Dreading the end of the season?

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This morning before leaving for work, my husband kissed me and said, “Babe, try to just relax today”.  His recognition of my recent relentless efforts to ensure everything went smoothly for Christmas made them all the more worth it, but also reminded me that my favorite holiday was over.

I refilled the lovely coffee cup, covered in cardinals and pinecones, a cherished gift from my youngest and opened the festive Ziploc bag filled with mint chocolate chip cookies baked days ago.  Even as I took one out, I lamented the number I have eaten this season.

Sitting in my chair, coffee cup in hand, I looked at our Christmas tree, the floor beneath it now bare, except for one stray shiny ornament and a lone undelivered present.  Moments later, I saw a snapchat notification from my youngest and opened a picture of her Christmas tree with the caption, “I don’t want Christmas to be over”.

Since I was entering my time of devotion and prayer, this topic was something I reflected on during my quiet time.

Why do I dread the arrival of December 26th?  To answer that question, I must first ask myself why I love the days preceding it.  That’s easy, right?  The month of December is filled with hope, with expectations, the joy of giving, and the arrival of friends and family for long overdue visits.  People take days off and spend them at home, we search for that perfect gift for those we love and for the most part people seem more cheerful.  There are more commercials and movies crafted to observe the joy of the season and it truly does seem that more love abounds or at least a better sense of family and fellowship.

As we celebrate the Christmas season, we reflect more on that life changing gift of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We honor the greatest love ever known and we are constantly reminded of it.   We are surrounded by Christmas carols, and many of them honor the Holy One and the virgin birth.  We see joy manifested in human form in the faces of our children and grandchildren.  We see that giving a gift means we sacrifice something to give to another.  Often, but sadly not often enough, we see forgiveness and healing in relationships.

So, if all of the above is what I love, why do I dread what I perceive in my mind to be the “end” of this glorious season?

It isn’t over.

Yes, the Christmas season is over; the last carol has been sung, the last sugar cookie decorated like a candy cane for a while, the gifts are all open, the decorations are already starting to sag and look out of place and some of our families are already homeward bound.

The seasons will change, as they should as new seasons bring new growth.    But, the reason for the season never changes and that reason always has been and always will be Jesus!  He truly is the Gift that keeps on giving!   We are abundantly blessed and we can continue to be a blessing all year long.  We can keep the spirit of Christmas strong and alive and well by loving hard all year long, by finding the perfect gifts to bless the poor, lonely and hurting.  We can freely and diligently give the gift of prayer.  We can decorate lives with compassion, empathy and laughter.  We can put God first, family second and everything else below that.  We can fellowship more often and be generous in gifting our time to those we love and we can certainly choose to allow a fresh wind of forgiveness to blow through our hearts when needed.

All of this should be obvious of course, but sometimes we need to take the time to allow God to remind of us of old truths and I for one, am glad I did that this morning.  Today is a brand new day, filled with life, breath and salvation and I intend to enjoy every minute of it!

The List

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My brother at Christmas

Although I loathe admitting it, when I was a young girl, I was sometimes referred to as sneaky.  This isn’t an adjective I am proud to have had my character associated with, but I’m willing to suffer the embarrassment for the sake of the story.

There were several reasons I was labeled as a wily one.  One of them was my practice of parking myself in a room full of adults with my nose in a book, while my ears were fine tuned into their conversation.  I got away with this at my grandparent’s house more easily than at home because Granny had a hard time finding any fault with her darling grandchild.  Perhaps I would have never been discovered if I didn’t have a penchant for repeating the information I gleaned from these conversations.  You would think I would have learned after one spanking, but alas, it took a little longer for me, hence the other adjective used to describe me at times; hard-headed.

