I haven’t always been able to make it home for Thanksgiving. When I lived in California, I had the time off but no money for a plane ticket. I was also in my early twenties so the sentimentality of it was beyond me. I can’t remember even having a “friendsgiving.” I bet I spent the day at the beach. One Thanksgiving the hubby and I lived in Maryland with our first child. Between the weather, the cost for airfare, and the daunting task of traveling cross-country with an infant, we chose not to travel. We ended up at a friend’s house in Annapolis. It was the fanciest Thanksgiving I’ve ever experienced before or since. We all fit around the dining room table, no one was holding a plate in their lap and balancing their drink on the arm of a couch. The antique candlesticks were lit and provided an intimate mood. I had wine in an actual wineglass, and my meal was eaten off their family china with actual silverware and my napkin was linen. I remember the stuffing had nuts in it which was confusing to me and it was the first time in my life I had even seen a brussel sprout. It was a wonderful Thanksgiving. It’s just not what makes my heart swell with contentment. My family Thanksgiving is less fancy and more along the lines of a loosely managed brawl. It doesn’t matter which house it’s being hosted at, if it’s not jammed packed with people, then someone wasn’t being friendly enough to invite everyone. It’s always been that way my entire life. We are mashed into the house and every surface, shelf, chair edge is used for food prep, food placement, or the place a person will squeeze into for dinner. I remember one year a few people had to sit on the porch swing outside to eat. We have family, extended family, friends and acquaintances invited at the last-minute if we discovered they were all alone for the holiday. The food is prepared in bulk. Multiple bags of potatoes are peeled, the turkey will be the biggest one my mom can find along with a huge ham and if we don’t have enough desserts for everyone to eat an entire pie then something has gone wrong. The family members that know how to cook will all have been assigned a key food and those that can’t cook have to bring everything else. My mom still let’s me have the illusion that I’m one of the family members that can cook. My assignment has always been the green bean casserole. The green bean casserole is the food task you give 5 year olds to distract them while you do the real work. I’m 38 years old. You dump green beans and cream of mushroom soup into a pan and shove it into the oven. That’s it. My mom still praises me like a small child or a puppy once everyone is sitting down. She still does it in that baby-talk voice without realizing it. “Who did such a good job with the green beans? Who did a good job? Reesie did! Reesie did such a good job, you are so smart, you are such a good cook, baby. Good girl. Gooooood girrrrrl.” I don’t care. If I had a tail, I’d wag it when she says that. I opened the hell out of those green bean cans. Solo cups are lined up filled with ice and sweet tea, we use those huge oval paper plates that could double as an actual serving platter. They are very sturdy and you can pile them up very high with food. The house will be crowded so you want to get a lot of food the first time around so you can sit and stay out of the way. Mom gets cranky if you are lingering in the kitchen when people are still hungry. God help you if you get back in line before everyone has eaten the first round. This year the dynamic was very small children and a lot of elderly family with walkers. The conversation was a combination of the 80 and 90 year olds yelling because their hearing aids weren’t working and the 2-7 year old crowd yelling because that’s just what 2-7 year olds do. Predictably, both crowds were willing to discuss bathroom concerns and weird rashes. Aside from the press of people and the 20 min free for all food consumption, we always end up having messy family dynamics for the holidays. We aren’t just there for the one day, we are there for multiple days. Multiple days that pull everyone away from their routine. Messed up routines mess up attitudes. I’m not sure it’s possible to have conflict-free holidays when you have exhausted travelers, overworked hosts, very dynamic strong-willed people, inconvenient sleeping arrangements, one bathroom, different agendas, hunting season, football games, work schedules, health issues, food restrictions, small children and multiple families to visit. Plus, everyone has that one family member that manages to be the most oblivious, selfish, inconsiderate asshole that ever lived. It’s the Holiday Albatross we all have to live with. Someone’s going to get upset over something. Many times that someone has been me. This time, that someone was me. Okay fine, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t at least one of the people upset over something. I like my routine just as much as anyone. I was listening to the John Tesh radio show and he always has interesting tidbits between the music. He was talking about a book: “Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions…” I’m sure it has a lot of information in the book, but the tidbit John Tesh was discussing was why we have a hard time apologizing. We all think we are good people. Even the Holiday Albatross thinks they are a good person. They probably think that more than anyone. Bless their hearts. Apologizing and stating we were wrong goes against our self-perception of our motives and our actions. I know my motives were pure. I must be right. I’m not the one that needs to apologize. In the end it doesn’t matter who it right and who is wrong because this is family. Love doesn’t work like that. Love is 100% effort on everyone’s part, not a business transaction of who is right and wrong. We fight, we kiss, we hug, we text, we talk, we argue, we laugh, we smile, we love. That’s family. Family worth traveling across country to visit. It’s hard for me to have regrets over the upsets. It just adds to the spice of life and the memories. At least for me. Love is messy. The holidays are messy. It’s the messy that makes the memories not the fine china and linen napkins. Thank God for my messy.
