Monday, December 24, 2012

It All Passes By So Soon

The first Christmas kiss 'neath the mistletoe ball
Love that grows with the winter moon
The hopes and dreams of two people enthrall
It all passes by so soon.

Newlyweds' bliss on a new Christmas morning
Their hearts are now one, not two
The anticipation of the life they are forming
It all passes by so soon.

Baby's first Christmas such a joyous sight
With boxes and bows and balloons
Sweetly slumber that holiday night
It all passes by so soon.

Little kids' toys under the tree
That will litter the floors of their rooms
The little ones sitting on Santa's knee
It all passes by so soon.

Teenagers who wince and roll their eyes
Wish for high-tech not heirlooms
Dread helping mom make Christmas pies
It all passes by so soon.

Young adults come and bring their new spouses
Rush off before it turns noon
To celebrate Christmas in their own houses
It all passes by too soon.

Grandchildren visit on Christmas Eve
And sing happy holiday tunes
But before long they must leave
It all passes by too soon.

That first Christmas kiss 'neath the mistletoe ball
Love that grew with the winter moon
The hopes and dreams of two people extolled
It all passed by too soon.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The 12 Days With a Twist!

Ah.... it’s that time of year. The scent of pine in the air, aromas of hot cookies quaffing from the kitchen, the sound of gold bells and coins clinking in red buckets - all of these things tell us of the impending arrival of the man in the red suit.  We will prepare our homes, don our best, deck our decks and halls, and peck under the mistletoe. Merriment and joy abound as we await the coming of Christmas. 

Songs of the holiday fill the airwaves, satellite stations and music players. Traditionally we sing of leaping lords. With gaiety we recite and repeat the verses about dancing ladies and milk maids. Doves and partridges join in the chorus. But in this economy and with the price of gold - who can afford 5 rings?

Thus, I propose a silly new look at the "12 Of" Christmas.  In a spirit of fun and festivity, I present to you the following list beginning at 12 and ending with 1.  Remember a tune, make up your own, or simply recite the words to this twist on a holiday classic. Feel the holiday magic.

12 Relatives
Holidays are a time for family. At Christmas, we gather in family masses for holiday feasts and gift giving frenzy. With joy and happiness, we celebrate the ones we love. OK - I know this can be a stressful scenario with conflict - but in a perfect world all 12 would live in peace and harmony. One can wish upon a Christmas star.

11 Christmas Carols
Music is a huge part of the holiday. There are multitudes of songs, versions, remixes and medleys. They are each beautiful in their own way.  So why does it seem like the same 11 get played over and over?

10 Candy Canes
I’m sure I can’t be the only one who has experienced this. I can get the box of a dozen candy canes home safely, but only 10 survive the extraction from the box intact. Is it just me or is there some sort of candy conspiracy going on here?

9 Broken Ornaments
Regardless of how carefully the ornaments are hung, there are always some that don’t make it. Sometimes it’s the one ornament falling off the tree or out of the box. Sometimes it’s the whole tree angry from the weight and decoration, revolting and throwing itself to the ground resulting is mass ornament casualties. I can’t say I can count exactly, but based on how many pieces of ornament glass end up in my feet each year, I count the number of broken ornaments at 9.

8 Favorite Movies
The holiday movies start in November. I’m OK with that.  I love the feeling I get when I watch them. They are nostalgic, fun, and comforting. There are probably close to as many movies as there are songs, but I’m sure we can each pick out 8 favorites.

7 Hundred Dollars
Just about $700 is the amount that the average person will spend on the holidays this year according to the National Retail Association.  Just hear those registers ring-a-ling.....

6 Christmas Stockings
This might sound like a lot of stockings - but in my house between my three girls, we hang 6 stockings. One stocking gets filled on Christmas morning, and one that holds a small gift each of the 8 days before Christmas - a tradition we started years ago. It’s one of my favorite.

5 Plates of Cookies (aka 5 extra pounds)
The low side of the average number of pounds that a person gains during the holiday season is 5 - thank you American Dietetic Association for that merry reminder. With all of the goodies and gatherings, it’s no surprise. But, it’s best to watch the cookie intake. The 5 extra pounds is a gift that can’t be re-gifted or returned on the 26th.  It’s with us for a while after the holidays.

