Grandma, what dark circles you have

You probably already know this, but in case you had any lingering doubts—if you are a woman and someone wants to watch you put on your makeup, say no.

Bunking on the air mattress at our son’s place in Chicago, I got up early, straightened my spine and staggered to the bathroom for my morning routine. After showering and dressing, I cracked open the door to let out some of the steam and was soon joined by a six-year-old watching me put on my face.

“Why are you rubbing that stuff all over your face, Grandma?”

“Well, as you age your skin dries out and can look uneven. This helps fix it. You don’t have dry skin. Your skin is beautiful just like it is.”

dark circles captioned“Oh.”

“It can help wrinkles. You don’t have wrinkles. Do you see mine?”

“Yes! On your forehead! One, two, three. And there’s some on the side of your face, too! One, two—”

“OK, that’s enough.”

“My mom doesn’t rub that on her face.”

“That’s because your mom is young and has beautiful skin.”

“But my other grandma doesn’t rub that on her face.”

“That’s because your other grandma has very good skin, too. She’s the one who gave your mother good skin. Now let’s stop making this grandma feel bad.”

“What are you doing with that pencil, Grandma?”

“Filling in some missing eyebrows.”

“Where did they go?”

“I don’t know. They just went missing.”

“And now you’re using the pencil on your eyelid?”

“Yep.”

“What if you go outside the line?”

“Then it will be time to close the makeup bag.”

“What is that, Grandma? Are you trying to straighten out your eyelashes?”

“No, it’s mascara. It makes your eyelashes look thicker.”

“Are your eyelashes missing, too?”

“Yes, they ran away with parts of my eyebrows.  Didn’t I hear your dad calling you?”

“No he’s still asleep.”

“Too bad.”

“What’s that, Grandma?”

“It’s concealer. It helps cover the dark circles under my eyes.”

“How do you get those?”

“I got the concealer from the drugstore. The dark circles I got from raising children, being married to your grandpa and sleeping on the air mattress.”

“Are you finished?”

“Just about. Every lady needs to put on one more before she’s finished.”

“What’s that?”

“A smile.”

 

Heads up, phone down, left, right, left

It’s official – we’re dumber than we thought. The New York Times recently published a piece on the dangers of distracted walking (walking glued to electronic devices) complete with tips on how to walk.

Yep, it’s that bad. We need instructions on how to walk.

On the bright side, the article did not include instructions on how to stand upright. At least we still know how to do a few things. Sort of.

If Charles Darwin were alive, he might need to update that popular graphic on the evolution of man. Upright man is rapidly returning to crouched positon. It began with Earbud Man (head slightly down) followed by Cell Phone Man

Cell Phone man(head down, shoulders rounded and back hunched). Of course, there are the occasional interruptions in regression demonstrated by Selfie Man, who frequently assumes erect posture with an extended arm, elongated neck and upright head.

Distracted walkers are also known as petextrians, people who text while walking. Petextrians often stumble off curbs, walk headfirst into light poles, fall down stairs, or collide with you and your hot cup of coffee. They are like drivers who text, only without the protection of a large steel casing and airbags.

Petextrians often admit to texting while crossing the street. Anybody who navigates traffic areas on foot, glued to an electronic device, has weak survival instincts. Whenever you intersect the path of a human with the path of a motor vehicle, the odds are overwhelming that it’s not going to end well for the human.

Two of the more famous petextrians include a woman in Alaska who fell off a 12-foot cliff and had to be airlifted to safety before the tide rolled in, as well as the Pennsylvania woman who walked into a mall fountain while glued to her phone.

A man at the gym I go to often winds up on a treadmill only a few treadmills away. He has wonderful headphones that shut out the world. I know, because I have a pair, too. The man’s headphones lead him into such a deep, faux isolation that he often sings along. Loudly. The problem is, it is often hard to tell if he is singing or experiencing acute pain.

There is something captivating about the gadgets that let us create small worlds within the larger world. There is something compelling about the small devices that beep, buzz and chime. We have been conditioned to respond to them and respond quickly, like Pavlov’s dogs.

Unfortunately, unlike Pavlov’s dogs, we do not have eyes on the sides of our heads giving us good peripheral vision, nor are our reflexes as quick. And so we are back to square one, the basics of walking: “Look where you’re going.”

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons reports that, at any given moment, 60 percent of pedestrians on the streets of America are distracted while walking.

All this petextrian business gives added dimension to the jokes that used to begin, “A priest, a minister and a rabbi walk into a bar . . . “

 

 

 

 

Mary and Joseph are coming to town

A young pregnant woman, about to give birth, is refused suitable lodging. We are aghast. We are appalled at the dearth of human kindness.

That is the story we hear each Christmas about Mary and Joseph turned away because there “was no room for them in the inn.”

We wonder why wouldn’t somebody sorry no vacancymake room? Why wouldn’t somebody invite them in to sleep on their floor? We are incensed at the coldness; yet we are those somebodies.

Pollster George Barna once said when most people hear statistics, poll results, or information on behavior patterns, they usually apply the findings to others, not themselves.

We hear a report on the declining civility in American culture, and we think of someone else who has been rude or abrupt or who has behaved like a cad. We tend to give ourselves a pass.

We hear about a woman nine months pregnant forced to give birth in a shelter for animals and we think how self-absorbed those people were. Rarely do we consider that they were probably people just like us.

We could have been those somebodies all those years ago—too busy, too crowded, and too preoccupied. We could be those somebodies even now.

The inn has never been more crowded than it is today. Best wishes prying open the door. The inn is packed with over-scheduled people frantically coming and going, scrambling to host or attend parties, creating playlists, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping and decorating. So much to do and so little time.

