Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Wednesday Pop - Vol. 6 . . . a thank you I wouldn't have thought I'd send!

So, I've been devoting Wednesdays to my Dad, the cool Don Murphy.  I decided it was a good idea, as I have lots to tell and learn from him about parenting.

He might be surprised by this one.  You might be, too.  Today, I have a specific thank you.

Back in the long ago late seventies and early eighties, people didn't give a lot of thought to seat belts.  Some cars didn't even have them - weird, huh?  Well, I think most cars did, but they were stuffed way down under the seat and nobody could ever find them.  And the belts didn't come from behind, over your shoulder.  They came from the depths and ickiness of the between the seat area.  Once you located the belt for your seat, it was most definitely either sized for Flat Stanley or the fat lady at the circus. They didn't work with the spring back system of today - once you found one, it might prove to be ten feet of royal blue silky belt.  It was a real pain.  Anybody remember that?

Oh, what we went through, back in the day.

But, that's not really what this post is about.  That's not the thank you.  My appreciation goes to my Dad for being a bit on the 'weird' side and forcing us to wear seat belts way before everybody else did.  It was a pain; it really was.  Though we knew he forced the issue because he loved us so very much, we were often frustrated by that extra ten seconds of effort needed to be safe.  Dad stayed the course.  I'm thankful.  He had us put on the seat belts, no matter what car we were in.  He had our friends put on seat belts when they rode with us.

The part that amazes me now - now that I'm a parent - is how hard that must have been.  I can see now that listening to us whine about the pesky seat belts must have been a pain.  It would have been so much easier to do what most everyone else was doing and just forget about the safety issue that was becoming clearer and clearer.  It would have been easier - much easier.

But that's not my Dad.  That's not how he does it, and I'm thankful.  Writing this has all sorts of things running through my brain about parenting today.  I'm wondering about the things I need to be brave about;  the yays and nays I need to concentrate on, even when it's really, really hard.

I have a great example, and I can remember it every time I put on my seat belt.  Each time I reach over and do what I have to do, I can draw on the strength I learned from my Dad and hope for the courage to be so bold myself.

Thanks, Dad.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What's the chance of this?

I'm so excited at the moment, I can barely get the words on the computer!  Something so amazing is unfolding, that I want to share it.

On Monday, I leave for a one week trip to Nicaragua.  I'm delighted to be able to do it.  It has been a long time since I've been on a trip like this, and I know how incredibly life-changing these kinds of trips  can be.  I'm ready to meet new people and I want to show folks living a completely different life that friends in another part of the world care very much about them and I want my children to remember seeing their Mama taking trips like this.

I guess my trip is called a mission, though I'm sometimes funny about that word.  I don't ever want to be part of a group that visits people in their homeland and plays the part of the 'Smart American that knows how it should be done.'  I don't like that idea.  I am more comfortable with the idea of my meeting new friends where they are, getting to know them and letting them get to know me.  I like the idea of spreading love by feeding or laughing or dancing or learning or telling stories.  I love that idea.  (We'll be working along with TOGETHER WORKS NICARAGUA.  Check them or find them on facebook.)

So, I have excitedly anticipated this trip.  I look forward to showing the love of God by meeting new people to love and laugh with; and, of course, I look forward to taking photos of the beautiful souls I'll meet.  All of that, coupled with my self-imposed challenge to leave my big camera at home and shoot only with my iphone, has been enough.

But . . . in the last few days, an amazing turn of events has occurred.  I love it!

A couple of months ago, I ran across something on the internet about an organization to empower women and children in struggling areas to tap into their creativity, gain self confidence and help their villages by learning photography.  I was immediately intrigued, but lost the webpage as I went off to tackle one of those minor emergencies that comes up from time to time in a real life - a child in need or a telephone call or some such thing.  The story stuck in my mind, though.

