The Big Reveal (aka Wreck the Halls)

As we wobble toward the gobble this week, many folks are donning their holiday commando gear for Black Friday merriment, rolling out the holly to deck the halls and getting ready to rock around the Christmas tree.  Many families will be getting their game faces on for that special question that always seems to pop up this time of year…“How does Santa fly around the world in one night?”

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I got away with my standard “time travel” answer for years (thank you, Doctor Who) until one December afternoon when my son gave me the “I’m not buying what you’re selling” stare. I caved. This was his reply to my admission that was about to turn his life upside down…

“My whole childhood has been a lie?”

That was followed up by big, blue sad eyes that quickly turned to a glare. He then promptly did the roll call on all holiday creatures including the tooth fairy. “Yep, all lies,” I said. He was not amused.

I offered a trip to McDonalds in my desperate attempt to cheer him up. “French fries aren’t going to bring back my childhood,” he mumbled. OUCH.

Ahhh, the BIG REVEAL. Whether it comes from siblings, classmates or just from their own detective work, the Big Reveal is one of the bits of childhood that is bittersweet. When my daughter Catherine was age nine, she was still happily believing in all the magic of Santa and his elves. She would write letters nightly to The Claus Collective and place them in our Christmas Mail Box where they would magically be delivered to the North Pole. Every morning, she would check her mail box to find treasures like letters from Santa & Mrs. Claus, candy canes, ornaments and such. Christmas elves at work and wonderment!

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However, as her ninth Christmas approached, my husband and I grew concerned that Santa’s identity was going to be uncovered while Catherine was at school. She had already questioned the multiple number of Santas she would see on any given Saturday while running errands with me. I knew from other parents that this topic was being explored at recess too. The time had come to take the sleigh into our own hands and deliver the Big Reveal ourselves. I wasn’t about to face round two of sad eyes and accusations of a childhood destroyed by lies. (not to worry, no childhoods were actually harmed during Reveal #1…we fixed that with French Fries, remember?) Nope, this time I had a plan.

Mr. and Mrs. Claus crafted a letter inviting Catherine to meet her mom and dad on December 6 to celebrate St. Nicholas Day.  Words like hot cocoa and cookies were thrown in to sweeten the invite. It worked!  On the afternoon of Dec 6, Catherine promptly arrived for our St. Nicholas Day celebration. We curled up with the promised cookies and cocoa.  Then, we took a deep breath and got on with the business of the Big Reveal.  (Or possibly the ruination our daughter’s childhood which is why our “sleigh” was on standby for a trip to the Land of French Fries.)

We began by sharing with Catherine that we were so proud of the young lady she had become. We explained that because she was turning 10 soon, it was time to share a very special Christmas secret with her. Her eyes opened wide and she leaned forward in great anticipation. Her daddy handed her our Santa key that we always hung on our front door during the holidays. He said this was a very special key that was used for more than welcoming Santa in to deliver gifts.  It was really a key that belonged to a secret club called The Society of Keepers of Christmas Magic. By accepting this key, she was being invited to become a Christmas Keeper. She looked intently at us and held the key close to her heart. We told her that it was time for her to know the truth about Santa and Mrs. Claus. Now she looked a little worried, but gave it the old college try to stay with us while we continued. 

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We shared the story of St. Nicholas and his generosity. We explained that he was also a toymaker and wanted all children to have a special gift for Christmas to let them know they are loved.  We told her that the real St. Nicholas (aka Santa) had gone to heaven long ago, but his spirit lived on in the families around the world who continued his good works in giving and sharing with others. In some places, families did this by secretly putting gifts under the tree for their children.

Catherine scooted closer to her daddy and gave me the “look.”  The truth was dawning on her that she was sitting with Santa and Mrs. Claus aka Imposters aka Childhood Magic Wreckers.  UH OH.  It seemed that we were about to jump in our sleigh for a trip to French Fry town at any moment.  She remained silent, clutching the key.  My husband began to giggle nervously.   I had visions of Catherine as an adult telling everyone how we “wrecked the halls” of her childhood with this horrible truth and tried to make it better with French Fries.   We decided it was time to break out the shiny, sparkly things. 

We handed her a tiny silver box that contained a special snowflake necklace and a silver sleigh charm for her charm bracelet.  We included a special key ornament.  These were her Christmas Keeper treasures. She was delighted! We also gave her a journal where she could jot down ideas for creating Christmas magic going forward. We made sure she understood the importance of keeping the “secret” so that little ones could enjoy the magical fun of the Christmas season. She was beyond thrilled and totally onboard with this whole plan. (whew! and hooray for sparkly treasures!)

