if you’re not feeling the whole new year party thing…..

Here it is.

December 31.

I’ve been asked so many times, “Big plans for New Year’s Eve?” or “What are y’all doing for the Big Night?”  (and they say it just like that, capital letters and all)

Ummmm, not so much.  Hope to be in bed before the ball drops.

Then there are the well-intentioned folks who ask about New Year’s Resolutions.

Yeah, I don’t do those either.

Sometimes, when I share that I don’t make resolutions, I am then asked the question, “Well, what are your plans and dreams for 2014?”

No.  I once did that, but not anymore.  It’s just too much.

This year I am having to treat today and tomorrow as just another day.  Because that’s how I have to take things to cope, to be able to keep breathing.  One day, sometimes one moment, at a time.  If I sit down and reflect over this year or wax poetic about the turning of the calendar, the ticking of the clock, Father Time and all his ways, then I will break down.  I just cannot go there.   Not and be able to get back up again.

I used to make a big fuss over New Year’s Eve.  One of the best ever was on NYE of 1999.  That’s right, ringing in the Y2K.  Quite exciting actually, not being sure if the power would still be on or our identities would be wiped clean at 12:01 a.m.  Just to be safe we’d stocked up with every snack imaginable–mostly in the beige food group so loved by people age five and under.  That’s right, it was me and my Joyful sisterfriend partying like it was 1999 with our three girls–two who were age four, and then there was Baby J, who had just turned two.  I’m talking serious partying, people.  So much so that at 10:00 p.m. we told them it was midnight, gave them some sparkling cider, rang in the New Year with whistles and cheers, and sent their precious little selves to bed.  Best night ever!  Me and my sisterfriend and our girls–just the way it was so often during that time of our life.  That is a memory I will always treasure. Another favorite NYE celebration was in 2005.  It was me, Mess Cat, and my two girls–one ten and one a year old– partying with the Disney Channel countdown.  We partied right that year too, y’all.  I miss those Disney countdowns.  During the Times Square one tonight I kept having to ask Aub who the artists were…..so I finally gave up.

Last year, I was hopeful.  Literally–filled with hope.  We had made it through a year without my Daddy.  It had been a hard year, but Mama was making plans.  Plans for the future.  And I felt strong enough to do some of that too.  I had my “word” for 2013 picked out, and I was ready, if not eager, to move on into the new year–2013.

So much for that.

2013 came at us, after us it seemed, with twists and turns and pains and heartbreaks that we could not have anticipated.  Yes, there was some joy too–a real, not very much fun roller coaster of a year.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.  I’m not reflecting on the year tonight, remember?

So no resolutions.  No plans.  No dreams.  Just a day to day coping.  Some days that’s as good as it gets.  And I’m okay with that.  I will honor the traditions of New Year’s Day that I was raised with–I won’t do laundry AT ALL, I will eat blackeye peas and greens, and I will try and love on folks because whatever you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do all year long…..y’all knew that, right?  But other than that.  Just.  Another.  Day.  It just has to be.

This and homemade guacamole--our attempts to make it a party.

This and homemade guacamole–my attempts to make it a party for my babies.

For the sake of my littles, I tipped my hat to today and its significance with a little party fun, and they decorated their ice cream cone trees tonight.  (Yes, we are a week behind, thank you for noticing.  It’s been that kind of Christmas season.)  They laughed, they decorated, they snuck candy, and they are STILL AWAKE.  I am thinking a replay of NYE 1999 might need to come into play.  *sigh*  This Mama is ready to call it a night.

Tonight I am thankful for sisterfriends and sisters who love for a lifetime, who remember, and who show up when you need them most.  I am thankful for the freedom to not celebrate tonight–the gift of another quiet night at home with my family, even though the homemade guacamole was worth a whoot whoot or two, if I do say so myself as shouldn’t.  Most of all, I am thankful for the good memories I have that I can wrap myself in like a blanket to keep me warm in the cold days of January.

As my Mama often said, “Happy Everyday!”


When I still lived at home, I would always point out on New Year’s Day that I hadn’t had a shower since last year, so I’d better go take one. *insert your uncontrollable laughter at my razor wit here* Since moving away from home, each year I would call Mama on New Year’s morning and say something cheesy like, “Mama, I haven’t talked to you since last year!  Hey, how’ve you been?”  I will miss doing that.  So if your phone rings and it’s me and my cheesiness on the other end, please don’t roll your eyes or sigh too loudly.  It’s a tradition, after all. 

Expectations, Script Writing, and the End of the World

Today a wise friend shared with me this sage advice that someone shared with her.



I am a script writer from way back.  For as far back as I can remember I have plotted and played out in my mind how something should/could go.  I don’t know when it started, it’s just what I do.  When a twist or turn happens in life, the wheels immediately start turning on how to bring it back around.  How to fix it.  To incorporate the “plot twist” into where I wanted the script to go.  Ummm, yes.  And then it inevitably happens.

I get disappointed.

Because sometimes (and only occasionally, mind you) it’s not all about me.

