A Tale of Two Houses

Every year, the kids beg me to buy those gingerbread house kits. Every year, I give in. It’s like I forget about the huge mess they make. Or, maybe I think the joy they get from decorating the houses outweighs the annoyance of sweeping up bits of candy for weeks afterward.

Yeah, I definitely forget about the mess 😛

A couple days before Christmas, the kids got out their kits (I learned years ago that they could not build one house together.) I was working, so it was a great excuse to stay out of their project. I like things tidy, so my presence would’ve put a damper on their fun anyway (I think my younger son had more frosting on his jeans than his house.)

My older son (he’s 12) presented his masterpiece, complete with candy cane arch and candy walkway. The showoff even made a guest house out of regular graham crackers:

01-07 Gingerbread1

My eight-year-old son was frustrated that his house wouldn’t stay ‘glued’ together. I heard his aggravation, but he didn’t ask me for help, so I stayed away. When he did come get me to look at his creation, he presented it as a “gingerbread house in a tornado”:

01-07 Gingerbread2

I found this interesting, because it seems as we get older, we tend to color inside the lines, so to speak. I like my younger son’s creative spin (haha, spin… tornado… never mind) because it reminds me that things don’t have to be perfect to be visually interesting.

This is a reminder that once in a while, I should take the opportunity to toss the rules and let my creativity just happen.

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Wrapping Cats, Playing Games, and Grasping Happiness

The “things” that contribute to happiness cannot be wrapped and tied with bows.

Ironically, these are the very things we take for granted.

How do you wrap a cat?  Um, you don't!
How do you wrap a cat?   Um, not very easily!

Around Christmas, marketers hope that we get caught up in the deftly executed ad campaigns. Some unwittingly fall into the trap of overindulging and overspending. Others turn themselves inside out to find the perfect gift to make loved ones happy.

How silly – happiness can’t be purchased. It’s in our heads (and hearts.)

We have a budget for Christmas, and our kids’ requests often fall outside of that budget. So, instead of their dream gift, they get a lesson in handling disappointment. Sometimes, though, they are pleasantly surprised.

We let our kids each pick a gift to open early. My older son tore through the paper on the box and tossed the packing material aside. He examined the bubble-wrapped object in his hand and said, “Oh. It’s an ornament.”

He thought we got him a new phone. He’s twelve- and delusional, it seems.

My younger son ripped the paper from his box and squealed with delight when he saw the game Apples to Apples. “How did you guys know? I love this game!”

Now, that reaction made me smile. A couple months ago, he begged me to buy that game for him because he’d played it at school. I listened (and surprisingly, remembered.)

My kids ‘ reactions illustrate how expectations can lead to disappointment when actuality doesn’t live up to our anticipation. Sure, we could go into debt and “wow” my older son with a phone, but I think the greater gift is to learn true happiness can’t be found inside a box under the tree.

Some people never learn this and spend their lives filling the void with “things.”

On Sunday evening, we played Apples to Apples as a family. Even my older son (who had proclaimed the game as “stupid”) eventually joined in. We spent time together- interacting and laughing. We had fun.

We found happiness in each other’s company.

For those who celebrate Christmas – I wish you a merry one. For those who do not – I wish you happiness. “See” you after the new year 🙂

The First Supper (fiction) & Emilio Pasquale Photo

Photo courtesy of Emilio Pasquale (click photo to view his site)
Photo courtesy of Emilio Pasquale (click photo to view his site)

Mackenzie Walters stood in the center of the large ballroom, soaking in the rays streaming in from the windows that made up the better part of three walls. For several minutes, she stood, transfixed by the lush gardens surrounding the banquet hall. The resort had touted itself as an oasis in the desert and she had to agree – nowhere else in Phoenix could she be transported to the tropics. She almost forgot it hadn’t rained in fifty-three days.

“Are you okay, Mackie?”

