Monday, December 26, 2011
For starters, the main thing that kicked the season off for me was when we went to my sister's house to have her kids do up our Christmas cards for us. It was so much fun!! I loved having the downtime with them, and the kids enjoyed doing the cards. We just provided them with a bunch of blank cards, paint, markers, colored pencils, glue and plenty of glitter...and turned them loose! It was so much fun to see what they came up with. I had a lot of fun writing the cards out to mail, too.
After that I didn't do much up until the very end. On Thursday, December 22nd, we did some Christmas shopping... then on Friday, December 23rd, we actually finished up our Christmas shopping...right in the nick of time! We also took some time to stop to eat at a nice little Italian restaurant in the neighborhood, and I was so glad that we went.....'cause when we got there, we discovered that they had LIVE music playing, a guitar and violin, and they were playing sweet Christmas music and other songs. It was so nice! We were in a booth right up front near the musicians, and the door was open, letting in the mild night air....it was so nice!! It really put me even more into a Christmasy mood.
I also paused long enough to bake some cookies...some Rosemary-Sugar cookies...they turned out so good! And they filled the house with such a wonderful scent. I finally got the last of the Christmas presents wrapped after a family gathering on Christmas Eve.....and I realized that even with just a couple days of all this fun, busy, Christmasy-activity, that I felt like I blended right in to the season seamlessly......and it was a very Merry Christmas! And ultimately, the important thing is that I was able to spend time with all my family, and I have my wonderful husband here with me....it has truly been a wonderful Christmas. I hope that all of you have had a very Merry Christmas, too! --Kathy
Friday, December 16, 2011
I'd been quite worried going in for the screening because I knew that I'd been having some issues with blood pressure the last couple years, I'd gained even more weight, and I didn't see any reason that I should have good lab work based on my historical sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits. Adding to all these factors was the fact that I knew being nervous about the tests would only make my blood pressure go up....and that made me more worried...which made me more worried...
I remained as calm as I could (I was also irritated that I even had to do this at all....and their post-screening attempt to smooth things over with Dunkin' Donuts coffee and pastries just wasn't going to make me feel any differently). I waited anxiously for my results. When my results finally did come in, I was pleasantly suprised to learn that I was actually a little healthier (or at least got better results) than I'd been expecting! My blood pressure was within the NORMAL range, even if on the high end. And my cholesterol was totally awesome, with my good HDL being high and my bad LDL being low (I think we can thank my wine consumption for that...lol). I was as fat as I knew I was, of course, but in light of that, I think my labs/stats came out pretty good!
Unfortunately, due to my sedentary nature and weight, I still received a "physician referral notice"....DOH! I seriously considered not handing it in to my doctor, but I knew if I did have him sign it and I turned it back in, I'd get some "wellness $" in my HRA acct. That was enough incentive. I tried to get him to just sign it, after all I'd recently seen him for a cold...but, no, I ultimately had to make an appointment to "go over" it. Drat.
So I had my appointment today. Since my husband and I are going out after to maybe do a little Christmas shopping and have lunch, I wanted to look nice for that, so I figured I might as well get ready for that before my doctor appointment. So for the first time ever I showed up in make up with my hair curled for the doctor. I have to admit, it was partly to make myself look "healthier" if that is possible (unfortunately on the way out I stopped in the restroom and even with my "smoky eye" makeup, you could clearly see my eyes were bloodshot....DOH!).
I'd also been concerned that my doctor might be a little "put out" by this ridiculous, multi-page "assessment"....but I didn't need to be. Turns out we both got a good laugh. He went over it page by page (like he was supposed to do before signing off on it) and we discussed my weight (I was tempted to say, "Really? I'm overweight? That can't be, I can still fit in my compact car")...we both agreed that I knew how to fix that, it was just about "doing" it. And he left it at that. All my labs and BP were fine, so he moved on to the other pages. One was a whole page about "safety at home"....he balked, saying that it is like adults are being treated like kids now....we don't need someone telling us this stuff, we already know. And I chimed in that for those who really are that stupid, we should just let things take their natural course...they'll ultimately be 'weeded out', sort of like 'natural selection'.
So we went through the whole thing and got a good laugh out of how ridiculous and meddling they were being about everything. The page regarding alcohol consumption, I thought here we go...nix the wine! But the whole page was about me not drinking and driving. We weren't sure why that was in there, I don't recall implying that I do wine tastings while running errands. Ultimately he said, "Do they really want people to live to be 120?" I said that if we did all follow that then they'd have to resort to euthanizing us once we were deemed 'no longer productive to society'. Honestly, let's just let things happen. People do need to enjoy their lives.
He brought up a couple more good points: What if a person does all these things to be healthy, but if they live in a bad neighborhood, they could have a burglar break in and shoot them, then where'd they be? I agreed. I said that I'd at least like to know that I'd enjoyed that big steak the night before. There's no sense in removing all the joy and pleasure in life. And he pointed out about the people who are very healthy and fit who enjoy more dangerous passtimes (because they truly enjoy doing them), like cliff diving and such.....they might be in perfect health but get killed by being active! I surmised that I had better odds even if I went through the McDonald's drive thru every day.
