Dear Pastor,

Dear Pastor,
Is something wrong with me because Halloween is my favorite holiday and Christmas is my least favorite?  As a Christian, I feel like I should be stoned or shunned or take some sort of punishment for even thinking this much less saying it out loud.

The main reason I LOVE Halloween?  NO STRESS!  You buy two or three bags of candy and you’re done.  Boom.  That’s it.  Fun times.
Christmas is quite the opposite.  It should be called Stressmas instead.  Every year I say “I’m not letting Christmas get to me this year” but somewhere along the way that becomes impossible. 

Decorating comes first.  Search, unpack, put up.  Hmmm, I’ve used these same decorations for years it seems.  I need new ones.  But I need to save that money to use for gifts.  Oh well.  Maybe I’ll catch some things on sale after Christmas.  Yes, only ugly things are left for the after Christmas sales. 
My so called relaxing shopping trips become a scavenger hunt to find exactly what this person may like.  I stress over what to buy and then I stress over whether or not the recipient will even like it.  Then I spend hours wrapping those gifts.  This isn’t my favorite thing.  I’ve found myself overusing the pre-decorated gift boxes.  A couple of pieces of tape and stick on a bow and done.  Gift bags are great but they can get expensive and I have a little one that just loves to pull the tissue paper out of the bags.  Sometimes I am forced to use wrapping paper.  How many times have I cut it just a half inch too small forcing me to throw that piece away and start over?  Too many to name.  Every now and then there’s that moment when you are cutting and the scissors start smoothly sliding down the paper without any wrist/finger movement of all.  What a small, short lived victory, but yes, at least one tiny moment to celebrate.

If you like crowds you probably love Christmas.  I don’t.  I seriously don’t.  Crowds stress me out.  My road rage converts to shopping cart rage.  Why do they park them in the middle of the aisle?  Why does Walmart have forty cash registers but only open four?  Why are they always out of what I need?  Most wonderful time of the year?  I don’t think so.
I do love to cook but when I am physically and mentally tired it’s not the best time.  I host two large gatherings at my house so that means cooking and cleaning for both of those.  Somehow the cooking part takes precedence over the cleaning.  Thankfully my dear husband is tremendous help with both of those chores even though I am snapping at him because I am totally stressed out. 

Once the whirlwind of family is over then there’s clean up.  Again.  Boxes, bows and wrapping paper everywhere.  My granddaughters open one gift, throw it aside and then look for the next one.  I’m trying to teach them that there’s more to Christmas than gifts.  Much more.
And then there’s the stress of watching the checkbook balance get on down to near nothing.  I find myself counting the days until Christmas by paydays. 

I think the time of year has quite a bit to do with my loathing of Christmas also.  The long of hours of darkness seem to act like a barricade to me.  Once I get home from work and the darkness closes in I feel like I am trapped and cannot leave my house.  I become a bit of a hermit during the winter months.
On shopping, on wrapping, on cleaning and cooking.  On parties, on PARADES, ON…WHAT HAPPENED TO MY CHECKBOOKING?

It seems logical that Christmas should be a peaceful, serene yet celebratory time of year.  After all, we are celebrating the most amazing gift that has ever been given.  We should spend this time praising and worshipping the King, relaxing and enjoying family.  NOT stressing out.

So yes, even I think it’s sad that the first thing that comes to mind when I realize Christmas is approaching is…dread.  Maybe next year…next year it will be the “ONE”.  The one I can just relax and enjoy.  Just Maybe. 
So, dear pastor, am I totally messed up because I don’t like Christmas?  Does anyone else feel like I do?  Do I just need medication?  Should I be punished?  Who shall cast the first stone?

A Tired, Stressed out Child of the King


Things I can do when the last grandbaby is older...

I can finally remove the ugly foam rubber corner protectors on my entertainment stand and granite fireplace hearth.

I can put all my pretty whatnots back on my end tables.
I can have a coffee table.

I can have a new couch in any color I want.
I can trade in the rocking chair for a nice lounge chair.

I can get rid of the baby bed and changing table and have a guest room that isn’t so crowded.
I can clean out all the extra sets of clothes I have in my drawers and closets for those emergencies or unexpected sleepovers.

I can get rid of the little toilet training seat and step stool in the bathroom.
I can go to the bathroom without someone in there with me.

I can throw away all the toys that stay scattered all over my floors.
I can get rid of all the sippy cups and baby forks and spoons.

Things I can’t do when the last grandbaby is older…

I can’t watch a little girl dancing in front of the television.
I can’t skip dusting all of the whatnots.

