Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Magic 2011

There shouldn't be days between Christmas and New Years. Or if there are days then we should just be chilling out with the family and never work! After Christmas it's always about tearing down the decor, putting up gifts and working off calories. The magic slowly fades and we are back into normal life instead of walking on the magical clouds of the holiday season. Hey, it's how I've felt all my life. I absolutely love the season! It's magical to me. Santa is real to me during the holidays. Then it becomes January and it's my birthday month so a whole new sort of excitement starts in... (not turning 30 though... not cool)...

We began Christmas as my Dad and Brenda made their way to Dallas. We took a day to visit my Dad's Aunt Polly & Uncle Pat. They've been married 64 years! They are very funny to listen to... I sat down with Polly and listened to stories of my Granny Jac. It was very interesting to me. I had a lot of questions and it was neat to get her perspective. My grandmother was a beautiful, smart, tough woman. She was the oldest of three children and their mother died at a young age. She passed away three years ago; I would often ask her about her childhood and time on the farm. It was neat to hear Polly's life as well. I love old stories about "back then." It was just such a different time that I just cannot comprehend. I think Dad enjoyed visiting with them and his cousin, Jane and her family as well. What fun!

We had Christmas that night with the Gray family just together opening gifts. Nick got me a Netflix subscription and a stainless steel trash can... don't laugh... I really wanted a nice one! I got him a new golf bag and the Mavs DVD Journey to the NBA! He might have liked the DVD better than the golf bag - he was so excited!!!

We went to Original Pancake House in Addison on Christmas Eve morning. I always say I want a pig. Brenda gave me one... I love him.

Christmas Eve we went back to the Gray household and all of the Bennetts came over... Nick's godfather/godmother and kids. It was a zoo! It was so much fun!

Nick; Julie; Nick's brother, Justin

Then Dad, Brenda and I went to the house to open gifts. We always give a lot of gifts in the family to open. One gift might just be a big thing of gum, but it's fun to open it! I got some really neat, thoughtful things. Again the most things I got were for the kitchen. I'm almost fully domesticated! My last gift to the parents were the big hits. Dad got himself a book of his blogs from 2003 to now... he writes email blogs... I picked out my favorites and put them in a book online. Brenda got a canvas of our family photo. She sure did love it. We played with our gifts and looked at them for a while before everyone packed it up for the night.

My gifts from Dad and Brenda. What a haul! Dad did all of the wrapping so he was very proud of himself. We've always given a lot of gifts just for fun growing up. Dad loves to rip open packages so all of his packages must be actually wrapped!

My little tree.

Heck yes. One thing all the kids get is like a year long supply of cleaning supplies. We get a box of all the essentials.

Christmas morning we headed to my stepbrother's house in Oklahoma. My nieces, Rylie and Saige had gotten Barbie cars to zoom around in... they were showing off their skills! My sister in law's family came for dinner to that night... Aww so much fun. I love playing with the girls. They are just at the best age. They play salon with me and brush my hair really hard, Rylie fell on me and hit me with her head where I now still have a red bruise, we played Barbies, watching "Gnomeo and Juliet" 8 million times... Other than that we chilled with the family and watched movies and talked. We went into town a few times and shopped a bit as well. Ya just gotta hit those after Christmas sales!

Word to the wise... You may not want to play "make up" with little girls! At first Saige would do something insane and Rylie would say, "You look terrible." Then I guess it got fun so they began to just make art on my face!

We had a wonderful Christmas. I enjoy every single minute with the family. It's not about the gifts, we know that. God has blessed us so much. I feel unworthy at times of all of this love being poured upon me with family, but God has His ways! Very thankful for blessings this Christmas. Now here we go into 2012. I can say that 2011 wasn't my favorite year, but it taught me a lot of lessons. Now I guess we just have to worry about the Mayan calendar ending a few days before Christmas in 2012. The world ending might fit into the magic of Christmas!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Kappa Delta Pledge Class 2000 Mini Reunion

Kappa Delta Pledge Class 2000 Mini Reunion at Patrizio's in Dallas.

Have we changed? Naaahhh...





Sunday, December 18, 2011


I wore bright red leg warmers last night. I did. I looked pretty cool and got a lot of compliments, too.

We went to Holiday Trail of Lights in McKinney last night. The trail was not exactly something exciting, but we did get to pet an albino snake, drink expensive hot chocolate, look at dinosaurs and there were actually stars out there because it's far enough away from the city!

This is us with Father and Mother Time...

The holidays are so amazing. I keep writing about that so maybe I'll write about the other side of the holidays. They say the holidays make us remember those we love and have lost. Why is that true? I keep remembering back to the year after Mom passed. Dad and I had no idea where to start. We looked at one another and the presents scrawled between us. We have come so far since then. It blows my mind. I know he wanted to make it normal for me. Our traditions are very different now and we have a whole new family... maybe we even have two if you count Nick's family. Things always change, don't they? Even if Mom were still here I believe our traditions would change and grow as time went on. Sometimes we don't mean to, but they creep back into our memories. Today at church we were singing hymns and I remember we always had to sing a hymn while Mom played the piano before we opened gifts. I smiled softly. Then I fast forwarded to standing outside Grandmommy's home and I remember swearing I could see the star of Jesus. I stared into the night sky trying to find it. Granny Jac always gave these insane gifts, but she was so proud of them. Dad would get a bunch of black socks... one year we have it on video soap on a rope! She just thought of us in everything. We always had Christmas with Grandaddy and Rae on another day, I recall, and she always had things on back order because she loved to order us things from Neiman Marcus or give me a pristine doll when I really liked Barbies. She had amazing taste! Our last Christmas together when I was ten Grandaddy gave me the handwritten story of his life... the best present you could get. Priceless. He passed away the next year. I don't have grandparents anymore, but that is okay. Even in the last few Christmases Grandmommy just wanted to go to Heaven. Selfishly I hate that and I want to shower her with fun gifts that she hated because she always told me she had too much! The last time I saw her was last Christmas. We spoke all of the time, but actually hugging her was Christmas. On the way home I remember telling Dad we had to always make it count with her because "this could be her last Christmas." Wonder why I said that? She was in just fine health. Weird. I just knew she wanted to go to Heaven and she was ready whenever it was her time. So Christmas does make me miss all of them so very much.

