How Rudolph Got His Nose

Since I am an aspiring writer, I have recently joined the Trinity Writers’ Workshop. Every Christmas, the people of TWW man a booth down in the Fort Worth Stockyards where they help children write letters to Santa. They also hand out booklets of Christmas stories written by TWW members. It is their way of giving back to the community, and it gives everyone warm fuzzies to imagine parents settling down in their favorite recliners, reading our stories to their children. This story will, I hope, be my contribution to the booklet this year.

How Rudolph Got His Nose

I didn’t always have this big red honker, you know. I mean, sure, I wanted to be famous. Everybody knows those other reindeer— Comet, Cupid, and all those guys. They’re household names too. But who wants to have a song sung about them for having a giant red nose? Especially one that blinks like a broken stoplight! Not me!

Not that it didn’t come in handy, mind you, but if I had to save Christmas, that’s not the way I would’ve picked. Nope, not what I would have picked at all. I used to have a great nose. My nose was superb! Perfect, even. But one December day, all of that changed in an instant. Well, a couple of instants, actually. It happened like this:

There I was, clip-clopping along to Games practice, listening to some swank festive tunes on my SkyPod, and admiring my perfectly black, non-light-emitting reindeer nose. I was just thinking that maybe I’d stop at the cafeteria for a little snack on my way when I smelled the sweetest, chocolatiest, most heavenly smell known to reindeer-kind. That glorious aroma could only mean one thing— Mrs. Claus was baking her famous, fabulous, fantastic Carrot Chocolate Chip Cookies. My nose twitched, my mouth watered, and my feet moved themselves toward Claus Cottage’s kitchen window.

I peeked in the open window and watched Mrs. Claus. She was pleasantly plump and rosy-cheeked, with her wavy silver hair in a soft bun and a frilly white apron on over her old fashioned red corduroy dress. I eyed each delectable cookie as she slid it expertly off the pan and onto the cooling rack with her spatula. Just one, I thought. Then, who am I kidding? I’d eat the whole pan in one gulp if she’d let me.

Wham! A snowball smashed into the back of my head, right between my antlers. I didn’t even have time to turn around before another one sailed past me. This one hit the window above me with a thwack and jarred it loose. The window dropped faster than Santa’s pants without suspenders. And do you know where it landed? That’s right— on my perfect reindeer nose.

Fast forward five minutes, and life was only getting worse for me. My nose throbbed terribly. It was the size of a baseball, and it was still swelling.

“Wow, can you see past that thing?” said Dasher. Blitzen was still laughing. He was the one who threw the missiles.

“Rudolph, you’d better go to the infirmary. You certainly can’t play Reindeer Games like that,” said Mrs. Claus with concern as she examined me through the window, which had been opened again to free my snout.

“Yeah, see ya later, Big Nose,” called Blitzen.

I hobbled toward the infirmary. It was a good thing I knew the way because it was getting harder to see around my burgeoning nose. When I arrived, a couple of maintenance elves were putting a new coat of brilliant red paint on the large wooden sign above the door. I looked up to say hi. The two elves both had small plastic pieces covering their noses. How strange.

My nose was softball-sized now, and I was definitely having trouble seeing around it. I stepped to the side of the scaffold to open the infirmary door, but I couldn’t see my feet around my nose. I heard the clink as my hoof hit the scaffold pole, and then I heard the groaning and creaking as the scaffolding swayed dangerously and threatened to topple. The elves held on tight. I held my breath and ducked, bracing myself for the worst. But the platform didn’t fall. It settled back against the infirmary wall slowly, like an old house cat laying down for a midday nap. I huffed in relief.

Then I heard an ever-so-delicate plop. Right in front of my eyes, every inch of my now grapefruit-sized nose was covered in a perfect coat of gleaming red paint. I laughed nervously.

“Sorry, guys. That could have been so much worse, huh?” I said, looking up. The elves weren’t smiling. They weren’t even angry. Instead, they were staring, open-mouthed, down at my nose in horror.