I pass a lady in the halls of my children’s school every day for school pick up and she has no idea that she has enriched my life. Our conversations are few and brief, most days we just nod and move along. A few months back, I ended up being in the right place at the right time. I was standing behind her and her husband while they discussed an event they were hosting at their house. They were hosting a house concert. I’ll admit I am ignorant in the ways of the world, but I had never heard of such a thing. I’ve had friends or family bring out instruments or begin singing when we were at home, on the road, or at a small gathering but I’ve never heard of an intentional small gathering at a home to listen to a band. I was intrigued so I made a comment that made it obvious I was intentionally eves dropping on their conversation. I’m not sure if they felt obligated to invite me at that point, but they promptly issued an invitation. Not only did I accept the invitation, but I invited my husband and two additional friends. One of the friends that I invited to come along is an art teacher. As expected, her home is filled with unique and interesting art. There is no unified theme to the art. The paintings she routinely changes up over different spaces do not ‘match the couch.’ I love going to her home because it is warm and welcoming. The moment you walk into her home it’s like the entire house gives you a hug on the way inside. I never understood that a big reason her home was so welcoming was the art. We arrive at the house concert and we walk in the door. As soon as I walk in, my heart gives a little sigh. I felt welcomed. But why? I don’t really know these people and I hadn’t even spoken to anyone. It was the art. The art she had up on her walls was complex and interesting. I’m not sure why I needed that particular moment to make the connection that you need art on your walls, not an attempt to copy a decorating magazine; but that was my moment. I think it was because I expected it from my artist friend, not my casual acquaintance. We arrived early enough to the house concert that we mingled for a bit before we had to find our seats. The conversations were as unique and diverse as the art on the walls. The lights were low, and just standing in this semi-strangers house gave me such a sense of being right where I needed to be, right in the moment I needed to be there. It was comforting and relaxing, yet entertaining in a mix of very complex emotions for me. I’m not saying it’s the moment I found Jesus. It wasn’t like that, it was just unique and different from most of my moments so it has stuck with me for months. I keep going back in my mind to analyze it so I can re-create it. Or at the very least understand what it is that I’m seeking out. So then the band begins. Lowland Hum. Oh, my. Yes. Their bio states, ‘Lowland Hum aims to address listening audiences as whole people, engaging their senses of sight, sound, smell, and touch, and inviting them to be present with one another for an evening.’ That’s exactly what I was; engaged in the moment. I like a variety of music and a lot of the music I listen to wouldn’t be classified as art in my mind. “All About That Base” is such a fun song, but I personally don’t think ‘art‘ when I sing it. Lowland Hum is art. Art for your ears. Odell is my personal favorite. I listen to this song a lot. http://www.lowlandhum.com/ Since that night, I’ve been seeking out art to put into my home that touches my soul. Art you can listen to, see with your eyes, touch with your hands. Art that doesn’t match the couch. Art that makes you feel welcome when you come into my home. This woman has no idea she has opened my mind, my soul, and I pass her every day in the hall.
