Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

The “Santa Plan” December 5, 2016

Filed under: Christmas,Family,Holidays — beatitudesofmylife @ 10:10 am
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I have always been firmly entrenched in the “Santa is real” camp.  I love the mystery and the excitement that comes with believing in Santa and love sharing that with others.  I feel that the best way to continue that belief, as we get older, is to strive to become more Santa-like in our approach to the holiday season in general and to our fellow man in particular.  That being said, the question of how to create that “Santa is real” feeling in our kids can be a daunting task.  Here’s how we chose to represent Santa in our family.

santa2016

When my boys were young, I found it increasingly difficult to figure out how I was going to adequately respond to their analytical questions as they got older.  M is a fact-and-numbers kind of guy while I am more of a touchy-feely person, so I needed to come up with a plan that worked for both of us.  We also lived far from family who wanted to give things to our boys, so I needed to make sure those gifts were properly thanked and appreciated.  On our first Christmas as parents, I realized just how difficult this could become, given that we used money from relatives to purchase items that our boys wanted to find “from Santa” under the tree.  Why did someone else get credit for the gifts that my child/ren would receive?!?  Enter our “Santa Plan”.

At our house, Santa only leaves one present.  That Santa present is usually the big/bulky gift that’s hard to wrap… and sometimes darn near impossible… cozy-coupe3remember this “must-have” gift?  This was the “Santa gift” for D  when he was 5 years old and we got a similar one for E when he was old enough.  We lived in military housing (and a third floor apartment) at that time, so these cars ended up being indoor toys.  As the boys got older, the Santa gift adjusted and became something that both boys could use and enjoy, but it was always something big.  We explained it to them by saying that we’d “told” Santa that we’d rather have him focus on giving gifts to those kids who needed him more so we asked him to just bring one present and leave it unwrapped.

One of my favorite Santa gifts was one of the last gifts the boys got from Santa (before we dropped all the pretense and simply gave our kids their gifts from us)… a 7-in-one game table.  I bought it at a Black Friday sale and M/I put it together in our bathroom a few nights before we left for PA that year.  To heighten the surprise, we sent a letter to my mom’s house “from Santa” explaining that Santa knew we were spending the holiday with family, instead of at our house, and that he wanted them to know that he had left their Santa Gift in our living room for them to have when we got back home.  M/I loaded the van and were ready to leave for PA when M said he needed to do one last task before we left and asked for my help… so we left the boys in van and quickly moved the game table from our bathroom and into the Living Room before heading out for a PA holiday.  The boys read their Santa letter on Christmas morning and were really excited to come home to see if he’d actually come to our house while we were gone.  The look on their faces when we let them race in before us was worth all the hiding we’d done… “Santa really DID come”… they were so excited!

One thing that I wish we’d incorporated into our Santa Plan was the concept of a “Santa Key”.  We have lived in a few places without chimneys (apartments or houses without a fireplace), so this idea would have worked well.  The plan is to use a special old key that you leave on the outside door to your home for Santa to use on Christmas Eve – those skeleton keys are perfect and you can spray paint them gold to make them look even more festive.  Santa enters your house, using his special Santa Key, leaves his gift(s), and then places the key on the tree for the kids to find on Christmas morning.  Since we didn’t do the traditional cookies-and-milk-left-out-for-Santa thing, this is a fun way for the kids to search for proof that Santa had indeed stopped by their house.

However you teach your children about Santa, may this coming holiday season be one of childlike wonder and wide-eyed joy at all that can be good about Santa’s presence in our lives.  Wishing you a Happy Ho-Ho-Holiday, however you celebrate!

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Carry The Load – #whoareyoucarrying May 17, 2014

It’s almost Memorial Day…. a day that was created to honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country. This day was originally intended to be celebrated with accolades for those who made it home safely while remembering those who will only make it home in our memories.  Sadly, its history can be as confusing and confounded as the way it is celebrated each year, especially if you try finding out any basic, decisive information via Wikipedia by clicking this link.

I feel that there is a big question we should be asking ourselves these days.  “Is this how our children willCTL-LOGO-W-TAG remember Memorial Day?”  Is this how we *should* remember Memorial Day today?  If your answer isn’t something even remotely patriotic, what are we doing to change that fact?

I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. I remember celebrating Memorial Day by marching in our local parade; first with my elementary classes, then the Girl Scouts and later with our middle school marching band. For what seemed like “hours in the hot sun”, we would follow the parade route down the center of town before ending at the local cemetery where we would lay flowers on the graves of local fallen soldiers. It was a solemn day… but one that would end with baseball and fireworks at the local rec park.