At the end he laughed because there was a paper for me to write my goals (and the date achieved) and all the good, healthy, safe things I intended to do. I said that if I have to turn that in, I will surely make it sarcastic, with goals such as: "I will stop using the laptop while I am sitting in the hot tub.....I realize that a flip-flop is probably not an ideal flotation device for the extension cord". The very last page was a "Certificate of Completion" with my name on it, looking, for the life of me, like they fully intend for me to frame the thing and hang it on the wall. They really must think we are dim-witted. All the more reason to just let me eat my french fries, count getting off the couch to walk to the fridge as exercise, and use a block of wood as the emergency brake in a pinch.....it's all relative. --Kathy
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
After marrying, my husband and I got into the habit of listening to the radio all night long on Christmas Eve into Christmas day, with all the Christmas songs playing. It wasn't very conducive to sleep, but we were trying to not to miss any of our favorites. So we'd listen on the way to his family's Christmas Eve celebration, then on the way home, then all night at home. One of our favorites is the radio 'story': A Frontier Christmas. We always looked forward to hearing that, it was so funny and touching.
Lately my family has been discussing favorite Christmas movies. That is pretty hard, I can think of a lot: A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life and Christmas in Connecticut, to name a few. I also like some of the newer Christmas movies they have out, like Recipe for a Perfect Christmas and Holiday in Handcuffs. And what about Christmas cartoons from our childhood? I'd say my top two favorites are: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Grinch that Stole Christmas. So many good ones!
Let us not forget about the goodies: What are some of your favorites? I love my Mom's date bars...and of course those sugar cookie cut-outs with the frosting, especially if they are trees with the mint green frosting and a few of those red-hot candies....yum! And don't let us forget about the melt-in-your-mouth spritz cookies.
I love thinking of all these things, it puts a person in even more of a Christmas-y frame of mind. What are all your favorites? --Kathy
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
♫ ♪ Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree--
You will be mine on Friday! ♫♪
Initially, we had intended to get our Christmas tree this past weekend—however by the time we got done celebrating, we had pretty much ran OUT of time to get our tree let alone, have enough time to decorate it. And I have to admit, while I feel like I’m in the mood for Christmas, it just isn’t quite Christmassy enough around here without our tree and decorations up!
Each year, our family takes a trip to Oakland Nursery to pick out our tree. Besides having almost every variety of Christmas tree imaginable in the Midwest to choose from, this nursery usually has Santa and his helpers on site, Clydesdale horses to pull us around the property for a wagon ride, hot chocolate and goodies, a fire in the fire pit—all fun stuff for us to do with our family to make our tree shopping experience unique. All these things add to the essence of Christmas each year and it really gets us in the Spirit for the Christmas Season. Each year we look forward to our excursion, just as much as we look forward to Christmas at Ash Cave and opening our presents on Christmas.
So we’ve made plans to go and get our tree on Friday of this week. The kids will officially be out of school as of 3:30pm and we can head over to the nursery that evening and pick out our tree, then come home, put on some Christmas carols, and decorate into the evening. I might but a few batches of cookies in the oven for the kids and warm up some apple cider in the crock-pot.
To tell you the truth, I can hardly wait!!
This truly is the MOST wonderful time of the Year!!
This was written for the 12 Days of Christmas Blog Hop hosted by Casa del Hansen. Today’s topic is A Partridge in a Pear Tree: Christmas Trees. Come join in on the fun!!
Monday, December 12, 2011
I know the main culprit is long work hours, which I am realizing I have to draw the line with that and purposefully take time for some "downtime". So this past weekend we went to visit my sister and her kids and took a bunch of blank cards with us for the kids to "make" our Christmas cards for us. They had a good time and were so creative! Just this simple activity and getting out to spend time with family helped it feel more like Christmas for me.
I want to keep going with it, though! So after a short nap after working today, I was trying to think of ways to "join" in on the spirit of Christmas. Spending more time with family is certainly in order. And I think we finally need to go through the totes littered throughout our living room and pull out the Christmas decorations and put them up. And you know what I'd like? Some yard decorations! We haven't put any out the last few years, even though we have the decorations. I think that would make it feel more like Christmas...I can remember when I was a kid and my Dad putting lights and yard decorations up outside...us kids would play around the lights for hours in the chilly, Christmas-y air, and it seemed so magical.
I also think I'm going to make some cookies this year to pass out. I found a recipe for herbed Christmas cookies that looks interesting, and I think I want to try my hand at making some truffles for the first time. And what about some date bars? My Mom always made those when we were kids (and still does sometimes)...they were always one of my favorites. I also think I should go for a walk with my husband on a chilly night with a cup of hot cocoa with marshmallows on top!