We are very blessed to have Brenda and our entire family. I know they had traditions growing up that were probably different, but we all morph to make it work. This year they will come here and we will go to the Gray Christmas Eve then to my stepbrother's family's home in Oklahoma for Christmas Day. We had the tradition for 20 years going to the Stewart family Christmas on Eve. They are my second family. But, we have to compromise as we have relationships and we have to grow along with that.

Along with Christmas the sermon today was on peace. Peace is mentioned so many places in the Bible. As Christians we must find peace in the storm no matter what. That peace that surpasses understanding that we know is from Jesus. We all have different storms. Sometimes it is hard to find peace in it all. With the bustle of Christmas as we slow down the pain might creep into our hearts. We look at children so excited to see Santa Claus and jumping for joy at every light they see. We yearn to be that way again. Those memories can make us tear up wondering where that naive little kid went. We all grow up, don't we? I may be grown up, but the lights and the joy still bring a smile to my face. I hear happy stories during this time and I see the joy in other's eyes and I hear people so excited talking about the perfect gift for someone else. I smile. Joy. Peace. It's all in there. The preacher talked about a family who had this perfect nativity scene and the little boy kept putting his t-rex in with it. They all laughed. They said maybe the t-rex symbolizes something is always trying to take our joy and peace, but that baby in the manger could always handle the monster.

I leave below my pictures of my loved ones during some of my favorite Christmas moments. Peace fills my heart. Joy fills my mind.

By far my favorite. My Grandaddy Don was diagnosed with a form of heart cancer around this time; You can tell he is a bit puffy, well, he got so puffy his arms looked like Popeye because the tumor was in his artery as this was one of the first 100 confirmed cases of heart cancer. He was such a loving and gentle man. I wish I had gotten to know him longer.

Grandmommy gave me the coolest gifts. She would give me the JCPenney catalog and I got to circle what I wanted. I had a special little tree there, too. She always cooked the best steaks for Christmas growing up. We would watch soap operas, I remember, after lunch on Christmas Day!

Granny Jac had this beautiful cuckoo clock from overseas and every year I would see if I could make it cuckoo. When I was in fifth grade I was finally tall enough to reach it! I now have it in my dining room. She was amazing.

Mom didn't like pictures that much, but she always had me taking in them. Every year she would dress me up in different outfits and we'd take photos! I remember the first time I had my own money I got her a Gap sweatshirt for Christmas. I was so excited! We loved to sing and then read the Bible story before we opened gifts. So many good memories.

This is Grandaddy and Rae. She was dad's stepmom, but always my grandmother as well. I loved this doll they gave me so much. I still have her. I pierced her ears and bought her cute clothes!

This was our last Christmas together. 2000. I don't recall much about it and I want to kick myself for it. I think there was a freeze that year... I was in college mode and brought everything home from my dorm, I guess, to show off college life? I saw in my journal I wrote Mom and I had watched Christmas movies all day while Dad was at work and how much I had enjoyed that. She was just becoming more of a friend than a mom to me. Good memories!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Tangled Lights

I wrote this Christmas story a few years agoand sent it to many. It seems with the economy and life in itself we are living a life of tangled lights, but we need to see through the pain to the blessings in those tangles. It is a story about a young woman who is so busy trying to run away from her own life that she forgets to write her own chapters. It will teach you how you may not can change the whole world, but you can atleast change your own. Merry Christmas and God Bless.

"Tangled Lights"

I've never understood Christmas lights. The strands of colorful little bulbs get stuck together and end up in this ridiculously impossible coil. I wonder who in their right mind decided we should spend all day in the cold unraveling the impossibility and stringing it around the house just to make it look festive. I stared at my own version of Christmas. The tangled lights coiled around my arm as I shook harder and harder trying to get them to fall to the ground.

"Hey there, Arden, you getting in the spirit this year?" I looked up to see my too-full-of-joy neighbor, Mr. Clarence standing on his porch. The old man's suspenders were decorated with pictures of mistletoe, his porch neatly decorated with poinsettias. I laughed, "No, no sir. Just trying to spread a little cheer. I'll be working through the holidays so this is about as good as it gets." Mr. Clarence shook his head. "I understand, I've been a little down because I just can't find the perfect apples for my wife's apple pie we bake every year. It's just impossible with the freeze." He made small talk probably wondering why a young woman would spend Christmas alone doing sales work on her computer. Fine with me; I was accustomed to getting the annual fruitcake from my grandmother in the mail, the card stuffed with money from my dad and the yearly ham wrapped in tacky wrapping from the office. This was my Christmas.

