Archive for the 'Intentional Holidays' Category

Happy Birthday America Breakfast! *

Gabe & Grandchildren

We used to dress the kids in red, white and blue when they were little now sometimes they choose it for themselves!

Looking for a fun way to start the 4th of July?

Holidays call for special food and our annual 4th of July breakfast features the patriotic Red (strawberries or raspberries), White (whipped cream in a can for fun distribution) and Blue (blueberries) waffles.

Did I mention…we celebrate outside on the picnic table and the large flag hangs on the garage as part of the birthday decorations.  The last couple of years, Tom has brought the waffle iron outside too with a long extension cord so less trips running back and forth.

We don’t sing Happy Birthday to America but after breakfast we read the full length Declaration of Independence.  In the early years, Tom and I did the reading, then we started passing it around, each one taking a turn reading a paragraph or two.

I’m not going to tell you our young kids sat spellbound through the reading as fidgeting abounded but I think they would recognize the words anywhere and hopefully, they GOT it.

Uncle Gabe helping with the reading.

Uncle Gabe helping with the reading.


“When in the course of human a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor

…we remind ourselves and each other of the magnitude of this document and what a different world we would all be in without it.

Sometimes we add a little quiz on the Founding Fathers or read more about their personal histories but the Declaration is the centerpiece of the morning.

Happy Fourth of July!

Hope for the Best,


* Annual Post

Happy St Nicholas Day: Are your Shoes Out?*


Neither are mine but when my husband was a child, his heroic mom of 9 children managed to fill each one’s shoes with a special treat the morning of Dec 6 so St Nick could make his first run-through.

Did you know Nick was a real-life bishop who had a reputation for secret gift-giving?  He liked to put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, especially the poor.

Some Christmas customs, like celebrating St Nick’s Day survive for generations, others drop off or transform into new traditions.  As a self-proclaimed traditionalist, I think we need both!

This year I am trying three new things:

1)     Small poinsettias in each room.  They are cheap and colorful and don’t need unpacking and are easily tossed after the holiday or when you get tired of them in February.



2)     Attaching a photo of the recipient instead of a gift tag. I have a huge supply of never used photos and it’s easy to cut out just one person to use as a tag.  Older photos are even more fun!

2012 Christmas Tags

3)     Do you send out holiday newsletters?  I stashed a copy of each of our past letters into a file and decided to put them into a red binder for display.  Office supply stores sell packages of letter size sheet protectors already punched with three holes.  Fun to look back over our highlights each year.

How about you?  Trying anything new?

Hope for the best,


*adapted from 12/6/12


7 Questions to Ask Yourself this Mother’s Day*

1386612_mom_and_kidIt’s lovely when your kids present you with homemade cards and breakfast in bed on Mother’s day.  But before you clean up the mess they made in the kitchen, take some time away from the kids and the clutter. Take a bath, go for a walk, or relax in a comfortable chair with a cup of tea, and allow yourself to reflect on this life-altering adventure of being a mom.

The days can so easily blend one into the next.  We seldom take a good look at where we’ve been and where we’re going.  Here are some questions to ask yourself during a peaceful time away from the rest of the family.

  1. What do I enjoy most about being a mom?  Can you remember a time with the kids when everyone was having a good time, and you felt content and competent?  How did you feel in your heart then? How can you get that feeling more often?
  1. What do I want my kids to remember about their childhood?  Maybe it’s the times you laugh together, the games you play, or the bedtime prayers you say together.  It could be the spontaneous events or your family rituals.  How can you make sure to have these moments as your children grow older?
  1. What do my kids really need from me in this stage of their lives?  Do you need to listen more and talk less? Be more available? Relax some rules?  Spend more time one-on –one? What worked in one stage may need to be adjusted for the next.  What are your children’s evolving needs?
  1. Am I taking good care of myself?  Mothers are very good at avoiding this question.  After you’ve met the needs of your kids, partner, home, work, and other commitments, there is little time and energy left for yourself.  But it’s important to make the time to do something just for you.  When you take care of yourself, you have more time to give to others.
  1. Am I satisfied with the balance of my family, work and personal time? The perfect balance isn’t equal time-it’s a sense that you are living according to your priorities.  This, too, changes over time.  Like a see-saw it is always in motion but shouldn’t crash down to one side or the other.
  1. Which friends would I like to spend more time with?  What new people would I like to get to know? Take time to invest in relationships outside your immediate family and in your community.
  1. What else is my heart saying to me? Can you see all the things you doing right as a mother? Are you recognizing how much your kids love you? Are you able to take a step back and realize how wonderful it is to be a mom?

