Ummm, yes, that would be elf on the shelf. Granted my daughter’s elf is rather feisty and loves to hide in crazy places. But apparently the floor lamp was a really bad idea. So, my daughter comes downstairs this morning, ready to search for him and instead finds his whole side burned to a crisp. To be honest, as sad as I was for her, I was just happy the whole thing didn’t turn out worse. Note to parents…. Keep an eye on that elf and do NOT let him hide anywhere near heat!
This, though, is what the holidays are really all about. We plan and plan. We strive for perfection- the perfect tree, the perfect turkey, the perfect Christmas eve vignette. And yet still, things go wrong, and it is only through magic that the Holiday reaches its own, unique, and often memorable, perfection.
It reminds me of a Christmas dinner my sister prepared. She was (and still is) an amazing cook. And so, though she was only in high school, she pulled together a lovely Holiday dinner. The meat was out, on the counter, ready to be served. The mashed potatoes were in the bowl next to it, along with the vegetable and the rest of the meal. She reached up into the cupboard to get the plates down and… The entire shelf fell. Since it was the top shelf, it hit the one below it, which hit the one below that. China shattered everywhere. The kitchen counter and all the food was covered in shards.
I remember sitting in the dining room next door and listening to the cacophony of crashes thinking, Oh no, this can’t be good. I don’t remember what we ended up eating for that holiday dinner… but all of these years later it is still a favorite family story. Hilarious in its sheer magnitude of destruction.
As the holidays get into full swing and your own plans begin to unravel, I wish you the magic, which, just like in the wonderful children’s book The Little Princess, by Frances Hodges Burnett, “won’t let those worst things ever quite happen.”
I’d love to hear your “worst things” holiday stories. Leave a comment and let me know and I will enter you in my December drawing where one lucky commenter will win a $10 donation to the non-political charity of their choice.
“It is Giving-Tuesday after all.” Indeed it is… something that almost got overlooked amongst the trillions of emails I have received between Thanksgiving and yesterday. Seriously, no one could actually open all of those emails, could they?But today I want to. Today I want to open the many emails and Facebook posts and blogger posts and favorite NPR shows and find out about the causes these people most appreciate and support. Like Benevolent.net, spotlighted this morning on MSNBC: a charity which connects donors directly with those in need. http://www.msnbc.com/thomas-roberts/watch/charity-connects-donors-directly-to-the-needy-79285315965 Or like the call on NPR’s Here and Now from photojournalist to do what you can to help the Syrian children refugee – “A book or whatever.” http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/12/03/photographer-syria-portraits I am reminded of the Holiday song by BANDAID which marked my youth, Do They Know It’s Christmastime At All. For many the idea of Christmas is about what they don’t have, what they can’t give their kids, or the people who are missing from their life. I think I could handle all of the other things…. But having to face a Christmas without my husband or daughter would be impossible. And so, the cause I would like to spotlight is Comfort Zone Camp. You may know that I am working to organize a fundraiser based on field goal kicking for this organization. This last summer I was fortunate enough to attend a day at one of their camps. Unless you have experienced the loss of a parent or sibling it is nearly impossible to understand the value of this organization. I like to hope my book, UNTANGLING THE KNOT, gives a glimpse into child grief, but I know it pales next to the reality. Still… as we come upon the one year anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary (Dec. 14th) I can only think of the many children out there who have experienced a loss… maybe not so publicly or so violently, but any Christmas without a loved one is a tragedy. So today I ask you to do one simple thing for Comfort Zone and for me and for the many kids who need help dealing with their grief – Comfort Zone Camp writes…. "As part of today’s #GivingTuesday you can help Comfort Zone, simply by posting to social media! A generous Comfort Zone supporter has pledged to donate $10 for every single post, pin or tweet that includes @ComfortZoneCamp and #GivingTuesday, up to $5,000!" For more information on this free way to help link here: http://www.comfortzonecamp.org/givingtuesday I love the fun of Christmas- the lights and the cookies and the presents. And I especially love that this year I have found #givingtuesday, when I can see through the commercialis, emails and catalogues, and find the real spirit of this holiday season. Did you tweet or post about Comfort Zone? Leave me a comment to let me know what you said and I will enter you in my new December drawing to give $10 at the end of the month to the charity of choice for one lucky commenter.And… it is fitting today to pick the November winner of my comment drawing. Thank you Michelle Bombet for your comment on recycling. You are the November winner! Comment here with your charity of choice and I will send them a $10 donation in your name. Happy Holidays,
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I bumped into this wonderful, heartwarming, and funny, Thanksgiving post on the Catholic Digest and wanted to share it with all of you! (Reposted in its entirety with permission from the Catholic Digest.) I hope you enjoy and I send all my best for a fun and delicious day!
