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My Christmas Prayer 2016

My house is quiet this morning. The dogs followed me out of the bedroom but collapsed while I made my coffee. My husband softly snores yet with the cat. There are no excited children to open gifts. It is just me and thoughts.

Whether today is the true date of Jesus’ birth or not,  I am thankful that he agreed to come here and be born as a little baby who would suffer the trials of mankind, growing in communion and fellowship with so many imperfect people. These were the people who were looking for him, yet refused to see him.

Even as a baby he was born to die. He was a sacrifice. Imagine growing up knowing that. Then imagine him surrounded by the hatred and cruelty of mankind (not so different than it is today), and deciding to die for us anyway, Jew and gentile alike. In fact, he died for anyone and everyone who would choose him.

This Christmas, I am thankful for the greatest gift ever, God’s son. So many are lost, hurting, and confused. If I read the news, it brings me to tears more often than not. How can we believe in good when we are surrounded by so much evil? But I pray for this to be a day that gives hope. I pray everyone would have a small moment in their busy days to look past the commercialism and truly appreciate what Christmas represents. There is hope, if we only look. I pray we may all focus on the good and what we do have. I pray for hurting people to find peace. And I pray my little girl would always continue to love God and believe with her childlike faith.

john-1

Merry Christmas!

O Christmas Tree

The tree stood a mere 32 inches off the floor. She reflected on the tree from the Christmas prior and figured she should be thankful. That one had been a literal sapling, meant to be planted outdoors after the passing of the holiday, but it had deteriorated and died before Christmas day had even come. It was just as well anyway as living in an apartment didn’t afford much of a place for them to plant the bitty tree.

She tried not to see the parallels in the trees and her own lack of thriving. The positive side was that one strand of lights made this the brightest little tree she had ever seen. And after scanning the living room portion of their one-room studio apartment, she could see that shifting the items from the small corner table to the desk by the bed would provide a better vantage point for the tree and give it the appearance of a being taller.

After placing the tree in its new home atop the table, she decided it was best to be thankful for what she had and placed their small star on top. With a feeling of contentedness, she settled down on the love seat with a cup of hot cocoa. Unexpectedly, her husband arrived home from work, emerging through the door with a six foot tree he had won at his company Christmas party.

 

Memoirs Christmas Excerpt- All I Want for Christmas

This week, I have posted three Christmastime excerpts from my second book, Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year. I am skipping an important Christmas chapter, so if you want to read it, follow the link above to my books on Amazon. In the meantime, enjoy this, the last chapter about Christmas in Drew’s freshman life experience.

All I Want for Christmas

Without Angela, and being snowed in, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were quiet and fairly uneventful, which I was totally ok with. I spent most of Christmas Eve holed up in my room, alternating between reading and writing.  My mom and I made some cookies together and then it was time to open presents.  Yeah, we did the early present thing and got stockings in the morning.  I suppose this contributed to my not believing in Santa as a young child.

I’m sure I received some great presents, like sweaters, perfume, and maybe a music box, but much like the desire of Ralphie to get a Red Ryder BB Gun, I longed for a keyboard.  Adrienne and I were going to form a band, and though I planned to be lead vocals, I wanted a talent to back it up, even if keyboards were losing their luster in the early ‘90s.  I had dabbled a bit, and badly, with an old acoustic guitar, but we had given it away when we moved, and I had been teaching myself to play the family’s organ.

No box existed beneath our tree that looked quite big enough, but the last box was the right shape and big enough if the keyboard was smallish.  My parents handed the neatly wrapped box to me with Cheshire grins.  By the feel, there was no way this was a keyboard, but I was optimistic it would somehow work out anyway.  Maybe I just wasn’t a good judge of boxes.  I peeled back the paper to reveal a longer, more slender, naked cardboard box.  I needed a sharp object to cut through the mailing tape my mom had used to secure it shut, so my dad handed me a key.  Inside the box was a literal wooden board, wrapped in tissue paper, and adorned with pencil traced keys, much like the one my father had handed to me to open the box. The word “KEYBOARD” had even been neatly scrawled along the top, centered and everything.  I’d been had.  “Very funny!” I whined.  “Just take my dreams and smash them, why don’t you? Hmmpphhh!”

