Blog Archives

365 Reasons To Smile – Day 255

giftsOne of my best volunteers walked into my office the other day, and her beautiful earrings immediately caught my attention. 

When I complimented them, she sighed and said, “You’ve been married a long time, so you will completely understand why that means so much.”

She launched into a story about how the amethyst earrings were a birthday gift from her husband, and she was so glad he was finally able to buy her the right gifts

She told me one year, when her children were young, he had given her a necklace that had a skeleton head. She tried wearing it just to make him feel good, but when she leaned over one of her children, it cut her daughter’s head.

During Christmas one year. her husband and his friend went on a  shopping trip only to purchase size 18 skirts with floral appliques. The volunteer, now in her sixties, was a size 6.

Her stories made me laugh, but they also made me smile in appreciation of my own husband, who is generally very good at giving gifts.

Day 255:  Thoughtful Husbands Day 254:  The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow Day 253: When Kids Want to Clean  Day 252: Conversations in Cars

Day 251: Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day  Day 250: Bonnie Bell Over-sized LipSmackers versus Egg-Shaped Eos Lip Balm  Day 249: Watching Those I Cherish Sleep  Day 248: Getting Back on My Bike after the Longest Winter  ay 247: “Don’t Worry. Be Happy.”  Day 246: Multiple Reminders of Beauty  Day 245: Being Nice to Total Strangers Day 244: The Perfect PhrasDay 243:  Little Girls With Attitude Day 242: The Soup Nazi  Day 241: Contagious Smiles  Day 240: Oklahoma  Day 239: Dr. Seuss’ Persistence  Day 238: Over-Dependence on Spell Check  Day 237: Only 28 days  in February  Day 236: Genuine Signatures  Day 235: Television Personalities Who Don’t Take Themselves Too Seriously Day 234:  The Words “Happy Birthday”  Day 233: Teenagers Who Care about Their Grandparents  Day 232:  “Morning Has Broken” Day 231: Avoiding Jury Duty  Day 230: Melting Snow after a Long Winter  Day 229: Hungry Teenage Boys   Day 228: Having a Dream Day 227: Mispronunciations   Day 226: Awkward Animal Moments Day 225: Shaking Hands With Scott Hamilton Day 224:  Having an Office With Windows Day 223: Watching Our Children Mature  Day 222: Getting the Upper Hand Over Life’s Challenges  Day 221: St. Teresa’s Prayer  Day 220: Children Who Are True to Self    Day 219: Frosted Sugar Cookies Day 218: Children with a Global Perspective Day 217: Enchanted  Day 216: Having a “secret weapon” Day 215: Jack and Diane  Day 214: The Volkswagen Beetle Day 213: Moments that Can’t Be Recreated  Day 212: “The Soul” Quote   Day 211: Rubber Ducky  Day 210: Tracks in the Snow   Day 209: Finding a Penny on the Ground Day 208: Kids who Use Their Manners  Day 207: Reminders of Warm Sunny Days  Day 206:  Dogs Playing in the Snow  Day 205:  Descriptive Phrases  Day 204: Arsenic and Old Lace  Day 203: Reminders of Resiliency  Day 102: Stephanie’s Ponytail Day 201: Being Asked to Help  Day 200: Boys and Their Toys  Day 199: The Most Important Person  Day 198: People With Courage to Do What is Right  Day 197: Being Pleasantly Surprised by My Children  Day 196: Being Told I’m Young  Day 195: Good News  Day 194: Meaningful Eye Contact   Day 193: A Sense of Accomplishment Day 192: Growing Into the Person I’ll Someday Be  Day 191:  Matt Groening  Day 190: Tuning Out Bad News and Tuning In to What We Enjoy  Day 189: Parents Who Encourage Independence  Day 188: Watching Young Minds at Work  Day 187: Funny Phone Calls  Day 186: Healthy Lungs  Day 185: Reality Checks Day  184: Coincidence  Day 183: Lame Attempts to Go Retro  Day 182: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 181: Goofy Childhood Memories  Day 180: A soak in a bathtub  Day 179: Optimism  Day 178: The Year’s Top Baby Names  Day 177: Reading on a Rainy Day   Day 176: “Don’t Stop Believin'” by Journey  Day 175: Watching the Torch Pass  Day 174: Converse Tennis Shoes  Day 173: Family Acceptance  Day 172: Christmas Day 171: The Mr. Grinch Song  Day 170: Positive People  Day 169: Watching Movies From my Childhood With My Kids  Day 168:  Jealous Pets   Day 167:  Family Christmas Recipes  Day 166:  Church BellsDay 165:  School Holiday   164: Unexpected Grace  Day 163: Letting Go of Things We Can’t Control  Day 162: Anticipating a good story   Day 161: Hope  Day 160:  When Dogs Try to Avoid Embarrassment  Day 159: Surprises in the Mail  Day 158: Kids who aren’t superficial  Day 157:  A Garage on Winter Days    Day 156:  Real Christmas Trees    Day 155: Being a Parent   Day 154: Selfless People Day 153:  Nelson Mandela  Day 152: Memorable Road Trips  Day 151: Great Neighbors  Day 150: Oscar Wilde’s quote