And sometimes it’s someone else’s issues and choices and I just need to let it go.  Because no amount of script writing on my part can change someone else.  And when I forget that and think it can, I set myself up for the disappointment.

Why do I do that to myself?

I am thankful to know that I’m not the only one.  And to realize that, as my Mama would say, “This too shall pass.”  Most likely my disappointments and hurt feelings won’t kill me.  Yeah, they knock me for a loop, but it’s not the end of the world.  It might feel like it at the time, but more than likely, it’s really not the end.

I found a great story of another person who is a script writer, and it’s so funny, she actually recycles scripts–those from movies.  She took a trip to IKEA and had it all planned out how it should go.  It was supposed to be so fabulous.  And of course it was not the movie theater/happy ending experience she  had hoped it would be.  That she expected it to be.  She too shared the bit of advice my friend shared with me.  And then she shared this little tidbit:

I think it’s wonderful to know that while disappointments might not be fun or taste really great sometimes, they most likely will not kill us.  Check out her blog here.  It’s a delightful read.  And I highly recommend reading it when you are suffering from disappointment or have a refrigerator with only baby carrots in it.  Her story is the spoonful of sugar that Mary Poppins sang about.

Tonight I wish for us all some joy and laughter and a friend to remind us to let go and that it will be okay…..eventually.  A friend to have our back and to bring us baby carrots when we need to be reminded of the light and laughter in life.

May you continue to have merry memory-making!  Love to all.

Paying Attention to Who’s Paying Attention

While watching the Britcoms last night, a rare but much loved treat, something caught my eye.  On New Year’s Eve at 9:30 p.m. EST on Georgia Public Broadcasting, they are showing “Oklahoma.”  What made me really take notice was the actor playing Cowboy Curly.

Hugh Jackman.

I know, right?  Who knew?

“Wolferina” as my little guy calls him.

Hugh Jackman as Curly in "Oklahoma."  From http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/11/08/hugh-jackman-oklahoma/

Hugh Jackman as Curly in “Oklahoma.” From http://popwatch.ew.com/2013/11/08/hugh-jackman-oklahoma/

Only this is the role that gave him his start and caused him to be noticed back in 1998.  A year later he took on the role for which he’s most known for the first time.


Even if I had made big partying plans for New Year’s Eve (I haven’t), I would still make sure I got to see this by recording it.  I like “Oklahoma,” though it’s not my favorite.  Still, I am intrigued at the thought of seeing Hugh Jackman in this role, so yes, I will make every effort to watch it.  I love to see someone step outside of the expected box they’ve been put in.  I have all kinds of respect for the actors and actresses I’ve seen take time to speak out for St. Jude’s, for example–Jennifer Anniston and Robin Williams are the first two who come to mind.  I also love it when well-known performers make decent family films that can be watched by all around the holidays (or anytime).  I appreciate their choice in that.

Isn’t it interesting?  These famous people we watch from afar can have us learning about something new, watching something new, reading and discussing new issues–or old ones in a different way.  Just because they take part in it.  Or speak their minds.  Or share their own personal opinions.  I remember trying a genre of show I never would have before because Dougray Scott was going to star in it–you know, he’s the Prince from Ever After with Drew Barrymore, one of my very favorite movies.  I couldn’t stick with the show, but the fact that he played the lead had me trying it.

Mama and Daddy used to say, “With great privilege comes great responsibility.”  That’s what I had on my mind as I thought about Hugh Jackman having a role in this musical.  And how some actors and actresses get involved in political or social justice issues as well.  They influence us, don’t they? Sometimes we even give them to power to influence how we think, what we watch, what our opinions are.

That’s something I wish many of them would keep in mind.  That people are watching.  And taking notice.  It’s like when Oprah chose her favorite things every year.  She had so much power to educate people about fair trade and gifts that make a difference.  But no.  When these “stars” share their personal opinions and their “fans” take them to heart, they can have friends arguing and family members divided.  It’s a fine line they walk, isn’t it?

And then my conscience started talking to me.  Or maybe it was my Mama.  Either way, it occurred to me that while there may not be millions watching or listening or taking notice of my beliefs and lifestyle and thoughts on this and that, there are a few.  Three at least.  In my very own home.  And I need to watch what I say and do and how I act and what I support just as much as those stars in the movies and on TV do.  We all have the potential to influence and guide someone–for the worse or the better.  It’s our choice really.

I am looking forward to seeing Hugh Jackman in the role that gave him his start.  But I am also thankful to him and to PBS for the chance to think about whom I’m influencing and for the reminder that I have a chance to set an example and teach, with my actions matching my words and beliefs.  It’s a good thing for all of us to remember, isn’t it?  And what better time to start than right now, for as they say in the beginning lyrics to Oklahoma:

There’s never been a better time to start in life-
It ain’t too early and it aint too late!

What Does January Smell Like?

To embrace the seasons, since about October, I have enjoyed a scented candle from time to time.  I have had two big jar candles that I have alternated, depending on my mood that echo the sounds of the seasons, except you know, they smell like the seasons–a Maple Bacon (yes, I’m for real, and it is wonderful!) and a Gingerbread.  I just love the warm, vibrant, comforting scents of the fall and Christmas.

