Santas For Sale

A day's Get-Away can be just the thing for some holiday relief.
My Wonderful Husband and I laughed (and smooched) as we browsed row upon row of antique junk.
There were lots and LOTS of vintage Christmas decorations for sale -
so many kinds of Santas!
 Isn't this an odd little Saint Nick? 
Maybe it was a craft project during the 50's. 
 It must've been popular for us to find two of them in the same store! 
(Can you see our reflection on Santa's face?)

We found  Angry Santa standing on a chair near the bookshelves. 
Is he so angry because he has no hands 
or because his boots are made of cheap, white plastic?
I believe this Santa carries only has sticks and coal in his pack.

 This one has a cheerful, kind face, but his beard falling off is a little upsetting.  
It reminded me of the TeethFallingOut  dream. 
(No hands again - or maybe his sleeves are just sewn closed?)

Empty Eyes Santa! 
He makes me wince a little. This one could star in a Holiday Horror flick.

Another bad beard and another missing hand. 
Hands are so unpredictable, aren't they?
Ask any teenager.


December 26th

Today was pajama day.  
All Day Long
I loved it - my first true day off in weeks.

In my heart, though, today was a due date. 

You know, I don't remember the due dates of my boys. I think I almost hit the actual due date for My Oldest. Maybe I missed it by one day? The others, I know I missed, since none of  those man-babies seemed to want to leave the cozy womb, staying inside long enough to make me groan in anticipation, 
and a little bit of misery.

But I think due dates get erased, or at least smudged,  from memory when the actual, joy-filled,  birth-date occurs. When no birth-day comes, the due date remains, representing all that was hoped for, all that was dreamed. 

So every December 26th, I nod to myself, remembering, and again agreeing with Him that all is well. 
I find myself willing those dreams into the safety of His hand once again, knowing that there is a future, and a hope, 
because He promised. 


The Stable Truth

Merry Christmas, dear friends! 
I hope you spend the next few days savoring, 
and enjoying True Christmas with your loved ones, near or far. 
That's my plan, too.

"In our world too, a stable once had something inside it 
that was bigger than our whole world."
Queen Lucy in The Last Battle
by My Old Friend, Clive
Wouldn't it be nice to start a read-aloud time with one of the Chronicles of Narnia, 
during the quiet in-between week before New Year's Eve?


The Manly Option

The search for the perfect tree - a yearly challenge. 
 This year for the first time, I ended up in retreat to the car, leaving the men and almost-men to make the final selection. 
Fat and Impossibly Tall  
Thin and Just Tall Enough
You know what they all want, right? 
The MANLY option. 

Back when this photo was taken, our family made a yearly trip to scour the hills of Campbell County for the Perfect Tree
Tug Fork Tree Farm grew field after field of lovely trees, 
and our task to find that Perfect One would take an (entire) afternoon
The same discussion regarding tree shape/size occurred every year. 
My Youngest is demonstrating his choice, 
without compromise or any shred of embarrassment - 
the Fattest and Tallest tree on the farm.
Man in training!


Shoulder Peeking

I have nighttime camera issues. 
Or in low-light, like indoor evening shots. 
So Frustrating!
So these Christmas light shots were experimental. 
Trying the many settings on the dial, in a crowd, looking for something that worked. 
This didn't work, but I like the blurry dragging look anyway. 
Finally, this on the SPORTS setting. Yeah!
The camera captured the glow of the lights which was what was missing from the other shots. 

Later, we sat waiting for the Winter Wonderland puppet show to start in a large, outdoor auditorium. A young man with his tripod/camera was just in front and to the right. He was taking some photos of his friends, who were just to his right, as they ate funnel cake. 
I know I'm not the only one who peeks over the shoulder of other photographers (hahaha) to see how their photos are turning out. Right? 
So I'm peeking at this guy's review display - !!! Amazing, perfect photos in the miserable low-light of the auditorium! I was thinking of tapping his shoulder, but instead pointed the achievement to MWHusband, who I thought was 
'unaware' of what was going on right next to him. 
"Look at this guy's photos! HOW did he do that?"
"Didn't you hear him? He just got a new low-light lens."



