This is Christmas

Let’s just say I understand why parents go overboard at Christmas and buy their kids everything in sight. The motorcycle group we’re in went shopping this weekend to help provide Christmas for some kids in our community and we had fun.

Do you know how many cute things they have for girls? The doublewide husband and I picked out presents on a list one little girl had written for Santa. We ran through everything and soon had our buggy full — I just had to get one more pair of leggings and then found a pair of cute jeans with designs on the back pockets. Little girls gotta have some bling! Oh and the pajamas with fluffy cats and dogs on them…

The rest of the group shopping with us had lists from the other children. Yep, we just about bought the place out and then headed out with bags full of loot. This is one of the things I love about our small community. The church group we joined with to do this had chili, vegetable soup, corn bread and all the extras waiting for us back at the church house. We ate till we were ready to pop.

It was an action packed few days that included a local church’s drive-thru nativity. After looking at the scenes, we went inside the fellowship hall for (you guessed it) soup, sandwiches and snacks of all kinds. The moral to this story is — find a church in the South to attend — they love celebrations and they feed you. Church lady food is some of the best around.

To round out the weekend, I also worked in a neat experience with a Journey through Bethlehem at another church in the area. My friend Shaylah and I experienced life in a Bethlehem village, had some warm apple cider and picked out beads to make bracelets. We strolled through different tent stations that reflected an aspect of life in Bible times and included  a manger scene with Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. They were guarded by animals like those that might have been in the stable that night so many years ago. In the last station, a lady in Biblical dress shared the salvation story and told us some interesting facts about the donkey standing at her side. Did you know donkeys have a marking in the shape of the cross on their backs?

If you ever have the chance to help buy gifts for somebody or see a live nativity put on by your local church, don’t miss out on it. It might be a little chilly outside, but the experience is well worth it.

I’ll treasure the memories of all my little trips around town this weekend. I think my Christmas has officially been made.



Bearing Witness

I don’t think I would make a very good criminal witness.

I mean the description part, mainly. I watched a guy get into a car that pulled up beside him outside a restaurant one day and my mind started formulating a story. “What if he’s never heard from again. What if the driver of the car wasn’t the person he thought it was and they’ve kidnapped him.”

The police would  ask me for  a description of the car and all, since I was an eye witness. That man’s life could depend on my memory. He’s hanging in the balance while I’m trying to describe exactly what I saw. Poor man.

“Well, officer, it was silver with a little beige, depending on how the sun hit it. You know, sort of silvery beige that looks like it’s been in the sun too long. That’s it.”

“He was wearing tan pants — not brown tan, a little more like cream — more light colored. They were wrinkly, too.”

And to think I’ve been married to a law man all these years. You’d think I would pay more attention to the details. Actually, I think I do  – that’s the problem. I try to fit all the details in. One thing always reminds me of something else and then I include that in my story.  The person I’m talking to just glazes over.

What the what?

I’m sure I would be the same way with weather events. If the weather channel people ever come to my house to ask me to describe the tornado that just hit, look out. I just hope I can come up with something different than, “it sounded like a freight train.”

My description would probably be something like this: “It sounded like a train that sounds like a plane flying too low and you think it’s going to hit your house, so you run outside to get in your car. Then you remember that your dogs are still in there, so you go back to get them and realize the stove is on. You don’t want the house to burn down, so you run to the bathroom to make sure you didn’t leave the flat iron on, too. By then you realize it was just a train rumbling down the track and all is well. That’s what it sounded like – a rumble – kind of like a freight train.”

Does anybody else do that?

So, moral to this story? There’s not one — except, pay attention to details. It could save somebody’s life some day when they’re being taken hostage in a slightly beige car.




Black Friday Shopping…. What was I Thinking?

Have you ever uttered those famous words – “I’ll never do that. I’ll never get up in the middle of the night to join a group of crazies trying to get a bargain. It’s not worth it. I wouldn’t go if they’re giving away gold bricks.”

Never say never.

The doublewide husband and I set the clock for 2:30am (yes, I said 2:30am, not pm) on Black Friday, finally decided to actually get up after the alarm went off, put on clothes and left the house by 3:15 to drive up the interstate to get to Bass Pro Shop at the break of day. Actually, the day had not yet broken when they opened the doors.