We Have One Job - By Simcha Fisher
Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. She wanted—no, needed—everything to be perfect. She planned and prepped for days, chopping vegetables, rolling dough, scrubbing baseboards, and counting silverware. On the day of the feast, she was up with the sun, full of determination and manic good cheer.
As the day wore on, the good cheer waned and the manic levels rose. Pots boiled over and were turned down; ovens smoked and windows were opened. The clock ticked, and little by little, the meal started to come together. The guests would be there in a matter of hours. Could she pull off the perfect day? She really thought she could.
Then, suddenly: calamity. She ran out of butter! Real butter, creamy and fat, the fuel that makes the Thanksgiving engine run. She had to have some. She shrieked for her husband and sent him out to the store, with instructions to come back as quickly as he could with at least two pounds of butter.
Off he went. And he didn’t come back, and he didn’t come back. She grew more and more frantic and considered her options. She could cook without butter. No, impossible. She could just explain things to the guests. Unthinkable. She could burn the house down and move to Guadalajara. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Just as she began to search for her passport, her husband’s car screeched into the driveway. He was home, home with the butter! Hallelujah, the day was saved!
With trembling fingers, she snatched open the bag . . . and then fell back, the words of thanks dying in her throat. She croaked. She gabbled. She gaped.
There on the table was a three-pound tub of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!
“Boy, the stores were crowded!” her husband said. ”I guess everyone was shopping for Thanksgiving. But I knew you would like this, because you just wanted two pounds of butter, and this is three!”
What the young woman replied, I cannot record here. But she did point out to her husband, possibly dozens of times, that, “It says right on the package that IT’S NOT BUTTER.”
Well, Thanksgiving happened anyway. The food was hot and bountiful, the guests were jovial, and if anyone noticed that the butter was not butter, no one mentioned it. It was a good Thanksgiving.
You may think I’m going to wrap this story up with a moral about how we ought to be thankful for the best efforts of our loved ones, and that what really matters in the end is family, peace, joy, harmony, and good intentions.
But, no. What I’m thinking is, “Seriously, it said, ‘IT’S NOT BUTTER’ right on the package. Right on there! And he brought it home anyway!”
Know who that reminds me of? Me. Not on Thanksgiving, but every week, every day. Every time I go to Mass, the last thing I hear is, “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.” God is telling us, “Look, you have one job. One job. Go and serve me.”
And I say, “Amen, Boss!” and off I go.
And then what do I do? I come back with a giant tub of “I Can’t Believe I’m Not Serving God!” And I jog back into his temple, all hopeful and proud with my ridiculous little package clutched under my arm, and I say, “See? Look what I found for you! Good, huh? Just what you asked for, right?”
It’s not what he asked for. It’s a substitute. It says right on the package that it’s not what he wants. And God opens the package, and he says…
“Close enough. Come on in, thou good enough, faithful enough servant. Come on in to the feast I have prepared for you. Sit down with your family in the home of your Father, and let us have a meal together.”
And that, my friends, is why we celebrate Thanksgiving. Not because we have it all together, not because things turned out perfectly, not because we never disappoint each other, or because we always please God. We celebrate Thanksgiving because God loves us even when we fail--especially when we fail.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love is everlasting.
