It’s that time of year…

(Note:  I have hesitated in posting this, because I am not looking for charity or a hand-out for Christmas. Please do not misinterpret this post. Thank you.)

We’ve had some experiences this year that have stretched our budget beyond normal borders–and yet, I don’t feel a sense of suffering this time of year. (I have, however, been bothered with seemingly unending emails for Black Friday and Cyber Monday and posts on websites for giveaways and contests to win a certain amount of PayPal or gift card cash because, as one boasted this week, “Who couldn’t use an extra $500 this time of year?”). What???

If those who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, or anything else this time of year are focused on cash, spending, getting, and receiving, isn’t something missing? Aren’t several things missing? (Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for a good deal, for living within means, and for smart spending–but this is getting ridiculous.)

Last week, as a family, we decided to draw names so each person in our home could give and receive a little something to celebrate Christmas.  As we spoke, we talked about the many blessings we have received this year, among them the gift of life for a child who might have died and the gift of sight for a husband and father who might have otherwise been blind. Our finances have stretched to pay for such services, and we are grateful for the ability to do so. And, while I will not find myself in a typical posture shopping on Amazon or reading reviews about the best winter boots or Lego sets, I am at peace.

Let me reiterate: I am at peace. Without the shopping, spending, stress of wondering and waiting to see if I got the “just right” present. All of that has been eliminated. And I’ve made room for other things I enjoy about the holidays–like singing. I will be singing tomorrow at a Christmas brunch and in a choir for Christmas services–and I will attend concerts for my children. And we will bake–sugar cookies (if I can find my cookie cutters) and other treats and dip chocolate pretzels and peanut butter balls.

And maybe, just maybe, this will be our best Christmas yet.

 

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It’s that time of year… (Flashback Friday)

Here is a post I wrote several weeks ago and neglected to publish then…so, as a Flashback Friday post, here it is!

No, Christmas isn’t here yet (though the retail market has been gearing up for Halloween since August…and I am certain that Christmas decoration sales are fast approaching)…it’s time for an annual office visit that I find terribly perplexing. So perplexing, in fact, that I’ve been singing these words to the tune of LL Cool J’s “Going Back to Cali” while loading the dishwasher this morning:

(In case you forgot the tune, you can listen here. DISCLAIMER: I wouldn’t let my children watch this video–and I won’t watch it again. It’s definitely not Miley Cyrus at the VMA awards, but it still isn’t really appropriate…FYI. If I were you, I’d minimize the video and just take a little listen.)

I’m going to the Gyn-o
Gyn-o
Gyn-o
I’m going to the Gyn-o
No, I don’t think so
🙂

Well, I did confirm my appointment last week…so from a monetary standpoint (and from a health-related standpoint), I probably should keep the appointment.

I am thinking this morning, as a distraction, though, that I will go into the experience as a writing exercise. I have been trying to approach each experience as possible research for writing, and that helps me find value in whatever I am doing when I might ordinarily focus on fear. (And, singing a parody of an old 90’s song helps a bit, too.) 🙂

So, I am off to my day…to face my fear (and the stirrups).

Wish me luck! 🙂

Thank…Whom?

A while ago, I was speaking to a woman of great influence in my life.  During the brief conversation, she asked me if I would be willing to write a letter of gratitude.

Sure, I thought.  How hard could that be?  I am blessed by many people who perform kind and generous acts toward my family and toward me personally.  I could just pick one individual and write the letter.  Actually, the most difficult part might be to find some stationary…(and don’t get me started on the lost art of writing letters…that post will have to wait for another day).

Then, she finished her thought (yes, I do sometimes interrupt conversation with my own thoughts) by saying, “to yourself.”

UGH.

A letter of gratitude…to myself?  Really?  What could I possibly thank myself for doing?  Keeping my cool when my kiddo punched me unintentionally the other day?  Cooking dinner?  Nah.  That’s just stuff that goes along with life, right?

