Category Archives: Holidays

The Healing Power of Quiet

I don’t often have the opportunity for quiet. Or maybe I just don’t make the time for quiet.

I’m not sure which it is, maybe a bit of both. But when I do have a moment of solace. Quiet. I find peace and calm. It is intriguing to me how the absence of sound (other than the dog snoring on the couch beside me) can fill me up. Just sitting, alone with my own thoughts, if only for a moment. It is peaceful.

I have always been a very social person, being fed by the energy of interaction with others. But the older I get, the more I value the solitary moments. Not instead of interaction, but filling a different part of my soul. Maybe it’s another of God’s ways of preparing me for the life ahead. The days when my home will be silent more than chaotic. When the quiet of my living room will become deafeningly loud. The days when I will look back fondly remembering the wrestling matches in the middle of the living room. For the days when I will control the remote and miss the fights over what to watch. It is hard to see what is on the horizon and not feel a little apprehensive. Its a delicate balance between anticipating what is to come, not letting yourself be caught off guard, and continuing to be present in the here and now. Being careful not to worry or wish my life away. I guess that is the fine line I have been walking since a begged and pleaded for a full night’s sleep with a newborn or wished for just a day without a “why” from my toddler. Life is always changing. Thankfully. My challenge is to anticipate change, embrace it, welcome it, and yet be present in the moment. Not spending too much energy on the what ifs.

Silence allows me that room. The place where I can let go of the chaos of life, hear my own thoughts and maybe even dream a bit. Process life’s big events and the tiny ones too. Silence might be a good practice for this Advent season. Making room in my life for what God wants me to hear.

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Time for a Little Respite

Today I head back to work after 11 days off.

I feel spoiled.

I am a bit spoiled by it. The proof was in how hard it was to drag myself out of bed this morning! I’ve been staying up til 1 or 2 in the morning every night. And sleeping in quite a bit too. That’s something I almost never do. But it sure did feel good!

I look forward to this each year. With the way the holidays fell this year, I only had to take two days of PTO. Not bad. It reminds me a little bit of when I was a stay-at-home-mom with the boys. Long stretches of time we could fill as we saw fit. Only now they can fend for themselves pretty well:). I really enjoy the potential the break holds; the opportunity to do those things I don’t seem to get around to the rest of the year. I try to make it a mix of have to’s and want to’s. Things that keep me sane and things that feed my soul.

The first day of break I jotted down some things I wanted to do; a mix of things that I had been putting off or hadn’t had time to get to and things that I had been looking forward to doing. Writing it down helps me so much! If I don’t jot it down, at the end of the break I have inevitably forgotten something. I hate ending a break with that sinking feeling. Lists are my friend!

To keep me sane this year…

I updated the kids resume tracking documents – a spreadsheet I keep of the volunteer hours, clubs, leadership, and activities they are involved with and their grades. This was really helpful when it came time to do scholarship applications for Oldest Son and I haven’t entered anything all fall semester. It feels good to be caught up. And it reminded me why Middle Son meets himself coming and going! He is involved in so many things – that snuck up on me.

Did lots of paperwork for our health insurance. Hubby’s employer has a great insurance plan with potential for big discounts by doing some wellness things. I had put it off for a couple of months and the deadline was looming. Feels good to have the time to finish that!

Cleaned out two of my dresser drawers – the unmentionables. I no longer own any socks with holes in them! Gone. And I’m so glad. I love reaching in the  drawer and knowing I can pick any pair of socks! Provided they match that is. Lots of other purging here that makes it so much easier to find what I need in the morning.

Emptied the desktop on our laptop. This was making me crazy! It was completely covered. Completely. I put things on the desktop when I don’t need to keep them, but need a place to put them in the meantime. Like when I’m saving an attachment to edit and resend. Except, I’m terrible about deleting. So it was a mess. I cleaned it up and the next time I logged on I had a moment of panic thinking the laptop crashed when the desktop was empty. Ha!

To feed my soul…

We read the Christmas story together as a family. We had a great conversation about Mary and what she must have been thinking, about Joseph, where Mary’s parents were and what they thought. I think the boys heard it through a new filter this time. Good stuff.

