And another year comes to a close

The last day of 2008 has arrived. I have lived on this earth for 15,390 days. (Don’t bother to do the math. I’ll just admit I’m a member of the over 40 crowd.) During all that time, I have lived and breathed and awakened each day to make my way through the next 24 hours, but I haven’t always really lived. Except for a handful of memorable ones, I can’t recall what I accomplished or how I passed the time during most of those days. There were weeks that I wished would end quickly. There were times when my eyes were  shut to everything going on around me. I have raced through phases of life, anxious to move onto the next, only to realize I had missed something important in my rush to move on. Much of that time was a gift that escaped my attention because I was too busy to notice or too closed off to care. But I have also grown in many ways.

Today marks the end of another calendar year and as I look back on the last 365 days, I realize that I am still learning, still growing and figuring out how to embrace life. I just wish it hadn’t taken so long. And hopefully the journey will never stop as long as I am still breathing.

There is nothing that opens one’s eyes to the precarious nature of life than the possibility that a loved one could be whisked away too soon. I spent much of the first half of this year dwelling on that very possibility. My dad’s kidneys were failing. I had been tested and knew I was a good match to be an organ donor, but the weeks and months until the final testing and surgery seemed to drag. Not a day went by when I didn’t think ahead to when we might actually be able to go through with a kidney transplant. And in the end of July it became a reality. Right through the day of our operations, there were concerns about my dad’s heart being strong enough to withstand such a major surgery, but it was. He made it. We did it! My kidney is now functioning very successfully in my dad’s body. I will never forget opening my eyes to see the team of transplant surgeons surrounding my hospital bed, telling me that all went well, looking at me with what seemed to be a sort of admiration. Donating my kidney was one of the most amazing and humbling experiences I’ve ever had. I would do it again in a heartbeat! (Well, except I kind of need the one that I have left.)

Kidney 001 by you.

I still own the one on the right. The one on the left went to live with my dad.

 

 

IMG_7680 by you.And if that experience weren’t enough to remind me that each day is a gift, the point was driven home in June when Brad and two friends were involved in a roll-over car accident on a busy highway one Sunday afternoon. Justin, the driver suffered a seizure and lost control of the truck. The fact that they all walked away, relatively unharmed reinforced my belief that sometimes miracles do happen. I now hug my kids a little tighter and tell them I love them even more often than I did before.

Thankfully, the rest of the year was lacking in such major events, but the seeds of change had definitely been planted. I found myself reaching for more and stretching beyond my self-imposed boundaries.

I began to explore my faith in ways I never had before, shrugging off some of the “restrictions” of the faith in which I grew up. It became a journey I’ve often enjoyed. Church became something to look forward to. For the first time ever, I discovered I could be excited about my faith and that it might be ok to worship in places of other faiths.

I worried less about what other people thought.

I realized the importance of spending as much time with my kids as possible. They grow up too fast.

I learned that another person’s negative attitude doesn’t have to become mine. Trust me. It took me all this time to figure that out!

I realized that no matter how old I am, I am never too old to keep learning, and discovering  and exploring and reaching.

And yes, I still had my bad days. Plenty of those. Of course, it’s hard to appreciate the good without the bad, so I guess even the bad days are a blessing in disguise.

IMG_7694_1 by you.I really only have one goal for 2009. Make every day count. I want to find something significant in each and every day that comes along.  I want to take risks and never stop exploring. I’ve wasted too much time already.

Happy New Year, everyone!

The Fourth Folder, Fourth Photo Meme

Mike at Unraveling Life’s Mysteries tagged me with a meme. And as I explained to Mike, I’ve become a bad memer. I used to faithfully play along with each and every meme that came my way. And then somewhere along the line, half-finished memes started piling up in my drafts. It became overwhelming, and in true Terri-fashion, I chose to simply ignore them rather than try to get them all completed. (If you think this says anything about my personality, you are right. Don’t even ask what happens when I fall behind in balancing the check book. Also, please don’t go in the walk-in closet. We may never find you.) But this meme seemed easy enough, so I promised I’d do it.

