Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Table Talk

What is quality time with the family? We hear a lot of talk about that today. I saw a commercial that proposed that quality family time was spent in front of the TV. It is enjoyable for our family to order pizza and rent a movie to watch together, but I much prefer the times we can actually talk and get to know each other better. That’s the way it was when I was a kid.

As we become adults we realize that it’s a fact of life that kids grow up, move away, and sometimes start their own families. That is when it’s time for family reunions where everyone gets together and remembers the past. It seems we don’t often remind each other of the sensible or successful things we have accomplished throughout our lifetimes, but of the silly, the stupid, the ridiculous, the things we would rather not be reminded of. At least that’s the way it is with my family.

One of the events that’s always remembered among my family is dinnertime. It’s brought to mind the most because that’s where we were together as a family. Mom made sure of that. If us kids weren’t working, we were expected at dinner with the family.

There were four kids in our family and the dinner table was where we told of the day’s events, our plans for the next or where we vented our frustrations with the world and with each other.

One thing that always comes to mind is when during dinner my dad would fuss at those preachers that promote quality time is made at the dinner table. My dad very much enjoyed listening to those preachers, but oh, how he wished to invite them to dinner at our house. He always asked, after someone belched, made a rude comment or some such nonsense, “Is this their idea of quality time?”

Our dinner table could also actually be a place of warfare. It was also where most “accidents” occurred.

One time, my sister, Martha, had been bothering me all day long. After my parents left the table my sister pushed me to the limit. I pushed her, right into her tuna noodle casserole. She came up dripping with noodles. They hung from her eyelashes, chin and nose. Then a pea rolled out from one of her nostrils. Needless to say, she didn’t bother me for the rest of the evening.

A couple of hours unannoyed by your little sister, that’s quality time.

As a child, there were times that I believed that brothers were put on this earth for the sole purpose of annoying sisters. Mine tried to get me in trouble whenever he saw an opportunity. And because I didn’t get caught too often he tried his best to succeed in bringing my wrong doings to our parents’ attention.

One cold morning before school, my mom was in her “you need to eat a hot breakfast” mode. Billy and I were sitting across the table from each other eating before school, when I sneezed unexpectedly. Unlucky for him, my mouth was full of cocoa.

He yelled that I spit in his mug on purpose, even though it didn’t go anywhere near him or his mug. Mom made me drink his, while she gave him a fresh cup.

Getting your goody-goody sister in trouble, that’s quality time.

Then there was my youngest sister Sarah. She didn’t always want to eat what she was given, so she would arrange her unwanted food underneath the edge of her plate, trying to make it look like it had fallen off. One night, she had a little help from big brother. When they were finished, one side of her plate was three inches higher than the other. Did they think Mom wouldn’t notice?

Sharing the blame with your favorite brother, that’s quality time.

The rest of us had ways of getting rid of unwanted food. Billy simply put his on Martha’s plate when she wasn’t looking. Martha put hers in the pockets of her overalls, and then went to feed the cats after dinner. Of course, this only worked till mom found squash in the pockets one day while doing the laundry. I would wrap my food up in a napkin and throw it behind the water heater in the bathroom. I wish I had known that my uncle was coming over to help my dad replace the water heater. I would have gotten in less trouble if I’d had fair warning to get rid of the evidence.

After our tricks were found out, we just had quiet food fights after my parents left the table. They couldn’t understand why we were so eager to sweep the floor after dinner, but we all remained silent.

Siblings sharing secrets, that’s quality time.

All that sounds like we wasted a lot of food, but we really didn’t. We were a family with a healthy appetite so there were hardly ever leftovers. One night we had a cookout. We had steak, baked potatoes and fresh salad with vegetables from our garden. I had already had my share and then some. There was one potato left and we were taught manners, so I asked if anyone else wanted it. No one answered, so I reached out to grab it. Suddenly, my dad’s fork was lightly poking my hand. I looked up and he smiled and said, “I’ll split it with you.”

Sharing the last potato with dad, that’s quality time.

Corn on the cob was a family favorite. We served it one night when the Pastor’s family came over for dinner. The corn was fresh and it was juicy! When I took a bite, juice flew from my cob and hit my pastor right between the eyes. He wasn’t too happy about it, but I really didn’t mean it. Neither did his wife when she got him in the side of the head a few minutes later.

Helping a stuffy pastor relax a little, that’s quality time.

The furniture and house helped make dinner exciting, too. We lived in an old farmhouse. Our kitchen table was an antique hand made by my great-grandfather. Neither the floor, nor the table was level. Actually, they leaned in the same direction. One night dad, at the high end of the table, was cutting his pork chop when his knife slipped. The knife scraped across his plate and hit his peas. We all watched as a dozen peas rolled down the table into my mom’s lap.

A show and dinner with the whole family, that’s quality time.

