It’s beginning to look a lot like… ♫

Dare I say it? Christmas.

Christmas music has been playing in our local stores since November first. Yesterday the decorations were already up at the grocery store strip mall. I mean, really… it’s too early, even for this elf.  But when Patience Brewster, designer of the most adorable whimsical Christmas ornaments ever, asked me to write about a favorite Christmas memory I didn’t hesitate to say yes.

I LOVE Christmas and everything that goes with it. I love shopping and wrapping and secrets and sparkly things and Christmas plays and lights… I really should have been an elf.  I was 10 years old  and in 5th grade when my (very mean) best friend insisted Santa wasn’t real. I still don’t believe her.

That’s me on the right, listening intently to what my future boss had to say. 😉

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Every Christmas Eve Mom would bundle us up and we’d pile into the car to go pick our Christmas tree. We’d drink hot chocolate while Daddy brought the tree into the house and set it in its stand. We’d make a big production of giving it lots of water, hang our stockings from the mantel and go to bed. I couldn’t sleep wondering if every noise I heard might be Santa on the roof. It’s a wonder I survived the anticipation at all.

Our first house in New Jersey was a wee little two-bedroom rancher. You could see the entire living room from our bedroom door. On Christmas morning my sister and I would fling open that door and freeze in absolute wonder. The bare tree we left in the stand was now fully decorated and lit, the only glow in the room, surrounded by presents. Pure magic!  >sigh<  Goose pimples.

 

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Our magical tree, 1968.

 

I was eight when we moved across town. Our new house had two stories and the impact of seeing that sight as we flew down the stairs on Christmas morning was a new brand of magic that didn’t disappoint.

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Christmas 1972: I’m the elf on the left. 

Two years later we moved to Florida,  and the tradition changed in a lot of ways, but Mom’s knack for the magical smoothed it over.

Then we grew up and learned a few things. Like Christmas trees are drastically discounted, or free, on Christmas Eve. And Mom and Dad had to wait until we were sleeping to begin decorating the tree, so they got maybe 30 minutes of sleep Christmas Eve. And it looks like a lot more presents when the room is only 12 feet wide. And the tree looks much bigger when you put it on the coffee table and you’re only four feet tall.
And knowing the secrets behind the magic makes it even stronger, because it was made with love.

But the best part of being a grown-up is that I get to make the magic now… after all, I did inherit Mom’s elf gene.

5-Minute Friday: Friend

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Thirty years my senior, she is mama and friend rolled into one. Her soft voice and calm spirit sooth my often frenetic one. She loves unconditionally and nurtures relentlessly. She is home away from home, the voice in my head when I’m vexed. We met when I was 18 years old and rough around the edges. She recognized what I didn’t yet see in myself and built on that. On my very first visit I was especially cranky the morning I left. “You arrived full of smiles and you’ll leave the same way,” she said, hugging me. I put on my happy face and did as I was told.  There’s a security in the kind of love that accepts you where you are but loves enough to challenge your growth.  She’s loved me through marriage, babies, divorce, school, life. My daughter bears her name, a daily reminder of the grace that flows from her life.

Now I am 50 and she will be 80.  She moves a little slower since I saw her last, but not much.  Her relaxed pace forces me to breathe deeper, enjoy the moment, remember the day. We share and laugh as we talk of crafty things and inspiration, life and change.   Even without trying she challenges me to be better. That’s what a true friend does.

Five Minute Friday
Set your timer for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.  

 

Lights, Camera

Yesterday I spent the afternoon with my extremely talented friend, Tim Kay, filming promotional video for Regent University.  I hate being in front of the camera – Tim knows he’s special and the only one I’d say yes to. Especially because these videos aren’t scripted –  the camera just rolls and rolls while we chat and carry on. Tim takes all that nonsense, cuts it up and pieces it back together into something that makes sense, just lie a quilt. It was a lot of fun to do something a little different than the norm and to be filming, which I love. This time it’s for television, and I have mixed feelings about that.
The last time I said yes to this, Tim made the video below. Consider it your giggle for the week. It was a month before our wedding – the Hunk and I had just bought our house. I was moving in and he lived 40 miles away. Note the ragamuffin yard and paint test on the living room wall caught on camera for posterity. Oy.

 

 

Things I Learned in March

It amazes me how this year is whizzing by. Here we are at the end of March already. March! An entire quarter of the year is gone. GONE! February was such a blur I forgot what I learned, so this month I kept better track.
Here’s what I learned – in order – because that’s how it works when you keep a list.

1. The history of the Ampersand.  I don’t remember how I stumbled upon this post, but I found it fascinating. I’ve always loved the ampersand, the way its shape can be manipulated to add pizzazz, and I use them a lot, because they’re quick and I like the way they look.