4 Returned Gifts
Hopefully we don’t make it a habit of returning gifts simply because we don’t like them. But at some point in our lives we have had to return or exchange a gift for one reason or another. In my humble opinion, if you are returning 4 gifts each year, it’s time to rethink our attitude towards receiving. See Barbie and The Great White for my own personal experience with this....

3 Christmas Parties
According to Tis Party Time by John Fetto, the average American between the ages of 18-34 attends just over 3 parties each holiday season. Office parties, family get togethers, and social holiday gatherings keep us running from one place to another. With all that partying and eggnog, we may end up needing the next on this list.

2 Aspirin
Let’s face it, with the hustle and bustle of the holidays, the social imbibing, the frantic search for the perfect gifts, and the dealings in social situations that are unique to this time of year, most of us reach for the aspirin to ease the headache. As much as we love the holiday, our friends and family, we can have too much of a good thing.

1 Most Beautiful Christmas Tree
Regardless of all of the other happenings, the most beautiful tree is what we gather around as a family on Christmas to remember the gifts we have been given. We make memories, share in joy, and join in each other’s excitement as the wonderment of the morning unfolds.

In the hectic world we live in it’s often hard to step back and see the true meaning and spirit of the holidays.  It is about joy, togetherness, giving, and blessing one another.  I hope you enjoyed this post and that it brought a smile, a chuckle or a simple smirk as you read it.  I have been blessed by every reader of the AZ Mom of Many Hats and I Am Woman Enough sites.  I wish you a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, blessings and prosperity in 2013. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Barbie and the Great White - A Lesson on Giving

Christmas Eve 1976 - I remember it like it was yesterday...

Grandma had cooked up her amazing Christmas Eve fare with scalloped potatoes and ham, yummy rolls, mincemeat and her eternally famous apple pie.  We were all stuffed to the brim. Grandpa got his annual after dinner headache and had to head upstairs to his room for aspirin and a nap.  All of the grandkids, knowing how these evenings went, huddled at the base of the stairs by Grandma's 1950's style wiry tree with the massive light bulbs and elves sitting in the branches.

Grandma and Grandpa had connections.  Santa made a special trip to their house to pass out their gifts to us.  We waited, not so patiently for him to descend the staircase.  Apparently he used an upstairs window to enter - not the family room chimney.

I took my special place by my uncle's TV chair and waited.  I was at the younger end of the grandkids, so the anticipation built as each one of the older kids got a gift.  The excitement was bubbling up inside. My stomach filled with butterflies. And finally Santa came my way and pulled out a white tissue wrapped gift with a colorful bow.

I took it, only able to imagine what could possibly be in that snowy white paper.  I struggled to untie the bow. Grandma was good at tying ribbons - tightly.  It wouldn't budge.  I needed to try a different strategy. So I tore into the tissue.  Layer after layer - my heart pounding with each.  What could it be?

Finally, my eyes grew big as I got to the last layer.  The grew even bigger when the veil of the gift came off.  My hands shook, my lip began to quiver, and the tears started to fall. With my gift in my hand, I ran to my mother and buried my head in her lap and cried.

Why? Why? What had I done that year? Why would the gift from Santa's bag be a Barbie doll stuffed inside of a rubber Great White Shark?

Mom soothed me and the sobbing slowed down.  But, still I didn't understand.

Later that evening when my mom was helping clean up the mess we had all made, she came across the note that in my rush to open my gift I didn’t see. She read it to me. I remember it saying something like this. 

I don’t know why there are  rubber sharks in all the stores, but I thought it was cute. You enjoy your ocean books so much, I think you'll like him.  I know how much you have always wanted a Barbie too. Enjoy then both.  I love you! Grandma.

Barbie and the Great White taught me lifelong lessons in giving. They taught me about intent, joy and remembrance.

