Sunday, November 30, 2008

Journaling the Season

For the past few years, I've read and viewed with envy the phenomenon that is Shimelle's "Journal Your Christmas" class on scores of other blogs. With a season that promises to be busier than ever this year, I've decided that perhaps making the commitment to quiet, to live in the Christmas moment, for at least a few minutes each day this season is in order.

Journal Your Christmas

My hope is that I will rediscover the value and meaning behind what my family does during this season of wonder, to recapture the wonder and to wind down the hysteria that fills every retail establishment with dread. Meaning? Why, if some moments drive me to stress eating, do I continue to repeat the same patterns every year?

I know one thing. Many of the small, endless tasks that befall me DO mean something to my children. We just arrived home this evening from a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday at my sister's home in Michigan when my children realized that our Advent calendar isn't out yet. They are in a panic. What will they do if they cannot probe the tiny pocket for their traditional chocolate mint that signals the countdown to the magic hour?

As soon as I post this, I'll be pulling down the attic stairs to bring the Advent calendar down to its rightful place in the first of many small Christmas traditions that will, hopefully, be journaled about this month during Shimelle's class.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

The First Gift of Christmas

Or Operation Mistletoe continues...

I have in my possession perhaps 40 rolls of giftwrap, various gift bags and boxes. What is the first gift of Christmas? A plain paper package tied up with string (or vintage seam binding as the case may be). When possible, I like to wrap the present to suit the receiver; maybe their decor, favorite colors, hobbies. This would explain why I have a dusty roll of John Deere tractor paper among my collection. I'm hurrying to finish the wrapping for my sister's family before we head off to Michigan for Thanksgiving!
I hope she and her hubbie like it.
I think she'll like these too since they're foodies. Gorgeous, rich vanilla beans!
Danielle tagged me for 6 random facts a while ago and it seems appropriate to share 6 facts or 'traditions' about my Thanksgiving (don't wig out on me if I have a weird quirk or two!):

1. My sister and I rotate homes for Thanksgiving each year. This year is her turn to host. We haven't decided what's worse; the expense & stress of buying all that food or the expense & stress of travelling between Maryland and Michigan. It's all worth it. Most years, our parents or my younger sister may join us. This year, our parents are moving on Thanksgiving weekend. We'll miss them!

2. We plan at least a month ahead of time what our menu will be. It usually begins when the November issue of Bon Appetit lands on our doorsteps. She makes up a spiffy spreadsheet when it's her year. I usually have the menu jotted down on sticky notes. Can we guess who the has the gift of administration?

3. I'm a big kid when it's comes to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Super huge highlight of the day for me. This is where I will let the turkey burn and the potatoes boil over while I sit on the floor and watch random numbers of current Broadway shows. Isn't it sad that I generally choose what I want to go see in the next year by a 2 minute number performed on Herald Square?:)

4. My son has a tradition to stay out overnight at Best Buy for the Black Friday sales. Some call this crazy. Some call it savvy. He thinks it's fun and is in mourning that he will not be able to have friends to join him this Thursday night. He has no shopping list. He didn't last year either, but he did come home with a new flat screen monitor for my computer.

5. Last year we started a new tradition of the Family Talent Show. After watching Dan In Real Life and seeing their talent show, we thought we'd give it a try. We had magic, singing, displays of physical strength and more. I've been informed that this year, my nieces have been working hard and plan to thrash the rest of us thoroughly. Guess I better stock up on age appropriate prizes!

6. We also have a Thankful journal to write our menu, draw pictures, journal what we're thankful for this year, etc. I added a few new touches to bring it into this Thanksgiving season.

I got all teary eyed looking through it today. I'm looking forward to filling the pages with more written expressions of gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Do you see what I see? Christmas already!

It's not even December, but Christmas is hurtling at us faster than a speeding bullet, stronger than a locomotive, able to leap tall build.....oh, that's Superman. Well, Christmas IS next month, that's for darn sure.

There are detractors who feel that Thanksgiving is lost in the holiday mix. They scoff when the Christmas trees go up before the last Jack-O-Lantern is put on clearance in the stores. They grump at Christmas music piped into elevators and get fussy upon the endless emails offering early bird deals to wrap up their holiday shopping needs.

