Strange Christmas

Strange Christmas

Our house doesn't look much like Christmas this year, but with a little effort, it'll soon feel like it.The 2015 Christmas season has been a strange one so far. All our family gathering were or will be at the homes of other rellies. ThanksChristmas with extended family at my brother’s on Thanksgiving weekend. Christmas celebration with both our kids and their families in Minnesota last weekend. Painting walls with our daughter and son-in-law in Wisconsin over Christmas weekend.

Like I said it’s been a strange one.

Add to that the Man of Steel’s bum back and my bum hand, and we made a tandem executive decision to not decorate the house for Christmas. No garland. No twinkly lights. No bowls filled with ornaments. No Christmas card holder. No holiday mugs. Not even our Christmas tree.

As the Man of Steel likes to say, we’re jiggy with that.

Only two reminders of the season have graced our home during the Advent season. The first was the stunning, homemade macaroni and glitter glue Christmas tree I created for my hand therapist. The tree sat on our dining room table for as long as it took me to painstakingly glue each piece of dried pasta to the oh-so-cleverly-hidden styrofoam cone with my left hand. Which is a really long time for someone who’s left hand has always let her right hand hog the glory.

But the fruit of my labor is no longer on the table.

Because I gave it to the hand therapist last week. It rendered her speechless. Apparently four weeks of therapy has not been sufficient time for us to get to know one another well. If we’d known each other better, she would have realized the tree was a gag gift. And I would have realized she’s too kind and caring to believe one of her patients would give her a gag gift.

The Christmas tree now graces the counter of the hand therapist’s room.

So only one vestige of Christmas remains at our house. It’s the growing mountain of Christmas cards and letters from friends and family. They just keep coming even though last year, for the first time since 1982 my Christmas letter never got written. Actually, that’s not true. It was half-written when we got the call that a room was open for Mom at the assisted living facility where she now lives. By the time the move was done, Mom’s finances were once again in order, and she’d adjusted to her new home, it was Easter.

This year, I’m drawing a line in our strange Christmas sand.

I promise that this year’s Christmas letter will get written and sent. Not by Christmas. But maybe by the New Year. It may not look a lot like Christmas around here, but with every Christmas card I send, it’ll feel like it.

Merry Christmas!

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Italian Wedding Soup, leftovers, and stir fry–perfect meals for Thanksgiving week other than Turkey Day.You know how all the Thanksgiving week attention is focused on the Turkey Day meal? Well this year, we discovered how important the before and after meals are by inadvertently serving the perfect dishes on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

  1. Perfect supper the day before Thanksgiving: Italian Wedding Soup.
  2. Perfect food for the day after Thanksgiving: Leftovers, especially tapioca fruit salad for breakfast.
  3. Perfect Saturday supper the night before the company leaves: stir fry with l-o-t-s of veggies. Cashew Chicken for instance.

What are your perfect meals for before and after Thanksgiving? Leave a comment.

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Safety Check for Paris, Mom's answer to "I love you," and lovely lunches in this week's 3 thoughts.

  1. Thankful for the Safety Check for Paris Facebook feature that showed a friend who lives in Paris is alive and well. Heartsick and praying for those who didn’t receive such good news.
  2. Mom’s answer to my “I love you, Mom” at the end of our last visit? “Thank you. Good to know.” Gotta love her!
  3. Coffee and lunch in my home town with a friend from high school. Lovely!

What’s been lovely about your week? Leave a comment.

Wednesdays with Dorothy for a Fantastic Friday

Wednesdays with Dorothy for a Fantastic Friday

This post from October of 2010 sheds light on one way Mom has changed in the last 5 years.This Friday’s post comes from October of 2010. Back then, Tuesdays were my normal day to visit Mom and the switch to Wednesday was a welcome change for her. Five years later, we’ve made a permanent switch to Wednesday. Mom would choose Village Inn and free pie every Wednesday (if that was an option), and then send the pie home for the Man of Steel. Because her appetite for pie has decreased, though her appetite for a great bargain has not.

Wednesdays with Dorothy

Tuesdays are usually for visiting my mom, Dorothy. Most weeks we go out for lunch, run errands, keep appointments, pay her bills, and balance her checkbook. But my crazy week of travel meant our day out was today, Wednesday.

Which was fine by Mom. She’s been hankering for schedule change ever since Village Inn started their Wednesday-free-pie-with-any-purchase promotion. So today we made a beeline for Village Inn – before putting gas in her car or buying some birthday cards – and made quick work of lunch. Then we ordered our free pie. Cherry for Mom. Strawberry-rhubarb for me. It was surprisingly good pie, though it couldn’t hold a candle to homemade.

The fact that it was free had Mom, thrifty survivor of the Great Depression, grinning from ear to ear. Free pie made her happy enough to crack a few jokes on the way home. Engaged enough to read yard signs and comment on the political leanings of home owners along the way. Secure enough in who she is to use her cane in the Target parking lot. Silly enough to choose the goofiest card she could find for her son-in-law’s birthday. And to think, all it took to make her happy was a schedule change and free pie.

Wednesday with Dorothy – priceless.

What My Dad Taught Me for this Fantastic Friday

What My Dad Taught Me for this Fantastic Friday

An unforgettable lesson learned from my father is the the subject of this Fantastic Friday look back at the past.This Fantastic Friday post comes from October of 2007. It’s one of the first blog posts ever published on Down the Gravel Road. I can’t remember the name of the person who’s funeral is mentioned. But every day, I remember and treasure the lesson my dad taught me each day of his life.

On Monday, I went to a funeral for a man from our church. His children paid tribute to their dad during the service. He’d been a wonderful father, who took them hunting and fishing. He coached Little League, encouraging and teaching every child on the team. They mentioned that throughout their adult lives, when they reunited with childhood friends, their friends said hello and in the next breath, “How’s your dad?”

Maybe I shouldn’t confess this, but their memories saddened me. They reminded me of all my father couldn’t do with us. Don’t get me wrong. Dad was a vibrant man who loved children. He would have been a great Little League coach. And though he wasn’t a hunter or fisherman, he would have led our 4-H club. He would have taught us to raise, show and judge cattle because that was what he loved.

But he couldn’t do any of that because multiple sclerosis put him in a wheelchair when he was thirty, my sister was six, I was three and my brother was a baby. So I was sad at Monday’s  funeral, not only for the family of the man who had died but also for what our family lost to Dad’s illness.

For the last few days, God has comforted me with truth. Over and over I’ve pictured Dad in his wheelchair while he lived at home or in his bed at the nursing home. And in every picture, his wide face is serious, even sad. Until one of his children or grandkids comes into his presence. Then his face breaks into a big grin that shows his square, white teeth and his green eyes light with delight.

And that is what Dad taught me: a father’s delight in the presence of his children. His delight didn’t come from what we could do for him. He was delighted because we were his children. We had taken time to be with him.

So now I’m thinking about God the Father. When I enter His presence, does His face light up? After all, I’m His child too.