Ghosts of Christmas Plays Past

They were never Broadway productions but I have been in my share of Christmas plays in the past. Fortunately you won’t see them on social media, YouTube or any old dusty VHS tapes as far as I know. In fact, most of my Christmas play days pre-date the VCR anyway.

My “acting” experience occurred during my childhood growing up as a preacher’s kid and being “included” in many church Christmas plays during those years.  As a preacher’s kid, I didn’t have much of a choice.

I never had the starring role in any Christmas plays growing up.  I never played the role of Joseph but I did carry some Frankenscience really well one year as a Wise Man. Most of the plays I was either a shepherd or angel. Thank goodness I never had to sing a solo. I was part of the angelic host most of the time and was more than happy to blend in with the other voices.  I was good with not having a major role because I didn’t want to have to memorize those lines.

In most years the play was the retelling of the Biblical story. The script came directly from the Bible.  At some churches after the play the preacher would add his brief commentary to what we had just acted out then we would all get a bag of fruit and nuts.  At one church our Sunday School class exchanged gifts and I assure you I never got any gold, frankenscience or myrrh.  I remember one church where it was nearly a scandal when someone had the nerve to put up a Christmas tree in the church. Yes, that was a scandal. Fortunately, people moved on to something else when Santa Claus entered the building.  Shock!  Hersey!

Practices for a Christmas play was usually pretty chaotic.  It easily turned into joking around and gigglefests which often frustrated the play director.  Oddly enough, somehow it all came together on the night of the play.

There were some years when I was “volunteered” to direct the youth Christmas play. Then it was my job to manage the chaos and calm down the horseplay.  I don’t think I ever worked as hard as I did during those times. It was a challenge but very rewarding when the play was over and a success. One year I even wrote a script for the play. I always wanted to do the Christmas play different but still maintain the focus of what Christmas was about.

In later years, I became the person working the sound system, computer, projector and lights. Most of the time it was nothing more than to cue up a CD for the children to lip sync to the songs that were selected by the children’s director. I would stand at the console for long periods of time watching someone else try to maintain order.  One year during practice, one of the kids threw up during rehearsal and took out a few other kids in the process. Yes, it was a messy scene.  I leaned over to a parent in the audience and assured him that wasn’t part of the play.

Yes, it was always an experience where you never knew what to expect.

So, I have an appreciation for anyone who is in a Christmas play or directing a play. Parents will have their smartphones ready to record these memories for years to come. These plays are an important part of those memories.

Church Christmas plays are much more advanced and more of a production than they were back in my day.  Some churches even have live animals and try to recreate the scene of Bethlehem at the time of Jesus’ birth.  It has come a long way since I put on a bath robe for my role as a shepherd or conforming a bed sheet for the role as an angel.


Lessons in the Ribbon Aisle

This weekend my wife and I went to Michael’s to get some ribbon for our Christmas decorations. Have you ever been to the ribbon aisle at Michael’s this time of year? You haven’t experienced claustrophobia quite like this. I thought hockey was a contact sport until I ventured into this aisle without a helmet or pads.

This moment gave me a lot of insight of the Christmas season as it kicks off. You get a sense of some imaginary clocking ticking on everyone’s schedule. The push to get Christmas decorations done, all the activities to attend and buying presents for everyone. It has definitely shifted into another gear.

As I helped my wife find the ribbon she needed, the aisle was crowded much like the floor of the Stock Market. If you think all ribbons are the same, you obviously haven’t had the joy of looking for one. There are different designs, colors and sizes of ribbons. You just don’t know.

It is quite chaotic as people are stepping in front of you, store clerks restocking and tossing empty boxes on the floor at your feet. At one point my wife and I got separated. I looked over at here as I was trapped. I mouthed to her “helped me”. I was stuck in no man’s land with no place to move or ways of escape.

The situation was made worse when I was bookended by shopping carts which entered the gauntlet. If the aisle is already crowded what would possess someone to force a shopping cart into the mix?

After a successful mission on obtaining the necessary ribbons for our decorations and getting out of the store we both took a deep breath. We talked about the experience. My wife made the observation that people simply have tunnel vision. They aren’t being mean, they are simply oblivious to anyone else. She is right. There is no need to be upset or take it personally although it is very hard not to take some offense.

