Sunday, December 27, 2009


A new year is about to begin in a few days. This may be my last blogpost for 2009, although I may find some inspiration between now and then. That's the really annoying thing about writing. Sometimes the inspiration appears at some random time like 2:00 a.m. and knocks on the door of your mind so incessantly that you compose brilliant lists that don't look quite so stunning in the light of day. Other times, you sit in front of a keyboard and cannot form a two word sentence. And when you least expect it, the words flow freely from another place through the fingers and onto the page. So, I'm writing now while I have the will, energy, and time.

A sermon this morning was simply but interestingly presented and reminded us to press ahead, to keep our eyes on Jesus and to realize that not making godly changes in our lives is the reason for a lot of the pain and trouble we experience. So, here are a few resolutions for 2010. Not necessarily because I believe that I can keep these in my own strength, but because I want to try to be a better person a year from now than I am right now.

Funny thing about resolutions is that part of our human nature is to be incredibly forgetful. I'm not talking about the inability to remember that often comes with age, stress, or exhaustion or any combination of the three. I'm speaking of the fact that we tend to live only in the past, the present or the future. Just like the Isrealites had to make stone mounds to remind them of something incredible God had done that they witnessed or a generation or so before them had seen...we often need those stone piles as well. If nothing else to bang our heads on out of frustration or to knock some sense back into ourselves. Because as human beings, we tend to forget an awful lot of our existence to suit ourselves.

People who live in the past probably had a stellar childhood, a great high school experience, and a tremendous amount of talent, magic, or favor in their lives. They find it hard to live in the present or future because there were people who protected them from reality or from decision making on anything more than an elementary level. Those who live in the future are those who have endured so much that they have held on to the promise of a wonderful future so tightly, that as they complete one goal after another, they are never satisfied because there are so many items on the "to do" list and so many regrets of what was expected that turned out differently.

The happiest ones live in the present. They listen for their path day by day as a "daily bread" experience. They plan, but don't feel boxed in by it. They prepare, but they retain flexibility. They savor rather than hoard or run through it on their way from point A to point B. They hear God's voice, and are able to respond to what it is that He is trying to teach them. They have disappointments...but they see these as delays...or that something better is just ahead. They experience sadness...but they have peace in the storm. They have dreams...but they are willing to lay them aside for a higher calling...and they live with fewer regrets of poor decisions.

From a resolution standpoint, it is my desire to live in the present. I want to really live in 2010. I want to be realistic in that I need to conserve money and energy in the coming year. I am already committed as far as every known dollar will stretch. If we are meant to do more...the funds will follow. If not, then they will not and we will do without. We will eat at home, celebrate more meaningfully, and cook more nutritiously. We will appreciate the blessings that we have and will expect miracles instead of relying on our own ingenuity. To temper this, we will strive to be givers and not takers, will take offense less often, and will try to make do with what we have. We are so blessed that we often trip over the sheer volume of the physical ones, and we so often overlook the spiritual and emotional ones while we are looking for something else.

So, rather than pledging to lose 100 pounds and exercise religiously...I'm going to try to lose emotional baggage and build up my spiritual muscles. The physical will come along with it if I keep my priorities straight. Keeping an eye on the road ahead will make the coming year more meaningful and the little blessings of every day more real.

Happy 2010 to advance. I hope that those of you with strained family relationships will make this the year to quit holding a grudge. I hope that those of you with health issues will receive healing or an extra measure of God's love during the trial. I wish for you happiness, a closer relationship with God, and the ability to know that you are significant and important. Because you are. Happy 2010...may it be the decade of miracles...

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Figuring It All Out

Aren't Christmas lists just the most frustrating things ever? Sometimes it is nice to be able to have a clue or two as to what someone wants as resources are limited...but other times, it is difficult to find the specific items. Very difficult. Try impossible.

My daughter - who is THE easiest person on my list - provided me with her Christmas list in October. This is both a positive and a negative development. It is positive in that I have a very clear picture of what she wants. It is negative in that this means I will look for every item on that list AND will stumble on a ton of other things that I want to give her. I will then spend the first two weeks of December trying desperately to get my son to give me just a couple of clues. The package total will be totally uneven if I am not extremely careful.

That is one thing that my mother insisted upon. What we received may not have cost the same (although I am convinced that it was close)...but there would be the same number of packages under the tree. I try to do that as well...but have found that this does not always occur. I then pull a few of her gifts and save them for her birthday in January. Cheating? Well, yeah. But it might possibly keep Brian off of Dr. Phil or Oprah bemoaning the fact that his mother wasn't "fair."

Drawing names takes some of the drama out of Christmas morning...but only if there is excellent communication. Purchasing the wrong size or something from a local store (that is more difficult to exchange without inquiring for the receipt) can make it a little hard to take if your primary gift is not something you can use.

Leaving people to their own devices can be extremely risky...especially if someone in the family is a big fan of buying Christmas in July. Receiving pool toys and beach towels probably aren't as appreciated in the dead of winter. Unless, of course, the family is headed for the Bahamas or something for a Christmas holiday.

Then there's the whole gift card/money/check debate...which basically means that you clear money back and forth to each other under the guise of gift purchasing. Teenagers love this, actually, because they'd rather buy whatever is new and cool on iTunes rather than limit themselves to one CD of your choice.

But the truth all eventually works out. Someone will be amazed at the attention you paid to them...someone will be surprised...someone will be relieved that they finally received a long desired item. We may not have this experience every year on one side or the other...but it is fun to think that we might.

Figuring it all out is just part of what makes the holidays stressful...but also a whole lot of fun. You never just might all end up better than you expect. Here's hoping!

Merry Christmas! Hope that all of your wishes for the season came true!

Hugs & Kisses - Day 24

It is Christmas Eve. Many of you will be shopping for the first time today (and you would be male). Others will be putting the finishing touches on a special meal and getting ready to go to church or midnight mass. You'll be either looking to leave out milk and cookies for Santa...or waiting for little eyes to close. You may even be up playing Trivial Pursuit...or playing cards with old friends.

In my family, we would go to church for communion as a group on Christmas Eve. It is a tradition that prepares my heart and reminds me of the real reason for the season.

I don't know what your plans will involve or what Christmas Day will bring. This is the last note before the big day. I hope that you have enjoyed anticipating the season with me. I know that as I've written these...I've thought a lot about what has made Christmas special to me in the I can try to seek it out in the present. I hope that you have done the same.

Merry Christmas! I hope that you find the next 24 hours as magical and wonderful as you imagine...and even more so if that is possible. For those of you who have burdens to carry this season...try to let the joy of the season give you relief from the burden. Give yourself a gift and leave it with God. For those of you living with fear...or sickness...or hardship...I hope that you have found something remarkable in the midst of your difficulties. For those of you who have new relationships (including new babies)...savor this special season. Store it in the treasure box in your heart.

Thank you for reading...and for being in my life. I wish you happiness...and love.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Report on Two Teas and Some Serious Rambling

Yesterday, Jill and I attended two teas within a three hour period. On the bright side, we only had to find one outfit that fit or looked awesome, and we swept through both at a fairly rugged pace. Jill grumbled the entire time in the car on the way to the first tea...primarily because she doesn't like being in awkward situations. Having to remember names, meet people, figure out how to eat standing up, and look incredibly cute is apparently difficult to do simultaneously. I honestly wouldn't know.

I don't really have difficulty with the first two under normal situations, but the third and fourth are definitely not a problem for me. I tend to remember things that other people tend to forget in such detail that it would be brilliant...if I weren't weaving times of being such a complete bonehead into the tapestry. I can remember anything that I have studied...but not everything. So, I'll remember enough to be dangerous...and sometimes dangerously wrong. I just never know exactly when there will be a light bulb out to speak. But does that stop me from talking? That answer would be NO.

So, I tend to remember people who don't necessarily remember me and I'm rambling on about something that I assume that they know...but they don't remember me from Adam's housecat. Other times, the reverse is true. So, as I'm trying to introduce my daughter to someone...I can't exactly remember who they are...or I call them by their child's name. Nice. That actually is fairly universal...I've been called "Jill" many, many times.

The other one...meeting not difficult for me. After ten years of commercial lending...and 24 years of banking...I have been in more breakfast meetings, coffees, after work social events and Chamber of Commerce functions than I care to mention. I can talk to a wall. Part of this is an inherited tendency to talk incessantly, and the other part is just learned behavior. I find that after one of these events, though, I tend to need some alone time to recharge. I am...after introvert...whether anyone but Myers-Briggs believes me or not. Energized by crowds? On a selective basis...yes. But I'd really rather be in a small setting with just a few people...or by myself.

I gave up eating at these functions sometime in 1997. I used to try to balance a plate and a drink, but soon learned that it was far easier to survive these events by just having the drink. If alcohol was served, I'd just order a diet Coke with a lime twist. That way, nobody knew what was in the cup, and I could leave without doing something heinous like laughing too loud. I tend to be LOUD if fueled by alcohol. So, I avoid it completely.

Looking incredibly cute has now be replaced with "looking decent for my age" which on some days is questionable. I have had to resort to chemical alteration of the hair, and there is simply no way to hide the fact that there has been far too much eating and far too little exercise for a while now. I left comfort behind years ago. So, I keep my coat on if I can, and I play a game called "get somewhere where you can see what is going on but you won't block anyone with your hips" and then I just stand there and smile. Usually, the uncomfortable ones come up and talk to me...which means that we are both entertained, and I'm not blocking traffic somewhere. Which totally works for me.