The rules (which you may choose to follow, bend or break as you see fit) are as follows:

  • Go to the folder in which you keep your digital photos.
  • Choose the fourth folder.
  • Find the fourth picture in that folder.
  • Explain.
  • Tag four people.

I had to break the rules right off the bat. I had to. No, the little Devil Terri wasn’t sitting on my shoulder taunting me into being a rule breaker. It’s just that when I went to my fourth folder, there were only three pictures there.

Now what?

So, being the creative minded person that I am pretend to be, I figured out a new plan! I found the fourth to the last folder instead. And as long as I was bending the rules, I chose the fourth to the last picture in that fourth to the last folder. And this is what I found:

scanned-terri-059

That’s my Jake at, oh… I want to say, maybe four months old. We didn’t know it then, but this picture clearly shows his “lazy eye.” He ended up having to wear glasses for a while starting when he was three years old because one of his eyes kept crossing. He hated those glasses and never wore them if he could get away with it. Eventually, that eye righted itself and the glasses were no longer needed. Thank God! (That was probably way more explanation than was necessary, but if you know me at all, you know that I am rarely capable of keeping it short and sweet.)

I scanned this picture recently for Jake’s soccer banquet. The senior players were featured in a slide show and we were asked for baby pictures and youth soccer pictures. Wanna see the youth soccer picture too? Ok, twist my arm:

scanned-terri-060

Look at me, just bending, twisting and breaking the meme rules all over the place! But really, how could I resist? I mean, look at this kid? Is he not just the cutest? Look at those chubby cheeks! Don’t you just want to squeeze them?

Oops… what’s this?

jake-soccer

Well, you know I had to throw his senior soccer picture in there too. I can’t believe how much he’s grown up!

Ok, enough pictures already. I just blatantly broke all of the meme rules and as long as I’m at it I might as well keep going. I’m supposed to tag some people, and I usually refuse to actually do the tags, but open it up to anyone who wants to give the meme a try. That sounds like a solid plan. Go ahead and grab this one if you like!

Navigating the Ice

The blare of the alarm clock yanked me out of a deep sleep this morning. Some mornings I open my eyes and greet the day with clarity. Others, like today, I struggle to break through the haze of my slumber.  Mine is a motion sensor alarm clock, so I only have to wave my hand in front of the face of the clock to make it snooze for another five minutes. I waved and waved to no avail. The annoying beeping continued. What was the problem? Finally I felt the mattress dip on the other side of the bed and heard the click of my husband’s alarm clock as he reached to shut it off.

That’s right. Mark was the one who had to get up and go to work, not me! But since I was already awake, I decided to go for the run I had been planning on anyway. I checked online for the temperature. Eight degrees. A little cold, but the windchill wasn’t below zero, so I bundled up. I slipped on my new pink Under Armour Cold Gear shirt, given to me by my in-laws for Christmas. I laughed to myself when I recalled how my mother-in-law watched me open the gift, then quickly told me if I didn’t like the color, I could exchange it for another. I told her the color was great. I didn’t mention that it really didn’t matter since it the shirt would always be layered underneath something else. Paired with the Under Armour leggings I already had, it served its purpose well today. I added wind pants, a sweatshirt and wind shirt. Then I donned an ear band, a neck gaiter and some warm gloves and was ready to face the wintery morning.

On Friday it rained here and then the temperatures dropped, leaving the roads and paths covered with ice. I was hoping it had warmed up enough yesterday to cause the ice to melt. The roads were good, but the paths were still glazed over in patches. It might have been wiser to stay home, but I was already in the mind set for a run so I avoided the paths and stuck to the side of the road instead. 

