MOMMY MEMORIES

LASDI©

LASDI©

They’re everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. In a container under my bed. In a shoe box on a shelf in the closet. Hanging in various places all over the house. On the fridge. In the attic. In my jewelry box. In guestroom closets. In blanket boxes and hope chests all around the house. On my night stand. IN my night stand. In a basket NEXT to my night stand. And for the sake of this blog post and your sanity, I won’t name the many other places they are.

I know this makes me sound like a hoarder, no matter what it is I am talking about. But these particular things I have found are my pleasure to hoard – all the things The Kiddos have made for me, written for me, drawn for me, or given to me that have managed or stay intact.

Each one has efficacy in its own way; value and worth beyond all measure. They stem from the crayon kindergarten scribble to letters in their own adult penmanship. I have a wire cross that looks like lace that was purchased for me at Summer Church Camp. I have a red teddy bear with a heart on one foot and on the other foot is embroidered the year 2003, even though it was given to me in 2004. I have a heart-shaped ceramic box that was painted for me that I’ve dropped, broken, and super-glued back together four times. I have about a thousand construction paper cards and poems. Could be more.

I even have things I’ve saved from their childhood that weren’t given to me, but at some point belonged to them, like one baby shoe. Or their teeth. All their baby teeth. ALL OF THEM. They’re in a tooth-shaped box in the bottom drawer of my jewelry box. Don’t judge me.

I can’t say I was the best mom that ever was. I mean, at the end of each day – even in their adulthood – I ask myself before I pray for them if I’ve done the very best I could, even if I fell short. The answer has always emphatically been yes. Some days were a home run, and some days I should have stayed in the dugout. But I was always a team mom.

Somehow, I knew that part of my living legacy – and the one I leave behind – would have a more profound effect on both them and me by having these things to look upon. It could be the future: “I’m going to have these twenty years from now to look at and show them and we can smile and laugh about it together.” It could be the present: “Let’s take a selfie and post it to my social media scrapbook.” Or it could be the past: “I can’t believe you drew this for me when you were five!”

Oh I know they probably won’t keep all this stuff after I’m gone. But when they’re going through this landfill time capsule, they WILL smile. They WILL know how much they meant to me. They WILL know I was crazy kookamunga, but all in the name of love.

When they were small, I didn’t understand pursuing them. I just knew I loved them, and that their health and well-being depended on me. I knew I wanted them to be grounded, well-rounded, kind, successful humans. But looking back, I think keeping these things was a subconscious pursuit. As they are adulting so hard now, I know being a mom doesn’t ever stop, but it changes as they do. I mega-pursue them now and try to insert myself into their lives in such a way that isn’t obnoxious (I said I TRY) and that lets them know how much they mean to me, too.

I love waking up every morning and seeing the folded note on my night stand marked “mom” that The DAUGHTS gave me the day The GRAND Daughts was born. I love opening my jewelry box and seeing the tiny pink plastic ring Schmooly-Wooly found in the grass one day that he decided he would hand over to me to have as though he were little, even though he was grown and already a part of this family. I love walking by the lopsided hand-sewn pillow in my room that The Sonster made when he was small and away at camp. I love the delicate string tied around my master-bathroom closet door that The Daughts-In-Law tied a Christmas gift up with. I love the patch from The Kid’s Army uniform he gave to me one day at lunch. I love all of it – and I love all of THEM. And they are amazing humans that love me right back.

Yes, I know we can’t take “things” with us when we die. I know that items of value won’t go to the grave with us. But the things I’m talking about are daily PRICELESS reminders of how hard I work to find joy in the hard times life can bring us; pictures of the blessings that are directly in front of us; reminders of how hard I’ve worked to be the best mom I can be, even when I fall short.

I don’t get mad if I don’t get expensive gifts on Mother’s Day. I don’t get upset if every single thing doesn’t go just perfectly. I don’t even get sad if I have work I have to get done that day. I try to turn that day into a reminder to look for even better ways to show my gratefulness and adoration for the blessings that are The Kiddos; ways to ensure we stand united; ways to leave a legacy of faith, hope, and LOVE.