"Your cell phone was ringing," The intern, Jamie handed me the phone as I reached into the copy machine. "It says it was your dad." I stared up at her. "Don't look at who calls me. Don't you know that's an invasion of my privacy?" "Yes, it's just he's called a lot lately and you never answer." I angrily walked away to my desk. "He wants to know about Christmas. I'm not coming. It's one day. My lord, one day of family and food. What's the point? So I can go home without a new fiancé and listen to my brother talk about the newest gadgets he got the kids and watch all of them frolic in their perfect little lives?" Jamie lowered her head. She was right out of college, one of those girls that got married then had a baby and was living life exactly like society seemed to think women needed to live back in the early 80s. "So, are we working Christmas?" I thought she was nuts to even ask me that question after knowing my work ethic. I didn't take vacations like most employees and I didn't know the meaning of a holiday. "Of course. We'll get a leg up on the competition." I knew her little boy was celebrating his first Christmas, but it seemed to me everyone should be miserable with me. "It's one day, Jamie. It won't hurt us." She blankly stared at me. "It's a whole season. It's not just about family either. You know, it's about... Jesus." "Well, Jamie, I'll celebrate Jesus while I make money."

I flipped through the channels of sweet-candy Christmas movies. My Christmas candy was filled with jawbreakers instead of caramel. Those movies just made me want to throw the television out the window. It seems every year they begin coming on earlier and earlier. Halloween might as well be the holiday season. I began to fall asleep with the sounds of Jimmy Stewart talking to his angel. A knock at the door jolted me from my quick slumber. Not knowing if it was evening or the middle of the night I quickly opened the door. A young woman with long, straight black hair dressed in a green Christmas sweatshirt, a red skirt and green tights stood there. I wondered if one of Mr. Clarence's decorations had come to life. "Hi, Arden." Her voice was raspy, yet quiet. "Uh... hi. Can I help you? Are you the new girl at work? Do you need to pick up some samples?" She giggled quietly. "Oh no, no. I'm here for you, Arden. You're coming with me." I didn't really wonder why this stranger was telling me she was here for me. Was she some saleswoman on my porch? She continued, "I'm Prudence. Call me Pru. Here's the deal, you have no Christmas spirit, Arden, and there's some family members that want that changed so I'm here to fix it." She nodded as if that explanation would make me think she wasn't some killer at my house. "Is this some sort of joke? How do you know my name? I'm not coming with you because you could be some Christmas killer. And, honey, I have Christmas spirit. Did you not see my lights?" She shook her head as I kept on trying to get the weirdo to disappear. "Whoa, whoa. Wait... Is this some sort of Christmas Past, Present, Future blah blah blah? Are you a ghost? What is this?" The stranger called Pru nodded, "Not exactly, but we're going to get nostalgic to find your spirit." Then everything went black.

I wondered if she had hit me in the head with a frying pan. The blurry image of her green tights came into focus as I felt the snow beneath my feet. Had she taken me to a desolate island? "What are you doing? I'll call the police. I just have to... well, find my phone." I shuffled around my jean pockets finding nothing. Pru only smiled. "I don't want to be here either. Don't you think I have better things to do this holiday season? I'm trying to get my wings. That's the only reason I'm helping you." Was I dreaming? It felt all too real to be a dream. Wings? "Excuse me? Look, we can get you help. I know some great therapists-" "I don't need therapy, Arden. Would you look up and just believe me? I really don't want to deal with your difficulties today." My house sat in front of me. Hundreds of miles away from my apartment here I sat in front of my childhood home. Didn't they do this to Scrooge? "They can't see you. It's just a look into the past," Pru said dryly. I watched as we were inside and the scent of cinnamon filled the air. Soft Christmas music floated through the house and my eyes landed on what once was my family sitting around the ornate tree. It was me. The little girl with long blonde hair bounced up and down as she shook the present between her hands. My older brother, Griffin threw pieces of popcorn in his mouth giggling as he caught them. My dad looked a hundred years younger. He sat back watching us with that smile I remembered and hadn't seen in so long. And then she walked in the room. She was still alive, it was our last Christmas with her, I know that now. Her eyes sparkled as she snapped photos of us playing around the tree. "We forgot an ornament this year. I picked it up especially for you." My dad stood up handing her a small shiny bell. As I drew closer I saw my mother's initial inscribed across the bell. "Like your favorite movie. Ya know, 'It's A Wonderful Life' because our life is just that wonderful." We all laughed together as they hung the ornament on the perfect little tree. I shook my head wondering what was actually going on in that room at that very moment. "I don't understand why you're making me see this." I said it so quietly that I thought maybe I was watching my own dream. "You need to remember Christmas." I took a step away from the whole picture. "No, I don't. You think seeing this and feeling the pain that this isn't life anymore is going to make me Santa? It just makes me angry. My mother died the next year. We didn't have anything else like this again. Do you want me to tell you so you can get your stupid wings about trying to make new traditions and learn to make pralines just like hers? This isn't helping. I want out. Just let me wake up, Prudence." Pru looked confused as this was probably not following her perfect little Christmas bedtime story formula. She grabbed my hand and again everything went black.

