Just pick up the pencil

Lower expectations

Be flexible

It’s perfectly ok to celebrate Christmas on a day other than the 25th

I sit, Starbucks Hong Kong coffee mug in hand, as the sun streams through the window and warms my chilled body. I guess I can say I have been there, even though it was just a brief layover, flying from China to Indonesia. After all, I do have the mug to prove it.

As I ponder what to write, a myriad of ideas dart every direction in my head and smash into each other, leaving me with nothing but disjointed, unorganized thoughts. I know I need to work on my book, but today just isn’t the day. Then, when I am about to slam the computer shut, it comes. Still not completely clear, but at least a few uncluttered notions:

Get it down on paper while it’s fresh on your mind.

 Future generations may want to read it.

Just write one sentence, then another, then another…

Keep reminding self: Many sentences make a story!

Christmas 2019

Just a few days before Christmas 2019, I had only one question, “Didn’t we just have Thanksgiving?” On this year it fell on the 28th (the latest possible date it can be.)   Both my husband’s and my birthdays are in December and our anniversary on January 1st. With Christmas on the heels of Thanksgiving this year all of these special dates seemed to literally bump into each other. Thanksgiving definitely got the short end of the stick, with Christmas festivities and decorations merrily hijacking it. Even I, who has always believed it to be just plain wrong to commence with holiday decorations before Thanksgiving, succumbed. Yes, I caved in to the pressure of putting up the tree days before the turkey was carved!

Our 25th of December morning began with just the two of us and no presents under the tree to open. That was okay because we had already gifted each other with a future “event” (attendance at the Colson Center’s Wilberforce weekend in Arlington, Virginia) which had been on my bucket list for several years.

Our day included an afternoon trip to the airport in Austin to pick up our Chicago kids. How could we make the day special for three teens, one three-nager and their parents? With no restaurants open, we knew we had better come up with a plan for feeding two 6’ 4” boys (uh, I mean, young adults, as they constantly remind me), a petite fourteen-year-old girl who eats as much as her brothers (where does she put it?!) and a three-year-old who is always hungry. A bottle of water and a granola bar was not going to suffice.

So, hubby and I spent our Christmas morning in the kitchen making a picnic fit for a king (or queen), perfect for a tailgate party.

As predicted, the kids got off the plane starving. No way could we have made the long drive home from the airport without some pretty hangry peoples. A little side note: Hunger to teenagers translates into, “If I don’t get food I’m going to die!”

The dazzling Johnson City Christmas lights turned out to be the perfect setting for our Christmas meal. These Chicago-land people, used to their heavy parkas and gloves by now, jumped out of the van to a pleasant surprise–their feet landed on soft green stuff instead of crunchy white stuff. They could hardly believe our pleasant Texas Hill Country evening. Everyone grabbed a bag or cooler and headed for the one picnic table that just happened to be right in front of the courthouse.

Our table, set with green and red paper holiday plates and candles to light the table as it got darker, looked beautiful. The main entrée of Texas Crock-pot pulled pork, along with buns, chips, salsa and hummus got everyone’s attention. And what would a Christmas day/eve dinner be without 2019’s ever-popular charcuterie board filled with an assortment of cheeses, crackers, Texas Longhorn summer sausage, chips, olives, nuts, and fruit?!  Hot chocolate and cookies satisfied our sweet tooth and topped off the food selection for our tailgate party on a table.

As the sun slowly dipped behind the horizon, the lights on the courthouse and quaint little houses on the streets surrounding it brightly glistened against the dark sky. The entire area transformed into a twinkling fairyland that could have easily passed for a portrait by the famous artist, Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light.”

The kids chased each other on the lawn and the adults reveled in the soft quiet of the night by the brightly lit sign outlined by tiny lights that spelled out in fancy cursive letters, Hill Country Style. It was truly a Hill Country Style evening I will not soon forget.

If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s to lower expectations and be flexible when family gathers in large groups for extended periods of time. I wouldn’t have chosen Christmas Day to make a run to the airport, thus necessitating our family celebration to be scheduled later in the week. But, it happened this year, and we still managed to make some memories. I can just hear the kids-young adults-in 2030, saying, “Yeah, remember that year we had a tailgate party on Christmas day and we didn’t have to eat turkey, dressing and cranberry sauce?!”

Maybe, just maybe, it’s perfectly acceptable to occasionally dispense with the year-to-year same old traditions and try something new. And maybe it’s okay to just do it once!