Overwhelmed, But Blessed!

00 busyDo you ever have times when everything going on around you is just overwhelming? So much to do, and so little time to do it?

I started out my year of 2018 feeling that way. My husband and I go to Florida the third week in January every single year. He has a timeshare in Panama City Beach, and that is his week. It is about 20 degrees warmer in Panama City Beach than Missouri, so sometimes it can be pretty chilly there. To make his wife happy (that’s me), he plans a second week farther south in Florida so we can enjoy truly warm weather during this cold winter month. This year he added two weeks to our Panama City Beach vacation. I am looking forward to the warmth.

In December we took a trek California to see my son and his family and to celebrate an early Christmas. On our way back we stopped in Phoenix, Arizona, to see if we could find a property to purchase so we could become snowbirds in the winter. We originally thought to do this in Florida, but on thinking what was most practical, Arizona jumped into our heads. Living in Phoenix was an old dream of mine. When I was a young, single mother, I dreamt about living there, and not fighting with the weather in cold Missouri. When Dennis mentioned the possibility of Arizona, I realized this was the correct place. I have a 2 year old grandson in the Los Angeles area. If I winter in Florida, he will never get to know me, and I will never get to know him. Phoenix is about a five-hour drive to Los Angeles.

We contacted a relative who is a real estate agent, and asked him to show us homes while we were in Phoenix. The first day was so frustrating. We had seen the real estate list, photos and all, but seeing a place in person is a real eye-opener. I had a major headache by the end of that day, and I don’t get headaches! I put myself to bed at 7:30 pm. I am not sure if the frustration made me that tired, or what. The next day, we were ready with a new list of homes to view. The second day was a better day. However, my husband is a civil engineer by education, and he is looking for the most energy efficient home we can find. Unfortunately, most of the places we looked were older and were not that energy efficient. We looked at homes in communities for people over 55. My reluctance to that is if or when we want to sell our property, it limits who we can sell to—I don’t like to be limited. Finally, on the third day, my husband told the realtor to find us new homes. We were trying to be practical, moderate priced, and something we could live with. We found a neighborhood at the foot of a mountain—a mountain that is owned by Maricopa County, and they have seven hiking trails for all levels of hikers on this mountain. The lot we got should have been a premium lot, but they had two buyers for that lot, and both sales fell through. Now, they are building homes all around this lot. If you are familiar with homes in Arizona, everyone has a tall privacy wall built around their lots. Construction will be more difficult once all the houses around are built and the privacy walls up—they need to sell this piece of property before the houses around it are completed. Therefore, they offered this lot at NO premium. We did not have to pay a dime extra to get a mountain view from our yard!

00 my mountain

The view of the mountain from the back yard.

We came home feeling really good about our decision to have this home built. We can have it just the way we want it, the location is perfect, and if we ever sell, we can sell to anyone. We got a call in late December telling us we need to meet at the design center in Scottsdale to select our interior finishes and we need to do this early January. We found some really cheap flights to a regional airport in Mesa, flew down and stayed a few days at a cousin’s home who lives near our future home.

We are home now and getting ready to go on probably our last Florida winter vacation. We will be gone three weeks. While we were in Arizona, we were told that there is a walk-through once the framing is completed on the house. That could be late February or early March. I am starting to feel overwhelmed. We will be home a short time, and then we have to leave for Arizona for the walk-through. Granted we could have our agent do this, but this is our home, and we want to make sure it is what we need. This is our job, not his. So, I have these trips, one week in Arizona, three weeks in Florida, and another few days back in Arizona.

Now to complicate matters and make things even busier. I have won an “Honorable Mention” in a contest. They have asked me to fly to California for two days for a photo shoot. I will get my hair done, makeup, and a new wardrobe I can keep for this photo shoot, along with a gift card for my trouble! They pay for the flight, hotel, and my meals. The only problem is, they wanted me to come during the time I was in Florida. I told them if I came, they would have to fly me from Panama City Beach, but my return flight would have to be to Fort Lauderdale because that is where we were going to that weekend. They said, “No problem.” I will write a new blog in the future, how and why I won this honor, but that is not what this blog is about today.