Well, I got a start on enjoying the season when we spent the evening with my sister and her kids, making the cards. I think it is high-time I purposefully made more of an effort to be "in" the season, instead of sitting back and waiting for it to find me. How do YOU like to get in the spirit of Christmas and enjoy the holidays? --Kathy
I know for certain that my two younger children still believe in Santa Claus—but the older of the younger two is starting to question it. My response has always been, “You have to believe to receive” and this way there isn’t any temptation to go ruin it for the youngest one.
This past weekend, our family went down to celebrate Christmas in Ash Cave. My youngest was really looking forward to going, because he knew he’d get to see Santa Claus. I was really enjoying his enthusiasm toward going—it makes any family event that much better when the kids get psyched out for it. And since he’s my last one to ‘believe’ as they say—I’m kind of relishing in the moments while I have them.
I wasn’t exactly sure how he would do this year. Last year—he would not sit on Santa’s lap, but he stood by him and told him what he wanted. I was hoping this year that he would sit with him—but he did not. He stood next to him again this year—no big deal—his older sister took his spot. Santa was really nice this year. He said, “Tell me, what are you looking forward to most about Christmas this year?” To which my son exclaimed, “A Mario DS!!” and to my horror my jaw dropped.
The fact is—my son could not come up with anything when I asked him what he wanted for Christmas. The whole process seemed extremely overwhelming to him. I took him to stores, I took out the advertisements, I got him on Amazon.com with me and tried to show him different toys for his age—and he just kept saying in frustration, “I don’t know.” I tried narrowing down the selections—and nothing appealed to him. This year, we were able to do shopping a little early, thanks to my husband being able to cash in some time from work. Wanting to get shopping out of the way—I had guessed on a few items I thought he’d enjoy—and of course a DS by Nintendo nor the Mario Game was never discussed!
Until he saw Santa. Oh boy—I surely want my son to think that Santa heard him—but now what do I do? I already purchased something for him and it is on its way to my doorstep as we speak. Returning it is sure to be a hassle, and at this point, I have no idea how long it would take to get the money refunded. Oh and while I think he’ll love that gift—I NOW know he has his heart set on something else. I have to tell you that after he spoke with Santa he was EXTREMELY excited that he got to talk to him and tell him what he wanted. He has done nothing but talk about that DS and Mario game since and he’s really excited for Christmas.
Did I mention he’s even counting down the days??
So I’d like to write my own letter to Santa.
Dear Mr. Always Jolly--
So now what am I supposed to do? I have to live up to your reputation—and it just isn’t fair.
The Not So Jolly Me.
How is it that Santa is always Jolly? I mean—surely lots of other girls and boys change their minds on these things all the time. How can he keep such a great composure??
I’m sure I’ll figure this all out—so my kid’s heart doesn’t break!! LOL!
At least I hope!!
Sunday, December 11, 2011
The second weekend in December is one we celebrate each year. Don’t get me wrong—we totally love to celebrate on Christmas and New Years, but this particular weekend holds significance for us.
My husband and I were married 16 years ago on December 9th, so usually that date lands close to the second weekend of the month. Each year we look forward to possibly our one and only date night—but I’ll be honest as the kids get older we tend to get a few more here and there. This year was no exception, as we headed out Friday night to celebrate our “sweet-sixteen”.
The first thing we did is go workout together. I bought our family membership to the YMCA last week, and while we are planning on surprising our kids with their membership cards for Christmas, we decided to check the place out ahead of time. We both hit the treadmill and then I went on to the stationary bikes—while he went to the pool. Since I’m allergic to chlorine—especially concentrated chlorine—I don’t breath well in these indoor pools. After we finished exercising, we showered and got ready to go out on the town.
I received several restaurant gift certificates from my debit card reward points. So we chose to check out a new restaurant. I had my heart absolutely set on the prime rib and my husband had chosen something else from the menu. We sat down, and ordered a few drinks—and then they informed us that they were out of Prime-Rib and about half of the other dinner entrees. They eliminated so many choices—there was no point in staying there for dinner. My husband and I decided we’d pay for our drinks and scoot. After all, we wanted to enjoy the evening—especially our dinners.
As soon as we pulled out of the parking lot—we spotted a Texas Road House. Now we are talking!! We had a bit of a wait to get a seat—but it was so worth it. I ordered a prime rib which came with a side Caesar salad and a chili with cheese. I chose a Cabernet Sauvignon to go with my prime rib and chili—and I have to say the selection was perfect!! My husband ordered a 20 ounce ribeye—and we were so thrilled with our choice to go to the Texas Road House and we had a good time!!
Saturday we took our annual trip to Ash Cave to celebrate Christmas. Each year, on the second Saturday in December, there is a little celebration at the cave. Complete with Christmas Music (some years there are carolers, this year we just had music), Santa Claus, Santa’s helper, hot chocolate, cookies, bonfires, and crafts for the kids to participate in. It is held from 5pm to 7pm and the kids really enjoy hanging out in the mouth of the cave at night. This year, my mother was able to join us—and we had a good time. If you’re wondering, it does get cold in the cave—but the bonfires are there to keep us warm. Interestingly enough—this was one of the warmer years as the waterfalls were still flowing. Unfortunately, by the time we made our way back into the cave it was too dark to capture a picture of the waterfall. Still, we had a great time and the kids enjoyed getting to see Santa.
