Archive for December, 2012

December 21, 2012

Last Minute Shopping? Use Your Gifts!

As the final shopping days turn into the final shopping hours, some people will be ready, presents wrapped and under the tree, while others, myself included, will still be scrambling, trying to pick-up those last few gifts.

I don’t know about you, but for me Christmas shopping can be tough sometimes.  I like to give gifts that I really think the receiver will like or appreciate, but sometimes I get a block.  I get stuck.  I run out of ideas.  So what if you’re stuck? What if you have no idea what to give someone?  Give them your gifts!

No, I don’t mean re-gifting, that’s just dangerous.  Give the gift of yourself.  I don’t know about you, but I think some of the gadgets today are pretty awesome, but next week or next month they will be outdated and something better will along and it pains me to spend money, sometimes a lot of money, on gadgets that will have lost their value the day they are opened.  (Sorry, not trying to be a Scrooge, just being honest!).

So I offer you a different idea.  We’ve all seen MasterCard’s “Priceless” commercials and granted, with the right credit you really could buy gifts that could give you priceless experiences, but most of us don’t have the cash or the credit to do that.  However, all of us still have the ability to give the truly priceless gifts.  In other words, give the gifts you were given at birth.

Are you following me?  Maybe you don’t know what your gifts are.  Maybe you have talents but you don’t know how to convert them to a gift.  Here are a few ideas:

Let’s say you’re artistic, you draw, paint, sketch, but you don’t have enough time to do a painting for everyone you know.  You don’t have to.  Just do one, then scan it and have copies made into cards, calendars, prints or even prints on canvas.  You could sign, date and number each one, just as the professionals do.  The same goes for photography.  If you have a lot of pictures to share you could make cards, calendars or even a coffee table book, make multiple copies (including one for yourself).

Not artistic? Maybe you’re athletic.  Say you’re good at golf and you have a friend who would love to learn how to play, give them the gift of lessons from you! You’ll not only be giving them a gift of learning your sport, but you’re giving the gift of your time.  And we all know that time spent together is truly priceless.

Are you handy and know people who aren’t?  You could give them your time and help them with a project they’ve been wanting to get done but they either don’t know how, don’t have the money to pay someone to do it or don’t have the time to do it themselves.  Or maybe you do a project together, set-up a regular time to work on the project, like once a week, once a month, etc.  Again, your gift shared and time spent together is an invaluable gift.

Love animals? Offer pet-sitting services.  Love children? Give free baby-sitting coupons. Play an instrument? Teach someone else how to play or record yourself playing so they can listen whenever they want to.  Have a beautiful voice? Sing, record it and share it!  Are you an amazing cook? Make a cookbook with your favorite recipes or teach someone how to cook or offer to “cater” dinner for them where you are the caterer or “cater” a dinner party, or set-up monthly dinners with friends.  Do you have a knack for decorating? Help a friend decorate their house or prepare it for a move.   Are you a snappy dresser? Be a “personal shopper” for your family and friends.  Are you ultra-organized?  Help a less-than-organized friend get organized.

Got it?  Do you know what your gifts are?  What are they?  Get creative and give them!  After all, what good are they if we keep them bottled up?


December 20, 2012

And Now for the Chickens!

On the third day of Christmas da, da, da, da, da, da… three French hens, two turtle doves, and a partridge in a pear tree…  Scratch that.  We have three hens, but our hens are not French.  We also don’t have two turtle doves, but we do have two dogs, oh, but no partridge, just a cat.  But we do have a pear tree!  Two actually. Oh, and did you know that Partridge is a type of chicken.  I don’t have one, but discovered it the other day.  I love tidbits of information like that.  But you’re not here for that…

Back to the chickens.  As I said, we have three hens, but they are not French.  One is English, one is American and the other is probably American, no definitely American.  Anyway, as you may recall, we adopted “the girls” from a friend-of-a-friend of my Dad’s about a month ago.  They are all about a year and a half old, born around Memorial Day of 2011.  The girls, having had previous owners, already had names.  Jolene, Billina and Zydeco.  Although we contemplated renaming them, we really couldn’t come up with any names that seemed to make them worth changing.  I mean Souffle, Omelet and Scramble just didn’t seem right and besides these are chickens, hens if you will, so giving them egg names didn’t seem appropriate.  We came up with some other names too, but nothing really stuck so we decided to keep them as is.  Plus, all of our other animals were named before we adopted them and we kept those names, to honor their history in a way, so we thought we should do the same for the chickens.  I should clarify, when I say “we”, it’s mostly me, having conversations with myself, running it past the rest of the family for their input to which I usually get head nods and “sure” as a response, hence “we”.

