Saturday, December 29, 2012

Seasonal Blahs

We had a lovely Christmas!  I hope you did too.  Ours was full of family and fun and food. 


Our Christmas included this Guinness chocolate cheesecake.  I highly recommend it.  It survived a couple of kitchen emergencies-both were completely my fault.

After Christmas, I always feel a bit of the post-Christmas blahs.  There is so much anticipation in the Christmas season and in one day, it is over.

I was happy to get back to work the day after Christmas and get back into the routine. 


All of our decorations are put away.  Ok, with a couple of exceptions.  We always forget a couple of items every year.  This little guy has gotten left out almost every year since we got him…almost 10 years ago.

We used to keep everything up until after New Year’s Day, but I think that we have learned over the years that when the motivation is there to put away the decorations, we must act on it immediately.  Our space is a bit empty now.  I’ve been checking out Pinterest for ideas for our mantel.  The room is darker without the glow of the Christmas tree.  I am reminded to get a new lamp for our family room.

I have been thinking about 2013 and what I would like to accomplish.  I don’t necessarily like the idea of a resolution.  The word goal sounds a bit more fitting.  Focusing on that usually helps bring me out of the post-Christmas blahs.  I like the excitement of a new year, a fresh start.

I think we have all figured out from a previous post that I am not that great of a crafter.  But I’m finding that I really enjoy it.  I like how it engages my brain.  In this next year, I am going to be taking a couple sewing classes.  I’m trying out some jewelry ideas as well.  Hopefully I will remember that perfection does not exist as I continue on my crafting journey.


Lucy is really into crafts and got some crafting kits for Christmas.  Of course, Katy wanted to try too, even when she realized that one of the kits included a real needle.  Her strong will cannot be told that she is too little to learn.  She refers to the needle as a “knit,” which I have a hard time correcting because there is something so sweet about that term.  “Momma, can you fix my knit?” she asks, after she has pulled the thread out of the needle.

Crafting isn’t really a goal (or a resolution) but something I thought would be fun to try.  As far as actual goals, I suppose they are still in the forming stages.  I no longer put pressure on myself to have everything finalized by December 31st.  I have done that before and then somehow felt inadequate because I didn’t have my life planned out for the whole year by the first day of the year.  Kind of a silly thought anyway.  That we could have something as unpredictable as life planned out in so much detail.

I hope that as December 31st approaches, you are able to give yourself some grace in thinking about 2013 and what you would like to include in your life.  I am sure going to try to do that for myself.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Joy

What a week.  Rich with blessings.

I was driving home yesterday from work, thinking about all of this business about the world ending today.  I thought, well, I have had a good life. Full of family and friends.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that we are all still here today.


This week we finally got some proper snow.  In a break from the usual routine, I picked up the girls from the bus stop with a sled and towed them around.  We were laughing so hard that I almost didn’t make it up the hill.

I did some crafting with the ladies.  Katy was taking a nap for most of it, so Lucy and I worked on this felt Christmas tree for her.  Lucy created some lovely angels out of felt.  I was tempted to take my scissors and straighten out some of the edges.  But why?  Lucy was happy with her craft.  I had to let perfection go…once again


I spent a few hours with my fabulous old friend.  I’m so grateful for her.  I’m also grateful that she finally watched “White Christmas.”  I was beginning to worry about her.  She made me some lovely handmade Christmas goodies.  Hooray for handmade!

My brother-in-law learned how to pin to my sister’s Pinterest account, which resulted in the funniest hack ever.  I won’t show you what he pinned because she would be embarrassed.  I thought I would include this pin that showed up the next day on her board.  I’m not sure if she did this or if he did, but it absolutely describes them.
I hope you are all enjoying your week too!
Linked up today with Friday Favorite Things at finding joy

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Special Order

A couple of posts ago, I referenced a project I was making for Lucy.  The project that had me making multiple trips to craft stores.  I wanted to give her a necklace with the word “grace” on it.  It may have been easier if I would have made her a t-shirt that said, “perfection does not exist.”

My first ideas hit a few snags, so I tried to find a simple necklace charm with the word “grace.”  Couldn’t find one.  In multiple stores.  Faith, belief, trust were all abundant but grace didn’t exist.

Something seems wrong about that.  I couldn’t find a simple word to describe “I make lots of mistakes and that’s ok because perfection does not exist.”  Seriously, this is an important concept here.

