Words

“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, it’s time to pack up.”

I was preparing to put away my many Christmas decorations, when I made the above statement out loud. It made me stop in my tracks. I wasn’t swearing, I was talking to my manger scene. I’d never talk inappropriately in front of Baby Jesus. I wasn’t thinking of the beauty of Christmas and the blessings of the season. I was missing Christmases gone by and looking at the work involved with packing it all up until next Christmas. I was contemplating which grandchild might want which thing when they start their own households and wondering when I would start to streamline my decorating. That’s the context from which I uttered that weird, easily misunderstood sentence.

It served to snap me out of it as I laughed out loud at myself and wondered if Bob or my mom had heard me. I’m guessing they did not because nobody came in to see if I was drinking heavily while dismantling Christmas decorations. (I wasn’t.)

The letdown after the holidays is real. We go from shiny and bright accompanied by cookies, candy, and company to ordinary life without the twinkling lights. Returning to the normal of pre-Thanksgiving is lackluster. Plus, it gets dark so early – even in Florida! But I was ready to get my house back to normal. I was even ready to vacuum all the mess from taking the tree down. I just wasn’t ready to be productive. I wasn’t ready for those January fresh starts.

That’s why I don’t do them. For me, every year is 13 months. It starts January 1 and ends January 31 of the following year. That allows me to be fairly guilt-free in January. I use January to put away Christmas, organize, vacuum, and nap. I also use it to think and pray about projects, especially writing projects, all this while consuming the leftover Christmas sweets. It’s very effective.

I should say mostly effective. The downside of eating the leftovers, is multifaceted. The thing I notice first is that I am down – my outlook, not my weight. I know the sugar has negative effects, and it pushes me lower. (Not to worry, though, it’s almost all gone.)

So, until I can once again think with a non-sugar-coated mind, how do I snap out of being so melancholy?

I do what I always told my kids and grandkids to do. I use my words. I talk to God. I talk to Bob. I talk to friends.

My big thing this year was that I felt like I had used up all my encouragement and every word swimming around my head about myself sounded like condemnation. I was tearing myself down. I asked God for encouragement to get me moving. I didn’t want to stay in that negative, self-absorbed place listening to lies of the enemy. I was tired, too, so that made it worse. But God is always faithful.

The next day I spent part of my morning quiet time with God just being thankful – specifically for the way that people in my life have encouraged me in the past. I named names (for instance, Vanessa). I remembered. Gratefulness is powerful. The fog started lifting, but I kept my fog lights on. I know how this works. Sometimes you drive in and out of fog before it’s really gone. But there was a breakthrough, which brought more thankfulness.

Letter of EncouragementIn the afternoon mail a letter came for my mom. She read it and gave it to me saying it really was more for me than for her. It was from a woman whom my mom had met through my dad. Dad was in WWII. He was a gunner in the Pacific theater. The men he flew with became his wartime family.

Years after the war, Dad started contacting all the men from his crew. He found out about their current lives and made a newsletter featuring each man and his family. He’d mail it out to the crew and keep their friendship alive. It was not unusual for me to find pictures of children and grandchildren from this group sitting on Dad’s desk. He and mom visited many of them throughout the country after retirement. To say this was special would be an understatement.

You may remember that my dad died in 2017. He was the last of his B-29 crew. I always thought it was fitting that he was last. God used him to keep them in touch with each other.

The letter was from a woman named Mabel. I remembered her husband’s name from Dad’s stories. Mabel was writing to tell my mom that she was reading my book, Always Look for the Magic, and couldn’t put it down. She said she could picture my dad as she read it and she was enjoying laughing along with his antics. She wanted to thank me for writing it. She requested that I send her a card with my autograph on it for her to paste inside the book so she could keep it. She also said she hoped I would write more books.

Well, I was flabbergasted. This sweet woman, who is probably around 90 years old, took the time to write such a beautiful encouragement as part of her correspondence to my mom. She certainly inspired me, not only to write but to take more time encouraging others.

Encouragement is food for the soul. When was the last time you received encouragement out of the blue? How about the last time you gave it? Writing it down and sending it to someone gives them something that lasts. I’m hoping that comes back in style. I think we should fill our January with uplifting words to people. Don’t you?

