Snow Days and Preparation – #10Thankful

Late Sunday evening and I’m finally sitting to think about my Ten Things of Thankful post.

That happens a lot lately. (OK, it happens all the time.) I start my posts early in the week, I plan to get in there on Friday evening, and then…life happens.

And I’m so very glad that it does.

I sometimes wonder if I’m too distracted to sit for a minute and focus on the moments and people that make me feel thankful each week. But it’s not distraction – it’s simply that I’m living my life and enjoying every last second of it. I am aware of the sense of thankfulness weaving and swirling its way through the moments of my days and taking its place in my heart.

I realized not long ago that what this means is that I’ve developed a mindset of gratitude and also of awareness. I don’t just go through the motions of my life; I live my life. That may be the greatest item of thanks there is for me.

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From a more practical perspective, I am quite thankful that I have several available leftover options for dinners this week. I have two choir rehearsals this week – both on Zilla’s karate nights, of course – which means dinner prep time is virtually non-existent. Dinner needs to be an absolute no-brainer and I’m prepared. I am also so glad that my family are willing consumers of leftovers and they never complain when a meal or a part of a meal shows up a second (or even third) night.

In these very cold days this week, I have been so thankful for a warm home, warm clothing, warm food on our plates, and plenty of fuzzy socks. I am painfully aware of those in the world, both near and far, who do not have enough of anything, no matter the season or temperature. I do my best to help where I can.

I have my week planned out and notes in my planner already. There is much to be accomplished this week, but having it all plotted gives me a sense of calm and control so I can wake up in the morning and hit the ground running. I just have to resist the urge to hit the snooze button and grab just five more minutes of snuggling before getting in gear…

Zilla was feeling a cold coming on today and asked for homemade chicken noodle soup for dinner and a batch of my “sick tea.” I love how aware of her self and her body she has become – not just about colds, but in general. She is growing into such an amazing person right before our eyes and it is exciting to behold. It is my hope and prayer that she continues to develop that gift of self-awareness in all things and use it to her best advantage. This weekend I witnessed again her beautiful and generous heart at work. I am blessed to know and to be mother to this child.

I am blessed with a wonderful husband and partner, too. We are a great team in all things from getting the chores and errands done to corralling three rotten cats to raising our daughter. I am grateful for all of the things we share as a couple and I am grateful for the things my Hub does for me every day, little things that mean a lot. He puts out my meds for me, he makes coffee, he makes sure we have the milk and creamer I like…and so much more. Those little things are huge.

While I still have a few tasks to accomplish this week and my house is far from picture-perfect, it is a place of love, warmth, respite, and joy.  I am happy here, even in the midst of a bit too much cat hair on the floors and a basket or two of laundry waiting to be put away. The chores will get done – they always do. We took advantage of the snowy day on Saturday and some empty hours on Sunday evening to simply rest, relax, and enjoy one another.  We read books, watched holiday movies and silly TV shows, did some decorating, and made some holiday plans and preparations.

Our hearts are ready.

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This Christmas

“This is going to be the best Christmas ever.”

This is what my daughter told me this weekend as we brought out our Christmas tree, shopped for some new strings of lights, and hung the ornaments on our tree.

We’ve been easing our way into our Christmas preparations. We like to take it slow, focusing on one thing at a time. While many people love decorating and shopping for Christmas over Thanksgiving weekend, we spend the entire weekend relaxing and enjoying time together, reflecting on the blessings in our life.

Not too long after that, though, we start to bring out our special Advent and Christmas books. We read every night, but we save these books for this time of the year. In the books of Christmas, we’ve read about the legend of the Candy Cane, the life of Saint Nicholas, and many more. We have books that range from short and sweet and silly to more serious and lovely and deeply meaningful. She loves them all. And I can’t wait to introduce her to some new-to-her classics this year. I think she’s ready.

We begin December concentrating on Advent, preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord at Christmas and she’s all over it. She helps find the Advent prayers to say as we light the candles each week. She insists that we bring out  our Nativity sets first – but no other decorations until later in the month. I don’t know how my eight year old child acquired such an appreciation for savoring each moment, each day, each individual joy, but she does and I am so glad to know her heart works that way.