"You're making my journey to wings a tough one, Arden." "Yeah, well, I wish you would have a little pep in your own voice. Why couldn't they send me a hot angel?" She gestured towards the same room, but a different scent filled the air. "I told you I don't want to do this anymore. I don't need you and I really don't care about your wings. I'm not Scrooge. Did you take a wrong turn?" She ignored me making me stand in that moment. I remembered that Christmas. I learned to bake the best pecan pie on the block at fourteen years old. Griffin sat near the tree spinning his new basketball around his fingertips. The tree was the same with the same lights and the same ornaments, just not so neatly decorated. Dad propped his feet up sprawling the newspaper between his hands. And young Arden cut into her pie. We had to make new traditions. We learned how to open gifts and sing carols again. We had the opportunity to make a new Christmas. Dad gently put down his newspaper and smiled at us like we were the only people in the world. "Guys, I'm thinking of marrying Annie. What would you say to that?" It was quiet as both teenagers stopped all action. "Go for it, Dad," Griffin laughed. I bit into my pie. "She's really nice." I remember saying those words to him and I remember knowing life was going to be a little brighter because a new journey meant a new world for all of us. "No matter what, your mother will always be your mother. And we'll always remember her every day especially the holidays. I love you kids more than life itself. Always remember." I turned to Pru secretly wishing I could stay and watch them open gifts and read the Bible. "I had to show you the next chapter," she replied dryly.

I was never drinking wine again. I unplugged the lights and stared outside the window. The snow fell lightly against the trees. The quiet of Christmas engulfed me. Homes were filled with laughter and light while all I wanted to do was extra work. I turned from the window only to see Pru standing in my living room. "Wow. Am I ever going to wake up? Is this like one of those dreams where you're asleep for days? Am I in a coma?" "You aren't asleep. Stop saying that." "Well, if we're replaying 'The Christmas Carol' then you should be another ghost." Pru put out her hand. "I told you this isn't the normal old fairytale." "Whatever," I said thoroughly believing I would awaken from the nightmare at any minute so I might as well play along. "I guess we still have present and future, don't we?" I said quietly. "Not exactly. But, we are going to see Present right now."

My ghost angel, whatever she was, had lost her mind. We stood in the living area of a small, quaint home nicely decorated, but nothing I could recall. Pru wasn't doing her job. I had seen on those other 'Christmas Carols' they take the character to an old aunt's home to see everyone badmouthing them. Then, I heard their voices. "It's just part of the corporate world. You work your way up. You work a few holidays. It's really no big deal." They walked around the corner holding the infant wrapped in blue blankets. I hadn't allowed myself to get close to Jamie, but by being my intern she was my little slave. I had to teach her all I knew and I had to make her my assistant. I was quite envious of her little life. She rocked little Alexander in her arms quietly. "I know it's the ladder, Jeff, but it's about Arden. I've spent months trying to make her see the light of things and she shuns me. I try so hard to be her friend so I can help her and she just runs." They sat in a room without a Christmas tree as presents lined the coffee table. They were everything I wanted to be even though they didn't have half of what I did in monetary value. "Honey," Jeff pulled both of them close to him, "You'll work hard and you'll give Arden all of your spirit on Christmas and we'll be waiting right her for you with a big pumpkin pie and a book of carols when you get home." I turned around to Pru. "What's the point of this mush?" She laughed. "You affect people's lives with your spirit. It's your choice just how you choose to spread that spirit." She took my hand and all went black again.

Annie's elaborate decorations filled their house with such celebration. Everything seemed to be stuck in time as if I were looking at a picture. Atleast it was predictable this time where Pru chose to take me. I hadn't been home in so long that the small things were the easiest to forget. Walking around the corner I began to hear the laughter as my brother's six year old twins decorated a gingerbread house with Annie. After Griffin and Christy got married I felt like she took my place as the daughter of the home. She wasn't broken like me. I watched the two golden children fight over decorations. "Can we eat this on Christmas?" Eden asked excitedly. Annie laughed. "What if I want to keep it as a decoration forever and ever?" "Why don't you send it to Aunt Arden for giving you those big ole gifts under the tree?" I looked up to see my brother whisking into the room. I hadn't gotten the kids Christmas gifts in years, only sent gift cards. "Why did he say I got them gifts?" Pru rolled her eyes. "Don't you think it's easier for your brother to make sure family comes first and the kids don't end up hating you for never giving them toys? He's been doing that every year." "Maybe she'll come this year. I told Santa it'd be great to have the whole family together." Griffin put his hand on Edison's head. "Son, I really doubt she'll be able to make it this year. She just works so hard and doesn't really get any free time." "It's Christmas. Who cares about free time? You can always make time to come and build a snowman with me," Eden said sadly. It wasn't that my heart was so cold I thought my family wouldn't notice my absence each year. I knew every family has a connection and without each link they are not whole.

"Can we go back now? Do you have your wings yet?" I asked Pru. She grabbed my arm. "Far from it. Let's go into the den." Dad sat in his recliner reading over the afternoon paper. He never was one to partake in decorating even when we were children. Annie sat down beside him staring at the wall. "The kids are worried about Arden and Christmas." He didn't even put down the paper. "Christmas is a special time, Annie. She has too many memories of her mother at the holidays. If it hurts too much to come for her, then so be it." I laughed to myself. My dad was standing up for his little girl. He didn't really know the reasons I wasn't there. He just knew it was a duty to protect me. "Oh, please. It's been so many years and she came home for many of those years. The girl is selfish. I know she's not my own so I may be wrong in saying it, but she's plain selfish, Albert." Dad nodded his head and finally put down the paper. "I know. I can't change the world for her. I can't make her spirit come alive."

