Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gratituesday...for my Friend

Did you miss me?

I missed you!

Christmas (and my birthday, which was the 23rd) was wonderful, as always, but I'm still recovering. A holiday "hangover" of sorts, I suppose. All the food, the wine, the relatives, the spending...it can get a bit exhausting. I figured I get back to some kind of normal with a Tuesday Gratituesday post.

Do those of you who have blogs like mine, with your full name and picture plastered all over it for all to see, ever wish you had an anonymous one? I sure do. Especially on days like today, when I'd really like to vent here about certain people who are driving me crazy. But I digress. I'm supposed to be talking about what I'm grateful for, right? So here it is.

I'm grateful for Jesus.

I mean really, really grateful. For so many reasons (the least of which being that dying for me thing) I am so glad I know Him.

When I am feeling really challenged by the people in my life, I know I can turn to Him, and He will be there, my steadfast Friend. He is never too busy or stressed to listen to me. He always keeps His cool and His sense of humor. His patience never ends, and He never tires of my complaints or poor jokes.

When I have been really down, and I mean down, I have been given the good sense and the grace to turn to Him. Like everybody else on the planet, I've had some real lows. When I mentally list them (I can't reveal them all here - remember - that anonymity thing?) I am sometimes overcome by how absolutely horrid some of the things I've gone through have been. Can you think of some times like that in your life? I know you can.

And then I remember what Jesus did for me during those times. He reached down (way down) to my level and hoisted me up. He kept me going. He was my brother and my friend.

Things will go well, and things will go off track. Today I'm thankful that where ever I'm at on that path, Jesus is right there beside me.

I've got much to be thankful for.

So I'm going to visit my Friend. He's waiting for me at my local church every Tuesday, all day (something else to be immensely grateful for.) Is He waiting for a visit from you, too? Go say hi. You won't ever regret it.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

yes, Virginia

I believe in Santa Claus.

I'm not saying I simply promote belief in Santa with my children, although that is also true. I'm not saying I think the Santa myth is fun, and that I like to pretend he's real.

I'm saying I believe in Santa Claus.

Like most, I grew up believing in Santa. I wrote lists of gifts I would like, and well-crafted letters mailed off addressed to Santa, North Pole.

I visited him not at a crowded mall, but at the local Hudson's Budget Store. There on a make-shift throne sat not one of "Santa's helpers," but the real Santa. At least that's what my brother and I were convinced. He had a real beard and kindly blue eyes. I remember preparing for our yearly rendezvous for days, overcome with nervous excitement. I was not a terribly shy little girl, but I was certainly not the type to be comfortable sitting on some old man's lap and rattling off a list of toys I wanted.

I did ask for toys, and sometimes I got them, and sometimes I didn't. I remember that one year I decided there was only one gift for me: a miniature toy vacuum cleaner. I had spotted it in the Sears Catalog, and had carefully drawn a circle around it. It was just like my mom's, only in wonderful toy form. On Christmas morning I excitedly tore open the packages marked To: Cathy From: Santa. I'm sure there were lots of wonderful gifts there. I don't remember what they were, but I remember that I didn't get the vacuum cleaner. But I still believed.

I never had a Christmas on which I "discovered" that Santa wasn't real. We had a book on our shelf that told a story about a little boy who got a black eye at school when someone challenged his belief in Santa. (I'm pretty sure there are no books like that in print these days!) The book went on to explain Santa's origins in the form of St. Nicholas. I used to imagine I was a bit like that boy: I would be willing to go to the mat for the Big Guy. In fact, I still am.

There is a trend in some circles to deny the existence of Santa Claus, a trend I find quite disturbing. I know some folks quite well who raise their children with the belief that St. Nicholas was real, of course, but that Santa Claus is merely a modern invention of consumerists who want us to spend more money this time of year. (They also demonize Halloween, which is another story entirely.) They contend that if they indulge a Santa fantasy, which they will someday say is a fib, their children won't believe anything they've told them, and will end up doubting the existence of God, which they will now identify as a myth as well.

I've heard this theory more than once. It's interesting, but the fact is I have never, ever heard of a case in which this has happened. Rather, I've many examples of well-rounded folks who love Santa and love the Lord and live a healthy, well-balanced life filled with ample amounts of fantasy and reality.

Fr. John Dietzen, in his recent column for the Catholic News Service, agrees with me. He eloquently defends belief in Santa, acknowledging that fantasies such as this are "doors to wonder and awe, a way of touching something otherwise incomprehensible."

Fr. Dietzen also share the words of G.K. Chesterton spoken in Santa's defense. Chesterton compares Santa's generosity with that of Our Creator Himself, and contends that our experience of Santa's goodness becomes a reflection of God's great gifts to us. (Read Fr. Dietzen's reflections and Chesterton's words here.)