It wasn’t as if we didn’t know *why* we were marching on this day. We discussed Memorial Day in school for weeks beforehand to learn just how important this day was to the history of our country. What I can’t remember now is, “when did we stop”? When did we, as a town, decide not to continue to celebrate Memorial Day in a way that would honor our veterans? When did we, as a country, turn Memorial Day into a day of “burgers and beer” instead of one in which we visibly appreciate the sacrifice of the fallen? When did we, as a people, stop being grateful for the service of every man and woman in uniform?

I have to say that I am a huge “America” geek. I get teary when we sing the National Anthem before a sporting event. I get choked up anytime I see a video of service member being welcomed home. I love holidays that celebrate our great country and all that it represents. I may be a huge wimp when it comes to fireworks, but the pomp and circumstance of it all? Thanking our military for standing in harms way? Honoring every single man and woman who has ever willingly chosen to defend our freedom? I’m ALL for it… believe we don’t do enough of it… and am praying that we start recognizing the need to do *something* before it’s too late.

Carry The Load is a non-profit organization focused on restoring the true meaning of Memorial Day by remembering and honoring America’s heroes. They conduct events which raise money to support existing non-profit organizations which benefit police officers, fire fighters, veterans, and active-duty military and their families. They are walking… picking up their packs and literally walking… speaking along the way to anyone who will listen… as they make their slow, deliberate journey from West Point, NY to Dallas, TX, just in time to hold a 20-hour Memorial March which will culminate in what is sure to be an incredible closing ceremony on Monday, May 26, at 12:30PM. If there is a chance for you, dear reader, to be in Dallas for Memorial Day, I would most heartily suggest you do anything you can to attend this event.

I stumbled upon it too late this year to really *do* much to help. Flipping through my FB newsfeed, the back story of Clint Bruce and how he came to create such a worthy organization spoke volumes to me. This organization was created in such an organic way that I couldn’t ignore that small voice inside that pushed me to reach out to Clint and find out if/how I could help.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to learn about Carry The Load, please consider doing something over the coming year to help change the face of Memorial Day… if not for this year, then for next year and the next and the next, until Memorial Day once again means something more than a day off work.

We should never forget all that others have given to protect and defend our way of life.  We should appreciate all the blessings of our life and look for ways to give back to our neighborhoods, our communities, and our world.  We should remember… and in remembering… we should be thankful.

May we all find ways to be genuinely thankful this Memorial Day.  For if we are free, then we have been blessed by the blood of those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

To all who serve, we thank you.  To those who gave all, we honor you.  #whoareyoucarrying

 

Making Way for New Traditions April 20, 2014

Filed under: Blessings,Holidays,Life Balance,Moving,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 11:00 am
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Since our move last week, I’ve been thinking about “The way we’ve always done things” and how this will change in the coming year. As we celebrate Easter in our apartment this year, our tradition of sharing this holiday meal with dear friends is going to become a treasured memory. We had a “traditional menu” of spiral ham, scalloped potatoes, Mimi’s peas (a twist on green bean casserole), some sort of fresh vegetable, homemade rolls, and a special dessert made by my best friend, who happens to be an incredible chef. Easter dinner will definitely not be the same this year and, while I will miss the comfort of those dEasterEggear and special people, I have to take heart in knowing that this is part of our new/next path.

Change isn’t easy… it’s a shedding of the familiar and learning to embrace the different. It’s mourning those things you will miss while learning to enjoy those things you hadn’t yet contemplated. While I recognize the benefits that can come about by giving way to new traditions, it’s still a bumpy road to travel. GIving a simple wink-and-a-nod to all that has come before isn’t enough… but going into a full-on-mourning is too much. Where do we find that happy medium when it comes to change?

Our family has relied a great deal on tradition.  Creating new ones and resurrecting others has been a coping mechanism, especially when my boys were younger.  Some, I pray, will always remain important… primarily our Thanksgiving and Christmas menus… while others will either meld to fit our currently family dynamic or fall by the wayside entirely.  I loved hearing E ask if I was making sloppy joes and homemade rolls for Trick-or-Treating night,  “because that’s what you always make for Trick-or-Treating”.   Is “The way we’ve always done things” enough of a reason to keep a certain tradition alive or is there a deeper, cultural reason for maintaining the status quo?