The sad end of my Gingerbread candle

The sad end of my Gingerbread candle

As good as the Maple Bacon smells, the Gingerbread must be my favorite because it, ironically enough, burned completely out last night.  I looked to see if I had another one and found that I do not.  *sigh*  I guess it’s time to let it go, isn’t it?

I love the way the smells trigger memories.  I read somewhere that smell is strongly related to memories.  I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I do know that certain smells can carry me back in time.  I smell a certain spice, and I think of my Daddy (don’t ask me why).  The smell of a certain lotion brings back hugs and Mama’s hands.  My Great Aunt comes to mind when I smell white Dove soap.  The smell of squash cooking in the summertime carries me back to the summers of my childhood.  The smell after a cool rain in the evenings takes me back to softball fields of my youth.  And so many more.

Today as I was finishing up a knitting project (yes, FINISHING! whoo hoo), I had a Christmas movie on the tv.  Despite the fact that this station is still playing Christmas movies, their advertisers have definitely moved into the New Year.  Not a single “After Christmas sale” advert–but they were abundant in diet and weight loss commercials.  Oh boy.  That makes me nuts.

So yes, January is well on its way, bringing with it a new number to remember when we write the date.  And it also brings with it all kinds of good intentions and pressures to change our ways.  Never mind all that this year (or next, as the case may be).  As I’ve shared before, I’m going to make January all about “Congratulations, you’ve made it!” instead of “How will you change all of your wrong ways about you?”  January and I are not close enough, never have been, for her to be asking me questions like that.

As I was cleaning up the kitchen earlier, I looked at the empty Gingerbread candle jar.  I wondered what scent I would look for now.  Which one?  I mean, really, what does January smell like?  Crisp and clean?  Subtle and light?  Nothing at all?

I have no idea.  But I’m pretty sure it’s not Maple Bacon.  If you have any ideas, please do share.  I have three days left to figure it out.  I’d really like to enter the New Year with light all around me.  I have a feeling I’m going to need it.

Merry Fourth Day of Christmas!  Love and light and good memory-triggering smells to all.

Kaleidoscope of Christmas Memories

1914 Santa Claus in japan

1914 Santa Claus in japan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a few things from this Christmas season SO FAR (’cause y’all know it ain’t over yet, right?)…..

–Playmobil packs their playset pieces in different plastic bags inside the boxes.  If there are “people” in the bag, the bag has air holes.  Just awesome, right?  (Thanks to my oldest Aub who discovered this in the very wee hours on Christmas morning.) I really think that’s just brilliant.  Love it.

–There was some weird stuff going on with the underwear this year.  The thing in our family lore is that if Santa really loves you he will bring you underwear.  (I was so hoping for some this year.)  As Santa was getting ready to fill the Fella’s stocking, he realized that the underwear, five pair I think, came in a resealable pack.  Uh, say what?  ‘Cause you need to be able to reseal your underwear in the package they came in? All righty then.  Also one of the pair that Santa was bringing to my oldest had a security tag still attached.  Y’all.  They were not expensive–I do happen to know that.  And the still present tag did not trip any alarm systems.  Short of taking them back to the store for the removal of said tag, we have no way of getting the it off.  I wonder what the store will think when we go walking in with one pair of underwear with the tag still on them.  Would you believe we didn’t walk out with them without paying to begin with?  *sigh*  I really don’t like it when things are harder than they should be.  (I mean, seriously, a security tag on underwear?  We’re not talking VS here…..it was a department store…..)

–Christmas Eve when we went to the candlelight service at 7 p.m., our Princess asked me where Santa was.  (Aren’t these apps amazing–they can actually track Santa!) I looked and saw that he was in Germany and that he was expected to arrive in our area in five hours (around midnight).  She immediately went into planning mode.  “Okay, as soon as Evening Prayer is over, we need to leave and get home as quickly as possible.  And I’m afraid we won’t be able to take baths tonight.  We have to get in the bed quick.”  Oh my.  In the end she did enjoy the candlelight service, and everyone did take care of personal hygiene as appropriate.  And they were in bed asleep before midnight.  But it was still after 3 before Santa called it a night at our house.  (It’s all about the magic, people.)

–On the way home from church that night, Princess and Cooter got in a conversation in the backseat about the naughty and nice list.  They were starting to get a little concerned about which list they might be on.  (Seriously, here at the very last minute?  Where was this concern at the beginning of the school year?  Last spring?  Two weeks ago?)  As they talked, our Princess took a deep breath as if to calm herself and said, “Well Santa Claus does forgive.”  And Cooter replied, “Yeah, like God does.”

That right there.  That’s why Santa/Saint Nicholas is still very much alive in our celebrations.  Because you can never have too many folks who love you unconditionally–through good and bad, wise and poor choices–like that.