“W-w-wwhat?” I said. “It’s just a little paint. It’ll wash right off.” They shook their heads in unison. “It won’t wash off?” They shook their heads again. One of them handed me a can of unopened paint.

The can read “Elbert Elf’s Mighty Magic Enamel,” in big letters. In smaller letters below it said, “Never use another paint again! Good for all your permanent painting needs! Still looks new after 200 years or your money back!”

“Oh… kay,” I said. I didn’t get it. The elves, still open-mouthed, motioned for me to turn the can over. Down at the very bottom, in itty bitty print, it said, “CAUTION: For precision maintenance elf use only. Highly permanent. Will not wash off. Not for use on the planet Neptune.” Then, in even smaller print below that, it read, “WARNING: May cause drowsiness, dizziness, and purple polka dots on skin. Keep away from nose as product will cause permanent glowing. If swallowed, seek immediate magical medical attention.”

“Wow!” I said. “Purple polka dots! What does it mean here about the nose glowing thing?” Then I remembered the elves’ nose shields. My heart sank. “Oh no! You don’t mean… is my nose going to glow?” I answered my own question when the bulging orb on my face, slowly but surely, began to emit a pure crimson light. “So, I’m going to have a giant red glowing nose? Forever?” I gazed up at the elves in astonished desperation. They bowed their small heads sadly.

How did everything go so wrong, so quickly? I mean, I know it wasn’t all bad. I did save Christmas just a couple weeks later. All that fog and everything. I guess I should just be grateful for what I’ve got. I am famous, after all. And everyone knows my name. Most folks can’t remember all eight of those other guys. I’ve even saved two other Christmases. Fog again. You’d be surprised how often that happens. I should be proud of myself. At least, that’s what my therapist tells me.

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Imagination Domination

The other day, an acquaintance asked me what my hobbies are. I asked, tongue-in-cheek, “You mean besides singing Itsy Bitsy Spider and cleaning up bodily waste?” She didn’t get it. This was a sure sign that this lady was not, as Anne Shirley would say, a kindred spirit.


I decided that the straightforward approach was best, and I told her that I like to read and write, and I might play soccer again if I can get in better shape. She was nonplussed.


“You write? Like, in a journal?”


I sighed inwardly. “No, I write whatever I want. Right now I’m working on a picture book as well as a novel for young adults, but sometimes I write poetry too.”


“Oh. I never know how people write fiction. I’d never be able to think up all those stories. Nothing that interesting ever happens to me.” She waved her hand dismissively.


“I stay at home with two little ones, so my life is interesting, but not in a murder mystery kind of way. I just have an over-active imagination.”


She gave me a blank look.


I get that a lot.


I always think it must be boring to live without imagination. I mean, what do you do when you’re at the doctor’s office, and you’ve read every page of the two 23-year-old, half-disintegrated magazines in the waiting room, and they still haven’t called your name? Me? Boom! Instant entertainment! I just switch on the ol’ television in my head, and I’m good for hours.


Of course, there’s a downside. While fun is more vivid in my head, so is fear. I had to stop watching shows like Criminal Minds and Law & Order, especially while my hubby was away on deployment. Also, I often expect events to be different than they are (a.k.a. impossibly perfect). For example, last spring, the state required me to take a first aid course for my childcare registration. In my idealistic, perfect world imagination, I pictured the class practicing myriad bandaging, splinting, and stabilization methods. I smiled happily as I envisioned a cheerful, expert instructor circulating around the room, complimenting me on my fabulous technique as he/she taught the class everything we needed to know to staunch the bleeding and be heroes.


In reality, I sat by myself in front of a cheesy video for two hours, learning how to keep an injured person still while calling 9-1-1. Not the highlight of my weekend, I assure you. So, even though I often end up being disappointed when my mundane life doesn’t live up to my daydreams, it’s no big stretch for me to imagine up an entire plot line either. Getting it all into words, with a coherent story, realistic dialogue, and compelling description? Now that’s the hard part.

