2018 is coming to a close…

As we come to the end of 2018, I spent much of the day today cleaning, getting ready to put away the rest of the holiday decorations tomorrow, so that we start 2019 with a clean house.

While cleaning, I reflected on the past year, and thought of some of the best moments of the year (in no particular order) — there are so many more I could add:

  • More Than I Can Say being published.
  • My first, and more, book talks — and having family join me in them.
  • Signing a publishing contract on Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude.
  • Harvesting honey for the first time.
  • Seeing our new winter squash patch thrive.
  • Watching our youngest move into his first apartment.
  • Seeing my mom get back her movement after her accident last year.
  • Seeing our grandchildren grow and thrive.
  • The rainbow at Tumble Down.
  • Going to Indiana to see family.

While I will always spend far too much time focusing on what I didn’t do, or what I should have done, I also recognize and rejoice in the time spent with family and friends this year.

What were your best moments in 2018?

What do you say besides thank you?

The last few days, since Christmas, have been especially busy. Lots of errands, visiting family and friends, some long overdue home chores (yes, I did match 62 pairs of socks found while cleaning kids’ bedrooms!), and taking care of some things for our parents.

In the midst of the running around, I have also had the strange experience of having lots of people I know read an article in the local paper about me. I still don’t really know how to respond when people talk about my books, and still feel like I am fumbling around for the right words. But I am so very touched by the outpouring of love and support. So in the end, the thing that I need to say more than anything is thank you. Thank you all for your support. Thank you for reading my book. Thank you for loving us, and especially for loving Sam. Thank you for your words about how Sam touched your lives, or if you didn’t know him personally, how you want to try to “do a Sam.”

Thank you is the best thing to say. Thank you.

Being Thankful

As Christmas Day winds down, I am thankful for so much and so many. I am thankful for the tradition of going to a service last night, then driving to see the holiday lights before coming home and seeing the most amazing natural spectacle of an owl and fox both trying to get the same dinner, then lighting the candles around Sam’s tree.

Today, I am thankful for some old traditions (what we served for breakfast), and new ones (going to Ripton to see my parents). I am thankful for the time with our sons, time laughing, remembering, celebrating.

I am thankful for our animals, all of whom had special treats today, and got extra attention. I am thankful for a wonderful afternoon meal with family. I am thankful for text messages, calls, and emails from loved ones.

I am thankful for love, joy, support, hope.

You can’t do both!

As I finish the preparations for our Christmas Eve dinner (meat pie, of course!), and get ready for Christmas tomorrow, I am struck by the anger and divisiveness in our world right now. As we ran errands this morning, I was struck by the number of people buying cigarettes, alcohol, and juuls. Not necessarily the signs of people feeling the joy and peace that we are told we should feel right now.

So here is my take on what is going on right now. Christians are told that we follow Christ, but right now, a lot of what we are all doing does not seem to be in alignment with what we were taught about Christ in Sunday School. We were taught to live simply, shun material riches, and yet every time you turn around right now, you are bombarded by ads for buying the biggest, most expensive, least necessary things possible. We were taught to love our neighbors, but then we see laws popping up across the land that shun or allow people to be treated horribly for just being themselves. We honor a refugee (remember when Mary, Joseph and Jesus had to flee?), but we shun refugees… We honor a man who said to feed the hungry (and did!) and yet we are turning away from those who need. You can’t, I can’t, do both. You have to pick a side.

I often go back to Gandhi’s quote about liking Christ but not Christians. No, I am not shunning Christians, but I am stating that I don’t think any of us can call ourselves that if we don’t follow Christ’s teachings.

So, as we get ready, as Christians, to pause to honor the birth of Christ, how about we stop worshiping the baby who is so easy to love, and instead follow the rabble-rousing rebel who shook up the status quo?

As for me, I will continue to pick a side. I pick the side of feeding the hungry, loving those who are hard to love, welcoming those who need sanctuary, and just plain loving my neighbors.

What about you?

While I was wrapping…

This past week was stressful for reasons outside of my control, and some of it was very, very public. Beyond the normal stresses of getting ready for the holidays, the constant weight of grief and the emotional fragility of the holiday season, there were other challenges that tested my strength and resolve. And oh yeah, I also did my first newspaper interview about my new book.

Today, I had some time to myself to wrap gifts, and while I did it, I thought a lot about the past week, and came to some realizations. The first realization was how amazing my husband and children are. Throughout it all, they stayed calm and supportive, picked up the slack for me, made me laugh, and reminded me that love is all that really matters at the end of the day.

