Saturday, December 22, 2012

White Elephant and a Rooster

We go to a White Elephant gift exchange every year with a group of people we've met through church.

This exchange has been going on for years before 
we were even included in on it.

The inside jokes are aplenty.

There are gifts that have been donated to a "Hall of Fame" that get displayed every year.

Items like
statuette pictures of people dressed like Santa 

or the action figures that have been dressed like 
people at the party.

These people are clever.

The writing on the instructions for the gifts is usually my favorite part.

The rules are simple yet are contested every year.

A gift can be stolen only twice.
If you unwrap an outfit that can be worn, you have to wear it.

There is ALWAYS the same Santa outfit in the exchange.

And Grinch boxer shorts.

And Star Trek Pez dispensers for some unknown reason.

Last year, we came home with a (for real) deer head who's antlers had been decorated with ornaments for Christmas.

It became known as Rudy.

In the days after the exchange, Rudy sat on the floor of our dining room.

Every morning as I cut through the dining room to the kitchen for coffee, Rudy scared me.

Like made-me-jump scared me.

Rudy's neck is jutted out in a 45 degree head turn
no doubt because he was thinking to himself,

"What was that?" 

3 seconds before the bullet or arrow ended its life.

Awww…now I'm all sad for Rudy.

Moving on,  

Rudy had to leave the dining room. 
He was ruining my morning routine.

So he got put on a shelf in the garage for the winter.

Too close to the garage refrigerator.

Same near-heart attack happened each time I went out to get something from the freezer.

This summer I decided to give Rudy a proper spot on the wall in the garage.

It suited him and us.

I found myself saying,

"Hey, Rudy." 

When I walked into the garage for my garden gloves or my bike.

He doesn't scare me on the wall.

I announced that I was going to regift Rudy back into the White Elephant gift exchange.

Everyone said no.

He had become part of our garage and thus, our family.

So Rudy stayed.

What does Rudy have to do with 
the title of this post?

Actually, very little.

This year at the White Elephant party, I unwrapped a rubber rooster mask and rubber rooster feet
(that looked more like a Raptor's to me.)

Also, a pair of men's pants, 
a dress shirt 
and a tie.
(Something about "ruling the roost" in the business world.)

So, referring back to the above rules, I had to put them on.

A better person could not have opened this present

(except for maybe Monte) 

because I LOVE to dress up.

I put everything on happily.

Me and Monte.
(I am the rooster)

Last week at school, McDaniel was working on a project with a partner where they had to create a product that when used would quickly change their appearance.

What better to change into than a rooster?

So she took the costume to school.

And wore it.

The teacher asked why she had a rooster costume.

McDaniel said with a disinterested shrug,

"I don't know, my parents went to some party 
and came back with a rooster costume."

Doesn't that sound sorted?

Like this-is-the-70s-and-LEGIT-weird-stuff-happened-at-parties kind of sorted?

This coming from a woman who posed for pictures wearing business attire and a rooster costume.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tis the Season

It has been so heavy lately.

I thought I would share a few observations from my day of errand running to get you in the spirit of the season.

And maybe to offer a little bit of levity.

It's what I do.

What I witnessed at Macy's:

After considerable trouble getting Frustrated Shopper's Macy's card to process, the sales lady asks for another form of payment.

Frustrated Shopper:  "Forget the whole thing! 
I have spent an hour here. 
And it's not like it's Christmas or anything!!"

Sales Lady:  "I am so sorry. 
I don't know what the problem with your card is."

Frustrated Shopper left all her "almost purchased" clothing on the counter and stormed out of the store in a most dramatic way.

Now, hang on. I am not judging. 

Hey, I wanted to drive a stake through my husband's heart for offering me a tip he heard from Kathie Lee and Hoda.

No, I just found it interesting…

and funny.

Than I went to the grocery store where you can use this great digital screen to order your deli meat without actually going up to the deli counter and talking to humans.
(I know! I'm not usually an avoider of social contact, but I LOVE this!)

15 minutes later you can pick up your deli order from a cooler in the middle of the store.

I LOVE this option--
even though I have walked out of the store
without my pound of turkey 
numerous times.

Monte has never had a good experience with this.
They lose his order every time. 
I don't mean every time
but in all actuality it is like every other time. 
I mean EVERY time.

It has become a family joke.