So, we went to the first house...a tea for a debutante ball that Jill will be participating in this summer. The girls who are in it are all very the pictures will totally rock. There are six girls from Jill's high school, and about a dozen or so others involved from what I counted. This will mean that I get to see Big Dave in tails, and for that...I am willing to pay whatever this costs even if rice and beans will be standard fare for awhile. She will be gorgeous...and I'm tickled that she was invited to participate. We are not exactly paragons of the social set here in the Montgomery, Alabama area. You almost need to be born here to fully understand...but due to the kindness of many of the board members - including Jill's roommate's mother - she was nominated and selected.

She spoke to many of the participants, and enjoyed herself a whole lot more than she thought she would. She smiled and put on her best "rush party" face and I actually saw her laughing a few times. The fact that she was not glued to my side like velcro was evidence enough for me. Plus, they had that really good lime sherbet punch that used to be standard fare at southern weddings and baby showers before everyone went all party planner on us with exotic punches that have about fifteen ingredients and don't taste nearly as good. So, I sashayed up to the table and surveyed the wonderful food that someone had taken the time to make then got my cup of punch and enjoyed it immensely. I fear that I gained ten pounds just eyeing the chicken salad sandwiches, fruit, cookies, and cheese straws...but perhaps not. I believe that if food is prepared by skinny women, it generally won't be as good as it looks because they use fat free everything...which is almost sinful if you ask me.

The second tea was at a beautifully restored apartment building that was turned into a home. The tea was great...but many people came just to see the house. It was decorated at a level that I will never come close to achieving in my lifetime, and that is just as well. The hostesses were immensely gracious, and I had a lovely conversation with the lady of the house about the caloric content of various appetizers. She probably thinks I'm nuts...but whatever. At least I wasn't talking about the weather...which is my hidden signal that it is time to go...or I am participating in a wasted five minutes of my life. She had roses everywhere, and the decorating was beyond decorating. What would you call that? Super-size decorated? Uber-decorated? Well, it was all that and more. Yeah.

Oh, and she even had a pink tree for the Phi Mu tea. Her decorator just decided to dress the tree in pink this year before she was asked to host the tea. Amazing! We photographed the collegians, and it was then that I realized that Jill's old high school boyfriend's current girlfriend (a Phi Mu at another school) were in the same photo. This will certainly be a shock to his mother...who treated Jill (and me) quite shabbily a few years ago when the photo shows up in the local newspaper. Sometimes life has some unexpected surprises, doesn't it?

All in was a wonderful afternoon. Jill really ended up enjoying herself very much, and all four of the University of Alabama collegians were at the tea. We got to see an old neighbor who is now the president of her chapter in Troy and her mother - who as fate would have it - was my nurse when I had my gall bladder out a few weeks ago. Seeing how the other half lives (and decorates) was like going to decorating Disneyland for me. I don't really know that much about decorating...but I know that someone spent many hours poring over fabric swatches, paint colors, and furniture lines so that I could enjoy the visual feast yesterday afternoon. I did leave the actual feast on the table alone though...which was good.

I got to thinking about Jill's reaction yesterday afternoon and it reminded me that sometimes we are invited to events that we'd rather not attend, but we always end up having a great time...or if we don't...we have excellent stories to share with others. To me, part of the fun is having a little of both, actually. Sometimes enduring incredible hassle makes for a most rewarding experience...or something so horrible that we end up laughing about it for years. I know that I have a few stories like that including a particularly nasty stomach virus that hit me, Big Dave, Mom and Ralph a one bathroom apartment. Oh, the horror! I still retain the aversion to the smell of Lysol all these years later.

So, if you are attending holiday functions and feel about as festive as the Grinch, just try to let go and go with the flow. You will find something positive in the experience...or not. I find that it is the "or nots" are sometimes almost as much fun (in retrospect) than the easy, perfect times of my life. Not the tragic times...but just the "OH. MY. GOSH." times that I consider the spice of life. Probably because I have so many of them...that I finally just started finding the humor in them instead of opting for therapy.

Well, enough rambling for a Wednesday December morning. There are things to do and places to go. Big Dave and I cleaned up the bedroom this morning, and you can not only walk in actually now looks like a bedroom instead of the clearance aisle at Walmart. The kitchen has been returned to its "pre-baking" splendor from "frat house aftermath" look it had yesterday (minus the beer cans, of course). There is Christmas music playing on Dish Network, and I am sitting here in my pink moumou at 10:00 a.m. Life is good.

Almost There - Day 23

Sometimes when it gets to be close to Christmas...we begin to panic. The gifts that haven't been bought...or wrapped...or tagged. The food that has to be picked up...and prepared...and presented. The guests are coming and we have to clean...and dust...and welcome. Busy...busy...busy!

But we are almost is December 23rd. Or it should be when you are reading this.

Now is the time where you have to rearrange your priorities. You have to give up finding the "must have" toy that is not going to materialize. You must cut out three of the seven casseroles you planned because there are only 24 hours in a day. You have to get assistance getting the presents wrapped by that kid who is home from college and is sleeping until noon.

It is two days until Christmas. And you may have already done everything on your list...or you may not have. It doesn't matter. Because in two days...we are celebrating...ready or not!

Try to remember that you are almost there. Sit back and enjoy. Have a cup of cider and just breathe. Turn on "It's A Wonderful Life" or "A Christmas Story" and enjoy Christmas past...or "Elf" or one of "The Santa Clause" movies for Christmas present. After all...'tis the season!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


It is quiet in the house...except for the hacking of one family member who is on the tail end of one of those colds that puts one of those old school wrestler "body slams" on you. It is about seven o'clock in the morning and I'm on my first cup of coffee. I actually slept well in spite of the fact that I sampled what we were baking last night which is a colossal "no-no" on more fronts than I care to elaborate on here.

It is three days before Christmas. I have not plugged in my Christmas lights in two days out of sheer laziness, and I still have all of those threads of things not 100% completed undone and lying lazily around. Today and tomorrow will be the days that I rectify that situation, and I am blessed that I do not have to go to work. May as well I don't really know what to do with myself when I have time on my hands. I seem to get as much done when I am pushed as I do when I have all the time in the world...perhaps more so.

The frost outside looks like snow against the dead grass, and the weather has been cold for the entire time in December except for one day. It has felt like Christmas and for that I have been grateful. While I do love the summer heat...there is just something wrong about wearing shorts and flip flops on Christmas Day. It almost reminds me of those Christmas cards where Santa is sitting under a palm tree with a Hawaiian shirt drinking a concoction with an umbrella in it. I don't buy that at all. If Santa were really at the beach in that get up...he'd be wearing dark socks or a Speedo. Anyone who has been to the beach knows that this is required dress for the geriatric set. At least it is in the South.

I hope that the sand tart cookies that I made...that were supposed to be refrigerated...relax enough to actually let me bake them this morning. Their current state is the texture of concrete. I know that it is cold, but I am thinking that they are not supposed to be this hard. I am afraid that my ADD child - the one measuring the flour - lost count. Let's hope not. If so, I'll be doing another batch in short order. I'm hoping that they just need a few minutes - or hours - thawing out somewhat.

The peanut butter cookies look gorgeous. I'm assuming that they taste okay. I believe that they are a little harder than I want them to be, but when you stick a Reese's mini peanut butter cup into any cookie (or just eat them straight out of the wrapper)...isn't that supposed to make everything right with the world? I hope that these will be edible. I know that the cheesecake thingys are good. I actually tried them. It would have been far cheaper to do something like spinach dip instead of trying to bake. And far easier to transport.

I spent the better part of an hour last night imagining what would go on what tray like some of culinary MacGyver. Granted, Martha Stewart would have yanked up a tile from the foyer, and spraypainted it silver to add the perfect patina of pewter, but as has been firmly established...I am NO Martha. I ended up dragging out silver trays that I recently polished for no reason other than they needed it and I needed an excuse to do something productive while I was watching (most likely) a GERARD BUTLER movie of some kind. Most of the time, I use those cutesy ceramic holiday platters that you can find en masse at Ye Olde Cracker Barrel, but the order of the day today is crystal (glass), silver, or pewter.

After a bracket fail in our last house due to Big Dave's insistence that we had too much clutter in one of the cabinets, I am a little light in the glass department. Truth be wasn't exactly the way I wanted to alleviate myself of my glass platters...but it was effective. My collection of pewter pieces includes smaller pieces that I've received as gifts. You simply cannot put a gazillion cookies on something the size of two blocks of cream cheese. So, I'm going silver...which I do have...thanks to the generosity of those who gave us wedding gifts in 1985 and a couple that I received back in the day when silver platters were given in lieu of trophies. The platters have been virtually unused for most of this time...but today? They rule.

The sand tarts came out okay. Not perfectly...because my oven cooks faster than Lindsay Lohan gets in it is impossible to gauge. The peanut butter cookies did soften up some, but I'm going to use my friend Cindy's recipe now that I have exhausted my stash of peanut butter cookie mix. I have one kind of cookie that I do well...sugar cookies...but frankly...I am not in the mood to ice cookies and clean up sprinkles.

