Monday, December 30, 2013

The Tell-tale Dish Towel (My Homage to E.A. Poe)


True! – guilty —very, very guilty I am, but it was unintentional.  The act has made me aware of what I have done.  I know everything there is to know about heaven and hell, so I always intended to return the object, so – hearken! – and observe as I calmly tell you the whole story of how I came to steal the red dish towel from the church fellowship hall.

It is impossible to say when the idea first entered my brain; but once conceived, I made up my mind. I had no choice.  I had to take it and thus mop up the serving table of the mess I had caused.

You fancy me a thief, but thieves do not intend to return the objects they purloin. Stealing the dish towel was unintentional.  Object there is none.  I own dozens of dish towels of my own. Passion there is none. I hold no grudge or malice toward its owner. 

I think it was the spill!  The pooling spill that made me reach for the towel.  I had tried a handful of paper napkins but they were useless in my efforts to stay the spreading wave of mulled cider, so anxiety seized me – it was headed for the floor!

With a loud yelp, I leaped upon a towel that was lying nearby and dragged it over the hot, sticky mess. At length, the spill was no more. I placed my hand upon my heart and held it there several seconds.  The puddle had soaked inside the wet towel.  The mess would no longer trouble our Christmas party.

If you still think me a thief, you will think so no longer when I tell you that I had no choice but to take the towel home with me that evening, wash it, and return it the next time I was in the vicinity. What should I have done?  Handed a soppy towel to its owner or returned it to the church fellowship’s kitchen in that condition?

Oh no, I had to take it home and wash it out – leaving no stain of any kind, no spot whatever - and return it with a smile.  I do smile, - for what have I to fear?

“Here!” I will say.  “I borrowed this at the Christmas party last month!  I admit I took it without telling anyone, but dissemble no more.  I have returned the red dish towel!”

                                               

Friday, December 27, 2013

Grandma’s Dining Table


Twenty five years ago my first husband and I bought a new home with four bedrooms and three baths, but my favorite part of the house was the enormous room you walked into from the front door. It had no dividing wall but the design was to use half of it as a formal living and the other half as a formal dining.
From the beginning I decided to make it into one huge dining room that would catch the eye when everyone walked in through the front door of my home.  
My three children were very young at the time, but I envisioned them grown and married. We counted five at the time, but one day we would grow to eight, maybe more if we factored in grandchildren, so I bought a table that sat a family of twelve.  My husband thought it silly to look that far ahead and convinced me to buy only ten chairs.
The room looked magnificent – the long, majestic table, the ten chairs, the buffet, a couple of real ficus, and a few other nice pieces of furniture – I was pleased.
The table lasted longer than the marriage, and it has gone with me to every house since then. There were homes where it didn’t fit and times when it would be more economical to just get rid of it, but I refused to surrender my dream of constancy and stability.
It has been used for homework by two generations and survived an unfortunate homework accident long ago.  Every time I change the tablecloth, I run my hand over the scar and smile at the memory.  
My grandsons use it in their play, hiding underneath it by lying on the chairs or pretending it is a cave. They help me set the table and hunt throughout the house to find extra chairs. I love that the chairs don’t match.
It has served many holiday and birthday meals and has witnessed a lot of laughter and heartwarming conversation. That table embraces my hopes and dreams.
This Christmas, it will sit fifteen people.  Fifteen of my most favorite people. We’ll sit five, elbow to elbow on each long side, and two at each end.  The baby will be in his new high chair, banging on the tray with a spoon or a rattle.

Four others will be too far away to join us, and one will be in heaven watching down, but if they were here, we would just put the kitchen trestle table to use.  It can sit another eight.  The more, the merrier.   All are welcome at my dining table. 

This was first posted in November, 2012, but it is one of my favorites so I wanted to share it again during this holiday season. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Countdown to Christmas


If you didn’t buy it, wrap it, or bake it by now, stop.  Believe me, your Christmas will not be ruined, not unless you put more emphasis on calories and commercialism than on the true meaning of the holiday.

What is it, you ask?

Well, I have it on good authority that it will come without ribbons.  It will come without tags.  It will come without packages, boxes or bags. Christmas doesn’t come from a store; Christmas is a little bit more.

What is this little bit more?

Well, it may have something to do with a little bitty baby born in a stable many, many years ago.  He delighted his humble parents and astounded anyone who met him soon after his birth. This man had such a profound effect on the history of mankind that we read about him and study about him even today, two thousand years later, whether we are Christian or not.  

What we celebrate at Christmas is something so valuable that we sometimes take it for granted, and those who do not have it envy us – family, friends, and fellowship – things so valuable that they do not need ribbons.  They do not need tags.  They do not need packages, boxes or bags.

Christmas doesn’t come from a store; Christmas is a whole bunch more.

So when we wish someone a Merry Christmas, we are wishing them an abundance of those three - family, friends, and fellowship. 

I wish you a Merry Christmas.


Friday, December 20, 2013

Grace Not Greed

I wrote this for a collection of Christmas devotionals in 2011.  It is still appropriate for the times at Christmas in 2013.

 “May mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.”  Jude 1:2 (NSRV)
The winter of 1991 found me in the middle of a messy divorce.  I struggled to pay a four-digit mortgage and to feed and clothe three growing adolescents on a teacher’s salary.
On previous Christmases, our letters to Santa had been long and expensive lists of toys and electronics, but this year we would have to find a different way to “make merry.”
I tried to explain our situation to the kids, but they stopped me mid-apology with an announcement of their own.
“We don’t want anything for Christmas.” They explained they already had everything they needed – we had each other, a roof over our heads and a safe place at night, food to eat (even if it was way too many servings of boxed mac and cheese or ramen noodles), and they had me.  They knew I wasn’t going to abandon them.
Grace replaced greed in our letters to Santa that year.
Our Nativity set dwarfed the centerpiece-sized Christmas tree.  Three small store bought presents lay next to a mound of homemade gifts, but the best present of all sat on the carpet next to me – my three wise children, smiles on their faces, drinking hot chocolate and singing carols. 