I can’t walk past the coffee table without snagging my little toe.
I can’t make up my mind on a couch.

I can’t hold and rock a baby while singing “You are My Sunshine”.
I can’t walk into the guest room and see a baby in that crib holding up arms and smiling because she knows I’ll get her out.

I can’t feel a tiny, warm body next to mine or have little feet in my face because I won’t have any extra clothes for those unexpected sleepovers.
I won’t see any clapping hands or beaming smile when they show me #2 in the potty.

I won’t have anyone to talk to while I’m in the bathroom.  My husband doesn’t find that fun for some reason.
I won’t throw away all the toys or sippy cups or little forks and spoons because some of them are special.  Some of them belonged to mommy or big sisters or they were a gift from a family member or special friend.

And who knows when there will be a great grandbaby that might need them.


The Enchilada Debacle

Yesterday I decided to take the afternoon off just to relax.  It was one of those “I need a break” days.  My husband normally cooks supper so I thought I’d cook for a change.  I love cooking and normally only do it on the weekends.  I had all the fixings for enchiladas and a new recipe I wanted to try out as a side dish as well.      

I had plenty of time to relax before starting supper.  I walked around the yard and admired the squash, tomatoes, and peppers that are growing nicely in the patio garden.  The volunteer sunflower from the winter seed we give the birds is growing quickly and is already about 18” tall.  We love feeding the birds.  We always throw old bread out in the backyard for them to eat.  And before you bird fanciers go into a panic, I have researched and though bread doesn’t provide any nutritional value for birds it does not harm them.  I noticed my husband had thrown several slices of bread out back for them. 
Later on in the day I started supper.  Chicken was cooked and shredded and I got my taco potatoes ready and in the oven before I finished up the enchiladas.  I mixed up all the soups, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes and mixed it together.  No, this is not a diet dish.  That part was ready so I needed my flour tortillas to fill, roll and top so it could go in the oven.  I look in the pantry.  No tortillas.  I had just bought a pack.  I looked around on the counter to make sure I hadn’t already got them out and forgot about it.  No where.  Then I thought…but no, surely not.  He didn’t throw out the tortillas to the birds!  I looked out the back door and from a distance those bread slices sure looked pretty round to me.

So I asked my hubby just what it was he fed to the birds.  “Those old tortillas”.  Old?  Those were not the old tortillas.  I had thrown the old ones in the garbage a few days earlier.  So, we tried to come up with an alternative.  We found a half empty box of taco shells in the pantry.  Stale.  Maybe some chips would work.  Not enough.  Bread?  No.  Only thing to do was drive to the local grocery which is only 18 miles away and get some. 
So, he did.  We ate.  It was good.  We survived.  And I hope the birds enjoyed those nice, fresh tortillas.  And we’ll take suggestions for recipes that use enchilada filling but no tortillas. 


Pill Problems

I have a confession.  I have a drug problem.  Actually it’s more of a drug packaging problem.

I don’t go to a doctor unless I have to.  The whole doctor, hospital, medical thing rather scares me.  I’ve never liked taking medication of any kind.  Neither pills nor liquids.  After a major surgery a few years ago I was supposed to take B12 vitamins for life.  I did good there for a few months but then it got so hard to put that little pill in my mouth.  So, I stopped.  After a couple of years I started having some odd health issues.  Everything I read on Dr. Internet pointed to “B12 deficiency”.  So I begrudgingly started taking those again.         
Just recently I was prescribed a cholesterol and a blood pressure pill so I figured I’d better take those if I wanted to live.  I had no idea the drug manufacturers had stopped using pill bottles and switched to those aluminum foil blister pack things in a cardboard box.  It says to “press down and pull” but apparently those instructions are for the incredible hulk, not the average human being.  I press and I pull and I never can get the pill pack out.  I try pressing and pulling at the same time, pressing then pulling but it won’t budge.  My temper flares and I go into Lizzie Borden mode and I get my axe...one, two, three…eighteen…twenty nine…forty whacks.  There, that should do it.  Okay, so actually I take out the scissors and cut and tear the cardboard box open and then rip out the pill pack.  

Next you have to push that pill out of the pack.  You have to push with one hand and catch the pill with the other hand.  This should be easy, right?  I have to apply so much pressure on this super strength tin foil stuff I send the pill flying right out of my hand.  On the floor.  My mysophobia kicks in immediately.  My pill is on the floor.  The floor.  Where people have walked.  The dirty, disgusting floor full of grit and dirt and hair and feces and, and maggots and alien species.  Nooooo.  The six second rule flashes through my mind.  One Mississippi, two Mississippi…I’m frantically searching…five Mississippi…I’m still searching…seven Mississippi and there it is.  Seven seconds.  Too late.  This pill is going in the garbage.  Now I have to get another one.  I lean over the counter this time.  Push, pop, and it bounces on the counter top a couple of times and bam, I manage to grab it.  Whew. 