This weekend always puts us in the mood for Christmas. I already feel the Christmas “buzz” and I’m really excited for the next two weeks. The kids have 5 more days of school and then we have a week of “getting” ready for the special day!! I am already excited!!
So how about you?
Are you ready to celebrate this holiday season??
Wishing Everyone A Very Merry Christmas!
This post was written for The Writers’ Post Thursday Blog Hop for the theme: Celebration. If you’d like to join in on the fun—we offer a blog hop every Thursday and you can join us on Facebook or on the Thursday page of One Stop Blog World.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Christmas brings out so many joyous occasions and moments and many of those things we really love become the highlight of the season. I thought I would highlight a few of my most favorite “things” about the holiday season over the years.
The look on my oldest son’s face as he came down the steps for his first Christmas in this house. He was 2 1/2 years old and we set up the Thomas the Train table and tracks. It was already for him to play with—assembly complete. It was still dark outside, only the Christmas tree was lit up downstairs and as he got about half way down and spotted the trains and tracks. He got so excited he started shouting and squealing. The joy on his face that day ha been ingrained in my mind ever since.
One of my most favorite things about my oldest daughter is that she isn’t into all the toy hype when it comes to Christmas. Yes there are certain things she’s wanted over the years—like a Beautiful Christmas Dress, a plate of wonderfully decorated cookies or a soft blanket to curl up by. She’s the first to want to put a fire in the fireplace and relax to Christmas music. She enjoys the simpler things about Christmas—and her Christmas Spirit really shines near the holidays.
My middle son is all about anticipation. It would seem that the anticipation of waiting and not knowing what it is that is wrapped under the tree would drive him almost to the brink of insanity. He’s the type of child that makes it fun for a parent to play Santa Claus. He also likes some of the traditions we have in the holiday season—and looks forward to them each an every year. Including the family trip to the local nursery to get a tree, our family trip to Ash Cave to celebrate Christmas in the Cave and “Grandma’s Christmas” on Christmas Eve.
My younger daughter is never disappointed when it comes to Christmas. You don’t have to buy her lots for her to be happy. It seems any present you give her is the perfect present and she cherishes the fact that you thought of her more than what you actually gave her. This is so rare for a child of only 9 years…but it is how she is. She loves that for one day our house is fun, exciting, peaceful and memorable. I love her enthusiasm for everything Christmas—from leaving out that plate of cookies to setting the table for our Christmas dinner. She makes the day so much brighter.
And then there is my youngest. He’s a combination of his older four siblings and then some. He loves participating in opening gifts—he loves the traditions like decorating the tree or making cookies. He’s only 5 so the exuberance of the day holds a special type of excitement. He believes in Santa Claus and watches the sky carefully on Christmas Eve. I love that he still finds the magic in the season—that sparkle that innocence brings.
Finally, there is the sense of tradition and togetherness my husband brings during the holidays. He helps come up with wonderful ideas that we can participate in as a family year after year, building memories and allowing us to bond while we still have our kids at home. From picking out the tree, to decorating it and the house, making the yearly trip to participate in Christmas at Ash Cave, to baking holiday goodies, to playing games like Mad Libs on Christmas Eve—and our holiday dinner. He helps me make it fun and something to look forward to…and we can only hope that one day they will carry these same things into their families as they have them when they get older.
Perhaps my favorite Christmas “thing” is sharing the love of my family during the holidays. We get one shot at this thing called life—and there is no better time like the holidays to go out of your way to make it special.
What are your favorite things about Christmas?
Written for BFF Group on Facebook for the topic: My Favorite Things
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
The first obvious choice would be the gift of wine itself. You might purchase a bottle of wine that you know the recipient would really enjoy, perhaps even a bottle that is a little pricier than they normally would buy. Or a new varietal they've been thinking of trying. A good idea along these lines is to purchase a few bottles for a 'tasting'. You can choose a few bottles of the same varietal (for instance, Chardonnay)...or you can choose one bottle each of different types of white wines (such as chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, riesling, etc) or reds (Cabernet Sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, etc). You can also go all out and buy a variety of both white and red wines for a grand tasting. An excellent book that can assist with choosing wines for a tasting is Great Wine Made Simple by Andrea Immer.
On the subject of books, there are many wine books out there that would make a great gift for someone who is truly interested in learning more about wine. There are also wine courses on DVD. Perhaps a gift subscription to a wine magazine? There are also tasting kits that would give the recipient a great start on hosting a wine tasting. Besides that, why not think of buying a nice set of glasses (often times, especially if someone is new to wine, they won't have sufficient appropriate glasses...and plastic tumblers are never a good idea). How about one of the new wine cooler cabinets? You can also put together a nice wine gift basket yourself, complete with some of that great chocolate wine, some chocolate-dipped strawberries and some Christmas-themed wine charms. The ideas are endless!
