Sunday, November 29, 2009

Practicing Gratitude

*photo credit: yellow goat designs

In my post Thanksgiving stupor, I found it difficult to sleep. Turkey and stuffing and sweet potatoes collided with champagne cocktails and the regular family tensions. I was awakened at four by my niece who was hitting the WalMart for deals on Black Friday. She kept flicking the light on and off trying to find her jeans, a nightmare of disco strobe lights. When I finally told her leave the light on until she found them I realized I'd be awake the rest of the night.

My mind turned to my worries. Darkness has a way of making our troubles crawl out of the crack in the closet door, turning them into to veritable bogeymen of the adult life. I felt restless and thankless, despite the family exercise earlier of sharing what we were most thankful for.

When it was my turn, I chose to give a glib reply to keep the cycle moving and get the focus off me. But as I blinked into the darkness (after the kid left the room, having shut off the light), I felt disappointed in my answer, and in myself. I preach to my kids the importance of being thankful but I had not walked the walk as they say. I won't let any Christmas stuff into the house until December. I rail against the marketers who push their purchasing agendas on us. I don't want us to shuffle past this day of thanks without pause, especially since truly considering Thanksgiving should turn our minds to a proper attitude for Advent.

Advent, in case you're wondering, has nothing to do with Christmas shopping, or Black Friday, but that's a soap box for another day.

One can only toss and turn for so long before one must confront the reasons for worry, the darkness that frightens. I started ticking off my concerns, and challenged myself to find its converse and found that indeed, there is much to be thankful for.

Worry about money turns to thanks for a warm bed and a full belly.
One kid struggling with a tough school year turns to praise for a great school and active teachers who love her and care for her.
Blended family newness and all it's awkwardness becomes a bigger, more joyful family with more stories, more life, more experiences, more to love.
One family members' struggle with depression gives rise the thanks for doctors, medicines, therapists, and relationships that potentially heal the hurt.

My list went on and on and for every half empty glass, my mind found a fresh source to fill it. I found that as I ticked the yuck off my list, I fell into a sense of peace. I remember reading a devotional years ago that asked readers to practice an attitude of gratitude. This kind of thanks is so much more than the pop-culture, Oprahology that some practice. It is an intentional remembering of the source. It is a reminder of the words of the apostle Paul who exhorted Christians to "be thankful in all situations." He did not say be thankful FOR all situations but in all.

This is why I can find the silver lining, the half full cup. This is why when I practice an attitude of gratitude, it does more than illuminate the half fullness. It in fact, brings it to overflowing.

*I LOVE these earrings. Just in case you're wondering what I'd like under the tree...just saying.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Feltalicious Holiday Garland

I bought a great applique letter pattern from to use on t-shirts. I love the cute curvy puffiness of this pattern. But my kids are a trifle too old for cutesy tees. I didn't want to waste the pattern, so I stitched out the letters for Merry Christmas and suspended them from ribbon. This little holiday spice will hang by the chimney the day after Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, I realized, of course that a Give Thanks garland would keep us focused on giving thanks until the thunderous hordes hit the stores.

Another use for this sweet pattern would be hair clippies. I used a few other patterns on colorful felt to make these sweet little pony decorations. On the back, a hair clip is inserted through a slit in the felt and secured with craft glue. Slip it above your pony tail or (as the girls are doing at our middle school) wear a huge clip right at the forehead. I don't totally get the look, but I'm not in 6th grade, so there's that.

To do it, simply stitch out your applique on felt using tear away stabilizer, trim away excess fabric. To make a clip, snip a little opening, slide a clip in, and dab a bit of glue. To make a pony tail holder, simply cut another smaller piece of felt, glue down the holder, then stitch the felt down, without going through to the front.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Five Smooth Stones

Is it an arrogant assumption that everyone knows the story of David and Goliath? The idea finds uses in our contemporary vernacular from the playground to the sports broadcast. It is the classic tale of the underdog prevailing. And really, who doesn't love to root for the underdog?

I read this biblical story a few weeks ago and despite my previous knowledge of how it all went down, some new details, or old details I hadn't caught before, stuck themselves to my brain. I can't stop thinking about this little shepherd going up against a nine foot tall giant covered in iron. The little guy's ammunition? Five smooth stones.

David goes to the battle because his dad, Jesse, sent him to check on his brothers, who had been sitting at in impasse with the other army for forty days. He's basically a courier, taking cheese to the big boys. When the army tells David that no one will fight the giant, Goliath, David flips. His understanding is that anyone should be willing because they are the army of God.

He tries on the king's armor, but it's enormous and he's not used to it. So, he takes his sling shot, grabs five smooth stones and goes out to the battle. Of course, the giant thinks this is hilarious, and if you were the giant you probably would, too. Then David does the unimaginable: he fires up the slingshot with one of his five stones and lets it rip. It sinks into the giant's forehead, whereupon he falls to the ground. David rushes over and cuts off his head. I imagine a hushed crowd on all sides, here. Maybe some crickets chirping...

