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The Wrong Picture

My contact at the Salisbury Post dropped me a line to inform that she needed a different picture to go with my articles. It seems the one they’re currently using goes pixelated upon print. For those of us who remember the good ol’ days before pixels, that’s hipster talk for a bunch of little squares. She likened my image to a “perp on cops.” I looked at my very cropped headshot and sighed. As usual, my friend was correct. Though I helpfully suggested she use a picture of another writer since she is much more attractive, she responded as if I were joking.

So I set about finding a suitable image. The problem is that I’m not into selfies. In fact I do everything I can to stay out of the way of a camera. As family photos will attest, that’s me there behind my husband, peeking through his armpit. I figure if you can see my eyeballs I’m officially part of the obligatory group lineup.

I found one that’s not too terrible… if you can get past the death stare I was giving my beloved. Apparently my disdain for being photographed had bled over to include my favorite family member who happened to be wielding the camera.

Another picture was not quite as menacing. But the roses which climbed the trellis behind my head formed a funky garland that appeared as horns when printed. Hmmm… the old belief that taking one’s picture steals the soul may indeed be correct. Or perhaps more accurately it reveals the soul.

Still looking for something less psychotic I found one of me with our three beautiful daughters. But the grown child next to me has long dark silky hair like her father. A large strand of it fell across my shoulder as apparently I was leaning in close in an effort to hide. I cropped my lovely head from the group and was disappointed to see that her hair looked like a snake crawling over my shoulder; probably another indication of my sin sick soul.

A short while later I found one where I’m sandwiched between my younger twin sisters on a red sofa. The two of them look like skinny bookends so of course I cropped them out. It was a little disconcerting to see the leftovers. I had to wonder where all those chins came from. Apparently in an effort to hide the discomfort of being photographed with my pretty young siblings I scrunched my head downward rolling up all the extra neck skin.

Suddenly the wisdom of Barbara Bush made sense when she revealed that she always wore a three strand pearl necklace to hide the wrinkles.

The last available option was my senior picture from high school. Unfortunately if the shag haircut didn’t give away the date of the photo surely the purple tie-dyed top would.

So here’s what we’re going to do. Until I can get a selfie stick… a very, very long selfie stick, we’re going to use our imaginations. Forget about the pixelated perp, the snake and my sin sick soul. Wipe the image of multiple chins from your thinking. Instead picture someone lovely like perhaps… Nicole Kidman for example.

That’s exactly what I look like… except with horns… and a three strand pearl necklace.

Best picture ever!

Best picture ever!

So what’s the deal with all the humidity? Nobody dreams of a damp Christmas… or a sticky New Year. We actually broke down and turned on the air conditioner lest the heat wafting off the relatives cause tempers to flare. Some of us of a certain age cannot be overheated without dangerous consequences. Men take note: when a woman picks up a magazine or a church bulletin or a dishtowel to fan herself, it’s time to turn on the air. Never mind that it’s winter; there’s nothing jolly and bright about a sweltering woman in room full of guests.

Nobody dared light candles or God forbid build a fire in the fireplace. Ambience was no longer the goal and festive lighting dropped waaayyy down on the list. Keeping mama cool was the number one concern, at least for any man who considers himself wise. Take my husband for instance. Christmas is over and the ceiling fans are still spinning at warp speed. THANK YOU DARLIN’!

Our grown kids made footprints of the three youngest grands at some point in yesteryear. Fashioned from salt dough they are always on display. However lately they’re more like sponges. The indentations of their tiny feet began to drift slightly. So into the oven they went. The peanuts in the fruit bowl became a little wiggly as well and had to be toasted again too. Therefore the oven was set to 200 degrees for an hour. They were still a little chewy when we checked them; [the peanuts, not the footprints.] It was sort of like biting into a raisin when you’re expecting something crunchy. T’was a little disconcerting. So we roasted them another hour while I made our traditional holiday salmon stew.

