My mom adventures in Fort Collins

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 17
December 23, 2013, 10:24 am
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So, I fell off the Gratitude train. It happens. I figured that some day I’d actually get around to finishing this Gratitude Challenge… no one said that the 21 days had to be consecutive, right?

A month goes by and there is more to be thankful for. Two days away from Christmas, and we’re just hunkering down for a while. The unstructured days will lend themselves to sleeping in, crafting, travelling, reading, laughing, game playing, time together and days without any agenda whatsoever.

Recent thoughts of gratitude:

  • Fires in the fireplace
  • Watching Christmas movies while snuggling with loved ones
  • Enjoying the treats that come with the season
  • Listening to Christmas tunes and singing Christmas songs
  • Discovering Abuelita-the Mexican Hot Chocolate kit they sell in grocery stores for about $3 (What a deal!)
  • Taking in the Christmas lights that are on display

There is a bit of “Christmas-fever” at our home. Symptoms include organizing the wrapped presents under the tree, and comparing the size of the stacks. It also looks like this: hoarding several flyers from the Sunday papers, complete with lovely hand-pasted letters to send to Santa Claus.

Everyone always says Christmas is too commercial. Even St. Francis of Assisi said way back before he was a saint that Christmas had it’s problems, and he wanted people to experience Christmas differently. (Read more about that here and here.) I think about that, too. I set out the Fischer Price Nativity scene ALL YEAR LONG, because I figure you can never have enough baby Jesus in your life. If Christmas is the celebration of Joy and Saving Grace coming into the world in a whole new way, why does the time leading up to this celebration feel wrought with running around, checking-off “To Do” lists, and stress.

The play set--we're missing a Joseph and a few shepards, one wise man... the price you pay for having the set out all year round

The play set–we’re missing a Joseph and a few shepherds, one wise man… the price you pay for having the set out all year round

For me, Christmas is completely dependent upon the “afterglow.” You know how you prepare for Christmas: buy food, bake, send cards, buy presents (after you hem and haw over the “perfect gift”), decorate and clean the whole house, travel, and go to great lengths to assure your family has a great experience. Is all of that fun? Not necessarily. You can make things as fun as possible, sure. But most of this becomes fun AFTER the fact. You are glad you did all the preparing, all the running around, and you are thrilled because despite the crazy-making, you helped make a memory for yourself and others. Therefore, if Christmas does not have an afterglow, it can feel like all your energy was wasted. It can feel exhausting and stressful.

It’s one of my very human qualities: I like to feel appreciated. I like to feel like someone was paying attention. So, if you have someone like this in your life, please notice them and say ‘thank you.’ There isn’t a lot of glory in cleaning toilets & laundering all the sheets, but it’s all part of the process in preparing for visitors. Maybe the gift-giving starts to feel a bit silly–a woman I know described her daughters’ teenage gift exchanges as “swapping gift cards.” Planning a dinner menu when everyone has different dietary concerns or allergies? Yet, all of this hard work means so much for the overall celebration. Let us all honor those who “prepare him room” in so many different ways. I believe this is my way of saying that I’m grateful for a sense of gratitude and appreciation in the people who love me. My prayer for anyone reading this is that you find a joyful, peaceful, nourishing and grateful Christmas.

Luke 2: 9-12  An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 16
November 25, 2013, 8:28 am
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The prompt for Day 16 was, “What Is The Most Cherished Gift You’ve Received?”

Oh, gifts. Gifts are so interesting. If you’ve ever heard about The Five Love Languages, you’ll remember that “Receiving Gifts” is one of the Love Languages. I just took the quiz again, and I factor high on the “Acts of Service.” But that’s not to say that I don’t appreciate gifts. I am generally the kind of person that prefers something small and thoughtful, something random and meaningful. I’ll give you an example: One year for my birthday, Cory & the girls gave me a set of Twilight buttons (you know, the kind of buttons that I used to stick on my jean jacket back in 1984). I had been reading my way through the series, and I was looking forward to seeing the movie. It was silly in some ways, but it was sweet and it made me smile. Obviously, the Jacob pin is still attached to my pillow.

When I first saw this prompt (three days ago), I immediately thought about a ring that my parents gave me for my sixteenth birthday. I still have the ring, although I haven’t worn it in years. It is gold with a delicate band, and three small diamond chips embedded in a heart. What made it special was that my parents were under a great deal of financial stress at the time because my dad had been out of work for over a year. I fully expected a small and simple gift, if anything at all, but here was this grand gesture. Looking back, that gift represents something to me: Just because something is weighing heavily on your heart, doesn’t mean you have to deny any reason to celebrate. That is a valuable life lesson.