And I also look for more places to hoard all the Mommy Memories that will be coming my way……

NEW YEAR'S PRESENT

LASDI©

LASDI©

Happy New Year! What a wonderful celebration of life we have in each New Year. We put so much stock into it being a chance to make peace with the year of old and look forward with hope to the year to come. That’s why we make resolutions. We resolve to do things better; to make things right.

For some of us, that means removing the toxic things from our life. Those toxic things could be anything from food to our relationships with certain people. I have done this very thing in my own life; in both areas, in fact. I often wonder about that, though. In looking back, I don’t think I waited until the New Year to do so. Can you imagine if I had? If there is something toxic presently in your life, do you say to yourself, “I know New Year’s is six months away, but I think I’ll wait to remove it until then!” If it is toxic, that means it is somehow making you sick. If you have the power to remove what is making you sick immediately, why would you wait?

Most of us use the New Year to eat healthier and / or work out. Right on! If waiting until then is what drives you to be successful at it, then that’s what you should do, as long as it works! But statistics say that 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. 80%?!?

That is not to say I have not done the very same thing myself, of course. In fact, this last January 2nd, I re-started SHEsTox – The Inside-Out Detox & Cleanse. I am the creator, and I have many clients that do it and that also have re-started it, or new clients for the New Year starting it for the first time. I try very hard to live well and eat right during the year. If I didn’t, I am one of those people that would weigh 300 pounds! (It’s happened before!) But like most people, I tend to indulge during the holidays. My week to do so in particular is the week between Christmas and New Year’s. We have so many traditions that are wrapped around food! Chinese takeout on Christmas Eve, Pajamas and PannyCakes on Christmas morning, a smoked goose and brisket with potato kugel for Christmas dinner, any leftover cookies or bread from the neighbors’ Christmas baskets we make (can’t let any go to waste, of course!), traditional vera bizzi (pronounce ‘vedda-beet-see’), full of pasta, for New Year’s Eve, and a greasy, cheesy, double burger with fries on New Year’s Day! Yes. Every single one of those things is tradition. So, given that week of my life, I have no choice but to re-start healthy living!

But that does not mean I don’t try really hard the rest of my year challenging myself to be healthy from the inside-out – in mind, body, and spirit. I don’t wait until each New Year to make a conscious decision to live well. It’s not easy, but absolutely NOTHING good comes easy.

I reflect on the past. If I didn’t, I would have nothing to learn from and no growth in my life. And I always look toward the future. If I didn’t, I would not have goals to meet or success to focus on. But more than either of those things, I try very hard to live in the present. The present is the truth of where we are. And if you cannot find the truth where you are, where else can you expect to find it?

In my experience, I have learned that the continuous search for happiness will cause you to be unhappy, and that the greater part of happiness depends on our outlook and not our circumstances. If you train yourself to live in the present moment and see the blessings for what they are, the things that make you unhappy will be seen as an opportunity for growth. This is not to say bad things don’t or won’t happen, or that we won’t make decisions that aren’t the best, but it is to say there will always be joy to be had if we will only see it and receive it. And that doesn’t have to be set aside for one day of the year! Life’s far too short for that!

So I say again to you, Happy New Year! I pray that every day within it, you try really hard to detoxify yourself from the inside-out in mind, body, and spirit, and look toward your future of success with determination. But mostly, I pray you are able to unwrap the present blessings that surround you!

For the purpose of New Year’s present, I am adding some of my traditions from the week I spoke of above, but with a healthier twist! Enjoy them. They’re my New Year’s present to YOU!

TRADITIONAL NEW YEAR’S VERA BIZZI:

Farfalle Pasta – Farfalle means ‘butterfly’ in Italian, which represents transformation for the New Year

(For healthier version, you can use organic whole grain pasta, or substitute tofu shirataki noodles of any shape)

Kielbasa Sausage – Represents hearty provision for the New Year

(For healthier version, you can use turkey or chicken, or leave it out for Meatless Monday!)

