Category Archives: Humor

All I Want For Christmas Is Some Peace and Quiet

I was rummaging through some old papers and documents the other day when I ran across this little gem from an English Composition class.  This was an argumentative paper that reflected just the opposite of a topic that the writer strongly believed in; I chose Christmas.  Now here comes the disclaimer; I love everything about Christmas!  As you read through this narrative, you may notice that there are distinctive undertones of cynicism, yet between the recesses of the lines and words, there are significant truth bombs more relevant now than ever.  I hope you enjoy reading, “All I Want For Christmas is Some Peace and Quiet”!

Here it comes again.  I can see it in the stress-etched faces of passers-by, eyes fixated in terror.  Soon there will be no turning back for anyone; no credit card will be left untouched.  As Thanksgiving approaches, one has a sense of urgency and uneasiness, of unjustified dread.  Unjustified that is, until you are stretched out on your favorite sofa, channel surging one evening and you come across a commercial just bursting with holiday cheer.  It is only then that panic permeates your entire body, leaving you numb and listless.  Santa Claus is coming to town again, corrupting your children and robbing you blind in the process.

Not that there is anything wrong with the holiday season.  Peace, good will toward men is a very noble reason to celebrate Christmas, not to mention the Christ child’s birthday.  But given today’s emphasis on sensationalism and commercialism, the three wise men would do well to present gifts of Prozac, Valium, and Ritalin.  The distorted, commercialized ritual of Christmas begins with shopping for the unappreciative, followed by the search for the elusive perfect tree, and finally climaxes with the distribution of gifts to family members, immediately followed by the requests for the receipts of such sought after gifts.  So why DO we do this to ourselves?

Shopping has always been a fun, leisurely sport, enjoyed typically by those who actually have money to spend.  But when the Christmas season hits, it is every man, woman and shoplifter for him or her self.  Mothers and wives exchange their aprons and pot holders for pepper spray and baseball bats, anything that will give them an advantage over the other toy hoarding citizens that no doubt have already given one of their kidneys for the newest gizmo on the market.  One week before Christmas, everyone is so dazed and confused, they continue to buy that something special for individuals not even on their Christmas list.  All that matters now is that we have sufficient gifts for whomever may drop by; the mailman, the minister, the local orphanage—it is of no consequence; just be prepared.  As the shopping comes to an end, there is a slight pain in the pit of the stomach as you realize, “Man, I have to wrap up all of this crap!”  After all the gifts are beautifully wrapped, we try to stuff the mini mall of merchandise under a tree that only has a floor to tree clearance capable of accommodating a comic book.

Finding that special tree has always been an exercise in tolerance and ambition.  Some folks like to travel the hillsides, scanning the horizon for anything that still looks green, spruce like and big enough to withstand the weight of five tinsel laden boxes of holiday cheer.  Others prefer to wander through the fire retardant forests of Walmart, torn between the permanently snow laden pine or the ever famous, one piece, sit and trim.  Finding the right tree is the easy part; trimming the tree can be suicidal.  There is an unwritten rule that a string of Christmas lights will work as long as they are not attached to the tree.  Once applied, the Christmas tree lights have a mind of their own.  Rule number two deals with the application of decorative bulbs and garland.  No matter how many boxes of tinsel you have, it is just not quite enough.  The last rule applies to the tree itself.  There are always five times as many gifts as there is room under the tree to place them.  But why worry; the gifts will soon be given to family and friends anyway, right?

Family gatherings have always been the mainstay of the holidays.  One can almost feel the anxiety and irritation rising from the depths in anticipation of another “encounter”.  The location may vary, even the time frame may hover within two weeks of Christmas but the “encounter” remains a constant.  The gathering begins with the initial greeting at the door.  While still clinging to a favorite relative, you begin to scan the interior of the house for a “safe place”, a little bit of territory to call your own.  Next comes a little chitchat, a review of deaths from the previous year and a little catch up on the families’ aches and pains.  Any potential discussions relating to recent surgeries are reserved for the holiday meal.  While the adults are wasting away the hours bemusing themselves with nonsense, the children are circling around the gifts, perfecting their scotch tap removing skills, and preparing for the impending gift opening frenzy.  When the time arrives to open the gifts, the kids are oblivious to anything around them except for the shiny new toys unwrapped by other kids.  Their sense of greed overwhelms their sense of excitement and a squabble is sure to ensue.