During this time of transition, I’m doing a great deal of questioning the importance of individual family traditions.  I’m learning about my own expectations and those of my family… and finding where they intersect and where they veer off in totally different directions. It’s both difficult and refreshing.  Is it important to make that same Easter holiday meal for just the two of us or is there something specific that’s important enough to salvage and recreate?  Maybe we don’t need a spiral cut ham dinner to make our holiday complete… maybe I really *do* want some sort of special thing that reminds me of the Easters from my childhood.  I’ve chosen to get a simple pink  hard-boiled egg from the grocery store and make something out of that as my Easter touchstone for this year.  Nothing else will be the same (ok… we *do* have jelly beans in the house and M just brought me a few special Creme Eggs) but that’s going to be where our tradition will end today.

We’re making way for new traditions to become our anchor… stripping down all the old ways of celebrating of holidays and coming up with new things that are more us, more true, and more real.  Simply doing things because “that’s the way we’ve always done it” isn’t as good an answer as it has been in the past.  It’s not going to be easy, but I believe that the end result will be a more true reflection on us and on our faith.  Traditions, I believe, aren’t meant to be chains that weigh us back to the past… they’re meant to be links that keep us connected to one another, generation to generation, in whatever way seems best to each family.

My hope is that our traditions become ones that my sons will carry into their adult lives… not as stagnant blueprints, but as ways to create traditions of their own, linking the future with the past.

Isn’t that what we all want from traditions?

Wishing you each a most blessed Easter… and in the traditional Episcopalian way, let me greet you with “The Lord is Risen!  He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia!”

 

Why I love Thanksgiving November 30, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Cooking,Family,Holidays,Life Balance — beatitudesofmylife @ 12:01 pm
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I’ve said this before… my absolute favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.   Christmas is great… birthdays are fun (especially when you’re young)… Easter can be either a sugar-laden gorge-fest or a deeply meaningful time of renewal… but Thanksgiving beats them all, hands down, in my book. Thanksgiving2012

There’s something so incredible about a holiday that is simply focused on giving thanks.  There are no expectations of gifts… no other focus than on spending time with family and/or friends… just the plan to BE… and I just love it.  Having my family around me makes me happy… and being able to cook for them, without any distractions or interruptions, gives me more enjoyment than should be allowed by law.

In our family, we have the same meal every year…. it’s our tradition.  I make a  “12-hour turkey” (yes… it really DOES cook for 12 hours), sausage and apple stuffing (half of which goes into the bird), Mimi’s peas, Sweet Potato Casserole, Whipped Turnip Casserole, Homemade cloverleaf rolls, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, and at least one version of pumpkin pie.

While we don’t have others around with us that day, the recipes I use bring them to mind each and every time I make them.  Mimi’s peas is a recipe from both my mom and step-mom… a twist on the traditional Green Bean casserole.  The Sweet Potato Casserole recipe came from my dear friend, Jacqui, in our first Navy squadron.  The Turnip casserole is from my mother-in-law and makes me smile each time I make it.  The roll recipe is one from my beloved Aunt Jody, who died when D was only 6 months old.  The Pumpkin pie recipe is also from my MIL – happens to be M’s favorite, so I make it every year so he continues to have ties to his own childhood.

As for that “12-hour turkey”?  I was given that recipe from a woman in MI named Dawna, who made a Thanksgiving dinner for our entire church family every year.  She lovingly shared her recipe with me for being able to cook enough turkeys to feed a hungry congregation and I have been using it ever since. She didn’t stuff her bird (and I’ve been warned every year not to stuff the bird) but I’ve been doing it this way since 1995 and tradition dictates that the bird is stuffed… AND we have a dish of baked stuffing on the side.  Can you ever have too much stuffing?

As you might guess, I now use a written timetable for when every item goes into the oven, what gets microwaved, when the oven temperature gets altered, and what must be made ahead of time to keep me from going insane, but I really do love it.  Knowing that I get to repeat this meal four weeks later for Christmas dinner, is simply icing on the cake for me… call me crazy, but I LOVE it!

Many on Facebook have been taking part in a daily affirmation of thanks for each day of the month… while I think that’s a great idea, I would love to have the time (or attention span) to take that a step further and do a year of daily notes of gratitude.  Can you imagine how much better the world would be if we could simply focus on our blessings in this life instead of complaining about what we don’t have or don’t like or don’t want?