Cabbage – The vegetable leaves represent good health and nutrition for the New Year

Black-Eyed Peas – This lowly pea represents humility throughout the New Year (I use dried, but feel welcome to use two cans, drained, instead)

Onions – Represents the sprouting of growth and rebirth in your New Year

Garlic – This odorous bulb represents continued breath of life throughout the New Year

Carrots – Represents great vision in your life for the New Year

(additional ingredients for this recipe: extra virgin olive oil (evoo), sea salt & black pepper to taste, 1 tbs garlic powder, chicken, beef, or vegetable stock)

If using dried beans, clean and cook according to instructions, sprinkling with sea salt and pepper to taste as you go. Remember, when it comes to salt, you can always add but you can’t take away, so be careful!

Cook pasta according to instructions but using stock of your choice in place of water. Drain and pour into a large bowl. Add cooked or canned black-eyed peas and stir.

Heat a large pan, dry, on medium-high heat for two minutes, then add enough evoo to barely cover the bottom and let heat for another two minutes. Add one small chopped onion and four finely chopped cloves of garlic and stir. Peel and chop three carrots and add to the pan. Cook until barely caramelized, about five minutes, stirring only once in between.

While this is cooking, slice your kielbasa sausage. Add to the pan and cook another ten minutes, stirring only once or twice in between. While the pan mixture cooks, rough chop half a head of cabbage. Toss with ¼ cup evoo, sea salt and pepper to taste, and garlic powder. Broil for ten-to-fifteen minutes, until desired consistency, stirring about twice in between cooking time.

Add sausage mixture and cooked cabbage to your beans and pasta and toss well. Good luck! (Get it??)

BUTTERNUT SQUASH PANNY-CAKES

(this recipe can also be found on my SHE Sure Can Cook Blog HERE!)

2 cups butternut squash

extra virgin olive oil

1 cup almond flour

4 eggs

sea salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp baking soda

coconut oil

For my butternut squash, I bought pre-peeled and cubed at the grocery store. It’s just easier and faster. I tossed them with a little bit of evoo and placed them on a baking sheet. I broiled them for about ten minutes until they were cooked through, and then put them into a standing mixer bowl. If you don’t have a standing mixer, a hand mixer will do just fine! Place all other ingredients up to coconut oil into mixing bowl and mix until blended into a loose batter consistency.

Heat heavy pan (I use my cast-iron griddle, flat side!) without oil for about two minutes. Add about a tablespoon of coconut oil before each panny-cake prior to cooking and adjust heat with each one accordingly. Ladle or pour desired amount onto pan and cook over medium heat until browned. Just like a regular panny-cake, when you see the bubbles on the upside, flip it carefully and cook the other side until brown.

NOTES: This is a great low-carb substitute for bread, which is what I intended for a breakfast sandwich for The Hubster; however, if you would like a sweeter panny-cake, add 1 teaspoon of (organic) sugar to the batter and add your favorite (organic or fully natural) syrup after cooking and prior to eating! I just squashed the bacon, egg, and cheese right between two huge pieces and watched it disappear with a smile on The Hubster’s face!

BUTTERNUT SQUASH KUGEL

2 16-oz store-prepped butternut squash cubes

1 small onion, chopped finely

½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 egg

1 cup heavy cream

½ tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

½ tsp nutmeg

½ tsp garlic powder

Toss butternut squash, onion, and cheddar cheese together in a greased 9 x 13 casserole dish. Beat together egg and heavy cream and pour over the squash / onion / cheese mixture. Add seasonings and carefully fold together until well mixed. Pat down a bit so that it’s a somewhat flat on top. Bake in preheated oven at 350 for 45 minutes. Let sit for a minimum of five minutes before serving!

NOTES: This is FANTASTIC for all you low-carbers like me! (Year-round!)

I'LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

LASDI©

LASDI©

Some people absolutely love Christmas music. Some even start playing it the day after Halloween because they love it so much. I know there are people out there that just can’t stand it at all, but I’m not one of those Scrooges. I love, love, LOVE Christmas music - especially the classics.

So, the other day, I was washing dishes and streaming Classic Christmas Music station and the song, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, came on.

