Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Working on Discipline

Lately, I have been trying to make some changes in my life.  The changes are not big and scary, and they probably aren't the changes that I honestly need to make most - that of getting myself to the gym on a regular basis and caring more about what I eat than I do.  But these changes involve trying to instill something called "discipline" into my life.

There have been times in my life where I have been remarkably disciplined.  I kept a Franklin planner back in the day when that was super-fashionable, and I have been a list maker from way back when.  I used to know all of the "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" and I pretty much practiced most of them as I kept my days filled with work, second and third part time jobs (teaching and scrapbooking), my husband, children, friends, church, family, neighbors and everything else that demanded a precious part of my time and thought that this was how life would be for me forever.

And then I realized that I couldn't do it all.  Not all of the time, anyway.  Little by little, the schedules of my children grew to such a point that it was impossible for me to function, the weight that I had gained over time kept piling on little by little, and I had a 35 minute commute one-way every day.  I let my friendships get to the point of visiting on the bleachers or talking on the phone on my way to or from work.

That was nearly ten years ago.

As time has passed, my children have both graduated from high school, one from college, and other is currently halfway through college.  I work in town and I go from one project to the next.  Not because I am trying to keep myself busy, but because I've found that I really love to finish having them called "projects" keeps me focused on something until it is completed.  I have learned that I can only keep five balls in the air at any one time, and that three of these are always going to be there unless I win the lottery, my family stops speaking to me, and I decide to quit going to church.  I don't see any of those happening on a permanent basis so I just enjoy juggling those three and occasionally allowing a fourth and fifth one to get in the air for me to maneuver.

Over the past year, one of those two has been "going to the gym."  I love the feeling of accomplishment when I leave, and the people there have always been very encouraging and friendly.  I moved forward from being able to do little to one glorious night (before I hit a deer with my car and scared myself to death) where I did a yoga-thon and did 108 sun salutations.  Bear in mind that I hadn't been in yoga class.  I was just too stubborn to quit.

Sometimes stubborn is good.  It looks a lot like someone drenched in sweat and determination, running mascara and wild eyes in case you want to draw a mental picture here.  But sometimes stubborn is not so good.  It is a place that when you get defeated you find it difficult to rouse yourself from again with the same intensity.  It makes you just "know" that it is hopeless and that nothing will be the way you want it.  At that point, you choose to rise like a phoenix from the ashes - more resolved than ever to not be beaten or you just get real with yourself and give up on that dream for now.  One takes great discipline and the other takes great courage.

I know that some of you are reading that and thinking "nope" because giving up is well...just quitting.  I don't think that's it at all.  I think sometimes we have to be brave enough to know that at a season in our lives that there are more important things than checking every box.  That God has some plans for us that involve us just being available for people...and that's hard to do if we have released that ball into the air to devote hours into the pursuit of being able to run up 17 steps without passing out.  Okay, FINE, or just walk without breathing like someone just completing a marathon.

Yes, that was an actual goal of mine last November since there are 17 steps up to the cardio room at the gym.  Trust me on this.

When this season is over - and it appears to be coinciding with the holidays this year - I will be able to get back there with a clearer mind and schedule and hopefully more discipline.  Because nothing is more defeating to one's spirit than working hard for a long period of time and not being able to see dramatic change.  But instead of fighting it this time, I'm just going to pray about preparing myself to gear up one last time to make a valiant and true effort at dealing with this thorn in my flesh that is shortening my life, lowering the quality of it, harming my witness, hurting those who love me, and making me doubt myself.

Discipline takes many forms.  It may mean that you practice something until you become proficient or a professional.  It may be a way of life that gives boundaries and structure to a life that performs at a higher level when it is involved.  Or it may simply be sitting down at the keyboard every morning determined to write something that is screaming to get out even if you don't feel like it...or stopping the car at the gym, walking up the 17 steps and not leaving until the hour is up.

At this point in time, though, I feel that God is leading me to tell the people in my life that I love them.  To spend more time with them and to adjust my schedule to nurture those relationships that have meant the most to me.  That may mean that I have weeks like the one I'm in right now when there really isn't any extra time to devote to anyone or to myself.  In fact, I'm pretty much in the middle of several weeks in a row like instead of being frustrated that I can't be all things to all people...I've decided to just go with what I have in terms of time and enjoy the people and put the project of bettering myself into the new year.

