Merry Christmas

Once again it is the Christmas season, a day all Christians celebrate with joy, family, giving, feasting, and laughter. For most of us, the carols played bring a feeling that makes us take a second to sing along, or simply contemplate the meaning of the lyrics.

For those suffering loss, monetary difficulties, or loneliness, it is much harder to find peace in the season. Reach out to those who are in the same situation, band together, and find friendship among those who suffer, you might be the answer to a prayer, or you may be the very person they need to hug them and tell them they are a blessing to you. Even those with everything often stand alone and in loneliness.

My basket is full of family. I am supremely blessed with all the love I have around me beginning with my beloved husband, right down to my youngest great grandchild. This year we got to spend four whole days with two of the grandchildren, and my son and daughter in law will be here through New Years. We will have a family dinner with three generations, four if my mother decides to join us. And when we roll away from the table, the Nerf Wars will commence, filling the house with laughter. How can I not feel joy with a family like mine?

Anyone who knows me well, knows I am crazy about Christmas and decorate our home inside and out with lights and beautiful things. But I never forget the reason for the season, the birth of the Christ child who changed the world for all of us. Among all my beautiful decorations are no less than seven Nativity sets in everything from simple plastic to fragile china. Lovely in their simplicity, moving in their spiritual meaning. as I set them up each year, I pause to remember what the meaning of each piece means. Each Nativity set has a story of when and where I obtained it, and those stories often make me cry with the memories of days past. Not in sorrow, no I cry because I miss the people who have gone out of our lives since then. But no matter how much my life has changed, one thing never does, and that is the love that Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father have for me and all those that I love.

As we feast, celebrate, and enjoy the Christmas season, look around at the loved ones in your presence, and remember that they are first and foremost a Child of God. Some may stray from the path, some may get lost in the darkness of the world, but they all deserve to be loved for the small spark of sacredness within their souls.
May you all have a blessed and happy Christmas. Allow joy into your hearts and soul. Laugh out loud, hug someone, give of your happiness, and share your bounty, be it small or large. Blessed be one and all. Merry Christmas.

Why We Need A Two Year Old At Christmas

1. It is a good excuse to watch Christmas movies all day long.


2. You can sing Christmas songs at the top of your lungs and the kid thinks it is GREAT!

3. Tape takes on a whole new dimension when left in the hands of a little kid.

4. Baking cookies can be a daily activity, and so can eating them, cookies are a healthy snack if Nana makes them.

5. It is cool to be excited by Christmas lights, and we can say inane things to a the child, like “Oh Look! A Reindeer!” without other adults looking at us like we are on cog shy of a gear.

6. We can go shopping with the child, and no one bats an eye when we spend half an hour in the toy department playing with the toys. Gotta know if it is age appropriate after all.

7. We can say, in public, “If you aren’t going to behave, I am going to call Santa RIGHT NOW and have him put you on the naughty list.”

8. We can decorate the house and yard as garishly as we want, because children love all that sparkle and glitter, giving us the excuse to be over the top all we want.

9. We get to eat. A lot. Because children need to eat, and we need to test the food to make sure it is safe and healthy for them. Doesn’t matter if it is all the goodies we can get our hands on, someone has to be the taste tester.

10. We can read “The Night Before Christmas” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas” and the story of the birth of the Christ Child every single night, or day, at home or in the car, and no one thinks it is weird.

11. We can go see the newest movies for kids, and not feel like everyone thinks we are some sort of weirdo sitting in a theater full of kids.

12. We get to do fun stuff, like make Christmas ornaments from glue, paper, felt, paint, and the occasional crying fit.

13. We can make a mess every single day, and it is just fine to leave it until the child goes home. Unless, of course, it is spilled sugar – that has to be cleared up so it doesn’t feel like sand is all over the floor. Besides, a two year old might just decide to lick it off the floor (true story) for fun.

14. Wrapping paper can be more fun than the gift we are trying to wrap. Especially when combined with excuse number three.

15. We can play with all the toys that the kid got for Christmas, BEFORE the kid gets to. Someone has to put them together (some assembly required, my …. or how to bring out the Grinch in the old man on Christmas Eve).

16. Going to Walmart with cookie dough and flour down the front of your sweat shirt is OK. After all, the two year old has it in his/her hair, down the front, and in his/her shoes too.