My Youngest went airborne this week!  
My Dad flies this plane, sort of a wonderful hobby ...
... and he offered to take this guy up. My Middle Son wanted nothing at all to do with this sort of nonsense - "No, Thanks!" But this one, he couldn't wait.  
However, on the way, he made some last minute arrangements for the distribution of his 
Christmas gifts in case anything should happen to him. 
And he considered the benefits of  fasting.
I think he might have a love of sky, like I do.  
 He certainly got some great shots up there. 
The amazing sunset seemed to be just for him.
First time in flight - do you remember how the night lights looked to you the first time you saw them from that high up?  I guess I'm assuming everyone has been flying. It does seem that there are very few people now who've never been in a plane.
I know some who fly but won't look out the window, 
though, and what sights they're missing! 
I guess not looking is better than making use of that little paper bag.
Yes, and the rest of us do appreciate that. So much!


Not Just Lights

 It's not too late to do a zoo trip. 
The lights are all strung for the Festival
People asked us, "Why would you go during the day??? 
The lights don't come on until evening..."
BUT they seem to be on 24/7 - your tax $ at work.
And there are alot less people, which is very good and a little bit bad.
For viewing purposes. Of course you know what I mean.
 And all the animals are still working - even in December! 
Busy with shedding ...
... and snuggling ...
Did you know - you're not supposed to knock on windows at the cat house? 
FYI - Just in case you visit. 
... and squawking.
The flamingos get a little miffy at the sound of an empty water bottle being squeezed.
People say we look alike, My Youngest and I. 
I can't find the wrinkle remover tool on this site --- Blogger? Can't you help a girl out?


That Crazy Innkeeper

My Youngest, about eight years ago, busy playing with the manger scene at Christmas. 
Pajamas + fire + sock feet + sticky face = a happy morning. 
That I've set this nativity group out again, complete, is an amazement to me.
This is the 'play'manger scene
not to be confused with the 'special'manger scene
which was always placed up high, just out of the reach of my three small sons. 
That glass set was only for looking and not for touching
one of the very few items in our home to ever fit in that demanding category.
But this plastic set, this one was fine to play with, and I wanted them to
giving me an opportunity to talk to them about that holy night, and those who were part of the story. Now my Men and Almost-Men are too old to play with the pieces, and it turns out, this set, the ok-to-play-with-set, has become the real treasure!

That angel has flown through the entire house and always returned to her place on the stable roof. Baby Jesus has been wooled over, sent down steps (His bed does look a little like a sled...), and fed at the breakfast table. Those kings, and the shepherds too, have been on special ops with GI Joes, and I think Joseph flew in Chopper 5 more than once. 
Mary stayed put, always, as she apparently made a poor adventure partner for my boys.
The innkeeper, also, was not taken out to play and was regarded with mild scorn at all times.

"No room - REALLY?!? He was crazy, Mom, right?!"
It's so easy to find fault with others' callousness toward the Lord, while ignoring and excusing our own mishandlings... While I long to be Mary in the story "Behold, the handmaid of the Lord...", or a Shepherd, filled with wonder and "making haste" toward Jesus, too often I find myself in the role of that miserable innkeeper, busily blind to what is going on in the kingdom, missing precious glimpses of the Lord when He is made manifest right in front of me. 
Do you know what I mean? Do you see yourself in the Christmas story?

They've suffered a little damage - the donkey is missing an ear (broken while galloping with the camels), some hands have gone missing (it seemed to be very difficult to press a machine gun into the hand of a magi member), a shepherd's flute was bent (which sadly wouldn't make music when blown by small boys)

But they're all taking their places out there in the living room, welcoming the Christ Child in yet another Season of Joy.



Every holiday includes great photo opportunities.
People in the holiday spirit are willing to do unusual things.
And I heard from a reliable source that there's ALOT more fun to be had at the kid table.
How long will we have these days of laughter? 
Smiles and hoots of joy gilded by so-generous candlelight?
Are you savoring these days with me? 
Yes, believe me, 
I know it's not all fun and games, 
and tears of un-joy may also be shed when the family gathers.

But I'm trying to let those tears be like the pains of childbirth 
and allow them to slip out of my memories. 

I'm not going to listen when they cry "Here!" during the roll call of reminiscing. 

I'll pretend I didn't hear a thing and instead focus on recalling 
the smiles, the hoots, the winks, the hugs.
The Joy.


