Archive - December, 2010

Dear person I just unfollowed on Twitter (repost)

Okay, lovely people! Last repost for awhile. Pinky promise! I’ll be back next week with some new stuff. Now, I guess I need to do some writing, huh? Happy New Year!


It’s not you, it’s me.

Okay, that’s not true. It’s totally you. For most of you, it was a simple matter of you not following me back. Now, that’s not to say I follow people simply to be followed back. I actually followed you because either someone in my “friends” column recommended you or someone I follow retweeted something amusing or interesting from you. Or maybe I know of you through your blog or something.

Or maybe you’re in publishing or you’re an agent or a well known author and I thought it would be a good idea to follow you to keep up with the latest goings on in the literary world. But then I figured, I follow plenty of publishers, agents, and well known authors who follow me back. And it’s pretty rare I read something in 140 characters or less that I would put into the category of “life changing”.

I followed a few of you celebrities for a bit. But then I remembered I don’t care what you ate for lunch, where you ate your lunch, who you ate your lunch with, that your new album is selling really well, or that OMG you’re LMAO.

And then there are the “social media experts” who I followed a long time ago before I knew any better. Ah, well. Live and learn.

Here’s the thing about me and the twitter – I actually like having conversations with people. If you’re not following me, how am I supposed to talk to you or give you unsolicited advice about things that are absolutely none of my business?

I’m sure you see my point.

Love,

@katdish

P.S. – Now that I’ve cleaned out my following list, I need some new folks to follow. Gimme some good suggestions, will you please?

Losing your monkey (repost)

Today’s repost is a lesson inspired by one of my kids. When I became a mom I thought I would be the one imparting wisdom. Go figure…

When my daughter Rachel was a year old, she received a stuffed animal as a Christmas present – one of those long-legged monkeys with Velcro on the hands and feet. She had plenty of other stuffed animals, but for whatever reason she latched onto that monkey from the moment she got it.

“Monkey” became her constant companion. When we went to the doctor to get shots, it was Monkey she clung to for comfort. She dragged him everywhere – literally and figuratively. As you might imagine, Monkey got a tad gamey after awhile. I was afraid to wash him for fear he would lose his fluffiness, but after she got sick, I really didn’t have a choice. The thing was a furry petri dish of potential infection.

After the initial washing, Monkey made a trip to the washing machine on a weekly basis. My daughter was unfazed. It seemed the more matted his coat became, the more she loved him. Linus had his blue blanket. My daughter had Monkey.

Until that horrible January day a few years ago. Rachel was 3 years old. We were up at the church building putting away Christmas decorations and costumes from a Christmas program. After a few hours up at the church with nothing much to keep her entertained, Rachel became cranky and was in need of a nap. I excused myself from the rest of the work crew, drove home and prepared to put her down for a nap.

Exhausted, she lay down and through heavy lids said the word that caused a sinking feeling in my stomach:

“Monkey”

I tried to mentally backtrack all the place we had been in the church building. Several boxes had been packed away and stored in the attic. I immediately called the church office. Everyone there was quite aware of Rachel’s attachment to Monkey. No one had seen him.

Back up to church. Several searches through countless boxes in the attic and in every room and storage closet in the building and still no sign of Monkey.

I promised my daughter that I would look again the following day. She didn’t want to go to sleep without him, but she was somewhat comforted by the hope that he would be back the following day.

When the second search produced the same results as the first, I began to panic. I’m ashamed to say that I went so far as to buy a new monkey at Rainforst Cafe in the hopes of passing it off as the original. In an attempt to age the monkey in record time, I covered it in Vaseline, rolled it in the dirt and washed it. I repeated this process four times. (Pathetic much? Yes. Yes I am.) When presented with the monkey, as I expected Rachel said, “That’s not my monkey. It’s too fluffy.”

I hung my head and accepted defeat. I told her Monkey was gone and he most likely would not be found. She cried. I cried. We mourned the passing of Monkey. The first night without him was a long one.

But guess what? The day she lost that monkey was the day she stopped sucking her fingers and the day she began to realize that she could comfort herself.

And I realized the things we sometimes desperately cling to for comfort and security only represent the strength that was within us all along.

So how about it? Are you ready to lose your monkey?

Pardon me while I rant incessantly: Ring bell for good service (repost)

What would a week of favorites be without a good katrant? It’s hard to pick a favorite, I love me a good katrant. This was just the first one I stumbled upon…

I don’t know what it is about grocery shopping that turns me into a grumpy ho, but I dislike everything about it–the meal planning, the list making, the coupon clipping (HA!–As if)–I’m already stressed out and I haven’t even left my house yet! Now, with most chores I find unappealing, I find that once I stop procrastinating and just do them, they’re really not so bad after all.

