Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Big Christmas Buts

In the same way that the scent of cinnamon may remind you of your grandmother who always chewed Big Red and the rough rub of corduroy may remind you of your sofa back home, upholding certain traditions can conjure feelings of comfort and security.  For most people, December is flush with ritual.  This is a good thing, until it is not.

Christmas is alive.  It does not matter whether you and yours are celebrating the birth of a baby this time of year.  Yes, God is alive, but so is much else around us.  Families are alive.  Creation is alive.  Love is alive.  Traditions, however, are not.  Traditions are not the reason to celebrate.  We should celebrate for the sake of love, the beauty of nature, our families and the One who holds this all together.

Therefore, some traditions must die.  There should be no more "buts" at Christmas.

But, my parents did it this way growing up.

But, we never get a Douglas Fir.

But, that's not really a Christmas song.

But, photo cards are tacky.

But, we always have an 11 pm service.

But, Aunt Elsie expects fruitcake.

But, we always host dinner here.

Families grow.  The landscape around us evolves.  Love whithers and then blossoms anew.  Our holiday traditions should too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I may be an idiot, but so is the lady at the post office

Thursdays mornings have become my favorite part of the week.  My simple, little world gets even closer and quieter at these times.  I take Z to preschool and have four delicious hours alone with G.  Unlike Tuesdays, we have no obligations or prior commitments and can spend Thursday mornings how we want.  Often, I run a few errands, but instead of whisking around and struggling to have one by the hand and one by the hip, we take our time.  I let G toddle down the sidewalks and up the steps.  She uses her still-pudgy hands to help me put items on the belt and in the cabinets back home.  We converse uninterrupted.  We discuss what we see out of the window, how the puzzle fits together and how crunchy the goldfish crackers sound. 

One Thursday morning, I drove G through a quaint downtown area and to the post office.  Many of the storefronts were decorated and holiday banners hung from the streetlights.  It was a warm day and we held hands into the building.  As usual, my beautiful girl caused a few to pause along the way.  People stopped to notice her blond hair and bright blue eyes.  The lady behind the counter did the same, even complimenting her winter coat.

"How can I help you today?"

"I would like to purchase three sheets of seasonal stamps please.  Whatever you have."

"We are fresh out of holiday stamps, ma'am."

"Oh, well, um, what stamps do you have?"

"We have these pretty crimson ones with gold trees.  They are Jewish winter greeting stamps."

As she said this, she laid the sheets of stamps on the counter.  They were lovely.  I had been hoping for Christmas stamps, but these looked wintery and I was happy to buy them.  Before long G and I were making our way back to the car.

After we were buckled and settled, I turned on the car and took out the stamps to read them, "Eid Greetings."  Curiosity set in.  I had never heard this phrase before and wanted to learn its meaning before I sent it off to all my family and friends.  My smart phone is so smart.  In seconds I learned that Eid Greetings is not Jewish (or seasonal) at all.  In fact it refers to the end of Ramadan, the month during which devout Muslims fast during daylight.  Eid al-Fitr is "The Feast of Breaking the Fast" an enjoyable time for Muslims families to celebrate the end of the long month of Shawwal.  I also learned that these stamps had been in circulation for 11 years.

I hesitated for a moment, but then decided to exchange the stamps for more generic ones.  There was no way I was going to let my dad or uncles call me out on this one.  Plus, I was still in the parking lot; no harm done.  With toddler on hip, I waltzed right back into the post office and up to the counter where the same lady greeted me.

"Hi, it's you again.  I recognize her coat."

(Smile) "Yep, I'm back.  I would like to exchange these stamps.  Turns out they are Islamic, end-of-Ramadan stamps."

(Stern face) "There are no returns or exchanges on postage stamps.  Read your receipt."

"Oh, I had no idea.  I guess that makes sense, but can you please make an exception?  I just bought these and they are not what I want.  You told me they were Jewish stamps."


"But, look how cute she is?" (cheek to cheek with G)

"Your baby has nothing to do with this.  There are no exchanges on stamps."

"So you're telling me you are going to stick me with 60 Islamic stamps, which I thought were Jewish stamps, when I am a Christian?"

"Jewish stamps or Islamic stamps, what is the difference?"

"Are you really asking me the difference between Judaism and Islam?  Really?!?  I was fine with the Jewish stamps.  I uphold the Judeo-Christian tradition!"

"Ma'am I don't care what you believe in."

"Well, I do!'

This was point at which she simply stopped talking to me and rudely asked to help the next person.  So, I just stood there.  I stood at the post office counter with my back to her, my daughter in my one arm, and the stamps under the other.  I am also positive I looked grumpy.  However, no more than a minute passed when another lady approached me from behind the counter, a lady I know for certain witnessed my entire exchange with the first, and who simply took the stamps from me, banged a few buttons and then handed me 60 flag stamps in exchange.

"Thank you."

"You're welcome."

Part of me wants to apologize to the postal worker.  I was a bit short with her.  No doubt, especially at this time of year, she works hard on her feet and deals with more than her share of mail-related grief (and probably male-related grief, too.)  Part of me wants to apologize to my little girl.  I did not represent us well this day.  Not that she understood me exactly, but I'm sure she could tell mommy was being a bit naughty and not as nice as she should.  The rest of me wants to apologize to Mr. Goethals, my high school religion teacher.  I have not embraced life-long learning in the subject of world religion even though it interests me and is pertinent to promoting peace.  Perhaps my world has gotten a little too small these last few years.  I still have my textbook from his class and (as a result of this event) a self-designed reading assignment for over Christmas. 


