As usual, my dread of shopping has resulted in a last-minute frenzy. is my new best friend. I think we’ve probably placed a dozen orders, and they’re all due to arrive on Christmas Eve. Before 8:00 PM. This could cause problems since we have one of the three family tree events on Christmas Eve around 6:00. But I BELIEVE. I BELIEVE UPS will deliver. I have to believe that or I will be forced to consider the alternative: “Thank you so much for your thoughtful gift. Yours is in a truck en route to my house as we speak. I’ll drop it off sometime before New Year. You’re welcome.”

Second issue: We have lost the box of wrapping paper, ribbon and gift bags that I collected (hoarded) for the past 20 years. We have climbed into both attics, dug through every closet and looked through every pile in the garage. Nothing. I’m not too panicked about that yet as there are only two gifts that were actually purchased “live and in person,” so I’m not surrounded by unwrapped boxes. Yet. Worst case scenario? I either buy all new supplies or let my lazy side win and wrap all the gifts in newspaper. Wonder if everyone would believe I was suddenly concerned about the environment and was making a “statement”?

Nah. They know me too well. I’ll wrap the gifts in aluminum foil. They’ll resemble well-packaged leftovers.

It’s just that kind of year. I wouldn’t even have all the decorations out if not for Austin. He decided he didn’t like my minimalist Christmas (tree and wreath only), went into the attic while I was at work and dragged everything out. When I got home the stockings were hung by the chimney (with care) and the baby Jesus & Company adorned the side table in the den. If he does the same thing in reverse before January 2nd, I’ll consider my wildest Christmas dreams realized.

Okay, not really. But close. My wildest Christmas dream is being somewhere on an island, with warm temperatures and crystal clear blue water lapping at my toes as I sip a rum drink. Sigh.


Instead, I’m going to enjoy the tried and true traditions of a drive with the boys (and Daisy) to look at Christmas lights, a late night viewing of White Christmas, (somehow I managed to convince Derek to watch it with me when he was younger and now it’s our tradition – often enjoyed by just the two of us), and the Christmas Eve candlelight service that always manages to make me well up when they dim the lights and the congregation sings the last stanza of “Silent Night.”

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Now, pass the eggnog. I’ve gotta’ get creative with the Reynolds wrap.



Due to medication and someone having the terrible judgment (sorry, Mom, but it’s true sometimes), I was left to my own devices in the mall. As the story goes, Mom met me at Northpark Center to generously purchase my early Christmas present, birthday present and perhaps Easter gift, all in one.

Once she departed, I drifted over to Brookstone where I bought a FABULOUS new cover and keyboard to go with my FABULOUS new ipad. So far so good except the part that I left out about how my iPhone charger “socket?” is corroded, which is highly unusual and caused my numero uno IT contact at work – to whom I immediately sent an email from the store – to respond to my email with probing technical questions like,

-Are you using some “odd ball” charger?
-Are you working on the beach at the ocean?
-Have you tried not breathing on it?

He has promised to help me Monday if I bring him a flaxen haired fair maiden and two pigs. Not necessarily in that order.

ANYWAY, off I go with my new stuff… oh, I forgot to say I moved the car because this mall is BIG and I HATE malls, so I moved my car closer to where the Brookstone was so I would have to deal with less people NOT GETTING OUT OF MY WAY. (Can you even imagine how stressed I am when not on 10 mg of Valium?)

I do the deal at Brookstone and stroll (or power walk with elbows jutting out to take up as much space as possible so I don’t get knocked over by people) to the nearest exit (right by Macy’s) and drive happily away. Until I am 5 minutes from home in my medicated stupor and realize I did NOT go into Macy’s (the other reason for going to the mall) and pick up my new black riding boots and scrumptious patten leather pumps. You see, I had purchased them days ago but had to wait to pick them up until after the 28th to save 25% – and so they “THE MAN, i.e. Donald Trump” could lure me back into the shoe department.


Instead, I had to return to the mall on Saturday. Saturday. In December. A MALL. I searched – and I am not joking – 40 minutes for a parking space which I found far, far away from my destination and put on my game face. You’ll have to take my word for it. Game face is SUPER SERIOUS and has been known to make people clasp their small children a little closer.

