FUN: Have Paws will Climb

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Do you have a cat ornament like mine?

No chestnuts roasting on an open fire at my house. I only have a bad cat in my fake tree.

 As my hands dive into the plastic storage boxes with red and green lids, my husband surmises aloud: “We have way too many ornaments.”

 “I like to rotate using different ones each year,” I reply.

 Amazing what decorates our Christmas trees! Several “must hangs” I look forward to hanging include glittery sand dollar ornaments with each of our son’s names. One slowly deteriorating paper box contains family ones too fragile for display. They symbolize earlier days and are best for admiring. I usually move on to sturdier sparklies. One historical ornament, though, is my famous milkweed pod, which I lovingly lined with red felt in first grade. It’s still UNinhabited by insects! I especially enjoy finding ornaments featuring photos of my sons are little kids. Armed and ready I slink toward the couch while they’re watching TV.

If I’m nice, I wait until commercials, but I usually don’t.

“This is what you looked like when you were [and I fill in the age],” I say knowing I hold black-mail material for the future.

Next, their eyes usually trace an imaginary synchronized circumference and a smirk of acknowledgment follows.

And then, there’s BJ who is known as “the bad cat.” He came to our home as a fluke years ago during a fatherly/son night of stargazing. Despite light pollution from our city, a good time was being had outside our former home and then…this black, small, precious, adorable kitten began his circular march around my husband’s ankles. Next I hear a knock at the door and open it to find the kitten being held up at my eye-level.

 “Can I bring him in?” I’m asked in a loving but pleading tone.

 Now our other two cats – one for each son – are in shock with a newbie with which to contend. They are slow and settled. BJ is a bully – characterized by swiftness – out the front door when you open it – up the Christmas tree when you’re doing your best to decide which decorations to use – this year!

 The whole decorating deal at my home was different this year. A serious lack of interest netted no outside lights.  I was OK with that. I helped organize my neighborhood’s luminary display and I was satisfied.

 Inside the house, I selected certain items and sat them in special places – the four beautiful white ceramic angels made by my mother, the motion-activated singing furry felines (see other post) and of course the handmade Christmas stockings onto which we glued and painted 10 years ago when crafting was still considered a cool family-time activity.

 “Here’s what I need you to do,” I told my eldest. “Hand me the carved animals on the shelf, then place the stocking hangars and stockings there.”

 He did and slyly used the holders – N-O-E-L – to say N-O-L-E – a reference to the college he will be attending in six short months.

 So then, there’s BJ – in the tree. At first I panicked when I realized his planned ascent. Then I simply watched and smiled as he seemed to survey what we did decorate.

 I think he approved. He looked, jumped onto our game table from the tree and resumed harassing the old cats as usual.

 I smiled. Maybe next year, I’ll use my milkweed pod – provided it’s still “insect-free!”

 

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FAITH: Celebrating without the Circus

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You can lessen Christmas Chaos like what you see here!

 

Ahhhh. December 23. 

While I dodge cars driven by people shaking their fists, beeping their horns at stop lights and stopping abruptly, I say, “Thank You, God, for Christmas Eve Eve. And while I’m at it, every other day of the year, too.” 

 Christmas 2009 marks the second year of a well-threaded thought pattern: what don’t I have to do to celebrate Christmas? 

 Consider its implications. If it’s “too scary” a thought, just do a quick read.   

 Since considering this question, I’ve learned three main lessons – and no, I’m not writing any dissertations on the human condition and celebration methods or trying to earn any kudos for being super spiritual at this time of year. 

 I’m just trying to rediscover Christmas – in the manger and in my life. 

 LESSON ONE: Humble beginnings can produce unimaginably life changing results.  

 Yes, Jesus arrived in a much simpler way than I would have planned, but that’s the point. I don’t have the eternal foresight God does when it comes to beginnings and their impact. I can trust him to take any of the simple starts in my life to have an effect on others and their lives. The key is listening to His directions and something very deep – beginning! One of my dear friends has a great saying: “Let’s see what God has in mind.” I like that. It keeps me on the lookout! 

 LESSON TWO: Love is not spelled G-I-F-T. 