Consider sharing your reflections with your husband or a close friend.  Or write them down in a journal so you can come back to them later.  The process of reflection renews and restores us-something most moms really need.

Me and My Mom

Hope for the best,


  • Perennial post.

The Easter Corsage*

Corsage in the 70’s

Every Easter (Holy) Saturday afternoon in my growing up years, the doorbell would ring and a flower delivery guy would be standing there with two small white boxes. One for me and one for my mom.   Nested in each box was a corsage for each of us to wear on Easter, hers was always bigger. My dad would act like he didn’t know anything about it but we always knew he sent them. Lovely tradition but somewhat curious. He never gave flowers at any other time of the year.

During my college years, I still came home for Easter and the corsage, of course, arrived on right on schedule. Later when my husband and I came back for a few Easter weekends, the corsage never failed to show up. My mom’s was still always bigger even when I was an adult but that was OK, she was the Mom.

Then my dad died in February of 1994. Of all the myriad details and decisions, I thought of the corsage. I knew the doorbell was not going to ring anymore.

The weekend after his funeral, I spoke at a long-ago planned retreat. I love presenting at these events and it was a good distraction as well as healing in some ways.

When I walked to the podium, I noticed a small white box waiting for me. Without knowing any of my history with corsages, the team had purchased one for me to wear while I spoke. That had never happened before or since. In my blur of tears, I knew who had really ordered the corsage.

Be ready.  Anything can happen.

Easter Blessings to you.

Hope for the best,


*originally published  2014

Fun Ways to Celebrate President’s Day!*

My Dad and Ronald Reagan

My Dad and Ronald Reagan

I like getting mail in my mailbox (the good kind of course like a letter from my granddaughter) but there will be no deliveries today because we are all celebrating President’s Day.

If my four children were still young and gathering at our dinner table,  I would have some activity or conversation planned to fit the occasion.  Probably a little quiz like “Who was the 9th President?  Or the 23rd?” Actually, I have no idea but will google it as soon as I finish writing this post.

Keep going… “Which President do we associate with the Emancipation Proclamation or The League of Nations or the WPA program?  Who was in the White House when the Brits burned it?  How many presidents can you name in 30 seconds?

Who was the largest President or the single one?  Whose daughters got married in the White House?  Lots of fun trivia available for the pursuing.  You don’t have to believe the story of George Washington and the cherry tree to serve cherry pie for dessert 🙂

Someone, likely my mom, gave us a little booklet with a page about each president and one winter we talked about one every night for dinner until we got through to Reagan who was president at the time.  I wonder if they remember that… I remember John Tyler’s wife was  Letitia!

My family of origin all grew up on farms or in small towns but somehow were able to meet Presidents Truman, Roosevelt, Nixon, Johnson, Reagan and get invited to Clinton’s first inauguration.  My mom and nephew ran into George W. in Austin and my daughter-in-law, granddaughter and daughter have all met Obama.  A few years ago I was finally able to cross off “Meet a President” from my life list when I shook hands with Jimmy Carter. Life List Update

If you have a free evening you might want to watch an episode of West Wing or check out ‘The Butler” or my favorite fictional president movie, “Dave.”  Much of my knowledge of the Presidency came from those sources.

As much as we might criticize from time to time, these guys in the Oval Office had the utmost courage to give it a try to change the world.  I’ll forego my mail to honor them.

Hope for the Best,


*originally posted in 2014

What Did You Get For Christmas Last Year?*

Wrapped giftsQuick!  Do you remember three things you got for Christmas last year?  I didn’t think so.  At least not without a few minutes to think about it.

Good to remember today with 11 days to go while I am keeping a nervous eye on how many days of free shipping I have left at Amazon.  Kind of crazy…all the energy, not to mention $$, put into finding THE great gift only to have it not remembered for long.