17. Helping the child to dress the dog up to be a reindeer isn’t all that crazy and idea. But, I wouldn’t advise trying to do the same to a cat. Really. Not. Smart.

18. There is nothing wrong with having the child’s stuffed tiger in the manger for the baby Jesus. It works. And it saves on the requisite fight over the dolly that takes place between the angel and Mary after the play is over.

19. It is perfectly fine to sing different words to songs like Jingle Bells and Santa Claus is Coming to Town – as long as you keep them clean. Kids love that sort of silliness – and as long as there is a kid around, no one thinks you are two cogs short of a gear.

20. Stay up late night takes on a whole new meaning with an excited two year old who is waiting for Santa. But once the child is asleep, Papa Santa gets to eat the cookies and milk, and Nana Santa gets to eat the carrots and celery left out for the man in red and his reindeer, leaving behind enough crumbs to prove someone ate them. Then the “some assembly required” commences, leaving two very grumpy elves to find their way to bed way past their bedtime.

No Tech Christmas

It occurred to me, oh, several months ago, as I was organizing my Christmas list, that I wanted to give my grandchildren vintage toys. Well, remakes of vintage toys, the originals are far too pricey. I wanted them to have a Christmas where nothing they received from my husband and I needed a battery, cable, or plug in. It seems that we have overwhelmed our kids with things that beep, flash, talk, and require constant attention. It was time to get back to basics.

For my nine year old grandson, there were a set of stilts, modern and better made, but stilts, nonetheless. A honest to goodness wooden yoyo along with a trick book just like they had in the 1950’s, along with crazy straws, paddle balls, a board game, several joke books, and the Dangerous Book for Boys. I added a science project about gross things, and treats. Not one thing required any sort of power except boy power. He loved everything, and was working to master the yoyo when they went home.

For my six year old granddaughter, we got an art set. A real, honest to goodness set with everything from paints to pencils and everything to go with it. She is really into drawing and such. Several coloring books joined the set, along with lots and lots of paper. She also go the crazy straws and paddle balls, but girl stuff too, like a pair of shoes and an out fit. She got the Daring Book for Girls, that matched Nick’s for boys. And hair pretties along with a grooming kit. Nothing needed power other than the power of a girl. She was over the moon, and spent hours drawing.

And our little Addie? Her favorite toys is a small felt dolly I picked up for a buck at the dollar store. Who would have though!? We also got her a tent to play in, and to help corral her when we need to have our hands free for something. She loves that too, along with the drum, and soft toys she got. She was really having more fun with with the paper and boxes than anything.

It is easy to go on line and pick out things that beep and buzz for kids. It is much harder to think of the way their minds work and come up with innovative ways to entertain them. It is easy to let a machine entertain them, but it is, in my opinion, to encourage them to explore, invent, create, and study the world around them. Making them the center of the play, not the machine, will stretch their minds, help them create, and encourage exploration in all manners of topics.

Next year is going to be a challenge, but I am already doing research, and I expect something will come to mind. Like Jax and a jump rope for Bella, and some sort of cool science experiment for Nick. I’m thinking mad scientist, cool stuff. Addie will be easy, everything from toys to clothes . . . and boxes and paper.

I love being a Nana.

A Child’s Laughter

Last night was shopping at Walmart (Yes, I shop there, get over it if you object.), and while meandering through the grocery area, I heard a child laughing full out in a belly laugh. I walked to the end of the aisle, and a little girl about three years old was with her Daddy. I don’t know what he was telling her, but she was howling with laughter. Those happy, bright notes of pleasure had an astounding effect on everyone within ear shot.

Grumpy shoppers, worn out and tired, bogged down at the end of the day, were busy taking care of their business and avoiding eye contact with anyone else. We were all shuffling along, automatons filling our shopping baskets, not a smile amongst us. But, when that little girl started laughing out loud, heads came up. People paused and listened. Some went to see what was going on, others just stood where they were. Slowly, smiles appeared. People started looking each other in the eye, small comments were shared, and everyone felt the world lighten around them.

