Here I am, standing on the doorstep of a landmark birthday. Wish I could say I'm about to enter my forties. Or fifties. Alas, Mother Nature and Father Time are conspiring against me and turning me old. (Not as old as you might see if you do a Google search. Sheesh. Who started that rumor? Don't rush me!)
It's hard to wrap my mind around the fact that so much of my life has zipped past. Some of it has been hard, some of it sad, most of it good. But now, most of it's gone.
Oh, listen to me. I'm turning into my Father. He spent years at death's door (in his hypochondriac imagination). I am so my daddy's girl. But, like my father, after facing a health crisis, I think I became much more aware of my mortality. Something I sure didn't think about in my twenties or thirties or forties.
Somewhere around the middle of life, it seems, we begin to realize that we have an expiration date. And, hopefully, we begin to make wise life choices and start thinking about doing things that really matter and will make a difference in the world. I like to think that's where I am.
It's awfully tempting to bemoan the white hair I inherited from my dad's side of the family or the spread of wrinkles or the fact that I'm beginning to experience some aches and pains. But I don't want to go there. I want to be thankful that I'm still here, that I have wonderful family and friends in my life, and that I'm able to do something I love for a living. And that my husband still thinks I'm cute. :)
Instead of complaining about the fact that I'm getting old, I'm working to see my age as a blessing. So many people have their lives cut short by tragic accidents or disease or have their life taken by someone else. Old age is a privilege, and if we're still here we are here for a reason.
So, happy birthday to me. Thank you God, for the gift of life. And when my expiration date arrives, thank you for the gift of eternal life. I am going to celebrate big time!
I am now in my third week of dieting in an effort to shed the pounds that have sneakily attached themselves to my body over the last couple of years. For the most part, my regimen isn't so bad ... because I keep sneaking into the chocolate. (Notice which bowl is fuller! A chocolate a day keeps the grumpies away, right?) This, of course, makes the whole weight loss process go more slowly! And that got me thinking. Who's in charge here, my brain or my taste buds?
Taste buds are like willful children. They want what they want, irregardless of whether or not it's good for them. Keeping them in line is a real battle.
From there I got to thinking about how easy it is for us to let things rule our lives that shouldn't. Anger and resentment. Grudges. Who really suffers the most from those? Me. Anger and resentment make me sour and very unpleasant to be around. Grudges destroy not only my spirit but also any chance of healing or reconciliation. (This is not to say if we have someone abusive in our life that we should stick around for the head pounding. Scat. But I don't think we should allow the acid of anger to eat up our happiness.) And how about jealousy? It's often tempting for me to look around at those who are more successful and feel a twinge of that. And yet, would I deprive another person of his or her hard earned success? Heaven's no! The problem with jealously is that it blinds you to your own blessings. We all have our own race to run. I need to concentrate on the lane I'm running in and not be looking around at the other runners.
And I need to give my taste buds a time out! They are not the boss of me. Neither are those other deadlies. So there.
How about you? Who's the boss of you? If it's something that's keeping you from being all you want to be, maybe it's time for a new boss, right?
We have finally said goodbye to 2020. Most of us aren't even bothering to wave. So now it's on to a new year, with new hopes and dreams and plans. Some of us will be making resolutions, some of us gave up on that a long time ago.
I've often heard people say that new year's resolutions never work. Maybe not, but I still like to set goals every year. Somehow that doesn't seen as intimidating as making a resolution. (Although, when it comes right down to it, you need resolution in order to pursue those goals.)
If you're one of those who shy away from new year's resolutions, let me encourage you to take time to set some goals. Why? Because having a goal is like keeping the horizon in sight when you're on a boat, or consulting your navigational instruments. It helps you reach your destination. Goals, unlike a simple resolution, require a plan to help you meet them. And with a plan, you have a better chance to doing that.
