And It’s Almost Over

How many of us are saying that this year? I know I am! It’s been a rough year for a lot of people, some much more than others.

At times it seemed this year dragged in forever, and then suddenly were wondering where the year went!!

Life has changed for lots of us, in so many ways, and not always for the good.

Sure, there have been some happy and wonderful events in 2018. Engagements, weddings, new babies, expected babies (our daughter and two of her best friends are welcoming baby girls in the spring), graduations, new careers, and new beginnings.

But it’s also not been so easy for so very many. There have been unwanted and painful separations and divorces. Unexpected deaths of loved ones and friends. Life changing diagnoses and accidents. Job loss and continuing unemployment. Financial struggles.

There are now 800,000 people affected directly by an unnecessary government shutdown, 420,000 working with no pay and 380,000 furloughed, which means they may or may not get paid eventually. Plus many thousands more who are being secondarily affected, and wondering how they’re going to pay bills and put food on the table until the mess is over.

Then there are the catastrophes hitting thousands of people at once Disastrous hurricanes and torrential flooding. Catastrophic wildfires. Earthquakes. Tsunamis Loss of thousands of homes with people left wondering “now what do I do?!” Mass shootings for absolutely no reason except hate.

Now you may say these thing happen all the time; we just hear about them more because of the times we’re living in. That may be true, but to the people affected, it doesn’t make it any easier.

You may be directly affected, or you may not. If not, what if you were? Put yourself in their places for a little while, and your circumstances aren’t quite as bad.

Personally our year has been ok, but it’s had its moments. We’ve had medical issues with my husband, actually a couple of times this year. We’ve had friends going through extremely difficult situations, including job loss, serious illness, and loss of family members. We’ve stood by them as they stood by us, because that’s what friends do.

Some weeks it seemed like all we got was bad news. I almost didn’t want to answer my phone or read text messages because it was probably more bad news coming.

Did you feel that way? Do you still? Are you as glad as I am that this year is almost over?

But just remember, we felt a lot like this last year at this time.

We entered into 2018 with hopes of a bright future. Changes for the good. New beginnings. Some of us had them. For some of us, it was more of the same.

So this year let’s try something different. Instead of looking and waiting for change in the new year, let’s help make it happen. Waiting and hoping and doing nothing won’t cause the change we want.

There are 365 new days coming in a new year. 365 opportunities to make something better happen. Sure, a lot is dependent on others, but you still can make a difference by changing the way you look at your circumstances, changing the way you think about them and deal with them. Some problems may not be solveable that easily, but making plans and goals to get you where you want to be is a great start.

And your attitude is the beginning. If you start by saying “I can’t do this without that.” “Someone else will have to do it for me,” then you’ll not get anywhere. You won’t be able to make your plans and hopes and dreams for the new year become a reality.

You may think the grass is greener on the other side, but I can almost guarantee those people with that greener grass think their grass isn’t nearly as green as THEIR neighbors’!

“If I just had __________________.” isn’t the answer either. There’s no magic solution that’s going to make your new year automatically better. It’s planning and attitude. It’s how you see things and how you deal with them. Perhaps, like us, there are a few things you know you’ll be facing in 2019 that are somewhat out of your control, but still, it’s how you handle them.

Because you can’t control everything that happens in the coming year. There will still be losses we will have to face. There will still be natural disasters that we can only prepare for as best we can and hope for the best. And we certainly cannot control the actions of others, and how they affect us, but we CAN control how we react to them and how we deal with it. And not let them get the best of us.

Yes, I’m glad 2018 is almost over. And I’m hoping 2019 is a much better, much more prosperous, and much healthier year.

Yes, there are sure to be tough times as well, but overall I’m looking for good things for this year for all of us.

That’s how I’m going to look at it.

Happy New Year!!

So Now What?

The gift giving is over, at least for the most part. Exchanges have been made, and/or returns have been completed. After Christmas sales have been shopped, and items purchased for next year’s festivities.

The tree is still up, still decorated, but in the past few days it seems to have lost its glow, its expectancy. It almost looks tired. It just isn’t shining the way it had been.

And neither are you.

Is that how you seem to feel when Christmas Day is over and done? All the preparations, the last minute gift purchases, the haste to get everything wrapped and under the tree…everything is over and done so quickly…

And instead of being excited about all the fun you had on Christmas Day; about how happy everyone was; and how it was so nice to be around people you loved and cared about…. Instead you’re depressed and sad, and wondering why the day just wasn’t what you thought it would be.

Or you’re wondering…now what!? “I’ve got nothing else to be excited about, because Christmas took all the joy out of me. All the hype about the season…it didn’t do a thing for me. That one day I’m supposed to be happy and in love with everyone…well it didn’t work very well. Life is still the way it was before. Christmas didn’t change a thing.”

And suddenly you just want to cry; you want to just throw that fancy decorated tree out the window so you won’t have to see the reminder of another unhappy holiday.

You’re not alone, you know. Others feel the same way. It’s not unusual. There are many reasons. You may feel Christmas was over too quickly, and you didn’t really get to enjoy it because you were trying too hard to make sure everyone else did. Or you feel like there was something more you could’ve done to add just a bit more sparkle to the day; one more gift you should’ve bought for someone.

Or maybe it’s just because after all the excitement, the anticipation, and the frenzy of that one day, suddenly there’s nothing left to look forward to except the same old routine, the same life you feel is just passing you by. You’re lonely and tired of being lonely.

What happened to the magic and the hope of Christmas Day? Have you forgotten it that quickly? Where’s that excitement you felt as a child for the next several days after Christmas, when you were exploring all the toys you’d gotten from Santa?
That little child grew up. And life happened. And it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be. And even the excitement and fun of Christmas, the holiday you always loved the most, just wasn’t magical any more.