I ended up with this idea of creating a clay pendant with the word “grace.”  This was a simple project that I made incredibly way too complicated.

Last week, I was down to two styles.  I brought it to work to show my coworkers.  I prefaced the unveiling of the pendant with “I realize the irony in looking for perfection in a pendant that has the word ‘grace’ on it.”

They were kind.  And they also told me to stop making more tester pendants.

I didn’t listen to the voice of reason, of course, and made six more that night. 

And then I realized that I would never make up my mind.  And that it was ok to let it go.  I decided to show Lucy what I had been working on and let her choose. 

She was thrilled.

She probably would have been thrilled with my very first version.  She didn’t expect perfection.  She was simply happy that I thought of her.

Once again, I ignored grace.  I needed perfection.  And once again, I failed.

Sigh.  But even though I think that I failed, grace was still there.

Through this pendant making process, I’ve been thinking about that word, grace.  Grace isn’t something that we need to special order.  Grace is always there for us.

Grace is this beautiful concept that we don’t need to be perfect.  It is ok to be ourselves, faults and all.

But why is it so difficult to receive grace?  Just look at the selection of available charms-faith, belief, love-all are readily available.  But to allow ourselves the reprieve from the demands of perfection…well…maybe that shouldn’t be so easy.

But it is.

We make it hard on ourselves.  We take on the burdens of the idea of perfection.  Ok, maybe you don’t, but I certainly do.

I think about how I finished the necklace, with a few coats of Mod Podge.  Mod Podge softened the edges of the pendant.  A bit like grace softening my spirit.

As I went to attach the ring holding the pendant to the necklace, I scratched part of the pendant.  And I laughed.  Because that is just like life.  We think we have it figured out, all perfect, and there’s always another scratch.  So I put on a bit more Mod Podge and waited for my mistake to blur into the pendant.

Our mistakes, our scratches, our imperfections, these make us who we are.  And when we feel a little too raw, when we expect too much of ourselves (or our circumstances), grace is always there. 

I suppose that it is only fitting that a pendant of grace has so many imperfections in it.  When I look at it, I think of all that went into it.

And it will serve as a reminder that grace shouldn’t be a struggle. 

Grace is always there.  Special order not required.

Linked up today with tuesdays unwrapped

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Next to Us

I wanted to keep going on yesterday’s post, but I thought it was probably long enough.  This post isn’t exactly a “Part II.”  This is more about something I have had on my mind for a while.

In times of tragedy, we often look at some faraway place and think how horrible those people have it.  As an undergraduate, I remember watching the news live when the Columbine tragedy unfolded.  Scenes from that day are embedded in my memory, but I was a very distant bystander, watching safely from my couch a few states away. 

But tragedy isn’t something that is distant.

It is right here next to us.

We get outraged that kids can’t feel safe in their neighborhoods, at school or in a movie theatre...but many kids don’t feel safe in their own homes.

I have been thinking about that a lot in these past few weeks.  About the suffering that takes place right next to us as we complete the to-dos of our lives.

The loneliness and pain that others experience every day.  And how those feelings only intensify during the time between Thanksgiving and the new year.

We can look at some event that is geographically distant, but the reality is that we can’t distance ourselves from the pain of others (or the pain we are experiencing ourselves).

People closer than we think are in pain.  They are broken.

And this completely overwhelms me.

I have to remind myself that this is not my problem to solve.  I don't mean to say that in a selfish way.  It is simply not possible for me, one person, to carry the suffering of this world.

But that is not an excuse to ignore it.

Yesterday, I shared some simple life lessons.  We all know how much I enjoy (and need) repetition.  I thought it was important to share those again.

Be a helper.

Seek out gratitude.

Pray (or send good thoughts or whatever it is that you do).

All of us have the ability to make a difference.  There is no small way of helping. 

And all of us are called to help others.  It is part of our humanity.

So if your mind ventures off to a place several states away, wondering how to help, don’t also forget about those nearest to you.  Their pain may be hidden, but it is still there.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Instead of Sheep

This week Billy and I realized that we didn’t get presents for the girls yet.  Well, that’s not entirely accurate.  We (and when I say “we” I mean Billy and his dad) are working on a project for the girls, which I will post about some other time.  Other than that, we didn’t have any gifts.