We made cutout cookies. We actually made a bunch of goodies together on Christmas Eve. We had a list of people we wanted to take them to just to say we were thinking of them. We didn’t get them all delivered, but we did some. I’m sorry if we ate your treats. But we were still thinking of you! Does that help?

I made big, fleece, feather pillows for the boys. This was to feed my need to sew and they turned out great! Start to finish in half a day! That is unheard of for this chick.

Crocheted a scarf. I just started crocheting again – I did a long time ago – and wanted to make a fun scarf. I actually made two! And a cover for my new Kindle. I have another one started – they go so quickly!

Lots of scrapbooking happened over this break. Lots! I started and finished 39 scrapbook pages! Impossible you say? Here’s the thing, I’ve switched to scrapbooking in Picasa. It is so quick and easy! And when I’m scrapbooking something like Christmas, that each kid was a part of, I only have to make one page and order 3 prints. Sometimes I switch out a picture or two; maybe make the focal picture different depending on whose page it is. But that is simple to do. Thus, 39 pages done! I finished December, November and most of September. And I just got an email that prints are on sale. How lucky am I?!

I did some outdoor photography. We have a lovely blanket of snow which makes for great pictures. I had to take advantage of the snow while I could. You can check out  a few of the pics here. So much fun.

I did a little writing. Not as much as I expected. I just wasn’t feeling it. I have lots of ideas swirling in my head though. I’m hoping they firm up and form into some good writing soon.

I also did a few things just because I could…

I watched every episode of season 1 and season 2 of Downton Abbey. And I can’t wait for season 3 to start this Sunday! It’s such a good series. But yes, that was 15+ hours of TV shows. Just because I could.

I stayed in my pjs all day…several days. More than I would like to admit. But, no shame. It was my break, time for a little respite. If staying in my pjs all day gives me that, I’m ok with it.

I didn’t finish everything on my list.

I’m working on my first book on my new Kindle, but I’m not finished. One of my goals was to read at least one book. I’ll get there, just didn’t make it before the end of break.

I did a lot of thinking about wardrobe refashioning. That’s a start I’d say. This will have to move to my 2013 goals:). I hoped to refashion a few pieces or at least spend some time looking at my clothes a little differently. Seeing what I could put together that I haven’t thought about before.

We also failed at getting our Christmas letter written. It will go out, and probably before Epiphany. Maybe. But I had really hoped to have it done over break. So if you sent a card and haven’t heard from me, don’t take it personally. Or if you took me off your list because you haven’t received a card, hold on I’m working on it!

Now it’s time to step back into reality. The grown up world where I must shower and wear real clothes. The world where I have deadlines and fires to put out. I’m ready! I’ve had my time for respite and I’m ready to hit the floor running!

Ok, maybe after this cup of coffee…

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Filed under Goals, Holidays, Lifestyle, Scrapbooking

My God is That Big

I’ve been struggling to get in the Christmas spirit. For some reason, I’m just not there this year. I have tried doing things to get there. I joined an advent study group, something I always appreciate. We put up the Christmas decorations, lots of teal and a little purple. Last night we went to the Blues Christmas musical concert put on by the talented musicians at our church. We’ve done quite a bit of shopping and even had one family Christmas already. But, I’m just not there. And I couldn’t put my finger on why.

This morning I awoke to a text message telling me school was cancelled due to weather. We had heard this was coming, but frankly, it rarely pans out here. I got up and looked out the window to see a blanket of white over everything. That’s it. I needed snow. A white Christmas.

My first thought, “Thank you God for bringing snow to put me in the Christmas spirit. You know what I need, even when I don’t.”

My second thought, “God has much more important things to deal with.” I know there are so many people who are hurting in our world. People who have lost a child. Spouses who suddenly find themselves alone for the first time. Families without homes and starving children. Why would God spend time thinking about me. Someone who by all standards lives a charmed life. I have everything I need. My problems are small. Trivial. I honestly felt a little ashamed for thinking that snow was for me.

