Wednesday, December 28, 2011

First Annual Jean's Boots Holiday Letter

The flow of incoming Christmas cards and letters is slowing down. Can I just say, never before have I seen so many content families, beautiful kids and attractive parents. 

Sometimes, I just stand in front of my card shutter board -

and shudder.... 

Can you blame me?



Something I love about receiving Christmas cards is learning what everyone else has done in the last year, although the sender could have saved both time and postage and simply added me as a Facebook friend. I especially love the ones that are photos only. Those are a lot easier to digest. 

While my cards won't go out until closer to February (I've been too busy staring at my shutter board), I would like to save my own postage and make public the first official Jean's Boots Holiday Letter. This is a no-holds-bar type of deal. If I wanted to fool you all about how normal, romantic and fairy-tale-like my life is, I would have deleted my social media accounts three years ago....

__________________________________________________

Dear friends I talk to/text once a year and family I only see at the county fair - 

While 2011 seemed to fly by more quickly than the trash man does after I've forgotten to set out the garbage on a Tuesday morning, it was a fantastic year for this gal residing in small-town Indiana. 

In January I flew to Denver for the National Western Stock Show. I spent four beautiful days basking in the Colorado sun and putting Vaseline on my cheeks to prevent wind burn. I hate Vaseline. Good news is I was able to make a nice little bed in the wood shavings between the yearling bulls and the cowboy breakfast burrito wagon to sneak away and take a nap one afternoon. Rather than scouting men on a beach, I evaluated bulls on a halter. It was a real treat. 



In May, Mom and I flew to New York City with her best friend and her daughter (who happens to be one of my best friends) for our annual mother/daughter trip, Girls' Weekend off the Farm. One afternoon Mom and I spent several hours shopping in the original Macy's. At 5:00PM we decided to head back across town (NYC) to meet up with our friends. Maybe a bit light-headed from the cultural mixer we just experienced, we walked out of Macy's and I told Mom to just put her head down and hold on to my arm; having spent much time in the big city, I knew I could take care of both of us. So we plowed through the crowd...And Mom got hit by a bicyclist going approximately 47 mph. For a small foreigner, he was very stout and said some rather harsh words; turns out at almost sixty-years-old, Mom was even tougher than he. Her petite frame stood strong, while the cyclist flew off the back of his bike so hard he lost a shoe. I guess the crowd we plowed through was actually a group waiting on the light to change so they could cross the street. I'm just glad she wasn't hit by a taxi; I feel like that would have ruined the trip.

During the summer of 2011, one that was perfectly hot, humid and extremely dry, I spent much time at our family farm. While many of my friends sent me picture texts from shores, foreign countries and Napa Valley, I tried with everything I had to respond with this:



But my jeans were so tight and stuck to me that I couldn't even get my Droid out of my Levi's pocket. So, I sent a text that looked something like this: "&dkkkkkkkkllljjj(((999kdih"
If they know me at all, they understood: "Hi from BSG - Pants sticking to me - Need rain - Miss u"

In September I took a trip out West (Colorado, Wyoming and Montana) with my best friend Katie.


We spent more money on our cowboy breakfast every morning then we did on our sleep-in-full-clothes-on-top-of-the-covers motels every night. Not only did it build character, it built immunity. And today we are better women for it.  


I also began a new job in September that I absolutely love. I'm writing, communicating and taking pictures on a weekly basis; not a whole lot different from a year ago, except now I'm getting paid to do this stuff five days a week. I also now have an office just 10 minutes from home. I've learned to do my hair in the same amount of time that it takes to make toast and when I'm feeling really fancy, I iron my khakis. 

In October I dedicated my time to something  very influential, monumental and beneficial. I set aside several hours and cleaned out my three junk drawers


During this soul-searching journey I found two coupons from The Loft that were still valid and 6 coupons from KFC/Taco Bell that had expired. I realized that I had failed to RSVP to two weddings and I also found Dixie's flea treatments for the last two years. 

This only means three things: 
  1. I'll be shopping online at The Loft before Saturday
  2. I'll never receive a Christmas letter from the two couples I never responded to 
  3. Aggie, the BSG farm dog, has gone with out flea treatments for two-ish years, because I know Dixie has been receiving hers.... 

I also found the Greens Fork Marshall's business card that reminded me of the girls' wine night that I tried to block from my memory. Wrong or right, I still blame Krista and that mason jar.