We staked out our spot in the parking lot and then decided to stay in the warm car rather than wait outside in freezing temps. We’re really die-hard Black Fridayers. Then, I watched the line of people and we made our move once the line started moving. Just inside the front doors, coffee and doughnuts were waiting along with friendly, smiling faces. They may have secretly wanted to choke us behind those smiles, though. I mean, think of how early you have to get to work to be prepared for a crowd of shoppers ready to pounce on you as soon as the clock struck 5am?

So, the big wooden doors opened and we filed in with the rest of the bunch in surprisingly orderly fashion. Nobody yelled. There were no fights. People were actually being kind to each other. Surely, if the Bass Pro Black Friday crowd can be nice to each other, there’s hope for the world! I think this might have been the cream of the crop as far as Black Friday crowds go.

I thought of something else as we were waiting, before the shopping began — anybody up to no good (i.e., criminals) surely realized that the Bass Pro crowd was not the crowd to mess with. You don’t  terrorize a group of gun toters wearing camo — they will shoot back.

We got in, made our way through the crowd, purchased what we went for and made our way out again. Cracker Barrel (affectionately known as the “Crack House”) was our next course of action. Coffee and gravy brought us back to life. We were nearly the only ones in the place, except for a group of gals who were doing Black Friday the right way — eat breakfast first and then go shopping. I was on my way home to do some napping.

Overall, I would give our middle of the night Black Friday experience a 9 — taking off points because it was so dadburned early. It was fun while it lasted, but I like my sleep too much. I don’t know that I’ll be doing that again anytime soon. If you want me to go on a shopping spree, you’ll have to wait till a decent hour.

Joys of the Santa Train

The Santa Train made its 75th run this weekend, winding down from Kentucky through Virginia coal country into Tennessee.

There are different Santa Train runs across the country, but this is the one I’ve gone to time and time again since I was a kid. My cousins and I used to go when we were little and stand beside the railroad track to catch the candy, toys and coloring books volunteers threw off the train as it passed by us. I kind of felt like Charlie Brown at halloween when he ends up with an empty sack. I can’t remember ever getting anything big — just a few pieces of candy that landed at my feet.

Now that you’re feeling really sorry for me… picturing me standing by the track with an empty bag. I was fine – I had fun and that’s what matters.

My mom remembered going out to meet the Santa Train with her brothers and sisters years ago when it first started the Christmas run.They had to cross a field in rural Southwest Virginia to get to the track. She said she remembered digging the candy out of knee-deep snow. Back then, they just threw candy out as the train made its way down the track.

These days, kids and adults line up along the track and then swarm the train as soon as it stops, trying to get a stuffed animal or a roll of wrapping paper. I have seen knock-down-drag-outs over the toys (between adults and kids!) but this year the crowd was pretty civil and orderly. I’m glad — it’s for the kids anyway. I like to watch the goings on and snap photos to remember the event.  Except this year my phone almost ran down before the train even got there and the doublewide husband had to share his pics with me.

There’s usually a country music star aboard the train as special guest. It was pretty cool seeing Ricky Skaggs on the train this year. He’s from Cordell, Kentucky. I bet he watched the Santa Train as a child and maybe even dreamed of riding it one day.

I hope the Santa Train gets to keep on running for many more years to come. One day we’ll be watching it on its 100th run. Maybe by then they will throw out things like computers and gift cards for massages. I might have to knock somebody down to get that.

Time Changes

I’m not sure if I like this whole time changing thing. It just mixes me up too much — messes up my routine. I guess the morning “fall back” isn’t too terrible since we gain an hour.

If you’re like us –  we change some clocks and forget others in the house. Depending on what room you’re in at the time, you could be in a panic on Sunday morning. My cell phone has a mind of it’s own so I don’t have to worry about it. That’s still a little disconcerting in itself.

I’m not crazy about the weekend when we “spring forward” because of the loss of  that hour. The whole thing throws me off track for at least a week. Although I like that time zone (time frame?) the best. I’m just gonna go back a few days and hang out there for awhile.

Or better yet,  I’ll run for national time decider. Can we put that on the ballot next year? I would look like the rabbit with the clock in Alice in Wonderland.  I promise to keep us on one time or the other — none of this changing around twice a year. It interrupts our lives and sleep patterns and our evening daylight. I like the long days, so I think I’ll come up with an idea where we can have morning light early and long evenings to hang outside longer.