The sun had yet to rise and it was blissfully quiet as I ran, the darkness illuminated periodically by the streetlights along the way. There wasn’t another soul in sight and there was almost no traffic, save for a lone car or two. The only sound was that of my feet hitting the pavement and the whishing sound made by the nylon of my windpants and jacket with each stride I took.

I had been worried that I would have lost momentum with the almost week long break I was forced to take last week due to the weather, but my body was back on track this morning. I’ve begun to take a new route; one that I wasn’t brave enough to take when I first started running a few months ago. I live in a valley, so no matter which direction I go, it’s an uphill climb. For the first couple of months, I followed a path that allowed me to make the uphill climb gradually, taking a few turns that would keep me on fairly level ground for most of the run. This route offers a welcome downhill trek in the final stretch. But the last few times I’ve run, I’ve taken my old walking path. From home, there’s a downhill stretch of one block and then an almost completely uphill climb for a the next mile and a half. I was afraid I’d have a difficult time running uphill for the first half of my run, but I managed to do it pretty well. The first couple of times I ran this route, I took it slower than normal, but today I didn’t feel the need. I just kept it steady. And the beauty of this path is that it’s all downhill for the last mile and a half! It was almost too easy. I’m going to have to start mixing it up with my routes now that I’ve gained confidence in my ability to make it.

When I got home the skyline was just beginning to turn pink. I let myself in through the garage. The new belt driven garage door opener is apparently too quiet. I scared the daylights out of Brad who was also up early, getting ready for a day of hunting with his buddy, Justin. I found him standing in his boxers at the top of the stairs and glaring down at me in the dark entryway.

“Geez, Mom! You scared me to death! I forgot you were going running and thought someone was breaking in!”

I reminded him, “Honey, if someone were going to break in here, I doubt they’d be polite enough to come through the garage and let themselves in through the service door.”

“Yeah, well the garage door is so quiet now, I thought maybe Dad had forgotten to shut it and someone just strolled right in. How was I supposed to know it was you?”

I apologized for scaring him, (made a mental note to start locking the service door) and spent the next few minutes talking with him about his plans for the next few days before Justin pulled in the driveway and he was gone for the day.

Now the day stretches ahead of me and I have no real plans other than to finish up a few chores and enjoy what’s left of the long weekend. The sun is shining brightly for the first time in days. Maybe that ice will finally melt!

Life is Good – December 26, 2008

Another Christmas has passed us by. I am enjoying the luxury of a four day weekend and reflecting on what a wonderful holiday it was. My gifts were many. Though very few of my gifts were the kind that could actually be unwrapped, these were more than I could have hoped for.

Christmas Eve used to be a day on which we would gather together with my parents, siblings, nieces and nephews for a family celebration. Things have changed over the past few years with the family now scattered among a few different states. The Christmas Eve celebration we once looked forward to is no longer possible. This year, Christmas Eve was a quiet night spent at home with my three kids while my husband worked. Aside from the fact that my hubby wasn’t here, I couldn’t have asked for anything more. The kids and I cooked a steak dinner together and everyone pitched in. Jake helped prepare the steaks for the grill and set the table. Kacey made the baked potatoes and helped set the table as well. Brad grilled the steaks while I sauteed mushrooms in butter and fried some zucchini with more fresh mushrooms and sliced onions in olive oil. The four of us sat together at the table and enjoyed our dinner. Afterwards, without me even having to ask, all of the kids pitched in with the clean-up.

