A New Spin on the Best/Worst List for 2012

nyeEveryone has their lists of the “bests and worsts” of 2012. Who wore it best … what movie outranked them all … what the hottest technology was … what destination was the one more people wanted to visit than all others… So, in the spirit of closing out the year, I thought I’d end my blog for 2012 with my own best and worst list.

As I look back at this year, there’s a lot going on that gives me pause. There are things I really like and make me giddy with excitement about the future and then there are things that, well, just make me put my head down into my hands in sorrow and make me want to cry in sorrow and disbelief. So, in no particular order, here is what I hope to see more of (or less of) in the year ahead, with all compliments to the 2012 year in review.

1. More Kindness: Tragedies like those which came to the families of Newtown, CT and the victims of Super Storm Sandy are unfathomable to nearly all of us. I still cannot allow my mind to bend around the idea of losing the very essence of who I am. Family, home, memories, my future…these are the losses these families have endured. And yet if you listen to the stories of bravery, courage and kindness, it gives you hope to know that despite the profound losses, they have hope. These amazing people felt the love and kindness of their friends, neighbors and millions of faceless strangers. I hope in 2013 we can be more kind without the impetus of a tragedy.

2. More Fiscal Responsibility. All around us, there is this growing belief that the pot of gold (is there one?) has no bottom and that unrestrained spending is an acceptable behavior. It is reckless and wrong. I try to teach my nine-year-old that she cannot spend money she doesn’t have. I balance my checkbook and take care to not spend what I do not have. I pay my bills at the end of the month – 100% – without fail. It is a behavior and an attitude that starts at home, is taught to children and permeates into every corner of the fabric of our lives. We need to get back to this attitude quickly. Anything less will continue to wreak havoc in the lives of our world.

3. Less Busyness. We need to slow down. It’s great that the world is on high-speed technology 24/7, but the last time I had the news on, the “loop” didn’t change much over the many hours it was running in the background. Taking – or making! – time to turn it all off and learn how to live a less-stimulated life is a goal for 2013. Take a walk. Listen to the world wake up in the early morning. Watch the stars put on a nighttime show. We need to learn how to be less busy and appreciate the world at our feet. 2013 is the year to get back to just “being” a little more.

4. More Manners. I wasn’t raised in the South, but I sure spent enough time there to know that no one has the edge on the “manners market” like the genteel South. A heaping dose of “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Sir” can go a long way. No one I know ever was offended by a little “Please”, “Thank You” or the kindness of a door held open for a lady, an older gentleman or a Mom juggling a wiggly toddler. I’d like to see more manners in 2013. You don’t have to get out your Crane’s paper to send me a thank you note (but I’ll love you if you do!), but an email acknowledging my gift is most welcome! Let’s make sure we’re not losing the art of manners in 2013…we need to be a kind and civil society!

5. Less Throw-away / More Permanent. It sickened me beyond words to hear that Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are expecting a child this morning. Not that I don’t begrudge anyone the joy of parenting, but the idea that he announced it during a concert, unbeknownst to her, hints at the likely novelty of the whole situation. Children aren’t trophies to celebrity relationships. They are lives, forever impacted by the actions and behaviors of the people who created them and the environment in which they live. I sure hope that in 2013, these two people get real about the choice they made. Our society is too comfortable with recycling and throw-away things. Lives, people, feelings…these aren’t things we can casually throw away and recycle. Let’s keep that in mind in 2013 a little bit more!

6. More Perspective. It’s gotten a little to easy to live in a vacuum these days. As transparent as the world has become, it has also become rather isolated. You can leverage technology so effectively to passively weed out any sort of opposing or offensive views. I did it pretty well during the election and I suspect most of my friends did too. (It’s ok, I know you got tired of my support for my candidate.). But when we turn off everything we disagree with, we start to lose the ability to get the other side of the story and sometimes, the other side has merit. News used to be just that…unbiased, unopinionated news; I wish we could find some more of that today. But in 2013, we all need to be a little more open to listening to the entire story and consider all sides. This bi-partisan chasm is only getting wider and if we keep stacking the blocks to the wall higher, we’re NEVER going to get anywhere. I’m reaching out for more perspective in 2013. I challenge you to listen and do that same. For all of our sakes!