The point is, five smooth stones. David of course had training. He was a shepherd and his job was to protect the sheep at all costs. He knew how to fight bears and lions. But, he did not go to the army looking for a fight. He was simply carrying out his dad's orders. He had his weapon, but I noticed he had to find stones.

There's a lot to say and think about this passage, like most Scripture. I find myself now thinking through each day, wondering what my five smooth stones are. I ask myself if I am on that path of obedience, am I confident in the outcome? Do I know where to find ammunition if I am called to battle? We all have giants to face; life can be challenging. New stresses often seem to pop up in droves, like a crowd of unwelcome vultures, pecking at us until we're mad.

But there's the promise, the one David was so sure of, that the battle's been decided. The promise wasn't that life would be perfect, or that he would never be asked to do anything hard. In fact, it's pretty much guaranteed that action will be required on our part. And when it is, will you be able to find five smooth stones?

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The big ol' purse up there is for Becky who is from the 'burgh (City of Champions) but lives in MI. She saw a FB post about a pattern I found and she and her mom both chose lovely fabrics to have custom built bags just for them. Her mom uses hers for her knitting. Becky says hers is for Bible Study materials. I hope she has a big Bible, since this bag is nigh upon enormous.

There seems to be a proliferation of babies in our circle of friends lately. I do enjoy looking at the baby items in stores, but more than that I enjoy making one of a kind goodies for these nuggets o' joy. I had ordered some fold over elastic for shorts for my girls to wear under the unis. Then, I learned how it works wonders for edge finishing knits, so I decided to give it a whirl. I got to learn a new sewing skill and make a cutie pie dress for a new baby! Two good things in one.

The purse was en route to Becky's this week. The dress was delivered via backpacks at school. Hope the new baby likes it. I know the mama did.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Plug a Blog Day

Found this trolling my various favorite spots. Please go have a look. It will make you smile.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

All This Remembering Makes My Teeth Hurt

Dad and my son 6 years ago. The crazy kid on Hilarious Hair Day in Kindergarten. Note the purple hair.

Our son turns 6 years old today. I remember discovering my pregnancy a week after dinner with "the girls" during which I said, "I'm not having any more kids. Why would I? I have two great daughters. We are all set." A week later, I started doing the math, wondering how many times I could have counted the days wrong and blushing that I was describing my decision to have no more children while pregnant.

The idea of a third child took some getting used to. And then of course this sweet and funny little boy entered our lives on November 4, 2003 at 10:10 pm, at home, while his sisters slept upstairs and our two dear friends cooked and cleaned and tended. I would never want it any other way.

Yesterday, to celebrate his birthday, I painted his room in colors he chose himself (limeade and bayou blue, FYI), to surprise him after school with his new cool room. Painting rooms always makes me think of my dad, and birthdays always bring out the nostalgic old lady in me.

I remembered, as I painted, my dad taking me to the hardware store, age 12, when purple was my pride and passion, to choose colors for my own room. I remember Dad explaining about Spackle, and brushes and rollers. I remember his patience and feeling special, grown up, proud.

Once home, I wanted to start slapping paint on the walls right away. Instead he showed me how to fill the holes I made with thumb tacks in my posters. Then sanding it away, wiping down the baseboards, moving the furniture, taping off the ceilings...the prep work seemed unending. Until, finally, we got to start rolling on the glorious color. Dad and I also made a set of deep purple shelves for my walls. He showed me how to cut the lumber, sand the edges, find the studs, the whole bit. My dad wouldn't let me do anything half way.

My childhood was not idyllic. Neither was it horrendous. These memories are like freeze frames in my brain. They flash up, abrupt and earnest, calling to mind the best things about their grandparents I want my kids to know. My sense of gender inequity comes as much from my working mom as from my liberated dad. I cut grass, took out trash, weeded the garden, set the table. I learned how to check and change the oil in my car, change a flat, and to be and do anything I want to be. So did my brother.

That's where memories of my dad and my son's unexpected (but joyful) birth intersect. Painting his room, I remembered all the great things I learned from my dad. And I felt so pleased that my son and my daughters get to know him. I remembered feeling lost and scared when I was first pregnant with my son. I was unsure I would be able to handle three kids.

Painting my room with my dad clearly made an impression on me. He cared about me, he allowed me to choose the colors, as gross as they were, and he showed me the right way to do something. Remembering while I painted was fun, and it reminded me of how I want my kids to remember me. I want my kid to remember he picked the paint and painted on the polka dots. I want him to learn to do it the right way, and I want him to remember the gift of time we had together.