After I realized that I would be joining my friend on this trip to Nicaragua, I thought back and wondered about trying to find the group I had read about.  I kept it on my 'list' but continued to let other things slip in front of my investigation.  Oddly enough, my fascination with Instagram (my username is deanamg if you are fascinated, too) brought the whole thing back to me!  I happened to run across two words that struck me - picture change - and I KNEW that was the name of the organization I had read about earlier.  I was delighted.  I quickly began to investigate to find out more, and I hope you will, too!  Find it here - PICTURE CHANGE and also on facebook.  I have a feeling you'll be as swept up in the stories as I was.  Check out the blog - amazing things are happening for people in far corners of the world.  Check out the cool shop ( and see the cool stuff available that is changing people's lives.  I dare you to read the stories on the blog, and not be moved by what Kate, Picture Change's founder, is up to.  Wow.

Now I'll speed up the story a bit. . .

  • I find out the area where we'll be visiting.
  • My friend who has been before tells me that the young woman who translates was given a computer recently.
  • I find Picture Change again, and begin to read about a woman named Rosa who was a Picture Change student and is making strides in her life in Padre Ramos, Nicaragua.  
  • I hear my friend call the name Rosa, and I find it a neat consequence.
  • I decide to send a message over facebook to Picture Change and let them know how swept away I am with what they are doing and to let them know I'd love to do anything I could while I'm in Nicaragua.  
  • Last night, I receive a message back - a wonderful, newsy note from Picture Change, explaining that Rosa where I'm going is the SAME Rosa that is a Picture Change student!  
  • I get news on the supplies that Rosa needs for the computer and printer (given to her by Picture Change) and today I purchased them to take with me on the trip!
  • Kate discussed ways that I could help Rosa and others while I'm there with photography lessons and how to further the cause.  
This whole thing has amazed me!  I thank God for this chance and for the ways that these things came together.  I didn't sleep much last night - I spent a lot of time imagining how exciting it is to have the chance to share something I love this much with new friends in another place in the world.  I'm thrilled, to say the least.  

So many of you have sent prayers and financial help to assist in this trip, and I thank you.  I'll appreciate good thoughts and prayers as we are gone, and I cannot wait to take you with me on this amazing trip.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

List 39 - A checklist, if you will, for my children and yours . . .

We have a problem here in the Graham home.  I'm thinking that the problem can't just pertain to my children - you must have similar troubles.

Worry not, I'm here to help.  I'd like to offer a checklist for the youth of the world to help them with future decisions.

My children are sweet and amazing and smart and all of those wonderful things.  Yours are, too.  Mine have a bit of a problem, though, when it comes to decisions about what can be thrown onto the floor and what cannot be.  I'd like to clear this thing up to alleviate the hard moments to come - those harsh moments, when this otherwise loving and calm mother turns into a zombie warrior with smoke fumes spewing from my orifices.

My family has a working understanding of big things that can't be thrown on the floor.  For instance, they all know with certainty that one cannot throw the entire debris from a fast food meal to the ground - but, if it's just the straw wrapper, they apparently make sure I'm looking the other way and accidentally let it fall to the floor.  They would never toss a juice bag below them, but I have yet to see a child of any sort who actually accurately throws away the tiny little clear wrapper to that tiny little juice bag drink.  They are magnetically attracted to the floors and yards of our homes.  Popsicles?  It's the same deal . . . the wrapper is obediently thrown in the trashcan, but the stick most definitely is silently 'forgotten' somewhere on the floor or counter or odd table.

You know what I mean, people.  I know you do.  Would our precious ones ever toss the scraps from a healthy apple or banana to the floor?  No way, but I'll tell what happens with that pesty little sticker from the skin of the fruit - it slips unseen to the floor for me to cuss over, as I try to unstick it from the kitchen floor.  What's up with that?  Uggghhhh.

And new clothes?  Ugghhh, the worst.  The more tags and stickers and strings and bands and plastics, etc., the more to remove from the floor after the child has dashed off to school, looking grand in the new duds.  For reasons I can't explain, my family is mistakenly under the belief that those teeny white plastic things, that attach the price tag, are biodegradable.  I'm relatively sure it would take about three million years for them to become part of the earth, and I know that I would be swimming among them at this point if I didn't follow along behind to fetch them.

