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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Really?

I’m a little irritated with the portrayal of women in the following video (which I am posting only to make a point and am in no way telling you to watch it…and if you do choose to watch it, really, a few seconds should be enough to give you the idea).

This irritation has been stirring around since a couple of weeks ago, when a local advertisement for Halloween costumes appeared in my mailbox. (For a little bit of background, one of my little people has been and continues to be enamored of costumes and dress-up clothing–anything from super hero to pirate to skeleton, he–like many children–LOVES dressing up in costumes.) In the busy morning time, he was looking at the ad, and I promised to save it during the day so he could look at it later, after his activities. Well, as I sat down with him that afternoon, I was (frankly) appalled at the differences in fabric quantity between the costumes advertised for men and women. Really?

My frustration escalated when my dear husband, who often inquires regarding news items, asked two weekends ago if I had heard about Miley Cyrus’ new video and her father’s comments about her apparel (or lack of apparel) in the video.

Really?

Are these lyrics, images, and videos empowering ourselves or our children as we seek to help them stand up to be socially responsible people and grow into the fabulous individuals they are?

I’m not saying that Miley Cyrus didn’t have a choice to be naked in her video. Let her be naked. But, hanging out naked around a wrecking ball and licking a sledgehammer doesn’t speak empowered woman to me. Sorry. Especially considering the message of the song (which sounds a little too teen-angsty to me).

Now, Robin Thicke’s song definitely isn’t filled with teen-angst, and what it is really about, heaven only knows…but my kiddos heard it around the pool more than once this summer, and I for one don’t want my boys (or girls) singing, “I know you want it” to anyone. (Apparently, I’m not alone in this thought, either.) How does that promote anything other than assumptions and lack of communication? Last time I checked, neither one of those elements were ingredients in healthy relationships.

In the song’s defense, it sure is fun to dance to, right?

But is it worth the messages we are sending to ourselves and to others?

Really?

A Valentine…for you

I wrote this earlier this week for a dear friend who lost her father recently.  She posted that he remembered her on each Valentine’s Day and recorded her sadness that he would not be able to send her anything this year.  As I thought of what I could do for her, these words came.  Forgive the lateness of the post, but I hope it finds its way to her.

For you, who lost someone recently who always remembered you on Valentine’s Day.

For you, across the veil of forgetfulness, are still remembered, loved, and treasured.

For you, even without physical arms around you, are still enveloped in love.

For you, because love is stronger than the bands of death.

For you, a Valentine wish that you feel love surrounding you on this day.

Favorite Christmas Stories

Since we watched the Boris Karloff version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! last night, and since we have been more actively reading our favorite Christmas stories, I thought I would share a few titles here for you to enjoy!  Here are some titles we love:

Of course, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss

Front CoverMr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Front CoverThe Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston, pictures by Barbara Cooney

Front CoverThe Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski

The Tale of Three Trees   -              By: Angela Elwell Hunt         Illustrated By: Tim Jonke The Tale of Three Trees, a traditional folktale retold by Angela Elwell Hunt, illustrations by Tim Jonke

And, who could forget Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express?

Reading together with my children is one of my joys during the season…when we take a few moments to slow down, breathe, and cuddle together.  Maybe we will pull out some of these tonight.  We still have a few we haven’t read this season!

Signing off for the holidays…and wishing all of you joy in the season (with whatever you may celebrate or not) and look forward to catching up with you in the new year!  Hugs!

Simple Gifts


photo credit

I still remember a song I learned when I was…who knows how old I was?  I’ve known it for as long as I can remember.  The song, “Simple Gifts,” is a Shaker song written and composed in 1848 by Elder Joseph Brackett.  Would you like to hear Jewel’s rendition? (It’s the only one I could find on YouTube, so it will have to suffice.)  Here you go:  Simple Gifts

We have each been given gifts…gifts of life, gifts to give and receive love, gifts of faith in God or fellowmen (or both), gifts of writing, gifts of goodness, gifts to share and gifts to develop.  Gifts can be moments of peace and tranquility.  Gifts can also be found in packages of adversity, where we learn more about ourselves and our abilities to carry on and to triumph.  Whatever your gifts are, I hope that you will recognize that you are amazing!