While I watched the little girl and her dad walk away, totally unaware of the joy they were bringing to all of us around them, I thought that there was nothing sweeter than the laughter of a child. It quite brought back a bit of Christmas Spirit to my sad soul. Bless you little girl, whoever you are, and wherever you are. And Bless you, her Daddy, who loves your child so much and knows how to make her joyful. girl with margarites in her hair

At A Little Stone Church

At the little stone church on a dusty country road, cars and trucks park in a row in the evening sun. The people stream into the building, dropping off homemade snacks while the aroma of coffee begins to fill room.

It is obvious that the people are long time friends as they greet one another. Slowly the stage fills with amplifiers, guitars, fiddles, mandolins, and a smiling man settles himself to play the piano. The men pick up their instruments, the audience quietly chatters, and with a downbeat the band begins to play.

This isn’t your ordinary band. The youngest member is in his early twenties, but the oldest is nearing eighty. The music is pure country and gospel – American style. They have hundreds of years of combined talent and ability between them, and it shows. There is no set pattern to the songs they play. In turn the singers, young and old alike, stand to sing songs that have been part of American music for generations. Sad songs, gospel songs filled with hope, and songs that create memories of days gone past. The band catches the downbeat and simply needs to know what key the singer wants to sing. Then they bring the music alive.

White heads nod in time to the music, worn hands clap out the beat, and faces smile in recognition of the talent of the musicians and singers. The younger faces in the crowded room smile and listen intently to the words of each song, knowing they were learning at the feet of masters.

As I sit and listen, I am transported back to the days of my childhood when I would listen to these same songs on the radio. Suddenly, my eyes fill with tears of nostalgia and the yearning for days that are long past.

I can’t help but wonder where the good in the world has gone. In the rush of getting ahead, making progress, and living large, the world has lost touch with the simple joys of life. Singing on the front porch with a guitar and mandolin, sitting around the kitchen table laughing at old stories, walking out into the sunset to enjoy the beauty, all seem to be lost in the hurry of life. Where are all our simple joys? What has happened to our traditions?

For the time being, they are alive and well in the small stone church on a dusty country road in Oklahoma. As the sunsets to the rhythm of country music, the world seems to stand still just to listen, with pure joy, to the melody.

Fairy Story (for Crystal)