–Christmas morning I was about to unwrap a gift labeled “from Cooter.”  He looked at it and said, “Well I don’t know what that is, so I can’t spoil it.”  Yeah.  He’s been the leak this Christmas.  And the peeker.  We set the tree up in a different room for the first time this year so we wouldn’t have to supervise the puppy around the tree and gifts.  It worked, except for figuring in that Cooter’s snooping would kick in this year.  He was peeking in bags and not completely sealed gifts.  His spoiling surprises is why I didn’t have him wrap anything for anyone until as late on Christmas Eve as I could wait.  Otherwise, it would have been, “Hey, I didn’t get you {insert what he DID get them here}.” Trust me, he’s done it.  Sigh.  There’s always next year, right?

–Some of our dear family friends wanted to share something that the sweet teenager didn’t play with or use anymore with our Princess.  I brought it out after things had settled down.  It was something that she couldn’t have gotten before or it would have given away what Santa was bringing.  When she opened the bag, knowing who had shared it with her, she teared up.  She put her hand over her mouth, and just stared in awe.  “Mama, I don’t have any words.  I love it.  I am speechless!”  I soaked in her appreciation and the twinkling in her eyes that wasn’t completely due to her tears, and I said, “Baby, when there are no words, a hug will usually do the job.”  That’s a Mama-ism right there.  I hope she remembers it.

–This was the year we used totes we had gotten from the GW Boutique for wrapping for the most part.  Not for all gifts, but when we could, we did, which cut down on our trash quite a bit.  And it also cut down on my stress level.  As I was wrapping a gift (with paper and tape) that was more than just a standard box shape, I thought about the fact that the tag would include my littles’ names on it.  Perhaps the recipient would assume that it had been wrapped by one of them.  I could be okay with that.  (Of course the littles might be insulted.  Sometimes they wrap better than I do.)

Perhaps my most favorite thing of this Christmas is that all three of my children said at one time or another that this was the best Christmas ever.  I am thankful for that.  And they said that, not knowing that Santa had tucked back a couple of things (things they had asked for) that they didn’t get until later. That Great North Polar Bear had been playing with them you see, so they were delayed  in arriving.  (If you don’t know about him, check out JRR Tolkien’s Letters From Father Christmas…..it’s a great book.)  Yeah, that’s the good stuff right there.

Merry third day of Christmas!

“The Little Lights, They’re Not Twinkling”

Y’all have all seen the movie, right?  National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation?  In the scene where Clark W. Griswold has been working so long and hard to hang lights all over the outside of their house, and finally, after one mishap, then another and another, the lights are on.  Power is diminished in the town, and the Griswold home can likely be seen from space.  And the sheer delight and joy on Clark’s face as he wishes each family member, wife, children, parents, in-laws, and Cousin Eddie a Merry Christmas!  It is magical.

And in the midst of his joy and peace, Clark’s father-in-law Art, after Clark has wished him a Merry Christmas and thanked him for being there to celebrate with his family, says, “The little lights.  They’re not twinkling.”

Sigh.  I always find myself sighing for poor Clark.

“Thanks for noticing, Art.”

Poor Clark.

He worked so hard to make this Christmas magical for those he loves, and what he gets is a bit short of the appreciation he deserves.

I understand his letdown.

Speaking of Christmas shows, has anyone seen Alvin and the Chipmunks’ Christmas?  In it Alvin gives away his special harmonica to a very sick little boy in the hopes it will lift his spirits and help him get well.  He doesn’t tell Dave, who is expecting Alvin to perform with his harmonica at the Christmas concert.  When Alvin goes to the store in the hopes of buying another one, he finds he cannot afford it.  A sweet “little old lady” comes up and, for reasons I missed because I was doing the dishes, tells Alvin that it would help her and bring her joy to buy the harmonica for a young fellow and would he let her buy it for him?  Problem solved.  At the very end of the show, Santa Claus makes his trip and goes home, walking into the living room where Mrs. Claus sits knitting in front of the fire.  She asks how his trip was, and he tells her it was good, she really should come with him sometime, she needs to get out of the house.  She tells him oh no, she’ll leave all that to him.  And then as he starts snoozing, she turns around and looks at the camera and winks.  And it’s HER.

Magic.  Right there.

My oldest talks about her “spirit animal” and makes me laugh when she tells me who it is.  Well.

So yeah. Walt Disney is my spirit animal.

Actually a combination of him and Mrs. Claus.  With maybe a little Clark thrown in for good measure.

I love being a part of the making of the magic.

Of creating and orchestrating it.  Of lighting things up.

It’s my favorite part of the whole Christmas experience.  Probably why I’m up until 3 a.m. most years.  The staging and creating and setting up the magic.  Wanting it to be just so.  After weeks of preparation, it all comes down to this night.

And then, Christmas morning comes all too soon.  (Well not according to my children, but you know.)  And while their little eyes dance and the house is filled with laughter and the smell of apple cider and the sound of creative play and working together to build and tell stories, the magic is like fire it is so bright.  It is like the moment when the Griswold house is finally all lit up.  (I can almost hear the Hallelujah chorus, or at least “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” playing in my head.)

And then the day after comes.  December 26.  I put the Christmas music on to play, and I clean up the aftermath of the meals from the day before.  (Yes, I filled the sink and left it.  Don’t judge.  It happens–just keeping it real.)  And for whatever reason, I feel like Clark, when Art points out one small thing missing in the midst of all the beauty.  And my heart is heavy.  The tears want to come, and I’m not quite sure why.