Simcha Fisher is a blogger for the National Catholic Register and Patheos.com. She has just released her first e-book (with print version to
follow), The Sinner's Guide to Natural Family Planning. She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and nine children.
Author Note: Just in time for Thanksgiving, this is one of my all-time favorite posts. I hope you enjoy reading it as much this time around as the first time.
Overheard on... the phone
“Wrapping each other up in towels and cramming themselves into the laundry baskets may be fun, but it’s not really sustainable fun.”
My sister and I were talking about our Thanksgiving dinner but I found I had to keep raising my voice to be heard over the mayhem occurring in the background of her house. As usual, with a family of six, there was a stack of laundry that needed sorting and folding. However from what I could hear on my end of the phone it sounded like every time she made a pile, one of the kids or family pets would ruin it. Definitely not sustainable fun!
I was intrigued by this phrase though, wondering if it might capture a whole new parenting vocabulary. Not just sustainable fun but also sustainable work or schedule or communication or friendship. At my daughter’s age of eight few ideas stay sustainable.
For example, she recently decided to help feed our dog. In concept, fantastic. In reality, one forgotten meal and the plan was dumped. Definitely not sustainable.
Or we decided at one point that rather than argue about things that made her unhappy we would pay attention when she raised her hand and
discuss it logically, reaching a decision after hearing from her. I think it was the conversation that went something like; “It’s time to-” hand raised and discussion, “I was not going to say homework, I was going to say brush hair-” hand raised and discussion, “If you are willing to go out like that-” hand raised and discussion, “Yes, we still have to go to church.” Hand raised and discussion. … You get the idea. After half an hour of this I had completely forgotten my original request, we were late to church, and she still didn’t have her hair brushed or know what the consequence would be. Definitely not a sustainable plan.
Sustainability, whether in our energy plans or in our families, takes a future view that is not always easy to see through the murk of our everyday lives. We want what we want when we want it. Still, it is a goal worth pursuing. A sustainable goal, if you will.
My sister eventually did make it out of her house, ready for an activity that wouldn’t leave her house in shambles or one of her children in tears. The laundry, however, is still sitting there.
“Harry Reid has decided to trigger the nuclear option.”
And about time! I am so tired of all the back and forth arguing, the posturing and threatening. The thought that someone was doing something, anything, to try to fix our broken system was a huge relief. Fist pumping in the air, I listened as the political pundits debated this move by the Senate majority leader.
And then I became depressed. Perhaps it is my own failing… needing a right answer, an answer that will make everyone happy. At my age I should know this doesn’t exist. And yet I hope. I hope that rather than this partisan bickering we could find a way toward personal and interpersonal peace. When I hear the word War it makes me think of fighting on a battlefield or in a foreign country. But war is waged, every day within each of us.
We really don’t have to look any further than so many family Thanksgiving dinners. Even without the conflict that families bring, our own internal debates about the best way to keep the mashed potatoes warm can be the like a little Normandy.
Peace is warm and fuzzy… it is our rose colored image of what Thanksgiving should be. But, somewhere between that image and the reality of pulling together 7 different dishes, kids and adults, silverware and stemware, I usually lose it. My Zen calm goes up in flames like the yams placed too close to the broiler.
As the holiday approach, as we consider the 150 years since Gettysburg, the 50 years since JFK was assassinated, the year since we lost
those precious lives at Sandyhook Elementary, may we find a new resolve to fill our lives with peace, within ourselves and with our neighbor.
Do you have any good tricks for maintaining peace in the midst of strife? I’d love to hear your comments on this or any of my blog posts. And to prove it, I am going to pick one lucky commenter during the month of November and donate $10 to the charity of their choice. Just leave a comment for any of my blogs and then check back at the end of the month to see if you have won.
Photo - Amazon.com
“If I wrote the things he did I would not be living at the end of a ten mile lane in Maine.”