It goes like this:

“I’ll be home for Christmas

You can plan on me.

Please have snow

And mistletoe

And presents on the tree.

Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love light gleams.

I’ll be home for Christmas

If only in my dreams.”

Well. I found myself crying into the dishwater. I have heard that song a thousand times or more and never once can I recall it making me cry. But there were so many things that were rushing through my brain and effecting my heart and crying just seemed the natural response.

The first thing I thought of was The Kid - our youngest son, Jordan. He’s been in the Army for a couple of years now, and we are fortunate if we get to see him for the holidays. But even outside of this time of year, he misses home something FIERCE. He is stationed at a location where there happens to be snow, which is so different from his home here in Texas. So though I don’t think he cares about us having snow, as the song requests, I do know he dreams of being home just the same.

Thinking of The Kid led me to think of all the other soldiers and service people who won’t be home for Christmas. I thought of all the videos and commercials I’ve seen of soldiers surprising their loved ones: a child opening a remote-control car for Christmas and his dad ‘remoting’ it to the front door while the youngster follows it only to find his mommy in her fatigues, crouching with her arms open to embrace the child she hasn’t seen in so long; or the ever-popular soldier-dad who pops out of the basketball mascot suit to his son playing in the game while the crowd cheers. Oh, you can bet by this time, the dish-gloves had come off (as had the false eyelashes) and I had moved to the couch in full-ugly cry mode.

From the soldiers to the civilians who simply can’t get away from their work or who want to go home with all their might but maybe can’t afford it. My mind was racing, and my heart was pounding. And breaking. And my eyes were pouring.

How can I seriously find comfort and joy knowing this? How can I find the silver lining as I try to do in all things knowing people can’t come home for Christmas?

I started running through the song again in my head.

“Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams”……YES. I got it. The love light. Where does the love light gleam no matter where we are?? I hope you know the answer before I tell you: OUR HEARTS! That is why he ends the song with “if only in my dreams”. If he can’t be there physically, he is allowing his heart to be there, just as he dreams it would be if he were.

Even though I wish the opposite of this truth, not everything is a Hallmark movie that has the most-perfect ending. Sometimes we can’t make it home for Christmas. Or sometimes our loved ones can’t make it home to us. Either way, if we let Christmas Eve find us where the love light gleams, we can imagine home and know that the reason we pine for it is because we are loved or have people that love us enough to want to be together! What a blessing. What a love light.

The Hubster and I are always home for Christmas. We put zero pressure on The Kiddos to come see us. Our Fall Family Day, Thanksgiving weekend and Family Festivus, full of traditions are our only requests. They are married now and have other family they may want to be with for Christmas and we do not want them to feel the burden (some of you know it well) of trying to please everyone for the holidays by traversing from one end of the world to the other in order to spend only a few minutes with each family member. In those moments, it seems that we are taking being “home for Christmas” for granted; as though it were something that we grumble about, not thinking of those who wish they had that very opportunity.

But now being home for Christmas has taken on a whole new meaning for me. It doesn’t matter where you hang your hat for the holidays. It doesn’t matter if you are all together or miles apart. It’s where the love light gleams that takes you home for Christmas.

So I will always be home for Christmas. If only in my dreams.

Merry Christmas, Lovelies. May your love light gleam brighter than ever.

SEASONS CHANGE

LASDI©

LASDI©

For the sake of this blog post, I did a quick (un-sanctioned, non-governmental) poll.  The poll consisted of fifty people.  Some I knew, some I did not.  Some lived in my region and some lived in other parts of the country.

I simply asked them what their favorite time of year (or season) was.  Out of fifty people, they all had the same answer: Autumn!  So, fifty-out-of-fifty people all prefer this time of year! That’s some reputation for a season!

I am among those people.  This is the time of year for The Fam when we have our Annual Fall Family Day (NOT Family Fall Day, which means something different entirely!), my birthday, and two of The Kiddo’s birthdays are celebrated, and of course, the holy grail of holidays for my family comes into the Autumnal category: THANKSGIVING!