So if you are like me, and the day of December 26 is hard for you, know you are not alone.  I understand.  I envy those who have extended family to celebrate with and continue their “Christmas-ing” on through the weekend.  We went to eat with Mess Cat and her family tonight, and it was fun, but I did not hear a single “Merry Christmas” anywhere.  I’m the weirdo who wants to keep saying it straight through to January 6, Epiphany.  But I didn’t.  I just didn’t.

Maybe that’s exactly why the person who wrote the Twelve Days of Christmas wrote it.  I looked and could not find who it was attributed to, but maybe it was someone who needed to carry on with the joy and the magic and the lights for more than just one day.

Tonight I wish for you, if you are struggling with a Christmas that didn’t quite go as planned–the lights didn’t twinkle as advertised, a gift didn’t go over as you’d hoped, someone you care about didn’t make time to visit, you feel lost and sad as you’re missing someone this Christmas, or you just don’t even know what it is, just know that something’s out of place today–know that it is okay.  It’s not a good feeling, but you are not alone.  You’re not crazy or sick or maladjusted.  (Or if you are, there’s at least two of us.)  Even if it’s because you didn’t get the one thing you would have really loved to receive as a gift, it’s okay, you are not selfish.  You are human. We really set ourselves up, don’t we?  The Walt Disneys and Mrs. Clauses and Clark Griswolds and the Merry Magic Makers of the world.  We work hard to make beautiful and fun things happen, to create the “holiday experience” that we hope will bring joy to others, sometimes even for folks we have never met.  And then in the end, we are left with an empty theater, a sleeping Santa and elves, dirty cookie sheets in the sink, and someone to point out the one thing or several that didn’t go as planned.  (And sometimes that someone is our very own selves.)  And today our hearts hurt for what we didn’t get to do, for what there wasn’t time or resources to make happen, for the Christmas books not read, the homemade gifts or ornaments or cookies not made, the movies not watched, the visits not planned–all of the things we told ourselves back late December last year or this November would happen.  This Christmas would be different.

Grace, my friends, grace.  For you and for me.  It’s okay.

I’m trying to tell myself it’s okay that the lights aren’t twinkling, despite my best, frantic efforts.  (Yes, some days I did feel like Clark when he was swinging from the ladder with no one to spot him.)  I’m trying not to set up grand expectations for next year.  It’s all about making the magic the best I can in that moment.  And if the lights don’t twinkle, then well, maybe I need to step outside the box and open and close my eyes really fast.  You know, come up with another way to make it happen.  And other things I just have to let go.

Because I think that people don’t remember Walt Disney’s flops as much as they do the great ones–like Mary Poppins (yes the new movie is on my want to do list).  I’m betting Clark’s family didn’t remember years later that the lights didn’t twinkle that year.  After all, it was amazing!  And I’m hoping that I will be able to hold on to the magic that did happen this year, and not think about all the things I couldn’t or didn’t make happen.  After all, Mrs. Claus is only one person, same as you and me.  Don’t be down because not everyone recognized your efforts. Or be disappointed in yourself.  The most important thing is to love on folks as best we can.  And as often as we can.

That’s the magic I remember most about my Mama.  She could make any moment magical with her love and generosity and a laugh that could shake her whole body when she got really tickled.  Tonight, as I close my eyes and hope for sleep to come, that’s what I will remember and think about.  And give thanks for.  Because while I am sure that missing her is part of where the blues from today are coming from, I know that she would have none of that.  “Let’s make it a happenin’!” she’d say when we needed something to boost our spirits.  My friends who are struggling today, know you are loved, no matter what holiday magic you were or were not able to create. No matter what you are carrying on your hearts and minds.  Go and love on somebody that needs you.  Let someone love on you.  And share some laughter.  And most of all, let someone close to you know they matter.  That is a gift we all really want, isn’t it?  Best of all, it’s free for the giving.

And hey, don’t worry about those little lights not twinkling…..if they’re on at all you done good, Clark, real good.  😉    (…..and if they’re not, I won’t tell.  ‘Course in my book, you still have ten days left to turn them on…..only if you want to)

Merry Christmas to all!

(there, I said it, and it felt great!)


Christmas Movies You Really Must See

Last night at the Christmas Eve candlelight service at Bare Bulb Coffee, which is also our church, my sweet pastorfriend shared two videos.  Both were powerful and made us think and laugh…..and cry.

‘Tis the season, no?

In the words of Patricia Polacco’s Uncle Vova in her children’s (and all ages) book Uncle Vova’s Tree: “We remember.”

We remember the story, the story that we honor and celebrate this day each year.  We remember those who have gone before, those who have taught us traditions and right and wrong and who have loved us.  And loved us well.

Last night the first video was from children at St. Paul’s Anglican Church of Auckland, New Zealand and it was their way of remembering.  The story they tell is old and yet very new.  I hope you have time to watch this delightful and wonderful video of the story before the story.  (And if you have a little more time, look for their other Christmas story videos they’ve done over the years.)