I'm with you friends, if you suffer with these same problems.  Our children are intelligent little ones.  There must be some way to help them learn that someone actually has to pick up those wee pests or our houses would be knee deep in them by now.

Candy wrappers?  Even if no one is watching, they are still on the floor.  Someone really does have to come along, bend down and toss them into a receptacle.  Rubber bands?  Same.  The list goes on and on.

I just want to help.  I thought I'd create a little cheat sheet, a primer, for our children.  Maybe we can print this out and post it somewhere on the foreheads of all children,  That way, we won't spend quite as much time bending over and the floors of the world will be freer of this unsightly debris.  I hope this helps.

Dearest Children,
These things do not magically take themselves to the trashcan and they must actually be picked up and transported the nearest bin.  While you throw away the larger things, please remember to take those things that you 'accidentally' drop to the floor when we aren't looking.  Observing this practice will result in happier mothers and thus, happier families.  Thank you for your attention these already obvious items listed below.  

  1. All tags, stickers, strings, plastic cords, etc. from anything new that your loving parents have provided for you.
  2. Any labels upon the healthy choice fruits you choose. 
  3. The wrappers from any straw, any size, from anywhere.
  4. Well, the wrappers from absolutely anything.
  5. When you have to rip the corner off of something to open it, the corner piece has to be toted to the trash, as well.
  6. Rubber bands and twist ties and pieces of string.
  7. Any of the tiny scraps from any art project you ever do, ie. short pieces of yarn, tiny pieces of tape, the glue globs that you rubbed off, etc.
  8. Popsicle and lollipop sticks.
  9. Candy wrappers - even the very small ones.  They count, too.
  10. The pieces of the box tops that you accidentally tore off when you were opening the cereal.
  11. You know when you help by opening the mail?  Yeah, those pieces of the top of the envelope that didn't stay connected. 
  12. Anything at all.  Ha - gotcha!!! 
I fear I've forgotten something, but I hope this helps.  We must fight this war together, friends.  We must prevail.  What would you add?  What have I forgotten?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Wednesday Pop - Vol. 5 . . . you've got to laugh

Most of you know that I'm devoting Wednesdays this year to telling stories about my Dad.  I came to the conclusion that this was a good idea when I started realizing how very much I had to say about him.  Hope you're enjoying The Wednesday Pop.  I guess I shouldn't claim to have the best Dad ever, but . . . well, I do.

I'm enjoying this regular place to recollect and give him some overdue thanks and think about ways that my parenting (and maybe yours) could be enriched by looking at how my Dad parents.  Needless to say, I've been thinking back a bunch lately, remembering old times and recalling facts from days gone by.  I keep being reminding that my Dad has always been quick to laugh, and I'm thankful for that.  He isn't a silly guy when it's time to be serious, but he has always taught us how to laugh.  Dad doesn't teach in lectures, but he shows his lessons over time by the way he lives.  As time goes by, I grow more and more thankful for every occasion to laugh - don't you?

Finding the joy in moments is such a gift, and I realize now that Dad has been showing us how to do that for years.  We did a lot of laughing as kids, and we do a lot of it now.  There were certainly plenty of serious times when laughing wasn't appropriate, but I'm thinking back about the many ways that Dad creates opportunities to laugh, both at life and at ourselves.  I'm thankful.

So, today I give you these tips on parenting from the 'how my Dad does it' playbook:

  • Laugh at yourself whenever you can.  It's good for kids to see that parents goof up and it's awesome when they see us being okay with it.
  • Make up a ridiculous language with nothing at all decipherable and speak it with your children often.  The crazier, the better, so go for it.  If you can also do strange things with your eyebrows, it's even better.  As you speak this malarky, your child learns about the magic of imagination and sees, too, that having fun with him or her is always more fun than just about everything else!
  • Make up silly stories and crazy words and far-fetched tall tales.  It's fun,  makes everyone giggle and creates learning and trust out of fun moments.
  • Take winning and losing with lightness and ease.  Laughing about doing absolutely horrible in a card game is an invaluable lesson for your child.
  • Be willing to hear, revel in and laugh at your children's stories again and again and again.  It tells them over and over how very important they are and teaches them about speaking their mind and getting their point across.  
  • Call your children by the silliest names, even if it's only the two of you that get it.  Having a pet name says I love you and I love laughing with you.

