The Best Kind of Gifts

This afternoon after going out on a few holiday jaunts, the littles and I came home.  They never made it in the house, as they saw their friends out playing in the neighborhood and took off to join them.

As it was growing darker, I walked down to my neighbor’s house to call the children home.  I saw Cooter and two of his friends working on something inside of the garage.

And Cooter was carrying this.

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Cooter’s buddies know him. His reputation as a stellar Star Wars fan might have gotten out. What a thoughtful and wonderful gift!

Turns out the three boys decided to “build” Christmas gifts for each other.  Two of them would create something for the third, and they all took turns until all three of them had a present.  When I walked up Cooter and J were finishing up a football “helmet” for their buddy A.  To some it might have looked like a box with holes cut out of it, but to those little guys, it looked like a helmet.

To me, it was beautiful.

And so much fun.

No electronics required.

I love imagination powered fun.  And when giving to others is involved…..well, it just about doesn’t get any better than that.

Tonight I’m giving thanks for the blessing of living on this little street where the children come in when the streetlights come on and pack in as much fun and adventures before that happens as they can.  I’m thankful for the blessing of the friendships between the neighbors and their families.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the spirit of giving and cooperation I saw tonight.

Our future, y’all.  I think we’re going to be all right.

Love to all.

 

All the Pictures WITH them

Today I had the joy–and it was sheer joy–of seeing the faces of children as they saw Santa Claus up close and personal.

Our favorite little coffee shop hosted Santa in the chair next to the Christmas tree up on the little stage.  Family after family came in and approached Santa with timid footsteps and eager.  With shy smiles, radiant, beaming faces, or with worried frowns.  Some children went straight up to Santa, while others had to warm up to him from afar.  Santa sat with children of ALL ages on his lap or standing next to his chair, and he listened.  He held hands and handed out candy canes and smiled and laughed and coaxed little ones into smiling for the camera.

Most parents pulled their phones out and took pictures of their children with the jolly old elf.  Group shots and individual ones with Santa and their children.

And that’s when I had to step in.  I was that person reaching for their phones, insisting they get in at least one picture too.  For a family shot.

Almost every time, the parent would insist he/she hadn’t really planned on being in the picture, so they looked “a mess.”  Still I insisted.

One day your children will thank you.  They will be glad they have pictures of you and them together.  

I know of what I speak.

Over the years, there aren’t a whole lot of pictures of me and my Mama.  She was either taking the picture or in the kitchen while the rest of us were taking them.  So when I find one of the two of us, it brings me great joy.

I don’t have enough pictures with my Mama and Daddy.

So today, I reached for phones and insisted parents jump in there, and I took two or six shots of each family with Santa, insisting the parents look at the pictures before they left, so we could redo if we needed to.

It was an honor to see their faces.  Because when the whole family was in there with Santa, the parents’ smiles were usually bigger than those of the children.  Every single time.

If you are going to be with folks you love over the holidays, take lots of pictures with them, not just of them–all the people, parents and children.  Use the little square in the corner of your screen to turn the camera around and take selfies with them if you have to.  Whatever you have to do, create some magical pictures with the folks you love for you and others to look back on and remember and feel all the love once again.

My favorite moment today–when the veil was so thin–was when I looked in the eyes of a young Mama who got it.  She saw into my soul and why it mattered so much to me, and I saw into hers and knew that it was important for her too.  She was a tearfully happy Mama in the picture with her very young littles which I took through tears of my own.

Tonight I give thanks for the pictures I do have with my folks, and I give thanks for all the times I look at someone I love and say, “Let’s take a picture together and they say, ‘Okay.'” The photos bring back joyful memories and make me smile and remember and hold my people close.  Once again.  The years between us just melt away.

Merry memory-making, y’all.

Love to all.

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Santa waves in greeting to one of his little visitors.

 

 

 

Light and Warmth Everlasting

There is something sacred about sitting around a fire and listening to stories when the weather is cold and the season is dark.

I think we tell ourselves we sit there for the warmth that the fire gives.

But I also think that while the warmth might begin as a spark from the fire that rises toward the sky, it’s only the beginning.  That spark lights a flame in the hearts of those gathered round that is fed by the laughter and love and shared joy in the moment.

It is then that we are loathe to leave, telling ourselves that when we move away from the fireside, we will feel the chill in the air, and the warmth will be gone, and we will be cold and all will be dark again.

Turns out that isn’t true.

Giving thanks for the warmth that is long-lasting, the kind that comes from good friends, good conversations, lots of laughter, and light and love.

Hang in there.  Though the dark seems long-lasting, the Light is coming.

Love to all.

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“…..with every Christmas card I write…..”

