“Lord, give me strength.” She pulled up to the house in the dark of night, cut off the engine, and leaned her head back against the seat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. And so began her nightly ritual as she arrived home from her second job each night. She reached across the seat and grabbed the small bag containing toilet paper, toothpaste, a gallon of milk, and a loaf of bread before exiting the car. She prayed it was enough to hold them over until Friday when she would once again stretch her small paycheck like a magician pulling colored scarves out of a hat.
She quietly entered the old house, treading lightly across the creaky old floorboards so as not to wake anyone. After placing the milk in the fridge, she willed her tired muscles to carry her up the stairs, knowing once she reached the top her exhaustion would be forgotten as she stopped in for a glimpse of her sleeping angels. Her life wasn’t always that of a single mother with three children, but life doesn’t always turn out the way we once dreamed. She was living proof of that. And yet, she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world if it meant erasing the three greatest blessings in her life. As usual, she found the twins cuddled up together in one twin bed as though reverting to the comforting days of the peace they experienced in the womb. She covered them with a second blanket, kissed their foreheads, and made her way down the hall. She passed Jacob’s room, knowing she would find her ten-year old son asleep in her bed once again. She no longer moved him back to his own bed, taking as much comfort from sleeping with him as he did with her.
As she did every night, no matter how late she arrived, she filled the tub and soaked for a bit. Surely, it made more sense to take a quick shower and jump in bed, but she needed these baths. It always felt like a cleansing of sorts as she imagined washing away all her troubles before laying her head on her pillow. Otherwise, she knew her worries would circle her mind and sleep would elude her when she needed it most. Thank goodness she still had her mother with her to stay at home with the kids while she worked. She wouldn’t know what to do without her help, but she also knew she was getting older and that wouldn’t always be the case.
This time of year was always the hardest and loneliest for her. It was when she seemed to feel the full brunt of being a single mother the most. She wanted a magical Christmas for her children, but she had stopped believing in magic long ago. How do you continue to help your children believe when the world has stripped you of your hope, your dreams, your faith? As she lay beside him, she watched her son sleep and realized the tranquil look he once possessed was beginning to fade even in his dreams. “Lord, please give me strength.”
She woke before the sun. Gathering the envelope labeled “Savings” in her nightstand before heading out once more. She hoped to make it back before the kids woke up. As she pulled into the Kmart parking lot, she ran the numbers in her head and knew she would have to choose only one item on the list for each of her children. She didn’t have enough for the rest of the items she had placed on Layaway, but Christmas was just days away and she had to have at least one gift under the old Charlie Brown tree in the living room.
She asked the Layaway attendant to please pull up her list so she could select the items she could afford. The list wasn’t long, although she had surprised herself that day by allowing herself to dream for a bit, imagining she actually had the means to give her children the items they asked for this year.
The young girl hit a few keys and said, “Paid in Full.”
“There must be some mistake,” the woman said and repeated her name. The young girl gave her the biggest smile she had ever seen. “I was working the evening shift last night, when a couple came in with their two young children. I heard them explaining to their kids the meaning of putting something on layaway and how blessed they were to be in a position where they had never had to do that. They then asked me to pull up a layaway list that included children’s items and paid it in full. When I asked them if they wanted me to contact the person, they said no. Just tell them we said, Merry Christmas and God Bless.“
The young lady then proceeded to hand the items over to the woman who stood motionless, tears streaming down her face. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The young lady handed over the final item and said, “Don’t thank me, that family gave me faith that magic still exists. Merry Christmas to you and your children.”
This is our yearly tradition with our children, and all of us have come to look forward to it more than any other aspect of our holiday season. The story above is just one of the versions I’ve imagined in my heart throughout the years. Do you have a family tradition during the holidays?
Once upon a time there was a little elf named Olivia.
Not surprisingly, Olivia the Elf loved Christmas.
One year, Santa sent her a magical little elf which she named Melfy.
Melfy had a great run for approximately two years before he mysteriously disappeared.
