Reflections from a Former Wiseman


I am a tall female. I am now 5’ 9.5”. I was 5’4” at the age of 10 years old. When one is tall she must accept her end of the height spectrum. I stopped wearing Danskos because elderly men would stop me in the store and inquire as to the specifications of my height. The pilot is taller than I am, but he slouches. So, I have these gorgeous heels that are still too tall to wear in public…

My mother says my spiritual gift is to help shorter people get things off shelves. I love that in my community the petite, elderly ladies feel comfortable coming up to me in a store and asking if I would come help them with a high item. “The next time a tall person comes by, would he or she please____?” is a common request when I visit my parents. My mother insists she’s average, but my sister cheekily refers to her as “the short one” in her emails.

All that to say, being tall wasn’t always something I celebrated. Maybe it’s good my own height realization trauma happened so early in my life.

So, a set up: ALL little girls want to be Mary in the Christmas pageant. They know they might not get there, but that role is like the SUGAR PLUM FAIRY, people! That is why Imogene Herdman in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” scared her rivals away from being Mary. I WANTED TO BE MARY. I was 4. Mary had never been played by someone under 9 or 10. I knew that year wouldn’t be my year. I would be an angel. My perfect cousin Ingrid, whom I was ALWAYS trying to emulate or being told I ought to emulate, at the age of 7, was cast as Mary.

Fine. Not a problem. 4 year olds don’t get cast as Mary. I’ll be happy to be an angel with a sparkly halo and sparkly wings and a little fake candle and a sparkly hem. I’ll sing my favorite song “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

“You’re tall for your age, and all the angels are smaller than you, we thought you’d make a wonderful wiseman.”

ARE YOU F***ING KIDDING ME was not something I would learn for another decade, but this turned into my first experience with it!

My mother the optimist played up the positives: “you get to wear a crown! You get to wear a splendid cape! You will carry gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Your character would ride a camel! You came from Persia! You follow the Star of Bethlehem! You protect Jesus from Harrod!”

All I could think was how depressed I was that Ingrid got to be Mary and I didn’t even get to be an angel! I had to be a wiseman. I was a really dejected four-year-old.

The cape was gorgeous. So pretty I still haven’t been able to get rid of it.

At play practice we carried ourselves like noble magi in the presence of the Son of God. We practiced kneeling and presenting the gifts. We practiced going over to stage left after marching in and dying of boredom standing still while the angel choir sang all my favorite songs and Ingrid recited her lines. I understand about not coveting now, but I didn’t then.

The night of the pageant rolled on. Gabriel, Joseph, Mary, Elizabeth, Zecariah, sheep, shepherds, ANGELS and the little drummer boy…blah blah blah.

The music for the “March of the Three Kings” came on and Matthew, Benji, and I walked elegantly and ceremoniously down the aisle in a rehearsed lock-step pattern. We lined up, bowed, knelt, and presented our gifts. We took our places on stage left.

The person who cast me as a wiseman probably didn’t mean any harm. I was 4 and tall. That’s too young for lots of lines and too tall for angels, apparently. What do you do with a tall 4 year old girl in the Christmas pageant? What happened next completely justified her decision not to cast me as an angel!

I don’t remember this, but apparently I totally checked out. I’d done my job. I’d done it well. The rest of the play didn’t involve me, so who cared? It was time for me to be an angel. I loved to dance, and my angel would dance!

I ran up and down the aisle while the pageant went on, my magi cape trailing behind me. I don’t know if I twirled a lot or leapt, but I loved to dance. I probably did. I apologize to my cousin Ingrid and all the other castmembers who somehow kept going throughout my improve choreography in the center aisle of Merton Memorial Methodist. I am deeply grateful to them for never bringing it up.

Normally, when I did this, my dad would discretely reach out and grab me with his long arm, pull me close and in a stage whisper tell me to BEHAVE. He never specified what that meant, really, but it distracted me long enough to stop whatever offense I committed. My mother tells me she and my father were 2 seats from the aisle in the second pew and they were absolutely helpless to stop me. “WHAT IS SHE DOING?” my father asked in a stage whisper.

