Not long ago I was reading through some of my old posts and came across one from several years ago that included a list of changes I wanted to make in my life. It made me really sad to discover that I could not check off single one as having been accomplished - no progress in any of those areas, zero... zip. :-( It makes no sense to contemplate what needs changing if I am not serious about doing something to effect those changes. There are some areas of my life that I am really tired of ignoring and avoiding, and then feeling guilty and depressed because of it. So I've decided to choose a few attainable goals, and identify some first steps that can be taken along with time frames for those actions so that I can't postpone things indefinitely. In 2016 I am going to hold myself accountable and document my progress right here, so that when next year ends I can review my list of desired changes and check them off as finally being resolved.
My head is filled with thoughts of things I ought to do or want to do, and yet it seem time passes week by week until another year has slipped away, and still I sit in my chair at night and ponder the things I'd like to do. I ask myself when, when am I going to make the transition from thinking about doing it, and actually doing it... taking that first step, that first action. Why do I let my mind freeze me into immobility? Is it lack of energy or fear of failure? I fear it is just much easier to sit here and ponder rather than to actually embrace a plan of action. Yet I know that it's the first step that's the hardest, once I actually get going, the momentum builds. I am not one for making resolutions, but I think that this coming year is the year that Josie must get off her butt and return to the land of the living, do some of those necessary chores and fun things that I've been putting off way too long. Time to just go for it... make a plan and do it. I think I can, I think I can... I can!
Living in Texas, I always wish for a white Christmas although it rarely happens. This year it came a couple days later, following a Christmas in the high 60's. Rain came pouring down Saturday evening... and froze, followed by a snowstorm that continued for twenty four hours. It's the first time I've ever experienced "thundersnow" with lightning and thunder rumbling in the background as it snowed. Now we have ice-covered roads and inches of the white stuff with drifts that blocked in our vehicles this morning. Remind me never to wish for snow again, I promise that I won't miss it one bit!
In December of 2006 Josie packed her belongings in boxes and bags and left her husband of thirteen years and the farm that had been their home. It had been a long time coming, the people who knew her and knew of her situation were amazed she had waited this long.
What began with so much happiness had become dark and dangerous as the years passed, and the man she knew, or thought she knew, had turned into a drug-fueled monster who made her life a living hell. Finally the line was crossed, and despite how beaten down she was she knew that it was now or never, the choice being between breaking free or giving up on life altogether and ending it.
There she sat on her first night alone in her tiny new apartment in town, the full range of emotions washing over her - angry with him that he hadn't loved her enough, angry with herself that she had let him steal her joy for so long, tremendous sadness for what had been lost and for what never was to be, physical and emotional exhaustion, profound loneliness in the absolute silence and already missing her feline companions far more than she missed him; and yet an overwhelming sense of relief, the lightness of being free at last, curiosity and about what being on her own after so long was going to be like, and a tiny spark of hope that she just might be able to pick up the broken pieces of her life and recover her joy.
Nine years have passed since that fateful December, and although she had no way of knowing it at the time, one year later Josie would meet the man God intended for her, her true soulmate, the one who would love her more than she ever dreamed possible, and her life would be forever changed.
As a child, decorating the Christmas tree was the most magical part of Christmas. My two sisters and I would accompany our mom to the Christmas tree lot to help choose just the right one. This was done in the cold winter weather of South Dakota, with frosty breath, mattered hands, and snow crunching underfoot.
We would bring the chosen tree home and set it in the garage and wait eagerly for the appointed night when Mom would finally give her blessing to bringing it inside. This was never before December 10th, and sometimes as late as the 15th, not like nowadays where Christmas trees are often up on homes by Thanksgiving.
A corner of the living room would be cleared of furniture so that the Christmas tree could occupy this place of honor, and then would come the fun of unpacking boxes of Christmas ornaments and untangling cords of lights - the old fashioned one with big colored bulbs, and testing them to make sure they all worked before being strung on the tree. Mom did the lights, we girls hung the ornaments under her direction, and several packages of silver tinsel were draped strand by strand across each branch until the whole tree shimmered, and most often the carpet below did as well. And at the very last the beautiful angel which sat in a cloud of spun glass, was placed on top.
Then, when all the empty boxes had been picked up and the room put in order, the time for magic came. The lights would be turned off, and the tree would be lit for the first time. As children the glow of the colored lights reflecting off the shiny ornaments and tinsel was breathtaking.
The sweet memories of Christmas trees from my childhood will remain with me always, and I think that decorating the Christmas tree is the frosting on the cake of Christmas, very much like the flourish of placing "the dot on the i."
It was Christmas time again, but Michael wasn't feeling very excited. His mother worked long hours just to feed them and keep the rent paid, and he knew that this Christmas would be the same as all the others, standard fare. A simple supper of soup and bread, then cocoa and cookies before heading off to bed. Waking up was sure to be disappointing, just a few gifts wrapped in newspaper underneath their scraggly tree - new socks or mittens, a storybook, and maybe a toy truck or a small stuffed bear. The other kids in Michael's class would return to school with tales of all the treasures found underneath their Christmas trees.
It wasn't until many years later, as Michael sat near the warmth of the fireplace in his beautiful brick home gazing at the pile of festively wrapped presents underneath the stately Christmas tree, that he looked back on those early memories and realized how much he missed that simplicity.
Thinking of my beloved Grandma Ida who was born on December 10th, 1895 - 120 years ago today! She was a first generation American of German immigrant parents, one of ten children, born and raised on the South Dakota prairie where she lived her entire life.