So I believe in Santa, and like Chesterton, I find that "Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it." I believe in Santa, and I believe in the magic of Christmas. If your belief has dimmed, take a moment to remember what it is like to be a child on Christmas Eve. That night contains all the wonder, joy and magic that can ever be. I admit that every Christmas Eve, while I join Santa in fulfilling the wishes of my children, I start to believe that anything is possible. I recall the Christmas Eves I have lain in bed, a new baby growing beneath my heart, considering the Holiest of Nights when another young mother gave birth. And what does that have to do with Santa? Everything.

I believe in Santa. I believe in goodness, and in selfless giving. I believe in wondrous nights on which anything, even the miraculous, can happen.

One of my favorite bloggers wrote recently about a little girl who "found out" there was no Santa. I wished I could tell her what my mom told me through her actions when I was a little girl, and what I told my children who began to doubt his existence. Santa is real, as real as wind and warmth and love. If there is a time when you doubt that he lives, it is time for your belief to evolve. It is time for you to be Santa for others.

Every Christmas Eve my belief in Santa is renewed. It may be me who fills the stockings, and my husband who eats the cookies.

Then again, maybe not.

I believe in Santa. I hope you do, too.

gifts for me under the tree!

Not exactly what I had in mind.

Sophie has been leaving presents like this all over the place, so now we've confined her to the family room. I'm reminded of the days potty-training my children, something I was terrible at even though I went through it six times. I admit that sometimes I look at my adult children and am amazed that they made it this far without thousands of hours of therapy -- and in dry pants, no less.

Puppy love can be fickle, but I'm not giving up on my girl, or on myself. I know that she and I will figure this out. Since I've been spending all my free time searching the internet ("puppy poops in crate" and "how do I housetrain?" were recent searches) I've had little time to blog. When I'm not looking for training assistance I'm locked in the bathroom with her (that's where her training papers are) praying that she will let loose. It's a pain, but I'm still glad I got here. Weird? Love, puppy and otherwise, is like that.

I'm learning about myself, of course, as I struggle to train the little sweetie. Every puppy training manual (including my current fave read, Puppies for Idiots) claims that it is indeed the owner who first needs discipline. Oh dear. Discipline is NOT my strong suit. My lack of it leads me to say things like, "I'm a great mom, but a lousy mother." I'm horrible at providing boundaries, for myself and others.

This experience is reminding me that I need to grow in this area. Developing a schedule, following rules, erecting barriers, establishing boundaries -- all these ideas make me exceedingly uncomfortable. They go against my nature. But that is not an excuse to abandon them.

Sophie and I can learn together, and we will. I talked with my brother the other day, who is proud "papa" to a black lab and a life-long dog lover. He reminded me that I need to exude confidence, and that I should essentially "fake it til I make it." Sophie will learn that I'm leader of the pack, and she will be my faithful friend and companion. It will all be worth it.

Just another reminder that living a full life means doing things that are challenging, taking risks, pushing ourselves. It also means there will occasionally be unexpected presents under the tree. That's ok. Just clean it up and keep going!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

'twas the week before Christmas...

Yes, I am still alive!

It seems that the more I have to say, the less time I have to say it. I've been wanting to update and have been simply overwhelmed lately.

Sophie is cute as ever, but she DOES NOT WANT TO SLEEP AT NIGHT. She has found barking at all hours to be her favorite pastime. She also enjoys pooping in her crate instead of on her papers. I know, puppies are like babies, blah blah blah. I'm tired and cranky. I know, I'm the one who wanted a puppy, I have to deal with it. Blah, blah blah. She's grow up and learn and life will go on, right?

Luke has been sick all this week with something nasty. I sent him off to school this morning (after three days at home) even though he was moaning and saying his stomach still hurts. I haven't gotten a call yet, so he's fine, right?

I'm off to renew my driver's license now. Even for a gal like me, who likes to have her picture taken, this is not fun. I know this pic will be hanging out in my wallet for the next ten years, and they are not very accomodating photographers at the police station. They ignore me when I point out that photos look best when taken from above, and they don't even want to know which of my sides is best. Can you imagine?

Tomorrow we are due for a snow storm around these parts, so I'm hoping to be snowed in enough that I might find myself trapped in front of my computer. I've got a great post on the Big Guy of the season -- our man Santa -- that I want to share with you. I just haven't written it yet (small detail) but wow, it's great in my mind!

For now I leave you with this detail of our Christmas tree. It is real, as in not artificial, a caveat to my Joey who was threatening to boycott Christmas if we switched to the storebought variety. It looks quite beautiful, I must admit, very traditional and festive.