I called to my beloved from the kitchen.  “Turn the air down another notch honey. I’m still hot.”

“Yes baby you are,” he replied. I fanned with a dishtowel and gave him the look. It wasn’t pretty, but it WAS hot.

The salmon stew was perfect except for the heat of it. We fanned and slurped it down like we had good sense. Why ditch tradition just because El Nino is passing through. Certain things must always be done after the holidays; like washing Christmas socks, and discovering that last snowman on top of the refrigerator, and apparently consuming salmon stew.

“Lord have mercy! I’m dying!” I exclaimed as we finished our late supper. A window was flung open which allowed a warm breeze to enter the kitchen… a very warm breeze. I walked outside in my pajamas no longer caring what the neighbors thought… bless their hearts. Immediately my hair multiplied like fluffy bunnies forming a lovely cotton candy look around my glowing face.

Again, not pretty… but it WAS hot.

Last of the Christmas cheer going down the drain.

Last of the Christmas cheer going down the drain.

My beloved joined me and we took that opportunity to haul Frosty and his miserable companions to the building out back til next year. Water ran through the yard as it had reached its limit. I understood. Mud marred up past the black line on my favorite Converses. But a little breeze stirred the balmy night air delivering a moment of reflection.

“At least our heating bill won’t be as high as last year.” One of us spoke hopefully.

The other one of us wisely observed. “Yeah… but we’ll make up for it by running the air conditioner full blast.”

We walked back to the house through the nature induced sauna. A piney wreath laden with fake snow smiled at me from yet another door. I decided I like it there… at least til spring. That’s probably when we’ll get a record breaking snowfall.

Maybe then I will finally cool off.

As I shopped for jeans for my beloved, I noticed this ad in the men’s department, with a caption that says, “The perfect gifts for everyone…”dude

Are you kidding me? Mister ruggedly handsome wades deftly to shore while sporting his new man purse. His shirt, and sweater, are all tucked into his khakis. Who fishes like that?

What man is going to look at that picture and think, “Oh goody! I DO hope I get that for Christmas! What a perfect gift!”

I see that picture and wonder why he’s out wading in his church clothes. What’s in that man purse anyway… a hairbrush and a mirror? I hope he brought a sandwich because I sure don’t see any evidence on his ensemble that he’ll be frying fish.

Of course we all know that if we gave our husbands such an outfit the first thing we’d say after he opened it would be “FISH SLIME AND BAIT GUTS ARE HARD TO GET OUT OF A SWEATER! DO NOT WIPE YOUR HANDS ON YOUR NEW CLOTHES!”

Maybe that’s why he carries a man purse

… for his wet-wipes

… and possibly some earplugs if he lives with a woman like me.

Sorry.

I just read back over this and it sounds pretty harsh.

My apologies to the pretty man… bless his heart.

I guess everyone has to make a living.

Besides, a poster with a man dressed like Larry the Cable Guy probably wouldn’t sell that many sweaters.

… or man purses.

Perhaps that’s why Larry endorses reflux medication.

Now THAT makes sense.

Beautiful Joes

What could he do? It came down to a couple different options. He could break their engagement and tell everybody she’d been unfaithful. Or he could handle things quietly in order to protect her. Being a nice guy he chose option ‘B.’ He would cancel the wedding plans and somehow move on without her.

Suddenly an option was presented to him that he’d never considered.

He could marry her and raise the baby as his own. It would include taking a hit to his reputation and trusting a woman with a very questionable story but…

Matthew 1:19 tells us that Joseph was a good man. Even a good man would struggle with option ‘C.’

Isn’t it remarkable that the King of the universe chose to come to earth as a man so that God’s beautiful plan to buy us back to Himself could be realized? To me it’s interesting that He started and ended with a couple of regular Joes.

