Halloween Candy Conspiracy

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There’s a conspiracy in America.  I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I didn’t warn all readers out there.  It’s called the “Halloween Candy Conspiracy.”  Buyer beware.

The conspiracy unfolds in early September.  Aisles and aisles of Halloween candy surface in every major retail outlet.  Wait!  Isn’t it a bit early to be selling Halloween candy?  Oh no.  It’s all part of their twisted little plan, friend.  It starts with a sign that proclaims, “SALE!  STOCK UP NOW!  Was: $3.69.  Now:  $2.99.”

Seeing the sale sign, one immediately says, “Gosh, I better grab a few bags of Snickers and M&M’s.  I’d hate to be caught off guard in eight weeks when I’ll actually be needing the candy for trick-or-treaters or school parties.”   And so the cycle of doom begins.

Naïve Americans buy the candy and put it on the top shelf of the pantry.  Everything is fine.  Fine until the next day at about 4:30 p.m.  That’s when it hits.  The longing.  The yearning.  I’m convinced there are times a human being would sell his or her car for a Hershey bar.  But, of course, that’s not necessary.  Thanks to the Halloween candy sale, there’s a luring sound coming from her very own pantry.  Sure.  She could eat a banana.  An apple.  A stale rice cake.  But no.  The Snickers bag sings a siren song.

A week later the same shopper is back at the local retail outlet.  All bags of candy purchased last week are gone and the shopper is determined to buy nothing but the absolute necessities.  But there it is.  Aisles and aisles of chocolate candy.  This time it’s no longer $2.99/bag.  Oh no.  The conspirators have it marked down to $2.50.  A huge sign reminds every shopper, “IT WON’T LAST!”  What an understatement.

Lured by a good deal, the naïve shopper once again takes the bait.  With pure determination in her eyes, she hides the bags high above the towels and toilet paper in the guest bathroom closet.  She is determined not to get within ten feet of the candy until the first doorbell ring on Oct. 31st.  Day one passes.  No transgression.  Day two passes with no problem.  On day three the devious little kids say, “Mom, can’t we have just one piece of the Halloween candy?”  Resolve crumbles.  She innocently says, “I guess a piece or two or three won’t hurt.”  Within four days, all candy is a mere memory.

Our naïve friend returns once again to the retail outlet.  This time she decides to walk in and head straight for the light bulb aisle. As she walks through the parking lot she says under her breath, “I’ll just pass out kiwi fruit to all the neighborhood kids.  What kid doesn’t love kiwi?”

When she walks in the front door, a large shelf of chocolate candy is positioned right by the entrance.  A sign the size of Delaware proclaims, “Candy Sale.  $1.50/bag.  BARGAIN!  BARGAIN!  BARGAIN!”  Does our shopper see the sign and flee?  Oh no.  She says aloud, “I guess it IS insensitive to give the neighborhood kids kiwi fruit. I’ll just pick up a few bags of Butterfingers.”

And so it goes.  A terrible cycle of gloom and doom.  Take heed, my friend.  Take heed.  Before it’s all said and done, the average American spends approximately $179.00 on Halloween candy and an additional $250 on bigger jeans.  Oh, and what about those darling little trick-or-treaters?  They get stuck with Starlight mints left over from the Soybean parade.

(www.lisasmartt.com)

Are you Rich or Poor?

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When I was a little girl, I liked going to the bank with Mama and Daddy. When I saw how much money they were depositing every month, I felt sure they were holdin’ out on my brother and me.  My parents, both teachers, must be stock-piling thousands of dollars in a Swiss account somewhere.  Every time I saw the deposit amount, my eyes grew wide.  We were rich.  Filthy stinkin’ rich.  What in the world were they doing with all that money?  My brother and I could be swimming in our own pool, eating out every meal, and flying to Paris for family vacations. We could even own a juke box and a pool table…if only Mom and Dad weren’t so stingy with their apparent wealth.   To add insult to injury, Mom didn’t even let us buy Cocoa Puffs every week.  “Too expensive,” she’d say. What could this woman be thinking?  Did she think we didn’t know?

While riding in the backseat of that ’71 yellow Le Sabre, I made a decision.  I wasn’t going to be like my parents.  Oh no.  I’d be much more generous with my kids when I was rollin’ in the dough.  We’d eat Cocoa Puffs for breakfast and Fruity Pebbles for lunch. We’d go to Mike’s Diner every night for supper.  If we didn’t eat at Mike’s Diner, we’d have Banquet frozen dinners. (Mom hardly ever let us buy Banquet frozen dinners.)  In the summer, we’d fly to exotic vacation spots and buy flowery shirts and drink chocolate milk out of coconuts.  Every time we drove past the Dairy Barn, we’d stop for ice cream.  I’d NEVER say, “Not today.”  No.  My kids would never ask to stop at the Dairy Barn and hear the words, “Not today.” Wow, my kids would be the luckiest kids in the world.