Anyway, the stealth that I used to take the most pride in came at Christmastime.  My parents didn’t pretend there was a Santa and no, I don’t feel the least bit of injury or remorse at that.  We always opened our gifts on Christmas Eve.  Mom would start putting gifts, beautifully wrapped and laden with ribbons and bows, under the tree as soon as we put the tree up.  This was advantageous, because it gave me plenty of time to pursue my quest to discover the contents of anything tagged, “to Lisa” prior to Christmas Eve.  My siblings were in on this, but to my knowledge they never told.  If memory serves me correct, I may have even talked them into doing the same, once or twice.  I do remember Mom threatening to take everything back if I did try to ascertain contents.

This wasn’t a task that could be done in haste.  I had to ensure that gifts were unwrapped and re-wrapped without tearing the paper or causing the tape to wrinkle.  Since mother was very much aware of my propensity for chicanery, she checked these things out.  Since it did take some time, I often had to do this in one of the few times we were left home alone.  Otherwise, it was early in the morning or very late at night.

One day, even though it was forbidden, I was digging through one of my mom and dad’s bedside drawers and unbeknownst to me I was about to hit the mother lode.  Nestled near the bottom of the drawer was a note pad that I had seen my mom writing in only the night before.  Why was it in the bottom of the drawer?  What secrets would my eyes feast upon if I could sneak that out and take a better look?  Now wasn’t the time though, I decided, as one of my siblings looked around the corner already giving me that, “what are you doing on mom’s bed” look.

See, my mom was funny about one thing and that was her bedroom and yes, even her bed.  I honestly don’t remember ever seeing that bed unmade and once it was made, you were not allowed to wallow on it and mess things up.  There was always the comforter and pillows with shams and she liked it looking just so and sweaty, dog smelling kids were not allowed on it.  We were always taught that you didn’t go into your parents’ bedroom without knocking, you never brought friends in there and it wasn’t a place to hang out.  It was mom and dad’s private domain and that was to be respected.  When I was actually allowed to stay with other kids, I was shocked at how they would barge in on their parents and it always made me uncomfortable.  However, I digress.  My point is, I shouldn’t have been in there anyway, so why was I and why did I just slam that drawer shut?  I made some excuse and left the room, with full intentions to return at a more convenient time.

When the time came, I made my way back to the drawer and this time, the notebook was right on top.  I opened it and to my surprise, I saw “the list”.  My precious mother, in all of her love and wisdom, kept a list of what she bought each of us for Christmas and how much it cost.  It occurred to me upon further investigation, this was so she would spend approximately the same amount on each of us.  Within a 10 second perusal, I knew everything under the tree, without un-wrapping the first thing.  I didn’t know how I felt about this, but it wasn’t particularly good.

I don’t remember when I ever admitted what I had found or who I told first.  I do know that finding that list, in mother’s beautiful cursive, lovingly taking care to be fair to her children, did something to me.  I’ll never forget that moment.  I won’t pretend that I mended all of my ways immediately, but change was underway in my little 12 year old heart.  The story became a familiar one in our home and we laughed about it in years to come, but honestly, it still makes me feel yucky.   I did learn something else though.  When I became a parent, the list was hidden better and the packages were excessively wrapped and taped.

I did it my way

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The day after Thanksgiving was reserved for putting away fall decorations and putting up all of my Christmas decorations and the tree. I had promised my granddaughter that she could help me and she was excited. My girls were laughing at me because I am so meticulous about everything is done and taking videos of me singing Christmas carols. They were cracking jokes about how mom has to the ornaments just right on the tree. I blogged about my tree perfectionism in Gone are the Matching Bows, where I told the story of how my mother in law encouraged me to let the tree be a kids tree instead of my own beautiful, flawless creation. Since my girls are grown, I have reverted back to decorating “my way”, so I assumed having a five year old help might be a little crazy. However, Ayda is a lot like her Nana and she handled everything so carefully. She packed away the fall decorations one by one, wrapping them carefully in tissue paper. Nana was very impressed!

