Tag Archives: family

Raggedy Ann

I woke up on my 5th birthday to bright morning sunlight coming through the windows of my grandparents’ den, where I was sleeping on the couch like I always did when we visited their house.  Lying on my side facing across the room, the first thing I saw was a Raggedy Ann doll sitting on a chair by the door.  I couldn’t believe it!  Raggedy Ann was the gift I wanted with all my heart!  Seeing her was so incredible, I wondered if she was really there.  Then I remembered it was my birthday, and flew from the couch to pick her up.

100_9121 She truly was a Raggedy Ann doll, the full-size one with red hair, red and white striped stocking legs, apron, calico dress and bloomers!  If she was the real Raggedy Ann, the one in the books Mom and Dad read to me, she would have “I love you” written inside a heart drawn on her chest.  I checked.  There was.  I knew right then it was going to be the best day ever.

Raggedy Ann has been with me for over forty-two years.  As I moved into my ‘tweens, she sat on my bed with an assortment of stuffed animals.  Eventually, the stuffed animals were given away and Raggedy Ann placed safely in a box for many years.  She had become a bit tattered over time and needed stitches in her neck and a stocking replaced, so when my little girl was born Raggedy Ann was put on her shelf instead of into her hands.  Raggedy Ann didn’t hold the same sort of appeal for my daughter, so this worked out just fine until it was time to store Raggedy Ann once again.  It’s funny how a particular moment or gift will stick with you all your life.  Although Raggedy Ann is a doll long outgrown and will likely never be on the top of any future granddaughter’s wish list, I will keep her safely stored, because the truth is she is keeping a wonderful childhood memory alive for me.

Raggedy Ann HeartI’ve been thinking about the children I know now and how excited they are about Christmas next week.  Many of them will wake up Christmas morning hoping the gift they want most will be in their stocking or under the tree.  I was once one of those kids, and on many years received the gift I wanted most of all, yet it’s the memory of Raggedy Ann sitting on the chair of my grandparents’ den that stands out as my most delightful childhood gift.  Christmas is just a few days out.  I hope each and every child wakes up to an exciting fun morning with plenty of delight and love in everyone’s heart.

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Family Roadtrip

We just returned from a ten-day three-state tour to see family members in the Midwest.  It has been years since we visited, and there were many homes filled with aunts, uncles, cousins, my sister and new twin nieces to visit, plus two thousand miles of driving after we flew to our starting point!  We planned to see my family, my husband’s family, and even some of the outlaws that used to be in-laws.  It could have been a disaster, but I was determined it would be fun – lots of fun, even better than the famous Griswold summer vacation.

All I had to do was plot well, try hard, try harder… and find a way to reach all those kinfolk.  You see, we lost our home base since the last visit.  For the past few decades, we went to see my folks and everyone gathered at their place.  Family from far away could fly in and stay with them, too.  For my entire adult life, Mom set everything up while I only thought about what we had to pack.  This time, the home place belonged to someone else – because my parents had moved to be near us.  (It only took about twenty-five years to convince them everything is better in Texas!)  So, we had no place to center our visiting.  Sure, aunts and uncles offered to let us run rampant at their places, but that’s a pretty big favor, so instead we laid out a circuitous course that took us to seven homes and three different states. 

The trouble began when I tried and tried… and tried to accommodate every possible combination of who could meet us where.  All of us travel over the summer, so it’s hard to gauge who will be home and who will be at summer camp, traveling out-of-state, or visiting their own extended families.  I tried to plot it out, “Will this person be able to meet us downstate by their home, or upstate at her uncle’s birthday party?” I thought to myself, “Will my niece and nephew be with their mom or their dad in mid-July?”  (I realized this question needed an answer quick.)  There was the unexpected challenge of having used Facebook for so long I didn’t have direct contact information for some family members.  Not all of them regularly checked Facebook notifications.  Oops!

As we neared the start of the trip, I only had a couple visits nailed down, basically those involving homes in which we were spending the night – and what days we would be in Iowa.  I was holding out to hear back from the downstate Michigan folks before I made plans to be hours away upstate.  I hadn’t even tried the niece and nephew who (it turned out) were staying with their mom, until I knew which day worked best for us, risking making a huge mistake and not seeing them at all.  Plus, some of my efforts to contact people went unanswered as I had old phone numbers or email addresses and my messages didn’t reach them.

Then I let it go.  I quit trying so hard to set everything up just right and finished preparing for the trip by making plans with those I could.  Guess what?  When I realized enough effort had been put into planning and trusted myself to move forward with or without every piece in place, it worked out beautifully.  We saw each and every person we hoped to see, plus a couple more family members and friends joined us along the way!  It turned out even better than what I had tried to orchestrate!

Yes, I needed to plan, contact people, and make contingencies to create a trip worth taking, but it all came together when I simply trusted it would.

When I let go of control and held onto trust, everything came together.

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Go! Fight! Win!

I have a friend battling cancer.  She’s triumphed over multiple reoccurrences, and has recently been declared cancer-free, even though she isn’t treatment free just yet.  It’s been a particularly grueling and harrowing past year.  Somehow she keeps working, which is a blessing because it fills her with good energy.  She loves her work as a teacher for visually impaired students.  If you listen to my friend, the work isn’t work at all, but a joyful way of giving and receiving what both student and teacher need to make their lives worthwhile.

