12 Days “After” Christmas vs. 12 Days “After” Halloween

This morning, for the first time in a very long time, I slept in. It was nothing compared to my glorious teenage years where I would sleep until noon, but it felt good to not have to jump out of bed and be somewhere or do some particular task that depended on my promptness. The problem this morning was… it was still DARK when my feet hit the floor at 7:30am. Even the dog was giving me the one-eyed look of “lets go back to sleep”.

Wait a minute. Haven’t we passed the winter solstice? Aren’t the days starting to be longer? What the heck? (Actually, after a momentary nerdy relapse on timeanddate.com I learned that it was NOT my imagination and that the sunrise was actually later today than on the winter solstice. However, the sunset is also later, so we will enjoy an extra 83 seconds of daylight today compared to the shortest day of the year which was the 21st. Interesting, huh?)

Still with me?

The whole “shortest day of the year” thing implies that the sun is actually shining. It is now well into the morning and it STILL feels dark and dreary. It’s a well known condition called WINTER. It’s bitter and contagious making every day a good day to crawl back into bed. Even though it’s obviously not practical, every bone in my body is begging me to wrap up in one more layer of flannel and hide until the sun is shining brightly and doing its thing. Until that time, my cerebral cortex is not inclined to join the living.

What I NEED here folks, is something to motivate me. Maybe I should add some extra lights around the house to brighten things up? I could gather up the family and play board games and eat sweets, treats and comfort food so I forget about napping. I could invite some friends over or write a few letters to old ones and see what they are up to. I could get out and talk to my neighbors and people I haven’t seen in a long time. I could smile and sing loudly in public places.

Too bad Christmas was last week. Sounds like I could really use all that sort of stuff right now.

Wait a minute…

Wasn’t there something called the 12 days of Christmas?

I would like to have them back please.

I would also like to have those 26 days between Halloween and Thanksgiving when we were being force fed Christmas Carols. Thanks but no thanks National Retail Federation. (*hypocrite alert – Divine Consign always hosts our Holiday Open House the weekend before Thanksgiving. We decorate and play Christmas carols 6 days early. I am aware of this but my sense of shame is out-shadowed by desire to pay my help. ). What good is the after Christmas Clearance sale if it happens before the actual holiday? Wouldn’t a shift back to Christmastide boost January sales?

Regardless, NOW is when the real celebrating should BEGIN. There is a reason that so many cultures and religions celebrate with winter festivals and traditions. We really should listen to history rather than modern day marketers. We need to slow down and enjoy right where we are instead of rushing through to get to the next thing. It’s like they taught us in gym class. In the long distance run you have to pace yourself. If you sprint at the beginning you will get ahead but everyone will pass your exhausted self before the finish line. There is no joy a premature fizzle.

I am all for being tidy and organized but I implore you to leave your pretties out a little longer and extend your reach out to others a little further. It will make for a brighter and cheerier winter not only for you but for them. Hang on to that holiday spirit and savor every second.
12 days is all I ask for. January 6 is Epiphany as well as my mother’s birthday. For me, it is when the holiday season can close up and hibernate like it is supposed to.

Besides, Ground Hog Day will be here before we know it.

How to get your kids to cook for you

One of the few advantage of being a middle-aged woman is the ability to look at life through a rear view mirror. One of the few things I DID do right parenting (the total-BOTCH column is much longer, trust me!) was making my boys responsible for cooking for the family one night a week. As adults, both have told me that they appreciate being able to feed themselves and feed themselves WELL. Being able to cook is an essential life skill that is practical and also saves money. Meal planning and budgeting are important parts of cooking for a family and are no longer gender specific in the modern world.

Now before you get stressed out from the pressure of having to put on your high-heels, superwoman cape and prance about the kitchen, this WILL save you time in the long run. Having the men cook lasted less than 2 years for my family but it is a time that I look back at fondly. It was just long enough for the kids to solidify their basic culinary skills and for me to survive working full time while taking college courses.

Here’s the plan:

1. Assign each family member a day.  Our schedule was: Son #1 – Monday, Son#2 – Tuesday, Son #3 (grown step-son) – Wednesday, Hubby – Thursday, Me – all weekend. Your assigned night is not negotiable. Each person is responsible for their planning and preparing the meal  for their night. They are NOT responsible for clean-up (but remember, paybacks can really BITE!)  If they won’t be home, they make something in the crock pot the night before or bribe mom with i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e rewards for taking over.

