Thursday, December 31, 2009

Baby Steps into 2010

So, after two days of fireside ponderings in my p.j.s, I decided it was time to make myself get dressed and get out of the house. And the funniest thing happened: I ran into two fellow teachers who had made themselves get dressed and get out. It was a relief to find out that staying inside post-Christmas is not just for the momentarily grief-stricken-slash-paralyzed; it is also for the normal who need a change of scenery after all the hustle and bustle of the holidays. (Can I get a witness from all the moms of students in my class who are ready for a break come next Tuesday when my first grade classroom is open for business again?)

But today, it was time to tackle some paperwork in D's office. There are still some important papers I cannot locate. And I have a new resolve to get  things done by myself and not just rely on help from others.  (Well-meaning others who often run out of  good will before the task is completed.)

 I sorted and cleaned, disposed of and filed. I was relieved to learn that many of the same items that brought tears five months ago brought laughter today. Happy and reflective laughter. The sting of memories really does mellow with time.

So many of my bloggy friends are writing recaps of the last year. I found a 2-inch thick notebook of doctor's notes and medications that recapped my year. As I skimmed through page after page of  surgeries, procedures and diagnoses, I gave myself a little more credit for the exhaustion I often feel. I couldn't bear to dispose of that medical diary yet, so I put it in the nightstand drawer on D's side of the bed for now. I know that the day will come when it will be time to throw it away, and that thought brings me hope.

I hung up my new Mary Engelbreit calendar today, and was pleased to see pages unmarred by multiple doctors' appointments and testing dates. A virtual clean slate for a year that can be filled with health and happiness.

The Happiest of New Years to each of you. Looking forward to the updates of December 31, 2010 to see where the faithfulness of God has lead each one of us this year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Miles to go before I sleep...

This was my view on my first day home. All day.

I drank good coffee, lit the Anthropologie candle Young Son's girl friend gave me for Christmas, and cuddled under an afghan made by Married Daughter. I caught up with a week's worth of newspapers and mail and never got out of my jammies. Food? I ordered pizza delivered. And I did little more than try to revive houseplants which hadn't been tended during the week I was in Missouri.

The good part of my trip: Time spent with my children and special friends. A white Christmas for the first time in my life. Laughter on a daily basis. No schedule; no make-up. (Should have rethought that decision after seeing pictures posted on Facebook.) No pressure; no reminders that this was my first Christmas without D.

The bad: Icy roads on the way home. A two-day drive that left my neck needing the massage gift certificate I received. Little signage on the Oklahoma roads that allow you to go a loooooooong way before you know you're headed in the wrong direction. 

The ugly: Return to reality. The holiday is over. I am again alone with my thoughts. 

I got an email from a friend asking how I was. She said that she always experiences some post-holiday let-down. Those words were a gift: a ticket back to normalcy, if you will. Even "normal" people have some readjustment after December 25. Because I feel like I am standing at the shore of an ocean of sadness, with the waves lapping at my feet. 

No two travels through grief can be the same. I guess I thought I'd skip through it all because I've always been a take-charge, A-type listmaker and multi-tasker. Surely I could whip this grief process into shape! 

Instead? It has  whipped me. I'm almost six months into the journey, and the person I was is no more. I don't want to talk or see friends right now. I don't care what the house looks like. And I can't imagine that there will really be true happiness down the road.

God: if you are trying to teach me to be more empathetic to others, You have my complete and undivided attention. Because I may just put another log on the fire and spend another day in my jammies. (Don't have to order pizza because yesterday's large should hold me for a few more days.) And I may just contemplate all of this a few more days.

And you know what? That is perfectly OK. I have decided to lay down all my plans,  agendas, and resolution making that put me in control of my healing and 2010. Because my efforts seem to be turning to sand between my fingers.

And I put myself into the hands of Someone Who has a better plan for me.  Plans that are for good, and promise me a future and a hope. 

Are you familiar with the verse that says, "Be still and know that I am God"? The word "know" translates from "know it by seeing it happen". My new vision of this verse is "Be still and watch Me do it".