The parents, on the other hand, have a more succinct sense of dread as everyone sits around in the circle of judgment and waits their turn.  One by one, the adults open their gifts as everyone else waits for the recipient’s reaction.  It is wise at this time to “psych out” the spectators with a broad smile and approving nod; sharing your real impressions of the gift can wait until the interesting drive home.

Again, that nagging thought crosses the mind, why DO we do this to ourselves.  It is time to start shopping for compliments for one another, not for the material trash we bestow upon our friends and family.  Wouldn’t it be better to embellish someone’s self-esteem than to spend hundreds of dollars prettying up a dead tree?  When it comes to family gatherings, I think that all of us would enjoy the Christmas holiday just a little more if we could just drop the dramatics and be ourselves.  Christmas is all about the Christ child, childlike fun and tradition, not unwarranted guilt and obligation.  So go ahead and deck the halls with boughs of holly; I’ll be the contented one in the corner, having a very merry Christmas of my very own.

Finding the Thanks in Thanksgiving

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Every season seems to evoke its’ own set of memories which reflects perhaps that same time of year so many years ago or possibly a not so distant past. For many, the Thanksgiving holiday triggers the feeling of warmth, of family, of pumpkin spice and football games, of fun and food and thankfulness. Unfortunately, however, this holiday has often times been reduced to a well-worn speed bump, as folks rush toward the Christmas holiday; just a Black Friday Eve, a commercial high jump into the commercially charged holiday season.

As a kid, growing up in my parent’s house in SE Ohio, Thanksgiving was an unwritten commitment on the calendar, an assumption made that if mom was cooking, you had better be on your death bed rather than miss Thanksgiving dinner! I never really thought too much about being thankful during this time, unless you count being thankful when the event was finally over; when the last sheet of saran wrap was finally snapped off the roll and carefully wrapped over and around the last dish of left overs. It seemed to me to be a very stress filled time, consisting of a whirlwind of activities, all culminating into one feast laden smorgasbord laid out in the middle of a large table surrounded by elbow to elbow humans, passing around dishes of delicacies and plates of plenty with the intricacy and synchronicity of a well-choreographed dance. But I digress; let me take you with me to a time when life seemed simpler and mislaid worries of a young lad was unwarranted and unnecessary.

The Thanksgiving season in Ohio varies from year to year in regards to what type of moisture falls from the sky but there remains one constant; gray skies. Like dove gray colored cotton batting that hung over the surrounding countryside, possibly for the next several months to come, the gloomy gray heavens seemed to blend with the browns and tans of the bare trees and dead leaves dispersed throughout the landscape. Often times, the cool crisp breezes were accompanied by an occasional flake of snow, dancing and floating lazily downward. Inside the house looking out the front window, the desolate scene was made complete by the condensation hugging the single pane windows, giving an official nod to the chilling temperatures outside.

The turkey made its’ appearance a couple days in advance as it hung around in the refrigerator until the lifeless carcass was deemed thoroughly thawed. The night before Thanksgiving, mom would lay out several pieces of bread so they could grow stale (dry out), to be used in the dressing the next day. Mom made two types of dressing: regular sage dressing with celery, egg and other ingredients and the other, the same sage dressing enhanced with oysters. I always interrogated mom regarding which was the “enhanced” dressing, lest I get hold of a slimy surprise within my portion of goodness. Very early on Thanksgiving morning, mom would get up, prepare the dressings and proceed to have her way with the celebrated bird, cleaning it and giving it a little dance before filling the cavity with dressing, providing a deep tissue Oleo massage, seasoning the ample fowl and throwing it in the oven. It always struck me with a sense of wonderment how mom could actually create such a feast with a regular four burner electric stove with a two rack oven. All I knew was that it smelled really good, while I was content to lie on the living room floor, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade.