And then I had another thought, and this one was an epiphany for me. My God is big enough to worry about me and all his children. He has the whole world in his hands. I’m projecting human capacity on my God and He is so much bigger than that! Just like I have the capacity to love each of my children, God has the capacity, and desire, to love and care for each of his children. I matter to Him. He knows when I’m hurting and He cares. I’m not insignificant to my God. He loves me dearly.

Wow! That’s pretty awesome.

And He knows when a snowfall will help me prepare to celebrate his birth. And he cares.

Maybe you knew this already. Maybe you are fully aware of how loved you are. I just hadn’t ever thought of it that way.

My God is that big!

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What a Difference a Weekend Makes

I think calling myself out her on the blog was motivating. This weekend I got in gear and did what decorating we plan to do this year. I think it turned out lovely, just enough. My biggest anxiety this year was about the fact that I will have to take it all down and pack it up in a few short weeks. I know, lame. I will say I’ve heard lots of others say they just can’t get in the spirit this year. Don’t know what’s up with that. Either way, I think I really need to sort through all my decorations and reorganize things before I put it away this year. Ugh. I don’t enjoy that part.

But I’m just not going to think about that right now. I’m going to enjoy for now.

Baskets of ornaments are always festive.

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I didn’t pull out any of our traditional ornaments for the tree. We bought some new teal balls and pulled the purple ones out of the ornament bin. I wanted garland, but wasn’t finding anything I liked. Until I stumbled on this.

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I just love it! It’s actually yarn with pom poms! How fun is that? Simple and a little funky.

I have lots of nativities. I only put out three this year. This traditional one.

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This one is the my oldest. It’s been through a lot. And I love it.

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I worked a little magic on the frame from this post. I think it turned out pretty cute.

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I really love the aqua/teal. It makes me happy.

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And of course, I did some fun things on the mantel!

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I love the one red ornament.

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The only down side….I have this to clean up!

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The whole dining room table covered in stuff. Ugh! The remnants of my creativity.

And I might have a slight addiction to ribbon…

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There are worse things to be addicted to:).

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A Pinterest Christmas

Are you having a Pinterest Christmas? You know, where you get fabulous ideas and implement them all and they turn out exactly like the picture and the angels sing the hallelujah chorus right there in your house? Here’s my Pinterest Christmas.

A beautiful decoration for the front porch!

 Whip up some ribbon trees for the sideboard.

Ribbon Trees

Throw a beautiful printable in a lovely frame.

Free Chalkboard Christmas Printables

Add a little pretty to the mantel.

how to decorate a mantel

Ahh, the beauty of Christmas so elegantly displayed in my home. Warms the heart doesn’t it?

It would.

If I had done any of those things!

Nope.

Not one.

Those are some really talented ladies! You should click on the pictures and visit their blogs:).

But this is my handiwork this year.

My tree. It’s looked like this for over  a week.

The mantel. I think I captured the minimalist movement quite well don’t you?

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How about my dining room table centerpiece? You’re so jealous!

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I did manage to change out the fabric on my board {thanks Mom for helping me pick it out!}

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I do love the fabric and it’s a perfect shade of red – to match my walls!

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I have gathered some things. I’m working on changing the colors for this year. When I painted my dining room/kitchen an orangey-red, I wasn’t thinking about Christmas. But I really love this teal/aqua color and would like to incorporate it. So that’s the direction I’m going. But I’m just not getting a vision. And so, this is what I have.

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by Pinterest? By Christmas? By peer pressure? Even grown ups have peer pressure. It’s called “keeping up with the Jones’!”

Guess I better get going. I’ve got a lot of work to do to get this house in shape for Christmas!

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Letting Go of Perfect

It’s Christmas morning! Makes me think of fresh, crisp layers of new snow. Sun peeking in the windows. And anxious little feet pattering down the hallway in new pajamas to catch a glimpse of what’s in their stockings.

However, the brown grass is bare – not a flake of snow for miles around. The anxious little feet have grown to lumbering teens who relish their sleep. Opening new pajamas on Christmas eve is not met with the excitement it once was. The baking is not done. The house is not cleaned to my standards. I didn’t find the perfect gift for everyone this year. In fact the shopping was tough. The lists were short. Either everyone has too expensive of taste or just maybe, like Oldest Son said, they are satisfied. I prefer to believe the latter.