I'm a big fan of Thanksgiving. It's the only meal of the year where I give myself permission to carb load guilt-free. I can take or leave the turkey. Breads, stuffing and pies are my vices. And I'm the only one in my family who gets really put out if I am interrupted during the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. But, I'm of the firm belief that the Christmas detractors are either men who have no earthly idea that Christmas doesn't just 'show up and happen' mysteriously in their homes; presents wrapped, food served, children all wearing matching red sweaters. Or they're women who didn't get the Barbie Dream House or saw Mommie kissing Santa Claus when they were 6, thus having their Christmas hopes and dreams dashed for all eternity. I'll address the message of Christmas getting lost in commercialism argument at another time.

I kid! I kid!

In any case, Christmas is a PRODUCTION (where are the flashing blinky lights for this?). No doubt about it. If I don't have the majority of shopping and planning done by Thanksgiving, I know my stress level will fly through the roof along with Rudolph and 8 other tiny reindeer.

We live a bazillion, er, several hundred miles away from any family. This means I get to join the lovely people at the post office who, frankly, are killing me with the postage rates these days and every time I go, I get a asked a littany of other upsell questions that barely stops short of "Would you like fries with that?" If I don't have all my pressies bought or made, wrapped, packed with Christmas cards in the boxes and shlepped to the post office before the second week of December, I might as well have fruitcake shipped to my family for New Years Eve because that's about the 'kind of relative' they'll feel I am when their box doens't arrive until Groundhog Day.

That's just one example of why while my husband isn't yet on board with the Christmas 'plans' I have laid out for us, I am already full steam ahead on Project Mistletoe. Breathe Casii.... Breathe

Truth is, for many, many women and not a few men, we love to give, to serve, to pamper others and to open our homes in the spirit of hospitality. This is why we get caught up in the Christmas production. We are victims of our own giving nature; helpless to the urge to show our love for others in the way we best accept love.

I fell victim to the Christmas crafting elf by burning my thumb the other day. Sadly, after being so careful while handling a soldering iron, I turn around and scorch myself while taking dinner out of the oven. Lesson here? Not sure, but it did make handling anything requiring fine motor skills impossible for the rest of the night. Soldering had to wait for finishing the next day.

Last year we had a soldering class at Creative Escape. I bought the whole kit and kaboodle, brought it home and pretty much put it away never to be seen again. Not long ago, I dusted the stuff off and decided to try my hand at it. These are the beginning efforts. Little charm/ornaments/pendants/whatevers. Perfectly imperfect. Fun to do. Most of the images are from ARTchix Studio. If you don't have a lot of ephemera or images in your supply, The Graphics Fairy (Thanks Kim!) posts a free image every day. I got most of my supplies from Simply Swank.

Act One of Project Mistletoe?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pretty is as Thrifty does

Okay. Okay, okay, okay, so you know how when you get really excited when you get a great deal? Or you find something so unbelievably cool and you just can't wait to share it with someone? Cool! Then this is how I feel when on the 9th visit to a thrift shop I find something I actually want to buy instead of donate.

So, let's share, shall we?

Yes, I saw something on the shelves we donated, but we also found these beauties which we left the store with for less than a 10-spot:Lots of gloriously simple, but infinitely functional milk glass goodies for the kitchen; mixing bowls (which in my house double as serving bowls), a sturdy diner mug, a couple of bowls, a ramekin and a neato little vase. Plus a rosey, posey print.

Hubby doesn't know it yet, but I'm soon coming to a point where I'll box up all the newlywed Corelle to give one of our children when they get their first place. I'm ready to switch the kitch completely over to MY tastes.

And really it pains me that this is probably the stuff that my Nana sold at a garage sale for a nickle when I was a little girl. People are donating these classics. Sure they don't have the media love that Jadite gets or pink depression glass, but milk glass is an all inclusive glass. It doesn't discriminate. You can pair it with Jadite, depression glass in all shades, ruby glass. Heck, even new Fiesta and it will complement nicely. If you have milk glass and you don't want it, send it to moi!

I know the print isn't for everyone, but it was sitting there looking so lush and lonely that we brought it home. It does have a place in the grand scheme of our new living room plans, but for now, it will have to be happy perched on a ledge in the dining room. Kind of reminds me of these flowers that are still blooming in our garden.

If you haven't overheard the Christmas music playing in the background while you shop the past week, you probably haven't actually gone shopping. The season is here; especially if you make any of your decorations or gifts. There is a cool little blog happening this month. You can click on it if you look on the right sidebar here. Joli Paquet is offering tips, tutorials and recipes all month long by some of my favorite bloggers. The best part of Joli Paquet is that they also have kits of lots of various holiday projects that are A-Maze-Ing. If you love to get a little glue under the fingernails or glitter in your hair and want a creative jumpstart, check them out! I already came, saw and shopped!