“I can’t reach her, honey,” my mom said. “She wanted to be an angel.”

“CAN’T YOU DO SOMETHING?” No.  The answer was no.

The little drummer boy kept banging his drum even when his song was over (showoff) and would just hit it randomly. Tat! His mother kept trying to signal him to stop. Rat-a-tat! He kept hitting his drum tat-tat-tat but added shouts of “What do you want me to do mamma?” Rat-a-tat! “What Mamma?” Ba-rumpumpumpum “What are you trying to tell me, mamma?” Rumpumpumpum

The little drummer boy’s mom got the whole thing on videotape. She watches it when she’s sad.

When I was 10, they cast me as Gabriel. The angel costume was too short for me, so I wore that as the top and pinned white material to my underpants so I would be covered.

I’ve never been Mary, but I got as far as angel territory…

One Day Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect

Modified Holiday Schedule

Plan A: Watch “Muppet Christmas Carol” the evening of December 24th. Done. Celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Wake early. Parents are tired. Open 1 present and raid stockings while they sleep in (until 6-7 am). Parents wake. Breakfast and 1 more present. Take turns one by one opening presents. Parents want us to learn patience and delay gratification, so presents are opened slowly and savored, celebrated, etc. Cats raid tissue paper. Frantic cooking and meal preparation for Christmas evening celebration at my aunt’s house.

Plan B: Reality. Dad works Christmas Day, getting to work at 7 am, shift ending at 7 pm, but work is slammed; he comes home at 9-10 pm due to not wanting to leave his colleagues stranded. We celebrate Christmas on December 24th. Muppet Christmas Carol the night of December 23rd. I cook or prep my things the 24th or 23rd and keep them in the refrigerator so my sister has the oven for pies on the 25th. We celebrate with our extended family Christmas night. My presence being a hindrance means I take my annual Christmas hike for a few hours.

My mother likes to remind us that there are TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS and we spread out the celebration. ONE DAY doesn’t have to be perfect. Yuletide is a season! Thanks Mom!

Below are some of the books that just MAKE this season for me.  I often read them AFTER Christmas during the Michaelmas (I’m a dork) Epiphany/Candlemas time when everything’s winding down and one may actually RELAX. 

Jan Brett’s Twelve Days of Christmas

Ruth Bell Graham’s One Wintry Night

The Night the Stars Sang by Fleming Revel

Madeleine L’Engle’s The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

If you grew up in the Southern Appalachians you probably read at least one Gloria Houston book. Gloria Houston hails from Avery County, NC, and her books tell stories passed down through her family.

The landmarks she writes about remain to this day. I love an excuse to drive by the Sunnybrook Store!

Her books mostly take place during the Depression and WWII years. Life had never been easy for the Highlanders; they didn’t expect it to be, and her books reflect that. The family and Houston’s work were featured in this Asheville Citizen-Times article.

If you’d like to read her books, here’s a list of my favorites that are also little kid friendly.

But No Candy

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree

LittleJim’s Gift




Christmas Cheer

All this precious little girl wants for Christmas is a bunch of cards with which to decorate her aunt’s card tree. Little Safyre in Schenectady, NY suffered horrific burns about 2 years ago in a house fire. I heard about her wish over at the from crafty home-maker, stylista, and burn-survivor Stephanie Nielson.

Please consider sending her a sparkly card and Christmas wishes:

P.O. Box 6126
Schenectady NY 12306

The USPS has these awesome Charlie Brown Christmas stamps, just sayin’

Holiday Communication

Communication is key.  My mom told me that my dad has never liked the Christmas holidays.  That’s an understatement.  Like Jane Austen’s Mr. Bennett, Dad retreats to his library during the tree trimming, gift opening, etc. and does not want to come out.  He’s good for a little bit and then has had ENOUGH.  I get it now that I’m older, and I didn’t notice it when I was little (SANTA WAS HERE!!!!).   This is a pattern though.  He finally confessed he hates the pressure to get a gift that is a wanted surprise.

