Breezing through…

Every February it happens to me. I hit the winter slump. I’m fine coasting through autumn, where every day brings a new delight from maple trees lit up in orange to apples ready to pick, and after Thanksgiving we sail into Christmas. As fun as that is, the January respite is welcome, even if she blows chilly. But I have a bone to pick with cold and indecisive February, who has decided to grant us one more day this month. Thanks.

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By the time I pass Valentine’s Day and the beautiful flowers and chocolates, I feel ready for spring. Even small tastes will do. To open a window and hear the creek rushing from recent rains is a joy I’m looking forward to, but in the meantime, for those of us still stuck with both feet in winter, what can we do? How do we find the beauty in today and tonight? By getting out and making ourselves do something. Beyond our comfort zones.

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You’re seeing pics from my latest walk on our Kentucky farm. The day had warmed up and I decided to make the most of it. And as much as I’d like to say it’s out of my comfort zone, walking our land isn’t. I love seeing new things like this pond, above. The farmer made this pond about 100 years ago, using the clay soil to keep the water in so his cows could drink. This pond is inaccessible by spring due to all the bushes and insects, but this day? I braved the briars and felt rewarded to finally glimpse the hidden pond.

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We have no name for this pond, but the frogs make a racket each spring.

As much as I’d like to say this nature walk brought me out of the doldrums, it was joining a bowling league. Wait? Isn’t that something people did years ago? Is that for men? Who bowls? Well, my neighborhood has a bowling league and we joined. All ages were represented. My son’s friends have a team there, and I found out the first game is the best scoring-wise, getting bad and going to worst by the third game. I also learned age has no true boundaries, since an 87 year old man is in the league and he bowls with a hook! Strike after strike in the lane next to me. Impressive.

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Oh, that’s out Kentucky home. It felt so good to get back into the warmth after hours tramping outside. But I was writing about bowling. It was fun, I got to know my two teammates better and I know my husband well, so we all laughed and tried to be bowling champions. All I know is the next day one side of me hurt. Think squats. Yes, that motion over and over for three games did it to me. Come Sunday, I’ll be ready for another fun evening facing off against a new team, so I’m sure to meet more people I don’t know as well. If at all. And that’s the point.

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These pics make me ready to go back to Kentucky. This pond is called “Deanna’s pond”, since I love beach vacations and this is my waterfront view. Yeah, it’s a joke, but I like having a pond of my own. It has fish in it now. We’ve stocked two ponds for fishing fun.

If you’re in need of a reset button or want to get out of old routines, then shake it up! Do something new. Karaoke night? Hiking in winter? Euchre nights? Just grabbing dinner wherever you choose is a break. We just did that two weekends in a row. Wonderful! And then I made sure to see Swan Lake with my daughter. The one who loves the arts and used to dance, so this was a treat. I felt blessed to see such beauty on stage. A little gift from heaven came down and settled on me. It was that wonderful.

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The next night my husband and I snuck out at intermission to go to a Scottish pub and have a late dinner. Just us! We were talking about bowling and how many weeks it goes on and on the actual night, I felt abashed at using a mere 8 pound ball. Sad. But lupus has affected me, so I do my best and hope our team isn’t gunning to be number one or even seventh this year. With me? It’s not happening. But I’ll laugh and chat with everyone.

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One story before I go. On a night long ago in Milwaukee, my husband and I had hired a babysitter so we could drive to the east side and have a wonderful authentic Mexican dinner. You could buy margaritas by the glass or the pitcher, and since the pitcher was more economical, we chose that. We should have known when almost everyone in the whole restaurant looked to see who was getting that glorious pitcher full of lime and tequila. We were! Yay us!

 

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Not so fast! No yay us, because we felt it was out duty, did I mention we were about twenty-eight at this point and still dumb, to finish every last drop? Then we stood up to drive home, and wow, neither one of us was in shape to drive. No ubers back then. Taxis, yes, but we barely had the cash to cover the babysitter. So we found a bowling alley and bowled. Drinking copious amounts of water and letting the evening turn to night, we spent a long time bowling, playing it very safe. And learned a lesson. Margaritas by the glass are better for two people. By far.