about being yourself   Day 149:  Love Letters  Day 148:  The first day of Advent  Day 147: The Breakfast Club   Day 146: Marriage and Shared Anniversaries 145: JFK’s quote about gratitude  Day 144:  Watching My Dog Play   Day 143: Having my Family’s Basic Needs Met  Day 142:  When Our Children Become Role Models  Day 141: Random Acts of Kindness  Day 140; People Watching  Day 139: Sharing Interests with My Children  Day 138: Eleanor Roosevelt’s Best Advice  Day 137: Weird Human Behavior about Garbage  Day 136: Postcards from Heaven  Day 135: Mickey Mouse  Day 134: Generous Souls  Day 133: I’m Moving On  Day 132: A Family That is Really Family  Day 131:   A Personal Motto  Day 130:  Mork and Mindy  Day 129: The Bears’ House  Day 128:  Veterans  Day 127: Doppelgangers  Day 126: Letting Life Unfold as It Should  Day 125: The Constantly Changing Sky  Day 124: When History Repeats Itself   Day 123: The Love Scene in The Sound of Music Day 122:  Helen Keller  Day 121:  The Welcome Back Kotter Theme Song  Day 120: Sheldon Cooper  Day 119: Having Permission to Make Mistakes  Day 118: A Diverse Group of Friends  Day 117:  Family Traditions Day 116: The Haunting Season  Day 115; Life Experience Day 114:  Changes  Day 113:  The Wooly Bear Caterpillar  Day 112: The National Anthem  Day 111: Parents Who Care   Day 110: Good Friends Day 109:  My Many Colored Days by Dr. Seuss  Day 108:  A.A. Milne QuotesDay 107: Spending Time Wisely Day 106: Parades  Day 105:  The Peanuts Gang Dancing   Day 104:  Sharing a Secret Language   Day 103:  The Electric Company  Day 102:  Doing the Right Thing  Day 101:  When Siblings Agree  Day 100: Being Optimistic  Day 99: Trying Something New   Day 98:  The Sound of Children on a Playground  Day97: Good Advice  Day 96: Red and white peppermint candy  Day 95:  The Soundtrack from the Movie Shrek Day 94:  Accepting Change    Day 93:  True Love     Day 92: Camera Phones   Day 91: Bicycle Brakes    Day 90:  HeroesDay 89: The Cricket in Times Square  Day 88:  The Grand Canyon  Day 87: Unanswered Prayers Day 86: Apples Fresh from the Orchard Day 85: Being Human  Day 84: Captain Underpants  Day 83: The Diary of Anne Frank  Day 82: In Cold Blood Day 81: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry  Day 80: The Outsiders   Day 79:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Day 78: The First Amendment Day77: People Who Touch Our Lives   Day 76:  The Rewards of Parenting    Day 75:  Improvements   Day 74:  Family Traditions   Day 73: Learning From Our Mistakes  Day 72: Live Music  Day 71:  Sleeping In  Day 70:  Grover  Day 69:  A Good Hair Day   Day 68:  A Sense of Community   Day 67: Kindness   Day 66: Living in a Place You Love   Day 65: Gifts from the Heart   Day 64: The Arrival of Fall  Day 63: To Kill a Mockingbird   Day 62: Green LightsDay 61:  My Canine Friends  Day 60:  Differences   Day 59:  A New Box of Crayons   Day 58: Bookworms  Day 57: Being Oblivious  Day 56: Three-day Weekends  Day 55:  A Cat Purring  Day 54: Being a Unique Individual   Day 53: Children’s Artwork  Day 52: Lefties  Day 51: The Neighborhood Deer  Day 50: Campfires  Day 49: Childhood Crushes  Day  48: The Words “Miss You”  Day 47:  Birthday Stories   Day 46: Nature’s Hold on Us  Day 45:  Play-Doh   Day 44: First Day of School Pictures  Day 43: Calvin and Hobbes  Day 42: Appreciative Readers  Day 41: Marilyn Monroe’s Best Quote   Day 40:  Being Silly  Day 39:  Being Happy Exactly Where You Are  Day 38: Proud Grandparents  Day 37: Chocolate Chip Cookies   Day 36: Challenging Experiences that Make Great Stories  Day 35: You Can’t Always Get What You Want  Day 34:  Accepting the Fog    Day 33: I See the Moon  Day 32: The Stonehenge Scene from This is Spinal Tap  Day 31: Perspective  Day 30:  Unlikely Friendships  Day 29: Good Samaritans  Day 28:  Am I a Man or Am I a Muppet?    Day 27: Shadows  Day 26: Bike Riding on Country Roads  Day 25: When Harry Met Sally  Day 24: Hibiscus   Day 23: The Ice Cream Truck  Day 22:  The Wonderful World of Disney   Day 21: Puppy love  Day 20 Personal Theme Songs  Day 19:  Summer Clouds  Day 18: Bartholomew Cubbin’s VictoryDay 17:  A Royal Birth    Day 16:  Creative Kids  Day 15: The Scent of Honeysuckle   Day 14: Clip of Kevin Kline Exploring His MasculinityDay 13: Random Text Messages from My Daughter     Day 12:  Round Bales of HayDay 11:  Water Fountains for Dogs    Day 10: The Rainier Beer Motorcycle Commercial Day 9: Four-Leaf Clovers  Day 8: Great Teachers We Still RememberDay  7:  Finding the missing sock   Day 6:  Children’s books that teach life-long lessonsDay 5: The Perfect Photo at the Perfect Moment   Day 4:  Jumping in Puddles  Day   3: The Ride Downhill after the Struggle Uphill    Day 2: Old Photographs  Day 1: The Martians on Sesame Street