2. Let mom (or whom the head chef (HC) is at your house) know what you want to make for your assigned night by Sunday. This way HC can buy any special ingredients in advance. (This is where I finally developed my meal planning habit. Meal plan = saving money!!!) If you do NOT plan the meal, a meal will be provided for you. It may (or may not) be something you like to eat. 😉 *Son #2 would peruse my cooking magazine for recipes to try. Son #1 would always request to make spaghetti. The other 2 made what I provided.

3. Head chef  organizes the ingredients the day before or the morning of. Usually items were gathered, along with the recipe, on the kitchen counter and/or labeled in the fridge.  This way the cook of the day (COD) has everything they need to get started after school. Prep-work (like slicing and dicing) should be supervised for safety so it can be done the day before when needed.

4. Different meals require a different level of skill. We started simple. Often, they worked as kitchen assistants – “run to the pantry and grab a can of _______… stir this… etc.” It didn’t take long for them to be able to do things independently. It was nice having the one-on-one time with them on the days we worked together. At times I worked as the kitchen assistant and eventually they were able to take care of everything on their own.

5. Appreciate and enjoy. When someone does a good job and a meal is good… TELL THEM! When they fail, shut up and eat it anyway. 😉 When everyone takes a turn a new appreciation appears.

Eventually, as the kids got older and started moving out and working, we went back to the old routine of me being the cook EVERY day instead of COD. However, each of the guys has a good story (complete with bragging rights) that centers around their “mad-cooking-skills”. One made pepper steak in an electric skillet in the Army barracks (no kitchen needed), another fed his starving college buddies shrimp scampi and steaks (he was awarded bachelor hero status), and my husband is famous for his cabin rendition of “eggs-erroneous”.

Not only will they never starve, they also understand why you don’t mess with the person wearing the apron.

 

10.5.14 Gratitude Post

Sunday Morning Gratitude Post 10/5/14

It seems like forever since I had the chance to sit down on a Sunday morning and physically write a gratitude post. In an effort to avoid letting perfection get in the way of the good, I’m just going to set my timer for 10 minutes and type out all the things that spark in my brain. If there is one thing I have learned in my old age, it is there is more than one way to get things done.

Ready.
Set.
GO!

There’s more than one way to skin a cat >>>
My father had a cliché for everything >>>
I inherited my father’s gift of having a cliché for everything >>>
I am lucky I have a great family >>>
I have a loving and supportive family >>>
They leave me alone (most of the time) and mind their own business >>>
I am happy that I’m out of the kid carpooling stage of my life. It’s a pain! >>>
I am grateful that I’ve been able to provide the kid taxi service the last couple of weeks. It’s good to be inconvenienced now and then, especially when it to help someone else. >>>

I am grateful for three specific conversations that I had this week. Each touched on helping others.
The first conversation was with one of the organizers the First Friday Event and about the importance of persistence and being the change you want to see. I saw great things Friday night. Good job!

The second conversation was with the new director of Teen Central. He’s interested in starting a sort of victory garden with the kids. I have a million ideas about this project!!!

The third came from the stranger who watched us carry a couch and then offered to help carry the second one because as he said it, “People seem to think I’m pretty strong”. Strong doesn’t even come close to describing him! I am so grateful that I’ve learned to not to be afraid of the invisible walls around me and that I have learned to listen (sometimes, I’m still practicing) and not to make immediate judgment. I’m grateful that the stranger followed the impulse to walk in yesterday and then spent the next hour shooting the breeze with us. I am humbled that he returned my trust and shared his story. I think he may have needed to hear (be reminded) of his own message and convictions. I’m really, really grateful that the carpool kid was there for all of.

Ding!

Back to work 😉

Jette

Back to School – Gratitude Post 8.10.14

Gratitude Post

One of the drawbacks of working in retail is being immersed in the “next season”. While everyone else in Lancaster County (and the rest of ‘Merica) is scurrying to get ready for fall and back to school, I have already started stressing out about getting Divine Consign ready for Christmas. My attention is NOT applied to the “present” crisis of getting ready (or helping others get ready) for back to school. I find this really frustrating because I usually try to practice “living in the now”. When we spend time worrying (what will I do?) or lamenting (what did I forget?) we totally miss what is going on RIGHT NOW. Ironically, RIGHT NOW is the only thing that matters because in truth, it is the only thing we can actually take specific actions to do something about. The past is too late and the future holds a hundred variables you cannot and WILL NOT control. Right NOW however, you can choose to smile and it will happen. Now is where controlling your life is at.

