Three-Word Resolution

Engage

When challenged within the Trifecta community to develop a 3-word resolution for the New Year, I came up with this one as a reminder to myself. It was either this or “Eat Your Vegetables” – which might have been healthier, but wouldn’t have been nearly as profound…

So don’t just plan on dreaming, or even just chasing those crazy dreams. Go out this year & engage them! Heck, for all I care, you can marry ’em (as long as you eat your veggies)!  Dreaming great dreams, -j

Freed Christmas Tree: A Heart-Warming Christmas Story

I need to begin this story with a very important disclaimer. By the time you get to the end, I can’t imagine that there could possibly be a dry eye among you. Consider yourself fairly warned.

I was driving down the road the other day with a couple of family members in tow. I’d give you their names, but it’s not easy to recall who always does or does not decide to go along with me on excursions I can’t clearly remember. Besides, you’d probably want to corroborate the details of this story with them – if you knew who they were – and, er, they probably wouldn’t want to be bothered with such disturbing distractions. Just take my word that this is how it all went down…

Early on in this outing, I realized that swerving to miss a large object in the upcoming lane was going to be called for. It was a green, bushy, triangular-shaped something or other that we managed to just barely miss while traveling 65 miles per hour down the Interstate. I couldn’t help but frown as my mind registered what sort of bundled-branched package would meet these specifications at this time of year. Sadly, it appeared as though someone had lost a Christmas tree. (No, I do not have a picture of this particular event, as I was driving 65 miles per hour up – I mean down – the Interstate and had to quickly swerve to avoid impact with this misplaced seasonal symbol. I’m going to have to ask you to help me out here, even if you weren’t prepared to be participative this early in the story.You’ll have to use your imagination on this one. Tis the season for that, you know. Ho ho ho.)

But I personally wasn’t feeling ‘ho, ho, ho’ over this incident. I was feeling ‘no, no, no’…this can’t be. What a terrible thing for some family (couple, crazy cat lady, whoever) to have traveled up the Interstate to have so lovingly picked out the perfect holiday tree (so they could curse stepping on old, hidden, sap-stuck pine needles that would painfully sink into the base of their toes by Easter) and to be on the way to take that new puppy home and unwrap it – so they could proudly re-wrap it in hazardous lights and decorations to the point that any Fire Marshall would blatantly and openly cringe – only to find it had escaped from the top of their vehicle somewhere between stopping to engorge their bodies with a dozen snow-capped Krispy Kreme donuts and home. I tried to imagine how I could help.

Perhaps I could…

turn around at the next exit, backtrack north on the Interstate, turn around again at the exit coming back in this southward direction,

stop my car in the middle of the Interstate with no worries of trucks that looked like they could turn into Decepticons barreling down the muffler of my little car that sips gas through a coffee straw,

strap that cumbersome tree onto the hood of my cargo-challenged car without the benefit of any twine (perhaps my un-remembered family members would hold it across their laps in the back seat and out both sides of the windows?),

and get it home so I could post it on a Lost and Found site until someone filed a Missing Christmas Tree report.

The site of the reunion would be tear-jerking. (Okay, my imagination gets a little outside of its own limits sometimes.)

About the time I was ready to convince myself that I could have this story all wrong – that maybe these people were driving through with their Christmas tree from the east coast and heading back to Colorado, where they’d be too tickled and too hungry with themselves to notice they were even missing the tree, I had to swerve to miss clipping another one…then another one. The next three were dotted, back and forth, on the opposite shoulders of the road. It was beginning to appear more like the driver of a Christmas tree delivery truck who was from Colorado – happily buzzing down the Interstate without a care in the world about flying Christmas trees in his rear view mirror.

This led me to a string of other theories (not to be mistaken with THE String Theory, of course, though that, too, could have been a possibility).