In this season of my life I imagine I spend an 1/8th of my life in the grocery store. I don’t even feel that’s an exaggeration. I’m in charge of planning, shopping, cooking all the meals for my family. Random snacks that our activities require, social event food items, and if I don’t buy the underwear and toothpaste we will all be commando with halitosis. For the most part, I don’t mind this task because I love the interaction with people. The elderly checkers at Wal-Mart hold a particular place in my heart. I like the sweet ones and I LOVE the feisty ones. A lot of my writing is inspired by events that unfold in the grocery store. Good and bad. If your life allows you to ‘pop in’ to grab an item or two, you are missing out on a huge window into your local community. The humanity I have experienced in the grocery store has far outweighed any two single locations combined. You get the entire spectrum of the worst in people to the best in people. I have to admit I have had less than stellar moments of character myself while I was at the grocery store. It can be a challenging environment. If you go in unprepared, it can take you down. Three hungry, cranky kids an hour into a grocery run can go bad real fast. Real fast. Soul DetoxLately the topic of being Happy has come up a lot. Our Lifegroup is discussing the book Soul Detox. Soul Detox examines the toxins that assault us daily including: toxic influences, toxic emotions, and toxic behaviors. We must fight the soul pollution threatening our health, our faith, and our witness to others. We are almost done with the study and I’d recommend it wholeheartedly. Our Lifegroup is doing a study that isn’t following our sermons but today I had one of those days. The day you feel like the preacher is speaking directly to you. It’s like he knew the questions I had in my soul and felt he needed to take the time to answer them just for me. I love those days. God’s timing. In truth I am a very happy, positive person. My ‘at rest’ is to be happy. But we’ve been doing this study so I’ve been questioning, praying, seeking out happiness and how it revolves around my path with God. outside of godMark Christian is the senior pastor at my church and he is doing a series on gratitude. He is an amazing preacher. Amazing. This is the link to his sermons and I’m sure today’s sermon will be up soon. (11/16/15 Sermon) http://ccochurch.com/sermons/ Today, we got settled from church and while I’m reading in my Soul Detox book my husband was watching a TED talk regarding happiness. Shawn Achor : The happy secret to better work. This guy was hilarious. It’s short and worth a watch. http://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=ted+talk+happiness&FORM=VIRE4#view=detail&mid=78E0721A898C7A8102AE78E0721A898C7A8102AE I liked how he summed up how to train our brain to be happy. 3 Gratitude’s a day. (Find three things to be grateful for each day.) Journaling Exercise (Your actions matter) Meditation (focus on what matters: I interpreted this as praying) Random Acts of Kindness Back to the grocery store. I have all this information rattling around in my brain. My book study, the sermon, the TED talk, and all the discussions I’ve had regarding the topic. Today I was just going to ‘pop in’ to grab two items. My two items turned into 8 and I had a cart instead of a basket. Harps only had two lines open. Two lines and we were 7 people deep on both lines. So they open another line and I happen to be right there. Instead of rushing to the front, I let the elderly man with a can of Denty Moore stew and rolls go in front of me. Then I let the woman with a diet coke and some cigarettes go in front of me. I’m now third in line. longstockingI look behind me and a teenager with the most hysterical beanie hat is standing behind me with her two younger sisters. All three of them looked like they were auditioning for Pippy Longstockings. They had a lot more than 8 things clutched in their gangly arms. So I back out my cart and ask them to please go in front of me. I don’t think a thing about this and I just start looking at the magazines. But they start whispering amongst themselves and finally they ask really loudly, “Why did you let us go in front of you?” I just started a bit and said, “It seemed like the nice thing to do.” Then they started whispering back and forth amongst themselves furiously again. They stopped whispering and turned to me and said in unison, “Can we help you put your groceries on the belt?” I had a few breakable things in my cart so I just crossed my fingers and said, “I would love help from some amazing young women.” Thus began a mutual admiration conversation that included us finding multiple things to compliment each other on. I’m not sure I’ve ever been complimented on smudged mascara under my eyes, but they felt that it was very pretty on me. They waved goodbye to me and said they would let people go in front of them the next time they were at the store. I’ve only lived in this town for five years so it’s rare that I meet people I know out in public. I’m not good or bad based on what people think because people here don’t know me. I just do the best I can do and move on. heartIt just so happened that two people who I know where in line watching me without my knowledge. One stopped me before I got out of the store to tell me she was watching me be kind to those children and another just said hello in the parking lot. But the fact remains, my kindness was observed. It was observed by the children and by strangers and by acquaintances. Just as my indifference would have been observed if that was what I had chosen to do. I’m not trying to toot my own horn. I’m trying to shout to the heavens that my preacher, my Lifegroup, intellectuals and even Disney have it right. What you feed into your soul is what you put out into the world. If we want more kindness in the world, we need to put it there. “Where there is kindness, there is goodness, where there is goodness, there is magic.” – Cinderella.