By the way, if you haven’t ordered my book yet and would like to, click on the picture of it on the right. Thanks!

Seasoned Greetings and Happy 2019!

The holidays are behind us now and that means another of my husband’s office parties is in the books. That makes 39 of them. My guess is that we have only one more to go before retirement.

As I sat at the Capital Grille with engineers the age of our children, I pondered parties gone by. I remembered that first party. Bob, a recent college graduate, was enjoying his first career job. We had a ten-month-old baby. I had quit my job to stay home with him and was where I had longed to be – home with a baby.

What I didn’t realize, though, was how out-of-it I would feel among a group of professionals who were quite a bit older than us.

Here’s another shocking realization: They were about 15 years younger than I am now. That meant they were in their mid-to-upper forties and I was a mere 23. Engineering was a predominantly male dominated career choice, so I was sitting with a bunch of seasoned women who knew each other and knew the company and drank a lot. It was awkward.

Except for one woman. She was so kind. She picked up on my quietness and drew me out of my shell enough for me to almost enjoy the party. She was also my husband’s boss’ wife. I felt like a little kid there, and rightly so, but she assured me that everyone would love to hear about my life as a young wife and new mom. She said they could all relate and never tired of hearing about babies. She was wonderful.

Back to the present, as the oldest woman at the table (and possibly in the room), I felt completely at ease – another perk to getting older. Plus, Bob works with an amazing group of people who seem to have found equally amazing people to bring to the party – be they spouse, child, or once even a good friend who happened to be the kid, now grown, who lived behind us for years and was like an extra son to me. It truly is a small world.

This year, our table was greeted by the Chief Something-or-Another from the home office, who again was young enough to be our son. Anyway, he started up a conversation with the four engineers at the table trying to ascertain who worked on which project. I sat there happily with nothing to add until he asked the spouses some questions and seemed genuinely interested in our opinions of the company. The twenty-something version of me probably would have said freaked out. The current version of me didn’t care how what I said sounded, as long as I didn’t make Bob look stupid.

Once he left, I had a few questions for the young engineer who specializes in AI. He had all the enthusiasm about his project that every engineer I have ever met has. That’s a lot. It also meant he used words that once upon a time I had never heard, but as I said, this wasn’t my first rodeo. Of course, I had heard them. I didn’t know what they meant, but I had heard them.

This young engineer and I had a connection. He had recently taken his kids to see Ralph Breaks the Internet, which I had seen with my grandchildren. When I asked him about the scene from that movie where Ralph and Vanellope take a trip down a wi-fi router and find themselves at the google help desk, he lit up like a Christmas tree. He loved this scene, too, and said it should be required watching for everyone as it was a great description of AI and how it’s used by google. Would it stretch things to say that it turned this Disney movie into an educational film? Probably, but it gave me the “in” I needed.

That’s my journey from young mother to grandmother. It’s all about confidence and relaxing in the situation. It’s all about talking to people. It’s all about making good use of the cartoons you watch. They’ve always been a significant part of my education.

That’s all folks!

 

Time to Make the Simple Complicated

Employees must wash hands!

Last post I shared about hand soap. The logical progression is to share about drying one’s hands. Evidently, this is a skill that needs honing, as the entire population, or at least those who work at or frequent Starbucks, are assumed to be doing it wrong.

When I see someone leave a public restroom without washing their hands, I throw up in my mouth a little. Usually my “ahem” is treated with disdain, but I just smile and aim my head slightly towards the sink while thinking, “Come on! We live in a society!”

Anyway, if you do take the time to wash, thank you. But in today’s world, it looks like you need directions for proper drying. The photo below was posted in a Starbucks bathroom on the air hand-dryer.

If you look closely at the signage on the hand dryer, which is plain to instruct both the reader and non-reader, #5 instructs you to use a towel. And, #6 tells you to turn off water with paper towels. There are no towels, paper or otherwise, in the bathroom. We were supposed to use the super noisy, hygienic drying device on the wall to blow the water off of our hands. You know, the one the sign is posted on.

Starbucks, has gone mad! It’s the effort to spell (or picture) everything out for everyone that has brought us to this point. I can imagine people looking around the bathroom for a towel. Someone needs to rescue them.

