Halloween Candy Conspiracy



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.


Are you Rich or Poor?


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



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.”