On another is my niece Tara's third birthday...and the only one thus far that we (collective "we" here) have had the opportunity to celebrate in person. One of the drawbacks of having Linda living in France is that we miss all of those celebrations that many of us take for granted. Birthdays, Halloween, Christmas morning, and attending church. It is - sadly - the price we must pay. However, we do celebrate the 4th of July with gusto (as they are always here for six weeks in the summer) and we make the best of the time we have. I won't be attending the family party in Atlanta because I have the Phi Mu tea and another one for the debutante ball Jill is in this summer. They are overlapping each other this afternoon but we are doing both because it is possible...and one (possibly two)of Jill's roommates are doing the whole "running around like chickens with their heads cut off" thing with us as well.

Plus, the hostess to the Phi Mu tea has a pink tree. PINK! How much better can today possibly get?

Oh well, the busyness is about to set in...I can feel it. Well, it may be the sugar rush from the sand tart I just tried to make sure that they are edible (they are) but whatever. I hope that I will enjoy my time off today and will be able to figure out what to wear without too much ado. Hey, I like this math...two outfit. ROCK ON.

Hope everyone who actually reads this has a fabulous day. There are days, good days and then there are DAYS. I'm hoping that whatever yours turns out to be is sweet, warm, and inviting. And may thank the sand tart for that last sentence of inspiration. :)

Cards - Day 22

Every year, one of my favorite parts of the holiday season is receiving Christmas cards. I enjoy seeing the familiar addresses and handwriting on the outside...and the beautiful cards chosen and the pictures enclosed on many of them. I keep my Christmas cards in my scrapbooks...and I have been able to watch children grow from babies to toddlers, to elementary schoolers to high school graduates over time. I love seeing the notes that people who have been special to me have left in the cards for me to reflect on years after the sentiments were first written.

Sometimes we see the giving and receiving of Christmas cards as one of those practices that is not as necessary in the world of e-mail and online photo album sharing. But there is something special about opening the mailbox and gathering something other than an ad, a coupon, or a bill. Something that someone went to the trouble to send to us to enjoy...and to let us know that they consider us important to them.

I suspect that the time will come when I may no longer have cards with photos of children on the front...but instead will have letters inside outlining what the family has been doing over the year. I have not shifted to doing family letters yet...but I'm certainly not ruling it out!

Cards connect us through years and miles. People that knew me when I was young send cards as do people I work with and see often. I treasure each of them...and am grateful for the relationships that I have with the people that send them from all over the country.

If I were writing you a Christmas card today, it would wish you not only a wonderful and peaceful season...but joy and success in the coming year. I'd also include a picture of my beautiful children...both of which I am very proud. I'd probably even try to get Dixie and Rebel to behave and sit still...we've done it a couple of times.

As you open cards and think of those who sent them to you...put them somewhere in the open where you can say a little prayer for those who sent them to you during the next few days. Think about them during your days and realize how blessed you are to have had those relationships. I know I'll be doing the same...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Day Off

Today...I have a day off. A day where I could be asleep in bed but got up at 6:30. This was after getting up at 2:00 and 4:00 with heartburn so bad that I silently swore that I would never eat green bean casserole again. This resolve will easily be forgotten the next time somebody has it on the buffet, but whatever.

I have some baking to do today...but naturally do not have one elusive ingredient - graham cracker crumbs - which means that I have to A) get dressed and B) not look scary so that I can go to the grocery store before all of the college students get up and crowd the roads along with the people from all over central Alabama who felt the need to come to the thriving metropolis of Montgomery, Alabama.

I am making about a gazillion mini cheesecakes (in mini muffin pans to give you a sense of scale) for the Phi Mu tea tomorrow. I love to bake for a purpose, but strongly sense that this is going to be far more exhausting than going to work and analyzing tax returns. Why? Because I was not born with the domestic gene...I'm a total wannabe.

Women in my family had "help" until my mother's generation so this was a well guarded secret. My grandmother put together specialties that we all clamored for when she was with us, and she shooed us out of the kitchen with great gusto. Part of it was that our family has an affinity for talking and not working while in the kitchen. I learned this the hard way during Thanksgiving a couple of years ago. I've had to turn into a banshee to keep people out of my kitchen because - in spite of my open floor plan - I have a "two butt kitchen" - which means that only two people can actually work in there at any given time. If three are there, it will look like any given Three Stooges episode...unintentionally.

The other part of her refusal to allow us in was that she used common ingredients in what she made "from scratch." Two that spring to mind are Campbell's Vegetarian Vegetable soup in her homemade vegetable soup...and Franco American spaghetti in her goulash. So, while we were offended that we were only allowed in the kitchen to put ice in the tea glasses...I believe that it was in part because she didn't want us to know that she was taking shortcuts. Bravo to her on that one!

Growing up, housecleaning involved sweeping and replacing the toilet paper roll as far as I could tell. I had to make my bed sporadically, but other than that, I was pretty clueless. I learned to make scrambled eggs, but learning to cook was a slow and painful process for anyone who was forced to eat my cooking. My mother-in-law taught me to cook...which was awesome...except that her lessons were usually when we were all together. So, I can cook brilliantly for 14...for 4, though? Not so much. But if you are ever invited here for a group can rest assured that you will not leave hungry...or without a plate for later...and later after that.

So, as I sit here contemplating the time ahead of me right now...I am happy that I have a beautiful cold December day four days from Christmas to fill however I see fit. It is a rare privilege. Everyone except for Brian has to work I am enjoying a cup of coffee and writing this to make ME happy.

Never mind that the dogs need bathing, the refrigerator needs to be purged, the toilets could use a scrubbing, and I have a few random gifts to wrap. Who cares if I have enough dust to write "Rudolph wuz here" on my endtables? What does it matter that I have enough laundry to keep me quite occupied today?

Perhaps I should ask Santa for the gift of domesticity in 2010. Maybe then I can FINALLY get my bedroom clean enough to walk through without running into something. That I'll be able to get excited about the recipe section in Southern Living or the sight of a freshly mopped floor. Well, actually, the latter does make me smile...especially if Big Dave is pushing the mop...which he frequently does.

Those who were born with inclinations toward being Martha Stewart (my only inclination is toward her crabiness on occasion)or Rachael Ray (I can do her enthusiasm if I am jacked up on caffeine) have my respect. The only Paula Deen I can pull off is her accent. But today...none of that matters. I DID inherit the shopping gene...and that's where I'm headed in a few minutes...the grocery store. Not the best place for me to go unescorted...but hopefully I'll manage. Later!

Winter Wonderland - Day 21

Winter officially begins on December 21st each year...which is also the shortest day of the year. And in the southern states...who knows exactly what the weather will be like. It might be painfully cold with discussion of snow flurries...or we could be wearing flip flops with our jeans and tee shirts as we grumble through the aisles of WalMart.

There is a part of me that would love to have the Currier-and-Ives-horsedrawn-carriage-snowman-building Christmas that our northern cousins tend to have. Granted, were this to happen...we would not have electricity to light our trees, workplaces and schools would be closed, and people would be eating saltines and peanut butter instead of turkey and dressing.

I don't know what the fascination is with having a "White Christmas" or "walking in a winter wonderland"...but it is something that I've always thought would be "way cool" to do. I suppose that it is that we want to be bundled the snow fall...and drink cocoa by the fire.

I remember being in Lee High Singers in high school and singing in nursing homes during the holiday season. We would sing "Winter Wonderland," "Jingle Bells," and "It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas" (if that's the title...not sure) and we'd be singing about snow and sleighbells and sturdy trees not minding snow. As if a raging snowstorm was just around the corner in the great state of Georgia in mid-December.

I have come to realize that my view of a winter wonderland is a lawn lit up with wonderful light displays. In my hometown of Thomaston, Georgia...there was a street completely dedicated to decorating for the holidays. It was known as "Christmas Lane" each December. Seeing the lights...and putting on the air conditioning if it was necessary to get it cool enough...made it seem truly like Christmas to me.

For those of you who are looking out your window and seeing snow...I'm envious. But I think that a winter wonderland is really whatever it takes to make Christmas feel like Christmas to you...that magic combination of past, present, and hopes for the future.

Enjoy the first day of winter...we have three more months...and before it is over...we will be wishing for bright green shoots and mild days. But for now...on the beginning part of the season...with Christmas only a few days away...I'll be enjoying the lights...and hopefully the cool, crisp weather of the South. On December 26th, we can break out the flip flops and shorts again. Hey, it could happen...and quite frankly HAS.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Stars - Day 20

I love dark clear nights when you can see the stars...and can trace the patterns that you learned as a child. The "big dipper" or the "little dipper" are about as far as I know...but I've heard other people point out constellations that have long or romantic sounding Greek mythology-like names.

It amazes me when I look up and see the millions of stars that dot the sky. But it is always possible for me to find the North Star...the brightest one.

On many Christmas trees we see stars on top...stars that represent the star of Bethlehem. To me, seeing stars reminds me of the vastness of the universe and how each star is a light in a sea of darkness...just as we are told to be.

Stars have five points...and hopefully our holidays do as look reach remember...and to enjoy. Celebrate tonight by looking up at the stars. Say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for all of the blessings in your life...and remember that in the grand scheme of things...all of the worries of this life are temporary. Leave them in the darkness...and focus on the points of light.

Stars...points of light in a field of darkness. Bright lights on top of Christmas trees in humble homage to the light of the world. It is my hope that you'll see that light very brightly this Christmas season.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Magic - Day 19

I am fascinated by things that are magic. How two people meet and fall in love or how babies come from how they do through a nine month journey to become totally indispensable members of our families. I even think that Disney is magic to some they can get people to keep coming back despite the cost, the crowds, and the changing characters day after day...year after year. I even enjoy watching magicians make items appear or disappear in spite of my best efforts to track their tricks.