Grocery shopping? Not so much…

My disdain for the grocery store is well documented. In my post I do not heart grocery shopping, I took you along as I trudged through the aisles of the local Kroger, where you met the beloved Pornographic Cheese Buttler. You then shared in my outrage at the removal of said PCB in Say it ain’t so, Kro! Say it ain’t so!

Is it any big surprise that the same local grocery store would be the object of my latest incessant rant?

Back in March of this year, Billy Coffey wrote a post called Grocery store goodness where he describes the latest phenomenon encouraging excellent customer service: the “Ring bell if you received excellent customer service” bell.

In a nutshell, here’s the concept at my store:

  • There’s a bell with a sign at each register.
  • If your cashier gives you excellent customer service, you ring the bell.
  • Upon hearing the bell, the entire staff of store stops what they’re doing and applauds for the cashier a-la Pavlov’s dog.

In his typical style, Billy ends the story with an important life lesson on the importance of doing good not for the sake of recognition, but simply to give of yourself without expecting anything in return. And while I could also go this route, I figured he already covered it, so I’m just gonna gripe. You’re welcome.

Don’t get me wrong–I’m all about appreciating good customer service. Especially since it seems so rare these days. I’m not one of those people who are rude to store employees because I’m having a bad day. I worked retail back in the stone ages when the customer really was always right. Believe me, I’ve smiled and bit a hole through my tongue more times than I care to remember rather than telling some jerk with a superiority complex who talks down to a sales associate what I really thought of them. I get it. I go out of my way to be nice to people who often have jobs I suspect they would rather not have.

But this bell crap? Not a fan. Now, if they had an option for bad customer service I might be more inclined to participate in the celebration of the good service.

For example:

Cashier carries on conversation with bagger about how many hours the manager screwed him out of this week without acknowledging the customer whose groceries he is ringing up…

Ding!

Employees park grocery carts in the covered walkway of the shopping center instead of in the designated shopping cart area inside the store, forcing customers to push their grocery laden carts in front of the store where all the thru traffic is. For some reason, this only happens when it is raining.

Ding!

Customer seeks assistance checking out groceries from one of the five cashiers standing around the customer service desk and is told, “The self-service lines are open.”

DING!

Store management removes the Pornographic Cheese Buttler display from the store and ruins any remote possibility of me having fun at the grocery store…

DING! DING! DING!

Enough with all the positivie reinforcement stuff already if you’re not going to acknowledge and correct all the things that make grocery shopping an unpleasant experience. And bring PCB back. His public awaits…

Dare you to move (repost)

Hey there, people! I’m still vacationing and spending time with family, so I thought I would repost some of my favorite posts from this year this week. If you haven’t read this one, I hope you’ll enjoy it. If you have, maybe you’ll enjoy it again!

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Do you remember the movie “The Truman Show”? It was a story about a man (played by Jim Carrey) whose entire life was a 24 hour a day reality show. Everyone in his life was in on the plot. Everyone, that is, except for Truman. Even though everyone goes to great lengths to conceal from him what’s really going on, he begins to suspect that he is playing a part. A part that he would have not scripted for himself.

Does your life feel like this sometimes? Do you feel like you’re playing a part for everyone else? Does it leave you feeling empty inside? Did you ever stop to consider that even though you’re doing everything everyone else is expecting of you, perhaps God had something else in mind for you? Something that goes against what you’ve always been lead to believe? Can you move beyond religion and move towards faith? Can you imagine beyond the constraints of your current situation? Can you trust that God can make sense of something you can’t seem to envision? I can. Because God can see far beyond what makes sense from our limited perspective.

I dare you to follow your passions

I dare you to lead with your heart

I dare you to believe that dreams can come true

I dare you to move

“Dare You To Move” by Switchfoot

Welcome to the planet
Welcome to existence
Everyone’s here
Everyone’s here
Everybody’s watching you now
Everybody waits for you now
What happens next
What happens next

[Chorus]
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened before

Welcome to the fallout
Welcome to resistance
The tension is here
Tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be

[Chorus]

Maybe redemption has stories to tell
Maybe forgiveness is right where you fell
Where can you run to escape from yourself?
Where you gonna go?
Where you gonna go?
Salvation is here

I dare you to move
I dare you to move
I dare you to lift yourself up off the floor
I dare you to move
I dare you to move
Like today never happened
Today never happened
Today never happened
Today never happened before

Hearing the bell (by Billy Coffey)

image courtesy of photobucket.com

The irony of Christmas (at least on the purely materialistic level) is that one waits all year for something that’s over in five minutes. Or rather, four minutes and thirty-seven seconds. That’s how long it took for my children to rip through the wrapping paper that covered their gifts. It looked like a blizzard of gold and green.