This year, I need to take off that ten (okay, fifteen) pounds I've been hauling around. That's the goal. To meet it I need a plan. My plan is to start with my shopping list and not bring home anything that will tempt me. Carbs are going to be pretty much off-limits (something I will be keeping in mind as I shop.) That's the first part of the plan. The second part is exercise every day. We're in sunny California for the winter so I have no excuse not to get out and walk. (In fact, I've already started doing that. Yay me!) The third part of my plan circles back to my eating habits. No after-dinner snacking! I'd pretty much broken myself of this but sneaky little bites of chocolate are sneaking back into my evenings. Gotta nip that in the bud. If I get with the program and lose that ten (okay, fifteen) pounds in January, then maybe I can indulge in a yummy dessert on Valentine's Day.
So there's one goal and the plan to make it happen.
I have a couple others as well. One is to get back to studying German. This will actually be harder than losing weight as I'm becoming mentally lazy in my old age. I'm married to a German professor, for crying out loud, and we have friends in Germany. You'd think that would be enough to motivate me. Alas, it's not. So I'm just going to have to build this into my daily routine. My plan for that is to designate a "class time" for myself every day, first thing in the morning for a half hour after my Bible study and brain games. It has to happen before I start working because if I put it off until "later" later will never come. So, I have goals and I have plans for executing them. Here's hoping!
And how about you? I hope you have some exciting plans and goals as we move toward what we all hope will be a brighter year. Now's the time to start making things happen. (And, by the way, hop on over to the contest page and share your hopes and dreams and goals for the new year. We have a cool prize waiting for someone.)
Christmas Eve is normally when my extended family gathers to celebrate the joy of Christmas. Carols get sung, the Bible gets read, a ton of food is consumed, and there are games. Always games.
In the picture above I'm in the process of running the Sheila version of musical chairs. The classic game got a twist. Each round I slipped a prize under a chair, so my players were not only competing for a seat, they were also competing for a goody. Oh, my, did this get crazy at the end. Wish I'd gotten a video. One of the players was actually carrying her chair with her as she made the loop!
This year our big gathering will be on Zoom. (Maybe yours will be as well.) But I'm determined that we all have a good time, so we will be playing a guessing game I made up. This is one that I played with my friend Brenda Novak on the Facebook holiday page that she and my other buddy Debbie Macomber hosted. (If you were part of that fun, you might have already played it.) This is easy to do with your family online. All the players will need is a pencil and a piece of paper. (And an internet connection!)
This is a Christmas song riddle game. If you guess the riddle you'll know the name of the song. Sooo, here are the riddles with the answers in parenthesis. I hope you get a chance to play it. Have fun!
GUESS THE CHRISTMAS SONG
1. He's a cold dude (Frosty the Snowman)
2. I think Santa's going to get lucky tonight because ... (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus)
3. All I want is these (All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth)
4. Wow, it's so quiet. It is a ...(Silent Night)
5. If it snows December 25th we'll have a ... (White Christmas)
6. We are a trio of rulers (We Three Kings)
7. Mr. and Mrs. Claus's infant is called... (Santa Baby)
8. They do this all the way (Jingle Bells)
9. No pouting, no crying. How come? (Santa Claus is Coming to Town)
10. He has a colorful proboscis (Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer)
11. Everybody celebrate! (Joy to the World)
12. Wait. What Do I Hear? (Silver Bells)
A COVID CHRISTMAS, Bah, humbug! For so many of us Christmas will not look the same this year because of what we've been trhough - job losses, loved ones gone, others sick, quarantining and limited large gatherings. What's there to celebrate?
I say there's still plenty! God is still good and Christmas is still the biggest birthday party in the history of the world - a day that brings hope: peace on earth, goodwill toward all people.
The holiday may not be the same as last year but we still have memories we can enjoy, we have hope, and we still have people in our lives to love. And Christmas cookies. We have Christmas cookies. And carols and all those lovely holiday songs.
This year will be the first time since I was a child where my extended family won't be enjoying our huge Christmas Eve gathering. But we're planning to find ways around that with small gatherings and Zoom. I'm going to make the traditional Andes Mint cookies that I make every year along with snowball cookies and frosted sugar cookies and red velvet cake. I'm putting presents under the tree, and I'm going to think back fondly on happy Christmases past. I have the two clown dolls my mother made sitting under the tree to remind me of those good times.