So I took advantage of a day without the kids yesterday and set out to get gifts.  I had a fantastic shopping experience (no sarcasm here).  I went to Michaels (I know, I said I wasn’t allowed back in craft stores) and had the loveliest conversation with one of the employees about how to complete a project I was working on for Lucy (that will be a different post, as well).  She was incredibly genuine.

Later I was at the Dollar Store and there were huge lines.  I thought it was a bit weird for lunchtime on a Friday, but oh well, nothing I could do but wait.  When it was my turn, I starting joking with the cashier and he said, “You are such a good customer!”  I suppose that’s what happens when you have worked in customer service, you realize how hard it is, especially during the holiday season.

I went home feeling pretty good about my day.  I thought the girls would really enjoy the gifts.  I didn’t come home an angry shopper.

I sat down for a quick break before all the wrapping and checked the computer.  I think we all know the headline that was glaring at me.  Another senseless tragedy.

Of course, there were lots of people posting about this on facebook.  One status update in particular struck me, “I can’t even begin to imagine one of them (her kids) not being here this Christmas to open their gifts.


I think it was so powerful because I had just shopped for gifts for my ladies.  What if I had returned from shopping, only to learn that my kids were gone? 

I can’t go there.

I feel like I have posted before about how there is no meaning in this kind of tragedy (here and  here to be exact).  We search for explanations, but we will never really have one.

It’s hard to find comfort in these types of situations.

I’ve noticed another facebook post that has been floating around the past couple of days.  It is a picture of Mr. Rogers with an old quote from him:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.' To this day, especially in times of 'disaster,' I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers - so many caring people in this world.

Yesterday, and on many other days marked by tragedy, there are always helpers.  Helping is their first response.  They don’t weigh the consequences.  They simply act.

That does bring some comfort.  Some constant in this unknown.  You will always find people helping.

But in the dark of night, when I am awake thinking of the weight of the world, unnecessarily taking on that burden (once again) what is there to provide comfort?  Gratitude.  Gratitude for all that I have in my own world.  Gratitude for the warm kittens sleeping down the hall.  Gratitude for the man sleeping next to me, stealing the covers.  Gratitude for the host of friends and family in my life.  Gratitude for all the blessings.

I suppose there is something to the old song.  Just count your blessings instead of sheep. 

Important life lessons are often simple.

Be a helper.

Seek out gratitude.

And I will add another…pray (or send good thoughts or whatever it is that you do.)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas Happy Place

I think I have mentioned before that I get a bit lazy and uninspired to decorate…for anything.  The flowers I purchased for our Thanksgiving table were still sitting on our mantel until last week (mostly dead).  Our Christmas mantel usually gets an assortment of the leftovers from the boxes of decorations.

This Christmas season, I was inspired (see the above picture).  Ok, let me acknowledge that some of you are thinking, “That’s it?”  Yes, this is it.  And for me, this is a big deal.

I was at a Habitat for Humanity Restore and found this lovely print in the middle.  Have you ever been to a Restore?  I would say it is a thrift store for building materials.  And I love thrift stores.  For whatever reason, they had a shopping cart full of these prints.  The print is of 16th Street in Denver in the early 1900s.  It was actually a great fit for my mantel because I have other prints of Denver in the same time period around my house.  Naturally, I framed it in a thrift store frame find.

Also making an appearance on this mantel are the tiny baby Jesus (I can’t even type that without having Will Ferrell’s voice in my head) and Our Lady of Guadalupe.  I realize she should have roses around her, but let’s say that I need to stop making an appearance at craft stores.  It is getting out of control.

I enjoy gazing back and forth between this mantel and the glow of the Christmas tree.  I have found my Christmas happy place.  I hope you find yours too.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

One More Thing

I got home from work last night, ate dinner and immediately started working on crafts.  I’m not really a crafty person so it probably took three times as long to do some prep work for a craft tomorrow with a group of about 20 little ladies.  I was still awake when our programmed settings on the thermostat drastically reduced the temperature.  That is past my 8:30 bedtime!

There was always one more thing…one more thing to cut, one more thing to assemble.  And then I realized that I should probably put together an example for the kids.


I think it looks pretty good.  Of course, all of the felt pieces will probably fall off when I pick it up later.

This “one more thing” concept, well, life has been feeling like that a lot lately.  I feel like I will make progress at work after one more thing.  I will feel more ready for Christmas after one more thing.  I feel like the house might not look like an explosion if I only clean one more thing.

