with Christmas?”  It has a lot to do with Christmas.  Christmas chaos.  The chaotic vision of people all over the place, running around trying to accomplish a win, not unlike what you would see at the mall at Christmas time.

Our competitive nature has spilled over into Christmas.  Shopping has become a marathon, it’s even advertised that way.  Christmas decor has become a production, not just a simple display of our love of the season.  Who can buy the most gifts, put the most lights on their house and attend the most parties in less than 30 days, assuming they didn’t start before Black Friday?

The bigger problem here is that nobody seems to be enjoying it.  Sporting events used to be about supporting your team, now kids are playing portable video games and parents are playing with their mobile phones, distractions from the real meaning of the event.  Looking at the Facebook news feed, I see a lot of comments about having to shop and finally getting the tree up.  These types of comments do not have a happy tone.  The mood is unfortunate.  The drudgery of shopping for people that are on the ‘I have to buy for’ list.  The torture of trying to find the perfect gift or top last years perfect gift.  Having to attend the company ‘holiday’ party.  Tolerating the extended family.  Suffering through the repetitive motions of the season.

I also had to buy a ‘bracket’.  Really, they can’t provide a meaningful 3¢ piece of paper to the coaches?  Every ounce of my being did not want to make that purchase, however I did not have a choice.  Do we buy gifts because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do and we feel there is no choice?  Sadly, I believe the answer is yes.  This year, our gifts will be thoughtful and meaningful, as I’m choosing to ditch the social ‘I have to buy’ expectation.  My kids and I are giving money to many worthy charitable causes in the name of all the people we are expected to buy gifts for this Christmas.

And what did Hoss learn yesterday?  Did he walk away yesterday feeling loved and supported or feeling like a failure because he didn’t accomplish the mission set before him?  Is he wrestling because he enjoys it or because he’s trying to appease his parents?  Are we celebrating Christmas for the right reasons?  Once Christmas day arrives, what have we achieved?  More stuff, less joy and in most cases, a lot of debt.  Are we any closer to Christ?

I hope I can feel the Christmas spirit on Christmas day, without my decoder ring.  I have some good ideas about how to feel the Christmas spirit, but yesterday’s experience has moved me a little bit away from it.


20 days until Christmas…

I have to say, committing to write everyday until Christmas is taking a lot of time and energy, but I’m enjoying it. This blogging idea started out as a fun way to share my funny photo finds of crazy Christmas yard decor, but turned into more than that, I wanted to document the process of what an upside-down Christmas looks like for me and my family.  These blogs are a bit more wordy than I had anticipated, but it they do tell the story, and in great detail.

The idea to write everyday was inspired by several people.  Hank Stuever, for the way he can write about something controversial, yet word it to not be offensive, while painting a picture of the truth.  The book Tinsel really has to make a person evaluate how they do Christmas.  My assesment?  If this book doesn’t give you some food for thought, then you need to find something that does.  Allison Harrell, for her amazing writing skills.  I will never type as fast as her (she has a letter jacket for typing), but I want to enhance my communication skills.  Writing is not an easy thing for me like it is for her, or easy like photography, graphic design or altered art, but I do enjoy it with a sick kind of love / hate relationship.  Another person is Jackson Robinson.  He has committed to doing a painting everyday and he blogs it.  These tiny masterpieces are painted by him every morning and look like they should be hanging in a gallery.  Unbelieveable detail!  And Robert Leahey, who took on a challenge to write a novel in one month, and successfully accomplished his mission.

Words are my friend.  I feel better after journaling pages of handwritten words, I love doing typography art and my opinionated side loves to share my views with words.  Even with all of those positive word attributes, words are also my enemy.  I struggle to find them, I have a difficult time articulating them and my brain thinks in pictures, not words.

Turning Christmas upside-down has been a wonderful experience so far, but it came with some unexpected returns, deep feelings and a better understanding of my life and the way I live it.  An experience of which I hope to put into words.  Besides taking the money I would have spent on gifts for people and giving it to great causes, I still want to give something meaningful to my family and friends for Christmas.  Something that is an expression of how I feel about them and something that inspires their creativity.  I came up with the perfect thing, but I’m still in the creation process.  It’s my little Christmas secret.  I guess you’ll have to keep coming back and reading to find out what it is, or wait until you get one.

I guess I must really love words because I’m a book junkie.  I have five bookcases in my house filled with books, an no, I didn’t pay full price for any of them.  Over the years I have made several trips to Gladewater and there’s a small mom and pop type bookstore I’ve always wanted to visit.  Most of the time I was there on Sunday and the bookstore was closed.  Friday, it was open.  I like buying books that have had previous owners, not only to save money, but for the chance of finding a book with a personal note in it, handwritten sentiments to someone I don’t even know.  It’s like getting two stories in one, the story in the book and the found mysterious story.  I love creating the rest of their story and incorporating it into my own.

As I was shopping in there for gifts for some of my close friends, I realized the books didn’t have any prices on them.  I brought a stack to the front and asked where I could find the prices.  The man at the counter said, “I’ll look them up, tell you the prices, then you can argue with me.”  I immediately took a liking to him.  I shopped a little longer, taking in the pleasing scent of old books, then finally made my way to the counter to argue with Pete.  Pete and I talked for a long time about books, photography, art, Bible translations and people.  I was telling him I could never work there because I would want to take everything home.  He said I was too interesting to work there.  That made me smile, as I like the word interesting more than quirky or weird.