 Yes, Jesus was God’s gift to us and that’s that. The need of all mankind, womankind and kidkind is met now and forever.  Here’s what I’m learning: a purchased anything does not itself signify love. It says, “I spend money on you because [fill in the blank].” Here’s what I’ve experienced: a lingering hug of affirmation; my husband’s strength upon receiving news of the most dreaded sort; my 16-year-old needing glasses and allowing me to go with him. Yes, I had the wallet, but who can put a price on spending time with their kids or others? 

 LESSON THREE: The myth that “Christmas comes but once a year” is simply that – a myth. 

 Yes, Christ’s birth occurred only once – but what I mean is that our celebration, acknowledgment and living out that truth are “open for business 24/7/365.” Every day, every moment, every second is a potential Christmas moment. No, I haven’t had too much chocolate or Diet Coke. Yes, I think it’s time to consider keeping “I Love Yous” up to date [to the best of our ability], to not be a chronic horn beeper at stop lights and to realize that the best gift in addition to Jesus is every breath to acknowledge and live life with Him. 

 Just wondering: What comes to mind when you consider what you don’t have to do to celebrate Christmas? It’s not too early to start thinking about how celebrating Christmas next year could change for you.  

 Three thoughts: 

  1. If decorating becomes a drag, offer to help someone who may need help.
  2. If special functions wear you to a frazzle, consider options – offer to help in the kitchen and be unseen or send regrets with a heartfelt note to thank the host for thinking of you.
  3. Re-allocate some spending. Make a change by doing something different. If you’re not into sending cards, consider using what you might have spent on postage as a charitable donation in honor of someone special in your life. Acknowledge those bell ringers! Give more than a quarter. You might even like it!

Family: Transition x 2

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[Author’s Note: This post uses the analogy of being out of work. It is not meant to in any way produce discouragement in those who are facing work challenges or finding work challenges. My heart hurts for you. Please  leave me a post with your first name I would count it an honor to pray for God to move on your behalf during this time.]

My 2010 reason for being "let go."

After almost 19 years of dedicated work I’m about to be let go – once in June, 2010 and again the in June, 2011. Seriously, I think once is enough, but with each child, the experience is repeated.

Once Sons A & B were old enough to understand the difference between white and black, they were separating laundry in our hallway. It was a game, I told them. They believed me and they learned a skill they began using in middle school – to do their own laundry.

Once Sons A & B were old enough to be around sharp objects safely, they were in the kitchen fetching ingredients, setting the table, eventually cooking and me stepping to the side.

Once Sons A & B were old enough they began to say, “It’s OK if you don’t want to come to my concert at school tonight.”

After Son B’s recent school event my husband grasped my hand and began leading me to the car.

“Wait,” I told him. “We need to stay and tell Son B what a good job he did.”

My 2011 reason.

“We’ll see him at home,” my husband replied. “We can tell him there.”

“I feel so unnecessary,” I replied, tightening my grip in his safe, soft hand.

“That’s because you’ve done your job right,” he said.

And with that, I walked in silence to the car – choosing to become invisible as Son B did whatever it is sons and daughters do after an event and when their parents are not there to say, “Great job!”

 It was just “yesterday,” when Sons A & B were 2 and 4 respectively that I let close friends take them on an outing to the mall – without me. I remember standing at the large, picture window of our first home with my hand placed against the glass as though I could vicariously put them safely in the car before it drove away.

 “How are you ever going to let them go to college?” I remember my husband asking.

 “Just let me let them go to the mall first,” I replied, my eyes blurry and moist.

 And so I did let them go to the mall. And now, 14 years later, it’s time for Son A to wrap up his high school career and move into the next phase of his life.

What a blessing he will be to people who don’t know him yet. What a friend he will be to others whom he will meet in college. What a man he is becoming. I guess I have done my job. I’ve taught him what I knew. Admitted what I didn’t. I’ve prayed with him and for him. Never claimed perfection and still, somehow, I wish he were just going to the mall.

Soon, Son B will follow and again I will remind myself that after this season of life, I have done my best and always looked forward to affecting society positively through my adult children. Will they make mistakes? Of course. Will they learn from them? I hope so.

So now, God has told me a new prayer to pray: for Him to put them where they need to be, when they need to be there, so He can arrange for them to learn and do what they need to do to become the men He intends them to be. For mistakes? That they are not debilitating or lethal to themselves or others. And for them to always remember whose they are – His.  

My job is done. I got to “borrow” them for a while.

Anyone want to go to the mall?