So, the lessons here are that we have to summon up more patience than usual this time of year. Everyone is on a mission for their own world and not trying to be mean. The other lesson is to realize that it’s going to get a little tight. Most of us don’t like crowds but you can just about forget that during this time of the year even if you commit to do all of your shopping online.

The holidays are a good test in patience. The hustle and bustle can put your skills to the test. We are all taking care of our own agendas and with that we are bound to forget others around us so we should be mindful to make allowances to cut some slack for others.

it’s going to be a challenge isn’t it? I think we can get through this. I’m going to try to dig deep on the patience and not let the ticking clock of the holidays stress me out. Everything will get done. I think we all try to do too much. It’s okay to say no to a few things. Don’t do the same thing every year just because you always do them. Tradition is one thing but doing things simply because we call them “tradition” tends to take away the whole meaning we are doing them in the first place.

Well, in spite of my experience in the ribbons aisle at Michael’s, I managed to get home safely and without being called for roughing, slashing or obstruction (hockey terms if you didn’t know). It’s all good and our trip was a success.

Oh no, we got the wrong ribbons. Here we go again! Lord help us all…

T’was The Week of Thanksgiving

Okay, here we are.  It’s the week of Thanksgiving.  You know, Thanksgiving has a lot of pressure on it because it has a difficult task of holding back Christmas until its day has passed.  Okay, don’t tell Thanksgiving but Christmas stuff is already on the shelves at the stores and “Black Friday” sales have already started.  Even the Hallmark Channel started showing Christmas movies non-stop BEFORE Halloween.  Okay, I’m guilty of watching.  Don’t be a hater.

It used to be that the day after Thanksgiving kicked off all the Christmas season hoopla but now it is barely contained by Halloween.  It won’t be long until it will spread to Labor Day at this rate.

Back to this week.  For most people it will be a short week or three days of work and then a day of work on Friday.  Yesterday, my wife and I were at a store and she heard the cashier let out a deep sigh and bellow “next in line”.   We laughed because if she thinks it’s bad now, Friday is going to be a whole new experience for her.  She hasn’t seen anything yet.

Yes, the craziness is just beginning.  Get ready for it.

I am hopeful that I will avoid going to any physical stores on Friday.  I’m going to try to get my online shopping going or at least get my ideas together.

As for Thanksgiving, it will be a nice, quiet day at home without turkey.  Yes, I know, what a scandal NOT to eat turkey on Thanksgiving.  I’m not much into doing the same thing every year.  I never have liked turkey anyway.  So, we will probably go with a non-Thanksgiving traditional meal.  Unless there is some Honey Baked Ham, there might not be any meat involved at all.  So while the rest of the country is drifting into a turkey-induced coma after their meal, I hope to be awake and watching Christmas movies (okay, there may be a Thanksgiving movie on).

Another Thanksgiving tradition is football.  Let’s see who we have on the schedule this year…Minnesota at Detroit, Los Angeles Chargers at Dallas and New York Giants at Washington.  I’m sorry but none of these are appealing to me.

This morning the traffic report on the news said that the traffic would be light.  It wasn’t.  It wasn’t much different than any other day despite the fact that schools are out this week.  Thankfully, we won’t be on the roads and trying to get anywhere for Thanksgiving.

We are also trying to get our groceries early and not wait until Wednesday.  Have you ever been in a grocery store on Thanksgiving eve?  You will need assistance from air traffic control to maneuver your way around the store to get everything you need.  If it’s the traditional Thanksgiving meal, you might be out of luck.  You’re gonna end up with a Cornish hen instead of a turkey.

I scanned my radio stations and no one is playing Christmas tunes – yet.  So, it looks like they are holding back until Friday.

In the old days (a few years ago), stores didn’t even open on Thanksgiving day.  It was all about the build up for the early morning “door busters” that retailers psyched us up about.   Walmart, Toys R Us, Target and Best Buy are among the list of 20 retail stores that will open their doors on Thanksgiving Day.

Friday night I will be tuning into my high school football playoff game.  My favorite team is playing a quarterfinal round game this week.  Yes, I know it’s the day after Thanksgiving but they do still play these games even during the Holiday weekend.