Maybe I need to move to Alaska during the time they have daylight almost 24 hours. I think that would suit me just fine. I’m good at taking naps any time of day, so it would work.

My neighbor, Elmer, has seen many more time changes go around than I have over the years. He always loves to remind me when the days are going to start getting shorter every summer. I try not to listen, but he’s right. Just when I get used to the nice long days they start getting shorter. Oh June, how I love and hate you all at the same time. On the flip side, I love the shortest day of the year in December, because that means the days are going to start getting longer. It’s just a little bit each day, but I hang onto every minute.

My car clock may or may not be on the correct time right now. If I leave it where it is, I may actually get to work on time…

Maybe I’ll just look up the states that stick with one time and move to one of them. I’ll let you know when I find the one that’s just right.



Traces of the Fire

I went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee for a conference this past week. We go every year for this event, but this time was different.

It had been almost a year since fires struck and burned the Smokies. I don’t know the statistics about how many acres were destroyed, but I remember hearing about people trying to escape. Some of them didn’t make it out. I saw the news reports and videos of our vacationland burning. It was too sad, but I watched anyway and prayed.

A few days ago, a friend and I drove the nature trail that winds back through the mountain above Gatlinburg. We saw stumps of burned trees and foundations that had supported vacation cabins. It was still beautiful, still majestic. A fire had challenged the mountains and the mountains won.

The undergrowth was growing nicely. Nature was replenishing with new shoots from the roots that were hidden far under ground.

This isn’t my usual humorous look at life post, but I had to talk about what we saw. I read another friend’s article about the fire she’d written right after it happened and I got teary-eyed. It’s still emotional and I’m so glad that things are getting back to semi normal in the Smokies.

It was good to see the new construction going on as new hotels and vacation cabins are being built back.

Don’t worry — all our favorites are still there — you can still get taffy that will stick to your teeth and get your name air brushed on a t-shirt. I can still get my cinnamon doughnut at the Village bakery.

Dollywood is thriving, although the fires did get close to the theme park. I think they lost some of their vacation rentals. Dolly didn’t let the tragedy slow her down, though, and raised enough money to be able to help a lot of people who needed it. I think she could teach the government something about raising and distributing money.

Like I said, I’ll get back to the funny stuff next time. I just needed to report on the Smokies and let everybody know it’s gonna be ok.



Which Season Is It, Anyway?

It’s October, time for pumpkins, colorful leaves, scarecrows …. and dancing Santa’s.

Can we please have separation of holidays?

Here goes my “back in my day” speech.

Well, back in my day, the Christmas trees didn’t come out until after we carved the turkey. Then it was no holds barred! I think my Aunt Shirley secretly had her Christmas tree decorated and hidden in the closet all year long just waiting to bring it out as soon as Halloween was over. She loved Christmas! I love it too, I just think we should wait till the appointed time — at least until November hits.

Retail stores literally have the Santa’s and Rudolph’s bumped up against the ghosts and goblins. I don’t like it. On that note, I could do without the witches and mummies standing in the aisles of every store you walk in. I want to punch the animated monsters reaching their fake spindly hands out trying to grab me.. I hate those things. I do love fall! Pumpkins with scarecrows, yellow mums and hay bales are lovely and quaint.

I’d much rather rock around the Christmas tree than watch monster movies any day. But give the halloweeners their day to have fun — wait till closer to Thanksgiving to bring out the Christmas decor. I do like the orange lights up everywhere for fall though. Christmas used to be the only season where we had festive lights – now they’re all over the place throughout the year.

If you want to decorate for Thanksgiving, good luck. It’s almost impossible to find a cardboard turkey for your table. They’re in short supply. It’s either a frankenstein or an elf — there’s no in-between these days. I guess I’ll have to go out and find some feathers and make my own turkey centerpiece. I wonder what that would end up looking like — I’m not the best at homemade creations, but I try.

I just want to enjoy my pumpkin spice latte without seeing a candy cane frappe on display too. Christmas season will get here, just be patient. I’m pleading to the Cracker Barrel’s and Wal-Mart’s of the world — chill your wheels a little. Let us relax and enjoy each season as it comes. I’m taking a stand for Thanksgiving too! I want to see some turkeys and pilgrims in the mix!

Sorry… got a little carried away there. I guess I’m a little overly enthused about keeping the seasons separate.

I’m not going to mention that I’ve already been watching Hallmark Christmas movies. We won’t talk about that…