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Hopefully, you’ll try bowling at least once in your life. And then find a group activity or a solo endeavor and do it! Shake off the cold remnants of winter. Wait for the winds of March to blow warmer breezes on a beautiful day, and then go out and feel the wind. Open your window and freshen the air in your home. Nothing smells as good as fresh air. Just once dry your sheets outside, no matter what the covenants say in your neighborhood, and that night, climb into the stiff sheets and drift to sleep smelling the freshness of the day.

Who knows, you just might have dreams of the one new thing you’re going to try.

I’m wishing you all the happiness in the world today….

Until next time…

A cup of comfort…

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New Ear’s Eve. We had fabulous plans, my husband and I, to stay downtown in a swanky hotel and walk around the city until dinner at 9:00. A steak dinner with martinis, which is completely proper, followed by kissing and fireworks at midnight. But…I came down with bronchitis so we spent NYE in Kentucky at our farm, with wine and a martini for the man, shrimp, stuffed mushrooms and then the steak. Fabulous!

 

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We watched A Star is Born because everyone needs a tearjerker movie to set the mood. Thankfully, we like to laugh together, so we spent too much time taking silly pics and popping those little confetti things which are plain old fun. The fire felt good and we counted down and toasted a brand new year. I love laughing with that man. Do you have someone in your life who cracks you up even when you’re trying to be stern? That’s my guy!

 

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We need laughter. Can that be our resolution this year? To find happiness in a cup of comfort that is named laughter? How do we get through the tough times without laughter? The joyful days when we feel like the tips of our fingers graze the stars above? We laugh easily, beautifully, and sometimes until we cry. Laugh. I want you to fill your cup, no matter what you’re doing, going through or facing and laugh. Alone, with someone, it doesn’t matter.

 

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I have a story for you. When I started my first real job out of college, all the new associates were expected to pass all four parts of the CPA exam on the first try, so I worked lots of overtime and it made my head spin. I would come home, eat ramen noodles and study. My boyfriend, now husband, was working at another top accounting firm who didn’t pressure their newbies into passing the exam right away. So he went out at night. Bars, drinking, skiing. Fun!

 

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I studied every night and almost every weekend too. I worked Saturdays too. At our national training, two weeks before the dreaded exam, I asked a partner how we could have fun at training and still be ready for the exam. He said to just study. As in no fun. So yeah, I did. Except one night my roomie and I stayed out drinking until 6:00 a.m. We met Richard Petty (I had no idea who the guy with the hat and boots was, but the drinks were free), and we wandered about finding fun. Great night, but training that day felt awful. Tired, half-ill, half-drunk (please don’t judge I was 22 and dumb). Diet Coke saved that day.

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The day of the CPA exam dawned on a Wednesday. It is a two and a half day exam. My boyfriend and I drove down together to the huge, expansive convention hall. He and I separated to locate our seats and prepare and pray. Did I ever mention that alphabetically his name is right after mine, most anywhere? Engle was my name, so I sat at the table and guess who was to my right? Eppers. My boyfriend. Trust me when I say you never want to take that exam next to your boyfriend. Nope. Not good. Not fun.

 

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That’s us. Now. After that dreadful exam.    So proctors stood at every angle to ensure no cheating, and no way in hell was I going to jeopardize my career by cheating on the exam, so I kept my head down. You know how you look at all the test pages and try to figure out how much time to allot for everything? I do that. I also listen to when people start flipping to the next page to judge my progress. The boyfriend flipped his page way before I had finished the problems on page one, and he and I were evenly matched, so we usually flipped at the same time. I was doing horribly! He was on page two and why was I so slow?

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When I finally turned to page two, he was flipping to the third page. How? Why? I couldn’t look at him. Why was he so much faster than I? After four and a half hours of hell, we left the room. Done until 8:00 a.m. tomorrow. So I asked him about being so far ahead of me and how it messed with my brain! I was panicking during the exam! My boyfriend told me he decided to mess with my head and flipped the pages, knowing I’d be in meltdown mode. And since I couldn’t look at him, I never saw him quietly go back to the right page he was still on.

Did it work, he asked? I fumed! Of course I felt flummoxed! And I had studied and he hadn’t, much. He “got me” just because he knew me so well. Knew I was listening for when he turned to the next page, the next problems. And then I just started to laugh. Yeah, the test was important, but for him to take that precious time to mess with me cracked me up! What an interesting sense of humor!  I loved him. Especially then, because we needed some laughs after those problems we faced down. Sheesh!