You may be asking, why did I bother reading the sign. Do I need instructions on hand drying? The answers are:

#1 I don’t have a lot of time for reading over the holidays, so what better place to grab a few sentences than the bathroom in Starbucks.

#2 No.

Somebody who doesn’t want to get sued must have put that sign on the hand dryer. Somebody who isn’t too bright, I might add.

To sum up:

  1. Wash your hands after using the bathroom and several times throughout the day.
  2. Dry your hands with a paper towel if possible, or
  3. if you’re in Starbucks, wear jeans or some other thick garment just in case the air hand-dryer is weak and you require back-up hand-drying means.

It shouldn’t be this complicated!

Have a Merry Christmas and a clean and dry New Year!

Bath and Body (didn’t) Works

I was in Bath and Body Works yesterday sniffing through their vast collection of holiday hand soaps. Currently in my house, last year’s soaps adorn the sinks. I tend to over-buy so at the end of the season, I put those soaps under the sink until the next year. With a small amount of people in our house, it takes a couple Decembers to go through one. With my current stock, it will be 2021 before I need to buy again.

This year I decided to avoid that shop like I avoid leaving Florida in the wintertime. I’m in North Carolina as I write this, so I guess both plans went south, or in the geographic case, north.

So, I’m freezing and trying not to let my comments about how cold it is be all that I say to people. “Hi, I’m Bonnie. I’m freezing.” How’s that for an ice-breaker?

Anyway, no matter what the temperature, I want to see my kids and grandkids, so I loaded up my car for a quick trip to see my daughter, who also happens to be my shopping buddy. She has four children so they can go through a container of pump soap in about 36 hours. She is the reason why Bath and Body Works is so successful.

I got to thinking. Everybody loves Vanilla Bean Noel, Twisted Peppermint, and Winter Candy Apple. They are names that grab you. Names you want to look at everyday when you wash your hands. But what names didn’t make the cut? What names were wash-outs and what did they smell like? Here’s my list:

Charred Santa – Fire in the chimney with a little bit of toasted jolly and fluff

Cranberry Reindeer Droppings – Subtle and spicy undertones of cranberry with a hint of reindeer excrement

Burnt Vanilla Cookie – Even with a truly unpleasant fragrance, this soap cannot be resisted. You’ll smell like you just burned a fresh batch.

Holly and Poison Ivy – Fresh smell of holly with a trace of Calamine Lotion

Tinsel Trauma – Slightly metallic smell that will take you back to your childhood. Use in a well-ventilated room and keep away from children.

May you have a wonderful, clean-smelling Christmas Season!

Let’s Not Lose Our Heads This Christmas

He was more than a figurehead. He was part of a village. Who would have known how weak he was – not me. He was proven. He had been part of our Christmas for over 25 years. That means he had survived my four children with nary a scratch. I never would have suspected that he would lose his head over a banana.

If there is going to be a decapitation, it is better for your grandchild to do the dastardly deed than for your child to do it. There is ample forgiveness for the grandchildren who visit and then leave, who don’t wear you out with the everyday maintenance which they require, who haven’t been told 16 million times not to play with the Christmas village.

The same act would likely have been met with frustration if one of my children had committed it. But my grandson. He can be destructive with a flair of adorableness. That face! How could I be upset with that face.

From the other room I heard the sound of porcelain clinking – never a good sign. I looked around and Winston was nowhere to be seen. When last I saw him, he was holding (according to him) a perfectly yellow banana. I liked the way he appreciated little things like a bruiseless banana of perfect color. But the innocence of the moment was soon shattered.

Little did I know that for some reason which escapes me, he was holding that banana over the unsuspecting head of the Christmas tree delivery man. Maybe he was counting people with the tip of it. Who knows, but evidently, even bananas which have not been peeled can be slippery because somehow or another, Winston knocked one figurine into another with said banana.

“Everything alright in there?” I asked.

“Not really,” he answered. “I think one of the guy’s heads is loose.”

I cautiously inspected the disturbing scene. The head was way beyond loose. It was severed! Right there, in front of the maid and two innocent children! Some in the village simply turned their backs to the gruesome sight, but I could not. Winston could not. He looked up at me with that beautiful, perfect banana in his hand, wondering what would happen.