This all caused me to reflect upon one of my failures as a mother. Yes, I had failures; lots of them, although it wasn’t for lack of trying to be the best one ever. I was always such a stickler for perfection in all of the household tasks, that I never could accept how other people did the job. It’s not that I think I am perfect, or even that I did things perfectly; it was that it had to be MY way. There was only one way in my mind to load that dishwasher, fold the clothes, clean the bedroom, or organize underneath the bathroom cabinet. So, instead of saying, “I don’t like the way you do things”, I would just do them myself.

I remember when the girls were young and they would clean their rooms. I remember being careful to tell them thank you and praise them for a job well done. However, I didn’t realize that they took notice when I went behind them rearranging and re-doing. I couldn’t help it, but they probably felt like it wasn’t good enough. When they got older and I would try to have them do their own laundry, it went much the same way. If they didn’t switch from washer to dryer right away, I just did it, because I didn’t have the patience to wait. When they folded and put away, I would cringe to open a drawer and see all the mismatched socks and wrinkled shirts. I spent way too much time arranging their drawers and sincerely thinking I was doing them a great service. I have now realized that they really didn’t care; for them, it was fine just the way it was. I know this because I have been to their homes and they didn’t learn from our drawer cleaning events; they look the same way they did in high school.

When I try to figure out why I was the way I was, I remember my mother behaving very similarly. She was a stay at home mom most of our lives and she took great pride in her home. She was kind about it and I always felt nothing but love, but I got the sense that she would just rather do some things herself.

You don’t get much help from the kids or the husband if you don’t take what you can get and be thankful for it. And it isn’t helping you anyway, if you are constantly re-doing it. I also ended up with spoiled children and a spoiled rotten husband. I’m not complaining because I’m to blame, but I feel like it was a dis-service to my girls. They both know how to cook and clean, but they hate the cleaning part and I wonder if that is because I made it such a big issue and did so much myself instead of making them help.

I guess what I am trying to say is let them help, or MAKE them help and be happy with what you get. If you have daughters, their future husband will thank you and if you have sons, don’t you want their future wife to appreciate the fact that he does dishes? My husband doesn’t do any household duties; never has and probably never will. I almost passed out the other night when he offered to dry and put away the dishes. The dishes were almost done but he did try. After he dried a couple of things, he got distracted by something on t.v. so I grabbed the towel and finished myself….see there I go again.

Oh Christmas tree, MY Christmas tree

Christmas 2013

Christmas 2013

This Christmas is a first of sorts for my husband and I.  December 25, 2013 will be our first Christmas as empty nesters.

Don’t worry; this post isn’t going to be a sappy one lamenting a dismally quiet household and no one to wake up with us on Christmas morning.  Although we are disappointed that our eldest can’t make it home this year with our only grandchild, we will have our youngest and her husband here for the holidays.

With all of the ornaments laid out on the kitchen table this year, I made a decision.  I was going to split them and ship them!  I painstakingly and with absolute fairness, separated them into two large flat rate postal boxes.  I wrapped them using bubble wrap and tissue paper and one Christmas dish towel (a little extra). One of the boxes is on it’s way to Louisiana while the other heads for Texas.  Why, you might ask?  Well, I decided I had a couple of choices.  I could hoard them all and continue to have the same old tree year after year, or I could send them each a little piece of home, while also helping these young couples build up their Christmas decoration stock.  Why keep them until I’m old and grey? (wait, I’m already grey without color every six weeks) – anyway, I figured I would let them enjoy them and have memories of home hanging from their trees.

What was in it for me?  To be honest, as I packed all the cute, kiddie looking ornaments, I was dreaming of a tree similar to one I’d encountered on Pinterest, with a woodland animal theme.  You might think I’m not sentimental enough and that I should be pining for the ornament that a 6yr old made in art class.  Well, I did keep a couple that were made by their own little hands.  However, not for my tree; just for the memory.  I much prefer the memories of spending time with them and our conversations and laughter to things.

