Family: An Abecedarian in Karen’s Honor

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Christmas without Karen

After midnight, at 12:05 a.m. exactly
began a new round of family
celebration – with one conspicuous absence.
Dare we go on and be
excited about the day’s symbolism,
familiar family routines and traditions?
“Go ahead, it’s OK,” is my
heavenly mandate.
“I’m celebrating, too, and I can’t wait to see you,” she says.
“Join the singing!”
Karen is in the presence of the Christ-child
loving Him,
making sure that His story is
never forgotten and that it lives on through
our lives, our decisions, our
prayers – for ourselves and others – even when the
quickness of sorrow, pain and loss
remind us that she’s not here. However, we know
she would say, “Continue celebrating and
though we are not in each others’ company, it won’t be long
until we are reunited as promised in Scripture.” Continuity in Christ
validates faith because it cannot be accomplished on our own. So,
we pray and we say, we WILL see you, Lord! Enable us to grow and share.
examine us as we live to propel
YOUR light, YOUR message, YOUR hope – and while 
Z may be alone we  know that WE are NOT!

Thank you Jesus for making sure of that!

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Family and Fun: How Cheesy

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Today, it was buggy-to-buggy traffic inside my hometown Publix. I was mom’s assistant and hoping to help her pare down her errand list so she could enjoy Christmas Eve without added food runs to feed the 14 – the number of hungry mouths when all our nuclear family is present.

 As mom chipped away at her list, I searched for a certain, softspread wedge-wrapped cheese I had tried the night before at my sister’s. While we’re not trashing the Laughing Cow brand, our initial venture into this cheese land, we deemed the new brand better suited. And while I loved the new treat, I neglected to remember its name. So I was on a mission to find it. After exhausting the regular cheese area and the Laughing Cow cheese spread area, I happened over to the import section. I saw more cheeses than I’d ever imagined snuggled into a refrigerated case near another case where two chefs performed various cheese tasks and doled out culinary tips on wine parings.

My big discovery was a wine bottle chiller – not new to probably most of the planet, but a simple and fun surprise to me as I found that 8 minutes in the chiller made the wine “just right.” I poked around tentatively looking for said softspread wedge-wrapped cheese.

“Are you finding what you need?” the friendly female chef asked.

“The truth or a lie,” went the conversation within my head. “Should I really bother her with my lack of ability to find said, softspread wedge-wrapped cheese?”

I decided to bother her. Her name was Kitty. She was tall and patient and delighted in the buggy-to-buggy traffic I mentioned earlier.

“I’ll give you an escorted tour,” Kitty said as she glided between the paused and parked carts with food and without drivers. She paused at the Laughing Cow display where we did a thorough examination to make sure I hadn’t overlooked anything. I told her I had already made my way to the other cheeses, shredded and otherwise, in the dairy area. From there she took me past what she called the “wall o’ yogurt,” which was pretty amazing when you consider how simple the whole idea of yogurt is.

“I used to be an accountant until I became a chef four years ago,” Kitty volunteered.

“Really?” I replied. “I’m married to one!”

Then Kitty proceeded to explain to me that every 10 years a large survey is conducted about Americans and their food preferences. She did a Vanna White-type wave toward the “wall o’ yogurt” as we passed by telling me that the last survey had seen the biggest increase in Americans loving and eating yogurt.

“Dang,” I thought. That’s some pretty privileged trivia born out in the 3,000 flavors of yogurt that particular store offers. And as interesting as it was to know, I still wanted to find that wedge-wrapped cheese.

Our tour continued to the one last place Kitty thought to look and although we were unsuccessful, I rather enjoyed the diversion of being on such a hunt and getting the inside scoop on Americans and eating. I showed Kitty the Boursin (light) cheese spread I had selected as a back up.

“You can’t go wrong with that,” she commented. “And you can eat twice as much and not feel guilty!”

I loved her idea and then she made a confession – that she had bought two of the same product for a friend coming to visit her over Christmas.

“I realize now,” she said, “I can’t keep this around my house. I ate both of them!”

And with that I was off – without my wedge-wrapped cheese – but thankful for a break in the monotony of dodging distracted drivers on the grocery store aisles and helping mom.