Well, of course, I cautioned him that bananas are not meant to be held over or placed among Christmas villages. The proof of the danger of this sadly lay before us. Then I put the severed head in the wheelbarrow and wheeled it over to my husband Bob’s desk. He has repaired a lot more than porcelain severed heads in his days as a father and grandfather and neighbor and friend. He has a reputation, and I am happy to tell you that he lived up to it. Mr. Tree Deliverer is back at work. The two children are in therapy but expected to put it behind them by New Year’s Day when they are packed up for the year. The warning of NO BANANAS has been emblazoned upon Winston’s mind. I’m just glad he wasn’t holding a pineapple. That could have been a real disaster.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Carving courtesy of my son-in-law

I find it strange to wish someone a happy Thanksgiving, yet I do utter those very words. What am I saying? Have a happy day on Thanksgiving? Find happiness in giving thanks? Or maybe, as John Wayne would say, “Take ‘er easy there, pilgrim?” Perhaps all three sum up my greeting – just something to chew on while you’re gnawing on that turkey leg. Read the full post »

It Takes More Than Autumn Leaves to Get Me to Michigan in October

Hail, sleet, and snow in the midst of a thunderstorm – that was my welcome to Michigan. The date was October 20. I had left almost 90-degree weather, an atypically warm Orlando autumn. To say this was a shock to my system would be an understatement.

First stop after touching down was Costco, of course. It was as I pulled into the parking lot that the sleet began. I sat there in my rental car in awe of the sudden extremely different from Florida precipitation when it started to hail, accompanied by thunder and flashes of lightning. Being a Floridian, I can drive in the worst of a rain storm, but this, I wasn’t so sure. Then, flashing through my mind, were those weird road signs that warn bridges ice before roads. I would be crossing bridges. I reminded myself that I could do this, but I didn’t wanna!

My first thought was, I needed a nap. I’d gotten up early to catch my flight and sleep on the plane, well, that doesn’t really count. But the thought of driving through this kind of weather did wake me up.

Of course, I didn’t have an umbrella, and the sleet was mixed with rain that was coming down pretty steadily. I needed to do my Costco run before making the two-hour drive to my son’s house. He and his wife were expecting their second child, and my grandmother calling was strong.

Neither snow nor rain nor cold nor gloom of Michigan autumn would stay this grandmother from the swift completion of her appointed Costco run. I decided to go for it – cold, wet weather and all. And then, it stopped.

I was so thankful! I bought my stuff and made the drive with only slight rain falling on the windshield. The temperature stayed above freezing, so the bridges were fine! The snow flurries waited until I arrived at their home.

Seeing my son, Joe, my grandson, and my very pregnant daughter-in-law was all the sunshine I needed. It was wonderful to be there. Now, the baby could come any time. He was due on the 24th. He had a plan of his own.

No grandmother I know has ever been so well rested while going to help with a new baby. After scheduling to be induced on November 1, Aubyron delivered a very healthy, 10-pound baby boy on Halloween. That was a Wednesday, and I was scheduled to come home on Saturday. We were really sweating out those final days, wondering if I’d get to see the baby at all, wondering if I’d be there to help with their three-year-old. Thankfully, I was able to push my departure back a couple of days and go home on Monday.

While we were waiting, I had the best time with my grandson. We built blocks, did puzzles, read stories, baked cookies, and played. I tried to pack in all the stuff that I don’t get to do on a regular basis with him. It was wonderful. We also saw all that their small, college town had to offer. We took walks. Many, many walks. My poor daughter-in-law was miserable and trying to do what she could to encourage the birth, and my son was getting a little anxious, too.

Let me give you a little glimpse of our tour. I was struck by the comparison of what a Michigan store stocks and what a Central Florida store stocks.

An entire section of things to keep the ice off your car. You can’t find this stuff in Orlando.

I mentioned they live in a college town. That should have given me a clue as to what this was all about.

Everything you need for beer-pong in one handy spot. I’ve never noticed that at CVS where I live.

They have a Family Video rental store, though I found no VHS tapes in there. The walls were lined with DVDs and I understand it is quite popular.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, if that weren’t enough, they have real, live Fall up there. They don’t have to fake it by purchasing colored leaves and pumpkins. Those things are there naturally. It was beautiful.