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The Merry Adventures of Droppin’ Hood

As most of you know, my little Jewel had her tonsils out last Monday. While I was not thrilled to put her through the trauma of surgery at the age of four, the procedure was a necessary evil. Poor Jewel started out with occasional tonsillitis here and there, but by the end, she was going on two months with the same bout of illness. And you should have seen the size of her tonsils. Biblical. Seriously.



Jewel did very well, the surgery was very short, and we got to come home quite soon after she was done. Of course, we had a minor hold-up in the recovery room.



NEWS ALERT: Thomas is squeamish.



He doesn’t do blood, guts, bodily goo, or general squishiness related to the human vessel (not in real life anyway). Or apparently, as we learned this time, he doesn’t do the mere suggestion of any of those things either. At least not when it comes to his family.



When Jewel was waking up from anesthesia, she started a very loud, very nasty cough. It went away quickly, but I was not surprised when Thomas said, “I’m feeling a little green.” He got up to walk around on the pretext of using the restroom. I thought, “Good. He’ll get a little air, Jewel will wake up enough, and we can go home. No big deal.”



When he returned in short order, saying, “I feel kind of dizzy,” I started to get a little nervous.



When he sat down quickly and said, “I think I’m going to pass out,” and then proceeded to do so, I started to get a lot nervous.



So, let’s recap. Here I am, sitting in a rocking chair with a 40 pound, semi-conscious child on my lap. I am both trying to comfort her and keep from mangling the IV in her foot. I am also trying to keep her from sliding off of my lap because my legs are too short for the chair. This is a two handed (and legged) job. Then, I am forced to catch my now unconscious husband with one of those already needed hands, call for a nurse (who looks worriedly at Jewel, then confusedly at Thomas), and try my best to keep him from crumpling unceremoniously to the floor.



Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAP!”



At this time, Thomas is unconscious, eyes rolled back, twitching, snorting, the whole nine yards. Television makes it look like people just keel over and get really still when they pass out, like they’re sleeping or something. It ain’t that pretty.



Fast forward five minutes. Jewel is still on my lap, but Thomas is in Jewel’s hospital bed, recovering sufficiently for us to go home. Jewel’s fine. She’s ready to go. Just waiting on Thomas. *suspiciously innocent whistling*



Everything turned out okay. Thomas is fine. Jewel is still recovering, but she’s fine. I’m over it. Mostly.



But hey, at least we learned something. We now know that if there is a next time, Thomas (now known as Sir Faints-a-Lot, which can be abbreviated as Sir FAL (Mwah ha ha ha!)) stays home with the kids, and Grandmommie tags along to the hospital. We’ll all be a little safer that way.

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Have You Met Murphy? He’s My New Roommate.

So, as you might know, today is our eighth wedding anniversary. Yay! And, you might ask, was it the grand experience of lovey-dovey-ness and general fabulosity that it should have been? Um….. no. Actually, it kinda sucked.


Not that our anniversary’s suckage is particularly surprising or anything. This, our eighth anniversary, marks yet another in a trend of bad anniversaries. How many have been bad, you ask? Well, all eight, of course! And here they are, in chronological order, for your reading pleasure.


Anniversary #1: We both had summer school finals the next day, so we ate our frozen wedding cake, said “Happy Anniversary. I love you! I can’t believe it’s been a year!” Yada, yada, yada… and we went back to studying.


Anniversary #2: We were in Chicago. This kind of sounds like a good thing, right? Well… we were sharing a hotel room with my in-laws. They are wonderful people, but not I-want-to-share-a-hotel-room-with-them-on-my-anniversary kind of wonderful.


Anniversary #3: Thomas was in Chicago in boot camp for the Navy. This was not the only anniversary ruined by the Navy.


Anniversary #4: Jewel had just arrived in the world 16 days earlier. There wasn’t a whole lot of sleeping going on. Or anything else for that matter.


