Simply, Christmas...

I was reminded in the last few days how simple Christmas really is. A little meltdown and then a chance to scrap Miss M - takes me where I need to go for the next few days. It is simply, Christmas...

Merry Christmas...

I wish you and yours the Merriest of Christmas's this year. It is the only one you have so enjoy it fully and experience it wholly. Find a child and purpose to find Christmas in their eyes. You will find yourself unable to stop smiling.

This has been quite a year. I remember being snowed in most of January, DD would need to take the only snow-reliable vehicle to go to the only job that supported us. I gladly stayed in and started to get a bit antsy toward the February but with the death of DH's father, February would be anything but quiet.

Completely unrelated to that event, we found ourselves with our mortgage being paid off by a good friend. For us, 2009 had come in with a whirlwind of emotions and little did we know - it wasn't over. There is a good reason that Time magazine couldn't come up with an alternative to compete with naming Barack Obama as Person of the Year. It was Something we never really could wrap our minds around until Obama walked out on the stage Election night. You could help but be moved, and I think I realized we had turned some kind of culture corner. As Jay Leno would say later in the year, It is a young man's game. If our country had a theme this year, I think I would chose this one.

My babies grew not only older but much wiser. Their parents have grown by leaps and bounds too. Sometimes, you just get It and this year was their year. For me, it was all about learning that Everything Is Spiritual. I am looking thru a whole different lens than before. With the last quarter of this year, it certainly has brought a whole new meaning to life.

Tuesday was J and my Annual Christmas shopping day,. We take a List and conquer. She had not been in the new Forever 21 store at the Mall but so we cruised thru and took in a gob of sparkly. Very hip, very chic - rooms painted black and mirrors everywhere. I picked up a few things and she noticed that the shopping bags had John3:16 printed on them. The sales girl didn't know why. Imagine that.

As for me - creativity has became more real, letting the unimportant roll off my back has become easier to do and I learned just to be all I can be on any given day, no matter what that looks like. Sick on the couch - great. Wondering around Walmart and running into Jesus in the form of a crazily - dressed and coiffed woman talking about ice cream - great. With 2008 rapidly ending in a sea of the unknown, I am ready to be all I can be, knowing that that doesn't mean what I think it means...and I won't until I need to but I know where to look for my Comfort and Joy and that is all I need.

Carry the next few days in your heart and treasure the times you have with those you love. Be silly, sing out loud and allow yourself to be a kid, Somewhere this Christmas season. You are precious to me and I wish you the best Christmas ever - not about what you give or get but about your heart overflowing with what you have and that you have an abundance of tears, tears of joy. Merry Christmas, love zalaine.

ps See you Jan 5...

nothing quite says Christmas like a...

class action lawsuit. If you have never been a part of one, at first glance - it would seem to be just another piece of junk mail but because I had this same experience abut 14 years ago, I now know better. About $9000 better.

It starts with a official looking piece of mail with your name written on it. A bunch of legal mumbo-jumbo on a few pieces of paper basically telling you that Someone filed a lawsuit and you are just along for the ride. The first time I decided if if it was real, which I was convinced - it was not, I would be happy with pizza money. It had to do with my employer at the time and the unfair pay practices toward women and without lifting a finger, I walked away with a little over $9000. This time it is our life insurance company and there is no way it can be any more than pizza money, yet I can't help but being excited to watch the mail for the next few months.

On December 24, 2008 at 10:00AM, the Court will hold a Final Settlement Hearing... Well, Merry Christmas Eve to all us settlement owners and thanks to Nicholas Papadakis for making it all possible. It reminds me of what my online pastor, Pastor Pete says about what his church really believes, Everyone's welcome, nobody's perfect and anything's possible.. In one of the great sermons ever preached - in the words of Anne Lamott, Me Too...

Dec 26...

As I go through this Christmas season 2008, I have this nagging theme running in the background -Dec 26. I usually think about how January will effect the country's checkbook and how it should be known as the Mac & Cheese month because that is about all anyone can afford after paying their December credit cards but this is different. It's not about Christmas - that is the least of my worries this year.

Everywhere I go or anyone I ask who works in retail says shopping is brisk. The news tells me that sales and extra giving are down so not sure what I am seeing. Maybe people think they are going to lose their jobs in 2009 and they might as well go out with a bang. Maybe they already have a date with an attorney to file bankruptcy papers and it is their last hurrah. makes me wonder what Christmas 2009 will look like. My wish is that I am doing Life smarter. Will have to wait and see.

