Monthly Archives: November 2010

It’s weird how things creep into our subconscious thinking. The marketing companies make billions for retailers, especially this time of year, convincing us our children would mind and we would be more beautiful if we had their product. It’s strange that the jingles bury in the deep crevices of our minds. Why does that stuff stick and the important things slide off?

I woke up last night thirsty, got a drink and tried to snuggle back to sleep and for some reason, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer started playing in my head. Remembering I had probably heard it a dozen times the day before in all the places I had been, I relaxed instead of trying to analyze. I smiled thinking about Christmas, but suddenly realized I couldn’t remember all the reindeer names. Now I was fully awake. I’m not good with names anyway, but the reindeer, how could I forget?

I had someone come up to me at a party several months ago and say, “Hi! Remember me?” That is the most unfair question that can be asked and I forbid myself to do that even to people I’d love to trip up. Of course I didn’t remember him and all I could think to say was, “Help me out a little.”

In the movie The Devil Wears Prada, the powerful character Meryl Streep played had two assistants who studied the guest list before attending a social or business function. They stood on either side of her, like two servants attending royalty, prompting her with names and how she knew them as people approached. Jim Brawner and I try to do that for each other, but sometimes both of us come up blank.

I think name tags are the greatest invention. I wish everyone understood they are to be worn on the right so when you shake someone’s hand you can catch a glimpse without being quite so obvious. I try to introduce myself whenever I can. It takes the pressure off people, like me, who have occasional brain fog.

I guess I’ll always have to work on remembering names. But as Spike White used to tell me, it’s the most honoring thing you can do, call a person by name. I finally got back to sleep last night and It wasn’t because I suddenly remember the reindeer names. I had to look them up: Dasher, Dance, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen and of course Rudolph.


Lurking in the hidden corners of us is that never quite fulfilled need for approval. Admit it or not, it’s there. Maybe since Adam and Eve messed up in the garden we’ve been on a never ending quest to make sure we’re okay … okay with our friends, with our family, with our employers, with God, and even with ourselves. Not kept in check, it’s exhausting.

For whatever reason, some of us struggle with it more than others. It could be we weren’t affirmed as children, as adults life may have kicked us around, or we’ve simply lost ourselves over the years. All valid reasons, but what are we going to do?

We can stay stuck or make some changes. Staying stuck, no matter how uncomfortable it is, many times is easier than making a stab at change. What will the relatives say if you only have three different kinds of pies for Christmas dinner instead of the five you’ve always baked? Ask yourself this: why does it matter? Now if your sincere joy lies in baking, bake on, but if you’d rather spend Christmas Eve in your PJs playing Chutes and Ladders with your kids, pick up pies at the Kroger bakery. The thought of that may cause you to break out in a cold sweat, but that’s what happens when you break an addiction.

Who doesn’t enjoy applause and gushing compliments? Approval feels good for a moment, but it passes quickly. Then the stakes are higher to make sure your performance is even better next time. Ask any athlete or performer about the pressure to out do yourself. But then, again that’s why they’re paid the big bucks.

Why not for the next few weeks in the midst of the holiday clamor, pause to consider why you do what you do? Wouldn’t it be fun to enjoy Christmas this year?

It’s like hitting replay every year. Jim Brawner unloads all the plastic tubs down from the attic and garage and I dig through them. Sitting in the middle of the floor surrounded by piles of tangles, I know I didn’t put things away like that in January, so how do they mysteriously end up such a mess. I stare at the bundles like elves will suddenly appear and untangle them. Then I vow and promise to do a better job after Christmas this year. One year maybe I will.

I don’t do well with tangles. They look so impossible. I remember when I was about 10 bringing a wadded up thin gold chain to my dad. In tears I whined, “It’s ruined! I’ll never get it fixed. Every time I try to get the knots out they just get tighter.”

He took it from me and said, “Let’s see what we can do.” Patiently he laid it on the kitchen table and began gently taping on each knot and as it loosened he untangled it. Ten minutes later my necklace was fixed. I was amazed, “How did you do that?”

“It takes a few minutes and you have scrounge up some patience, but you have to go after one knot at a time,” he smiled.

When life itself gets tangled and messy, I consider what Dad said. Every time I yank and pull trying to straighten things out, the knots just get tighter. Then it usually dawns on me that it’s mostly likely going to take some time and patience.

So when the plastic tubs come down this week and the elves don’t show up again, I’ll make a cup of coffee and take on the strings of lights one knot at a time.

The quote, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” actually is a paraphrase from a lengthy symposium given by the Greek philosopher Plato sometime in the 400s BC. Sprinkled with whithers and thous, he evidently was making the point, depending on how you look at something or someone and who is doing the looking, translates the depth of beauty. Without stocked shelves of products in the cosmetic aisles back then, I would imagine they would have had to squint real hard to consider some of the people lovely.