She glanced over her shoulder and saw her best friend, Heather, lingering in the doorway. She shrugged. “Yeah, I think so.” She turned to a nearby table and tugged at one of the white napkins to give it a taller peak. A flicker of memory made her smile; something her mom would say about busy hands and idle minds.

“I’m not so sure.”

“I appreciate your concern, but this is exactly what I want to do.”

“I think you’re in shock,” Heather said. “I mean, your parents died only four weeks ago and immediately you started planning this extravaganza.” She made a sweeping motion with her left arm.

Mackenzie nodded. “Yeah, there wasn’t much time to pull it together, but I think the place looks nice.”

“It should, for what you’re paying for it.”

She closed her eyes and inhaled. “Do you smell that?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s chicken piccata, pasta and fresh green beans, but it might as well be filet mignon and caviar.” She nudged a glass to line it up with the knife at another place setting. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience.”

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Not That Different After All…

No, this isn't my husband (usually)
No, this isn’t my husband (usually)

I’d say the most unexpected part of marriage was holidays with my husband’s family. After seventeen years, I can still see stark differences. Sometimes the differences are frustrating and aggravating, but examined with a sense of humor, they can be amusing.

Of course, I choose to view life through a lens of humor!

My husband’s mother and one of his brothers (along with his youngest two children) stayed with us for several days. Our Thanksgiving dinner was an eclectic mix of traditional food (my fare) and more ethnic food (compliments of their Greek heritage.)

I am not adventurous in my food, so I didn’t partake of the pastitsio my mother-in-law made. The lamb, noodles, two sticks of butter and aromatic Greek cheeses didn’t appeal to me. My brother-in law made turkey – I was excited for some ‘normal’ food. I didn’t know he would go all Emeril Lagasse on the bird, though. It came out with a strong garlic/citrus taste. My husband said it tasted like the waste from a living organism (well, he didn’t say exactly that, but I’d like to keep this a PG blog.) My assessment was a bit kinder: I ate it. (However, days later, I’m thinking the ice chest the turkey marinated in may never be the same.)

On the flip side, I’m sure my stuffing was bland for their palates. The green beans with onions and bacon were probably a few notches below boring. But they ate it anyway.  My pumpkin pie may have been passable smothered in whipped cream, but I still had leftovers.

Despite out differences in taste, we did manage to agree on one thing: we were thankful to be able to spend the holiday together.

Their early departure indicated there is at least one other thing we agree on: four days is enough family time for one visit.

How long is long enough for family to visit? I’d love to know your response!

Expectations

11-24 Cactus on rock

Sometimes life happens

when death seems imminent.

Devastating when death happens

instead of expected life.

Expected life?

How easily I forget-

each day is a gift;

another chance

to make a difference.

Who am I,

to expect a tomorrow?

to live like time isn’t borrowed?

Selfish, I am,

with my wasted dreams

(squandered currency)

but amidst loss is blessing,

a sort of silver lining:

reflection brings change-

recognition of today.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Inspiration: Death has a way of making me pause and ponder life. I found out Saturday that within the span of a week, a baby was born and died. To me, this is especially sad because I expected the child to have a long life – because many of us do have the opportunity to grow old.

That’s how this poem came about. The phrase “expected life” made me think about my own life and expectations. In this poem, I chastise myself for all the things I don’t do today. It doesn’t often cross my mind that my tomorrows are limited.

I chose the photo because I always pause when I see a cactus growing on a rock. It looks like nothing should be able to grow on rock. But, as I discovered during some recent reading for a story I wrote, the lichen that grow on rocks can indeed provide nutrients for plant life.  Interesting, that I have killed a cactus or two in my life. Go figure. They can grow in inhospitable conditions, but they can’t survive my inept care.

This may be my only post this week, as Thursday is Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and in-laws will be at our house. The fiction story I hinted about last week will have to wait another week.  Um, that is, if I’m blessed with another week here!

Have a beautiful week, and I hope you embrace today 🙂