I'm thankful for laughing in this crazy, mixed-up world, and I'm thankful for a Dad who is still laughing with me!

Friday, January 11, 2013

List 38 - Nike Shorts, Duffel Bags and What I wish I could tell my girls and all the rest of them . . .

We've entered a new era here in the Graham world.  It's not new to the rest of the world.  Young people have been going through it for ages.  I went through it.  You probably went through it.  We all know about it.  I would argue that it's getting worse by the day, but it is definitely not new.

We are deep into what we 'have to have' and what we 'just love so much' and 'what everybody gets' and so on and so on and so on.  I'm trying to be somewhat logical about it all.  I really am.  I'm trying to mother my children, want what's really best for them and leave them with some small sense that I am not actually the least withit human on the planet.  It's hard.

I'm trying to remember that feeling I had in the fourth grade one Saturday afternoon when I looked down at my feet and realized that I was looking at the coolest scene in the history of the world - I FINALLY had blue striped Adidas and the coolest footies with bright blue pom poms.  Just thinking about how amazing I was swells my head even to this day, but I digress . . .

Truth is, it is sickening to watch when our children stop thinking as individuals and begin 'liking' and 'loving' and 'wanting' and 'needing' in swarms of a hundred.  It's disheartening.  It's scary.  It leaves a Mama feeling like she didn't do a good enough job on the You Are Special push.

We've never been much on Christmas lists.  The kids might write a letter at school to practice handwriting, but we've never gone by a strict list of exactly what to provide for Christmas morning happiness.  I grew up that way, and I've loved continuing it.  Shopping for the kids has been creative and fun.  We've wondered and considered and loved the times when a complete surprise was a hit.

That's over now.  On one level, I understand.  I get it that my girls are older, that they have a more discerning palette about what they wear and they are making more decisions on their own.  But that's just it it - these exact lists about precisely what they want have left their own brains completely out of it!  I'm almost certain that I could have exchanged their requests with any of their friends and found the same things.

Creativity?  Fun?  Thinking for yourself?  Surprises?  Bah, humbug!  They all want the same thing.

I know, I know, I need to chill out about it.  But it's not the wanting it that bothers me; it's their feeling that they MUST have it that leaves me feeling raw.  I'm delighted when they get a present they love.  I want them to feel as cool as I knew I was when I looked down and had those gorgeous Adidas staring back up at me.  I just wish they knew that the Nike shorts and the Vera Bradley duffel bags and the perfect phone case and on and on and on have absolutely nothing at all to do with what makes them completely amazing.  I just wish they knew.

I wish I could tell every young girl:

  1. The Vera Bradley bag is cute and colorful, but the unforgettable thing is the look on your face when you board the bus for the church ski trip or come home excited after a fun spend the night party.
  2. The iphone case looks great, but it doesn't compare to the sweet glimmer you get in your eye when you know you are being funny.
  3. The Nike shorts are fine but what's awesome is how hard you worked to tackle something difficult and made it!
  4. The perfect backpack has nothing to do with how gorgeous you are walking down the hall at school after you've just said something to make your friend's day.
  5. The bright orange tennis shoes are awesome, but they are paled by the look on your face when you know, deep inside,  that you have just given everything you have to help your team.
  6. The real reason that people are staring is not because you just spent two hours straightening your amazingly beautiful curly hair;  it's because you just sang like an angel.
  7. The real people in the world aren't looking at your Uggs, for they are concentrating on your gorgeous smile.
  8. What you use to pull back your hair doesn't matter in the least; we see the sheer beauty in your face when you are concentrating on building your brain or solving a problem.
  9. When we look at a group of you, we don't concentrate on what you're wearing; we see each of your faces and pray for the day when each of you will KNOW that we love the ways that you all are different.
  10. You're bigger and brighter and better than the best name brand item you own . . . you are precious and smart and talented and beautiful, and we can't wait for you to love what you bring into this starving world as much as we do!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Wednesday Pop - Vol.4 . . . Leaving on a Jet Plane

I've been thinking a lot lately about traveling.