“Brilliant.  They won’t be expecting that.”

That’s the theme of my life these days, I think. Things I’m not expecting.  And you know what?  It is kinda sorta brilliant.

The second video is of a beautiful young actress sharing Mary’s story from Mary’s own perspective.  This actress is so gifted that I feel as though I really am listening to Mary.  And I cry.


“If this is what God wants, then this is what I choose.”

Oh my stars.  I wish I could say that with her conviction.  But sometimes what we are asked, what I am asked, is so heavy and hard, I don’t know that I can even comprehend what it will take.  I can come up with all kinds of excuses not to do it, though I know it is what God wants.  Oh to have Mary’s faith and conviction…..

And yet she is human.  She feels as all mothers likely do.  I know I have these struggles.  Daily.  And I love her for sharing them.

“I wonder who he is…..I wonder if I’ve failed him as a mother.  I wonder if he knows who he is.”

And she has her doubts.  Have you ever had something happen in your life when “God comes close” and you think you will never be the same again…..and then time and distance and the trials of life move you away from it, and you have a hard time remembering?  And feeling that it all was real?  I have.  And Mary has too.

“I want so much to believe, but sometimes it feels beyond me.”

Oh my aching heart.  I know.  I get it.  Mary, my sister, I understand.  And I shed my tears in tandem with your own.  This living this life–it’s not for the faint of heart, is it?

Tonight I am thankful for our pastorfriend sharing these wonderful videos that have touched my heart and fed my soul this Christmas.  I am thankful we shared these as a family, laughing over the precious angels together.  And I am thankful that I found hope and encouragement in this version of Mary’s story, the honest story of a young mother who is trying to remember the magic of being close, feeling close to God.  The wonder of being chosen and serving as God chooses.

And I am thankful that God loves me through it all, the good times and sad, the faithful seasons and the seasons of doubts.

Y’all know I believe in Christmas for a season, not just one day, so don’t let tomorrow send you back away from this time of being close, of magic and wonder, of a star shining bright in the darkness.  Go out, love on somebody you meet.  In the words of an angel, I recently met: “Those blokes could use some cheering up.”  And really, couldn’t we all?  Pass it on, share some cheer–my guess is it will find its way back to you.

Merry Christmas!





Merry Christmas!

One of my most treasured and favorite people in this world, she who has listened and loved and given grace and shared wisdom and been there to hug me when my heart was breaking, gave me this gift yesterday. It was just what I wanted and needed this Christmas. How about you?

May you have peace, sweet peace, and harmony, golden harmony, today and everyday–Merry Christmas!

Love to all.

The Man from Hollywood…..and the Christmas Spirit

This afternoon I made a trip up to Daybreak.  We weren’t officially having our Sister Circle today, but since the shelter is closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I wanted to go up and see our friends and wish them a Merry Christmas.

As I was saying goodbye to Mac and wishing him a good Christmas, I gave him a hug and noticed that his coat was damp.  The perils of living outside.  When it rains, everything you owns gets wet.  It is hard–this balancing loving someone whose choices put his very life at risk.  He has other options, other resources.  This is his choice at this time, I have to keep reminding myself.  It still didn’t keep me from worrying about the wind that was getting colder by the minute and him in those damp clothes as he limped away to his “camp” with his friends.

I was lost in my thoughts, standing on the sidewalk outside Daybreak watching him go, when this gentleman carrying two bags stopped and said hello. I turned toward him.

“You volunteer here, don’t you?” he asked.

“Yessir, I do.”

He stuck his hand out and introduced himself.  “I’m Sanford Robertson.  I’ve been in Macon twenty-three days now.  I’m from Hollywood, Florida.”

My mouth dropped.  “Hollywood, Florida?  Really?  My Mama was born there.”

He smile grew bigger.  He asked me if it was a specific hospital.  I couldn’t be sure and told him so.  I told him how I’d misunderstood when I was little about Mama being born in Hollywood, as you might imagine.

He laughed.  “Yes.  A lot of people get them mixed up.  It’s not THAT Hollywood.”

Y’all. I felt like I had a wink from my Mama.  Especially with the next words he said.

“You know there’s a blessing coming for you, right?  You just have to hang on a little while longer.  But yes ma’am, there’s one coming for you.”

I felt like Mama was there encouraging me again.  Hang in there.  It will be okay.  Oh my heart.

Mr. R continued to share his story.  He’s in town because he trusted someone, a fiancée, a little too much, followed her here, and gave her all his money. After which she was no longer his fiancée.  And so he’s stuck here.  Until he can work something else out.

In the meantime, he walks the streets of Macon making people smile and blessing them.  And sharing the spirit of Christmas and the Spirit.

Last week he found himself at the bus station.  There was a young woman there, crying her eyes out. “She was a child really,” he said.  “Twenty-two years old.  Babies having babies.  She has two.”

He approached her and asked, “Why are you crying, child?”

She sobbed harder.  He stood there until she could gather herself and speak again.  Turns out she was in a hard place.  She and her sister live in a home together with their four little ones between them–the youngest less than two months old.  She can’t pay the bills and she’s scared.

