Thursday, December 29, 2022

The Rest of Christmas 2022

When you work on a church staff, December is a very busy month. I know I've said that many times. I've enjoyed a couple of days off this week and it has been glorious. Let me back up. My co-worker and I had worked out a schedule where we could both worship with our families - one of us working the Welcome Center while the other worshipped and vice versa. Our Christmas Eve services actually began on the 23rd (Christmas Eve Eve). Mark and I met our good friends, Phella and Guy, at church and sat together through a glorious candlelight Christmas Eve (on the 23rd) service. The weather outside was frightful - seriously, we had lows in the teens with windchills below zero IN ALABAMA - but inside the worship service, it was warm and cozy. After church was over, we went to Phella and Guy's house and ate a bowl of soup together along with some yummy cornbread. Earlier in the day, I had baked cheese straws and took some of those to Guy. 

This is a picture from the choir loft at the 3:00 p.m.
Christmas Eve service.

This is our Senior Pastor, Brian. He also happens
to be my boss - the best boss ever!

This picture was posted on the church website.
I LOVE this photo!!

I finally had made time to bake a few things on Christmas Eve morning. I made homemade chocolate chip cookies and pecan pies (for Monday night) and I made greenbean casserole for Sunday.

I wanted to buy frozen deep dish pie
crusts but they were all sold out! Target
had one regular pie plate and one
"deep dish" which looks more like
a casserole dish to me but it worked.

I FINALLY started wrapping presents on Christmas Eve and we were able to put a few under our tiny tree.

I went in to work around 1:00 on Christmas Eve and did some normal work and then I worked the Welcome Center for the 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. Candlelight services. Both services were packed (that is why we went on Friday night). I think there were 846 at 3:00 and over 900 at 5:00. Earlier in the day, we had our children's services with communion and our "come and go" communion service. I don't even know the headcount on those services plus we will add in the number of us who worshipped on Friday night (probably about 400). We had record breaking crowds this year. Our sanctuary holds about 900 so we were at capacity. Parking is the real issue. There is a big Baptist church next door to us and they have a parking deck but for some reason, their folks want to park in our parking lot rather than their deck. We try to be gracious but sometimes it is tough :-).

Sunday morning - Merry Christmas - Mark and I awakened and he had his regular coffee and I had my Diet Pepsi. We then opened our presents to each other. He got new shoes and bourbon (which he bought and I wrapped!) and I also had a hard hat for him to use in our attic at the house and some salted peanuts in the shell. He gave me a new Vera Bradley computer tote and a pair of Vionic flip flops. We didn't buy a lot for each other this year. We are headed back out of the country in a few weeks and are saving our money for the trip! One of the young men on staff at church asked me on Sunday morning, "just what do Empty Nesters do on Christmas morning?"

I worked the Welcome Center for the 10:00 combined worship service and I was actually able to slip into the sanctuary around 10:20 for the remainder of the service. The sermon and music were both great.

After worship was over, we headed to my mother-in-law's for Christmas with Mark's family (the greenbean casserole!). My brother-in-law (Mark's identical twin brother) participated in the 4th annual Walk for a Claus (for prostate cancer) earlier in December so he now owns a Santa suit and showed up wearing it! Our granddaughters were not so sure about Pop George wearing a Santa suit. (Also, Mark is Pop or Pops and our oldest granddaughter named George -- Pop George -- because he looks just like Pop! Both of our granddaughters call him that. Isn't that cute?)

Here is Mark's momma with her grandchildren
plus two spouses.We are missing one
grandson - He is a doctor in New York
City and was doing surgery while
we were gathered!

Santa (Pop George) and his momma

Here is the matriarch with her kids
and spouses -- that is Mark kneeling
beside her. I am in the red solid, Mark's
sister, Susie, is in the red plaid.
Rebecca is Bill's wife. She is in red
with shirt on top.
Back row is Alice, married to Pop George.
Pop George is Santa.
Bob is married to Susie.
Bill is the one with the beard.
Her actual children are George, Mark,
Bill, and Susie (in birth order).

Santa and Susie (our granddaughters
call her Susie Sheep - from Peppa Pig)

This is the "kid" table -- our son-in-law, Scott is
front and center. To his right is our daughter-in-law, Lauren.
Glenn, our son is next. Laura, our daughter is at the
end of the table. The two grandgirls are next.
Thomas is our youngest nephew and he was
here from Texas.