Travelers are headed here to us, and I'm soon to leave on a trip myself.  All of that has got me thinking about the yearning so many of us have, way deep inside, to find out a bit about how the other guy lives.  Our dear Irish family, the Quinlivans, are en route here, as I write this post.  (You can read more about them in The First Day of a Trip that Started in 1985 .)  I'm eternally grateful for that yearning I have, and I owe a good deal of it to my family.

I have travelers in my blood on both sides, and I've always reveled in the tales of far away places (or even the stories of places close by).  I've always appreciated the call to see new horizons, to hear other voices and to get a glimpse at how another life-liver lives his life.  Both of my grandmothers modeled this - they both traveled whenever they could, and I can recall that long ago I decided that retirement (if it meant I got to go all of those places) sounded mighty good!  In my mind I carry separate pictures of  each grandmother boarding buses and planes and trains and giggling all the way with fellow travelers.  I like those pictures.

My mother was a seeker, too, and spent her final days living out her questions in her beloved England.  (If you are new to the blog, you can read about her here:  A Few More Things about Mary George .)

I've always thought my maternal grandfather, Papa, was one of the smartest men I've ever known, but we differed greatly on our ideas about travel.  He believed he could find out what he needed to know in books, and I debated that one had to see it, feel it, live it.  We finally agreed to disagree (but I always sort of felt that he understood my point more than he let on.)

And so, it seems, I came by this travel bug honestly.  I'm thankful for that.  I thank my Dad, though, for so many of the ways that he showed me how important it was to know how another lived.  He showed me countless times that it was vital to search for answers, meet the other person, and see with new eyes.  I've always been thankful for his passing that down; but, as a parent, I've begun to see something more that I appreciate.

Buying plane tickets, signing up for a trip, and packing bags for one's own trip is awesome - it's exciting, it's full of great moments of anticipation and it's relatively easy.  I've come to see that what's much harder is watching, even encouraging, another to take bold steps.  That is HARD . . . especially when the other is your child!

So today, I look back with thanks and admiration on the many times and various ways that Pop encouraged, empowered, financially backed, pushed and allowed me to take the trips I needed to take, both large and small.  I thank him for having the wisdom to show me how big the world is, both in the excitement of big travels and the small amazements of hiking through the gardens down the street.  He opened my eyes, continuously, and he models still a life of learning.  All of that is amazing.

I'm more amazed now, though, in the strength that it must have taken to allow some of the trips, near and far, that I needed to take.  How hard it must have been to hold back words of worry and offer a voice of encouragement.  I realize now that it's sometimes scary enough to let your child go to the bathroom alone, much less board a plane to another country!  I fear the thought of watching my own children back out of the driveway, and I shudder to imagine how it must have felt as Jodi and I traveled through the teenage years.

The point is . . . he was bigger than his fear.  I appreciate that, and I hope I can live to emulate it.  I hope I'll remember the gifts on the way for my children when I see them drive off, giggling on the way to a football game across town or embarking on a trip that looks downright useless to me.  I hope I'll remember the many ways that Dad has seen me off, with confidence and good wishes and excitement.  It's a tall order!