My husband and I work as a team in the mornings to get our children to school. I wake up early and get the clothes picked out, breakfast made, lunches in totes and I double-check the calendar for extra items they might need like a violin or athletic clothes. I also brush their hair and herd them along like a cattle dog. If they pause too long over any one activity I nip at their heels to get them going again. My husband loads them up into his truck and takes them to school. This is a good trade-off as I am cranky in the mornings. I don’t enjoy the mornings, I prefer silence for a full hour after I’ve woken up, I’m not just miraculously happy. The kids know the routine well enough that I mumble one word sentences like, ‘eat, clothes, hair’ and they move along. By the time they are loading up in the car they are extremely chatty. Blake has the harder job as he gets them emotionally and mentally prepared for their day while they are in the car. He wakes up happy. It’s a sickness. I’m positive. I’m told they pray and sing in the car. Some mornings my cattle dog nip becomes a little too harsh. This is unfortunate as I have one child that will completely shut down, stop all forward momentum and you might as well call in sick. All activity ceases until things are once again right with the world. Lily was in Pre-K and we were having to rush a little faster one morning as the elder sister had an activity that required her to be to school 10 minutes ahead of schedule. Lily was a little extra sleepy and she was just standing in our bathroom swaying back and forth while I’m holding her clothes attempting to get her dressed. I was about to start screaming and then Blake gently said to her, “Honey be my good girl and take your jammies off.” Not 5 seconds later all she could say was, “Daddy says I’m his good girl when I take my jammies off.” Great Odin’s Raven! I thought we were going to die right on the spot. The look of absolute horror on my husbands face cannot be captured in words. He was traumatized. Still traumatized as we continue to talk about this in horrified whispers and Lily is in first grade. CardWhen I’m winding down I like to zone out by playing card games on the computer. I really like to play spider solitaire. You’d have to look up the directions but when you are winning you build up decks at the bottom left of your screen from A – K with the K on top. So at the end you have eight decks in a row. Basically 8 K’s are lined up on your screen if you win. Landry watches me play this game often. Today she comes up to me and says, “Mommy you are winning. You have KKK. Mommy likes KKK. Mommy you really like the KKK.” Son of a Bee-Sting! The kids are going to get us sent up the river or hung from a tree.
I’m not saying I’ve met the devil, I’m just saying I have a recipe from someone who obviously hangs out with him a lot. It’s an amazing recipe. Stellar. Heavenly. I’ve had it saved for a long time and I can’t make myself use it because this lady is so mean. Devil’s minion type mean. I’m pretty sure she will end up being one of those senior citizens that bites everyone in the nursing home. Every time I get the urge to make this recipe I pause because I fear that making the recipe would somehow channel her meanness into the food. It’s a shame really, as the recipe is both yummy and healthy. I’m going to post it under the belief that I’m laundering the badness out like mobsters launder their bad money. Cilantro Lime Dressing 1 cup loosely packed cilantro, stems removed 1/2 Cup plain Greek Yogurt 2 cloves garlic Juice 1 Lime Pinch of Salt 1/4 cup olive oil 2 tablespoons apple vinegar Salad Romaine Lettuce Grill corn, strip it off the cob Grill Chicken Black beans Tomato Avocado feta 1/4 cup tortilla strips for garnish Go forth and make the recipe with wild abandon. Just stop eating if you get the urge to kick small dogs, push senior citizens into traffic or bake children in the oven.