The granddaughters were not
sure about this Santa!

Mark's momma looks amazing
for 97, doesn't she? She is with our
two granddaughters - her great 

Here is the adult table -- Paul (on the right in glasses)
is our oldest nephew. He lives in Delaware.
Grace is our only niece on this side of the family
 - she lives here in town.

Our menu (just in case you are interested) was turkey and ham, dressing, gravy, rolls, cranberry sauce (from a can because that is what they love), green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, squash, and Asian slaw with homemade coconut cake for dessert. I would have been happy with a couple of slices of honeybaked ham, dressing and gravy. Those are my favorites!

After lunch, we opened presents and took our family photos (above).

On Sunday night, we went to our cousin's home for a more extended family Christmas gathering. Mark's grandmother used to host this party every year for all of her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. When she died (at 95!), the party moved to my mother-in-law's house and she rotated every other year with her sister-in-law, Aunt Mary. When Aunt Mary died, her son-in-law Nathan stepped up to the plate and now hosts it. We hosted (at Mark's mom's house) last in 2019 and then covid hit so we didn't gather in 2020. Last year, we weren't sure Mark's mom was going to make it -she had broken her pelvis so Nathan hosted. Mark went and I think it was only the second time I ever missed in all of the years we have been married. It was actually so good to be together this year.

Nathan and his daughters make
these cookies every year. They
are one of Mark's favorites. They
do an amazing job with the

Sally, on the left, is one of Mark's
first cousins. She is a pastor and she
was one of our main baby sitters when
Glenn and Laura were babies. I love this
picture of Glenn and Lauren and Sally
together - all adults.

The spread of food was yummy -
everything from cheese straws to
pigs in a blanket to
turkey and cheese on sister
schubert's rolls to sushi made
with spam and liver pate. I did
try the pate and Mark ate
some of the sushi.

Monday night was our immediate family celebration. I had asked our son if we could have it at their house since we are in the apartment and he and our daughter-in-law graciously agreed. I took the chocolate chip cookies and pecan pies that I had made. Mark went to Costco and purchased a whole beef tenderloin which Glenn cooked on his Big Green Egg. He also made a new sweet potato recipe that he has perfected -- twice baked sweet potatoes with candied bacon and marshmallows!

Whole beef tenderloin - delicious!

There was a lot of Barbie playing
going on.

Granddaughter #1 is into all things
Harry Potter and Gran and Pops
gave some good gifts!

Pops is the best Barbie player

I found those bunny headbands at
Pop Shelf!

This picture is out of order - oh well!
Twice baked sweet potatoes
with marshmallows and
candied bacon.

See that robe? It is a Harry Potter
bathrobe! Score one for Gran and Pops!

Granddaughter #1 has a great
playroom and she shared her toys
with granddaughter #2.

Pops and granddaugher #2 were
"bump bumping" down the steps.

Some of my Walmart purchases
We play our own version of
dominoes - probably
not by the real rules! Our
dominoes are possibly packed
in the storage unit so I bought
us some new ones!

Yesterday and today (Tuesday and Wednesday) I have just been enjoying the day. I've read a little. I went to Walmart which I actually enjoyed. I've exercised. We took down the Christmas decorations and I've cleaned the apartment. I've washed and dried a lot of laundry and I haven't been in a hurry at all in 48 hours. I am going into the office for a little while on Thursday and I have a haircut and color on Friday. We are headed to a restaurant at a local hotel with two other couples for dinner on Saturday night. While in Walmart, I bought us all a pair of silly 2023 glasses. If I remember to take pictures, I'll post.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

December 7 - 20, 2022

Way back in December . . .

Today's post is long but I want to remember that even though we are in an apartment waiting on the contractor to begin rebuilding our home, we still had fun. We still lived life in December of 2022.

I’m going to start all the way back on December 7. I only took one picture and it was of a really cute cheese “ball” which was actually shaped into a stand up tree! Arugula made up the garland and the star was made from orange peel. It was so cute!! Ann and Jane are sisters who are retired and they live together in our neighborhood. They used to live in two house but sold those and moved into one of the bigger homes. They are such great folks! The neighborhood ladies’ party was much fun!

