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.

a beautiful soul…

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While wandering back roads searching for the perfect autumn tree in Wisconsin, I had to stop and stare at the cornstalks restlessly shifting in the rising winds. Warm days up north are a wonder and want to be savored slowly, so we did. And while I looked for the beauty, I almost missed the most beautiful thing in my life, save one.

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I almost forgot the beauty in my husband. Almost. And while I’ve always thought him to be the most handsome guy I have ever seen, and I’ll readily admit to falling in love with his eyes long before I formally met him in college, it is the beauty in his soul that has drawn me towards him. On our trip, he revealed that a former girlfriend of his had been in contact with him, and while I asked questions, I caught my love in a new light.

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He has long assured me he is the lucky one, and while I’m not one to argue (please laugh here), I know it is I who am blessed. On the night we really met one another, we stayed up all night and talked until the sun made a bleary-eyed appearance through the curtains. And the next date? Even though he had heaped the one armchair with clothes, shoes and a basketball, knowing I’d be forced this time to sit next to him, I managed to find a few inches of space and perched on the chair. (My mom told me to never to sit on a bed with a guy. So I listened this once because I so wanted to impress this man.) And we talked all night. Again. I kissed him on the cheek and left with bright sunlight escorting me home.

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The next time we did a bit more than talk, but my point is we connected. We were so evenly matched in so many ways, and when we compared our timelines we discovered how many times we had been together, except we didn’t know it then. I sat next to him in our college classes since we had the same major and our last names bumped up against each other. All…the…time…

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This funny, self-deprecating, outdoors loving, athletic guy kept me on my toes in so many ways. Do you know he is in my college graduation picture? I’m shaking hands happily with the college president while over my shoulder is my boyfriend (husband) grinning as he accepts his diploma. Once seated I whispered to him, “I graduated first,” and smiled. The next week we had finals. In our last final exam ever, I sat up front, painstakingly poring over my paper, and the moment I stood up to turn in the test I heard a commotion behind me, and a blur flew down the steps in the exam hall. My boyfriend slapped his test down on the table while I placidly walked over and turned in my test too. When we were both in the hallway, he leaned over, grinning broadly, and said, “I finished college first.” Yes, he had. How could I not love him?

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So while I show you pics from our stay near Lake Michigan, I admit I didn’t see him in a new way. Until he told me about meeting an old girlfriend. And while I wasn’t super excited to know he had met her, I did see by the way my husband treated me, that he loved me. Wanted my best. Thought of me first, so often, ahead of himself. And I’m realizing, with our nest empty (but a grandchild due in two months!), he and I have so much good going on.

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We have time for each other. Finally! We could have drifted apart aways without noticing much, but thankfully we both felt wide awake to the possibilities open to us; to being able to intentionally plan on being together. I had started to let my daughters claim my time, and I only have so much energy to place into each day. I want to be with that beautiful soul I fell for so long ago. And just in case you wondered if I was hearing God correctly, I have one last, tiny story, so you’ll know, just as I did.

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We were finally sitting for the dreaded CPA exam. Your eyes must be on the test at all times and many proctors watch for cheating. Guess who had assigned seating right next to me? Him. The boyfriend. Now husband. I thumbed through the test pages to better allocate my time, and while I always listened to when the first (show-offs!) paper flippers started making those familiar rustlings, the boyfriend next to me started flipping to page two waaay before I had even solved half of page one! I couldn’t look, only listen, and I panicked, during the most important exam ever. I kept working, doggedly hoping to catch up to him when suddenly he had turned to page three. That meant I was now a whole page behind him! Utter panic. Mercifully the bell rang and pencils down. He decided turning the pages early would throw me into terrors and it did. The guy knew me better than I did. We both laughed more when he explained the effort he put into turning the pages back so quietly that I wouldn’t catch on.

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I’m back home. Ready to spend time with my one true love. The boy who makes me laugh so much. Who made me a mother to three great kids. Who brings me Starbucks on bad days. I’m grateful for realizing I have beauty next to me. Well, not literally. He’s sleeping and I am writing to this to you, quite late. Find beautiful people. Kind people. Beauty is there, if only you’ll look for it.

Until next time…