We wrapped up our presentation by gifting her with two books, “The Life and Adventures of Santa Clause” by L. Frank Baum (yep, creator of the “Wizard of Oz” series) and “The Legend of Holly Claus” by Brittany Ryan. We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon by watching the animated film “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” based on the true story of an editorial written in The Sun newspaper in 1897. We then decided to bake some more Christmas cookies and watch White Christmas (a family favorite and annual tradition.) Overall, a very successful afternoon and I’m happy to report that no French Fries were needed.  My husband and I were relieved and pleased that it went so well! We would find out very soon just how important and meaningful this afternoon would become in our family history. books.jpg

The next few weeks were spent with Catherine enjoying her role as a Christmas Keeper. She was so excited to stay up to help me put gifts under the tree after everyone had gone to bed on Christmas Eve. Even though she had come down with a bad virus and was feeling poorly, she was determined to honor her duties as a member of The Society of Keepers of Christmas Magic. Christmas Day was magnificent! We spent most of that day curled up on our bed (all of us together) watching Christmas movies as a family, playing games and just being together. In just two days, our lives would be forever changed, but for that day, we all just gathered together in the spirit and love of Christmas. 

On December 27, 2012, my husband passed away from complications due to terminal illness. He was 44 years old. Christmas Day was the last day we spent together as a family as he was hospitalized early on December 26 for internal bleeding and pneumonia due to his illness. 

As you might imagine, while Christmas is a time filled with many loving memories, it can still feel a bit raw for us as well. Catherine has told me so many times how grateful she is that her daddy and I shared the “Santa Secret” with her that day. She will treasure those memories forever. She is now nearly 14 years old. Each year, she searches the shops for the perfect holiday journal to continue her duties as a Christmas Keeper. Sometimes, I will walk by our North Pole mailbox to find the flag up to alert the “elves” that mail is ready for delivery to Mrs. Claus. Most of the time, it’s Cat’s way of helping me with gift ideas, recipes to bake, crafts to create, etc. Last Christmas (2015), however, I found a letter to Santa from Cat sharing that if she could have only one Christmas wish come true, it would be to hug her daddy one last time. I wish more than anything in my life that I could make that come true for her. While my heart hurt so deeply in that moment, I felt soothed by the fact that she felt safe enough to share her feelings about her grief in that way.  She also wore her daddy’s favorite shirt last Christmas morning. It was the shirt he was wearing when we welcomed Catherine into The Society of Keepers of Christmas Magic. She has found another tradition to keep her daddy close on Christmas morning. (insert warm fuzzies here, please and thanks ❤ )

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I am so grateful that we created so many holiday traditions over the years in our family. They are what help us find the light on those days when grief comes to call.  So many times we rush through the holidays and often forget how meaningful these traditions are to our family.  I’m learning to slow things down and really just be in the season. 

May you all find great comfort and joy in your own holiday traditions this year. May your days be merry and bright! And if you find that you are needing to take on the Big Reveal at your house, I suggest hot cocoa, candy canes and cookies….and French Fries, in case your kids decide you should go on the Naughty List. Wishing you all the happiest of holidays! Merry Christmas to all and to all Good Light!

 

 

 

 

 

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We All Fall Down

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Hi there.  I need a favor and feel a little shy about asking, but would be very grateful for your help.  Raise your hand if you know where my big girl panties are hiding these days.  They seem to have skeedaddled off to new lands 😦  Or how about giving a shout if you know where I can find one of those invisible trampolines that magically appear when life knocks you down to spring you back into action?  Better yet, is there a magic potion I can drink to restore my happy go lucky nature?  Maybe a Life Alert button created for emotional disasters?  

From the outside looking in, it appears that my big girl panties are fitting just fine and that I walk on streets paved with trampolines.  (I promise, big girl panties have gone rogue.)  In fact, some say my super power is smiling down negative vibes like Batman taking on the Joker, Penguin, Harley Quinn and Bane all in one fell swoop.  One friend even nicknamed me “Ms. Disney, the happiest chick on earth.”  Truth be told, I feel more like Humpty Dumpty and 2015 has been the Year of the Great Fall.make good decisions egg

This Humpty Dumpty has bumbled and blundered for far too long with a tattered Positivity Cape.  But in this Year of the Great Fall, my ability to pop up like one of those inflatable punching clowns has failed me much to my surprise and dismay.  In the last year, I’ve fallen A LOT and have found it very challenging to get back up.  In fact, these past few months have made me feel like Alice falling down the rabbit hole on Ground Hog Day…waking up every morning just to be tumbling on down again and again.  At least Alice ended up at a tea party…a mad tea party, no less, but at least there were tasty treats and tea to sip during the madness.  My tea cup has apparently sprung a leak because no matter how many times I tried to fill it up, it seemed to drain away before I even had a sip. 