We will have been home exactly seven days and then leave for Florida. I need to pack for three weeks, for different weather conditions. On top of that, I need to take an extra bag that I will use when I fly across country for my photo shoot. I am very excited, but feeling a little overwhelmed by it.

00 Germany

Seligenstadt, Germany

We travel, but we do reasonable travel, but somehow this year, that has gone out the window. Last September one of my sons got married to a lovely young woman from Seligenstadt, Germany. Because of her immigration status, she cannot leave the U.S. for a while until all the paperwork and proper documentation is gathered, so they planned a wedding reception in Germany for mid-May. Dennis thought it was only right that we attend this reception. I have never used my passport, and when we got married, Dennis promised me that sometime he would take me to London (the one place I wished to see). So as not to disappoint, he made us reservations to fly to London and spend a week there before moving on to Germany. We will fly into Frankfort and stay at an Airbnb in Seligenstadt for 10 days. Sometime during those 10 days, we will take a train to Paris for two days. Talk about a dream vacation. I am super excited. I cannot wait to see these beautiful places, and meet the family and friends of my daughter-in-law.

00 framingBack to our home in Arizona—the builder told us this week that the house may be done early May. We will have to go out a week ahead of closing for the final walk-through. We are good with that, but if for some reason that gets delayed, we told the builder we couldn’t come out for the walk-through and closing until June after we come home from Europe. I need to take a few deep breaths—that’s a lot of traveling in a short period of time.

00 books

Approximately 1/3 of our books!

We plan to continue living in Missouri for a while. We have realized though, that we have to prepare our home in Missouri for the possibility of selling. This home is 4,500 square feet (our new home is a reasonable 1,600 square feet). There are two huge libraries of books not counting the many, many closets of stuff that need to be sorted through, some thrown away, some donated, some to sell, and some to keep. We have house plants that will need to find good homes if we are going to live between two homes. All of this is work and time consuming.

If you are reading this blog, I assume you have read some of my past blogs, and know the hardships I had endured in my past. I would have never in a million years thought my life would ever turn out like this, and I am forever grateful to God and all his blessings he has given me. I have had times where I paid the electric bill one month, and the gas bill the other. I have had times where my mom delivered groceries to me so my children could eat, and she clothed my children also. I do not take all this travel, buying a 2nd home, or anything I have for granted. I am overwhelmed by how much my life has changed. I am grateful that God has given to me a man who loves me for who I am, and doesn’t require me to change myself for him to love me everyday!

00 colanderI have to take a deep breath as I plan this year. In between all the traveling, I need to clean out closets, drawers, and bookshelves. I need to decide what stays in Missouri and what goes to Arizona. I need to decide what memories of material things I can let go. (I will always keep my mother’s Tupperware colander, not only because it is the best colander I have ever had, but every time I use it, I think of her). Those are the kind of decisions I will have to make this year. If I think about it all, I get very overwhelmed. As I learned in my 12-step group for codependency, I need to take each day one at a time. Do what I can do today. I will be setting up a calendar of tasks to be done so that each day I see only what that day will bring, and not the overwhelming amount of everything.

I will also not forget that through all this, I need to keep my focus on God, and my family and friends. They are more important than all these things, and all the things I need to do.

I will breathe — I will breathe — I will breathe. It will all work out. I will have time to do what really needs to be done. I will lean into God to hold me up. A year from now I will write from a warm sunny backyard looking at a mountain instead of ice and snow. I am blessed, and I will breathe . . . .00 bible verse

Life is Short

I have been following a young girl on CaringBridge. I found her by accident. Someone on Facebook posted a link to the CaringBridge site. This young girl had just been re-diagnosed with cancer after being over 5 years cancer free. I have been following this young lady’s life for the past six months, and now it seems she is down to her last final days.

