Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Here's a link to my original fall reading list, and below is an actual list of what I read these past 3 months:
-Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon--This was my favorite of the list, and I reviewed the Mitford series here.
-Cleaning Up the Clutter by Emilie Barnes--I was interested in reading this because Monica found it so helpful. It wasn't my favorite, though I always enjoy reading about organization! =)
-The Girlfriends' Guide to Toddlers by Vicki Iovine
-Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano--plan to write some posts on this in January
-The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs--I was proud of myself for finishing this one "on time" (before we leave for CO so I can return it to my mom after an 8-month loan!) and will share some thoughts from it soon.
-Hints on Child Training by H. Clay Trumbull--still working on this one, which was recommended by a fellow blogger after this post. I will definitely post some thoughts once I'm finished.
I was disappointed I didn't get to as many books as I thought I would, but with working part-time and extra involvements, I really can't compare my list to what I plowed through last fall. Once I finish the child training book, I'm definitely going to seek out a novel--I love informational reading, but I could use a little fiction right now! Thanks to Callapidder Days for once again hosting this fun event.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Monday, December 15, 2008
I have liked the song "Breath of Heaven" since the first time I heard it. But two years ago, when I was pregnant with Nathan and due the same week as Christmas, that song took on new meaning for me. I felt more connected to Mary and the nativity story than I ever had before. I decided to learn the signs to that song, and thought about sharing it in church. I was too nervous, especially being due so close to the time, and felt it was best kept a private act of worship.
Earlier this fall, it occurred to me that I would once again be pregnant during the Christmas season. I decided to talk to my pastor and the music leader about signing this song in church, and they agreed to let me do so. Yesterday morning, I was able to accompany these beautiful words in both services. While I was signing, a screen displayed various passages about Christ and his birth. I'm so glad I decided to participate in the Advent season in this way, and hope signing this song was as meaningful for others as it was for me.
(If you're unfamiliar with the lyrics to "Breath of Heaven," you can click here to listen.)
Friday, December 12, 2008
Although I wanted to take absolutely everything out of the cabinet and start over, I only had a couple hours and needed to focus on the task at hand: the spices. Do you see them way up there on the top shelf? That was obviously a problem--no wonder he couldn't see what he had! I took down all the containers and counted them--there were over a hundred spice jars, not including things like extracts and flavorings! Here's a pic of them all spread out (some are even stacked on top of each other):As I started sorting them, I noticed quite a few duplicates. It was rather humorous to me at times. I've never even used allspice, and I think he had three containers of it! Whenever I could, I combined like spices to eliminate extra packaging. I set up a spice shelf near his cooking area and placed what I guessed were his most used spices on the shelf for easy access. After combining spices, if he still had more than two containers of the same spice, I set those jars aside so they wouldn't go back in the cabinet.
Next I grouped things together. He had a lot of flavorings as well as many spice blends for grilling, etc., so a friend and I labeled shoeboxes to contain those groupings accordingly:
I had a lot of fun working on this project, and have plans for dealing with those stacks of dishes in the next month or so. Our friend was quite pleased with the changes, and I hope it's helped him be able to find and use what he needs!
If you're wondering what I did with the remaining spices, I asked my friend if we could have a potluck centered around his "pantry excess." When cleaning out his pantry earlier, I'd come across quite a few staples and mixes that he said he would never use. About eight of us gathered for a very random dinner--each person was given a couple ingredients from the friend's pantry and asked to make a dish containing those items. It was a delicious meal, and a fun way to clear out our friend's shelves and have fellowship at the same time!
Note to real life friends: If you know/recognize the makeover recipient--please don't disclose his name in the comments. Thanks!
*Thankfully, the side effects my dad has experienced from treatment have been pretty minimal so far. He continues to be in pain from the cancer in his bones, so that's something they're still seeking solutions for. In addition, he has decided to pursue radiation, which will likely begin in January. Eric, Nathan and I will be traveling to Colorado next weekend, and we're so excited to spend special time with my family out there.
*I'm continuing to work at the college, and will do so until mid-January in this current position. Interestingly, the office I assisted earlier this fall has then asked me to re-join them in helping with a big event that's scheduled for February, so I plan to work part-time until a few weeks before the baby is born. (That big event will be here before we know it--we're just 3 months away!)
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
A friend of mine was traveling for the holiday weekend, so I asked if I could use her apartment for my time away, and she graciously agreed. I filled my backpack with books, journal and food and walked to my destination. On the way there, I felt both a literal and figurative weight on my shoulders. My bag was full, to be sure, but I also could feel that many thoughts and emotions had been building up inside me. As soon as I closed the door to my "haven" behind me, I burst into tears.
I'd been so overwhelmed with all that was going on and I needed time and space to just be quiet and to breathe deeply. What a gift those hours were to me. I cried, I prayed, I took a little nap, I read and I wrote. I also prepared and ate a simple meal alone in delicious silence. And when the time was done, I walked home with a much lighter load.