I'm going to find a comfortable place to lean back, heal, and watch God put my life back together in 2010.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Taking the Road Less Traveled By

Today I went back to my church for the first time since losing D. To give you the short version: I was a mess. I sat in the back row with a sweet lady who is the mother/grandmother of friends. As I continued to pull out and use up my Kleenex, she patted and hugged on me and reminded me it was OK to cry.  She told me the lady sitting in front of us had just lost her husband. She invited me to her family's Christmas buffet that afternoon.  Nothing seemed to help: I was just a one woman waterwork.

I looked around the auditorium of the church I've attended for 14 years this month. The people there have been amazing to me and my family through our highs and lows. Our pastor encourages our congregation regularly to be "Jesus in skin" to those around us. To "see the need and meet the need" of the people in our lives.  His words this morning were encouraging and uplifting, as usual, but it was all I could do to not take my pile of damp Kleenex and exit the building. Quickly.  Certainly, it has nothing to do with this church or the precious people who attend it, but it is almost too hard to be there without D. I've wondered if I should just visit somewhere else, but I'm reminded of my promise to D to not make any major changes for a  year.

When I left after the service, I ran into a lady I've known as long as I've been at my church. She hugged me and asked how I was. I decided to be honest and told her I was sad. She inexplicably (how often do you get to use that word?) asked me why. I realized she did not know I'd lost D, and I was not going to be the one to tell her. Not now, not no how. I mumbled something about the season and hurried to my getaway car.

Good lesson in remembering that the world does not revolve around me, and my life is not on the forefront of everyone's mind. I have a sweet friend who gently reminded me recently that I have not been very plugged into my church in the seven years that D has battled cancer. We attended as much as we could, but have not been regulars in Bible Study or Family Groups (the two places that people in our church connect.) She told me this to help me understand that when people don't call or come by it is not because they don't care: it is because I have "fallen off the radar" through my prolonged absence.

I have a term I use when my six-year old students want to blame another student for their own actions: "You are the boss of your body." For example, when someone wants to tell me, "Well, Johnny made me do that", I always remind them that no one can make them do anything wrong, they made the choice to do the offending thing. (Which I find is much more effective then the old chestnut, "Well, if Johnny jumped off the roof, would you jump, too?") So, guess what? I am the boss of my body. If I want to reconnect with  the people around me, it is my responsibility to initiate it. Not to blame others for not being aware of every hairpin turn in my emotions and circumstances. Good to know.

And then a sweet thing happened tonight: the lady who had been sitting in front of me at church this morning called. She told me she'd heard this was my first Christmas alone, and that maybe we could get together later. She lost her husband just a few months before I lost D, so she is not much further down the road than I am. But she was reaching out to me. Because she is the boss of her body. And she apparently chooses to extend a hand (and not point a finger) if she is feeling low. 

And when Christmas is finally over? I'm taking that hand. And, hopefully, extending mine to someone  else. 

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Deck the Halls...and the Teachers

There always has to be a Last Day of School, before the holidays free us from a classroom filled with more excitement than it can contain. My classroom had a book exchange, I gave my students books and "Snowman Soup".
We watched The Charlie Brown Christmas DVD,  undecorated the room, and exploded out of our portable building the moment the final bell rang. 18 days of freedom for all!

Including teachers, who are known to wear some pretty extreme  Ho Ho Holiday ensembles. Here is one of my esteemed colleagues with Extreme Teacher Makeover: Christmas Edition.

I am so very glad she did not wear the matching earrings. Her earlobes would have never recovered.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Talking it Out

One of my favorite things in life has always been having long and satisfying talks with friends. We'd visit and I'd always feel like my heart was full and my life was sorted out. I figured out long ago that words fill me up. 

I realize part of the reason I occasionally feel so empty   is that I don't spend as much time with people as I used to. I remember being on the phone with a friend soon after D died, when I burst into tears. "Why are you crying?" she asked very gently. "I can't think of anything to say!" I told her honestly. For me, that was a particularly cruel twist of fate.

That self-confession has stayed with me. There  have been many times recently when I am with people and I can think of absolutely nothing to talk about. I have found it helps to go out with more then one friend at a time. That way if all my words dry up, I have a backup friend to fill in the conversational gaps.

This week I made a date to meet  a dear friend at Starbucks after school. I taught her children for a total of four years and we are interconnected in countless ways. The closer I got to my next Pumpkin Spice Latte, the more I worried about having enough words to carry a conversation.