The first was just a hardworking, tax paying guy looking forward to having sons of his own and building the family carpenter business. He found himself being the adopted dad of a little boy Who would be revealed as the Son of God. But Joseph willingly gave up reputation and whatever it took to protect this child. When it meant believing a far-fetched story about his fiancée, he was willing. When it meant taking off to a foreign country with his brand new family in tow, he was God’s man.

Good, faithful, hard-working, steady Joe; not much by social standards, but chosen by God.

Fast forward to the end of Jesus’ life.

Another Joe steps up. This time it’s a rich man with great social status. But he refused to accept the verdict of his fellow religious leaders who had wrongly convicted Jesus. With wisdom he stepped out from the Jewish high counsel and made a decision. He would personally take the body of Christ and bury it in his own tomb… the one he just paid good money to have carved out for himself. This rich man with great social standing did not ask servants to do the difficult task. He made his request to Pilate, then took the body of Jesus and carefully wrapped it in fine linen, placing it in his own tomb. What courage! He could’ve lost everything by associating himself with Jesus.

Instead, he is forever chronicled in Scripture as Joseph from Arimathea, a good and righteous man.

Two Joes: One poor, without clout; the other rich, with high social standing. Each faithful, steady and strong in character, just doing life as the Lord guided.

In my life, the people who have influenced and encouraged me most have not been dynamic, flashy, or extremely talented. They have been beautiful though, because faithfulness is a beautiful thing.

Don’t you love how God uses us regular Joes for His most important tasks?

PS: You can read more about Joseph the step-dad in Luke 2:1-24 & Matthew 1:18-2:23; and Joseph of Arimathea in Luke 23:50-56 & Matthew 27:57-61.

Sometimes Beautiful Joes are named Dennis, David, Randy and Tom

Sometimes Beautiful Joes are named Dennis, David, Randy and Tom

A Christmas Miracle

One summer at a family picnic a beloved nephew commented that he likes those tall Tupperware salt and pepper shakers because they don’t have to be refilled often. They’re great for camping since they have lids and are airtight. I made a mental note and thought how nice it would be to find him some at a yard sale. Though everyone in the family had owned a set at some point, I hadn’t seen mine in years. So I added “Shakers for Jason” to the list of kindnesses that I will never actually get around to.

One day while digging in an extremely low cabinet for a possible lid to match a sour cream container, what did my eyes behold but a pepper shaker from yesteryear. Yep! Still had pepper on the lid. Pulling every container and lid from yon cabinet did not reveal the wife to the set. Apparently she had left the pepper of her youth for better digs.

Bummer.

Tossing all the unmatching lids and tubs back to their home of discontent, Mr. Pepper was elevated to a better position. It’s hard enough losing one’s mate. But being relegated to the far reaches of a cupboard behind lowly yogurt and Cool Whip containers when one is used to being the crème de la crème called Tupperware is unthinkable. Now he stood proudly ahead of the crowd hoping for better days. Still, he was not brought out and made useful as he would surely look a little odd standing in the middle of the table all alone.

“Where’s the salt?” people would question.  What answer could he possibly give that wouldn’t be painfully awkward? I was sure he’d rather just hide in the cabinet. His one consolation was that at least now he stood in front of the throngs of mismatched Tupperware wannabes.

Then lo and behold a Christmas miracle occurred. My sister was digging through one of her highest kitchen cabinets most likely looking for the lid to a butter tub, when out of the back rolled something odd.

“Hey Lynna. Haven’t you been looking for Tupperware shakers for Jason? Here’s one, but I have no idea where the other got to.” There she stood all long and tall, a silver “S” upon her chest, as lovely as the day she met him! [Mrs. Salt… not my sister]

What had come between them that sent each to such different worlds? How had she lived without him so long? From the depths of her soul she heard Peaches & Herb singing a hopeful song.