And Now for the Chickens!



 First up is Jolene, named after the Dolly Parton song.  Jolene is a Buff Orpington, a breed originating from England. Jolene is at the top of the pecking order in our coop (both literally and figuratively).  She also got a bit stressed when she first moved in (hence the feathers missing from her chest in the picture above).  Jolene makes me laugh.  She’s curious, and the most trusting of me so far.  We think she was the first to lay an egg for us too but we can’t be certain because two of them lay brown eggs, she’s one of them.  Jolene really likes treats.  She prefers apples and carrots and attempts to eat an occasional finger if you don’t bring her treats.



Next up is Billina, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, an American breed developed in New York State, in the early 1870s.  Billina is named after the chicken in the Wizard of Oz books, specifically Ozma of Oz.  (I’ve never read it, but now need to.)  Billina is a bit of a funny girl.  She’s the quietest of all of them thus far.  She’s observant, confident, yet not the first to check anything out.  She’s always the last to come out in the morning and last to go in at night.  Billina also lays brown eggs.



And last but not least, Zydeco.  Zydeco is an Ameraucana, also known as an Easter Egger, an American Breed known for laying light blue, green or pinkish-brown eggs.  Although the previous owner wasn’t positive of the reason for her name (she shared ownership of the chickens with two others), Zydeco is a mixed genre of music (which I happen to like) found in Louisiana combining Cajun, Blues and Rythym and Blues.   Zydeco has yet to lay any eggs since moving to our place, but we saw proof at her previous home that she lays green eggs.  Zydeco is pretty cool.  I love her tail!  She’s a curious, but cautious girl so far, she still scampers a little when I go near her too.  Oh, and I think she might be the smartest of the girls too.  I swear she knows her name, more than once she’s turned and looked at me when I’ve said it.

The girls arrived a little over four weeks ago and just started laying eggs on December 12th (easy to remember 12-12-12).  At first it was one egg per day, then there were two, then one, then two.  We are still anxiously awaiting a day where we get three and that one of them will be green (which would mean Zydeco is finally laying).

First eggs from the girls!

First eggs from the girls!

As of right now, we have 11 eggs from the girls. You’ll notice a “J” and a “B” on the eggs above, there was a lot of squawking in the coop the other day.  Jolene made a big stink every time someone laid an egg so I happened to know which chicken laid which egg.  Just to clarify any confusion, the eggs did not come out with their initials on them (as my son briefly thought) I marked them to see if we could determine who laid the others.

You might wonder why we haven’t eaten any eggs yet.  Well, I’ve been saving them up to make custard pie.  Now I have plenty for a pie or two and some other treats.  Seriously can’t wait!  Oh, and yes, now I will start eating them for breakfast too.


December 17, 2012

Making Sense of It All: Finding Comfort in the Midst of Tragedy

I stood in the shower in tears.  Crying, sobbing, pain coming out that I didn’t even know was in there.

I’ve been meaning to write about the chickens and the eggs they started laying.  I started the post last week and stopped for some reason.  I had planned to finish it and post it today.  After what happened this weekend I felt I needed to post something about the recent tragedy first.  I couldn’t let it go by without acknowledging it.