00 parentsIt is sad and tragic to read the words her parents write about the journey they are all on. I must give credit to these two wise adults who are trying to balance their family, take care of their daughter, and live life with the mundane things like going to work. Since the CaringBridge site is set up to talk about the sick person, it doesn’t really say much about those on the edges.

How do parents go to work day in and day out knowing their child is so tragically ill? How do they concentrate on anything? How do they give time to their other children while this one is demanding so much care. My heart breaks for them.

guaranteeWe have no guarantees. When we were born, we did not come with a warranty agreement. There is no replacement for a defective model. There is no repair shop that guarantees complete satisfaction of results.

I think about when my sister died a little over five years ago. I was going to work every day, but I wasn’t always “there” since there was so much concern and stress in knowing how ill my sister was. I am sure that is nothing compared to a parent with a critically ill child. The months of my sister’s illness are kind of a blur. I spent my days off with her. I sent out a lot of emails to friends and family, and daily the number of those to whom I was communicating grew as I was asked to add more to the list.

My sister knew she was dying—so does this young girl. The difference is my sister was 68 years old. I am older than that today, and it really feels very young. From the time my sister was diagnosed until her death was only about 2 1/2 months. That’s not long.

I think about how short our lives are. Do we take advantage of every moment we have? Do we let petty things bother us? Do we reach out to our friends and family when we think about them?

How do we live our lives each day? This young girl did not get a lot of days. My sister got more, but still they were cut short.

What are the things that are important? If our time is limited on this earth, are we attending to the things we think are really important? Everyone has a different list of what is really important in their life. That’s good. It means many different things will be accomplished.

00 tuna sandwichIf the doctor told you today that you had only a short time to live, what things would be important to accomplish? What do you want your life to stand for? I was told to never leave a job with a tuna sandwich in your desk drawer. Of course, that was not a literal statement, but it meant not to leave anything undone that may not smell very good later. Is there someone you need to make peace with? How about anything you wanted to complete or do for someone special in your life.

By the way, this young girl passed away. Her family is in mourning, but they are also thankful that she is no longer suffering.IMG_1247.JPG

Looking Forward . . . .

Do you make resolutions? Why do people make resolutions? It just seems that they make them to break them.

As a new year moves on in our life, we have things we would like to change. Maybe in our personal life, weight loss, find a significant other, improve our relationship with someone, or it can be a career resolution, to find a new job, or work to get that much desired promotion. Maybe it’s our spiritual life, to read scripture more regularly, to help the unfortunate, to connect more with others of our faith, or to go to church more regularly.

I don’t like making promises I cannot keep. I like looking at my past year, seeing what worked great, and what needs some adjustment, then making goals to hopefully take my life to the next level.

00 floridaThis past year of 2017 has been full of surprises for me. I started the year with our annual trek to Florida. My husband has had a time-share in Panama City Beach, Florida, since the 1980’s. The first time he took me there, I was so excited about going to Florida, I packed all my summer clothes and was ready to go. I had been to Florida a few times, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Jupiter, and Orlando. What I didn’t know is that Panama City Beach is in the panhandle of Florida, and it can get cold there in the winter. Now I am prepared for the quiet week of slightly chilly / slightly warm weather the third week of January in Panama City Beach. What my sweet husband has done to make that trip a bit easier, is to add some weeks and take me farther south into the warmer parts of Florida. Last year, Panama City Beach was unusually warm, and we spent two full weeks there, and I was in heaven! This year we will spend one week there, the second week near Fort Lauderdale, and the third week in Orlando.00 handbook

I had the opportunity to dip my toes back into the Human Resources field by doing some consulting. I wrote some employee handbooks, and traveled to Wisconsin to conduct diversity training. Writing handbooks is not just a simple task of copying an old handbook and adding the name. It entails a discussion with the principles on philosophy. We discuss benefits, and the purpose of them, how they are given, when they are given, and who pays for them and how. We talk about work rules, and how flexible the employer wants to be, and what to do if they are violated. I love this part of handbook development because it is eye opening for the management to realize, it’s just not a list of stuff they give or a list of rules they want. There needs to be reasoning behind it, and consistency and integrity.