But it can be. If you let it. If you stop to remember the reason for Christmas. It’s not about how many or how expensive gifts are, or whether you do traditional wrapping or use gift bags. It’s not about how your Christmas tree looks, or how many lights there are on your front lawn. It’s not about making cookies, or if your child believes in Santa Claus or the Elf on the Shelf.

Christmas is still about the birth of a tiny baby over 2,000 years ago. A baby who was the Son of God. Who came to our world to bring love and salvation. It’s hard to remember sometimes when we’re caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season, and all the material aspects. And yes, I’m just as guilty as the next person.

But as the angels said on that long ago night, “we bring you glad tidings of peace and joy and good will to all mankind.” And it wasn’t just for that one night, that one day. It was for forever.

Somehow we’ve let the material trappings of Christmas overshadow the reason for Christmas. That reason should live in our hearts every day.

It should. But it doesn’t always. Because perhaps we’ve forgotten the magic, and what it’s all about.

Instead of being downhearted that Christmas is over, or glad that it is because you were miserable, think about what you can do to make the true spirit of Christmas last all year. An unexpected phone call or visit, a small gift of coffee or cookies, a kind word to a stranger…all the things people talk about doing at Christmas…and then no more. Why not do it all year?
Christmas isn’t just a holiday. It’s a state of mind that’s decorated more at one time of the year than another.

If we can only see it like that. Try it.

“So now what?” becomes “What can I do for someone else now?”

You may be surprised at the results, in both your life and someone else’s.

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Although we realize many of you are having a very difficult time today. Christmas can be a very rough day if you’re hurting.

But let us take the time to share the gifts we’d like to present you with today…gifts from our hearts. Gifts that cannot always be purchased with money; because they’re priceless.

For the woman who’s spending yet another Christmas without someone to love, someone to love her, accept the gift of hope, that that someone you’ve been praying for, and hoping for, will enter your life in the new year, and you will finally find the love you’ve been dreaming of for so long.

For those of you who have been waiting for a reconciliation with your children, or other family members, accept the gift of renewal, that things and circumstances will be made whole again, the past forgotten. May you receive a knock on the door of your heart allowing that reconciliation to take place, and your joy be restored.

For the man struggling with addictions, receive the gift of self-control and strength, that once and for all those addictions will be put behind you and your new life will begin even today as that gift is opened.

For those of you struggling with the first Christmas following death of a loved one, receive the gift of cherished memories that will live forever in the scrapbook of your heart, and the knowledge that the love you had for each other will never die, and that they are waiting for you in heaven.

For the family who’s lost, or about to lose, their home, accept the gift of a new place to live that will be the perfect home, cozy and peaceful, with enough room for everyone.

For the couple who desperately want a child of their own, may you receive the gift of the child you’ve wanted so badly, a child that was meant just for you. Because Christmas is about the birth of a long-awaited child.

For the family struggling to make ends meet on a daily basis, may you receive a gift of financial blessing, a new job, or a salary increase, that will ease your worries and allow you to provide comfortably for your family.

For those who are facing a serious illness… may you receive the gift of healing and the knowledge that the word of the Lord is always true and faithful.

Christmas is a time of hope. A time of renewal of faith and a renewal of the promises we were given over two thousand years ago in a manger in Bethlehem.

On this Christmas Day, be blessed. And may the light of His love shine forth over you as never before.

Merry Christmas to all!!!

The Magic and Miracle of Christmas Eve

This is Christmas Eve. It’s a special day. You can almost feel it. The sense of anticipation, the magic. The sense of knowing something is about to happen.

You can feel it in the air, see it on the faces of children as they visit Santa. You can sense it in the softly lit decorations placed in strategic places in restaurants, storefront windows, in our homes, and yes, in the images we see on line.

You can almost feel the hope, the sense that something miraculous could actually happen. That sense of a peaceful quiet that ushers in something incredibly beautiful…something more special than you’ve ever experienced before.

You can hear it in a favorite Christmas song, the words penetrating your heart and your spirit, bringing a tear to your eye as you realize you truly do believe in Christmas miracles. And you know that one is coming for either you or someone you love. You don’t know what, or how, but you believe it’s coming.

After all, it’s Christmas Eve.

Because on that very first Christmas something miraculous did indeed happen. The world received the gift of salvation, hope, and everlasting love. In the form of a tiny baby.

So take heart. And be of good cheer, as the angels said to the shepherds a little over 2,000 years ago. Because there are still Christmas miracles to come this year.

They come in many forms. A kind or loving word from a stranger to someone who’s hurting. A surprise phone call from a loved one far away. A stranger unexpectedly buying your coffee as you struggle to find your wallet at the checkout register An anonymous gift left on your doorstep, or in your mailbox, and it’s something you really needed.

Or you may be the one who causes a Christmas miracle without even realizing it. A smile to someone in a store who feels totally lost and alone. A “thank you” to someone who isn’t expecting it. Holding a door open for a young mother struggling with a baby stroller and arms full of packages. Giving a gift to a stranger from an angel tree or Christmas shoebox sent overseas.

Yes, miracles still abound, and it seems we’re more aware of them at the Christmas season than at any other time of year, because we need them more at this season than at any other time. It’s the season of love…and loneliness. The season of giving…and sadness because you think you have nothing to give. It’s the season of hope…and wondering when you’ll ever have any again.

But somewhere out there your miracle is coming. In a way you least expect and may not even recognize, even when it happens.

The magic of Christmas is also the miracle of Christmas. It’s not the gifts, or lack of gifts, under the tree. It’s how you feel in your heart, how your feelings toward others suddenly change, and how you see the world around you in a new way, even if only for a few days.