I really feel that even in this economy, we should seek out unique, personal gift ideas like the ones Joli Paquet offers rather than defaulting to only shopping the big box stores. If we don't, next year there might not be a Joli Paquet or Christmas show at your fairgrounds or even a fundraising church bazaar. We'll find ourselves buying keychains and travel mugs in plain black boxes by the register when we pick up our deodorant. I really don't want that. I'd much rather buy Reeses when I pick up my deodorant.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

David vs David, the Idol Wars

First, let me say that I am so glad that a new season of American Idol hasn't started. Yet. Hubby hates that the rest of us watch it and ascertains that a talented person should be able to make it without a pre-fab television show. Lurve hubby to death, but phooey, raspberries on him for muttering, sighing and grunting while we have our fun.

All in good natured fun, we were a house divided this past season. My daughters crushed on David Archuletta with his earnest power ballads. I thought I would reach through the screen if I saw him lick his lips one more time and forcibly apply Carmex to his pucker. He drove me crazy (you know, in a way that someone you don't even know can get on your very last nerve, the tv reality show star way and why do we invest ourselves in this stuff kind of nerve?)

They thought he was the cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuutest thing ever.

Gag. Me. With. A. Spoon.

I, on the other hand, was reasonable in my polite and appropriate admiration for David Cook. If, on the very occasional show, I hopped up on the sofa and whooped like a crazed warrior (or Cruisazy), please attribute it to too much caffeine rather than a mistaken assumption that I had a mini (major) thing for David Cook. I'm sorry daughters, he's just more gifted, versatile and marketable than Archie boy. It's simply good business sense, right? Dang, I should be a talent scout.

So the past couple of weeks, the rivalry has been renewed as my daughters replay David A's "Crush" whatever song until my ears bleed while I blast David C's "Light On" at every opportunity.

And today, they are IN FOR IT! This site is streaming the superior David's album for free right now: David Cook's New Album There are a few songs I'm having mad love for like "Declaration". And remember, if you ever see me on a sofa, it was the Starbucks, not the rock star. So there.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Whuh happnd?

Proof that living out of a suitcase messes with your brain: your grammar and spelling get thrown right out the window.

Elections came, elections went. The signs are still up as are most of my Halloween decorations. My decorations are getting put away today as I hope the election signs get tossed soon as well.

Where have I been the past couple of weeks? Here: National Youth Workers Convention 2008 and here: The Revolve Tour - THE EVENT FOR TEEN GIRLS By education, I have a psychology degree which, due to my tendency to emphatically bring my work home and thus be a completely miserable person to live with, I don't use. I am still brought to my knees on a regular basis though by the pain that others suffer. Especially with teens.

Even though my own children think their parents are controlling nerds, other teens have long sought us out in times of trouble or as a place to unleash into silliness. We work with a fabulous team who also have hearts for young people, but wow, do we ever feel unequipped to help at times. I won't name all the problems among our group, but the list is long and the pain is deep.

The bright spots? We do see hope and progress. It IS there.

A couple of weeks ago, six youth leaders attended a conference that offered that hope. You can't help but feel it when hundreds of people are assembled together who have a burning desire to help our youth. When we talked to other youth leaders and were reassured that our problems weren't unique, we didn't feel so overwhelmed. We came home armed with information and a renewed sense of urgency to reach out not only to teens, but their families and our community as well. (I have a whole soapbox about community for another time, but maybe not. I feel pretty strongly about the global village. So strongly that I know my thoughts will probably blow some people out of the water, especially in this economy.)

Last weekend, I took girls to a weekend that was JUST FOR THEM. How often do girls get the chance to go wild, act crazy and listen to great speakers and music without the distractions of guys. I love guys (well, most of 'em), but they add a dynamic when mixed with teen girls that throws most girls into a wholly different personality. This weekend they could just be real; without the masks. I hope they feel they could bring some of that reality home with them.

This weekend, I'm home. Glorious home! I even get to completely unpack my bag. Until Thanksgiving week.

Until then, hug a teen. Give them a card of encouragement. If you don't know a teen, smile at one in the mall or behind the counter of your fast food restaurant. You might just make their day. They're usually great kids even if some of their quirks drive you crazy (like we don't all have our own quirks). By communicating that you care, you're becoming a part of their community. The one that believes in them.