And since I am OCD I must always push those pills out in the proper order.  Top row, left to right, then down to the next row, right to left.  Never push the pills out of order.  I think they turn into a placebo if you do that.  Yes, yes, I’m quite sure they do.

I’m not sure what the reason is for this new anti-human packaging.  Is it cheaper to package it this way?  Is it easier to dispense this way?  Is it for safety reasons?  It’s definitely childproof.  Adultproof too.
Personally I wish they’d bring back the good ol’ pill bottle.  Push down and turn.  Push down and turn…I could do that. 


The Mississippi I know

ABC News posted a headline on facebook last night about the shooting at the Walmart in Iuka.  For those not familiar with this town it is pronounced eye-YOU-ka.  That is a capital “i”, not a lower case “L” as many news outlets have posted incorrectly.  As I was reading the comments I noticed that while a few commenters offered prayers and concern for those involved most of the comments included words like redneck, backwoods, racists, homophobes, trigger happy, gun control and Christian haters.  I am quite certain these people have never visited, much less lived in Mississippi.  They rely totally on the many negatives that have been told by the media and disagree with our laws and lifestyle. 

I know this state and its people as kind, hospitable, charitable, intelligent, athletic, hardworking and happy.  Many studies will tell you otherwise.  These studies base their claims on income, graduation rates, emotional and physical well-being among other things. 
Our income may not come close to those on Wall Street or Silicon Valley but that doesn’t make us any less of a person or even an unhappy person.  The cost of living is much less so we don’t require six and seven figure incomes to live.  Most everyone I know has a home and plenty of food to eat.  Yes, we have those that struggle financially and even homeless people.  I’m not saying things are perfect.  I’m saying the majority of people live happy, fulfilling lives.

I know many men and women that didn’t graduate from high school but have decent paying jobs.  There are lots of people in construction, manufacturing and the oil field.  I would advise everyone to graduate and get some college but it isn’t mandatory to earn a living. 
We take care of our sick and our elderly and those in need.  Remember Katrina?  We didn’t sit around and wait for the government to come help us.  We started cleaning up and building back and seeking those in need and lending a hand and offering food.  I know.  I lost my home but didn’t lose my faith in my neighbors.

Yes, we have guns.  They are mainly used for hunting which provides food for our families.  Are there people out there that should not have a gun?  Yes.  Is there any way to control those people and not allow them to have one?  No.  No matter what kind of gun control may be imposed upon a people there will be ways to get one.  We can’t take guns out of well meaning and well minded people hands because of a few that will abuse it.  It can’t be done.  Don’t argue with me.
I won’t even try to mention the musicians, chefs, authors, and sports figures that come from Mississippi.  Go here http://www.mississippibelieveit.com/ads-mechanicals/ and read about it.

So while others read the headline last night about the shooting at Walmart they started writing hateful, negative comments.  Us Mississippians started praying.
I could go on forever about the good things in our state.  I honestly believe that if this world stays here for another one hundred years outsiders still will not know what a great place it is.  And that’s okay.  It’ll be our secret. 


I Don't Like Christmas

I don’t like Christmas.

I said it.

Go ahead, call me a scrooge, a Grinch, a heathen.

What Christmas is:
Over commercialized, WAY over commercialized

I just don’t see it as “the most wonderful time of the year” anymore.  I did as a child.  Not anymore.  I don’t like it.

Now I must shop and shop and shop, going to store after store, mall after mall, spending hours online.  I spend way too much money but I HAVE to get that perfect gift for everyone.  Then I spend time worrying as to whether or not I bought the right thing and if the recipient will like it or not.  And I have to make sure I spend the same amount on everyone and have the same number of gifts so no one will get their feelings hurt. Then I hide everything until I get time to wrap.  It’ll take a while to remember where all I have things hidden and drag them all out for wrapping.  I’m not an elaborate wrapper.  I learned a long time ago that the pre decorated gift boxes and gift bags are quick and easy and don’t require any cutting in a straight line.  I must make the parades to see the grandbabies.  I must decorate the house which means rearranging the furniture and sticking my normal d├ęcor somewhere for the holiday.  I must clean the house because guests are coming.  I have to decide when this side of the family comes and when the other side of the family comes and who works when and how to work around everyone.  That has become a major issue as the family grows.  I plan menus, buy groceries and cook for what seems like days.  Then I clean up.
All this while working a full time job.  No, my job doesn’t stop so I can “celebrate” Christmas. 