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2. The lyrics used while Paul McCartney wrote the song “Yesterday” were about scrambled eggs.  ♫ “Scrambled eggs/ Oh, my, baby how I love your legs…” ♫   When song-writers come up with a melody that has potential they often employ dummy lyrics until they’re sure the melody is their original idea and not one they’re copying subconsciously. (I should have illustrated Ms. Scrambled Eggs’ legs for this post, but I was afraid they’d look more like cellulite.)

3.  Walt Disney was an ENFP personality just like me.  Of course he was! So were Anne Frank and Mark Twain. Sandra Bullock is also a fellow ENFP. I’ve always considered her my famous alter ego. She’s classy while keeping it real. I can relate to a woman who snorts. On the darker side are ENFPs gone bad: Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Muammar Gaddafi. (We won’t think about them.) Ever wonder about your personality type? You can take the quiz here.

4. Turning 50 isn’t that bad. Yes, I joined the Half-Century Club this month. A lot of very kind people have told me I don’t look 50, which makes my heart happy because I don’t feel 50, either. When I was growing up women who were 50 wore girdles and their hose rolled down at their ankles. They looked round and settled and…. well, old. Times have changed. They say 50 is the new 30, and I believe that. What’s nice about being fifty is the experience I’ve gathered and wisdom I notice in myself as a result of being around the block a few times. It’s all the confidence of your 30s and 40s with an added knowing… a calm assurance that it isn’t all that big of a deal. You can tell the women who are over 50 because they smile and nod a lot. And don’t worry as much about what other people think. And wear their red Keds because they like them, not necessarily because they match. When I turned 40 Sew Sista (who is almost  +10 my age) told me my 40s would be everything I loved about my 30s plus the benefit of not sweating the small stuff as much. Last year she told me my 50s would be even more fun because I’m still young enough for adventure but old enough to not give a hoot about making people stare. She was right.

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5. Australia fined the United States for littering when part of the Skylab space station landed in their country upon re-entry. Totally true story.
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Things I Learned in January

Is it me, or did January FLY by? Woosh! There it went.  With the holidays over and the new year in full swing I’m trying to get back to paying attention a bit more. Life is short – I don’t like missing any of it.  Here are a few things I learned in January:

1. How to dry my hands with one paper towel. I’m one of those people who wonders if they could spare it when the machine dispenses this dinky little receipt-size towel to dry my hands with. Then I take three or four more. Needless to say when I saw this video I was skeptical.  My first opportunity to try it was at church. And it worked! Then it became a challenge to only use one paper towel no matter where I am.  And I feel so smug when I see people like the former me asking the machine if it could spare it. 😉

2. A butt is a valid measurement. So a “buttload” of something isn’t just an expression. You learn a lot when you have a genius engineer know-it-all for a son. A butt is a traditional unit of volume used for wines and other alcoholic beverages, generally defined to be two hogsheads, but the size of hogsheads varies according to the contents. In the United States a hogshead is typically 63 gallons  – a butt is 126 gallons. I bet you’ll never hear this word the same way again. You’re welcome.

3. Not to be confused with boatload, which is the cargo that a vessel carries or is capable of carrying.

4. The Virginia Beach Pump Station is disguised as a lake house. It even includes a small boat house. Apparently, many pump stations across the country are disguised to fit in with their surroundings. Who knew?

vasserpumpstation

Still Dreaming

The Hunk and I are in a tight financial season, so for the past couple years I’ve been cleaning a few houses on the side. I’m one of those weirdos who actually likes to clean.  It’s another way I make art – in the small touches that bless others.

Today I cleaned a house that takes all day every Monday. There was nothing special about today’s work except this family is interracial. As the radio played, reminding us of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s contribution to our world, I thought about my current position: a white woman  serving in an interracial home. I wasn’t the lawyer or the doctor or the decorator there for a visit –  I was the hired help. It made me laugh. And I wasn’t just a white woman cleaning for a black family – oh, no. I was cleaning for an interracial family – a concept that still makes heads spin in some circles. I laughed some more.

I was born in 1964, and my growing up years began in a blue-collar neighborhood in New Jersey. Everyone worked hard for a living and we were all mixed up – a black family there, a Korean family across the street, an Irish Catholic family two houses down. My dad is Dutch/German and my mom is Italian. The kids on my street played together and went to school together, blissfully ignorant of the turmoil in the world around us. My best friend in the third grade was Paschell Simmons – a beautiful girl with  dark brown skin and a smile that never quit. We held hands as we walked through the halls and shared our deepest secrets.  My church was a wee little non-denominational body where everyone was all mixed up, too. That was my normal.

When we moved to Florida things changed. I was beat up almost every day of the 5th grade by a large black girl named Ruth. I later discovered the bathroom I used my first day there was unlabeled “black girls only.” The teachers would tell you otherwise, but the students knew. Except the new white girl from Jersey. I told Ruth I was sorry and that made things a little better, but it depended on her mood any given day. My grandmother gets full credit for my loving attitude toward this angry child, because I probably would have booby-trapped her lunchbox if given half a chance.