The second realization was that I have been truly blessed with some of the professional role models I have had in my career. Last weekend, I dropped off copies of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude to two women who were my very first professional supervisors. Just that they wanted to read the book touched me deeply. But then with all the craziness this week, the first person to reach out to me was one of those women.

For the years I worked for her, she often said, “If we believe behavior speaks, we need to listen.” That has been one of my professional mantras ever since. (The other is “treat each child as if they were our own.”) She would say it over and over, and encourage me (and others) to look at the behaviors children showed as their way of telling us what they needed. When she reached out this week, she reminded me of that again, and those simple words, shortened to “behavior speaks,” made me refocus, recommit, and keep going. Those two simple words meant more than I could express when her message arrived, and still do.

Behavior speaks, and we need to listen to what it says. That is true for all of us. So hopefully my behavior speaks too, and hopefully, my behavior is showing that I am internalizing Sam’s message of unconditional love.

Two pictures

Today I was asked to share a picture of Sam that could be used to go along with an article about Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. My original thought was to share the picture of him (his senior picture) sitting at the top of his favorite mountain.

But family members suggested differently, wanting one of the pictures of him taken during his last summer, when he was working on the farm in Brandon. And they were right. Sam loved farming, he loved his farm friends, and those pictures are just plain beautiful

Here’s the thing. Those photos are beautiful. They are so Sam. When they were taken, I loved them immediately, and they made me happy. Now, I still love them, but I admit, as I smile at them, my eyes are filled with tears.

As I have said before, grief doesn’t get easier with time. It gets different. I love those photos, I love Sam, and I wish I could take more photos of him still…

Wrapping? Not today!

I had planned to wrap today. Really, I had. It didn’t happen, but that’s okay.

First, we cut our Christmas tree, and while I thought the plan was to bring it in the house later in the day, our oldest and youngest sons had a different idea. While I was slowly walking back up the hill, talking to the chickens, they decided to pull it right in the house, even though it hadn’t been cut to the right height yet. As I came around the corner of the house, as our two year old twin grandchildren were shrieking in delight as they got out of the car, the four year old was chasing her uncles into the house following that tree. Needles everywhere, little ones running around, huge tree spreading through two rooms.

An hour later, the tree was cut to the right height, it was up in the stand, the needles mostly cleaned up, and three little helpers running from end to end in the house. A little while later, all nine of us were seated at the table, enjoying a family lunch together.

Now, the day is coming to an end. The meat pies for Christmas Eve are baking in the oven, the laundry is almost done, and it is time to take a break. Phew! So tired, but how much fun to have them all together for a bit today.

Wrapping Presents

Somehow over the years, I became the unofficial wrapper of the majority of the gifts we give as a couple or family. And I’m not very good at wrapping presents. There are members of my extended family that wrap presents with crisp corners, neat seams, flat and limited amounts of tape. The bows sit neatly on the packages.

Not mine. Mine look a lot like they got dropped several times on the way to the Christmas tree. The paper often has small tears in it as I struggle to make the packages as neat as possible.

The thing is, even though I complain about being the family wrapper, I actually like to do it. I put up a table in our bedroom, either put on junk TV or holiday music, and wrap, wrap, wrap. Sometimes I forget what is in a package so I have to peek before I put the tag on it. Sometimes I get frustrated or bored and put smaller things in envelopes that I put in the tree like decorations.

This weekend I plan to do the wrapping. Not sure if it will happen or not. Going into it, I am telling myself that this is the year I will cut the paper properly, make crisp corners, not rely on lots of tape to hold it all together, and will not have crinkled and bunched up tape on the seams. This is the year I will write the tag first, then wrap the present and put the tag right now. That’s the plan — I’ll let you know how it goes.


Holiday Traditions

As we move further into the holiday season, I’ve been thinking about holiday traditions. My own family had some odd ones. For example, because my father is a minister, every Christmas Eve of my growing up had me folding bulletins for church that night. I still have the urge to carefully crease paper on Christmas Eve. Then there was the tradition of everyone sitting together on Christmas morning and you each opened one present at a time, from youngest to oldest. Of course, before long, only the youngest few had any left to open, but the forced order gave us more time to focus on each other, enhanced the anticipation, and caused a lot of laughter about who is the oldest.

In my husband’s family, one of their traditions was eating French Canadian meat pie around Christmas. I’d never heard of such a pie before we got together. But on one of our earliest Christmases together, he asked me about making the pie for Christmas Eve dinner. I learned how to make it, love eating it, and now it is a tradition every year. The funny thing is that tradition has now spread to my parents, who take a pie home for Christmas dinner.

What are your holiday traditions?