This post isn’t meant to be a plea for help or invitation to a pity party.  I’m not begging for all the King’s horses and men to come put me together again (which is good since they couldn’t help Humpty Dumpty anyway.)  This is just little old me standing here with my scraped up knees, scarred heart, bruised tender feelings saying “I Surrender.”  (insert little old me waving tattered white flag while a lone cricket chirps in the distance…)

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Most days during 2015, I would have been delighted to wear that ribbon that has been floating around the interwebs about “adulting”…you know, the one that says “I put on pants today!”  I would’ve been honored to have that award pinned to my pants because there were many days that I was just happy to remember that pants were a thing and that I should wear them.  2015 was rough…especially financially…really, really, really rough.  And, it didn’t help that the Grief Thief decided to spring an unexpected surprise visit during 2015 either.  (and I truly believed I had done such a fantastic job of hiding from him…not so much it seems.)

I realized how far I had unraveled mentally and emotionally while driving with my son one autumn afternoon.  (Caution:  whining ahead)  Every time I would open my mouth, it was to harp on about how awful everyone was driving, how exhausted I was from trying to pick up the pieces from the destruction of my financial life due to my husband’s terminal illness and death, and how annoyed I was about pretty much everything in life.  (If you know me personally, this is definitely a sign that either an alien has invaded me or a demonic possession has occurred.  I’m a “find a way or make a way ~ cheerleader of life” kind of gal so this behavior was way outside the norm.)  My son (a very chill, calm guy of 19 years) sat there for a long while listening to me rant.  When my voice started to crescendo and sound like the Star Wars “Dual of the Fates” song, he reached over, patted me on the shoulder and gently said,   “Mom, you are like an angry 5 foot 2 inch ball of hate.”

1922_Anger_InsideOut_341Nothing knocks sense into you like your child telling you that you make Anger from “Inside Out” look like a purveyor of sunshine and rainbows.  I realized in that moment that my fear and anxiety was spilling out of me like a toxic waste dump.  Not one of my best parenting moments.

I wish I could say that I learned my lesson and found my way back to the land of bluebirds and happy thoughts.  I didn’t (well, not yet anyway.)  However, what I am learning is that when crisis strikes and you are feeling completely overwhelmed, overwrought and over-extended, a hug can make all the difference.  This was made clear to me when a sweet friend of mine took a look at me and said, “you look like you need a hug” and then proceeded to give me one.  A simple act, but really one that made me feel so valued.  (Thank you, Laura…you really helped me more that day than you’ll ever know.) Wanna see the power of hugs?  Watch Free Hugs Campaign  . It’s been around for nearly a decade, but still gives warm fuzzies all around.

I am also learning that when someone reaches out to give you their hand, it’s okay to hold it for a little while until you feel steady on your feet again.  (Best Hand Holder Awards go to Caroline, Stephanie, Kristin and Amy who also get the Best Listener of a Whiny Person Awards…)  My grandma Gigi was a wise woman when she said that when you don’t allow someone to help you in your time of need, you are rejecting their gift of kindness and compassion to you.  (This is hard for me because I am a proud woman who finds accepting help a very difficult endeavor.  Ask my British beau, he has stories for days about this.)

We all fall down.  Many of us feel that we have to be strong and soldier on all alone.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  There is power in picking ourselves up, dusting ourselves off and moving forward, of course.  However, who says you have to do it alone?  Sometimes, having a hand to hold or a hug is all the medicine needed to begin a healing.   We can pick each other up…lay down next to each other when needed (yes, it’s okay to lay down and rest your weary soul, my friends)…listen without judgement and share our love.  That’s the great thing about love.  There is an infinite supply to go around.  But most importantly, we need to remember that falling down doesn’t make us bad people.  It may make us sad people, but not bad.