So, thanks, Dad, for these traveling moments (just to name a few):

  • when you loaned me your Easter Egg blue Volvo to drive to Florida with a car full of giggling girls.
  • when you dropped me off in the middle of the Pocono Mountains to be a counselor at a Jewish Summer Camp, when neither one of us was even sure we could understand the accents!
  • when you walked from one end of Manhattan to the other, allowing me questions and observations and dawdling, as we looked at things you had seen tons of times.
  • when you planned countless weekend trips to see little pieces of other places, other ways of doing things and bountiful nature.
  • when you somehow mustered a confident smile to see me off to Bonaire, by myself, to learn to SCUBA after the hardest year of my life.
  • when you watched in what must have been complete shock as I explained to you why it made perfect sense for adult me to go to Africa for six weeks by myself, in what was the trip of a lifetime.  
  • when you walked beside me through new places, in our own town or new ones, and explored with me.
I see now a speck of how hard it must be to watch your child go into unchartered waters, to excel or fail, to explore and learn.  I see now what I put you through!  Thank you, thank you, thank you, though, that you allowed me the chances and gave me the practice.  

Lord, please help me do the same for my children.  Help me to love them enough to give them wings - and not just allow them to fly, but encourage them, even in my fear.  Here's hoping I can muster the strength you have shown and show now.  Help me to instill in them the desire to see how others live, to imagine how others may see things and to wonder.  

Thank you, Dad, for the sense of wonder.

Monday, January 7, 2013

The 1st post of 2013 - but wait . . . it ain't over 'til it's over!

Hopefully, friends, you've noticed I took a bit of time off to celebrate and clean and decorate and celebrate and laugh and wash and dry and celebrate and talk and, well, I think you get the picture.  I left off of my first year in blogland on December 16th.  I guess after that point, all of the wonderfulness and confusion and happiness and mess just got to be too much.

I'm proud, though, that I've conquered a year in blogging.  I started at the first of 2012 and I entered 187 posts.  I realize that's not every day - not even every weekday - but, geez . . . I'm proud!

I've got a lot to say about what I've learned from this blogging thing, what I've heard from you and how the writing of these words has impacted things in my life and in my brain.  I have a lot to tell.

But first, I must fill you in on where I am.  I must let you know, that even though most of you are somewhere neat and tidy and well into your new calendar with a fresh new page and nicely sharpened no. 2 pencil that has already checked off the first six days of January, I am still back at Christmas.  It ain't over 'til it's over, people.  Or maybe, better, it ain't over 'til I say it's over.  Got it?

I want you to know what I've endured this morning.  I want you to suffer with me.  I want you to know that I thoroughly enjoyed yesterday- the last of the twelve days of Christmas, the feast of the Epiphany -
We had a marvelous Sunday at church.  We went to lunch with precious friends.  The Bear and Sadie and I loved a last tromp through a newly discovered park, and all was wonderful.
This is where Bear said, "Mama, this is one of my favorite things ever," which made it worth it that my Christmas tree still twinkled (not being undecorated and carted to the street) at home.

This is where Bear's brand new (most expensive boots I've ever bought) just got for Christmas boots got soaked, but I knew it was okay because I had just heard, "Mama, this is one of my favorite things ever," moments before.

This is where I noticed that he still had on his 'church/school' pants and that they would no longer be 'church/school' pants.

This is where I took a deep breath and knew that I was doing the right thing and that all of the things that were being put on the back burner weren't nearly as important as this.

And, now, we skip to this morning.  I woke up in my house where it's still Christmas and I got out in the cold in a world where it's all over.  I was a bit dismayed.  The kids were happy enough to get back to school; they seemed excited to see their friends and ready for the routine to kick back in.  I was confident that a day of checking things off the list was in order, and I happily drove back home.

I entered the home and suddenly realized that I had approximately 1,170 seconds (that sounds longer than 19 and a half minutes) to get the tree undecorated, de-lighted, plucked from the stand and drug to the street or it would be with us until next Monday (and that's getting close to what some might consider mid-January).

I wasn't scared.  I wasn't dismayed.  I was on it.  I was prepared.  I was dressed (well, I had both a bra and lace up shoes on and the Fly Lady says you can't really tackle any project productively without both).  I walked confidently into the living room, and I took a last look at Christmas 2012.  I pondered a moment and felt a little sad to let it all go.  I've still got stories to tell, I still want to enjoy those moments we were going to sit as a family and peer at one another by the glow from the tiny, twinkling lights.