So when do I enjoy the holiday? 

Who decided this is how Christmas should be?  WHO?

In the words of Ellen Griswald, “I don't know what to say, except it's Christmas and we're all in misery.”

Then there’s this:
I think of loved ones who've passed away
And I pray their resting in a better place
I think of memories of years gone by
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of soldiers across the sea
And Sometimes I wonder why
It's them instead of me
For my freedom they give their lives
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas cause I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of families, I think of home
And say a prayer
For those who spend this time alone
Cause love can reach out into a silent night
And that's why Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas cause I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

I think of Mary and the virgin birth
And I'm amazed at how much
God thinks we're worth
That He would send His only Son to die
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

Tears of thankfulness, tears of hope
I cry tears of joy at Christmas cause I know
There is peace on earth for every heart to find
And sometimes Christmas makes me cry

(Written by Matthew West and recorded by Mandisa)

Christmas isn’t always the jolliest season for everyone.  Some people are struggling with illness, family issues, homelessness, grief, depression.  Even if we are busy and run down and have spent all our money, take time to reach out to someone, pray for them, send a card or message, bake a cake, give to a charity if at all possible.  Make the season mean something.  We won’t all be here for the next Christmas.

What Christmas should be:
Family time

Charlie Brown: [shouting in desperation] Isn't there anyone out there who can tell me what Christmas is all about?

Linus Van Pelt: Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you.  Lights, please.
[a spotlight shines on Linus] And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'. That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie brown.

(A Charlie Brown Christmas – 1965)

I think Linus was spot on.  I think we need to slow down and come back to the heart of Christmas.  I think it should be more about the birth of our Savior and less about us.  I think we should spend TIME with family and not so much money on family.  Celebrate, yes that’s fine, but keep things simple and don’t forget why we have Christmas to begin with. 

I have to again give Matthew West credit for being such a big part of my blog post but he has already sang so perfectly what I’m talking about:

“Heart of Christmas”

I’m gonna make a wish this Christmas
I’m gonna say a little prayer
I’m gonna stop here for a moment
Before the moment disappears

The world’s in a hurry this December
City streets and shopping malls
I wish we could slow down and remember
The meaning of it all

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas

Let’s make it feel the way it used to
Let’s find that wonder of a child
You can see the magic all around you
Come on, and open up your eyes

You can find it in the warm embrace of your family
Or calling up a long lost friend
You can even find it in the eyes of stranger
When you reach out a helping hand

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas

In the shadow of a steeple
In a star that lights the way
You will find Him in a manger
The heart of Christmas has a name

I’m gonna make a wish this Christmas
I’m gonna say a little prayer

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can and cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it

Wherever you are, no matter how far
Come back to the heart, the heart of Christmas
Live while you can, cherish the moment
The ones that you love, make sure they know it
Don’t miss it, the heart of Christmas
(Written and recorded by Matthew West)

So where do I start?  When do I start?
One day maybe I can enjoy Christmas again.  One day.


Hooked on a Feeling

Do you ever get that “feeling”?  I don’t know if there’s a word for it or how to describe it.  It’s a mixture of excitement, anticipation, fear, dread, wonder.  It’s just different.  But it’s there and very prevalent when it happens.  And I like it.  I think.

I can think of at least three things that cause me to get that feeling.
First, Fall.  It’s my favorite season (other than FOOTBALL season but that’s a whole other blog so I digress).  *singing* It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Yes, Fall, not Christmas.  Christmas should be about that precious gift we received a couple of thousands of years ago and a celebration of the birth of that gift but it has become a glamorized, money grabbing, commercialized, stressful, hectic, rushed, (and I could go on but you get the picture) mass chaos.  But again, that is a whole other blog so I digress.

Back to fall.  Nothing is more beautiful to me than the colors of fall.  Golds, oranges, greens, browns.  Warm colors.  The colors I have in my house because they comfort me and appeal to my senses.  There are the gentle breezes bringing in the cooler and dryer air and pushing out the heat and humidity that’s held us captive for three months.  I love driving with the windows down and watches the trees move and shake the leaves off their branches.  I love to watch those leave fall and float ever so slowly to the ground.  I love the colors of those leaves.  And no, it may not be as colorful way down here in the south but it’s still beautiful.  Such a contrast to the dark green we’ve had all summer.  With fall comes mums and pumpkins.  Nothing is more beautiful to me than a display of those flowers with pumpkins and gourds and maybe a hay bale or two with a scarecrow standing guard proudly as if to say “see, this is my season and my bounty!”  