December was a month filled with holiday cheer and no snow, not that I've kept track. Or that I'm bitter. I also announced that I'm writing a book, one that probably can't be published until my parents and two siblings either can't see well enough to read or have moved on to Bigger and Better Things. This announcement made everyone nervous enough to shift in their chairs at dinner and I've received checks in the mail for the last two days. My only response to my siblings: Laura it's going to take more than $15 to prevent me from telling about the time you ____________, and Luke, you're crazy if you think a $5 check will prevent me from reliving the night you _____________________. 

So here I am, wishing you and yours a fantastic 2012. Truly, I hope it is wonderful and that your new year includes no run-ins with oncoming traffic or even flea treatments. But, should 2012 include either, simply remember: it builds character.

Peace, love and Vaseline

Jean


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Misfits II

If you tuned in last week you'll remember that I have an entire box of inherited misfit ornaments that I can't stand to look at but I can't throw away.  I dug through these little gems last night and again tilted my head to the side, squinted my eyes and simply asked, "Why???" 


Rather than ask the questions, I'll let let the ornaments do the talking...


I was supposed to be a rocking horse. But my head began to take this weird shape and the guy making me just decided to turn me into a full fledge rocking elephant. 
Really?
Have you ever seen an elephant that rocked? I mean, besides George W.....


I got the short end of the stick on this deal, having made a lonely home on the back side of the tree with the other clowns. The kids don't like me because I scare them and the parents don't like me because I have crossed-out eyes like I'm an irresponsible drunk clown. 

I'm a beautiful wax ornament made in 1939. Back when the Christmas lights were not safe and were also called "candles". If you think my front is fancy, you should see my melted backside. Because then you'd realize I'm not fancy at all. More of a fire hazard than a decoration, really. My risk is quite comparable to any of the ACDC night lights you've won on a county fair midway. 

Nothing says Christmas like a tiny leaning baby angel praying in a tiny hollow chicken's egg with a tiny beaded Christmas tree in the background. 

I've been considered a cross between Cindy Lou-Who and Kelli Pickler 
 
but I actually hate blondes. That is why I've refused to open my eyes to acknowledge anyone since Dec. 26, 1969. 
Try to pry those eyes open - I dare ya. 

My name is SHTMTOTH - AIIAAEWDIHAUH.
Someone Had Too Much Time On Their Hands -
Also, If I Am An Elephant Why Do I Have A Unicorn Horn? 





I hope all of Jean's Boots readers are having a fantastic week-before-Christmas. At approximately 5:45 last night I had the "No wonder I got my shopping done so early this year - - I forgot 6 people" freak out moment. I looked through my garage and basement and those special six will be getting something....one-of-a-kind?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tiny Hands

Finally...A pair of jeans that fit the growing boy. 
She was so happy!
She was so relieved...
She was so...tired of shopping for jeans that would fit him for only 6 months until the 7-year-old boy outgrew the denim. Nothing seemed to fit that day but these jeans!


That same Sunday evening she and her young family watched the Pittsburg Steelers play. But the growing boy was no where to be found. She went to the bottom of the old stairwell - 


"The game is on!........." 


5 MINUTES LATER - 


"Steelers are playing!!.........."


5 MINUTES LATER - 


"Are you coming down to watch the game??" 


She climbed the stairs, careful not to mess up the greenery and ornaments she'd spent well over an hour placing. 


Then she opened his bedroom door...


There he was, sitting on the edge of his bed with her best kitchen scissors, maticulously cutting holes into the brand new jeans she had spent all day searching for.


He was shredding the jeans.


And the young mother lost it, yelling at the growing boy. How dare he ruin the perfectly-fitting jeans she had spent all day trying to find for him? She bought those at Sears - did he even care that they cost $14.00?!


And then she grabbed the scissors from his little hands.


And she told him how much those jeans cost and how now - after he had ruined them, trying to look like the "older, cool" kids in school - he will never be able to wear them anywhere but the barn. 


She made him put on his little jammies. And told him how much the growing boy had disappointed her that night. 






And his big,  blue eyes cried. 


And her green eyes cried, harder. 






And the young mother, so ashamed of how she lost her temper on the growing boy, sat in the stairwell. And took a big, deep breath. Still so upset about how irresponsible he acted, she put the sad, growing boy to bed. 