After all the presents are open and the sparkly is a little less so, the reality of our times will not have the protection of Santa and peppermint cocoa. Cofort and joy will no longer be available. There are hard times coming and Christmas lights will not be around to set off our holiday endorphins. It will be cold and harsh, just like the winter weather outside. We will need to draw Life from another source. The one who makes December 25, possible and December 26, bearable.

Life is going to get tough from some, tougher than they could eve imagine.Tougher than they think they can endure. God gives us what we need when we need it. There is no stockpiling in God's world - it is one step at a time. The only thing you can do is be ready for your own personal, When Not If. You learn to stand your ground in Christ, no matter what the state of the economy or job, is doing. Whether when comes today or 50 years from now - It won't matter. You are ready because you know where to go when your December 26 comes...

Nick Vijicic

What has made me fall down and convinced that I can't get back up? What struggle or thoughts feel like, they are fatal? Nick's life is extreme, mine may not be as BIG as his but in God's eyes, it doesn't matter. It's all about Him, it always is. Thanks Izzy...


I think wisdom comes naturally with age. After accumulating a lot of life experience, it becomes as part of you. Whether one decides to use it for good or evil is the true question. I come from a long line of evil-wisdom doers and witnessed a gob more who decided to squander theirs So you might think I wouldn't have the stomach for wisdom and its doers but if anything, I feel the opposite.

It's not about how wild you or your oats were as you came up the Age Rank. The learning is in the doing, the time for wisdom is when from a vantage point of wrinkles and time to ponder, you take all of that and use it for good. Not downplaying the bad but being honest about where the bad took you. Old age does not give you an automatic license for respect for your Story.

I have non-existent pool of old familiars to turn to for wisdom. Ok, none - unless you count Yoda or Charlie Brown but from those related to me, I am fresh out of luck but what I did do is turn the bad I did learn from them, into wisdom for me. I learned from their choice to turn their backs on the wisdom that they had accumulated, that was rightfully theirs and decided to throw out with the trash. I took home this scene and vowed, not to make the same mistake.

Different ones, for sure. I bet DD could give you a few pages of things, I could have done better. I have apoligized to her. I had no parental education to draw from. I thought love was enough, Given the chance, I would do things differentally but hindsight is the great Told You So and should be listened to in small doses.

So I ran across this book last week - loved the photography and the words. We could all use a little bit of good human wisdom, now and again. The kind we can learn from, the kind that will let us soak up a bit, maybe for now, maybe for later and the kind of wisdom that Someday will allow us to share with those God has entrusted us with so years from now, they will share with theirs...

nothing says Christmas like Charlie Brown...

No matter what the economy or the state of the automakers may be, the one thing you can always count on at this time of a the year is Charlie Brown is there for the asking. You don't have to buy anything - between primetime TV and YouTube, we are assured that we will always been only a click away from the wonderful characters and the Vince Guaraldi music that instantly takes us to a Place, we are all so familiar with.

Christmas is at it's best when kept simple and it can get our of hand, pretty fast. There are so many wonderful places to get involved but over involvement is a bad place to be whether financial or emotional but keeping one's sanity needs to be right up there with taking cookies to the local nursing home.

Whether Charlie Brown, A Christmas Story, perhaps the greatest holiday movie ever made or maybe Barbara Robinson's book,The Greatest Christmas Pageant Ever which is the greatest holiday book ever written - do Something that makes the holiday Real to you. Find Something from your childhood that lights that little light within you and go there for a few minutes. Recapture thru a sensory memory - a favorite candy, smell or tradition, and feel like a kid again if only for a short while.

AFter all these years, I have finally come to realize that for me, there will always be two Christmas's in my seasonal experience and my days of trying to merge the two are over. There is a place for both and if I keep my eyes open, a lot more overlap than anything I could ever invent on my own. While taking photos last weekend and watched the joy in their eyes, this family reminded me of the what is really important at Christmas - being together, happy and healthy. Nothing you could be or see at the Mall - comes close. No matter how great the gifts under the tree maybe, they can't compare with the gift God gave us in the birth of his Son, Nothing. Ever.

This morning I woke up and spent some time with God in a thankful mode. Truly, from the bottom of my heart. It started with a few personal things and then spread out to those around me and then on to those I have don't know. It was just a fabulous way to start my day. Nary a Charlie Brown in sight but a Christmas Moment, nevertheless.