7. More Arts and Culture. There seems to be less and less time these days for the world to make, experience and appreciate art, music, literature and the wonderful cultural experiences that can grow and expand our minds. Schools don’t have the funding to teach it like they used to. Communities don’t seem to have the spaces to exhibit it. Corporations don’t invest in it, display it or celebrate it as it seems they once did. I don’t agree with all art. I don’t understand a lot of it. But I find that when I experience it, it challenges me to look at the world differently. To think about things in new ways and to rethink old ideas in broader directions. It moves me and challenges me. And that’s good. We need to find ways to make the Arts a priority everywhere in 2013. So get out your fingerpaints, visit a community museum, buy a ticket to the opera…whatever you do, do it more in 2013!

8. Less Procrastinating. I think we’re all guilty of this and I know I have a to-do list that would wrap the Empire State Building if I’d let it! But life it short and we all need to make sure we’re not letting the important stuff slip away! Don’t let your bucket list get rusty! If 2012 taught us anything, it is that life is really precious and that there is no excuse to stay late at the office if you could be home catching fireflies in the backyard at suppertime! Procrastinate on the important stuff (like family, friends, love…) less in 2013!

9. Live More! I read a book yesterday where the two principal characters were discovering young love. They were heavily infatuated with each other and, while they agreed their feelings were well past the “like” stage, neither was ready to make the big commitment of the “L” word. They agreed that when you merged like and love together, you formed the word “live” and decided to tell each other often, ‘I Live You”. I like that! We all need to live more and find ways in the year ahead to make sure we are living our lives – every day – to the fullest extent possible. Don’t hold back! Live! Live! Live!

10. Be More Real. Be Less Selfish. The world is full of fakes and phonys. Turn the TV, read a magazine at the checkout stand or scan the headlines and the hubris and self-absorbed behavior is on display at every turn. From the highest offices, to the box office, to the pulpits and the classrooms, some of the biggest role models in our lives and the lives of our children are some of the most selfish and self-absorbed people we meet. The obsession with appearance, decisions that put self over others, party over public best, individual over classroom, the need for self-serving fulfillment seems to be at an all-time high. I don’t know how to stop it, other than to start by changing the behavior with myself. And hope that one candle will light another. That’s what I will begin to do in my circle. Try. That’s all we can do. We need to put others’ needs first. Make them accountable for their actions and help them be self-sufficient. But get back to truly helping take care of those who need. And be honest with ourselves about what’s really important.

So, Happy New Year. Happy end of 2012. I am looking forward to a quiet celebration with my family tonight. No big party or blow-out. Just a quiet, lovely dinner with my loved ones at home. Celebrating the things that matter most. Life. Love. Family.

Happy New Year and God Bless you in 2013!

Now What? No More Gifts to Unwrap?

I woke up this morning a little hungover from all the festivities and decadence of the past 48 hours. Not hungover in the literal sense, but definitely feeling the effects of some seriously rich (and delicious!) foods, too many sweets, not enough sleep and knowing I had the remains of a very busy Christmas Day still requiring my attention strung all over the house. After a stiff cup of coffee (two, actually), I went room by room setting things back to order.

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The living room still had stockings scattered on the hearth, with the treasures and treats ready to be claimed by their owners. Ribbons, bows and empty boxes were on the dining room table, ready to be packed away and reused for another occasion. Under the tree, in neat piles, the prized rewards of a blessed year. The refrigerator was a complete disaster; the garbage disposal never ate so well! Despite the mess, I couldn’t help but smile at the mess and count my blessings.

