The Treasures of Christmas

Poinsettia 3
Janoski’s Poinsettias- So Beautiful

“And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So here we are in the “in between” week, the week between Christmas and New Year’s that gives us a chance to catch our breath. It’s a good time for rest, relaxation, and yes, reflection. Maybe you’re with family, friends, and your children. Maybe you have time off from work and are taking a well deserved break.

I did a lot of entertaining the last few days. My cousins are here from New York, my sisters are both in, and my (soon to be born) granddaughter’s other grandma made a visit to Pittsburgh to spend Christmas with us. Talk about blessings. Jess’ mom Ann brought me this oh-so-cool gift of special M&M’s with my son and Jessica’s picture on them (no kidding). They were even in this box with little feet on them.

Holiday M&M's
Is This Adorable or What?

I am looking forward to getting to know Ann and Jessica’s family better in the coming years. A new child is so bonding and we will all have Penelope’s best interests at heart as we go forward. She is due on January 9, 2016 (my son’s 30th birthday ironically) but really, she could come at any time. We are anxiously awaiting her arrival.

What are the treasures of Christmas for me this year? It was quality time with my husband’s family on Christmas Eve. Then Christmas Day with my kids, cousins, sister and husband, Jessica and Ann, and especially another holiday with my mom. She never fails to keep up with it all, staying up late, getting up early, and always ready for whatever we want to do. I tease her about the planning we do- the food briefings for Christmas were months ago- but it’s all in jest. Really, her entertaining skills were my basis for what I do today. 🙂

The true treasure was keeping the origin of Christmas in my heart despite the rush and commercial tugs of the holiday. It was about coming back to center, recognizing and honoring what this holiday truly means. I wrote a post about the Navitiy icon for the Orthodox Christian Network and it was even an education for me. That is the great thing about writing for them. I learn in the process too.

I want to wish you a very happy New Year and thank you for all your love and support this year. I am truly blessed with such a beautiful group of family and friends. It makes my life so rich.

Christmas Morning 2015
Sunrise Christmas Morning 2015

 

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

Everything is Bigger at Christmas

The Beautiful Christmas Tree at Heinz Hall
The Beautiful Christmas Tree at Heinz Hall

It’s hard to believe that Christmas is only two weeks away. I have been busy but not so busy that I forget the reason for the season. There are so many wonderful sights and sounds during the holidays that it is easy to get caught up in it all- the quest for the perfect presents, home holiday decor, cookie recipes, you name it.

I went shopping with a friend the other day and in every store we went into, the gift ideas were overwhelming. It was all about the red and green and white and lovely and sparkly. It was clothes, jewelry, perfume, gift wrap, slippers, purses….I could go on and on. It was hard to reign myself in but I did stick to my budget pretty well. It was a tough challenge.

So many things are bigger at Christmas. I wanted to take a few minutes to share what I think are the better of the bigger. I hope you share your favorite thing(s) with me in either the comment section or on my Facebook page.

  1. The trees are bigger. I love big trees and I was lucky enough to see Handel’s Messiah at Heinz Hall last week. The concert hall is beautiful enough to begin with but add a tree, big red ribbons, and musicians and it gets downright gorgeous. I basked in the light of the tree and then in the symphony, “For unto us a son is given….”, oh my do I love Handel’s Messiah.
  2. Our hearts are bigger. This is the biggest giving season of all. Don’t forget to write a check to your church or favorite charity. If it’s not in your budget, do some acts of loving kindness. Donate the stuff you no longer wear to the nearest shelter, serve dinner at the soup kitchen, help a neighbor by shoveling his/her driveway.
  3. Expectations are bigger. This is the one thing I try to keep in perspective. It gets easier as I get older. Material things do not hold that much meaning for me any longer. I temper my expectations to allow that everyone is busy, overwhelmed, and tired. I make the effort to love everyone for who they are and not what I think they should be. I keep the focus on love and the reason for the season and I’m a much happier person.
  4. Appetites are bigger. There’s so many good parties with sweets and food. It’s such a temptation. I read those “How to Eat Less at your Office Party” articles but the fact is, I don’t feel good when I overeat. I don’t want to get carried away so I do my best to temper my intake. I save my appetite for those things that I truly want and that’s my splurge. Let’s hope I can keep this attitude. 😉
  5. We miss our departed loved ones bigger. I miss my dad, grandparents, church friends, good friends who I’ve lost. I light my prayer candle almost every day and remember them often. I cannot bring them back but I know they would want me to keep going, keep loving, and keep them in my heart. That’s what I try and do.