It’s going to be a crazy week.

Driving 101: No Need For Speed

speedingI saw a story on Good Morning America this week where Dodge announced the release of a new car with an 850 Horsepower engine. Why is there a need for this? Robin Roberts asked this question of Michael Strahan who said that while he wouldn’t use all of the 850 Horsepower, he just liked to know he had that power.

Wow. What an endorsement for testosterone levels everywhere.

There have been three times in the last week where I have been driving and encountered drivers whizzing past me as if they were filming a scene for a “Fast and Furious” movie. One wrong move and there would have been a serious accident.

Why is it necessary to go as fast as you possibly can? Drivers are so impatient. They don’t want to be slowed down – even if you are going the speed limit. Have you ever been almost pushed by the car behind you because they wanted to go faster?

I looked down at the speedometer on our Honda CRV and wondered why it is possible that I could go 140 miles per hour. When would I need this and why can cars go this fast?

The reasoning behind this is that our vehicles need the power to accelerate to highway speeds in a reasonable amount of time such as going from 0-60 mph in about eight seconds which requires an engine to be powerful enough to do this. It is also necessary to dead with winds, steep hills and sharp curves.

But the power of the engine and the fact that the speedometer shows you can go 140 mph does not mean you should. Most cars are not designed to sustain those tops speeds for any lengthy period of time.

In the United States, speeding was the main factor in 112,580 deaths between 2005-2014 and the numbers are on the rise.  When you throw in distracted or impaired driving with speeding, chances of injury or death on the roads increase.  Let me tell you something you probably already know, people are doing whatever they want to do when driving so whether it is eating, drinking or texting, speeding only make things worse.  Drivers do not think of speeding the same as they think about other hazardous driving behaviors.  They just have to get wherever they are going FAST.

Speeding is a form of aggressive driving.  No doubt you will see it today when you are on the roads.   So what are the rules for speed limits?

The speed limit, unless otherwise posted, is 25 mph is school zones, business, or residential districts; 35 mph in certain low density business and residential districts; 50 mph on all other highways and 65 mph on state highways.  Refer to your state’s rules on these limits.  So what about that passing lane?  Isn’t it the same speed limit for any lane?  Not necessary.   In some areas, such as Colorado and Kentucky, vehicles in the left lane are required to yield to faster traffic only if the speed limit is above 65 mph.  Again, check your local rules on this one.

If you are in the passing (a.k.a. “fast lane”) please allow the slower vehicle the opportunity to change lanes safely.  Sure, there will be drivers who will stay in the lane regardless but most people will want to move out of the way.

If you are living in Nashville, Interstates 40, 24 and 65 are not official NASCAR tracks.  Believe it or not, speed limits are posted.  It isn’t a race to get home, to work or to a Blake Shelton concert.  Relax.  Stop speeding and make sure everyone gets where they are going safely.



Common Courtesy Is Not Common

rudeOne of the things I find myself saying recently is asking what happened to common courtesy?

Sadly it is not so common anymore.

This afternoon I had a couple of errands to run to the library and grocery store.  When I arrived at the library there were two people parked in front where it is clearly marked “no parking”.  One vehicle was blocking the entrance to the book drop.  I waited.  The driver in the vehicle was talking on her cellphone.  She looked at me and gave a look of disgust and moved.  When I left the library and entered the parking lot at the grocery store the truck in front of me stopped abruptly and backed into a parking spot narrowly missing me.  Then once inside of the store, it was a complete free-for-all.  No one watched where they were going.  Shopping carts barreled out of the aisles and a couple of others nearly ran me over.

What is going on?

This evening was just one example of an alarming trend I have experienced all too often.  There is no thought of others.  Instead of common courteous it has become a common selfie.  Everyone is out for themselves.  If they don’t know you then you might as well be invisible.

Welcome to the age of rare courtesy.

If you need a reminder, a trip to the grocery store should do it.  Instead of thinking of others we are looking out for me.  It’s a me world now.  There is no thought to others.