Like everybody else.

When I quit fighting with myself over it and decided to just let God direct my paths...the frustration melted away.  I've been excited about spending time with people and have enjoyed being home with Big Dave and working on my house.  I've quit thinking that I'm a huge disappointment, and started being excited about what is in front of me from one day to the next.

I know that being disciplined means that I need to just do what I need to do and that I'll still have the same amount of time to do what I need to do.  But I think that when I do throw this ball in the air, it needs to be more substantial than a ping-pong ball that bounces off and gets dropped from time to time.  Right now, with what I have going on, I simply cannot manage more than that.  .

But over time...I will.

I was encouraged this past weekend to see the results of discipline in a sweet friend.  She has taken control of her life like a bull by the horns - which knowing her - isn't really that surprising.  But she's lovely and happy and sure of herself.  I'd like to be go into competitive mode and try to join her at that place.  But I'm not.  I'm happy for her.  I'm pleased that she has done what she set out to do.  She's still pursuing it.  Still staying strong.  Saying "no" to what is not good for her and "yes" to herself.  I have another friend from my Wesleyan days that is doing the same thing and she records her progress.  I also see gym friends running races, winning contests and staying faithful.  Another friend in Georgia is pushing herself to be her absolute best.  Two other friends I know are losing weight and living the lives that they dreamed about.  I raise my glass...or my pom-poms or whatever to them all.

I know that my day of reckoning - so to speak - is right around the corner.  But instead of it breathing down my neck - it is becoming an attractive alternative that I look forward to embracing in the New Year.  I'm working toward modifying some of my habits right now so that I don't make things worse than they already are.

Which takes some discipline in itself.

I don't know what you have going on in your life right now...if you feel like you are juggling too many balls in the air and you are exhausted and fearful of dropping any of them.  Maybe you are trying to convince yourself to go from inertia to movement not knowing if you can face another time of trying and failing.  Or perhaps you are in a season of life where you are doing all that you can to just anything more than that seems as ridiculous to you as Kim Kardashian does to me.

Just hang in there and keep striving.  Pick a small goal and meet that.  Check yourself to see if you can tweak this or that for a better result.  Try to leave joy around you and don't beat up on yourself too badly if you have to just put all of the balls on the rack and curl up on the couch with the Hallmark Channel for a few days.  Or weeks.  Possibly months.

Be brave...and be strong.  Trust God that He will pull you out of it when you need it most.  And look around you for opportunities to leave a trail of happiness like a six year old with a bottle of pink glitter.  That's my goal for the upcoming Holiday season.  To just spread happiness like glitter.

I'm hoping it will be your goal too.  Because even though it is messy...glitter rocks.  It gets into everything...but it also makes you smile.  You know it does.

Discipline will get you to your goals.  Courage will take the cloak of disappointment, regret, or frustration and fling it off so that you can shine a little bit.  Both are good, and necessary, and a little hard to handle sometimes.  But you can...and you will.

Right now, I am trying to move from "courage" to "discipline" by setting little goals that I know that I can easily meet...and then I meet them.  I make them a little bit more challenging every day.  Over time, this will lead me back to the path of wanting to challenge myself...which will make it possible for me to succeed.  But for me, it is a process.  It is not something that I just wake up and decide to do one day.  It takes several days of gearing myself up - or "psyching myself out" - to make me get excited about making necessary changes.

In the meantime, I am trying to spend time with friends, get my house straight, enjoy my husband, kids, parents and family, and get the little things right.  I still have some work to do on the last one...but I am trying to at least head in the right direction.

So, to all of those out there who are making yourselves the best that you can be...I applaud you. To those of you who are doing everything you can to keep what you have already taken on moving forward...stay with it...or for heaven's sake...just assess if it is worth what you are putting into it or if you need to let go of a few things that are more trouble than they are worth.  To you who are trying to quit beating yourself up over not being able to do it that God will direct your steps and just wait for direction.  And for the rest of you...just enjoy the holiday season and get ready for a better year ahead.  Or just be open to whatever is coming your way.  May as well be since it is coming ready or not.