Well, after quite a bit longer than 15 minutes had passed, I strolled past the cooler and did not find my order.

I walked up to the deli counter and showed the gal my number issued 
by the adorable little printer 
by the computer screen.

She looked at me with loathing in her eyes.

Yes, loathing.

It was if iPhone's Siri had taken on bodily form and gotten a job at the deli counter at Kroger.
(If you need more info on my experiences with Siri, go here.)

Yes, Deli Siri hated me with just the same fire as iPhone's Siri does.

"We ran out of that."

Deli Siri said with a condescension that made me almost apologize for not realizing it myself.


I didn't.

I ordered something else.

Deli Siri sighed.

She sighed like I was keeping her from some other pressing matter.

Like I somehow FORCED her 
 into working at a deli in Kroger 
when she really wanted to 
be a ballerina 
or make balloon animals for a living.

I had to do a quick heart check.

Me to my own heart:  "Do I NEED Deli Siri to like me? 
Is it my job to cheer her up right now?"

Heart:  "No.
And heavens no!"

So I busied myself by looking at the ingredients of the loaves of bread nearby.

But I did smile when she tossed my turkey on the counter.

I thanked her and threw in a "Have a nice day," before I thought better of it.

She gave my turkey two little pats.


And said, "You too."

To paraphrase Sandra Bullock's character in "Miss Congeniality":

"She thinks I'm swee-eet. She wants to friend me."

Take that iPhone Siri.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tuesdays Unwrapped, Part 3

Today is week 3 in Emily Freeman's Tuesdays Unwrapped. Check her blog out at Chatting At the Sky.

I have struggled for the past few weeks with "shoulds".

You know, the

"We should do blah because blah happened."


"We shouldn't do blah because blah happened."


"What should we do?"


And "we" rarely means we.

It means you.

Which, in this case, means me.

Have I lost you?

I have been known to be rebellious in the past.

Tell me to turn right 
and I have turned left 
just because you told me what to do.
(real mature, I know)

But this isn't one of those times.

These shoulds seem to be bouncing off me.
(Which is weird, for me.)

In the past, 
I have let them eat away at me
wearing me down
until I actually act on them.

Without so much as a whisper of a prayer 
seeking God's wisdom.

As it turns out,
I don't like being "should" on.

In "Grace For the Good Girl", Emily Freeman captures this beautifully,

"As good girls, we are so used to hearing words like you ought to, you should, and you must. With those same ears, we try to listen to Jesus and it sounds as though he speaks the same language. But that is the language of the law. It is time to say goodbye to fake, ought-to Jesus and meet the real one."

Is anyone else uncomfortable?
SO why I loved this book. It hit me where it hurt in so many ways.

Which is why I can now recognize that these "shoulds" I keep hearing are coming out of law.

And Jesus already died to satisfy it.

So I don't have to.

These "shoulds" in my life are coming from people reacting to deaths.

There have been several in my life in the past few weeks.

Before Sandy Hook.

Now even more "shoulds" are being thrown around.

"Shoulds" born out of fear.

And anger.

And deep, unimaginable grief.

People "shoulding" our government.

"Shoulding" our schools.

"Shoulding" each other.

Twice this morning, God reminded me that in John 11:35

"Jesus wept."

I am unwrapping that the "shoulds" in my life are bouncing off of me because they are 

rushing mourning. 

Jesus KNEW he was going to bring Lazarus back to life but he didn't wave off Mary's mourning. 

He didn't rush it. 

He wept.
(Can you imagine Jesus HIMSELF 
who is the embodiment of love, 
CRYING with you?)

I can't think of anything more precious.

So that is what I feel led to do.

I am going to mourn with my friends.
And my nation.

Not because I "should" 
but because I need.

I need Jesus.

I heard Andy Stanley say this on the radio:

"God redeems pain for good."

That's good, not should.


Sunday, December 16, 2012


Bad scan, sorry. But I do love this picture. It was snapped as we were
introduced as man and wife at our reception by someone using one of those
throw away cameras. Monte had it blown up and turned into a black and white
picture for one of our early anniversaries. 

17 years ago today at 4:30 pm
on an unseasonably warm day in Indianapolis, Indiana, 
Monte and I got married.

Well, it was probably more like 4:45 pm because my brothers didn't realize that they were supposed to roll out the aisle runner before the flower girl could drop the petals and my dad could walk me down the aisle.