Magic is a part of the holiday season that we are trained to expect from the time we are babies. Santa coming into our homes and dropping off toys...or the Elf on the Shelf moving from place to place. The magic of the season captivates our young hearts...and we spend the rest of our lives attempting to recapture it for ourselves while replicating it in the lives of those entrusted to our care.

I love seeing the eyes of my children light up when they get more than they think they will...or when they get an item that they had convinced themselves was out of reach. I love seeing someone's face when they see an unexpected card or package come their way. That's part of the joy of Christmas!

Over two thousand years ago...God did a little magic of His own. He sent us His Son as a gift. It is due to that magic that we have hope. It was quite a sleight of hand...don't you think? Putting a prince in a manger...born to a teenage mother...with a star as a neon sign to draw some folks out of the field to meet Him. Amazing.

Create a little magic of your own this Christmas...and don't forget to share!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sugar and Spice - Day 18

Sugar and spice and everything allegedly what little girls are made of. To me...that's what Christmas seems to be made of. Lots of sugar! So, to offset the sugar, we have to have something salty...then sweet...then get the picture.

I love the sweet parts of the holiday...the Christmas story...the beautiful Christmas songs...pretty packages...wonderful baked goods. The food is as Buddy the Elf (in "Elf") says..."candy, candy corn, candy canes, and syrup (as the major food groups we eat during the holidays)." If we have a sweet tooth...there is no end to the possibilities! Every break room at work is loaded down with sweets and treats. Our friends bake and send us samples. Others prepare their seasonal best in cakes, candy, cookies, and pie and invite us to indulge. And indulge. And indulge!

But we all know...after the sugar high...comes the sugar crash. We indulge all right...knowing that January will be a month of carrots and celery. We get our expectations high...only to have the blues a day or so after Christmas. We seem to run the gamut of the extremes...and sometimes it isn't pretty!

Or maybe it is the spice that attracts you...the smell of wassail or the nutmeg in eggnog. Delicious!

Here's hoping that your Christmas is a soft but sweet reminder of what is truly important. That the aggravations and unimportant will simply melt away. Enjoy the sweetness of a child's smile, the hug of a teenager, and the laughter of old friends. Savor time with older relatives and the traditions that define your family. Keep it all in balance. It goes so fast!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dear Santa...

I have had Christmas giving on the brain for the past two weeks as I've received no fewer than 132 e-mails offering me coupons, free shipping or extended shopping hours that I've actually thought enough of to open and read. I've deleted about five times that number from my friends at Omaha Steaks, Vera Bradley,, and for some unknown reason Dollar General. I realize that Christmas is Jesus' birthday, and that it is a holy and special time. I am not in any way trying to take away from the significance of the holiday...but I do sometimes long for the day when I would just grab the Sears catalog and go at my wish list with admirable gusto on a sheet of Blue Horse notebook paper using a number two pencil and powered by nothing except "ME" to the third power and probably entirely too much sugar. Now that I am much older, I realize that a list to Santa might be helpful...but I'm not holding my breath. But here goes just in case the Hallmark Channel movies actually are fo' real:

Dear Santa:

As someone who obviously shops at the North Pole "Big and Tall" Shop, I am sure that you can understand why I would really love to take off about forty or a hundred pounds in short order. Much as you have difficulty getting through chimneys and the like...I'd love to just sit down in a chair without worrying about its ability to keep me aloft. So, please give my excess weight to someone who really needs it...I have a list of celebrities that have enough time on their hands to exercise with their personal trainers and spend all of their time not eating. As for me, I'd just like a year or two of not shopping in the Junior Zeppelin Department.

My second wish would be that the Scholarship Fairy would sprinkle some incentive dust all over my two children. I'd love a call from the Financial Aid Office at University of Alabama offering my two unlimited scholarship dollars. At the very least, I would love for Her Highness to be overwhelmed with a desire to live in the far more economical university housing.

My third would be that Merry Maids would come to this house and clean it all up so that I could get over the obsession with wanting to call them for a free consultation. Only the fear of their incessant laughter or whoops of "I ain't goin' there..." keeps me from picking up the phone. Big Dave does what he can, but I did not inherit the ability to enjoy or tolerate housework without strong a visit from guests or possibly...the local Health Department.

I'd love to have every bill paid off, job security, and hair that didn't require alteration every eight weeks. I'd also love an aversion to sugar, a new battery for my Honda, and self-bathing dogs. What I couldn't do with an allergy to chocolate, a preloaded Visa card for incidentals, and having Barack Obama just decide to resign because he's tired of the demands of traveling and flying Michelle to New York for date night.

If it isn't too much, could you also correct Big Dave's snoring, remove the Democrats from power, and give me a new desire and ability to cook delicious and budget friendly meals? If you can't figure that last one out...just send me a chef instead. I'll manage.

I've actually been a pretty good girl this year. I've supported Clever in Zambia, tried to help people when I was able, and I haven't been too sassy most days. In spite of the fact that I am the mother of two teenagers and I live in a place where people don't know how to drive, I have not blown up too often...relatively speaking. So...I hope that this helps.

I'll be leaving cookies and milk for you...just in case.

Merry Christmas!

Games - Day 17

My family is a group of fierce competitors. Almost every gathering will end up with a game being pulled out. We had family game night...before family game night became cool. We played everything from Trivial Pursuit to Scattergories to Boggle.

Most of us love trivia, cards, and puzzles. We love crossword puzzles, word search...and suduko. We are suckers for nickel slots, baseball, football and the Olympics.

I understand that games are not only entertaining, but they tend to keep our minds sharp. Must have been grandmother was well into her 90s when she died...after a lifetime of this kind of mental gymnastics and competition.

I use these same skills to try to get from the 1st of December to Christmas Day. There are so many wonderful things to experience and so many things that I have to do! It is a large puzzle that has to be solved...but the exhilaration of actually having it all work out is quite amazing!

When you have your family together for the holidays...enjoy playing games...and watching sports together. There is nothing more wonderful than having the time together and the unchecked laughter that will inevitably result. Unless of are a bad sport.

I have been from time to time. The game "Dirty Santa" brought out the worst in me for several Christmases. I faced it head on and got over my obsession with winning what I wanted...and just enjoyed playing the game. The year that I finally relaxed...was the year that I actually got a great prize without even meaning to!

Laugh...cheer...enjoy! (And don't get mad if you lose!)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Memories of Dirty Santa

Tonight I went to the office Christmas party. It was fun...fairly low key...and the food was great. The hostess had a beautifully decorated home, and I had a really good time. I even came home with a great "Dirty Santa" gift. However, I feel guilty. The person who I took it from and who could have taken it back from me...chose not to. Now I feel bad. Why? I mean...this was a $10 gift of a cute little Christmas doormat with "Ho! Ho! Ho!" on it. But...because she actually mentioned that she was not doing so in the spirit of Christmas...I am blessed with a great gift and she is taking home some pretty...but no use whatsoever to me in this lifetime wine glasses. The mat, however, will be put to good use. In fact, it is already sitting outside my front door. Yay me.

"Dirty Santa" has been one of those games that I've had to avoid if I wanted to maintain healthy relationships. More than once, I have become Veruka from Willie Wonka...the epitome of spoiled brat coupled with roller derby participant...and about as lovely. I have a competitive spirit that is healthy in most instances. But put me in this particular game...and I become quite beastly. It is embarrassing to admit, but it is almost an out of body experience. I see my irrational self wanting to rip a $10 prize from someone's hands. Intensity level? Code red.

My first encounter with this ritual of cruelty was in Girl Scouts at about age 11. I ended up with a pair of Today's Girl pantyhose. Granted, the gift limit was $2, but really...pantyhose? I'm thinking that someone's Mama couldn't break away from "Days of Our Lives" long enough to hop in her wood paneled station wagon to go to K-Mart and so she went with what was in the drawer. While other girls had cute little Holly Hobbie notebooks or word search books...I had a pair of Size A Suntan pantyhose to wear to church. Great. Not.

As a young married, I went with Big Dave to a Sunday School "Dirty Santa" ornament swap. Mind you, there were about seventy people in our class and I had drawn something like number by the time that I actually got to choose a number of rules had been renegotiated so that we would actually be able to leave before the pregnant ones gave birth or they locked the church or something. I took a reindeer ornament that was supposed to be retired after my acquisition, but A hussy came up and snatched it away from me leaving me stuck unwrapping a sad little ornament that was certainly no silver reindeer. The injustice of it all (and sugar overload and exhaustion from hours of this game that I firmly believe is a spawn of the devil) upset my equilibrium to such a degree that my competitive nature went into overdrive. So I didn't go all Rambo on everyone, I ended up going to the Ladies' Room until I could collect myself and quit wanting to punch the woman who stole my reindeer. No, I didn't punch a hole in the wall or pitch an unholy fit there in the church Social Hall. I have more class than THAT. But redneck...I did go...on the inside anyway. Not to be robbed of my joy...I did hunt down that little reindeer ornament at area Hallmark stores until I found one.

The very next year at a banking group party, I had a soft red plaid blanket that I was very excited least until some heifer took it and left me scurrying under the tree to find something else to open. The result? A skating pig. Wish I were kidding. A little Dollar Tree skating pig. I left it on the table. Someone retrieved it, and I very ungraciously gave it away to someone whose children might enjoy it. I may not be much of a decorator...but I did draw the line at skating swine.