I hope this helps with buying for the wine lover on your list, or giving a unique gift to get someone started in wine.....happy shopping! -Kathy
I could have used a
glass bottle of wine last night. I ended up having a moment—which I won’t discuss here, because this is a publicly readable blog. It took a few minutes for me to calm down and gain a bit of perspective. And for that, I have to thank my faithful friends who offered their encouraging words and support—because I was totally able to not think about that bottle of wine sitting on the cupboard.
(For any of my newer readers—I am NOT opposed to wine in any way shape or form. I’m just on a kick to lose weight and at 100 calories a glass—I can’t afford to imbibe even a little!)
Funny that entire situation got me thinking about truths about myself. Why I am wired the way I am- and what makes me thrive and what makes me falter. Lucky you!! I am going to share =D
My 10 Truths
1. Deep down, I am very happy, easy-going person.
2. I thrive on encouragement and affection from others.
3. I love to laugh.
4. I don’t have a lot of patience—it is something I’m working on
5. Discouraging people depress the HECK out of me, sometimes they even anger me!
6. I can understand positive constructive criticism—but nothing would make me dislike you faster than ridicule.
7. I appreciate honesty—and I expect it. I don’t respect liars.
8. The truth sometimes hurts—yet I always welcome it. I DO NOT welcome hurtful and judgmental opinions—especially when they are given at my expense.
Maybe I should explain #8?
The Truth: “Gee Jenn, you need to mow your lawn!!” **Looks around at the over-grown grass** “Yep, I sure do!” (Thank you that was honest and to the point and much appreciated!)
The Judgmental and Hurtful Opinion: “Apparently you have issues!! You’ve let your lawn go!! It looks like hillbillies live here. Aren’t you ashamed of what your neighbors must think??” (Uhm-NO THANK YOU—I think you can leave now!).
See what I mean??
9. I love learning!! Bring on the books!!
10. I love sharing with others. This includes my thoughts, my feelings, my knowledge—and yes—I would love to share half of my peanut butter and jelly sandwich!!
Well—there are many more truths about me—but I won’t bore you to death.
So tell me about you!! What are your truths??
Would love to hear from you—so leave a comment below :)
This post was written for the GBE2 group on Facebook for week #29. The topic this week was Truth.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
I won’t lie to you—I have raised all five of my children with a certain degree of protection. I don’t think I am over protective—I think I held back a bit on that one—but I have always had it in my mind that children should be children as long as they can and want to be. The thing is—it is a hard world out there—why let them be exposed to the elements much before they have to? What is the harm in letting them be carefree a little longer—relish in the innocence of their youth until they say I am ready to take it on?
My oldest daughter is 13. She’s on the autism spectrum with a diagnosis of PDD-NOS. If you’ve followed some of my previous blogs—you know she is very high functioning and most people don’t get that she’s different from other kids her age, until they’ve been around her a bit. Then they almost notice two things. They notice that she is very literal, while common with kids on the spectrum, this is very evident as you talk to her more and more. And they also notice that she still views this world through the eyes of an innocent younger child. In many ways, she has not matured like other girls her age, and her innocence lingers. She likes hip music and cute boys—but that is about as far as it goes. To actually kiss a boy would elicit a an “EWWW THAT’S GROSS!” from her lips—something she would unabashedly admit without reservation. At the age when girls begin to actually think about their first kiss, my daughter just thinks boys are cute to look at but doesn’t want to go anywhere near them. Didn’t you know? Cooties do still exist—and it is rampant!!
(I know, I know—many girls have HAD their first kiss at this age—but this Mom just can’t go there.)
My daughter is almost as tall as I am—before it is all said and done, I’m sure she will be taller than I. The perception is that she’s a young lady and I do think there is a certain expectation that she should be a bit more advanced—especially among her peers. At first glance—she looks like a rather normal maturing teen—but to get to know her is to understand that she still looks at this world through innocent eyes. I’m not saying this is a bad thing—much the opposite—I find it a rather refreshing thing in many ways. The only “downside” to it, is she then has a very hard time relating to other girls her age, who would seemingly sell their soul to become 21 tomorrow. As a mom, this part of it can be frustrating, heartbreaking, and seemingly cruel at times. Especially when she asks me, “why don’t they want to be my friend?”
I think because she is so high functioning—she is aware that others see her as “different” and on some deep level it really, really bothers her.
You know, in a way, I’m glad some of these girls don’t' friend her because that could give them the chance to negatively influence her or take advantage of her innocence. But in another way—I just want to scream at the others for not accepting her for who she really is. I want to jump up and down until someone gets that it isn’t fair—this damn thing called Autism and its related disorders. It isn’t fair that it makes her feel unwanted and unloved at times by kids her age—all because her innocence is still very much in tact.
The kicker? It doesn’t get any easier as she gets older. It somehow just seems to get worse.