Some of my more plausible theories included:

  1. Santa had gotten into the eggnog and rum cake early this year while thinking of the needs of the poverty-stricken who might otherwise be treeless. Of course, Santa doesn’t prescribe to the notion of welfare without work, as evidenced by his Northern elven sweat factory. Rather than allow these poor families to feel as if they were recipients of charity, in which they might feel looked down upon, Santa decided he’d create a challenge for them to claim these free Christmas trees. If they could dodge the oncoming traffic, heck, that was proof enough that they’d earned ’em – fair and square.
  2. This was the work of a disgruntled member of the Elf Manufacturing Union (EMU – not to be mistaken with those freakishly frighteningly large birds, who are much more freakish than gigantic 20-point reindeer who fly and stomp across roofs; or with Eastern Michigan University, which is very close to the North Pole, from my southern state perspective). I’m guessing this elf was clearly upset because he was expected to labor during the holiday season. He was making his way south to apply for a job at Walmart. He’d laid out a trail of Christmas trees, so that he might find his rebellious little way back home if things didn’t work out any better for him at Walmart.
  3. Colorado driver buzzing down the road with his package of holiday brownies – oh yeah, I forgot. We’ve already covered that one.
  4. Perhaps a boyscout, who had been working on his Christmas Tree Ranch Handling merit badge, suddenly felt convicted over holding all those poor Christmas trees for ransom. Fed by the holiday spirit (and the 2 dozen cookies one of the moms had dropped off that he’d scarfed down in the last 5 minutes), he might have experienced a rush of compassion (okay, maybe it was just sugar) that caused him to throw open the corral gate and yell, “Run for your lives!” while barely escaping with his own before the stampede began. Some of the strays had apparently made their way out onto the freeway. It’s possible that this incident will lead to the discontinuation of the Christmas Tree Ranch Handling merit badge.

In any case, by the time I came back onto the scene from wrapping up my errands, I noticed that the southbound lane had been freed of all the Christmas trees. Just as I was about to wonder where they’d all gone…

When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
Why! An F150 truck, its bumper hanging off its rear!

I noticed one of the concerned Citizenry for the Over-Forestation of Freeways (OFF) promptly dealing with the issue. (Incidentally, I’ve heard rumor that this group actually wanted to be the Federation for the Over-Forestation of Freeways, but when their president made application, it was denied because – for some strange reason – the court clerk took it as a personal offense that he wanted her to sign approval to F-OFF. More unfortunately, there is an insect repellent company who is rumored to have filed a lawsuit for use of its registered trademark name.) Nevertheless, this particular concerned citizen was not going to let that pesky little aggravation stop him from performing his self-assigned civic duty.

Upon spotting the poor, frightened tree from over the tipped-up end of his nearly emptied quart of beer, this in-the-seasonal-spirited gentleman yanked up on his emergency brake and selflessly turned a 360 in the middle of the freeway. He had to thereafter signal with his most visible finger for the trucker – who was leaning out the window while jake-braking and laying on his horn, urging this upstanding citizen as to how he might best go about his business – to go on around him and responsibly get back to his own. As Mr. Civic Duty got around to the rear of his F-150 truck with its holiday-tinted primer/rust mix, he joyfully threw his arms around that lonely, abandoned Christmas tree and adopted it quicker than if it had been his long, lost cousin, Earl, who’d just won the Powerball. He then tossed that tree into the bed of his pick-up, trading it out for about a 12-pack of empty beer cans that bounced off the tail gate and down the freeway behind him. I couldn’t help but think what a considerate and generous person he must be to want to leave those cans for someone to pick up later and exchange for the high rate offered in aluminum trade.

As if he hadn’t already exhibited an over-abundance of holiday spirit and generosity, I truly came to understand the meaning of Christmas in my final glimpse of this remarkable citizen in his over-exuberant heroic act.

Found at: http://gallery.markheadrick.com/humorous/christmas-tree-with-beer-can-ornaments/“Yeehaw!” he belched, as he floored it out of sight.
“I got this durned Christmas tree for freed – without a bar fight!”

I ask you, where else could I have witnessed such a spectacularly heart-tugging story during this special holiday season?

So, now I must say…

Merry Christmas to y’all! And to all a good night!

Ah, crud. That was a copyright issue, wasn’t it?

(Nope, nope. It has ya’ll. I believe I’m good on this one.)