With fall, comes some good eating!  Daddy always planted his greens in the fall.  Mustard, turnips and my favorite, collards.  Oh my.  Nothing but greens and cornbread make a full meal for me.  While those mustard and turnips are still tiny and tender, we’d have wilted salads.  First you fry some bacon up crisp and save that grease!  Mother always mixed in some lettuce with the greens, then added green onions, chopped boiled eggs and crumbled bacon.  Then you take that hot grease and pour it over all of this.  You can hear the crackle.  Add a splash of vinegar and that’s it.  You might have some greasy lips while you’re eating but it sure is delicious.  Once the greens were older then we’d have them cooked down.  Daddy considered himself the expert green cooker.  He had a specific cast iron pot and some tricks he used to get the bitterness out and a certain length of time he cooked them.  I guess he knew what he was doing because they were delicious. 

And fall brings my favorite holiday.  Halloween.  Yes, I am a Christian and know other fellow believers that will cringe when they hear me say that.  I’m not getting into the origin, that’s what google if for, as to whether it began as Christian or pagan nor am I arguing with anyone about it.  And you will not change my mind about it if you have an opposing view.  Growing up, we participated in Halloween every year.  I did not become a witch or satan worshipper because of it either.  Neither did any of my family or friends.  It was all fun.  That’s how I see Halloween.  It’s not stressful.  All fun.  You buy the children costumes, or make them if you’re frugal and creative, and buy a few bags of candy and enjoy.  No cooking, no tons of gifts to buy, no worrying if someone will like that gift or not, no messy egg dye, no flowers that will die in three days.  We have an enormous festival at church every year.  Now it’s a Hallelujah Festival mind you, not a Halloween festival.  There are several hundred people there to eat, have fun and get candy!  It’s just such a wonderful time of fun and fellowship. 
Ah yes.  All this brings on that feeling. 

Second, vacation.  Now I am an extreme homebody and a mysophobe so vacationing isn’t exactly my thing but sometimes I do get brave and break out.  It’s just something about the planning, packing, getting ready, loading the car and then leaving early in the morning for a trip.  Pulling out of the drive brings on that feeling.  The worst part is over and all we have to do is look forward to some rest and relaxation.  No worries for just a while.  And the biggie…NO ROUTINE.  I have spent almost my entire life doing the same thing every day.  First school, then work.  Same thing.  Every day.  Sometimes you just NEED to break out of the routine.  Even us homebodies do.  Especially us homebodies.  Oh the feel of cool, crisp air in the mountains, or the cool breeze blowing off the ocean water.    
Vacation brings on that feeling.

Third, a hurricane.  So this is where the anticipation and fear part comes in to play the most I think.  And excitement.  Okay, now I’m not “excited” about devastation and destruction that a hurricane brings.  Hey, Katrina smashed my house down so I know what that’s like.  It’s just something about an approaching storm that brings on that feeling.  My snooze button gets lonely because I always wake up and get dressed early to watch all of the forecasts before I head to work.  They always show that path prediction cone…that dreaded cone of doom!  Even with all of today’s technology it’s still just a gamble predicting which way it will go and how strong it will be.  I watch all of those people standing on the shore with the wind whipping their hair.  Soon it will be rain beating them in the face.  But they stay there.  Well except for Al Roker who was blown away.  And they always, always show that stop sign flapping in the wind.  If it’s coming ashore near us I love to feel the wind pick up.  First gently and then it gets a bit harder.  Then the rain.  I’ve always loved the rain.  I love sitting on the porch while the elements do their thing.  I’ve even spent my lunch break watching the heavy interstate traffic coming from the south when there was a storm approaching Louisiana. 
So, a good, mild tropical storm, without any spin off tornadoes, gives me that feeling.

Okay, so maybe I’ve nailed down that feeling or maybe I haven’t.  It seems like one thing all of these three have in common is the wind.  Have you ever seen the movie The Happening?  The wind comes blowing in something (I never figured that part out) and causes people to go crazy and kill themselves.  Don’t fret if you’ve never seen it.  It was the worse movie M. Night Shyamalan has ever done.  Anyway, I don’t know if the winds are blowing something over me or what.  I still can’t explain the feeling. 
And right now there’s fall and vacation just right around the corner.  I’m kind of getting that feeling just waiting for that feeling.  You know that feeling, right?  Or am I just a bit crazy?