One of the things I was thankful for was today. I get to meet DD, Gage and Morgan at Costco for lunch. A few minutes of pure joy that will keep me smiling all day. Sometimes it doesn't take much. Sometimes, it takes a bit more. After hearing about SCC's visit to Disney World every Christmas on Dec 22, 23 and 24 - I now know, that is where I need to be. If I could ask Santa for anything, it would be a trip to Disney World at Christmas time. To hear the Christmas Story being read from the bible in the middle of the Magic Kingdom, may be the best it gets this side of heaven. I plan to find out someday. I want to live the picture in my house that reads, Imagine never having to imagine. I know I will Someday in heaven - and just like the two parts of Christmas,someday I will get to experience that right here on earth. That will keep me smiling in my heart for longer than any holiday season...

It's a young person's game...

Going to jump off the yuletide train for today and check in on Real Life. Larry Craig will not be allowed to take back his guilty plea, he is just gonna have to suck it up. The governor of Illinois might as well pack his bags because he will be moving to the Big House soon. It is one thing when there is second-hand evidence against you but when that evidence is taking from your own mouth, you're pretty much done.

The biggest news of the day had nothing to do with corruption or injustice. It has to do with one of my personal icons - Television. Jay Leno is not leaving or better said, he may be leaving the Tonight Show but he will still be on 5 days a week and a hour and a half earlier. I have been in a funk contemplating my Tonight Show dilemma. I have watched the TS since the Johnny Carson days. When Jay took over, I was skeptical but he quickly fell in the same groove. Conan O'Brien doesn't. After the TS, I will move on to reruns of Lockup on MSNBC before leaving the tube on channel 7. Nothing personal, but the real test is if Something/Someone makes me laugh. Conan never has.

At the NBC's press conference yesterday, it was a light-hearted exchange of information and confession. I tell you. I think Jeff Zucker and NBC may be the best resource we have to lead this country out of its present state of disgrace. They understand that prime time TV is not working and changes had to be made. By putting Jay Leno in before Conan and guaranteeing at least several hours of comedy each and every week day night and saving money, these guys are economic geniuses. It cost 15M to make one ER(now in its final season), it will cost 2M to do Jay's show. That is a savings of 13M and that is only one show. Lipstick Jungle and My Own Worst Enemy had already been canceled so that freed up two more nights. That only leaves 2 night to rearrange - small potatoes for Jeff Zucker, at this point.

During the new conference, Jay Leno said they told him from the very beginning that they would kick him out when he was at the top of his game, that is the way things are done now. It's a young person's game, he said. I think that has been pretty obvious since the election. Our world is changing and msot of it is going to the young people. Luke Russert shoud be the head of NBC Sports soon. Newspapers are going out of business left and right because they are not the way this new generation in charge, wants to get their info.

It's a young man's game - that is the world we are living in. It is changing daily. That is another branch of the Game. Constant change, immediate gratification by way of the media around us. IMHO, I love it but in my age group, I guess I am in somewhat of a minority. Either, you need to climb aboard or get ready to concede that the world as you knew it - is leaving slowly forever. In the meantime, I am giddy at knowing that I will have a place to go every night to unwind from these changing times and I can't wait...

comfort and joy...

I can't believe how strong the desire to shop is coming and going in my life right now. I am so ready to pull the trigger on most anything that crosses my path. If my Gkids want it, I have to hold myself back. If I see Something that I know any certain Someone would love, I have to walk away. There is such comfort in gift giving. Whether it is ingrained or an addiction, I'm in.

There is no other time of the year where we seek comfort and joy. Everywhere you look, someone is trying to sell you comfort and joy - and I truly believe, it is working. From my mitten-decorated Sonic cup to my snowflake-shaped Ritz crackers, the pull is strong. And constant. It goes after the just and the unjust.

As I looked across the way at church yesterday, I saw a family that I know has lost the only family income. We were all singing Christmas carols but you could see the angst in their faces. They have three little mouths to feed...a mortgage. It is not like there are any jobs in the valley to replace his. There are many, many more - his company closed their doors for good. I don't know what will happen to them.. or all the other thems around our country.

Comfort and joy. We all go through times like this. No comfort or joy to be found. It's easier to have bad times in the summer. Life is somehow easier and there are no summer songs with comfort or joy in them. No pressure, no ads, no snowflake crackers or mailboxes wrapped up like presents. The Christmas season is not for the weak. We need to be at the top of our game, even if all is merry and bright.

