December 11

Christmas Finals & Anger Management

Do you know why the marketing departments made a corporate decision to show only the finished product on the cover box of gingerbread making kits?

Because angry faces do not sell holiday cheer.

They sell quarts of eggnog in need of spiking.

Anyone who has ever built a gingerbread house knows they do not produce as much joy as they do frown lines we are afraid will be forever etched on our foreheads.

Four grown women attempted it yesterday….for four hours!

As my daughter heads into finals this week at Texas State, I’ve decided that making and decorating a gingerbread house should be the court-ordered final for all anger management classes.

Just last week I talked with my mentee about the love/hate relationship I have with gingerbread houses. She’s in 5th grade and knew exactly what I was talking about. On a good day, when I’m filled with Jesus, the reason for the season and a double chocolate cocoa, I can tolerate the patience it takes to hold the roof together.

Other days, just no.

I want to pretend I’m the super scary abominable snowman in that one Christmas classic I love so much and stomp the crap out of every single one.

My mom, forever a corporate organizer, micro-managed our group activity and made sure we dusted the crumbs off before decorating. I only felt a little bit bad when her house wouldn’t hold together and fell into a brown frosted heap on the aluminum foil.

But because I am a lot like her in some ways, and grateful for that most days of the year, I also over-corrected the selection of roofing materials as the others worked diligently.

“Are you sure you want to use that?” I questioned as nicely as possible.

“It’s just like Barbies all over again, Tina.”

“I know, I know. You’re not being bossy, your idea is just better,” Maureen said.

Quietly, with only an occasional sarcastic hum of a Christmas Carol, we decorated with all of the artistry we could muster.

“I’d like the door to be open, rather than closed,” I encouraged. “So that when people stand around it they will say things like, ‘What the artists are conveying in this piece is that we must live our lives open and inviting, welcoming and warm.'”

They laughed like I was ridiculous, but I was totally sort of serious.

Eventually, once the royal frosting set up, I noticed that the stability of the structure brought a Bethlehem kind of peace to the table.

We talked as we snacked on stale roofing materials and licked the frosting off our fingers from a blown-out bag of icing. Stability is essential for this season. The word stability comes from the Greek word stable.

I totally just made that up.

But when I think of stables, I think of a manger, Mary and wise men.

And farm animals.

I think about making amends with the people I often anger and remember the Christmas I thought the green sweatpants were a joke. When I was a girl, one of the best presents I could ever receive was more Barbie stuff.

I love, love, loved my Barbies.

In her spare time, my working mother that I sometimes mock, made awesome furniture out of milk cartons and upholstered the couch with scraps of brown corduroy and white for the chairs. A few years later, she had someone build me the most amazing wood furniture with a dining table and a hutch that had little tiny drawers and I was able to display my tiny blue pottery plates that we got at Art in the Park on the tiny open shelves. There were elegant homemade dresses, shirts and skirts, and the most fabulous wool coat.

One day, already on edge, I walked into my girls’ bedroom and saw a spread out mess of all my Barbie stuff and theirs combined. It was strewn about the room in total chaos.

Unbridled mom anger took over in that moment.

I got a giant black Hefty from under the sink and began hastily shoving it all in the bag. I probably said something about other kids appreciating what they have a lot more and other angry words, the kind you can’t take back. I didn’t know that I was the one who would be learning a lesson.

I packed it all up and dropped the bag off in the alley, just behind the thrift store door and drove off. By the time I got back home, I calmed down enough to realize how much I treasured all those happy memories I just gave away. So I raced back to get them.

But it was all gone.

In just a matter of minutes, my own emotional instability made me lose something very important to me. Uncontrollable anger is not a fruit I want to decorate my house with anymore.

I want it covered in sweet layers of love and the pipe-filled frosting of grace. Some days it feels like my house is falling into a broken heap. The best days are the ones where it stands.




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