unexpected gifts

I've been doing a lot of bellyaching lately -- and during the holidays no less, which has probably landed me on The Naughty List. (Santa, if you could just dump that semi-truck load of coal on the side of our house that would be great.) It's been a trying couple of months, to say the least... and I admit, it's been hard to set aside the trials and shift gears into "Merry and Bright."

But this week I've received some unexpected gifts that have rekindled my holiday spirit:
  • Sang Christmas carols for the opening and closing hymns at church Sunday, something I look forward to all year long. We even sang one for a rest hymn -- bonus!
  • Gathered at a neighborhood eatery to have lunch with girlfriends, something I rarely get to do these days.
  • Received a disco ball from a coworker for Christmas. It's multi-colored. It rotates. It's freaking awesome. Combined with my ever-running space heater, my office has now been officially declared a DISCO INFERNO. (Woot woot!)
  • Had a chance meeting with a dear friend I haven't seen in months, but whom I think about all the time. After 30 minutes of chatting, laughing and hugging, we set a lunch date for next week that, as far as I'm concerned, could only be postponed by Armageddon.
  • In spite of a small bite of this (ahem) and a tiny taste of that (ahem, ahem!)... the scale, for the most part, has been kind. Cue the Hallelujah Chorus!
  • I was able to sit down and read my two favorite magazines (Real Simple and O) from beginning to end. Enough down time to read two magazines in one week, one right after the other?! This also qualifies as a Bonafide Holiday Miracle.
  • Monday I took the day off and was home baking... around lunchtime there was a knock on my door. There stood the four little boys who live next door -- ages 3, 5, 7 & 9, all bundled up and cute as can be -- who quickly launched into Jingle Bells (the unabridged version), followed by We Wish You a Merry Christmas. I was so surprised but so happy to see them, and before long I was singing right along with them. I gave them each a fresh-baked cookie and off they went to the next house, smiling and waving goodbye.

On a Monday afternoon, right there on my doorstep.... herald angels singing. It simply DOES NOT get any merrier than that.

May we all find joy in the unexpected gifts this season has to offer... the ones that take us by surprise and, hopefully, take root in our hearts. Merry Christmas!


14 & 41

Today I am 41. In a couple weeks Tyler will be 14. The chronological juxtaposition presents a number of interesting contrasts:

14: Lots of zit cream
41: Lots of neck cream

14: "That's what she said."
41: "Because I said so."

14: Ungodly hours spent on Facebook (chatting, posting, quiz-taking)
41: Ungodly hours spent on face (tweezing, smoothing, concealing)

14: 5,000 calories a day
41: 5,000 calories a month

14: Xbox
41: Botox

14: Irritable
41: Irritable Bowel Syndrome

14: Bieber hair
41: Bieber who?

14: Blows off homework to hang out with friends
41: Blows off friends because someone never does their homework

14: Crosses the line
41: Holds the line

14: Frequent sufferer of consequences
41: Frequent sufferer of heartburn

14: Girls: The Be All & End All
41: Girls: The Devil Incarnate

14: Tolerates and is tolerated
41: Tolerates and is tolerated

Whattaya know... something in common after all.


the pretty tree

Like many people, every year we put up two Christmas trees in our house: The "family" tree, home to all macaroni sculptures, felt snowflakes and school pictures framed in green glitter, and

The Pretty Tree.

The beautiful, yet fragile, tree.

The tree with the delicate beaded snowflakes...

And the slender, vintage (which is French for very breakable) ornaments...

And the golden, glittered glass balls...

Neslted here and there among sprigs and sprigs of

...shimmering bronze berries.

Ah, yes. The Pretty Tree. The tree nobody but Mom gets to touch.

Not only because it would be reduced to shards and rubble in a matter of miliseconds...

But because The Pretty Tree is one of the most peaceful exercises
I engage in during the hustle and bustle of the holidays.

And every evening, even if it's only for a few minutes,
I sit in the living room and just take in The Pretty Tree.
The warm glow has a way of softening the tension from the day,
and reminding me of the beauty of the season...
which usually reminds me of the many beautiful blessings in my life.

The Pretty Tree is the Christmas gift I give myself.



I always imagine Patience as a ball of yarn...
a soft, powdery blue sphere.

On its best day, Patience sits neat and tidy in the center of the brain,
not a single tattered strand or a string out of place.

If Patience is tested... by traffic on I-15, a deadline at work,
or a mouthy, surly teenager at home...
the well-ordered little orb can begin to fray a little.

If it's tried some more... by, say, a vicious case of smallpox,
the current state of the economy,
it can also begin to unravel. Rapidly.

And before you know it, Patience... once neat-as-a-pin... can become:

A muddy, mottled mess.

Insanely misshapen and horribly out of sorts.

So frayed and strayed from its cozy cranial nest that one end is actually trailing out of your nostril by the end of the day.

I know it's supposed to be the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, with those holiday greetings and gay-happy meetings. But if I'm being honest (which is a prerequisite to avoiding the Naughty List)...

I am too threadbare to care.