Sounds like a plan to me.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

On Fairness

Yesterday I was driving along trying to come to grips that it was again Friday while listening to talk radio like I am prone to do.  It is a habit that I picked up about twenty years ago when I spent a lot of time in the car in a job that involved travel.  I love music, but I'd much rather hear someone talking during a morning show, conservative talk radio, or even folks living on the edge of reality talking about UFOs.

Yes, they are out there.  Granted, it is usually at something like 5:00 a.m., but they are most assuredly there.

The great majority of people love Friday and I suppose I feel a little attached to it because I was born on a Friday.  So was my son.  Big Dave was born on Good Friday.  Jill was born on a Tuesday but we were so grateful to get her here that I tend to love that day, too.  So, bear in mind that Friday carries a special little place in my heart.  Friday also means that the following two days are going to involve pretty much doing whatever one wants or needs to do unless you are Big Dave and you work all of the time.

Except today...he has no plans for today.  Which, of course, means that he is blissfully unaware of the plans that I have for him today.  Bless his heart.

The older I get the more and more stunned to realize that it is Friday again.  I seem to have a recollection of passing through the days at work, on a project, feeding and loving my animals, and having lunch with sweet friends or doing something considered somewhat productive.  What is getting to me these days is the shock of how quickly the days have melted into weeks and into months and now years.  I see it in the children and grandchildren of my friends and family.  By seeing a child become a senior in high school one minute and looking at her wedding photos the next.  I kind of miss thinking that I had a whole lot of time to do things I wanted to do in life instead of being in the active business of living my dreams, interacting with people, and meeting my obligations...not necessarily in that order.  Because right now, time seems to be whipping around more like a car at Talladega than one going through a school zone.

While realizing that there are jackwagons that go through school zones in like manner.  In fact, I was said jackwagon yesterday when I went a different way to work and it failed to register with me that I was in a school zone because there wasn't much traffic. Fortunately, Johnny Law was off stopping speeders somewhere else, because I totally would have gotten a ticket, I'm quite sure.

And it would have been fair.

I have grown to hate the word "fair," by the way.  It is a concept that many of us have at one point in time or another gotten all caught up in as we pass through this life.  Often, it is because someone else seems to be getting away with something that we'd like to be getting away with save for annoyances like parents, gatekeepers and something called a conscience, if we are honest.  We see people who seem to be - (pardon the expression but other words fail me here) "bitch-slapped" by life - as they try to catch themselves reeling from one disappointment to another while keeping their chins up.  Born into families that are either dysfunctional or enabling, suffering disappointments because they don't know how to get from Point A to Point B - when all they really want is for someone to just love them.  They marry Mr. Wrong - sometimes more than once - and then their offspring tend to give them far more trouble than they deserve.  Not fair.

No, sir.  No, ma'am.

Life isn't fair.

The temptation is great for us to want everything to be fair.  To not want people to suffer and to do all that we can to alleviate that suffering.  Many people are called to do just that and they invest their lives in trying to make everything better for those who deserve far more than they get.  It is a noble and human and valiant love for other people that drives them and they just see this need out there and feel that they are the ones to just plunge in there to right whatever wrongs they can.  I don't fault them for this...and many people do a whole lot of good out there that inspires other people to replicate or support it.  But if you ask what is at the core of it all...sometimes it is because of the passion to serve, the joy of improving someone's life, or because they have the skill sets that they wish to employ in the service of the King.

But sometimes, it is because of the overwhelming desire to make life fair for others. This is where we part ways...because I don't feel that life is fair.  It wasn't meant to be.  It never will be.  To believe otherwise is to tug on Superman's cape, spit into the wind, or pull the mask off the Lone Ranger to quote the late Jim Croce.

Stay with me here.  I am NOT saying that we are not to try to make things better.  I am NOT saying that we shouldn't commit ourselves to improving life for others.  What I am saying is that we shouldn't try to equalize the playing field by dragging others (who deserve it, of course) down to make things "fair." Frankly, I'd rather bring those living lives that could be better to the sun (or the Son) than insist that the sun be blocked out if everyone else cannot get their fair share instead.  This is the age old struggle between the left and the right politically.  The pursuit of teaching a man to fish versus giving him a fish.