I wrote a post for the Orthodox Christian Network this week and it’s up. Click HERE for the link. I wrote about St. Nicholas and I talked about my grandfather (who was named Nicholas) and it brought back so many memories of him. I can see him in his backyard walking or tending his huge gardenia plant in the sunroom. I can hear him chuckling over his favorite tv shows and I can feel the warmth of his hugs. I read my post to my mom and she loved it. We were in heaven over the picture of her parents. I’m almost certain that photo was taken the night before or the day of my wedding. What a wonderful ordinary into extraordinary moment this was for both me and my mom.

Keep your heart in the right place and this Christmas will be a good one. This post dedicated to Alex – May your memory be eternal. 

Heinz Hall- Even the chandelier is gorgeous!
Heinz Hall chandelier- You are the Light of the World
Join me on my graceful journey.
1015

Things My Mother Taught Me

Photo by Karen Long Kern. (LtoR) My sister Mary, sister Cally, Mom, Me
Photo by Karen Long Kern. (LtoR) My sister Mary, sister Cally, Mom, Me

“I wondered if my smile was as big as hers. Maybe as big. But not as beautiful.”
Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

I know how hard motherhood can be. There’s the life lessons to teach, boo boos to kiss and cover with band aids, and those decisions you make that keep you up at night. It’s not easy. I think back on my mother and wonder, how did she do it? She was consistently loving, caring and yes, tough when she needed to be. She ran interference on my Dad once in a while, smoothing out those rough edges of his sometimes sharp personality, buffering us with soft words and a good piece of cake.

I’ve been thinking of the big and little things my mother has taught me over the years. Here’s a few pearls of wisdom she gave me that I’m truly grateful for.

1. Buy Fresh Ingredients. I made baklava one year for Christmas and it didn’t quite taste right. Mom took one bite and said, “Old Nuts.” She was right. They were old nuts I had lying around in the freezer. Never again. I always buy fresh ingredients, including nuts, when I bake at the holidays.

2. Cook from Scratch. My mom amazingly had a home cooked meal for us just about every single night. This was the old days I realize, but even when she worked, she cooked. I don’t remember a TV dinner (as they were called back then) or a pot pie ever in our house. She loved to cook and we ate good food, not always fancy, but still GOOD.

3. Money Isn’t Everything. My mom has gone through some very tight periods in her life. She was a depression baby, the first born to immigrant parents from Greece. She can make due on practically nothing. But she has shown me truthfully that all she ever needs has been given to her. She is a shining example of this.

4. Be of Service. Mom volunteered at church for everything. She cooked and served for the church ladies group, the Philoptochos, for YEARS. She served on the committee to build our church some thirty five years ago. Always involved, she set the example to give of ourselves and showed us that it will be returned- multiplied.

5. Go to the Beach. When the going gets tough, go to the beach. Mom loves the beach and once we hooked my dad on this, we went every year. She’d don her bathing suit, get a tan, and relax for a whole week. She instilled in us a love of the beach and to this day, we all LOVE the ocean.

Mom, front and center, white cap, at the beach
Mom, front and center, white cap, at the beach

I know I am blessed to have another day with my mom. I cherish the memories we are still creating and am grateful to have such a loving and caring mother.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!

PS. I’m blogging over at the Orthodox Christian Network! Check out my mother’s day post there. Click HERE.

 

Join me on my graceful journey.
1015