Around this time of the month, we bring out the tree and start thinking about gifts for those we love. We’ve already gathered gifts for several donation collections and she has about three more she wants to help. She was bothered a bit that we didn’t take a food donation to church this morning – my fault, I forgot. How did my child gain such an awareness that there are others in need and that we are responsible for helping?

Her class worked on writing friendly letters in class over the last few weeks, adding a letter to Santa last week. Zilla finished hers this evening, asking only for two small things for herself. As she wrote, she asked my husband and me what “non-thing items” we would like for Christmas. I told her I’d like peace and happiness for my family, the Hub told her he would like the gift of time. She included those in her letter. I was floored. When did my little girl gain an appreciation for the gifts that money can’t buy?

We’re enjoying all the trappings of the season, things like hot chocolate and footed pajamas, warm slippers and cozy socks, candy canes and cookies, holiday movies and popcorn… And of course she is wound up and silly and taking full advantage of the slightly relaxed rules about weekend bedtimes and screen time and sweets, just like any other kid. But even in her silliness, there is balance, and it amazes me. Have I taught her these things? She teaches me always…

She gets it – all of it. She understands the fun and frolic and she understands the significance of this season in our faith narrative. She believes in Saint Nicholas and Santa Claus and in the gift of the Christ Child. She believes in what is right and good and that those things will always triumph. She believes in love.

My daughter believes this is going to be the best Christmas ever.

I believe she’s right.

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#10Thankful – Cycles and Seasons

If one thing is certain in life, it is cycles.

Seasons come and go, night turns surely to morning, and years pass more quickly than we might hope.

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It’s hard not to see this time of year as an end. It is the end of summer, the end of sleeping in and staying up late, the end of a distinct freedom that exists when nights are brief and days are long and rich. But summer’s end ushers in autumn’s beauty, a time of warm sensory splendor. The vibrant colors of the changing foliage, the crisp smell of apple cider and pumpkin spice everything, the quiet entrance of a slight nip in the evening air…all serve as not-so-subtle reminders that the passing of warmth brings a certain hurtling toward the dark and cold of winter.

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It’s hard not to see winter as bleak, and many people do so. We trade long, lazy days for long, drowsy nights. We swap the feel of hot sun for fuzzy sweaters on our skin. We bemoan the cold and hunker down to wait for spring. But why?

The older I get, the more I grow to appreciate the beauty in each season, to see that each season serves distinct purpose, whether in nature or in our lives. Winter nights may be long and cold, but morning will surely follow. Ice and snow may cover the ground, but soon will melt and ready the earth for new growth. Winter is a time for rest and renewal, a preparation for what comes next. The snows of winter blanket the earth, softening the landscape and smoothing the rough edges. Without winter to provide a period of rest, spring is perhaps less interesting. How can we appreciate light and warmth and renewal without understanding dark and cold and exhaustion?

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Just as the seasons flow surely one into another, our lives will always cycle through good times and bad. While it may be difficult to recall the feel of summer sun or the smell of springtime blooms, we can ride out the latent hours of winter secure in the knowledge that even though far away, the new season will eventually come. And no matter in which season we wait, it is imperative that we seek  what is good and beautiful about each season of life.

 

This summer, I have been so grateful for the gift of time. We spent time as a family doing all the proper things of a summer vacation. We enjoyed day trips and hikes and movies outside under the stars. We stayed up late, chased fireflies, watched sunsets, and slept until our bodies were satisfied. We enjoyed the fruits of the summer, both literally and figuratively. We enjoyed fresh produce and icy cool drinks, slogged through humidity before collapsing, relieved, into chilled indoor spaces. We played games and read books for hours, with little concern about the hour for meals or sleep.

We lived.

Now that summer is passing its torch to fall, I am grateful for a return to routine. Back to school means back to regular bedtimes and regular rising. Autumn means it is time to gear up for the season of harvest, of coming home, reaping the benefits of what we have sown. The fruits of the earth change with harvest time, but are no less enticing. Autumn brings a return to warm drinks, cozy blankets, and hot soup simmering on the stove. We will feel the sting of icy wind on our cheeks and breathe the cold, clean air. We will shield our eyes from the bright sun reflected on sparkling surfaces after a snowfall. There will be time to play games and read books for hours as the wind howls and the snow falls outside the windows.