Some people like it because the leaves turn jewel-tone colors; others simply love the cooler weather.  The pumpkin spice smells, and the chili cooking in everyone’s biggest pot in the kitchen doesn’t hurt, either!  Is it the overcast, melancholy days that make us want to curl up in the quiet with a good book?  There is something special about the energy in the air, regardless of the reason so many people choose it as their favorite.

So why did I want to know in the first place, you ask?  Well, it seems that the energy in people changes a bit as well.  Though it starts to be a very busy season for all, people somehow seem more nostalgic and even a bit more subdued to me.  I notice more grace; more ‘warm fuzzies’.  What is it about a season that can make this change in us?

When I think about that question, I think about seasons in our life.  Not the kind that comes with a solstice, but rather the seasons that come with growth.  I think I can explain it better by sharing an excerpt out of my eBook, ‘Extra Ingredients to A Life of Flavor’:

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The seasons of people that have affected me negatively have engrained in me to be positive.

The seasons of people that have affected me positively have instilled a sense of community and love within me.

We have all had the relationship or relationships that have placed fear or mistrust in us at least once. We have seen seasons of loss and of life. Such is this broken-but-beautiful world.

But the main point from all of it that I have learned and desire to pass on is that every single one of them are valuable and crucial to who we allow ourselves to become.

There are many different circumstances that cause season changes – some of them good and tasty; some of them not-so-good that leave a sour taste in our mouth. Either way, seasons come and go, and they consistently change us.

I have had so many seasonings sprinkled throughout my time here that have shaped me and helped create both my living legacy and the one I leave behind. I can tell you that not all of those seasonings have been ones that I care to recall, though it’s important to my heart and as part of my faith that I do, so that they don’t steal my joy.

Is there a friendship you used to count on daily that has fizzled out and you’re not sure why?

Or perhaps there is a family member you confided in that shared your vulnerability with someone else. Maybe it’s just as simple as someone you love and admire moving to a different place.

And then there’s the accountability factor: what if you are the person that doesn’t feel the same toward a friend, or who abandoned a trust somehow – whether knowingly or not – or had to move away from a loved-one? These seasonings of life happen to all of us – no one is immune.

What do we do with that? We cannot allow these times to make us bitter, but rather to make us better. Making our tiny life mighty depends on that.

Whenever I refer to certain people or times or memories from my own past, I almost always call those seasons ‘seasonings’ because they craft the life of flavor we choose to live. Whether it’s salty or sweet, they’re important to the recipe that creates you.

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So, whether you’re one of the fifty-out-of-fifty people that loves Autumn as your favorite season, or you happen to be a beach lover in the hottest months of the year, know that what you do with the seasons of life that come your way is the most important way to grow.  Make your tiny life mighty – with every single season.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill {defend}, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; ...” ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-22

“While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” ~Genesis 8:22

“At no other time (than autumn) does the earth let itself be inhaled in one smell, the ripe earth; in a smell that is in no way inferior to the smell of the sea, bitter where it borders on taste, and more honeysweet where you feel it touching the first sounds. Containing depth within itself, darkness, something of the grave almost.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters on Cézanne

THE BEACH AND THE PIT

Photo by Adrian Garcia.  This image is subject to LASDI© by Life As She Does It. Please do not reuse without linking credit.

Photo by Adrian Garcia.  This image is subject to LASDI© by Life As She Does It. Please do not reuse without linking credit.

Every year somewhere around the 4th of July, The Hubster and I go camping on our Annual Beach Date Trip.  It's only one night, but it has become a tradition I look forward to so much, that when we are leaving the beach from one trip, I am already talking about the next one to come the following year.

I am a girl who thrives on tradition; the history of things excites me.  I can't explain it.  I'm the one who buys a beat-up torn-down table because it is that way.  I've had someone ask me as I made a purchase like that how I was going to refurbish it, to which I replied, "I'm not.  I absolutely love the cracks and weathered appeal.  It tells me all about it's character."  The person looked at me like I was mad, and it made me smile.