I’m grateful for the gifts I’ve received and the love and thoughtfulness that they represent.

However, when I think of the gift that I most cherish, I can think of a morning back in late August of 2007. I had been back at work for a few weeks, and I was a new mom. It goes without saying that I was in treading-water mode looking for a life boat. The gift I received was a new perspective. Many reading this know the feeling–my baby slept so long that I awoke with a start and made sure that she was still breathing. After realizing that the baby was indeed fine, I felt a calmness. This “gift” was a light-hearted mood that had washed over me as it dawned on me that maybe I can do this.  Maybe I can do this whole mom thing. Maybe I can see to the needs of another human being and also feel normal. Maybe this new way of being will be challenging for a while–maybe forever–but maybe I can do this. Getting some sleep does that to a person–it can make life seem more possible. That is the gift that I most cherish–a sense that there is enough life and love within me to be a parent.

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 15

It was bound to happen. I have fallen behind on my posts for the Gratitude Challenge. As with most things, it’s not worth dwelling on the delinquency. What the heck, right? You do what you can, and one day you just can’t fit it in, and then the next day you’re feeling like it’ll take too long to do two posts, so now it’s like a thing. I’ve got days plural to write and I can’t just give myself a whole lot of uninterrupted time to crank out three beautifully written posts without losing an absurd amount of sleep and/or giving up the premise that I might watch Argo one of these nights after the kids go to bed.

The prompt for Day 15 of the Gratitude Challenge asks, “Who Or What Shaped Your Inner Compass?” Upon originally reading this prompt, I felt like I could acknowledge the simple things: I, like those before me, learned about morality from my parents, CCD classes and episodes of Little House on the Prairie. But then, I thought, I could go deeper than than that.

My parents were mostly black-and-white, but they focused primarily on rules that were relevant to keeping harmony in the family: Do not climb the fence into the neighbor’s yard (a rule enacted after I did actually do that), come back home when you hear dad’s loud whistle (until they had a large cast-iron bell installed, in which case they asked that we return to a loud gong of the bell), and the never-to-be-forgotten take your shoes off in the back hallway. Occasionally, mom and dad would talk about things like being nicer to my brother, or being more polite and affectionate to my grandparents when we greeted them.

This is a photo from last summer at my Mom & Dad's house--you can see the bell attached to the house right by the back door

This is a photo from last summer at my Mom & Dad’s house–you can see the bell attached to the house right by the back door

The CCD classes were straight-up rules as they applied to nebulous issues. The ten commandments? Yep, you’re going to have to pretty much explain all of those to me other than the Do Not Steal, Do Not Lie, Do Not Kill-bit. “What is adultery?” my little head would ponder. Turn the other cheek? Turning over tables in the temple? I cannot remember a whole lot of this making sense, but I did get the message that doing bad stuff was very bad and might cause some eternally bad consequences. Enter into the equation the fact that you don’t just do the right thing, you do it out of an interest in preserving your chances at a happy afterlife.

On the day of my First Communion

On the day of my First Communion

But “Little House on the Prairie”? That was a bit different. Laura’s Ma and Pa talked to her a lot about morality. They talked to their little Half-Pint all the time about how rule after rule had gray areas. For instance: You are supposed to be kind to everyone and stick up for those who are being bullied, but when you see Nellie being mean and rude you can’t just knock her over for doing something nasty. This was the kind of stuff that just made sense to me! I can remember trying to work out the details of every rule, and feeling overwhelmed by the fact that each rule can be so confusing. Laura always seemed to have her pulse on what was the most important of all the varying degrees of morality. Laura and her sense of justice–what little girl wouldn’t identify with that? Here’s Laura taking Nelly to task for some ridiculous shenanigans.

As a kid, I can recall a number of times where I just had to challenge what had been laid out straight-away and satisfy my own interests.

  • Stealing: There was the one time in the grocery store when the Bazooka bubble gum was just so irresistible, and I had to pocket some. I was probably 6 or 7. Afterwards, my mom (of course!) saw me looking at the comics and got to the bottom of that. She nearly marched me back into the store, but I promised so endlessly that I would never ever do it again. And I didn’t. (Except for the one time in sixth grade, but that deserves its own post.)
  • Lying: Now, without exploring the reasons why a third grader is interested in creating an alter-ego, let’s just say that I had long dreamt of re-creating myself. I explored this with my new third-grade friend, and she was only too excited to hear about Robert (my older brother) and our family’s plans (which would be extravagant, I’m sure). Eventually, this friend and I had a little truth-telling, and she learned that I had “made up” large portions of the stories that I was telling her. She was hurt, and I felt awful. Big time, awful. I’ve definitely lied since then, but I am the worst. The. Friggin. Worst. It shows all over my face, and I am prone to sweating. Seriously, it’s just so much easier to tell the truth.

