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?


October in Gatlinburg

It's not possible for you to enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. 
 Gatlinburg in early October - exactly the right time to go!
(Do you see it, right there in the shadow behind the farther tree?)
While keeping an eye out for flame-bottomed monkeys,
(Is that a paw...?) 
we enjoyed the fall wonders, which seemed to be everywhere we looked!
(There - just in the background? Do you see a bear?)
(We didn't either - no bears. NONE. sigh. The one disappointment of the trip.)

Thought you'd enjoy a few seconds by a quiet stream -

Listen to the Trip Song here. 


Dog Envy

We have the  Best Dog Ever living at our house.
Affectionate. Tolerant. Obedient. Submissive. 
Protective only when necessary.
The Dog's life consists of moving from sunny spot to sunny spot, basking and napping. 

Sometimes I find myself envying the dog ... is that a sin, I wonder?