1000 gifts · Christmas · family · holidays · writing

That Time My Kids Almost Slept Through the National Christmas Tree Lighting

img_0271

We hit D.C. last week. Yes, again. Sometimes blessings fall at your feet and I’m trying to be good about picking them up.

My mom arranged for us to receive tickets the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. The program is nationally broadcast (Hallmark channel this year) and features popular performers as well as a Christmas message from the President.

I’m sure some people come for the concert, no doubt. Madelynne did say she was more excited about seeing Kelly Clarkson than President Obama, and she’s twelve, so that’s acceptable.

Garth and Trisha were there–I was pretty delighted about that because my twelve year old self would have loved to see Garth Brooks or Trisha Yearwood in concert back in the day. Blooper story is that their mikes weren’t on and they had to start over. Joshua, with all his vast technical theater experience, said that was a really unacceptable mistake on the part of the sound guy. But they were gracious and funny about it.

Simone the swimmer read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas with Michelle Obama, which was a lovely tribute to her Olympic accomplishments and proves we don’t all have to have Yolanda Adams’ pipes to contribute to the evening. (Her “O Holy Night” was astounding.)

We also learned about Chance the Rapper, so I’m feeling pretty hip in my pop culture knowledge these days.

img_0338
What’s that Einstein? You like rap too?

Oh, and I got this text from Joshua at the beginning:

Littles are asleep.

Well, of course they were. We had a busy whirlwind two days letting the bigs catch them up on all the best of Natural History, American History, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, National Gallery of Art, and Air and Space.

img_0283
I solemnly swear to uphold this Oath as President… she might be someday. Never know.

But let this be a lesson to you–there are some things in life you don’t want to sleep through.

Like the chance to see Garth and Trisha.

 

Oh, and there are no pics of us at the National Tree lighting because…. well, I forgot.

Christmas · faith · Friday Five · holidays · linkups

Dear Ones Who Bear Sad Tidings This Year (Five Minute Friday)

It can be hard this time of year to find the joy in the twinkly lights and the broken nativity and the limp garland when all you want to do is hide away in a corner from the well-wishers and the do-gooders and the hope-bringers.

It can be hard to be facing a holiday ringed with family dinners and friendly hospitality and gift exchanging when there’s one less seat at the table, one less card in the mail, one less gift under the tree.

When I was ten years old my mama walked this journey. My daddy walks it now. This stumble through the season of glad tidings when the tidings dealt you this year were dark and doomed. The tidings of grief under the shadow of fear.

I don’t remember how Mama got through that Christmas. Her mother died three days before December 25 and we buried her two days after. My most vivid memories are that she bought me a black velvet dress and my uncle reamed all the grandkids for daring to ask if we would open the presents Grandmommy had already wrapped and placed beneath her tree. There would have been five of us kids at that time. Five of us to get through breakfasts and toys and tantrums and the joy of Christmas that would forever be tainted with shock.

I remember how we got through last year when the cancer was doing its death march across my grandfather’s gut and the dementia was already eating away his memory. We just didn’t talk about it. We visited and the last time I saw him speak and smile and know me was Christmas Eve. This year I want to talk and celebrate and remember that he loved the mountains and coffee and another plaid shirt wrapped alongside a good book.

I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how you walk through a season of grief during a season of happiness, but I do know this. You’re walking through a season of love.

Let yourself be wrapped and swaddled and cared for like that baby in a manger. Let that be the only hope you hold because it’s just too much to try and care about shopping deals or holiday feasts or gingerbread houses.

Let this be a season of nothing but love and let love put you back together again.

In that glorious coincidence way God works, I wrote this as part of the Five Minute Friday crew. I haven’t participated in months, but saw the prompt on twitter and had just five minutes this afternoon to word thoughts that had been tossing around for a few days. Then I click over to Kate’s place to link up and her words today? They’re on grief. So much so that she wrote an ebook about it and you can get it for free until midnight tonight.

Christmas makes the pain acute. My prayers are with you if you and yours are walking this journey right now. 

family · holidays

When New Year Comes Anyway

I really didn’t mean to walk away.  My post list is full of unfinished drafts and my journal scratched with ideas for posts that would have been witty or simple or just words used to fill a space that I thought needed me.