Maybe it’s the “happy yellow lab” in me, but I would like to rearrange my thoughts for the coming year, by focusing on the positive aspects of my life instead of whining about the negative.  I know I have a hard time letting go of things (D’s former Coach M is a prime example… see previous post for that diatribe) but maybe if I can keep a simple journal of thankfulness or gratitude, I can have a better attitude toward life in general.   Even if all I write one night is that I’m grateful that my husband is at home with me… or that my son sent me a text saying “I miss your face”… isn’t that enough to make for a good day?  Are we all expecting too much out of each and every day?  Maybe we have to have those days where the best thing was a simple meal with family to appreciate the truly spectacular times in our lives, whatever they may be.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it makes me remember just how blessed I am and allows me the opportunity to be “mushy” about how grateful I am for those blessings.  Anyone else interested in taking a journey with me?  I’m planning to start on December 1st – just as everyone else finishes their month-long postings of gratitude – and write a line of gratitude each day.  I might not make it every single day, but that’s my plan for the coming year.  I’ll try and remember to check in from time to time… I’d love to see others join me.

Gratitude is a wonderful and powerful thing… I wonder what would happen if we could harness that power to make the world a better place?  Be grateful… and be thankful… and don’t forget to share that with others…

 

It’s almost Halloween…. darn it? October 6, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Cooking,Family,Holidays,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 1:55 pm
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Let it be known… I am NOT a fan of Halloween.  I try and be a good sport about giving out candy and have, in the past, put on a costume and gone through the motions of trick-or-treating, but I really do NOT like this holiday.  I don’t enjoy buying candy and having it in my house to hand out to strangers.  I don’t like feeling required to participate in handing out treats to kids who, for the most part, are doing the bare minimum needed to look like they’re dressing up in costume.  I don’t like having people with masks ring my doorbell and expect candy in return for their participation in this day in October.  I just don’t like it.  Is that such a crime?

I know there are those of you who will cajole and tease me to try and get me into the “Halloween spirit” but I just don’t enjoy being a part of this holiday.  The masks creep me out and the scary costumes kids wear just keep getting more and more bizarre.   Is it “bad” of me to dislike a specific holiday?  Are there others out there who don’t enjoy Halloween?

I remember a time in college when a friend put on a gorilla mask and chased me around our dorm.  I hated that.  I knew who this person was, yet the mask turned them into something completely sinister and frightening for me.  It wasn’t funny or silly… it was scary.  I think people sometimes underestimate how much a mask can conceal an identity in someone’s mind.

I have the same reaction to clowns… they flip me out and I just don’t find them to be funny or silly at all.   Check out this clown picture I found.  The lip outline is painted into a smile, but it’s one of the creepiest faces when you see the overall look.  I know that’s the point, but I have a hard time finding the fun in these sort of painted faces. The two “true” parts of the individual’s face are the eyes and mouth… and many times the eyes are bloodshot (maybe a reaction to having so much makeup around that area of the face) and the mouth/teeth aren’t in the best condition.  Have you seen many clowns with clear eyes and clean pearly white teeth?  I haven’t.  Maybe that’s why I don’t enjoy clowns… being a dentist’s daughter always has me looking at smiles and teeth.  That would be an interesting study… does a parent’s occupation influence their children’s fears and phobias in later life?  Then again, maybe not.

There are two positive things about Halloween, in my opinion.  The first is that we always have the same dinner on Halloween or whatever night ends up being designated for Trick-or-Treat… I make my Auntie Jean’s BBQ (sloppy joes) and homemade Kaiser rolls.  When E was a senior, he informed me that it just wasn’t Halloween to him without this meal… so how could I resist?  In honor of that tradition, I’ll include this recipe below so you, dear reader, may see if you want to start your own tradition.

The second and MOST positive thing about Halloween is that it signals that Thanksgiving is just around the corner.  Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday of all time.  It ranks higher than Christmas, Easter and Birthdays for me.  Thanksgiving is the one time of the year when the focus is on appreciating the bounty and blessings in our lives and giving thanks for what we have.  It’s about family and food… it’s about being together with those you love and reaching out to those who need… it’s about the GOOD that is in the world and showing appreciation for what we have been given.

I’ll talk more about Thanksgiving later.  For now, I must share my Aunt’s recipe and let you all get ready for Halloween… after all… if we let Halloween hurry up and get here, we can start planning for Thanksgiving.  Right?

Auntie Jean’s BBQ (Sloppy Joe’s)

2lbs browned hamburger (I use ground turkey)

1 bottle ketchup (the 28oz size – I always use Heinz Ketchup)

2T apple cider vinegar

3T yellow mustard

3T Worcestershire sauce

4tsp sugar

2tsp celery seed

My cousin makes a double recipe and puts this into a crock pot so she has enough to feed whoever might drop by when she makes it.  I typically use two packages of ground turkey and then either make homemade rolls or use packaged potato rolls for my guys.  We love the tang of the spices and much prefer it to the jarred sauce you can purchase from the grocery store.

Wishing you a Happy Halloween… however you choose to celebrate!