Well, kill the fatted calf: the prodigal tongue has returned. We sat down at 4:30 pm for a short chat and an exchange of Christmas gifts, and the next time we looked at our watches it was 9:30 pm. In  between, we talked about our kids, our jobs, loss, and life. She showed me different ways to tie the darling scarf she gave me, and I laughed at how often her girls and husband were texting her to see when she would be home. 

D used to be amazed when my friends and I would shut down restaurants with our long talks. "What can you possibly talk about for that long?" he'd ask me. I couldn't always fill in all the details for him, but even the short version left him reeling. Some people feel depleted by long conversations. Imagine that.

So, perhaps another piece has been fit into this puzzle of healing. Talking fills me up, and I seem to be able to carry on long conversations again with friends. Thanks, C, for just being your normal, wonderful self. Full of compassion and laughter, you light up any room you are in. Married Daughter has long said of C, "Mom, she is not just a friend: she is a quality friend." 

And a quantity friend as well: lots of words to share, lots of words to listen to. 

 Starbucks and friends? I'm baaaaaack.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

How Many More Days?

For no apparent reason, I had the Ugly Cry on the way to school today. About half way there, I began reminding myself of joyful things like the Class Holiday Party this afternoon. Thinking happy thoughts so the puffiness would go down before the six year olds entered the building. (My back up plan was a story about my allergies making my eyes red.)

I honestly don't think it is the holidays that are making me sad. I have so disengaged from the December calendar, I was shocked to hear a man in Macy's yesterday declaring, "Only 10 more days until Christmas!" There is certainly nothing assembled, hung or wrapped in my house that would remind me of the impending holiday deadline.

I think it is just finally hitting me that D is really gone, will remain gone, and life as I knew it will not return. Why it takes five months to get to this destination known as Reality, I do not know. I think that shock must wear off, and processing the situation must begin. The December calendar page facing me is only an ironic coincidence.

One of the main things I am coming to terms with is if I want to do something with someone, I must seek a person out. D is no longer nearby in his lift chair as a continual partner for my outings. My problem is I really don't want to do anything with anyone at this point. I think I am still recovering from seven years of D's cancer, and the emotional roller coaster ride that accompanied it. Being alone and quiet is a good thing for me right now. I think I was like that famed rat in the hot water pot on the stove: he kept swimming around as the water got hotter and hotter. He got used to it until he eventually met his untimely end at the water's boiling point. I think I have probably been at "boiling point" for a long time without realizing it. And the letting go and letting down is difficult, but necessary for healing.

In the meantime? Let the celebration begin with the class party. Sugar cookies are pouring in by the dozen, boxed drinks are chilling on the portable's porch, and there is a bag of popcorn that may have my name on it.

2010 will surely be better.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Keeping It Simple

The first year I had my own classroom, I was all about The Celebrating at Christmas . We counted down the days until Christmas with little Oscar the Grouches glued on wreaths, removing one a day for the month before the Big Day. We made Christmas gifts for the parents, leaving glitter on every conceivable surface, where I am sure it remains to this day. If there had been an open fire, we would have roasted chestnuts on it. Did I mention that I had 35 fifth graders that year? In an Air Force Base community that had a rotating door on every classroom.  I ended the year with only a small percentage of my original litter of students. And I must ask myself, with you as my witness, WHAT WAS I THINKING?

Well, apparently I wasn't thinking. I was still young enough in 1981 that I'm not sure my frontal lobe was fully developed. My processing skills were severely hampered, and I was missing the gray matter that should have signaled to me: "Danger, Will Robinson. Avoid extra stimulation in the classroom during the pre-holiday season at all cost." Because there is plenty of excitement oozing from the childrens' pores without a teacher feeding the flame with an afternoon of sugar cookie decorating, popcorn stringing, and tree trimming. And placing the desks in a circle around the tree for a week, so we could admire its flashing and blinking lights synched to Christmas music. I wish I could say I was kidding or even exaggerating. What I can say is: if you were a 5th grader in the early 80s in a school district northwest of Fort Worth, I apologize with all my heart for the month of learning you missed out on. I hope you  went on to the college of your choice, not hampered by a huge black hole created in your brain while we made green and red paper chains instead of working on long division.