They laughed, and my mom snuck over to a hidden corner of our large basement living room and pulled out a much larger box.  “Maybe this will make up for it,” she said, offering this new gift, which obviously was a keyboard.  I hugged both of my parents tightly and tested out all the settings and voices on my new treasure.  There were 100 effects in all and it was glorious. I got my Red Ryder BB Gun.

On Christmas morning I found candy, toiletries, and more Christmas socks in my stocking.  We spent a good portion of the day watching some holiday classics, which even my mom was able to join in on since she only had to cook a small Christmas dinner for three.

We each spoke with Angela on the phone.  She missed us and cried a little again, but Ryan had bought her some expensive perfume, so that helped, though his parents had bought her a cookbook, something she did not take kindly to.

That evening, Belle called to wish me a Merry Christmas.  We couldn’t talk long, but it was good to hear each others’ voices.  Our conversation was cut a little shorter than planned when Milton started barking and running in circles by the front door.  Somebody was trying to open the door.  “Dag nabbit!” came a muffled voice from the outside.  My dad cautiously opened the door to reveal the Phillips’ grandma, the one whose sweaters matched her dog’s. She wore an expression of bewilderment.  “But…you’re not Phillip.”

“No.  Can I help you?”

“Oh, dear.  I can’t find my house.”  I didn’t know if either of my parents had ever seen this woman before, so I didn’t think they knew where to direct her, and I stepped in.

“Uh, actually, you live down the road there,” I said, indicating the Phillips’ home down the hill, all lit up, with a Christmas tree in every visible window, and one on the roof for good measure.

“Are you sure?  It’s kinda tacky.”

I suppressed my laughter as best as I could.  “Yes, ma’am.  I’ve seen you with the family before.”

“Oh, my.  It’s a bit slippery out here.  I don’t suppose one of you could help me and Lester out?  I don’t want another hip replacement.” I assumed Lester was the name of her dog.

“Sure.  I’ll walk you home,” I found myself saying before I knew what I was doing.  “That’s ok, right?” I asked Mom and Dad as I laced up my snow boots.

“Sure Drew, but you be careful too,” my mom replied.

As we took the short hike down the hill I learned that Lester’s owner’s name was Wilma, “like from the Flintstones,” and she had moved in with the Phillips a few months after they moved in.  She didn’t like her son or grandson, but her daughter-in-law was nice.  When we arrived at the brightly lit front door, I rang the doorbell because it was locked.

Junior answered.  He just stared at us for a bit, long enough for me to catch a glimpse of several Christmas trees, which smelled awesome, but having so many was still weird, like a forest in their house.  “Looks like Grandma didn’t get run over by a reindeer after all!” he shouted over his shoulder towards what I assumed was their dining room area.  Filipia came running, but an indifferent middle-aged man, Mr. Phillips, just glowered from a distance.

“Oh, Wilma, I was so worried about you,” she said as she gently took the old lady’s hand.  “Thank you so much for returning her to us,” Filipia directed toward me.

“Yes, thank you, Deary,” Wilma said as she reached into her pocket and pulled out a quarter.  “Here you go and Merry Christmas,” she said, placing the coin into my hand.

“Oh, well thank you, and Merry Christmas to you all,” I said as I reversed directions and walked as quickly as I could back to my own, normal home, twenty-five whole cents richer.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved

 

 

Memoirs Christmas Excerpt- Father of the Bride

Here’s another holiday excerpt from Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year.

Family of the Bride

Not since National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (still my family’s favorite holiday film) had my family attempted to go see a movie together, and that had been two years ago.  This Christmas, however, we were not all going to be together, so my parents wanted to make sure we got in some quality time before we flew Angela off to California to spend the holiday with her soon to be in-laws.  So what feel-good, yet funny family film could we see?  The Father of the Bride.  Of course.  After all, Angela was getting married and it was all she had on her mind. There were no Griswold moments, but Steve Martin was a funny guy, too.

Of course, just preparing to go to a movie as a family was an event.  We had to stop at a grocery store on the way to purchase affordable candy bars and cans of soda.  Winter was the best time of year for a movie because all of these snack items could easily be stashed away in our winter coats.  My parents (and Han Solo) taught me the value of smuggling.