All this to say, I am grateful for those initial morality teachers. It’s an ongoing quest, since morality is a messy business. I would love to look at this morality question again, because there are some present day inspirations for my moral compass, too.

During the Gratitude Challenge, I haven’t posed any questions to the wider blog reading community, but that seems silly. Especially as an American approaching Thanksgiving, it’s so fun to reflect on the holiday and the significance. What are you grateful for these days?

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 14

I am continuing the Gratitude Challenge from Today’s prompt asks, “When Has Nature Taken Your Breath Away?”

I’m fortunate to live in an area where nature’s beauty is ubiquitous and I reap the benefits of nature often. I think that nature frequently makes me a calmer, more gracious person. Bright sunshine, blue skies and mountain skylines have that effect on a lot of people.

However, what the question asks is when has nature taken my breath away? That is asking about a wholly different, much more special experience of nature .

I posted a few words about our trip to Yellowstone National Park (YNP) this past summer, and that’s a recent experience that immediately comes to mind. I think my thoughts on YNP essentially make me sound like a dummy who finally got my face out of my phone, took off the earbuds, and paid attention to the world around her (oh, and I don’t even actually own any of those gadgets), but I’m going to say it anyway: Yellowstone is so completely wacky and amazing, a juxtaposition of classic beauty and unique peculiarities. I visited that place and declared, “Wow. I like nature and I thought I knew nature, but THIS is nature like I’ve never seen before.” It is akin to a journey that takes you to an alpine gloryland followed by a visit to an alternative planet of foul smelling geothermal oddities, as if the sweet, gorgeous Mother Nature is digesting her lunch right below your very feet. And this says nothing of the bison, elk and bears that just hang out in this deeply wild land.

The majesty of the Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park

The stunning Hayden Valley in Yellowstone National Park

But another place of utter majesty that comes to mind is the Grand Canyon. Now, admittedly, I’ve not hiked the Bright Angel Trail or taken in the off-the-beaten-path Grand Canyon. I’ve never done much but drive around the southern rim and take in the view. Essentially, I’ve only done the McGrand  Canyon, when there is a bounty of endless gourmet meals. But all the same, when you sit at the edge of that seemingly-endless canyon and attempt to fathom the wonders of geology and time, it is nothing but amazing. When folks talk about the Clark Griswold version of viewing the Grand Canyon (basically, a quick look and a nod to acknowledge the beauty), I can laugh along with them, but deep in my heart I know this canyon is special. This canyon is magnificent.

One of the many views of the southern rim of the Grand Canyon

One of the many views from the southern rim of the Grand Canyon

For me, this talk of nature and majesty goes hand in hand with my spirituality. I find God in nature, and nature can conjure up very intense feelings for me. If there is one very intense way to experience nature and God, well, there is this:

tickercheckAnd this:

img_4805The intersection of love and God and nature? That is an incredible, awe-inspiring, knee-buckling place, and it’s only fitting that gratitude would live in that place, too.

21-Day-Gratitude-Challenge: Day 13
November 20, 2013, 1:38 am
Filed under: Writing | Tags: , , , , ,

Today’s prompt asked, “Who Inspires You To Be Your Best Self?”

Is this really fair? To choose just ONE person who inspires me like this? I mean, when I think about the ways in which I want to grow, learn, and better accept myself, I am influenced by many people. I am inspired by folks from church, people that I encounter through my daughters’ schools, characters in books and many of the authors of various blogs right here on WordPress. You are talking to a girl who had over 15 pen pals in middle & high school–I love meeting people and I can find something about nearly everyone that I meet that impresses me.

Is it too much to have a three-way tie? First off, I’d have to say that my husband inspires me to be my best self. I think that he above anyone else knows my heart’s deepest desires, and he is very supportive and encouraging. What I gain from Cory is this calm reassurance that we’re “in it together” and he’s my partner in this. Second of all, I’d have to say my kids inspire me to be my best self. I cannot deny the self-aggrandizing moments where they look up and say things like, “Mom, you’re the best mom ever!” Their words make me want to be the person they see in me. Last but not least, I’m inspired by my good friend Anne. Anne is the sweetest, kindest, most affirming and accepting person that I know. I can tell Anne anything at all, and I will get love and support. It’s a bit amazing how thoughtful this woman is–she called me today on Ruby’s birthday, just to let me know that she was thinking of us. Ruby is a special girl in her life, too, though–she’s Ruby’s “fairy” Godmother.

