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!

 

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. (more…)

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!

My Calendar is Driving Me Crazy

I live with the constant realization that I have the capability of messing up my calendar – writing in the wrong date or forgetting to write something down. That is why I use both my iPhone and a paper calendar which hangs on my kitchen wall. They back each other up. Or do they?

When I looked at this week and saw that on Friday, I have something on my iPhone calendar that I didn’t enter, it made me wonder – am I keeping my phone too close to my bed at night? Maybe I did enter something and I just totally messed up the entry? Finally, it came down to the big question: Who or what in the world is Holi?

Yep, “Holi” is listed as an all-day event for this Friday. If I’m supposed to participate, I sure don’t want to miss it or her or him. What if he, she, or it is important? What if they are relying on me? What if the fate of the entire free world lies with me participating in this?

What if I take it down a notch and use google? Of course, the answer is always right in the palm of your hand. And this time the answer is: my phone is trying to convert me to Hinduism. Holi is the Hindu holiday known as the Festival of Colors which is observed in India and features colored powder covering everything and everyone in celebration, I believe, of spring, among other things.

I’m not sure why my phone thinks I’m open to converting to other religions. Maybe I haven’t had enough Christian events on my calendar. Maybe it doesn’t recognize the initials that I use, like CG for our church Community Group or Peggy means Bible Study (don’t try to figure that one out). Maybe I confused it by going to see The Book of Mormon last year. I don’t know.

Next in my investigation I picked up my phone, clicked on the event, and discovered that Holi is part of US Holidays. What? Now I’m really confused. When did this become a US holiday? Is this simply some app-maker’s idea or could it be part of a larger iPhone plan to unify the world? I don’t know. Maybe it’s due to the fact that my phone was made in Southeast Asia. What I really want to know is – who included this day as a US holiday? And, more importantly, do they know how that messes with me?

It wreaked havoc with my week. I was afraid to plan anything for Friday in case there was something I had forgotten – had to keep it open for Holi or whatever I really meant to enter on my calendar. So now Friday is just a blank spot – nobody to see and nowhere to go. A veritable waste!

Wait a minute, that’s a win-win for me. Now I have a free day to do whatever I’d like! That’s awesome! I need to celebrate. You know, do something colorful and festive – go all out – pretend it’s a holiday! Want to join me?

This is the color I enjoy!

Amazon is Trying to Ruin My Valentine’s Day

I just returned home from a solo trip to North Carolina where I was visiting my daughter and her family. I wanted to make sure I was home for Valentine’s Day because, well, you know, I had a hair appointment. They are kind of sacred.

Bob and I don’t make a huge, big deal about Valentine’s Day. We blame it on the commercialism and crowds – the 2 Cs. But we do not ignore this holiday. Ignoring it is tantamount to romantic suicide. We feel free to make light of it, but we always recognize it in some way. We’re not stupid! You don’t stay married for over 42 years and not learn a thing or two!

For instance, when I was in North Carolina I ordered something for Bob. Over Amazon. The account which we share. Which means that there are no more real surprises in life!

Of course, I forgot to tell Bob that something was coming. Something that I would like him to set aside without opening, and while he was at it, please keep his eyes off of the Amazon app on his phone – at least the orders section.

My mistake.

So, when I got home last night I noticed the opened gift on his dresser. Of course, he apologized.

It was really no big deal. None at all. But then I got to thinking.

Me: I was wondering why you opened the mysterious package that arrived while I was away.

Bob: It was addressed to me (they all are). I didn’t remember ordering anything so I figured you did.

Me: But why did you open it?

Bob: I wondered what it was.

Me: So, you didn’t think it was for you.

Bob: Right.

Me: Why did you open something that you thought was for me?

Bob: I wanted to find out what it was.

Me: So, it didn’t really matter who it was for, you were opening it.

Bob: Now you understand.

It’s hard to argue with that kind of logic.

So, a big HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY to Bob and to all of you, too. May your day be filled with scintillating conversation.

Flowers from Bob, waiting for me when I got home. He’s so sweet.

A Sign of a Healthy Valentine’s Day

This is a public service announcement. If you’ve been caught up in the post-holiday clean-up or the crazy cold weather that has invaded the country, then allow me to put you on notice that Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. To be exact, 22 days as of this posting.

As I ponder the sign at the corner Walgreens, I realize it is more important than ever to plan ahead for this day of unleashed romance. This is a night when restaurants set up extra tables and there are long lines at the grocery store as men pick up handfuls of flowers as they head home from work. The card aisles in the stores get picked over so badly that if you are pale like our family, you may have to show the DNA results from Ancestry.com to explain the Mahogany brand being chosen as the best of the remaining three cards.