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Halloween may be  the most ghostly holiday, but like Ebenezer Scrooge, I have always found Christmas to be more haunting. 

And just as with Scrooge, my Christmas ghosts remind me of what used to be and what I  still hold dear.

Unlike Scrooge, my ghosts don’t necessarily encourage me to reconsider my life path. They are simply reminders about change, about being a parent and about how the best Christmas gifts often go unopened for years and sometimes even decades.

And every holiday season, my ghosts remind me of  when I was an adolescent  and received gifts that I didn’t unwrap or appreciate  until years later.

They were given to me when I  was struggling with the usual  angst and therefore oblivious to anything my parents were dealing with.

And they were dealing with a lot.

My dad was unhappy with his current employment and seeking a new job. My mom was happy and fulfilled with her role in the community, but supportive of my dad.  Therefore, the needs of my dad, the family breadwinner, won out and he accepted a job almost all the way across the country from our Oregon home.

Shortly after accepting  the new job, he packed up his Ford truck  and our family dog and drove cross-country to West Virginia. And my mother, my brother and I were left behind.

He made the move in early fall, and even through my self-absorbed haze, I knew much my mom didn’t want to move.

She even insisted that no one was going to buy our house anytime soon.  But it sold almost immediately, and plans were made for the rest of the family to move to West Virginia over the Christmas holiday.

I continued my life as usual, pretending the change wouldn’t occur. My mother appeared to do the same. And with the holidays approaching, she made sure all the family traditions were kept. We decorated the house and the tree. We participated in holiday events. And we baked Christmas cookies and breads. Our house was warm, festive and inviting.  In fact, there were very few indications that our life would soon be disrupted in ways that would take me years to understand.

But that Christmas WAS different.

My dad wasn’t around, and my mom’s eyes would tear up every time ‘”I’ll be Home For Christmas” came on the radio.

Too soon, school was out for winter break, my dad came home to help with the move, we hurriedly celebrated Christmas and just as quickly packed the house. Then we left. Forever.

Initially, I thought I would never adapt to my new life. Everything was different – the way people talked, how they viewed the world and what their priorities were.  But I was young, and I eventually adjusted.  But because I was young, I was also self-absorbed.  So, the fact that  my mother was facing the same issues at the “real-world” level didn’t seem important.

I knew she was unhappy. I knew that she went from being a community leader to being someone fairly unknown. And I knew that she just couldn’t conform to the suburban culture that we suddenly found ourselves in.

But I also thought she was “old” and just wasn’t affected by things the way I was.  Or at least she knew how to deal with everything better.

I’m now even older than she was at that time, and I know we “old” people don’t always know how to deal.  At least I don’t.  And I don’t always hide my frustrations and imperfections… not even from my children.  And during the holidays, I sometimes simply choke.

But my mom never choked.  Even when she was going through one of the hardest times of her life, she never put her own issues, concerns and needs before those of her kids. She  pretended that whatever her children were going through was a much greater priority.  And she knew the importance of making us feel like we were home, even if she didn’t feel like she was.

That’s why, the Christmas after “the big move” felt just like every other Christmas.  We decorated the house with the same decorations that we’d put out in years past. We baked the same cookies and breads that we baked in the past. And we listened to Christmas carols on the scratchy records we’d always listened to. It felt like we were home for Christmas.

I actually received several unwrapped gifts those two Christmas holidays.  I received the gift of learning to move forward with my life while still embracing the past. I received the gift of  understanding the importance of traditions at Christmas. And I received the gift of a role model who gave of herself at a time when there was often little left to give.

I unwrapped those gifts years ago, but I’ve held onto them. Every year when we hang the decorations on the tree… some which go back to my childhood…these Ghosts of Christmas Past come back to haunt me. And they remind me that life is constantly changing: new people arrive while others leave. Circumstances sometimes improve and sometimes get worse.  And sometimes, even the entire culture seems to dramatically shift.  But amid these changes, we can still appreciate the Ghosts of Christmas Past, celebrate the Ghosts of Christmas Present  and hope that the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come provide opportunities for our children to open the unwrapped gifts we’ve given them. And that they too are haunted by Ghosts of Christmas Past.