Yes, Christmas came early this year for my nephew Jason. For Mr. and Mrs. Pepper too [she decided to take his name this time] as once again they are a couple. Standing proudly together they serve side by side.  No more hiding. No more awkward questions. Just happy hearts together for at last they are “Reunited and it feels so good!”J salt&pep

Peace on Earth

She sang her little heart out holding each note longer than necessary. I wasn’t sure what she was singing but it sounded familiar. Our three year old grands Jesse and Marie came to ‘help’ decorate for Christmas. Large plastic bins were stacked on the porch. I unpacked the treasures there while the kids took each item inside and placed them where they deemed best. When finally I dared to look it took my breath away. Words cannot describe the loveliness they arranged. Much like Marie’s song it was familiar but not quite right.

Apparently there was not enough chaos so the plastic playhouse complete with ringing doorbell and flushing toilet [their dad is a plumber] had been pulled to the middle of the floor. The big toy basket had been emptied as well in case we needed more to step around. My dancing raisins which usually march on a windowsill in the kitchen had made their way to the playhouse. No longer did they sing ‘I heard it through the grapevine.’ A new song was given them by sweetie Marie. She helped them hold out the notes long and loud. I still couldn’t figure it out.

Her brother stacked Christmas blocks as high as they would go instead of lining them up side by side in a message of good will. Every year we get those blocks out and every year we stare at them trying to remember what they spell. It was even harder this time as they teetered vertically thanks to Jesse.

My prior vision of hosting two grandchildren to decorate was shot to pieces. Instead of sipping hot chocolate and baking sugar cookies I lobbed clementines their way. We peeled fruit and tried to make sense of the clutter. “Where should we put the manger scene?”

“Oba heah Grammy!” Jesse grabbed the largest piece and ran.

Smack dab in the middle of the dining room table he placed the shelter. He and Marie climbed onto chairs and arranged all the pieces to face the manger. Marie had a hard time letting go of baby Jesus but finally placed him in the ceramic hay. Jesse had a hard time letting go of the camel as he was fascinated with who could ride such a thing.

“The wise man rode it honey.” I tried to coax him to place it with the others.

“Where’d he sit?” He eyed the two humps and tried to make Mary fit there. She was tired. I understood.

Their other grandmother Karen had hosted them for similar festivities a few weeks earlier. Unlike me she has a better handle on things. I imagined Christmas music playing, a fire in the fireplace, a quiet reading of the Christmas story complete with Scripture. Beautiful treats were surely served from pretty dishes. She probably even made an Advent wreath or something noble.

My house looked like a dadgum bomb went off.

But Marie still sang. Jesse asked for another clementine. I popped popcorn and plunked the kids down in front of Curious George where we learned about siphoning algae water from a swimming pool. Like Mary I was too pooped to party.

Their mom arrived a bit later and I was ashamed of the chaos. She laughed and said, “Nana Karen’s house looked the same way when I picked them up.”

I sighed with relief that I wasn’t the worst grandmother in the world. Marie sang loud and her mom said, “That’s right! Hold those notes out!” I laughed and asked, “WHAT is she singing?”

Hannah smiled. “Peace on earth. She’s practicing for the church program.”

I nodded knowingly as the man in the yellow hat commended George as well. We searched through the clutter for socks and shoes. Bedlam left with their mother who was happy just to have shopped for groceries alone. Jesse yelled through open truck windows. “Bye Grammy. Love you love you!”

Marie sang as they drove out of sight. “Peeeeeeace on Eaaaarrrrffff.”

I picked up the blocks and placed them side by side trying to remember the joyful message they were intended to spell. I studied the letters as I tossed toys into the basket and vacuumed up popcorn.

Consoling myself with the fact that at least Mary was placed safely in the stable instead of balancing precariously on the two humped camel, I laughed when it dawned on me. The message of the blocks was the same one Marie had sung all morning. It’s the one the angels proclaimed as well. While everything around me screamed Christmas chaos the Lord as usual whispered a better way.