Guess what happens at Northpark Center in December? Holiday Events. LOTS of them.



I passed Santa’s Toy Shoppe Puppet Theatre, Gingertown Dallas, and the Holiday Performance Area. Not sure what was happening there, but it involved a choir, then I saw them shove a bunch of semi-nude dancers on stage. The only explanation I can come up with for the costumes was that the next group – possibly the Cirque Dreams Holidaze – had absconded with every sequin in the tri-state area.

I made my way back out of Macy’s and crossed the mass of humanity watching the latest festive performance. Then and there, a Christmas miracle happened.

I was speeding unencumbered toward the exit, when from behind me in the performance area, I heard the strains of… Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries – and I smiled in victory.


For those who read A Pain in the Neck, you will understand that there is no possible way to take five prescriptions without there being some side effects. Mine range from heart burn, nausea, blurred vision, slurred speech, hallucinations, drowsiness, and a sudden desire to be crafty. As in MAKE CRAFTS.

It all began when Derek arrived home on Tuesday from Mizzou. I knew he was home because he’d parked the car in the driveway which makes it impossible for me to drive UP the driveway and pull into the garage. Austin arrived Wednesday. Once the boys are here, the world revolves around football. Wait, I take that back. Whether the boys are here or not, the world revolves around football. College football.

Despite the drug cocktail, I knew I was licked. As I tossed back a Valium with a glass of Chardonnay I had a brilliant idea. It normally takes a wild pack of dogs to get the boys to bring the trusty artificial tree out of the garage and set it up. This time, I would motivate them in a way they’d never expect.

“Guess what we’re going to do this year with the Christmas tree?” I asked the three statues in the den whose eyes were focused on the TWO television screens that were maniacally playing marching band music as inane announcers solemnly intoned, “They’re really going to have to come out in this next half and take control of the ball or they’re going to lose this game.”

Obviously riveted by this insightful commentary, I tried the dazed trio again. With an enthusiastic holiday frenzy I did not feel I enthused, “You’ll never guess!”

Sigh. “We’re going to forget all about those precious, handmade Christmas ornaments my late grandmother made from SCRATCH and INSTEAD have a football themed Christmas tree. Mizzou, Baylor – all the schools that accepted my sometimes under-achieving yet personable men (including Robert’s TCU) would be represented. Alabama would also be included by default as it is “grandfathered” in. (For a formal ruling, please contact Ralph Holt.) NOW I had their attention. For about 30 seconds.


“But how?”

“Is this a trick?”

Indeed. How I was going to carry this off was anybody’s guess, but when you’re a Valium and a painkiller into the day, the details just tend to take care of themselves. First, the color theme. We needed to incorporate black and gold, green and gold, deep red and white, and purple and white? Or black? Whatever.

I didn’t even have to Google or Pinterest to know I would have trouble with the black Christmas ornaments. I did the only thing that made sense. I left the house the next morning before the boys were awake and made my way to Michaels.

I still had no plan. Michaels is no place to be without a plan. I headed for the Christmas ornaments, elbowed an adorable gay couple out of my way, and found packages of eight for 50% off. (50% off ornaments, not gays.) I quickly scooped up red, purple, white, green and opted to pick up a couple of packages of clear ornaments as well. In order to destroy the clear glass, I grabbed a can of glossy black spray paint and a nifty glitter spray called “twilight.” A few glitter pens of gold, silver, white, platinum, black and handsful of red, silver and gold letter stickers signaled the end of the shopping trip – until I spotted thick wire-edged ribbon in red, gold and purple. Because you just never know.

I returned home and spread my bounty on the dining room table. Then, I strung the clear glass ball ornaments in the garage and began to spray paint like there was no tomorrow. (And before Robert could come out and tell me I was doing it wrong/and or was going to blow myself up.)