A new year is right around the corner. I'm looking forward to a vaccine, to fun times with friends again and to being able to travel. I'm sure you are, too. Meanwhile, though, here's my wish for you, straight from that popular old song - have yourself a merry little Christmas. You have my permission to drink as much eggnog as you want!
I don't think anyone is going to be sorry to see 2020 go. It's been a turbulent year, hasn't it? I don't need to name all things we've endured and squabbled about this year. You know what they are. But, with Thanksgiving right around the corner, I want to take a moment and focus on all the good things in life: family and friends who care, sunrises and sunsets, a free country where we can all vote. We may disagree on how this country should be run (and not very politely sometimes), but we are still the UNITED States of America where people are free to voice their opinions and vote. We are not perfect, but we are still the land of opportunity. Not everyone in the world has the freedoms we do. That is something for which to be thankful.
I'm so thankful to still have my health, and to have my wonderful family And let me tell you, my family didn't all agree about who to elect this year, but the bottom line was always, we love each other no matter what. (Even if you're wrong. Hahahaha.) The same goes for my friends. Friends, no matter what our differences. I'm thankful for a great husband and kids who actually like spending time with us. I'm thankful for grandkids. (When did I get old enough for grandkids?!) I'm thankful for chocolate. Imagine a world without that! I'm thankful for the hope of heaven. I'm thankful that I can make a living doing something I love. I'm thankful for readers. Without you what would we authors do?
It's November and I'm going to make sure I concentrate on gratitude this month! How about you? What are you thankful for?
It seems to me we are getting increasingly more rude here in the United States of America. (Okay, not all of us -that's a sweeping generalization. But many of us.) I don't think I'm imagining it. I see an uptick in name calling and trading insults on social media. Who started the trend of calling people trolls when they voice a differing opinion on Facebook? Where along the way did we decide it was okay to lean out of car windows and hurl f-bombs at people who are peaceably waving and holding signs for their favorite political candidate? What, in short, happened to manners?
If I see a mom with a baby stroller trying to navigate the door into a grocery store, how hard is it for me to hurry over and open the door for her? If someone opens a door for me, is there any reason I can't say thank you? If I don't agree with someone on an issue do I really need to insult that persons character or intelligence? How does that convince the other person that I'm right?
2020 is not going to go down as a stellar year for most of us and I understand that we have big problems to deal with. People are stressed and worried about their future. I get that.
But perhaps, in spite of our stress and frustration, when dealing with those simple daily interactions, we can try and extend just a little more kindness, mind our manners, and remember what Mom always said. I bet you already know what that is, right? If you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all.
Let's all get in touch with our inner Miss Manners and go into these last few months, if not happily, at least civilly. Can we do that? I'm sure going to try!
Gerhardt and I have taken on the Herculean task of organizing our pictures and slides - a tower of photo albums and a skyscraper of boxes of slides. Yikes!
But, when so many of us are back in lock down as the stinking COVID-19 continues to rampage, this is a good time for such a chore. I must say, it's fun looking at all those pictures, watching our life unfold with visuals of people, places and events that have brought us to where we are today. So much fun.
And one of the side benefits? It reminds us that life isn't all bad. We've had our share of struggles and heartaches. We've had our dark times and our tests. But we've also had good times with good friends. We have family that we love. We have been blessed.
Maybe, if you're feeling a little in the dumps, you might like to dig out some of those old photo albums and scrapbooks, too. Like George Bailey (and Sheila) you might come to realize that you've really had a wonderful life. :)
I Have been reading an excellent book by Angela Duckworth titled GRIT, which I highly recommend - for us as individuals and as parents. With statistics and fascinating anecdotes this author reminds us that success is not just about talent. It's about hanging in there and not giving up, finding what you're good at and what you love and then getting better at it and making things happen in your life.
The last section of the book tells how to build "grit" in our kids and one thing she said really struck me: "Whether we realize it or not, the culture in which we live, and with which we identify powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being. By culture I don't mean the geographic or political boundaries that divide one people from another as much as the invisible psychological boundaries separating us from them. At its core, a culture is defined by the shared norms and values of a group of people."