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The next two days were filled with every problem imaginable. I don’t know how we survived. We passed. I passed first, but retired long ago and now my husband does accounting “stuff” that is way over my head now. But what I love about him is he played me during the most important exam ever, of our whole lives. Our college prepared us with timed tests, too much homework and more. But my husband “got” me, understood me and decided to spend some minutes having some fun. I loved that back then, and am delighted to this day that he thought of that, when all I thought of was the clock and the exam. Laughter. Happiness that warm me even now.

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Shared laughter is beautiful. Comfortable and comforting. That’s why I married him. Well, there are many reasons, but we laughed from the start! We laugh when things go terribly wrong, because what else are you gonna do? Cry all the time? Nope. Fill your cup of comfort with laughter and you’ll feel full. And happy. Warm and loved.

That’s what I wish for you this year. This shiny new year that we haven’t messed up yet. I wish you laughter in good times and bad. In sickness and health. I laughed in Kentucky just as much as I would have downtown on New Year’s Eve. I was sick, but inside I felt warm, with wine, love and laughter. Be happy, my friends. We just get one shot at this, and why not start fresh? Find your cup of comfort. Fill it with hope, love, peace, cosiness, happiness, looking on the bright side, trying to give to others. All that. But don’t forget to laugh!

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.

 

just breathe…

 

 

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Well, the Christmas crazies have hit. I love it. Always have. I think the more celebrations we have in the dead of winter, the better. We need more than one and a half weeks of frivolity! That magical time from December 23rd (I like the build-up) until January 2nd when my tired tree is unadorned, is beautiful, frenzied, silent, exuberant, exciting, hushed, alone, together, and ours to make the way we choose.

 

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Are you wondering what I’m saying? Make your peace with this season and find your happiness. Craft and carve it out so that Christmas Eve is the way you like. And Christmas Day and why not throw in Boxing Day, which is family game day at our home, and then New Year’s Eve Day, the Eve itself culminating in New Year’s Day. Spend some time with family or friends, and the rest of it is yours. Spend some time with you. Doing what you like. And the rest can be given to your family or friends and the people who want you with them. Give them a rested, happy you. That’s the best gift. And for you?

 

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If you want a cozy fire, with classic Christmas carols playing softly in the background, cuddled in a warm blanket, glass of wine in hand with an engrossing book, plan it. If you go to church like we do, plan for that special time. Meditate on what happened on Christmas Day. I look at our creche and sing the songs long known by heart, and I do feel it. My peace on earth, come down from heaven.

 

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Yours might look different. Santa and cookies left by the tree. Or skiing all day and enjoying eggnog at night. We all Christmas differently. If you want to change something to suit you better, try it. Remember that this is the season of giving, but it’s the little things, the smallest gifts that mean the most. A cup of chai tea latte hand delivered. A candle made by your hands. Finding a new song to love and share. Laughing over funny memes. Sharing a slice of cheesecake. Baking cookies and sending them off to neighbors.

 

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Give? Letting that car merge. Giving up a parking space. Opening the door for another human. Most aren’t aware as they wander in an unknown hypnotic state, trying to finish in time. Let’s make sure we walk through the next three weeks aware, awake and able to give, with the wisdom to stop when we feel out energy depleting. Then it’s time to mindlessly play a video game, watch a Christmas movie, or sleep.

 

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I like to look at my trees and look at the ornaments. The family’s favorite tree is the one I named the “family tree” because it has every ornament ever crafted and cobbled together by my children, by me when I was just five and all the “ugly” ornaments from the 1970’s that my mom gave me. We love that tree, more than the stately one full of glass ornaments. Precious, fresh, fragrant and perfect. We choose the imperfections. That brings up armloads of happiness, much laughter and happy memories.

 

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Make the next three weeks fun and restful, exciting and calm. Give a little and save some for yourself. It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. And it will be if we make it that way, but it’s all a choice. Grab it. Your happiness. Peace. Warmth.

 

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.

grace and gratitude…

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Today was rainy, gray and dark, so I poured myself another cup of coffee, lit some candles and went to the couch to read and pray. Yes, I try to stay on track, but my mind wanders. The coffee helps.