Fast forward to December 2009. I am in a portable classroom with 19 six-year olds who are sure that Santa is on his way. Their brains quit translating the noises coming out of my mouth weeks ago, and they can only decipher a steady stream of "blah, blah, blahs" floating around my head. Not unlike visions of sugar plums. At any moment I can look down and see at least one child spinning on the carpet for no apparent reason except it is there. I can shake my head "no" in any direction and five children will immediately stop what they are doing. Holiday Decorating in my room is at a minimum. These last weeks of December have been designated by the State as Time To Test in all subject areas, and then Enter the Data Online. There is no time for holly being jolly, or the fire being delightful while the weather outside is frightful. This is Testing Time, by golly! Except I'm pretty sure the kids did not get the memo.

So what is a teacher to do when her room is engulfed in the great shadow that is the looming Holiday Season? Exactly what we should all be doing: Sitting on the floor with the children. Singing holiday songs. Reading silly holiday books that make us all laugh and roll on the carpet even  more. And looking straight into those bright little eyes, because that is the best part of all. They are excited because everything is new to them at age six; everything contains possibilities and promise.

Loyal Sister bought this sweet minimal tree for my classroom. Don't you love it? Charlie Brown originally got his tree to "set the mood" for the holiday that had been taken over by commercialism.  I don't see that among my  classroom crowd. When asked what they wanted for Christmas, the majority wanted a machine that would make them fly, not a Zhu Zhu pet. I hope there is a collective "ahhhhhhhh!" going up from the audience. They are just simple in their wants and needs. Extraordinarily loud, but still simple.

I end with a quote  from one of my favorite bloggers, a mom of triplets, "My hands are full, but so is my heart." May it always be for all of us during this precious season of wonder.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fruit Does Not Fall Far From the Tree

Since I've started this blog, I've had several people tell me that my writing moved them in a very special way. While I was flattered, I never really understood exactly what they were saying.

Until yesterday. When I opened my Christmas card from Married Daughter and saw her picture and Christmas letter. And now I understand what being moved to the point of tears by words is all about. I've asked her if I can share some of her words here:

"What a roller coaster of a year...change has been the theme of our year for sure!

"My dad, Dave O'Brien, went to be with Jesus on July 13th after battling his various cancers for over seven years. I don't like to say that he lost his battle--I know he would have fought as long as it took to make sure everyone was taken care of and all the loose ends were tied up. Always the planner, I like to think that Dave finally gave himself permission to go with dignity, knowing that he had done everything in his power he could for all of us, and now he could finally rest and go home. Even now, my mom will call and say that she has found another thing that he hid away for her to find-money for a trip to Italy he wanted her to take, her name on the bottom of a table that she loved, a Bible he bought for her before he got so sick...little I-love-you's left behind for rainy days. He was such a wonderful man. You know , all he really had to do when he married my mom was be a good husband to her, but instead, he took it upon himself to be a father to my brother and me and show us what love really looked like. He changed my whole outlook on men and proved there are still good ones out there who are faithful to their word and take care of their families. We all loved him dearly and still feel the void in our hearts, but it is comforting to know that he is once again whole, happy, in no pain and home with the Jesus that he loved so much. One day we will see him again...knowing Dave, he will have some witty thing to say to us that he's been planning up there for years! My sweet mom, who I admire so much for her strength and faith in the Lord, is doing well, taking it day by day. I hope that she will begin to write and use her gift to publish books (maybe then we can all retire early and just go on tropical vacations together!) I can't even begin to imagine what she has been through in this year, but she trusts that God is in control and He will meet her in the middle of her pain and heal her heart, as He will for all of us with time. Mom, you are so brave and Dave would be extremely proud of how well you have dealt with everything this year. He loved you and if anyone deserved to be loved that much, it is definitely you!"

Well, (back to me, the blogwriter), pass out the Kleenex for Mom. Thank you, sweet Daughter! Can't wait to see you next week for a special Christmas.

I truly understand the power of words.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Maybe we SHOULD be decking the halls with holly...


Have you ever been able to keep one alive past the month of December? I have a friend who buys a dozen each year for a band concert. He swears he can hear them whispering "Assassin" when he enters the store.

I'm not even sure they are a flower. I think they are leaves that are photosynthesisically altered. (I did make that word up, but it seems to work.) Starved for light, they protest in bright red. 