Sure, I remember a handful, and always the baby dolls from my childhood that smelled so good.  One of my children usually gives me a gift that elicits tears of joy.  They call it the “crying gift.”  I definitely remember the powerful elixir of love, affection and being “known” that imprints long after the exact gift fades.

Fortunately, we decided years ago to give our kids no more than three gifts each, based on the Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh model.  Stocking stuffers don’t count and neither does the small joke gift but limiting the number limits the “gift-anxiety” syndrome of running back to the store for just one more thing.  Probably soon forgotten also.

Perhaps it is not the gift per se but the moment the gift brings that keeps us on the hunt for just the right thing.   The moment that’s right before the opening that holds all the promise & possibility.  Intangibles for sure, but a gift also be the harbinger of matters of the heart.

So I carry on with my lists and forays to various websites still hoping for a WOW.

Will the perfect gift be remembered? Maybe not but the love that wrapped it up won’t be forgotten.

Hope for the Best,


PS Giveaway raffle  for  my new book, “Getaway with God,” with a Vera Bradley travel bag ends Friday: Enter here.

*perennial post

Second Week of Advent : Holiday Values: What Would You Rather Do? *

20Not everyone feels the same about holiday baking or decorating or the value of attending The Christmas Carol.

Before you make another list for the next 20 days, stop and clarify your holiday values so you can invest your precious time and resources in the places most meaningful to you.

In my Christmas workshops, I ask the attenders to rank the following values 1-10.  Try it and see if you can identify what is really important to you. Avoid “all of the above” and really rank them. You might be surprised!

Important disclaimer:  There are no right values, just yours!  Answer what you know is true, not what you think you should answer!

Please rank these values in order of importance to you

Christmas is…

___A time to celebrate with my immediate family

___A time to celebrate with extended family

___A time to celebrate with friends

___A time to go to special events

___A time to decorate my home and/or be creative

___A time to prepare special Holiday foods

___A time to give gifts to those I love

___A time to help the needy in the community

___A time of spiritual renewal

___A time to kick back and relax


Tree cutting with my family is a high value!

When you’re done, if applicable, ask your spouse or significant other to also do the exercise.

I am now able to forego baking cookies and use the time to celebrate with my friends.  Much more enjoyable 🙂

Once you know what you really want to make time for, be sure and do just that!

Hope for the best,


A new giveaway raffle  for Getaway with God, includes a Vera Bradley travel bag: Enter here.

*Popular post

First Week of Advent…Are You Ready?*

Blog 2012 006Twenty days til Christmas, do you know where your Advent wreath is?  Celebrating Advent is a way to keep you and your family focused on Jesus while still enjoying the cultural celebrations.
Here is an excerpt from my first published Advent article. Kids are grown now but I still celebrate Advent every day!

Three weeks and two days before Christmas and the heated discussion among my four children is not about which video games they want for Christmas but whose turn it is to light the candle at family Advent. It’s the first week of Advent season, the observance of the four weeks preceding Christmas, a tradition started in the Middle Ages. My kids want to make sure they each have a part in the celebration.

More than any other activity, Advent can restore Jesus to the center of the Christmas celebration, because on each Advent day the birth of Jesus is read, sung and talked about. The whole family can participate and find the observance meaningful. The props are simple and inexpensive. The memories and training will last a lifetime. Although the common tenets of observing Advent are shared by many churches, each family can add its own flavor. Following is a basic primer on how to start celebrating Advent this year.

When: Advent starts on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. Because Christmas falls on different days each year, Advent can last 22 to 28 days.

What you need:

    • An Advent wreath,  available  at most Christian bookstores, on-line , or made of fire-safe materials. Perhaps it could be a family event to choose or make the Advent wreath.
    • Four candles, three purple and one rose, and an additional white candle for Christmas Eve. A box of four Advent candles available at  Christian bookstores or  on-line.
    • A Bible for readings and, for younger children, a selection of children’s Christmas stories that focus on the birth of Jesus.  My favorite resource is “The Advent Book.”
    • Advent readings.