After dinner, we relaxed in the family room, watched The Santa Clause, and then something unheard of happened! Jake and Kacey opened up the game cupboard; the one that holds all kinds of those old-fashioned kind of games of the type that can’t be played in an electronic game system or on the computer. They dusted off a few old favorites and soon my children were playing together without bickering or antagonizing each other! They played a game of Life and then Harry Potter - Mystery at Hogwarts (the Harry Potter version of Clue.) Then out came Kerplunk and I noticed they were talking and laughing together. They were actually enjoying each other’s company. Soon the electronic Catch Phrase game came out and Jake and I faced off against Brad and Kacey. We were in hysterics and passing the game off to the next player as quickly as possible before the buzzer went off. Even yesterday, the kids kept referring back to various moments during that game to laugh again over so many of the fun moments. Their favorite was when we were playing a round of the sports and games category. Jake had to give me a clue and was drawing a blank. He began with, “It’s a baseball team…” and then hesitated. Then a light bulb went off over his head. He scrunched up one eye, curled his lips, looked me in the eye and shouted, “ARG! SCURVY!” I jumped out of my chair shouting “PITTSBURGH PIRATES,” in response and the game was tossed off to Brad just in time for the buzzer to sound and for Jake and I to earn a point. We played many rounds and honestly, I don’t know who won, and don’t think any of us cared. That evening, surrounded by my kids, with everyone enjoying each other was the best gift I could have asked for.

Christmas morning came and the kids were overjoyed with their gifts and very gracious. We don’t go overboard with Christmas gifts but the kids can always count on getting that one thing they really want (within reason) along with several other things we know they’ll enjoy. Throughout the morning, each of the three would come find me wherever I happened to be to give me a hug and say thank you again. I have great kids!

New Books by you.Mark and I had agreed not to exchange gifts this year. Of course, he didn’t follow the rules and I was mildly irritated when Kacey, playing Santa, dropped a rather heavy gift in my lap. I should have known better than to think Mark would abide by the agreement, but I couldn’t hold a grudge when I saw that he had really thought about something I would enjoy that wasn’t a huge expense. Inside the shiny wrapping paper were two brand new books. One is a book I had been wanting. The other was one I’d never heard of but is written by a Minnesota author and I’ve started already and am really enjoying it. (Mark is getting his gift today. The garage door opener bit the dust, so he’ll be buying and installing a new one today. Don’t feel too sorry for him, though. He loves the challenge of a good project.)

The rest of our Christmas day was spent at my in-laws’ home with Mark’s extended family. We managed to take a nice family picture before we became too immersed in the festivities. I might actually have to frame this one:

Family Photo 3 12/25/08 by you.

There were thirty-one of us in all and we had a great time. Mark’s dad has recovered enough from his bout with pneumonia to enjoy the day. We had a delicious meal and sat around the table long after the meal was finished, drinking wine, talking, laughing and generally having a great time. There have been years where there was tension between a few family members, but this year was just easy and peaceful. It was great!

Gift opening takes a couple of hours with so many people, and the way it begins with the youngest child and moves progressively until Mark’s parents finally open their gifts. The evening finally ended with a huge spread of Christmas cookies, candies and pies. We returned home happy and stuffed to the gills.

This morning I woke up to a wonderful 24 degrees. It’s the first time in a week that the temperature wasn’t well below zero or there weren’t several inches of new fallen snow on the ground. I was out by 6:30 this morning enjoying the darkness and quiet and a much needed run.

The coming week brings short work days again and another four day weekend. I could get used to this!

I hope that all of you were able to enjoy and recognize the gifts of this beautiful season as well!

Merry Christmas

And so it is Christmas again. Too soon again. Christmas always comes too quickly. How does that happen? We can’t wait for it to be Christmas time each year. And then it comes. And in a flash it is over.