But you guessed it.  Fast forward 30 years and our kids grew up pretty much like I did.  They heard phrases like, “Sweetie, put these crackers back and get the ones in the black and white box.”  “We don’t need to eat out.  We’ve got good food at home.”  “The Dairy Barn?  No, Honey, not today.”

In 2019, we live in a world filled with social media images.  Images of family trips to the beach.  Images of European cruises and weekly mani/pedi appointments.  Images of new cars and expensive meals out.

And sometimes?  Sometimes you may be tempted to think, “The whole world is doing better than we are.  My family is just broke.  We’re working hard but we’re missing out on the good life.  We’re paying the electric bill.  But there’s nothing left for a summer vacation.  Our kids will probably resent us.  They’ll get mad when we can’t buy the latest phone or cool clothes.  They’ll grow tired of being denied the things all their friends have.”

May I be perfectly honest?  Grow up, friend.  Seriously.  Grow up.  Your kids may not be grown yet, but you are.  So act like a grown person.  Can I let you in on a little secret?  A secret to extreme happiness?  Grown people don’t cry over what they don’t have.  They rejoice over what they do have.  They relish the blessings of hard work.  They know that eating food several times a day is an indicator of great wealth.  And they celebrate that wealth with extreme appreciation.  Grown people see cutting a watermelon in the back yard as a moment of family celebration.  A life of extreme blessing.

Look at past generations in your own family.  Did your grandmother take you on exotic vacations?  Did your dad hand you a $900 phone because you were breathing?  Did your parents take you out to eat every other night?  If they did, that’s fine.  Let me clarify.  There is nothing wrong with renting a beach house or going on an exotic vacation (if you don’t go in debt to do it).  Those are blessings.  Wonderful blessings!

But I’m guessing most of you come from families like mine, families that thought summertime fun meant spraying each other with a water hose.  Or eating home-grown corn and tomatoes on the picnic table.   If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know my grandparents gave us underwear every year for Christmas.  Every single year.  Oh, and we acted like we were excited about that underwear too.  Why did we act like we were excited about underwear?   Because our parents raised us to have manners, and that included expressing our annual underwear enthusiasm.

Our parents didn’t give us everything we wanted.   They gave us something way better.  They were wildly content with their lives and their blessings.  They passed that contentment on to us.  And we loved them.  We loved them beyond what can be expressed in this blog.

When our boys were preschoolers, a pack of gum was considered a luxury item.  I recently looked over some old pictures of our days in that trailer park in Texas.   Phil turned an old cooler into an amusement park ride.  The boys took turns getting into the cooler and then Phil would slowly lift them from the ground while making engine noises.  They were delirious with joy.  And so were we.  Yes, we go on different vacations now.  But the joy?  It’s that same exact joy.

Kids who have more aren’t necessarily spoiled.  Kids who have less aren’t necessarily resentful.  No. The truth?  It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or barely making the electric bill.  Kids are looking to their parents to find out what they need in order to be happy.  So be thankful.  Be appreciative.  Be a grown-up.  Stop whining about things you wish you had or places you wish you could go.  Stop.  Thank God for the food on your table and the ones there to eat it.  And your kids?  Someday they’ll thank you.  They’ll thank you because no matter their financial situation, they’ll have everything they need.

Green Hair and Mama’s Death

 

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Two things happened last week.  Our 23-year-old son had his hair dyed neon green right before the beginning of fall semester, and we marked the one year anniversary of my mom’s death.  Believe it or not, those two things are connected.  So beautifully connected.

Last week several adults, mostly middle-aged and gainfully employed with their shirts tucked in, asked Phil and me, “So, what do you think about Stephen’s hair?”  I’m sure some of them expected us to rant a little bit because we too are middle-aged, gainfully employed, and Phil tucks his JCPenney button up shirt into those khaki pants nearly every day of his life.

Perhaps they expected us to say things like, “Young people nowadays…what are they thinking?”  Or, “Why in the world would he do such a thing?”  We just smiled and said, “It is definitely Stephen-ish.”

My mama taught us that gracious response.  Her life was one big merciful lesson in love and grace.  She was a master at discerning the things that mattered and the things that didn’t.  She knew the word of God well, and was able to clearly articulate Biblical principles.  When our boys were little and I felt unsure about discipline, she always reminded me, “Never discipline them for fear of what others might think.  You and Phil set the rules for your family.  Draw the lines clearly and Biblically and then stand by those lines.  Your boys will be able to tell if you’re merely trying to please others with your discipline or trying to please the Lord.  Stand firm.  Understand the things that matter most and let the rest go.”  Let the rest go.  What wisdom.