When they were finally alerted that they were "holding up the show", they bolted down the aisle so fast

and they were laughing

that the roll kept going off center and banging into the ends of the pews.

Which made them laugh more.

It is on tape. I've seen it.

But all that was AFTER my great-uncle Bob

who married us as well as my parents 30 years before

was talking with Monte in a little room behind the altar 
without realizing his microphone was already on.

Guests in the church looked all around and finally up as if God Himself was speaking
directly to Monte.

Again, on tape. 
Watched the whole thing.

17 years ago, I took on the last name Hartranft.


I could have written a book from the misspellings of the name on our wedding cards alone. You could definitely tell if it was from the groom's side or bride's--just from the spelling.

Rabbit trail:  our worst misspelling story was from a piece of junk mail we received while living in Atlanta. The mail was from the Holland, Michigan Bulb Company.

In VERY LARGE DARK BOLD PRINT the outside of the envelope read:


Yeah, it really did.

Two problems came from that one piece of mail.

1). We were out of town when that letter came and our friend was retrieving our mail. So for YEARS after that, our Christmas card came addressed to the HARTMANFARTs.

2). The Holland, Michigan Bulb Company sold the fictitious Hartmanfart name to EVERY company known to man. We got many letters for the Hartmanfarts. I lost it when the phone calls started.

Salesperson:  Is Mr. or Mrs. Hartmanfart home?
Me:  Listen to what you just said. Are you kidding me? 
There is no Hartmanfart!

Monte tried to role play with me to add a little humor to the situation:

Salesperson:  Mr. Hartmanfart?
Monte:  Yes, but the 'fart' is silent.

Back to our wedding.

17 years ago, we stood before my Great-uncle Bob who pronounced us

once we said I Do 

as Karen 
(my name is Karmen, my mom is Karen) 

and Monte Hatrack.

You can see Monte's shoulders tense up in the video. He still likes to ponder if we are in fact, officially married.

That seems like yesterday. Yet so much has happened since.


Two houses.

A baby.

A big move from Georgia to Ohio sight unseen with a one-month-old.

Lots of house renovations.

Another baby.

A dog.

So much living.

Yet if I close my eyes,

I can still feel the scratchy beading on the bodice of my wedding dress.

I can hear Vince Vivaldi playing "Christmas Time Is Here".

I can see my 3-year-old niece dancing at the reception. 

I can see my dear family members who are no longer walking on this earth. 
Like my grandfather, PaPa, 
who picked out a new tie for the wedding 
so it would match the bridesmaid dresses. 

I can see Monte singing to me

I said 'see', not 'hear'--that's key 

"You Are So Beautiful" and trying so hard to hit that high note at the end. 

I can hear forks and knives on the plates.

Glasses clanging in toasts to us. 

It was all so humbling to be surrounded by so many people that loved us.

But the most important one was the one I said I DO to.

And I say I Do again.

And again.

And again.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Some Things Old, Some New

I have posted some updated pictures of my latest color change to my Spoon Flower Wreath. I decided to spray paint it red some time ago. It is looking quite Poinsettia-like now that it is Christmas. You can check it out in its original glory here.

The city came either in the dark of night or early morning and planted this tiny tree with brown shriveled up leaves. 

If you don't know what I'm talking about, read this.
The tag says it is an Ironwood tree.
That's Ironwood, not Iron Man.
Monte asked, so I decided to
go ahead and clarify.

I keep hearing Linus from The Peanut Gang say:

"Of all the Charlie Browns, you are the Charlie Brownest."

That pretty much sums up how I feel about this tree.

And covers the "some things old" section of this post. 

Onto the new…
I made a Christmas ornament wreath.

I originally saw this wreath here.


But it takes WAY more ornaments than you can imagine 

so buy more than you think you will ever need. 

Than buy more than that.

This is when thrift stores and Dollar Tree come in handy.

Although I bought mine at Wal-Mart.

Wire Hanger
(Can anyone say that and NOT think of Mommy Dearest?)
Small, Medium and Large Round Christmas Ornaments
(plastic if possible, glass could break on a door)
Hot glue gun

1. Bend your wire hanger into a circle untwisting the circle so the ornaments can be slid onto the wire.

2. Before sliding ornaments onto the wire, hot glue each metal wire piece onto the ornament so they won't fall off while on your wreath.

See the red mat under my glue gun? It is a silicone liner
meant for baking sheets. Since I have a fear of all things
silicone poisoning my food, I use it for hot glue gunning.
It is AWESOME! Dried glue peels right off.
3. Alternate sliding small, medium and large ornaments to your liking.

4. Run out of ornaments and go buy more.

It is this shade of green that led me to Wal-Mart--TWICE.

5. When you reach the end of the wire, using pliers, bend wire around the neck of the curved hook part that will act as your hanger.

This was too big to hang in between my door and the
storm door. But I was giving it to my mom for her
birthday anyway.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesdays Unwrapped

Ours is a sick house.

Monte and I  came home from our trip to Nashville last week to a very sick Ellie with bronchitis and a super high fever.

In a matter of days, two more people in our household were diagnosed with bronchitis.

I am not one of them 

Yesterday morning my husband decided to start his sick day off from work watching football highlights.

I am not used to having the TV on during the day.

I like it quiet.

So does our dog Nigel.

He hid most of last week to escape the noise 
of Ellie's continuous viewing 
of Hallmark Christmas movies.
Some of them were pretty cute.

I tried to lay low and let Monte recuperate the way he needed to recuperate.

Then he hollered to get my attention 
to tell me 
(get this)
that Kathie Lee & Hoda said to put lip gloss on zippers to get them unstuck.

I told him to turn football back on.
But I really wanted to drive a stake through his heart.

So I left the house to hand deliver Christmas party invitations.

In the cold.

and rain 
that was starting to freeze.

The fresh air felt glorious.

Later, as McDaniel and I pulled into the drug store parking lot to fill her prescription for bronchitis, her nose started to bleed.


She was trying to stop it by shoving tissues up her nostril. But it wasn't working well.

She turned to see if anyone could see her
she is 13

at the same time the guy in the car next to us turned her way while taking a big bite of a pastry with red goopy topping.

[No! I am NOT making this up.]

back at home, 

Monte taped part of a "How It's Made" 

and INSISTED I sit down and watch how robots with lasers milk cows and sterilize their utters.

I wanted to hurt him.

You know, I do have a point, on this Tuesdays Unwrapped.

 I am becoming keenly aware that my
and tolerance 
and compassion 

is everflowing for my girls when they are sick.

I am their mother.

But what I have to unwrap
is my lack of all of the above when it comes to Monte.

I try not to verbalize any of it, but I feel it.

Like, down to my toes, feel it.

When he slipped on his black sweat pants and wrapped a blanket around his neck,
for a day of lying down,

I wanted to scratch my eyes out so as to avoid cramps from all the eye rolling that was about to occur.

Because CLEARLY he wasn't giving this day much of a chance.

I talked this over with my neighbors.

This unfair favoritism. 

This select compassion 
when it comes to the members of my family 
all living under the same roof.

My neighbor reminded me that THAT is probably why

"in sickness AND in health"
was included in our marriage vows.

God knew it was going to be tough some days.

She dropped all this wisdom while she wrapped up cupcakes for Monte 
with a cute note to "feel better soon".


OF COURSE, in my daily devotion today, there was this verse from Colossians 3:12:

"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, 
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, 
gentleness and patience."



So, as I unwrap this lack of compassion this Tuesday
I need to consciously wrap myself 

in it.

I realize as I read this back, that I am being completely irrational.

On any given healthy Monday,

if Monte were to mention slapping some lip gloss on Ellie's stuck ski coat zipper I'd think,

"You funny, nutty guy--that's brilliant!" 

And we'd laugh.
And laugh.

Forced to watch cows getting milked by R2D2
after a healthy day with no one home from school and/or work?

"That is soooo interesting in a creepy 
'what-did-they-do-with-all-the-farmers?' kind of way."

And we'd laugh.
And laugh.

Today is a new day.

I am going to try to clothe myself with compassion for my husband's illness.

And hope that one day I will look back on all this and laugh.
And laugh.

Snappee Turtle Blog & Shop

Thursday, December 06, 2012


We have this great guy that cleans out our gutters.

Monte has built a friendship with him.

They talk periodically.

Trade books.

Monte has passed his name along to friends and neighbors.

He came the other day to clean our gutters and rake our Sycamore's face-size leaves.

I noticed when I moved my car out of the driveway for him, that he had his little daughter with him.

When I peeked my head in his truck he said that "he had to do what he had to do".

