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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An Awareness of Smaller Moments – #10Thankful

I always think it’s interesting how – or when – certain moments strike my awareness.

I spent all weekend half-thinking about writing this TToT in the back of my mind, but never quite sat to do it. It’s not that I don’t have much for which I’m thankful, it’s that every time I tried to come up with a list or a theme, the grander ideas eluded me.

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But I did notice small items of gladness and gratitude here and there – just nothing that I could really spin into a larger, more profound thought. Sometimes life is really just about the little moments, though, not the profound ones. Sometimes it’s about simply being in the right place at the right time to become aware of these moments that matters and leads us to gratitude.

For example…

Right now I am very thankful that Cat Three opted to puke on the hardwood floor, rather than the carpet. It’s usually the carpet that gets hit. We have carpet in exactly two places in our house – the stairways – and somehow the cats always find their way to the carpet when they get sick. So while I’m not happy to be cleaning up cat yerf, I’m pretty glad it’s not a carpet job.

It is fall – finally and for real this time, I believe. I am never more at peace than during the autumn of the year. I saw a line go by somewhere over the weekend that sums it up for me. It’s a half-line, really, and taken quite out of context, but still it shows up all over the place at this time of year. “Are we not better and at home In dreamful Autumn…?” is the often-quoted snippet, but there’s much more to the poem (“Autumnal” by Ernest Dowson). I love how well that expresses my feelings about this time of year, but am also glad it sent me digging for some long-forgotten words of poetry to enjoy again.

Through the Branches Crop

I have a friend (actually more than one, now that I think about it_ who is having a tough time with some things right now. I can’t begin to ease the pain in this person’s life. I can’t find words that will comfort that won’t sound completely trite. But I can stay in touch, ask how things are, lend an ear, send a card…small gestures to say the least, but I know that they matter. So that’s something.

I’m bursting at the seams this morning over Zilla’s successes of late. She’s working hard, putting tools and strategies to use, and seeing very positive results. She revels in her successes and feels confident about herself – and it shows. This morning we discovered an unfinished homework assignment that a year ago would have been a huge setback for the rest of the day. Today? I saw so much resilience in her and it made me so happy. She accepted responsibility, handled it, and marched into school with the work finished. No meltdown. No upset. No kidding.

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I was struck the other night by just how wise my Husband is. I can’t quite remember what the discussion was, but he offered such calm and rational wisdom that I couldn’t help but see things more clearly after the conversation. He grounds me and reminds me to keep my eye on the big picture, and not over-focus on minute details. On the flip side, though, sometimes when I get overwhelmed it’s because I’m worried too much about the big picture. In those moments he reminds me that the way to get it done is to focus on one thing at a time. Why he’s so much better at sorting out which approach is the right one, I’ll never tell you. It’s just one of the mysteries of our relationship that I’ve come to accept and treasure.

I’m delighted to have a huge pile of books that I’m working my way through right now – some lovely fall reads, some new books by friends and acquaintances, some old favorites. I’m also glad to be able to make time to sit and enjoy them, even if I’m not getting through them as quickly as I’d like.

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I’m happy to have a plan right now. I’ve been working on some projects – slowly and distractedly without a doubt, but nonetheless surely – and after quite a few days of thinking, I believe I have a good plan in mind to really make some progress. More on that as we move forward, I suppose.

And at this very second I’m very grateful for alarm clocks that tell me it’s time to move to the next task of my day. So, friends, I’m out of here for now. I don’t have a link-up thing to share this week, but drop your TToT (or other post) link in the comments and I’ll get around to visit.

Have a wonderful week!

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Building a Legacy – #10Thankful

Legacy.

So often, when we think of the word legacy, we end up at the definition about what property is left behind in a will or a particular online obituary site. Honestly, though, neither of those are where my mind goes first.

When I think of a legacy, I think of the more abstract, intangible gifts from our loved ones that stay with us long after they have left us. Rather than washing away like footprints on sand, though, there is something permanent that remains.

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I can think of many people who have passed from this life and what they have left behind. Most of these legacies are beautiful and positive; others less so. But in every case – whether positive or not – what remains is lasting and most definitely shapes the lives and the realities of those who follow after them.