I marched right to Kohl’s the following day where I had already eyed the ornaments I liked and filled up a basket with owls, foxes, cardinals and others that would match my theme; Then it was off to Target and then Family Christian Store for more tree decorations.  I turned on Christmas carols, turned down the A.C. (yes, good old south FL weather) and began.  A couple hours later I stepped back, pleased and beamed when my husband said it was beautiful.

As families grow and change, a new tradition or a new twist on an old tradition helps to move us forward.  I have beautiful memories with my children decorating and them picking out an ornament every year, but they don’t live here anymore and this tree makes me happy.  It let me pour out some creativity and refresh an old theme.  We can’t dwell on the past and the way things were.  Things and people change and we can’t allow ourselves to get bogged down in the yesterdays and how things used to be.  We grow, people pass on, family members move, more members are added.

If you find yourself in a new season in life, make a change, do something different, something new and enjoy it!

I am reminded of a similar post called “Gone are the matching bows” that I wrote at a different time in my life last year about Christmas trees and letting them be for the children; you can click on the link below to check it out.

https://longwalksanddarkchocolate.com/2012/11/28/gone-are-the-matching-bows/

 

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Christmas threads

SONY DSC“Ma’am, may I ask you a question?”  The persistent young lady clutching a tube of sea salt, something or other, actually matched my steps for a few seconds as I hurried past the mid-mall vendor.  After my “no thank you” didn’t faze her tenacity, I tried “No thank, you I’m not interested” in a more serious tone.  When that also failed to weaken her resolve, I decided to just pick up my pace and ignore her.  She was intent on making a sale but I was determined to escape.

Moments later, I settled into a seat with my lunch to take a break and re-group.  I found myself feeling angry.  Why should my leisurely trip to the mall be interrupted by an incident that left me feeling like I’d done something wrong?  I don’t like to use my firm tone of voice and I certainly don’t like to ignore people.  My day begins with a prayer to show love to others, not return rudeness.

Determined not to lose my joy, I let it go, adamant in my desire to shine a little brighter for the remainder of my day.

I begin to recall memories of Christmas shopping in this very mall with my mom, my husband, my mother in law, my girls and many friends.  Some of them are no longer here, but I can meander through the memories and find the moments and share them again.

The heart of Christmas for me lies in my Christian roots; the reality of the gift given to the entire world on that Christmas long ago.  When we celebrate Christmas, it’s based on that love and although December can be hurried and harried, that is where the focus must remain.

As I began to look around a few stops later, I noticed the exuberant face of a little boy as he carefully selected ornaments with his mother.  She spoke softly to him, love and tenderness in her voice.  They were both young and creating “moments” together to be cherished for years to come.

I rounded the aisle and saw what appeared to be a family, according to their similarities in look.  There was an elderly woman in a wheelchair, being pushed by a younger woman, who could have been her daughter.  I paused to let them pass and they smiled in thanks.  Directly in pursuit of them was a younger woman, who was very noticeably pregnant.  I wondered if I was perhaps looking at four generations (one still in the oven).  They made me smile as they laughed and joked about who was “bringing up the rear”, obviously enjoying each other immensely.

We have to remember during all the hustle and bustle of the season to cherish one another and to savor moments and make memories.  Every moment, every event, be it large or small is like a thread, which when woven together with love, create a beautiful garment of memories, that can be thrown around our shoulders to embrace and comfort us time and time again.

And that reminds me of the comforting love of the Father – Have a blessed day and cherish those moments!

One of those days

Okay, time to humiliate myself again in front of all my blog followers.

Do you ever have those days?  You know….the ones where you wonder where you left your brain?   I prefer to think that mine is just so full of great information, that it can’t possibly process anything more.

We won’t even go into work today and how wonderful that went.  We’ll just begin this little story right after I got off.  We also will not discuss the interminable phone call with Verizon or the barking dogs.

