It was one of those “Black and white” days of winter.  Where the world is painted in shades of dirt.  The slush on the road was the exact color and consistency of dryer lint.  Or maybe, it was the stress of buying gifts for everyone we know, that made it seem that way.  The holidays can be like that.

Especially when you’re in a time and money crunch and are in a trying to get it all done now, mode. Which, we were.

As we drove, there were more reminders of how bad things are economically, than holiday decorations on every corner. I’m pretty sure there were literal “signs of the times” because I saw them. They read: “We buy houses” and “Call NOW, to avoid foreclosure!”

No more silver bells on every street corner, only store closing signs.  Just when the signs had started to melt together like a marketing slush pile, one jumped out at us.

Or maybe it wasn’t the sign, it was the huge, slush dripping, black man holding the sign that caught out attention. With one strong arm he held the sign, and with the other he waved. He had a smile warm enough to melt an iceberg. (I may have suspected he was high-for just a minute.  Just being honest!) I looked a little closer- iPhone in hand in case I needed to report a drunken signer…But he wasn’t smiling vacantly, he made eye contact with each passing car. He was smiling genuinely. (Who knew people still do that?)

I couldn’t help but smile back. Neither could every other driver on that road. It was more contagious than swine flu.

My husband noticed too. “See that guy?” My hubby said.  “He must be freezing!”

” Yeah, I can’t help but smile! We should get him a coffee or something…” I replied. “Well, maybe when we’re done.” I suggested, looking at the clock and wishing it would sloooow down.

By the time we’d turned the next corner and found a parking lace at the mall, I’d forgotten all about he smiling man and the hot coffee.

We finished our errands, then drove to the nearest Starbucks for a treat to celebrate sticking to our budget.  As I held the white chocolate mocha and let it warm my fingers, I remembered that warm smile.

I thought I was losing it when I looked up to see the “STORE CLOSING SALE” sign walking towards the coffee shop. I wondered if I were about to be visited by a ghost of Christmas past…..then I worried whether Starbucks was the next store to close.. (that would be tragic.) Funny how one worry leads to another, isn’t it?

No worries, no paranormal episode being filmed and Starbucks wasn’t in fiscal trouble.  It was time for the smiling sign holder’s coffee break.

“He’s STILL SMILING! I said to my husband. “Hey, …Buy him a coffee, he’s gotta be freezing!!” I told hubby- but he was already reaching for his wallet. We were on the same page. (The first time that day- let’s just say Christmas shopping together can be brutal.)

Hubby walked to the counter with him and offered to buy him a coffee.

I strained to listen while they talked.  (And not look like a SBUX eaves dropper while doing it..)

“You seem to like what you’re doing..” Hubby said.

“I like having a job” Said our sign holding friend.

“Been doing this long?” Hubby asked, curious.

“A few months. I worked for a moving company before the economy tanked.” He said,  warming his frigid hands around the iconic paper cup.

The talk lasted just a bit longer than the coffee. By the end? My husband was  sure it had been a “divine appointment.”  The kind you don’t have programmed into your blackberry.

When the man excused himself to the restroom, my husband returned, looking perplexed.

“His birthday is coming up.. he has twin girls…times are rough but he’s glad to be working… I feel like I should give him something, do something to help.. but I don’t want to you know.. make him feel bad..he’s working, not begging.. you know what I mean?” Hubby said.

“Just be honest with him.. tell him you want to do it to thank him for what he’s doing…making people smile….  If that doesn’t work, tell him to use it to buy something for his girls…for Christmas.” I offered, thinking a little cash to buy gifts for the kids would be rough for anyone to turn down!

Hubby reached for his wallet. I watched him walk over as our new friend was picking up his sign getting ready to head back out into the cold.  I couldn’t make out words as they talked, but my ears strained to hear, anyways. They seemed more serious and intense this time.  I prayed silently: “Lord, please don’t let this offend this guy, let it bless him.”

My heart skipped a beat when I saw those two big men embrace, each with tears in their eyes.

He’d accepted the gift without offense.