If it is true that we learn more in hard times, this Christmas season will leave a slew of soldiers who will come home from battle, better equipped, to handle what comes next. If I could give a gift to each and every person, it would be for everyone to have a few Moments in the next 3 weeks of pure comfort and joy. Right what they need, right where they are - Something that would wrap around them and hug tight. Whether a song, memory or the hope that all is not lost. It might look different that what we thought and it may even be better Down The Road. May Tidings of comfort and joy find a way to you and if you get the chance to share, please do...

cheers and jeers...

I only read two parts of the newspaper - The front section with all the news, opinion and legal pages, then the obituary, community page. The obituary page is cruised first if after the initial sweep of the first page, someone I know is listed on the lower right half in the Death Notices - don't laugh. That is how I found out that DD's grandmother and aunt died - no one called to let us know and I had to break it to him before breakfast but that's a Story for another day.

So, depending on the circumstances of the day - I will finally make my way to the Cheers and Jeers section. This part always leaves me livid. I fundamentally disagree that we need a Jeers section. It is a place where those 20% of crazies show up and agre given their 15 secs of printed fame. This morning was no exception. The Cheer section was good today.

Thank you, Fair City for beautiful Christmas lights.
Thank you, Doctors for taking such good care of my mother.
Thank you, BSU Broncos for a FABulous season.
and Thank you to the nice gentleman who paid for our breakfast at IHOP when we realized they didnt take checks.

The paper asked this year for suggestions and I suggested they change the column to Cheers only. We have enough bad karma going around, letting people vent about the negitive - has no useful purpose. Somefar, the newspaper has not taking my advice seriously and this is why they had to print this jeer today.

Jeers - Again, Jeers to chickens who still cannot keep salmonella out of their eggs. They persist in ruining my eggnog season. Shame on them!

There is so much wrong with that statement - can't say I didn't warn you...

merry and bright...

I have often said one of the worse days in my whole life is finding out that Santa was not real. That may seem immature coming from a grown woman but to this day, I can still recall how hard that Moment hit. I was shattered, my life was over. Santa was not just Santa, he was going to be the One who got me out of this hellhole of a family I

That my father found it necessary to share that on Christmas morning and couldn't wait till the off season, it was only fair that I shared with my sister which got me in Bit Trouble. Didn't care, it was worth every bit of it. That is why it felt and still does, fatal. If there was no Santa, I had no Plan B. He was somehow going to magically scoop me up and take me back with him to the North Pole, where life was not scary, there was always plenty to eat and no one would hurt you. There was no baby Jesus or talk of a manger. We sang Jingle Bells and All I Want For Christmas but there was no singing Away In A Manger or Little Town of Bethlehem. I have no conscious memory of crossing paths with the real Christmas Story. None.

As I was diddling last night, Miss Ali did a digi freebie about "My Favorite Christmas Memory". I couldn't think of one. There are pictures of us girls, lined up with our personal Christmas stashes - posing like all was merry and bright but pictures can lie. I occured to me that my favorite Christmas have been since I have grown up and how I would love to share that with those two. I wanted to let them know that it all turns out alright. I want them to know that the end of Santa is ok. There is Something bigger coming. Have patience, it will take 20 or so years but then it will all make sense. It won't make the pain go away but most of it - you won't care about anymore. Really, I kid you not.

There will come a day when the One who will resque you, will come. This time, it is true. There will not be any disappointment at the end of this rainbow. Christmas will be more than stacking your presents in a pile to keep your sister out of them. There will come a day when you will see how it really is. There will be a Place for you to lay down your head and feel safe. The one who made you will make Himself known and that will be your merry and bright. As Gage says, WAIT for it....
It is well worth waiting for - This Story that is hard to believe yet easy to see. With the Story comes God's eyes that will help you every step of the way. Just keep walking. You'll see...

seeing red...

You may not agree but I think Christmas is 90% emotion and 10% action. While it feels like we are running around every day in December like chickens with our heads cut off, it is only the result of emotions gone astray.

What other event would make a grown woman stay up for nights in a row, making cookies and candy that she makes at no other time. The decorating, cooking, entertaining duties....and then there is the gifts. Something for everyone is what the emotion will tell you and if not careful, you will be sucked in. Having a closet of gifts available for any unforeseen present givers to you and yours, seems almost necessary - just in case.