If life were fair, I'd be able to maintain a healthy weight and sing like my mother.  After all, that's my birthright, yes?  If life was fair, I'd be able to do what I loved all of the time instead of doing what I need to do to take care of what I'm responsible for, and I would have had the chance to raise my children instead of leaving that to others who chose that for an occupation.  If life was fair, everyone would agree with me and we'd all be neighbors and nobody would suffer and there would be no tears except for tears of joy.  If life was fair, everyone who wanted children would conceive them when they wanted to and they would all be born in exactly nine months - perfectly healthy - and they'd sleep through the night at two weeks.  We'd all drive late model cars, live in houses that don't require maintenance, and would attend schools that enrich our natural gifts instead of having to pay to attend them.  Our religious rights would be undeniable and we'd embrace different cultures with appreciation and understanding - including those who wish to kill us because we don't agree with them.  It would be one giant love-fest with no disease, no harsh words, and no pain.

Because for it to be "fair" - cancer wouldn't exist, there would always be enough to go around, and everyone would get a trophy for participation.  We'd recycle, spend time communing with nature, and we'd all have plenty of time to pursue what makes our hearts sing.  There would be no famine, no war, and nobody left out because everyone would be all-inclusive, all of the time.  There would be no discrimination, no broken bones, and no broken hearts.

And one day this will a place far away called heaven.

But not here.  We need to understand that.

And yet we don't.  We keep trying to change the rules so "it never happens again" and nobody will get hurt.  We sue companies for being greedy or abusive or just plain wrong.  We get angry when someone has all of the good heaped on them because some of that should go around.  Don't believe that last one?  Then you haven't raised a daughter.

Or been a girl.  Or knew one.

No, life isn't fair.  It is not meant to be.  It is meant to be appreciated and lived.  It is not meant to be nirvana.  That comes later once we survive all of...well...this...and finish the race well.  Nobody said it would be easy.  Nobody said it would be pain-free.  Nobody said we'd get out of here with our hearts intact.

It is beautiful, and cruel, and messy and dangerous.  And most assuredly not fair.

I have been blessed beyond measure, but I am keenly aware of this.  I know that there are hungry people in the world, people who are living out the consequences of their decisions and behaviors and those who are hurting through no fault of their own.  It is our job to try to work toward eliminating this need.  It is as old as history itself and as painful now as it was in years past.  We should all strive to open our eyes to what we can do not only to meet the immediate needs...but the root causes as well.

But trying to make everyone else's quality of life the same with a cell phone in every Coach purse and perfectly coiffed hair, filet mignon on an EBT card and designer clothes?  Well, let's just say that this is a far cry from a "chicken in every pot."  And it is this type of "fairness" that I have no patience for to say the least.

Try to focus on the concept of fairness for a minute and think about your situation.  Are you blessed?  Or are you just mad because someone wore the crown, got the guy/gal, lives in a bigger house and drives something better than you do?  Because if you're just totally need to pull your head out, take your participation trophies to Goodwill and get over yourself.  Sorry for the harshness, but someone needs to hurt your feelings.

I know that life isn't fair because my life has historically either been far worse than I wanted or far better than I deserved.  There has never been anytime in my life where I thought that everything was fair.  I either got too big a piece of the pie...or was shortchanged and learned from the experience.  I hardly have any recollection of anything in between.

So, go out there today and be blessed.  Quit focusing (and voting) for "fairness" and start trying to figure out ways to "elevate" other people out of circumstances as you are directed.  Be a good friend, family member, spouse, neighbor, church member, employee, or whatever and show people the way out instead of insisting that it be legislated.

Sorry, I'm a Conservative. Sometimes that seeps out...and other times I'm awash in it.  The latter is true as I write this.

I'm hoping that each of you realize how incredibly blessed you are.  You may have had something bad happen to you in your life and you're reeling from it.  You may have made some choices that make you wince when Satan brings them back to your memory.  You may have a broken heart over watching someone else suffer when the mean girls seem to be winning.  Or may be a mean girl who grew up to be a mean woman who cuts down everyone she can at the knees just because she can.

Gee, I hope not.