I am still dealing with the grief thief, financial challenges and a boatload of other ridiculously stressful issues, but that doesn’t make me a sad, pitiful poor creature.  I am surrounded by an infinite amount of love and support from family and friends.  In the ways that matter I am a very wealthy woman.  Reading Shonda Rhimes book “A Year of Yes” really helped as well.  (HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book…especially the part about “the Wonder Woman” stance…try it…it works!)  And yes, I have gotten better in this new year about my “adulting” and actually do remember that pants most definitely are a thing.  I am still searching for my “big girl” panties so if you happen to see them running around town, would you please direct them this way?  Thanks bunches!  Oh, and by the way, in case you need it, here’s my hand…and a hug too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bippity Boppity Blue

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Over the past few months (well, maybe years if we want to get technical), life has been a wee bit difficult for my family.  I know, I know…there are times when we all walk a hard road.  We all lose loved ones along the way, battle dragons of disease, witness horrific acts of war in the media and more.  I promise, I’m not here to whine.  I am not trying to convince you that my problems are bigger than yours.  In fact, I am here to finally share a secret in hopes that my life experience may give a fellow soul seeker a bit of help…a sort of encouragement boost.  I am going to be brave and just lay it all out there.  Here goes….

Last Friday started out like any other day with my befuddled brain coaxing the rest of me to the coffee pot around 5 am.  I grabbed my tiara and supermom cape on the way.  (Okay, I don’t really wear a tiara and cape, but pretending that I do makes me motivated to make it to the coffee pot.)  I stuck the tiara on my head and fastened on my cape while plodding in my moccasins toward the kitchen.  Now I just needed that cup of coffee to fuel me to kindness by the time my kiddos greet the day.  As I passed the mirror in the foyer, I noticed that my tiara had lost an awful lot of sparkle and that my cape was a tattered mess.  Then I noticed that tears were welling up in my baby blues and a heavy sigh escaped my lips.  What sorcery is this!?  I didn’t have time for tears, for goodness sake, especially tears over a dull tiara and jacked up cape. I had a Disney movie date with my daughter, my bestie and her girls in a few hours!  I pulled off the tiara and gave it a quick polish with the tattered cape and realized it was a futile effort.  My Supermom attire was definitely not acceptable for the movie outing. It would be a comfy top and yoga pants kind of day. 

I soldiered on and managed to make it to the theater with my tween on time.  Our movie of choice was “Inside Out.”  The bestie, her wee cutie pies, my sweet tween and I made our way inside.  I could write for days about that wonderful movie. For now, let’s just say it was incredibly insightful and actually life changing for this girl aka me. I loved the whole idea of having a peek into the “head-quarters” (aka emotional centers of the brain) of a tween girl named Riley (especially since I am the mother of a tween creature.)  Much to my surprise (or shock, I suppose), I was very moved by the character “Sadness.”  She was incredibly annoying and whiny.  However, there was something so vulnerable and sensitive about her.  All of the emotions in Riley’s “head-quarters” were super adorable.  I laughed (A LOT), I cried and like the audience, became very connected to the characters and their story.  However, Sadness was most definitely in control of my “head-quarters” during the movie, but why?  Little did I know that I was headed for a big emotional wake-up call while surrounded by popcorn eating movie watchers.

By the end of the movie, I was experiencing an Oprah style “A-ha” moment.  Of course, it is no surprise to me that I would be annoyed by the character of Sadness.  It suddenly made perfect sense!  Sadness has been knocking on my door for a very long time and I have pretended that no one is home.  She has peeked in my windows calling out, “hey, I know you’re in there…can I come in, just for bit?  I’m just going to keep wandering around here in my melancholy ways until you let me in.”  But I kept pulling down the blinds and ignoring her efforts to gain entry hoping she would go away.  She never did so I stayed locked up inside.  I was truly annoyed by her behavior.  Didn’t Sadness know that she was not welcome to visit me?  I mean, there are people battling terminal illnesses, losing jobs, fighting wars and a whole myriad of other disasters out there.  I didn’t need her to spend time with me when there were so many other people who needed her.  I would often yell out the window “Sadness!  Leave my house!  There are so many others for you to see!   I have a safe home, food for my family, warm beds for them to slumber upon.  I have family and friends that love me.  Go!  I don’t need you here!”  But Sadness would just stare at me with her mournful eyes and say, “You also have feelings and they matter too” and then she would look like she was going to (gasp) hug me.  That is usually when I would slam shut the window and go hide under the covers.