This wasn’t lost on the kids, whom afterward sat among the empty boxes and shredded paper wondering aloud if there was more. There wasn’t. Both were fine with that—their gifts were more than they expected, and neither have ever been the greedy sort. They simply wanted to stretch the moment out as long as possible.

I couldn’t blame them. As dramatic and exciting as the days leading up to Christmas can be to a child, the moments afterward can border on the depressing. Soon, the tree and the outside lights will be taken down. The snow will melt. School will resume. Life as they knew it would begin again in all its pall color. The magic would be left behind.

For a brief moment, I saw those thoughts on their faces. And I felt them on my own.

_________

They’ve been watching The Polar Express a lot this year. It’s the new classic in the house, worthy of placement alongside A Charlie Brown Christmas and Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey. If you’ve never seen it, the plot revolves around a boy who has lost his belief in the magic of Christmas to the point where he can no longer hear the bells on Santa’s sleigh. It’s a fantastic movie, and quite spiritual in some places. At the end, the boy’s sense of magic is restored. Santa grants him the honor of receiving the first present of Christmas, and he asks for a bell that’s fallen from a reindeer harness. A bell he can hear ring once more.

I say that to say this:

When I walked upstairs on Christmas night to get some writing done, sitting on the top of my desk was one last present for me.

A bell.

No one would take credit as the Giver. Even now, two days later, I have no idea whose idea it was. But I’d like to thank him or her for it. It’s a reminder that Christmas doesn’t have to end on December 26th. The giving and the joy can continue on through the weeks and months.

I believe that. I do.

I will keep this bell here on my desk as a reminder. On those lightless days when the world seems drear and heavy, when the words will not come, I’ll pick it up and give it a good shake.

I figure as long as I can hear the bell ring, I’m okay.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website, follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey, and visiit his author page on Facebook.

Christmas bells

image courtesy of photobucket.com

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
‘There is no peace on earth, ‘ I said
‘For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.’

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.’

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Thank you for taking the time to stop by my little corner of the interwebs. Merry Christmas to you all. Be safe and be blessed.

The Reason

It’s 7:00 a.m. on Christmas Eve, Eve. This is the post I would have ordinarily already written and posted. But alas, there was last minute shopping to attend to and family to spend time with, and rather than coming into my office and writing when everyone else is in bed, I chose to follow the rest of the family’s lead and go to bed myself. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I was watching tv in the bedroom and began to nod off. When my husband asked me if I had written my post for today, my response was, “Yeah, no. I’m going to sleep.”

I enjoy blogging immensely. It’s time consuming, but it’s time I willingly give. But this time of year, for me, anyway, there are many other obligations that demand my time. About an hour ago, I wrapped the last present and put it under the tree. Now begins the “visiting family” portion of the Christmas season. It’s all good–just a bit daunting, what with divorced parents (one of which lives in Austin) and in-laws who live out of state. We will be able to spend time with everyone, it just won’t happen on or before Christmas day.

I’ve expressed here before that I’m not exactly feeling the Christmas spirit this year. I’ve been playing Christmas music to try and get me in the mood, but much of it left me feeling guilty because I wasn’t having a holly, jolly Christmas. So, imagine my surprise when a song which I’m sure was NOT written about Christmas would put things back into perspective for me. God speaks to us from the most unexpected places sometimes.

I found a reason for me
to change who I used to be
a reason to start over new
And the reason is You…

Merry Christmas, my friends.

Peace on Earth (by Sherri Murphy)

I’ve met a lot of wonderful people through blogging and social media, but there are a handful of people whom I’ve known almost as long as I’ve been blogging. This small group of “imaginary friends”, as Candy Steele’s husband Ron Burgandy calls us? Well, they are extremely special and very near and dear to my heart. Sherri Murphy is a charter member of this group. I tease her relentlessly, but only because I know I can get away with it. Also, she knows I love her.