The only theater we had around at that time was in Remington, at the mall.  My dad’s patience was thin when it came to dealing with the mall, and we were there the last Saturday before Christmas, so we drove up and down every row in search of a parking spot.  My dad was pulling into one when we all realized it was already occupied by a motor scooter.  I heard some indecipherable mumbling coming from the driver’s seat, and we remained paused halfway in that parking spot for at least thirty seconds or so while I’m pretty sure my dad contemplated running over the scooter. Fortunately for said scooter, someone a few spots down was leaving, so my dad threw it into reverse, almost giving us all whiplash and snagged the spot, much to the chagrin of another circling family in a minivan.  A grin of satisfaction spread across my dad’s face.

The content of the movie was too much for an emotional bride, and when we walked out of the theater people were confused as to what we had just seen because Angela was crying uncontrollably, and quite vocally.  I cried a little to myself, only because we had been surrounded by people with popcorn, but we had none.  Even if we’d popped it at home and found a way to stuff it in our coats, it wouldn’t have been fresh by the time we got there.

The next day was a day of snow flurries and we had to drive through it in order to get Angela to the airport.  Nothing was sticking, but people panicked anyway.  Passengers were still allowed to have their loved ones escort them all the way to the gate to see them off back then, and Angela cried the entire way through the airport- while walking, riding the moving walkways, checking her suitcase- the whole time.  She calmed down a bit when we sat and waited with her.

“I left presents for each of you under the tree.  I won’t be there to see you open them, so take pictures, Mom, please,” Angela said.

“Hope you don’t want to see those pictures until next Christmas,” I joked.  My mom was notorious for not getting around to dropping off the film for development.  Thank goodness for the more recent advent of the digital camera.

“Drew, that isn’t funny,” my mom defended herself in a playful way, knowing I was, in fact, correct.

Angela was laughing a full belly laugh when her boarding announcement was made, and she immediately snapped back into a sobbing mess.  “I can’t believe I’m missing Christmas with you.  I’ve never missed Christmas with you.”

“Honey, sometimes you have to compromise when you get married,” Mom said.

“I don’t even like Ryan’s family!” and she sobbed harder.  “What if this whole thing is a mistake?  I don’t really want to be related to them for the rest of my life.”

“Now is not the time for this, Angela.  Your plane is boarding,” my dad said, and she sobbed even harder, then she threw herself onto my dad and wept into his chest.  My dad was a loving man, but he never really knew how to handle emotional, girlie moments, so he just stood, eyes large, deer in headlight look on his face, and patted her back for a few seconds, his arm bent stiffly.  My mom saw his need for help and gently stepped in, slipping her arm around Angela and scooping her away toward the gate.

“I love you guys, even you, Drew,” Angela called back as she moped down the gate hallway to the plane, glancing over her shoulder several times before she went around a curve and we lost view. Soon after, the doors closed.

“Can we stay to watch her plane take off?” I asked.  I always loved watching the planes when we went to the airport.

“I think we’d probably better, just to make sure she doesn’t come back,” my dad said, and we watched until the plane taxied away and then rose into the sky a distance away.  It was going to be strange having Christmas with just Mom and Dad.  We all sighed simultaneously, and then Dad said, “Well, we better get going.  It looks like the snow might start sticking and we don’t want to be stuck driving in that mess.”

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved

Memoirs Christmas Excerpt- Wonderland

Here’s another little sampling of Drew’s life at Christmastime from her awkward freshman year. If you enjoy this, check out the link here.

I couldn't stop laughing. Drew could have had this poster.

I couldn’t stop laughing. Drew could have had this poster.

Another Trip to Wonderland

During the week of school right before a big holiday break little happens educationally, except tests.  Teachers figure kids will forget everything over the break, so they pack in the tests while it’s all still jammed in their flighty teenage brains.  Or they have parties.  The last few days before Christmas break were a confusing mix of both.  The worst thing was crashing from a party in one class when there was a test looming in the next, such as I did in pre-algebra.  It must have shown on my face because Chip even offered to share his test answers with me, but I knew I would have a better score even if I just made something up about a, or b, or x, or whatever stupid letter I was supposed to find a number for.