She focuses on good stuff, like progress a young scholar makes, a student sending her a “thank-you for making a difference in my life” email, and of course the joy of seeing a child learn and grow in a positive way.  There must be hard parts too, but you never hear her talk of those things.  Bureaucracies, bull-headed parents, and petty school politics simply aren’t part of her focus.  I figure she knows what’s important and chooses to give attention to those things, instead of letting the other stuff waste her time and drain away energy.

When she isn’t working, she enjoys her photography hobby, “kidnaps” her husband for time away together, and anticipates seeing her grown children whenever they can arrange some time off together.  It seems she is always out and about hiking and photographing in between treatments and tests.  Considering she lost lots of weight this year, nearly died twice, and has absorbed more chemotherapy than anyone else I’ve known, it’s a wonder she can do all this high energy stuff.  I think it’s more than determination and medical miracles, although those are clearly important factors.  I think it has just as much to do with her passion for finding the good in her day, for making each day meaningful, and for celebrating out loud and often all the wonderful people in her life.

She had a rough few days leading into the weekend and was nauseous Friday from a procedure involving anesthesia.  Never-the-less, she let her husband whisk her away Saturday night for their anniversary and worked on regaining her energy yesterday.  This morning she packed her pain meds and headed into traffic earlier than usual, and this allowed her a thirty minute rest in the car before going into the school.  She made it through the day without any meds, tolerating the pain, and came home exhausted yet satisfied.

Part of her satisfaction comes from knowing she is teaching far more than the curriculum.  She was open with her students about the cancer and treatments, telling me, “That opened up lots of interesting conversations and I had some hard questions to answer from them.  But hopefully, I gave them some skills to help them when life doesn’t go their way.”  She taught these skills to more than her students.  I think we all benefited from her examples.

My friend has found a way to make her time count, consciously deciding how to find celebration and meaning in each and every day.  During these cancer episodes, she didn’t wait until she was feeling better to celebrate, or until the treatments were finished to go back to teaching, or until her hair and energy were restored to run out and embrace what the world offered; she’s totally alive right now, more so than almost anyone else I know.  By focusing on what matters, celebrating daily victories, and relishing relationships, she found a way to live purposely and fully.

Most of us have at least as much to celebrate, to explore, and to offer the world in a valuable way as my friend and I don’t want to be in a tough spot before I recognize each moment counts.  I’m going to take a deeper look at what I give attention, how to celebrate more often, and which relationships need a little more nourishing.  It’s the kind of healthy activity my friend would automatically do.

I invite you to join me in making more moments count, in being mindful of what’s important, and in celebrating the moments as well as the milestones.

What would your life be like if you only focused on what is worthwhile?

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An Elf!

Years ago when all three of our kids were young, we found ourselves rushing from one Christmas activity to another.  You’ve probably been there too.  Maybe you are already rushing about right now….  Company parties, gift exchanges, shopping, cleaning, end-of-year career chores, friends’ parties, family gatherings, decorating, and lots of night school.  By night school I mean the kind of night where everything revolves around something your kid is doing at school, like a  choir recital, band concert, or school play.

My husband does all of these things with great enthusiasm, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed and look for nights on the calender where there is absolutely no activity written down for any of us.  I love those nights.  However, this particular night, I had rushed home, made dinner, and rushed back out to be at my eleven year-old step-daughter’s fifth grade Christmas play.  On the way to the school, I was thinking about how far away we would have to park;  I’m sure my husband was thinking about being moments away from watching his daughter on stage.  When we walked into the cafeteria, which doubles as an auditorium because there is a stage at one end, I was thinking about how crowded it was and where we could sit; my friends’ shining eyes and smiles told me they were thinking about their wonderful son or daughter that was about to perform for us.

We sat and I thought about whether or not it would start on time, because it didn’t look like it would.  My husband beamed and said “Hi” to a few of the other parents we knew who were seated near us.  Then the principal introduced the music teacher, who told us a little bit about the performance we were going to see.  I started thinking about the songs and skits, and tried to guess when my step-daughter would appear.  She had a small part in one of the skits, which was really cool, and she was pretty nervous and excited about it. 

That’s when it hit me:  in a few minutes my step-daughter was going to come on stage as an elf, a singing and dancing elf!  All of the sudden I was excited and delighted and nearly about to cry. 

You see, the year before she hadn’t been well enough to go to school, or sing, or dance.  She hadn’t even been well enough to get excited about Christmas.  The year before, we wheeled her into the auditorium and parked her and her oxygen tank by the choir, so she could at least sit with her class while they performed.  This year was different.  This year, she was an elf!  This year, she could sing and dance, she was excited and she would soon be performing with her entire class.  And we were there to watch her.  We were part of it.  I don’t know how I’d been so blind the entire evening up to that point.  I don’t know why I hadn’t been ecstatic all week about the chance to be parents at the fifth grade Christmas program.  Wowee!  Our girl is an elf!

We all lose focus on what’s important at times.  Luckily for me, I found mine again in the nic of time.  The students began singing songs and the skits started.  A few minutes later, our little elf danced out on stage wearing her red and green elf costume and long pointed shoes that jingled and curled up at the tip.  She sang and danced for a few seconds and then became part of the chorus for the other songs to be sung.  Her dad clapped and clapped with tear-bright eyes;  I clapped and clapped too, wiping away tears of gratitude and joy.  It was the best play I’ve ever attended – and the best evening I’ve ever spent at night school.

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