Over a 1,000 people gathered at Powell's last night to have Jeff Kinney sign his new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book, HARD LUCK
. Like everyone else, we were waiting for our turn to meet him. Fortunately, though, we’d found a spot to sit and finish homework near the book signing location.
It also happened we were right next to the Thriller section of the bookstore, and in particular, Stephen King. As the line snaked by us it was a perfect time to over hear lots of comments about this prolific author. While many of the comments had to do with how frightening his books are, for some reason most were about his home in Maine.
Here’s a different overhear on the topic:“Some friends mentioned we had just passed by his house, so I made them go back so I could see it. And then, while we were driving by, he jogged right by us. They pointed out that it had been him, but I hadn’t seen his face. When I asked them to turn around again they said no way. He was hit while jogging, you know. And since they lived in the town they really didn’t think it was a good idea to drive back and forth in front of his house.”
Many comments were of a similar vein… near sightings of Mr. King, or of his house. But one overhear made me laugh out loud. A woman was talking on her cell phone while waiting in line. So I only heard her end of the conversation. But it went something like this:“Where am i?
Instead of explaining she was near the front, she looked around for a marker. “I think I’m in the Thriller section. I’m right next to Stephen King…. No, I’m almost there. But I’m going to have nightmares tonight. … No,”
(laugh) “not about Stephen King. About this ridiculous line.”
I could relate. I suppose participating in the “Hard Luck Tour” meant experiencing some hard luck ourselvesAre you a Stephen King fan? Have you been to Maine and can you explain what would be so scary about living there? I love, love, love, to hear reader comments. And to prove it, I will give $10 to the non-political charity of one lucky November commenter. Leave a comment on any of my blogs and then check back at the end of the month to see if you won!
[Loud groan] “You can’t put frozen packaging in the recycling bin.”
The concept of recycling, while super beneficial to society, appears to be entirely too complex to apply. How else to explain the number of times I have, (patiently, I believe, though he might argue), had to explain the nuances of what gets recycled to my otherwise amazingly brilliant husband.
Admittedly, it can get confusing. Some plastic is okay while some is not. Cardboard might look fine, but any waxy stuff on it and there is nooooo way it can go in the bin. I understand that it is enough to make a grown person call it quits and simply throw anything and everything into recycling (seriously… tin foil???)
In the olden days, when life was simple, we just had reuse, repurpose, or refuge. Canning jars got reused. Old t-shirts were repurposed as cleaning cloths. Horse manure made great compost. And broken wooden toys got throw in the fireplace. With progress, though, came the ability to create stuff so durable that it could outlast everything but a two year old. What to do with that two foot synthetic stuffed animal that no longer had eyes or an arm? Throw it away, of course.
Except…. Imagine a dump filled with odd assortments of items a two year old has destroyed. It would not be a pretty site. In fact, it would probably be the stuff horror stories are based on. Magnified by our use of synthetic material on everything and that dump has gotten out of control.
I’d like to think I try to make a difference. But in fact, I am as much a part of the problem as anyone. The water bottles alone that I dump each year could probably fill my backyard. And though for a while I tried to use a reusable water bottle, the hassle factor eventually wore me down so that I continue to use and toss as I had been doing.
But while I continue to strive to be better at using less and recycling more, the real problem I am fighting is figuring out which stuff can go in which bin. Organizing, in general, is sort of an obsession with me. So, you can see where this issue would both peak my interest as well as overwhelm me. It would be like giving me something that looks and acts like Tupperware, but then telling me I can’t store it with my other containers. The complexity of organizing would be unmanageable.
So I understand where my husband struggles, really I do. If I could, I would live my life in my favorite store, New Seasons. There they have simplified the process of throwing things away. Pictures to tell me what goes where, canisters for each thing, limited choice of containers to only those that go into one of the bins they make available and pictures they show: this is how I would like to live my life.