My mama lived 82 years.  She trusted Christ at an early age and served him with vigor from her teen years and on through adulthood.  She was never an addict, but addicts were welcome in my parents’ home.  She never committed a crime, but those who had been released from jail found solace within my parents’ four walls.  She was a brilliant academic since early childhood.  A teacher.  An administrator. But she found great joy in teaching adults to read.

If someone were downcast, marginalized, homeless, addicted, a missionary on furlough, a college student needing housing, or just a wanderer without a hope in this world, my parents provided a soft place to land.  A place where Jesus’ love wasn’t just talked about but demonstrated.  I can’t tell you the names of all the people who lived with my parents throughout the years.  I wouldn’t be able to count them all.

Mama wasn’t afraid of people’s messy marriages or catastrophic failures or sin because she knew the Savior.  She knew His love, His mercy, His grace.  And she wanted to share that great love with others.  Every time I set the table, I remember the way she did it.  She taught me that feeding people in our home was a joyful privilege, not a burden.  She was right.  Every time we meet with someone in crisis, I hear her words, “We pour out love and grace, because love and grace has been poured out on us in Christ.”

Mama died one year ago.  Oh, how I miss her every single day.  But not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for the things she left me.  I don’t mean her biscuit bowl or an old set of china.  No.  She left a beautiful legacy.  A legacy of love that will continue long past her death.

But I especially missed Mama last week.  I missed seeing her arm around Stephen’s shoulder and her beautiful smile.  The smile that would speak so very graciously without uttering a word, “Green hair?  I don’t care!  Jesus loves you and so do I.”

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Do you feel like a failure?

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Things I Meant To Do…

I’m 55 years old and there are a lot of things I haven’t done, things I fully intended to do.  I meant to learn how to play the guitar.  People who can play the guitar are always the cool people.  They look cool.  They act cool.  People who know how to play the guitar can reasonably dream of being the opening act for Reba McEntire’s comeback tour.  We all know the truth.  Reba would never hire a chubby 55-year-old woman to do stand-up comedy.  That’s just not the way life works.

I meant to order the Rosetta Stone program and become proficient in a foreign language.  Didn’t you?  Didn’t you watch those commercials and shout loudly, “I could do that!  I could learn Japanese on my lunch hour!”?  Yeah.  Me too.  But I haven’t.  I haven’t learned Japanese or Russian or French.  I used to know Spanish, but I haven’t practiced at all.  My lunch hour Spanish now consists of the phrase, “Can we get more tortilla chips?  Gracias.”

I meant to graduate from college.  I know.  That’s a big ol’ shock for some of you.  You’ve read my books or heard me speak and you just assumed I was a college graduate.  Life is funny like that, huh?   People assume I’m a college graduate because all the normal indicators are there.  My parents are teachers.  My husband is a college professor.  I can spell.  If college had been one big grown-up spelling bee, I can assure you I would have loved every minute.

I always dreamed of a college course where the professor walked in on the first day of class and said, “This class will be all about relationships and stand-up comedy and spelling.”  Yeah.  Take that, engineering folks.  Let’s see where the mathematicians are now.   Just kidding.  I love all of you math folks.  In fact, I fell in love with my college algebra tutor.  Math has been very good to me.  And yes, I’m sure a person can be a brilliant mathematician and a gifted motivational humorist all at the same time.  I mean, I’m 55 and have never met that person.  But I’m also someone who can’t play the guitar or speak Japanese.  So my life experiences are limited.

This December we’ll get all those annual Christmas letters from our highly-accomplished friends.  They’ll write about learning Russian and about their kids’ scholarships to Oxford and Princeton.  They’ll explain about the Mayan ruins they witnessed this summer and the new vacation house they bought outside Denver.  And me?  Well, I’ll write back and say, “We killed the tomatoes and the porch flowers again this year.   I still can’t play the guitar.  But I’m confident this is the year I’ll learn Japanese by listening to Rosetta Stone instruction on the way home from Dollar Tree.”