On our way home this evening, the song “White Christmas” came on the radio.  Aub and Cooter were in the car with me, as I was humming along without really thinking about the song.  The song continued, and the lyrics played:

“I’m dreaming of a white Christmas
with every Christmas card I write
May your days be merry…..”

and then I heard Cooter hollering at the top of his lungs from the very back seat–

“WHAT?” Palm to forehead.  “What?  I’m supposed to write Christmas cards too?”

*sigh*

Poor little guy.

Poor all of us.

How many folks have asked you, “Are you ready for Christmas?”  “Do you have it all done?”  “Have you planned your menu for the day?”

How many times have you asked those questions in an effort to make conversation?

*guilty*

All the pressure.  All the expectations.  We create list after list.  Shopping lists.  Gifts we’re giving lists.  Parties and dinners we are invited to.  Parties and dinners we want to throw.  A baking list.  A grocery list.  A list of errands.  And yes, Cooter, even a Christmas card list.

One of my sweet friends was all but apologizing to me today that her Christmas card wasn’t going out until after Christmas.  There was just too much to do and not enough time.

Bless.  Her.  Sweet.  Soul.

I remember the year I didn’t send out cards until Valentine’s.  It worked.  It was kind of fun.  And I’m guessing our card didn’t get lost in a stack with everyone else’s Valentine’s Day cards.  Just a thought.

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves–scratch that.  I put a lot of pressure on myself to create the perfect Christmas full of all the perfect little moments in a clean, tidy home with lots of festive decorations and ornamentation and all of the joy and fun and laughter and contented sighs.

Yeah.

I’m betting I’m not the only one.

We have one week left, y’all.  To take it back.  To take a moment to rest and cuddle and read a Christmas story together piled up on the couch or chair or bed underneath the colorful afghans that bring me such joy with the people that make my soul glad.  Savoring the moment without worrying over the perpetual clutter or unwrapped gifts and all the other things we carry on our shoulders.  To simply be in the precious moment of NOW.

We have one week left to change our question from “Are you ready?” to “How are you?” or “Where are you finding peace and Light today?”  or “Where AM I going to find peace and Light today?”

We have one week left to change it. Even if we only take five minutes a day to step away from all the expectations and Hallmark commercials (doggone them for making me cry and wanting to create all the moments myself) and hustle and bustle and lists and pressure, and we just sit down and breathe.  And laugh.  Or listen.  Or sit next to the people we love or the people we’ve just met and BE.  That’s the goal.  If we can even take five minutes a day to welcome into our hearts the presence of Peace, we’ve come a long way from all of the things weighing on us, all of the lists we carry around, and we’re one step closer to that quiet night of reflection and Love beneath a bright star listening to the quiet, steady breaths of the little one newly come to us.

Go ahead.  Add THAT to your list.  You deserve it.  And *takes a deep breath* so do I.

Love to all.

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By Jon Curnow from London, United Kingdom (Christmas To Do List) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Maemae’s Holiday Book–2015 Edition

December 17, 1967.

Forty-eight years ago.

My parents stood before a small group of family and friends in front of the Pastor, and with my Mama’s best friend and my Daddy’s Daddy standing beside them, they said “I do.”

And they did.

They laughed, they learned, they worked hard, they listened, they tried, they failed, they succeeded, but most of all they loved.

Through it all. They loved.

Each other.  Us.  People they met along life’s journey.

They loved.

One of the things they enjoyed most was hearing stories about the children in the family–and those who were not in the family.  They loved the stories, and they loved being with them.  Over the years it became one of their greatest joys to pick out books for the little ones they knew and loved.  On birthdays and especially at Christmas.

It has been one of mine too.  For the past two Christmases I have chosen “Maemae’s holiday book” in honor of their anniversary. This being the third Christmas without my Mama right here with us, I spent a lot of time and energy and thought into making my choice for the book this year.

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Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman 

This year’s story I had to think about before committing to it.  After all, it is about a mouse.  Mama was not a fan of mice.  As a matter of fact, she could be downright inhospitable to the little creatures.  She never could sit down and watch “Ratatouille.”  A mouse that cooks?  Food?  In a restaurant?  “Blech,” she would say and shake her head.

Oh me.

But this little mouse named Mortimer (pretty sure Mama would have loved his name too, I know I do) is adorable, and the whole book is whimsical at the surface and powerful underneath.  It’s about making room and finding a place and feeling the love of the Gift given all so many years ago.  Without giving the storyline away, we can all learn something about hospitality and welcoming with open arms from this little mouse.  Eventually.  Like all the rest of us, Mortimer is a work in progress.

