Choosing to Celebrate

December 7th.

This date is memorable for many people for various reasons. Several days ago our kindergartner noticed that it’s a special day because she saw words printed on the calendar. She asked what is special about 7 this month.

Ahh, that may not be a tough question for most. Of course, the answer for many is “it’s Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day” -at least that’s what the calendar says. One of my high school friends was born today, and has since passed away -so for her family, including her kiddos it’s probably a bittersweet day. But, for me it’s the anniversary of the day my mom died in 1986.

Having such a tough thing happen during the “holiday season” had lasting effects. When it happened I had no idea that for years, actually decades, I’d struggle to enjoy the Christmas celebrations that flow starting after Thanksgiving. Wherever I was in the world others were decorating, gifting, singing, celebrating and I was often just trying to hold it together, to be present without tears. It just wasn’t a celebration time.

But, thankfully one year I took time to deal with all that (I wrote about it here if you’re curious) and some amazing healing happened. I’m SO glad I did that hard work before I had a kiddo of my own. She’s growing up enjoying the beauty of the season, and that is so cool to watch.

We’re off to a slow start this year. A quickly planned trip to Indy followed by WordCamp US in Nashville got us back in town late on the 4th, so we have some more decorating to do. But, we’re taking our time, thought it’s tempting to knock it out alone while Morgan’s at work and Joanna’s at school, doing it together as a family is what makes it special. I love opening the box of ornaments and remembering together where they came from, or when we made them. We got to open 5 days of our Lego Friends Advent Calendar at once. That would have been cool, except our eager 6 year old had opened it and switched around the bags of Lego, which meant the pictures didn’t match the pieces on 4 of the first 5 days. So, I spent some time yesterday watching a video someone had posted of opening the whole thing and getting it straightened out. Yay for youtube!

This summer our LST mission trip took us to Natal Brazil. We had a great experience there, but I still get teary thinking about one night. We had dinner with some of the church members and Joanna really connected with one of the ladies. Marisa loved on Joanna, she giggled with her, gave her gifts, hugged her, planned shopping trips, and played together,  they just really connected. As we left the restaurant to get in the car I walked behind the 2 of them and started bawling as I saw them holding hands and joyfully almost skipping along. They were having a blast. And, while I was so glad Joanna was experiencing that I was grieving that she doesn’t get that experience with my mom, that she isn’t here to be grandma, and that means my kiddo is missing out on some potentially really cool moments. So, yes, I am thankful that she does have special moments with great people, and she does have some chances to see Nana out in California, or when they visit, it’s just tough at times that she’s short one grandparent.

So, instead of dwelling on what are missing out on, I choose to celebrate! I ask Morgan to bring the tree down from the attic and the boxes of decorations in from the garage. We get out the Christmas coasters and special glasses. We move things off the mantle to set up a Nativity set (I love that this has become Joanna’s favorite part). We put the ornaments on our front yard tree that were placed by a mystery friend years ago. We’ll make some treats and share them with friends. I crochet ornaments to share, and help Joanna make some to share. We are using this special season to find ways to spread around a little joy, and I’m so glad for it.

I have some dear friends and family members who have lost loved ones this year and are facing their first holiday season without a parent or other family member. And, for them I’m hoping that in spite of the inevitable sadness that will come from that hole in the celebrations that they will be able to find some joy too and will be able to remember the special times with their loved ones.

We all know that tomorrow isn’t promised, and so I hope that today, and each day we’ll choose to do good and love one another well, as that can make such a huge difference.

As I mentioned, we’re a bit behind this year, but here’s a start to our home decorations:

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Suicide: don’t do it!

Thirty years ago today my mother successfully ended her life.

There are lots of phrases people use when saying that someone died: “she passed away” “she moved on” “she died” “she killed herself” “she committed suicide” “she’s no longer with us” and more.

It’s interesting to note that years ago one of my brothers and I discovered that we both have responded the same when people push us about what happened. We were talking with a stranger and we mentioned she passed away and the other person said “what happened?” and we respond “she killed herself.” In those moments we aren’t trying to be gentle with the truth, we’re no longer protecting the nosy conversationalist or ourself, you asked and we answered. Chances are you have now learned a lesson and in the future let the one telling the story decide how much to tell. It may be we were protecting you from the harshness of the reality, or maybe we were protecting ourself from saying again what happened. In any case, when talking with someone, especially a stranger – let them tell their story their way! If they want to share details they will. If they’re leaving details out chances are they have a reason.

So, I have no idea what she was thinking. I can imagine some of what could make a woman who is 3 days shy of her 34th birthday decide being all done is more appealing than carrying on. But, as in any situation like this, she is only one that truly knows what motivated her decision. I do think that if she had any idea of the scope of difficult things that could follow her choice she may have reevaluated and decided to hang in there.