Rose Frost

My knock-out roses are hard to stop. 
They just keep blooming and blooming and blooming...
But that last frost stopped them cold.
It was time for them to take a break.
Merry Christmas - enjoy the nap!
  (frost on the patio chimney)


Lights and The Light

Lights are up - I love the lights!  
Lights are the men's job around here. 
I'm glad that we've convinced our sons that it's a HugeBigDeal to be a Light Handler.
And that they will be also.
"Boys, why do we have special lights at Christmas?"

"As long as I am in the world, 
I am the light of the world."
John 9:5

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."
John 1:5

"I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness."
John 12:46


Two Christmases

While I was earnestly trying to attend to November,  CHRISTMAS snuck in here. 
It held its jingle-belled slippers, staying oh so silent, then began a  
flamboyant Yule-tide dance in the foyer. 
It's in there right now, noisily celebrating its own victorious invasion.

I had avoided it so far. It tried to leap into my cart several times on the weekly grocery shop. Did you know - CHRISTMAS perches in gaudily clad holiday trees put out waaayyyy too early. It races along rows of colorful children's toys shouting, "SALESALESALE!"  It swings its legs from endcap displays of tantalizingly shiny kitchen utensils. Have you seen it, too? CHRISTMAS gestures you closer, thumbs a ride in the bag of any merry holiday shopper.  It buckles its oversized self into your cart seat, to plead and beg for every trimming and trapping of the holiday.

Now hunkered down in a quiet corner as CHRISTMAS celebrates its entry in the rest of my  house via blaring CHRISTMAS music, I contemplate what will certainly follow. CHRISTMAS will get out its dayplanner and regiment my December with its never-ending seasonal tasks.  CHRISTMAS CARDS, CHRISTMAS BAKING, CHRISTMAS WRAPPING, CHRISTMAS DECORATING, CHRISTMAS GIFT LISTS ... CHRISTMAS drags me in to its celebration, exhausting as I try to keep up with all its demands, and finally disappointing, as CHRISTMAS will, every year.

All the while another Christmas gazes at me silently, in sharp contrast to its imposter, inviting me to join another kind of Holiday. 
One without blaring music. 
One in which perfectly arranged ribbon and wrapping don't matter. 
Without candy canes or jingle bells, elves small or large. 
Without BB guns, hippopotamuses or missing front teeth.

Christmas draws me forward, past all that. It points toward the Star and urges me to prepare my heart to celebrate the Christ Child, the Incarnation. I find it kneeling in unexpected places, thanking the Father for sending His Son. Absent at Walmart, Christmas is busy at the local shelter packing boxes of supplies, holding a hand, or cupping a child's cheek. 
It calls,   
"Good News!"   
"Emmanuel - God with us!"    
"Good will toward men!"

This Christmas offers HOPE  that leaves no dregs of disappointment behind to be swept up with those pesky nylon icicles. SATISFACTION that doesn't demand to be shed like those last two (five!) pieces of fudge. BEAUTY that delights far more deeply than even the loveliest blinking CHRISTMAS lights.

I may not be able to get rid of CHRISTMAS this year, since it's already clambering about the downstairs, but I can decline some of its demands. I can choose to join the real Christmas instead. This year I'm going to squint past the antics of CHRISTMAS, and lend an ear to what Christmas is saying. I'll turn an eye in the direction it's pointing and put my hand to what really matters, in the spirit of 
True Christmas.


Feast On

All Set For A Feast

Chicakees are maybe my favorite birdfeeder bird. 
So cunning, quick and acrobatic!
I can afford to feed them after finding some black sunflower seed for super cheap in the reject section of my local market. I enjoy this feeder while sitting at my work table in the sunroom.  Right outside the window, I can watch the bird friends, up close.


Useful Beauty

The leaves are mostly down now, but we had the most beautiful show of color that I can remember.
I think I say the same thing every year during those last golden days of fall. 
What an extravagant show of His splendor!
The sun just lights up the leaves --- it's like looking through stained glass.
My men find me continually outside, aiming my camera upward, looking for the best view through the lens. Marveling.
All that beauty! 
And completely disposable - now already gone.
Some of it will be keeping my flower beds cozy until next year, though, as a nice layer of leaf mulch. 
 USEFUL beauty - even better! 