Keep your eyes open and your heart ready to help those reeling from this thing we call life.  Throw them a lifeline of prayer, assistance and fight for them to make it better for others.  But don't get sucked into thinking that we all have to have the exact same level of joy in this world.  That's like cutting the caterpillar out of the cocoon instead of letting it fight its way out.  By "helping" the caterpillar in this makes it impossible for the butterfly to develop the strength in its wings to fly.  If you don't believe me...look around you.  Grounded butterflies are everywhere you look in the spirit of "fairness."

Have a great weekend and be blessed.  Thanks for reading.  :)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Ghosts of Boyfriends Past

One of the odd things about being a parent is that sometimes your children's friends come and go and then take a piece of your heart with them.  It isn't intentional, and you don't really think about it at the time, but you begin to form attachments to them because they have been such a large pattern in the fabric of your family's life that you may forget that they aren't your children.  It gets even more complicated during the dating years when you meet someone that one of your children is dating and they come to family events or hang out on the weekend, or might even go with you on a trip. You know their favorite foods, their birthday, and you have photos with them in it.  They come to dinner, you have the chance to minister to them, and you even wonder if they might be a permanent member of your family.

Sometimes they are.  Sometimes they aren't.

And when they are, you have wonderful, warm, sweet memories of them as they grew to become a part of your family.  I saw this happen when my niece and two nephews on the Mixon side began dating who are now their spouses and the parents of the little people who make us smile.  We began to see them as a couple that we couldn't imagine life without them.  We stood with joy as the brides walked down the two cases to change their name to Mixon...and one to Stillwell (but she will always be a Mixon to us) and celebrated the fact that they were "ours."  Part of our family.  Loved like it as well.

But when they aren' can be a little awkward.  Especially if you run up on them somewhere down the road and don't know what to say.  It can be a lot awkward when you run into two of the "Ghosts of Boyfriends Past" at the same wedding.


Fortunately, it was a teachable moment.  Or two teachable moments, I suppose I should say.  I should also mention that these two left us years six years ago and the other four.  I hadn't realized that so much time had passed until I thought about it because I can still vividly remember their presence in our lives.  Oh, I had heard about what they were both doing from running into the current girlfriend of one and the mother of the other, but there had been virtually no conversation between "us" and "them" in quite some time.  I had gotten pretty comfortable with that, truth be told.  Not because I don't care about them...but because they seem to have moved on with the next person that they dated after my daughter, and there's just something a little disconcerting about that.  Hey, at least I'm honest.

But then one of them sat behind us at the wedding.  I'm fairly certain it wasn't intentional.  Since we were seated first, I'm putting that one on them.  The other one we didn't see until the reception.  But two encounters...and two very different responses.

I won't elaborate on what happened other than to say that one of the young men acted as though there had never been any relationship between us.  That we were lumped together with memories of our daughter and that it would be disrespectful to his significant other to speak to us at all...even though he did.  He almost acted ashamed to be seen instead of just stopping and saying hello.  It was quite odd.  The other one stopped and talked to us for fifteen minutes while his significant other was in the other room listening to the band.  He caught us up on what he was doing and said that he was happy.  It was nice to talk to him and I know that if I run into him with his wife at the grocery store or somewhere else...he'll introduce us and everything will be okay.

I know that you may be reading this and not fully understanding why this matters so much...and that may be because your children don't date much, they don't bring their dates home to hang out with the family, or you may not have children.  But for us...but we love the people that come into this house. Some of them understand that and appreciate it.  Others are ashamed of it.  I don't know if they are ashamed of being associated with us...or the fact that we were good to them and they haven't been in touch.  It honestly matters not.

I just know that I quit giving away the healthy portions of my heart years ago to those passing through and have been offering the ones that have come after only a sliver.  In one case, however, with my son's current sweetheart, she has taken up residence in our hearts and we hope that someday she'll be a reality and not a possibility.  We are still guarding our hearts carefully, though, as we seek out the young man that God has just for Jill.  We feel that this is only fair to him.

When you love people that come into the lives of your children...sometimes it is bittersweet.  You don't realize how much you miss them until you see them again...even if they were clearly not right for your child.  You want the best for them...even if that means that you cannot know how the story ends.   It means that you look back into the family tapestry and see their thread woven through...but you also see where it stops and another thread picks up somewhere down the pattern.