Chip was still hobbling around, but it didn’t stop him from giving me a bear hug as we parted ways that day.  “I’ll see ya nixt year, little buddy, cuz we’ll be havin’ New Years and all.  Git it?”

“Oh, Chip, you are clever.  Have a good and safe break,” I said as we parted ways.  Apparently, we had become quite good friends since he broke it off with me, or whatever it was. Chip even gave me a Christmas card with Rudolph’s head mounted over a fireplace. Classy. But at least he wasn’t flirting with me anymore.

Chorus put me back into party mode, but then again, that was usually all we did.  Of course, we had done some Christmas songs and caroled around one of the elementary schools earlier in the week.  Mona and Violet had made dozens of cookies and put them into little goodie bags to give out to everyone in class.  I overheard Mona laughing to Violet and Julia, something about plumping up all the other girls so they’d be fat in comparison.  I should have known there was a sneaky evil agenda behind the cookies.  The three of them made a pact against all holiday temptations.  If they wanted to sweeten up their celery sticks, they were allowed a small dab of peanut butter only. Interestingly enough, I felt no guilt over my plans to eat all the sweets I could acquire.

When class ended, I bid goodbye to Anne, whom I was fairly certain I would see over the break at some point, and Ally, whom I probably would not see.  Her parents were planning to send her away to a boarding school because her grades were so bad, and because, according to Ally, her stepmom was evil. We hugged and exchanged Christmas cards, in which we had each included our addresses, hers being at the new school. “Bathroom breaks from photography just won’t be the same without you.”

“I know.  Take care of yourself, and make sure you kiss Dustin today.  Seriously, he needs something to think about over the break…you.”

“Yeah, sure thing,” I lied with a smile as we parted.

Adrienne met me in the hallway before photography.  “We need to miss the bus today.  My mom already said she could pick us up at Dustin’s at five.”

“Uh, ok, but we don’t even know if we can go to Dustin’s.”

“Yes, we do.  We talked earlier when I caught him staring at Alyssa in the hallway.  You need to make an impression on him before the break.”

“Weird.”

“What?” Adrienne asked.

“You’ve never met Ally, right?  But she pretty much said the same thing.”

“She’s obviously very smart.”

Dustin approached with a smile.  “Hey.  So you ladies are coming over to hang and play some Nintendo today?”

“Sure.  You really know how to kick off a holiday break,” I teased.

“I know.  But I might also have some mistletoe around if you get bored,” he replied with a smirk as he passed us and walked into the classroom for another holiday class party.

When the bell of freedom rang, Dustin said he had one thing to take care of before we left and that he’d meet us at the corner down from the school.  Dustin had a real eye for photography and he had made some great prints earlier that week.  One was of Alyssa.  I had seen him pull it out of an envelope for a few seconds earlier, when he thought nobody was looking, and he wrote her name on the front of the envelope.  As Adrienne and I walked down the hill, I found Dustin in the crowd, slipping the envelope into Alyssa’s book bag right as she boarded her bus.

A small, thin woman in red was heading out the front door of Dustin’s house when we arrived.  I could see him tense up as we all approached each other.  “Dustin, Sweetie, I’m off to run a few errands and then to my work Christmas party, after I pick up your father.”

“It’s not an open bar is it?”

“Dustin, now is not the time,” she said, almost under her breath. “Who are your friends?” she said more loudly and cheerfully as she smiled at Adrienne and me.

“Adrienne and Drew,” Dustin replied as he gestured towards each of us.

“It’s very nice to meet you girls,” she said as she limply shook each of our hands. “Don’t mind the mess.  I haven’t had much time for tidying up lately.”  She reached up a hand and touched Dustin’s cheek.  “Be good.”

“Yeah, you too, Mom.”  We watched her climb into a large old blue station wagon, start the sputtering engine and drive away.

“She seems nice,” Adrienne offered as we entered the house.

“Yeah, but she’s not the problem.”

In the corner of the living room was a sad looking Christmas tree.  It wasn’t one of those charming Charlie Brown trees or anything either.  This had been a nice tree, but a large chunk had been chopped off one side of the tree, ornaments scattered on the floor beneath, where not a single present sat.  I tried to act like I hadn’t seen it, but Dustin caught me looking.  “My father used part of the tree for kindling to start a fire last night.  We had kindling wood, but it was out back, and the ax was closer.  I hid the ax this morning.  Good thing he wasn’t drunk.”