On December 9, I took my final exam and I made an A . . .which makes my 3rd A since I started school in January. I’m just taking one class at a time because I’m still working 40+ hours a week but I’m loving it!

We went to see a play at a local theater – it was the radio production of It’s A Wonderful life and it was really good. I’m not sure Mark enjoyed it but I loved it. We met our friends for dinner beforehand so it made for a great night!!

Mark strung lights in our tree in front of our darkened house and our neighbors allowed us to run extension cords to their house and it made me so happy. It is so weird that just driving by, you might not realize that the house had burned but if you look closely, you begin to see the charred siding and the black eaves and the tarped roof. The inside is gutted.

We went to Pike Road to see our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter and we went to her first dance recital. Oh my goodness – 3 year old ballerinas are so cute!! She is the one right by the teacher doing exactly what she was supposed to do!!

I finally started Christmas shopping online last Sunday night and I have lots of boxes coming. I hope it all gets here before Christmas.

On Wednesday, we started filming our staff video. Every year we make a crazy video and it debuts at our Contact Christmas service. Just in case you are interested in watching a totally silly video, here is the link. It is a “tool” to ask folks to give to our manger offering which provides assistance to 23 area ministries. Our people have come to expect and anticipate the video. This offering will bring in over $100,000 which will help feed people and clothe people and provide other assistance. The staff ate lunch together and then we went to the movie theater. We saw the second Black Panther movie and it was so good. I have to go back and watch the first one!! It is so awesome to go to the theater and sit in a recliner. 

On Thursday night, we went to our Sunday school party. I made the marinade and sauce and Mark cooked the chicken thighs. They ate EVERY SINGLE BITE. The party home was spectacular. This couple  is raising two of their grandchildren. The house looked like a magazine yet you could tell it was lived in! I love that. They were such hospitable hosts.

I got most of our Christmas cards in the mail on Friday. I had to spread them out on the bedroom floor since I don’t have a big dining room table in the apartment. This year, I prayed for every family as I put the stamps on the cards. I still have a few to send but I had to order more cards. I’ll get those in the mail on Monday or Tuesday. (They came in on Monday and I got them in the mail yesterday!)  I’m usually the person who mails the cards on December 1. That obviously didn’t happen this year!! PLUS I put the wrong age on the card for one of our granddaughters!! (here is the explanation: Note about Christmas cards -I decided right in the middle of studying for my final, to create a quick Publisher document with photos and a few words. My daughter got hers today and texted me . . .I wrote that my granddaughter is 2 . . .and she is 3 ½. Yes, I know that! I will say that I didn’t get to go to her birthday party because it was the Saturday after my emergency surgery this summer . . .and a week after the fire . . .so maybe I had a weird momentary mental blip?? I may be kicking myself, but I’m going to try to extend grace to myself!!)

On Saturday night, one of our young adult friends took us all out to dinner at Bricktops. It was delicious and we had so much fun!! I had a Prickly Pear Margarita and it was so refreshing.

Sunday morning was normal – I worked the welcome center, taught Sunday School, etc. and then we had lunch with family. At 4:00, we went back to church to one of our special programs . . .it is one of our favorite worship services in December. 

I worked on Monday but at 3:00, all of the girls in the office went to a co-worker’s house where we ate snacks, played Dirty Santa, and played another getting to know you game. My first question was, “I am surprised I survived _______________.” I immediately said, “having/raising twins.” They all yelled at me – but your house burned this summer!! I said I know . . .but having twin babies might have been harder! What would your answer be to that question?

Tuesday, the 20th was our Young Adult Christmas Party. I cooked a regular dinner and we watched the last video in our Advent series and THEN . . . we played Dirty Santa. The two mini waffle irons were stolen multiple times!

Here we are on the Wednesday before Christmas. I still have to work through Sunday morning and then I hope to be off some next week!!

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Sunday Stealing . . .the week before Christmas!!


This week’s Sunday Stealing questions are from the League of Ordinary Penpals. Thanks to Bev for stealing them for us:


1. My plans for December – Since I work on a church staff, we are gearing up for the big event. We have a bajillion services through Sunday, the 25th and then . . .then I hope to take a week off.

2. How energized I feel at this point in the year – see #1. I’m tired but am looking forward to some great things.

3. The best things about the holiday season – I love all of the lights. Our neighborhood is spectacular right now.

4. Something that changed my perspective on life – Our house caught on fire in July. Things are just things.

5. What I seem to get the most comments about – my smile!

6. The changes I’ve made to my style – I don’t think my style has changed much over the last few years.

7. What gets in the way of my success – me! I get in the way of my success!!

8. News sources I trust the most – I like NPR and the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. We don’t have local TV anymore so I don’t watch the news – I read or listen.

9. Fictional characters that would easily fit into my life – I love to read and when I’m reading a book, I begin to think of the characters and how they would fit in my life. There are quite a few that would fit right in!

10. My relationship with spirituality – I’ve been a Christian most all of my life. We go to church and we pray before meals. Most importantly, we try to love everyone. God’s love is for ALL.

11. How I feel when I’m being retrospective – I have no idea how to answer this one so I’m going to read everyone else’s answers!!

12. My thoughts on AI technology – Siri and I are best friends. Seriously, I voice text and ask Google questions and ask Siri to call folks every day.

13. The odd/weird things I do when nobody else is around – why would I tell you if I want to do it when no one else is around? Seriously, I have no idea!! I sometimes sing out loud when I’m alone – I don’t sing well!!

14. What I do when I can’t sleep – I pray the alphabet. I start with A and I pray for everyone I know whose name begins with A and so on. I rarely make it to Z. Sometimes I do slow breaths in . . .and slow breaths out. I also say to myself (in my head) – don’t think . . .don’t think . . . because if I start thinking, I’ll be awake all night.

15. The winter/holiday season tasks I enjoy – I enjoy baking for others (when I have time) and I enjoy decorating for Christmas (once again, when I have time). There are a couple of special church services I really enjoy.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

It's a Holly Jolly Hodgepodge

1. What does Christmas mean to you? Christmas means Emmanuel – God with us! Christmas also means beautiful music and scripture. Christmas means smiles and laughter, good food, even better fellowship, and a beverage or two. Christmas means the gasp I always “feel” when all of the lights are lowered on Christmas Eve and the light of 900 candles reminds us that light always wins – always!

2. What's your favorite cozy holiday activity? The cat and I have been watching holiday movies when Mark spends the night with his mother each week. I think that might be considered cozy.

3. Is all your shopping-wrapping-baking done? Tell us about your holiday plans. Hahahahaha! Heck no – I started shopping on Sunday night (online) and I still have several people to buy for . . .as in I’ve purchased nothing for those people yet. I haven’t wrapped a single present. Let me back up – I guess I did the most important shopping several weeks ago for our angel – a coat and boots and panties and some fun toys.

Our Christmas plans may look a little different this year since we aren’t in our house (next year!!) plus Christmas falls on a Sunday and I work in a church so I will be working LOTS over the next two weeks. We play to attend our Contemporary Christmas worship service this Sunday at 4:00. Mark and I will attend Christmas Eve Eve service on the 23rd and then I will work the welcome center on Christmas Eve at 3 and 5 and again on Christmas morning at 10:00. We will celebrate with Mark’s family around lunchtime. We may celebrate with his extended family (cousins) on Sunday evening. Mark and I and our kids are going to celebrate on the 26th and we are going to celebrate at our son’s house this year – more space for two little girls and dogs.

4. If you were Santa what treat would you like to have left for you (it doesn't have to be milk and cookies!) What sweet or savory treat do you most look forward to indulging in around the holidays? Instead of milk and cookies, I would enjoy some diet pepsi and maybe some chips and dip?? I don’t eat sweats but I do love a glass of egg nog. I did buy some at the grocery store and had a mug full. Yes, I know it has sugar and I actually looked for sugar free but couldn’t find it. I love dips of all kinds with some good crackers and cheese. A family at church makes a delicious cheesball EVERY SINGLE YEAR for our staff and we all look forward to eating that cheese ball and we sort of . . .fight over it.

5. Next Wednesday is the first official day of winter (in the northern hemisphere). How does that make you feel? Tell us what you love most about winter? Next Wednesday, we will have our service of Loss and Light. For some people, the laughter and parties is just too much when they’ve experienced a loss. This service gives folks a place to come and sit with that and to realize they aren’t alone. Hopefully, they can leave with hearts filled with joy. I am counting down the days until then because after the 21st each day gets a tiny bit longer. I don’t do well with these long dark dreary days. I guess the thing I love the most would be the holidays. I’m taking a few days off after  Christmas and I’m looking forward to it!!

6. Insert your own random thought here. We’ve been doing some fun stuff lately and I haven’t blogged about it. Instead of a weekend in review, I need to do a “couple of weeks in review” post!

Feel free to answer the questions in the comments or you can copy and paste the questions into your own blog and join up with Joyce, our question writer, over at From This Side of the Pond!!


Sunday, December 11, 2022

Sunday Stealing!!

 I'm joining in with Sunday Stealing!

1. Wintertime comfort foods, habits, hobbies – I love a good bowl of homemade soup (all kinds) with fresh from the oven southern cornbread . . .and I make good cornbread! I don’t know that I have any different habits or hobbies for winter.

2. Favorite seasonal/holiday music and songs – We love watching Four Christmases and we love watching Christmas Vacation. On Thursday night, we went to see a play at our local theater and it was the “radio show” of It’s a Wonderful Life. It was EXCELLENT!! Today is our Lessons and Carols service at church and there will be amazing music. I’ll be watching from the Welcome Desk but even over the TV, it will be wonderful.

3. The people I want to spend more time with next year – I definitely want to spend more time with friends and family.

4. How much I could change my life in 1 year if I focused – Well, it is that same old same old goal. If I truly focused, I could get to my goal weight instead of hovering up above it. I’m still taking classes at the local community college working toward that degree and with each class, I feel my life is changed.

5. The valuable lessons I learned this year – Our things are just that – things. Some of our things hold more importance than others but things are not people. When your house is on fire, you aren’t worrying about things (at the moment). You are worrying about safety for all living beings.

6. How I’d describe 2022 in 10 words – 2022 was a year filled with blessings that made us grow.

7. My favorite Reads of 2022 – Do you know how many books I read in a year? A LOT! I just recently read “West with Giraffes” and loved it! I rarely read romances (just not my genre) but my daughter gave me a paperback copy of “When in Rome” and I’ve been reading it while on the stationary bike. It is cute.

8. Best movies I saw in 2022 – We NEVER go to the theater so I haven’t seen any new movies. I di watch the old Top Gun a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. I had planned to go see the new one but haven’t. Life. We are actually going to the movies with our office for our Christmas outing. I can tell y’all about it later.

9. Favorite TV shows/episodes of 2022 – We’ve been watching The Americans. We are in the last few episodes right now and they are dark. I’m not sure I would call it a favorite but we have stuck with it. We are also watching The Rookie. It is ok, too. Earlier in the year, we watched Bosch Legacy and it was good.

10. Memorable experiences from 2022 – Let’s see . . . we went to Italy, Germany, and Austria for 14 days during the second half of June. It was amazing!! We came home and were home for less than a week and I got sick (not covid). After a couple of miserable days, we went to the ER and I got fluids and IV antibiotics for a sinus infection with advice to see an ENT on Monday. Later in the same day, our house was struck by lightning and burned. We moved to a hotel on Sunday (cat in tow) and lived there for 16 days. On Tuesday, following the ER visit and the fire, I was able to see an ENT and was scheduled for immediate surgery on my sinuses where they proceeded to cut bone to allow trapped infection to escape. The bonus was that the surgeon fixed my horribly deviated septum while he was operating. SCORE! Following 16 days in the hotel, we moved to a two bedroom apartment where we are still living.

I also started back to college in 2022 and have taken 3 semesters (one course per semester) and I’ve made 3 A’s.

11. Three people I enjoyed spending time with this year – I truly can’t pick except for Mark (hubby), our supper club, our SS class friends, our kids and grandkids, and the rest of our family.

12. How I handled challenges this year – I tried to handle them with grace! I will say that I reached out for professional help and have been seeing a counselor!!

13. What I’m leaving behind in 2022 – Let’s leave all of the negativity!

14. How I changed most from beginning to end of the year – I have realized that I’m more resilient than I thought I was!

15. What I want to tell myself before the New Year – Keep a positive attitude!