I mean, really, couldn’t Sadness see that we were in the midst of making hundreds of hearts for Catherine’s fundraiser?  Didn’t Sadness know that I was trying to prepare for my son’s graduation?  And don’t even get me started on the wedding plans.  This was supposed to be a joyful time for me.  Come on, Sadness…is there really a point to your incessant knocking on my door and crazy stalker like behavior?

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I tried so hard to avoid this little blue creature that I became very reclusive.  If I had to meander out into the world, I would grab my happy face mask and my suitcase of sunshine and rainbows in case I bumped into friends.  Sadness wasn’t fooled by my smiley face disguise.  I could always see her lurking around…hiding behind things, creeping along ready to pounce if the opportunity presented itself.  Not to worry, I’m really good at faking happiness.  I know this for a fact because so many people who know me tell me how happy I am all the time.  Well, once Sadness showed herself on the big screen in “Inside Out”, my façade began to crack.  Uh oh….my “head-quarters” crew went into over-time trying to put the lockdown on the blue intruder.  Unfortunately, Sadness just batted her big, tearful baby blues at all of them.  That ornery headquarters crew of mine just opened the door and let Sadness meander right in.   And I think we can all guess what happened next.

After floods of tears and some pretty difficult days, I remembered what this vulnerable and sensitive Pixar creature had taught me.  Sadness is not an emotion to fear.  In fact, it is our body, mind and spirit’s pathway to healing.  One of the best parts of the “Inside Out” movie is where Sadness sits down with a character and acknowledges his loss.  She expresses her understanding of his loss and then agrees that it must feel very sad.  I was so very moved by this moment that it still sits with me.  Her acknowledgement and attempt to understand his pain was a beautiful, healing moment.  Unlike Joy, she didn’t try to distract him from his sadness with silly faces or fun games.  She held his hand while he felt his feelings and then he was okay.  Powerful stuff.

So many of us feel that we are not allowed to feel this emotion because there is always someone out there worse off than we may be.  That may be true, but in the words of my little blue friend, “your feelings matter too.” I had traveled for years down difficult roads when Smitty was battling multiple terminal illnesses.  I always tried to keep things upbeat by keeping a positive attitude, smiling when I really just wanted to cry.  When he died, I was busy trying to make everyone around me feel comfortable talking with me rather than deal with the overwhelming painful emotions that come with that kind of loss.  I am not the only one who goes through this.  In my journey through grief support, I saw many other women experiencing the same thing.  Why is it that we don’t feel like it’s okay for us to cry, to hide away from the world for a bit, to go through these feelings in any form?  It dawned on me that I needed to be a better example for my children.  That by watching me accept my sadness and allowing myself to process it, they could see that you can heal in ways so that you can welcome happiness back into your world.  I’m not suggesting that you ever get over the loss of a loved one.  Far, far, far from it.  (and honestly, Sadness is a sneaky creature.  It may take her a while, but she is determined to help you get all the hugs and compassion she can gather.  Sadness is truly well intentioned, once you get to know her a bit.) 

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As usual, I’m late to the party (as they say), but I have finally arrived.  Yes, it’s still a pity party, but I am wearing the color blue loudly and proudly.  I am wrapping myself up in the hugs of my kiddos, reading good books, spending time with my British beau (thank heavens for technology), allowing friends to hold my hand through it and getting to know Sadness a wee bit better.  She will be leaving soon, but I assured her that if she needed to return for a visit someday I would be a bit more welcoming.  For now, she hangs out in my office with Mary Poppins, the TARDIS, my Writer’s Block (made by Hugh and Cat) and of course, my very special gal pal, JOY.  (see photo above)  She is a gentle reminder that all of my feelings matter.   Thank you, Pete Docter for writing this film and making it possible.  Not only did you help me remember that my tween was embarking on a new journey with her emotions, but you helped me heal in so many ways.  And most importantly, you made me FEEL.

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My grandmother used to say that without the rain, flowers don’t grow and there are no rainbows.  I embrace my rain.  I cannot wait to see what kind of flowers will bloom.  (and who doesn’t love a good rainbow?)

p.s.  and if you have the time, go see “Inside Out” 🙂  You will be very, very glad that you did ❤

The Ghosts of Christmas Past (aka “We Made Santa Cry” or “Who’s on the Naughty List Now??”)

The Ghosts of Christmas Past (aka “We Made Santa Cry” or “Who’s on the Naughty List Now??”)

(Originally published in 2009…there is a wee update at the end…thank you in advance for reading our story.) (Christmas Past…)  Party Girl Returns!  I’ve been missing from Blogland for a bit because I’ve been a special guest (as in the … Continue reading