Let’s all enjoy the magic…and the miracle…of Christmas this year. And let’s share it with as many people as possible.

A smile. A kind word. A loving gesture. A handwritten note to say “I love you.” A prayer for those who are hurting.

The miracle of Christmas is within each of us, if we only let it come forth.

It’s Christmas Eve. And it’s time…..

A Message from Santa Claus

You know, it’s not easy being me. It truly isn’t. Like a lot of you out there, I’ve always got too much to do, and not enough time to do it.

You see, there are a lot of children out there in this world. And it’s my job to make them happy on Christmas Day. That is, if they believe, and if their parents cooperate. More about that later.

Throughout so many decades past, I’ve delighted the kids who believe in me with gifts under their Christmas tree every Christmas morning. Sometimes they’re beautifully wrapped, and sometimes they’re not. Their parents tell me what they want, you know.

All year long I’m working behind the scenes at the North Pole, putting together lists for each child that believes in me, and collecting all the toys that each kid wants. The elves very seldom make them anymore; they’re just too complicated. Instead they go to the stores, the factories, and the warehouses to fill the orders.

That’s not an easy task either. Plus, we have to have huge warehouses to store them, with each child having his or her own compartment for their gifts. Can’t have them confused, you know; that would really upset the kids!

Even working hard all year to make just that one night special doesn’t mean we don’t get rushed. Right now things have really heated up, and we’re working almost 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We’ll sleep on Christmas Day, after everything is delivered.

The reindeer are getting ready, too, exercising to make sure they’re in great shape to pull that sleigh. It’s not easy, you know, because with all those toys, and me, well, it’s quite heavy to start out with.

Now I’m asked a lot of times about how in the world all those toys for all the world’s children, can possibly fit in one sleigh. It’s big, but not that big, you know. It’s really quite easy, but unfortunately I can’t tell you. You see, Santa has to have a few secrets that no one knows about, and that’s one of them. Most of the elves know; they have to, because they pack up the sleigh. But every year we have a few new ones, and until I can totally trust them with such a huge secret, they do other jobs rather than packing my sleigh.

I’m also asked a lot about how the reindeer are actually able to fly through the sky, let alone pull a heavy sleigh behind them. That’s one of those secrets I keep to myself as well. I will say this, they are very special reindeer, specially trained, and very trustworthy.

I’m also asked a lot how I can be in so many places at the same time. At the malls, department stores, in Christmas parades…in all honesty, I’m really not. Not personally anyway. But each and every one of those Santas carry a little piece of me with them. A piece of my heart, and a piece of my love for each and every one of the children who believe in me. And all of those pieces come back to me and settle into my heart as the children tell Santa their secrets and their Christmas wishes. But please don’t tell the kids. That’s between us.

Some of the children are really concerned that I can’t get in their house to deliver their toys because they don’t have a fireplace for me to come down. Actually that’s one of the easier problems to solve. Because Santa has a very special key, made just for me, that will unlock any door. But only on Christmas Eve; no other time of year. And it only works in Santa’s hand, so if it were to ever get lost, no one else could use it.

Those cookies and milk are certainly appreciated, too. I have a hard job that night, and although it’s a lot of fun, it certainly works up the appetite! And my favorites are butter cookies with sprinkles, chocolate chip, and some of those fluffy meringue cookies with chocolate chips. And a bit of egg nog here and there would be good in the place of milk. You know, just varying the selection a bit. Just don’t leave a slice of fruitcake! The reindeer don’t even like that!

And those letters the children send me? Yes, I read them. Fortunately I’m a speed reader, so it’s not as hard as you might think. And I’m probably the world’s best multitasker, because I not only read them as I’m doing other things, I dictate my responses as well, and the elves handle the rest.

The Naughty or Nice List? Yes, I do have those. Unfortunately. But just so you’ll know, in order to not get at least one gift from ol’ Santa, you have to be really, really naughty. You see, I love kids so much, I never want any of them to go without gifts from me at Christmas time. I always try to find something they’ve done right enough to be able to qualify for a gift!!

And by the way…that Elf on the Shelf? He’s NOT one of mine. Not at all. I don’t know where he came from or why he’s trying to horn in on my territory, but he really needs to stop. Santa doesn’t participate in that one, and he’s certainly never reported back to me! I think he’s around just to cause a bit of disruption and to irritate me!

Which leads me to my comment concerning parents cooperating with me. This is a tough one. And it really hurts my feelings.

You see, there are parents out there who refuse to tell their kids about me. Or they tell them I don’t exist. That I’m just made up, and that every kid who believes in me, is just totally wrong and should be set straight as soon as possible. There are even adults out there who aren’t parents who spread those same words and thoughts around without even thinking about it. Without even stopping to think what they’re doing…what they’re destroying.

And those children don’t get the pleasure of Santa delivering gifts on Christmas Eve because I’m not welcome in their homes. And I don’t go where I’m not welcome.

Just because you don’t see the real me doesn’t mean I don’t exist. I’ve been around for a long time, doing the things I do for a long time, and making millions of children happy every year. The smiles on their faces and their screams of surprise and delight make it worthwhile. And as I said, their parents do help, because I couldn’t possibly do it all on my own. They are an important part of the magic of Santa Claus at Christmas time.

Those who say Santa isn’t real don’t understand the reality of Santa. They don’t understand I live in the hearts and imagination of children, who pass on the mystery and the wonder of Santa to their own children. And that causes me to continue to live on and on.

Others say I keep kids from focusing on the real meaning of Christmas, so they won’t let their children believe about me. Rubbish!! Let me say this. Over half of the homes I deliver toys to have a nativity scene in their homes, or ornaments on their tree depicting that first Christmas. Obviously they know the real story of Christmas. And they still let me in.