Back at the dining table, a Christmas miracle happened. Derek and Austin pulled up chairs and began “crafting” right along with me. It took us HOURS, and some creative slogans, but I can honestly say it was one of the most enjoyable times I’ve spent with them in ages. The best part about it was we weren’t really DOING anything. There was no TV. Derek played some Christmas music, and we just CHATTED. Truly, I thought they’d drift in and out as I did the work, but they were right there the whole way. We laughed, we encouraged each other, we helped each other spell challenging words like “Missouri.”

Who’d have thought I’d be hosting a Christmas ornament decoration committee with my 20+-year-old boys? For proof, lest it actually be one of those hallucinations mentioned earlier, I have evidence.

Derek and Austin “crafting.”

Christmas miracle number two? By the time I got home from errands this morning, the tree was up and lit. The two TVs were still in place – or out of place – but every miracle comes with a price.

I have no idea how the tree will actually look, but it doesn’t matter, because it’s our first tree to make as a family. I’m just sorry it was overdue. I’ll post pictures when complete. In the meantime…



Update: I was pleased to see the boys insisted on adding some of Grandma’s old ornaments. I guess those little felt and sequined ornaments remind them of their childhoods as well.

Now, if we can only find a Heisman Trophy replica to place on top of the tree, we can all burn in hell together.


Someone make it stop. It’s that holly jolly time of year when I inexplicably forget all evidence to the contrary and decide that I’m “crafty.” Not “plot a coup” crafty. “Grab a glue gun and get busy” crafty.

The problem with that is – well, there are multiple problems with this. There’s a difference… a WORLD of difference between creative and crafty. If I were truly a craft-type person, I would own a glue gun. I don’t. In fact, I’m kind of afraid of the damage I might do with hot glue. So far, I have managed to refrain from purchasing one, although I do eye them warily in the store and have reached for one every now and again before regaining control. It’s as if I realize we COULD have a relationship, but it would be an unhealthy one.

How do people do this? Everyone I know is busy making homemade biscotti or sewing quilts, or knitting or making photo books or basket weaving or making a homemade nativity scene out of paper mache and spit. It’s annoying. It’s enough to give a girl a complex. Especially this girl.

The urge to craft must be genetic. Years ago, my mother, who had the good sense to work with florist wire instead of glue, made Christmas wreaths. I still have the one she gave me almost 20 years ago. I’ve refurbished it a bit, re-attaching parts with wire and replacing items as they become too weathered or broken, but I still think of it as hers.


Then there’s my fraternal grandmother. She was an amazing seamstress. Gertie made rag dolls, clothes, decorations and quilts that were truly works of art. Many went to the church bazaar each year, but I have a collection of her Christmas ornaments I use every year on my tree. Sometimes I get the urge to leave them in the closet and decorate with beautiful glass or fabric and gemstone / glittery ornaments – color coordinated in jewel tones or shades of blue and purple… but I scrap the idea when I think of a “decorator” tree versus the “handmade” tree.

Here’s a selection of some of my favorites.


Seriously. Look at the detail on these. The eyelashes are little tiny stitches.

I adore this little rosy-cheeked Eskimo. The fringe, the little toothpick (spear) in his hand. (Don’t think about the baby seals.)

Then there’s the Snowman and his mittens and scarf. His eyelashes are stitched as well.

So perhaps you can see where I might get the impression I’m supposed to CREATE something for Christmas. Something the boys can share with their kids someday. Something that generations to come will pull out of a dusty box and say, “Oh! I remember this! Crazy old Ann made this!”

Therefore, against my better judgement I am pondering a trip to Michael’s, where I will wander about staring blankly at decorative ribbon, styrofoam, felt, glitter, fake evergreens and holly. In the end, I will spend $45+ dollars to come home and make a mess. I know this because it’s an annual event, and as you may have noticed, you are not viewing any pictures of anything I made. That would be because nothing exists. I might as well go to Michael’s and pay the guy at the floral desk $45 dollars to mock me. The end result would be the same but my fingers wouldn’t be glued together.   

Wish me luck on my creative adventure. If nothing else, maybe someday, when one of the boys is playing with his son or daughter on the rug they “inherited” from us, they will find a tiny sequin superglued to a bit of fringe and say, “Hey! I remember this! This is from that year Ann tried to make homemade ornaments! Man, could she cuss!”