Optional items:

    • An Advent calendar, available where cards are sold, with 24 windows to open each day in December or a paper chain of 24 red and green links to mark the number of days until Jesus’ birthday.
    • Christmas carol books.
    • The Advent Book


Advent Book

The Advent Book

Beginning the celebration: On the first day begin with either a prayer or a Christmas carol. Light the first purple candle, known as the prophecy candle. The liturgical color purple is a sign of penance and longing as we wait for the birth of Jesus. With the lighting, talk about Jesus being the light of the world. Read the Advent Scripture of the day. Conclude by singing or praying. Have one child blow out the candle.

Light the same candle each day of the first week. Follow with the reading, Christmas carols or other meaningful activities. On the second Sunday light two purple candles, both of which are re-lit each night. The second candle is known as the Bethlehem candle.

The third week light the two purple candles and then a rose candle, or shepherd candle. Rose is a sign of joy and hope that He is coming.

Light the last candle, known as the angel candle, on the fourth Sunday. All four candles are lit each night that week to symbolize the growing brightness of Jesus’ coming.  Some families choose to light a white candle on Christmas Eve.

Long after the new toys are banished to the back of the closet and the decorations stored away for another year, the memories of the four weeks of Advent will remain. Don’t be surprised if it turns out to be your favorite tradition!

Additional Advent Activities

    • As Christmas cards arrive, save them with the Advent wreath and use your Advent prayer time to pray for the senders.
    • Do an Advent service project for the needy. Collect money or goods and use a portion of the Advent time to decide whom to help and how to do it. Some possibilities are to join a church’s gift-giving project, call the Salvation Army for names of families who are needy, send a special food or gift package to a missionary or give anonymously to those you know in need.
    • Use your nativity set with as many animals as possible to enact the story. (Great for younger kids!) Some families set up the manger scene and each day move the people and animals in a little closer.
    • Add occasional craft times to the end of an Advent ceremony. Make ornaments using salt dough or glue pictures of family members on flat foam shapes and decorate.
    • Make cookies or candies to share at the conclusion of your Advent time, or make special Advent cookies different from Christmas ones.
    • Have children bring homemade instruments to enhance the singing.
    • If you have competitive children, alternate who will light the candle, pick the carol, lead the prayers and read the Bible.
    • Invite your friends to share an Advent evening with you.

Advent Readings

The length of the Advent season depends on which day of the week Christmas falls on. This schedule includes all possible 28 days of Advent. For shorter seasons adjust this schedule by doubling up on some readings or eliminating the final two readings, which record events after Christ’s birth.

First Week

  • Sun. Is. 40:1-5
  • Mon. Is. 52:7-10
  • Tue. Is. 40:9-11
  • Wed. Gen. 3:8-15
  • Thu. Gen. 15:1-6
  • Fri. Deut. 18:15-19
  • Sat. Ps. 89:1-4

Second Week

  • Sun. Is. 11:1-10
  • Mon. Zech. 6:12-13
  • Tue. Mic. 5:2-4
  • Wed. Mal. 3:1-6
  • Thu. John 1:1-8
  • Fri. John 1:9-18
  • Sat. Mark 1:1-3

Third Week

  • Sun. Luke 1:5-13
  • Mon. Luke 1:14-17
  • Tue. Luke 1:18-25
  • Wed. Luke 1:39-45
  • Thu. Luke 1:46-56
  • Fri. Luke 1:57-66
  • Sat. Luke 1:67-80

Fourth Week

  • Sun. Is. 7:10-14
  • Mon. Luke 1:26-35
  • Tue. Is. 9:2-7
  • Wed. Mt. 1:18-25
  • Thu. Luke 2:1-20
  • Fri. Mt. 2:1-2
  • Sat. Luke 2:21-35

Hope for the best,


PS My book on personal retreats is available! Getaway with God: The Everywoman’s Guide to Personal Retreat.

PPS * Popular post

The Thanksgiving Journal*

Thanksgiving JournalThanksgiving morning our family crowds around a card table to eat breakfast in the living room.  Sipping eggnog in champagne glasses,  we give thanks.  For the new job, the fun summer vacation, grandma’s successful surgery, the basement stayed dry…from the spectacular to the mundane, we are grateful.

As the self-appointed secretary, I write it all down with cryptic notes and initials of who was grateful for what. Not nicely at all but rather fast and furious, in between sips of tea, so as not to slow down the flow. Later that weekend I will carefully transcribe this year’s thanks into the Thanksgiving Journal, a simple fabric lined blank book we started in 1982.

