“No More Sleeps!”

Christmas 012

Leona Lewis has a new Christmas record this year. If you haven’t heard it, it’s fantastic. There is a song on it called “One More Sleep”. I think we can nearly all relate to counting down the “sleeps” til Christmas!

I know I’ve been counting them down. As of this morning… NO more sleeps til I’m snug as a bug in my childhood home surrounded by, as Clark Griswold would say, “kith and kin”.

This morning I packed up my car and my furry little boy and headed…

HOME for Christmas!

I’m looking forward to seeing my nearly manic nieces and nephews dive head-long into the mounds of gifts and food tonight at our Christmas Eve celebration at Dad’s house. And then a very similar scene at my Mom’s house Christmas morning. I can’t wait to see my thirteen nieces and nephews open their gifts and against all odds, I may have even bought something my Dad will actually like this year! (Cue the fireworks and heavenly choir!)

In all the ear-splitting, mega-decibel craziness, it is truly heartwarming to know that my family will not forget the true meaning of this most beloved holiday. After we’ve cleared out the knee-high piles of torn wrapping paper and ribbon, we will once again join our voices and sing the traditional songs of the season.

In three (occasionally four) part family harmony, we will sing “Silent Night” and remember the birth of the God who robed himself in flesh.

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip

“Happy Holidays!” Oops!


“What is your favorite Christmas song?”

Now there’s a question for which I never seem to have a good answer…

I love the sacred beauty of “O Holy Night” and “Gloria!” and the sentimentality of Nat King Cole’s version of “The Christmas Song” and Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas”.

No song can put a smile on my face quite so quickly as Burl Ives “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

But I also feel (if I may paraphrase Scrooge) giddy as a school girl when I hear the opening strains of Bing Crosby’s “Happy Holiday”.

Happy holidays, happy holidays
While the merry bells keep ringing
May your every wish come true

“Wait, that song doesn’t say anything about Christmas!”

I can feel the entire Tea Party (who’s views I often reflect) and many like-minded friends and family preparing to furl their collective brow…

Yes, I admit it! I actually like when people take a moment out of their busy lives to wish me “Happy Holidays!”

I love this time of year!  I love Hanukkah, Advent and Christmas! If you celebrate Kwanza I’ll be happy to wish you greetings on that occasion too!

I’m one of those elusive (some will read crazy) conservative Christians who doesn’t mind at all when people wish me “Happy Holidays”.

Why should it bother me?

I know “holiday” is simply short-hand for “holy day”. There is no more holy day to celebrate than the day God robed himself in flesh and gave us the world’s greatest gift.

So…wish me Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays…it’s all the same to me.

All I hear is…

And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Everyday!

Aunt Zip

“Christmas Magic, Vidalia Onions and… Spanx?” A Guest Post by Valerie Kemp Dreier

Today I’m excited to share a guest post by my always funny and very southern friend Valerie Kemp Dreier.

She writes the über popular blog “Me, Jesus and a Set of Scales”



Christmas is a magical time. A time when people walk around in overcoats and scarves looking like they just fell out of a Norman Rockwell painting. A time to gaze upon plastic light up front yard nativity scenes like you’re looking into the eyes of the Christ child himself. A time to sip hot chocolate with loved ones reminiscing of wonderful Christmases spent together forgetting all about how they drove you completely nuts the vast majority of the last year. Christmas truly is the most wonderful time of year, but before you go and get all starry-eyed thinking about the magic of the season, don’t forget, it’s also a time to grit your teeth, squeeze into your Spanx, put on a happy face and head off to that one social obligation you dread year after year. 

For some, it’s that office Christmas party. For others, that neighborhood kids ear-piercing holiday themed band concert. Whatever it is, everybody has one. Ours was Eleanor. No one in our family is quite sure how we became acquainted with Miss Eleanor (an elderly spinster who never learned how to drive and lived with her parents until their death) and apparently it never really mattered. We were stuck with her. My Momma, God love her, picked up Eleanor’s prescriptions, brought her groceries on occasions, helped with her banking, and called her every morning to make sure she was still breathing -if Eleanor didn’t beat her to it.

