The hustle and bustle of the holiday season excites and invigorates many people every year.  Baking treats, traveling to visit friends and/or relatives, shopping for gifts, wrapping said gifts, exchanging the same said gifts, mailing Christmas cards and packages, cooking meals, decorating the house and at least one Christmas tree (I would decorate three Christmas trees each year while I was growing up:  the big one in the living room, my tree in my bedroom, and my grandparents’ tree in their living room), and planning get-togethers make up the typical holiday schedule for most people.

However, just the mere thought of these festivities that give to pleasure to many people also suck the life out of just as many others.  Maybe you don’t like to bake but have to help with it, anyway.  Maybe you dread family time because you’re dealing with a loss, or you’re not looking forward to seeing certain relatives.  Maybe you can’t afford to shop for gifts or send Christmas cards.  Maybe recipes for Christmas meals might as well be written in a foreign language, decorating isn’t your thing, and get-togethers with lots of people make your skin crawl.

This year, I am one of those people who has had the life sucked out of her by the above mentioned activities.

It was somewhat expected.  Christmas last year was rough, and as expected, this one hasn’t been a highlight, either.  For my sanity’s sake, I’ve kept the baking, traveling, shopping, wrapping, exchanging, mailing, cooking, decorating, and planning to a minimum this year.  I’d planned on going to my aunt and uncle’s house for their annual Christmas Eve party for dinner and my church’s 11:00 candlelight service, both of which are–at most–a 10 minute drive from the house, but a splitting headache that I’d had all day forced me to stay home on the couch all afternoon and evening while my mom and brother went to my aunt and uncle’s party.

I turned off the Christmas music that my mom had been blaring (she’ll deny that it was blaring 🙂 ), covered myself with two fleece blankets, took off my glasses, curled up on the couch, and gladly welcomed the second wave of sleep that was about to hit me, hoping that it would squelch the throbbing pain that made my head feel ten pounds heavier than it was supposed to.  However, I woke up a short while later, my headache just as bad as ever.

Since sleep was out of the question for a while, I went to my room and got my iPod, colored pencils, new coloring book, journal, favorite pens, and a few books to keep myself occupied in the living room.  (I preferred sleeping in my bed, but I needed to keep an ear open for any mischief that my two dogs, Dusty and Kirby, might get into.  Thankfully, they were in the mood to nap in the living room, too, at least part of the time.)  Reading was somewhat difficult with the headache, so I decided to work on the picture I started in my coloring book earlier this week.  (Stay tuned for a blog post on that.)

While coloring the kaleidoscopic design printed in my coloring book, I soaked in the silence of the evening.  No loud music.  (I never did listen to my iPod last night.)  No TV.  No radio.  No ringing phone.  (I left it on, but no one texted or called.)  Just the hum of the timer for the living room light, the pencil strokes on the paper as I colored, and the occasional jingle of Dusty and Kirby’s dog tags when they stood up a few times to ask to be let out.  (They really do ask.  It’s the look in their eyes.  🙂 )

It was the first time all day that I could actually hear myself think.  I relished the chance to enjoy simple pleasures, to reflect, to pray for people I love dearly, to journal, to enjoy my dogs’ company, and to slow down from all of the holiday hustle and bustle.   Despite being home alone with what my mom wondered was a migraine headache (I don’t think it was bad enough to be called that), it felt like I was truly celebrating for the first time all day.

I’ve never been against all of the activities mentioned earlier in this post, but to me, they aren’t worth stressing over.  It baffles some people how little I socialize, attend parties, shop for gifts (I try to make unique gifts instead…”try” being the key word here), create a Christmas list (I can’t remember the last time I made one, because the “things” I really want can’t be bought), or eat fancy food.  I appreciate those things, but I don’t need them to celebrate and be happy.

As you make your way through the rest of this festive time of year, I hope you take some time to celebrate how you want to, even if other people think it’s weird.  I hope you’ll take time just to breathe and soak in everything God has given us, not just at Christmastime, but every day of the year.  I hope you’ll spend time with the people you love and relish every second of it.  I hope you listen to your favorite Christmas songs and spend time with people you love, but I also hope you’ll spend some time in silence, away from other people, to do whatever you need to do to maintain your sanity.  If you’re planning get-togethers or trying to find that perfect gift for the person who’s hard to buy for, don’t stress about it too much.  Your time and love mean more to people than how the turkey was cooked or what you bought them for Christmas.  And if anyone is upset over your genuine efforts, don’t blame yourself.  Maybe they need to change their perspective.

Today, Christmas Day, has been less than ideal, but I’m still thanking God for what He has given today and before now.  I did spend time with some people today, but I’ve had a hefty amount of alone time today, too.  I just finished watching Little Women (one of my favorite movies; watching this movie every Christmas break has been a tradition for me since I was 21).  The day is winding down, and I need to get ready for tomorrow.

Thanks for reading, all.  Merry Christmas.  Goodnight.

Toilet Paper Prank

Most people, when they hear “toilet paper” and “prank” in the same sentence, immediately think of someone’s tp’d front yard.  My friend and co-worker, Kristine, and I recently pulled what I would call a decent prank with toilet paper, which I just feel like sharing today.

A few weeks ago while Kristine and I were at work (we work in the maintenance office at our school), Kristine told me about a picture she saw on Pinterest of a cartoon someone drew on a roll of toilet paper.  The bottom square was partly torn off and had a panicked face drawn on it.  This panicked cartoon face was reaching up to the toilet paper square above it, where another cartoon face tried desperately to hold onto his toilet paper and ink companion.  We both decided right then that we should, and would, do this prank in our office’s one-stall bathroom when our wonderful boss, Joyce, went downstairs for a smoke break.