The time for the feast finally arrived with the presentation of turkey, dressings, mashed potatoes, candied yams, rolls, cranberry sauce (canned of course, shaken out of the silver vessel into a crystal bowl and sliced evenly with a butter knife no less), green beans, corn, sweet gherkins and deviled eggs. After a request was made on who wanted what to drink, everyone filed in around the wood grain laminate table, capable of extending out with not one but two leaves, depending on the crowd for that year. There was an unofficial seating chart or more like pecking order that ensued; Dad at the head of the table, mom on one side of him so she could get up and down to meet the needs of guests, older siblings and their spouses or friends filled in from eldest to youngest until all of the high backed, vinyl green floral print chairs were filled. The overflow landed at the “kid’s table”. Being the youngest of six, I was very familiar with the kid’s table. In fact, after I got married and we had a child of our own, we would at times, find ourselves back at the kid’s table, with knees touching the bottom of the table top! Before we ate, we always said a corporate prayer that we had adopted as our family prayer; “God is great, God is good and we thank Him for our food. By His goodness all are fed, give us Lord our daily bread. Amen”.

After the meal was finished and the desserts were handed out, (pumpkin pie was the staple dessert followed by some kind of cake) folks would start migrating to other rooms. The men would naturally gravitate to the living room to watch the game but would ultimately end up snoring like bears in a den. That left the daughters and daughter-in-laws to perform a visual game of rock-paper-scissors to see who would wash and dry the large stack of dirty dishes. Mom was exempt of course, since she prepared the feast. After that, it was an afternoon of playing table games (five hundred rummy, dominoes and Aggravation being the favorites), talking and perhaps taking a walk if the weather permitted until finally, the leftovers were divvied out and the families left, one by one.

You may be asking yourself why I would go into such details to describe an event that took place so long ago and the answer is quite simple. It’s to remind you of what’s important, to trigger similar memories and experiences of your very own and to think once again upon the many blessings God has bestowed on you these past however many years. We take so much for granted, that those we love so much and hold so dear to our hearts will always be with us, but that isn’t necessarily true. We need to learn to appreciate each moment more, whether it be just a regular day or something pretty spectacular with those around us, to cherish the sound of a giggling child or the wisdom wrapped up and presented to you by a dear old friend or loved one. Thanksgiving is not all about the food, football games or how clean your house is; rather it’s about counting your blessings and allowing these present times to become the blessings you will count tomorrow.

Many changes have occurred since we once sat around that old table. Beloved faces no longer grace us with their presence; so many family members have scattered across this great land of ours. But one thing still remains; Love. The love we have for one another binds us through both the times of celebration and those moments of grief. God’s greatest blessings are all around us if we only take the time to look. And the act of being thankful is to be exercised every day, not just on one holiday. This year, take the time to find the “thanks” in Thanksgiving. Try looking around your own table of family and friends; breathe a prayer of thanksgiving to God for your own many blessings, both big and small.

Family Thanksgiving

The Christmas Box

Christmas box

The holidays are once again upon us and all of the old memories come flooding back as we place precious moments, cleverly disguised as Christmas ornaments, so very carefully on the twinkling light laden evergreen.  Some memories bring a smile to the face as you reflect back on a different time, perhaps a long forgotten place; the memory, once lying dormant, nestled deep in the recesses of the mind until a sight, smell or event once again revives the remembrance in vivid details.  Thus is the case when I see a candy orange slice or old fashioned hard candy.