We scaled our Christmas back this year significantly. My husband and I exchanged very modest gifts – and only because we both broke the “no gifts” agreement we made – and knew better than to really go crazy and spend freely. We didn’t spend our usual amount on our daughter, either. We chose a few gifts she really wanted and emphasized family instead. Hard as it was, we made the decision out of necessity, practicality and the need to make clear the real reasons of giving.

I was worried that she’d feel slighted or notice the visibly “less” amount stacked under the tree. But I underestimated her. With no “Mom and Dad” gifts and less for her, we blew through the pile yesterday morning in a flash. When it was done, and we sat down for breakfast, I asked her if she had a good Christmas. Her response? “It was the best, Mom. I got just what I wanted.”

We had a relaxing morning of discovering new gifts, playing games and just relishing in time together. Just us. Our family. Blessed beyond measure.

The best gifts cannot be wrapped. They come after the giving is over – or you think it is over – and you realize the best is yet to come. They are the moments when you get back all the love and energy you pour into life in magical little unexpected moments.

Don’t be bummed that Christmas is over. If you did it right, you’ll have more gifts to unwrap and no paper to clean up!

The Gift of Love

Christmas love
Christmas love (Photo credit: plastAnka)

On Christmas morning, there is no greater gift we can open, rejoice in or celebrate than The Gift of Love. Love is a wonderful precious gift and it is no more visible than at Christmas.  When you stop and think about the most wonderful gift we Christians celebrate on this most holiest of days in our religion, it is a truly remarkable gift of love of sacrifice.  No greater love could be given or shown than to give up ones’ life so that others can live.

As my family sleeps and our day awaits, I cannot help but sit and be filled with thoughts of love for those in my life, near and far.  Today is always a bit bittersweet for me; I love my Christmas with my little family, but miss the big celebrations of my youth and the gatherings of Aunts, Uncles and cousins.  The chaos and noise that comes from a houseful of relatives celebrating will always mean Christmas to me.

Those big gatherings – and the small ones – give us lots of opportunity to show love.  Big and small, easy and hard, we cannot miss those moments when they come today.  Easy ones are the joy we get to express when we open the treasured gift we love, or hold that precious child the family has been waiting for months (or even years!) to arrive.  Love comes when you meet a newly engaged, future in-law, blissful in love and full of hope and excitement about their future.  Those are easy moments to share and show love.

But what about the great Aunt who criticizes everything you do?  Who seemingly despises your spouse and how you parent?  How do you show love to her today?  Or the brother-in-law who over-consumes and embarrasses his family?  That dear mother-in-law who will tell you the same story three times today, each time as if it was the first?  How will you give her The Gift of Love?

Christmas is about giving, about sacrifice, about being selfless.  It doesn’t all come wrapped in pretty ribbons and bows.  It comes from the heart.  The Gift of Love comes in listening, remaining silent when needed, giving a supportive hug or a knowing wink of encouragement. Today, be love…show love…give love.

When I was in junior high school, our public school chorus group sang a song called The Gift of Love that I fell in love with.  I loved the words, the arrangement and how the voices blended together so much that I kept my copy of the music.  And while I doubt a public school would today allow a song based on II Corinthians to be performed in school, I am so thankful mine did; I love these words:

Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.

I hope your celebrations today are filled with The Gift of Love. I pray that you are shown love often.  That you see love, give love freely and that you recognize the opportunities to be love to those who need it most.  It will come in your silence.  In your gentle smile.  In your listening.  In your subtle nod of support.  Be love today and give the gift freely.

The Gift of Warmth

It has been a busy day, as evidenced by the fact that I’ve first sat down at nearly 3:00 p.m. Since my feet hit the floor, I’ve been a flurry of activity trying to get things prepared for our holiday celebrations. Last minute grocery shopping, baking, toy assembly…it’s been a constant stream of busyness from the word go!

While I think there are many days when this type of constant, non-stop, chaos would drive me mad, I honestly don’t mind it this time of year. There is something special about knowing that the extra effort I make to find a perfect gift, make a favorite dish or plan a memorable family outing is truly appreciated. The love and warmth that comes from within when you take extraordinary care of those you love is rewarding in a unique way. It fuels you and gives you an energy you can’t find anywhere else…and need on days like this.