Someone gives me at least one poinsettia plant per year. I always shake my head in sympathy at the plant, knowing it has a shelf life in my house. Expiration date: December 26. It is very difficult for me to want to nurture a plant that involves keeping it alive for 12 more months (and two of those months must be spent in and out of a regimented dark closet schedule). I know that Lowe's will have them for $5 again next year, so what is the point? It is hard to have simpatico for a plant that requires spell check each time it is mentioned.

With all my spare time in the evening, I read a website by the University of Illinois about this plant. This hallowed institution claims that, contrary to popular belief, the poinsettia is not poisonous. They reference a study by their friends at Ohio State University who state that a 50 pound child who ate 500 bracts (the modified leaves in the center of the "flower") might only suffer a "slight tummy ache".  I wasn't aware that laboratory rats had been replaced by small children for research involving supposedly poisonous substances. ("Here little Johnny, why don't you try a bushel barrel full of these yummy  bracts...")

More reasons to love this plant? It gives off a milky sap that can cause skin irritation. (But no stomach ache, apparently.) Fresh poinsettias have little pollen; a plant that sheds pollen is about to lose its leaves. (Useful information akin to thumping a watermelon for ripeness.) 74% of people prefer red poinsettias, and Disneyworld/land will only display the crimson ones for the viewing pleasure of their holiday crowds.

A last sobering factoid: 80% of these plants are purchased by women who are aged 40 or above. I happen to know that is a snapshot of my blog-reading demographic. (Except for Patty Raines' girls who are so kind to stop by and read the rants and raves of their mother's old friend.) In a six week period, you all will help purchase 61 million plants, of which 27 will still be alive in February. Spreading the love with a shedding poinsettia on Valentine's Day.

In writing this blog entry, I found out that today is National Poinsettia Day, and I am so glad to do my part in helping you recognize and celebrate this fact. This day was instituted by an Act of Congress with lobbying efforts by the Paul Ecke Ranch, which raises 80% of the plants in the US and gave the start to 90% of poinsettias in the world.  If you've purchased a plant, you are a small cog in the wheel of the Christmas Machine that will be unplugged in a few weeks.

So, Happy National Poinsettia Day. And join me later this week when we will be discussing all things tinsel, fruitcake and inflatable front yard Christmas decorations. Because nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a 9 foot Santa on a Harley.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Balancing Acts

Long time, no blog. Yet my view numbers  continue to climb. Thanks for coming back to check on me, blog world. 

Here's the deal: holidays this year are just hard. I'm sad if I decide not to do something because it will bring back memories. I'm sad if I do something because it brings back memories. Can't seem to win. 

There is nary a light or decoration up in my home, and yet there is still that low  cloud hanging around. Where are there happy holiday memories?

Well, let's look to the first grade classroom for The Happy. Yesterday I read a book to my class about a little girl who knew Santa's address: Santa, North Pole. There was a veritable stampede to the writing center to write another wish letter. Just in case. If six year olds who Still Believe don't put a smile on your face, nothing will. 

We continue to have school in December and pretend that we are learning something. Reading tests are  administered and report card grades are  entered online, but the students' minds   have exited the building and no one is home.  It's all those sugarplums dancing in their heads, and  checking to see if reindeer really know how to fly. 

And it does not help that there is a new assembly announced each day, followed by a Book Fair, Art Walk, Holiday Program rehearsal/performance, and Lock Down drill (since we are a few behind for the semester).

Yes, primo learning going on: your tax dollars at work. But Oh, the Joy! among the first graders. Wouldn't you love to be that age again, with nary a care in the world? And only 6 more school days (that include a class party WHERE WE CAN EAT SUGARY FOODS) until 18 days off. Time to anticipate Santa, then celebrate the bounty. And plan what to bring in for show and tell. Can't wait.

So, in the scale of life? Some things are very sad right now. But some are happy. I can't say that the bubble is plumb, but I think eventually it will be. Hopefully sooner than later. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Winter Wonderland...Texas Style

If you are from the central Texas area, you may want to move along. Not much new for you here today.

The weatherman starting predicting snow earlier this week for Friday afternoon. How he can know these things in an area that only sees a slight flurry once every three years, I have no idea. But guess what? Six year olds listen to the weather, apparently. And there was a secret underground of drums pounding out the message. (Much the same way that at any moment you can ask any child, "What is the present Happy Meal toy at McDonalds?" And they always know.)