When I think about all that I have collected from the ones before me, I think about how each of these gifts – each of these people – is part of me. I carry bits and pieces of my ancestors with me through every step of my life. And so I often wonder just what I will leave behind for my daughter and others who will follow me…

I have been given a legacy of great love several times over. I know what it means to be loved and cared for. I know that love is shown in many different ways. It is my hope that from these examples I have learned how to love and that I communicate that love to the people who need to know. I want my child to know she is loved and to know how to express her love for others.

I benefit so often from the gift of true wisdom, earned through lifetimes of trial and error, sadness and joy. I try to see all things in life as opportunities for learning and to perhaps gain some wisdom of my own from my personal experiences. I hope to pass on to my daughter any wisdom I might gain so that she may benefit from it as I have.

I have been passed a love for things like reading, music, and cooking by so many people. My interests, passions, and talents are my own, but I see them as a reflection of those same things in others who have gone before me. I am grateful to have been exposed to these things and share my love for them with my own child. I loved hearing stories read to me and I read to her so that one day she might read to her own children. I learned how to cook from my relatives and love having my daughter at my side in the kitchen learning how to do the same. I hear my mother’s instructions come from my own lips as I explain to my daughter what to put into tuna salad or how to prepare garlic bread.

I have also been left a legacy of uncertainty and doubt – one that is difficult to bear sometimes. Too often in life, there are words left unspoken and feelings left unexpressed, even if we might desire to do so. In some cases, we do run out of time and these situations are left unresolved. I endeavor to say what needs to be said to those I love now so they never have to wonder.

There are many more things I could list here, and there will still be many more to add as the years pass and loved ones move in and out of my life. I cannot possibly know what else will be gifted to me before my own days on earth are through. I am grateful for each and every piece of who I am that has been passed to me so far and for all those yet to come…

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But what I do know is that in each of my days, in every moment, I am building a legacy of my own to pass on. I do not yet know what it will include or whether it will be great. I suppose that is for those on the receiving end to determine.

I do know that whatever my legacy turns out to be, it will reside in those who come behind me just as the legacies left to me have been passed through generation after generation, growing into what I carry within me today. It is my hope and prayer that at the very least, those who follow me will say I left a legacy of living and loving well.

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In addition to being a Ten Things of Thankful entry, this week’s post is also a Finish the Sentence Friday post.

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This week’s sentence was “I want my legacy to be…”

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Forgotten

I’ve forgotten how closely she watches me.

Sometimes it’s difficult to remember when she’s engrossed in a book or staring at a movie. It’s difficult to remember when she’s hunched over her Legos, brows furrowed as she figures out the best combination of bricks to make the structure she sees in her mind take shape in this world. It’s difficult to remember when she’s determined to do things her own way, in her own time.

But every now and then life provides us the jolt we don’t know we need. For me, it came the day my daughter padded into the bathroom where I was getting ready and stepped on the scale.

I was stunned.

Why does my eight year-old care what she weighs? Why does she think this is something she needs to know? And then I remembered – I step on the scale every day. It never crossed my mind that she watches me do it, deciding this something we do.

There’s nothing wrong with checking your weight, of course. But I had to stop and consider whether all points of this scenario are in balance. Are the messages I’m sending about health and food and weight management and body image the ones I want my daughter to learn?

It came again when she handed me a tiny yellow note with a picture of herself crying – crying – and a caption that clearly communicated her feelings. She was feeling unloved.

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I was horrified.

What kind of mother am I? How can this girl who is the very air I breathe not know how deeply and completely I love her. How could she possibly feel like this?

It was a bad evening, truth be told. We had a nasty meltdown – both of us – over a homework assignment. It was the perfect shitstorm of all the things we both are and do colliding to create a perfectly awful situation. I knew I had to step away because we weren’t getting anywhere positive, so I sent myself to my room, leaving her and her homework in the more rational care of her father.

It was a short time later in my darkened room that she delivered the note. I called her to me immediately and asked her to explain, prepared to tell her she was over-reacting, seeing things through an over-dramatic lens. My daughter looked me in the eye and told me her truth – things I have said and done that hurt her, made her feel unloved.

“Get out of my aura, Zilla.”

“I’m just not interested in this, Zilla.”

“I have work to do, Zilla.”

My own words lept from her lips to my ears.

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I was crushed.

Not one of those words was spoken with malice, but I had to admit I remembered saying them. Hearing my own words leap back at me from her lips, though, I realized she was right. Those were not words of love. It is easy to forget that the words we say are not always heard the way they sound in our head. Sarcasm sounds mean. Lightness is mistaken for gravity. I have to remember that what may seem innocuous is given much weight by my very literal eight year old child. Because she watches me.

