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!
I know many of us are starting to get a little buggy with this sheltering in place and quarantining. I'm currently at our California digs. We got here just before the shelter in place orders so here we are in our condo, sheltering. A much different picture than I'd envisioned. I'd planned on making new friends, throwing parties, going line dancing, playing tennis, doing all kinds of stuff with our kids. At the moment I'm...
not doing any of that. But I am getting a lot of writing done. As Melody Jones, one of my favorite characters in my Moonlight Harbor series would say, "Every storm has a rainbow." Right now I'm concentrating on rainbows. Here are some of the positives I'm finding:
I'm saving a lot of money. Other than groceries and books we're not buying much. Sure saving a ton on gas!
I can binge on House Hunters International guilt free.
I've got a bug but it's not COVID-19
I can Zoom!
I can get creative with the goods we've stocked up on.
I can get creative. Period. This is turning out to be a very productive time for me.
I have toilet paper!
I'm at home, not in a hospital on a respirator.
I am seeing firsthand what a blessing good health is. It's something I hope never to take for granted again.
How about you? I hope you're finding some rainbows in the storm. Stay well everyone and let's remember to pray for those who are dealing with this and the ones who are working so hard to get them well.
I keep thinking of that song from the musical Annie. It seems dark right now but sunrise is coming.
YES, this is the new shopping apparel. A strange new world and many of us are now home bound. Except for essential workers.
... And those of us who are bored and just want to get out. And the just want to get outers are becoming quite a controversy. With everyone so scared of getting COVID-19, seeing someone at the local Walmart or grocery store just browsing can be like a red flag. People have told me that when they try to plead for staying put they're often told to mind their own business.
And that makes me wonder. When is someone else's business my business?
I remember an old saying: My right to swing my arm ends at your nose. Yes, we live in a free country. We all have rights. But when our rights start messing up someone else's life maybe that's when we need to rethink how we exercise them.
I haven't wanted to bug my kids to go out and do stuff for me so Gerhardt and I have been running to the grocery store and post office... in our masks. After all we're not that old!
But, much as I hate to admit it, we're not that young either, and every time I go out I'm gambling on whether I'll pick up a germ or dodge one. What if I get sick? Then I'll be even more of a pain in the neck to my kids. I sure don't want that. Of what if I pick up a germ and wind up sharing it with my husband? We are now stocked up so I think it's time to stop swinging my arm and completely self-quarantine. (Besides, my one time wear mask I've had forever is probably long worn out and I'm down to one pair of disposable gloves!)
How about you? Maybe you're not at an age where you need to be hiding at home, but do you need to be out when, well, you don't need to be out? (We're not talking about getting essentials, we're talking about dealing with cabin fever in a not so good way.) Are you out there swinging, figuring it's nobody's business? Maybe it's time to think about whose nose you could end up punching. Maybe it really is a good idea to stay put.
Who would have thought that finding toilet paper would be like finding gold? And hand sanitizer! If thieves were to break into your house that would be the first thing they'd steal. COVID-19 has tipped our lives upside down.
After the readers conference I was to attend got cancelled, after our dream Princess cruise to Hawaii went up in smoke, Gerhardt and I decided to get out of Washington and head to CA where we'd planned to spend spring with our son and family. Hardly anyone on the road except for truckers, keeping America supplied, God bless 'em. Strange times, folks. Now we're in sunny CA... self-quarantined.
Where are you right now? Are you working from home? Trying to home school and entertain the kids? Maybe you're in a retirement community and on lock down. Maybe you're in the health industry, working hard to keep the rest of us alive. If you are, thank you, thank you.
For those of us at home, this can feel either like a relief (if you're an introvert) or frustrating (if you're an extrovert). The kids may be driving you nuts or you may have cabin fever. Whatever the case, I have a few suggestions for how to keep on smilin'.
One I picked up from my friend Candy Paull, author of FINDING SERENITY IN SEASONS OF STRESS. (Check her out on Amazon!) On her Facebook page she talked about how easy it is to feel overwhelmed and depressed with everything that's going on right now. She decided to get out and do some yard work she'd been postponing. Seeing what she'd accomplished helped her feel empowered and encouraged.
What a good idea. Is there a chore you've been putting off? This is the perfect time do that spring cleaning.
With life slowing down it's also the perfect time to reconnect with our family members. For those of us who are now working at home and no longer commuting to work, we've gained some time, and found time is like found money. In some ways, better. You can always go out and earn more money. You can't earn more time.
Sooo, having said that...Limit your time in front of the TV, watching the news. Yes, we want to stay abreast of what's happening, but watching the same information over and over won't help our peace of mind. Instead how about building a family encouragement hour into your day? Read aloud to each other from a funny book, pick a favorite Bible passage to share (right now mine is Psalm 91), have a contest to see who can make up the funniest poem or story. work a puzzle together or play a long neglected board game, download an e-read by your favorite author, journal about lessons you're learning in all of this. Always wanted to write a book? Maybe this is the time to start. Or how about sewing face masks? My writing pal Lois Dyer heard there's a shortage and she's busy sewing masks for her local health care facility. Know an older person in the neighborhood who's self quarantining? Ask if you can leave cookies or some homemade soup on the doorstep.
This is a scary time but let's try to keep our attitudes positive and our hands clean. We'll get through this!