What makes someone inspiring? For me, I don’t love the constant call of our culture for self-improvement. I like the idea of self-improvement and all, but I want to make sure it’s coming from a place of self-love and not of self-hate. If you’re trying to change your life and improve yourself because you currently hate yourself/your body/your situation… then, I just think, maybe we should start there. The self-flagellation in our culture is so permeating. Even in interactions with women that I admire and value, I’ve overheard such self-deprecating humor that it makes me feel uncomfortable. I am grateful for the inspiring people in my life because although they are pulling for me and my “Best Life” stuff,  they are also perfectly accepting of me the way that I am. That is a inspiring combination: I am grateful for those people in my life that celebrate who I am already and who I’m learning to be.

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 12

Today’s prompt asks, “What Is The Best Mistake You Ever Made?”

I really pondered this one, and I had a difficult time coming up with something that wasn’t too personal to share. I have a few least favorite mistakes, and just because I’m grateful for the knowledge I gained as a result of those mistakes, I can’t say they are my best mistakes.

Really crummy mistakes make me cringe a little bit. Well, a lot, actually.

But the best mistakes? Those make me smile.

  • One time, I traveled a thousand miles to attend the wedding of a high school friend. I couldn’t truly afford the ticket (I was a poor student) and I had a very tight work schedule (it was a seasonal position that offered no vacation days), but I went anyway. My two girlfriends and I walked in late to the reception. After finding our table, we chatted with the folks seated with us–a few were single dudes that were friends of the groom. One of the guys at our table was a cutie that had  driven his Harley out from Colorado to the wedding. His name is Cory, and he’s still pretty cute.
    This is from the night we first met... [Cue: Awwww]

    This is from the night we first met [Ignore people making out in the background]

    This one is a bit more recent, and I think you can see the resemblance.

    This one is a bit more recent, and I can thank Darcy Carter for this photo

  • Almost exactly a year ago, Cory had a family emergency and had to be out-of-town for our daughter’s “Dad & Me Night” at preschool. I filled in, and Scout had informed me that we should wear pajamas. I didn’t think much of this request, since I had attended two “Mom & Me Night” functions, and both times we wore our pajamas. I showed up that night as the only adult female (other than the teacher) and the only one (other than my daughter) in my pajamas. Understandably, Scout felt a little out-of-place, so we bailed and spent an hour doing our “Mom-filling-in-for-Dad Night” out at Target, buying Ruby’s birthday gift. The next day, when I dropped Scout off at school, a little girl walked straight up to me and said, “I know you! You were the only mom at Dad & Me Night!” And I said, “Yep, that was me.” Then the little girl said, “And you were wearing your PAJAMAS!”
  • It was winter of 1995-1996, and some college friends and I had heard that Keanu Reeves was filming a movie downtown. We waited outside of his trailer like the sweet little schoolgirls that we were. For hours we waited in the cold, and when we finally saw him, we asked him for a photo (which he politely obliged). Sad thing was he looked like garbage and it completely cured me of any celebrity-crush fascination from then on.
    I mean, seriously? Couldn't he have de-bloated himself that day knowing that it would be the only time I'd ever even do something dumb like this?

    I mean, seriously? Couldn’t he have de-bloated himself that day knowing that it would be the only time I’d ever even do something dumb like this?


Those are just a few of the best mistakes that I’ve made, and I’m most certainly grateful for them. If you are following along with the Gratitude Challenge on, then tell me how this adventure has been for you.

21-Day Gratitude Challenge: Day 11

Today’s prompt is a fun prompt, and it’s one that I could stand to do more: “Today, make a conscious effort to tune into the little moments of joy, beauty and goodness that surround you.”

Today was a day of rest. That’s what Sunday is for, right? Ruby still isn’t 100% back to her old self, so we took a long drive to keep her still. The mountains were gorgeous and it was lovely to take in the sunshine (even through the car window). My husband and I really enjoy the comfort of the front seat, and we find that we can even have some fun conversations. It used to be that the kids would fall asleep in the back seat, and we could talk about anything, but even with the little ears we have some fun discussions.

So, check those little moments off the list:

  1. Sunshine
  2. Mountain views
  3. Long drive with a fantastic conversation partner
  4. Restful day

When we returned home, we watched the movie “Bedtime Stories” with Adam Sandler & Keri Russell. It’s a cute movie, but it was made even cuter with scenes like this one:

Scout would just blush, and say, “I hope they kiss!” I’d like to think she’s far too innocent for such an opinion, but it was very adorable (and a very astute observation as well!).

Today’s prompt is easy and lovely because I am grateful for the small things in my life that bring me smiles, joy and laughter every day. It’s actually these little things that wind up being the rather large things, isn’t it?