… on practical perfection


Practically Perfect in … well, many ways :))

Sam and I have an ongoing argument that involves two words.

It goes something like this:

Me: “Hey Sam it’s practically Christmas!”

Sam: “Ya. Okay, but it’s not technically Christmas.”

Me: “Ya, but it’s practically…”

Sam: “But not technically…”

And this could go on for quite some time.

Funnier when it’s about zombies or bigfoot, but you get the drift.

So the other day I was looking through the photos from Family Christmas, and was editing the traditional group photo, which was especially Christmassy this year, and Mac stole it.

And she tossed it up on her Facebook page and likes began to roll in, and comments that said ‘awesome’ and ‘dingle all the way’ (and ‘hey Greg, great hat!’).

And I got a wicked nice message from a reader, who had seen the pic on my Facebook page (I think Mac had ‘tagged’ me) saying I had the perfect family.

I know.

Wicked nice.

But I am telling you, that is so far from reality.

Like lots and lots of people, I toss around the word ‘perfect’, as a compliment all the time.

JoHn sets the table?


JoHn does the laundry?


JoHn loads the dishwasher?


And yes, I just realized that I may actually be using ‘perfect!’ as a positive-reinforcement husband training tool in my house. Bear with me for a second.

But when it comes to actually assuming there is perfection behind the walls of anyone’s house (literal or proverbial)?


It never occurs to me that anyone – anyone – has a perfect family, or a perfect life for that matter.

I think that the actual word, ‘perfect’, if it sits in your head with the traditional meaning of ‘flawless’, is a joy thief.

You wanna wallow?

All you have to do is say that there is perfection in the world.

Perfect people.

Perfect vacations.

Perfect dogs.

The Perfect Christmas.

Oh, we think we are just tossing the word out there, like into the world, when we poke fun of those ‘perfect people’ in their ‘perfect houses’ with their ‘perfect lives’…

But we are really pulling it – the word and the concept of ‘perfect’ – in.

Into our brains and hearts and right down to our toes until what’s left over drips down our fangs in green and goopy resentment.

Doesn’t taste good, not even a little.

And the strangely ironic thing is, that the whole concept doesn’t exist in the first place.

At least not technically.

Surprise! You don’t have a technically perfect life.

Surprise! Me neither.

Marshal Dillon Dingle may be the one exception to this rule, especially when he has access to chicken.

Look at this photo (which is of the ‘kids’ (everyone under age 35) and Granny (age 36 (what?)).


So you don’t have to scroll up.

This group of humans contains people who have been touched by everything from death to divorce, from chronic illnesses to nearly-fatal medical conditions, from alcoholism and drug abuse to mental illness.  They have dealt with life’s ups and downs and joys and betrayals and all sorts of things in between.

Not technically perfect.

Not by a long shot.


We have also held newborn children in our arms.

We’ve had many an awesome discussions with grandparents, taken refuge with each other when we’ve needed to. We have loved each other and counseled each other and cheered for each other and forgiven each other…

A lot.

And on Saturday?  Well, it was pretty good.

The ‘kids’ had plotted and schemed in secret, knowing it would be a bittersweet day for Granny, and for many of us, because it would be our first Family Christmas without the Old Yankee Man.

Their plan?

Become elves.

They had a whole Facebook message group set up and Mac read it top to bottom to us the day after Family Christmas.

They went on-line, organized around a certain theme available at Target.


Thor…er… Elf Dog

Even Thor, who comes to every family Christmas, got a costume.

And elves came to the door, in a pretty steady stream, and knocked and came in and took over our house.

And made us smile and laugh, even as we welled up and missed people who were profoundly important in our lives.

And that?

Well, whilst not technically perfect.

It was practically perfect, for sure.

So, look again.

See with your heart, don’t just look with your eyes.

This family is not technically perfect…. not even close.

This family challenges each other and makes mistakes, and we surprise each other and scare each other, and madden and sadden and gladden each other. Sometimes we even all out blow each other’s minds.

But we also pass around quite a bit of love to each other.

All the time.

Every day, and sometimes more than once each day.

(Though not each member to each other member every day, that would be boring, and also unrealistic.  Which is what technical perfection would also be. Because where would the great stories – the ones that make you blow milk out of your nose – come from then?  (And also, the tears and fears that provide the contrast for laughter and joy…))

I hereby redefine the term ‘practical perfection’ to be that which is within the acceptable range of ‘pretty dang awesome’.

And I’ll take practically perfect, over technically perfect, every dang time.

And I will be grateful for it, and I will celebrate the frack out of it…

At Christmas.


Merry Christmas.  

And thanks, from the bottom of my heart, for readin’.

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