But something is different for me this Christmas eve. For once I am not feeling rushed. There’s no sense of pressure hanging over my head. This is partly because we celebrated a few days ago with my family; or more accurately, we celebrated with the half of my family that still lives in this state. I’m getting used to the fact that the celebrations that included all of the family are no longer to be. I’m getting used to the fact that employers don’t all shut down for the weekend, or on holidays, or even in the evenings. So we celebrated when we could manage to get as many of us together as possible. It’s ok. I’ve learned to appreciate and celebrate the times when we can all be together, even if those times don’t fall during the holidays. Tomorrow we’ll celebrate with Mark’s family; all of them. They are a big family and we will spend a good part of the day with them. It will be an effort, as usual, to get everyone showered, dressed and out of the house on time after our own morning celebration. Tempers might flare and a few impatient words might be said, but we’ll get there. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My sense of ease is also due in part to a lack of festivities. Tonight, Mark has to work, so it’s just the kids and me. This will be the first time we’ve just stayed home on Christmas eve and not gone off somewhere else to celebrate. The last couple of years, when my extended family ended the tradition of gathering on Christmas eve,  we were invited to celebrate with friends. It was nice to be included, but the kids said they felt like they were intruding on our friends’ family time. We were very welcome there. Just felt slightly out of place. So tonight it’s just us. We’ll eat a nice dinner together. We might bake some more Christmas treats. Maybe we’ll watch some of our favorite Christmas movies. A couple of years ago this would have seemed like not enough. But this time it feels like more than enough. I’m just going to relish this quiet time with my kids who are growing up more quickly than I’d like.

You see, I have begun to realize over the past year that my life is a gift. I have been guilty of not appreciating it though. I was reading a daily reflection this morning and the words for today hit home. “I determine whether or not I’m going to view my experiences through a negative or positive lens. If indeed my perceptions are negative, then it stands to reason my life will feel out of whack, and…I can spend years pouting in my cave. Thank God I don’t have to pout, fuss or complain. I have the option to smile, chuckle or laugh.” *

I have spent years pouting in my cave. But since I started literally counting my blessings in writing this year, my perspective has changed. I’m finding, especially now, during this time of year, that it is so much more clear to me what a gift my life is and how much time I have wasted feeling slighted because I chose to cling to the negative instead of focusing on the positive.

Mark’s longtime coworker, “Rimpy”  was recently diagnosed with a type of liver cancer. There is no hope of recovery for Rimpy. In fact he called the guys at work last night. He called to say goodbye. He’ll spend his last days at home, receiving hospice care. Mark said it was the most difficult conversation he’s ever had. Rimpy told him not to be sad. He said he’d see Mark and all the guys on the other side, someday soon. What a bittersweet Christmas this must be for Rimpy’s family, knowing this is the last one they will spend with him.

We don’t ever know what each day will bring. I think most of us operate on the illusion that we have day after day after day to make things right. Maybe we do and maybe we don’t. All I know is that when my last day comes, I want to arrive there knowing that I had embraced all that had been offered to me. I want to have learned full well that what I expect or desire or demand is not necessarily what is to be. But I hope that I will have learned to accept and trust and embrace even those things that don’t seem like gifts, but end up being so, only in disguise. I don’t want to have missed out on one single gift because I failed to recognize the events in my life as roads to happiness. This Christmas, my immediate family is together. My parents, though far away, are healthy and content in their warm surroundings. My husband may be at work this Christmas eve, but he will be with us all day on Christmas day. This Christmas, I realize that my life is abundant.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, my wish for you is that you find your life to be abundant too. Merry Christmas!

*Marilyn Meberg, Choosing the Amusing

Ten Things

‘Tis the season to be too busy to think creatively. Hence, I volunteered to play along in MoreThanAnElectrician’s Ten Things I Like That Begin With the Letter ” “_ game.  It’s a simple game. MTAE listed ten things he likes that begin with the letter he was assigned. Then any readers that wanted to take a stab at the game left a request in the comments to be assigned their own letter.

I got the letter “T” and these are the things I like:

1. Thursdays – I look forward to Thursday every week because Thursday is my day off! Flex hours rock. I work ten hours a day all the other days of the week in order to get a whole entire day off. You wish you were me. Unless of course you don’t have to work and then I wish I were you.

2. Twins –

Noooo, not those twins! Wait! What am I saying? Ok, these are nice twins too, though a little young for me. But what I really meant was this kind of Twin:

Hometown hero!