Hopefully my beloved husband will appreciate this deep spiritual truth too because right now I can’t locate the remote control.

Peace.

It’s a message worth remembering.

photo (88)

It Was Perfect

It was love at first sight. I knew because my heart did that little thing where it leaped strangely before settling back into place. At my age one does not ignore such flutter. My husband picked up on the coveting when he glanced at my flushed face. “Do we need to go back and look at it?”

I paused and said no. I didn’t plan to get festive anytime soon. Besides… the tree we found at Big Lots for ten bucks about a hundred years ago worked fine. We approached the register with our wheel barrow. That should give you an indication as to how early it was in the Christmas season. However I continued to look backward, much like Lot’s wife longing for something behind.

My wise husband advised, “You realize we’re in Magic Mart. If you like it we’d better get it now. It won’t be here when we come back.”

I sighed at the thoughts of actually purchasing such a grand and glorious tree. He parked the wheel barrow near the register and took my hand. Unlike Lot he led me back to the land of extravagance. There before us stood a tall and stately artificial tree that looked so real I fully expected forest animals to scamper happily out to greet us. Instead a young man in a blue vest stepped from within its massive branches and plugged up the lights.

Angels sang… Or perhaps it was Brenda Lee. I couldn’t be certain. But we were all suddenly rockin’ around the Christmas tree. There were little pine cones tucked sweetly into the limbs. Long pine needles gave it a soft billowy look. Tiny lights were already worked into the branches. No longer would our holiday festivities include swearing while untangling last year’s illuminations.

And it was massive! The 1920’s craftsman style house that we lived in yearned for such a stately tree. The magnificent perfectly shaped pine would barely use one corner of our huge den. I yearned for it.

We purchased it and I did love it dearly for approximately three years. Then we moved from the home with the ginormous den. Since it was June when we moved, the stately tree was boxed and stacked in a building out back with many other treasures. That first Christmas in our cozy new digs [that’s code for teeny tiny] David dragged the tree, box and all from the building out back into the house. Sweat poured from his brow as he commented sweetly, “Feels like I’m dragging a body.”

I wondered how he knew.

We set up the tree in the dining room only to realize there was no longer a place to dine… or sit or stand or walk. I sighed that sigh that a woman sighs when she doesn’t like what her husband has done though it is exactly what she has asked him to do.

David sighed too. There wasn’t even room to sweat. He took it apart and hauled it to the porch. It pushed two platform rockers out of the way with its giant pretend branches. Forest animals giggled from deep within the massive hunk of Christmas delight. Tiny pine cones laughed and said, “How do ya like us now?” No one felt much like rockin’ around it. Besides… our rockers bowed shamefully face down in the yard.

We held festivities like that for about another seven years. Finally last Christmas either a very strong wind or a gang of angry squirrels wreaked havoc on our beautiful tree. The lights no longer lit, the branches fell all willy-nilly and did not reach out beckoning all to enjoy Christmas. Instead they dropped low in symbolic surrender.

“There shall be no rockin’!” They mocked us each time we tried to edge our way into the house. So once again David did the man job, only this time he hauled it to the curb. Again he commented on it being similar to dragging a body. Again I wondered if it seemed like a practice run for the day when I finally sigh one too many times.

I was glad when a lady in a mini-van screeched to a halt. The look in her eyes was familiar and I hoped she would not turn into a pillar of salt. She was wise and dared not leave expecting it to be there if she came back later. Her arms were strong and I delighted to see her hoist it into the back of her sensible vehicle. As it stretched forward pushing lunch boxes and toddlers out of the way she skipped happily around to the driver’s side. With piney branches rearranging her hair she smiled knowingly as she drove away.

It was perfect!

As I recall that scene from my rocking chair which rests contentedly on the porch, I have to wonder.

Where did I stash that little tiny tree from Big Lots?

Decorate for Christmas? Check! Call me festive.

Decorate for Christmas?
Check! Call me festive.

 

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