It was at this point that I refused to play for about a ten year period. Oh, people would mention it...and I'd beg off. I went through a period of "healing" and what I'd like to think was "maturity" but I know better. And then one day...I was invited to the bank Christmas party and "Dirty Santa" was the entertainment for the evening. Egad.

I had psyched myself up to not respond negatively and was doing deep breathing exercises as I saw people open numerous gifts with excitement and with the requisite "oohs and ahs". Me? I was counting sugar packets and reciting the alphabet backwards...anything to keep my mind off of the upcoming familiar routine. You a great gift...think you'll actually get to keep it...and then see it snatched away by someone who leaves you with the equivalent of a gift from the final day of the Dollar Tree clearance sale if there were one I suppose.

I went to the tree and opened a small iron skillet. I was excited but refused to let it show on my face! I thought to myself "Hey, I can use this!" and quietly showed it off and then tried to keep my hopes down...way down. A couple of times I thought that it was in the mix, but it turned out to be one of those gifts that nobody really wanted. Except, of course, ME. Oh, some candles from Kirkland's were traded relentlessly and a couple of other home decorating items that I couldn't have cared less about. But as we neared the end of the game...nobody seemed to remember that I had the skillet...or cared...which suited me well. Having been robbed of my loot once too often, though, I didn't draw an easy breath until the game was over and I was still in possession of it. Fortunately, I didn't have to use it on anyone coming to take it...which I suppose was good. What I didn't know, though, was that I ended up with a gift card along with it to Cracker Barrel. So, not only did I get a gift I wanted...I got dinner out with the family as well.

So back to tonight...I loved my gift...but feel like I did so at the expense of someone else. I guess it has come full circle. Even though she adamantly stated that she does truly indeed want the wine glasses, and I offered more than once to swap with her...she refused to take my HO! mat. I just hope that she doesn't snap in a Sunday School party one day and think of me.

"Dirty Santa" is a game that is fun if you remember that it is not about you. Hard to do when you are on a limited budget and hoping that you'll at least recoup your investment. But that was then...and this is now. As I've gotten older...I actually enjoy seeing it work out...or not. Tonight, one of the ladies got a mixer one night after purchasing one for herself, but other than that...everyone seemed quite content. The most coveted prize? A $10 roll of quarters. Go figure.

Recipes - Day 16

Every holiday, those of us who do the "assigned dish" method of meal construction do so because the meal becomes tradition for the family. We have hosted Thanksgiving for the past several years...and I know that in addition to the turkey (fried)...I will also make blueberry salad, spinach dip, and deviled eggs. It is my assigned portion of the meal. My sister-in-law will make her wonderful pecan crusted sweet potato casserole, another will make marinated vegetables, and another will bring awesome desserts. My mother-in-law will make dressing, gravy, and fresh cranberry relish. We will assign rolls and ice to my brother-in-law, and my mother will fill in with the relish tray and the bean salad that she learned to love during Thanksgivings with my aunt.

All of us come together with our own unique recipes. We received them from somewhere and now they are part of the fabric of our holidays. David's Aunt Ruth and my grandmother both made wonderful chess pies. They were very different...but both equally wonderful. I have my Gammy's recipe...but it isn't the same because I know she didn't make it.

I have a fabulous sugar cookie recipe that came from the wife of someone who worked at the newspaper in Ste. Genevieve, Missouri. I've had it and enjoyed it for the past 27 years. My scrapbooking group has now adopted it as a mainstay of our annual Baking Day...and I am honored to see Geneva's cookies being enjoyed by a lot of other families each year.

Part of the fun of the holidays is knowing that we will have the chance to indulge in some of our seasonal favorites. We will savor the present...and remember the past as we do. We will smell the pie baking and will turn into the child we once were and smile in anticipation.

Recipes are combinations of ingredients that alone are not nearly as wonderful as they are together. We pass them from generation to generation and to friends and neighbors. Nearly every recipe that I have has a history...and I think of the person that brought it to me when I prepare it.

So, drag out your recipe books and prepare your old favorites. Enjoy the past and the present at your table. Try new ones...who knows...they may become new friends as well!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Giving - Day 15

In our increasingly cashless society, I have found that sometimes I fear the red kettle (Salvation Army). I am a banker, and in the manner of the cobbler having barefoot children...I often don't carry cash. I want to be able to put a dollar or two I dig around (in panic) until I manage to scrape together a little bit of money to drop in.

I know that the money will go to a good cause. I know that the bellringers are volunteers primarily. I also am fully aware that they will be standing sure as I know that the Girl Scouts will be manning the grocery stores and WalMart during cookie season. But you know...I feel wonderful when I have that opportunity to give. I really do. Every time.

There are times when we see opportunities to give and we are afraid to step out in faith. We are worried that our gift won't be enough...or it will be misinterpreted. We try to gauge if it is something we should do or not. And in waiting...we miss the opportunity to bless others and to be blessed in return.

The holiday season gives us so many chances to give. We can pick an angel off a tree, support a family that is down on their luck, give to the local food bank, or do what my friend Carol did last year...purchase a goat through World Vision. Or we can drop a couple of dollars into a kettle.

I hope that you will feel the joy of giving immensely this holiday season. Give what you can...but within your means. Give of yourself...your time...your existing possessions that you are ready to pass along. Enjoy the feeling that boomerangs back to you as well. And keep a couple of dollars in the car for those kettles!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Photos - Day 14

I have photos of myself and my sister on the little steps at my grandmother's house when I was a little girl. Why we always want to photograph children on stairs is beyond me...but I was perched there each Christmas for that photo.

We love photographs, don't we? We are photographed relentlessly when we are babies (I was the first child...I understand that later children are not always so favored due to time constraints). We ham it up as children and then are horrified at what is shown in photos of us in our teens. In our 20s there are pictures that may or may not see the light of day except to show people photographic evidence of the size we once were. There are photographs of weddings, of family reunions, and at other times of celebration like birthdays. However, almost always...people take pictures at Christmas.

If the photos of Christmases past that are in our memories were on paper, we might be more satisfied. However, the black and white images or the faded color pictures from too far away just don't seem to do them justice. In the past few years, color has improved, and hopefully the Christmases that we are capturing in photos now will be more vibrant later on.

But in my mind...they are still just as fresh as I want my photographs to be.

I look forward to adding more pages to the photo albums that I keep both to share and to enjoy in my memories...this Christmas. Hope you do as well...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ornaments - Day 13

Every Christmas, I get all of the ornaments out of the attic to put them on the live tree we put up the first week of each December. The oldest ornament is a tiny blue ball that I found in an old dresser, and each year there are new ones placed on the tree.

Sadly, a few years ago, I retired (temporarily) the "kid" ornaments that I had on the tree when the children were little. Not the ones that they made me...those are still displayed proudly each year...but the cutesy bears were banished to a box in the attic waiting on future grandchildren.

There were ornaments purchased each year for the past 24 years that hang proudly on our tree each year. Most of them have a story behind them. The little drummer boy that my sister Lara purchased for me in 1984 while they were living in Cincinnati. She was eight years old when I received it.

A white painted angel was purchased in 1985 at a church bazaar in downtown Montgomery. Someone in my office tried to buy it from me, and it took all I could to not sell it to him.

Sometime in the early 1990s, I did not win a silver reindeer in a horrible game of "Dirty Santa" and did not handle it well at all. I tracked a replacement down at a Hallmark store...and put it on the tree every year to remind myself to be gracious and that the competitive spirit I inherited has to be kept in check.

I have a lot of ornaments that reflect my faith, and others that are various Santas, reindeer, angels, and crochet bells. A couple of years ago, Jill decided that I needed to upgrade the tree, and so I have a lot of new bigger but beautiful ornaments on the tree.

Recently, I suggested to my scrapbooking ladies that we swap ornaments instead of gifts at our Christmas Baking Day in early December. One of them remarked that she had over 40 years of ornaments and couldn't manage any more. Not me! I love getting ornaments because they make my tree the changing beautiful reflection of past and present that I spend hours enjoying each year.

As you unwrap your ornaments from the past and place them on your tree...or as you look at the gorgeous trees that will abound everywhere from your living room to your doctor's office, bank, mall, or even in the background on TV...see the ornaments. See how what you place on the same backdrop (the tree) becomes something unique and beautiful with the ornaments it carries. Even the difference in the lights that are chosen matters. White lights, colored lights, or LED lights all highlight the ornaments in a different way.

Ornaments...beautiful, shiny representations of our past and present. All packed away in boxes waiting for us to bring them back to mind, sight and life each year.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Joy - Day 12

How many times have we heard the term "joy of the season" and assumed that we knew what it meant? I know that the holiday season comes around and we begin to think of all of the wonderful opportunities we will have for food, fun, and fellowship. And while this makes us isn't joy.

We look around at the decorations...candles, trees, and other baubles that we release from their homes in our attics or storage rooms. We see red and green, silver and gold, blue and white, and we know that we are in that period known as "the holiday season."

Sounds of carols are heard on our radios, in our churches, and even in the elevator and commercials on television. The sound of a children singing in a Christmas play, the sound of a fire crackling in the fireplace, or the sound of bags being carried in from a shopping expedition all alert us to upcoming joy.

The smell of cookies baked in the oven, hot chocolate on the stove, and warm fragrant cider in the crockpot all add a deliciousness to this time of year. We inhale deeply and close our eyes and take ourselves back to our grandmother's kitchen or some other happy place.