And on top of everything else, you throw in childhood expectations and you have yourself a full blown emotional ride that will steer you hard and fast into the great Holiday unknown. You will lose your Way and forget everything but the almighty Task List. Emotion drives every aspect of Christmas - the more aware we are, the better we can learn to use emotion for good.

This will be a different Christmas for most of us. We will have more time than money. Instead of concentrating on what we can't give/spend/do - maybe we take that emotion and change the way we think. I have been doing the Jones soda bottle thing for a few years now. Pick out a color, add the kids's Christmas picture and hand them out to family on Christmas Eve. This year, there will be no bottles to hand out. As I was thinking how disappointed I was going to be, I started thinking maybe I could do it for Valentine's Day. maybe start a new tradition. That is a constructive way of using emotion in a more positive way. Disappointment is a part of life, a very real part but sometimes, we recognize that we have the ability to take seeing red and use it to our advantage.

As I go thru the next 22 days and have disappointment come my way, I hope I remember that the light, sounds, smells, music and joy of the Christmas season are but just a emotion away. A cup of peppermint cocoa with Tony Bennett singing in the background may be all I really need...

cake balls...

Cupcake Pops & Bites: Part 2 from bakerella on Vimeo.

Cake Balls
1 box cake mix, any flavor (cook as directed on box for 13 X 9 cake)
1 can frosting, any flavor (16 oz.)
1 package chocolate bark (regular or white chocolate)
wax paper

1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

Recipe and video courtesy of Bakerella. Imagine the combinations - Red Velvet/Cream Cheese. Cream cheese frosting and any cake flavor sounds great to me. Make them as simple or fancy as your want. Not just for Christmas but bridal or baby showers, kid's parties and they would make a great gift. On lollipop sticks or on a plate or whatever else you come up with. The cupcake version uses the same recipe but are made by overfilling a candy mold (peanut butter cup)and then dipping the tops and bottoms in different coatings before adding all the decorating goodies. Perhaps a bit time consuming but what a memory maker it could be. I hope you have a baking tradition of some kind in your family. Getting your hands nice and sticky with the ones you love, is a memory worth making...

cyber Monday...

It has been in a some kind of conversation everyday since the sleepover over a week ago. The minute we got back from taking the kids home, he was on his laptop, searching for the Right One. The night before after watching Gage play the guitar, he quietly said, he needs his own.. He didn't hear Gage tell me that his dad had been saying they were going to ask poppa to borrow his electric guitar and amp. It was obvious that this kid was hooked and indirectly, so was his grandfather.

So this morning with a cell phone in one hand and the landline in the other, I was having a conversation with DH and DD. They were in sharp disagreement on the necessity of the guitar. I wanted to put the phones together and let them duke it out but that wasn't going to work. I told poppa I would call him back and finished converstion with DD. She finally relented, not quite sure of poppa's die hard insistance. The other grandparents buy golf clubs, we think being a rock star would be the better choice. I had the Target web site up, ready to pull the trigger throughout all the conversations. Called DH back and said we are good to go - he said, Pull the trigger.

An emotional purchase - you bet. Am I sorry? - not at all. DH doesn't say much but when he does, I pay attention. As soon as he got home, he wanted to know if it was on the way. Yes indeed. Sometimes life is too short to think too much and with a 50% sale and free shipping, it is a small price to pay to make a big boy's Christmas...


I pulled into the Chevron mini mart Sunday morning and she crossed my path, running thru the parking lot. She came from nowhere and besides the running, the reason I noticed her so quickly is that she was dressed like a caroler from the 1800's. Velvet skirt and cape in a rich burgundy shade - her hair in a bun and she was running, no scurring across the gas station parking lot and she kept going around the building. I couldn't get my camera out fast enough - I was still in shock about what I was seeing. I parked the car as she rounded the building - no car in sight waiting for her. Nothing. She was running in to a subdivision, then she was gone.

It was one of those time you wanted to ask someboyd around you, Did you see that?, There was no one outside to see. All the cashiers and customers were in the store and no one acted like they had seen her or anything unusual.

An early Christmas program? At 8am - not even the 1st of December yet. Like she was running from her world into mine.

Out of place
Out of nowhere
Out of this world.

Where did she come from?
Where was she going?
Who sent her?
Who would greet her?

Why did I see her? What am I to do with this information? Tell you? Remember? Wonder?
We are always looking for signs, seems like this might be one to me. The Lesson?

Always watch,
Always be open.
and always, always...believe.