This Christmas snuck up on me. I blame it on the lack of snow that usually kick starts my holiday preparations. The snow didn’t come…and neither did the kick-start! Until Friday when I took the day off work. That’s Friday – Christmas Eve eve. But as I was getting ready to hit the stores for the final push I began to think about a blog I read. A divorced mom whose kids are about to leave the nest. She shared her sadness over the change that was coming. And I thought of my Aunt who is spending another Christmas without her beloved husband. My father who will experience his first Christmas since him Mom passed away. About my sister-in-law who is nursing her mother back to health after a scary illness. I thought about all those, like my husband, who work crazy hours before the holidays. He has worked 14 hour days this week to make sure others have what they want for their perfect Christmas. And there are others who are at work this morning. None of these things are what we wish for. They are all less than perfect, just like the state of my house.

I don’t love that my Hubby’s days off will be spent in a car going from our house to each of the grandparents. I don’t love that we will spend another Christmas dinner in the car and have three Christmases in three towns in three days. 12 hours in the car and 1 night at each house is not my idea of fun. I don’t love that our parents spend the day alone. It makes me sad for them and sad for myself knowing that one day it will happen to me too. I don’t love that all of my family won’t be together for Christmas. It leaves a hole, an emptiness. But, I understand it just can’t always be. I don’t love that there are families spending their first Christmas without a child who lost his life this year. It is not right.

And it’s all real. That is what we have to work with. Christmas is no more perfect for us than Jesus birth was for Mary. I can’t imagine what I would have said to my husband if he told me I would have to ride that donkey for days, very pregnant, just to fill out a census. Well, actually, I can imagine some of the things I would have said, and you really don’t want to hear them.

I’m sure that nothing about Jesus birth was perfect. From the time Mary felt the first flutters, to when Joseph heard the news. From the rejection they got at each inn along the way to the meager stable where they eventually settled in. I wonder if Mary felt the same kind of frustration I do? When I know how I want things to be, but despite all my efforts I just can’t make it happen. Oh, I get there is no comparison in the magnitude of the two situations. But there is so much similarity.

I love to spend Christmas with all of my family. It’s about being with the people you love, sharing laughter. And yet Mary had no one but Joseph with her. No Mom there to tell her everything would be ok. They were all alone, in a strange land, without all the things they were used to. Without the security of the familiar. What lengths would they have gone to to be with those they loved that night?

Ultimately, they were not in control. Mary had to let go of her expectations of what should be. To let go of the plans she had, the images in her head. She chose to be in the moment with her baby, with Joseph, with a barn yard full of animals.

It’s ok for me to let go too. To let go of that perfect image of Christmas that I have in my head. To let go of the control. Stop trying to choreograph every moment. It’s time to change my focus. To be present with those who are right in front of  me.

I will let go of aiming for perfect and aim for personal instead. I will aim to reach out to others and really connect. To be present in the moment. To let those I love know just how I feel. To cherish every crazy, exhausting, frustrating, messy moment with the ones I love. For we never know when it will be our last.

I will let go of perfect and aim for personal. My personal connection to God, my personal relationship with Jesus. Look for the path He is leading me down, not my own plans.

I will let go of perfect and get personal.

Merry Christmas to you. May you let go of perfect, be in the moment and find the personal in all you do today.

And now I hear big feet heading my way! Time to go see what’s in their stockings…

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Pause Please?!

Oh my gosh! Christmas is only nine days away!

And there is not one gift under our tree!

Not one.

None!

And I work 6 of those 9 days.

Houston, we have a problem. {Sadly, I don’t think there is anyone in Houston to help anymore.}

I think if I were to wrap everything we have bought we might end up with 20 presents under the tree. You should know we buy some basics for everyone every year. They all know it’s coming so I’m not spoiling the surprise {yes, my kids do read my blog}, but it will be a rather sad Christmas if they only get these basics. Think unmentionables. That’s almost all I’ve bought.