As I said in the beginning, it’s not easy being me. It’s a lot of work, and a lot of late nights. But the happiness I bring every Christmas Eve, the smiles I see on so many faces on Christmas morning (yes, I do see them, you know – just don’t asked me to explain how) make it all worthwhile.

You still don’t believe I’m real? All I can say to that is, I’m really sorry. Because you’re missing out on so very much….

And now….back to work! Christmas Eve is almost here!

A Simpler Christmas

I was reviewing my “to do” list today; you know, the one with all the items on it that still need doing with Christmas less than two weeks away….

At this rate I probably won’t be ready for this Christmas until next year.

How in the world did it all get so complicated? So rushed? So last minute?

When I was younger Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive. I don’t remember taking weeks to shop, weeks to decorate. Making batches and batches of all kinds of cookies to give away as gifts and take to work. Buying an angel tree gift. Putting change in the Salvation Army kettle. Making sure you have all the latest gadgets and goodies for the kids and grandkids. Spending a fortune on Santa photos at the mall. Going to craft shows and open houses and concerts…. Oh, and then there are those gifts still to wrap…thank goodness for gift bags!

No wonder we feel rushed. And stressed. And exhausted.

And wonder why we just don’t seem to enjoy the Christmas season the way we used to. Why it seems like more of a hassle than anything else.

Maybe that’s how we’re making it these days. We’re so busy trying to put together a perfect holiday, a perfectly decorated home, and perfectly wrapped perfect gifts, we forget to stop and just enjoy the beauty of the season.

We stop looking at it through the eyes of a child, who sees nothing but wonder and amazement and excitement with all the festivities. Who can’t wait to visit Santa Claus and tell him what he or she wants for Christmas. Who counts the days, and sometimes the hours until the magic happens on Christmas morning.

While we’re too busy thinking how glad we are that it’s almost over, and we can get back to life as it normally is.

When I was growing up we didn’t spend days and days shopping for gifts. We didn’t spend a fortune on wrapping paper and gift bags (which in my case didn’t even exist at the time).

We didn’t spend days or weeks decorating the house. We only had one tree in my mother’s house; now I have six. And ask myself “why?” every year. We very seldom decorated with outside lights, and if we did there were just a few. Now neighbors sometimes spend weeks putting up their outside decorations, trying to outdo their neighbors, or see just how many lights and inflatables they can put in their front yards. (And don’t those inflatables look awful in the daylight when they’re deflated?)

Santa photos were taken with our own cameras, and we had to wait a week or so to get them developed, and then hope they turned out. When the Polaroid cameras came out we were thrilled to leave Santa’s chair with a picture in our hands to put by our beds to remember that special time!

We didn’t rush out to start our Christmas shopping as soon as Thanksgiving dinner was over to make sure we got a head start on the sales. Or spend the cold night in a line outside an electronics store just to be one of the first to get the best deals when the store opened the next morning.

Our Christmas stockings were filled with fruit, candy, candy canes, crayons…inexpensive items we used every day and really appreciated. Santa didn’t fill our living room with gifts; we got maybe 7-8 presents (if that) and thought we were blessed beyond measure. And we appreciated each and every one of those gifts, taking our time to open them to make the fun last longer. We played with those gifts exclusively for probably a week until we put them away when we took the tree down.

Now we can’t wait to rush out early the day after Christmas to take advantage of those after-Christmas sales to get all the things we know we’ll need for next year, and buy things we really wanted but didn’t get. And we start the madness all over again.

We’re all guilty. We’re all doing it now. Every year I say I’m going to cut back. Only do one tree, not bake all those cookies, not go crazy with gifts, and sit back and just enjoy the beauty and joy of the season. But the house looked unfinished with only one tree, so I gave in and put them all up. I haven’t made cookies yet, but I’m seriously planning to

make no more than six kinds. Yes, seriously.

I’ve tried to resist getting that one extra gift for several people, and really hope I can stick to that plan, but when I say I don’t need gifts for Christmas I do mean it. I just want everyone else to be happy, and save their money for things they need, not buy things for me because they think they’re supposed to.

I really do wish for a simpler Christmas. Obviously it’s not going to happen this year. I’ve already overdecorated. I’ll probably end up making too many cookies again. I’ll probably overspend on stocking stuffers as well. And I’ll probably cook way too much for Christmas dinner like I do every year.

So maybe next year, I can start earlier, do less, and actually sit down and enjoy the Christmas season.


How about you?

When Holidays make us Remember

For me, it happens just about every year around this time. Thanksgiving is done, and leftovers are being enjoyed. Black Friday shopping is thankfully over. And now it’s on to the next task of the holiday season, if you haven’t done it yet.

Decorating for Christmas. Getting out the tree. Or trees, in our case. And that’s when it starts. As I unwrap certain ornaments I can’t help but remember where I got them, and the story behind them. I remember the ones that were my grandmother’s, and my mother’s. The ones my mother bought for us, and ones she’d given us for her granddaughter, especially the baby’s first Christmas series. And my eyes almost always get a little damp….

I really think I’m over the loss, the emptiness of my mom being gone; of our traditions being over, or, I guess I should say, carried on in new ways. But then I realize I will never be totally over it, because you never are. The loss, and the memories, are always there.

It’s not just her empty place at our table; her not being around for our traditional Black Friday shopping; her name no longer on our gift list. Not being able to go to her house during the holidays. Her not being with us Christmas morning to watch presents being opened. She’s certainly with us in spirit, and always will be.