Bear with me while I sort out another traditional occurrence -- one that happens yearly but without festivity. I'm experiencing that week-before-Christmas stress we moms are all familiar with. Breathe in, breathe out. I'm better now!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


I'm thankful for Santa Claus and little boys.

More about both later.
Don't forget to visit Laura to see what's she's thankful for this week.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

meet Sophie!

Thanks for all the great input on the puppy names. I must admit that I spent most of last night obsessing. (Especially after reading Christine's comments! :))

Should I name her a "real" name? Will I offend someone? Should I even get a dog at all?

I admit I wracked my brain for a "dog" dog name, and I couldn't think of anything. Well, I actually thought of a few things, but then I realized I knew (or knew of) PEOPLE with these names! (I know of a human Sunshine, Candy, Trixie, and Buffy.)

Anyway, when I saw this little girl last night I knew the name I had dreamed of for a puppy was just right for her.

She's Sophie, and she's the newest member of this crazy family.

She is so cute, cuddly and affectionate, with just enough spice to keep things interesting. I'm feeling quite peaceful that she's just the right pet for us.

Isn't it great when things work out like that?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

puppy love, part 2

A while back I mentioned I was thinking about getting a dog.

Yesterday my husband nudged me along, since I've been talking about it for months. So today I took the plunge and actually called about an ad I saw for adorable pek-a-poo pups.

The female is black and white (with an "active" personality) and the male is a laid-back brown and white cutie. As of this morning, no one has left a deposit, but several folks are interested. So tonight we are going to meet them (the Big Man called it pet speed dating.)

I guess it's a sign that I really want to do this because I am so excited and hoping no one else will claim them both. I originally wanted a female, but now I don't care (that calm male is sounding great.)

But I have a very serious problem, and I need YOUR help! What does a smart, sassy, sophisticated grandma-to-be such as myself name her new doggy?

If you're going to suggest Hank, Spot, Buffy, or Rufus, think again.

I need something original. Maybe a literary reference, a cool, little known saint or a moniker with a significant meaning.

I like Sophie for a girl because Sophia means "wisdom." (Just sounds like a very empowered feminine chick, but still a little darling, like her owner, of course.)

Should I get a male pup, I'm at a loss. Suggestions, please!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

pink or blue?

Yesterday my daughter and her husband shared one of the most wonderful moments a couple can -- they saw their new baby on ultrasound.

It seems things have changed quite a bit since I had my first baby over 22 years ago, and even since my last one was born less than four years ago. Pregnant moms no longer need to drink gallons of water before the procedure (wasn't that evil?) and Dad is welcome to stay for the whole thing. They also had a handy TV screen hooked up that Rachel could view the entire time. I remember straining to see the screen throughout, but the techs always insisted on keeping it out of sight until the very end. And even then, you only got to see a brief glimpse of a fuzzy image that looked more like a map of the moon than a human baby.

We've all been anxious around here for this particular ultrasound -- the window into the womb that would reveal the Peanut's gender. I've been pondering it often in recent weeks. Will my first grandchild be a boy or a girl?

It is God's honest truth that we would joyfully welcome either variety. I found myself wistful for another boy, like my four urchins. Little boys are wonderful; they remind us of our husbands in all the best ways, and they adore their mothers. My boys bring me so much joy. I could picture a little grandson, with my daughter's chubby cheeks, my son-in-law's curls, and my husband's disposition. A little boy would be wonderful.

Then I dreamed of a granddaughter. A little girl would be so exciting! It has been so many years since I bought a doll! She would be our little princess, protected by a whole team of uncles, doted on by an aunt who would spend her paycheck on dresses. My heart also longed for a girl since my little Celeste is gone. She cannot be replaced, of course, but I admit the thought of having a little girl was a comfort.

So yesterday when the baby had "its" photo shoot, we waited anxiously to find out. A boy? A girl? What will that grandchild be????

It's a .....really cute wonderful little baby that we will love!

And her parents will name her Grace, and that is what she will bring to our family.

Congratulate me!!!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

post-holiday musings

Today I share a commentary at 4marks.com. It's a sad story. I hope we can glean something positive from it: we need to evaluate our priorities and focus on the right things this Christmas season.

Around here I'm trying to get "back to normal" after a fun holiday weekend. My daughter hosted her first ever Thanksgiving meal, and it was joyous. (She had a little help with the prep but the clean-up was all on her and her husband. That's pretty cool!) It was the passing of the torch (the turkey?) so to speak and a transition I must say I'm enjoying.

Here's the fam around the table (minus nine-year-old staff photographer John.)
Norman Rockwell, eat your heart out!