Mr. R offered to pray with her.  She nodded.  They joined hands and he prayed.  He’s a preacher’s kid, so he’s heard a few in his life.  After the prayer, she thanked him and he started to walk away.

“You ever have one of those moments when the Spirit taps you on the shoulder and wants you to do something, and you look around sure that He’s got the wrong person?  That He doesn’t really mean YOU?”

Ummm, once or twice, yessir.  Sure have.

“Well, the Spirit told me I should offer her the groceries I was about to pick up from the Mission.  I shook my head, and I kept on walking.  At least I tried to.  Yeah, I tried to keep on walking away, but it’s like my feet were frozen in place.  You know what I mean?”

I do.  We’ve all got a bit of Jonah in us, don’t we?

He sighed.  “Well, I finally figured out I wasn’t going to be leaving without doing what the Spirit wanted me to do, so I turned back around, and I told her where I was heading and that whatever I had coming my way was hers.  Hers and that family of hers.”

He tugged at his jacket.  The wind was picking up a bit. He continued his story. “Then she asked me, ‘Just tell me this one thing.  Why do you want to do this?’ and I told her, ‘I don’t want to do this.  But I’m going to.'”

I laughed.  He chuckled too.

“Well, I went on down to the Mission.  I told the man there, I was straight with him, that things had changed a bit, and that I had a friend who was in a bad way.  Worse than I was.  And he loaded me down with a ham, turkey, case of peanut butter, rice……” He listed all the things he could remember receiving.  They were very generous.  He estimated it was $75-$80 worth of groceries.  But I’m telling you I went to the store just the other day.  It was worth a lot more than that.

Mr. R started thinking about how he was going to get all of these groceries across town.  “That devil was trying to get me to keep those groceries for myself, I can tell you that.  From the moment I tried to walk away from her, he was a’tryin’ to change my mind.  But I was having none of that.  I used to be full of foolishness, but God’s working on me, and I’m not going to go back on my word that easy.”

He stood outside the Mission.  He had $3 to his name, all in his pocket.  He offered it to a few folks to drive him over to the young woman’s home.  Seems they all were headed in a different direction.  Again that devil was offering him an out.  Then he saw a grocery cart close by.  Just there, belonging to nobody.  So he loaded everything in it.  And tried to figure out how he was going to push that heavy cart all the way to her home.

“Then I seen one of them homeless fellas from down here [Daybreak] walk by.  I told him I had $3 and that was all I had, but it was all his if he’d help me push this cart over to her house.”  He paused and waved his arm out.  “We pushed that thing up all them hills, but you know, he stuck with me the whole time.”

When he got there, the young woman wasn’t home.  Her sister was, and she could scarce believe her eyes.  He opened their refrigerator and there was a half jug of milk and a bottle of water.  And that was all.  Hardly anything in their pantry either.  And they weren’t going to get any more assistance before January 1.

Y’all.  I can’t even.

He unloaded, and the sister timidly asked him a question.  “Mr. R?  Do you mind if I give you a hug?”

He said he has granddaughters older than these girls, and that when that “child” hugged him, she held on tight.  “You just don’t know how you’ve saved us,” she said.  “You just don’t know.”

The young woman who hadn’t been home when he made his delivery called him at the shelter later on.  She, too, was in tears.  “I had no idea you’d bring this much.  Thank you.  Thank you so much.”

By now the clouds were gathering and turning into shades of dark gray.  My sweatshirt that had been too warm on the ride up to Macon was nowhere near enough as I stood there listening to Mr. R’s story.  I was thankful he had on a few more layers.

“So you see, like I told her then, there’s a blessing coming, child.  I don’t know from where or when, but you hang on.  It’s coming.  One day.  It will come.” He asked me my name.  I told him. “For you too, Tara.  It’s coming.”

I looked at Mr. R, and for a moment, I was really puzzled.  Could it be that this man, who was headed out this afternoon, walking to the Salvation Army in the hopes of finding a bed for the night, had not a clue that HE was her blessing?  And in many ways–mine for today?

As we parted ways, me not sure if I would ever see him again or if I would get to hear how his story turned out, I gave thanks for Mr. R and his story.  And his birth and life in Hollywood, Florida.  And for his ways, so much like my Mama’s, who also would have given the shirt off her back if someone needed it.  Or her ham and turkey and last $3.  Whatever it took.

What a story for Christmas!  And everyday.  He reminds me of The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.  He was interruptible, and he changed lives with his gift.  I wonder if those little ones looked at the man coming through the door with all those goodies loaded in a grocery cart, and thought that Father Christmas, Santa Claus himself, had arrived at their door.

The Spirit called him, and he answered.  May it be so with all of us.  (And God, when (not if, I’m afraid) I try to walk away, please freeze my feet too!)

Love to all.  And to all a good night.  Sleep well, Mac, I pray you are somehow miraculously warm and dry.  And Mr. R, may you sleep the slumbers of a soul done good, and those little ones and the sisters with full tummies, may you dream the sweet dreams of those who have been touched by love, a love that asks for nothing in return.  The true Spirit of Christmas.  And the Spirit of every day.