Parties that invite us to indulge ourselves in celebration of the season...the rich, normally forbidden treats that we sample. The taste of peppermint from a candy cane, the sweetness of divinity, or the richness of the fudge your mother makes...all make you least until the heartburn sets in.

But also bringing joy is the unwrapping of the nativity set that you place on a table in your home. The tying of ribbons onto packages carefully selected. The ornaments that you place lovingly on a tree that have dates from the past...years too quickly passed.

So, is joy found in the senses? Is it found in experiencing the present with the friends and family of today? Is it in enjoying the tastes and smells of the season that remind us of happier times? Or is it the excitement of the lights and tinsel...the brightly decorated homes and the anticipation of three glorious weeks ahead?

To me, the definition of JOY is very simple...Jesus, Others, and then You. Remembering that Jesus is the reason for the season is more than just something to put on a button. It is a truth that somehow gets buried beneath all of the baking, shopping, and feasting. If we keep that truth in front of matter what circumstances dictate this season...there will be joy.

The to remember that other people should be of concern. We are to celebrate the people that we have in our lives. Find something to do that lets other people know that they are important to you. In fact, you are reading this for that very reason.

And Enjoy whatever parts of the season make you happy. If you dread shopping...don't shop. Give the gift of your time, a treasured possession, or utilize your God given talents to produce something unique to offer as a the "Little Drummer Boy."

The holidays should be a time of joy. Reflect on the blessings that God has placed in your life. Blessings of people, comfort, health, spiritual maturity, and wisdom. These gifts are what He has given to you...and are certainly enough to be extremely joyful about this season. God's gift to you is the reminder that Jesus is Joy...Joy for the whole world. Enjoy!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thanks - Day 11

The holiday season gives us an outstanding opportunity to give to people without having our motives questioned. Sending cards, donating time, buying gifts, or giving to charity are all under the umbrella of acceptability during the holidays. It is the season of giving after all.

On the flip side, it is also the season of receiving. We receive invitations, treats, and Christmas lists for children. We also get the bills at the end of the month! But we receive far more than we give oftentimes...and way more than we deserve most of the time.

It has always amazed me that people (myself included) forget to say "thank you" in a timely fashion. I realize that we should give without expectation of being thanked, but sometimes it is wonderful to receive a handwritten note from someone. So, today...sit down and write a couple of lines. You never may be the best gift they receive this season!

I know that we are all grateful for many "global" health...the privilege of loving a talent, gift, or job...the beauty of the people we love.

Sometimes the people that have meant the most to us have doubts about where they stand. There may have been issues that are perfectly clear to us...but are anything but clear to them. Our behavior may be puzzling because we assume that they know how we feel and remember things the same way that we do. Sometimes forgiveness is in order...and other times...saying "thank you" is.

There are people who will advise you to remember something that you are thankful for every day so that you will stay focused on all you are blessed with rather than on your troubles. It is certainly a good we never really know when we will no longer have that privilege. So, be thankful that you have a wonderful Christmas to look forward to this year! Be thankful for all of your hopes and dreams...your realities...and even your troubles. Be grateful that there are people in your lives and something new and unknown to be discovered every day. Love the fact that there are new babies and marriages that expand our families...and new people that enlarge our circle of friends.

And while I am at it...if you are reading this...know that I am immensely grateful for you. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


In case you are not the mother of a teenager these days, you may not be familiar with the fact that what we used to roll our eyes about is now openly called "ridiculous." Among those things considered "ridiculous" are shoes purchased for one of my daughter's roommates by her well intended mother, Accounting 210, and me wanting her to leave Tuscaloosa before it got dark tonight so she would get home at a somewhat decent hour. I mean, we aren't geriatric, but about 9:00...Big Dave begins fading as fast as a snowman in Alabama in July.

Back in 1990, when I was handed the little bundle of pinkness that grew up to be Jill...I didn't think it ridiculous that she had to eat every three hours and cried if a dog three neighborhoods away barked or the wind blew hard enough to move the holly bushes in our yard. I just figured that it was part of being a baby. A strong willed and temperamental one...granted. (Wow..."temper"-a-"mental" pretty much descibes her at this age...never saw that before. Frankly, that describes BOTH of us...I had to leave her in her baby seat in the closet while I went out to the front yard for a primal scream after a particularly bad marathon of screaming for no reason except the moon was in Venus and the temperature was 47 degrees or something equally random.)

I didn't dismiss the fact that she had an insistence on "ME do it" starting at age one that meant that everything was subject to taking five times longer than necessary or meant impending disaster. The disaster defined as painting her own toenails without regard to the fact that the the bottle was turned on its side...all over my buff colored carpet. Ah yes. "ME do it" indeed... But was it ridiculous? was a little independent spirit with an early affinity for pink nail polish.

At age 2 1/2, I dressed Jill for "picture day" at the daycare. I decked her out in a cute little white top with pink and purple accents and ponytails with one pink and one purple bow on each side. As I was dropping her off...I reminded her that it was a big day. Yay! Her response? "I not have my pitch-her made today." I should have known then. Three weeks later, I received the coveted pictures and could not have been more surprised. Now dubbed "Portrait of a 2 Year Old" and shown to everyone who will look at it (including having it in the senior video at school) shows my little precious scowling at the camera. David kept the 5 x 7 in his office for years. Ridiculous? Nope. A nearly three year old poster child for James Dobson's megaseller "The Strong Willed Child."

So, why is it that after surviving fashions that made me cringe and a couple of boyfriends that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck...why have I suddenly become ridiculous? I guess I'm just at that odd crossroads just before "bless her heart" that will make me endearing once again.

She is almost home as I write this. The almost 20 year old little girl that stayed in Tuscaloosa long enough to pick up something that one of her roommates should have filled out days ago and for a young man to finish working out so he could load her television into her car. Personally, I think that she could have loaded that TV herself...but...oh well.

I suppose that being ridiculous means that I have finally flipped the page to being an adult...much like having to check the box that reads 46+ instead of the more desirable 34-45 box I had to abandon last March...dang it. I don't really mind getting long as I know that one day I will quit being ridiculous in the eyes of my children. Oh, I see glimpses of it now and again...but then I go and do something boneheaded like call them five times in a four hour period...and I go back three squares and end up falling down a chute instead of climbing a ladder.

Oh well. I knew that motherhood was not for sissies. I guess I just hoped I'd be the Barbara Bush or that woman who keeps having kids and is up to 17 or something...and the names all start with the letter "J". Alas, no. How does that woman keep up with all of those names anyway? I grew up as "Jean Harry Pitta" when my grandmother wanted me. I knew who she meant. Imagine having to go through enough names to fill out a football roster.

I'm breathing deeply and hoping that this will be a good holiday for the both of us. It would certainly be ridiculous if it weren't. After all...I've invested HOURS in putting up decorations to set the mood...which...if you truly know me...would seem completely ridiculous. :)

Day 10...Hospitality

Some of us love to entertain. We have closets devoted to china collections, decorations, and extra linens. The holidays mean that we will see people that we have been missing...and we eagerly anticipate a full house, laughter, and fun. Hours will be spent cleaning, cooking, baking, and preparing a place. One friend on Facebook recently announced that she was finished putting up the first of several trees in her house. It was mid-November.

Others will be traveling instead. Taking vacation days...coming by train, plane, or automobile...looking forward to home cooking and time together.

Hospitality is defined as the entertainment of guests, visitors, and strangers with goodwill. It is also the act of generously providing care and kindness to whoever is in need. (Thanks, Wikipedia!) It is a biblical directive as well in Romans 12. We understand about showing hospitality to guests...but perhaps not so much in the arena of strangers.

This season there will be a number of people who either cannot get home or who do not have anywhere to go. The Christmas season is quiet and uneventful...and sadly...a bit depressing. Some families show hospitality by working a meal at the Salvation Army, by donating money, canned goods or toys to a charity, or by inviting local college kids who cannot get home in for a meal. It is difficult to say what opportunities you will have to express hospitality, but I'd be willing to bet that you will be presented with several opportunities.

All of us know excellent hospitality when we are the recipients of it. We feel included, pampered, or just simply at home. We love going to these places because it gives us a feeling that everything is right with the world. For many of us, that joy is found in going home. Passing the familiar landmarks of the town you grew up in, seeing the house lit up for Christmas, and opening the door to familiar smells and sounds. Or perhaps, we have been a guest in a home where the hosts have attempted to make us comfortable and we've been refreshed by the luxury of not having to worry about anything except enjoying ourselves.

This Christmas, we have numerous opportunities to be both a recipient and a giver of hospitality...and those opportunities will be as unique as we are. We should appreciate the effort that others expend on our behalf and keep our eyes open for chances to offer a little of the same to other people. The irony is...the more we do for others...the more that we are blessed in turn for our efforts.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!


I have been busy for the past few weeks channeling my inner Martha and trying to kid myself into believing that if I only try a little harder...I can make the holidays into a grand occasion. I have been busy writing, sending boxes, purchasing gifts, and devising menus. I've decorated my home beyond the norm, and the housecleaning that was so painstakingly done for Thanksgiving has been maintained except for my bedroom and the laundry room. All of the gifts are wrapped, and all I have to do now is wait for the good things to begin happening. That started yesterday when I got the news that my sister, niece and nephew's plane safely touched down in Atlanta for their holiday visit with us from France.

As I write this, it is approximately 4:20 a.m. according to the clock that David's grandfather made for us and gave us one Christmas years ago. It sits just below the tree with the ornaments that the children made me every year during the preschool days and elementary school. To the right of it...on the a train made from blocks that spell out my children's names. This was a gift from Mom and Ralph somewhere around Christmas 1994.