As this past year moved on, we entertained many at our home. I think the highlight of entertaining this year was the Eclipse Party at our home last August. Many of my high school classmates along with some of our relatives attended this party. We celebrated birthdays, and in September, we celebrated my son’s marriage by hosting a wedding reception at our home. We also traveled to Indiana for a family wedding, and spent a week in Branson with my sister.00 eclipse

In early November we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 99th birthday. She is doing quite well, living in an assisted living home nearby us in Columbia, MO. She really enjoyed her day, and loved being the center of attention and the star for the day. Her celebration always makes me miss my mom, who would have turned 99 two weeks after her. Happy 99th birthday, Alberta!

00 mapWe left the day after Thanksgiving for a three week trip that took us down to San Antonio for three days of sightseeing. Then we made our way through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona (where we visited with a high school friend who lives in Surprise—what a fun name for a city! “The city was founded in 1938 by Flora Mae Statler, who named it Surprise as she 00 snowman‘would be surprised if the town ever amounted to much’.”) We drove on to Los Angeles and spent a couple days with a friend and former HR colleague. Of course, because I love connecting people, we did dinner with her and my 2nd cousin since they live just a mile apart. We always have such a lovely time when we all get together. Then we moved north of LA to Encino, where my youngest grandchild lives. We celebrated an early Christmas, and had so much fun getting to know Luke, and he getting to know us. We left LA the day the wild fires broke out, not because of the fires, it was the planned day to leave. We made our way back to the Phoenix, Arizona area where we spent a lot of time visiting with many of my 12 first cousins who live in the area. While we were there, we put a contract in on a house to be built so that next year we could become snowbirds!

We rounded out the year with Christmas and New Years celebrations with our families, in an easy-going relaxed manner—my kind of celebrating!

01 y2kNow the new year is here. It is 2018. It is hard to believe we are 18 years into the new century! Do you remember 18 years ago, when we were going into 2000? How many of you worked at companies, where the IT personnel stayed overnight at work on New Years to make sure the computer system did not go down because of going into a new century, now having to use a 4-digit year, rather than two? Remember thinking that utilities would shut down, and banks would stop functioning? I worked at a credit union at the time, and everything rolled around just as it should. There was no shutdown in any infrastructure.

I have a big and busy year planned for 2018. In a few weeks we are going to go on our annual Florida trip, probably for the last time. Once we begin to be snowbirds in Arizona, there will be no need to warm up in Florida. Of course, I will miss the ocean, but if I recall, a five hour trip to Los Angeles to see my grandson will also give me access to an ocean.

Soon we will be going to Arizona to select our flooring, cabinets, and all other finishes for the new home. We will have to go back again in the summer to close on the house, and to begin to furnish it. When the year ends, we will be going there to spend the rest of the winter until late spring.

germanyAnother trip planned with be to Europe in May. Our main destination is Seligenstadt, Germany for the wedding reception for my son and his wife (the one we hosted last September). She is from Germany, and the wedding celebration with her family and friends will be this coming May. We are going to go to England for a week before we arrive in Germany. We will be there for almost two weeks, and will at some point, take the train to Paris to spend a couple days. I am sure this will be a trip of a lifetime. I have a passport, but have never used it—time to bush off the dust, and put it in my pocket!

I look forward to doing some HR consulting. Just dipping my toes in every so often keeps me informed of my chosen career, keeps me in touch with former colleagues, and allows me to still have a positive impact on the working world.

Most of all, my desire to stay connected to people will continue in 2018. The majority of my high school class turns 70 in this year, and we are planning a 70th Birthday Bash in the fall. Our high school class is pretty amazing. We love seeing each other, and connecting. We love sharing our lives today, rather than our memories of yesterday. We have become close to former classmates who we may not have even known back in our school days. I love this class of people—they do have class!

