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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Unsecret Santa




A couple of years ago, we heard about the Secret Santa movement--a movement that seems to be secret in itself. Secret Santas go to department stores around Christmas time and pay off the layaways that are still there. Dozens of people find themselves pleasantly surprised for Christmas when they receive a special call from the layaway department. No one ever knows who these Secret Santas are because, well, they are secret Santas. They work out a deal with the clerks at the layaway counters or with the store managers, pay off whatever number of packages, and then leave. I suppose the clerks may know their names unless they are paying for all those packages in cash. If the clerks know, though, they never say.

Donnie and I became intrigued with the Secret Santa movement a couple of years ago although we cannot be considered well off. In fact, we have to scrape dollars and sometimes even change together to get our last few meals of the month before our next paychecks arrive. (It is not that my job does not pay a decent salary; it does. The problem is that all of Shane's money and much of ours goes to keeping our $3M [so far] granddaughter, Nikolina [see sidebar], alive and smiling. One of only three OEIS Complex survivors in the world, she is now a plucky, happy four-year-old but requires close medical monitoring and special supplies. I will write an update soon.)

While we do not have the finances to be Secret Santas, lack of money has never stopped us. So, a couple of days before Christmas we go to our local Kmart, where we can use our Sears card, ask the layaway clerk to find a package with toys in it, and pay it off. (We figure that if there are toys, there are children, and, who knows, without those toys, Christmas might be rather barren. We also figure that if they have not been picked up by December 23, the parents are probably struggling financially and may not be able to come up with the remaining amount. After the store calls the recipient, we sneak out. It is crazy fun!

This year, though, a lady walked into the layaway department as we waiting for the one clerk to find a package for us. The second clerk waited on the newly arrived lady, who had paid about 2/3 of the cost of the layaway but was short of cash for Christmas food. She wanted to turn in the layaway and get what she had paid into it back so that she could feed her kids.

While the second clerk looked for her package, we talked to the lady. She told us she had five boys (well, there's a challenge), was a single mother, and had just been a little lavish in her desires for the kids for Christmas. Lavish? When the clerk brought out the package there were 1-2 gifts (a t-shirt and a toy or pajamas and a toy) for each boy, and there was a cookware set, obviously for everyone. All together it was more than what we had planned to spend, but it was Christmas, after all, and God is pretty good at refilling our coffers. So, we told the first clerk not to look anymore and explained to the lady what a Secret (un, Unsecret) Santa is.

The layaway clerks excitedly walked with us to the customer service desk, where all the items in the layaway package were turned back in, the lady reimbursed for what she had paid into the layaway, and then all the times were purchased on our Sears card. The customer service desks clerks got into the spirit of things, too, and it seemed like Christmas had arrived a couple of days early.

The lady, whose name we never learned (nor does she know ours), kept iterating her grateful surprise. It clearly seemed a bit unreal to her until it came time for her to leave the store with all her layaway items and more than enough cash in her pocket for holiday food. She gave both Donnie and me a big hug, then revealed that she had not planned to come by the store the evening of the 23d but was planning to come in on the morning of the 24th. She had been returning from work, really tired, really hoping to go home, when she felt so impelled to come to the store that she knew she had to make the extra stop but did not know why. I guess we can all figure out why!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


















Wishing all a blessed Christmas!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Christmas Pageant

Another goodie from the Internet loop, sent to me by a friend and, I think, worth sharing:


My husband and I had been happily married (most of the time) for five years

but hadn't been blessed with a baby. I decided to do some serious praying and promised God that if he would give us a child, I would be a perfect mother, love it with  all my heart and raise it with His word as my guide.



God answered my prayers and blessed us with a son. The next year God blessed us

with another son. The following year, He blessed us with yet another son. The year after that we were blessed with a daughter. My husband thought we'd been blessed right into poverty. We now had four children, and the oldest was only four years old.



I learned never to ask God for anything unless I meant it. As a minister once told me, "If you pray for rain, make sure you carry an umbrella." I began reading a few verses of the Bible to the children each day as they lay in their cribs. I was off to a good start. God had entrusted me with four children, and I didn't want to disappoint Him.



I tried to be patient the day the children smashed two dozen eggs on the kitchen floor searching for baby chicks. I tried to be understanding when they started a hotel for homeless frogs in the spare bedroom, although it took me nearly two hours

to catch all twenty-three frogs. When my daughter poured ketchup all over herself and rolled up in a blanket to see how it felt to be a hot dog, I tried to see the humor rather than the mess.



In spite of changing over twenty-five thousand diapers, never eating a hot meal

and never sleeping for more than thirty minutes at a time, I still thank God daily for my children. While I couldn't keep my promise

to be a perfect mother - I didn't even come close - I did keep my promise

to raise them in the Word of God.



I knew I was missing the mark just a little when I told my daughter we were going to church to worship God, and she wanted to bring a bar of soap along to "wash up" Jesus, too. Something was lost in the translation when I explained that God gave us everlasting life, and my son thought it was generous of God to give us his "last wife."



My proudest moment came during the children's Christmas pageant. My daughter was playing Mary, two of my sons were shepherds and my youngest son was a wise man. This was their moment to shine. My five-year-old shepherd had practiced his line, "We found the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes." But he was nervous and said, "The baby was wrapped in wrinkled clothes." My four-year-old "Mary" said, "That's not 'wrinkled clothes,' silly. That's dirty, rotten clothes." A wrestling match broke out between Mary and the shepherd and was stopped by an angel, who bent her halo and lost her left wing.



I slouched a little lower in my seat when Mary dropped the doll representing Baby Jesus, and it bounced down the aisle crying, "Mama-mama." Mary grabbed the doll, wrapped it back up, and held it tightly as the wise men arrived.



My other son stepped forward, wearing a bathrobe and a paper crown, knelt at the manger, and announced, "We are the three wise men, and we are bringing gifts

of gold, common sense and fur." The congregation dissolved into laughter, and the pageant got a standing ovation.



"I've never enjoyed a Christmas program as much as this one," laughed the pastor,

wiping tears from his eyes.  "For the rest of my life, I'll never hear the Christmas story without thinking of gold, common sense, and fur."



"My children are my pride and my joy and my greatest blessing," I said as I dug

through my purse for an aspirin.



Jesus had no servants, yet they called Him Master. He had no degree, yet they called Him Teacher. He had no medicines, yet they called Him Healer. He had no army, yet kings feared Him. He won no military battles, yet He conquered the world. He committed no crime, yet they crucified Him. He was buried in a tomb, yet He lives today. Feel honored to serve such a Leader who loves us.



GOD BLESS YOU ALL!

I think all mothers can relate to the story of the pageant and that we all can take a minute to ponder the wonders of that last paragraph. Wishing you all a blessed Advent and Christmas. Let's not hurry the season; let's experience it fully.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Techie and the Traditionalist

Today I experienced the perfect example of the techie married to the traditionalist.

We heard some sirens, then I heard noises from Donnie's iPad and asked what was going on. He said he was listening to the dispatch calls to try to find out where the fire in Ignatio was.

I stood up, looked out of our big living room window that overlooks the whole town, pointed to a plume of smoke and several fire engines on Fourth Street, and said, "There it is!"

(Just had to share!)

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sharing Sick Days with Happy Cat




Short burst of news here. I am finishing up a full week of being stuck inside, including 72 hours straight on the sofa, fighting off an upper respiratory infection. Two weeks ago, we rescued Happy Cat, a feral or, more likely, abandoned cat who had been living outside our house, when he got an upper respiratory infection. I came down with this thing soon thereafter and at the follow-up visit told the vet, jokingly, that I think I caught the cat's illness. He said, given the kind of infection it was, that it is entirely possible that this is what happened. I should have asked him for a shot; the one he gave Happy Cat worked. The cat is now well; I am not. Really thinking about a trip to the vet for me tomorrow morning!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Intrepid Changing a Light Bulb, Cat Style







Back to blogging -- if I remember how -- and as time permits. Just dropping into the Clan blog to share a picture of how wonderfully our cats try to help us. Here is Intrepid (appropriately named) helping us change a light bulb.

He is definitely not a bush dweller. Treetops and higher for him!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Dear Clan of Mahlou Blog Readers:

Recently, my life has become quite overwhelming with new responsibilities at work and a number of activities at home along with an increasing desire to finish writing my next book, Raising God's Rainbow Makers, which, I guess, means that I really should be working on it more seriously than I have been able to do up until now. I find that I cannot keep up with posting on a regular basis. For that reason, I will be taking a hiatus of at least several months. I do hope to occasionally post an installment of the "Rainbow" book as I finish various pieces.

Thank you all for being loyal and interactive readers. I have enjoyed getting to know you, and I will continue to pray for the well being of you, your family, and friends.

Elizabeth Mahlou

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