Solutions? I’m not sure if I have the right ones. But the first is: Acceptance. That she is who she is—and I love her and I love how she views this world. To help her accept who she is—a young lady who is “fearfully and wonderfully made.” That she is exactly who she is supposed to be and that those who don’t accept her—just aren’t worth being friends with. Most days she’s okay with it—but not always. In the meantime, she hangs on to that innocent view for yet another day. And for the most part, my heart smiles—that she still embraces it.
When I was younger—I always made a Christmas list and each year my family would see to it that I got what I wanted for Christmas. My Mom quite enjoyed going all out—as did my Grandma and then my Husband. I would dream of stuff I wanted for Christmas, write it down and then wait to see which items they picked from the list. And yes, sometimes I would rattle the box and try to guess—but rarely did I want to do that.
Then something very profound happened. I had children. It was as if something deep inside me didn’t care if I ever received another gift for Christmas or even my Birthday again. A desire within me took over and I wanted to be the giver. I can’t really explain it—other than to say— getting became much less important and giving became my focus.
I did not just want to give presents to my children. No. I wanted to give of myself—I wanted to be the kind of person that was giving in all aspects of my life. I didn’t want a metal for doing it—and I didn’t want the recognition. I would gladly do it anonymously, when I could. I just wanted to see others enjoy a bit of the holiday spirit, perhaps they would be blessed that someone thought enough of them to do something out of the goodness of their heart. It didn’t matter that who the giver was—just that someone cared—and to know that they mattered.
But the tables turned!
The Christmas of 2009 became a rather challenging Christmas in our household. We were barely hanging in their ourselves. Between losing the business and then finding employment only to be laid off a few months later, we struggled to keep afloat. Somehow by the Grace of God we pulled through that time in our lives—but at the time—it was hard to be much of a giver of anything when our own situation seemed to be so depressing.
We didn’t make a big fuss about it. We told the kids that sometimes it isn’t so much about what you get as much as it is about what you give. We found ways to make each other presents, attend Christmas events in the community and with the church, and we budgeted for a decent Christmas dinner to celebrate the day.
We decided that year to focus on others and to find our joy in making others’ Christmas just a bit better. Kids are amazing as they took to this idea a bit better than we had figured. We volunteered some time taking food down to the pantries for our church, restocking shelves at the pantry, and somewhere in the 11th hour, the Christmas Spirit was laid heavily upon us, as we suddenly felt compelled to take on a family in need in our own community—when we should have probably put our name on the list of those in need.
The tricky part was figuring out just exactly how we would do that.
A few things happened—that were really quite amazing that Christmas. First, we received a card in the mail from “Your Christmas Angels” with a $50 gift certificate to Honey Baked Ham. I remember opening the card and crying in awe as I held the certificate in my hand. Could it be that someone had thought we might have been in need ourselves? We were indeed in need, but we tried NOT to make that Christmas be about our own needs and tried to focus on the needs of others. And yet—here was a gift certificate to cover the cost of dinner –something we totally did not expect!
The other thing that happened was we received 5 $25.00 gift certificates to Meijer’s, one for each of the children. Again, the envelope was not marked with a return address—and again no idea who bestowed this wonderful gift upon us. I can tell you that it was more than generous of someone to go through all of that trouble—and why they chose us—or why they felt compelled to help us—was just beyond our comprehension!
And finally, probably the most amazing gift of all—the generosity of the “Christmas Angels” and the anonymous giver had freed up enough money in our account so we were able to help that family in need—at the last hour. We were still able to be givers when we least expected that we could pull off the task.
We were told by our pastor that they were the last family in our community that needed someone to sponsor them, and he was thankful we were able to do a small part in fulfilling that need. The family came in need at the last minute, and although we weren’t given the details, it was wonderful to know that because of other’s good will toward us, we were able to come through for them.
So what is it that I want for Christmas this year? It is the same as it is each and every year. I want to be able to give more of myself. I want to be able to make a difference where and when I can. I want to know that another family felt blessed that someone shared a smile, gave a helping hand, or acted in someway to make their holiday a little brighter.
I thank God for Christmas Angels, anonymous givers, and for people who still have the true Christmas Spirit!
Monday, December 5, 2011
With all the extra time on the job, I have had to cut way back on things I like to do for fun....one of those things is cooking. I worked all day saturday, but I was determined to have some fun saturday night! So I fired up the grill, poured a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and put the steaks and lobster tails on the fire. It was such a beautiful night out...cool (in the 60s) with a light breeze. I enjoyed looking up at the stars in between the clouds floating gently by. It was a perfect night to be outside!
After the coals died down a little more, I put on our pizza stone to heat up in preparation for the Quattro Formaggio pizza I made as an extra treat. Topped with chopped tomato, mozzarella, ricotta, parmesan, asiago, roasted red bell pepper and fresh basil leaves, it turned out really good! And I was pleased that this time I managed to avoid burning the bottom of the crust. An extra bonus? My pizza stone is still intact. It was a lot of food, but that meant lunch the next day.