Just wondering: Are you recently “out of this type of work?” What is helpful for other women to know about this stage of life?

FAMILY and FAITH: The Singing Felines

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They meow their way through a variety of Christmas carols from their motion-activated box.

 

 Home decorators make the world a more beautiful place. Between artists – who plan and place to produce a certain effect – and “put-er outers,” I fall into the second group.  We’re the ones who use ultra-simple approaches to finery and festivities by selecting decor, storing it in original packaging and removing it for annual display.   

On a recent Saturday morning, I realized a guest would be dropping by that evening. . The thought of an unwelcoming front porch or even a barren living room propelled me to action. With no hint of the holidays displayed, I went into hyper drive – determined to prioritize by putting out a few choice decorations. I swept the porch, cleaned my front door (gasp!) and then lovingly placed the closest thing I’ll ever have to snow – a handcrafted felt snowman that stands 3’ tall. My mom created him years ago and I liked his country-looking plaid scarf, matching hat and smile. He definitely projected the homey “Welcome to our Home” feeling I was after. We live in Florida where it was a 100-year high of 84 last week followed by 50 degrees the next day.   

After finishing the front porch, I headed for my front window wonders – five large dimensional stars with white lights. Their peaceful glow would surely enhance the smiling snowman’s presence. Merrily, I opened each large, square shaped box. As I removed the stars, small, crummy suction cups fell out. They half-heartedly stick to the windows so the stars can hang in place. On a good day, I only have to re-attach them once or twice, but I was in too good a mood to let those little hangers hamper my efforts.   

Perched high above my floor was the empty mantel on which I would eventually set the hand painted, antique-looking ceramic nativity. I surveyed its naked landscape deciding to not rush putting it out and possibly risk breaking it. The mantel is the only place where the set is safe from felines – the three real ones who live with me, my sons and husband.   

But what occupied my mind were the two puppet-like, animated kittens hidden in the motion-activated plastic box that looks like a gift. After placing it on my grandmother’s buffet in my living room and plugging it in, its lid raised. The Singing Felines appeared and began meowing their way through various Christmas carols – 15, I think.   

I savored the sound. It was one of the first Christmas decorations my husband and I had bought together.     

As I stood back admiring my handiwork, one family member [who shall not be named] walked up and asked, “Why did you get those out?”   

These,” I said, “are seasonal song makers. Besides, I like them.”   

Said family member responded by proclaiming his preference: “Why don’t you just put them out and not turn on the music?”   

“Because the music makes it!” I replied defensively..   

Then the unthinkable happened. The unnamed family member then reached to the back of the box and flipped the switch to off!   

“At least let it be partly open so you can see the kittens!” I pleaded.   

The hand reached back around the box and moved the switch to begin the cycle. Once the furry felines reached their “peek-a-boo” position, he stopped their motion.   

And then said family member left me there, staring at the silent box, the muted kittens and then, in an uncharacteristic moment of quiet, a semi-spiritual thought hit me.   

How many times in life am I like this box? Closed to everyone. Partially open but mute. Completely open and praising my heavenly Father. Plugged in and utilizing God’s power. Turned off and satisfied to be silent.   

In that moment I decided to figuratively switch my life into “blessing mode” – to purposefully encounter sales people and strangers and to greet them with a smile. I even determined to deliver uplifting words to bell-ringers. And when I’d have to wait in line, I would do so with patience and a “thank you” once I have been helped.   

Will this decision change the world? Probably not. But  I can’t help but think that making music in my life has more to do with being in the Father’s presence than buying physical presents.   

Why don’t you join me and turn on your switch to “blessing mode?” I’d be honored to have you join me.   

And that evening visitor for whom I was preparing? She only made it to the front porch before having to leave. I wish she could’ve have heard “We Wish You a Meowy Christmas.”

JACOB WINS FOR HIS AGE RANGE AT HIS SCHOOL!

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I’m so proud of Jacob. He called and left me a message because he wanted to tell me some good news. Who can resist returning phone messages like that? So, I did and he told me “my poem won!” He took first place in the Kindergarten through 2nd grade entries for his school’s participation in the statewide PTA program I mentioned in my previous post.

Now that mom has signed an official waiver, Jacob’s work goes to the district level to compete against other children in the same age range from Duval County.

Will keep you posted! Way to go, Jacob!