Actually, I’ll just smile and enjoy reading about their accomplishments from the warmth of our country home on the outskirts of Dresden.  I’ll hug my grown sons and be thankful for the blessing of their friendship.  I’ll kiss my husband and thank God I was so extremely deficient in algebra that I needed a tutor in the summer of ’87.  Yes, there are a lot of things I haven’t yet accomplished and that’s perfectly fine.  Oh, and Reba, if you’re reading this, please call me.

http://www.lisasmartt.com

Are you excited about school supplies?

school suppliesReady or Not, Here Comes School  (written in 2014) by Lisa Smartt

We have a sophomore and a senior this year.  In the last few days, people have asked both of them the age-old question, “Are you boys ready for school to start back?”  They sigh and smile and say something like, “Not really.”  Of course, we all know the truth.  It doesn’t matter whether they’re ready.  Ready or not, here comes school.

I’ve been a boy mom for a long time now.  Nothing should surprise me.  But every year on the night before the first day of school, I find myself having the same conversation with our boys.  It’s becoming a tradition of sorts.

It always starts with my being overly cheery about school in general.  “So, tomorrow’s the big day, huh?  New year.  New opportunities.  This is gonna be a great year, guys.  Seriously.  This is probably gonna be the best school year you’ve ever had.  I have a feeling you’ll learn more than you’ve ever learned!  Prepare for a truly amazing year!”

Boy 1:  “Uh huh.”

Boy 2:  “Uh huh.”

Despite their lack of enthusiasm, I’m not easily thwarted when it comes to back-to-school promotion and marketing.  “Oh, and I washed all your new clothes too and they’re hanging neatly in your closet just waiting for that first big day.  You guys are just gonna be too handsome!  New clothes, new year!  What could be better?   Have you decided what you’re wearing on the first day of school?”

Boy 1:  “I’ll decide in the morning.”

Boy 2:  “Mom, we’re not girls.”

“Oh, I know.  I just remember how much I always loved laying out what I was planning to wear on the first day of school.  Just going down memory lane, I guess.  Oh, and there’s nothing more fun than organizing all those pens and pencils and putting the notebook paper into all the multi-colored folders.  Do you need a Sharpie to label any of your school supplies?”

Boy 1:  “Mom, my supplies are all still in the bag.”

Boy 2:  “We won’t even get them out till we get to school probably.”

Our two sons are loving young men with bright futures. I’m perfectly fine with their current lack of enthusiasm regarding school supply preparedness. And yes,  only overly-enthusiastic moms like me use phrases like “school supply preparedness.” Every year after our “inspiring” back-to-school conversation, I take consolation in one thing.  I have a feeling both of our boys will eventually marry wonderful women and have daughters.   

Their daughters will probably say things like, “Daddy, look at my sparkly princess pencil case. Isn’t it dreamy, Daddy?” “Oh, Daddy, Amber said that Carla said that Naomi said that Jenna doesn’t want to be my best friend.  But she DOES want to be my best friend.  She told me so last week.  She even gave me her favorite peach lip gloss for the first day of school.”  “Daddy, everything in my backpack needs to be labeled properly!”

And after those detailed back-to-school conversations with their daughters, those fine men will probably call me on the phone just to say, “Thanks, Mom.”  And I’ll say with an honest heart and a tear in my eye, “It was my pleasure.”

Are you lazy in love?

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Are you Lazy in Love?

Here’s a quiz for all you married men and women out there.  Answer each question honestly and I’ll tell you how you rate in the romance department.

1. After my spouse cooks a delicious meal, I’m most likely to say:

a.Thank you, Sweetheart.  The food was extraordinary.

b.Do you know where the –BURP!- remote control is?

2. When your spouse talks about something good that happened at work, you’re more likely to say:

a. Honey, I’m proud of you.  I always knew you were smart and capable.

b. I smell the baby’s diaper.  Why don’t you prove your capability by changing it?

3. When you and your spouse have to be separated for more than one night, your parting words are:

a. I’ll be counting the hours until I see you again.  I’ll miss you and just remember, no one loves you like I do!

b. Tomorrow is trash day.  Don’t forget to carry it to the curb.  And don’t forget to take Junior to his t-ball game.  His uniform is in the dryer.  Don’t let him eat sugar.

4. After a relaxing dinner at home, you’re most likely to:

a. Stroll around the neighborhood holding hands and whispering romantic things in each other’s ears.

b. Sit in front of the tube drinking orange soda and wishing the kids hadn’t eaten all the Doritos.

5. You and your spouse dress up, get a babysitter, go out to eat, and have wonderful dates together:

a. every few weeks.

b. on anniversaries ending in the number “0.”

Romance.  Gosh darn it.  We all seem to get such a good start in this area and end up faltering somewhere in the “middle years.” Have any of you slipped into that obligatory morning/evening kissing pattern?  There’s nothing less romantic than the obligatory kiss.  Let’s be honest.  We’ve kissed our grandmas and puppies with more enthusiasm.