Anniversary #5: This one was probably the least bad. Still, we couldn’t find a sitter, and we had to take Jewel with us for our night out. She was tired, cranky, and generally unpleasant to be around. So our nice, relaxing dinner out was not so nice. Or relaxing.


Anniversary #6: Navy again. This time Thomas was in Afghanistan on deployment.


Anniversary #7: I was horrendously pregnant. ‘Nuff said.


And finally, Anniversary #8: Our poor little Lane-girl is sick. She has a 103.7-degree fever, and she’s one unhappy girl. 😦


So, what are we planning to do to top off this fantabulous lovefest of a day? We are going to disassemble the pipes under the drain in the bathroom sink and scrape candle wax out of them. In my state of “walking disaster” clumsiness the other day, I tripped on the way to the trash can to empty out the tart burner (wax disc melting device), and I ended up accidentally pouring the wax down the drain instead. That was, incidentally, the same day I tried to take off my piggy toe with the front door. Yup. Smooth. Like buttah. That’s me.


There is an upside, though. These last eight years of marriage have been wonderful! Certainly the happiest years of my life. I am so blessed that my Nearest and Dearest and I fit together so perfectly. I can’t imagine spending the last eight years with anybody else. Here’s to many, many more joy-filled years!


Now, if we ever have a good anniversary, then I’ll start to worry.

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Midlife Crisis: The Advance Copy

Lately, Hubcap and I have started to plan his midlife crisis. It makes us laugh. If this surprises you, go back and read, “It’s a Nerd! It’s a Brain! It’s… My Husband!” Then we’ll all be on the same page. Got it? Okay, let’s move on.



So, we’ve been going back and forth talking about what kind of car I’ll let him get and what color he’ll dye his hair. Of course, he’ll have to get some ridiculous muscle clothes and tight pants since he’ll mysteriously begin working out with a vengeance. The tanning idea was immediately discarded, however. Hubcap only has two available skin tones: blinding white and barn-raising red.



Here’s the great part. He even said he’d let me pick his girlfriend! Then he thought about it and said, “You’re going to pick an ugg-o, aren’t you?” Alas, no. I have a much better plan. You see, I am an evil genius. I seem like your average nice, private, quiet person, but inside my mental closet are some very dangerous skeletons. More dangerous even than tooth decay and gingivitis. Hey, now. All those toothbrush and toothpaste commercials say that gingivitis is a very serious problem! *ahem*



Um, back to my evil plan. Because I’m evil. Right. Evil. So, will I pick the ugliest woman around? Nah, I’m not that simple. I will pick a very attractive woman. A very attractive woman who has a voice like she’s speaking through 10 noses. A woman who chooses to exercise her voice by talking, singing, and gossiping on the phone at every available moment. A woman who wheedles, nags, lies, and begs in said uber-nasality. A woman who has only one volume- freight train. In short, I will choose someone who is so repulsive in sound and character that the hubster has no choice but to ditch her as soon as humanly possible.



See? I told you I was evil. Like gingivitis. Yeah.

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Just Around the Bend

You know it’s bad when the plumber says, “I’ve never seen that before.” This was The Magnificent Billy’s second trip to our home. His first trip, last week, happened because our charming little Jewel had flushed her sister’s cradle cap brush down the toilet. We were all shocked it ever went down in the first place. Now, when we asked Jewel if she had put anything else down there, she said yes. She said, “I put my toothbrush in.” Hmm… okay, we can handle that. Then she said, “And I put the book light in.” She used the same nonchalant tone in which she might have said, “Mom, there’s a monster in the hallway, and he needs a pair of socks too. Can he have the yellow ones?” Or perhaps, “I want green applesauce with orange polka dots.” I attributed it to her well-developed imagination.



Still, I dutifully reported this finding to my nearest and dearest, who said, “She didn’t put the whole house down there!” I stayed silent, but secretly I agreed. Surely she hadn’t put the book light down the toilet. How would it ever get past the bowl? As it turns out, this was one of those very painful times when, as parents, we were sure our child was making up the whole thing. She wasn’t. After an additional week of toilet dysfunction, Billy the Great pulled out, lo and behold, the book light.