I am linking up with yeah write again this week.  I really enjoy hanging out over there and I think you would too.  Click the button below and read the other submissions along with me.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Joy to the world

Because we ALL need more gospel music in our lives:

Aretha Franklin sings Joy to the World

Neither of my girls nor I can keep from grooving when we hear this fantastic version of the Christmas classic.  We listen to it at least eight times in a row every day.  And it brings us true joy 100% of the time, every time.

We wish you JOY!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

For keep's sake

The other night I hit the mall with my gorgeous and glowing 37-week-pregnant friend who is expecting her fourth girl.  We hit Chick-Fil-A for shakes, Nordstrom for sales and the Hallmark store for stocking stuffers.  It was there that we saw this:

My reaction: He's in a bikini!
My friend's reaction: I think he's poorly representing a bumble bee
Your reaction: ?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wiping your slate clean

I find that I do some of my best thinking in the shower.  When I was in college I awarded equal weight to the benefits of napping and showering.  On occasion, I spent precious minutes attempting to decide which escape to take.  Both offered needed down time and accomplished rest or cleanliness.  I usually felt quite refreshed and ready for the next campus adventure after either.

These days, when I am lucky enough to take a truly off duty shower (you fellow stay at home parents know what I mean), I find that the steam, white noise of the water, and citrus scent of my body wash open my brain right up.  I plan meals, design toddler friendly activities, organize schedules, write shopping lists.  I even get somewhat motivated to do laundry.  I get more done in the shower than I actually ever get done.
The other day, however, all I could contemplate was our toilet paper.  See, I am married to no particular brand (I think the current rolls are from TJ's) and I rarely even pay attention.  For some reason, this day, I noticed the sheets were imprinted with flower blossoms and butterflies.  I don't think our toilet paper has ever been imprinted.  Why is it imprinted with blossoms and butterflies?  Do such imprints increase the popularity of the product?  Do people prefer soft and silky images on their tushy tissue?  Does it enhance experience?  Functionality?

If so, how did the toilet paper people determine this information?  Did they host a focus group?  What other imprint options were offered?  Did the pine cones prevent?  Did the fox faces fail?  Would I care what appeared on my paper?  Is there some object or animal that would keep me from ripping off a bit?  Or maybe the imprints are underrated.  Perhaps rolls of skull and cross bones would kill in the stores and fly off the shelves.  Hmm...

And then, as if someone flushed those blossoms and butterflies, I was shocked back to reality as I was showering.  Pregnancy brain was only the beginning.  My mind continues to atrophy.  For years now I have been delusional about the power of the shower.  It no longer acts as a protective booth in which I transform back into super student.  It has become a time where I stand still enough to start to slip slightly into insanity, the type that is brought on by constant contact with tiny tots.

Should I attempt to break free from this downward spiral (I certainly can't cease showering)?  Perhaps I should start thinking about going back to school.  Maybe I should force myself to read and write even more.  I love staying home with my kids, but is it having irreversible effects on my being?  Of course it is!  For the rest of my life my mind will function at half capacity because the other part will be focused on the family.  And, after thinking about this in the shower this morning I am satisfied.  Thinking about toilet paper is harmless fun.  Kids make you better.  Kids make you weird. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A not so noble steed

Do penguins have lips?  This is a question I found myself pondering Saturday night while driving home from a date with my husband.  I don't think they do, but the penguin toy we bought for our dog while out together seems to.  He is really cute (our dog, the toy and my husband.)  We haven't bought either of our girls any Christmas presents yet, but Ben (the dog) is set.

Do I call the police or a tow truck?  This is an entirely different question I found myself pondering Sunday afternoon while lodged in an off ramp embankment.  Apparently, if you call the police (or let the angel-of-a-chick truck driver who saw the whole thing call them for you) they call a tow truck.  I had never been in an accident before.  It's hardly a bucket list kind of thing, but I suppose I can now check it off for 2012.

I'm not completely certain what happened.  I know the weather was to blame.  I know I closed my eyes right before the car hit the guard rail.  I know I ended up trunk deep in damp grassy knoll.  The rest can somewhat be pieced together by the iPhone footage I had the "presence of mind" (read "wonky adrenaline laden brain") to capture before I even thought to call my husband.  Brilliant. Thankfully, Carissa, the aforementioned truck driver, was kind enough to pull over and help guide me through the remaining process.  

A police officer also arrived on the scene before too long.  As she ambled closer and closer to the car I felt instant relief, not because I knew she could help, but because I became absolutely certain that she was, indeed, a woman.  Never underestimate the power of ascertaining someone's gender.  It really ups the comfort level in these types of situations. 

I should mention that my 3-year-old was with me when all of this occurred.  She, unlike me, stayed calm the entire time, simply noting that despite having to hold on to her car seat very tight her tiara didn't even fall off.  Thankfully, a great friend was able to come by and take her to the birthday party we had been attempting to attend in the first place.  I am grateful her little world kept turning without missing too many beats.

I was also grateful that I got to attend the princess party (the car was towed out of the ditch, but remained drivable) because it meant I was greeted with warm coffee, a huge piece of chocolate cake and smiling faces.  Of course, it also meant I cried all over again as my nerves defrosted off of me and landed in the arms of my friends, moms and dads like me, who just want to get through the day in one piece.

And, somehow, we always do.