I know that for many of us this is one of the busiest times of the year, and I am reminded of a book entitled Too Busy Not to Pray. For me, these retreats are even more necessary when I am most busy. They help re-focus me, and that's something I need on a regular basis. Can anyone else relate?
If you are considering taking a retreat sometime soon, which I highly encourage, I posted some things I've learned about retreating here.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
*If you're wondering about the tape measure--Eric entered one of his pheasants in a local longest feather contest. So far, he is winning, so it will be fun to see what happens. Unfortunately for me, the prize is a mounted pheasant (think taxidermy--yikes!)
*After seeing a photo of my favorite Christmas cookie on my sister's blog last week, I've been itching to make a batch. Delish! Those cute little jars are filled with peppermint foot scrub (1 c. sugar, 1/2 c. baby or olive oil, dash of peppermint extract, and some red sugar for color)--a little gift to each of the moms in my MOPS group.
Monday, December 8, 2008
The authors observe that many of us plan out the details of our celebrations "right down to the kind of cranberry sauce" without first asking ourselves: Why am I celebrating Christmas? What is most important to me when I consider the Christmas season?
I don't know that I had really sat down to think about these questions so directly. From my reflections on what is important to me about Christmas, I realized that I want to place more of an emphasis on Advent and on the spiritual significance of the season. In addition, I highly value being together with family so I want to take that into account when planning activities and making outside commitments. I also think traditions are very important, and I'm excited for Eric and I to continue developing this aspect of our holiday. As I mentioned in the post on gifts, I hope that we will be able to refine our approach to gift giving as well.
Another exercise Kim gave me during our afternoon together was to imagine myself in the following situations and to select the one I found most satisfying:
A. You unexpectedly receive a check in the mail for $500 to spend on Christmas gifts.
B. You have the next two weeks totally free of responsibilities (including your job and the care of children) so that you can devote all your time to making Christmas gifts.
C. All your friends and relatives decide to scale down their gift giving this year, happily exchanging stocking stuffers instead of more elaborate gifts.
D. Gifts are reserved for young children. Adults celebrate by feasting, worshipping, partying, singing and playing games.
I'd love to hear from you: Which of these four imaginary situations seems most satisfying to you and why? I think I know what my sister would choose. =)
To end the series, here is the Christmas Pledge from the book that inspired these posts:
Thanks again for joining me in this series. There were many additional topics I had hoped to write about, including traditions, but the expanse of material available was too much to cover everything and I needed to follow the theme here and simplify. There's always next year!
I appreciated the depth in the comments from the week, and I always enjoy reading your ideas and hearing how some of these thoughts have challenged you. If you'd like to read some additional blog posts on "Simply Celebrating Christmas," Keeper of the Home hosted a wonderful carnival on that theme this past weekend. You can also read a review I did last year of the book Hundred Dollar Holiday.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Today we're talking about gift giving, which is clearly a hot topic when it comes to Christmas! Nathan is still quite young, but we really desire to cultivate an attitude of generous giving and gracious receiving, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.
I was struck by a story from the book in which a 9-year-old boy gave his mom a list for Santa that was over 60 items long, and the mom was deeply troubled and unsure of how to proceed. According to the authors of Unplug the Christmas Machine, "Many parents find it a challenge to create a simple, value-centered Christmas in the midst of all the commercial pressure. But the task is made much easier when parents keep in mind the four things children really want for Christmas: relaxed and loving time with the family, realistic expectations about gifts, an evenly paced holiday season and reliable family traditions."
The writers suggest being specific about what kids can expect in terms of presents, as in one large gift, one small gift, and a stocking. Or, you could follow my mom's wonderful example (which I wrote about here in a fun post of some of our own family traditions). I also like the idea of parents giving 3 gifts to their children, just like the wise men brought to Jesus. In fact, somewhere recently I read of a parent categorizing the gifts like the gold (big ticket item), frankincense (something educational) and myrrh (something practical). (This is how I best remember it and I would gladly give credit if someone can reference the source!)
In talking about gifts, I think it's important (and somewhat humorous!) to acknowledge some of our ingrained beliefs and perceptions about giving. Check out this list from the book:
"The Ten Hidden Gift-Giving Rules"
1. Give a gift to everyone you expect to get one from.
2. If someone gives you a gift unexpectedly, reciprocate that year. (Or have prewrapped generic gifts set aside for just such an occasion.)
3. When you add a name to your gift list, give that person a gift every year thereafter.
4. The amount of money you spend on a gift determines how much you care about the recipient.
5. Gifts exchanged between adults should be roughly equal in value.
6. The presents you give someone should be fairly consistent in value over the years.
7. If you give a gift to a person in one category (for example, a co-worker or neighbor), give a gift to everyone in that category. and these gifts should be similar in value.
8. Women should give gifts to their close woman friends.
9. Men should not give gifts to their male friends, unless these are alcoholic beverages.
10. Whenever the above rules cause you any difficulty, remedy the situation by buying more gifts.
Which of these "rules" do you identify most with?
On Friday we'll talk about ways to challenge these rules, so get your thinking caps on!