I plan to continue my knowledge of Christ, and grow more in my faith. I look forward to finding a “winter” church, and possibly join a “winter” small group. I love that my small group in Fulton likes meeting during the summer, so we will not lose their connection once we have become snowbirds. The only thing that will change in 2019 for this group, is finding a new home for the small group to meet.

I am grateful to God for all he has blessed me with this year, and I look forward to see what adventures and trials I may be facing in the coming year. Everything should be a learning opportunity. I wish for peace, joy, and contentment for all my family, friends, and those who read this blog. I am so grateful for you following my weekly writing. I hope I am inspiring you to become more thoughtful, loving, active, or whatever you wish to grow in your life.

Happy New Year!00 peace and joy quote

What Keeps You Going?

Have you ever thought about what you are best at doing? I have used many personality profiles, and other tests to see where my talents lie. I thought it was for my career, but I realized these are also my best skills in life even as a retiree.

Ten years ago I took a test after reading Marcus Buckingham books on the Strengths Movement. Marcus Buckingham is an author and business consultant. He worked for the Gallup organization. He says that we must work to our strengths and manage our weaknesses. We will never be able to be great in the areas of our weaknesses, but we can be great working to our strengths.

Today I happened to run across these results. I look back on my life, when I felt I was doing what I should be doing—looking at the career I chose, and even the things I do as a retiree, and I see these five strengths actually in everything I do. I am grateful, that I had the privilege to read and also hear Marcus Buckingham in person, as he helped me not to feel bad about the things I could not do well, because each and every one of us has things we do well. Those are the things that help us truly love our work everyday, and also how we live our lives daily responding in our homes, with our families, our neighbors, and friends.

Here are my top 5 strengths that resulted from this test:

00 activeActivator – I like making things happen. It stated that I am “eager to set directions, make decisions, and take charge of projects, processes, procedures or initiatives.” None of this was a surprise to me. I think it fits with my career in human resources. I think it fits that I will take a project and set everyone on a forward goal. I am energized by possibilities and generating enthusiasm.

Strategic – I found this one very interesting, because one 00 Strattime at work I got in trouble for having this strength! (I will explain later). It stated: “You spend time considering numerous courses of action before choosing one. You invent original and innovative techniques for dealing with expected and unexpected challenges. . .you can suggest a number of alternative solutions.”  In one of my early human resources jobs, I sat in a meeting about a communication we were sending out to all employees. I saw a flaw in the memo, and suggested it may cause some confusion with the employees that may have some negative consequences. After making this suggestion, my boss stated in front of all the people in this meeting that I was not to question the wording of the memo. I was put in my place. The following week after the memo came out to all employees, we had a huge line of folks coming to see us very unhappy with the what the memo said to the reality of what really happened. I always look at a situation and think of all the ways it can go sideways before setting out my solution. My strategic thinking Version 2was not a welcome factor there, and it could have solved a major issue. It was one of my strengths, but not always a welcome one.

Ideation – I think this is my favorite, and the one I really like. It says about me, “Driven by your talents, you bring new thoughts to most discussions and meetings. . .you derive a jolt of energy whenever a new idea occurs to you. Others may label you creative or original or conceptual. What you are sure of is that ideas are thrilling. And on most days this is enough.”  I love coming up with new ideas. I am a project person. It could be making a quilt, decorating a room, planning a party. Whatever it may be at the time, I am in my element when I can come upon with new ideas and use my creativity.

00 connectedConnectedness – This one kind of blew me away. I love introducing people to each other. I think of people who have something in common, and I want to connect them. I do believe that if you ask enough questions, you will find something in common with almost every person you meet. The results stated: “Things happen for a reason. You are sure of it. You are sure of it because in your soul you know that we are all connected. . .You gain confidence from knowing that we are not isolated from one another. . .Instinctively, you now and then rely on your ability to help certain people find reasons to link up with one another. The value you place on humankind guides your decision-making. . .Perhaps you realize human beings are linked to one another regardless of their age, language, education, socio-economic status, nationality, race, religion, or culture. . .The exact articles of your faith will depend on your upbringing and your culture, but your faith is strong. It sustains you and your close friends in the face of life’s mysteries.”