As I sit here next to our twinkle-lighted tree with “Mortimer” at my side, I give thanks for my parents who loved reading and taught me to do so as well.  I give thanks for them and their love of children and books and how they loved matching the perfect book to the perfect child.  It was a beautiful thing to behold and to be a part of.  Tonight I’m honored to carry on this tradition, and I hope, as the ones loved so dearly by Maemae and Cap/Uncle B and Aunt B find their books in their mailboxes over the next couple of days, that they will remember the smiles and the hugs, and even if they don’t remember that–I hope they will know how precious they are, that they were and are still so loved, and that every person deserves a sweet place where they are always welcome.  A place to call home.

Love to all.

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As I read Mortimer’s story, I kept thinking of this picture our Princess drew several years ago.  It is all of us around the supper table.  She said that extra seat was in case a special Guest dropped by.  Keeping room for others–at our table, in our homes, in our hearts, and in our lives–that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  

 

PSI have one copy about Mortimer’s little adventure to share.  I’d love to send it to someone with a little one or not quite so little one who would enjoy it.  Comment below sharing your favorite holiday book and subscribe to the blog and you’re entered to win.  It’s that easy.  Winner will be selected randomly Friday 12/18 at midnight EST.  

“Scratch It, You’re Done”

Today the crew and I found ourselves doing an unexpected end of semester move for our college girl.  It was a very good thing, and we rocked it.  We moved her across campus less than 24 hours after she got word she could move, and it took us 2 hours from start to finish.

Yeah, we are feeling pretty sanctimonious right about now.

As I was helping to pack up her room in bags and boxes and whatever I could find, I came across the scratch art set that Mess Cat gave Aub for her birthday.  I hadn’t packed it up yet, when I heard our Princess chastising her brother.

“No, don’t touch that.  You scratch it,  you’re done.  One scratch, it’s a picture.  You can’t undo it.”

Ah.

Much like how when our hearts or souls get scratched.  There’s no undoing that.  It’s done.

I think I’m going to start carrying around one of those black sheets with all the color underneath as an example of how delicately we should treat each other–as though we are all precious (and we are) and the least little scratch could change us forever–of how we should be careful of how we touch each other–with love or anger.  The mark will stay either way.

May we always use our touch to create something beautiful.

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artwork by our Princess

Love to all.

 

Rockin’ Around the Tree

Sharing just a few of the precious memories hanging on our tree…..

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A little porcelain doll that has hung on our trees for over fifteen years

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A snowman from my Aunt D I got so many years ago…..I’ve always loved him.  He spins!

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A gift from one of our favorite organizations doing amazing things–Bead for Life

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This little sweetheart was a wedding gift thirteen years ago from a very precious family.

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We have a few from our favorite movies.  Thankful we are.

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Hallelujah–the lights are all on! My decorating can’t hold a candle to Clark Griswold’s.

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There are ornaments reminding us of big moments or favorite things from that year.  (Marilyn and guitar–guess which one of my people these belong to?)

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There are ornaments to remind us of big life events….

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and ever so adorably small.

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We have ones that remind us of places we have lived.  (Yes, we have cute little sumo wrestlers from Japan on our tree.) 

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And we have ones that remind us of happy days with people we love and miss.  We gave this ornament to my Mama many years ago.  She loved Winnie the Pooh.  Now it hangs on our tree, and we find joy in the memories.  

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And we have sweet homemade ornaments that remind us of the Love and Light of the season. 

Tonight as I gaze at the lights and memories on our tree, I give thanks for the quiet and all of the memories that come flooding back in a rush.  So much love on one precious tree.

Love to all.

When Time Stood Still

I am one of those people who believes that light will follow darkness.  That eventually the sun will rise.  That the heavy nothingness will give way to little pinpricks of light that will open up the sky like a box being opened at Christmas, until the whole sky is gloriously lit by the golden sun as it rises from its slumber.

That is what I believe.

I have to.

To move forward.

To move beyond.

Today I found myself sitting in a courtroom listening to hard stories and all the pain and hurt from years in the past.  When I first got there I noticed the clock had the wrong time.  That’s annoying, but clocks can run slow or folks forget to set them back, so I didn’t give it a second thought.  When there was a recess I looked up again, and I saw that the clock hadn’t moved it all.  It wasn’t working.  At.  All.

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When we first arrived

I began to feel antsy.  I looked up at that clock a couple of more times during the remainder of our time in the room, and it. still. wasn’t. moving.

Then I began to feel closed in.  All of that pain, all of that hurt.  All of that, and no time had passed?

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When we were about to leave

I know that it had in actuality passed.  I think part of what troubled me is that it was a clock that the only the judge could see easily, and I wondered how on earth she was managing not knowing the time…..