Grandma's intent for giving me these two gifts was pure of heart.  Grandma didn't get out to the movies and rarely watched anything other than the Lawrence Welk show on TV.  She had no clue that people from 7 to 47 were terrified of the ocean and of great white sharks because of the release of Jaws the year before.  She saw that there were "cute" rubber sharks in the stores and knew that I loved the books I had about the ocean. She also knew that I always wanted a Barbie.  She found a lovely one with dark hair - sort of the color of my own, and thought I would like it.  In her quirkiness,  a term of both respect and endearment, she put the two together, one inside the other.  Looking back as I grew older, it made sense.  My grandma was known for giving quirky gifts - our Christmas Eve family Bingo games at her house were legendary.  You never knew what you would get as a prize - it could be a light bulb, a roll of toilet paper, or if you were the one lucky win, the box of Toblerone chocolate.  Barbie and the Great White fit her personality, but also fit the purity of intent in her heart.

I learned lessons in joy. Grandma had spent time with us, interacting with us, watching us, and knowing what we liked.  She, in her Grandma wisdom, knew things that would bring us joy even if we didn't know they could bring us joy.  I loved that Barbie and played with it for the entire next year. Sharky (yes... an original name) was in our house for years.  That big grey razor tooth fish made its way into bathtubs, sinks, and the neighbors pool whenever we'd swim. He was played with, loved, and brought joy.  The shark as a thing ended up bringing great delight, but so did the story.  Grandma knew how to bring me the gift of joy.

That Christmas gift in 1976, Barbie and the Great White, in the history of all my Christmases, is the most remembered gift I have ever received.  Yes, others have come close, but that one will forever be burned in my memory.  I remember where I was when I opened it, the feeling of the rubber shark, the look of the Barbie's hair slightly messed because of my tugging on the wrapping paper.  Every year, I remember the experience, my reaction, my Grandma's note, the joy I got from the gift, and the meaning and heart of giving.

There was a bonus lesson.  When we learn how to give from the heart,  to give in a way that we know will bring the receiver joy, and when we realize that true gifts fill the heart’s desires not the brain’s or egos desires for “stuff”, we have not only grown in giving, but we have learned and grown in the way we receive.  Because when we give in this focus, we learn to receive in it as well.

As you move into this holiday season, remember that true giving lies in the intent, joy and the remembrance that comes from the act of giving, not from the thing that is given.

What is your most remembered gift memory?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Stop Super Stuffing Stockings!

Oh how I loved digging through my holiday stocking that hung on our stone fireplace!

My sisters and I each had a particular stone that our stocking hung from. We'd all jump up on the hearth, scramble to our sock, and pull it down, hoping it didn't spill out on top of us. We would scramble off to our own place in the living room with our light green gingham checked and red brick-a-bract adorned, homemade stockings.  We'd sit on the floor and pull out each item from them - admiring each one! Our stockings had oranges, nuts, sugarless gum, socks, lip glosses, hair brushes and accessories, and just a few other miscellaneous toys. Every year, we knew what would be in them, but EVERY year we were so excited to find the treasures that were left for us.

Holiday stockings really add to the fun, but also to the stress and expense of the holidays.  Electronic gadgets, headphones, large gift cards, watches, endless trinkets and toys, sugary treats in the latest animated or superhero theme - all those things that are advertised as stocking essentials, increase the strain on our busyness and a pocketbooks. We feel compelled to super stuff the stockings. For some reason moms think that by buying all of the latest stocking fads and out doing last year's stocking, we are being a better mom. Adding to the stress is that moms know that many of the trinkets in the stocking, no matter how well our intentions were, will be lost, tossed and forgotten.

The Christmas stockings are no measure of how much you love your kids, nor are they a snapshot of your parenting ability. It doesn't have to be an angst filled experience to fill a stocking - but it will be if you fill them with the heart of out-doing last year, instead of the heart of creating lasting memories.