One of those hard things happened this week. My sweet 5 year-old (who never knew this grandma) and I were making sugar cookies. As she was excitedly mixing the dough with the electric mixed she looked up and said “did you make cookies with your mama?” I didn’t have a good answer. The truth is I have no idea. Chances are we did make cookies together in those 11 years she was present. But, I can’t picture it happening, I can’t recall a memory of standing together creating something yummy to share with others. I just can’t. So I answered as best as I could with an “I think so”. In the joy of the moment I’m hopeful my kiddo didn’t see the tear forming and sliding down my cheek. I believe it’s ok for her to know there are sad things. And she knows my mommy died when I was young, but I don’t want our fun moments to be tainted by this sadness that can pop up from time to time.

As tends to happen on anniversaries I am thinking of her today. Actually I began thinking about it when I reserved a car to be picked up on 12/7. That’s when it hit me that the 30 year anniversary was upon us. We made that reservation to be able to take a quick trip to Indy this weekend. One of my mom’s sisters has been battling cancer this year. Her daughter planned a “Holiday Bash (And F Cancer Party)” for Saturday night (which would have been mom’s 64th birthday). Figuring out how to go celebrate with them was tough. We’re in a period of searching for full-time employment for Morgan and our car just can’t make the trip, and we usually turn that 11 hour drive into at least 16 hours. So, there were lots of reasons that it may just not work to be there. But I kept thinking about it and wanting to make it work. In the end we decided traveling to celebrate with family while my aunt is still living would be better than making the trip once she’s passed. So we hit the reserve button on the car and began making arrangements to be gone for the long weekend.

I just told my kiddo that I’m writing about my mom since she died 30 years ago today. “Are you sad?” “A little bit”. “Ahh, I wish she could have stayed and meet me”. “Yep, me too”.

So, while I don’t have many memories of fun holiday stuff with my own mom and for years this time of year has been difficult due to her death and birthday, I’ve decided that enjoying today is important. I get to decide whether to let the past cast a shadow and take over today or whether I want to have a day of good times. And, I’m intentionally choosing joy. I’ve decided to celebrate this season with my husband and kiddo. I get to make up our own traditions that let us have fun together. With some time and energy we’re having a blast watching movies, decorating the house, drinking hot chocolate, baking cookies to share, decorating ornaments to give, and just relishing the time we have to be together having fun.

It was easy to spend a lot of years just wishing December would finish up so the sadness would pass. But, many years ago I decided that over a decade of that was enough. I took some time processing, thinking, praying, and deciding to move forward with a new perspective. I’m so glad I did! Doing that work on myself made it a whole lot easier/more possible to have a good December. I’m able to embrace the fun of the season like I couldn’t before. And, I didn’t have to figure all that out with a kiddo by my side.

So, if you’re still reading my rambling thoughts and having a tough day: hang in there! We can all choose joy. Don’t give in to depression -deciding to end your life can make life a whole lot harder for others, for some you may not even know yet.

 

Cheesy Christmas movies and crochet

It’s a perfect night for watching cheesy Christmas movies and finishing crochet projects for the Sonshine School craft fair.

Joanna’s finally asleep, so I’m on movie #2, first was “12 Dates of Christmas” and now it’s “Christmas with the Kranks”. Quality movie watching going on here 🙂 

Yay Netflix! I can have a month-long Christmas movie adventure.

I’ve made several scarves, dishcloths, and coffee cozies that need to be finished. since there are just a few days till the sale I decided I better finish these up before making any new ones. 

If you happen to be in the market for crocheted items I’d be glad to let you have first pick of the items before the sale, just let me know. 

Our Inaugural New Year’s Day Open House

I’m hoping to start something that we can continue for years to come.. an open house on New Year’s Day. The idea is that friends can drop by to play a board game, enjoy some snacks, and visit with one another.

Living here in Edmond with our family in other states means that by this point in the holiday season I’m ready for some time with friends 🙂

Making a plan to see each other seems like a good way to start the year. Adding in an element of playing games lets us share new ones we received as gifts or pull out some old beloved ones that we don’t take time to play.

So, here’s the plan for this year, come on by if you can!

  • Friday, January 1st starting around 2:30 or so (that’s when J should be up from her nap) until around 6:30.
  • Bring a game if you want, if not no problem, we have plenty.
  • Bring a snack to share if you’d like.
  • We’ll have soup ready to eat around 5pm.

I know this is pretty short notice and that some people are still out of town, but if you’re near Edmond please come on by if you can, we’d love to see you and start our year together.