***

 

Go Make a Joyful Noise! – in Someone Else’s Yard

Last night, I braved the elements to go Christmas caroling – the cold (it’s about 43 degrees F in the South), cocktail wienies (we snacked first & that was the healthiest option we had), our youth group (sometimes teens can act like wienies), and the dog poo (that isn’t always left in people’s yards by those little wienie dogs). Yeah, I know. All you Northerners are still calling me a wienie over my definition of cold.  So anyway…

Each year, we select a different neighborhood near our church and set out on a mission to spread good cheer (and candy canes).  We had  a couple of ringers with us this year – our previous choir director and one of the youth who sings in his high school choir. Oh, and of course we brought along some really cute little kids for the “ahhh” effect. As for the rest of, we were just in it to be for the wienies…

Just before I left out to make my joyful noise, I dropped a little satire on my FB page:

Photo

All I can say is that it was a good thing I had mentally prepped myself for how tough this year’s caroling game was gonna’ be. We were obviously at the play-off stage, where even the best page in our play book – you know, the cute kid factor handing out candy canes at the front door -wasn’t gonna’ work. In all the years we’ve done this, I can’t ever recall getting a single rejection (even if they didn’t ask for an encore). Heck, one guy even chased us down last year and asked us to come up to his house and sing to his wife. (Not sure what he’d done to get himself into trouble with her, but that apparently made up for it. Always glad to help a guy out of a jam.)

This year, though – wow. This year we received more rejections to our offers for caroling than we even received acceptances. Tough crowd. People were busy, you see. Busy eating dinner, busy talking on the phone to family members, busy watching television, busy closing their curtains and turning out their lights, busy just saying no. Yes, these were actual responses we got. One particular person stood behind the storm door of his house with a coat on, watched us carol at a couple of houses around the cul-de-sac, watched us walk up his hilly driveway, allowed us to get to his front walk, and as “candy cane kid” and I got to him, slammed the door right in our faces. I mean slammed. Yep, he made his point well.

Others simply admitted that they were suspicious of us. They thought we wanted something from them in return. One guy, after rejecting us, called me back to his deck to drop a few bucks down to me for the offering plate. It didn’t matter how many times I tried to explain that’s not why we were there, he became insistent. He still refused to let us sing to him, but he did reluctantly take a trade in candy canes (probably because our “cute kid” just kept holding them out to him, something akin to Cindy Lou Who scrutinizing the Grinch).

All in all, I thought this was a really good lesson for us as Christ-followers. I thought of how Jesus came into the world to offer himself as a gift to us. And how often he was rejected by others. I realized how people are still suspect today because of the very thing that Jesus, himself, encountered – the political aspects and misguided practices of religion. Mostly, I walked away from the door that had been slammed in my face thinking of a young couple, traveling to an unfamiliar town called Bethlehem, a teen girl laboring to bring a precious gift to the world that even she didn’t fully comprehend – only to have the door slammed in their faces.

No room at the inn.

The lesson gets better than that, though. In a humble setting, the Christ-child was born. Shepherds listened to the angels as they caroled in the fields, and responded to go and see the one lying in a manger. So they went, then joined in the chorus to spread the good news. Later, wise men followed a star, so they, too, could experience this great joy. They came bearing their own set of gifts. Today, we see representations in manger scenes of the outcast couple, the working class shepherds, scholarly well-to-do travelers, along with an assortment of animals from near and far – all crowding in, not sure of what to make of this new being who had broken into this world, but looking to get just a tiny glimpse of the hope he was to bring.

And so it went for us too, in tiny glimpses of humility and gifts – and hope – along the way.

Two burly men (probably something like those shepherds) stood at the back of an apartment complex, one with his beard twisted and braided, the other holding his microwave dinner while leaning against the door frame. I waited to hear the dinner excuse. I expected to be told to get the *expletive* out of there. But as we started to sing, a grin came to one of those faces; tears rolled down the other. “I’ve never been sang to before,” came the humble words at the end. “Thank you,” the bearded man choked out. “God bless you.” He just did, I thought.