We didn’t solve the economic crisis, or get him a more stable job. We just did what we could. So did he. He gave warm smiles and waves to drivers facing their own economic crisis’ as they drove to Christmas shop,  we gave a Venti’ and a few bills to a guy struggling to make ends meet.

In our own ways, we all made a difference that day, to each other.  And, just maybe to the world.

What will you do to make a difference, today?

Which means: 

1) My dining room looks like Target, Amazon and Walmart, threw up in there. (No worries- the big box vomit will not ruin anyone’s appetite in there.. no one has actually EATEN in there in MONTHS)

2) “Fresh” (or not so fresh) pine garland is dropping 10x it’s weight in pine needles on the foyer floor EACH DAY.  (Who’s idea WAS hanging that stuff?  Oh right, mine. OOPSY. DYSON to the rescue!)

3) There are gifts hidden in this house that will not be found until the 4th of July, ACCIDENTLY. (I KNOW I put some stocking stuffers SOMEWHERE…I just don’t know WHERE!)

4) The cat is overwhelmed by his options of sleeping places.  BOXES.  UNDER THE TREE. and UNDER BOXES.  Are the current top three.

5) An obscene amount of butter is in my refrigerator. (cookies ahoy! )

6)My Excel Spreadsheet of gifts has pretty red and green columns for” bought” and “wrapped” There should be a column that says “where”.

7) I am feverishly knitting ANOTHER “We call him Spidey hat” Apparently it is now a TRADITION for the youngest to get one EVERY YEAR.  Eyesearing red blue and black acrylic are NOT exactly pleasurable knitting. 

8) I feel guilty about not sending Christmas cards.. but not QUITE guilty enough to do something about it. (Yet.)

9) The UPS truck now stops in front of my house, out of HABIT.  (Gotta love Amazon.com and ETSY for Christmas shopping!  Amazon Prime= FREE 2 day shipping!  I should bake him cookies.)

10) “Going Green” is no longer an option… unless you mean the cheese in the ‘fridge.. cause PEOPLE.  I HAVE TO WRAP! (but I did find these CUTE Green options for wrapping! )

Overuse of CAPS LOCK is understandable by all.. because WE’RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!

More soon- including pics!

In the comments- I’d love to hear how YOU know it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…….

snowday mosaicThe walks are shoveled, the fireplace is lit, cocoa has been served. (Drips and coffee cup bottom shaped chocolate rings are still on the kitchen table, somebody really should clean that up) There are crystalized mittens gloves and snowpants  dripping on the hard wood. Shearling slippers have been warmed by the fire, and put on tiny snow reddened feet.

Chili is in the crockpot… and I’m happily knitting while I check my “instant order updates” on Amazon. A little snow? – (ok , a lot of snow) won’t stop me from Christmas shopping!

The rest of  todays plans? Movies on demand, “Facing the Giants” DVD and “Little House on The Prairie Christmas” DVDs, dinner in front of the fireplace… maybe a bit of shortbread cookie baking…and knitting,  lots of Christmas knitting- while my teens play runescape, the little guy thaws, and my tired from shoveling our house and others- DH naps;)

Yep- that is a perfect snowday. 

we call him spidey hat Sami seems to be fine- (scroll down to yesterdays post for Sami info) She’s sleeping on the couch. 

I’ve been feverishly knitting away on a Christmas surprise- the perfect hat for my youngest-

 The pattern is by “Pumpkin Mama”   It’s called “We Call Him Spidey”  a 3 color stranded knit hat- with a Spiderman theme;) The hat is based on Hello Yarn’s chart/ pattern for the “We call them Pirates” Hat .

I’m knitting in Knitpicks “Wool of the Andes” in “Winter night” (blue) and “Coal” (black)   this is a stash dive project- (no yarn buying till after the 1st of the year) and the closest I could get for a red- was to double strand some brownsheep “Wildfoote” in Blood red. Guage is ok.  I think It will be a bit big….. but it’s fixable.

The needles are knitpicks US size 3 DPNS. I mucked up the bottom- so will be picking up and knitting down a corrugated rib brim after I finish the colorwork.

 I’m participating in PIF – via Ravelryhandknit goodies to the first three people to comment!  I am receiving goodies from T- At Blacksheep knitting guild!