We had a really good time and didn't have to run around and fight crowds....and I had a lot of fun where I like to be....at the grill. I'm definitely going to be doing this again soon. I hope all of you are having a great Christmas season and enjoying your time the way you like. Merry Christmas! -Kathy
NaBloPoMo’s assignment for today is to discuss the first gift we’ve ever made another person. And for this one—I have a cute story—without any pictures of the final product. I’m almost 40 years old—I made this 35 years ago and not sure where on earth this gift is-but I would venture to say my mother still has it.
In Kindergarten we got to draw a picture and turn that into a work of art. The teacher took our drawing and put it on this backing with holes—and we got to “stitch” or “needlepoint” (with really big thread) the final product.
I drew a picture of my Mom. I wanted to give this to my Mom and if I remember right it was either right around her birthday or Mother’s Day—but I don’t remember which. My assignment was to draw my subject—which was my Mom. I remember I got very flustered when it came to drawing her hair. You see…my Mom has naturally curly hair. Back in the 70’s, she frequently straightened it. There were pictures in our albums with her having both curly and straight hair. I’ve never been a detail type person—especially at that age—so when it was time to draw her hair, I could not “remember” if my Mom had straight or curly hair, or which she would prefer!!
Now—to be honest with you, I remember the whole thing being very confusing. I wanted to go home and see my Mom to make sure I had it right—but the teacher kept saying, “You know what your Mom looks like, so is her hair curly or straight?” The thing was—as often as women change their hair styles from day to day—to keep up with the trends-this seemed quite confusing to me. I knew I had seen her with curly hair, I knew I had seen her with straight hair. How the heck was I going to draw my Mom’s hair??
So I decided to draw half of her hair curly and half of it straight. And that is how the final product turned out!! Now if I could just find this piece of art when I go to her house next time, I might add it as a photo here. Anyway—this is the first gift I made and gave away—and I remember the framed final product was a hit!!
Saturday, December 3, 2011
This month’s NaBloPoMo theme is Gifts—and since today is Saturday and I promised to post each day this month—I thought I’d discuss one of the most precious gifts there is--
The Gift of Life.
I envision growing old with my husband and living to a ripe old age—surrounded by my kids, grandkids and yes even great-grandchildren. I plan on an evening or two a week sitting in a rocker on my front porch with my two best friends, swapping stories about memories of our youth together and newer stories about our offspring. I have all of these wonderful growing old images in my head—and it is something I look forward to—each and everyday.
I made a phone call this morning to try to cover a load. This is part of my job—a routine call I make more than several times an hour each night. The call was made to someone that dispatches some of the drivers I used to dispatch just 9 short months ago, before I took my current position. The dispatcher answered the phone and I started the usual small talk. I asked him how his night was going and he said, “It’s terrible, actually, I lost a driver tonight.” Upon hearing the details, I learned the driver’s name and realized it was a driver I used to dispatch frequently at my previous job and I spoke to her daily on the phone. Unfortunately, a patch of ice out in Iowa sent her through the windshield of her vehicle and she’s no longer with us.
I never met her. I didn’t know all the details of the accident. I just know that she died. And while I wasn’t in touch with her since switching jobs—I still liked working with her—she was a good driver—with a good driving record and she was good to work with. And you know, it sucks. I just absolutely sucks that this happened to her.
So I’ve been in a thinking mode all day. What have I been thinking about?
I’ve been thinking about the gift of life. The life we are given is a gift—the most precious gift of all! All we have is this moment—right here—right now. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. So it is upon us to make the best of each moment—because there will be a moment, one day, that will be our last.
Yes, I am still going to dream of that day of growing old with my husband and relishing in the presence of my family and spending time with my life long friends. There is no harm in dreaming and hoping for the best. But as a realist, I know that there is nothing that guarantees I’m going to get to do that. It was like a slap in the face this morning—a needed one—because it keeps me focused on the here and now. It makes me appreciate the most precious gift we are given. I have it now—and that is what really matters.
So if you’ve read this post—do me a favor. Please? Tell that someone special that you love them. Tell that friend they are important to you. Make the amends you need to make with those you’re on the outs with. Appreciate those that are there for you.
Find time to make the best of each moment…because you have those moments now.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Today’s NaBloPoMo assignment is to answer the question: “What was the most disappointing gift you received as a child?” And while I am almost certain they are referring to a Christmas gift—I can not think of any Christmas gift I was ever disappointed in. Yes, I’m one of the easiest people to buy for because I am just tickled pink with anything I receive. Sometimes it isn’t so much the gift as it is the fact that someone thought enough to actually love me enough to give me something. It’s the act, not the tangible item, that thrills me the most.
However, I think that mindset came out of a lesson I had learned on Easter when I was 4 years old. The details are a bit fuzzy—but I recall the Easter Bunny visited me that year at home—and I received a basket of candy. This is pretty normal in our culture because it seems kids of all ages get Easter Baskets from the Easter Bunny on Easter. I am not sure why, but I was expecting a plastic telephone. I had a love of the telephone at such an early age—and I remember I had gone on for weeks about how I wanted the Easter Bunny to bring me one. (To understand my love of the telephone, you’ll have to read one of my previous posts: My Other First Love—Don’t Call Me Gabby.)