The favorite part of breakfast is next:  We open the journal and read aloud lists from the past.   We used to read ALL the entries from every year but now each of us chooses a year or two to read before the turkey needs to get put in the oven. The early years are most often chosen.

Much laughter ensues as we recall a four-year-old’s gratefulness for a new tricycle, the year we got our winter coats at a great garage sale, the addition of a guinea pig to the family circle.  We also remember the family triumphs: the completion of a project at work or the beginning of a new baby-sitting job, the mastery of a hard piece on the violin, the winning little league team.

Friends who have moved on often show up in the journal, the upstairs neighbors who provided the playmates, the best friend from kindergarten, the work colleague who was so helpful. Some people in our paths have many entries in our journal:  the teacher that taught all four of our kids, the children’s pastor at church, grandmas and grandpa’s and our close friends who live two doors away.

Vacations are always remembered with thanks, Niagara Falls, the ocean, the campsites, and the family van that took us to all those places.

The harder stuff of life transforms into thanks in the pages of the journal as well.  We’re thankful that our friend who died is in heaven; grateful that mom’s car accident  wasn’t worse; glad for the new bike to replace the stolen one.

We also recall the guests who joined us each year as their names are in the journal as well.  Remember John and Sue?  Whatever happened to Mark?  Who is Terry?  Wow, the Bowkers have come 17 times!

By the end of breakfast we are full from the special foods but also of rich memories of fun times, friends along the way, places we have been, and God’s faithfulness.  We will spend the rest of the day with family and friends, and later also record all the details  such as the weather, special treats, new games, and assorted tidbits such as the year the plumbing backed up.

Later in the day, the same card table will hold a jigsaw puzzle for old and new friends to work on while drinking hot cider and waiting for the traditional dinner.  Following the feast is a group walk around the block and spirited game playing.  One of the beauties of Thanksgiving is that we all know the script!

The journal will stay the rest of the weekend out for browsing, laughing, and remembering.  By the following Monday it will return to its place on the shelf next to the one that holds the Christmas memories.

We remember what we have written.

Hope for the Best,


PS It’s never too late to start!

*Annual post

Five Steps for Christmas Planning to Start Now


This Year’s Notebook

I know it is 10 days before Thanksgiving but the holiday music is on the radio and it’s time to start the Christmas lists! I crawled under the front steps last week to dig out the Christmas planning box and pulled out THE NOTEBOOK which contains all the details.

I love Christmas but enjoy it so much more with a plan for action and celebration so I can keep my focus on the birth of Jesus.  Based on my years of coaching and workshops on this topic, I think most of you want a plan as well.

Here’s how it goes…


First step: Gather the planning supplies:

  • Blank calendars printed from the computer, one for the rest of November, and one for December.
  • My plastic box of Christmas files which include recipes, gift lists, receipts, past newsletters, Advent activities, inspirational articles and decorating ideas.
  • A stack of old-fashioned steno notebooks which is my main planning tool each year.  One page per person, event and activity.
  • The December Good Housekeeping magazine for fun ideas.
  • Christmas journals from past years.
  • An old article from 1979 which always inspires me.
  • A Christmas CD or Pandora station
  • Hot cocoa🙂

Second step: Review the past few years of celebrations.  What worked, what didn’t and note questions I need to ask my husband, adult children, and friends about this year’s gifts/events.

Third step: Fantasize about all the magical things that could happen!

Fourth step: Do the planning

  • Begin to pencil in the calendars for what happens when.
  • Start each list in this year’s notebook including: to order, to make, to shop local, stocking stuffer ideas, etc.
  • Decide about services, projects, parties, performances.
  • Detail the steps in sending out a card.
  • Make a budget and review often.
  • Plan an item or two just for me such as attending a Lessons and Carols service or re-reading The Christmas Carol
  • Check for upcoming Holiday Specials on TV or favorites to add to my Netflix Queue.
  • Buy tickets for any upcoming events if it’s in the budget.
  • More details on this:  My Best Christmas Planning Tool

Last step:  Put it all away and enjoy Thanksgiving

Stay tuned for more holiday helps!

Hope for the best,


PS Need a little more help?  Ask me about Christmas coaching and planning classes.



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