[Seriously…
Try it.
Smile.
Right now.
Smile even if it is a faux one because even a faux smile is the beginnings of something genuine.
(Besides, it makes your family wonder what you’re up to. Keeps them on their toes! Ha!)]

The beginning of a new school year brings a lot of anxiety for many. This week I observed many fretting mothers … Will my son like his new teacher? How will I cope with my daughter being away at college? I was sympathetic to each of them (having been there) but I also wished I could help them relax. Your attitude and how you approach a situation sets the tone of how it will play out. In other words ladies… Chill! Everything is going to be okay.

I taught high school in the city for 7 years and it is no coincidence that opening day for Divine Consign was September 1, 2004. It was the supposed to be the first day I would have gone back to school to one of the hardest (yet very, very rewarding) jobs I ever had. Instead, 9/1/2004 was a life changing day and the beginning of one of the hardest (yet very, very rewarding) jobs I’ve ever had. It marks the close of one season and the fresh start of another.

We will be 10 years old this year and I still get a little nervous about what the new school year will bring. But I smile. I smile ‘cause it’s called “life” and I only get one shot at it even when I feel like I’m being thrown under the bus. 😉

This morning I am grateful for:
1. Good neighbors – like the ones that unloaded all the piles of crap out of my garage ten years ago and helped me get the store set up. The shop has always been blessed by the kindness of others. It one of our magical secrets.
2. I’m glad my children made it through school in one piece despite me and are thriving adults doing their own thing and doing it well.
3. I am grateful that I am a curious person. I like to experiment and learn new things. I am a life-long student and I’m glad I’ve been able to recognize this trait and nurture it.
4. I am grateful all the “seasons” I’ve survived and the lessons they brought me.
5. I am grateful that my “family” will be joining me for a dinner outside this evening. It’s a favorite way to enjoy summer and its bounty. Those who can’t make it are in my heart and know I love them.

Cousins, caution & confidence – 8.3.15 gratitude post

During the summer of 1982, the year I got my drivers permit, my cousin landed on our doorstep and stayed for two weeks. He was a fascinating creature to me. At the time he was on a personal journey (what I now know is called a “walk-about”) and having just left the Navy, was full of inner turmoil and full of philosophical angst. I remember following him like a puppy. 1. Because I was bored. 2. Because he talked honestly with me. He listened when I talked, asked questions, and answered mine sincerely. Up until this visit, we had shared a few holiday dinners in the same room perhaps, but we had never really any spent time together. Why should we? I was merely an annoying little kid.

One particular afternoon, my mother had us running errands. For whatever reason, I remember stopping at a salvage yard. I remember going into the seedy office which was complete with snarling dog and creepy greasy men sitting around smoking cigarettes and playing cards. I don’t remember much about the interactions, but I do specifically remember that my cousin seemed agitated when we got back in the car to leave. He was very quiet on the drive home. I remember being worried that I had done something wrong to anger him. I certainly remember not liking that feeling of the morosely quiet car ride home.

When we finally pulled into the driveway, (silent treatment = eternal car ride) he slammed the car into park and got out. He waited for me to come around the car and actually physically blocked me from the sidewalk that led to the house. He glared at me with a strangely cold and almost cruel look on his face. We locked eyes. Then he said something that changed me forever.

“I saw the way those men looked at you… and I didn’t like it.”

He reached out and grabbed my elbow. I flinched ever so slightly but didn’t look away. He locked his jaw and said: “I have to teach you to defend yourself!”

I had no clue what he was talking about, but mercy me, the next 2 hours were possibly the best couple hours of my life up until then! He showed me how to breath in a choke hold… how to break a nose with the palm of my hand … how to crush a windpipe… He EVEN let me flip him repeatedly until I got the maneuver “just right”.

Frankly? It was A-W-E-S-O-M-E!

For some girls, a lesson in self defense might make them feel vulnerable and paranoid. My impromptu lesson made me feel cautiously confident. I like to think it was a moment in time that defined the woman I became. I may not be invincible, but God help you if you think I won’t give you one heck of a fight.