I really am happy to have an inquisitive child. She is so very bright, and so very curious about the world around her, and I love that. However, I do wish that all of her little “science experiments,” as I like to call them, were not so destructive. She has pulled down the curtains in her room, ripped pages out of books, unscrewed the switch from her lamp, and climbed the furniture to get to the diaper bag so she could pour out Lane’s formula powder onto the floor and make designs in it. And she’s so fast! You’d think, upon hearing these things, that I just don’t supervise her at all, but not so. She can destroy property in record time.



And as many activities as I plan to occupy her mind and energy, the second we’re done with one, she’s off into trouble. I wish I could say she did it just to be a royal toot, but she doesn’t. I can tell when she’s just being difficult, and she’s good at that too, but when she destroys things she is simply investigating cause and effect. I can only hope and pray that very soon she learns the cause and effect of misbehavior and punishment. And please, please, please pray that we all survive that long.

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It’s a Wonderful Life

Well, we had a fantastic Christmas! We had the Hubcap’s (a.k.a. my husband) parents, Granny, and uncle up for Christmas along with my parents as well. After a great Christmas Eve service at my cousin and aunt’s church, the whole gang headed back to my cousin’s house for a sumptuous, scrumptious meal. My cuz is the hostess with the mostest. She went all out to make the evening an utterly enjoyable success. We had really great hors d’oeuvres and delectable main courses and side dishes, and we topped off the evening with a birthday cake for Jesus, complete with the Happy Birthday song. We elected not to try to fit a couple thousand candles on the cake, however. We even had entertainment. My cousin is the consummate storyteller. She can frequently send me to that really ugly laugh where I have tears rolling down my face and I can no longer control my manic, cackling grin. Not attractive in the least, but quite satisfying.


Christmas morning dawned bright and not early. I think we got things rolling around 8:30 or 9:00, which is pretty late for Christmas morning with a three-year-old. We did stockings and had cranberry orange pancakes (yum!), and then we created some serious chaos with present opening. After that, it was cookin’ time! We had Honeybaked ham, pear and parsnip sauce, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, green beans, rolls, and crème bruleè (sans bruleè) for dessert. We ended up with just the crème part after a major torch malfunction. We feared for our lives, set the torch outside, and tucked into our vanilla custard.


After a superb Christmas Eve and a first-rate Christmas, I had my own little Christmas miracle on Sunday. As my dad and I were moving the couch to hang a picture (which my brother drew) in the living room, my dad found a ring. A ring which just happens to have been lost for the last three-and-a-half-years. It is my wedding ring, the one that my nearest and dearest specially ordered in my size, as it is, in fact, a replica of his wedding ring. It is very special to us, and I lost it in the move to our current house in September of 2007. I could hardly believe my eyes when that little glimmer of gold turned out to be my long lost wedding ring.


Overall, we had a blessed Christmas, and I am looking forward to a blessed year ahead. I hope your Christmas was as happy as mine, and I hope your year ahead is filled with happiness as well.

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Conversations with Jewel: The Coffee Bean

This is our morning ritual. As I put my medium roast beans into the grinder and get my machine ready to brew my morning cup of sugary wakefulness, I hear, “Smell, smell!” Every morning, Jewel loves for me to walk over to her, canister outstretched, and let her take in eau de caffé. The smell is usually succeeded by, “Mmm,” or “That smells good,” or something similar. This morning, however, my rather strong-willed little urchin said, “Can I have one? I want to try it.”


I was now faced with two options. I could have told her no because I know it’s disgusting, and then I would have spent the next umpteen mornings being hounded for a coffee bean (Did I mention she was strong-willed?). Or… I could let her have one, warn her that it’s gross, and let her learn a little something about the world. I might even be a little bit entertained by her response. Hmm… which one, which one. Of course I chose the second option.