Wishes are out there, just floating around...
landing in the most ordinary places.


Free Bear Rides

We found this bear in a sunny spot in the back of a Tennessee antique-junk shop. 
Of course, I had already 'petted' him more than once before noticing THE WARNING SIGN.
I wasn't feeling hospitality flowing around the shop.
Love the last forbidding line: 'Other such abusive acts'
Seems like most of what you could do to a stuffed bear was covered in the other lines...
You have to wonder about the thought process behind this sign - really. Would someone who would engage in pulling toes off a stuffed bear, in full sight of the owner, really bother to  read and be cautioned by this sign? 
Or does it just spark 
and the beginnings of rebellious disobedience? 
I guess you know what I think. 
Seems like RIDING might be an option...


Pus Yellow

What color would you say my shirt is? 

I got it at Kohl's last night for 30% off.  30% off the sale price! Yellow is not my favorite color, but at the price I got it, I thought it would make an acceptable under-jacket shirt. 

This morning, as I put my clothes in the bathroom and set out to do spelling before a quick shower, I remarked, "Let's hurry, 'cause I want to put on my mustard yellow shirt!" 
Yes, the joy of a new piece of clothing! 
I heard my now-taller-than-me Youngest smirkishly say, "PUS yellow, you mean."

That's not what I meant. 
Then began a discussion of the true color of pus and the  imminent death of anyone leaking pus that shade of yellow. I argued for daylily yellow, if  mustard yellow would not suit. 
I admit, I was thinking of ballpark hotdogs when the mustard thing stuck in my mind. Sunflower yellow
Finch yellow
Banana yellow.
Anything other than pus. Please?

Could we also eliminate poop brown and slime green
And while we're at it, how about getting rid of TOENAIL MOON


November Closing

I don't consider myself a Bah-Humbug person at all. BUT I can't get into Christmas in November. I feel the Tug of the Season, but ... no, not yet. There's too much to do, still, outside. This weekend we took steps toward the holidays by closing the gardens. 
I can't enjoy Christmas until I've left summer behind. 
So November is for closing gardens. 
It's for considering the growing season - making plans, readjusting expectations, celebrating successes and (hahaha) mourning small losses.

As always, geraniums make the mental list of "please don't do this again"
Yet into a paper bag they go, to be brought out again next season for another go around. 
Because over the winter, I forget those resolutions that I made in the November Closings. 
I AM halfway to 90, after all.
The Purple Queen vine from this year's containers are all clipped. Most of them ended up in the garbage can, but I reserved quite a few cuttings to root over the winter. I'll have plenty of these for free in the spring. Free plants! Let me know if you want some cuttings for your windowsill.
But the forsythia thinks another spring has arrived. It's blooming away over there on the hillside, even though the green leaves have gone to burgundy. 
Yesterday all the Near Men came out to help trim, pull and clear the way, then today (between ball games) MWM spread a thick layer of leaf mulch on the beds. There's only a little to do in the front yard and I'll be free to think about the Holidays!


Bring Your Monkeys

I was putting on shoes to hike when this couple walked past us to begin the trail. 
I almost fell out of the open car door - are you kidding me???
Monkeys in Gatlinburg? 
You brought your monkeys to hike a historic trail in Gatlinburg?
Convinced that they would be sending their monkeys up the trees, and somehow needing to see such a thing, I tried to catch up with them. 
MWH scoffed this idea, "How would they ever get them back down?" 
We had our share of trouble in play area tubes and ball pits ourselves.
Wife had Snuggly Monkey - you can barely see its head over her shoulder. 
Husband had The Wild One. It was bouncing on his shoulders, making a constant tossed salad with the man's hair. 
They left the trail before us, so I got this shot of them returning to their car.  And I didn't try to do it on the sly, either. If you have monkeys on a hiking trail, you already know that people are going to be watching and taking your photo. 
Only the monkey seems to notice that his photo being taken. 
'Cause monkeys are like that. 

I can't finish without mentioning the flame print diaper. 
It's bad enough changing the bottom of your own smooth-butted baby, but wiping a furry monkey bottom? 

I wonder if they all went to the Apple Barn for breakfast?
Did they ride go-karts in Pigeon Forge?
Did they ride the ski lift to Ober Gatlinburg?