I pray you know The Gift of Warmth and that you are blessed with people in your life that fuel you on to want you to do more, give more, be more.

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I think about Joseph, those many years ago, walking mile after mile with a pregnant young wife. How tired he must have been and what it must have felt like to keep looking for a place to stay in the dark, cold night. I’ll bet he didn’t complain. I’ll lay money that he knew The Gift of Warmth and it fueled him to keep walking, keep looking until he found a place to settle his wife and welcome his son.

Be blessed as friends and family gather to celebrate. Give and receive the blessings of warmth, love and hope this Christmas.

God Bless and Merry Christmas!

The Gift of Friendship

images-9Among all my treasures I have been truly blessed enough to gather along life’s pathways, the most treasured of all are the friendships that I have made. I am so very blessed to have made some amazing friends and count their presence in my life as one of my most valuable possessions.

But to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure “possessions” is the right word. Friendship isn’t something we own, as the word possession implies. The Gift of Friendship is something we are given to be caretakers of, to nurture and enrich. But we don’t own it. We cannot keep it in a box like a gold necklace or on a shelf like a fragile vase, only to be taken down and admired on special occasions. Our friendships deserve so much more.

This time of year, I cannot help but reflect on my special friendships and miss the special times and traditions I hold most dear. I go back to the literally hundreds of pounds of cookies and candy I have made with my childhood best friend over the holidays and the endless memories that we share. A Christmas in her kitchen, elbow-deep in flour and laughing about everything – and anything – under the sun, is sheer perfection! Despite the years, marriage, children (and now grandchildren!) and the many miles that separate us, that friendship is more precious than gold and remains my rock. What I wouldn’t give for a #10 jar of stemmed cherries, a mountain of nougat and a whole lot of dipping ahead!  Those were the days, my friend!  Those were definitely the days!

Good friendships come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. We all have ones that have come through our youth, our work, our children…even the most unexpected of places. The Gift of Friendship is sometimes a gift we don’t even realize someone has given until we need it most. Cherish your friendships. Take time to celebrate them, cultivate them, enrich them and let your friends know the important role they play in your life.

With social media, cell phones and all the technology at our fingertips, it is easier than ever to stay in touch with old friends near and far. But I have to admit that nothing excites me more than to see the gorgeous script of my besties handwriting on an envelope in a stack of mail at the end of the day awaiting me on the dining room table. She is so much better at writing and remembering special dates than I am. The lift my day gets from her remembering and sharing a few lines about her world are priceless!

Since my daughter was an infant, a favorite book I have read her (and now keep for my future grand kids) is a board book written by an author named P. K. Hallinan. A simple book on friendship, Let’s Be Friends, I read it so many times in those early years, the words are emblazoned in my memory:

It’s fun to make friends, and it’s easy to do!

When you’re friendly toward others…

They’re friendly to you!

So offer a smile to someone you know

Or greet someone special with a cheerful “hello!”

Everyone’s happy to hear someone say,

“It’s certainly nice to see you today!”

With friends we find comfort…

And joyful surprises!

Friends come in all colors…

And in all shapes and sizes.

Being a friend means choosing to do

The very nice things you’d like done for you.

So listen with interest to what someone is saying.

And join in the games that the others are playing.

And once in a while, try lending a hand

To help someone learn when they don’t understand.

The easiest way for a friendship to start

Is to give of your time…and to give of your heart.

So if you feel lonely, just look all around

At all the new friends who are waiting to be found.

Having good friends will always depend

On first be willing to just be a friend.

Yes, The Gift of Friendship is a powerful, magical gift.  I hope you have been gifted this treasure often and that you have not been afraid to give it to others.  Rekindle old friendships, celebrate the ones you have and don’t be afraid to reach out and make new ones!  Warm and lasting friendships are precious, wonderful riches to wrap ourselves in allow the experiences of life to be felt more fully.  They make the sorrows easier to bear and the joys so much more sweeter.

