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.

Basketball, cell phones and Kentucky…

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Last weekend my husband and I headed to our farm in Kentucky. One night is what we planned on, coming home in time to work on various projects and run errands But guess what happened? When we walked into our cold cabin, lit a flickering fire, turned on the hot water and stocked the fridge, we decided to stay all weekend. No tea from my local café, but good, strong, hot coffee. And a wi-fi that’s temperamental, but loads of movies on dvd. Action movies, mainly. The Crown waits for a weeknight.

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Everything back home could wait, and we had plenty in the pantry to see us through. We really are quite far from a store. No pizza delivery. No deliveries at all. Contrast that with our other life in the suburbs and farm time is special. I know how lucky we are to have two places. When we started out together, we had a tiny starter home in an area rife with crime. I could safely run in only one direction. West. And we dreamed of the day when we could run in all directions and not worry much.

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Why am I telling you this? I guess I’m afraid of sounding like I have it all. Or maybe that we don’t deserve this. And you know what? As hard working as my husband has been throughout our marriage, we still feel like we do live a dream life. But it didn’t fall into our laps. No. Years of working, saving and waiting paid off for us.

 

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I’m amazed at where God brought us. So many years we worried about paying for doctor’s bills and groceries. And what does that all have to do with your happiness? Well, I’ve been thinking of how we made it here and how you will too. It involves goals, working, and not giving up on yourself. Years later here we are in a nice home with good schools. Old cars for the kids. Heck, phones for the kids, which seems more necessary some days than cars. And that brings me to a funny story.

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My oldest was sixteen and phoneless. I didn’t see why she needed a cell phone yet, except her new driver status meant she might run into an emergency. So the time had arrived for her to join the world. (This was over eleven years ago and cell phones weren’t nearly as prevalent.) A phone for her made sense and also for child #2, who spent countless hours at different fields and courts and required rides everywhere. So I decided to have a little fun with the whole cell phone bit.

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Daughter #2 is athletic. She played basketball and in her sixth grade year she played awesome defense, but I wanted her to score more than four points a game for a fun change. So I promised kid #2 that if she made ten points in this game, today, she would earn herself and her sister a cell phone. Each. Two cell phones. (I was running three kids in three separate directions while my husband worked 75 miles away, so the phones would help us all so much.)

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The parents on the sidelines knew about my promise. The coach did not. My husband, the assistant coach, knew nothing, thank goodness. As the game entered the fourth quarter (each child played equal amounts of time, generally), my daughter sat at six points. She had come so close! I felt bad for her and waited for the end of the game to arrive, so I could tell her how wonderfully she played. Except some parent on my side had told the coach to let her play until she made ten points. That’s all he knew. I was oblivious to the plan. The coach kept her in. The game. And yes, she was fouled. Bam! Two free throws. Two points.

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Oh wow! Daughter #2 now sat a mere two points away from her goal. And yes, she made a shot, and hit her ten points! My four points a game princess did it. And even though the game hadn’t ended, every parent on our team stood up and screamed! She had done it! The other team looked at us as if we were insane. Why cheer with two minutes left in a very close game? Because she had earned it. A cell phone. Two actually. As her teammates laughed and the parents patted me on the back, a smile grew larger on my face. I happily joined in the happy celebration! She had earned it, and everyone celebrated. We shared kid #2’s happiness. Yes! Yesss!

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I explained to both daughters how achieving a certain goal had earned them cell phone bliss. Having goals for yourself, reasonable ones, and pie-in-the-sky goals too, is necessary. It keeps us working long past our breaking point. We don’t give up. We push onward. Because we know if we work at it, we will get better and get our cell phone. That Kentucky farm. A trip to Colorado. Whatever you long for and wish for.

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It’s good to really work your way through something. Have goals. Ambition. Stay at work long into the evening. Hitting and then smashing past our benchmarks, brings us happiness. It does! Hard work yields so much in this world! And the other funny thing? My husband who really did work eighty hour weeks for years on end, lost his access to country land when his dad died. He’s a country boy. And for over twelve years in Ohio, he depended on the invitations of friends to get in some rural time. Until, I found a slice of country heaven five years ago and we snapped it up.

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Knowing how much he wanted some land to putter on, farm, and enjoy, I decided I would rather have land in Kentucky than travel and see the world. We bought the farm and built a cabin, and happiness secret #2 came alive. Making someone else’s dream come true is fun, wonderful and it brings us happiness! It does! Out of his happiness, I have found bliss and delight. We both enjoy the farm so much, that staying the whole weekend is wonderfully fun and relaxing.

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Maybe your goal is to save up money to buy a slice of land somewhere safe. Keep at it! You can do this. And the other way to happiness is to bring some of that to another person. Give away your happiness for theirs.

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Happiness given away is happiness earned. Just ask my eldest. She remembers finding out her little sis had won a phone for her, and her happiness spread out. We all enjoyed their excitement. The cell phones I bought the very next day? The girls used them, and nowadays they text one another and snapchat and connect.

See? Happiness can be given and taken. Earned and spent.