Building traditions is like that for me.  I believe it creates the legacy we live in the present and the one we leave behind.  I don't think anyone is going to remember things I said or did in 100 years, but perhaps I can build traditions in our family that continue to be passed along from generation to generation and that may make a difference both now and long after I'm gone.

It is crucial to part of that legacy that The Kiddos and Grittles (GRAND Littles) see The Hubster and I make time for one another; that we still date each other.  It is vital to the lifeline of their own marriages and relationships.  Hence, the Annual Beach Camping Date Trip!

It's pretty simple, really.  We take our tent, which we set up in the back of the truck instead of on the sandy beach.  There has to be a thermos of wine and two plastic wine glasses.  We take along hot dogs and tortillas to wrap them in - and don't forget the skewers to hold them over the fire!  

Ah, the fire.  It's essential to a successful night, and I mean ESSENTIAL.  We go around the beach collecting wood and shells to create a pit for the fire.  We roast those wieners, sip our wine, look up at the stars, and listen to the roar of the ocean waves (and maybe a little Enya).

We play verbal games that remind us of how rich beyond riches we are.  We play "What's the Top-Five Most-Beautiful Places We've Ever Been" game, and "Top Three Favorite Restaurants", or "Best Family Vacay Memories".  We talk about our wedding, which by no coincidence, took place on the beach.  We never let any sad or unhappy memories interfere with our date - we have enough of those during our regular-life days together!  #Reality

One of our favorite games is something we actually do on our regular days together, but this time with a twist.  On normal days at dinner together, whether we are by ourselves, with The Fam, or with friends, we play "The Pit and the Peak".  This game is where everyone goes around saying the worst part of their day first (The Pit), and then to end on a good note they must say the best part of their day (The Peak).  

Since no worst part of any day is allowed to be discussed on this date, we call it "The Beach and the Pit".  This is where we sit around that fire pit we built in the sand, and talk about all of the best parts of our marriage - the things one has said or done for the other in order to edify them; the times that stand out to us in a great and fond way.  Now sometimes things are repeated from the same game the year before, and that is more than okay.   And there are the new moments from the time we left the beach the year before to the present that we talk about.

It is so easy for we, as mere humans, to cling to the bad.  It is, in fact, easier to place any good on a forgotten shelf if something bad occurs.  We all do it, really.  But life is too short to allow that to happen, so I will fiercely fight for the memories of the happy things - the good parts - even if it means I fight fire with fire by sitting around one and forcing those memories to the surface.  It is the best medicine for those regular days that bring reality back into play.

Do you have beat-up torn-down memories in your own history that tend to make you feel like you need a refurbished life?  Do you allow them to make you feel cracked and weathered or know that it builds character in you and can create a good-and-long-remembered legacy you can leave behind?  Does it make you look back and feel like a mad person or make you smile?

Real life is not always beachy and full of fun and games - trust me, I know.  But it is definitely what you make of it and what you allow it to make of you.  Don't put all the good on a forgotten shelf.  And mark out those times to remember the peaks - even if it means you must fiercely fight to do so.  And in order to see you are rich beyond riches, let the fondest pit be the fire.

beachdate

MY STUFF

LASDI©

LASDI©

This old thing?  Well, I make the most of it.  It's nothing fancy, really.  Sometimes I can make it look fancy if I want, but most of the time that's smoke and mirrors. I often have to put a coat of paint on it, or accessorize in such a way that can give the faculty of imagination to the onlooker.  Even though it isn't elaborate in decoration, the structure is intricate.  It may even look superficial,  but the character that lies beneath it is thorough and sturdy.  

I got it a long time ago, so I'm guessing it is an antique; however, I prefer the term 'vintage' since it makes it sound a little cooler than what it is.  I hear it is desirable because of its age, beauty, and rarity.  Though tough in utility, it's not in mint condition and is actually very delicate, so I definitely try to take good care of it.

I have a very personal emotional connection to it.  I value it's unique features, but sometimes try to cover them up for personal reasons.  There is also a connection to the Spirit world, which helps bring a strange sense of joy to it and can take emotions to the next level. 

