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A Ho-ho-ho and A Question or Twenty

November 29, 2009

It’s tradition in these parts to spend the weekend after Thanksgiving pulling out the boxes of red ribbons, shiny balls, garland, nativities, and candles.

An exceptional amount of candles. I’m mildly obsessed with the candles, as anyone who has ever been to my home could tell you. Sometime I’ll count them up and let you know how many flickering flames I typically have going on any given evening.

On second thought, I probably won’t do that. I might be reported to the fire department code people, and we all know I don’t want that to happen.

(For multiple reasons, come to think about it… BUT I digress.)

(Hey, sometimes it’s better to joke about the hard stuff, because laughing is better than crying. Personal coping skills and all that.)

So, all this tradition would explain the stockings hung near the chimney with care, the lights on the eaves of the house (we’re big-colored-bulb-on-the-edges-of-the-roof kind of people), the fancy nativity scene gracing the top of our piano and the plastic version on a shelf near the carpet, the frosty glass bowl filled with green foiled candy (which would also explain why I just set up a few sessions with my personal trainer throughout the holiday season–I’m a fan of accountability), AND the big plans to go hike through the snowy woods to chop down a tree later this week.

(Just kidding on that tree chopping bit. Also, the snowy woods thing. We did that once and I’m kinda smitten with the experience. We call it imagination.)

But the best part–the VERY BEST PART–of the whole Christmas decorating thing is the music. Oh, Christmas music, how I love you. I wait and wait and wait for that glorious Friday in November when it is officially Christmas Music Time, even though all the stores and half the homes in America tune in weeks earlier, because, after all, my middle name is Tradition. (Or Tevye… take your pick.)

And then, the sweet reward: the sweet notes of Andy Williams singing “White Christmas” filling the air the morning after Thanksgiving, signalling the start of the Christmas season.

It is all so wonderful, if slightly (highly) melodramatic.

I think I’m even more obsessed with the Christmas music than I am with the candles. Being that I have no fewer than 13 candles ready for burning in my not-too-large downstairs and will probably have them all lit at once by tomorrow afternoon, that’s really saying something.

I turn on the “Christmas Music” category in our gargantuan disc changer in the morning and let it play all. day. long. I have my favorites and my not-so-favorites and can sometimes send my mind into a tizzy when I start trying to determine which is the Absolute Best Christmas CD In The World. Surely it’s Andy Williams. Surely. Although I’m rather in love with Josh Groban’s CD and Harry Connick, Jr. (mostly because, well, Justin Matisse, you are amazing). But I really, really, REALLY adore Diamond Rio’s contribution and my newest favorite, Casting Crowns’ Peace On Earth, is adding quite the challenge to this competition. But how does one choose?

I just don’t know, people.

So I don’t choose. I listen to them all. Every. Single. Day. For a month.

So in light of all this decorating and music and trees and such, I’d like to know several things:

1) When you put your decorations up,

2) your all time favorite Christmas CD, and,

3) have you ever chopped down your own Christmas tree in the woods?

4) BONUS… because I asked it on Twitter and Facebook and I figured I might as well keep all my social media outlets consistent… What is the best Christmas movie of all time?

Now if you’ll please excuse me while I got blow out a few candles. Only fifty this time instead of the usual three hundred.

Because it wouldn’t be the first day of the Christmas Season without it

November 27, 2009

I do believe it’s become somewhat of a tradition around here, hasn’t it?

Without further ado:

I can assure you that by the time you’ve seen this, my two little people will have spent the better part of a day hitting the play button and laughing their crazy heads off. And we’ll have joined them. Because these things get better every. single. year.

Oh my word, people.

You should see this one. We wheeze and double over until the tears stream down our faces. (Or something like that.)

Let the festivities commence and the crazy elf dancing begin! And hopefully an insane amount of laughing.

Lost and Found, Dead and Alive

November 24, 2009

Some things, briefly, because it is late and I should be in bed but am, instead, typing away on…

(wait for it)

…my very own dearly beloved and formerly departed computer.

Yes, yes, it is true.

This past Saturday night found us arriving home late after a long day of driving and fun. It was my brother’s nineteenth birthday and John and I decided to go a little crazy and make the three-hour trip out to the camp where he works and surprise him. We pulled it off quite well (if I do say so myself) with the help of his pastor and some of his crazy friends. The look on his face when he did a triple take and realized that, lo, the toddlers who had just run into him were, shock and awe, his nephews… well, let’s just say I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. It was fun. (Understatement.)