The darkness engulfed me again before I could hear the rest of their conversation. My blood boiled. I was not dead. Again standing on my porch staring at the brightness of Christmas. I glanced to my side to again see Pru. "Why are you still here? We didn't the whole traveling through time thing so now it's time for you to go away and let me see my future where I die an old alone woman because I had no Christmas cheer." She shook her head. "Well, it's just ridiculous. My spirit isn't dead. My dad doesn't have to change my world. I'm alive." "Fine. Then where's the truth? I've heard countless people claim to be Christians because they go to church. People claim to be psychics because they win the lottery. I wouldn't be here if you weren't doing the same thing with your spirit." I wanted her to disappear. I realized I wasn't exactly angry at her or at Christmas, but I wanted everything to change. My spirit had begun to fade years earlier and I let the light dim until it was barely a flicker. "Tell me, Arden, why did you really stop going home? You love family and lights. What happened?" "Life happened. After Mom died my dad got remarried and everyone seemed to fit into their own little places... except me. It wasn't about Jesus anymore, it wasn't about family even, it was about getting through the season without tears. So I stopped going home. I stopped buying gifts. I just hung some lights and went on to work." I wondered if my speech had made Pru sprout her wings. It seemed in the movies after the big reveal of pain everything changes. She crossed her arms. "You're a stubborn one. We all fit into our own little places and we all can't fit in that box of perfection you have in your mind. You can live like this hurting everyone around you for fifty more years for all I care. Or you can start changing your world this Christmas." She turned to walk away. "Wait, what about your wings? Did you get them?" Pru laughed. "That's up to you. I'm a rookie at all this changing the world stuff."

I never thought one person could change the world. It was all coming into perspective how Pru explained if we cannot change the world then atleast we can change our own world. Somehow my world had gotten tangled. Somewhere between baking pecan pies and throwing lights on my house I had lost everything my mother fought so hard to achieve. She spent countless hours each Christmas making sure every present was exactly what we asked for... she baked pralines and cookies just to make us happy... she played the easiest songs on the piano so we could sing along. Dad's home was now the same happy place full of anxious gift givers and and pies of every flavor. The story of Jesus' birth never changed. My family, Mr. Clarence's family, Jamie's family all sat down to read the exact same story. The backgrounds of our lives were so different, yet we came together in the universe for the same reasoning. I didn't want my life to be like this year after year. I wanted to read that story, eat those pies and rip open gifts. I wanted to fit into my own box of perfection for once. After I finally figured out just how to change my world I realized I only had a few hours to do it.

After a good night's sleep I awoke to the sun blazing through my window. Christmas Day. It was time to make things happen. I ran outside to see Mr. Clarence picking up his morning newspaper. "Hey, Mr. Clarence," I waved at the jolly man across the lawn. "I'm on my way home." He smiled. "Well, Merry Christmas to you and the family. By the way, thanks for the apples. Not sure where you got them, but your friend brought them over and boy, they are perfect for my pies." I was confused. "My friend?" "Oh yeah, the gal on your porch. Long black hair." I couldn't help but laugh. I might be crazy, but atleast the whole town was going crazy with me.

The office was quiet except for the humming of the overhead lights. I was a few minutes late after gathering all of the gifts I had purchased late Christmas Eve at the only stores still open. Nothing like last minute Christmas shopping with the crowds. Jamie popped out of her seat. "Hi, I was worried. You're never late." She said quietly. I brought out a box with a small fiber optic Christmas tree knowing it was more than she had sitting in that living area. "Listen, Jamie, go home and enjoy the day and don't come back until next year." I handed her the box. "This is for you and the family. And this," I picked up another bag of toys, "is for Benjamin." She stared at me as if I was a predator invading Arden's body. I didn't feel there was a need for explanation other than the fact I had bit hit in the head with a spirit stick.

The drive home was long and cold. I wasn't like Scrooge where I wanted to shout Christmas blessings to everyone honking and driving alongside me, but I did feel like cranking up the Christmas tunes. A long drive reminds me to think and ponder on the days gone and the days ahead. I understood a personality couldn't be changed through one night of reasoning, but this was the beginning of a beautiful journey for me.

I didn't ring the doorbell. I simply walked in the home carrying bags of gifts. The twins ran through the hall into my arms. Jumping up and down tearing apart my hair. Griffin and Christy stood behind them in awe. "I brought you two some goodies," I laughed. Eden ripped the gifts out of my hand and thrust them toward her daddy. "Look, she got us more!" I stood up in front of my brother. "Actually those other gifts under the tree are really from your own parents. These are really from me." Eden and Edison took the rest of the gifts and excitedly ran into the other room. "If they're really from you I'm scared of what you'd get two six year olds." Griffin laughed. He hugged me as if we hadn't seen one another in years. Maybe in spirit we hadn't.

The kitchen was filled with pies and candy. Annie stood over the turkey finishing off its perfect glaze. My dad stood at the bar finishing off his glass of apple cider. As I walked around the corner our eyes met and froze as if we were two beings from another planet. Without a word my dad swept me into his arms and erased away the years.

It seems so easy, but putting away pride and starting a new journey is never easy. Those that truly love others don't ask too many questions and don't ever give up hope that one day down the road that loved one might just come walking through the door. I had walked through a door I had shut in my own face and in that moment I suddenly found myself surrounded by the same love I felt as a little girl. I wandered into the living area as the kids ripped open their gifts under the tree. Dad sat holding an old photo in his hands. "You're missing the kids totally ignoring Christy's wrapping skills." He smiled up at me. "Thanks for being here. We need you around here more often. This picture," He pointed at the photo of our family when I was very young sitting around a Christmas tree. "This is magic." I laughed. "My gosh, look at Mom's hair. That's scary. Dad, this is our life now though. I know that." He nodded. "It's magic because this was only the first chapter. We have so many chapters in life and we choose what is written upon the pages. You chose for so long to not even write your chapter. I guess you were just waiting for a miracle to write the rest of your book. You forgot to live it." He was right. I had tried to shut out the world of spirit because it was easier than facing the writing on each page. He said the picture was magic. Magic that showed true spirit through the goofy grins of a cute little family. Little did he know the amount of magic it took to get me to realize I was dead.