Unbeknownst to Olivia, her parents ordered up a new elf and secretly replaced Melfy.
(That was back when all the Elf on a Shelf elves looked the same.)
Of course, the moment the new Melfy arrived, the old Melfy decided to make an appearance.
And so Olivia’s parents made the executive decision that Olivia’s little elf brother, Evan, was now old enough for his very own elf.
Evan the Elf named his magical elf, Dragon.
Melfy and Dragon had tons of fun for several years.
They wrestled super heroes, and even survived a fire.
Well, not really a fire, but Melfy’s collar got burned and Dragon’s chin looked like he was attempting to grow a goatee.
That’s what happens after a day of hanging from the chandelier…literally.
Stick to the shelf, elves!
The battle scars served to differentiate the gender neutral elves, so all was right with the world.
Until…the family moved to Puerto Rico without their belongings and Olivia and Evan’s parents realized their faux pas.
New elves couldn’t be ordered because they don’t make them with unique burn marks.
Although the thought crossed their mind to burn two new elves, it was too risky.
What if they burned the left collar instead of the right?
What if the goatee now looked like a full beard?
So…two new elves arrived this year.
Meet Annabelle and Winston.
They arrived with a letter from Santa, explaining what happened to Melfy and Dragon.
Congratulations Melfy and Dragon on your recent promotion!
And, thank you for warning Annabelle and Winston to be very careful where they hang.
I hope you enjoyed the tale of Elf On The Shelf’s Costly Christmas Caper.
If you don’t think it was costly, do the math.
Each elf costs $35!
“It’s impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it’s so hard to decide what actually counts as a word. Is dog one word, or two (a noun meaning ‘a kind of animal’, and a verb meaning ‘to follow persistently’)? If we count it as two, then do we count inflections separately too (e.g. dogs = plural noun, dogs = present tense of the verb). Is dog-tired a word, or just two other words joined together? Is hot dog really two words, since it might also be written as hot-dog or even hotdog?
It’s also difficult to decide what counts as ‘English’. What about medical and scientific terms? Latin words used in law, French words used in cooking, German words used in academic writing, Japanese words used in martial arts? Do you count Scots dialect? Teenage slang? Abbreviations?
The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries. Over half of these words are nouns, about a quarter adjectives, and about a seventh verbs; the rest is made up of exclamations, conjunctions, prepositions, suffixes, etc. And these figures don’t take account of entries with senses for different word classes (such as noun and adjective).
This suggests that there are, at the very least, a quarter of a million distinct English words, excluding inflections, and words from technical and regional vocabulary not covered by the OED, or words not yet added to the published dictionary, of which perhaps 20 per cent are no longer in current use. If distinct senses were counted, the total would probably approach three quarters of a million.”- Oxford Dictionaries
Three quarters of a million! And, in that total are two little words that are uttered countless times in passing. “I’m sorry” rolls off the tongue when we accidentally bump into someone. ”I’m sorry” is instilled in preschoolers across America on a daily basis as they learn to socially interact with others in preparation for social interaction on a grander scale.
For some women, “I’m sorry” is habitually the opening to a sentence, as though they are excusing their rightful demands before the request is even complete. Why are you sorry? For speaking your mind? For being you? For being heard?
These two short words when voiced together hold the weight of three quarters of a million if placed on a scale. Yet, they are losing their value as we use them without substance or consideration to their meaning in the particular instance in which we present them.
“I’m sorry you feel that way” reduces the intensity of an argument. However, are we really sorry the person expressing something which obviously offended us enough to spark an argument “feels that way?”
“I’m sorry I can’t work late today” presents us in a better light when responding to the boss’s request for overtime. Yet are we really sorry we can’t burn the midnight oil in place of spending more time with our loved ones?
“I’m sorry if this blog post offends anyone” is often typed at the beginning of posts all across the bloggerhood. And, truth be told if we are writing it, posting it, sharing it…we aren’t truly sorry are we?
Two words. I’m sorry.