In the rush and bustle of the season, it's already an overwhelming environment. Stockings can be great help in bringing back some calm, tradition and simplicity.  Don't hesitate from stepping back from stocking extravagance. Go back to basic stuffers - oranges, bubble gum, fun socks, a fun new electric toothbrush, New PJs, activity books, a sprinkle in a few of the fun trinkets and candy. (Check the Quick Tip page for more back to basics stocking stuffers). If you think back to your childhood stockings, you probably will remember those things that you received every year - and used.  Your children will remember the same. Those simple treasures hidden in the stocking will bring just as much joy, and create memories and traditions that your children may pass to their families

It's time to take it back to simplicity. Bringing it back to simple can be a wonderful change and stress reducer at this time of year.

Do you have any stocking traditions?
What Do you remember from your own childhood Christmas stocking?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

For Amy

This is not a typical post for AZ Mom of Many Hats.

But, Amy is not a typical person.  She is my sister. She is amazing.

I have posted about Amy several times before over the last five years.  The first post My Sister's Cancer being about finding out in February 2008 that she was diagnosed in Stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer - an invasive and very aggressive form of breast cancer that does not generally have a defined lump.  There were successive posts on her journey and battle - many of them that brought hope and some that brought angst. All of them were in honor or celebration of her - and for a kick in the ass to the bastard of cancer.

This post is no different.

Amy is larger than life.  From her colorful hair to her love of fancy rats, there is nothing about her that is not vibrant, interesting, and totally genuine.  Each person that knows her would describe her essence as strong, witty, straight forward, authentic, dedicated, compassionate, and even snarky.  As a woman with a teacher's heart, a deep and devoted faith, a compassionate heart for all of God's people and creatures, and a strong sense of right, her actions towards the world have influenced, touched, and nurtured her family, our larger family, friends, students, colleagues and even some she has never met.

She is a force to be reckoned with in this world - in a good way.  I say it again... She is amazing.

On November 12, 2012 the world forever changed.  After many valiantly fought battles, at the age of 45, Amy passed away of Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC). She fought through chemo and radiation and all of the possible side effects that come with both. She showed strength and grace as she pushed her tired body through the day to day as best as she could - volunteering, mentoring, running her rattery,  being mom, wife, daughter and sister, singing on the worship team at her church. She fought hard, she fought long, and she fought admirably.

My heart, our family's hearts are so heavy and our existence will never be the same.  We no longer have the physical presence of Amy as mom, wife, sister, daughter, aunt, cousin, friend.  We will forever miss her presence here and always long for more time with her. But, the force of Amy, her essence can't be defeated. In that we find some peace.

Through her fight, many were educated about Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  Her teacher's heart wasn't stilled by the battle.  

Through her fight, she showed strength and grace. Her spirit wasn't crushed by the battle. 

Through her fight, she showed tremendous love for others.  Her compassion wasn't soured by the battle.

Through her fight, she showed what it was let go of things out of her control.  Her will wasn't destroyed by the battle. 

Through her fight, she left the lessons, the words, the actions, and the seeds that her family needs to move forward and be strong and good men in the world.  Her loving, nurturing and mothering were strengthened ten-fold by the battle.

Through her fight, her identity never became Amy, the Inflammatory Breast Cancer patient.  She was always Amy, who happened to have this battle present in her life. 

Through her fight she remained rooted in her faith, even when she didn't understand why this battle was hers.  The battle didn't destroy her trust and faith in God and her Salvation.   

She could not win every battle. But she NEVER lost the war.  Today she is singing and enjoying the splendor of HIS courts.  She is in perfect peace and whole.  That is something that cancer could never take from her.

Don't Let the Silence Continue
Women, men, physicians - please learn about Inflammatory Breast Cancer - IBC.  There is so much progress in many areas of breast cancer research and treatment.  We hear about that all of the time in the "pink" campaigns. What we don't hear is the dark side of breast cancer - the types of breast cancer like IBC, and that MOST women diagnosed with a cancer like IBC will die. Whether it is unpopular, unwillingness, or unawareness, this conversation in the breast cancer dialog is rarely had.  The silence is killing women, and men.

We knew about breast cancer.  We didn't know about Inflammatory Breast Cancer.

Learn more about Inflammatory Breast Cancer at:

The IBC Network

MD Anderson Cancer Center