Dad and I joined the main characters in our latest chapter to watch them finish ripping apart the gifts. Annie helped Christy piece together her new camera. Eden brushed her new doll's hair as Edison flipped his small foam football between his hands. And, my brother showed us all he never stopped living in his first chapter. Griffin grabbed the football from Edison's hands and rushed across the room. "Alright, kid, it's time you learn to go long." Edison giggled as Griffin launched the ball across the room. The little boy rammed into the side of the Christmas tree making the lights shake and ornaments hold on for dear life. Laughter filled the room as I noticed the small bell with my mother's initials ringing as it shook. "Edison, look what you did. You better be careful." Eden said. "I know exactly what I did," He replied back. "Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. Ya think that's true, Aunt Arden?" I was in shock. He was exactly right. We ram into things throughout our lives whether it be a tree or a wall of our own. We shake things up and in the end maybe a bell rings and that poor angel that had to help us through the wreck got a great reward. I laughed at Edison. "You bet, Edison. An angel sure did get her wings. I even know her name. Prudence. She's a stubborn little angel, but she's my own and now she's up there flying thanks to all of you."

I had not only changed my world, I had changed the world of those around me. I finally realized by writing my own chapters and actually living in those journeys that I could positively affect my family, my friends and my entire world. I smiled looking up at the tangled, coiled lights on my porch. At one time they were my only attempt at making the world think I fit into their box of perfection. They were never perfect and I gave up on them before I even took the time to unravel the beauty and glow that could have been every Christmas. It's funny… Tangled lights to some might mean an imperfect start to Christmas. Tangled lights to others might mean an extra few hours of laughter with loved ones as they fought to unravel the beast. However, tangled lights to me meant the start of a new chapter beginning the rest of my life.

Jesus' Season

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is go shopping when it turns dark and the cold tingles your face. I love to dash into Wal Mart and chit chat with the Salvation Army bell ringer. I put a lot of stress on myself to find good gifts for the family. As I've said a million times before - we like to get a lot of gifts, not one big gift, but like 15 smaller gifts and maybe one big gift!!! I tend to show a lot of my love other ways than just putting my arms around people!!! It's so fun to look for others. Let me tell ya that I had a blast at Toys R Us looking for my nephews and nieces gifts... I was a little kid again! I think I'll go back to playing Barbies. Just come over to my house and we'll set up the Barbie house and play.

Everything is jam packed... love it that way. I think I have one free night this week! Yay!!! This past weekend Nick, Geoff, Kimberly and I headed out to Deerfield in Plano to look at lights. We parked the car and walked around staring at the lights. So magical. People were shouting, "Merry Christmas" to us! Yesterday was Nick's mom's birthday so Nick got us tickets to Trans Siberian Orchestra. It was amazing. Beyond amazing. The talent. We had a really nice time. I made Nick's mom a DVD of all of their old home videos edited together with music. We had a great time watching it. His dad even had a tear roll down his cheek. That's a mission accomplished!!! I worked so hard on it to make her happy.

I don't understand the magic of this time. Nick gets frustrated with my obsession over Christmas that lasts the entire month, but it seems to be the only time everything is magical. People are nicer and the world is a better place. It is like this little version of a dream world that only lasts for a short time. It's Jesus' season so I guess that all makes sense!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sneak Peek

Nick's dad took photos of us tonight for our cards. He is so amazing... I told him I just wanted him to point and shoot. Well, he got out his professional equipment with the special lights and flashes... too much fun. Nick might not look too thrilled, but we had a good time and he was a good sport!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gobble Gobble

Magic fills the air as the holidays approach. Everyone and everything seems to dance. Atleast through my eyes. They say we are often sad at Christmas as well. I think for me it's always trying to capture the essence of Christmas through the eyes of a child. The magic never fades, but it is quite different.

We had such a nice time on Thanksgiving. Brenda's family is so nice and inviting to us. We really ate, talked, watched football, opened gifts and hung out literally all day. It was just so nice and relaxing. Nick came with me for the first time and I think he had a nice time getting to know everyone. Ed and Cora, Brenda's aunt and uncle host it each year. They have been married like 60 years. They are very funny and just really enjoyable. Growing up my Thanksgiving meals were usually Dad, Mom, me, my Dad's mom and Mom's mom... it was quite small, but we always had a nice time. I do love being a part of Brenda's big family and just having a room full of laughter.

Katelyn is Brenda's brother's 13 year old. She is in teenager mode of texting the entire day and night. She is very involved in cheer, volleyball, swimming and basketball.

Seva is Brenda's youngest brother's ten year old. She rocks my world. She loved to tell me all about the books she is reading and about her friends at school. She is going to be tall, we think, so we were all playing basketball outside and I taught her a bit of form! She is much more into dancing than basketball right now, but it felt neat to coach the girls!