Their presence often goes unnoticed as they are squeezed between more words until they are distorted into something different in their meaning. They tumble out in an avalanche of words that rush them past their significance, sending them flying down a slope of meaningless jargon. I’m sorry…originally meant to convey an apology has warped from a heartfelt emotion into an empty message. These two words are flung about repeatedly as a way of appeasing the recipient, softening them, plying them to bend to our will often in the hopes of easing our own conscience. The magnitude of those two little words being spoken to one whose been slighted holds more meaning than three quarters of a million other words. Looking in someone’s eyes and expressing your regret, your remorse, your apology…with your eyes, your words and ultimately your heart is an action that comforts both the recipient and the giver.
And yet, the presence of their absence is felt to our very core when it is all we seek to move forward, when we are at a standstill unable to take another step as pain and hurt hold us firmly rooted. The presence of its absence holds us hostage.
This year I found a way to keep the act of being thankful going all month in our home. November 1st, I pulled out a set of dry erase markers, gathered the family around our hall mirror and asked them to write one thing they were thankful for that day. After a couple of (Mom has lost her marbles again) looks, they each wrote something.
The beauty of this activity as the month progressed was in the moments I came upon one of my children, standing before the mirror, deep in thought, reflecting upon what they were thankful for that day. And, while early on they had to give it some thought, later in the month they had a couple of items a day they wanted to add which made my heart smile.
The mirror became not only a reflection of thanks in words, but in images and memories.
If you look closely at what is reflected in this great big hall mirror covered in words of thanks, you will all see what I am most thankful for… the home and life we are blessed to live every day.
Here are a few more images of our Thanksgiving.
If you celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope you and your family enjoyed it.
Whether you do or you don’t, the lesson here is that there isn’t one day or one month a year to give thanks.
We can and should find something to be thankful for each and every day.
I’m tempted to keep our words of thanks on the mirror permanently!
What is one thing you are thankful for today?
1. Workout Barbie: She enters the gym as though we’re all expecting her a la “the party don’t start ’til I walk in.”
1. Sweaty Barbie: She enters the gym already sweating from the effort of getting the kids to school, dogs walked, etc.
2. Sweaty Barbie: She has arrived in whatever clean super hero t-shirt she found that morning, paired with Target shorts of some variety. Getting dressed was a workout in itself for Sweaty Barbie.
3. Workout Barbie: Eye contact is minimal or at least it would appear that way…hard to tell since she crosses the length of the gym, eyes hidden behind her Tom Ford sunglasses.
3. Sweaty Barbie: Eye contact is minimal in order to avoid anyone mistaking eye contact for an invitation to chat. Sweaty Barbie just wants to get in and get out.
4. Workout Barbie: She heads straight for the locker room, Hermes bag slung over her shoulder.
4. Sweaty Barbie: She heads straight for the locker room to throw her purse and keys in a locker and slap her two dollar pad lock on the door.
5. Workout Barbie: Upon entering the fitness class room, she surveys the lay of the land daring anyone to invade her regular spot, not quite front and center…more like front and a bit to the right of the instructor.
5. Sweaty Barbie: Upon entering the fitness class room, she surveys the lay of the land, making a bee line for the spot furthest in the back where she can hopefully blend into the back wall.
6. Workout Barbie: As she settles into “her spot” she’s overheard expressing her disgust over the three or four drops of sweat on the wood floor left over from the previous class.
7. Workout Barbie: She summons a gym employee to mop up her area, shaking her fully made up face the entire time the mopping takes place.
7. Sweaty Barbie: Face completely devoid of makeup and in need of a good waxing, she shakes her head in disbelief at some people’s lack of common courtesy, actually making eye contact with the gym employee and sharing a smile.
8. Workout Barbie: While the rest of the members exchange “good mornings” she is in her own world, finding it difficult to turn away from her reflection in the mirror.
8. Sweaty Barbie: While the rest of the members exchange “good mornings” she is adjusting and readjusting her new sports bra, hoping it will hold up during class.
9. Workout Barbie: She NEVER sweats throughout the entire one hour class nor does she ever take a single sip from her glass Voss water bottle.