An elementary aged boy in glasses stood on a small stoop with his single mom. I asked if he had any requests, preparing myself for one of our secular, kid-friendly songs like Rudolph or Frosty. “Could you sing ‘We Three Kings’?” he quickly chimed back. Hmm, I glanced around with uncertainty. We didn’t have that one on our song sheets, but a few of us knew it – admittedly, some better than others. The boy’s grin widened as we began, and soon he was singing along with us, not seeming to mind the places where we stumbled.

An elderly lady in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank had heard us at her neighbor’s duplex door. I wondered how long it had taken her to make her way to her door and get it open, as she’d managed to do so even before we’d finished crossing to her side of the lawn. As we sang to her, she dropped her head, covered her eyes a couple of times, and wept. When we finished, she pointed to a single star hanging above us in the night sky, shaking her head in wonderment. She became so insistent on wanting to offer us some gift in return, I finally eagerly accepted. I told her we would be happy to take payments from her – in hugs. And let me tell you – she was a wonderful gift distributor!

When it was all said and done, I guess we weren’t such big wienies after all, out there singing making a joyful noise to utterly complete strangers our neighbors. But I will admit. All snuggled in that one woman’s sweet hugs, I might’ve felt like a warm little wienie-in-a-blanket.

Thankful not to have been eaten alive out there,

-jody

Ho-ho-Hold up that present for a better view!

regional partay

Holiday exchanges – all in vogue

or à la rogue?

Flashy presents for narcissists?

Naughty Santas cannot resist.

What to all wondering eyes should appear?

More calories spread tabletop than we’ve eaten all year!

***

This was our lunch-time office party from last week. Hopefully, you’ll get some laughter from identifying some of the presents – maybe more laughter from the fact that you won’t be able to identify others. That’s a homemade mirror made from recycled coke & beer cans & bottle tops I’m holding in the center for your viewing pleasure!

***

Offered up in response to this week’s Trifextra writing prompt:

Charles Dickens, in A Christmas Carol, wrote “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.” We are giving you exactly 33 words to make us laugh out loud and spread some festive cheer.

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.fN0o2dUa.dpuf

 

How to Team Up to Lose an Entire Person

It’s true!

Five women teaming up for an entire semester CAN lose an entire person!

Let me refresh your memory, so you can recall how a loss like this could have come about…

Our campus issued a challenge at the beginning of the fall semester for our departments to form teams. These teams could have a maximum of 6 members, and each member could decide individually whether to accept the challenge for logging exercise minutes or weight loss or both.

Four of our members chose to log both exercise and weight loss, and a fifth member chose to log exercise only.

Within our 15 week semester, our 5-member team logged 31,753 minutes of exercise. That’s 529.22 hours, or an average of 35.28 hours per week. That means that each team member averaged 1 hour of exercise per day during our challenge period. Considering that our work days can get pretty long & hectic (with most of us often traveling), and we each have family and life responsibilities beyond our hallowed campus halls, I have to smile over the dedication shown.

Despite those great numbers, there were at least 2 teams who logged more hours. Isn’t that awesome?!

I haven’t heard all the weight loss numbers yet, but as for our four team members who participated in this segment…

Our official weigh-in revealed that we had collaboratively lost 60 pounds!!!!  Why, that means we lost an entire person among us!!!  (Okay, a very small person. Maybe one of Santa’s elves.)

In the world of work, how often do you get to team up with your colleagues in competition to celebrate a corporate loss?! And come out much closer as accountability partners?
This is surely one such loss that can be counted as great gain.

What a blessing this challenge has been. I can’t wait to hear the other teams’ numbers as the fat debit rates get reported in the red.

Mostly, I can’t wait to find out how many more people we lost across campus!

fitness

Ligo Haibun Challenge – Image Week

I’ve been out of the loop with the wonderful Ligo Haibun Challenge community, who first taught me what a haibun even was (it’s the combination of prose with a haiku, in case you were wondering) and, in that, made me realize how much I love this communicating art form. This week, we’ve been given the challenge to complete our haibun task as close to 123 words as p0ssible, using one of the visuals provided. According to Microsoft, I met the challenge exactly (but, admittedly, even computer programs miscount on occasion). This time, I hope it used all its digits. Get it?! Okay, moving along…

I chose the photo that our Pirate (Managua Gunn) describes as such: “The first picture is by Marina, my first penpal, from Kazan, in Tatarstan, who took the view from her flat.”  As beautiful as it is, my heart and mind immediately thought of the hardship this scene might create for some.