Beauty is subjective, that’s for sure, whether we’re talking about people, art, or music. How boring would it be if everyone saw beauty in the same way? That’s why some feel nothing is more beautiful than Mozart’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat major while others consider In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly the most brilliant thing ever written.

I think there are most likely fewer debates about beauty when we’re talking nature. God outdoes himself over and over. Just when I think there’s nothing more beautiful, something new shows up. Fall is possibly one of the most stunning times of the year. I say that now and when I wake up to the first snow, I’ll say that about winter.

The wonderful thing about beauty in nature is you’ll never hear anyone say something like, “Oh, she was so stunning until she opened her mouth.” Mountains don’t brag, streams aren’t devious and fields always keep their promises. I think that’s why our mom’s sent us out to play. We settle down when we go outside.

I had just dozed off after one of those awake and can’t go back to sleep stints. “Mom. Mom,” Jill was nudging my shoulder. I sat up trying to remember where I was.

“I think Dillard’s has some really good sales until 10. You want to go to the mall?” I felt like she was six again.

“Well … sure,” remembering how I had just said yesterday, “you won’t see me out in the Black Friday frenzy.”

I’m not one to jet out of bed, so I had to determine myself to kick it up a notch. With hot mugs of coffee and no idea what we were looking for but good deals, we headed out. My friend Amy, who has six kids, shops with an excel spread sheet with sizes and requests. I usually at least have a list, but I was empty handed and it made me a little anxious and I felt unorganized.

Jill took me to one of those fancy malls with the upscale stores like Louis Vuitton and Saks where most of the people act like it really wouldn’t bother them to spend full price. I love malls like that, but I generally walk straight to the back of the stores where the mark downs are.

In Dillard’s there were’t any before-10am-sales, just regular mark downs. I think that was Jill’s line to get me out of bed, like we needed to hurry. Gap, however, did have everything, even sale items, half off until 10. That was a find. But, without a list, I was lost. So I bought myself a sweater.

Anthropologie was serving fresh baked cookies, which we called breakfast and Banana Republic was handing out bottles of water to the customers in the dressing rooms and the long check out lines. I suppose fancy mall equals fancy service.

We spent less than $100.00 between the two of us, but walked off some of that Turkey Day slogginess. If you were organized and shopped with a list with the throngs of frantic people, I hope you found everything you were looking for. Maybe I can get a list together over the weekend for Cyber Monday.

I’ve often wondered what the first few Thanksgivings were like. I’m quite certain they didn’t look much like the paintings with everyone smiling, and clean in their Sunday best frocks. The pilgrims had survived more than thrived their first years on American soil and that survival was likely what they were most grateful for.

Do you think the head pilgrim made assignments for who was to hunt and shoot what for the feast and who was in charge of setting up tables and keeping the fires going? Who put together the seating chart? Do you suppose most of the women were known for certain dishes and everyone hoped that’s what they’d bring, kind of like at a church pot luck.

Over time Thanksgiving has morphed into a day of feasts, parades, and football. I know, for me, the thankful part gets lost for a while in the middle of making the dressing and sweet potato casserole. All that work and money to see how much can be eaten in 30 minutes.

We’re in Virginia with Jill, David and Vivian for Turkey Day this year. There will be eight adults and three children for a late lunch. I’m curious with all there is to be done for a small group, what Thanksgiving is like with the Dugger family. They surely rent out an event hall or at least do take out from Bob Evans.

Each year I’m a little more reflective, probably because there’s more to reflect on. So much has happened since this time last year, a lot of it wonderful with the not so good and happy sprinkled in. But, I’m still grateful … grateful for my health, grateful for my family, grateful for a gracious God. Happy Thanksgiving!

“Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart.” Seneca

“True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.”


Everyone knows someone who thinks he knows everything and he usually shows up for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s almost as if the turkey platter placed on the table is a cue to wind it up and talk nonstop. Let’s call this person Uncle Albert just for reference sake. Any similarities to someone with the name Albert are purely coincidental. I don’t even know an Albert.

Uncle Albert people can be women too. It’s amazing anyone is that smart. I remember when I was a kid asking an Uncle Albert person how she knew so much. She just smiled as if I had extended a gushing compliment. She had an answer for everything. I wondered if she made some of it up. Did all she do was read when she wasn’t talking?

At dinner, Uncle Alberts always have a better story to top one someone else might get to tell while he is chewing. If someone at the table just finished their first 5K run, he or she just ran their fourth marathon. If someone’s child just won a $5,000.00 scholarship, his kid got a full, four year ride. If someone starts a discussion about the rising cost of electricity, he knows everyone on the committee who makes decisions for the electric company. He will not be outdone by anyone in anything.

I’ve gotten to the point I feel sorry for Uncle Albert people. First of all, they must collapse into bed every night from all the talking they do. They may know facts and important people, but they don’t know how to listen or be kind, patient, and humble.

So headed into the holidays remember this: don’t ever try to out do an Uncle Albert, it won’t happen.