9. Sweaty Barbie: She sweats throughout the ENTIRE one hour class and downs her Dasani water bottle refilled at home for the third day in a row.
10. Workout Barbie: At the end of class, dry towel in hand, makeup still fresh, ponytail still intact, she heads straight to the instructor to let her know what a great class she taught.
10. Sweaty Barbie: At the end of class, dripping wet towel in hand, sweat pouring down her face, hair all askew, she heads the hell out before anyone notices the sweat puddle she left behind or the instructor gets a good look at her. She can pretend she’s new to the class again tomorrow.
Have you ever witnessed Workout Barbie or Workout Ken at your gym? How about Sweaty Barbie or Sweaty Ken?
Do you dare tell me which one you are?
This week for Photo Friday, I am sharing some posts from a blog that I have been enjoying immensely as it’s simplicity packs a huge punch. While they are not photos, this talented lady captures life’s little messages with just a pen and her heart.
I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do, and follow for regular daily updates that will make you think, make you smile, make you fall in love with these lovable little characters.
I present to you,
Doesn’t keep it from being said.
Or needing to be heard.
You can do it!
And Sometimes When You Need Help
That Moment When
Their little legs don’t move fast enough…
Or for you.
We May See The Same Thing
It is doubtful we will see it exactly the same way.
He was quiet as we rode the elevator up to the third floor. The air was heavy with emotion, as anger and fear seemed to compete for air space alongside sadness and acceptance. We stood back for a moment as the doors opened, aware that the vessel which just lifted us up would also bring us down the moment we stepped out. His eyes filled with tears as he took a deep breath and exited. As we made our way down the hall to the dreary ICU waiting room to be given permission to proceed to room 328, I felt numb as I walked by his side. He valiantly tried to keep all he was feeling contained when it threatened to spill over, as though it was all he had left within his control. He leaned forward and held his head in his hands for what seemed like an eternity. I could no longer bear to look at him as I tried to keep my own emotions in check. I leaned my head back against the green vinyl chair and closed my eyes desperate to find courage in the brief darkness.
From somewhere across from me I heard, “He was my resume.”
I couldn’t, I wouldn’t open my eyes, and held my breath as he continued. “He knows me better than anyone. We’ve been through so much together. Whenever someone wouldn’t believe a story I was telling I would dial his number and ask him what we were doing on a particular date. I would hand the phone over and he would immediately re-tell the story with the same detail I had just shared. People were always stunned at just how connected we are. I can’t imagine life without him.”
I heard him stand and walk out, and I followed him to the area where we were to don gloves and masks before entering the room where his best friend was fighting for his life, for their life. He swiped at a few tears, pulled himself together before we entered and walked to the side of the bed immediately taking his hand, a daily routine for them in the last few months. I stood back for a moment, taking it all in…two grown men, holding hands and expressing their love for each other, how grateful they are for one another. Two grown men who forged a lifelong friendship so many years ago as a couple of kids, and were trying to come to terms with the enemy that threatens to separate them.
All I could think as I left the hospital that night was how caught up we all get with the number of friends we have on Facebook or the number of followers on Twitter as though the escalating totals are evidence of how much we are loved. Maybe on a small scale it’s okay if it brings a bit of joy to our day, but on a grander scale it doesn’t amount to anything.
A real friend isn’t the person that shares our funny status/tweet or clicks the like button on a photo we post. A real friend is someone who was there for the funny moment. A real friend is the one by our side in the photo having real life experiences with us.
How many of those people who claim to be our friend will follow us in our darkest of times? In our final days, how many will sit by our bedside, hold our hand, ease our fears, and tell us they love us? How many of them truly know us? How many of them are our “resume?”
If you add up all your social media friends and followers and don’t come up with at least one person, one true friend, then maybe it’s time to devote some face to face time (and I don’t mean FaceTime) with the people in your life.
Don’t let your 547 Facebook friends and 832 Twitter followers add up to a negative number. The internet won’t catch you when you fall.