I thank God for my friends:  old, new and the ones I’ve yet to make!

The Gift of Restoration

Society today is obsessed with perfection. Turn on the TV or flip open a magazine and you will be presented with countless opportunities to be separated from your hard-earned cash to invest in ways to make your hair thicker, your fingernails stronger, your skin look younger, the sexual endurance of your twenties return… You name it and I imagine there is someone who is trying to put it in a bottle and sell it!

And it isn’t just our bodies people are desperately seeking to restore these days. Millions are spent restoring furniture, homes, marriages, broken childhoods, lost dreams. Restoration can be a wonderful thing. The process of removing layer upon layer of dirt and damage is a wonderfully healing process.

Years ago, we decided to restore our kitchen. After much effort of trying to get contractor bids we could afford, we made the decision to do it ourselves (advice: think very carefully about this!).The process of removing over 70 years worth of built-up plaster, flooring, cabinetry, etc., was a dirty, nasty process. We found five different floors built up underneath our feet, a Rube Goldberg contraption of plumbing that would confuse the most genius of magicians and the telltale clues of old walls and doorways that finally gave some reason to the position of ceiling lights and wall switches.

For months we cooked in the basement on a hot plate and in the microwave. We nailed, sanded, tiled, painted; working day and night to rebuild a dream kitchen that was the vision of what we wanted. We learned the nuances of our home (and more about each other!) as we turned a dream in our mind’s eye into the functional, useful nucleus of our home. When it was complete, we not only had the much-needed new kitchen our lifestyle demanded, but the self-assurance and pride of a job we had put the hard-work and muscle into.

The Gift of Restoration is a special gift. It isn’t the “run out and pay someone” to restore a set of dining room chairs project. It isn’t the freak show face lift of Elsa Patton of Real Housewives of Miami. You cannot buy restoration and you have to know when to say when. Restoration is equally about protecting the core beauty and the original dream as it is about making something bigger, grander or more deluxe; at least it is to to me!

I had the privilege of visiting Rome earlier this year. Walking among the ruins of the Coliseum, the halls of the Vatican and all over the city, you are overwhelmed with remarkable examples of restoration projects of epic proportion. But what is important to note is that they aren’t working to put them back to their original splendor. They aren’t trying to make them better or improve upon them. They are working to protect and preserve these wonderful relics of time.

English: Recent shot of the parthenon, athens,...
English: Recent shot of the parthenon, athens, greece (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Greece, there is an amazing project going on right now called the Acropolis Restoration Project. Archeologists are working to reassemble the Parthenon. It is, in essence, “a 100,000-ton, three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle with 70,000 individual pieces – combining the latest science with the techniques of ancient Greek architects and builders.” This project has been underway for more than 30 years.

What is amazing about this project and the vision Manolis Korres and his colleagues have had for their Gift of Restoration to the world is that they have chosen to only preserve what has survived. They will not use the marble columns and structures they find to approximate the Parthenon’s original state and then adorn it with the sculptures, friezes and art that it likely contained 2,500 years ago. They have chosen, instead, to preserve only what has survived – “a majestic ruin, a witness to what we needlessly destroy, and the beauty and perfection that we can create.”

This year will soon close. As you begin to turn away from the celebrations in the days ahead and begin to focus on the goals and priorities of 2013, I suspect that there are things in your life that require restoration. Dreams lost in the shuffle. Projects pushed to the back burner.

The beauty that you think is lost is not; it is still there. It is just waiting to be restored. Don’t be afraid to give yourself The Gift of Restoration this Christmas. And no, it isn’t about perfection. It is about the beauty inside that beckons to live again!