I have traditionally surrounded myself with items that are sentimental. I have paintings from my stepmother, Irlyn, my Aunt Pitta, and my mother-in-law, Barbara (aka Mimi) throughout the house. A collage of pictures framed in black are a testament to a trip we took to Europe in 2006. My sister's (Linda) home is among those photographed. A rocking chair that was in my Gammy's living room is sitting beside the large television set that David surprised us all with five years ago at Christmas.

The house has items from David's grandparents and parents, and from my Gammy's house. I still have many of the items I received as wedding gifts, and almost every item in this house has a story. The Spode Christmas Tree dishes and serving pieces adorn my table...because my friend (and big sister in Phi Mu) Molly gave me my first plate and cup and saucer as a gift (Christmas 1985), and my parents have added to the collection. My sister, Linda, has purchased me the serving pieces in recent years as well. This year, I added the placemats that I had admired at my Aunt Pitta's house for years as a gift to myself.

The scrapbooks that fill my shelves are the result of monthly meetings with a group of wonderful women over the past thirteen years (and they said it wouldn't last...) A small table sits to my right that came from Grandma Emma's house. There are photographs of my family everywhere in this house. Even the dogs that are about to be up and wanting breakfast are the relative and descendant of my folks' "babies". Everything and everyone has a connection.

All of these are treasures of the heart. But...I know that things are not important and that people are. I have a basic grasp on reality in this realm, and do not believe myself to be materialistic. When the time comes for these things to pass to others or be replaced...I'll manage. But they serve as markers to time passed, good times shared, and as a witness to God-given talents that others have felt compelled to share.

There are many gifts that each of us possess. Sometimes figuring these out is not a struggle, and we go through our lives relatively focused. I do know people like this. However, the majority of us live lives that are spent searching for what it is we are meant to do and we expend a lot of energy trying to dimly reflect something in us that is magical.

This week, I have listened to a lot of political rhetoric about the state of the country and I've watched a once adored icon of sports be brought down to earth by his inability to stay grounded. I've seen a football team from the University of Alabama get a nod to the national championship game...and a member of that team who is my daughter's age...get nominated for the Heisman trophy. I've seen a kid that I have a lot of respect for be hit with the realization that although he has been blessed immensely with talent, a loving family, and a success record that is almost other-worldly...that it is possible to be on the other side for a change.

And yet I sit in my quiet room at an early hour pondering life.

I've been writing here for the past seven months. There are many stories and impressions to record...and all I can hope is that there is a purpose to it all. I had previously believed that all of my dreams in life were fulfilled...and that I have been just marking time since. And while that may be true...I am still here. And I'm thinking ahead to 2010.

Wouldn't it be great if 2010 was the year that I finally conquered the weight problem? If I found myself actually able to stick to the budget? That I attended reunions and laughed more and worried less? I can hope...much like we do when we crack open our new calendars at work in their pristine condition...before we mar them with appointments, reminders, and to-do lists.

I hope that five years from now I find myself sitting right here looking at something that reminds me of this Christmas. I hope that I am still recording my impressions of life, and that someone still cares enough to read what I have written. I hope that I am able to bring joy to people and that God's plan for me becomes more clear. Because five years from now...the little guy that is asleep in the room to my left will be close to graduating from college then. My Jill will probably be into her career or married to someone wonderful...or both.

I realize that this essay has been a bit of rambling on my part...but I have noticed that I often hesitate to put thoughts of this nature into words. I hope that by doing so, I can adequately release them to paper so that I have less on my mind, and more room in my heart for joy. The Christmas season can do that, can't it?

Just yesterday, I looked at the picture of Gammy on my refrigerator at the assisted living facility she was in after moving from Johnston Drive, and she is smiling and holding the little Santa in her lap. I can still smell the chess pies cooling in the kitchen and hear that television turned up (way too loud) and see her dancing across the kitchen to something blaring from the other room. The same kitchen that she kicked us all out of because we were in her way. I never fully understood that until I started having Thanksgiving at my home. I totally get it now.

I don't really know what those of you reading this are experiencing right now, but I do know that in my case...I have spent the past hour thinking of all of the blessings in my life. Yes, it is now 5:15 a.m. The coffee is made, and the house is quiet and still. I have just realized that someone left the attic light on while we were taking out Christmas decorations, and that I feel better than I did when I got up. So, I am about to go sit in front of my Christmas tree and have my quiet time. Enjoy your day, and I hope that you have time to reflect on your blessings this season. Even if it took stealing an hour of sleep to get it...I'm glad that I've had this time. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Skittles - Day 9

I am a huge fan of Skittles candy. It is like a little bag of happiness to me with its colorful and fruity little pellets. They've branched out in recent years from the regular bag which has red, orange, yellow, green and purple into a tropical bag, a berry bag and even chocolate (a colossal failure in my opinion...but whatever).

Like most people, I have a hierarchy of the bag of Skittles...from the best to the worst. Red is my favorite, followed by purple, orange, yellow, and green. My kids tend to like them in the opposite order than I do...which has always worked out extremely well for all of us.

During the holidays, we have a mixed bag don't we? There's parts of it that we adore...and other parts that others appreciate far more than we do. That doesn't mean they aren't all is simply a matter of preference. And preferences change from yeat to year I've found.

I've noticed that over the past ten years or so the adults in my family have increasingly stated that they don't really need anything for Christmas except restaurant gift certificates. After downsizing a few homes and dealing with the resulting storage buildings and disposal of items...they are no longer in need of anything. If something needs replacing during the year...they replace it. Yet, something in me wants to give them something that they will be surprised and excited to receive.

While I don't mind treating them at all...I do long for the days of being able to give them a "red" (as in my favorite) gift instead of what to me is a "green" one (not my favorite). What I have to remind myself is that the "green" gift I am giving is a "red" one to them!

Enjoy the variety...and the color and flavors of the holidays. I know I will be doing the same. And remember that we all have a different hierarchy of favorites. I know that my family believes that one of my favorite gifts to receive is appliances. Other than the KitchenAid mixer I received last year...I have to admit that receiving something for the kitchen is not my favorite. But is a family tradition. Mom (me) gets an appliance for Christmas (and every holiday, sadly). Maybe our gift lists reflect similar "traditions" that need to be changed! But then again...perhaps not. I do need a new hair dryer...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Surprises - Day 8

Don't we all love a good surprise? We man not choose to admit it, but we normally really enjoy getting something wonderful that we don't expect. Sometimes it is free tickets to a show, a coupon that gives us something we enjoy at a reduced price, or finding cash in a coat from last winter. Those kind of surprises come out of nowhere...and for them, we are usually quite grateful.

Other surprises include lines when we had everthing perfectly timed, being unable to find a specific ingredient for a dish we have to prepare, or unexpected expenses at the worst possible time. And sometimes those surprises tend to try to steal our joy.

We can prepare...but we cannot completely eliminate all of the negative surprises that come our way. The holiday season is full of opportunities for there to be more stressors than normal...but it is also chock full of chances to be pleasantly surprised...especially if we are paying attention.

Sometimes you can think of the holiday like a bag of microwave popcorn. It sits there dormant and full of potential until something changes. You place it in the microwave to heat the substances inside the bag to a point where the kernels will pop. If you cook it for less than the recommended will get popcorn...but not all that you should be getting (plus you'll get a lot of kernels).'ll be busy...and putting up the decorations can be trouble. Wrapping gifts is a hassle. Cantatas are often crowded, and parking is a nightmare. WalMart can be unthinkable in December. But the hassles are worth it when we are in the moment and are necessary to create what we love to experience as the magic of the season.

On the other hand, If you leave it in there longer than the recommended time, you will set off your smoke detector! You can't do everything or you will completely burn out. You need to maintain balance during the season so you can appreciate the wonderful little surprises that Christmas often brings.

And I hope that it is a wonderful time for you this year with many unexpected surprises and joys. May they pop out at you from everywhere!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Silver Bells - Day 7

My favorite Christmas carol is "Silver Bells." It is the song that reminds me of Christmases growing up in Thomaston, Georgia. My mother, aunt and uncle would sing this song together in harmony...and I always hoped that one day I'd figure out how to join in. Unfortunately, with my lack of range...this is just not a possibility.

I do hear the song randomly each year, and it takes me back to my childhood...of waking up after sleeping in the car to the big angels that used to sit at the corners on the square in downtown Thomaston. We would be coming from Pennsylvania or Mississippi...and I knew that when I saw the angels...we were almost there.

Bells also remind me of my Gammy, who used to have a bell hanging in the corner of the dining room, and who apparently enjoyed them judging by the fact that I always remember them being around.

I love seeing "It's a Wonderful Life" every year with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Having the association with a bell tinking and an angel earning his wings seemed perfectly natural to me...and kind of special.

Bells seem to be an unintentional symbol of the season...but one that seems understandable at the same time. After all...we use bells to alert us to something important.

This season, I hope that I hear "Silver Bells" often. I think of the line "it's Christmastime in the city..." and will remember that a year ago I was with my mother, daughter and aunt in New York City in December. Those are very special memories to me.

I hope that if you hear "Silver Bells" this'll smile wherever you are. I assure you that I will be doing the same when I do.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Spice - Day 6

Part of what defines the season to me is the smell of different spices in the kitchen. It begins with pies at Thanksgiving and the smell of poultry seasoning in the dressing. It evolves to the smell of vanilla in sugar cookies...cloves in wassail, and the scent of cinnamon in breads and baked goods. So much of what tastes wonderful to us is because it also smells wonderful!