Every year about a week before Christmas, Eleanor would invite us all to her home for dinner. This was the eighties and pre-Cooking Network, not that even it would have helped her cooking skills. To say she cooked us dinner was, well, debatable. One year, Eleanor brought out what she considered the pièce de résistance; a Vidalia onion. My father had mentioned back in the summer during one of our obligatory visits, that he loved Vidalia onions, so Eleanor got one from the last batch the grocery store had…..in August.

This onion smelled like rotten garbage and death and I watched my Daddy choke down as much as he could stand, Momma praying the whole time he wouldn’t die of food poisoning.  The family as a whole started developing spontaneous food allergies that were miraculously healed seconds after leaving Eleanor’s. My sisters and I became ingenious at hiding food. Do you know how much food you can cram into the inside of a store-bought dinner roll? We do!

After dinner or whatever you want to call it, we’d load up the car and ride around town looking at Christmas lights. Miss Eleanor would ooh and aaah in a voice more akin to a dying cow in a hail storm- a whiny high pitch sort of piercing siren. My sisters and I would sit in the back of the mini van mocking her under our breath while our mother squinted her eyes at us,  half wanting to beat our hind ends and half wanting to bust out laughing, too. None of us wanted to be there stuck with one of the most annoying people God put on the planet but my mother knew that it made this old lady’s holiday season. So each year, despite our collective whining and moaning, we’d suck it up, pray we didn’t get food poisoning and go hang out with Eleanor making Christmas just a little merrier for her.

Tonight, sitting in front of the mirror finishing my face for the umpteenth social event this season, I giggled remembering Miss Eleanor’s and Christmases begrudgingly spent with her years ago.

So, Merry Christmas y’all. Time for me to squeeze into these Spanx and slap a smile on my face.


“An Empty Chair and the Target Check-out Line”



In the midst of all of our Christmas shopping, cooking, planning and let’s just say it…generally festive chaos… several of my friends took a little time out last evening for a celebration of a different sort.

A dear friend, who after years of raising a family, working and going to school part-time, just graduated from College. We felt this merited a special evening out. We planned, checked her schedule and ours and made reservations at a very nice restaurant overlooking the Nashville skyline and State Capitol.

I love Germantown Cafe. The ambiance is warm, the food is fantastic and the view is spectacular!

As my friends and I gathered (a bit early) we were shown to our table and began to soak in the atmosphere, chat and peruse the menu. We were all driving separately from different areas of town, so we didn’t think much about the fact that one seat remained yet unfilled. This group is never short on conversation, so we were catching up on our week, telling funny stories and laughing.

But, when 6:00 came and passed, I began to wonder about our missing friend. In this group, she is the least likely to be tardy to an event. I expressed concern and the person who had been in contact with her (who shall remain nameless) said “I hope I didn’t tell her the wrong restaurant.”.

She began to frantically scroll through her text messages and there it was…the last message she sent.

“I’ll confirm time and place with you later.”

We were sitting at an elegantly appointed restaurant ready to celebrate a huge milestone in our friend’s life and she hadn’t even been invited!!!

Thankfully she is a VERY good sport and after a barrage of texts and calls from a horrified group of friends, she made her way through the check-out line at Target and joined us!

Here’s hoping your Christmas Season doesn’t get so busy that you forget the most important element!

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip

“Love Pats and Cream Drops” -Remembering Grandma Jack


Earlier this week my family marked the anniversary of the passing of my Grandmother. Jacqualeen Tavenner was my Mom’s mother (and namesake) and to the many who knew and loved her she was simply “Jack”.

Grandma Jack was, in a word, unique! As certain as I am that I received my love of books and words from my Grandpa Westfall, I’m equally sure my quirkiness can be directly linked to my blue jean wearing wise-cracking Grandma Jack.

Grandma Jack’s door was always open to anyone who wanted to take a seat at the kitchen table, sip a cup of coffee, play a game of gin rummy and inhale second-hand Camel cigarette smoke. Nearly every Saturday of my childhood was spent in that house- bursting at the seams with my sisters and cousins.

My Gran was equal parts “tough old broad” and “sentimental grandmother.” She could tell someone off (once or twice even ME!) at the drop of a hat, but was a real softy at heart. I know that one of her favorite memories was of picking me up at Tavennerville Elementary on Valentine’s Day and reading each card stuffed into the red construction paper covered manila folder embossed with my name.