It’s the knowing she won’t be here ever again to share the joys of the holidays with us in our new ways. Her precious granddaughter Ashley is now married, with a beautiful daughter of her own. She never got to meet our Chris, or their little girl Rachel. My mother would have been over the moon in love with our little girl, and I’m sure she would delight in everything our granddaughter (her great-granddaughter) did, every gift she opened, just like she did with our daughter every Christmas. She’d have sat and played with her all day, while the rest of us prepared dinner.

And she’d be absolutely ecstatic knowing that next Christmas little Rachel will have a new sister that my mother would also totally adore. I can even picture the three of them playing together in the stack of new toys Santa delivered for both girls, with so much laughter and so much joy. She’d act like a little kid, right along with them.

My mom never laughed or smiled a lot after my dad died, but at Christmas time, when she had her granddaughter Ashley with her, that’s all we saw. Smiles and happiness. Laughter. Even when our toddler daughter was having a temper tantrum while shopping, or doing something else that wouldn’t necessarily put her on Santa’s “good list”, my mother just smiled and said, “She’ll be fine. Just let her be.” And she was.

I so miss those days. And I think of them even more often now that we have a granddaughter who is so much like her mother. I just can’t help wishing “if only my mother could be here….”

But the past is the past, and as much as we wish, and dream, we can’t change it. We can’t bring our loved ones back, as much as we’d like to. We can only imagine how things would be, picture them in our minds, and treasure them in our hearts.

No matter how old I get, no matter how many years will have passed, I will still have these feelings. They’re part of me; part of who I am. No matter how many years have passed I will still picture my mother the way she looked during her last years. Except her face will have softened, the lines disappeared, and that beautiful smile she had whenever she was with our daughter will be lighting up her entire being.

I wonder if some day our daughter, and our granddaughters, will have these thoughts, these feelings. Especially, many years from now, as they pull out the Christmas ornaments that used to be mine, and place them on their Christmas trees. Will they remember? Will they long for those “old days” as I still do?

The holidays are not only a time of joy and excitement. It’s also a time for dreams; for family; and for memories that we’ll treasure forever.

What memories do you treasure most from Christmases past? What are the things you’d most like to be able to re-live? And what memories do you hope your children and grandchildren will most remember about you?

Happy Thanksgiving

It’s Thanksgiving Day. And all over America turkeys are being stuffed and shoved into ovens. Pies are baking. Tables are being set for a delicious dinner with traditional favorites as well as new recipes from magazines that looked too good not to try. And we‘re hoping they’re as good as the pictures, and not a disaster!

Families and friends have traveled to their destinations and they’re now looking forward to a day of eating, forgetting whatever diet they may be on just for this one day. And then sitting down to watch football, or in some cases, start early Christmas shopping. (Which I refuse to do!)

The kitchen smells of roasting turkey, cinnamon, pumpkin, and nutmeg sprinkled on cups of eggnog.

But instead of concentrating on just the food, let’s take a minute or two to think a little more about this holiday, and what it stands for.

It’s not just a day to read all the newspaper and online shopping ads, selecting what you want to buy the next day, or even worse, later that evening. It’s not a day to complain that there wasn’t enough pumpkin pie, or that you’d have rather had chicken than turkey, or that you didn’t want to spend your whole day with your family, when you’d rather be out with your friends.

It’s a day to be thankful. Thankful for the things that matter.

Thankful for food on the table. Many families don’t have a traditional dinner because they can’t afford it, and have to rely on the generosity of others for their Thanksgiving meal, and then try to see how many days of leftovers they can stretch out,

Thankful for a home in which to have your Thanksgiving meal. It doesn’t necessarily need to be fancy; it could be owned by you, or your parents, or you could be renting it. House, apartment, or condo…you have a roof over your head. This year especially there are hundreds of families living in shelters or with friends because their homes were destroyed by hurricanes, floods, or fires.

Thankful for health, whether you’re exceptionally healthy, or if you’ve been through a number of medical procedures, surgeries, and illnesses from which you’ve recovered or are still recovering. Many people are currently fighting life-threatening or terminal illnesses, and just glad to be here for another Thanksgiving celebration, knowing next year may very well be totally different.

Thankful for your children. Even if they drive you crazy at times (and if you have children, who cannot say that!) or if they aren’t living close by any more. Many, many families have tried unsuccessfully to conceive, and would give almost anything to have a baby. Still others have lost children, and feel an unimaginable pain, especially this time of year.

Thankful for your job, even if it’s not what you really want to be doing. It’s an income, until you are able to fund something else. There are still a lot of people out there who are unemployed, either due to layoffs, business closings, or losing their place of employment due to the hurricanes or wildfires.

Thankful for friends. Old friends as well as new. Friends who are like family. Who accept you as you are, and are always ready to help you out when you need it, give advice when you ask for it, and many times even share your Thanksgiving meal with you.

Thankful for the country you live in. For the freedoms you enjoy every day; the freedoms not enjoyed by so many other countries. A country in which we have freedom to worship as we choose, and freedom to speak our minds whether our government agrees with us or not. Freedom to vote without fear of being arrested or even killed. Freedom to criticize our government.

There are so many other reasons to be thankful today. I am thankful for all of the above, as well as being thankful for my husband and his health, our son-in-law, our beautiful granddaughter, and our new granddaughter who will be celebrating her first Thanksgiving with the family next year.

That’s a lot for all of us to be thankful for. And we need to remember that before we sit down to eat. What are the things you’re thankful for this year?

And be sure to give thanks for your blessings. Not everyone has the blessings that you do! Whether you think of them that way or not.

The Invisible Table

A few days ago I read a Thanksgiving essay by Mitch Albom, one of the authors whose books I thoroughly enjoy reading.