First, although I am loathe to admit it, I had to take down the Christmas tree today (yes, it is artificial) and pack up the decorations that have been sitting on a table for two weeks now.  This is so unlike me.  Usually that stuff disappears by January 2nd at the latest.  I will blame it on the traveling, and the strep and all the other little things that got in the way.

So today was the day.  I meant it would get done today or else (or else what, I don’t know?  Don’t you find that expression strange?).  I got started and was immediately on a roll.  I was packing up the decorations while my daughter cooked dinner.  She made a meatloaf and was peeling potatoes and we were listening to music and enjoying our conversation.

In my haste to complete this detestable task, I was snatching ornaments off right and left and dropped one of the most expensive ones and it broke into a million (well, more like 5) pieces.  This irritated me, but was grateful that I didn’t even cut myself.

About that time I go into the kitchen to check on things with Morgan and she is mixing the potatoes with the blender and she asked me to check on the meatloaf.  I pulled it out of the oven, poured some ketchup on top, and intended to put it right back in the oven.  My husband had also walked in and was watching and waiting, in anticipation of a tasty dinner.  I went to open the oven door and I have no idea what happened next except that the meatloaf pan went flying out of my hands, the hot grease in the bottom of the double layer pan flew in Morgan’s direction.  She was hit with some of the grease and frightened at the same time and the blenders went flying slinging mashed potatoes everywhere.

I did have the sense to reach up and snatch the plug out of the blender.  Then, I checked on Morgan, and made her go rinse her foot where she sustained the worst of it.  I salvaged enough meatloaf for dinner (barely) as there was some that didn’t hit the floor.  Then, I had to mop the floor, clean the cabinets and wash the rugs.

Finally we ended up eating a delicious dinner of meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas.  I’m very thankful that Morgan is okay and I realize that this could have been much worse.  And, I am earnestly ready to call it a night and not touch anything else breakable or potentially injurious to anyone.  I think my brain needs a break and so does everyone around me!

Oh, and this was supposed to be posted last night, but my internet quit working about the time I was ready to post…whew, what a day!

Gone are the matching bows

Ribbons'n'Bows

Ribbons’n’Bows (Photo credit: starryeyez024)

I remember years ago, the day after Thanksgiving was the day for putting up my perfect tree.  There would be matching ornaments, bows, ribbons, tree skirt, you name it and it was beautiful.  I was extremely proud and looked forward to all the compliments I would receive on my fabulous tree.

I don’t remember what year it was exactly when my mother in law passed on some words of wisdom. Just FYI, she is a good mother in law and I love her very much.  She has provided me with wonderful advice many times over the years.  She told me that the Christmas tree should be filled with decorations that children would enjoy.  I don’t remember her exact words, but she let me know that she would prefer my tree be covered in whimsical, frivolous, not necessarily matching ornaments AND the kids should help do the decorating.  This was monumental for me; this was my thing and surely they would mess it up.  If my memory is correct, I heeded her recommendation that very year.  When the time came for the kids and I to decorate the tree, I had to bite my lip to refrain from telling them exactly where to put each decoration.  I’m sure I failed in that regard plenty of times and one of my kids will probably hasten to remind me of this. They are also aware that not all of their home made ornaments made it on the tree.  And, I know I still had issues with how the tinsel was applied.  It really does need to go on ONE strand at a time, you know?  But, all in all we enjoyed every minute of it and looked forward to doing it together.

Of course, as my mother in law already knew, the kids would enjoy this so much more and from then on every year I let them pick a few more.  Sometimes they would pick one to express their love of a favorite sport, or another interest, sometimes just because it was cute, but it was always fun to watch them choose.  I still have most of them and continue to use them, which is why my tree is now a mixture of old and new, pastels and brights, classic and trendy, childish and mature.  But, as a friend mentioned today when talking about her tree, there are memories with so many of them and memories of decorating with my girls.  Thank you, Nancy for your wisdom.  You are at least partially responsible for helping me mature from the selfish, silly girl I was in my twenties and for that, I am grateful.

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