I suppose the moral of the story is that more choice isn’t necessarily always a good thing. It would be fine if all of that waste didn’t add up to an earth overcome with garbage; but it does. So although I refuse to put pictures of all of our different types of garbage on my refuse and recycling bins, I do think it is time to simplify the challenge. If it is too difficult to decide where to throw the empty ice cream container, well then I suppose I will have to stop buying ice cream for the family.
And then, we’ll see how long it takes my otherwise perfect hubby to catch on to the fact that frozen containers don’t go in recycling.
Where are you on the spectrum of recycling? Do you have a good way to remember what goes where? I love, love, love to hear your comments, so please leave me some. No, really! And to prove how much I love hearing from you (and I know you are out there, because I get statistics on how many people visit this fun blog:>) I will donate $10 to the charity of choice for one lucky commenter in the month of November. Simply leave a comment and then check back at the end of the moth to see if you won.
Harold Percival, courtesy of the AP
“Hundreds attend the funeral of someone they didn’t even know.”
I love this story! Harold Jellicoe Percival was in the Royal Air Force in England and served during WWII. He died recently at age 99. And since he never married or had children, the only expected attendee of the service was a nephew.
However, the funeral home hosting the service put an advertisement in the paper, inviting other veterans to come and honor his life. Over 400 people ended up attending though when the post went viral on social media. There were so many people there, in fact, that most couldn’t fit in the chapel and had to stand outside in the rain while the service was going on. (Link here for more on the BBC story.)
Listening to the newsflash about the memorial service I was struck by curiosity about why so many people who didn’t even know him attended. Yes, he was a veteran. As ground crew he inspected and repaired planes that flew over France during battles. He had not been decorated a hero. There was no autobiography making him famous, no site named after him. People came, simply to honor a man who served.
To me it feels like people rarely pay attention to individual stories unless they have had a direct and tangible impact on their own life. We are grateful, I think, for holidays, like Veterans’ Day or Memorial Day, when we can pay this tribute. But then again… I wonder how many people spent their Veterans Day yesterday doing something other than watching football or going bowling (the two things we ended up doing with our day.) I think this is why this overheard was so immediately heart warming for me.
I realized, in thinking about this memorial service attended by so many, that each life story deserves to be told and honored. Deserves, if nothing else, an a tweetable epitaph. Mr. Percival knew how to fix engines and fight the Nazis. He loved cricket. Nomadic by nature, he carried a backpack to travel. #tweetpitaph
I am so glad to see that, in this case, Mr. Harold Percival was honored with far more than 140 characters.
Is there anyone you would like to honor with a tweetpitaph? Did you do anything special to honor Veterans’ Day? I love to hear from my blog readers. And to prove it, I am donating $10 to the non-political charity of one lucky commenter this month. Leave a comment for any of my blogs, and then check back at the end of the month to see if your name was drawn.
“They fight when they’re unsure if they understand it themselves.”
We had a 4th grade parent meeting at school and were discussing how the kids seem to be getting angry when we, as parents, try to help them with their homework. “That’s not how the teacher wants us to do it.” Seems to be a common statement in many homes right now, and the teachers were clarifying that, while this is age appropriate, it is not true.
The fact is, with the new Common Core Curriculum, the more ways they learn how to do something the better. The problem is that at this age their uncertainty in themselves turns to a fear of being seen as lacking. What to us seems like help, to them feels like judgment.
This idea that help represents a comment on our ability can follow us into adulthood. As a writer I definitely sometimes feel like this when my work is being critiqued. Our first response can often be to claim the other person doesn’t understand. In fact, you should hear me bicker with Word’s grammar checker when it points out all of the fragments in my writing.
But pride, whether in our academic knowledge, appearance, or social standing, comes at a sever cost. Something I was reminded of while watching Gone with the Wind over the last couple of nights.
I guess it has been a while since I have watched the movie in its; entirety. Or perhaps I now have the maturity to better analyze it. Whatever the reason, I found myself both sympathetic to and disgusted by Scarlett. Pride makes us say and do the very worst things. Like this statement by Scarlett:“You know it's yours. I don't want it any more than you do. No woman would want a child of a cad like you... I wish for anybody's child but yours.”