Sidebar: Yes, I have received the Mahogany brand before, and while the verse was very nice it was unusual to have white-as-white Bob and I being portrayed by a couple of a different race – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Our kids called their dad out on being a last-minute shopper, while Bob said he didn’t know what they were talking about. For the record, I’m sure both sides were telling the truth.

But I’m not hear to warn you about card choices, though I will say it was long overdue for the card industry to recognize that it’s a colorful world out there. I’m here to join with Walgreens and encourage you to get a flu shot or do something equally special for Valentine’s Day like Lysol down the house. Do you know how many germ-infested people have used their disgustingly dirty hands to look through those cards? Some have probably flipped through them while awaiting their prescription for strep, flu, or bubonic plague, while sneezing. And the close quarters at restaurants are a veritable petri dish of influenza. That’s not the kind of culture you’re looking for on Valentine’s Day, that’s for sure.

Thanks, Walgreens! You truly are a caring organization.

In case you’ve been under a rock somewhere, let me inform you that the flu shot takes two weeks to gain efficacy in your body, so you still have a few days to ensure a very special Valentine’s Day. If you’re not an immunizer, you may want to stay under that rock for a few more weeks until flu season passes. Or you could do what Walgreens is really promoting, plan on getting those shots together for Valentine’s Day. Now that’s love!

CVS, Where You Can Get a Prescription, Pick Up Some Milk, Be Stalked by Zombies (a vintage post)

Enjoy this  post from four years ago. It was included in the Erma Bombeck Humor Blog in 2012.

CVS just might stand for Customers are Very Scary.  I offer you proof with this frightening but true story that happened at my local CVS.  (Note:  I have changed the name of the girl in this story, at least I think I changed it.  This was not to protect her privacy, but because I couldn’t remember her name by the time I got home.)

Once upon a time there was a little girl of seven.  She was a happy, friendly child who roamed the aisles of the store alone without a care.  Or so it seemed.

She approached me and asked me my name.  “Bonnie,” I said.  “What’s your name?”

“Melissa.”

“Hi, Melissa.  How are you?”

“I’m fine except a scary thing is following me around the store,” she replied.

I saw a boy walking towards us.  He resembled her so strongly that he had to be her brother.  “Do you mean him?  He does look a little scary.”

“No, he’s my brother.  He’s eight,” she replied and pointed to a zombie Halloween decoration, which was in fact scarier looking than her brother.  “That.  That’s following me.”

I quickly learned a lot about seven-year-old Melissa.  She loves Halloween and is going to be a fairy when she goes trick or treating. Her brother joined us.  She tried to convince him that a spooky creature was following her, but he was uninterested.  Soon they were totally absorbed in the many choices of candy on display.

I then became a ghost to Melissa, who diverted her attention fully to the candy.  At this point I seized the moment and sneaked one of the zombies from where it was perched on a shelf, placed it behind Melissa and her brother and ran down the aisle to hide.  She turned around and jumped and said to her brother, “See, it’s following me.”

They headed farther down the aisle and I was able to use my powers of stealth and move Mr. Zombie right down to the spot where they were about to round a corner.  She gave a little scream and again insisted to her brother that she was being followed.  At that point I walked up and she recounted the entire story to me.

I got into the story with her and asked lots of questions.  She was obviously having a great time.  I was able to add zombies to her path about four times before I had to make my purchase and return to the land of the living.  At the check-out I came across the kids again, this time with their mother.  Melissa was going on and on to the cashier about how zombies had been following her around the store.  Then she looked at me and said, “You wouldn’t have moved them around, would you?”

“Now why would I do that?” I replied with a wink.

Hands down, this was the best time I ever had in CVS.  The Very Scary part does concern me, though.  I was a harmless stranger who really enjoys playing with kids on their level.  I’m glad I’m the one she befriended as it scares me to death to think about this little girl and her brother unsupervised for so long in the store.  I hope this serves as a gentle reminder to people to keep an eye on their kids and grandkids.

It also reminds me of the story of my daughter trying to impress on her kids not to be taken in by a stranger.  You want your kids to be friendly, but they need to keep their distance.  Every time she asked her three-year old if he would go with a stranger who offered him candy, his answer was the same.  “Yes!  I like candy.”  It’s a hard lesson.  Even at my age if you offer me peanut M&Ms, I still will be tempted to go with you.  I probably won’t, but I’ll be tempted.