00 maximizeMaximizer – Yeah, I am uncomfortable doing things that are not in my wheel house. I am thrilled to continue to improve what I know I can do. I am happy to be who I am without trying to be someone else, or what someone else may expect of me. My results stated: “Because of your strengths, you might be exceptionally aware of the things you do and do not do well. Venturing into unfamiliar territory might create unwanted stress in your life. Instinctively, you may handle yourself well in specific types of social situations. Occasionally you set aside your work or studies to enjoy of the company of friends, newcomers, or strangers. . .You tend to avoid those who want to fix you and make you well rounded. You don’t want to spend your life bemoaning what you lack. Rather, you want to capitalize on the gifts with which you are blessed. It’s more fun. It’s more productive.”

00 flowersYou may not have taken an official “strengths” test, but if you look back on your life, I am sure you can figure out what type of things you love to do. What are those things underneath those things you love to do? Those are your strengths. Keep doing those things. Keep making them better. You will realize that you use these strengths in every area of your life. You don’t live your life only on the job, or only at home. Your strengths are used in every aspect of your life. Embrace what you do well. They are gifts you have been given. None of us are alike—wouldn’t that be boring? We are a bouquet of mixed flowers—different colors, shapes, scents, heights. It’s what makes us beautiful to each other. You have gifts you can share with others that only you can do. You are special. You are unique.00 Unique

The Magic of Christmas!

In less than a week, Christmas will be here. I love Christmas, but lately it has become a difficult holiday to celebrate. My children are scattered all over the United States. Some are married and have their spouse’s family to consider for the holidays. It just becomes ever so difficult to get together.

I think about Christmas when I was a kid. Maybe my parents and grandparents had some of these challenges, but as a child, Christmas was magical. We first had to get birthdays out of way. My mom and dad had their birthdays in November, with my sister and I having our birthdays in December with mine being the last before Christmas hit. My other sister, had her birthday in early January, actually on the day of Epiphany, so we covered all the end of the year holidays along with our birthdays, and then waiting for what seemed are very long time until our birthdays and Christmas would come rolling around again.

Today I put up the tree around Thanksgiving. That is not what happened at my house as LDM02105a child. Dad was not a fan of any kind of work or fanfare around the holiday, but Mom understood our need for the magic that the holidays brought. We had Christmas LP’s playing on the stereo. There was the Johnny Mathis Christmas album, which was probably our favorite, but we also had the Boston Pops, and many other albums of mostly instrumental and religious Christmas music. We would stack the records on the spindle, and push maxresdefaultthe little lever that told our stereo to lift the arm, feel the size of the record (45’s were small, and 33’s big), and then one record would drop down, and the needle would start on the edge of the record as it spun until the needle came all the way to the middle, producing festive Christmas music with every groove the needle encountered. When it hit the middle, it lifted and moved out, and once again moved to find the size of the record. If there were no longer records on the stack on the spindle, the arm would move all the way in, detect there were no further records, and move back to its original position, and the stereo would turn itself off. It was high technology for its time.

00 carolingOur church used to go Christmas caroling. We often did caroling for the St. Louis Christmas Carol Association. We would sign up with them, and they would assign us a local neighborhood to carol. One person wore the provided little red cape and carried a red money tube, so that those we caroled to could make a donation. The money from caroling went to local children’s charities across the St. Louis area. We would go out one evening before Christmas, sing our hearts out (and we were not great singers), and people would stand in their doorways and listen to us sing. They would go find some change or a dollar or two to put in the canister. When our caroling was over, we took our freezing selves to one of the homes of someone from church for hot chocolate and refreshments. I loved the caroling night. It made me feel so festive.

Our little church also had an annual Sunday School Christmas program. My mother would get books of Christmas poems, for all ages, and she assigned each child a poem about the Christmas story. Of course the little ones might just have a couples lines, and as we got older, the more lines we had to recite. Some of us sang Christmas carols. One year, I along with two other little girls from Sunday School sang “We Three Kings.” I cannot imagine we sounded very good, but we sang our hearts out, and our parents sat in the pew smiling proudly at us. We always received a box of candy for our performances.