I hope you have a lapful of contentment this week. Moments of bliss in the middle of hard work. And let’s spread some happiness around this week…

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Until next time…

Christmas, pizza and two cats…

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If you do nothing else this week, bring out one piece of Christmas or winter decoration and display it. And if the ensuing weeks bring you no closer to decorating, that’s okay, because you already did. The wreath went up the second my autumn pumpkins left and even though our calendar still claims it’s November, we know better. It is winter to us. We make it that way, and I like how it feels to own winter, so to speak. I claim it rather than winter dragging me into doldrums and thinking grey thoughts.

And while I try to find my voice, and whether I write about the sad that often accompanies our moments or days of happiness (and if you have a string of days of happiness then please share with me your secrets) I’ll continue to write about the good. I have things going on that do weigh me down, and I am watching other people walk through valleys of sadness and mourning and I can’t help them. I cannot kiss the hurt away, the way I kissed the scrapes and bruises of childhood away. Or thought I did. My kids each suffered bullying and often did not tell me, because what could I do? Make the girl in the group who shared pizza with the whole table except my daughter because she didn’t like her that day, share with her? Because my daughter was the one girl. With no pizza. Could I make that girl be nice? Where is the happiness there? Do I share this real stuff with you?

I think the sad times make the happy ones sweeter. We savor those moments of happiness, don’t we? And we find ways to punctuate the regular days of life with celebrations. Thanksgiving! Christmas! Total solar eclipse!

Let’s celebrate the sunrise. Look at it. (You can do that for me and tell me all about it.) I prefer the sunsets. Always have. The muted colors of evening. And winter has stunning evenings. Hold that cup of whatever warms your heart close to you. Sit outside and watch the sun win the sky over. Just the way I watch the blues chase the orange and pinks away, and I love it. Even with sadness, knowing we made it through another day is something. And you know me, I love my candles. And I light them to ward off the dark and the chill. Figuratively speaking. The lights and scents cheer me up!

And I love Christmas. Always have. And while I make a game out of seeing just how many Christmas trees I can stuff in this house (I am up to six full trees with the real one making it seven, but the real is waiting to be purchased), you might be happily buying gifts or making candies and cookies. I like the thought of cutting down a tree, but so many years I have gone to a lot to pick out a tree, and one year I decided to run out to my grocery store at 6 a.m. and get the pick of their fir trees. I happily chose the right one and even put it in my car. But three days later, after too many needles emptied themselves onto my floor, I took the tree back.

Yup. Took off the ornaments, and ever since my mom brought over a U Haul filled with ornaments and trees, I have too much on my trees. The lights came off too. When the cashier took back my Christmas tree, she couldn’t find it in the system. That’s because I bought it at 6:00 a.m. when I was not properly awake, and I drove off with a tree I had not paid for! Do not buy your Christmas tree at six in the morning, right? Since then, I have paid for my trees. And buying them at the local store makes me sane and happy. No felling a tree in the cold woods for me. I’m too busy trying to figure out what to do with all the trees and ornaments! And I’m so deliriously happy with that.

What I’m trying to say is do what you love this season. You can’t do it all. So do some things really well and let the other stuff go. See the tree right above? Well I forgot I bought it last January and placed it in the wrong room and so late last night I had to switch two trees because my son and his girlfriend were laughing about the pathetically small tree standing sentinel in the front windows! I had a mammoth tree in the dining room. I know. Tree madness. But I love it and if I don’t put up ornaments on some of the trees, I’m happy with that. In January, when I take almost everything down, I’m even happier.

So let’s enjoy each day left to us this year. Try to find moments of peace. Read a snowy book. I read beach books in the summer. And right now I’m only reading books that take place in winter. No great reason, except it feels right to me. Just like we expect pumpkin spice to show up in September, I look for the breezy December books come late November. What do you like? Time to enjoy movies and tv that you normally wouldn’t watch in summer? Do it. Watch all the Christmas movies if you like. Me? I was watching Harry Potter until I sat down to write.

Winter is coming if it’s not already here. Enjoy it! Get your heart ready for Christmas. Sit in the chair with a new pillow. And see that vintage sign? My late mom in law displayed it for the thirty two years I knew her, and with her passing, I inherited her Merry Christmas. I miss her. But I’m lucky enough to have some of her things to treasure. I’m even luckier to have a husband with four sisters and they are all marvelous! Kind and giving.

I know not everyone is as lucky. But be with good people. Be a good person. Don’t be the one who keeps the pizza for herself and the “friends” she chooses on that day. Share as much as you can. That incessant bell ringer at the stores right now? A kind word and a dollar or a quarter is all we need to give. Look at them. Share what you have. Give your kid a U Haul full of love. Though I thought my husband was going to pass out when he saw all the Christmas stuff my mother decided should go to me! My mom shared with me. I love that! She shared what meant a lot to her. I get my love of creating a Christmas forest in my house from her. So yeah, I know you hear it everywhere, but give.

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You might not be a cat person, but I have two cats, and see both of them curled up on top of the Christmas tree? They’re happy. Content. Which is better than happy any day. I didn’t get to put up that tree and they decided to enjoy the tree this way. I pictured them hanging out under one of the other trees but they decided to be good with this. I like that. Make your own kind of happiness.

Christmas is coming. If you can’t get everything done, hang out around the Christmas tree box. Okay, maybe not. But the idea is almost right. Let’s be happy with what we have. Share what we have. No overspending. But please pay for your Christmas tree before you take it home.

Happy end of November sweet friend.