Picture

I slinked outside the window of the only shop that still appeared open, listening to its television hum, scrutinizing the perfect smile of the news anchor. She only laughed at me, her teeth as white as the snow she proclaimed to be beautiful, Botox causing her brow to be as peaceful as she declared our city amidst this unanticipated winter storm. Wasn’t it wonderful for everyone to be home, snug in their beds, she insisted.

I shuffled down the alley behind the store, unaware if my limbs ached. I could feel them no more. If city folks were boarded up in their houses, from where would I beg my next meal?

 

Snow: no warm blanket

my trembling form – unfeeling

as those warm inside

***

Please don’t forget the homeless this time of year. Even if they can find a meal and a night’s rest at a shelter, many have to leave – often before daylight – in the mornings (including children), when the temperatures are bitter cold. Many others aren’t even that fortunate. Consider a Christmas gift to your local shelter or church who ministers to the homeless. Even if you’re short on cash, perhaps you have some coats, gloves, insulated underwear or blankets that you aren’t using and that could be put to good use by others. Food banks run short during this time of year as well, as people who can sustain during warmer weather seek indoor shelter with warm meals to keep from becoming deathly ill. A small donation of cash or food can go a long way at your area food bank.

May your heart be warmed & blessed,

-jody

***

PictureJoin the Ligo Haibun Challenge by following this image URL.

Hope Melts

Christmas was coming. Lisa was missing her husband, Brian, who was still serving his country abroad. More than that, her children were missing their daddy miserably during that Christmas season of 2011. A majority of our American soldiers had been removed from Iraq by then, but not Brian. He was still one of those remaining, stationed there until May 2012. Lisa brought her little family to church for the Christmas Eve candlelight service that year. She was home for the holidays, surrounded by as many extended family members as possible. Both her children clutched their Daddy-ARMY-dolls that evening, but even a picturesque representation of Dad wasn’t going to stop the melt-down later that night. Santa may be coming to town…but Daddy wasn’t.

Despite their sad little hearts, they sat among us at the Christmas morning service. When our pastor asked if anyone had a praise to share,  7-year-old Nat was the first to respond. Without hesitation, she stood and proclaimed, “I’m thankful to be with my family on Christmas.” The wet drops sliding down many cheeks across the pews attested that all hearts there had begun to melt.

Paul talks about the small child leading us. You see, Nat was surely heartbroken. Yet, she refused to stay focused on the negativity of her situation. Instead, she caught a glimpse of the hope – and somehow instinctively knew she needed to SPEAK IT to make it more real. If she could begin to openly express that May would bring her daddy back to the United States – back home to her family – then she could envision that she and her mother and brother would be with him once again.

Oh, what spring-like joy welled up when May rolled around! Can you imagine what that reunion must have been like? For me, it was an infinitesimal glimpse of what our reunion with loved ones in heaven might one day be!

Oh, and in case you’re interested – their earthly reunion looked something like this…

welcome

_____________________________

I’ve been wanting to share this as a Christmas story for some time, so today seemed a perfect opportunity to integrate it with the Trifecta writing challenge (with a 333 word limit) and the 3rd definition of the challenge word. I stretched my options – and my luck – by metaphorically using the first definition to ultimately depict the 3rd definition. Even if I get called out on a foul, I wanted you to hear this beautiful, triumphant story that I was privileged to witness. It surely made my own heart melt. 🙂

Hope & Joy,

-jody

MELT (transitive verb)
1:  to reduce from a solid to a liquid state usually by heat

2:  to cause to disappear or disperse

– See more at: http://www.trifectawritingchallenge.com/#sthash.3xwaQzF7.dpuf