About 20 minutes or so after Kristine and I concocted this plan, Joyce unknowingly announced our opportunity to execute said plan when she grabbed her lighter from her purse and said, “Girls, I’m going to smoke.”

“Okay,” we replied nonchalantly.  However, we smirked at each other behind our computer screens, waiting like anxious track runners to begin our sprint to the back of the office to the bathroom.

At last, Joyce exited the office through the back door that led to the basement.  Kristine and I jumped up from our chairs and ran to the back of the office to the bathroom to grab the toilet paper from the roll.  We raced back to Kristine’s desk, where she got online and pulled up the picture she described to me earlier so I could draw the faces onto the toilet paper.  I did my best, but the markers bled a little more than I thought they would, so our cartoon drawing didn’t turn out as well as the one we were trying to copy.  We partially tore the last square of toilet paper along its perforation, sprinted back to the bathroom to put the toilet paper back on the roll, took pictures with our phones to record this epic moment in our work history, and raced back to our desks in a fit of giggles before Joyce came back upstairs from her break.

Joyce entered the office, not suspecting anything.  She placed her lighter back in her purse and sat down at her desk.  About 10 minutes later, she finally got up to use the restroom.  Kristine and I tried to wait patiently to see how she would react.  To our complete surprise, however, she didn’t say anything after she came back to her desk.  Kristine and I looked at each other, confused as to why Joyce didn’t say anything.  We decided not to ask her about it, but we wondered when she would react to it.

After a few minutes, Joyce finally held up the two pieces of marker-adorned toilet paper and asked Kristine and me, “Okay, what is this?”

Kristine and I couldn’t hold it in any longer.  We cracked up, and Joyce realized that it was us who did it.  We explained what we did while she was downstairs.  She laughed, too.  “I thought it was Steve!” exclaimed Joyce.

Kristine and I laughed even harder at her incorrect assumption, doubling over at our desks.  Steve is one of the maintenance workers who gives us all a daily dose of comedy whenever he checks in and out of the office.  (He is known for, among many things, the time when he pulled a ponytail’s worth of hair out of a student’s bathtub drain and yelled down the drain, “Are you okay down there?!”)

Joyce kept the two squares of toilet paper on her desk until the end of the day when all of the maintenance people checked in.  She wanted to tell Steve what happened and that she thought it was him who did it.  After telling everyone what happened, she gave the toilet paper pictures back to Kristine and me.  They are now taped on the wall above my desk as a memento of one of countless hilarious moments at work I’ve experienced in my seven and a half years there.

Kristine took this photo, the final product of our epic scheme.

Kristine took this photo, the final product of our epic scheme.

Night Owls

As you may already know, I’m a night owl.  I am most productive at night when I’m supposed to be asleep in bed.  Right now, I should be lying down under the covers, but at this moment I’d rather get up from this desk and vacuum the house.  (I’m not going to.  My brother and our dogs have already called it a night.)

While working on my laptop late last night, I heard a barred owl hooting outside.  I live in a very wooded neighborhood, so owls, along many other different wild animals, are common around here.

I remember when I was 11 years old, one of my best friends at that time lived across the street.  Her parents had a cassette tape recording of barred owl calls.  Many a balmy summer night, our families and a very sweet married couple who lived next door to us, Dale and Arlene, would gather on one of our porches, usually Dale and Arlene’s porch or my friend’s porch, with a cassette tape player playing the owl calls.  We would listen to the owls in our woods call back.  It sounded like all of them were having a friendly conversation among themselves.  We never saw any of the owls (to this day, I’ve never seen a barred owl in person), but it was entertaining for all of us.  Of course, we would always talk and laugh during those nightly gatherings, as well.  The sound of a barred owl always takes me back to my childhood and brings back those short-lived (my friend moved out of state the following year) yet happy memories.

I learned that year that owls don’t always just hoot or screech when they communicate with each other.  The barred owl also makes this vocal sound that, when I was 11, I described as something like a human baby’s laugh.  It was sort of a half laugh, half screech sound.

Barred owls can also make sounds like nothing I would ever imagine coming from a bird.

I will never forget one night when I was about 14 years old, give or take a year.  For some reason, I went outside the house after dark.  All I heard were crickets in the eerie stillness of the night.  I walked into the backyard, and out of nowhere I heard an unearthly shriek coming from what sounded like Dale and Arlene’s backyard.  Think of R2-D2’s squeal (for lack of a better word) in Star Wars Episode IV when he gets shot by the jawas on Tatooine, except louder and longer in duration.  That one owl’s voice started a flurry of conversation among other nearby owls, who vocalized their hoots and screeches with abandon.  I didn’t stay outside long enough to know how long the noise lasted because as soon as that one owl’s fabulous R2-D2 imitation pierced through the darkness, I jumped out of my skin and bolted for the house.  From what I could tell, though, the ruckus didn’t last long.

I haven’t heard any barred owls tonight.  I probably won’t because, whether I like it or not, I need to go to bed now.  I have a long To Do list to attack as soon as my feet hit the floor in the morning, and unfortunately, living on a night owl’s schedule is not conducive to being productive.

Before I turn in for the night, I want to share a recording of a barred owl for any of you who may not have heard what one sounds like.  This particular clip has the hoots and the “baby” sound I tried to describe, but you’ll have to use your imagination for the R2-D2 owl.  🙂