Hanging of the Greens

Everyone comes into the Christmas season with a lot of baggage. We all have disappointments and distractions that keep us from enjoying the actual meaning of Christmas. Sometimes it manifests itself in family issues from past wounds from familial strife to dealing with contentious in-laws. Sometimes it manifests itself in loneliness from unfilled expectations in relationships. Sometimes it manifests itself in the burden of attempting to please people with gifts. Sometimes it’s the cheapening of the holiday with endless television specials, fad toys, and commercials after commercials and yet more commercials. I know I for one have already seen enough diamond and luxury car commercials this thanksgiving weekend alone to get my fill (who buys their wife a luxury car for Christmas??)

My distraction at Christmas has been children.

Yes, those cherubic little symbols of Christmas. Those wide-eyed present-openers and candy-eaters. It all started last year when I was at a Christmas service and someone’s child sitting behind me continually kicked the pew. The thumping to my seat was out of rhythm with the music and the two to three kicks to my rear every measure made a polyrhythmic beat that would make any progressive rock band off kilter. I couldn’t concentrate on the music and it made me angry. Here I was trying to be solemn and ponder the Incarnation and all I could think about was that someone couldn’t control their toddler enough to make him. stop. kicking. my. seat. I resisted the urge to shoot a withering glare behind me and soothed my conscience that I was a such a good person for not causing a stir. Then, it happened again this weekend. This time we were here at my church and the church was having its first Christmas service of the season with children singing and a full orchestra playing. The music was beautiful, but again ruined by an out of control child in front of me that stood on his chair directly in front of me, jumped around, and yelled out loudly at random moments during the performance. I kept waiting for the parents to discipline the child and they tried feebly, but they looked haggard and worn down, as if they had been fighting the dragon all day long.

It was then that I thought to myself those awful, terrible words. That phrase that is unforgivable to anyone in my position.

“Well, if I was a parent…..”

If I was a parent, what? Did I really believe that my children, with neatly parted hair and blazer and tie or Christmas dress and perfect ringlets of hair would sit statue still through the entire performance and then at the end exclaim, “Oh father, that was wonderful! May we stop for ice cream on the way home, please?” I wondered if this was the same way I viewed Christmas itself, with smiling baby Jesus staring up at a smiling Joseph and Mary in a sanitary clean stable, with animals with Precious Moments eyes gazing lovingly on the whole scene. All of this of course, with plenty of room around them for gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh piled high. We are so good at sanitizing the dirty, ugly parts of life, aren’t we? Was a fooling myself that somehow I knew how to have perfectly behaved children and these poor fools in front of and behind me had no clue what they were doing? I’m not one to excuse poor parenting, but anyone who has children knows full well that some days they feel like being little angels and some days they feel like being little devils, no matter what discipline parents use out of the little book their parents gave them (and really, some days we feel like being little devils no matter what, too. We just hide it better by smiling and issuing backhanded compliments through clenched teeth and then tearing them up later over Instant Messenger with our friends.) How was I to know what kind of day the child was having?

I saw those parents and their unruly child and wondered why I was letting it ruin my Christmas and then I did something that I really should do more often. I prayed for them there. I prayed that whatever difficulties they were having with their child (maybe he has ADD, maybe he has a learning disability, maybe he’s just having a bad night) would be calmed. I prayed that the Lord would grant them peace. I prayed that the Lord would work on my rotten attitude.

One of the things that I love about the Methodist church is that it holds a “Hanging of the Greens” ceremony on the weekend before the first advent. At the ceremony, members of the church decorate the church with candles, wreaths, garland, and other church symbols and explain each of the items and their significance to Christmas and the congregation and choir sing some carols to get the season started. It’s all preparation for the month that is to come. I hope that the evening prepares my heart to have the right attitude for Christmas and maybe prepare me a little more for life in general.

Redneck Golf

Being the engineers that we are, our tailgating group brought a new game this past weekend to play before the Duke-Georgia Tech game:

Behold! Redneck Golf!

It actually has been called a couple different names…. Redneck Golf…. Dandy Golf…. Hillbilly Golf. I like Redneck Golf because well, we’re rednecks. It’s a pretty fun game, where you throw golf balls, tied together bolo-style at a ladder of PVC pipes and you score based on which rungs the golf balls wrap around. You can play one on one or in teams of two and it only requires one hand to throw the golf balls, so you don’t even have to put your beverage down while tailgating and playing.

Here’s a site with rules and instructions on how to build your own set.

Our lovely model, Adriene, displays perfect form as she makes a throw.

The game against Duke was a nice way to close out the 2006 home football season. Hopefully there’s still some more glory left for this team to achieve during this season.

As for me, it’s off to Savannah for a couple days of turkey, dressing, and football on TV with the in-laws, and hopefully a chance to ramble around the squares of Savannah and shoot some pictures.

A little fall randomness

  • I was out raking leaves this weekend listening to my iPod with the random shuffle setting going. A song came on and I realized it’s quite likely that I listened to this same song raking leaves fifteen years ago when I was in high school and earning extra dollars raking leaves while listening to my tape Walkman. Now, I’ve got all sorts of stuff on my iPod spanning across many years, lest you think I’m some nostalgic fuddy-duddy who doesn’t listen to anything new anymore (ok, maybe I am just a little nostalgic), but something made me pause. A lot has changed in fifteen years, from skinny, awkward, and hopelessly dateless to married, owning a house, and um, not so skinny, and yet a song can take you back to that moment in an instant.
  • Speaking of high school, a new high school opened up down the street from our house. I walked outside to get the mail one day earlier this week and realized I could faintly hear the marching band rehearsing and it made me smile. The varsity football team doesn’t start playing until year, but I could already imagine hearing the band playing and the crowd cheering from the front door of my house. I’ve always wanted to live in a small town where we were walking distance from the high school football stadium and could hear the band from our house and while we may be in the suburbs more than a small town, here it has come true. Adriene has been warned that if we ever move, the next house has to be within earshot of a high school football stadium, so that might give the realtor some extra homework.
  • Speaking of high school football….
    DSC_0020and more pictures on my Flickr site from the Harrison vs. Campbell game this past Friday night.

Football, friends, in-laws, and where’s the T?

This past weekend we traveled up to Raleigh for the NC State-Georgia Tech football game. Adriene’s father is an NC State grad so this game always puts Adriene in an unfortunate position. If NC State wins, I’m in a bad mood. If Georgia Tech wins, her dad is in a bad mood. I feel for her. This is the last year that NC State will play Tech for a while, so maybe she’ll have a reprieve for a while. Since it was the last time the teams would play each other for a while, we knew we had to go to Raleigh one more time. I always enjoy going to Raleigh and driving around the city as her parents reminiscence about their college memories and the early years of their marriage and we get to hit some of the local restaurants that they used to go to.

We also welcomed our friends Mike and Kari and Kari’s mother to the game with us. They are new to the college football experience and I thought they’d enjoy seeing what we go so crazy about. Of course, I should’ve known that they would get the joy of experiencing sitting in front of a drunken, obnoxious Georgia Tech fan. The college football experience indeed. Fortunately, they took it well with a laugh. Probably better than if he had sat in front of my father-in-law, I’m guessing. Overall, I think they had a pretty good time, and it was good to see them again.

They may have also got to witness another Tech tradition. It’s no secret that Tech students are a bunch of kleptos and enjoy stealing “T’s” from various locations. Here’s a (blurry and crummy, admittedly) picture of the stands at Carter-Finley Stadium before the game.

Before the game

…and here’s a picture in the 3rd quarter….

After the game

Was there really someone so gutsy as to steal a T in the middle of a game?