You couldn’t walk by her without getting slugged in the arm. “Love pats” is what she called them. As difficult as it was for her to show it in traditional ways, she loved her grandkids and we loved her!

We loved going to her house on Pennsylvania Avenue at Christmas! Gran was never anyone’s definition of conventional. She didn’t bake cookies and make fudge like my Grandma Westfall, but she always bought the best candy! Her kitchen was filled with chocolate covered peanuts, caramels and cream drops bought at, if my memory serves me, the “Annual Mineral Wells Fire Department Christmas Candy Sale”. I can’t look at a box of ribbon candy without thinking of Grandma Jack.

I’ll miss that tough old broad this Christmas, but in her memory today I will drink copious amounts of coffee and scour the Christmas Market for a cellophane bag of chocolate covered cream drops! I might even slug someone in the arm…

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip


Ready. Set. Christmas!

christmastreebareWe had cleared away the pumpkin trifle dessert dishes and savored our coffee for, oh say 90 seconds, when it hit us! You know, that inexplicably warm and fuzzy feeling that signals the turning of the seasonal page. The flipping of the festive hourglass.

Ready. Set. Christmas!

As happy as I was to welcome that familiar feeling, I did not- unlike some friends and family who’s identify I will kindly protect-slink out of the house after dinner last evening to buy off-brand electronics and four slice toasters at questionable discounts. I also did not join the ranks of the crazy Black Friday shoppers. You know the type… darting eyes which rarely blink, ramming Target carts into anyone who’d dare saunter into their path to the .99 dvds.

I’m generally a proponent of shopping “local”. No, I don’t mean the local Wal-mart! I relish scouring the tiny co-op shops in East Nashville. I love popping into little stores in Sylvan Park and gifting locally roasted coffees. But this year (I’m a little ashamed to say) I’ve been a bit of a convenience shopper. I have had so many packages sent to my office that I fear the shipping and receiving guys may be considering delivering a large lump of coal with my next Amazon Prime shipment.

So, this afternoon instead of shopping, I will eat leftover red velvet cake and trim my tree! Even now it stands majestically in front of the bay window waiting to be draped in tinsel and twinkling lights!

Ready. Set. Christmas!

Until next time…Merry Christmas Today and Every Day.

Aunt Zip






“We Gather Together…”


The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is on the TV, Christmas Blend coffee in my cup, rosemary potatoes in the crock pot and brussel sprouts waiting patiently to be tossed in olive oil and cracked pepper and popped into the oven.

I didn’t wake up in my Grandparent’s house this morning. I didn’t draw my first breath to gather the intoxicating aroma of Grandma Helen’s succulent turkey- with dressing INSIDE. (I think I just drooled a little)

Nor will I be wedged like a sardine around the tiny table at Grandma Jack’s house surrounded by sisters and cousins and potato turkeys waiting for Grandma to yell at Pap to pass the salt.

It’s been nearly ten years since my Grandparents passed but that white block house on Pike Street is still the place I’d most like to be this morning… followed of course by a short jaunt to the Camel cigarette-smoke filled kitchen on Pennsylvania Avenue.

I didn’t wake up in my hometown this morning. I woke up in my own home with no wafting scent of roasting turkey, only the sight of a furry boy who is counting down the minutes til the Thanksgiving feast at ‘Uncle Shayne’s’ house.

With all the travel in the last month (Africa) I did not load up the SUV yesterday and head for the Burg. I will miss Joyce and Desmond’s first Thanksgiving with my big crazy family. I missed helping out at the Salvation Army this morning with my sisters and nieces and nephews -armed with Tim Horton’s coffee and very little sleep.

I will miss my Mom’s potato salad and fighting my Uncle Stoney for the last of the raw stuffing. Yes, I do know how gross that sounds…

But I will be spending this Thanksgiving with my second family. 

Someone once said “Friends are the family you choose.” No one believes this more than I. So, although the faces will be different I will be surrounded by people I love and I will give thanks for my ENTIRE family!

Happy Thanksgiving and as always… Merry Christmas Today and Every Day!

Aunt Zip