Fun and Family: Making Do

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There's something cool about using what you DO have and not worrying about what you DON'T.

“So, did you and dad get tired after putting 15 ornaments on the tree?” my oldest son asked the other night.

His question brought to the forefront that life is changing – kids are moved out – kids are working and the only people together most of the time are me and my husband. No complaining here!

“No one was around except me and dad,” I explained.

“I didn’t get an invite,” he responded.

“Well, now that you’re here for dinner, you could put on a few ornaments. The box is still out,” I hinted.

“Not my idea of entertainment,” he surmised.

And there it was. My tree with 15 ornaments.

What was I to do?

Make do.

Let me explain.

Yes, it took me 2 weeks to completely decorate the tree. To be honest, I would have been fine with the 15 ornaments  but I did find fun unwrapping the bits of family history and placing them on our fake but lovely evergreen. There’s the 40+ year old milkweed pod I painted in first grade. The ancient felt elf my grandmother hid in her tree. And the NASCAR ornament of my husband’s favorite racing driver. And more.

Actually, the tree looks pretty respectable now.

“What happened to the ‘O’?” my husband asked surveying the area where our family Christmas stockings hang. I have the letters N-O-E-L as stocking hangars. Usually we spell ‘N-O-L-E’ since we are FSU fans, but this year, it’s just N-L-E. I couldn’t find the ‘O’ in my box.

Then disaster struck while I was wrapping presents! Horror of horrors, I ran out of tape! Since I am a woman of determination I kept working by using the next best and most convenient item – clear packaging tape. I rather enjoyed its wider width and found myself taping with more confidence and ease than ever before! The only thing more fun might have been duck tape – but it would have clashed with my gift wrap.

And so, while my tree, our stockings and my gift wrapping aren’t a vision of perfection,  let it be known that I am finding again that joy in the season is deeper than all three.

FUN: Gifting and Giddiness

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Six weeks of silence is a long time to not write so tonight I say hello again and tell you about several special gifts I’ve received lately.

 

My most favorite gifts aren't even "wrappable!"

The main ones were in November after I returned to my middle school expository writing classroom after being absent for a week and present with my sister Karen during her last days of life. I found student created cards and poems and notes on my desk and they became the start of my precious purple notebook. Purple was Karen’s favorite color and the notebook contains cards of condolence and encouragement as my family and me make an expected but none-the-less difficult transition of having one fewer family member. Karen was a life who brought much to ours –  with the exception of playing Monopoly, which is banned for the sake of family cohesiveness. But that’s another story.

 

And that wasn’t all; these same students – ages 11 through 14 – researched the symbolic color for my sister’s illness and wore it in solidarity to let me know they care. At those moments I was speechless – and grateful.

One student sat by me at my desk after going over grades and assignments.

Before we concluded our meeting, the student looked at me seriously and said directly,  “Mrs. Lemine, you just have to remember that there are a lot of people who love you when you’re going through stuff like this.” This from someone who has lived through personal tragedy that took the lives of several loved ones but kept this life in tact. At that moment in time, I was awed – and grateful.

And then, the gifts of students expression around Christmas – some sent as directives from parents, others presented simply and quietly or left on a desk, another with instructions to not read the card until I was at home. I had my first taste of peppermint bark – homemade and rich beyond imagination. Bites of chocolate covered pretzels, popcorn snacks and Chex Mix, a handwritten note from two young ladies saying “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” There is the hand lotion I’m too cheap to buy for myself, three homemade peanut butter cookies, a Starbucks card which I promised to spend on hot chocolate for myself and a metal box shaped like a book with a miniature pink stuffed animal inside. The list doesn’t even include the unsolicited hugs and well wishes of young people who disconnected from their lives of adolescent challenge to enter into my world and give of themselves.

When I get back to school in January I plan to speak privately with each of them – and to tell them that each one is my favorite. Perhaps my gift of encouragement will hang on long enough to become a strong voice when voices from others question their worth and what they have to say. I know they have important topics about which to write and speak.

That’s probably one of the biggest gifts in my life – still being in middle school.