He is a single parent.

I asked if it was okay if she came in to play with my girls while he worked.

He said it was okay.

Her name is Bella.

She is 4.

I forgot 4.

4 is great.

Everything to a 4-year-old is great.

We were starting to hang the lights and ornaments on our tree.

"Your tree is great!" Bella shouted.

The girls played with Play Dough with her.

She thought Play Dough was great.

From time to time she'd come into the room where I was to check on me.

"Just wanted to make sure you are okay," she'd say.


She LOVED Monte.

He chased her around the house and she imitated him "sneaking" up on her.

It brought the house down.

Her imitation was
dead. on.

Down to the wide eyes and tippy toe steps.

We made icing for decorating cookies.

She told me how much she liked powdered sugar.

There was just a teensy bit left in the bag.

I was caught up in the "greatness of 4" so I told Bella to lick her finger and stick it in the bag for a little licky loo.

Well, bless her heart, 
she was so sweet 
and cute, 
one licky loo 
became 3 
or 4.

Soon she was hopping on one foot 
shaking her hands around 
with her tongue hanging out of her mouth 
like she was half-way down crazy lane.

Sugar. Rush.

I thought McDaniel and Ellie were going to pass out from laughing so hard.

We gave her some Christmas decorations and a pretty dress that Mrs. Claus had "handmade" for Ellie years ago for Christmas.

When Bella tried it on, she said,

"I'm a princess!"

She was.

She gave us hugs on the way out that didn't last long enough.

We couldn't tell her father even the beginning of the good job he is doing with his daughter.

She was so polite.

And well-mannered.

We begged him to bring her back the next time he was working in the area.

I forgot how much I miss 4.
When everything was great.
Everything was magic.

When they say please 
and thank you 
and excuse me.

And don't know how to roll their eyes.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012


I have decided to link up with Emily Freeman over at Chatting At The Sky for a month of Tuesdays "unwrapped".

She is asking bloggers to consider what we each have in our lives right now.

If you haven't already, check out her two books:

Grace For The Good Girl

I highlighted, underlined and wrote notes ALL OVER this book. It so spoke to me in a way I didn't know it would.

and Graceful.

I am not all the way through it yet, but loving it just as much. It is a Grace For the Good Girl for younger girls. Can't wait to pass it on to my teenage daughter.

As I type this, I am in a hotel room in Nashville, TN.

It is a gray, rainy day so the walking around and exploring I was going to do is on hold.

But that is ok.

My brain is still in knots.

My life has been a mad dash of many details and things to get done just so I could be here now.

In this hotel room


While my husband is across town at a budget meeting.

I want to thank my friend Sumita, for the idea of getting away with the hubby even though he would be busy most of the time.

She goes to conferences with her husband and hangs out in the hotel.

She strongly recommended it in the way that only someone with their brain not in knots can do.

So I came to be alone.

To let my brain unknot.

What a luxury.

To be able to get away at the beginning of such a busy season.

The Christmas cards haven't been addressed or sent.
(I thought about bringing them but my husband said no. I am glad he did.)

The gift lists haven't been made.

But the tree is up.

The nativity set is on the piano.

And here I sit.



Listening to a distant vacuum running.

Waiting to unknot…

Last week a teacher at my daughter's elementary school

died in her sleep.

She was only 37.

Two young kids.

Right before Christmas.

So many people with so many questions.

Two of them my daughters 
asking what everyone wants to know:

Why a young mommy?
Why an aneurysm?
Will you get an aneurysm, Mommy?

God is in control.

His grace is sufficient.

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

I just got a call from my parents who are staying with my girls so I can be here.

Ellie is home from school with a 103 temperature.

I had to explain to my mother where to find

the pediatrician's number 
and office 
and the children's Advil in the spice cabinet.

All the while thinking that THIS is what Emily Freeman wanted her bloggers to discover.

THIS is my gift to unwrap this Tuesday.


Even from long-distance.


And my baby is sick.

But my momma is taking good care of her.

Like she did so many times of me.

And even though I wanted a "get away"

I don't want to wish away

These precious moments of motherhood.

It is amazing how once I stopped thinking just of ME

I could instantly feel the knot in my brain loosening.

I Can't Make This Stuff Up

If I could, I wouldn't be so surprised when crazy things happen. And they do. All the time. Much to my surprise. We went o...