I am blessed that there are a few of my childrens' friends that I am still in touch with and that I can walk with as they grow into amazing adults.  I consider them my "other daughters and sons" and I want the best that life has to offer for them.  But there are some that I have no connection to whatsoever anymore..and it makes me a little sad sometimes to know that I planted good seed on concrete instead of rich soil.  That the pearls we set out were trampled instead of valued.

But every so often, you'll be at a wedding somewhere, and one of them will thank you for giving him a bible.  He'll tell you that he reads it every day and that he is growing closer to being the man that God wants him to be.  He'll still be the kid you knew...but he'll also be a man who is the spiritual leader of his home.  He'll be the one that comes back to thank you and not the nine others that take what you give them and never look back.  Jesus knew all about this after healing the ten lepers.  And I suppose I know in some small measure how real that parable is...and what a blessing it is to know that it was not all in vain.

I know that we typically don't invest in people just to make them grateful and that there are a lot of kids that passed through here that I invested minimal time in for various reasons.  I know that there may be a season where I'll have the opportunity to interact with some of my childrens' friends again.  When you all live in the same do end up bumping into each other eventually.

Yet one day, I look forward to being able to love a new son and daughter of my childrens' choosing.  The training that I had loving other peoples' children has prepared me for this role.  I've learned to overlook, speak truth, expect great things, give generously, and know my place...all in preparation for them.  And when I look back, I'll see that those that came in and out of our lives were to prepare us for those who were to come.

That's the way I see it, anyway.

I will also say that seeing those two young men again gave me quite a bit of closure.  I see that they are both happy and healthy and have moved on with their lives in a positive way.  They have significant others that are lovely and they both had the decency to give me a hug at the end of the evening.

I'm a hugger, you know.  Since I never got to properly say goodbye to either of them...this was really a nice way to cap it off.

I don't know what the future holds, but I do know that I don't regret any time that I have ever invested in a young person.  Our family may not ever cross their mind again, but I know that one day it will.  It did with me...and it will with them.  When they have their own families, or when they need to know that someone loves them unconditionally...hopefully, they will think of us.

We may never know.  Which is fine.

So, go out and invest your time and as much of your heart as you can spare...reserving the best parts for the spouses of your children.  That's what we are doing...guarding our hearts...and waiting.

For someday...and happily ever after.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Holiday Project

This morning I got up at what I believe was 4:50 a.m. because the dogs are not yet on CST and because there was probably a leaf blowing outside by the window causing Dixie to feel the need to rush outside to investigate...and bark incessantly.  When I came to consciousness, I realized that the room was about 42 degrees F with a window wide open and me huddled into a ball in the center of the bed on the spot that Big Dave had recently vacated.  That man totally radiates heat.  It is a blessing in the winter when I am having my ongoing feud with Alabama Power because they jack up our utility prices to kingdom come in the summer and I feel that this is my only chance to get back some of my money.

But when I'm up...I'm up.  Fortunately, I went to bed early and only woke up once for my customary trip to the bathroom...making my way through Riley's "Obstacle Course" of shoes, underwear, and whatnot that he gathers to put in the path every night.  Last night it was a tennis shoe and a black plastic strip that was awesome to step on.

I love my dog.  I love my dog.  I love my dog.  Yeah, I really do.  Except sometimes I don't.

(But I really do.)

Bless his heart, he was just banished from the kingdom for pulling down a comforter from the couch and having the audacity to recline upon it in sight of Big Dave.  After, of course, he dragged three pair of my underwear to the washing machine (okay, FINE, the middle of the kitchen) because he can.

Yes, currently, I am doing marathon laundry after the Great Sheet Mishap that has since been straightened out and rectified.  I'm also trying to get this out of the way and keep my schedule straight because there are a lot of things that I'm supposed to do this week and weekend and next Monday is a holiday for me.  There are a number of "shoulds" that are going down this week because I am having people at my house in a few weeks for Thanksgiving and I'd like it not to look like Larry the Cable Guy lives here.

Oh, you caught that "holiday" reference?  Yes, I'm happy to be off for one of the three banker holidays where folks go, "Really?"  And where I want to yell back "UH-YEAH!"  But I don't, because that's tacky.  Thank you Columbus Day, Veteran's Day and Presidents' Day every year for sort of making up for working the day after Thanksgiving. Every. Single. Year.  And Christmas Eve. (Although we DO get off half a day for that.)