We just figured he was a bit of a curmudgeon.  Sorry Dad.

So, this year my Mom declared 1 gift per person.  Dad has been ecstatic.  And really, the 1 gift is something we buy ourselves that we know we want and give to someone else to wrap so we get a “thoughtful surprise” and don’t have to deal with returns, sizing, etc.  It works!

Well, not always.  Last year I got myself Simon Winchester’s The River at the Center of the World and gave it to Mom to wrap and give to me.  She put it in a safe place and I got it late spring for my birthday.  So, I advise to keep your gift around until the very last minute and THEN give it to someone else to wrap so he (who are we kidding) she won’t have to worry about where she last saw it.

I got my love a bacon mug.  I don’t know if he wants one, but it’s a conversation piece.  And I KNOW I’ll we’ll use it🙂

I got myself some boots I’ll wrap and the pilot will “give” them to me.

My sister wants an REI gift card.  I’ll get her that and a mason jar snow globe I hope doesn’t break…

Dad likes food and books.

“Merry” doesn’t even mean festive or gay, but restful and contemplative.  “God rest ye merry, gentlemen” was the original phrasing.

Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.

Hugs to you.



The Cheating Gardener

Southern Living magazine has their “Grumpy Gardener.”  I’m the cheating gardener.  My love blames the HOA landscaping crew but I blame the round-up I found in his/our garage and the evasive answers I got when I asked specifically WHERE the round-up had been sprayed…

In some places we even have trouble growing LEMONBALM in our front bed.  For those of you who don’t know: that is BAD.  We are one of the few couples in our little cul-de-sac not (even close) retired, so my/our sad garden sticks out.

But check out those GOURDS, right?  Don’t they look great?

2015-11-24 16.31.16

My mom bought me the gourds.  My love doesn’t like giant, random gourds sitting around the house–totally fine.  So I put them in my garden!  Cheating? Yes!  Aesthetically less pathetic than dead lemonbalm?  Also yes!  Happy December!

The Winged Puff

When I was 8 years old, I loved listening to the Beatles and choreographing dances.  It was haphazard and inspired by my weekly jazz classes with Miss Angel and Miss Lynn.  “The Winged Puff” sounds like one of my moves from back in the day.

This excellent gentleman has a Winged Puff tutorial that was easy, straightforward, and something I watched a couple times the morning of my wedding so I could make my dad a pocket square for his jacket.

My dad is a “tough guy” and eschews ANYTHING that remotely makes him a dandy.  I got a silk pocket square from the Tie Bar that was a gentle taupe color, and the Winged Puff was structurally interesting without being complicated or flashy.  If I’d had two pocket squares I would have made him a double winged puff (also a name for a dance move) for more dimension.

Mica Mica Parva Stella

I made my goddaughter this garland for her room before her little brother is bIMG_1014[1]orn. Her father wants her to be fluent in Latin, so I made the stars in English on one side, Latin on the other.

The American Classical League pointed me to Iridium Productions’ version of  “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in Latin, and this is what I used for the Latin end of things.

The pilot hates having things that sit around and collect dust, so that means a diy SNOW GLOBE is out of the question! BOO!  My sister likes snow globes, so I’m making her one.


Bring on handmade gifts for men they will still probably look at you with a “what am I supposed to do with this?” expression and you return it with a “Dad, just smile and say thank you” face!

WHO NEEDS VITAMIN D anyway?IMG_1015[1]


Memes of a Geriatric Millenial

Do you like memes?

I am still figuring them out. They are an expression of an abstract nuance I really don’t quite get…

I am technically a millenial.  I fall under the millenial category, but I would argue I am a “geriatric millenial.”  I pose that as I remember having the term “millenial” explained to me while I was in college and still thinking I was in “Generation Y” I am a “geriatric millenial.”

Over at one can create his or her own meme with captions.  They also explain certain meme characters, which is pretty helpful.  While sarcastic Willy Wonka runs a close second, my favorite is fitness tiger: