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Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas Wishes and Christmas Miracles

Yes, Virginia,
There really is a Santa Claus. Christmas wishes really can come true and Christmas miracles are possible.

I'd like to tell you the story of our Christmas....

Last February I posted a blog called "Family and Forgivenes" about how I royally screwed up the one thing that means the most to me...family. I knew I was the pariah and I accepted my fate. I knew I wasn't wanted within the confines of Stan's family...it became a game of semantics ~ "Stan's family" and "family" were two totally different images in my mind. I had to separate them in my mind to keep myself a little sane. I tried what I could to apologize and make amends but time was what it would take to mend all broken hearts, mine included. There was more than enough hurt to go around and I didn't hold out much hope for forgiveness or reconciliation.

There was nothing I wished for more than for this family to be whole again ~ it was my one big Christmas wish. But I didn't see how it could possibly happen. I climbed into the car last Thursday to head to Maine with a pit of fear in my stomach. I prepared for the worst but prayed for the best. We would be in and out quickly, I thought. Please God help me through the weekend, I prayed. I sat quietly and looked out the window as the miles clicked off closer and closer to our final destination. I wondered what the weekend would have in store for me. I wanted nothing better than for my kids and Stan to have the kind of Christmas they deserved but I wasn't sure how everything would play out...

Christmas was our time to forgive and move on...
 
One of my favorite traditions from Stan's family, our family, is the breaking of Oplatek (which is a thin wafer designed to be shared with one another)...wikipedia explains it best. "Family members and friends break off a small piece of the opłatek wafer and give it to one another along with a blessing. Breaking off and exchanging part of opłatek with someone is symbol of forgiveness between two people and is meant to remind participants of the importance of Christmas, God, and family."

Forgiveness was given and family mended. What happened is past and we all agreed to move forward. I can't be more thankful and blessed than I am right now.  The saying "getting stronger through adversity" couldn't be more applicable to a situation then it is to this one.  My vision is for a strong, healthy family as we move toward a bright new future.

I wrote this poem a couple of years ago and Claire used it this year in her gift to her grandfather. It sums up what family is to me...

Family

This is the legacy of our family.
It may not be perfect but it's what has made you and me
.
Through life's imperfections we learn everyday
Not to take for granted those for whom we pray.

We hold in our hearts the memories of us together, you and me.
We hold in our hearts the certainty of our family tree.

Through tears and through smiles
We walk together braving the miles.

We have gone through challenges fraught
And through the trials we learned what was taught.

There were good days and bad days ~
Days which we hoped would just fade away.

There were days made of love and laughter.
Those were the days we chased after.

There were weak times and strong times,
Times when the walls, oh, we so wanted to climb.

There were times of giggles and sunshine.
Those were the days of our family defined.

All of these times made our family all the stronger and given each of us a legacy.
We have taken the lessons to heart and built our family.

As I was preparing for the weekend, I was talking to one of my friends, telling her about my feelings of fear and anxiety.  She told me she had similar feelings one Christmas.  She and her family traveled out of state and she was dreading the trip as much as I was dreading ours.  She went on to tell me it was one of the best Christmases she and her family had.  I went into the weekend believing this Christmas would go down in history as one of my all time worst ~ I came away with the feeling this Christmas was one of my favorites.  Thank you, Kendall for giving me faith! 

This Christmas is more than I could have ever hoped for and I am blessed.  My Christmas wish has been granted and Christmas miracles really do happen. This family is mended for the love of my children....

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Lessons Learned in 2011

As we come to the close of another year that has passed too quickly, I thought I would take this time to write down the lessons I have learned in this year...

1. Stan and the kids are my greatest treasures in the world. I already knew that, really, it was just solidified.

2. I have the best friends in the world. They stick with me through thick and thin. I couldn't get along without them or be more thankful for them.

3. Apologizing is hard but never hearing the words "I forgive you" is torture.

4. I have learned the true meaning of family ~ it is not necessarily comprised of those related to you by blood ~ family is really those who stick by you and put their arms around you when everyone else has walked away.

5. I love to write. It gives me purpose and makes me happy.

6. I can write a 50,000 novel in 27 days...maybe not a good novel ~ definitely not publish worthy yet...but it's a damn good story!

7. I don't handle stress well.

8. I have more friends than I ever imagined I could.

9. I'm not too bad of a person.

10. I don't like time with my kids passing so quickly.

11. Being judgmental gets you nowhere.

12. I love having my parents in Richmond now...it was quite and adjustment but I'm so glad they are there.

13. I love country music. I'm embracing my Kansas upbringing.

14. Road trips with the kids are an actual trip now...tv's are off, the kids are unplugged and they are engaged in talking to us ~ thanks Jan!!

15. I, and all of us, miss Jan and can't wait for him to come back this summer.

16. The beach is my favorite place in the whole world ~ ok, I already knew that too, it just was reinforced this summer.

17. I love playing games with the kids.

18. I don't really like TV.

19. I love baking for Christmas and having a houseful.

20. I am blessed.

I've learned a lot this year and look forward to all of the lessons I get to learn in 2012...for the love of my children...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Away From Home For The Holidays

This time 15 years ago I was singling momming it and headed to Maine with a 10 month old Zach.

In September of 1996 Zach and I said our goodbyes to Stan and left him in the Philidelphia airport as he left the States to serve a seven month deployment in Bosnia. Zach was six months old when Stan parted ways with us.

Zach and I went to live with my parents in Kansas during Stan's deployment to make things, in theory, easier for me. I decided that for Christmas, though, I wanted to be closer to those who were more like my love so I packed up Zach and headed to the great, white, frozen tundra with my little darling baby.

It was one of the hardest Christmases of my life...celebrating without Stan. There were so many times I choked back tears when I thought of what Stan was missing ~ his first Christmas with our son. We were so very fortunate that it was our only Christmas apart.

My heart aches for all of our servicemen and women who are away from their loved ones this Christmas. Please say a prayer for all who are in harm's way this Christmas and celebrating the season of giving without their loved ones nearby. I wish each and every service member the peace of the season, the thanks of a grateful nation and the secure knowledge that their presence here at home is missed more than they will ever know.


As you celebrate the season please remember all of those who have are serving our nation far away from families. Their sacrifice is more than you will ever know...for the love of our children.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Cookie Baking 101

It's that time of year ~ baking pans coming flying out of cupboards, cookie cutters are dusted off, measuring cups are dug out of the back of the drawer and baking supplies are restocked. Last night was our first foray into baking Christmas cookies and it was lead by none other than Nana.

Nana came over with her grocery bags loaded down with the ingredients to make Spritz cookies with the kids. She wanted to make wreaths, Christmas trees, stars...you name the Christmas shape she was ready to make it. Nana had her trusty spritz cookie maker ready. She had the red and green candied cherries ready to decorate the trees and wreaths. She got the colored sugar out to sprinkle on the cookies before they baked. She was ready.

This is the first year my mom has gotten to make memories baking cookies with the kids at Christmas. The kids came out of the woodwork for this one. My mom figured it was just going to be Claire helping with cookie baking but she couldn't have been more wrong. Zach and Lucas were more than interested and ready to make the first batch of Christmas cookies with their Nana.

Last night was a cold and dreary night full of torrential amounts of rain and yuck. I don't think there is a better way to spend a wildly, crazy, rainy evening than hunkered down making cookies and memories. Cookie baking 101 happened last night with both the kids and Nana learning and working together to make a big ol' batch of Christmas cookies.

Ah, for the love of my children....

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Favorite Things

During this crazy, wild, stressed out time I'm sitting back and thinking about one of my all-time favorite songs full of favorite things...




"When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad..."

What better message to have this month than that of remembering favorite things when times are crazy and we're all stressed. So here are some of my favorite things.

To me happiness of the season is...

Stan.

Watching the kids decorate the tree.

Baking pies, baking cookies and making candy.

Mistletoe.

Seeing the house all decked out in it's Christmas glory.

Blasting Christmas carols through the house.

Holiday cheer.

Nutcrackers.

Candy canes (and the story behind them.)

Ribbons and bows.

The smell of cinnamon in the air.

Christmas parties.

The bright, twinkly lights on the trees of our street.

The generosity of the season of giving.

Smiles and giggles.

Holly trees.

Frosty the Snowman.

Santa ~ and the generosity of spirit his original story brings to my mind.

Nativity scenes.

"The Crippled Lamb" by Max Lucado

Baby Jesus.


So when the dog bites or the bee stings or I'm feeling sad, I'll simply remember my favorite things and then I won't feel so bad.

Oh, for the love of my children...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Love Actually

This past weekend was chock full of hockey games ~ all in different cities. So Stan and I did what any normal hockey family would do. We divided and conquered. I was in Reston, Virginia on Saturday with my trusty hockey partner in crime, Lisa, for Zach's game and then back to Richmond that night to get ready for Sunday's home game. Stan was in Rockville and Gaithersburg, Maryland on Saturday traveling to Columbia on Sunday. So, our weekend was spent apart ~ he with the dads of hockey and me with the mamas and then home.

It was when we got home on Saturday I realized what time of year it is and what was calling my name....it is this time every year that I break out my old, trusty DVD of the movie "Love Actually." It is my all time favorite Christmas movie. I love watching Colin Firth and Hugh Grant fall in love over and over. I love watching Alan Rickman (who plays Professor Snape in Harry Potter) struggle with his near foray into the world of infidelity. I love watching Emma Thompson come to grips with the thought that her on screen husband might be having an affair. I love watching Liam Neeson work through his feelings of grief and dispair over losing his wife and his stepson's mom. I could go on and on about the scenes that steal my heart every Christmas but I think I'll stop. Stan will tolerate watching it with me. To him, it's OK. To me, it's all about Love, actually...

This is the first time in the seven or eight years that I've watched the movie that I've really noticed the song at the beginning and end. The Beach Boys start the movie with "God Only Knows." This time, the song hit it's mark. I started thinking about where I'd be without the loves of my life. God only knows where I'd be without them.

Stan ~ the one who pushes me so hard to be the best I can be by believing in me and my abilities. He never harps on my inabilities. He focuses on what I can do and what I do well. God only knows where I'd be without him.

The kids ~ they are the ones who lift me up when I'm feeling my worst. The little hugs and kisses and "I love yous" just when I need these things the most. The unconditional love they give is incredible. God only knows where I'd be without them.

My parents ~ the ones who gave me not only a last name but a family to call my own. They raised me as their own, always believing I was their daughter and never just an adoptee. Truly, God only knows where I'd be without them.

My friends ~ all of the ones who encourage, support and love without bounds. They give of themselves when I need them and even when I think I don't. I couldn't be more thankful for them and wonder where I'd be without them.

As we head into this season of giving and generosity, I want to remember what really makes me who I am. It's love, actually and God only knows where I'd be without it.

Oh, for the love of my children....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I Married a Jersey Redneck

When Stan and I first started dating one of his friend's wives said to me "You two don't fit together." Oh, really, I thought ~ this should be rich, let's hear the rest...

She went on to say "You are too prissy for him" or "he is too rough around the edges for you," maybe she said both but I can't remember. I do remember her going on to say "it's like you two are 'beauty and the beast.'" Interesting...

I can say, for absolute certain, I am much less prissy than I was when Stan and I started dating...which is more than good. I can also say Stan is a little more "refined" than when I met him, which I'm not sure is so good for him.

When we met, he was a hunter...full on, no joke. He was my Jersey redneck. He hunted ducks, pheasants ~ any and all manner of fowl. He wanted to go hunting the morning of our wedding. I had to put the kibosh on that idea...I could just imagine them getting stuck some where out in the wilds of Kansas and not making it back in time for our 3 o'clock nuptial mass.

I had the music blaring through the house the other night as we were cleaning up the kitchen and I was reminded of Stan's redneck ways and my more than prissy attitude when the song "Ladies Love Country Boys" came on...

It pretty much summed up Stan and me ~ except he wasn't a cowboy from Kansas he was an Army guy from New Jersey...my Jersey redneck. He drove a truck. He liked to hunt. He kept a can of smokeless tabacco in his car, his bag, his room ~ everywhere. He had a "spit" bottle in the cup holder of his Bronco II. He loved guns...

My polar opposite. I had never dated anyone who did any of these things. Hunt? NO WAY. Drive a truck? You're kidding, right? Chewing tabacco? Can you say EWWWWWW? Guns? Never shot one before in my life. I'm sure I wasn't quite the treat his parent were looking for when I showed up at their door with my giant suitcase full of the latest fashions, gobs of make-up and massively long hair that was perfectly styled all the time.

But somehow the Jersey redneck and the prissy little Colonel's daughter managed to end up getting hitched.

When I was pregnant with Zach, I was 100% certain he was going to be a boy. I also knew that Stan was salivating at the thought of having a hunting buddy years in the future. Unfortunately for him, the hunting gene seemed to have petered out. My penchant for saving every nest-less baby bird was passed on to Zach instead. So instead of taking the boys hunting and teaching them to blow into a duck's beak to make it quack long after it's last breath has left its body, Stan takes the boys to their hockey games and fulfills his rednecky ways through hockey.

Although, I have to say Stan is much more refined at hockey games than I am. I am the one who gets all hot under the collar when the game gets too intense. Stan just stands on the sidelines, quietly observing all of the redneck behavior others' exhibit...including his formerly prissy wife. He just shakes his head and continues to watch the game they all love to play. My Jersey redneck and I have switched places just a little. I guess I should be thankful for that! The kids all benefit from a little refinement mixed in with a little redneck every now and again.

Oh, for the love of my children...