Sherri is a motivational speaker and freelance writer. She is wife to Big Al and the mother of three very manly sons. Which I find incredibly ironic, since she’s probably the girliest girl I know. She once told me her sons would have preferred to have me as a mother. But I know that’s nonsense; they have the best mom they could hope for in Sherri. Also because, unlike Sherri, I’m way too young to have grown children. Snort! (I’m sorry, Sherri–I don’t know what it is. I just can’t help myself.) Anyway, here’s my friend Sherri with a beautiful Christmas story I hope you will all take to heart.

Peace on Earth
“Sherri. I need to talk to you…..Jordan’s joining the Army.”

My husband said this to me calmly, avoiding direct eye contact, merely looking in my general direction. He continued. “Now don’t get upset…he’s thought this through. Actually he’s been looking into for quite awhile. He’s smart-he’s not going to sign up officially until the position he wants is available…”

I think he continued to talk and tried to convince me that joining the Army was a good idea, but my mind immediately went to battle fields, and funerals and other horrors that war brings to the doorsteps of otherwise peace-loving families. I don’t remember his words after the initial statements. They really weren’t important. I began focusing on my words–the words I was planning to use to convince my son NOT to sign on the dotted line and allow Uncle Sam to dictate the next several years of his life.(I hated to even refer to him as “Uncle” because I did not want Sam to be considered a part of my family.)

My husband and I have reared three boys, and I will admit, it has always been a secret fear of mine that one of them would fight in a war. When those smooth-talking recruiters would call our home and ask to speak with one of them, I would kindly thank them for their service to our country, but would inform them that I would not be forwarding the message on to my son. I don’t think they really knew how to respond to me, but I was not concerned. I tried to block their attempts of reaching any of my sons and luring them in with promises and grandiose offers that would be too good for an 18 -year- old boy to refuse. It worked… For awhile anyway.

Unbeknownst to me, my 23 -year -old son, a talented photographer/graphic artist who also loved to compete in Mixed Martial Arts (“cage fighting” for those who aren’t familiar with MMA), was feeling very unfulfilled, and had been exploring different avenues for his future. One particular position in the Army was appealing to him, as was the the desire to become a part of something larger than himself. He waited until the position came open, and began the process to fulfill his heart’s desire; to serve our country and use his gifts at the same time.

We threw a big shindig for our middle son, to honor his departure from life as a civilian into the life as property of the US Army–we invited his friends and our friends and family, as we gave him our “blessing” (mine was a bit forced) and offered prayers, and hugs and words of encouragement.

It wasn’t until later that evening, as the guests had said their last goodbyes and he was standing proudly within a small group of his closest friends, that it really dawned on me–my world as I knew it, was about to drastically change. I walked over to give him a hug and I began crying uncontrollably. He held me even closer, and offered a tighter hug of consolation, but even he knew there were no words–not his, nor mine that could ease my mind. We just stood there holding each other.

I finally dragged myself to the car and went home. As I walked inside my house, my legs were as heavy as my heart and I found it difficult to climb the top of the stairs to my bedroom.

When I finally was able to lay my head on my pillow, I began what would become a daily ritual–a prayer for peace. I prayed for peace for Jordan- that no matter what he was asked to face, endure or accomplish, he would feel peace inside- that powerful peace that only God could give. Peace that has nothing to do with the circumstances surounding him. I asked for peace for my own soul that knew I could not live in a state of fear and panic throughout his time in the Army. And peace for the troops already serving in various parts of our world- some in the line of danger, some protecting the peace that has recently come to an area. That word continued to return to my lips—PEACE.

The following day we traveled to St. Louis to witness his “swearing in” and we were allowed to take photos and enjoy a nice lunch and conversation before leaving him behind as he later traveled to his destination, Ft. Leonard Wood, Mo. to begin his 10 week basic training. I gave him a letter with several prayers that I would be praying, beginning with a prayer for peace. I told him I would write to him everyday.He smiled. He knew I would keep my word. We hugged him, held him, told him how proud we were of him. He smiled and assured us that he would be fine. Then he left.

The ride home in the car was nearly silent, as his Father and I were surely playing out different scenarios in our heads. His were more than likely full of pride with a bit of reservation – mine filled with much reservation and a bit of pride. I didn’t have much of an appetitie over the next few days as I knew a child I loved would soon be experiencing the wrath of angry drill sergeants that would be bound and determined to make an ARMY STRONG man out of my son in just a couple of months. I feared he would be homesick, or have regrets or get hurt.

I continued to pray. “Peace to Jordan- God, let him feel your presence. Whatever he is going through- let him feel your peace.”