The Gift of Adventure

supermanEveryone loves a great adventure, right? From the time we’re young, we are raised on daily doses of heart-thrilling, blood-pounding, toe-curling flights of fantasy that instill in us our love of adventure. Little boys don bath towels and climb sofas to instantly transform themselves into Superman atop the highest mountain, ready to rescue and save a city in distress. Princesses in their Mommy’s high heels and plastic tiaras await the arrival of Prince Charming (Daddy!) on his white horse, ready to whisk them away on a grand adventure.

We were all born for a life of adventure and passion! Just watch children at play. Before the burdens of society and the pressures of life and responsibility weigh them down. They are fearless! They don’t limit themselves to the possibilities of what they are capable of! They can climb mountains, forge great rivers, write and perform masterful plays. They love fiercely and completely. They give of their whole hearts, always. They love unconditionally. They are color-blind. They love and know adventure.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. –Helen Keller

As you look to the days and the new year ahead, I challenge you to think about how you can give The Gift of Adventure to yourself and to your family. You don’t have to rush out and book a trip to go backpacking the Appalachian Trail in the Spring, or see what the next Outward Bound trip you can send your 16-year-old on is, but open your mind to how your can put some adventure back into the otherwise mundane routine that has likely afflicted your household.

John Muir, the famed naturalist/explorer/writer/conservationist, took the life of adventure living to an art! His experiences and wanderlust have left an indelible footprint on the world and ignited a passion for many about the world to go and explore. There’s a spiritual quality to Muir’s writings and works. They make me want to put on some hiking boots and explore.

But whether you hike, paddle, whisk down a hill on a sled, grab a camera and take pictures in the snow, go explore! Make adventure and exploration of this beautiful world a gift you give yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there into a new situation. Sign up for a day tour with a group of total strangers if you cannot find a friend to join you and expand your world with the new ones you make along the way!

Life is too short to lose that cherubic innocence we had we were young. Put on that terry cloth cape and take the Lazy Boy! Beckon Prince Daddy again from the peak of the staircase! We need the epic adventures of our childhood to live forever! We need to never stifle them in our children…or ourselves!

The Gift of Rest

exhaustedWhew!  I’m tired. Maybe it is because the year is drawing to a close and my list of holiday to-do’s doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter.  Or because I seem to be burning the candle at both ends these days, but no matter how much “get up and go” I try to have, I just don’t seem to have the stamina I need to make it through the day.

Everywhere I go, I see it in others’ eyes, too.  That sort of used-up, burned-out, glazed over look of exhaustion.  To be honest, I just think we’re all too to turned on, plugged in and connected 24/7 to really allow our bodies, brains and souls the time we need to rest and recharge.  Let’s face it folks, we’re E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D.  There’s no bones about it!

Being the sort of immediate-gratification chick that I am, I love my iPhone, my iPad, my iMac and all the gadgets I have at an arms’ reach.  I read about a book that sounds interesting and I immediately download it onto the Kindle app on my iPad before I forget about it.  When I hear a song that sounds interesting, I use the MusicID app to learn who the artist is so I can tag the album for later.  Everywhere I go, all the time, my brain is listening, learning and on the move.  And the gadgets I have are always there to feed the beast the hungers for knowledge.

I’m not saying that being so connected to information and knowledge is bad, but sometimes, I need to defer my quest for knowing and just be.  I need to give myself The Gift of Rest and allow my spirit and myself to be quiet.  I know, deep down, that when I am looking for the BIG learning, I am likely missing the little lessons all around me.  Like

…what the swallow sounds like as the sun peeks over the horizon,

…or how gentle the wind blows across the half-frozen lake beyond my doorstep,

…the many shades of orange that dance on the fire and cast mysterious shadows on the brick, beckoning for me to dream and explore

…the energy that comes with the giggles and laughs of a nine-year-old watching Saturday cartoons, snuggled in a big fleece blanket and surrounded by a dozen stuffed animals

My “to-do” list will grow and the items I check off will only be replaced by more.  The internet isn’t going anywhere and the knowledge that awaits is only expanding; it’s ok to wait and leave my quest for “why” until tomorrow.  Right now, my body craves The Gift of Rest.  My soul needs to be renewed.  I need the nourishment my spirit craves and am worthy of giving it to myself.