3.  Twix Candy Bars - chocolate, cookies, caramel… what’s not to love?

4. Third Day –

Is it wrong to think the lead singer of a Christian band has a sexy voice?

5. Time – I wish I had more of it.

6. Target – I love Target. I especially love that there’s a Target just around the corner from my house. I love that I can go Target because I need toothpaste or kitty litter or paper towels and I can leave with a hundred dollars worth of stuff I didn’t know I needed, including a white chocolate mocha from the convenient little Starbucks located inside of Target!

7. Toenails (polished) -

IMG_4469 by you.

I miss summer and bare feet and sandals..

8. Tank tops – I have an entire drawer dedicated to tanks. I wear one every day. They’re cool and comfy in the summer and in the winter they are an extra layer for warmth.

IMG_4475_1 by you.

9. Tacos – Yum! I never get tired of tacos. Don’t forget the sour cream and lots of hot sauce!

10. Tall people – I myself am tall at 5′ 9″.  And no, I was not a basketball player. So if you’re tall and basketball challenged, come stand by me.

Yeah, I wish I looked like this!

If you want to play too, leave a request in the comments and I will assign you a letter. Who wants “X”? Anyone want to try “Q”?

Post Party Post

The family Christmas party was a success. It still feels strange to celebrate without those members of the family that live in other states, though. There’s a part of me that still feels like something is not quite right and maybe I’ll never quite get over that feeling. But in spite of missing the ones I love, I am learning to embrace new traditions and we did have a good time.

I have to give my brothers a hard time and officially remind them that for future reference, they may want to call me a few days before the party to coordinate who is bringing which foods to the gathering. We don’t all want to bring the same things. Right? All I can say is it’s a good thing everyone likes cheese and crackers because there was PLENTY to go around. LOTS of cheese and crackers…. And not only were there plenty of cheese and crackers, there was plenty of cheesy-wild rice soup which was a huge hit. There are probably going to be a few constipated kids tonight after all that cheese!

When the moment all the kids had been waiting for finally arrived, I thought some of the younger ones were going to crawl out of their skin in anticipation. We adults tormented them by making them open one gift at a time, starting with the youngest and moving on to the oldest. The kids were amazingly patient and everyone went home happy at the end of the night.

IMG_8873 by you.Josh was excited by his Transformers toys.

IMG_8931 by you.And Matthew got a toy tank, but here he is with a Target gift card he can’t wait to spend.

IMG_8887 by you.And Hannah was so happy with her play make-up and nail polish, she could barely contain her excitement. Apparently, Kacey knows just what Hannah likes!

IMG_8907 by you.Alec has inherited his daddy’s taste in music!

IMG_8893 by you.And Zach is getting trendy. He loved his American Eagle hoody.

IMG_8934 by you.Kacey is ready to use her gift card at Bath & Bodyworks. Mom wants to go with!

IMG_8935 by you.What could be better for Jake, the music maniac than an Itunes gift card? He’s already trying to figure out twenty-five songs he doesn’t yet have.

IMG_8933 by you.Brad will be shopping for new hunting or fishing gear. It seems like he can never have enough!

IMG_8930 by you.My brothers are beer geeks! None for me, thanks. I’ll stick to my Michelob Golden Light.

IMG_8913 by you.And Mark wonders why there are so few pictures of him on the blog. Here’s one for the family photo album! Not!

We had a great time but I am wiped out! Now I can relax and look forward to a nice quiet Christmas eve with the kids.

Celebrating

Christmas Tree 2008 by you.We’re celebrating Christmas with my family here today. I spent all day yesterday cleaning, doing laundry and getting the last of the food items needed for the party. We had our first real winter storm yesterday and it was my goal not to leave the house, but I ended up having to anyway. The kids had nothing to wear for Christmas Day and I realized there was no way I was going to find time to shop with them in the days before Christmas, so off we went to shop yesterday afternoon. All I can say is I’m glad we have a truck with four-wheel drive. There were so many cars spun out and in the ditches. We made it to Kohl’s and back home without incident and got everyone outfitted for the big day.

