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.

Twist it again, Nana

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Staring at the shiny orb filled with snowmen sporting colorful hats and scarves and painted on smiles Ayda exclaimed, “Nana, make the music play again!”  She sat there balancing on her knees, fascinated by We Wish You a Merry Christmas accompanied by the make believe snow settling down around the frozen friends.

I handed her another one, and with a few quick twists, we heard the strains of Silent Night as glittering snow fell upon the scene of Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus. I admonished her to be very gentle with this one, as it is Nana’s favorite.

As she flittered from one decoration to another, I thought about the beautiful snow globes and how they present a moment in time so beautifully. Thoughtfully, I began to imagine the really special moments of my life, captured as a scene in a snow globe. Pictures of memories flooded my mind as I began to take a stroll down memory lane.

But wait! This wasn’t the time to get caught up in the past; I needed to enjoy the right now with this precious angel beside me. Then, lo and behold, I visualized a scene with a little girl sitting up on her knees holding a snow globe, looking up lovingly at her Nana with her brown eyes sparkling with the joy of Christmas.

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.

Turkey Troubles

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I wrote this a couple of years ago and I hope I have not misrepresented all the turkeys out there!

IF I WERE A TURKEY
If I were a turkey I’d start training in April
to keep from becoming a Thanksgiving staple
In May you would catch me honing my skill
on how to avoid those missiles that kill
There’d be classes on dodging a sharpshooter’s aim
and how to outrun those arrows that maim
In June I would learn how to camo my feathers
and to quickly blend in no matter terrain or weather
In July and August under hot scorching sun,
the training would continue, none of it fun.
In September things would get really hard
this is the month I am banned from the yard
Any fat has to go, that fact remains,
No more picking at insects or gorging on grains.
October would bring full starvation mode for me
I can’t afford to look at all healthy you see
When the dreaded month arrives, if I’ve escaped the fate of many,
you would think I could relax and enjoy and eat plenty
But no! December looms as dark as the winter,
and there are some who would have me for their Christmas dinner.
So still I’ll lie low and eat less than I desire,
to keep myself, another year from of the fire.
In January I will gobble and let down my guard
and enjoy my dinner and prance through the yard.

Written By:  Lisa

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twinkle

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Twinkle.”

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Wish I may, wish I might

Does anyone remember the Sears Christmas Wish Book?  It hadn’t crossed my mind in years until last night.  As I was watching a Christmas movie, I saw an advertisement for Toys R Us and as grandmothers do at this time of year, I paid attention.  I spent some time with my granddaughter recently and she was showing me her collection of Shopkins and telling me that I could get them at Toys R Us.  They are miniature versions of items you would buy in a grocery store and they come in little shopping baskets.  She likes to collect them and believe you me, she knows if “cupcake queen” or “toof the toothbrush” is missing.

So, the commercial caught my attention because I wondered if Shopkins might be on sale.  I didn’t see anything about the little grocery toys, but I did notice a nice big, shiny toy catalog in the ad.

This took me back in time to the late 60s and early 70s when the arrival of the Wish Book was a big deal in our house.  We picked it up at the post office and tore the brown paper off with excitement.  By the time Christmas rolled around, it had given us hours of perusing and wishing and hoping, and it was missing pages, and tattered and torn.  We would lie on the floor on our tummies, on the rusty orange shag carpet and hover around it circling things.  We would put big bold stars on the really important stuff so that Mom would get the hint.  Our cousins would visit and we would drag it out and explore once again with them.

My brother and sister were huge fans of the Johnny West action figures so those got circled, I’m sure.  They amassed quite the collection; there was Johnny West and his trusty horse, Thunderbolt, Jane West and Flame, Josie West, General Custer, and Geronimo.  The horses came with saddles, canteens and blankets and the action figures came with camping equipment and vests, kerchiefs, hats and all sorts of changeable western gear.  They would play with them for hours and I am sure Mom thought she got her money’s worth.

Photo found on pinterest

Photo found on pinterest

The three of us circled and starred baby dolls, Barbie’s Dream House, Snow cone Maker, Walkie talkies, Spirograph, lite-brite, hot wheels, View Master, Easy Bake Oven, Holly Hobbie, books, games, Love’s Baby Soft perfume, Evil Knievel, Stretch Armstrong, and Tonka Trucks.

I don’t quite remember when I lost interest in the catalog, but I suspect it’s when we started going to the mall more often.  Instead of wishing and dreaming, everything was right before my eyes, and I could touch it and test it.

When I reminisce though, I am thankful for those times snuggled close to my sister and brother, even if we did argue about who saw it first and who was really old enough to have it.  I am thankful our wish list came from a book with real pages that we could turn together.  The Amazon Wish List is great and I used it last year for one of my daughters gifts, but I would have much rather snuggled up with her on the couch and looked through the Wish Book together, circling and making big bold stars.

Pieces that fit just right

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The Prompt:  What is your favorite holiday memory?

My favorite holidays are definitely Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I have so many glorious memories!    As I was trying to remember my favorite holiday memory, I searched the recesses of my brain for that favorite gift or that one special memory, but to place one above another just doesn’t seem right.

The memories all fit together like pieces of one big jigsaw puzzle.  One piece brings me to another and without some, others wouldn’t have fit.  They are all different, yet together they create a beautiful picture.  Some lay the framework so that all the pieces in the middle will have a nice snug border.  Some are in muted tones and others share vibrant colors.