“The Empty Table” is a tribute to his family members who are no longer here, and describes the empty table he is setting this year in their honor, a place set for each of them. And he goes on to name each of them, with a brief description of how they had enjoyed their annual family Thanksgiving meal while they were with him.

It was one of the most touching tributes for lost family members I have read in a long time.

Like Mr. Albom, I have also lost many family members, including my parents. And I so often think of them at this time of year, and if I close my eyes, I can still see them sitting at our family table, enjoying both food and fellowship, and above all, love for one another. Like Mr. Albom, I miss each of my family members terribly. I understand how he feels.

Over the years I’ve written about honoring and remembering lost loved ones at the holiday season, especially that first year without them. I’ve talked about setting a place for them at the table, even displaying a picture on the table by their untouched plate.

But setting an entire table and leaving it empty? I would not have thought of that. But yet, it makes sense.. if they’re there in spirit, why not make them welcome! Honor their memory in whatever way you choose.

Now I am in no way the writer Mr. Albom is. His way with words is incredible and his ideas and style are unique. However, his essay inspired me to write my own version of his Thanksgiving tribute, and I hope you will take a few minutes to do the same.

My tribute is called “the invisible table”. As I can imagine so many of my loved ones, once again together, enjoying a heavenly Thanksgiving dinner, probably similar to the ones they enjoyed here on earth. Now ageless, healthy, and, I would think, able to eat whatever they want, and as much as they want.

I can imagine their heavenly Thanksgiving starting early, because after all, time is eternal in heaven, and its citizens do not need to conform to the earthly time frames that once limited them. However for this day I would think a few bits of earthy traditions would appear in their heavenly homes. After all, the turkey needs to be put in the oven the first thing in order for everything else to be ready on time.

Wait! Cooking in heaven? Doesn’t the food just appear? Already prepared?

Most likely, however, since my grandmother, my mother, and most of my aunts loved to cook for Thanksgiving, I’m sure they still enjoy that in heaven, and still enjoy preparing their favorite dish to serve their loved ones and any special guests who drop by. (But I’m willing to bet they don’t have to clean up or put the leftovers away!)

I’m sure their heavenly Thanksgiving table is beautifully set, with flickering golden candles, glistening crystal goblets, and iridescent plates like we can only imagine. And once the meal is ready, most likely they are all seated at this table, and served their delicious meal by a hoard of angels.

I can see my grandfather, at the head of the table, his wavy hair now full and dark, bowing his head and saying the Thanksgiving blessing, and thanking the Lord that they are all together.

My grandmother, now wheelchair free, sits at the opposite end of that table, the family matriarch, surrounded by her children and their spouses, telling him, “Seymour, cut that turkey and start passing the food before it gets cold!”

My uncle Hilton is there, no longer shaking from Parkinson’s, his wife Ruth and their daughter Julia at his side, swapping jokes with his brothers in law, and planning a fishing trip for all of them.

My uncle Carlton and his wife Kitty, freed from the earthly prison of Alzheimer’s, offer a Thanksgiving toast with heavenly wine, the likes of which have never been tasted on earth.

My uncle Fowler is there, cancer free, wearing one of his favorite lighted Christmas ties, the lights blinking off and on while he’s racing my Uncle Jay to see who gets the turkey neck!

And uncle Jay, also free from Alzheimer’s, is eating so quickly, as always, that he drops food on his favorite Christmas tie, which actually blends in with the food spots from last year’s dinner. And of course, there are my mom’s dogs, all of them reunited with her, circling around Jay’s chair, because he always drops yummy morsels for them to enjoy.

My aunt Mary, Jay’s wife, sits happily beside him, her memory clear, and happily serves everyone a scoop of her delicious oyster dressing. And everyone is asking if she brought her special angel pie for dessert, that none of us have ever been able to properly duplicate!

And of course, there are my mom and dad. How happy they look! Finally together after so many years. Daddy’s hair is dark and full, his eyesight perfect, and his headaches are forever gone. Once again he is with the family he loved and didn’t have nearly enough earthly time with.

My mother is beside him, smiling like I’ve never seen before, because she is finally reunited with the love of her life. Her hair is once again dark and wavy, her eyes still as blue, and her face unlined, her complexion as smooth as it was in the photo I have of their wedding day. And beside them are my brothers and sisters I never met, the babies she’d lost to miscarriages, now finally reunited with their parents, and, like everyone else at the table, begging for her “famous” cinnamon buns that she always made for every holiday dinner. And there were at least four trays of them, lovingly made for the family my mom still treasures.

There are a few empty seats there, waiting for other family members to join them. But that doesn’t put a damper on their celebration, because they know we’ll all be there one day.

And this is my Invisible table, with my family. They are all happy and smiling. They’re together again. And yes, I’m sure they remember us. They miss us, but they know they’ll see us again.

What about you? Do you have an Invisible table? Please feel free to share your stories with us, as I did, and as Mitch Albom did in “The Empty Table”.

Happy Thanksgiving! Be blessed!

When Holidays Hurt

Once again we’re approaching that season. The big holiday season. Many of us are already preparing dishes ahead of time, or at least making our shopping lists so we’ll have everything we need to prepare a feast for our guests.

Thanksgiving and Christmas. Two huge holidays which are meant for celebrating with families. But sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Those happy holiday meals, sitting around a beautifully set table, enjoying everyone’s company…it just doesn’t always work like that.

Many families are divided. Divorce has claimed its ugly toll, splintering parents and children. When it was unwanted by one side or the other, the one who didn’t want the divorce is the one hurting the most. Every holiday ad showing happy families sitting down to a Thanksgiving or Christmas feast; every ad showing families Christmas shopping together, or sitting around a beautifully lit tree opening presents…everywhere they look, they’re reminded of what isn’t anymore. And it’s like a punch in the stomach.