Why didn’t she have that blame clock fixed?  Or replaced?  Why didn’t she do a lot of things?  Did it not bother her?

And I realized that I needed in the very worst way for that clock to move.  I need for the afternoon and then the evening to come.  I need for all of that to happen because if time does not pass, how can we begin to heal?  How can we move beyond?

Though the passing of time can bring more darkness, eventually if the clock keeps ticking, the sun will rise, the light will come, and we can move past all of the pain and hurt and sadness of the now.

Tonight I give thanks for those who remind me of the moments passing and who hold my hand and heart as they do.  I am thankful for those who sit in the dark and are the first to call out “Morning has broken!” as the tiniest bit of dawn peeks over the horizon.  Tonight I open myself to the Light which will I hope will help me see the path a little clearer.

And I’m sure hopeful that someone will fix that clock.  It’s no good to be stuck in the same moment for more than a minute–it’s just not good for our souls.

Love to all.

Hope in the Woods

Last week after I got some hard news, I wrote the poem, “over.”  I was hurting, and I remembered all of the times when I hurt like this–when I had to say goodbyes that I didn’t want to say.  When I had to close the door and not turn back.  Ever.

It was pointed out to me first by someone I know and admire and have grown to care about (though we’ve never met) that in the poem I shared that I had tossed an acorn into an open grave, and that told him something.  Later, another sweet soul pointed it out as well and said she agreed.  For me to keep tossing acorns.

Wow.

Keep tossing acorns.  

Hope.

I hadn’t looked at it like that.

This afternoon I took a few minutes to wander off by myself.  It was a lovely afternoon, just right for a walk.  I went down near the edge of the woods in search of a treasure.  I wasn’t sure if they would be there or not, but when I got there and they were–I was elated.

It was peaceful there, squatting by myself at the edge of the woods, pushing back the tendrils of grass that didn’t die off in the frost a couple of weeks ago, searching for the gifts from the trees there.

Acorns.

I gently picked up each one.  For whatever reason, the caps fell off of many of them, but I tucked each one and its cap in my jar.  I needed them, you see.  It was as though each one I picked up fed my soul a little bit more.  When I rose from the ground, I headed home toting my jar of acorns with a little more peace than I had when I began.

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And I give thanks for that.

I look at these little amazing things, and I wonder if anyone ever told them that simply dropping to the ground and waiting in one place would not get them anywhere.  I wonder if anyone ever told them about gravity and how something that falls to the ground can never really reach the skies again.  I wonder if anyone ever told them that it was all over.  Done.

No.  Of course not.

And even if someone had, it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference because an acorn defies gravity and proves that sometimes good things can come from sitting still, from waiting.  Just simply by being.  By the way it lives out its story.

Tonight I’m thankful for the peace that can be found by sitting in a patch of grass at the edge of the woods.  And for the hope that can be found in a little acorn.

Wishing you all a healthy dose of hope and peace and a little patch of grass to squat in and find it.

Love to all.

 

Joy After the Door is Closed

Today I found unexpected joy in rebirth and re-creating.  Thanks to an event shared on Facebook by a friend, we were able to see a play today.

I love plays.  I love live theater.

I absolutely adore holiday plays.

We attended a revision of “White Christmas,” performed by young people in our community.

It was different and well-done and completely fabulous.

Looking at all of those faces and their eagerness and thinking about how much of their wonderful lives they have ahead of them, I got teary-eyed.  When I saw a young teenage girl at the curtain call eyeing her parents who were sitting behind us and noticed that she was getting teary-eyed, I started to lose it.  When I leaned over and hugged my dear One who had joined us, I was undone.  The tears came, and I didn’t care.

Sheer joy.

The way the play was worked, all of the children who wanted to participate were able to.  They danced and they laughed and they delivered their lines and they told a story.  An important one about holding others above self.

The whole afternoon was joy-filled.

It was held in  a building that used to house a Family Dollar.  Since this was our first time attending a play there (not my first time in the building), I didn’t know what to expect.

What a lovely surprise!

New life was breathed back into that building and a theater was born.

From Family Dollar’s ending, something truly beautiful came to be.

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, change is very, very hard for me.  I do not like it at all, it’s not my friend, and it will never be on my birthday list.

And yet–

I think there was a lesson in what I felt today.

Things can end.  The darkness can come.  And yet,

joy shall rise again.  New life will come.

The light will shine again.

And I give thanks for that–for all of the lights that shine, from spotlights to tree lights to the bright, warm sun that kissed our faces as we left with our souls touched and spirits lifted.

A day of merry and magnificent memory-making!  I’m thankful.

Love to all.

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The Family Dollar never looked so lovely…..

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so homey…..

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or so completely wonderful.  Scenes from the back of the theater.