Anyway, I remember looking in the basket and being very disappointed. It was certainly full of candy but there was no ‘play phone’ as I had called them. I wasn’t out of luck just yet—we still had both sets of Grandparents to visit so I was hoping someone had heard me and I would get a plastic telephone that day. We went to visit my one Grandparents and I remember getting a nice Easter Card and some clothes. Practical—but not a plastic phone—and then we went to the other set of Grandparents and I had to find the hidden Easter basket. They seemed awfully excited about me finding this basket and my face beamed from ear to ear as I just knew I wasn’t going to be let down.
Upon finding it—my excitement quickly dissipated. I remember fighting the urge to cry—but I think it was inevitable and my poor Grandparents!! They surely didn’t know what they had done wrong. I was given another basket full of candy, a doll and some xylophone toy, none of which I had any interest in. When they asked, I spilled my heart out, telling them I didn’t want any candy or a doll or a stupid toy—I had just wanted the play phone.
I was quickly reminded that Easter was not Christmas or my birthday—I was lucky to get the toys I got in my basket and also get the candy—but if I didn’t want the candy or the toys, they’d find someone else who did. I could tell they were disappointed in my unappreciative behavior and when it came to my Grandparents, the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint them.
Frustrated—and feeling guilty for being so selfish—I said I wanted the basket of candy and toys they had given me, and faked a smile through the pictures they took of me that day. It was pretty obvious by the smile on my face that I was forcing that happy face. I remember feeling I had let my Grandparents down and my selfish actions had ruined their joy of giving me something on Easter. Oh boy, did I hate that feeling.
The lesson I learned was not to expect a gift—because disappointment has a way of stealing the whole generous thought intended by the giver. You not only ruin it for them—but for yourself as well. I’m just thankful now, I learned this lesson at such an early age. Ever since, I have made an effort to not expect anything in particular—but to be thankful for anything I was given and to appreciate the act of giving. And since, the joy of giving and receiving has been so much sweeter!!
Have you ever been disappointed with a gift you’ve received?
If so, how did you handle it?
Thursday, December 1, 2011
A new month has dawned at NaBloPoMo and I’m in a writing kind of mood. The theme for this December is “Gifts” and today’s writing prompt is:
What is the first tangible gift you remember receiving?
Great question!! And of course, it didn’t take much of a thought. While I do believe I enjoyed baby dolls as a child and my easy bake oven—I was attracted to soft and cuddly things even more so. And for as long as I can remember I have had this white, fluffy, dog and it was one of the first gifts I remember receiving.
I’ll be honest and tell you, I’m not exactly sure if I remember actually receiving this gift as much as I remember the stories told to me about getting it.. The stuffed animal was never given a name at first—but after my real life dog Hippie passed—I sort of named my white fluffy dog after him.
As you can see—“Hippie” isn’t exactly white and fluffy anymore, he’s quite worn out, tattered and furless. He lives in my top drawer among the silky and soft garments, a delicate, safe place for him to spend his final resting years—to prevent further bruising, ripping, and tearing. He is held in quite high esteem—and I have told the tales of Hippie to my husband and children.
You see, Hippie has been through everything with me!! He has moved with me to each and every house I’ve ever lived in. He has seen me cry, laugh, dance and has stayed by my side through every illness imaginable. He’s traveled the highways and the skyways with me—and even went to college with me. In my younger years—I made sure that Hippie got a bath when he was dirty (which is part of the reason he is furless now) and when I got older—a drunken version of me made sure he got to imbibe as well. Crazy?? I think not. Hippie and I enjoy experiencing life together!!
Once on a road trip with my Uncle—he held Hippie out the window and offered me $100.00 if I would allow him to let Hippie go—fly out the window and land somewhere on the side of the highway. Traveling 55mph from Indiana to Tulsa—there was no way I would allow that to happen. Then my Uncle pulled out another $100.00 bill and offered me $200.00!! Again, I said “NO!!” And I had a sinking feeling that the whole thing was going to end badly!! Finally, he took out a wad of cash—he told me approximately $700.00, and in 1982 that was a TON of money, and offered it all to me, right there, if I would just let him “throw that dog out the window.” I was in tears at this point, hysterically screaming, “GIVE ME BACK MY DOG, PLEASE!!!” Somehow, I prevailed and Hippie was saved!!
Was I Crazy?? I think not. Hippie was made for me, my little, somewhat furry companion. Every major memory ever experienced—he was right there with me. Every fear, tear, hope and dream was lived with this stuffed animal by my side. All of this fuss over an inanimate object, you ask? Yes—for Hippie was one of the very first tangible gifts I remember receiving—my security blanket. My childhood was full of changes and lots of uncertainty—but the one thing I knew I could always count on was having Hippie by my side.
Perhaps, I may come across a bit off my rocker—but I have my oldest, most faithful companion along for the ride!!
What is the first tangible gift you remember receiving?