And then I came to my senses.  I was down to about 987 seconds, and I had no more time to think beautiful, I'd like to teach the world to sing kinds of thoughts.  I had a job to do, and I was set on doing it.  I took the precious decorations down in something akin to a swooping motion, where I began near the top of the tree and gathered ornaments as I ran my hands down.  I smiled, proud of myself and my uncanny ability to maneuver in such a time constraint.  I gently placed the handfulls of multi-colored magic carefully upon the floor and reached up again, stretching to capture as many pieces as I could with each swoop.  I worked with the delicacy of a beautiful bird, who swoops down to the water and then gracefully reaches up again, over and over, with beauty and agility.  It was a marvel.  I was a marvel.  In less than a minute and a half I had the entire tree, stripped of its color, and all that was left were the strings of lights.  I was a super hero right there in my own living room.

I decided that it would be easier and quicker to rid the tree of its lights out in the yard, where I wouldn't deposit any more dried pieces of Christmas tree upon the floor.  I reached and heaved with all of my might to remove the tree from it's stand.  No movement.  'Oh, yes,' I remembered, the Christmas tree man had given me a new stand after he broke the old one with his hammer.  What a nice man he was.  He gave me a great one.  A strong one.  It had a big metal spoke which stuck up into the trunk of our tree and held it sturdy and strong for our entire celebration.  What a nice, nice man.

I'll just carry the whole thing out, I thought.  It will be easier to disassemble this conglomeration on the front lawn.  I still worked with the confidence of a skilled master.  I was on it.  I was woman.  I would prevail.

Moving the shedding tree from its spot in the living room, across the hardwood floor wasn't as easy a task as I had hoped.  The water that filled the reservoir in the stand was sloshing about, and I worked hard to manage across the room without it all spilling out.  My cute little black 'yoga' pants worked loose and began to creep down and I had to stop a few times to retie.  I didn't feel confident enough at this point to be caught with the tree half way out of the house and me with my pants down.  My ego was shrinking.  I was tiring.

I picked it up, put it down.  Picked it up, put it down.  About fifty three times.  I finally made it to the door and heaved it up and over the door jam with a ferocity that sent the remaining water out in a lovely arc that covered at least fifteen feet.  It was a lovely, shiny scene, with water mixed with tree sap mixed with tiny little green pieces of Christmas 2012 and it covered a good bit of the room, the entire doorway and a large part of the front porch.  I persevered.  Somewhere along the heaving and hoing, the Christmas tree skirt had worked itself loose, and now it lay in defeat, a mottled remembrance of what had been.

I closed the door to the scene of destruction that was once the living room.  I would begin anew outside in the frosty air that was Monday morning.  I was still woman - I would still win.  I was down considerably in time until the truck carrying the nice men would be here for the lawn debris.  My clock was ticking.

I let the tree drop down the stairs with all of the force I had left and watched as it bounced violently down down down off of the stoop.  I looked, knowing I would find the tree free of the bondage of that stand - the stand that had moved in my mind from gift of a nice man to green spear of torture.  The tree had tumbled, to be sure, but it was still safely tucked into its stand.  I harkened back to all of the Christmases where the tree won't stay in the stand, all of the times that we had struggled to make the tree and the stand understand that they were to work together.  What was this craziness?  The evil joke of Christmas past, yearning for one last laugh?

I pulled the sappy mess from the top and jiggled and joggled.  I stood on the stand and heaved with all my soul and body and pulled to free the tree.  I turned the tree on it's side and pulled.  I threw it across the front yard.  (It was at this point that I took a moment and actually hoped that Julie and Neil from across the street were watching - this was better than most movies.)  I put the tree on it's side.  I turned it upside down.  At one point, I tugged until I knew at the pit of my gut that I had worked the yoga pants loose again and I was sporting a bit of a plumber's surprise.  I couldn't care - I had a job to do.  I pushed on.

