Archive for the 'Intentional Holidays' Category

Tales of Christmas Past: Receiving My Doll a Second Time.

Standing tall on my bookshelf.

How many presents from your childhood Christmas’s can you really remember? I loved them all but recall very few.

One thing I could count on every Christmas morning was a new doll waiting for me under the tree. Funny, but I spent much more time playing with paper dolls instead of real ones. Maybe my imagination took me farther with them. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to spot the latest doll each year.

BTW, all the dolls had a certain “fragrance.” Whatever 1950’s dolls were made of left an imprint in the air that always smelled like Christmas. It is still a favorite olfactory memory often found in new shower curtains.

My 7th Christmas, I received a very special doll called, “Little Miss Addie.” She was a promo for AD detergent around 1957, and my mom had to send in a label or box top or something along some money to get her. She came adorned with a little mink stole. I was enraptured with that doll, but she was so fancy my mom wasn’t crazy about me playing with her too much. (Keeping “nice” things nice was a high value of hers.)

I remember some of my playmates received them too and we would carefully make up worlds involving the lives and times of Little Miss Addies,

I eventually lost track of Little Miss Addie but not the memories from that Christmas. She disappeared somewhere in my house when  Barbie dolls came along and later records, make-up and other must-have items for teenage girls.  She was hiding somewhere in the corners among the artifacts of my childhood.

Over 60 years later, she turned up again in a remarkable way. My mom no longer lived in the family home and it was time to sell it. My sister-in-law and brother’s family and I started in on what we called, “The Big Dig.” Fascinating items were discovered and discussed often during peals of laughter. But no Miss Addie.

The day before the sale, photos were posted by the auction company to let buyers see a preview of what was for sale. I scrolled through them and there was my Miss Addie doll! She had been found after all but not by me.

I was determined to buy her back but, as in the terms of the auction, we could no longer just take things. On the day of the sale, the kind auctioneer saw me digging in the boxes for her before someone else bought her. When I found Miss Addie at last, he told me just to take her home.

All the magic of those Christmas mornings are wrapped up in this long ago gift. I see her everyday now and don’t plan to lose her again!

Do you still have a favorite toy from a childhood Christmas?

Hope for the best,


PS. A while back,  I shared some Advent stories and inspiration in a Christmas sermon called, “Open the Advent Door: Four Things We All Want for Christmas.” Here it is, take a listen.

First Week of Advent: Eight Ideas for the Slow Down Year.

22 Days until Christmas. For the first time in decades of Christmas planning and celebration, this year seems full of time. My December calendar is completely blank for non-work appointments since I cancelled my one dental appointment next week.

For all the reasons we are way too familiar with, we aren’t visiting friends or going to parties or concerts or plays or stores like all the other years. No one is stopping by. When we put up our smallish tree this year, (not by design, that’s how it came from the order: short) I consoled myself that no one would see it anyway.

Since all the things we can’t do this year are too often front and center, I’m turning toward embracing what is now possible since there is all this extra time. Here are a few…

  1. Enter into Advent all day long instead of 10 minutes after dinner. I have a pile of Advent & inspirational books for the season and reach for them throughout the day when I might have been running another errand in previous years.
  2. Plan something enjoyable each day to feed your Christmas spirit.  One of my favorite Christmas books is Madeleine L’Engle’s,  “The Twenty-four Days Before Christmas” where she introduces this fun idea to celebrate the season each day. I bought myself a paper calendar with little doors to open every day and look forward to that simple task.
  3. Savor your favorite parts of the holiday that you can still do during Covid. No need to rush.  I love writing Christmas cards over the course of a week in the early morning with quiet carols in the background.
  4. Trade in your usual bedtime reading material for seasonal fun and inspirational stories and books.  My Christmas book collection is large but the on-line library works fine too.
  5. Curate your music. I don’t want mindless carols this month but holiday sounds that will bring me into worship. I’m trying out new-to-me artist and tunes. So far, so good.
  6. Decorate intentionally. Less can be more this year if everything you put up is meaningful not just rote. In contrast, you might go all out and show off your fun stuff to an audience of one or two. I’ve put off buying a wreath for years and I’m picking one up Saturday!
  7. Skip the movies that might trigger sadness or loneliness and go for ones that make you laugh or take you deeper into the story.
  8. Move often, eat well. The “openness” of the schedule allows more time for taking walks and making slow food.

I jotted some notes this morning about some things I want to do next year and it sounds like fun already. But this one is here now with the possibility of additional hours to savor, a daily date with the star of the show, and new memories never before made. True gifts.

I’m all in to see how it will unfold. You?

Hope for the best,


Thanksgiving in “Ordinary” Time

Table for 14: Not this year!

Thanksgiving this year will be in the last week of the long stretch of “Ordinary Time,” the way the church calendar designates the liturgical year.

No one I know is referring to this holiday season as “ordinary” time! I recall with chagrin how we sat around at our most-unusual Easter and said, “at least Thanksgiving will be normal.” Got that wrong! One thing we all know, it will be remembered.

While we all long for the familiarity of the sameness for all the comfort that can bring, same old-same old can become a blur. Can you really remember something distinct about the last, say, five Thanksgivings? It’s the off-the-rails ones that are most remembered.

My most memorable Thanksgiving, so far, was the one the sewer backed up. Hard to beat that one for novelty! We didn’t want to make a big announcement or forbid the use of the toilet so my husband surreptitiously slipped down to the basement between courses and with a few tools, kept the operation under wraps and the floor clear of water.  We called a plumber the next day.

All the celebrations when the toilet didn’t back up are fuzzier. I remember Thanksgivings in categories.  The childhood ones around my grandparents long table with all the younger cousins. Then the dinners at our house in Quincy with the same people. After that came the ones with Tom’s family and finally the ones with our new family. Those include the big ones and occasionally the small ones. Loved them all, but they are somewhat non-distinct. Except for the years someone played our neglected piano.

Not this year. So far, nothing seems same-old about what will be happening next Thursday. No crowd big or small, I’m still working out the menu for 2-3. Maybe we’ll do a puzzle. The only known is that we will write in our Thanksgiving journal. (Thanksgiving Journal)

I see a lot of ideas of how to pull it off “creatively” this year…zooming with family or friends, eating outside, going for a fresh rather than frozen turkey, ditching the turkey altogether, distributing food to others and more. Are you trying any of these or other ideas?

Maybe, instead of all the focus on logistic planning, this is the year to really dig deep to give thanks. More than a headline when it’s your turn to share around the table.

What elements of your life didn’t change this year or blossomed in the right direction? What basic components of the day to day are you especially grateful for? Who helped you get through the year? What delivery service kept you supplied? This year’s list might be longer than usual!

But this I ask you, don’t write it off. Grab the day and hold on to it and imprint it for the forever files. This is the one you’ll be talking about for years to come. A chance to write a new script, just this once. To really look at the components and choose what will fit: The food, the schedule, the interaction in-person or digital or none at all, the TV off or on. etc. Instead of replicating, try innovating. Re-frame is the operative skill.

It won’t be just like the others, that’s for sure, but it might be the most remembered. Make it count.

Hope for the best,


PS Are you interested in a two hour At-Home Advent retreat December 5, 8:30-10:30? Ask me for details.

PPS A year ago today I got my 2nd knee replaced. It’s doing just fine, thank you!

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

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