Sunday, December 27, 2009

Life Uncommon

Lend your voices only to sounds of freedom
No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from
Fill your lives with love and bravery
And you shall lead a life uncommon

~ Life Uncommon by Jewel

When I think of making resolutions, I think less of something I want to accomplish or change and more about the person I want to become. It’s a never ending process, becoming that person. And I have a long way to go before I get there. But I am working towards it, every day, every year.

I think back on people in my life that I admire, those who have lived the “life uncommon”. Some are living and some have passed on. All taught or are teaching me something. They aren’t perfect people, in fact, they are quite flawed beings. That’s ok. It keeps things interesting. And maybe I’m teaching them something. Maybe.

09-12-2005-10-35-34-328 My mom is at the top of my list. Although she passed on a few years ago, she’s still teaching me. I see so many things now that I failed to recognize when she was alive. My mother was a strong woman but you had to get to know her to see it. She seemed amiable, compliant, and non-confrontational. She was all of those things to a certain extent. But once she made up her mind about something, it was going to happen. Several years ago, Mom wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids, sort of a spiritual journey. Dad was not interested. Really, no one was. So she went by herself and she had one of the best times of her life. She went with a tour group and one of my favorite pictures has her sitting on a camel in the desert in front of a pyramid. The look on her face is one of pure joy. She was not afraid to go halfway around the world by herself to do something she alone wanted to do. There are many more stories like that – being the first in her family to go to college, graduating from college despite getting married, having 2 small children and no money, getting her masters degree at 39 while pregnant with my youngest sister. She never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something and if she wanted to do it, she did, no matter what got in her way.

IMG_1914 Each of my siblings have inspired me and also taught me things. We are all so different from each other and there is a lot to be learned from each other. My brother’s dedication to his children and his efforts at personal growth encourage me. My middle sister is one of the most giving people I’ve ever met and her strong dedication to her faith inspire me. My youngest sister is one of the smartest people I know and her enjoyment of living make me want to close my eyes and dance, just like she does.

My children teach me and inspire me every day . . . to be a better parent, to be a better person, and to have fun every day. I can allow myself to be a little introverted and they pull me out, get me to do things and encourage me to just have more photo_3 The picture at right was taken when we were making our annual holiday photo. None of us were really in the mood. We had done the traditional thing in front of the tree, in front of the fireplace, etc. As my daughter’s friend, Sara, our photographer was fooling with the lights, the jumping began. First my daughter, then my son and my daughter. Eventually I joined in and Sara clicked away. We laughed and had the best time. And this was the photo that went in our Christmas cards along with one of the traditional ones. It shows our true personalities.

There are friends too, many of them. Some I see daily and others not for years. Some I work with, some I work for, some I scrapbook with, some are relatives that are friends, some I just hang out with. Others are from high school, some were long lost and now found on Facebook, and some are blogger friends I have never met. They are in my life for many reasons, not the least of all being to teach me to move myself towards growth and knowledge and patience and bravery and love.

I’m working on Living a Life Uncommon. Please be patient with me.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where Are You Christmas?

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Where are you Christmas ? Why can't I find you? Why have you gone away?
Where is the laughter you used to bring me? Why can't I hear music play?
My world is changing, I'm rearranging. Does that mean Christmas changes too?

As sung by Faith Hill in “The Grinch”

Every year it gets harder for me to find that Christmas spirit.

I have always loved Christmas – the extended family gathering, the huge meal, that feeling of “niceness” that comes over everyone, the spirit of giving. I used to be so excited about getting out and shopping for that perfect gift for everyone on my list. Then I would put on holiday music and wrap presents for hours.

When my children were small, I loved to see them excited about Santa, the tree, the lights, and the giving of gifts. Making the holiday special for them was important to me but it was also fun. As they grew up, watching them do their own shopping and seeing their dedication to our Christmas traditions was rewarding.

After my husband passed away, I decided that the kids did not need another pair of jeans or another CD but they did need memories. So every year, either right before or after Christmas, we took a trip together. We went to Disney, on a cruise to Cozumel, took an amazing trip to New York City, and one year we rented a cabin in Gatlinburg and invited friends. And we made some great memories. But then they got older and their job schedules made it more difficult to coordinate a family trip around the holidays.

Over the years, I have grown to strongly dislike shopping, not just during the holidays but year-round. Our families are blessed with good jobs and homes and very little need so buying gifts became more and more difficult because when we want something, we get it ourselves. I feel so grateful that we are all so lucky and feel like it’s such a waste of money to buy something that it not really wanted or needed, just for the purpose of giving a gift. One side of my family got smart this year and we are only doing gifts for the kids while the adults will give the gift of time spent with each other, just enjoying the holiday together.

That old feeling is starting to return as I am reminded of what this holiday is about. Last night at my ABWA Christmas Party, one of our members shared a story from her church. Each church member was given an envelope with cash in it, in amounts ranging from $1 to $20. They were instructed to use their money for the benefit of others. They were not allowed to keep the money or to give it back to the church or to any of the church’s charitable events. My friend and her husband received $1 each. She is a teacher so she and her husband put their money together and she told the children in her classes that any money they brought in for the Empty Stocking Fund, she and her husband would match, starting with their $2. Within 3 days, the children had brought in over $60. Her point was that it didn’t matter how much you had or how much you started with, if you put it with others, you can do something good for someone else. After she told her story, most of the women in the room dried their eyes and one by one, quietly went to her and gave her the cash they had on them. Including me. It felt like Christmas again.

So, as the song says, “my world is changing, I’m rearranging”. So maybe that’s my answer. I need to rearrange what my idea of Christmas is and turn it into something that helps others. Giving to those that do not have what our family has, who are truly in need, that might be just where my Christmas spirit will be found.

At least until I have grandchildren!