And don’t even think I’m focusing this blog post on men.  Women are equally at fault.  Men and women can easily get preoccupied and focused on things and people other than spouses.  Criticism can quickly become the primary mode of communication.  And let me be crystal clear.  Verbal criticism is death to romance.  Absolute death.

When Phil and I first married we lived in our own little world of romance.  We would go out to eat and shake our heads with pity at the couples who spent most of their time chewing or looking around.  We rejoiced that the horrid complacency we were witnessing was destined to never rear its ugly head in our unbelievably passionate and powerful union.  Yeah.  And we even used words like “unbelievably passionate and powerful union.”  I know.  It’s almost funny.  Years later, we believe the words “unbelievably passionate and powerful union” still apply.  We just sometimes get lazy.

We would never let our yard grow too high.  We would never forget to give children a meal.  But ironically, we sometimes forget to feed the romance in our marriage.  But it’s not too late for change, friend.

Kiss passionately every day.  Write love letters.  Have a lot more sex.  Schedule times for intimacy.  Serve each other.  Constantly.  Daily.  Don’t worry about what your spouse is doing.  Focus on your part.  The result?  You’ll be part of the romance revolution.  A revolution that honors God.  A revolution we desperately need.

For romance and laughter, check out my Doug and Carlie series, available in Kindle and paperback at the link below (And yes, there are a lot of FREE pages you can read of all 4 books at this Amazon link.  And I get it.  You love the word FREE.  I am with you, friend.  I am SO with you.):

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B074C76273/?ie=UTF8&crid=2NCYJG6PP4U66&keywords=doug%20and%20carlie%20series&qid=1563550251&ref_=sr_1_6&s=gateway&sprefix=doug%20and%20carlie%20series%2Caps%2C348&sr=8-6

 

Southern Summers and Sleeveless Shirts

I know.  Some of you are expecting this blog to be a tearful, poignant, and beautiful look at southern summers with all their glorious traditions.  Lightning bug catching in Aunt Lydia’s backyard.  Lemonade on the front porch.  Doing something, anything, “down by the creek.”  Fish fries at your Granddaddy’s house complete with homemade ice cream cranked out by Uncle George while he complained about local politics and young people’s lack of work ethic.  But I’ll save that kind of heartfelt nostalgia for the back page of “Southern Living” magazine.

I have a confession.  There’s only one time of year that I don’t really love being a southerner.  Summer.   It’s the excessive heat, the humidity, the mosquitoes, the sleeveless shirts.  OK.  It’s mostly the sleeveless shirts.  But the sleeveless shirts are a direct result of those other things, right?

I just can’t do sleeveless shirts.  I don’t have the necessary self-confidence.  I want to.  Oh friend, how I want to.  When it hits 98 degrees with a humidity of 117%, I desperately want to throw on a sleeveless shirt and feel good about it.  Proud even.  But no.

When it comes to sleeveless shirts, there are two things working against me.  No, I don’t mind talking about them.   The first thing is obvious to everyone.  I’m whiter than a piece of copy paper.  And I don’t mean the cream-colored paper that’s supposed to be easy on the eyes.  No.  I mean that stark white paper that’s a dollar cheaper because it causes blindness in infants and the elderly.  I’m whiter than that paper.  Seriously.  Parents have rushed to put sunglasses on their toddlers at the sight of my bare arms.  It’s embarrassing.

The second thing is that I’m jiggly.  You know, I have a lot of arm jiggle.  Your Aunt Bess had a lot of arm jiggle.  Remember?  You’d be working with her in the garden and she would enthusiastically raise her arm up and down to celebrate a particularly big zucchini squash.  And it was like a whole massive blob of white arm Jell-O was jumping up and down celebrating right along with her.  Oh, the memories.  The memories.  Yeah, I’m just like your Aunt Bess.  The sad thing?  I can’t even grow a decent zucchini squash.  Now you see why summer is so depressing for me.

I know.  Some of you successful, driven, Type A people are saying, “Lisa, just get some sun and lift some weights.  Tone those arms and stop complaining.”  You’re probably the same people who disinfect the shower every other day.   Let me guess, you got your online Masters degree while nursing twins and writing a Mediterranean cookbook.  Yeah.  I know your kind.  I respect you.  I do.  But I cannot be you.  If I could be you, I would have already grown a prize-winning zucchini squash.

Summer is here.  Sadly, I put away my tasteful and figure-flattering sweater sets.  But don’t worry.  Out of respect for small children and the elderly, I promise to wear summer clothing with some kind of sleeve…unless I’m mowing, weed eating, or gardening.  But don’t worry.  I do those things as often as I disinfect the shower.  Everyone’s summer is safe.Orlando, Florida, USA

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