How about you?  Do you need The Gift of Rest?  Can you turn it all off?  Make it through a meal without texting, reading messages or talking on your phone?  Can you power down the TV, the video games and the tablets and just be?  Your soul, like mine, aches for quiet time.

No music, no distractions.  Just listen to the sounds of the world.  The laughter of the children.  The wind whistling in the trees.  There’s an energy and a spirit of renewal in the air tonight; I know I need it.  Do you?

Give yourself an hour..two if you dare.  Learn to build up to a day without a device and see what it is all about.  The Bible says that God rested on the 7th day.  Something tells me he knew technology was coming…

The Gift of Remembering

mcrib

McRib is back at McDonald’s. I am not – in any way – an aficionado of this pressed pork patty that makes its occasional appearance from time to time, but I can say that I look forward to ordering one with my daughter before it disappears from the menu. Yep, one little special of a formed pork patty, sauce, raw onions and two pickle slices on a corn-dusted hoagie bun coming right up!

If you’ve missed the experience, the McRib has become a sort of cult favorite at the restaurant chain these days, making its appearance typically in the winter months when the pork products used to form the patty are at their cheapest.  The genius of restructured meat technology the McRib is composed of 70 ingredients (70???), packs a whopping 500 calories and will nail your diet plan for 44 grams of carbs and 980 milligrams of sodium.  You can’t take a trip down this memory lane lightly…

Back in my single days, my year-end tradition was to wrap up my business responsibilities and head home from Texas to the Midwest for the holidays. Trying to close out a year and make a sales number usually left me beyond exhausted.  The mere thought of an arduous drive by myself was more than I could fathom.

Enter my hero Dad , who would come to my rescue and fly to Dallas to drive me home. It was a great trade: I’d help him finish his shopping and he’d drive my car home so I could rest and safely arrive.  I loved those 12-hour drives we’d make together.  For me, it was the signal that Christmas was really, truly here.

As the miles gave way under the wheels, we’d talk about life, work, politics…you name it! It was a cherished event between father and daughter and I’d give anything to have one more long drive with my Dad. We only stopped for gas, food and personal necessities.  That’s it!  Pop was never about dilly-dallying around when we were on the road.  Nothing out of the ordinary and nothing fancy.  His tastes were simple and predictable and we’d always stop at McDonald’s for McRibs, french fries and a cups of black coffee.

Yes, there’s a McRib meal in my future.  I think my Dad deserves a meal in his memory and some good laughs around the red formica table with my daughter in his honor!

Taking time to remember special memories is one of the most important parts of the season. Those “rag-tag” ornaments on the tree are a mosaic of memories and stories waiting to be told. Every favorite cookie recipe has a reason why that needs to be passed on to the next generation. The traditions you diligently preserve need to be celebrated for the people and places that helped to seed them into your own holiday festivities. Take the time to give and celebrate The Gift of Remembering and make sure those you love know the history and the reasons behind the why of how and where you celebrate.  It is as important as the celebration itself!

The year my daughter was born, I created my own “designer” tree in my dining room that is covered in ribbons, beaded glass fruits and tons of little enameled and jeweled picture frames. Each frame contains a photograph of my (then) infant child with all the people who had been a part of her young life. I refer to it as the “Fruits of My Labor” tree. Each year I ponder whether I should update the pictures, but I love remembering all the moments those photographs were captured. Now, my daughter wants to hear about each picture, too. We can spend hours decorating that tree, remembering and keeping those old moments ever-present for us all.  The moments have passed and some of the people have moved on to their heavenly rest, but the memories will live forever.

Don’t let your holidays just happen. Don’t get into the rote behavior of just going through the motions of the traditions of your celebrations. Live them! Talk about them! Pass them on to your loved ones! Give The Gift of Remembering!