The era in human history that it represents makes it extremely nostalgic, so many people are drawn to it.  That doesn't mean everyone likes it or is even interested in learning more about it, and that's okay because it's not for everyone.  

It's a humble thing, to be honest.  In fact, it doesn't meet the standards of most people.  I've often looked at it and felt the same way, but I'm stuck with it now, so I do what I can to make the best of it.  I suppose I could give it an overhaul, but that would be expensive.  I do recognize that it holds uncommon traits, though, so I try to make those as visible as possible - that's a different investment entirely.  That's the kind of price I'm willing to pay so that others can experience the rare qualities measured against others of it's kind.

It's gaudy and ornate, but plain and simple at the same time. That makes it custom-designed, of which I am proud.  I do share it with my family, whether I shine it up or leave it dull.  They don't seem to care either way; in fact, they seem to love it on the days it's lackluster, or the days it seems to shine.  

It's something that can't be sold or even given away.  I really wanted to tell you about it because it's very important to me, and I have such a powerful connection to it.  I've really learned to cherish it and the journey it's taken to get it to where it is.

It's all my stuff.  

It's......WHO I AM - it's me, She!  

Being me is something no other person can be.  I'm not perfect, but I'm always myself and it's all my stuff that makes it so.

What's YOUR stuff?  What makes you uniquely YOU?  Though you cannot be all stuff to all people, you CAN choose to appreciate who you are and the journey it's taken to get you here, and who you want to become and the journey it will take to do so. Give to others what you want for yourself, and know that though you can't control everything, you CAN control WHO YOU ARE.  And you know - YOUR STUFF.

 

OH, CHRISTMAS TREE

LASDI©

LASDI©

Christmas is coming!  I love the Christmas season.  I don’t really have a standout favorite thing about it.  Well, that’s not true.  I LIVE for Countdown to Christmas on The Hallmark Channel.  But rather than have to decide what I like best about the holiday, I choose to like all of it equally: the decorations, the Christmas music, the lights; ALL of it!  But there are certain branches of Christmas that kindle special memories and spark a few flames in the heart.

We are definitely a family that stands united and that stands on tradition.  For us, Christmas starts the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  Every year we go pick out the perfect-not-perfect tree. When The Kiddos were Smalls, we went together as a family and it would take us hours to find the right tree.  Even though they all liked something different, we wouldn’t leave until we all agreed on one.  The Hubster and I would nearly always agree on the tree we liked, and of course, each Kiddo would choose a different one.  At that point, it was time for all of us to go to each tree everyone liked and “sell” the others as to why that would be the Christmas tree for the house. 

But no matter which one we ended up deciding upon, we knew what awaited us when we got home.  Christmas-tree-decorating-day meant The Hubster climbed into the attic and brought all the packed-up Christmas boxes down for us to deck the halls, and it also meant cinnamon popcorn and homemade eggnog.  We turned on Christmas music (the classic kind, of course) and away we would go.

Now that The Kiddos are Talls, they still hold that day as the day for putting up the tree and getting their ornaments up in their own homes.  And so, still, do we.  Now each year, The Hubster and I go and pick out our own tree knowing it’s a reminder of times gone by.  For the last few years the tradition has been for Aunt Lu to come with us and help us choose.  The three of us still do the walk-and-find.  My choice is not always what most people would want, though. 

When I go a-tree huntin’, the big winner is always one that stands up straight, because I believe we stand up straight when we’re confident about life.  We shake the tree, and if the needles fall off right away, it doesn’t get picked.  That means it’s not healthy enough to last, and I intentionally choose health for The Fam so that we can last and be together as long as we can.  To pull a tree out and see if it’s rounded all the way around or flat on one side, and that the trunk is large enough to be grounded into a tree stand, is a big deal.  My goal for my family and myself is to be sure we are grounded, and well-rounded in everything we do.  I especially like the ones that are a little imperfect; the ones that maybe have some sort of gaping hole or seem to have some branches that jut out further than the others.  I like the ones that are blemished in ways that show the flaw, though it may be a little hard to see.  Isn’t that how we are as mere humans?  We try so hard to look a certain way or stand out, knowing each one of us is imperfect on the inside, though it may just barely be enough for anyone to see.