Every mother's child arrived at my classroom Friday morning fully expecting to be re-creating Frosty at recess. This did wonders for all academic endeavors all morning. After lunch, we bundled up and headed out to recess. It was cold, but no white stuff falling from the sky.

I took my unfulfilled snowbunnies-in-waiting back into the room when recess was over, and the disappointment was palatable. I promised them that if we saw snow out the window everyone could quickly get a coat on, line up and we'd go outside immediately...if they could just try to, you know, do a little WORK until that happened. (Quality of all papers was severely compromised by continual glances out the window.) Well, seems we'd begun to settle into our language arts period when the first report rang out: "IT IS SNOWING!" A mad scramble for coats and the door. I have never zipped and buttoned so many in so little time. 

We were able to make it outside for the 15 minute Central Texas Snow Show of 2009. There were actually flakes swirling. Not sticking, but they could be caught on clothes and tongues. The entire school poured out on the playground. (Thank you fellow teachers, for realizing this may be the only snow, pitiful as it was, the children may see for years in central Texas. It was definitely more important than any Friday afternoon work that we had planned.) And then an amazing thing happened: the sun came out and the flakes still continued to fall. I've lived a while on this earth and I've never seen that. We were quite impressed.

I keep a blog for my classroom, and if you want to see the cutest kids known to man enjoying the Texas version of snow (look closely for a few flakes), click here.

Somehow, I do not think the school children of Alberta, Canada could possibly enjoy the snow as much as we did yesterday. And we'll be looking for it again in 2014.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Ho Ho Ho

I opened my new front door Sunday evening, and look what I saw:

A whole lot of happy, that's what!

Some of the youth from my church stopped by to carol. I stood there and laughed with them when they kept mangling the verses of the song. They gave me candy canes and a lot of smiles, hugs and love.  And they were much appreciated.

For the most part, I am just skipping Christmas this year. (Do not panic, adult children o'mine: I've already wrapped your gifts.) But the decorating? It is just not going to happen.  You  want to know something interesting? I didn't put the decorations up until December 22 last year as evidenced by this blog from a year ago.  Back then, I had walking pneumonia and  missed a special friend's brunch and D's office party. The tree went up with hours to spare before our Christmas guests arrived in 2008. This year my reason for not pulling the red and green containers out is just a tad different.

One Christmas tradition that has left me in a quandary is ye olde annual Christmas letter and picture. I've never missed a year. I trooped on over to Sam's Club last Sunday to see which picture I should copy in multiples and mail to the masses. I scanned in pictures of all the kids and knew at forty cents a copy I may not be inserting a photo in every card. A sales lady came over and said, "If you get 100 photo cards, you get a special price of $15." Hmmm. Yes, please.

The next hurdle was composing the letter. I have found it is best to assume that people know about D. We decided we'd do our little "what happened during the last year" blurbs, and then we'd add a special memory of D as a little memorial.

I love the memories the kids chose:

K: My favorite memory of Dave was at our wedding. He was unable to walk me down the aisle, but he met me at the front and led us all in a family prayer. Except he was too choked up to pray. But that was OK. He always made me feel so supported.

H: When I was a little girl, Dad used to cut my hair. Unfortunately, I was a wiggly child and he could never get it even. Once I kept spinning on his work stool while he cut it, and it turned out really short. It looked even shorter after he rolled it in foam curlers!

C: On our first Christmas together, Dave dressed up like Cousin Eddie from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" movie with a thin white v-necked sweater and a black dickey. He kept a straight face the entire time, so we weren't sure if he was serious or not. He kept us laughing with his dry sense of humor.

E:I loved the time Dad took me to the AnimeFest in Dallas. We did so many fun things since Dad was so into making sure we go t the most out of it. I never have to think hard to find a good memory of Dad, but that was one of the greatest experiences of all with him.

And my contribution: Dave left behind many ways to let me know that I was loved and cared for: I found a playlist created for me on his Ipod, an envelope with money for a trip to Italy and special inscriptions written on the bottom of several pieces of furniture he built for me. He is never far from my heart or my thoughts.

We are still walking this journey toward healing from  tremendous loss, but we are so blessed to have family and friends who walk alongside us. Certainly there is no better time of year to remember the hope and great joy that is ours:

"I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the city of David, a Savior has been born to you: he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign unto you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on who his favor rests." (Luke 2:11-14)