I tried to go shopping last weekend. Youngest Son and I went to Cabela’s – the world’s foremost outfitter. I don’t even know what it means to be the world’s foremost outfitter. But it was a traumatic experience for me. I am not an outdoorsy girl – unless taking pictures outdoors counts. I don’t hunt, I detest fishing. It’s just not my kind of store. But several people on my list love the place. My nieces hunt. I honestly don’t know where I went wrong:). So in we go, on a Saturday morning two weeks before Christmas. I had mentally prepared for the visit; telling myself it won’t be that bad and I can totally handle the challenge. We make the blustery walk to the front door past the kettle corn booth. For some reason there is always a frigid wind blowing when I go there. We walk thru the front doors and I feel a bit of panic. I told youngest son, “These are not my people.” Not a judgment, just an observation. We make a bee line for the apparel department. How hard can that be? After about 20 minutes we have found what we were looking for…kind of…not the color I wanted, but it will do.

Now to find the archery department. In the corner under the steps. Do you know how much people pay for arrows?!! No woman should ever be criticized again for an expensive pair of shoes or handbag. At least these items get daily use and are pretty functional. I could have bought two nice purses for the price of those arrows! We have an amateur archer who likes to shoot in the back yard. I am not paying that price! Eventually we find some that are somewhat reasonable and cut our losses.

I’m feeling pretty successful at this point. I have not broken out in hives. Or punched anyone. Success.

Then we need to find an ammo box. See, these are not my kind of gifts. I see guns and figure ammo must be close by. I find a nice man in a safari shirt and ask him where to find ammo boxes. Apparently, that is too general of a question. I’m faced with a barrage of options. To which I just stare blankly at him. I don’t know how to describe what was running thru my mind at that moment. But I’ll try:). It was kind of the same feeling I got when Oldest Son tried to describe how the Segways work. A cross between thinking I should understand and I don’t give a crap what you’re saying. It’s a feeling where I want to say, I have successfully raised three children, am very quick at learning technology, can perform may home repairs and I’m a fairly intelligent woman. I’m not a stupid person. But I could not feel more dumb than I do at this very moment. That’s how I felt as he asked me about the ammo box I was looking for. All I could think of was the metal containers we have seen while geocaching, so I say metal. They don’t carry them, but he will show me the plastic ones they do have. As we wind in and out of aisles, dodging 3,000 people along the way, we pass no less than 3 pallets of metal ammo boxes. I’m thinking, I’m sure that’s what they are. Why did he say they don’t have them? When we arrive at the lovely display of plastic boxes, I casually ask, “What are those?” pointing to the metal boxes. Apparently, they only carry metal boxes filled with ammo.

At this point I politely thank the safari-clad man and tell Youngest Son we must leave. I can’t breathe so well. Let’s find the check out and get out. Escape.

We wander toward the front of the store passing ridiculously long lines of people along the way. We pass the gun purchasing line just before the front check outs. And I am surprised to see, there is no one in line!? They have quite a few checkouts, but there is no line for any of them. This is very strange. Are the thousands of people milling around this store just window shopping? I look around like a shoplifter casing the place. But still, I see no lines. We head to the closest checker, continuing to scan for the crowd. I say to Youngest Son, “I feel like I’m cheating, it can’t be this easy.”

So prophetic.

Just then a sweet, gentle, safari-clad woman walks up to me and says there is a line. I realize her expression, though sympathetic, may have a hint of are-you-seriously-that-stupid mixed in. I babble apologetically that I thought there had to be a line, but I couldn’t find it. She points away from the checkouts. I’m still not seeing the line. The entire front aisle of the store is empty. I’m scanning and again having that feeling; wanting to say I am an intelligent person. Then I spot a lady standing stealthily amongst the clothing racks. She’s holding piles of merchandise. Slowly they start to appear, like those optical illusions. When you stare long enough you find the hidden objects. The apparel department is full of stealthy shoppers lurking in line! And they were all watching me. I sympathize with the deer.

I politely ask the safari-clad woman where she would like me to leave my selections. She gives me the blank stare. I explained that I was leaving. NOW. I can either drop them here or place them where you would like, but I am not going to be joining that line. There is nothing I needed that badly.

So to my family members whose wish list could have been satisfied at the world’s foremort outfitter, I’m sorry. Looks like you’ll be getting gift cards this year.

And I have no presents under my tree.

And it’s 9 days until Christmas.

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