I knew from my own experience, that if I could feel peace, I could handle anything. And often, the mental anguish I would experience was sometimes much worse than anything I was asked to walk through. So I asked, pleaded, and yes, begged God to allow him to feel that peace for himself.

One of his very first letters home was a literal gift to this mother’s soul. I tore open the blue-grey Army stationary and while my heart beat wildly anticipating his words, I felt a calm come over me that really has not left in nearly two months. In his letter , he wrote about his experience in the gas chamber. The dreaded gas chamber. It mattered not if they were the strongest in the platoon,nor did their age or gender become a factor, the gas chamber had no mercy on its visitors. They all dreaded this visit. The gas burns the eyes, nose, mouth and skin, and causes extreme nausea.. No one exits this building without the same effects. As I read the words he penned, I cried…but this time, they were tears of joy.

“Mom, you know that peace that you pray for me to receive? Well, I have received it. Even before I went into the gas chamber, I felt totally calm and collected. I think it was good for those around me to see someone like that. They needed to see someone with courage. I think it helped them.”

He went on to share his excitement in learning new things including firing many different weapons, including a bazooka and grenades, that he had only seen in movies. He described treacherous obstacle courses that he excelled in completing, ranking as #2 in a battalion of 200. He told many stories of the devotion and camaraderie of his fellow members of the WARLORD platoon-stories that made my heart swell with gratitude. He also shared about his sore feet, sore throat and aching body, however, he assured me that the good far outweighed the bad. As an artist, he even sent a funny cartoon of his experience of three drill sergeants at once screaming in his face while he was only allowed to answer “Yes, Drill Sergeant!” while never making eye contact. He even likes the food!

I can sense the pride in what he has been able to achieve in such a small amount of time. I can also recognize the growth–the transformation from a young man into an Army Man.

“I love who I am becoming as a person. My buddy and I always talk about how this is making us better people. Inwardly, I am growing and strengthening daily, and the Lord is more evident than ever. I am so glad I followed my heart on making this decision. ARMY…one of the best things I’ve been through.”

No other words could have been more comforting to this mother’s heart. God had heard my prayers. He sent His peace to earth again. Just as did over 2000 years ago.

My prayers for peace will continue to be offered on behalf of my son regardless where his Army service takes him, and I know how powerful that peace will be. I will pray for the peace of all the soldiers serving their country in many areas around the globe, and also for their families whose hearts weigh heavy with worry and fear regarding their safety.

As I read the Christmas story again this year, yet another meaning will spring from the pages of the New Testament from the pen of the disciple Luke. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, PEACE, goodwill toward men.”

This is my prayer. May one and all find the peace of God.

Have a wonderful peaceful Christmas.

To read more from Sherri Murphy, visit her at her blog, Matter of Fact, follow her on twitter @gabbysherri, and check out her Facebook page Murphy’s Law.

Lessons from the snow (repost)

Well, hey there. I’ve been a little out of touch with the virtual world as of late. My kids are off from school and it seems they want to do stuff. They really don’t care that Christmas is 4 days away and I haven’t finished Christmas shopping. (They’d probably care more if they knew their gifts were among the ones that haven’t been purchased yet, but whatever.)

Tomorrow I have a guest post from my friend Sherri. I also have a guest blog post for my friend Mike Ellis. But for today? Yeppers. Leftovers. This was originally posted in December of last year, when it wasn’t 75 degrees and humid like it is now.

As I mentioned on Saturday, we had a pretty significant snowfall last Friday. I received a pre-recorded phone call from the school district informing parents that students would be released early due to inclement weather. I was expecting this. Folks in this neck of the woods drive big trucks and SUVs, but we’re pretty clueless when it comes to how to drive in snow and ice. I was also expecting my kids to be very excited about being able to play in the snow.

Both kids soon bounded through the door–my 12 year old son more excited about getting out of school early than the reason behind it, but my daughter? She couldn’t wait to get back outside and play in the white stuff.

Soon enough the three of us made our way to the backyard. After a brief snowball fight, my son found his way to the swing set. Content to be an observer rather than a participant, he simply enjoyed the blanket of white and the cold while listening to tunes on his ipod.

At this point in the story I could wax poetic about how I reveled in the opportunity to trod through the snow with my 8 year old daughter and experience the rare and magical experience. Instead I’ll be honest and tell you it was cold out there. I had things to do inside. The early dismissal forced me out of my regularly scheduled programming. Basically, I wanted my day back.