Gratitude is splendid and sets my world aright. When I’m feeling down or overwhelmed by people and their problems, I change my outlook and turn it upside down. How? Let’s say I’m putting away my husband’s clothes, and I’m tired of matching his mismatched socks. Where the other sock goes is a mystery I hope to uncover someday. But I thank God for my husband, who is busy at work, again, day after day, often working eleven and twelve hour days. I pray over him, his life and I thank God for him.

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If you’re busy feeling thankful for a person, you’re far less likely to feel anger or annoyed by them. So say out loud how thankful you are for all those “problem” people in your life. You don’t know how much longer you have with them. Be thankful.

 

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That little picture above? Was given as gift to me years ago when I had no money and cold only accept this gift and not reiterate. I treasure this and each year place it on my kitchen windowsill so I remember the joy of Christmas. Yes, it’s a secular view, but that goes along with the message of the birth of Jesus. I remember the reason for the season.

I’ve long forgotten the beautiful soul who gave away so many of these pretties, but I look at the picture and remember being so little and excited about Santa’s visit! I slow down and try to remember Christmas is a gift. Name the reasons why you are thankful right now. Even our problems can be blessings in disguise, teaching us patience, kindness and mercy.

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Make time to sit and reflect on your blessings. Name what you are thankful for right now. One time, when I was so sick and about to have my bladder surgically removed, because the lining has disintegrated and I felt the acidic burn every second of the day, and someone asked me what I was thankful for. Really? My hair was falling out, my two children needed constant attention, I was using opium suppositories for the unrelenting pain, and my street was being torn up with new sewers going in. And my husband was working more than twelve hour days. Thankful? Seriously?

 

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But she was serious. I was thirty-two, my family lived 1000 miles away, and I kept driving to the Mayo Clinic for tests. They did not want to do the surgery because I was “too young”. Too young for this pain? Too young to have this “middle-aged women’s disease”? I quipped, “I’m thankful that I can see.” That’s it. That’s all I said. And now I look back at all that happened that awful summer and I see more blessings.

 

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I had angels in disguise watching my girls as I stayed in the hospital for eight days after the eight hour surgery. When I came home, I couldn’t stand up straight, but I walked around the block every day. I’m thankful for my surgeon’s skilled hands. I left her a note on my body, written by a nurse trying to calm me down pre-surgery, that said, “I want to have another baby.” So my surgeon took care with my body. She told me she hoped I could have another child after my body healed. What a sweet surgeon to care about that for me.

 

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I had another baby two years post-surgery. It was touch and go, but I’m thankful for my son. For the people along the way who helped me. My neighbor who knew I had surpassed my limit, since I was yelling at my two kids in the bathtub that awful summer, and she asked if she could take them for an hour. Blessed peace. No road work sounds. Just silence. Thank you Judy. I’m grateful to this day.

List them. Write them out. Speak them out loud. Your gratitude. Even for the tough times. Maybe even especially for the rough times, when we learn so much.

I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.

Toasting to trying the new…

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It’s been years since I’ve faced down a jam packed December, and I remember why I like them that way. I woke up and threw coffee down my throat, hurried through my list of chores, and then had fun with dear friends catching up over chai tea lattes. Mailed every Christmas card after that. Came home to  snuggle with my eleven month old grandchild, and suddenly the afternoon had melted away.

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Suddenly, my husband was home, saying we were late for dinner downtown. I hadn’t even chosen what to wear, but I threw on something suitable, left my house with my daughter and grandchild still here and made it in thirty minutes to dinner. Interesting. My husband had eaten there before and didn’t like it so much, but every place was booked, since we were seeing “Hello, Dolly”, afterward. Dinner was…burnt. I must not be an incredible foodie, because some people seemed to be enjoying the very limited menu.

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(I like snow globes. Musical ones are even better.)

Dinner. I eat. I like to think I’m open to new ideas in food, but the risotto was crunchy. In fact, everything we ate tonight was burnt and dry, and that’s the way it is supposed to be served. I have a new name for the restaurant. Burnt. Maybe Toast. The only thing not burnt or charred or dry was my wine. The very kind waiter asked if we had time for dessert, but even that menu looked dry. Chocolate mousse with peanut brittle mixed in? Nope, not feeling it.