I grew up in the sleepy town of Nelsonville Ohio, tucked in the Hocking Hills of Zaleski State forest.  My family went to the Church of the Nazarene on Adams Street where my spiritual foundation was birthed.  The church itself was a blonde block split level building with stairs both leading up to the sanctuary and downward to the Sunday school classrooms.  The windows in the sanctuary were all made of stained glass with names of those who donated to the building of the church, etched in the bottom of each window.  Back behind the pulpit and the choir loft was a very large, round stained glass window with what appeared to be curious and perhaps mischievous cherubim peeking out from and around puffy white and gray clouds. Those same angelic faces also gave many a child an impressive fright as they seemed to stare and follow your gaze if you dared to look too long.

Our family mostly went to Sunday school and seldom attended church unless there was a special speaker or possibly a visiting missionary.  The exception came during the Christmas season.  Every year, I would be involved in the children’s Christmas program in some way, whether it be a small bible verse to say or, as I got a little older, a speaking part in the Christmas pageant.  And every year I would fuss and fret over my insignificant part, not wanting to go up in front of “those people”; the congregation which looked to me as scary as the angels in the windows.

There was only one thing that kept my eye on getting through this hideous, inescapable ordeal; the Christmas box.  You see, on the Sunday before Christmas after the pageant was over and everyone was dismissed from the service, everyone received a treat box.  I know Mary and Joseph had the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh presented to them by the Magi but we had the treat box and piece of fruit, which seemed of equal value, given to us by the big guys, men from the church that seemed to tower over us kids and would many times have to stoop down to hand us our treasures.

Unable to curb our enthusiasm and curiosity, as soon as we clambered into the back of the car, my siblings and I removed the scotch tape that bound the box and carefully opened the lid, like a treasure hunter investigating his discovery.  Aside from the choice of a Red Delicious apple or navel orange, the box contained an assortment of incredible edibles that would sure to satisfy the taste buds for days to come. Coconut bonbons, peanut clusters, chocolate drops, walnuts, sugar coated orange slices would greet you as you opened the box as well as an assortment of old fashioned hard candies which made up the majority of the candied treasure chest.  My favorite was the raspberry hard candy that was filled with a juicy center and would burst in your mouth as you clamped down.

I would always choose the Red Delicious apple which I could quickly devour and toss the core.  My sister, Jennifer however, always chose the navel orange as we headed down the church steps and to the awaiting car.  Jennifer didn’t just eat the orange; it seemed she held a ceremony for it as she celebrated the citrus in her hands.  Jennifer would carefully lay out a paper towel and peel the orange rind, piece by piece until her orb resembled a raggedy softball.  Then she would separate the orange segments and isolate just one, where she would slowly and painstakingly remove all of the membrane until the orange nectar was exposed.  She would then stick half of the orange segment into her mouth, close her eyes and bite down, orange juice running out of her mouth and down her chin.  At times, there would be a soft moan of gratification and the process would repeat itself until the fruit was completely gone; it was as exciting to watch as watching paint dry…

As I look back on those times and reminisce, I have to smile and shake my head, for something as small and insignificant as a treat box in an adult’s mind, was so special and anticipated in a child’s.  But I also have to shake my head at us adults, who constantly need to be reminded of what the true meaning of Christmas actually is; that Hope was born on Christmas Day and the possibility now exists for us to live eternally with and for the One who gave His life so we may never truly die.  Like the child of my past, anxiously waiting for that treat box, we need to daily wait with great excitement and anticipation what blessings our Lord has for us as well as what service, task and/or ministry He needs for us to carry out.

As I entered adulthood with all the different responsibilities it entails, I was able to take part in ordering the contents and filling the treat boxes for that same local church.  I learned that we had far fewer chocolates in the box as opposed to hard candies because of cost and that it really was a financial struggle for the church to continue providing the fruit for the congregation.  But I also knew that everyone involved felt it was well worth sacrificing from another line item area to ensure everyone had a special treat in their hand.  And nothing else felt more rewarding at the time than bending down and handing a special treasure, the Christmas box, to a child who had just performed their heart out for a very gracious loving congregation…