This really resonated with me. I'm sure you've heard the saying, Birds of a feather flock together. Here's another one you may have heard: Bad companions ruin good character. (That one's right out of the Bible - 1 Corinthians 15:33 ) I've seen first hand how the people in my life have influenced me. I bet you have, too.
Applying this idea of culture to our lives, I think it's important to ask ourselves some important questions, the first one being, "What do I want out of life?" If you want to to be successful in your endeavors, you do well to hang out with people who are equally ambitious. If you have dreams, surround yourself with people who will encourage you to go after those dreams. If you want to save money, don't hang out with people whose lifestyle involves racking up credit card debt on fancy grown-up toys and expensive vacations and dinners out. They'll only mock you for being so cheap and sneer at your out of date ______ (clothes, technology, car, you fill in the blank.) If you hang around people who are wise with their money and who will encourage you to do the same you'll have the support you need to reach your financial goals. If you're trying to eat healthfully or lose weight, you're better off hanging out with people who won't try and seduce you with hot fudge sundaes and chips.
And as far as our kids go, if we want them to have well-balanced, fulfilled lives and high moral standards, it's important to make sure we know who our little chickies are calling friends.
If you've got dreams, if you're still searching for your purpose in life, I encourage you not to give up. If you've got young ones you want to see live up to their potential or if you want to live up to your potential, I encourage you to get this book. It will be a good investment in your future.
With beaches closed and so many of us stuck at home (maybe with some restless kids) sheltering in place may be starting to feel not quite so cozy. So how about having a beach party right in your family room or back yard? How to do that? I have some thoughts!
First of all Decorate
You have to set the scene, after all. Harness your younger ones' energy by sending them into the yard to find some rocks they can wash and scatter around for that beachy feel. If you're into painting rocks, decorating some with fish can also be fun. If you don't have craft supplies they're available on line. A plain candle can be dressed up by some glued on shells, (Which can also be ordered on line. I just bought some and they're great!) Younger children can draw beach-themed pictures which you can hang in the window or string on your back patio.
You have to dress for the beach, right? Have everyone in the family pick the beach clothes for each other from someone else's closet. Mom's bikini top for Dad, perhaps? Dad's old Hawaiian shirt for little Junior? You'll want to be sure to take some selfies to post! Also, if you have crafters in the family, you can buy charms on line for a reasonable price and make some jewelry to wear to the party.
You can't have a beach party without food. If you've got teens who like to cook put them to work making some good, old-fashioned potato salad and deviled eggs. If you don't have a grill for hot dogs it's okay to cook them on the stove top.
For dessert, how about an ice cream octopus? Fun and easy for the younger ones to make. I've got the instructions on the recipe page here at Sheila's Place. (And you know you want to check out that page, too, right?)
Any number of activities will keep different age groups happy. Younger ones will enjoy playing Hide the Shell. You can do this with a real shell or a small picture of a shell. It's like the old Hide the Button game. Send everyone from the room (or the back yard, if you're out there) and hide the object. Bring the gang back out and let them search, letting them know if they're getting warm, hot or cold as they get closer or farther away from the object. Whoever finds it is the next one to hide it.
Surfing doesn't have to involve water. If you've got an old plank sitting around from some previous project you're in business. The gang can air surf. Have two muscled members of the family hold each end of the plank a couple feet above ground level, then put your surfer on it and jiggle the plank. Have a contest to see who stays on the longest.
How about a game of Beach Bingo? Make your own Bingo Boards. (Several websites offer free templates.) Replace the word BINGO with BEACH. You can use Skittles, M & M's or chocolate chips for your markers. Whoever wins gets out of a household chore for the week, gets a double allowance, or ... whatever prize you think your family will enjoy.
You can play backyard beach volleyball even if you don't have a net. Simply make a line with rope and let the ball fly where it will.
End your party with a story. Let someone start the story with a beach-themed beginning, such as Once Upon a Time There was a Giant Squid. That person can stop the story wherever he or she wants, leaving the next member of the family to continue the story. That person, too, can stop anywhere in the story. Last in line has to finish the tale.
JUST LIKE OUR GRANDPARENTS AND GREAT GRANDPARENTS DID, we can manage to make the most of life in difficult times. Hopefully, if your family can't go to the beach this will bring the beach to you!