Even when the divorce was mutual, and both parties were in agreement, it’s still tough, especially that first year when families are split, kids don’t know where to go, what to say, or how to act. There are so many memories, so many reminders of what was, and will not be again. What they had perceived as happy times, they wonder about now, wondering if those times were really that happy, or if it was all a show, a bit of make-believe.

Yes, it’s hard. It’s a time when many of those unhappy memories are put away, ignored, even remembered in different ways. Those last few holidays in which no one spoke to each other except when necessary, when gifts were quickly exchanged so everyone could go somewhere else, when the meal was eaten in separate rooms; when sarcastic or hurtful comments were made back and forth…all of that is conveniently forgotten because it’s too hard to remember.

You long for the old traditions, the way things used to be, but in reality, those traditions you think you remember weren’t always actually the way you remember. You just want to think they were.

The holidays are even harder when you’ve lost loved ones. Many of us have lost loved ones on Thanksgiving Day or that holiday weekend. That also contributes to an even harder touch of sadness on that day.

Those memories of the years when our loved ones were with us come back when we least expect it, sometimes with tears we’ve already cried months or even years ago. We know we’ll never have those days again. It hurts. And the only way we can survive it, is to push through it, remember the good times, and do our best to make new memories in this new normal. Is it easy? No, but we do what we have to do.

When I was very young holidays were always spent with my grandparents, parents, and assorted aunts and uncles and cousins. But as the years went by, slowly, one by one, those family members were no longer around. Some had passed away, and some moved on to spend their holidays with their new extended families due to marriages or living too far away to travel back home.

It was hard. Especially as the years quickly passed, and then my mother was no longer around (my father died many years before her), and those holiday traditions faded away until there was very little to be kept. We went from friends’ homes to friends’ homes those first years until we were finally able to establish our own special holiday tradition with our grown daughter and her family. But still, I long for those old holiday dinners that will never be again, to be with loved ones that I will only see again after I leave this world.

There is no perfect holiday, except in our minds. It’s what we make it. The old traditions are gone, but new traditions need to be established, even if it’s just one little thing each year. And as you rebuild your life, from whatever you’ve been through, you build those new traditions.

For our family, that means inviting friends to join us for our holiday meals, bringing one of their favorite dishes as part of a new tradition for our family. They’re welcomed as part of our extended family, and by the time the evening is over, we’ve added more branches to our family tree.

Holidays can hurt. There’s no way around it. And unfortunately for many of you, this may be the case this year.

But I can tell you, it does get better. It just doesn’t seem like it right now. It will always seem different, but it WILL get better.

And you’re not alone in feeling this way.

Reflections on a Tragedy

Yesterday morning I woke up, a bit earlier than usual, with a heavy heart. Something was on my mind and I just couldn’t stop thinking.

As I lay in bed listening to rain falling on our skylights, all I could think was, “Lord can’t you please send this rain to California? They need it so desperately….”

And I starting thinking about the tragedy that is ongoing in that state, all the way across the country from where we are. How so many, many people’s lives have literally been ripped apart. Entire towns wiped out, burned to the ground, with nothing left to salvage but ashes. One minute you’re in your comfortable cozy home, and the next you are fleeing for your very life, with nothing much more than the clothes on your back, your family and hopefully your pets thrown in the car, and praying you can get to safety before you’re engulfed in a massive conflagration.

I cannot even begin to imagine it.

My mind started imagining hoards of people…families scrambling to pick out just a very few items to take with them, knowing it was the very last time they’d see their home standing. Their possessions, their memories, being stolen from them by a force completely out of their control. Children crying and screaming, not understanding any more than their parents. And not knowing whether they’d make it out alive, or if their friends or family members would either.

The pictures we’ve seen are horrible, but I’m sure they are nothing compared to being there, in the middle of it, and experiencing a nightmare that is unimaginable, and one in which you know you will not wake up from. These people who made it out, and the ones who are still fleeing, have literally lost everything. Their homes, their possessions, their very way of life. They’re now faced with picking up what pieces can be salvaged, and trying to figure out how to start over.

Not only have they lost their homes, but the clothes they wore, and in many cases their vehicles, many of which had pieces of plastic literally starting to melt off as they frantically drove away to safety.

We’ve seen the pictures; watched the videos. We’ve seen the firefighters, exhausted beyond belief still trying to stop this inferno and prevent even more destruction.

People have died horrible deaths. From smoke inhalation to bring burned alive. Many are still missing and feared dead. Families and friends are waiting for news of loved ones, praying for the best, and fearing the worst.

It is literally hell on earth out there.

Over 11,000 structures have been destroyed, the majority being homes. Hundreds of people are in shelters, not knowing their future. The death toll is riding and hundreds more are unaccounted for, and may never be found.

And it’s not over yet.

Imagine yourself suddenly faced with this situation. Your home is gone. So are your clothes. Your family photos, any and all of your treasured family mementos.

You probably don’t have your insurance information, and even if you do, how long will it take to process your claim amidst the thousands of others that are out there. And how long will it take to find a place to live, even a tiny apartment or camper?

Most likely your place of employment is gone, and may never be there again. You have no source of income and no

idea when you’ll have a paycheck again.

Your doctors’ offices are gone and so is their medical equipment. Hospitals have been destroyed. Your medical records hopefully still exist on line, but cannot be accessed right now. If you’re out of medication, chances are you have no quick way of getting refills because the pharmacies are gone. Those who rely on oxygen to stay alive, or other electrical powered equipment…what will happen to them? The critically ill patients who were in those hospitals in harms’ way, whose terrified caregivers struggled to get them to safety…what about them?