Anyway. So. We were stumbling in the door that night, putting sleeping children into their beds, still warm and fuzzy from our surprise and subsequently giddy evening, when I checked our voicemail.

This is what I heard: “Hello, this is R– S—– from Amtrak in Tuscon, Arizona. Please give me a call back. We’re open Tuesday through Saturday evenings.”

Now, mind you, it had been two weeks since I lost my computer, iPod, all chargers, et cetera. I had completely given up hope and was expecting the (somewhat measly) insurance claim to arrive soon so we could, you know, replace, say, one of the balls of yarn and maybe a set of knitting needles I had been carrying in the computer bag.

So when I heard that phone message, I held my breath for a full five minutes. More or less.

Then I hyperventilated. And hit the call back button. Even though it was 10:30 at night and even though it made no sense to call an office at that time.

But the guy picked up the phone.

I tried not to break his ear drum when he informed me that he had my computer bag sitting right in front of him, complete with laptop, iPod, many and assorted chargers, books and, lo, even the yarn. He told me he would be sending it on a train in about thirty minutes and it would be arriving a few miles from my house in less than twelve hours. He’d call me back in a few minutes with a claim number.

I hung up the phone. I screamed (for realz) and did a happy little jig (truly). I ran outside to where John was unloading some things from the truck and repeated the jubilation ritual. He said that maybe I should remember that we have neighbors who were trying to sleep and asked what on earth was going on.

They found it! They found it! And this train guy said it’s coming tomorrow and I don’t even know how he got it or where they found it or if it really was stolen or anything and he had to turn on the computer and happened to find a document with contact info and he called our house phone and he’s sending it here–right to our town–and he’s going to call back in a couple minutes and….

And then I went cold. Oh my word. Maybe this guy wasn’t from the train. Maybe he was just the freak who stole the computer and was checking up to make sure he had the right person. Maybe that’s why he was answering his phone at almost 11pm. And maybe he was now going to use all the personal information he’s obtained to come and kill me in my sleep??!!??!!??!!

Panic.

Thankfully there are kind and understanding people at Amtrak’s headquarters who could verify that this man was indeed the ticket agent in Tuscon and that they are, in fact, normally open until 3am on Saturday nights because of train schedules.

Whereupon I heaved a sigh of relief just in time for the phone to ring, bringing me the claim number that would place my computer back in my hands at exactly 11:33am the next morning.

So-OH… long story longer, we marched right into that ticket office after church Sunday morning, smiled sweetly at the grumpy ticket agent, and I was reunited with my pretty little red laptop case and my trusty old Toshiba. , of course, the iPod, various and myriad chargers, four books and multiple balls of yarn.

And here I sit, typing away on my very own keyboard with my phone connected to its very own charger, proclaiming to you all that, indeed, it is no fairy tale that God cares about the little things in our lives.

Even traveling laptops.

This Has Been A Moment of Silence For the Dearly Departed

November 11, 2009

The dearly departed computer, that is.

But I’ll get to that in a minute.

I’m in Omaha, Nebraska, freezing my feet off (don’t laugh, cold weather dwellers–remember, I live in San Diego). Also on the docket? Many, many, MANY boxes. Lots of boxes. A very large number of boxes. And maybe a few pieces of furniture

So, this trip began last Friday… smoothly. We should have known that when we aim to leave the house at 9:30am and are driving away at 9:31, it’s a bad sign. Nothing can be that perfect.

Because we planned to drive my mom’s car out here and fly home a week later, we needed to find a place to store our truck that would be close to the airport when we made it back to California. This meant we couldn’t drive our own vehicle the 2 and a half hours out to my mom’s house the night before we were set to begin the cross-country trip. (Believe me, this overexplaining IS relevant. Hugely.)

The solution: drive the truck the 90 minutes up to the airport. (Yes, there are two other airports closer to us, but we saved a few hundred buckaroos flying into this one. Which, in retrospect, doesn’t matter now, but, I digress.) Park the truck in an airport parking garage, take a shuttle to the airport itself, spend a while hanging out in the USO (LOVE that place!! Humbling, honestly…), hop on a city bus for a 45 minute ride across Los Angeles, THEN board a train (yes! a train! people still ride them! I was shocked too!) which would drop us at a train station about 40 minutes from my mom’s house, where she would pick us up and we’d finally end up at her front door.

Basically, it took us nine hours to make a trip that normally takes two and a half hours. All while toting a two year old, a three year old, two car seats, four suitcases, one back pack, my computer bag, my purse, a Thomas the Tank Engine rolling duffel bag, and a Cars back pack.