But sometimes that everyday living needs us more.  After I wrapped production on A Christmas Carol December 15, I needed a few days to decompress.  I treated myself to library books and rest times while Amelia bounced on the bed beside me and watched My Little Pony. I made an attempt to catch up on the laundry and I pinned dozens of projects I know I’m not likely to ever do.

I savored a few days of just being a mom, just being a wife, and not allowing myself to succumb to all the invisible pressures I felt whenever I looked online.

But the more days that slipped by, the more I didn’t know how to come back.  Did anyone really want an update of how we’d spent our holiday with the Lysol can in one hand and the unfinished shopping list in the other? Besides, I might write a post people tell me they enjoy but I’m not getting shares or likes or ratings worthy of a Google AdSense payout, so is it really worth my time right now?

I found myself sinking under the weight of have-to the longer I lingered offline.  I have to blog about the play.  I have to blog about Madelynne’s field trip.  I have to blog about getting ready for Christmas and I have to talk about the comedy of errors that was our attempt at a gathering with my extended family.

Then that day was past and suddenly the New Year was steamrolling toward me and I need to write about my one word.  I need to choose a word.  I need to recap the year.  I need to….

I need to be exactly where I am.  This first morning of this shiny New Year I am sitting vigil in a hospice facility by the bedside of my 85 year old grandfather.  The timeline keeps changing.  What we thought would be only hours have stretched to days and the descent toward comes rapidly slow.

So I am here.  Trading shifts with my sisters and holding his hand and my grandmothers.  Helping choose dresses and suits.  Looking over obituary paperwork and watching the weather because half the family is northeast and the storm is coming.

But so is the light.  No doubt it will be brighter than any New Year’s Eve fireworks display or Christmas tree or effect I saw on the stage. No doubt it will be worth waiting for.

So I am not going to drown myself in a non-existent list of have-to. I am simply going to begin again.  May your New Year be blessed with the sacred moments of love and may you find your faith in promises that are stronger than any mankind could ever make.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.” (John 14:1-4, ESV)

gus · holidays

Happy 4th of July!

What do you mean lactose intolerant people can’t have homemade ice cream on July 4th?!?
to my readers:
I’ll be returning to regularly scheduled blogging sometime next week.  We’ve been super busy around here enjoying summer, day camp, picnics, and friends.  Hope you’re having a wonderful summer too!
birthdays · holidays · joshua

all the way from…

On Friday afternoon I started finding all these little bites of deliciousness in random places like my car…my dresser…my suitcase….

Inside this festive bag is a sweet note and my favorite cookie from a little bakery in Wellesley, Massachusetts where my aunt lives.  That’s right, he had them imported all the way to Georgia to give me Valentine’s Day and early birthday wishes.  The best part is he’ll love me even if I eat the whole box.

Which I just might.

holidays · Paynes

A Payne-Full Thanksgiving

The bigger the family gets, the harder it is to celebrate holidays on the day officially set aside for that celebration.  Anybody else have that problem?  Throw in an expectant (any day now) mother thousands of miles away in Utah, a sales-savvy business associate who has parties every weekend, and a couple of high-strung college students and it becomes impossible to manage to celebrate when you’re supposed to. 

But whoever said the Paynes like doing what they’re supposed to?  So this past Sunday we all got together at the big Plantation (someday I’ll blog about the house on the hill that’s overrun with cats, dogs, and kids) to give thanks for another year of blessings…..like new a new niece and a forecoming nephew….a few inches taller for the cousins….a job that semi-pays Calley’s bills….a Thirty One bag for any occasion (courtesy of our personal consultant)….Uncle Bubby back home to prepare the turkey properly….and that my sisters have finally learned how to load a dishwasher without being asked.

Hope you enjoy these images from a day that was perfectly Payne-full in every way (especially when Big Daddy insisted on educating us about the first Thanksgiving by reading aloud from this book for half an hour…I think he quit when he realized everyone had gone outside to “check on the dogs”).

Yum-O, Uncle Corey!

Amelia’s first Thanksgiving…tiny bits of ham and a jar of squash.

My sweet, sweet grandparents.

Even the Pioneer Woman would be proud of that.

Jackson, my nephew and future politician.  See how he’s working the charm?

It takes a lot of people to carve a turkey.

The “big girls” who are all getting so tall and beautiful.

Had to take a picture just to make sure it was really happening….

“God, Our Father…”      

And of course it wouldn’t be a family event….

…unless someone falls asleep on the couch (I think that was while Daddy was reading the book).