Then there was the time none of us will ever forget. As children are learning to cook, sometimes things don’t always come out well. We all burned things! A friend of our family’s stopped over right before dinner, so my mom invited him to stay. I was fixing dinner and most everything was cooked to perfection, except the rice. You know, the kind you have to sauté first and if you don’t keep a close eye on it, it will scorch? This friend of ours must never have cooked for himself or at least cooked worse than I did at the time.

I scorched that rice so badly nobody wanted any. However, Mr. Friend couldn’t stop eating it. We all encouraged him to take as much as he wanted.

Not having to eat all that scorched rice ourselves, that’s quality time.

There were some very precious moments that happened over dinner at our house. However, when we are all around the dinner table or tables now, depending on how many grandchildren join in the fun, it’s the silly, stupid things that we all remember. They were, after all, much more numerous than the serious or sad.

We still get together for dinner, though not as often as we all would like since between the four of us kids, we live in three different states.

So for all those parents out there that complain about everything that happens at the dinner table that isn’t particularly pleasant, stop and enjoy. These are exactly the times that will be remembered and cherished. Create some memories while spending time with your family because just like everything else, time spent all together will pass away. I think that if Christ was at the table with my family, even He couldn’t help but laugh and enjoy Himself. The most special guest for dinner is your own family.

And even after all these years, my dad still wishes to invite those preachers to share a meal with our family because the grandkids come up with new tricks that make him question the value of quality time during dinner at the table.

That in itself, is quality time.

This Thanksgiving I hope your family is like ours. We ENJOY being all crammed around the table together. That way no one misses anything and everyone feels special. Make some memories!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Christmas Gift Ideas

I have the pleasure of a job that I love. Who wouldn’t like to write and read all day? All right, I know there’s probably plenty of people that would not enjoy that, but for me, it’s next to heaven, especially this time of year when I can work curled up with a quilt next to the wood stove.

Because of my love of books, I often enjoy passing along my joys by giving them as gifts to others for Christmas, whether hard copies or ebooks. When I give a book, I feel that I am giving a gift that will last a lifetime. Once a person reads a story, it becomes a part of them. So, here are some of the favorite books I’ve read this past year. Click on the covers to go to Amazon and find out more about them and make purchases for the readers on your list.
The Shift by M. Ann Ricks
I, Saul by Jerry Jenkins
The Daughter of Highland Hall by Carrie Turansky
Three By Ted Dekker
The Reunion by Dan Walsh
Belonging by Ruth O'Neil

If you are more into shorter fiction, here is a short story to help you and your family get into the holiday spirit. "Christmas at Martha's House" is a story that was written by my mother when us kids were young. I may or may not have a part in it. If you know me and my family well, you can probably pick me out. I may even be willing to tell people if anyone asks in the comments. I love this story as it brings back so many memories of Christmases past for me.

These are just a few of my favorite books. To see more, follow this link to my book review page for even more good books. What are some of your favorite books you’ve read this year? What are some of your favorite Christmas memories? I’d love to hear from you, so please share them in the comments. For anyone who shares a comment, you are automatically entered into a contest to win a small Christmas gift from me.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wonder Woman

I once knew a woman who was constantly looked down on by her mother in law because her home was not perfectly clean. This mom spent her days taking care of her son knowing the days with him were short. She chose to enjoy every moment possible. While she kept up with household chores while he napped there were some things that were neglected, but a perfect house wasn’t of great importance to her.

Once you have children your time is no longer your own. Your days are filled tending to other people’s needs. Often it may seem there are not enough hours in the day to cram in everything you need to do.

If you weren’t feeling badly enough about all the chores you’ve left undone, along comes Wonder Woman whose house is in perfect order, never fixes her family frozen pizza for dinner and is always impeccably dressed with her perfect hair and perfect make-up. The same goes for her kids. You think it’s great if your kids are all fully clothed. We all inwardly do not like this Wonder Woman.

Let me tell you a secret, even Wonder Woman has dust bunnies under her bed.

Solomon tells us in Ecclesiastes there is a time for everything under heaven. There is a time for us to plant our gardens and also a time to pick the vegetables that have grown there. The key is that we must do everything in its time. When our children are young, we must put time and effort into raising them. Read a book or play a game with them. Forget the laundry that isn’t folded and the pile of dishes on the counter that is growing larger by the second. What is truly important here? The child.

Take the thirty minutes to an hour, or even a whole day if necessary, to spend time with your precious offspring. No, the laundry and the dishes won’t be done, but they’ll still be there later – trust me on this, I know.

Take note of what is truly important and spend your time there. No one ever said on their deathbed they wished their house was cleaner. Yes, the mess may make your home seem a little more chaotic, but you are creating something pretty special in that chaos – a happy childhood. Don’t worry about perfection. Your home should be clean enough to be healthy, but perfection can be a trap and an unattainable goal.

The holiday season is fast approaching. We seem to be called on to make each year surpass the last. But remember, we cannot do everything all at once, but we can do everything in its own time. That makes you Wonder Woman.