And down the quiet steps she tiptoed, with tears on her cheeks and a heart beating a hundred miles an hour. Simply put, she was angry. 


She noticed the rest of the family had gone to bed. The TV was off. The family room was empty. 


Sad, she thought, for a December evening. 


So she walked around the home and unplugged all Christmas lights, shivering because of how cold the her husband kept the house, then tiptoed back up the steps. 


"UUUGGGHHHH. I cannot believe he shredded those jeans!," She thought to herself. "How Selfish, that boy."


Until something fell. 


Off the main tree. 


Next to the steps - - - it almost sounded like a mouse!


The young mother went back down the stairwell, hit the tile, then the carpet.


"I don't have time for this," she thought as the looked at the old clock that hung over the mantle: 10:47pm.


But sure enough, she found an ornament laying on the ground - it had fallen from the tree. 


She rolled her eyes - It was just an old play-doough ornament from one of the kids; obviously too heavy to hang on the artificial tree.


The young mother re-hooked the ornament. Re-hung it. And started back up the stairs. 



Until something fell, off the main tree, next to the steps - - - it almost sounded like a mouse!

The young mother went back down the stairwell, hit the tile, then the carpet.

"I don't have time for this," she thought as the looked at the old clock that hung over the mantle: 10:49 pm.

But sure enough, she found an ornament laying on the ground - the same ornament. 

The young mother studied it. 

It was a handprint, a tiny one. 




His name was etched on the front. 

And she turned it over. 

And on the back, secured with paste, were the following words: 

My Handprints
Sometimes you get discouraged
Because I am very small
And always leave my fingerprints,
On furniture and walls.
But everyday I'm growing . . .
I'll be all grown-up someday,
And all the tiny fingerprints
Will surely fade away.
So here's a real hand print
Just so you can recall,
Exactly how my fingers looked
When I was very small.

With a big tear running down the young mother's face, she hung that tiny ornament, feeling as though it weighed 100 lbs., back onto the tree. And she sat there in front of the tree in the middle of the dimly lit room and cried for a bit. Or, maybe an hour. She laid back and looked up at the ceiling, the one that the Christmas tree lights had brought to life. The young mother folded her hands and rested them across her stomach. 

"These are the moments," she said to her sad self. "One day he'll be grown and I'll ask this boy's wife to have patience," the young mother thought. 

Patience, she remembered. 

Patience she asked for.

Funny, the life lessons Christmas ornaments can teach. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Misfits

I have a special place in my heart for certain things in this world. 
Any Grandparent.
Smiley face iced sugar cookies from Joy-Ann’s bakery.
Aged black and white photos. 
Snow.
Old farmhouses that need a lot of work to bring them back to life. 
Misfit toys. 
Growing up, who didn’t love watching Rudolph as he traveled through the Island of Misfit Toys? His journey was a part of childhood. It’s a piece of American history. 

Knowing my love for things that 1) no one wants 2) have a history 3) are free, my neighbor gave me a box of misfit ornaments after the holidays last year. I was elated! I couldn’t wait to get home and open up the big box of little treasures. 


Can I just say, they are the ugliest treasures I have ever seen in my life. 
But - they each have a story. 
A personality. 
A history. 
And some stupid reason why I can’t throw them away. 
Throughout the month of December I’ll be sharing these one-of-a-kind little gems with you...






I was a baby floozy ornament before baby floozy ornaments were cool. My hair, which I’m quite proud to say many folks have told me resembles Tanya Tucker’s, has not moved for 37 years. 
And I can thank Aqua-Net for that. 


We’re wearing fancy dresses and velvet. 
We don’t belong on the misfit ornament tree. 
In the middle of a tiny town. In the middle of a fly-over state. 
We belong on someecards.com

I’m a happy flying pig holding a wreath. 
What could be more joyous than that??! 
Oh yeah - bacon... 


I’ve been told I’m creepy, so I always get moved to the back of the tree. What is creepy about a happy clown misfit ornament with no arms and giant hands? 
Somebody please riddle me that. 
I try not to be bitter during the holidays, but I am TICKED. I’m a stuffed bird made to look just like a real bird. You know. Like the ones I watch fly past the window everyday. I get pulled out of this box once a year to perch on a fake tree with my fake legs and I’m tied on with wire. How am I supposed to use my fake wings when I’m wired down? 
This caged bird don’t sing. 
I do appreciate being placed by the fake pine cone, though. 


Stay tuned for more misfit ornaments showcased this Christmas season...
and don’t forget about those Angel Trees!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Angel Tree

A blanket of snow covered most of Indiana yesterday afternoon and through the night; I’m not complaining about the snow, unlike about 4,950 people on Facebook yesterday. I didn’t understand that. Why were they so taken back and disgusted by the snow? It’s late November in the Midwest. 



Stick around. Next week we’ll likely hit 65 degrees, hear baby birds singing and smell tulips. 

Though we've not officially hit December I suppose the holidays are truly upon us. I’m a big fan of this time of year, as are most people, I guess. 
The lights. 
The snow. 
The tradition. 
The stories.
Driving home from one of the grain elevators the other day I began thinking of Christmas shopping. I’m not good at this planning. While I usually end up pulling off pretty good gifts for my loved ones, these gifts are usually derived from a random thought I have at about 11:47PM a week before Christmas. Guess I work well under pressure. Thankfully, so do my handy friends who have spent many a late night in a frigid garage helping me prime and paint - more to come on that. 
On that same drive home from the elevator I thought back to a story I was told several years ago while I was not yet in high school. It struck me back then, and I say with confidence that I’ve thought of this exact same story every single holiday season since. A story that certainly changed my way of thinking, perhaps it will yours, too...


I remember that Christmas well.  I was probably only 11. Maybe 12. But I was the oldest and so sort of a second mother in my family. I was mature for my age, and just getting into a place where I realized there was much more to life than what I had experienced.
I remember Dad got laid off right around Halloween. I guess I wasn’t too scared or worried about it. We still had Halloween. We went to church, we prayed. Mom always had food on the table and I always had clothes to wear. We all did. 
That Christmas I remember sitting in church and hearing a lady talk about the angel tree that was going to be set up at the back of the church. The point of the tree was to take a tag that described an anonymous needy child and their “wish list” for that Christmas. We were to buy the gift then return it to the church, who would make sure Santa delivered it Christmas morning. 
What a great idea. 
That summer before that my allowance increased to $7.00 a week. I never spent my allowance; secretly I saved every penny. I kind of figured if I wanted a car when I was 16 I was going to have to pay for a big part of it. So I saved.
And it was because of that  frugal attitude at 11 or 12-years-old that I was able to make the decision to choose a tag from the angel tree. But I wanted to wait until the next week so I could go home and count my allowance savings - then I’d pull the perfect tag. 
I remember driving home after church that Sunday in our Astro minivan and both Mom and Dad discouraging me to choose a tag. They said that tree was more suited for people who had steady jobs, full time jobs, who could spare the change to buy extra gifts. I sort of shrugged off their advice - though I was a bit disgusted by it! At that point, they had no idea the money I had saved, almost $120 dollars, from my allowance. And I wasn’t about to tell them; I had two little brothers in the van. 
The next week I chose a tag from the tree. 
I went to VAL that December and bought a funny VHS movie for the needy child. Feeling really good about the decision I made to help out another kid, I remember tucking a note inside, written on Lisa Frank stationary, encouraging them to keep their head up; better times for their family were just around the corner. It’s funny now, looking back, how I thought I was some kind of motivational Secret Santa! The next Sunday, feeling quite proud and maybe a little mature and special, I dropped the gift off in the angel tree bin. 
Two hectic weeks passed before Christmas finally came and quite honestly I had forgotten about my good deed. 
Until Christmas morning. 
When I unwrapped a funny VHS movie from Santa - with a note inside, written on Lisa Frank stationary, encouraging me to keep my head up - better times for my family were just around the corner. 
I never, ever had any idea we were poor until that moment Christmas morning. 
And I was never so thankful for parents who worked so hard to never let us kids know how bad things really were for our family. 

Each time I remember her story I have to smile - with a tight throat and maybe a misty eye! But I love it - the beauty of the holidays.  The irony in life. And the blessing of having incredible parents. 
Yesterday I posted on Facebook inquiring about the angel tree locations in our area; this was not by coincidence. If we’re “friends” (what does that even mean anymore?!) make sure you check out the long list of local angel tree locations folks compiled on my wall in response to my post. 
If you’re not in this area, I encourage you to find an angel tree in your community and give back to those families who need it this year. 
We may never know the significance of our simple acts of kindness.