When I was little, one of my favorite breakfasts was cinnamon toast. Bread was buttered, and then cinnamon and sugar were sprinkled over the butter. The toast went into the oven and emerged hardened into a wonderful tasting and even better smelling four inch square of goodness. It was like little primitive cinnamon rolls. I rarely...if ever...make cinnamon toast anymore with all of this talk of "carbs" and sugar intake and calories.

Cinnamon sugar can be used for other things as topping for sweet potatoes or sprinkled over oatmeal. It is deliciously simple...but the scent carries all of the nostalgia of holidays past to me. Even when the wise men came to see the Christ child...they brought frankincense, myrrh and gold. The first two are spices that are either aromatic or combined with other substances to create incense. I cannot speak to the significance of the gifts (except, naturally...the gold), but I do know that we tend to experience through all of our senses.

Life is what it is...and sometimes that means that it is extremely routine. Sometimes we need a little sweetness and a little bit of spice to remind us of the joy of life. Or maybe we just need a little four inch square of goodness for breakfast. Whatever seems more your speed...enjoy the pleasures of your childhood during the season...or prepare it for the little people who don't understand words like "cholesterol," "carbohydrate," or "body mass index." Granted, they may run through your house on a sugar high...but even that can be somewhat fun too.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Simple Pleasures - Day 5

Sometimes we have one of those days where we have the opportunity to appreciate our blessings. We awake refreshed, the sunrise is beautiful, and we have time to spare before getting on with our day. Every light is green on our way to where we are going, and if it is to work...we get that space we like next to the door...and someone has brought breakfast and left it in the breakroom.

The workday flies by and we even receive words of praise about something we have accomplished. There are no bills in the mail, the house is somewhat clean, and the aroma coming from the roast in the crockpot is phenomenal. You turn on the television and your favorite movie (or sports event, or television show, or whatever) is on, and you just have a wonderful day.

Can you ever have enough of these? Me either!

I have found that when my schedule fills up, my patience decreases at the same rate. When I expect something to be wonderful, there will be a last minute complication that will render it more nervewracking than I want it to be. Amazing how that happens!

This season, I'm going to attempt to find small, simple pleasures that surround me every day that I take for granted...and elevate them to my notice. I'm going to enjoy the smell of a neighbor's fireplace burning down the street, a yummy sample of egg nog in the grocery store, or a Christmas card that comes in the mail with children that have grown a year older featured on the front. I want to focus on the simple pleasures of the season. Those little nuances that "make" the season the season for us. It will be Christmas whether we choose to enjoy it or not. The key this year is to savor every little wonderful moment that I can.

I am past the days of the number of days until Christmas looms like an unwelcome guest when I remember what is undone. But why shouldn't we anticipate the wonder of it?

It is for that reason that you have received this message. Hopefully, you will enjoy the simple pleasures that each day brings...and again have some of that a small way...of wonderful things to come.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dread or Awe? - Day 3

The words "do not fear" are put together in the Bible in a way that reminds us that there are times in life that make us just stop in awe. We may be overwhelmed...and we just stand in one place wondering how we will pull it all together. Or we may be amazed...and we are glued in place just trying to take it all in. Then again, we may sometimes feel that we are in the epicenter of something going either horribly awry or magnificently right...and we lack the discernment to know which it is.

The holidays are like that, aren't they? We love the food and festivities...but we worry about our waistlines. We want to embrace the spirit of the holidays...but we wonder how we can possibly make anyone...much less everyone's wishes come true. We know that simplification is the way to go, but we cannot figure out how to stop doing so much because tradition is involved in our idea of the "perfect holiday."

When the angels showed up to the shepherds in the field after the birth of Jesus, they had one of those fear filled moments that prompted the "do not be afraid" commands. And even today...that command is still excellent advice in dealing with the holidays as we know them. Quit worrying about the process...and keep your eyes on the glory of the birth.

I think that Christmas is a magical season that allows us to complete a year remembering people that we love and to share the spirit of the gift we were given by sharing gifts with others. But once we reach a certain age...the gifts are not nearly as important. It is nice to receive gift cards or something extravagant that we would deny ourselves...but the truth is...most of us have so much that receiving is not nearly as much fun for us as giving. not be afraid this season. Give of yourself...but also give yourself a break. If you'll experience the awe of the real reason for the season. Let's not miss it in worrying about perfection, being tired, or even worrying about being sick. Let's take it as it comes!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today I went into Ulta because I had a coupon. I didn't really have an agenda...just a little bit of time to kill before I needed to be at a church tonight, and I was hoping to let them know that Jill completed her application for re-hire online and that she is ready to work a ridiculous number of hours while she is home for the holidays. I don't know if that is true or not...but it is in my little world.

But the reason I went in? Definitely the coupon. And is not good until the 5th of this month. Woe is me. I did manage to get a free Yankee candle for buying other candles that I did not I did not leave completely empty handed. I am sending Jill some for her final exam care package since she gets furious over junk food (no matter how well intended). I take this as further proof that as her mother since I haven't been a stellar least I can take comfort in being a terrible warning as warped and sad as that actually is when I think about it.

I then took my 20% off one item coupon over to Bed, Bath & Beyond to attempt to find something just totally awesome for someone. I actually found several totally awesome somethings for someone. I just can't identify the someone. Other than me - that is. Although Santa purchased me a blow dryer tonight at Ulta, my family thinks it is ultimo tacky for me to purchase all of my gifts and thus deny them the opportunity to purchase an appliance that I do not want. My enthusiasm (or lack thereof) is the center ring of entertainment in the circus otherwise known as my family purchasing me a gift for any major holiday or observance.

I came home and found my new candle holders that were a free gift with purchase. A free gift to ME that is. I'm not sending these to the recipient of the gift that these were free with because I do not want to unless I can't find something to do with them. I consider this a commission of sorts for dealing with all of the loveliness that is online shopping. Yay for me!

I then got an e-mail from the people at informed me that the December coupons were online. I love this! I purchased a jar of Vlasic pickles today for .49 and a package of Betty Crocker peanut butter cookie mix for .59. Granted, these items were "buy one get one free" and then the coupons were doubled...but whatever. The fact that I need a package of cookies like I need another armpit...matters not.

This Christmas, I am trying to be frugal...but have found it harder to do when I have a really awesome coupon in my little fist. But I do love a bargain. Not enough to stay online for five hours like my coworker did to get a deal on CyberMonday...but he also stayed up all night on Thanksgiving and did the whole Black Friday experience. I would have been hallucinating at about the time everyone was just getting out there. He must have been seriously pumped up to have even attempted Toys R Us at midnight or Old Navy at 3 a.m. I mean, really? Granted, he did get the $15 jeans that I did not get because Big Dave wears the most common size in all of western civilization...but it is really fine.

So, as you go out into the great shopping meccas or check out the standards like or just "google" coupons for wherever you are headed. It really has made a huge difference in what I've been able to do this season. Thank goodness. I hope that you end up enjoying the thrill of the hunt...but not so much so that you need serious therapy in January. I know that in my case...I'm almost through. I've been fortunate in that we draw names...and Jill gave me her list in I'm ahead of the game. I can't speak for Big Dave, he enjoys not purchasing squat until the last conceivable minute...which may explain the appliances I always receive. Hmmm....

Traveling - Day 2

Traveling is a passion of mine. You wouldn't know it by the lack of stamps in my passport or the number of frequent flyer miles that I do not have. But it is. I can assure you that if I had adequate funds...I'd make the time to travel more frequently. For me, travel is the taking in of sights that I've read about but never seen on my own, of being totally in the moment and of paying close attention to the sounds, smells, and scenes that surround me. Plus, as a scrapbooker, it gives me plenty of inspiration for creating albums that I can enjoy for years to come.

During the holiday season, many of us choose to travel. It may be across country to see family, or across town to visit old friends. It may be to church, to look at Christmas decorations in various yards in town, or to see Santa at the mall. But it is from point A to point B...and thus constitutes travel. In fact, sometimes it is more difficult to make those shorter trips than the much longer ones!

But for every wonderful facet...there can also be an equally not so wonderful one. Travel to some is equivalent to a major hassle. Seeing people is wonderful, but the joy is somewhat offset by the trouble that it took to board a plane or load a car. The hustle and bustle wears on us rather than energizes us. Arriving erases much of this, but for some...the anticipation of traveling is a part of the holidays that many people find nearly unbearable to think about.

The Christmas story certainly had travel hassles. Mary and Joseph set off on a journey in a crowded city late in her pregnancy. She had nobody to stay with in town, no clear agenda outside of getting counted in the census, and was apparently without any assistance during childbirth. But she managed.

We all do during the holidays. We may not be in a crowded city or airport but instead find ourselves stuck in an endless line in Walmart. We may not be actually be displaced...but are possibly sleeping in close quarters. Our purpose in traveling for the holidays may not be "official" business...but for many families...failure to answer the roll call is almost unthinkable.

This holiday grateful that there are people in your life that prompt travel plans. Even if the travel is only through the memories of your heart...or require unbelievable hassle. Think back to the wonder of travel...and try to recapture that again this holiday season.

Yes, it is difficult to travel...but sometimes when we do...we get an unexpected bonus. Words that need to be said are spoken. The gift of time is shared. Memories are made. Bonds are strengthened. So...enjoy!