A couple of nights ago, I had a hefty to-do list in front of me (this snowman project included).  I didn’t sleep very well.  I’m not really sure why.  Elwood Wilson was probably jumping on me while I tried to sleep.  Every time I woke up, some remnant of the to-do list would enter my mind. 

And for whatever reason, the to-dos didn’t matter. 

The to-dos didn’t wake me up completely from my sleep fog.  My mind and heart circled around peace.  And I went back to sleep for a bit.

In the morning, I didn’t wake up with a panic about the week, which was very refreshing considering it was Monday morning.  The day was there, with its lists, but it didn’t bother me.

I wish I could share a secret.  Some wisdom that I have.  Usually I am the person who wakes up in the middle of the night, and the rest of the night is shot.  My brain spends those early morning hours processing the day, planning for the next day and losing valuable rest.

Maybe I don’t have it figured out, but I will take it, that lovely sense of peace.

I didn’t need to reach one more thing before I could have peace. 

Instead, peace found me in those early hours, between dreams.

Linked up today with tuesdays unwrapped

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Muddling Through the Week

This has been a week of catch up, with early mornings and late nights.  My brain is feeling a little fuzzy.  Before I left for work yesterday morning, I realized that I hadn’t saved a powerpoint presentation correctly the night before.  Hours of work was lost.

Last night, I hit the wall. 

I was working on the computer while the girls were coloring Christmas pictures.  Katy got up to get her bear.  That was a sign that she was getting tired.  I realized I was tired too.

While she ran upstairs to get her bear, I put my laptop away.  She came downstairs to a mama who was ready to snuggle under a blanket while we listened to Christmas  music and stared at the tree.  We watched Lucy quietly work on her coloring.

When I put the girls to bed a bit later, I didn’t trudge downstairs for more computer time.  I crawled into bed.

Sometimes we need to call it a night and leave the to-dos behind.

I wish I could write that I woke up today feeling refreshed and energized.  The truth is that I am feeling the weight of the week.  I am struggling through my coffee.  I might need a third cup.

Once again, I remind myself that this is only a season.  As I sit working this morning, I look at the Christmas tree and remember my moment of peace last night.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Joyful Hope

I have been reading a lot about creating peace during the Christmas season.  How we pack so much activity that it becomes exhausting.  We need time to just be.

I can’t say that this has ever been me.

But for a very different reason.  I simply wasn’t around much during the holidays.  I always seemed to be working.  When I was always working, the thought of squeezing in anything else seemed impossible, so I didn’t even try.

People try to duplicate or even top Christmas from their childhood memories.  I don’t remember so many activities growing up that I felt exhausted (for which I am grateful).  The exciting part about Christmas was that feeling of anticipation.  While decorating, singing in the school program, coloring Christmas pictures or staring at my wrapped presents under the tree, there was always that underlying feeling of anticipation.

On this first Sunday of Advent, it was given a name, “joyful hope.” 

That clicked with me. 

Joyful hope describes that exciting anticipation of the Christmas season as a child.

It also clicked with me as an adult.

Joyful hope describes that feeling in my heart, that undercurrent.  When the to-dos of life get in the way or when life throws a couple of curveballs, I don’t have to get frantic.  I can choose joyful hope in my heart.

Life has been a little crazy lately.  I thought the season of crazy was coming to an end.  Apparently not.  This past weekend could not have been described as relaxing.  Yet Sunday night, when I was going to bed late, with a 5 am wake up call set on my alarm, I took a moment to check in with my heart.

It was still there.  Joyful hope. 

Life won’t stay crazy.  And even in the crazy, there are sweet moments to be enjoyed.  Like watching the lighting of Christmas lights, playing with a miniature Christmas village, or sitting under a blanket and enjoying the glow of the Christmas tree.  Joyful hope.

Linking up today with tuesdays unwrapped.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

This Girl

This week has been kind of a tough one for my little Katy.  Last week, the girls had a full week off for Thanksgiving break.  Going back to school, resuming the to dos of life has left her a little overtired and frazzled.

Last night was probably the most difficult.  After Girl Scouts, she took a shower and went straight to bed.  I’m sure she was asleep within 2 minutes.

Today was another rush around day.  After I made dinner and ate it in five minutes, I had to head out to an hour and a half meeting.  I admit, I had been dreading this meeting all week.  A meeting that starts at 6:45 pm is only going to get the attention of about one quarter of my brain.