Prayer:  Dear Lord, thank you for the love and comfort of family.


Monday, December 16, 2013

What I Want for Christmas

My two front teeth are in great shape. Thank you (especially to my dentist and her team), so what do I really want for Christmas?
Everyone and everything dear to my hearth and home are doing well, so what could I possibly want or need?
Well, for starters, I would like a firmer and more youthful body, one that does not wiggle when set in motion.  It would be wonderful to be the envy of all the ladies in my Cardio Dance class when I walk in dressed in my skin tight workout clothes and my bust, belly, and butt amaze everyone.  A thinner waist would also be appreciated.  Thank you in advance.
Two, I would like to win the lottery, not the little one of just a couple of million dollars but the big honker one with the dozens of zeroes behind it.  I realize I actually have to buy a ticket, so I would like to be the envy of all when they interview me for the six o’clock news (I would insist on a long shot so I can show off my gorgeous new firm body) and I mention that I bought ONE ticket on the fly from the convenience store down the street the ONE time I stopped to buy a bag of Cheetos.  Who knew?  Lucky me! Yay!
I know.  It must be wonderful to be me – both gorgeous and rich. 
Three, I will need a crew, staff, a posse, someone to look after me and my millions.  I would employ the usual – an accountant and a lawyer, but also household and a groundskeeper. Oh, and also someone to help me with my makeup and clothes.  A cook!  Oh glory, someone to cook for me and HoneyBunch.  I would never have to scramble another egg or throw together another casserole. Yay!  Double yay!
Christmas wishing is so much fun.  You search your soul for the very things that will make you happy and you ask for them, regardless the price or common sense. You make your demands known repeatedly to those around you (or you write it all down and send a letter off to Santa) and you eat tamales or Christmas Cookies waiting for the Big Day.

I’ve been “nice” all year, so I’ll see you on the 26th.  That will be me on the six o’ clock news, showing off my good fortune. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Creating Family Traditions


My Chinese daughter-in-law is excited about her first American Christmas.  All the preparations and decorations she sees on TV and in the stores remind her of the month-long celebrations of her own country and she is eager to join in on the fun of the season.

Chinese culture is big on the giving of gifts.  One can never visit a home without giving a small token (most often food) to the host or hostess.  Gifts preclude the asking of a favor and thank you gifts follow after a kindness is given. If two people exchange gifts and one outdoes the other, it becomes a competition and is usually followed by a second gift of greater value.

She is mesmerized by all the sales and ads, but I warned her not to let it lure her into buying something extravagant. I advised her not to let her old custom rule her American Christmas. The giving of Christmas gifts does not have to be expensive. It is always better to give something from the heart. 

My husband’s family is Czech, so along with the traditional Christmas dishes, my mother-in-law serves kolaches and sauerkraut. My family serves tamales and buñuelos next to the glazed ham and the Texas pecan pie.

I suggested that she consider celebrating Christmas with a mixture of both cultures – American and Chinese, a holiday celebration that represents both of them.  They could make yummy foods that remind them of their winter holiday and decorate their home with both cultures.

Isn’t that what we did when we first started our own homes and families?  We combined the traditions of two families into one, and maybe we started our own.  Once we decided what we wanted from the holiday, we all built on from there.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Daddy’s Favorite

On December 24th, my dad would have turned 92, but he died two weeks after he turned 84. He never met any of my wild, rambunctious extended family – all my children’s spouses, seven of my eight grandchildren, or my dear husband, but if he had he would have been deliriously happy for me. 

Family meant everything to my dad.

He loved his siblings, those alive and dead, and he adored his parents, speaking of them with the greatest of respect, but we, his own family, he put above everyone and anything else.  

We were lucky to have such a good man as our father. Not everyone can say that.

Oh, he was strict and stubborn and opinionated.  He was Old World old-fashioned. Letting his daughters out into the modern world frightened him and we gave him plenty of reason to worry, but there was never any doubt how much we loved each other.

He had this wonderful knack of treating us like ladies (Ladylike traits were not valued in the late 60’s and early 70’s. It was the era of Free Love and the start of feminism.), and though we protested his admonitions, we loved the attention.

He taught me to waltz, first by carrying me in his arms when I was little, later by placing my tiny feet on his shoes when I was in grade school.  On holidays, he would play records on his stereo, and after waltzing with my mother (who would bat at him with a dish towel and go back to fixing lunch), my sisters and I would like up in hopes he would ask us to dance.

He tucked us into bed at night when we were tiny.  It wasn’t an ordinary tuck and run.  He would visit with each of us and tell us stories or sing to us.  He would cover us up, asking if we wanted to be wrapped like a taco or an enchilada, then he would kiss us on the forehead and bless us.  He would do the extended Sign of the Cross, the one where you do the sign of the cross four times – once on the forehead, the second over the mouth, the third across the chest, and the fourth – a large cross from forehead to chest.  He would wish us a good night, turn off the lights, and leave us safe and smiling in the dark. 

When we got older, he would bless us before we retired for bed or when we left the house, but eventually, we got modern. And it stopped.

All our lives, he had a wonderful knack of making each of us, sons and daughters, feel as if we were THE special one.  Ask any one of us, and we each will swear we were Daddy’s Favorite.

HoneyBunch and my dad missed meeting each other by months, but they would have liked each other immensely.  They are so much alike – intelligent, gentlemanly, well-spoken jokesters. They are both fierce, family men.

I love you, Daddy.  I was so blessed to have you as my father.  You are always in my heart.