Courtesy is defined as the showing of politeness in one’s attitude and behavior towards others.  It’s not so common today.  You even see it – or rather hear it – in peoples language and total disregard for offending anyone around.  Profanity is totally out of control.  The harshest of ugly language has integrated into nothing more than common expressions today.  Believe me, if you say anything about it you are treated as if you are the strange one.  In my younger days, I remember when men used to apologize to any women around if they accidentally uttered any foul language in their presence.  Today the women have the men beat.

If it isn’t profanity, then it’s the loud voices or talking on the phone.  My wife recently sat in the waiting room at a car dealership with another customer who was on speakerphone.  The person was telling her personal business as well as her credit card number for all to hear.   You know she would be totally clueless if later she learned her credit card information had been stolen.

The bottom line is that people don’t care anymore.   Judging by the news, we only think about others when a horrible thing happens such as a shooting or hurricane.  Why do we have to wait until those times to show concern and courtesy to others?  Why can’t we do this everyday?

Here are some ways we can bring back common courtesy:

  • Put the darn phone down!   These smartphones have really made us quite dumb with interacting with people in the world who are not on our screens.   If you watch people you will see their focus is on that tiny screen more than what is going on around them.
  • If someone is talking to you, give them your full attention.   Again…put the phone down.  Also, don’t just wait for someone to stop talking so you can talk.  Listening is a lost art.
  • Be mindful of others.  LOOK when you open a door or push your cart out into an aisle.  How much trouble is that really?  Remember that there are others in the world besides you.
  • Be nice to people.  Yes, the person working retail has a job but that is no excuse to treat them like a second-class citizen.  You can make someone’s day by simply being nice.
  • Walk with others in mind.  When you are on the sidewalk or in a hallway walk on the RIGHT side if possible.  That’s how we drive here so let’s do the same thing when walking.  If you see someone else approaching, don’t play chicken just move over.
  • Use your inside voice.  Children are supposedly taught this (although I’m not so sure anymore) but we need to bring this back when talking in public.  If you can’t put the phone down PLEASE take it off of speakerphone.  Good grief people!
  • Watch your language.  Yeah, I know this may be silly but a vocabulary loaded with profanity isn’t really impressive.

“Common sense, common courtesy and common decency really do have a lot in common, they all disappeared around the same time.”

Okay, so we know some of the things that can help bring back common courtesy if we do them, how do we deal with people who aren’t being courteous?  We can’t exactly be the “courtesy police” because you know that has a potential for trouble or getting us shot.  I know what you are thinking because I want so badly to call people out on their inconsiderate behavior and have done so only to be told that I’m number one based on the other person’s hand signal.   So what can we possibly do about it?

  • We should be courteous regardless.  Be the model of how a person should act.  Don’t stoop to someone else’s level of inconsiderate behavior.
  • Stop and take a deep breath.  Yep, I’ve done that before.  After nearly getting a knee taken out by someone wheeling their shopping cart around the aisle, I have stopped and just took a deep breath.
  • Say “excuse me” with authority.  Sometimes people will get the point.
  • If the inconsiderate behavior is someone working in a store, bring it to the attention of the supervisor.
  • Call them out ONLY if you feel it is necessary and won’t escalate the situation.

We can only be responsible for ourselves so this lost in common courtesy falls on us all.  It goes back to treating others like you would want to be treated and that means even if they aren’t on your friends list on your social media app.  Shocking I know.  We’re supposed to treat EVERYONE like we would want to be treated.  We are all missing out on all the goodness there could be in the world if we would only think about others.

Marriage Of The Soul

I know we often toss around the idea of finding our “soul mate” and making it sound magical and romantic.  

Well, if you find the right person it is.  

I spent over 20 years in my “previous life” (that’s what I call it) married to the wrong person.  While I tried to force it to be what I wanted it to be, it never was.  It was a life of frustration.  

Today, my life is different.  After six years with the right person, I know what it means to have your soul mate.  There is no scientific formula for this, it’s one of those things that you just know.  It clicks inside of you without having to be forced or questioned.  It isn’t something that has to be work or difficult.   I am very fortunate to have found it.    Not many people get the chance I have had.  I always say that I have a second chance to be a better husband and I won’t squander the chance I have been given.  

If I have some advice to give people it would be:

Don’t base your decision on your fears of disappointing others.  