In this post, I invited you to join my family as we have sought to recognize and develop the gifts we have been given.  Did you take me up on that?  We’ve had almost two weeks since that post, and I’m wondering what you have discovered.  I have been working on developing my gifts to cook and bake, to sing, and to continue writing and editing the novel I wrote for NaNoWriMo…and I am working to connect with you through blogging while reading and commenting on your blogs.  I applaud your efforts.  🙂

While searching for our own gifts, let’s also look for the gifts of those within our sphere of influence.  Maybe someone did something kind for you.  (Yesterday, after a lengthy visit (with a somewhat fussy preschooler) at a store, I purchased said fussy preschooler a drink.  As we were shuffling items around a shopping cart, the two of us managed to dump said drink all over the floor.  And the drink was sticky.  And the floor was soaked with a big mess.

A fellow customer went to grab an employee, who quickly flagged the slippery, sticky area and mopped the spill.  I was so grateful for both of those people.  They took initiative and helped a tired mom with a fussy little person.  Sure, someone could argue that the employee was just “doing his job,” but to me his work meant so much more.  He was helping me rectify a mistake I made.  And I was grateful for him.)

Two Mondays ago, on our weekly family evening, we passed around papers where each person in our family wrote one item which we recognized as a gift in another person.  My page looked something like this:

MOM
You are good at playing the piano.  Mom is good at cooking.  Mom is very patient and forgiving of us.  You are so nice and you help me with everything! I wouldn’t have lived without you…literally! 🙂  You are very caring!

Now, while I wouldn’t own all of those kind thoughts from my sweet family (especially the piano one), some of the people who know me best have helped me see some of my gifts.  And, I think that since they were looking for positive attributes in other members of our home, they have each been more positive since the night we did that activity together.

So, in the busyness of this holiday season, I challenge you to take a moment to think of the gifts you possess that you cannot purchase from a store…as those may be the simplest (and most profound) gifts of all!

Give and Take

Sometimes we try to give more than we have…sometimes we take more than we should.

When we are children, we often take…and take…and take some more.  We take knowledge from teachers, wisdom from parents, and energy from the world.  We take life, money, hugs, kisses, tears, and habits from those around us willing to give.

When we have children, we give…and give…and give some more.  Sometimes parents feel no end to the constant giving of time and energy devoted to raising our children, loving them in the way they need to feel love, and disciplining in a way that is meaningful to them, as well.

When we are sick, we take…and take.  We take medicines, energy, and support from our caregivers.  We take healing from prayers and hope and faith.

When we are well, we give…and give.  We give treats to neighbors, kind words to those feeling lonely, carefully typed comments on someone’s blog.

When the holidays come around, we give.  We give canned food to shelters, toys to children, and money to charity.

When we get married, we give…and take.  We give ourselves to one another in the name of union and love…and we take companionship, love, connection (which hopefully is shared more than taken).

Where are you on the continuum of giving and taking…and which feels more fulfilling?

I follow the posts from HONY (Humans of New York) on Facebook…and the post came yesterday that Brandon is taking a trip after no breaks for two years.  He has given many people a view of New York through its people that we could not experience without the power of his photography and the internet by which he shares his images.  He has given for two years and (hopefully) will now be able to take a break and bask in the blessing of the gift he has given the world through this creative project he has undertaken.

My husband asked me the other day, “What do you find most challenging?”  A flood of thoughts poured into my mind, including my writing challenges, keeping up with kiddos’ schedules and homework assignments, making time to refill myself so I have something to give…but my reply came simply, in one word.

“Balance.”

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Black Friday

black friday

(from here)

Do I even need to tell you how I feel about Black Friday?  However you may be celebrating Black Friday, though, I wish you health, happiness, and debt-free holidays!  Happy Black Friday (which has become a holiday in its own way, or so today would seem…)!