From left: Brenda's cousin, Eufaula's kids: Morgan, Van & Rebecca; Cameron (Brenda's cousin), Brenda's brother, Jay and his wife, Stephanie; Brenda's brother, Jimmy in back of her; Brenda, Dad (Joe Mark), Nick, Me, Katelyn, Brenda's nephew, JW; Brenda's Aunt Cora and Uncle Ed; Cora & Ed's son, Joel and his wife, Jennifer and son Jordan; Cora & Ed's daughter, Linda and her husband, Mel; Seva.

Saturday when we got back Nick got us amazing seats at the Tech game vs. Baylor so we went with his parents, Geoff, Tony & Blake. Our seats were five rows from the 50 yard line, but the drawback was they were right in the middle of Baylor fans. There is a boy from my high school, Matt Ritchey who I have known since he was born who plays for Baylor. I got to see some Big Springers there to root him on. I wanted to find one of my best friends, Tiffany and her entire family so I set out on the journey. I got lost a few times. I ran into Melissa Perley Land, a sorority sister and her hubby so we got to catch up. Then I finally made it to Tiffany. It was so wonderful to see her entire family and just hang out for a bit. It's like another family to me. We didn't win the game, but it was a really fun night!

Tiffany's daughter, Hailey is just spunky and full of fun. I loved her!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I've never been a big Thanksgiving person. I don't look back and get excited about turkey. First off I don't really enjoy the meal itself. If you know me I eat some crazy concoctions so turkey, taters and green beans just bore me a little bit. I could eat stuffing and macaroni all day atleast. I also remember it was always around Mom's birthday so we probably rolled it all into one. I am much more of a Christmas girl. I just start to bubble over with Christmas magic as Thanksgiving dinner is served so it may as well be the start of the season for me! I still look to thanks on the holiday and remember there is so much to be thankful for.

When we go through the storms of life we are forced to look for happiness in the tiniest ladybug. I have always said this. We find joy in the smallest things because it's a lot easier than always finding the bad things. So this year hasn't been so great. It's a fact and I don't want to dive into that fact, but it's been trying for my heart. It's funny though because our own perspective is that life is falling apart, but once when I told Dad about this or that, he said, "You haven't been through too much. You are okay." Boy, is he right. Sometimes it is so much easier to focus on the negative things. Strength doesn't always make us stronger per se it makes us calloused, but it also makes us thankful.

When I look at my family and friends I am immediately thankful to God. I thank Him each night for the angels of my life. I cannot even explain this thankfulness in words. My Dad is the wisest man I have ever met as well as the most thoughtful, the most humble, the most kind-hearted. My stepmother fits with us so well as she is just so sweet, moral, Christian, thoughtful, creative. My entire Adams and Corn family just warm me. Without family whether blood or not we are nothing. Friends in that category of family as well. They carry me on their wings when I am sad. They make me laugh. They keep me going. Sometimes when nothing makes sense friends step in to give you a shoulder. If we only look we are able to find amazing people... sent from God. Thankful.

Nick continues to keep me laughing, makes me angry at times when he tells me the truth, pushes me to keep going, keeps being thoughtful and blowing me away at every chance he can. His family is wonderful and angelic. We joke around a lot because that is just how I show affection, but he better know I'm thankful. We've both been in situations where we felt helpless for the other going through tough stuff. Sometimes I wonder how couples that have never faced anything together really make it. Somehow it makes us stronger. To get me to realize something and face something I have to be pushed and pushed to the brink then I just melt away.

I've always liked to run from obstacles, but sometimes being pushed is the only way you are thankful. I don't want to deal with Grandmommy's things. I don't want to call my uncle wondering about the house selling and the car selling and all the business. I didn't want to go to the funeral home and I wanted to tell the preacher I needed more said about her at the funeral, but doesn't it make me thankful? Thankful that I have a family support system that stepped in to deal with the business. Thankful for Mom's cousin and a family friend to help plan, thankful to my Dad to go to everything with and grieve together even without the words to just know, thankful that she went without a fight the way she wanted to go. Annoyed selfishly she is not here for me, thankful she is in Heaven because that is all she wanted for years. Thankful I still miss her when I want to call, but so thankful I don't dream of her meaning I am peace she is in Heaven with Mom and Grandaddy Bill and all of her family.

I know a lot of people and I love a lot of people. I began thinking this year more and more about God's grace. You want to talk about something to be thankful for! I look back ever since I was a little girl and I see God in the smallest things we never understood at the time. Do you want to know something funny I have probably said before? When I tore my ACL my freshman year of high school I thought life was over. I asked God why for years. My knee would never be the same for basketball. Well, ya know what is funny, I met my good friend, Keele Barnes in Rehab. She was from another school so I doubt we would have ever hung out otherwise. When I moved to Dallas who introduced me to Nicholas? Keele Barnes. It's simple and I'm sure there were a million other reasons I tore that ACL, but something that happened in 1996 could have lead to 2008 to Nick who has been a huge part of my world. I don't sit down to map out God though. There is no way I could ever predict Him or understand Him, I know. But, sometimes it's nice to sit down and just realize the blessings in life. I try not to ever take anything for granted because we are never promised anything in this life, but that we are not alone.

I am so thankful for my wonderful youth minister in Big Spring, Texas now pastoring in Dallas. What are the odds? I never thought you could come close to recreating the environment in which I grew up at church, but here it is right in the heart of Lake Highlands.