 

Random Acts of Kindness – a Challenge for all February 2, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Holidays,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 10:03 am
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One of my favorite things in the world is seeing the look on someone’s face when something kind is done for them… with no expectation of anything in return.  It’s the way a harried mom looks when you return her grocery cart for her… it’s the smile that lights up someone’s eyes when you compliment them… it’s the happiness that registers, after the shock wears off, that someone has just done something purely for kindness’ sake.  It’s just so soul-uplifting.

I know there are many who actually make money suggesting ways for people to participate in Random Acts of Kindness.  There’s an official website (www.randomactsofkindness.org) and a group (RAOK.group) as well as countless links to help everyone be more kind to our fellow man.  I’d like to suggest a way for everyone to get in on the act this year.

It doesn’t take a lot of money… it doesn’t take a great deal of time… and it doesn’t take much imagination or skill… it just takes the desire to step out of your comfort zone for a few seconds and be brave enough to approach another person to hand them a Valentine and wish them a happy day.  Yes, I’m suggesting that everyone take a moment on Valentine’s Day to give a Valentine to someone you don’t know. A Random Act of Valentine-ing, if you will.

A manager from Starbucks did this for me about 8 years ago and it inspired me to continue his wonderful idea ever since.  It really IS simple.  Each year, after Valentine’s Day, I purchase a few boxes of goofy, childish, silly Valentines and put them away for the following year.  A few days prior, I choose the box I’ll use that year and label every single card, “To YOU, From Me” and fold them up.  On February 14th, I really don’t plan anything special.  I go about my normal day traveling to the grocery, the drug store, the bank… anywhere I’d typically go on that day.  The only difference is that I look for people to whom I can hand a Valentine.  It might be that older person who seems a little sad… it might be the greeter at WalMart… it might be the cashiers I meet or the people stocking shelves… it might just be someone who doesn’t seem to be having a good day.   Look each person in the eye and simply say, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” as you hand them a card.  You may never know how this simple act will affect the other person, but you’ll be astounded at just how wonderful it makes you feel.

Everyone deserves to have a Valentine’s Card to make them feel special.  Who knows if your moment with them will be their only bright spot on an otherwise dreary and lonely day.  The ripple effect of this small, simple, yet incredibly kind gesture might never be known to you, but I was blessed last year to find that my younger son had been watching me and used this idea as the basis for one of his admissions essays.  Please indulge a proud mama by reading his essay below:

Mankind is not perfect. We constantly instigate warfare, hatred, and discrimination against our own people. However, despite the evils that plague our planet, fundamental kindness still conquers evil. Humans are capable of showing an immense amount of kindness for their brethren. This kindness is defined as an act of compassion without expecting personal benefit. Every day, people commit to making others just a little happier through small favors, held open doors, and a handful of pocket change in an empty cup. The purest of all the random acts of kindness, however, is an anonymous one. Therefore, to represent the human race I would choose an anonymous valentine.

Every year on Valentine’s Day, my mother buys a box of cheap valentines and writes “To: You, From: Me” on them. She then hands them out to anyone she sees simply to brighten his or her day. She realizes that her flimsy piece of cardboard may be the only loving gesture that many people get on a day meant to celebrate one another, so she never misses a year. She just wants to make sure everyone has a chance to feel loved. To me, this represents mankind’s incredible power to care for others without personal gain.

Humans have endured century upon century of torment. Natural disasters have ravaged our lands and disease has killed our families. Guns have found their way into our hands and our minds have been poisoned with intentions of murder. However, in spite of these increasingly difficult times, we continue to function together as a family and be kind to our fellow man. We hold our heads high, looking past all of the negatives, and we still strive for a better future. We hoard our valentines from the people dearest to us, and from the people that we don’t even know, to remind us that we all deserve to be loved.

It is hard to overlook the hardships that we humans go through when finding something to embody mankind. However, I have seen the effects of an anonymous valentine firsthand. The smiles on strangers’ faces, the friends my mother makes, and the hope she gives to people all restore my faith that at its core, mankind is compassionate and kind.  – EBA 2/11

That “Ripple Effect”?  It can be pretty awesome when it comes back to you.

As we approach Valentine’s Day this year, let’s not just try and shower our loved ones with chocolates and presents.  These are wonderful, but let’s all try and share a little bit of happiness with the world around us.  Buy a box of Valentines, like you got in grade school… sign each one “To YOU, From Me”… and hand them out on Valentine’s Day to everyone in whom you come in contact.  It just may make this special day one of the best you’ve ever had.

Random Acts of Kindness in the form of an anonymous Valentine… how easy, yet how monumental…

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

 

 
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