Toward the end of our conversation, Pete was looking up a few books for me.  I asked, “What did we ever do before Wikipedia and Google?”  He replied, “We argued.”  Now I’m really liking this guy.  Pete, being of a slightly older generation than myself, and from what I could tell, progressively embracing the electronics age, I had to ask.  “So, are you on Facebook?”  Unfortunately he is not there… yet.  He’s about to purchase a new digital camera and wanted some tips so I gave him my email address.  He said, “I’m going to contact you and ask you camera questions.  I guess you could just ignore my emails if you don’t want me bugging you.”  I replied, “Nah, you’re too interesting to ignore.”

I gathered my new-old books, and headed for the car.  Pete told me about an abandoned church right up the road, so of course, I had to stop there before heading home to Frisco.  Words… books… what does any of this have to do with deep feelings and understanding life?  I’ll tell you.

Shopping, or as I prefer to call it, treasure hunting for meaningful books made me think a lot more about the relationships in my life.  Not just my friends and family, but in a deeper sense, people that are close to me, people that are acquaintances and people that I don’t even know.  I’m not one of those crying, emotional types, as a matter of fact, I missed that line when God was passing out those genes.  My face leaks about once a year, just to clean out the cobwebs in my tear ducts.  I don’t express emotion through tears, I do it through art.  Words are an art form, one I am learning, just like learning to have more meaningful relationships in my life.  I have a deeper appreciation of the people I know, an admiration of their uniqueness and an understanding of what an important role that plays in all of our lives.

I don’t know if it was the death of my cousin or searching for meaningful gifts, or maybe it’s just the loneliness of the holiday season, but I have experienced some life change.  It’s a feeling I have never felt before and one that I cannot put into words.  I have a desire to live differently.  This isn’t a passing thing, I have acted on it and am reordering my life around it.

The icons of Christmas that started this writing adventure are not the plastic Santa statues or the many strands of mismatched colored lights.  The icons of Christmas are people, from the impoverished guy on the street corner with his ‘need help’ sign to my closest family and friends.  The most important Christmas icon of all is Jesus, and I don’t mean the plastic one.  The eight pound, six ounce baby Jesus that was born on December 25th.

Words to sum this up?  If you are planning on turning Christmas upside-down, you better put on your seatbelt.  It will turn your life upside-down.


22 days until Christmas…

God is awesome!  He arranged some ‘bonus’ family time.  I usually don’t have my boys on Thursdays, but he knew we needed some crazy, fun, out of the ordinary time together.  We ditched homework, house work and everything else we didn’t really want to do.

We went to the hospital to see a friend’s new baby, then to the store to buy candy for our Christmas boo bags.  (Christmas boo bags will be explained in a future post)  We also bought some hot chocolate and lots of marshmallows, now prepared to start our new family tradition… Santa shooting.  Again (from yesterday’s post), this is not with a gun, it’s with a camera.  We picked up a couple of the boys friends and took off in the car to look for quirky Christmas yard art and photograph it.  Oh, and we had our hot chocolate, each cup with enough marshmallows for six cups.

People in west Frisco don’t seem to enjoy the hazy plastic people yard art, unless it’s in the form of a nativity scene.  The west ‘Friskies’, as Hank Stuever calls them, are on the conservative side with yard decor, that is, everything with the exception of lights.  There were basically three types of lights.  First, the ‘hired’ lights.  These people spared no expense in purchasing lights and they were clearly hung by professional elves.

Second, the ‘I have lights on my house because it’s a Christmas expectation’.  These lights are sometimes required by the HOA, but probably more often a husband putting up the three strands of lights in an awkward manner to check it off his honey-do list.

Third, the ‘bountiful jumble’.  These houses have as many strands of lights as they can possibly place on the outside electrical system without blowing a fuse.  These random sets of non-matching lights have strands added every year.  Half of the yard is traditional lights, the new strands are the bright LED’s.  Basically, they have replicated the WalMart sample light display into their yard.  After these people put their lights up, they most likely look up and down the street to be sure they have clearly won the “I have the most lights” contest.

Although I was disappointed not to see yards filled with Christmas weirdness, I can always find a photo opportunity.  This one was light painting.  Instead of trying to explain this, I’ll just post the photos.

The kids got to play, we learned some new photography skills, but most importantly, we all had some great family and friend fun time.  Living differently, a tinselectomy of sorts.  More tomorrow…


a friend-ly reminder

This is what happens when you have creative friends, a broken key on your PowerBook and a spare 5 minutes.

mac buddies

So just messing around with Jerod’s broken laptop… we thought, “Hey?! Wonder what the old keys would look like with the new lit PowerBook??” So it started. We changed out the ‘:’ key that keeps popping off. It looked cool, so then we had to switch out one of the Apple keys. Then Jerod said, “We have to switch some of the letters too”. So he choose 8 letters that spell three words. (Thus the ‘3’ key that I switched out) Can you guess the three words? Letters may be used multiple times.

a e d r y n j o

I’ll post the answer in a few days. Unless of course someone gets it.


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