This is a photo of Grandma Ida and her husband William on their wedding day in June 1915.
This photo of her and her sons was taken on Christmas Eve in 1950. From left to right - Orville (my dad), Aldon, Grandma Ida, Bill, and Delbert in the front.
Grandma was a treasure with a twinkle in her eye, she taught us how to sew on her old Singer treadle sewing machine, and taught us how to play card games like Canasta. She also taught us a few words of German that still make me smile!
Grandma Ida was a wonderful gardener and cook, the memories of her fried chicken and blueberry pie make my mouth water! Grandma's devotion to her faith, her family and her friends set an example for all of us. She was my role model - a strong woman who overcame all obstacles and hardships including breast cancer, the loss of an infant son, and being widowed at a young age with a farm to run and four sons to raise. She lived her life with courage, determination, and humor.
Of hardy German stock, Grandma Ida lived to be 97 years old! She is our guardian angel now, watching over all of us from Heaven, and I want her to know that I love her dearly and will miss her always... until we meet again!
Here are the photos of my office doors newly decorated for Christmas as I wrote about in my previous Thankful Thoughts post. The first door leads from the reception office (my office) to the hallway which connects the five other offices in our firm's suite. It says Merry Christmas, but that's hard to see in the photo. Papa Bear helped me get all the candy cane satin ribbon stripes fastened in place securely.
The second door is the entrance to our suite. I liked using hope as it's theme because that is what we try to provide for our clients who are attempting to negotiate the very bewildering Social Security disability maze. Hope is also what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.
1) We've moved into December now, and are headed full tilt toward Christmas. I can't say that it's my favorite holiday, so much commotion and too many things to be done with too little time despite the fact that we keep it very small and simple. But I think that's a good place to start with this week's thankful list... that both Papa Bear and I are of like mind that Christmas should be about the meaning and not about spending a fortune that we don't have. We keep gift exchanges to the minimum, so we aren't paying off credit card charges come January.
2) Another thing I'm thankful for is that we've had a very mild winter thus far with plenty of warm days and no snow or ice yet. I would love to have snow for Christmas, and it does happen here on occasion here, but it seldom last long, which is good. As I get older I become less and less a fan of icy walkways and roads, I don't want to break any bones.
3) I have a big reason to be thankful this week, that being that my daughter wasn't hurt more seriously when one of the patients at the hospital where she works as a post-surgical nurse became disoriented and angry and punched her in the face. She ended up with a slight concussion, and some swelling and one heck of a headache, but thankfully her nose wasn't broken. Two days later the same patient choked a male nurse and sent him to the ER! I am thankful that my daughter handled the incident pretty well. We don't always realize that nursing can be a hazardous profession.
4) I am thankful for God's perfect timing in a wonderful holiday gift box arriving from an amazing friend on a day that had been stressful and emotionally draining. The Advent wreath is so very cool, and the baked treats were wonderful. A lot of love and effort went into it, and it made both of us smile big time.
5) I am thankful that despite the business this time of year at stores and restaurants, we've encountered some exceptionally nice young people working as clerks and waiters/waitresses. Good manners aren't as common as they used to be, and it's always so refreshing when you discover someone who has been raised to be both helpful and respectful.
6) I am thankful for the suggestion from a coworker that instead of exchanging Christmas gifts with each other we pool the money we would have spent and purchase a dorm size freezer so we have a place to keep ice for our drinks, frozen lunches, and even popsicles in the summer. We have a microwave oven, and a small refrigerator that serves us well, but it has a very tiny freezer that barely holds a trays of ice cubes much less anything extra. It's fun when we all agree to help pay for something we will appreciate and put to good use.
7) I am thankful that Papa Bear is always willing to help me with anything I ask. I was decorating my office door for Christmas today, and this involved securing about a dozen diagonal rows of red and ivory satin ribbon candy cane style. I soon realized that it would take more than two hands to measure the spacing, hold, stretch and secure each ribbon. Papa Bear got off work at 3 PM and was a very capable assistant with the project. How many husbands would do that after a tiring day of working on their feet? He is always so supportive of anything I do or am attempting to do.
8) I was thankful to see so many good entries for Six Sentence Stories this week. Thursday night is my favorite evening of the week, as I'm eager to get home and read the stories that have been written and see how folks responded to my contribution.
9) I am ever mindful and thankful for how blessed Papa Bear and I are to have our health, our jobs, our family, and a place to call home. I work with people everyday who have lost all of these things and are in truly desperate situations, and I realize that there but for the grace of God goes I. That awareness keeps me mindful to treat everyone I encounter during the course of my work with respect, kindness and compassion, and to assist them in the same manner I would hope to be helped if I ever find myself in their situation.
10) When our parents are no longer living and family members reside far away, it's easy to become nostalgic and miss the holiday festivities of years past. I am so very thankful for all my Mother did to make Christmas and all other holidays as well as our birthdays, truly special and celebrated. Those are cherished memories now, and I am thankful that I've also given my children some good memories to treasure when I am no longer here.
Most who knew her, or at least thought they did, believed her to be a gentle soul, both caring and kind. Yet she would have been the first to admit that she possessed another much darker side. A long time ago a knife had cut her heart too deeply, leaving her with a somewhat distorted sense of right and wrong. Now she smiled by day and played the role of Good Samaritan brilliantly, but by night she took the law into her own hands, exacting grizzly revenge upon those whom she decided were most deserving of being dispatched. So which then was she really, saint or sinner? In all probability, the truth lies somewhere in between.