“You could dance,” she said, to the small fairy under the oak leaf,  in the moonlight with silver streaks in your hair. “Or, you could walk the edges of the shadows and dare the night to catch you.  Come along, no time to weep, we must begin the revel, and you must put away your sorrow. Tonight you will learn to laugh away the sadness and find joy for tomorrow. Come, out from there. You are not a child any longer, live you will, live you must, and the mortal man you have loved, will, in time, become less and less of a memory.  Come, dance, it will lift your heart from its depths of unhappiness.”
In a swirl of moonlit silver the queenly figure danced away to a tune only heard in the fairy ring, deep in a forest glen.  The pipes and drum were played swiftly in a crescendo to match the flying notes of the violins. The small glen was awash with swaying and prancing minute figures, who, in sudden joy, would unfurl wings of shimmering gold and float far off the ground , spreading an incandescent light all about the trees.
One, however, sat alone under the oak leaf near her home tree, knees locked in her arms, head down, weeping.  She had just arrived from the outer world of humans, a world where, for many of the human years, she had lived the illusion of being one of them.  A time, when against all advice from her fellow fairies, she loved a man.  And, as these things often do, he aged, grew tired, and finally, despite all her magic, died. She grieved there among the leaves, and saw no joy in the morrow. The small fairy felt so odd being back to her given size after all those years away.  She didn’t feel free, she felt small and insignificant. Sitting alone, the near shadows creeping ever closer, the soft silver of her hair hid her face and the deep green eyes so common among her kind. Her magic aura kept skipping around her, first purple, then green, then a bright, glowing gold, but she took no notice.  She wanted to be alone.  Alone, so she could suffer and no one would tell her nay.
In time, the fairies tired and flew away to homes and beds among the trees. The music stopped and the musicians fell asleep under the nearest toadstool or flower, content that they would be safe in the magic around them. As the stars faded one by one and the sun began to turn the deep night into dawn, the fairy stirred from her place and stood to face the ever brightening east.  One loan piper watched and began to play a soft, somber melody.  In a clear, sweet tone, the music reached into the heart of the sad little fairy and she began to dance.  She danced for the long years she and her man would be apart, for a fairy lives nearly forever. She danced for the sorrow she felt, and she danced for solace from pain.  Around the fairy circle she danced, twirling and leaping in an every increasing frenzy.  Then, when it seemed she must take flight to survive, she dropped to the soft green grass, and slept.
The piper, alone in the magic of the small fairy, stared at her in awe.  For never had he felt such power, such magic, from within the circle. As the fairy slept, the sun rose higher, creeping across the glen, ever closer to her.  Its warmth sent rays of comfort to her heart and mind as she slept the cleansing sleep.  One stood watch, the piper, and in time he placed a leaf over her for protection and added warmth. All the day long, as shadow chased the sun, he watched and tended the needs of the powerful, yet sad, little fairy.
As all things do, the day came to an end.  One by one the revel makers came back to dance under the full moon, only to stop when they saw the gentle fairy asleep in the midst of their circle.  They came one by one, quiet and in reverence, for the piper told all in the silent fairy language – from mind to mind – what she had done.  They stood, waiting for the magic to begin again, so that they could, too, partake.  Slowly she stretched her arms and legs, rolling on to her back.  A yawn later she was standing before them in all her silver glory.  She smiled, and the crowd of fairies gasped at the beauty of her face.  Then in a voice, soft, sweet, and warm as honey, she told them of her dream.
“I danced, alone in a garden circle, filled with the aroma of roses and lemons. I danced alone, in the magic of moonlight, with a piper only to urge me on.  I danced, in joy, in sorrow, and in pain.  I danced for love, for suffering, for solace.  I danced, to complete my circle and to end from whence I began.  Alone, I tread the world of mankind.  Alone, I tread the circle.  In my dream, my true love came, not the passion of youth.  I took his hand, felt his magic, and knew eternal love.  In my dream, I am whole, in my dream I am true, in my dream I am magic.  And now I wake, surrounded by love.  I know that I am home.
I will miss the man of  my youth, I will love him always.  But here, among the fairy ken, I will find a magical joining.”
All the males surged forward, hoping she would hand-fast them, for her beauty and magic shown about her.  But, she turned and walked to the edge of the shadows, and took the piper’s hand.  “This male,” said she, “will fill my life with gentle compassion and love.  I, in return, shall be his muse, and magical music there shall always be.”  She bowed to the queenly figure, who bowed in return, and walked away through the trees.  Now and then, when the wind is right, and the moon is softly full, wanderers will hear a sweet melody played upon a pipe. In their hearts a yearning will grow to turn to the one they love, to hold them and tell them so.  It is, of course, the small fairy and her piper, leading hearts to hearts still yet, for they will live nearly until forever.
26, November, 1998

The Colours of Our World

The Colours of Our World
She painted the sky purple and the grass red. The flowers were streaks of pink on black; the house was crooked and orange with bright green swirls of smoke coming from the slanted chimney. The sun was a bright yellow circle with a smiling face painted in it, and the stick figures were dancing around the fanciful garden.
When the teacher bent to tell her that the grass should be green, the sky blue, and that the sun didn’t really have a face, the little girl looked at her and said, “Why not?” Being a grownup who believed in remaining firmly planted in reality, the teacher sputtered, “Because! That is how it really is!”
The little girl smiled winsomely at her teacher, and with all the wisdom of a five year old said, “Only if your old,” and happily applied another coat of purple to her sky. As she freely expressed her delight in the colours of her world, the little girl was teaching a lesson that would do all of us “grownups” good.
Sure, we all know reality. We are familiar with every shade of grass and sky. We have all the facts, figures, and knowledge accumulated through our lives. We are experts. In lock step, we move along our tunnel vision lives leaving behind the images of imagination to focus on the business of life. We base our very lives in the context of what is real. Or is it?
When was the last time you danced for the sheer joy of it? When was the last time you sang in the shower, or ate Jell-O out of the bowl straight from the refrigerator? When was the last time you took time to feel the texture of your favourite old sweater with your fingertips while your eyes were closed? When was the last time you caught rain drops on your tongue, or splashed in a mud puddle, or allowed yourself to be soaked to the skin in a sudden rain storm? How long ago was it that you last marched along humming a rousing rendition of a patriotic song? When did you stop seeing the magic in your life?
When we stop dreaming, when we stop seeing purple skies and red grass, when we stop yearning for magic in our lives – and finding it – when we forget that reality is what we make it, then we have forgotten the colours of our world.

Karron Combs
30 July, 2002