Food will have to be brought in from other areas, and you’ll have to be satisfied with whatever you’re given, whether you like it or not. Shelters are full and overflowing. There’s no privacy, and already survivors are getting sick from the smoke, the living conditions, and lack of medication.

Pregnant women are facing giving birth under conditions they never imagined. New parents are trying to figure out how to feed their infants, provide diapers, and keep them safe in a world turned upside down.

Schools are gone, and parents are worrying about educating their kids, giving them some sense of normalcy in a situation that has taken away their childhood innocence.

Think of your day to day life. Now imagine it ripped away from you in a matter of minutes. And now looters are going around and stealing what little is left in the abandoned homes and businesses that have somehow survived this holocaust.

Nothing will ever be the same for these victims.

And next week is Thanksgiving. What do the survivors have to be thankful for? Besides being alive.

That’s a big thing to be thankful for.

And then there’s Christmas soon to follow. And I can guarantee each family is, instead of wanting gifts, merely wishing for things just to be the same before the fire. I wish that, too, and if I could make it happen I would.

What is being done to help these thousands of wildfire victims? Actually I have no idea. I’ve seen very little so far about what is being done to help. There is bound to be a housing crisis, food shortages, medical needs we can’t even imagine, and psychological counseling that will likely be needed for the survivors for years. The monetary effects will be astronomical, let alone the human toll on the families affected.

What I continue to hear in the news though, are people still complaining about election results, congressional leadership, anti-Trump vs. pro-Trump infighting, fake news, and how the caravan of immigrants is going to ruin our country. And let’s not forget those who are blaming each political side’s views on climate change and forestry mismanagement for causing the fires. Or even worse, those who are saying California is burning because of their sins; how God doesn’t really care about them. I have no words except “please shut up!”

Why don’t we spend more of our energy on planning what to do to help the people affected by this ongoing tragedy than this so-called election fraud? Or arguing about who should have White House press credentials? Or continuing to insult the other political side for everything they can possibly be accused of, just to stir up trouble and keep their names in the news?

Where are our priorities? Are we that self-centered that we don’t let such things concern us until it threatens to happen to us?

I don’t know what I can do to help, other than donate to various fund raising organizations, but how long will it take those funds to reach and help those who need help right now? And they do need that help. Now. And for months and months to come.

Let’s not forget. It could be us.

It Happened Again….

Another fitful, restless night, waking up almost every hour, tossing and turning, strange dreams rolling around in my head.

Even the dogs were restless. Were they sharing my restlessness and my weird dreams? Or do they have their own weird dreams in which cats or squirrels are chasing them instead of the other way around?

It happens to all of us at one time or another. Some of us more than others. And some of us at very unexpected times. And for no reason at all, at least not one I can come up with.

Like last night when I heard the doorbell in the middle of the night. Fortunately Ben got up to answer it. Then when I heard loud voices outside I got up and looked out the window, where I saw him arguing with two horses who wanted to come in and visit. Actually they were asking if they could rent a room from us for a few months until they could find an apartment! Really? I don’t know what he was telling them, because I woke up about that time.

They were really pretty horses, though, and probably would’ve been a lot of fun to have around. And I bet they’d have loved swimming in the pool in the summer.

The the next thing I knew I found myself attending a party. Not just any party, mind you. But a very special one, held in my mother’s unfinished attic, with a doll table I’d never seen before set with a quilt my grandmother had made, my old china (yes, china, not plastic) toy dishes I hadn’t seen in years, and my old dolls and teddy bears seated around that table waiting for the goodies that I was preparing. In an “oven” that was actually a small chest of drawers, and one of those drawers was actually an oven. I guess it was a magical oven, because it produced a beautiful little cake, fully decorated as I pulled it out and set it in front of the guests.

I hope they enjoyed it. I have no idea, because that’s when I woke up, wondering how that party happened, because I’d sold my mother’s house over ten years ago, and I daresay that attic doesn’t look anywhere near what it looked like when my mother owned it. And come to think of it, it didn’t quite look the same in my dream, either, as when she’d owned the house.

Then one last time I finally drifted back to sleep, and probably right before it was time to get up.

This time it was another of those dreams in which my mom was still alive. You know, the ones in which I can see her so clearly, hear her voice as if she was really here; the ones in which she looked exactly the same as before she passed away. This time we were talking about her dog (who passed away 3 years ago) and how she was going to maybe get little Angel a playmate because she didn’t want her to be lonesome when she left. I told her she wasn’t going anywhere, and reached over to hug her, keep her close, but just as I went to touch her, I woke up. Without getting that reassuring hug I so desperately wanted.

It seems whenever I have these vivid dreams of my mother, I never get to touch her, hug her, kiss her…I come close and the dream ends. But I still have them, and at the time they’re so real I sometimes still look for her when I wake up. And I’m still disappointed when she’s not there, even after 12 years.

Dreams are funny things. We all have them, even if we don’t remember them. They can be serious, funny, or frightening. They can be related to events in our life, or totally disconnected to anything we know. We dream about our past, sometimes changing the outcome of a particular event. We dream about events that are coming up, and it seems they always go wrong, messing with our brain and putting us in a perpetual state of worry. Sometimes they’re so outrageous we find ourselves waking up, shaking our heads and just thinking, “where did THAT come from?!” Or we wake up scared out of our wits because we were in a horribly bad situation that we’d barely escaped from.

For those of you who, like me, have those nights where you just can’t sleep well, keep waking up and laying there trying so hard to go back to sleep before you have to get up, you’re not alone. It may not make you feel better, but as the saying goes, misery loves company. And it seems the older we get, the more often it happens!

Hopefully tonight will be a better night.

But in the meantime, what kind of crazy dreams do you have? We can at least share if we can’t sleep!