Part of what I want to do involves a project that will either happen or not happen based upon this weekend.  Time will run out or it will work out.  Ever been there?  Where you want to do something to bless other people but you can't figure out exactly how to pull it off?  I have something in mind...but I'm not sure if it is something that needs to be worked out or something that needs to be pushed to the recesses of my memory to be thought through a little more carefully...when I have time, of course.  Which may occur again in 2015.

You see, after Halloween every year, I immediately jump to what I call "The Holidays."  It is helpful to just let that center around Christmas because the decorations are already out everywhere you go.  But I also consider that the Veterans Day Holiday and Thanksgiving...followed by some vacation days that I have held off for this purpose.  There will be a brunch to attend, parties already on my calendar, and visits that I need to make.  Since I can only take three days in December (banks don't like people being all off and such around the end of the year for varying reasons)...cramming a whole bunch of activity cannot I usually back all my planning, acquiring and dealing with stuff all up into November.

And why not?  Seeing as I inherited the planning gene from my Gammy.  Except it morphed into something a whole lot bigger than it ever was with her two generations later.  I am proud to say that I have finally quit crying and pitching a fit when things don't work out as planned like I did when I was nine.  Most of the time anyway.  (There was that three year period of "personal summers, unexplained tears, and total irrationality" that Big Dave, my relatives, a a few select friends lived through.  Barely.)  My mother (bless her heart) had to live through all 50 years of "this" and still considers me to be somewhat "Our Lady of Perpetual Disappointment" - a nickname that a co-worker once gave me because I didn't handle disappointment well due to high (unrealistic) expectations.  (Yes, my friend is Catholic.)  It comes from actually being an optimist.  So much so, that I can see how it should work out and then I get upset when it doesn't.  Except it hasn't worked out so many times that I just quit worrying about it and I let it fly and act like that's what I expected to happen.  Or I laugh about it as it crumbles.  Because I am the poster girl for "When we plan...God laughs."

Okay, maybe I haven't completely outgrown that tendency.  Sometimes I still try to make it happen.  I suppose that I always will.

Several years ago, I did the Advent Bag Project for family and then followed that two years later for friends.  It has now been two years since I did that...and I'm feeling the need to do something this year.  I won't go into what the Project is...because I do plan to do it again...but part of the joy of Christmas certain years is doing something that people aren't expecting.  On the off-years, I just bask in the knowledge that I did something fun last year.

But it has been two years...and it is time, must be started this weekend, and must not cost a fortune...because that goes against all of the rules.  Actually, so does telling anyone about it...but whatever.  I'm feeling the pressure.  Big time.

However, should nothing materialize in my will be okay.  This weekend will pass and I will let it go.  I'll keep thinking about it until next year.  No, I won't throw a crying fit over it.  I don't think so anyway.

But I do so love Christmas.  Always have.

For me, though, Christmas has evolved.  I have moved up a generation in the hierarchy of things...into the "grandparent" stage although I don't have any of my own.  David's brothers and sisters-in-law have grandchildren...and we will have five children three and under at the Mixon Christmas this year.


One of my "babies" is working and can purchase for herself whatever she wants and needs.  The other one is pretty content with his situation except for the fact that he keeps rambling on and on about a new monitor for the computer that he made himself.  And a tablet.  And other things that he can do without and probably will.  Our parents really enjoy gift cards more than actual presents, and we draw names on Big Dave's side of the family and primarily give (you guessed it...) gift cards.  I have a few friends that I give something to and I've already bought those gifts.

Yes, you read that right.  Which means that I can only really enjoy doing "Christmas" by catching people off guard.  You know...glorious surprises.

To me, the spirit of Christmas is giving something that draws attention back to where it should be (Jesus' birthday) and away from where it shouldn't be (massive commercialism).  But there are only so many hours in the day...and only so much that I can do (financially).  But because the desire is there, I'm going to keep praying that God gives me the inspiration to do something wonderful of his choosing to bless other people.

And not in the usual way.

Let the countdown for the planning begin.  I have four days.  Which shouldn't be too hard, right?

Guess we'll see.  :)