As a Mother, I wear my heart on my sleeve.  Everyday my son leaves for school I’m excited for him, scared for him and scared for me.  Every night I pray for God to watch over  him and protect him.  I was busy Friday.  I didn’t turn on the radio or the TV.  I found out about the elementary school shooting in Connecticut through my Mom Friday evening.  When she told me about what happened I tried to hide the horror, the shock and the sorrow.  I tried to hide my true emotions because my son was in the room.  I didn’t want him hearing.  I didn’t want him knowing.  I wasn’t ready to explain this to him.  I put it out of my mind as much as possible over the weekend.  Last night, as our family turned on the TV, the President was on most of the network channels.  I told my husband to keep flipping.  I wanted to watch a Christmas program with my family.  I didn’t want to think about the horrific event and I wasn’t ready to deal with the emotions that go along with it.

Over the weekend I went on Facebook a couple of times and immediately logged off.  It was everywhere.  Emails, blog posts, Facebook posts.  It was nearly impossible to avoid it.  Everywhere I turned there was something telling me how to talk to your children about such an event and almost all of them are saying to protect them from it.  Don’t let them watch the news, tell them about what happened, keep it short and make sure they know they have nothing to worry about, that this was one isolated case, that they are safe at school and on the bus and everywhere they go without us.

But I couldn’t, I can’t.  Over the past couple of years my son’s school has been on lock-down, not once, but twice.  The first time someone in the school had been threatened, the second time there was a threat at another school in the district.  On a third (unrelated) incident I showed up to school for a PTSO planning meeting to find the Police parked in front of the school and standing inside the front door.  A parent (or guardian) had crossed a line, threatened someone and the Police were called in.  Thankfully, in all of those situations, nobody was hurt, but each time, I was terrified, hoping and praying nothing would happen to my son, knowing it was completely out of my hands and trusting that the hands he was in would take care of him.  But with all of that in the back of my mind I can’t honestly tell him that what happened in Connecticut couldn’t happen here because honestly, I know it could happen anywhere.

I’ve always tried to be honest with my son.  I don’t believe in lying to him to protect him.  I don’t believe in sheltering him from reality, but I also know not to tell him too much.  This weekend, my husband and I chose to say nothing.  We shielded him from the stories on the news.  I was with him whenever he turned on the TV so I could quickly change the channel if necessary.  I chose to say nothing, to not even bring it up, because I love him and I wanted to protect his innocence, even if it was just for a couple more days.  I know full-well that he will probably find out about it in school and I’m prepared to talk about it at that point.  I may bring it up tonight if the time seems right.

Today is the first day in my life that I feel like a parent, and a true grown-up.  Obviously, I’ve been a parent for a number of years now, and I’ve also been grown up, but when bad things have happened in this world I have always looked to my parents to tell me it’s going to be okay.  I talk to them about war, money, politics, family matters, jobs and many other subjects, and with all of these I still look to them for guidance and reassurance.  But today, while standing in the shower, they replayed the President’s speech from last night on the radio, and I sobbed.  I thought of the children, the families, the teachers, the loss.  My heart ached for the children and what they must have gone through and the families of all of the people who are gone.  I ached knowing that the same thing could happen here.  I cried because none of us, no matter how much we want to, can be there every moment of the day to protect our children.  I cried knowing that this time my son will turn to me for answers instead of me turning to my parents.  When war happens, it’s grown-up stuff. When the economy crashes, it’s grown-up stuff.  When someone loses a job, it’s grown-up stuff.  Grown-up stuff we can filter, give our kids as much information as they need to know when they will be effected by it.  We carry the burden, the stress and the worry for them, often times without them even knowing, so they can continue to be kids.  But when something horrific happens to children, it’s no longer just grown-up stuff.  Children are smart enough to put two-and-two together and know that if it happened to other kids, it could happen to them.  When something happens to children, it directly effects all children.

I cried this morning, wondering how God could let this happen.  How could he allow children to be taken from their families?  And before Christmas… what horrible timing.  There are presents that will sit under trees, go unopened, reminders of the loss.  This will change Christmas, for the families of those involved, forever.  It doesn’t make sense.  Then I stopped.  I realized, that maybe God stopped it there.  Maybe the person who committed this horrific crime had plans of more.  Maybe  it was God’s hand that made the Police and other responders get there when they did, making him hear the sirens and end his own life before he took more innocent lives.  Maybe, God protected a larger number of people than were lost.  Maybe this happened to touch us, to bring us closer together.  Maybe this happened before Christmas to remind us of what is truly important in life.  Maybe this happened to bring us closer to God.