 

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We went across the street and I found chocolate. I bought some right before the curtain went up. Another great musical. We just got back home in time to see my son visiting the food here after a tough week at college.

So, I promised to send inspiration every day for a month. This is what I learned today. Try new things, even if it’s not your cup of tea. You must might like it. Actually, the chai tea latte was the first I’ve had in years, so that turned out to be a fun surprise. And seeing my grandchild marvel at the Christmas tree lights was fun. His first Christmas. Lucky me.

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The whole day felt like a blessing. I ran out of speed at the end of the musical. I have lupus and get tired easily. Tomorrow is a full day too. So it’s off to…read. Not bed! Soon though.

Are you up for trying something new? Today, if possible? This week, definitely! You might find something you really like. And if not, you can laugh about it afterwards. Happiness and laughter shared with others is wondrous. I can’t think of a better way to spend my time. Not all days can be like today, no. All fun and play. But maybe that’s something to keep in mind, for you? Have a full day, full of fun. Enjoy every drop.

Wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…

Until next time.

Light the way…

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For the next few crazy weeks, I’ve decided to post everyday. I hope to inspire you. To find comfort and caring in the middle of a frenzy. And if not a frenzy, then in loneliness. Because I know each person matters. We all carry light or darkness with us as we leave our homes each day. I like light at the windows, so other can enjoy the warmth. Choose light today.

 

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Deciding to deal with the gray of winter, while Christmas, which some days feels like a full contact sport, with us meeting Christmas Day, tired, longing to remain in our pajamas or sweats, nibbling on candy and watching old Christmassy movies till our hearts are full, seems almost impossible. But it’s not. Bring in the fresh cedar tree and even a tiny Charlie Brown tree. I’ll get my morning coffee today and see this Charlie Brown tree and make a choice to see good in others, even in the middle of impatience. Just the way you choose too. What do you want to change? For a better you?

 

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In spite of work, raising families, helping our aging parents if we’re lucky to still have them, in spite of all we need to do, there is time for us. Step out and look at the sky at sunset. I know, it’s awful that the sun sleeps much of the day, but still, the sky is hauntingly beautiful, in a way a December sky can only be. The angle of the sun, the silence outdoors, well I do hear the freeway, but still. Breathe in your day and exhale all the bad. And look around.

 

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Do you see the peonies I found? Peonies mean springtime, when possibility lands at your door every morning. But today I found a spot of spring in the middle of the longest nights of the year. Find a way to relax. Hallmark does have happy movies on right now. Twinkle lights make me feel less alone, when I’m here, by myself. Put up twinkle lights. Choose your color. Blue? Go for it. I’m into a classic white this year, and I’m not sure why. New house and all? I guess I have to figure her out.

 

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You have to know I follow Jesus. I choose that. So I may pepper my posts somedays with Jesus. But he brings light, just as much as my snow laden tree does. Why do we crave light? The candles, the fire, fire pits, the Christmas lights thrown everywhere? To feel less boxed in, to feel up when the darkness yanks us down? Is that it?

Choose right now, until Christmas, and if you don’t celebrate that, then until New Year’s Day, choose to light your early mornings or evenings with meaningful and purposeful light.

 

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Make a choice to put up a strand of twinkle lights. More if you have the energy, and take time out to look at them. Enjoy them. That’s my wish for you today. Light. Take it in. And send it out by showing kindness today.

I’m wishing you all the happiness in the world….

Until tomorrow then.

 

 

 

 

 

Happy ThanksChristmas…

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I’ve returned to my senses. Back to feeling up and happy, And you? Are you getting ready for the big dinner heading your way in a little more than a week? I am. I’ve been hosting Thanksgiving since 1997. Bittersweet, because my father-in-law died that year, one week before Thanksgiving, and my mom-in-law wasn’t up to having the dinner at their house. So, I offered and it became tradition.

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I went overboard that year and shelled the chestnuts by hand, for the stuffing. My fingernails were nubs by the time I had all those chestnuts ready for chopping. And I had to have a fresh floral centerpiece, created the night before so it wouldn’t wilt. Now I just run in to the floral shop and grab a centerpiece, leaving me time to bake all the pies.