Well, I let the thought sit in my brain for a while (haunt my brain, infect my mind, are you getting the picture?).  I didn’t know what I would write–and I had no stationary to speak of, anyway–but while I was writing in my journal a few days later, I decided that maybe I could do some “pre-writing” exercises for this letter…like, I could probably manage a few things I was thankful to myself for…maybe in bulleted form.  Sure.  I could start there.  At first, the bullets came slowly…but as I continued to think of positive aspects of my personality, talents I have worked to develop, and acts of kindness I perform, my list began to flow.

🙂

Along with a few other changes I’ve been making in my life related to positivity, exercise, outlook, and cultivating hope, I will say that writing a “letter” (list) of thanks to myself has allowed me a shift in perspective.  I am excited for the opportunity to look with gratitude toward the activities I accomplish and the work I am doing…and to recognize these aspects of my existence with thanks.

So, will you write a letter of gratitude to yourself? Will the task be an easy or challenging one for you? As I’m writing this, I’m wondering if I might extend this invitation to my family and see how they react to the assignment.

And, because you may find yourself in need of some musical inspiration, here’s Natalie Merchant with a couple of amazing songs this fine Friday! (Two versions of her “Kind and Generous” and one “These Are Days” with 10,000 Maniacs–enjoy!) 🙂

You Gotta Work

So, with a little music bopping around in my head, I have a tiny piece of wisdom to share this fine morning.

I thought I was being nice.

I thought I was being helpful.

You see, up until the last week or so, I have been doing a bunch for my kiddos. I was never one of those women who thought that kiddos should be without responsibility…our kiddos have their share of chores and babysitting and tidying…but I was definitely doing more than I needed to for them. Like, if they didn’t put the cereal away in the morning, and they were rushing out the door to meet the bus, I would put it away for them. Or, if I was having company and one of them didn’t put clothing (that I lovingly washed, sorted, and sorta folded for them) away, I would do it.

Yes, as I write this I am feeling a little slushy inside…like I’ve known for a while that they are old enough to pull more weight around here.

Well, this morning, in no uncertain terms, I (lovingly) explained that I have done much for them…and that I enjoy doing fun things for and with them (like baking goodies or making treats or playing games and hanging out together)…and that they needed to show more respect to me in return.

Guess what? They were up to the task! I was surprised and elated to see that, as they went about their work and responsibilities with little guidance from me, they stood a little taller. By helping them get to work, they felt the value each of us feels when we ACCOMPLISH. And, I have to say, accomplishment is a great feeling. 🙂 I’m guessing that when they feel accomplishment and begin to understand their value in our family, in society, and in the world, that their self-esteem will grow, as well.

If you have kiddos, and they could be stretched a little more…to do more…to be more…then I say boldly, “GO FOR IT!!!!” You might have to use your words.  You might have to get a little tougher skin.  You will absolutely have to do more than just “teach by example.”  But it will be worth it.  Teaching them the value of work will stay with them throughout their lives…and, I dare say that the value of work is lacking in this world.

So get to work!

Cleaning House

While mopping my lovely kitchen floor this morning, I was scrubbing away at crumbs of dark chocolate brownie imbedded into grout lines, wiping away dots of milk from yesterday’s cereal breakfast, and I found something.  Guess what it was…?!?!?!

A dot of paint.

No one has painted the house since we moved into it (and we’ve been here awhile).  So, as I was on the floor, scrubbing away on my hands and knees this morning, that particular spot of paint spoke to me.  I have washed this floor many times in the same manner, and I would’ve almost sworn that I had covered every inch of the beige, textured tile with my hands meticulously washing away dirt from former residents and new dirt of our own….

A dot of paint!

I missed a spot…with my eyes…with my hands.  Alas, I am not perfect at mopping the floor.

I’m not perfect at anything.  I don’t know how long that dot of paint has been there…but today it is gone.  And I thought about life….

…and how we all have spots and stains and imperfections and dots of paint in our lives.  For some of us, we may be struggling with honesty; others may worry.  Some of us live with fear, instability, lack of self-confidence, pride, loneliness…and any other multitude of issues we would like to change.  As I scrubbed that spot away, peeling back its stubborn stickiness from the tile, I felt free.  I felt amazing.  I felt confident that the floor was CLEAN, PURE, SPOTLESS.