When I got home, the girls were showered and ready for bed.  Billy said that after Katy was showered and jammied up, she got in our bed.  When he asked her what she was doing, she replied, “Waiting for Mommy.”

This girl. 

All week I have been feeling that it didn’t matter what I did, we were destined to butt heads.  But here she was, at the end of her day, and she wanted to snuggle with me.

She melts my heart.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Grateful for Me

I read a lovely post from Anna that included a thank you letter she wrote to herself.

I was inspired.  During this month of gratitude, many recognize the blessings in their life.  Other people, life circumstances, stuff. 

But do we take time to acknowledge ourselves?  Do we take time to acknowledge the struggles we’ve been through?  Do we acknowledge that we are still here?  Do we take time to acknowledge beauty in our imperfection?  Do we acknowledge that we matter?

I took some time and thought about what I would say to myself.  What words of appreciation would hold meaning to that person who saw hope blooming but was still living in the day to day?

Here are some of my thoughts:

This time last year, you were in the middle of a change.  Trying to accept life.  Trying to seek joy where you were.

It was hard.  There were days that you wanted to give up.  Days when hope was foggy. 

Thank you for believing.  You only knew that life would change for the better.  You didn’t know when.  Yet faith remained.

Thank you for seeing that life could be different.  That life could hold more meaning.

Thank you for hanging on.  Hanging on through working seven days a week.  Hanging on with burning eyes from staying up all night.  Hanging on with a body that would always feel cold from not getting enough sleep. 

Thank you for keeping it together.  You had to keep going.  Your responsibilities at work and home were constant.

These recent days are so much sweeter for everything that you did.  Everything that you were.  You were enough.

I know your struggles.  I know your heart.

And I thank you.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Truth

I just finished a lovely week of not doing much of anything.

I really needed it.  The quiet and calm of doing nothing.

When I returned to work today, I wasn’t filled with a sense of dread about going back to the routine.  I embraced the day, in all of its imperfect glory.

I was remarking to a friend today about being plagued with dreams about work for the first few nights of my vacation.  It wasn’t until I had my first full night of sleep (and did not dream about work) that I had some insight.  I caught hold of it again, that undercurrent of joy, because of a powerful truth.

I am not responsible for solving the problems of this world. 

And with that truth was the relief of unloading that burden. 

As I began my imperfect day, I remembered that truth and held onto the undercurrent.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

Each year at Thanksgiving, one of my sisters would make us go around the table and share what we were thankful for.  She was met with groans.  My siblings and I reluctantly shared our blessings.  Can you imagine that?  A group of people grumbling about having to be thankful on Thanksgiving.  Sheesh.  Sorry I was such a jerk, sister.  I hope she didn’t let that experience discourage her from carrying on that tradition with her own family.

Gratitude shouldn’t be something that we dread.  It also shouldn’t be something that we express only once a year. 

Gratitude should be expressed daily.  A thought of appreciation, a verbal expression of “thank you,” whatever form it comes in.  It is important.

But it makes us feel a little vulnerable, doesn’t it?  We need other people.  Gratitude is admitting that we need other people, admitting that we can’t do this alone.  We admit that it’s not just those big things that we are grateful for, it’s the little things as well.  Maybe we feel a little embarrassed about being thankful for such “trivial” things.  But they aren’t trivial.  Those little things in life can bring great joy.

I’m not big on seasonal decorations for my house.  I’m not sure if it is lack of creativity or talent for decorating or laziness.  This year, I made a Thankful Tree for Thanksgiving.  I got the idea from Pinterest.  Let’s celebrate the fact that I made something on one of my Pinterest boards!

The idea is that each leaf represents something you are thankful for.  At first, it was a bit of struggle for the ladies.  They were cautious, not knowing exactly what to put.  When I contributed “sweet potato pie” to the tree, I think they realized that it was ok to be thankful for the little things.  They couldn’t write their ideas down fast enough.  And they didn’t care what they wrote.  There was no embarrassment over being thankful for turkey, penguins or each other. 

They are simply grateful.

This Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for the many blessings in my life.  I hope that you have a tree full of blessings to be grateful for as well. 

And maybe if some relative at the table asks you to share those blessings with the whole group, you will embrace the opportunity to share your joy with your family.