I will send a handmade gift to the first 3 people who leave a comment on my blog requesting to join this PIF exchange. I don’t know what that gift will be yet and you may not receive it tomorrow or next week, but you will receive it within 365 days, that is my promise! The only thing you have to do in return is pay it forward by making the same promise on your blog.

Also- (and totally unrealted to the PIF)

I write for a group written devotional blog- called “Laced With Grace”- please stop by and say “hey!”   Today is my day to post!  I posted an article- called “At the Altar of a Dirty Floor”….See you there!

it;s beginning to look a lot like ChristmasSnow has been falling off and on.   The tree is up.  It has been “topped.”  There are little paper trees– with battery powered votives on the mantle.  The kitchen island centerpiece has been switched for Christmas.  Cocoa and cookies have been consumed in quantity.  Noah has made his “Christmas Surprise Book.”

Yep.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

Outside the lights are up- and no one fell off the roof;)  I’ll snap some pics to post after dark.

This afternoon- I’ll attack the foyer- bannister- with garland.  I’ve been procrastinating about it- because it always makes me itch!  I need to start wrapping … but am avoiding that too- makes my back ACHE…. Oh, man- I’m getting old;)

“Mommy- your eyes look fat”  At least this time he wasn’t talking about my butt being boinky.

The boy is right.  I have to squint to see the screen as I type.  (OK- I have to squint to see my fingers… since I’m the queen of hunt and peck typing;) It’s not a problem with my glasses.  My prescription hasn’t changed in years.  It’s not a problem with the computer.  It’s a problem with my eyes. They are swollen, burning, itchy and puffy.  Not a good look.  (I am however- amazed at the body’s ability to shape shift beyond recognition.)

This weekend I succombed to yet another clearance shopping hazard.  This time it was way discounted make-up. Discounted enough to make me try a brand that I haven’t bought before.  Hence the allergic reaction that has left me with more bags around my eyes than I have in my closet… (I tend to collect bags- what can I say?) Bring on the hydrocortisone/ benadryl cocktail.  Could I get that in an IV drip, please?

This would be fine, if it were a first offense of poor clearance- risk management.  Alas- it was not. I am a repeat offender.

Other hazards I’ve encountered:

1) Clearance hairdye that resulted in purple hair.  (Fine if that’s what you want- but let’s just say my kids wanted to take me in for show n tell- the purple haired mom- a classic) Also clearance hairdye that resulted in jet black hair- but I kind of like the snow-white thing;)

2) Clearance Christmas gifts– OOPS- two left gloves.  Not good unless you’re family has a birth defect of this type. Gift recipients are rarely impressed with my skill at getting more for my gift budget.

3) Countless pair of clearance shoes that are either- “not quite” the right size- two different sizes or two left- or two right shoes…. The worst part?  These are most often purchased for the mister…..which means my shame is public.  EVERY time! (One would think I could learn to double check… but I tend to be blinded not just by allergy swollen eyes- but also by the words “Clearance” and “final Markdown” 

4) Clearance clothes that I MIGHT fit into… (this could go either way- too big or too small.  When I went to MOPS convention- I had to wear black dress pants- I found a pair I liked ON CLEARANCE and bought without trying on—they were 3 sizes bigger than I normally wear- I thought they’d work.  They did not. They were clown pants.)

5) Clearance name brand bags in colors that are pretty in nature- but not so much in clothing. (In other words- I cannot bring my matchy-matchy self to carry them- even IF they were a GREAT deal.)

We will not discuss my many sins of clearance purchases for my kids clothes.  Suffice to say teenaged boys do not like “past season” . 

Safe clearance items?

Yarn. 

thats’ about it;)

Oh my word.  I just thought of something- what if it wasn’t the new makeup- what if I’m allergic to knitting?

hydrocortisone infused candles to burn?  Benadryl laced chocolate?  Coffee benadryl martini?   (I don’t actually drink-(Dad’s a recovering addict)  that’s as close as I’d get to a martini;) Mask gloves and goggles?

 I better go lay down.  I think I’ll ice my face.

Sister clearance shoppers- be careful out there.  Those deals can be brutal.