Once we find the precise tree, we place vintage ornaments on it with the greatest care.  Each one gets unwrapped and hung in just the right place.  Now I know some of you have that ornament OCD The DAUGHTS talked about in her blog, The Untidy Tribe, but as for The Hubster and I, we just put them on the tree where we really believe they belong.  If that means a couple hang close to one another, then so be it.  Even with that, there is a parallel to what we feel for our family and community not just at Christmas, but every day – we want to hang close to one another, believing we are in the exact right place with the right timing for each season.

Christmas is coming!  How have you stood united with those you love?  What traditions have you kept or created to give a sense of who you are and the legacy you build to tell your story?  Do you embrace your imperfections, no matter how you decorate the outside?  How do YOU choose YOUR Christmas tree? 

“Oh, Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches.”

BEAUTIFUL GUTS

BeautifulGuts

As All Hallow’s Eve draws nigh, it seems that ghouls, goblins, and grossy guts are everywhere.  I get it.  I get that we have this one day for us to gather in unity to celebrate and glamorize our fears and dark sides.  But for the last few years, I think of Halloween much differently.

To start, I think of a young, gangly girl walking into my home for a midnight premier party I threw for The Hunger Games.  I think of her skinny legs on the highest heels I’ve ever seen – and they were paired up with a mini-skirt and croppy toppy.  Our eldest son had invited her as his date, so she was on the arm of someone I love very dearly, and it put me on the defense instantaneously.  Now I’m a fairly reasonable woman, but when said defense kicks in, I tend to go all “Sheila From The Block” - and that can be quite scary to a youngster like the one I’m describing.  It takes real guts to get through a night like that.

I think of a little sprite who came to a Thanksgiving evening without warning, and started asking for a “sliver” of this and a “sliver” of that, and licking her chops at all the food fare without care.  She was a tiny little thing, and I couldn’t believe the amount of food she ingested.  It reminded me a bit of Gollum referring to his “precious” when anyone came within the vicinity of her eating arena.  It was alarming and charming all at the same time, as she filled her guts with the glorious food feast.

Thoughts take me back to a more mature young lady, filled with quiet countenance as my family embarked upon our Annual Family Festivus at Christmas.  Family picture time came about, and she willingly became the photographer instead of assuming she was to be in the photo itself.  She was content to have been asked to be part of Family Night at all, it seemed, and wrapped arms with me and slid her hand into mine as we crossed the street for dinner.  She then quietly and authentically whispered, “Thank you for having me” in my ear.  And my guts did a butterfly flip.

I think of a quirky young woman, daring enough to be different and wear knee-high socks with the character Jack Skellington from the movie ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’  on them all year long (to go with her Jack Skellington earrings and hair bow, of course), no matter what holiday it is.  Now that takes guts!

I think of someone with so much talent it baffles people.  I see in my mind’s eye all the colorful and creative ways she paints, draws, and pieces things together to make the most incredible art.  I think of the upright work ethic in her gift of artistry, and really anything she does for that matter, and I know how very rare a quality that is.  I see her work her guts out.

I think of a strong female, coming into a family of strong females, somehow knowing just how to graciously fall right in line with them without having to gnarl her teeth in order to prove something.  Gutsy move.

When I think of Halloween, I even think of a hot, breezy day in August near the beach.  I know that one does not necessarily coincide with the other for most people, but for me the two are harmonious.    That was the day a beautiful and blushing bride who looked like an angelic woodland fairy got married.  To my son.  And with all her guts pledged her undying and forever love to him.

Why do I think of Halloween when I think of all of these things?  Because my whimsical and wonderful Daughts-In-Law, Kiren, was born on that day, and we celebrate the holiday much differently from most people.  We don’t celebrate our fears or dark sides.  But we do celebrate in unity.  We celebrate how beautiful she is.  We celebrate how unique and exceptional she is.  We celebrate her ferocious-yet-gentle love for her husband.  We celebrate her fierce loyalty to a family she fits so perfectly into.  We celebrate her beautiful guts.