Kacey and I finally spent some time baking together last night. I cut out the sugar cookies and she frosted them after they were done baking. We listened to our favorite Christmas CDs and Jake even came to hang out with us and enjoy the cheer. I was exhausted already by this point, but Kace has been asking me to bake with her and I was feeling seriously guilty for not having found the time. I’m glad I did last night. We had fun!

View out the back door by you.This morning I woke up to a beautiful scene outside the windows. I was up by six o’clock, starting the rolls, mixing up another batch of cookies and preparing the wild rice soup. It was beautifully quiet and although I was facing a big to-do list, I felt remarkably relaxed and peaceful. I love these quiet mornings all to myself. I tuned in to my favorite radio station which was in the midst of an all Christmas music weekend, got busy with the Kitchen-Aid mixer and just enjoyed my time alone. I was a little stressed out yesterday (always am the day before having company,) but this morning I’ve found the holiday spirit and I can’t wait for everyone to get here, especially the little kids. They’ll be bouncing off the walls with excitement, I’m sure.

I better get back to my to-do list, but before I do, I wanted to show you what a funny girl my daughter is.

Gingerbread house party by you.

Looks like they’re havin’ a party at the Gingerbread house!

Life is Good – December 19, 2008

pinecone ornament2 by you.As the holidays quickly approach, it’s easy to reflect on how blessed my life is. Sure, I can think of a thousand things to complain about (so much more easily than counting my blessings sometimes) but during this season of sharing, giving and often over-indulgence, it’s hard not to recognize that my gifts are many.

I didn’t have to worry about how I was going to get through Christmas this year like so many others during this tough economy. I was able to finish my Christmas shopping today and I was blessed to be able to do it without having to think too hard about whether I had enough money to cover the expense. Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder how long I will be able to keep my job. I’m thankful that I will at least get through the holidays. And if my company can hold on through this spring, there’s a good chance I may be able to stop worrying about losing my job.

And speaking of finishing my Christmas shopping, I am thankful for flex hours! I love working ten hours a day, four days a week, and enjoying a full weekday off to finish all the shopping, all the wrapping or do anything anything else I please.

I am thankful for the joyful spirit the holiday season brings. Both at home and at work, those around me have been positively affected by this season. I love seeing smiling faces, hearing laughter, and seeing kindness in the hearts of others. I was just wishing that everyone could behave the same way all year round, but then realized I wouldn’t appreciate it as much if such generosity and warmth was a common, everyday occurrence.

I am blessed with some fantastic kids. My oldest will be home tomorrow and doesn’t have to go back to school for almost a month. I can’t wait to have him close by me again and be able to bear hug him whenever I like. The younger two, though they love to push my buttons, are good kids too. They do what I ask (sometimes even before I have to ask a second time!) They don’t cause trouble and are generally nice to everyone else. They help me keep my sanity by handling many of the chores that I can’t attend to because I’m gone at work all day. AND…they cooked a spectacular taco dinner for the family two nights ago. They did it together without bickering or fighting. Now THAT is a fantastic gift!

I am grateful to have my parents and in-laws in my life. We had a scare early this week when my father-in-law was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. This is a man who rarely gets sick so it was a shock to find out he was in the hospital. Thankfully, he’s on the mend and was discharged yesterday and can be home to enjoy Christmas with his family. My dad, too is doing fairly well since recovering from his recent bout with pneumonia. These illnesses reminded me that I often take for granted the amount of time we have together on this earth. It makes me think of friends who had to say goodbye to their parents much too soon and I remember what a gift they are to me.

It seems like the days are moving past at the speed of light and soon Christmas will be upon us. I am going to try my best not to get too caught up in all the chaos and to take a step back now and then to remember what these days are all about…love.