This one had me for most of my life.   You are the only person you know how to be.  You have to make decisions about love for your own happiness, not based on the happiness of others.  I lived with the expectation of others and the church and worried more about disappointing them than my own happiness.  Let me tell you a secret that I wish someone had told me:  you will always disappoint people regardless what you do.  You have to live with you.  Make decisions of love on that, not for the approval of others. 

Don’t settle because of low self esteem. 

I used to have a very low self-esteem which is a terrible trap when you are in a relationship.  This will deceive you into thinking that this is all you will ever have or you will be alone.  You have to love yourself more than that.  Not to the extreme of being full of yourself but living where you don’t have to settle for something that isn’t right for you.  

Follow your heart but take your brain with you.  

Be careful that you don’t just fall in love with love.  You have to have love but you need to make sure you like the person too.  You have to genuinely like being with the person. You can’t fake this or it will only wear you down after the honeymoon period is over.  Obviously we all have our differences but you have to decide if you can live with those differences and not just ignore them.  

Although I have been divorced, I am not an advocate of it.  Divorce should never be an option in your mind.  Yes, I went down that road but it is a choice I made.  You should never go into a marriage thinking that as your way out.  You should always do what you can to fix your marriage.  Unfortunately you can’t always do it.  Again you have to find your own way and not seek the approval of others.  

The soul knows and when you find them you will know it.  This is why I never wanted the “till death do us part” in our vows because when the soul has found the one it loves, that is a love that lasts.  

Yeah, we all mess up and make the wrong decisions in love.  Yes, people scoff at true love, soul mates and happily ever afters but it does happen and there is hope for the soul.   

Driving 101: Just Drive!

Businessman using mobile phoneI will soon be on the commute home.  It’s always an adventure.  You never know what’s going through the minds of the drivers in Nashville, Tennessee.  People tend to do whatever they feel like doing.  Forget about traffic lights, turn signals and lanes on the road.  If they can do it, they will.  Never assume anything out there.

Recently we encountered a driver that was driving erratic as we were on the ramp to enter I-40.  My wife looked over (since I was driving) and noticed the driver was all into texting.  The driver was looking down at their phone and texting.  It must have been important.

It seems too many drivers are focused on other things than driving.  If you are behind the wheel, you’re ONLY job is to drive.  Nothing else.  Drive the vehicle.

Distracted driving is a huge problem today.  Distracted driving is the act of driving while engaged in other activities which take the driver’s attention away from the act of driving.  Although distracted driving has been a problem before, the problem became more of a problem with the invention of smartphones (which makes drivers dumb).  According to the United States Department of Transportation, text messaging while driving creates a crash risk 23 times higher than driving while not distracted.

Our daughter was rear ended on the exit ramp when another driver admitted that she was looking at her child showing her a YouTube video.  When she looked up, it was too late to avoid impact.  Fortunately, our daughter wasn’t seriously injured but it has been a very difficult time dealing with something that wasn’t her fault.

Distracted driving includes activities such as:

  • Eating
  • Looking after children
  • Texting
  • Talking on the phone
  • Talking to a passenger
  • Watching videos
  • Rubbernecking
  • Reading

While on the subject of drivers talking on the phone – who are these people talking to?  Why is it necessary to have to talk to people on the phone?

Think about it…we enter a vehicle made of steel, plastic and rubber and accelerate up to 70 miles per hour.  Shouldn’t we be more concerned about doing that act safely rather than eating a cheeseburger or texting a poop emoji to someone?

When I road the bus in Tampa, one day I looked over and saw a driver with the newspaper completely opened and reading it while he was driving.  Wow.  How stupid have we become?

My wife commented this morning that she saw someone with headphones on while driving.  So, now we have a driver who will be deaf to anything happening on the road but will make sure he can hear his Blake Shelton song.

I found this poll very interesting.  According to a HealthDay poll of adults who admitted to being distracted:

  • 86% were eating or drinking while driving
  • 41% were adjusting their GPS device
  • 37% were texting
  • 36% were using a map (yeah, that surprised me too)
  • 24% were browsing the Internet
  • 20% were combing or styling their hair
  • 14% were applying makeup  (I think that number has to be higher on the morning commute)

Folks, can we just simply drive the car?  That’s not asking too much.