I got a hammer and I beat and beat and beat again.  I cussed the stand.  I talked pretty to the stand.  I pleaded with the stand.  It was a cold, cold morning and now sweat beads covered my forehead.  I came out of my jacket.  I rubbed together my sap-covered hands and brushed them off on my behind, in the way of a mighty lumberjack.  And I went back to the tree and the stand and pulled again.

I turned the stand to the right and I turned the stand to the left.  I sang to it.  The seconds ticked by.  I heard the sound of the big truck with the nice men.  Oh no, I will not lose this battle!  I could hear them.  They moved a few houses down the street and then stopped.  I could hear the talking of the men.  They were nearing.  This battle was almost over.  I would win or I would lose, but the truck was almost here.

I looked up into the heavens and I pulled up the yoga pants and I brushed together my sappy hands and shook the tree and the stand and I sang to them and I prayed for them to part and I pleaded and I shook.  The truck got closer.  The squeak of its brakes were but an acre away.  The end was near.  It was almost over.  I would win and get the tree to the curb in the next ninety seconds or would lose and look at the tree at the end of my drive until Monday, January 14.

I took a last deep breath and I grabbed the hammer.  I pulled the tree/stand combo to me with one hand and I hammered like hell with the other.  The noise of my hammer was so loud, I lost the sounds of the world.  I didn't know what day it was.  I didn't know where I was.  I was hammering.  My life was now about this - this tree and this sharp spoke of doom, and all I wanted in this life was to free them, one from the other.  I hammered.  I hammered.  I hammered and finally, finally the little tree began to ease its way out of its bondage.  Little by little the shards of pine began to work themselves loose and the killer needle of the stand separated from the Christmas tree of 2012.

The truck was three houses away now.  I could see the nice men, carrying other people's yard trash to the truck.  My tree was loose, but it was covered in lights!

I threw the tree down to the ground with the force of a rodeo rider roping a whatever they rope and I searched for the end of the lights.  I grabbed the lights with a harshness I didn't know I had and I began to pull.  I pulled the string of tiny lights and I pulled.  The tree rolled over the lawn, depositing its needles and I pulled and I pulled.  I knew there were four strings full and I pulled and the tree rolled and we worked together to beat the big white truck.

Finally, finally I freed the last light and I tossed the connected strings across the yard.  I reached down with the strength and finesse of the world's strongest man and picked up the tree with enough strength left over to carry a couple of small European cars.  I had this thing!  I was about to win.

I dashed to the curb, to the finish line.  I wielded the tree, turned an extra circle and threw the Christmas of 2012 down.  It was there!  I had been wallowing in the agony of defeat, but I now stood proudly on the gold medal platform and I looked up in time to smile nonchalantly at the nice man.  I eased back from the curb.  I might have crunched a light or two, but it didn't matter anymore.  I was victor.

Sweat dripped slowly down my brow and I wiped it with the rolled up sleeve of my weary arm.  Ahhhhhh.  The nice man smiled an extra smile at me as he effortlessly heaved the tree into the truck, as if to say, "I know your struggles and I know you persevered and won."

I proudly watched the white truck inch off, but I hardly heard the squeaky brakes.  All I heard was Helen Reddy, singing I am Woman, Hear me Roar.

I turned on my heels and looked back at the scene of destruction.  I would spend the next thirty minutes trying to untangle the lights and ready them for next year, but I didn't care.  I had come.  I had seen.  I had conquered.

And now, friends, even though I didn't get to tell you everything (like how good it was when Joseph in the church pageant got tired and put his feet up to rest on the manger and Mary hauled off and slapped him) I guess it's over.  The yard is a mess.  The floor is covered in sap and needles and water.  The ornaments are all over the floor and must be gently picked up and packed away, but it's over.

It was good and now it's over.  I'll join you now in 2013 and I'll look forward to our being together in person or on the blog.  Happy new year to you and to yours and may we all have a peaceful time, relishing in love and laughs - the good stuff.
The battle scene after it was all over.  

This is the stand.  It looks nice, but notice the center.  That's six inches of sharp, pain inducing doom.
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