And while we await spring, we will live.

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Six Sentence Stories – The Blizzard

“Sir, you can return when we re-open the warming shelter this evening.” She knew that he would not; turning him out into a blizzard was an act even the devil would find unthinkable.

He squared his shoulders, willing the lump in is throat and the tears behind his eyes not to betray him. “I understand.”

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TToT – The Never-Ending Cold

I still have a cold.

I think this must be the cold from hell, brought on by the unbelievably inconsistent weather here – unseasonably mild, then sub-zero wind chills, then up into the 30s, then down to the teens, then up to nearly 60 degrees, then a plummet to the 20s. No wonder my head is a mess.

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I’ve done all the home remedies – sick tea, my new favorite sick soup. Nothing is working so far – unless it’s all keeping it from getting worse, which I suppose can be Thankful #1 this week. How’s that for a silver lining?

Spring can come any time. Continue reading “TToT – The Never-Ending Cold”

TToT – The One With All The Excitement

This has been an exciting week.

And it’s not over yet, so I’m squeezing this in to make sure I make it to the TToT party before I’m off again. This one’s moving fast, friends, so hang on…

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My first-ever guest post over at Pat DiCesare’s blog went so well. I am thankful for the opportunity to participate and thankful for all of you who clicked over to read and comment. If you haven’t been there yet, please visit and take a look.

What’s next?

Continue reading “TToT – The One With All The Excitement”

TToT – Hang On for the Wild Ride of Change

Sometimes I have more emotions than I can handle.

This week has been a particularly emotional roller coaster ride, full of ups and downs. Just about the time I thought things were moving along well, BOOM! Life throws those twists and loops in when you least expect them.

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TToT – House-Warming

I am losing my patience with winter.

I know, I know. Everyone is tired of it and everyone is cold and nobody wants to hear anyone else complain anymore. I agree. We are house-bound today due to both weather and illness, so I turned to my good friend Thoreau for some help.

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Because if I watch one more Disney, Jr. show with my Daughter I’m going to lose my mind.

I grabbed my love-worn copy of Walden, a woolen shawl, and a hot cup of coffee. Knowing he will always tend toward an admiration of the beauty of nature, I prepared to see what Henry David had to say about winter. A lot – four chapters, to be precise. In my copy, that’s about 60 pages. I didn’t care to read 60 pages of it when the last 60 days have been more than enough. A couple of things caught my attention…

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TToT – We Are Christmas-a-fied!

Well, at least I am. And Kidzilla definitely is!

Hard to say how the Hub feels about the whole thing, given that he’s Jewish and all, but he certainly has done his fair share of tree-trimming with us and shelf elf duty and OUTDOOR LIGHT HANGING.

We have been quite busy Christmas-ing this week and getting Christmas-a-fied. Yes, that’s a thing, trust me. And because we’ve been so busy doing all the things, I suggested to Lizzi that surely the BoSR/SBoR includes a provision that says if you have so much good to be about doing on a weekend then you just have to live life and not write the post. Right? (I’m pretty sure those were actually my exact words, too.) Lizzi said perhaps, but reminded me that there is supposed to be dancing involved when petitioning the Guard Virgins.

I’m way too tired to dance for anyone after the busy few days we’ve had, so here comes my post…

Continue reading “TToT – We Are Christmas-a-fied!”

Winter Drab

Nearly all of the trees were bare now.

Bare Tree CropJust days ago, the world was alive with the vibrant hues of mid-Autumn. The sun set every branch aflame with its golden touch and the red, orange, yellow exploded everywhere.

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But now the trees stood naked before the glaring eye of winter chill, their branches stripped by last night’s cold, cruel wind. Those few that remained leaf-clad wore winter drab, just a few brown straggling threads clinging stubbornly, crying, “we won’t go!”

Through the Branches Crop

“It’s probably an omen,” she observed.

They had argued this morning. Again. And there was the argument last night.

“I hate listening to you argue.” The words rang painfully.

The rest of the drive looked much the same…brown after brown after brown and then gray. She wanted just one more fiery orange, just one more red. None. She turned to go inside, away from the drab slicing wind.

Field Crop

The sun polished the leaves of the holly bush.

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Two Shoes Tuesdsay