I survived the culture shock of living in the south for the most part still blissfully unaware. Sometimes I think maybe God protected me then so I could see more clearly now. Today we attend a multicultural church that’s all mixed up with one service almost entirely filled with our homeless friends.  Many people think we’re weird. It’s where I’m most comfortable – all mixed together and weird.

I’m honored and humbled by what my friends and I learn from each other.  We’re living the Dream… and still Dreaming for more, Dr. King.

5 Minute Friday: Mercy

I look at him, he looks at me, and we know… it’s time.  Some day has arrived.  We agree to put feet to the idea that’s been bouncing in our heads. We quietly pay attention, searching for treasure. The more we look the harder it becomes. How can we choose just one?  A spark.  A dead end. We stop, waiting  for a word, a whisper… none come. The choice is ours.

There. A name. We choose.

A voice sings back to us. Love spills out through tears.

Her name is Mercy.

Learn more at www.worldvision.org

 

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 Set your timer for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.

5 Minute Friday: Red

2013-09-06 15.09.11-1 (1)I wrote this post in the car while travelling south. Soon after we stopped at Cracker Barrel and I spotted this sign. So perfect. 🙂

I see the word and all I can think of is color. She’s my go-to signature. I was never like other little girls whose favorite changed at a whim. “What’s your favorite color?”  Red. Always red. It makes me happy just seeing her familiar glow.

Red is the burning sun as it says goodbye. She’s sweaty cheeks after hard work. Red is merry lights and celebration. Red tells us to stop and warns us of harm. She is an angry burn or a sweet wine. Born to shine, red is too bold to be hidden. She’s first in the spectrum, blazing the trail for the others to join her.

I’ve often wondered if I’ll tire of red one day… if I’ll ever find a new favorite. I have others I love, but I always come back to red. Red feels like home.

Five Minute Friday
Set your timer for five minutes of free writing without worrying about getting it right.  

 

Things I Learned in August

All last week the temperatures dipped and we happily flung open the windows to let in the cool breezes. It was actually chilly when the sun set.  My feed is full of first-day-of-school smiles and around here parents are doing last-minute shopping before school starts Tuesday. This morning I got out of my car and noticed these at my feet…. which means it’s happening whether I’m ready or not. Summer is coming to a close.

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Fall is my favorite, but summer has whizzed by this year.  It’s part of why I like linking up with Emily’s What I Learned posts – I’m a little more intentional about noticing what’s happening around me.  So here are 6 things I learned in August:

1. Icees and Slurpees are the exact same thing made by The Icee Company. If you buy it at 7-11, it’s called a Slurpee. Either way, they’re my go-to treat on the long ride home from a day at the beach.

2. I learned how to eat a fresh fig from our newly discovered fig tree. I had never had one before. They are so sweet… a cross between a strawberry and a peach.  I have no clue how Fig Newtons get their flavor, because they don’t taste anything like these. And they’re so pretty!

fresh figs

3. Door knobs made of copper and its alloys kill germs all by themselves. I learned this from my super smart son.  Go to bed and yesterday’s germs are no more. Great news for busy moms! Silver possesses this same quality, which is why old school canteens were lined with it. BEWARE: Stainless steel and aluminum are germ breeding grounds, which has me looking to see what types of knobs are used in public places…  You can read more here.

4. If I want to type a copyright © symbol in Photoshop (or Word!) I just hold down Alt while typing 0169. Trademark ™  is Alt + 0153. The Registered ® symbol  is Alt+ 0174  I find this really nifty. For those wondering, it works in WordPress, too. 😉

5. I learned how to dye fabric!  This could be dangerous. The math was scary, but I think I can do it. I had the best day with some other gals learning together. I can’t wait to experiment on my own and see what I come up with.

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6. Our property is 140 feet bigger than we thought it was. We have  a little over ¾ of an acre, not ½ like we were told. Yowza! That’s happy news for the Hunk – it means all that grass he’s been mowing really is ours.  When you have ¾  of an acre you can also  justify owning a little red tractor named Rosie to help with mowing.

What did you learn this summer? Head over to Emily’s and link up!

More Than Just 15 Minutes of Fame

I stumbled upon this video soon after it was posted, and it’s totally gone viral. An unknown voice teacher is randomly selected from an audience to sing a duet with Kristin Chenoweth, becoming an instant celebrity when she nails it. It’s a real life dream-come-true story. Kristin was all class, and made some wonderful comments after the performance.

Then there’s the story about the 96 year old man who says he’s not a songwriter and can’t sing… but he enters a song writing contest to honor his late wife of 73 years. The producers of the contest love his heart and honor him in an amazing way. Have a tissue handy. 😉

Sarah and Fred weren’t looking for their 15 minutes of fame. They were everyday people acting on what they feel passionate about… and touched thousands as a result.  Kristin Chenoweth and Green Shoe Studio‘s willingness to push someone else into the spotlight is inspiring and refreshing.