As I ended my shower, my sobbing stopped.  The President’s speech was followed by a speech delivered this fall by Rabbi Harold Kushner on dealing with grief and loss.  It struck me as a little odd that they were playing a religious speech on Public Radio.  I questioned whether I bumped the radio dial while I was turning the volume down.  But that’s where my questions ended.  The Rabbi’s story and words caught me, comforted me.  I couldn’t help but to continue listening and I couldn’t have been more thankful or more grateful for the timeliness of them airing this speech.  I grew up Catholic.  Other than going to a synagogue once to be exposed to other religions prior to being confirmed Catholic, I can’t say I’ve ever listened to a Rabbi.  Even though his religion is different from mine, his words were so comforting.  He was telling stories, stories about The Book of Job in the Bible, followed by real-life stories.  His insight and perspective made me feel better.   He made me realize that the doubt and anger and all of the other emotions I’m feeling are okay and the fact that I’m doubting and angry with God is also okay.  It was refreshing.  I laughed to myself, “He’s obviously not Catholic because if he were, he’d be making me feel guilty for doubting and being angry with God.”  He continued, saying that without anger we can’t love.  If a wife can’t get angry with her husband for fear he’ll leave her, then she isn’t fully able to love him either.  If a teenaged son isn’t able to get mad at his parents for fear of punishment or shame, then that isn’t an open relationship, and not a fully loving relationship.  If we can’t be angry with God, then we can’t fully love Him either.  His perspective brought me peace.  When his speech was over, the announcer said the speech originally took place in October during the release of his new book: “The Book of Job: When Bad Things Happen to a Good Person” (by Rabbi Harold Kushner).  I think I might pick-up a copy of that book…

I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.  Lately, I’ve been questioning my faith, I’ve been wondering if a different church or religion would feel more comfortable, I’ve been wondering when I’m going to feel like a grown-up, like a parent beyond the one who makes breakfast, lunch, dinner, the rules, the consequences and all of the other “things” that go along with parenting.  The tragedy in Connecticut has made me realize that questioning my faith is okay, and that my anger and frustration with God is okay, and it’s made me realize that this time it’s up to me, it’s my turn to be the grown-up, to let my child know that everything is going to be okay.  It’s my time to teach him about love and faith and that sometimes things happen in life that we just can’t explain, but that we can’t stop living, we can’t stop trusting, we can’t stop believing in each other and in God because even though we might not understand it today, we might not understand it tomorrow, and we might not ever understand it, we still have to keep living and moving forward  and we have to keep trusting in God and focusing our energy on the positive things in life.  This tragedy has made me grow-up and ironically, it has restored my faith in God, in the leadership in our country and the good of people in general.

I realize that there are always going to be bad people and bad things that happen in life, but there are so many more good people, people who are just as shocked and angry and hurt as I am. People that want a better world for our children and for future generations and that comforts me.


December 10, 2012

A Gift to Calm The Christmas Stress

Snowy Lantern

The tree isn’t decorated.  The Christmas Train has been derailed.

Christmas cards aren’t even purchased, much less mailed.

The mantle is cluttered, with a mix of Christmas and fall decor.

The JOY stocking holders, anxiously awaiting more.

Everywhere I turn I see another project started, gone astray.

The house is a disaster and each morning is one closer to Christmas Day.

So as I sat there stressing, looking for a star to guide me on my way,

I happened upon a post from another blogger, a gift, you might say.

She wrote of her troubles and struggles of today.  It was like looking in a mirror in a slightly different way.

Do What You Can” she says.  Look inside, not out.  She reminds us that the guilt comes when we’re looking at others instead of at ourselves.

Ahhh… so simple, but how easily I forget.  Stop comparing myself to others, and there will be no regrets.

And while their tree might be perfect, or appear so from my view, I need to remind myself “there’s only one of them, and one of you”.

So as we continue on our journey making the most of the Christmas season, remember to keep the focus and… do what you can, within reason.

I promise if you try this, if you follow it this way, you’ll be given a gift of calm, and the Merriest Christmas Day.