My mother was amazing. This is not hyperbole, trust me. She just was. She was the last of the June Cleavers, always in her house dress (although not always in pearls). She was involved in our church and politically active. She even wrote a column for our community newspaper. But her family took top priority and she invested an incredible amount of energy in making sure our lives were wonderful.
I can still remember coming home from school to the aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven. She hosted weekly tea parties for some of my grade school friends and me, where she taught us manners and how to sew and embroider.
No one had Halloween costumes or parties like I did, thanks to my mother. She could have had a career in fashion design but she preferred to design elaborate costumes for me. I still remember the year I was dressed exactly like Disney's Snow White. She also designed a costume for my nephew who was six years younger so he looked like Doc, one of the seven dwarfs. We were the hit of the school costume parade. When I had my singing telegram company she was the chief costume designer and babysitter.
As for parties, they were legendary - holiday dinners came complete with elaborate centerpieces designed by Mom and kid and teen parties could involve anything from crazy games to a fortune teller (thank you Dad for letting us dress you up!). No one ever wanted to miss a party at our house. Hospitality was her gift as well as my father's and fun and games abounded.
Especially, as I mentioned, at Halloween. Mom and Dad weren't big fans of trick or treating. They came from a generation when trick or treat meant juvenile delinquent behavior. But Mom subscribed to the philosophy that if you had to take away something from a child you should have an alternative to offer. So I got to party. (And show our closest neighbors my costume and wish them happy Halloween... and hope they'd give me some candy. Which they usually did.)
Then there was me, Costume Disaster Central. We won't even go there. Moms these days are lucky. They can go to the store and buy something and their kids will be perfectly happy. My kids... well, there were good years and not so good years, and there's not enough space here to go into some of the disasters that ensued. But, the kids did get to go trick or treating. And I inherited Mom's love of entertaining, so we always had parties, not only for Halloween but for birthdays as well... and for any other reason I could come up with. That is something I know I did right.
Other things, not so much. I didn't inherit my mother's patience and somebody was always getting yelled at. (I blame it on hormones!) All I can say is, I tried. And I still do. But I will never be the woman my mother was.
She's gone now and I miss her terribly. I try to honor her memory by doing for my family as much as I can. If you get my newsletter, you'll get the significance of the pictures I'm posting here, showing a luncheon we had in her honor a few years ago. The daughter-in-law, granddaughters and great-granddaughters are all wearing hats that once belonged to her. (My mom was a stylish lady!)
If your mother is still with you, I hope you'll be able to celebrate together this year and that you'll be able to honor her. Those years go fast. Savor your time while you can!
Next to Christmas, Easter is my favorite holiday. I love the family time, the hunting for Easter Eggs, getting a new Easter outfit. But mostly I love Easter because of the message of hope. Resurrection, new life! It's a time to stop and reflect on how much God has done for the disobedient humans He loves so much. Just as the trees begin to bud and flowers rise up from their sleep in the ground, so we, too, can have a fresh beginning.
I love that! I don't know about you, but as often as I mess up, it's nice to know that I can brush myself off and make a new start. Seeing the flowers come to life reminds me that hope can never stay buried.
You may be feeling in need of a new beginning, yourself, this year. I hope you'll take heart in the message of this holiday. Come out of the tomb and take advantage of the new life that Jesus offers. Leave the past behind and celebrate the fact that death is not the end. It's the beginning of a new, eternal life. He is risen!
Well, there's an understatement. Thanks to the pandemic that bucket list Hawaii visit has been canceled twice. Okay, I get it. I don't need to be running around contracting and spreading germs until we get this thing under control. Happily, my other half and I will soon be vaccinated and ready to at least fly home from sunny CA to WA.
And this is where the rub comes. A certain airline that shall remain nameless just sent us an email telling us that our travel plans have changed and they will be flying us out hours earlier than what we originally contracted for. If I wanted to get up with the birdies I'd grow feathers.
I think this company needs to reword these little announcements. Don't tell me my plans have changed. They have remained the same. Instead say: We've changed our plans and we are now going to mess up yours. That's the truth.
Is this airline going to hear from me? You bet as I checked on line and found there are other options actually closer to our scheduled flight departure. Before this day is over there will be changes made and little Sheila will not be paying for those changes. So there.
Okay, that's the end of the rant. In the eternal scheme of things this is not even as big as a grain of sand. So if I do have to greet the birds I guess I'll do so.
But I'm not goin' down without a fight.
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!