And then I caught a glimpse of what my daughter was experiencing and suddenly none of those other things mattered. Because what she had found in the snow-covered lawn was joy — pure, unadulterated, unapologetic, incredibly contagious joy.

So I cheered her on while she made a snow angel, helped her wrap up some snow in tin foil and stored it in the freezer for safe keeping.

We rolled three balls of snow together to make a snowman. We raided the kitchen together to find a carrot nose and raisin eyes. She cheered me on while I clipped a stray branch from an oak tree for arms, even after I got a face full of wet snow for my trouble.

By the end of the following day the snow had been replaced by drizzling rain and the snowman was a shadow of his former self. But even though the snow had melted the memories will remain.

I’ve often wondered where that magic of childhood goes once we’re introduced to the realities of this world. I’ve wondered if it simply abandons us or if it merely sleeps somewhere inside our hidden places. I’m still not sure if it’s either or none. But I am sure of this–we don’t have a say in growing older. But we sure do have a say in growing up.

The battle of the Chandlers (by Billy Coffey)

ChistmasDecorations-SantaTommy and Betty Chandler have been together since high school, almost forty years ago. They’ve endured recessions, job losses, three children, six grandchildren, and one bout with cancer. They’ve also endured each other. There are those around here who say that’s the miracle. You would also be hard pressed to find two people so diametrically opposed in both taste and personality.

Their two-story farmhouse sits at the entrance to my neighborhood and is a wonder of style and sophistication, thanks in large part to Betty’s knack for having things Just So. That may well be Betty’s motto in life—Just So. Everything in its proper place in an anal-retentive sort of way. Tommy doesn’t seem to mind, though he did confess this to me one lazy afternoon:

“Betty’s a freak.”

Said in a loving way, of course. Tommy adores Betty and Betty adores him right back. They’ve reached a sort of balance over the years, a compromise designed with toleration in mind. Betty can do whatever she wants with the house, but the garage is Tommy’s alone. Manland, he calls it. Where there are tools and dirt and grease and where Longaberger baskets and frilly placemats go to die. Betty never ventures into Manland. It’s sacred ground. And Tommy is the benevolent, all-powerful, all-knowing ruler.

All of this goes to show that love really can overcome differences. Usually.

Betty’s taste for Christmas decorations is much like her personality—Just So. Tommy, however, tends to lean toward Clark Griswold in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Not a good combination. But as the house was agreed to be Betty’s domain (the yard too, since she contends it’s an extension of the house), Tommy can’t do much with his decorating style (big and gaudy) but sulk.

However.

Two days ago Tommy happened upon a huge plastic Santa at the hardware store. Complete with silly grin, blinking lights, and a continuously waving hand. And thanks to a motion sensor under his cap, he even turned his head and shouted “HO-HO-HO!” at passing cars.

It was without a doubt the most overpriced, over-hyped, overdone monstrosity Tommy had ever seen. And also the most beautiful Christmas decoration he could have ever dreamed of putting up at his house.

Tommy knew what Betty would say. Didn’t care, either. He brought it home strapped to the bed of his truck, slapped it smack in the middle of the yard, and dared his wife to say one word about it.

Betty took that dare.

She said Tommy had better get that no-good, white trash, trailer park hunk of ugly out of her front yard now. And said Tommy had about as much sense as the idiot who dreamed up such a travesty of a Christmas decoration, and that he’d better thank God Almighty that she was around to keep things respectable around their house.

The Santa is no longer in the front yard.

“Sometimes in a marriage, you gotta do a little sacrificing,” Tommy told me.

But the story doesn’t end there. Tommy still had one card to play. Driving past his house just a little bit ago, I noticed the garage doors on the Chandler’s house were open. Tommy was on a throne disguised as an old lawn chair, presiding over the kingdom of Manland. He wasn’t alone, either. Right beside him blinking and shining and Ho-Ho-Hoing to all was the ugly Santa, safely out of reach of Betty’s rigid standards. After all, Manland is sacred ground.

I blew the horn as I drove past. Tommy toasted me with his can of beer and patted Santa’s belly.

I smiled. Two refugees from Prim and Proper Land, seeking asylum in a place where it’s Come As You Are. I liked that. There’s a certain rightness in being accepted despite the fact you’re not quite up to snuff.

I think we often get the impression that God’s in Tommy and Betty Chandler’s house. That if we want to see Him we’d better wipe our feet and dress nice and have everything Just So. But I don’t think that’s true. I think God’s out in Manland with the dirt and the grease, sitting in an old lawn chair with Tommy and admiring his Santa.

To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.

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