Why, no, we’d never shut out the holy family. We’d never be so preoccupied as to miss the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ. Or would I? Do I?

Truthfully, much of what we do, the many activities and self-imposed requirements for celebrating Christmas, have little to do with the genuine meaning of the holiday. On the one hand, they’re fun and a delight to the senses and create marvelous memories. On the other hand, we grow nearly frantic with each additional activity, raising the water level a little more and a little more until we are struggling to stay afloat.

We recently watched a program about Christmas traditions in Europe. The narrator said the celebrations there are usually understated but elegant. We Americans have never done understated well.

We excel at doing things big. Even Christmas. Especially Christmas.

But perhaps the best way to celebrate Christmas is not to pack the inn quite so full. Leave room for the unexpected, for extending spontaneous hospitality and for a sudden change in plans.

Be the sort of somebody willing to make room. Keep the door open a crack. And in the spirit of advent, keep watch. Wait and watch—in the small snippets of quiet, in the still of the night, the early rays of sunrise, or the twilight of late afternoon—stay alert and you will witness the joy and beauty and mystery of heaven reaching down to earth.

 

‘What Can I Give Him?’

I’ve shared this poem in Christmas talks recently and have had requests to post it. I transcribed this years ago from a poor-quality cassette of a woman reading it at a conference.  Consequently, I may have the author’s name wrong and I may have a few words wrong (my apologies), but you’ll like the big idea.

Christmas starWHAT CAN I GIVE HIM?
Claudia Langin

As I’m thinking of Christmas, the birthday of Christ,
I’m thinking a gift for Him would be nice.
But what can I give to the one who owns all?
Nothing seems fitting; I could buy him the mall.

He owns all the cattle on the hills where they roam,
He owns all the valleys and oceans of foam.
I can’t knit Him a sweater or buy him a doll,
Nothing seems fitting; no nothing at all.

I remember His birthday, when to earth He first came,
And Kings from afar brought gifts in His name.
And the story of the drummer boy who had nothing to bring;
Except for his song to give to his King.

O what can I give him, what can I bring?
To Jesus the Christ child, to Jesus the King.
I’d give Him whatever He’d tell me He’d want,
If He’d give me a list I’d know where to start.

Then He whispered so softly that only I knew,
I could give Him my anger when my thermostat blew.
And how about that bitterness that had slowly crept in,
That had turned my faith sour and revealed my sin.

Or maybe that lie that I told just last week,
When it seemed so much easier than the truth I should speak.
Or maybe the anger that crept in on the way,
While jealousy lingered and pride seemed to stay.

Or maybe those thoughtless words that came out,
And hurt those that are near me or caused them to doubt.
I could give him impatience, hatred and strife,
I could give him my heartaches and troubles of life.

Or how about those motives too evil to share,
Or that depression that seems to come up from nowhere.
I could give him the critical words that I said,
Or the frustrations I felt before the kids went to bed.

Or how about those grudges I’m holding on to,
Or the pressure I feel when there’s so much to do.
Or my lack of forgiveness when others do wrong,
Or my unwillingness to sing when he gives me a song.

“Oh, what can you give me?” I heard in my ear,
“Whatever you’re willing to give me this year.
I need nothing from you, but want all that you are,
Not giftwrapped or fancy, not gifts from afar.

“Are you willing to give up those handcuffs of self,
Or is it easier to hide them up on a shelf?
Packages pretty of red, green and blue,
Are not what I’m asking this Christmas from you.

“Try giving a present to me every day,
The list will be shorter by Christmas that way.
The time is fast fleeting, there’s so much to do,
To be finished by Christmas is up to you.”

I dropped my head slowly and pondered awhile,
Then I prayed help me Jesus and felt his soft smile.
To others I’ll share the gift of my wealth,
But to Jesus this year, I’ll give him myself.

 

Ho, ho, hold that pose!

Today I offer simple rules and basic scare tactics for taking pictures of small children for Christmas cards. I did portrait work for some years, although today I only do portraits for people I am related to—or to whom I am deeply indebted.

The husband and I met while studying photojournalism at the University of Missouri. The story goes that we met in the darkroom to see what would develop. If you got that joke, thanks for laughing. If not, return to your iPhone.

A good rule of thumb for taking pictures of small children is this: for every year old the child is, that is how manymontage3 minutes the child will cooperate.

A second rule of thumb is that for each additional child you add to the picture, reduce the age-to-minutes ratio of cooperation by 80 percent. Or more.

A third rule of thumb (and yes, we are completely out of thumbs) is that you should expect the photo session, at some point, to become a train wreck. There may be tears, scowling, anguish, and wringing of hands— from the adults.

When you work with three or more small children, there is a good chance one child will jab or elbow another child. Physical contact will escalate and you will have to intervene. You will later feel guilty about putting the picture on a card that says “Peace on Earth.”

When you work with four or more small children, there is a good chance at least one of the children will be crying. Take the picture anyway.

When you work with five or more small children, plan on one of them exiting the picture entirely. This is why we have Photoshop.

What to do with uncooperative children? Bribe them – but carefully.

You can give a child an M&M, but never give a crying child an M&M hoping it will pacify the child. The child will gladly eat the M&M, but keep crying, only to have chocolate drool down the child’s face and onto the white shirt. All the other (non-crying) children will be wearing dark shirts, but the kid drooling chocolate will be wearing a white shirt.

If you want an easy and enjoyable experience taking family photographs for your Christmas card, it would be best to take pictures of family members age 95 and older. They usually move slightly slower than small children, are far more patient and may even nap as you change lenses and adjust the lighting.

It may be true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the thousand words have been heavily edited. We have years of pictures of children, our own and others and now grandchildren, in which the children look calm, peaceful, casually color coordinated and fully cooperative.

For a split second, maybe they really were.