00 Cinderella watchMy dad was not into the hubbub of Christmas decorating. We could beg until we were blue in the face, but he never put Christmas lights on the outside of our house. My mom would drive us three girls around, to look at all the pretty lights on other people’s houses. She helped us be in the Christmas spirit. My dad also wanted nothing to do with Christmas trees, so about mid-December, my mom would take us girls to a Christmas tree lot to select our tree. When I was small, my dad begrudgingly strung the lights—those big colored bulbs along with the bubble lights. I loved the bubble lights. They were magical. When we got older, one of my sisters became IMG2780adept at hanging lights, much to my dad’s delight. We would carefully hang the glass bulbs on the tree. Once the bulbs and lights were on the tree, it was time for the tinsel. Small thin strands of silver glistened in the lights. Originally, tinsel was made of silver, but tarnished with the heat of lights, so then in the 1950s & 60s, tinsel was manufactured from lead. Yeah, in the early 70s, they realized that was unsafe, and now tinsel, if you can even find it, is plastic with a shiny silver surface. I thought these trees were absolutely beautiful, even though the branches were sparse. We had to water the tree daily to keep the needles from drying out. Also, the lights could only be turned on if we were there—we did not want a fire hazard.

One of our big things was to go into downtown St. Louis to the Famous-Barr department store. This store was their flagship store and it was a block big and eleven stories high. The store windows were decorated with animated figures, and one large window was a village and trains. We would walk around the outside of the store along with hundreds of others marveling at the animated Christmas scenes. Inside the store was decorated, and Christmas music was playing throughout the store. We would take the escalators (some were even wooden) to the floor where they had made a “Winter Wonderland.” We walked through the many Christmas displays which ended with our visit to none other, but Santa Claus.

 

As the years moved on, my Christmas trees began to take on a life of their own. My early married years, I had a real tree, with its spindly branches, and would decorate it with 00 old treecandy, popcorn, cranberries, and pretzels. I didn’t have a lot of money but I would look for crafty creative ways to decorate. I moved to artificial trees, and experimented with types of decorations, but in the end, my tree is filled with memories. I have some of my mom’s Hallmark Keepsake ornaments from the early 70’s. I like unique and funky, and that’s how my tree is—it reflects who I am over the years.

There are just heart-warming feelings when I think about my childhood Christmases. I think of aunts, uncles, and cousins having dinner with us. I think about lying in bed unable to sleep on Christmas Eve, so excited with the anticipation of Santa’s arrival. I think 00 treeof the time I woke up in the early dawn, and quietly crept into the living room to see all the gifts under the tree, and my new child-size china cabinet and doll basinet that were too large to wrap, and quietly going back to my room happy and excited, but ready to sleep a little longer. We didn’t bake Christmas cookies—that was not a tradition from my European family. I am sure we had pies, and other baked goodies. I think of the times I would go through the toy section of mail order catalogs, and dream of the dolls with all the clothes and accessories any little girl would be thrilled to own. I would write Santa letters of all the things I wanted, practically copying from the catalog, and one year, I asked Santa for a baby brother. That’s one Christmas gift he never delivered—I remained the youngest child!

00 dinnerI am not sure if there is magic in Christmas today, like there was back then. The magic for me is to see my children and their children, and to know they are well. My magic is to entertain friends and family with a nice meal, and Christmas carols playing in the background. My magic is to be forever thankful that we live in a country we can celebrate Christ’s birth, and to worship him freely, and for others who wish to worship differently. My magic is to read Christmas cards from friends and family, and know they thought of me, even if it’s for only long enough to sign the card and address the envelope. My magic is the gratefulness that I have been given another year, and that my health is good.

I hope my reminiscing of my past Christmases has brought back fond memories of your own.  I hope you have peace, joy, and contentment this holiday season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.  May you know the peace he provides.

Merry Christmas!

 

Isaiah

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