People usually describe us as mildly insane. Feel free to join them. Or join us. That works too.

We thought we were doing good. We made all of our connections (no small feat, all things considered) and still had several hours to help pack up at my mom’s house. We were breezin’ right through this thing.

Until we actually GOT TO my mom’s house and remembered that twenty years of living in one house doesn’t lend itself to easy pack up. Let’s just say that even with the help of some friends and family who stopped by throughout the evening (and late into the night) we didn’t quite make it out the door by 4am Saturday morning like we’d originally planned. We also ended up needing an extra trailer for all the, ahem, stuff, but hey, remember? Twenty years??

We still thought we were doing pretty good when we pulled out of the driveway a little after noon on Saturday. We were just cruising right on down the road. (Notice I’m leaving out the part about the actual leaving of the house of twenty years, because, well, you know…)

So we were driving down the road. And I decided I wanted to pick up the knitting stuff I brought along. The knitting stuff which was stored in my computer bag, along with, of course, my computer, my iPod, my phone chargers, the power cord to my mom’s TV, four books, the camera battery charger, the car power adapter and a few other odds and ends.

But I didn’t see my computer bag.

I looked for my computer bag.

I searched for my computer bag.

I called John (who was in the moving truck) about my computer bag.

He didn’t know anything about my computer bag.

We stopped in a parking lot in town to look for my computer bag.

We began to panic about my computer bag.

We called the train station, the police department, and the security company about my computer bag.

I even asked my dad to go over and search the train station for my computer bag.

We searched the car another ten times for my computer bag.

It’s gone. Stolen. Swiped.

We know precisely when it happened, which isn’t in the least bit comforting. Who’da’thunk it could be so risky to stand next to your luggage and let your cooped-up kids climb on some rocks?

So I’m now computer-less, iPod-less, charger-less, camera battery-less, book-less (ok, well, not quite–that could never happen), and knitting-less.

Thankfully, very thankfully, it seems theft of personal property is part of our insurance coverage, so we’ll be able to replace it. Also, most of our pictures are backed up through last spring, contrary to my initial fears, and anything else important is already stored online. Here’s where we do a cheer for Google and its world takeover.

Maybe I could put some of that legion of cardboard boxes to good use, grab some tape and a marker to build myself a pretend laptop. I doubt someone would be so eager to snatch a cardboard computer.

Questioning

November 3, 2009

I’m in a strange place right now. Such an odd place that I’m not even quite able to put it into words.

I’m a muddled mess of questions. I’m seeking answers, not knowing if they even exist.

I’ve spent weeks, searching. Pulling a bit here, reading another piece there. Trying to make sense of this life.

When so much of what one thought to be true, thought stood for truth, exemplified it, is swept away, a hole is left in its place. A gap.

If that wasn’t Truth, what is?

I’m not talking Jesus here. I know Jesus is Truth.

But I’m talking all the other stuff. There is so much… stuff.

When the formula didn’t work, what is left… exactly? The thing that seemed “right” was done, the thing that was supposed to give the end results. A long, lifetime marriage for my parents… a happy, “multi-generationally vision-ed” family. Everyone was doing what they were supposed to do. (Well, almost everyone… but I digress.)

The formula doesn’t work. Formulas never do. People have hearts, and those hearts often wander.

“Cling to Jesus,” they say. And I am. Only Jesus.

But life must be lived. And how? What is truth anymore?

Voices, coming at me from every direction, speaking various versions of “truth.” I know what I though when I was 10, then a slightly different version when I was 13, and again something different when I was 16.

I’m not blaming my parents for this in any way, being that even as a young girl, I was a seeker who veered off on paths all my own. Even on the paths my parents did lead us down–many they would admit weren’t the best–were sought because they wanted something different, something better for their children. They didn’t know how to be Christian parents and were learning with each step. They were doing the best they could. I don’t hold them responsible for my questions.

But here I am now, having watched so much crumble.

We were so certain that each of those things was Truth. The people on one side point to verses, Greek roots and texts, claiming Truth. The ones on the other side do the same.

Who is right?

Jesus. Jesus. Holding on to Jesus.

The questions scare me. Venturing out of the security of the formula isn’t comfortable. It is terrifying. I feel guilty for the questioning itself. How dare I?

But it is necessary.

Job asked. Thomas needed visual proof. And yet Jesus loved them. He gave them the answers they sought.

He isn’t afraid of my questioning. It doesn’t change Him or who He is. The Truth will stand, regardless of me.

He gently leads, and guides, and reminds me to gaze at Him.

Perhaps that’s the only Truth I need to know.

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