I have memories from early childhood of opening that easy bake oven on Christmas and feeling like the whole world had been handed to me on a silver platter.  A few years later, that Ultima 2 makeup set would rock my world.  Somewhere between teenage years and adulthood, the giving became more fun than the getting and it was about finding that special something. With my own children came teaching them the true meaning of Christmas and baking together and surprising them with that one thing they just had to have.

Thanksgiving always reminds me of cooking with my Mom, with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade playing in the background.  After losing her, I had to learn to cook from her recipes and carry on the family traditions.  Sharing the food and fellowship at Thanksgiving has always warmed my heart and the season reminds me more than ever of how much I have to be thankful for.

We are truly blessed and I am grateful for each and every memory and looking forward to making more in a few short weeks.

Cookies, lists and common sense

Chocolate peppermint cookies

Chocolate peppermint cookies

Today has been a beautiful day in Southwest Florida but I have spent almost all of it inside, with the air conditioner cranked up and Christmas carols on.  I spent the day baking and making fudge, then allowed myself to take the time to deliver some to an elderly couple I haven’t seen in a while.  My first thought was, “I’ll quickly drop it off, so I can deliver others and get back home”.  Then, I thought about it some more and said to myself, “No, you will stop and breathe and relax and visit with them because you never take the time to do that anymore”.

I made up my mind that the days preceding Christmas were not going to be stressful this year, and that I would approach it differently .  Instead of having unending lists and must-dos because I have to, I decided to take it one day at a time, to do what I can and if something doesn’t get done, so what? Seriously, what’s going to happen if I don’t have all the shopping done by December 20th or I forget to buy all the ingredients for mom’s red velvet cake?  Nothing, that’s what.

If I forgot to make half of what I’m responsible for, our family would still have enough food left over to feed another family for a week.  And, if lo and behold that one gift I ordered online for my youngest doesn’t come in?  Well, then she will live and have a nice surprise a few days late.

I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to all step back and think about WHY we do some of the things we do.  Sometimes it seems we’re like hamsters stuck on the treadmill, running ourselves ragged, without accomplishing much.  Although I love traditions, if they become rote robotic type activities, they lose their significance and might as well be abolished.  What if you just make up a brand new tradition that fits your family?

Yesterday, I went to town to do some of my shopping and had it on my list to pick up poinsettias because I have an empty vase sitting here.  I also had two more pages of neatly penned items to do.  However, when I noticed my stress level beginning to climb and felt my allergy ridden body begin to tire, I came home.  No poinsettias and the list is missing many check marks.  I don’t care.  No one even knows and wouldn’t know now if I weren’t telling.

That’s my point, I guess.  We put ourselves under so much pressure to achieve self-inflicted goals that serve to prove what?  That we are exhausted and snappy and stressed?

This attitude is quite the departure from the norm for me as I even say sometimes, “I thrive on chaos”, or “I work better under pressure”.  Don’t misunderstand, I believe in responsibility and I take my obligations very seriously.  The problem that I’ve always had to contend with is that I over extend myself and give myself way too many “imagined obligations”.

Thankfully, I’ve finally learned my family wants my love and attention more than anything.  When we grasp that, the things like baking are actually fun and relaxing.  I didn’t set a goal for how many cookies I had to bake and how many people had to receive theirs today…I just baked and danced around my kitchen singing Christmas carols and texted pictures of cookies to family members.  It was fun.  I’m having fun a few days before Christmas!

As I write this, there are presents to be wrapped and a craft project left abandoned.  I will get around to wrapping the presents, but the craft project can wait until next year.  My house is clean, decorated and smells like cookies and peppermint.  I think we will all live if I fail to make one more decoration, especially if that means I have more time to enjoy my family.

Merry Christmas!

“Memories are the treasures that we keep locked deep within the storehouse of our souls, to keep our hearts warm when we are lonely.”  Becky Aligada

Glimmer, don’t Gripe

christmas lights

christmas lights (Photo credit: harold.lloyd)

While we dream of a White Christmas, children in a dusty street dream of shoes to wear

While we stuff the turkey and then our bellies, many are digging through garbage for dinner

While we share enchanted kisses under the mistletoe, someone somewhere is suffering violence at the hands of a loved one

As we carefully wrap gifts in shiny paper a laid off dad unwraps an envelope containing a bill he can’t pay

As we go caroling and attend plays and parties, the old man down the street cries tears of loneliness, feeling abandoned

While we fill our spare bedrooms and pull out couches with family and friends, a single mom and her children sleep in the street

And as we deck the halls and our homes with sparkling lights, many are searching for just a glimmer of hope

I write all this, not to upset anyone, or make anyone feel guilty for enjoying your Christmas and family.  ENJOY your family, really take the time to enjoy each and every one of them!  Look into their eyes when they are speaking, pay attention and show your love abundantly.  If you are among the blessed, be thankful for your blessings and don’t you dare complain!

Be the glimmer of hope for someone, whether you think they deserve your attention or not.  After all, when we think about the true meaning of Christmas, isn’t it about a gift of love we didn’t deserve?  Don’t let anyone on your street be hungry, hopeless or lonely this Christmas season.  If we all do that, think of what we would accomplish!

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