It also taught me an important lesson about men. My cousin? He is a man of substance. He showed me genuine respect. That day I had a small sampling of what it feels likes to be protected…what it feels like to be WORTHY of being protected. He also gave me the confidence that I was able to take care of myself. It is a standard every woman deserves.

Today while sitting at my family reunion in a picnic grove in the nowhere mountains of central Pennsylvania, I looked over to see my ninja-over-protective-cousin talking to my husband. They seem to be getting along quite nicely. No wonder. Without the lesson from the first, I never would have found (or valued myself enough to find) the second.

For this I am grateful.

 

Sunday Morning Gratitude Post – 6.1.14 – Pay it forward

confusion doodleSunday gratitude post 6/1/14

This week seemed to be packed with weirdnesses.  Okay… so spell-check is telling me that isn’t a real word but weirdness-es seems to fit better than just weirdness because this week I seemed to have had more than my share of unrelated episodes of head scratchers.  I won’t bore you with a detailed account of each individual story (Lord knows I’m wordy enough!) Instead, I will share a top-10-highlights-reel of the things I’m thankful for this week.

  1. Thank you for not being an ax murder Mr. Stranger that I picked up walking along side of the road. I’m really grateful I was correct when I thought I recognized you as the man who bought the Garrison Keiller book several weeks ago and who I saw volunteering at the Library’s book sale. It would have been a bummer if you would have been caught in that rain walking all the way to Rothesville.
  2. Thank you everyone to Stew’s cremation fund. Goal reached. Hot smoking body indeed! 😉
  3. Thank you to the Best Kept Secrets Tour $20 gift card winner who instead of cashing it in, asked me to pay it forward for them. This week you helped a mom get her daughter some proper fitting clothes. Dad lost his job but grow spurts don’t care about such things nor do the other children who were teasing her.
  4. Thankful I live in an age of budding tolerance:
    Middle school girl: “Miss, I think everyone is staring at me because I’m black.”
    Me: “No Hon. I think everyone is staring at you because it’s a sunny 83° day and you are walking down the street wrapped up in a blanket.”
  5. Thank you to the “Bird whisperer” who didn’t panic, but instead gently unstuck the bird who flew into the shop through our open door, into my office (while I was on the line with tech support), and then promptly stunned itself by flying full-bore-panicked into the window. It was only a mini-crisis but it was very nice to have someone else step up and take care of it. I was already frazzled and it was uplifting to watch you be so sweet and patient.
  6. Thank you for compassion over-riding suspicion. I’m not expecting there to be $10 slipped through the mail slot Monday morning, but it would be pretty cool if it happens because you said you would pay me back Mr. Help-I-forgot-my-wallet-at-home-and-my-dog-just-died-man. There is a reason that people and banks won’t cash checks without an ID. I truly hope that my donation really was for gas. If not, it was totally worth the $10 to tell you I’d see you in hell if you didn’t pay it forward.  😉
  7. Thank you everyone who is pitching in to cover my work hours so that I can fly down to visit my sister and my grieving Aunt. You know how I can be when I get that nagging sense that I am “supposed” to be doing something. Few are the words that are sweeter than “Don’t worry. We will make it happen.”
  8. Thank you for the almost free tickets.
    Text: Sheryl crow is playing at AMT if you are interested. My “sources” may be able to get you tix if you are interested.
    Me: Yes! Please!!!
    Text: It’s probably going to cost you cookies.
  9. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you to the nice lady who told us that the toilet was overflowing and pouring out onto the floor last night during the incredibly busy Rock N Glow race. As big as the puddle was, you couldn’t have been the first person to see it. You were, however, the first person to recognize it was obviously an impending disaster. Thank you to Mr. Puddle Wader for braving the flood in your expensive running shoes to turn off the valve as well as sticking around to mop up when you had a race that was about to start. I am ALWAYS grateful Miss “K” that I can count on you to take charge and get things done.
  10. Thank you to all the Cinderellas who stopped in on Saturday and bought WHBM shoes. Taking on 20 pairs of shoes at one time is outside of our normal policy. Not only did you help us get a handle on our size 6 inventory, but you also helped us help a family.

Finally, I’d like to thank the dear runner who stopped back in the shop last night determined to pay for the “emergency” shorts I gave her at the end of last year’s 5KRace. It was a nice surprise, but not necessary. We are paying it forward, remember? Thank you for wrapping up my weirdo week with the reminder that patience pays eventually and in ways we can never begin to imagine.