(Gone with the Wind
- By Margaret Mitchell)
We know this is a lie, just as she knows it is a lie. She missed him when he was gone and had been excited to tell him about the baby… until he told her he planned to leave again. Then, in order to save her pride, she said this awful thing to him.
Pride, though, is a difficult companion to let go of. Like the shell on an armadillo, we feel like pride protects us from the weakness of our own insecurities. So how do we help our children, or ourselves, find the courage to move beyond its hold?
Louisa May Alcott wrote, in Little Women
, “… for love casts out fear, and gratitude can conquer pride.”
And so, my gratitude for the gift of being able to write means that I even accept a computer telling me that my grammar needs improvement. And my gratitude that I get to share my daughter’s learning means that I can sit
through her angry accusations of my own inequities without it becoming about me.What are you grateful for? Has pride ever kept you from something you really wanted? I love to hear from my readers. And to prove it, I am giving away my left-over Thanksgiving meal to one commenter during the month of November. :>) Just kidding. Actually… I will donate $10 to the (non-political) charity of your choice if you win the November drawing. Just leave a comment for any of my posts and check back at the end of the month to see if you are the lucky winner.
“Argh! I don’t remember which site it was on.”
The growling and grumbling was emanating from my office where my daughter was stuck in that black hole of searching for a particular game she had played on one of the sites she is allowed to visit. I am sure we could all commiserate with her. After all, I’m back to looking for the Christmas presents I hid just weeks ago in a place I was sure to remember them this year. Not!
And, since the internet is far bigger than my home, imagine all of the places I would have to search to find that one website I saw months or years ago. I know, I know… there is the favorites tab. I promise, I do use it. But, unless you have an accountant mentality, or your own personal assistant to help set it up, the organizing underneath favorites can end up looking like, well, my closets.
This picture, above, is taken of my office. I shudder to list the items that this closet stores for me; scrapbooking tools (rarely used), files, boxes of books, all of the school photos of my daughter, left-over fabric from projects- the list could go on for the entire length of this blog post.
So, it should be obvious you would not want to see my favorites tab. There are three different tabs for writing. One of them is broken into two more tabs for setting locations. The same is true for Italy, school, food, travel (also in Italy and in writing). My own circular logic catches me, so that I can’t decide if a recipe for lasagna would be in family, food, travel, Italy or writing. Ultimately it is found in Christmas (I must have been tracking recipes to make over the holiday that year).
Recently I too have found myself searching all connections, all favorites tabs, all top sites, and even my own blog, for a site I found about a year ago. I can’t quite remember how I originally came across it- though I think it might have been one of my Linkedin connections. But in any case now I can’t recreate that path no matter what I do.
My last shot is to ask all of you. Do you know of a site that supports crowd-sourced publishing? I am not looking for one that offers fund, but rather one where the resources can come together and agree to create the project. So, for example, I would list my book idea and then solicit an editor, marketer, cover designer, who would agree to work on the book for a percent of the royalty.
So far, in my searches, I have found sites that crowdfund
book projects (like Indiegogo or Pubslush), or sites that aggregate these resources (like Writer.ly). But I have not yet found one that pulls together the actual resources. I know it exists… I found it once, many months ago. I probably even bookmarked it.
But, since I am at a loss, I’m offering a special bounty for finding this site. Leave a comment with your suggestions and a link and if you are the first to get me to the correct site I will give you an e-copy of either of my books (BETTING JESSICA
or UNTANGLING THE KNOT
a PDF of my as yet unpublished third book, MOLTO MAYHEM
– PLUS I will donate $10 to your favorite (non-political) charity.
Good luck, and happy searching.Deanne
Note: October is now over and I have selected the winner of the drawing for my book, UNTANGLING THE KNOT
. Thanks for all of the comments. The winner is… Judith Ashley
. Write to me to claim your prize!