Christmas Chaos

At the beginning of every episode of The Pioneer Woman on Food Network, Ree Drummond says, “Here’s what’s happening on the ranch.” Apropos of nothing in this blog post, I love when she says that, because I have a secret desire to live on a ranch. Let me explain something, however. I would be a very, very bad rancher. Considering how many times a day I make my way to the grocery store for one reason or another (like when I realized yesterday that I didn’t have a lemon for my lemon butter chicken just as I was beginning dinner preparation), living in the middle of nowhere simply wouldn’t work for me. Plus, if I was going to live on a ranch, it would be in the Arkansas Valley of Colorado where my ranch would be surrounded by mountains. It certainly wouldn’t be in Oklahoma. I have no beef with Oklahoma (pun intended), but every time Ree Drummond says, “Let’s have a picnic,” she looks like she and everyone picnicking with her are going to blow away. You know, OOOOOOOOOOOOklahoma, where the winds come sweeping down the plain….

Anyhoo, with a wink to the Pioneer Woman, here’s what’s happening at the McLain suburban non-ranch.

It’s been a busy week because, as you know, we leave on Christmas Day for AZ, where we will spend the next four months soaking up sunshine and feeling sorry for all of our Colorado family and friends when the need to shovel snow arises. So in addition to preparing for Christmas – which in my case involves preparing two different meals on two different days – we are also doing the things we need to do to get the house ready for our departure.

This year, there isn’t as much involved in that regard because Allen and his girlfriend Emma are going to stay here and housesit while we are gone. The only reason that’s a panic situation for me is that my house is a mess. I would like to blame it on Christmas, and that certainly has added to the mess. However, I laid on my bed yesterday afternoon and glanced up and noticed about three-quarters of an inch of dust on the ceiling fan, and that can’t be blamed on Christmas. You know what’s really sad about that? That dust will still be there when I get back, because I certainly won’t be dusting ceiling fans any time before we go.

You’ve heard of Murphy’s Law? Well, we are experiencing Murphy’s Second Cousin Once Removed Ernie’s law, which is a step worse than Murphy’s Law. It all started last weekend when the temperature was hovering around 2 degrees and Bill went out to get our mail. Now then, there are lots of things wrong with cold weather, but not the least of these things is the fact that everyone is so clumsy when wearing heavy coats and gloves and hats and scarves. It is almost impossible to move. I always feel like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story. I’m afraid I’m going to fall down and need to yell, “Ralphie! I can’t get up.”

Anyhoo, Bill got our mail, but somewhere between our mailbox and the front porch, he dropped the mailbox key into the snow. It was 2 degrees, the snow was five or six inches deep, and it was almost dark. And there was poor Bill digging in the snow trying to find the key. The key which, to date, has not yet been found. Thankfully our kids had a spare, and we were able to make a duplicate key. But you know how those things BUG YOU? Both Bill and I have been out there on numerous occasions this week determined to find the key, and yet unsuccessful.

And then, of course, the toilet backed up. The downstairs toilet which is used in the neighborhood of 75 times a day. It happened the night that Court and the kids were over for dinner. Cole is our prime suspect, though he is wisely admitting to nothing. Bill is tenacious. He is determined to fix it himself, despite the fact that his degree is in law and not plumbing. He even ordered a special tool that was supposed to shoot whatever it is that is blocking to toilet (and only Cole knows for sure) to kingdom come so that the toilet will once again flush.


So far, he has been unsuccessful. Perhaps I will send him to the grocery store and call a plumber while he is gone.

Not to be outdone, my car had to get its last-minute shots in as well. Suddenly the key remote stopped working. Thankfully, it was an easy fix, but Bill was not able to fix it before I sat in the parking lot waiting for Hobby Lobby to open and listening to my car alarm unceasingly screeching for a reason that I haven’t quite figured out, but which had something to do with my car remote not working. When the Hobby Lobby doors finally opened, the clerk looked at me as though I was driving a stolen yellow Bug.

Nevertheless, my presents are wrapped and ready for the weekend festivities. Our daughter Heather and her family arrive this afternoon to spend Christmas. We are warm and safe and healthy and dry, so I really can’t complain.

Even though it’s clear that I do.

And speaking of A Christmas Story, while the photo of Kaiya and Mylee that I shared yesterday is one of my favorites, here is another…….

Austin (on the left) is about as happy with the Christmas pajamas that his Grammie Jen bought him last year as Ralphie was with his pajamas he received from his aunt in the beloved movie.

Wonderful Life

As I have been madly crocheting this holiday season in preparation for gift-giving, I have watched all manner of Christmas movies. I have seen Miracle on 34th Street (the newer version), White Christmas (in which Rosemary Clooney makes being distraught an art form), Love, Actually (yes, yet again), A Christmas Story (which is now and will be forever more be my favorite Christmas movie), Holiday (in which Jack Black is an odd love interest for Kate Winslet), Last Holiday (there’s probably not another Christmas movie that leaves me feeling happier than this), and Holiday Inn (I could watch Fred Astaire’s Fourth of July solo dance a million times).

And Sunday, when I decided I couldn’t stomach watching the Broncos not have an offense any longer, I watched It’s a Wonderful Life. Shockingly, it was the first time I had ever seen this movie.



Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have seen bits and pieces of the movie throughout my life. Really, how could I not have ever seen the ending where Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are embracing and all of the people are dumping cashola on the table to save his butt and the bell rings, indicating that Clarence had finally gotten his wings? I feel comfortable not having indicated SPOILER ALERT because I’m pretty sure I’m the only living person of reading age who hadn’t seen the movie.

But I had never sat down and watched the entire film from beginning to end. I had never, in fact, seen the beginning of the movie, which of course sets the stage for the whole point of the film – that George Bailey had wanted and planned on a much more exciting life than the one he ended up having. That’s pretty important context to have known about for the ending to make any sense. But Christmas movies really don’t need to make sense. Is there any universe in which Jack Black would be a love interest for Kate Winslet except in a Christmas movie?

However, it’s true that hardly anyone’s life turns out exactly as planned, mostly because as of yet, we aren’t able to see into the future. What’s that old Yiddish adage? Man plans and God laughs. Ain’t it the truth? It’s interesting to think about how I would have imagined my life in 50 years if asked to predict when I was 10 years old. I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that I would live in Denver, Colorado and have a second house in Mesa, Arizona. Since at that point I hadn’t been any further than Omaha, I undoubtedly wouldn’t have guessed that I would have been on two transatlantic cruises and seen such things as the Parthenon in Greece, the pyramids in Egypt, climbed to the top of St. Peter’s in Vatican City, and sat on the grass at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

In fact, I would have been expecting and frankly, wanting, a life just like the life of ol’ George Bailey.

We all get caught up in the preparations for Christmas. I have awakened at 3:45 a.m. on a couple of recent mornings unable to go back to sleep because I’m mentally counting the gifts I have purchased so that I don’t make that fateful mistake of having one more present for one grandchild than I have for the rest. Did I remember to set aside enough cookies to share with the neighbors who faithfully keep an eye on our house while we’re in AZ? Will Bill’s gift arrive in time?

STOP! It’s Advent. The time for quiet reflection and preparation, not for the gifts that we are going to give or receive, but for the birth of the one who is sent to save us. Advent gets lost in the sea of Christmas frenzy. Like George Bailey, we need to remember to be grateful for what we have and for those who make our lives special.

The one thing that all of those Christmas movies have in common is that life is full of surprises, and it’s not what happens to us, but who we share our lives with and how we accept our life as it has played out.