Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cards

Fact: I love Christmas cards. The truth is that I actually love all types of cards. I love sending them [even though I don't do it nearly as often as I should], and I love receiving them. For years, one of my favorite parts of Christmas has always been picking out Christmas cards and then sending them to all of my favorite people. And then I started this little venture known as graduate school. As a result for the past three years, I have not sent out Christmas cards. Look, I know that I don't really have an excuse because somehow mothers who have small children and jobs and husbands to feed have no problems sending out their Christmas cards in a timely manner. It's just that by the time that end of the semester finally gets here in early December, my brain is kind of spongy and tired. However I am happy to report that next year I will not have the excuse of school standing in my way so I'll be back and better than ever on the Christmas card circuit. Just wait and see.

I'm not here to report on my shortcomings though. There will be plenty of time and bandwidth for that another day. Today I want to talk about how much fun it is to go to the mailbox each afternoon beginning shortly after Thanksgiving because inevitably there will be a Christmas card or two amidst the junk mail and carpet cleaning coupons. I love the pictures. I love the updates. I love them all. To me, it seems that the daily trip to the mailbox is the perfect prelude leading up to Christmas. There's a little bit of anticipation each time you go to the mailbox [the good kind of anticipation...not the kind that comes when you fear the IRS is about to audit you or something].

That's the fun of this season: the anticipation. ...Of the unknown. ...Of what is yet to come. ...Of something good and cheerful and bright on the inside of a beautifully wrapped package. ...Of something that has been picked out especially for us by someone who cares about us. As I was thinking about this whole matter of Christmas cards and Christmas day and the build-up and excitement that starts gradually and only intensifies the closer that we get to the 25th, I couldn't help but think of how Christmas morning is the perfect prelude to what is coming next for those of us who have the joy down in our hearts. This is the time in which we surround ourselves by the ones we love. We want to be close to home. Sure, we don't know what Heaven is going to be like, but we naturally long for it because we know it's our permanent home. It's's yet to's good and cheerful and was created and designed for us by someone who loves us more than we can ever imagine. It's like Christmas. Except it's every morning. And every night. The best part? We won't have to wait a whole 365 days for it to come around again.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Drinking Coffee: A Bittersweet Tale of Conversion.

My daddy was the biggest coffee drinker that I have ever known. As a child I always hated going out to dinner on Friday nights because we would inevitably sit at the restaurant for an eternity while he drank a cup (or two or three...depending upon whether or not we were with friends) of coffee after our meal. And when you're 9 years old and life revolves around things like Full House and The Babysitter's Club books these additional moments spent at a restaurant are sheer agony. In fact I find it surprising that Child Protection Services never stepped in to serve as my advocate. On the rare occasion we dined at a place that daddy wasn't a very big fan of the coffee then we would always drive to another place whether it be Waffle House, Dunkin Donuts, a designated convenient store (not just any one would do)...somewhere so he could get his after-dinner-coffee fix on the go. Obviously I much preferred this plan unless we ate in Roswell and he decided he wanted coffee from a place in Canton. And no, I'm not kidding. Heaven forbid he actually use the coffee maker sitting in the kitchen at home to actually make coffee himself.

Now, mama does not like coffee. Not. One. Little. Bit. She always says "I love the smell, but I just can't get past that bitter taste." So anyone who knew me prior to college knows that if my mama didn't drink coffee, then never would I ever consider drinking the stuff because I took most of my cues from her on what is good or bad or right or wrong. I'm not saying that this is a terribly wrong way for 12 year old to make decisions, but we did differ on matters such as lima beans and black-eyed peas even then. She's a fan of the former, I the latter. Naturally, because of her aversion to java, I didn't try to drink it once I was old enough to do so. [Is there really a minimum drinking age for coffee? I'm not sure, but it just seems a little unnatural for a 7 year old to be drinking it during snack time.] Besides, who needs coffee when there is hot chocolate? No one, as far as I was concerned.

So I spent the majority of my college years scoffing at coffee (except during that "experimental stage" when I tried it on a couple of occasions but I could never get the mixture of creamer and sugar correct and drinking it straight black was just too bitter so I stopped trying) Instead I chose caffeine substitutes like Diet Mountain Dew until that time right before Rush of my senior year when I was literally all jacked up on Mountain Dew and had to cut out caffeine cold turkey. Basically I have been content to spend the cold winter months keeping warm by drinking hot chocolate or caramel apple cider (otherwise known as "Heaven in a paper cup").

Over the years daddy's drinking habit (ha!) subsided a little and he even cut back significantly at one point, but he did always enjoy a good cup of coffee. So imagine the irony when in spring of 2009,
this guy enters the picture, and I quickly learn that he is a big fan of after-dinner-coffee. Initially I stuck to my guns and continued to turn my nose up at the idea of coffee. Ok, let's be honest, I politely declined - I was still trying to make a good impression. However, Ryan introduced a new player in the after-dinner-coffee equation: dessert. Um, you have my attention. He explained that the bitterness of the coffee perfectly compliments the sweetness of the dessert to create a state of euphoria known primarily by those who are big Jerry Garcia fans. Alright, I made up that part about Jerry Garcia just to see if anybody is still paying attention. And let me tell you something...he's right. [And no, I'm not just saying that because I'm trying to make a good impression.] Together, the sweetness of the dessert does absolutely reduce the bitterness of the coffee.

Now I was learning all about and testing the whole "coffee + dessert = awesomeness" theory around the time that daddy got sick and passed away. [Sidenote: Wouldn't it be great if we were allowed maybe one edit to the story of our lives? If we were, then I think that I would choose for daddy and Ryan to enjoy a nice cup of after-dinner-coffee together.] But today I'm not going to dwell on the things that cannot be changed. Instead I am going to focus on the fact that I myself have developed a taste for coffee. In fact, I even drink it on random Wednesday mornings sans dessert because I really enjoy the taste of it. I understand that some will argue that my fondness of it is all because I fell under the spell of a charming blonde with blue eyes. While those blue eyes certainly helped, I'm also always reminded of daddy each time I drink coffee. They are little moments that I have every once in awhile to remember him. Granted, if he were here today to see me drinking coffee, I can only imagine that teasing that would ensue. I'm sure he would also take the opportunity to remind me of how I lived in a town for 10 years that I refused to move to when I was a little girl because it was "too podunk". Relentless teasing. It's what he did. But only because he loved me.