And I have to remember that not only does she watch me do things like step on a scale, but she also watches how I admit a wrong and how I handle an apology. She watches how I deal with adversity and success. She watches how I treat the cashier at the supermarket or the annoying driver in the car ahead of me. She watches how I argue with my husband and how I parent.  She watches me seek the best balance between personal needs, work, and family. She watches whether or not I look at my phone during dinner. She will watch how I face life’s milestones, how I grow older, how I face death.

At every moment, she will watch. She will learn how to live and love and be.

And she will remember.

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This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “The things I’ve forgotten…”

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Our host this week, as always, is the lovely and talented Kristi Campbell from Finding Ninee and our sentence starter comes from Hillary Savoie of HillarySavoie.com.

The Fallow Period

Words do not always come easily.

Precious few words found their way to this space over the last several months – a mere dozen posts since the first of June, and none of them in August. It’s been a strange and wonderful period in which my mind has been filled with words and ideas, but my published page has remained empty.

As I look back over the last few months, I realize it’s a period I can only describe as fallow.

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A fallow field is plowed and harrowed, but left unsown. Since ancient times, farmers have utilized the practice of leaving fields fallow in order to improve the quality of the soil and allow for rejuvenation. Doing so results in more fertile soil and, it would logically (and hopefully) follow, healthier and more abundant crops.

I wonder if this process is also true for the creative imagination. Think about it. The term fallow is often used to describe a long period of time in which a writer, musician, or artist produces no new work. It is a period during which very little happens – or in which little seems to happen. But progress is not always marked by tangible or visible means. Perhaps allowing creative energies time to lie fallow may produce similar benefits – rejuvenation, fertility, and abundance. And just as the farmer makes a conscious choice to leave a field uncultivated, the choice to allow a period of creative rest should be no accident. It must be an act of will, an intentional short-term investment in order to yield long-term benefits. There may appear to be no activity, but beneath the surface there is work being done.

It has been a while since I have shared my words with anyone other than my Self. Rather than fear this period of inactivity, though, I have welcomed it. Rather than see it as a sure sign of failure, I believe it is a sure sign of great things to come. Even more than a period of rest for my mind, it has been a period of silent and unseen cultivation for my heart and spirit as well.

I look forward to sharing the fruits of this unseen labor with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#10Thankful – A Heavy Heart

It has been a week of such sadness.

I’m sure most of you know of the terribly sad and tragic headlines that have filled our news feeds this week. My heart is also heavy for people in my life who are grieving the loss of family and beloved companions, people who are struggling with illness, emotional and physical pain, financial difficulty, and so much more. There are so many hearts out there in need and lately it seems that there is far too much hurt to be helped.

I’ve started my list of thankfuls at least ten times over the last few days, and each time I sit in front of it, it seems…something. Trivial? Wrong? I don’t know. None of those is either true or fair, really. We are not wrong to be thankful for the blessings in our lives, yet many of us find ourselves thinking that somehow we should not be celebrating when so many are hurting. I know I’m not alone in this; a few friends have shared similar feelings. It’s more than OK to go on, to live, to continue putting foot in front of foot as we make our way through each day set before us. And yet, somehow, things like weight losses and spiralized vegetable noodles and replacement mobile phones seem…trivial. Wrong.

I’m dancing dangerously close to the deadline to add my list to the link-up for this week, so unless I’m planning to just opt out because I couldn’t figure myself out, I need to make a little haste here. I would rather get a few short things down and acknowledge them here than give up. Love wins. Goodness wins. I do believe that with all my heart, no matter how much evil floods my news feed. I refuse to believe that there is no good, no joy, no blessing in life. I’m not blind to what’s happening. I’m not ignorant of the problems in the world. I know. We all know.

I also know that light and cool meals made with spiralized veggies are perfect on a hot summer evening.

I know that reaching any goal is better when you have friends to encourage you.

I know that I am so very glad to have the opportunity right now to live my life in a manner that allows me to spend time with my daughter and my husband and do the work I love from the peace and comfort of my home.

I know that I am glad when we check projects off our to-do list.

I know that I am happy when our Cat One feels better after a bout of his tummy troubles. And I am definitely glad when his tummy troubles don’t land on the new carpet.