Making the Season Last…..

Yesterday evening one of my friends mentioned to me that she had seen some Cherry Cordial ice cream somewhere.  She mentioned this because she knows how much I love those things–they make me think of my Daddy.  We always wrapped up a box for him and put them under the tree.

As we were talking about how good we knew it would be and wondering where she saw them, I said, almost forlornly, “They’re probably for the holiday season only.”

We both sighed.  She said, “Yeah.  Probably so.”

Isn’t that the saddest thing?  All the good things that will be over on December 26th?

I spend a lot of time and energy on Christmas, working up to the day, as I’m sure many people do.  I really wish more people celebrated the Christmas “season”–from Christmas Day until Epiphany on January 6th.  Christmas movies–when I would actually have time to watch them, Christmas music to listen to and lift the spirits, and best of all–the spirit of folks around us–the giving spirit would carry on beyond December 25th.

I had an amazing retail experience yesterday.  I was shopping for a young man I’ve never met.  I have never shopped for a male that age before and I was clueless.  I only knew the brand of clothes he would like–nothing about styles.  I headed out, a little nervous and a whole lot lost.  When I got to the store, I guess I looked as lost as I felt, because the young sales associate asked me if I needed any help.


I mean, Yes please, if you don’t mind.

I explained what I was doing, how I didn’t have a clue what to get, and that I needed the best prices because I wanted to get him more than one outfit.  She nodded and led me around the store sharing with me the newly marked down prices on shirts, pants, hoodies, and so on.

For the love.  Bless her.

I probably seemed ancient to her, and yet she was patient and kind and made me feel like I could do this.

And so I did.

As I was checking out, another sales associate and I chatted about the holidays.  I told her how much I appreciated the help I’d gotten because I really wanted to do this right.  She asked me a couple of questions and started clicking on her computer.  She then gave me not one but two different discounts.  She wanted to be a part of helping this young man as well.  Bless her too.  I started crying.  I couldn’t help it.  I’m tired, it’s been a hard week, (and a hard decade for that matter), and I had no clue what I was doing.  And here she was, reaching out to help, and making a difference.  She stopped, and said, “Don’t cry.  It’s okay.”  And I think I blubbered something about how I could get him some shoes now.  I don’t know, I was so blown away by her kindness.  I gave her a heartfelt Happy Holidays/Merry Christmas and left the store, wishing I could have found better words to tell her how much her actions meant to me.

Because you know.  She so could have listened to me rambling and just nodded and done her job, and she would have been well within her rights to do just that.  I expected no different.  But no.  She stepped outside her “have to’s” and did what she could.  I love that.  I want to be just like her.

I was thinking about her and the limited seasonal ice cream and other things that are usually just a part of the holiday season–many of them my favorite things–white twinkly lights (no LED’s please, don’t get me started), Christmas music, excitement and anticipation in my children’s eyes and hearts, friendly greetings, and folks reaching out with a hand to help.

Occasionally we see these things after January 1, but it is something of an anomaly when we do–it’s almost like we don’t trust it, isn’t it?  I mean, what would you do if you found a container of “Santa’s Christmas” ice cream (I think that’s the name of it–it’s a delicious coffee flavor?) in the grocery store in May?  Would you trust the flavor, that it’s okay?  If someone tried to do something kind for you, and they couldn’t shrug it off with “hey, it’s Christmas” because it’s April?  I know it can happen, it just seems like on December 26th a lot of folks are ready to move on, pack up the tree and decorations and shut down the music and movies and get on to the next thing.

I’m happy for them, I really am.  But that’s not me.  I am thankful that I found a radio station that will play Christmas music straight through to New Year’s Eve.  And I just checked and it looks like Hallmark Channel will be showing Christmas movies through until then too.  It’s a start.  I just love the magic of the season, and I guess my heart wonders, just as Miss N of our Sister Circle asked, “Why’s it gotta be just one day?”  

Years ago I told myself I would give me the gift of the week after Christmas.  I would savor the season the whole week long.  Relax and remember.  Celebrate.  I recall a lady I once knew who gave a “Breaking Down Christmas” party every year, just a few days after Christmas.  It was not a New Year’s Eve party, it was a Christmas party.  Only it was AFTER the rush and bustle of Christmas Day, and it was awesome.  Everyone was relaxed and had a wonderful time.

I know some folks might argue that these things would lose their “specialness” if available year-round, but I don’t know.  So if you hear me humming a Christmas tune or see me digging in the freezer at the grocery store in search of Santa’s Christmas or Cherry Cordial ice cream or hear that I’m watching “White Christmas” in February, just chalk it up to whimsy and my quirky ways.   It’s just me, trying to hang on to the magic, and trying to make it last for more than just one day…..

because magic and love and kindness really never go out of season, do they?


Today I’ve had Keeping Christmas by Henry Van Dyke on my mind and heart….. it’s really special.  Very short, but so full of wisdom and beauty.  You can read it here.   Merry Memory-Making!