“So your dad is a drunken douchebag?  My dad sucks too.  Drew’s just about the only person I know with two good parents,” Adrienne said.  It was true too.  I tried not to take it for granted and sometimes I even felt guilty because most of my friends had weird parental situations of some sort.

We managed to escape the world where parents mattered while attempting to rescue Princess Toadstool, later known as Princess Peach, in Dustin’s attic bedroom.  Guns N’ Roses blared from the stereo.  We stopped between levels as “Don’t Cry” came on.  “I love this song.  I know it’s a released song and everyone knows it and all, but it’s still one of my favorites on this album,” Dustin admitted, and we listened without speaking, all the way until Axl Rose held out the final note, his voice wavering up and down, and then we resumed the game until Adrienne’s mom showed up.

As Dustin walked us toward the door, he caught me gently by the hand, letting Adrienne walk out ahead.  “I couldn’t find the mistletoe, and I couldn’t afford to get you a gift, so I hope this is ok,” he said as he leaned in and gave me a quick, soft kiss on my lips. His hand let mine go, he smiled, his beautiful dark left eye showing more of the green flecks than usual, and wished me a Merry Christmas.  I turned and walked into the wall.

“Yeah, Merry Christmas,” I said as I corrected my position and practically ran out the door.  How clumsy!

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved

 

 

Memoirs Christmas Excerpt- Deck the Halls

I have decided to post a few Christmastime excerpts from my second book (Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: Fresh-meat Year) this week. Please follow the title link  if you are interested in more.

My favorite Christmas movie...

My favorite Christmas movie…

Deck the Halls…and Everything Else Too

My favorite time of year had arrived and I was prepared.  Mom had a habit of getting tired of old home decorations from Christmas to Christmas and would decide to restock with a new theme every few years.  I was surprised so much of our old stuff had made the cut to travel when we moved, but she’d had a year off since we didn’t really have Christmas that year. However, she’d seen it all again last year and it was now time for a change.  I scavenged most of the stuff she set aside to donate or toss out and used it to decorate as much of my bedroom as possible.  Most of it no longer matched, but I didn’t care.  It was festive.  It was one of the only times of year when the creepy red carpet in my room actually wasn’t so creepy.

As I Scotch taped a string of colored lights around one of my bedroom windows, I could see the Phillips’ car driving down the cul-de-sac with an enormous tree strapped to the roof, which I thought was strange since I remembered seeing them bring a tree home sometime earlier in the week.  In a few minutes, while I was wrapping blue tinsel garland around the ends of my curtain rods, they left again, treeless.  Then, about an hour later, when I walked out to get the mail, they drove back home with another huge tree.

It was the Saturday a week and a half before Christmas.  Mom always wanted to wait as long as possible to get the tree so the needles didn’t all fall off too soon and we could leave it up through New Year’s, but we were pushing it this year.  I was afraid all the good trees would be gone, so I’d begged to go that day and it was time.  My mom knocked on my door.

“Come in,” I called.

“Ready?  Angela just got home from work and your dad says it’s now or never.”  She took a look around my room and shook her head.  I knew the haphazard array of colors was not quite to her liking, but it was my room, so she didn’t say much, just, “The red carpet seems appropriate now.”  There were a few ways I could take that.

We sifted through the selection at the make-shift tree lot for at least an hour before we found the right tree.  My mom had brought along a couple of her more heavy ornaments to really test out the tree’s branches, and she had re-measured the spot where we would place the tree so we knew how tall and wide we could go.  A man dressed as an elf prepared our tree for travel.

As my dad was paying for our tree, I spied the Phillips talking with another elf at the tree lot.  “Ok, so you will hold those three trees for us?  I can take the big one now, and I’ll be back for the rest tomorrow.”

“Yeah, sure.  Phillips, right?”

“Yes.”

“Writing it down now.  I’ll put reserved tickets on them for you.  You need help getting the other one loaded up now?”

I walked back to my family.  What the heck did the Phillips need so many trees for?  How many did they have and where were they putting them all?  So weird.  Then I noticed that the Christmas sweater and dog lady was with them.  Of course.  That made perfect sense.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved