Christmas Past, Christmas Future

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A short story for Christmas…

Disappointed, delicate fingers affix the red and gold bow to the top of the three-foot tree. She arranges the ribbons so that they cascade down the artificial limbs and fill holes left vacant by too few ornaments. The mismatched memories smile at her as she places the polished, silver star back in its foam, resting place. “Too heavy, again.”

She had purchased the star a decade before, unaware of where or when it would be used. That Christmas would be spent under hotel sheets, a reunion eleven months in the making. “Next year,” she had thought when she placed the box in the trunk of her car, atop suitcases, next to carefully wrapped packages and one hand-made poster that read, “Welcome Home!”

The star waited, hidden away under foam and cardboard, for its debut. Patience extended through too-small houses, temporary quarters, and Christmases with no tree at all. “I’ll enjoy Mama’s tree,” she had thought one year while driving through Chicago, six hours into their trek home. “My star would have been perfect on Mama’s tree.” Thirteen hundred miles there, and thirteen hundred miles back with only three days in between.

She had hoped this would be the Christmas the star would brighten the top of her tree, for this Christmas would be special, more special than all the others. This Christmas welcomed new beginnings and bid farewell to old fears. The star was to be a shimmery symbol of all to come and all to leave behind, but her three-foot tree could not bear such weight.

“I can wait one more year,” she tells him and rubs her cheek against his hand, rested on her shoulder.

The house that holds their future is filled with Christmases past. Between the floorboards and up the grand banister, one hundred years of holiday celebrations mark the mantels and linger in the parlor.

One more year.

Five hundred final miles.

“Next year,” she says and smiles at the worn box. “You will have a home.”

Lenten Promise: Why I Gave Up Wal-Mart for Lent

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“What did you give up for Lent?”  I have been asked this question several times over the last few weeks.  My Lenten promise has shocked and/or confused each person who has asked:  I will not walk into a Wal-Mart for 40 days and 40 nights.  Yes, I gave up Wal-Mart for Lent.

Before you start judging my choice as lame or me as too weak-willed to give up something you agree to be a difficult sacrifice, let me explain why I made this choice and the difficulties this sacrifice entails.  And, Judgy McJudgerson, Jesus gave a direct order to all of us to not judge each other.  Don’t believe me?  Google “Thou shalt not judge,” and see what comes up.  (Apparently, I did not give up heavy-handed sarcasm for Lent.  Maybe next year.)

First things first, giving up Wal-Mart is in fact a sacrifice for me and, at the very least, a huge inconvenience.

I live in a very small town and Wal-Mart is the only shopping game in town.  To my great sadness, we do not have a Target.  We do not have a Costco.  Sam’s and any other big box store you can think of do not exist in my tiny, shopping-deprived town.  The mall is half-vacant and depressing with its dull lighting and odd smelling carpet.  We have grocery stores, hardware stores, and drug stores.  But if you want it all in one place, as this lazy shopaholic does, Wal-Mart is your only option.

Secondly, I decided to give up Wal-Mart for 40 days and 40 nights to really try to become a better, healthier, happier person.

My innate laziness and compulsive shopping habit drives me to Wal-Mart in search of one-stop shopping, groceries and the latest product to preserve my skin for eternity in one place.  I’m just too lazy to go to three different stores to complete my shopping list or drive 45 minutes to the nearest decent shopping plaza.  And if you do not believe I have a shopping addiction, I encourage you to read Pretty Girl in the Room.  I didn’t create a beauty product storage problem over night.  This took years of dedication to my nasty little habit until I finally woke up one day to the physical display of countless bad choices, buckets of money down the drain, and mountains of guilt and disappointment that I gave in so frequently to my personal devil.  At first, I was relieved to live in a town without Sephora, Ulta or a decent mall.  I hoped that my shopping addiction would be cured.  No such luck.  I just lowered my standards.  Oh sure, I would tell myself that I would just browse the skin care and cosmetics aisles before heading to the grocery side, but once under those fluorescent lights surrounded by “Rollbacks”, the devil would come out to play.   By the time I was swiping my card at the checkout, my cart would be filled with impulse buys of exactly what I didn’t need in every color imaginable.  Rather than wait for a much needed intervention, I took action:  no more Wal-Mart.

My Lenten promise is making me a better, healthier, happier person, at least in some ways:

  1. Impulse purchasing is difficult if you are only motivated to do what is convenient.  Without a one-stop shop, I now seriously evaluate what I need and what I merely want.  My dislike for driving outweighs my shopping addiction.
  2. I want to streamline and simplify.  I now have the need to not only stop increasing the excesses in my life, but to get rid of my current excesses.
  3. I’m pretty sure my blood pressure is lower, and I am having fewer impure thoughts.  I don’t know this for sure, but it has to be true.  Even though Wal-Mart is convenient, I don’t think I have ever completed a trip to Wal-Mart without the desire to punch someone in the neck.   I’m actually pretty proud of myself that I have never acted on this impulse, but in the Catholic Church, even the negative thoughts are sinful.  And considering the lack of proper undergarments, the overabundance of pajama bottoms and house shoes, the screaming children, the screaming adults, the obstacle course of carts and stock strewn about as if the Tasmanian Devil himself just whirled down the aisles, and the often rude beyond belief staff, I have had plenty of reason to punch someone.  My anxiety is rising just thinking about it all.  And now I need to go to confession again for all these hateful thoughts.
  4. I have realized a key factor in removing garbage from my life:  I must stop walking willfully into the garbage.  What is the definition of insanity?  Doing the same action over and over again and expecting a different resolution.  I do not have the power to convince the world to stop thinking Wal-Mart is the perfect place to display that low back tattoo, way too much of newly acquired cleavage, or the fun side of your personality by wearing Sponge Bob Square Pants pajama bottoms in public with your four kids in tow.  So, I will put a stop to this particular insanity by refusing to go into a Wal-Mart for another 3 weeks.  I will not even take a Sunday reprieve.  Maybe I will continue my Lenten promise indefinitely.
  5. Hopefully, this will also make me think a little more kindly about my fellow human beings.  Let’s face it; even a short trip through Wal-Mart makes me dislike the general public.  That grown-ass woman in the Sponge Bob Square Pants pajama bottoms might otherwise be a lovely person with so much on her plate taking care of four children that she doesn’t even have the time to put on actual pants before leaving her house.  It’s possible, right?

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Tabata Torture Challenge Update

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Three weeks ago, I finished my first Tabata challenge:  go to two Tabata workouts each week for four weeks.  During those four weeks, I also played tennis at least twice each week and attended a weekly tennis clinic.  In my original post, Torture, Tabata Style!, I promised to evaluate my results at the end of the four weeks.  Well, my results were not good.  I did lose 1/2 inch off of my waist and hips, but I gained 5 pounds!  I also ended up with a nasty case of bursitis in my right shoulder which has resulted in a 3 week doctor-mandated rest period.

So, what did I gain from my Tabata experiment?

1.  The hope that muscle does weigh more than fat.  I am truly baffled that I could exercise in such painful ways for four weeks and gain 5 pounds!  Actually, I’m pissed off.

2.  The understanding that an exercise routine should vary so that one muscle group is not overworked to the point of injury, i.e. my right shoulder, which was injured and aggravated by too many push-ups, mountain climbers, dead lifts, and tennis serves.

3.  The wisdom to listen to my body.  Rest when rest is necessary.  Rather than paying attention to the pain in my shoulder, which started during week three, I pushed through the pain, dismissing it as “just a little sore” in order to complete the four weeks.  My shoulder was not sore.  My shoulder hurt like hell.

4.  The reminder that the road to becoming a physically fit goddess is long and paved with set backs such as shoulder injuries.  (Patience, grasshopper, you’ll get there.)

5.  Acceptance of my inability to crab walk!  I celebrate this gain.  I glorify it!  I walk just fine as a human, upright on 2 legs.  I can even do it in heels.  Who cares if I am not coordinated or strong enough to crab walk?  I’ll worry about crab walking when I become a crab.