But the most beautiful thing I saw there, showed up on October 31. Yes, all else pales in comparison. Welcome to the world, Oliver!

Grandchild #8. He’s so beautiful!

Now you understand why I haven’t posted lately. Love is very distracting and consuming in the best of ways.

October Surprises

We are mid-way through October, and Christmas is prepared to pounce. I have become accustomed to Costco bringing out the Christmas decorations in September. I almost don’t even notice them anymore, kind of like the blue paint on the bumper of my car where something rubbed against it. It’s only mildly annoying, not hurting anything, but I do wish it weren’t there.

I love Christmas, but I’m not quite ready to gear up for it – that is until I realized that I’m going to Michigan on Saturday to welcome a new grandson and when I return it will be November. Oh my!

Still, I draw the line when it comes to Christmas promotions that are either too early or just plain wrong. I’ve captured a few for you. What do you think?

These pushy poinsettias have forced the lovely fall mums back under a table. I don’t like that!

 

Do I want to open my frig to see Santa in October?

 

This one almost left me speechless. Seriously, opening a beer a day to celebrate Advent!

Merry October!

These are the Days of Our Lives

Like sand through an hourglass

“I WILL NOT BE WATCHING SOAP OPERAS – unless for comic relief.”

This is a quote from my dear and funny friend, Pam. One fine day, she made the mistake of leaving the room while watching the news at noon and when she came back through, the soaps were on.

Here’s a peek at our texting conversation.

Pam: I stopped for a moment to see what I was watching. Excellent acting, by the way – NOT!!! I cracked up laughing and changed the channel. I felt like I was in Another World.

Me: You weren’t in Another World, these are simply The Days of our Lives. Think about it, we used to be the Young and the Restless. Now we’re the Bold and the Beautiful. We’re older and wiser.

Pam: Look, right now I feel like I am in A Secret Storm and it’s not yet The Edge of Night. But, As the World Turns, so does my life.

Me: True. And you only have One Life to Live. At least that’s what I tell All My Children.

Somehow, in the midst of this deep conversation Pam and I had forgotten this was a group text. That is, until another voice was heard: You are casting Dark Shadows over our text stream.

Alas, we were. Such is the danger of group text.

Side note: Do you remember Dark Shadows? Pam’s mom wouldn’t allow her to watch it. Since I was allowed, we are now afraid that our childhood selves could never have been friends. It’s so sad to see a friendship between people who didn’t yet know each other be thwarted by a television show!

Pumpkin Spice Peer Pressure

I took a five-minute walk through Whole Foods and was quickly reminded that it’s that time of year again – Fall in Florida. You might think I would wait outside on a lovely fall day, but it was 93 degrees outside. September was going out with a sizzle. Summer down here lasts easily until after Halloween, so if it weren’t for the plethora of pumpkin product placements, it may have slipped my notice that the season had changed.

A few short years ago, I came to realize that not everyone is pleased as punch over pumpkins. I have a friend who is not just overwhelmed, but annoyed at the things that those poor pumpkins are going through when all they really want to be is pie. Granted, she is in the minority, but she has a voice and she demands to be heard. And isn’t that what we’re all about in today’s world?

I thought about her as I wandered through the store; even I was overwhelmed by pumpkin. Every time I turned around, I was face-to-face with another pumpkin product. I love pumpkin, but at that point, I began to question everything about fall.

What about leaves? Isn’t fall foliage what it’s all about? And apples. Shouldn’t we be buying freshly pressed apple cider? Shouldn’t I be putting raked leaf essence in my coffee instead of pumpkin spice? Have I joined the ranks of pumpkin people without a second thought?

When I returned home I lit my pumpkin spice candle and thought deeply about this. I decided I might as well get my fall decorations out as I was thinking. They included 5 pumpkin spiced candles, a room spray, and various assorted pumpkin and leaf decorations.

It made me cry real tears when I realized that I hadn’t known when to stop. I hadn’t taken into account people like my friend who suffer from PSOD (pumpkin spice overload disorder). Plus, I also had ignored my own eye-irritant disorder, which is triggered by strong candle fragrances such as the ones I unleashed in my own house. Yes, the tears were real.

I’ll have to go on Amazon and see if they have any pumpkin spice lubricant eye drops. I’ll bet they’re out there!