I’m ready to set my Thanksgiving table. But the dishes would be dusty by next Thursday and the wine glasses would be too,  so it’s probably too early to set my table. Maybe I’ll lightly dust the day before? No? Not palatable? Okay.

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We will gather around this table in the one room my daughter asked not to be changed into my Christmas decor. It’s tough! I’m ready for the change. I’m jealous of our cousins across the Atlantic who do not have Thanksgiving, and are setting up for Christmas. I love Thanksgiving, don’t get me wrong, but the Canadians just might be right about having it in October. Why? I love the twinkle lights that grace our descent into the dark days, where it feels like night most of the time.

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Don’t say a word to my daughter, but before I head out of town for six days! Six! To see my family out East, I’m bringing in Christmas. Room by room. The second I have my trees up, you’ll know! I think I found everything I need in boxes in the basement. It’s tough to know really, because the movers put all my winter boots and shoes in the basement, and I just found them yesterday, if you can believe that. I guess Master Bedroom written on the box screamed Basement to them! Who knows? But I found them in the nick of time. It’s now a game for me. Where are the kitchen utensils? And yes, I just found them yesterday too. In the basement by my husband’s workbench. Makes perfect sense and really I was missing my ladles and rolling pin. Maybe that’s why I’m so happy. I’m finally finding the rest of my stuff. In the basement.

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When I come back, I’ll have to shop right away. Maybe I should grab the turkey this week?? What do you think? And then I’ll bring out the Christmas trees and listen to some Snoopy music (the Peanuts music from the Charlie Brown special?), and I’ll… wait! she will be so upset. My eldest. The rest don’t care where I place all my Christmas trees, and we’re not even talking about the real one I buy each year from a cold and frosty grocery store. You should see the Hallmark moments my husband I share choosing a tree in front of the store under the glow of parking lot lamps.

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Random lavender, but oh so pretty. Back to Thanksgiving and Christmas… which one do you prefer? Are you itching to place garland across your mantle? I am! My kids crack me up. Christmas for me is an event. Yes, I celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus! But I also make a game of placing trees wherever I like in the house, and my husband says anywhere is fine as long as he can see the football games from the kitchen. The kitchen, you say? Yes! I place a tree in the kitchen some years.

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Back to my daughter. I told her a few years ago that my wrapping paper “theme” was plaid, using greens and reds only please, and she actually brought in her gifts wrapped in “The Little Mermaid” Christmas wrapping paper! She told me she searched for weeks for a properly ugly Christmas wrapping paper, just so my theme would be ruined. I love that! Now she has most unfortunately brought the other daughter to the dark side and they bring in their gifts a week before Christmas, and laughingly place them under my tree next to my beautifully color coordinated paper and bows and gift tags.

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Oh, this? All the books I buy that I mean to read, but if I read them all, I would have no life at all. Do you know I have two shelves dedicated to Christmas books? Yes, I love the season that much. But I’ll keep the pilgrims, oh no! I just remembered they’re not out, and I’m not sure where I saw them. The guest bedroom closet? The coat closet? This moving thing is tricky. Now I have to find my porcelain turkey, and I haven’t seen him since last year. What to do?

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I’ll think “autumn” and inspiration will follow. Don’t you love the holidays? Feeling competitive with your neighbors, craning your neck as you drive or walk past their windows and you see it. Their tree is all up and lit beautifully! I make it competitive! Isn’t that what the holidays are all about? Getting that perfect Instagram pic? No? You’re right. It’s about gathering together or huddling with your besties and thanking God for all he has given us. For seeing us through this year. Good and bad times. All of it. And we eat and celebrate and reconnect. And that’s beautiful…

And then the it’s a game of who flips on their Christmas lights the earliest on Thanksgiving night. Game on! Count me in!

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The fun, crazy season is almost upon us. Why don’t we grab a slice or two of pie and enjoy what’s to come. I’ll try not to get too hung up by the beautiful crusts, latticed perfectly, and browned to perfection that I see in my magazines. Thanksgiving is not a competitive sport. Christmas might be, but I think I’ll grab a glass of wine at about eleven a.m. on Thanksgiving and enjoy the people and the food. Green bean casserole will be next to me on the table.

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I have to go and find my pilgrims. I hope you have a beautiful week, and are anticipating the fun of Thanksgiving.

I’m wishing you happiness wherever you are…

Until next time…