I know I'm writing a lot about faith in being thankful. I struggle a lot with faith at times so even I must remind myself. We all feel lost at times and we all don't understand the journey at times. Sometimes there will be these years that we are on top of the world. Then there will be other times when life is crumbling. Things are never perfect for anyone and everyone is always fighting a harder battle. I enjoy my life and I enjoy the sunshine of each day. I am so thankful to God for giving us His grace and mercy because I know I sure do fail Him many times!

And, yes, I sure am thankful for that gobblin' dinner. I'm even more thankful for those sitting around the table as I snap their photos and they grimace at the camera because it's always in my hand and then we watch football in the recliners as the men grab a catnip and we play dice games as the laughter embraces the entire room and I talk to my little cousins about their lives and their friends and give them advice that atleast right now they follow and then we tell old stories about the adults growing up and we hug and laugh until the day is almost over. Now that's Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Church Anniversaries

As a little girl I remember running through the halls of our church. I remember endless choir and handbell rehearsals. I remember walking down to my parents' Sunday School room as my mother waited there for me playing the piano. I sipped my first sip of coffee there and quickly spit it out. So many birthday parties in the Family Life Center. Thank God my parents had me at church at every opportunity growing up. First Baptist Church turned 125 years old this Sunday. Ironically I attended a 75th anniversary at Lakeside Baptist in Dallas watching my youth minister from First Baptist growing up as he preached and sat next to one of my churchmates from First Baptist growing up.

It is so interesting to dive into the history of a church. It is interesting to see how they grow and change. Growing up I remember really only one pastor. He retired at some point and we had a hard time finding another one to really stick around. I can tell so many stories of Vacation Bible School, youth basketball, Wednesday night dinners, my friends and I running up and down the halls, peering into the HUGE auditorium when it was so dark just to see what it was like when it wasn't Sunday morning...

Looking back I see how important church is in little one's lives. I never thought anything else of Sunday morning. When I got to high school I think I missed more often just because I was insanely busy and needed an excuse to sleep in! I've told my story about trying to find a church home in different cities so I'll skip that. Sometimes I just get plain lazy and don't attend and others I just need a break and a day to do nothing. I'll admit it. I am so thankful that as a family we went as often as possible and grew with the church.

Nick and I attended the 75th anniversary as I said of a church we barely know, but we enjoyed it. We met one lady who had been a member for over 40 years; she looked to be about 80 and lived in Canton and had come in especially for it. Churches change so much over the years. I remember when we had some contemporary musicians come in high school to the church the older group went insane. They shunned it. Sometimes choir singing bores me, but other times when I know the song I enjoy it. I really enjoy the instruments now paired with the songs we know. So I guess I am sort of in between traditional and conservative. I don't get all bogged down in that like some people. These days society sometimes doesn't think it's cool unless you go to a megachurch and it's as big as Joel Osteen. Why the heck would you go to a small Baptist church? I don't really care as long as the person is happy where they are!

I guess it all boils down to faith. I attended the First United Methodist Youth Group because most of my friends did and I loved it so much. One time we did the trust exercise where everyone holds out their arms and you fall blindly back hoping they will catch you. For me, the most untrusting girl in the world, I was scared to death. I actually did it and they caught me. Yep, so no matter which church whether one year, 75 years, 125 years as long as God is catching us we keep on growing, changing and loving.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Kids scatter across the streets dressed in their costumes. They laugh loudly as they run to the houses in search of candy. One night a year we fill large bags full of candy to make the little trick-or-treaters happy and full of sugar. I smile because I remember being one of those little kids one day that seemed not too long ago. I would always go with our best friends of the family. Our best friends, Quintinn led Stephanie and I through the neighborhood. After we got done with both of our neighborhoods we ended up at their grandparents' house. Mr. and Mrs. Annen always gave us a big bag of candy and a present!!! We would empty our loot on the floor and sift through it looking for the best candy. I also went to the school's Halloween carnival each year. Back in the 90s you could actually have a haunted house and say the word "Halloween" at school. Those were the days. This year I gave our candy at Nick's parents house because they live in Lake Highlands and have a lot of visitors. Nick lives in a nice Plano neighborhood, but there is a big festival right down the street so most of the kids go to it instead. We took his dogs for a walk with me wearing my outfit of a little kid in pajamas and my Mom's old huge cow slippers. Lots of people commented on my shoes!

This year for Halloween we decided to throw Geoff a birthday party instead of go out. We all brought fun food and played spooky music... after football was over, of course. The Rangers lost the World Series. Tech lost. Cowboys lost. What a great sports weekend... not. We had fun anyway! I love to dress up, but this year I just didn't get in it too much so I just threw together an outfit and called her Nicki Minaj or Lady Gaga. Not sure which. She had a good time with her microphone and blue hair is all I know. I absolutely love the way imagination comes to life during Halloween. I received an email that Halloween should not be done by Christians and it is a pagan holiday. Oh, puhlease... it's a fun day to dress up and just have fun with life!!! I didn't worship the devil once that day ;)...

Jersey Shore castmate - I think he looks like Pauly D so we shall say Pauly D with his chapstick & his date, Gaga Minaj

"Fist pump, push up, chap stick." Jersey Shore

The gals. Shanna as Nascar chick. Allison as German chick. Michele as sports chick. Keilly as herself chick.

Keilly's husband, Matt is a hot woman.

Yes, Colby overshadowed all of us as the life of the party.

Brothers Nick and Justin DID NOT plan this! Insanely they both came as Jersey Shore castmates in different colors. Freaky.

Time to take that horrible wig off. My Jersey Shore friend is doing push ups while I pose.