As we take a look at our lives up-close and personally, we can “clean house” of the issues, stains, and weight we are carrying and become free from whatever feelings may be hampering our progress.  I’m going to continue to ponder today.  Will you join me?  I like this blogging world so much better when we are working together! 🙂

Sending hugs to all of you as you continue on this journey we call life.  And, because cleaning (and changing) often go better with a little music, here are some songs for your enjoyment… 🙂
From Enchanted…. (though the roaches still make me cringe!!!)


Snow White is classic….

And Tangled is all about a girl changing her life and looking for more light!

And speaking of light…sending all of you love and light on your journey! 🙂

Hit the Pavement!

So…last week I took a break from the wide world of exercise.  Prior to that week, I was getting in about 3 workouts/week (to help maintain muscle tone, lower stress levels, and keep up with the massive amounts of carbs I’ve been eating…and to claim all the happy heart benefits of exercising….).  Anyway, by Saturday, my stress level was…shall we say HIGH…and I was missing the fresh air and pavement under my feet.  So, I decided that I was–come what may–going to run.

I found my workout gear, running jacket, iPod headphones, and shoes.  I laced up both shoes, then sat for a moment to add some recently acquired music to my “a good run” playlist.  As I did, I felt something poking the inside of my right ankle.  I unlaced my shoes (have I mentioned that I abhor tying shoes and avoid this action whenever possible?) to investigate.  I pushed around my sock and flicked at the spot in my shoe until I was satisfied that the sharp object digging into my skin had exited.

I started a load of (long overdue) laundry.

I stretched.

I added a few more songs.

I took a sip of water.

Then, I popped the ear buds into my ears and searched for a song that would pump up my energy level and inspire me to keep moving muscles in a way I hadn’t done for…well, let’s just say it’s been awhile…. 🙂

Rob Bass started chanting in my ear (thank heavens my dear friend edited the song for me so I could listen to it in peace), and my feet were keeping up with the rhythm, pounding with the force of weekly frustrations and newfound strength.  I didn’t even care about keeping pace or running far; I just needed the boost of pavement beneath my feet and the spirit of the earth flowing around me.  I felt renewed, refreshed, and amazing.  The wind hit my face like a wall, but I kept moving.  A few more songs, and I was back home to lift, do push ups and abs.

The next morning, I got out of bed with shin splints.  Oops!  I guess I forgot to stretch those muscles!  Still, with every step I took, I was reminded of the rush of energy of my run and of the work I am doing to live healthy and to be strong.  The shin splints were practically a gift…and I was grateful for them.  🙂

What do you do to combat stress and to increase your personal health and strength?

P.S.  Did you know that Brooks (awesome running shoes) has a Wear Tester Program for their products?  You can fill out a profile, and you become eligible to try out their new gear for FREE…pretty sweet, eh?  🙂

Adrenaline GTS 13

No, I won’t be afraid

So, I put my lovely iPod on Shuffle yesterday, skipped through several songs in hopes of feeling some sort of motivation, and heard the warm voice of Ben E. King and the lovely percussion of a song so familiar to many of us.


When he sang the words, “No, I won’t be afraid,” I knew I had some work to do.

His inspiring words drifted back into my mind at around 2:30 this morning as I lay in bed between a kiddo and a husband, searching for the solace of sleep.

Why do I fear, anyway? What do I fear? Sometimes I make a mental list…but even with that mental list, my mind discounts many of them. But they seem so real sometimes…almost tangible.

So, what do you fear? And does it paralyze you? Or can you let go of the fear and use newfound energy to propel you to action? I am working on the latter…and I know I need to get back to my book. At 2:30 this morning, editing sounded like a good idea…but when daylight returns, so does the fear, apparently.

Like I said, I’ve got some work to do. The yoga I did this morning helped clear my head a little, thankfully.

Maybe I will pick up my book again. What can I possibly be afraid of, with the calmness of Ben E. King’s voice over my computer speakers, and all of you standing (figuratively, of course) by me?

🙂