So, I hand over a bean with, “Now Jewel, sweetie, coffee beans don’t taste very good by themselves. I don’t know if you really want to eat it.” She returned with, “I just want to try it.” And so she did. And she loved it! No, not really. She sputtered and spewed and made horrible faces to my heart’s content. And, of course, she learned something. Two somethings, in fact. One, when Mom says something is gross, she’s right. And two, coffee beans don’t taste very good.


Now, I’m not totally heartless. I helped her get her milk and clean the coffee bean out of her mouth and off her hands (and off the couch… mental note… don’t let her eat yucky stuff on upholstery). We talked about the experience, and I made sure she wasn’t traumatized. All in all, it was a very entertaining and educational morning. I wonder what will happen tomorrow.

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The First Annual Vanderburg Thanksgiving Extravaganza

Well, Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and this year, for the first time, we are hosting the meal. Wait, we’re hosting?! AAAARGGHHHH! <—— That was my panic about the impending invasion of my family and my realization that I have done pretty much nothing to prepare for it. I mean, sure, in theory I know what all needs to be done and when to do it. In theory.


Traditionally, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It was the only time all year that my dad’s entire side of the family would get together. We’re a bit stereotypical on Turkey Day in that the ladies spend the day cooking and the guys watch football, and our meal time is worked around whatever time the Cowboys game starts. We must all be stuffed to the gills before the game starts so that we can lounge around, semi-conscious, snoring, burping, and… well… you get the picture.


The past several years, since my nearest and dearest and I have lived up here, Thanksgiving has been here in Arlington, at my aunt’s house. However, she is getting too old to work so hard every year (she is a well-preserved seventy-one), and my cousin, who also lives in town, hates Thanksgiving. No, really, she hates it. She hates turkey, and she hates the smell and taste of sage. Care to take a guess what the main seasoning in the dressing is? So, she’s a no go. That leaves my dearest and I with the responsibility of maintaining my most beloved tradition. What were we thinking?!

Well, time to go do something Thanksgiving-related. Perhaps a grocery list. Of course, I’ll have to leave a couple things off so that we can send at least one male to the store, maybe even repeatedly, for the things we run out of or forget. Usually eggs. Pardon me while I add eggs to the grocery list.


Oh, and have a happy, Happy, HAPPY Thanksgiving!


P.S. AAAARGGHHHH!!!

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The Gall of It, Part 2

So, after seven months of pain and pie-lessness, I finally had my gall bladder removed. It went pretty well, I can say. The only hiccup was my blood pressure. The lovely nurse had to stand me on my head for a little while as the anesthesia was wearing off because my blood pressure was too low. If I remember correctly, and I might not since I was in a drug-induced stupor, it was down to 76/38. I also remember being just freezing when I woke up. The nurse saw my eyes opening, and she asked how I was, and the only word I managed to eke out between my full body violent shivers and my very heavy, woolly feeling tongue was c-c-cooold. She wrapped me up, head and all, in blankets straight from the warmer, and I was a happy camper in my toasty flannel pseudo-womb. I don’t remember much after that until a couple hours later when they sent me home.


I found it interesting that I didn’t make it to the operating room awake. I should have known, when the anesthesiologist was one of the folks wheeling me away, that there would be little chance of remaining conscious for long. He said, “Are you ready?” and I guess he meant it more immediately than I realized. I was out before I hit the hallway.


It’s now been four days since the surgery, and I’m feeling good. I’m still sore, of course, but I now only require ibuprofen instead of pain medication, and apart from the fact that it looks like somebody played “Where’s the gall bladder?” with my incision points (there are four, but there are supposed to be four anyway), I’m none the worse for wear.


I will be glad when I’m no longer sore, though, because it hurts to laugh. With my dearest husband, and my little three year old comedian, it’s a real challenge to remain pain free. On the other hand, I actually got to butter my bread yesterday morning, and that was exciting. It may seem trivial to you that butter is exciting, but when you’re deprived of something so simple for so long, it becomes a monumental event to revel again in glorious butteriness (yes, that’s a word).

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