I know that losing a cell phone down a composting toilet shaft is definitely not the end of the world, just a relatively minor inconvenience to replace contact info and the phone itself. I do have to admit being very sad for the loss of some very special photos that had not yet been transferred to my computer. That bugged me. But they’re photos, not the actual people in them. Everyone is alive and safe and I know I will always hold those memories in my mind and my heart.

I know that I am grateful for my Husband’s patient ear when I need to talk and cry a bit.

I know that tears are wonderful, powerful things. And I know that crying helps and is necessary sometimes.

I know the same is true of writing – at least for me. It is a wonderful, powerful endeavor, even if the words never see anyone’s eyes but mine. It helps and it is necessary sometimes.

I know that the world is not all bad all of the time. If the world were good and perfect all the time, well, it wouldn’t be this world, now would it? It would be something else entirely. I know that love wins and eventually, somehow, some way, good does triumph over evil. We just have to keep working on improving our selves, our lives, our world, one little bit at a time.

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Choose Happiness – A #1000Speak Post

What makes you happy?

No, it’s not a trick question. I’m serious. Sit down. Close your eyes and think about it for a few minutes.

Now, answer the question: What makes you happy?

 

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The answer, of course, will differ for everyone. The things, experiences, even people that bring us joy are as varied as we are. Maybe you said your family or friends make you happy. Maybe it’s seeing your grandchildren’s faces on the computer screen when you Skype with them. Maybe you said ice cream makes you happy or a walk on the beach or shopping or your dog. Maybe you said that kindness and compassion make you happy. Maybe it’s the smell of cookies baking or your Grandmother’s pot roast on a Sunday afternoon.

No matter what your answer, it’s a good one.

Let’s keep going. I’m out on a limb here, but my suspicion is that you – like most people – listed outside sources for your happiness. Am I right? But did you think of anything within yourself or anything about yourself that makes you happy?

Continue reading “Choose Happiness – A #1000Speak Post”

Be Careful What You Wish For

What would you change if you knew how your life would unfold?

Would you eat healthier? Exercise more? Would you take better care of your teeth? Maybe you would get up the nerve to ask out the cute guy in your French class. Or maybe you would wisely say “no” when the cute guy at the gym asked you. I definitely wish five year-old me would have known how much adult me would love taking naps. Children do not appreciate the delicious respite a nap provides.

 

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If you knew that you would experience sadness or loss, would you wish to escape them? If you knew you would suffer hardship or heartbreak, would you wish that away?  If you knew ahead of time what your life would be right now, would you wish for anything else?

Every now and then I wonder what else in my life would have been good to know ahead of time, besides the nap thing. My Mom always says, “Be careful what you wish for – you just might get it.” So if I wished that I had known things ahead of time, would I use that knowledge to change the course of my life? And if my life turned out differently, would I be happy with the result?

Continue reading “Be Careful What You Wish For”

TToT – Catching Up, Transitions, and Change

I can’t help but think lately that life is a constant string of transitions.

We spend most of our lives moving from one phase to another: from youth to adulthood, from school to work, from one relationship to another, from one job to another…our movement is constant and sure. That’s not to say that we don’t enjoy each phase as we live through it. But eventually, we have to pick up and move on. We cannot stay in one place forever – at least not if we intend to grow and develop as human beings. Standing water only becomes stagnant and the path not traveled is a lonely one indeed.

 

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These transitions often seem to crop up just when we’ve gotten comfortable where we are. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it’s best if we don’t let life catch up to us for too long. Maybe it’s best if transition and change happen before we’re quite ready to move on. I have a mug here on my desk that tells me “Life begins outside your comfort zone.” Maybe it does. If we aren’t prompted to move along through life, it is much to easy to settle into the right now and see it as a final destination, rather than a stop along the journey.

And life really must be a journey.  Continue reading “TToT – Catching Up, Transitions, and Change”

TToT – To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Oh, I need to sleep.

But fear not, friends. Unlike our friend Hamlet who contemplates suicide with those words in my title, I have no such morbid thoughts of ending my time here on this earth. Hamlet was a messed up dude. I’m just really tired and will take my leave here to enjoy an afternoon nap as soon as I bang out this list of thankfulness (which I will do this week with possibly the least amount of verbal grace and skill you’ve ever read).

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So I’m here on Sunday afternoon, late to the party, but getting my TToT in quick. Here we go.

I am thankful for… Continue reading “TToT – To Sleep, Perchance to Dream”