Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Don’t just do something; stand there

This contradictory advice hit my inbox this morning from web marketing guru Seth Godin (http://www.sethgodin.com/) . In a hustle-bustle season, as minds fill with to-do lists, cookies to bake, money to spend (and stress about), boxed decorations and parties to throw, why not stand back and just stand there? Just be.

Stand and look at the lopsided gingerbread house your kids created. When I do, I  remember that my son ate so much frosting he lay on the floor with a tummy ache. Stand back and remember your most loved childhood Christmas present. Mine was a used mini-bike when I was twelve. How my parents gave it to me is such a great story. Reminicising on that memory makes we want to get creative with how I hide/give our children’s gifts to them.

By just standing I can appreciate those relic ornaments on our tree. My favorite is the one we received the first year we were married. It has a bride (with veil) and groom bear (yes, bears!) and says, “Our First Christmas”. I admit that it is totally corny, but I love it! When I am still I can remember that Christmas  sixteen years ago in Kentucky with my husband’s family. I remember what a special season it was to be that young, hopeful and in love. Most ornaments on our tree have a story or pleasant emotion connected to them, but because I am always doing something, I miss the sweet meaning.

Instead of rushing to complete your next something, slow down and soak up the small details that are at the heart of Christmas. In other words, don’t just do something, stand there! Thanks Seth.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What am I thankful for?

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!
Psalm 106:1
I am thankful for a God who loves, listens, protects, provides, comforts, inspires, guides, restores, heals, is steadfast and showers down blessings on me:
Health. Strong healthy bodies and hearts, especially my older son's, whose open-heart surgeries changed my heart forever.

My family. I would be lost without my husband. He is my smart, gentle, talented hunk of a Godly man! Our boys are hard workers, kind-hearted and overall awesome kids.

Our home. Our castle at the end of the cul-de-sac is a warm, safe place to grow our kids, weather life's storms and make memories.

Moms. My Mom, Mother-in-law, sister (a new mom) and my many dear Mommy friends. I am thankful for those women who stop what they are doing to sacrifice, love and nurture the little ones. Despite being tired and always giving, I am positive that these women make a wonderful difference in our world.

My sisters. No friend is as loyal or unconditional as a sister and I was lucky enough to get not one, but two! Blessing, blessing!

Jobs. Knowing my husband and I have reliable jobs we enjoy. The blessing of provision!

Sense of humor. My big fat Italian family passed down the blessing of sharing joy and humor. This is an infectious gift because who doesn’t want to laugh and play as much as possible? Cheers to enjoying life! (clink).

Being an Aunt. I love my nephew and praise God that he is healthy and does not have a tail or four paws. Even when he cries he is adorable. Sweeeeet blessing!

A pantry full of food. When so many don’t have enough to eat, we get to chow on whatever and eat whenever our tummy’s grumble. Stuffed blessing!

The Weiner Sisters. Pets that transform into family members bring so much life to a home. And, the kids learn to care for and be responsible for their beloved creatures. Blessing! (woof!)
What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Power to the Pilgrims

Working in second grade, I get an annual reminder, and history lesson, about the first Thanksgiving. Each year, it’s fun seeing the kids get into the art projects, this year is was clay pinch pots and pilgrim hats, while they learn about our national eating holiday. For those of you who could use a refresher course, this one’s for you.

The Pilgrims set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating, like a cold I can’t even imagine, and no central heating. By the following fall, they had lost 46 of the original 102 who sailed on the Mayflower. But the harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one. And the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast -- including 91 Wampanoag Indians who had helped the Pilgrims survive their first year. It is believed that the Pilgrims would not have made it through the year without the help of the natives, thus proving Bette Middler was right when she sang, “But you gotta have friends.”

The first feast was more of a traditional English harvest festival that lasted three days. Three days of feasting on wild turkey, pumpkin pies and corn bread, while a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables lay across the table, reminding all they were giving thanks to God for their bountiful harvest and provisions. Having suffered a devastating winter, now the Plymouth colony and Indian friends were celebrating friendship, survival and abundance.

I imagine John and Mary Pilgrim sitting next to their new BFFs, Blackfoot and Pocahontas, stuffing their bellies and rejoicing together over all that yummy food. Now what if John Pilgrim turned on his radio and Jingle Bells was playing? Frustrated, he tries another station and is shocked to hear, Walking in a Winter Wonderland, and sadly he looks at Blackfoot who is equally disgusted that the world wants to skip thankfulness and deck the halls. Everyone around the Thanksgiving table may just feel forgotten and unappreciated.
What happened to Thanksgiving? Every store I visit has jumped over the Feast and is diving head first into Christmas, which demotes Thanksgiving to forgotten holiday status. I don’t want to hear Christmas Carols on the radio in November. I want it to be a time of peace, gratitude, family and overeating. I refuse to welcome the lights, wreaths, carols, extreme sales and candy canes. There is a time and place for Christmas and it starts AFTER we give thanks for our abundant blessings and eat so much that we have to undo the top button.
To each of you, I wish you a great Thanksgiving and hope you find yourself at a table with family and friends and talking about what you’re thankful for. Cheers!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Food for Thought

A few weeks back, I signed up to work at the food pantry. Why? Because I wanted to stay involved at church. The last six months I served on the church’s Women’s Retreat Team and the “Ladies Getaway” was last weekend. This subject deserves a short story (coming soon) to share all the uplifting inspiration that drenched my soul. Planning the Women’s retreat was like planning a wedding for one-hundred friends. A beautiful, spirit-filled wedding on the beach that lasted three days! Knowing my retreat commitment was coming to an end, helping feed the hungry was my next calling. While my husband and kids were in the desert riding quads (yes, I worry and pray for their safety all day) I helped families who had appointments to receive food. food-pantry-4-1

Arriving at 4:30 for my shift, I felt lost and overdressed. Note to self: food pantry attire is jeans and sneakers, no lipstick required. In minutes, I was introduced to the other volunteers that would be escorting families throughout the pantry and telling them how many items they could choose based on family size. There were many stops throughout: Sections for various breads, bakery items, vegetables, fruit, canned foods and frozen meat. It was an easy enough job (being bilingual would have made it even easier). That warm fuzzy feeling one gets when helping out is my favorite part, along with meeting new folks. Then there was that grateful feeling that swallowed me up as I watched individuals spend an entire minute deciding if they wanted either one can of soup or one can of beans. They could only pick one. Or observe as they debated over what dated bread they would take home. Bagels? Wheat? White? French? Rolls? Garlic bread? It was humbling because I always check the date bread expires when I go to Vons because I insist on the freshest bread and bakery items. I glanced at the pantry’s bread and bakery dates that expired three days ago. Feeling my blessing, my heart took a silent gulp.
By the second hour my stomach was grumbling for dinner. But how could I say anything? I felt so thankful knowing I’d return home to a pantry full of various foods. I could pick and choose to prepare anything my tummy wanted. My vegetables are all fresh, as was everything in my refrigerator. Having an abundance of food at my fingertips has always been a “given.” I assumed everyone lived this way. Last night God showed me what a gigantic blessing a stocked kitchen is. It seems so simple, but after volunteering at the food pantry I won’t take it for granted again.