Saturday, December 29, 2012

Contentment: Word of the Year

Do you make New Year's resolutions? I don't. I hate failing. I don't like leaving projects undone. So NO. No resolutions for me. I did start a new tradition though, and this is the fourth time I'm going for it. Have you heard of “the word for the year”? I found it through a blog called, “Mama Manifesto”. How I ended up there...I don't remember. You know how it goes, you use a link, find another one, jump from blog to blog checking out bloggers who leave interesting comments, and then all of a sudden you can't see the shore and you forgot your breadcrumbs...

The main idea of the word for the year is that it's a guiding principle or a an idea to focus on as you consider all aspects of your life. I wrote about the first word I chose, for 2010, in the post “A Word to Savor for a Year”. I have several examples there of what I really am trying to say if I'm not making total sense today.

For 2011 I picked “health”. I had whooping cough, and it was taking me such a long time to recover. I ended up with severe asthma. I was on bed rest for many long weeks. I decided that I needed to focus on health, not just healthy body and diet, but healthy thoughts. For example, I'm not worthless just because I can't carry laundry right now. I CAN sit on my bed and fold it. I'm not worthless because Jake thinks my lesson plans for home school are boring. I'm actually attempting to home school – something I swore (which I learned one should not do...) and that's quite brave. Especially while sick. It's healthy to be brave. Are you catching on to how the word guides your thoughts and decisions?

Fast-forward to 2012. I picked “health” again, because, well, I was in the hospital. And to be honest, I hadn't done that great of a job having a healthy attitude about my limitations in 2011. Call it taking the class again...

Now it's time to pick a new word, and I've had a hard time deciding. It's time to go in a new direction, though. I've been focusing on myself, how I feel, how I feel about how I feel. I've frankly been whining and complaining. Wallowing. Whining about wallowing. Seemingly FOREVER. Time for a focus change. The word prednisone will no longer appear in any of my posts.

My word for 2013 is CONTENTMENT. Wherever I am, whether it's stuck in bed again, (please dear God, no...) I need to think content. This is a soft pillow, so cozy. I'm not stuck in carline. No one is vomiting on me.

I've gained weight from nasty meds combined with being sedentary. Hmmm...I guess that's one I'll have to work on some more to be completely content about, but here's one content thought: lots of people pitched in and brought us wonderful meals.

After all, this is a focus for a year, and it's OK if I don't do this right all the time. It's not a resolution. It's an idea, not a gym membership or a vow of 1000 words a day. It's a way of thinking. It's trying to find the positive in whatever situation I may find myself in, and I certainly have no idea where I'll find myself in 2013. I mean – wasn't the world supposed to end last week? I'm content it didn't.

The Lettered Cottage

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Mom Milestones and Memories

Being a MOM is one of the greatest privileges on earth. It's work, it's body fluids soiling inconvenient and inappropriate places. It's car seats, strollers, high chairs, constant vigilance. It's also beautiful moments when that baby reaches for YOU, and no one else will do. Feeling a bit nostalgic this morning after having spent a wonderful Christmas week with DataBoy, YogaGirl, and my newest niece, Sunshine.

I also had a surreal afternoon where I felt like a grandma. I went with YogaGirl to visit a long-time friend of hers and her new baby. ( You might recall that I met YG when I was her 7th grade math teacher. It's pretty cool to have her as a sister now, gotta say.) So there I am, with two of my former students, and we're all sitting on the floor playing with their babies. These “girls” I taught and coached and mentored are now moms. Good moms. It was a joy to watch, but wow, time flies. I felt like the grandma – a generation away from these happy women, just starting the journey I've been on for a while.

It's been a journey of many detours and unplanned rest-stops along the way, and of course there were times when I thought I just wouldn't make it. I remember when they were three and five though, quite distinctly. We were done with diapers. SWIM diapers (and their million dollar price tag) AND both boys could hop in the car and buckle their own car seats. I thought to myself, “OK, I think I can actually handle this.” It was a good feeling.

Having spent eight years teaching teenagers, I looked forward to when they'd be independent to a greater extent, and to be quite honest, not need so much “hands-on” care. I couldn't have been more wrong. They need me now more than ever, and it's remarkable that they WANT me around. They ask for advice. They ask questions – the kind that many parents dread hearing. But I answer. I have one who wants every possible detail, and one who will say. “STOP! I don't want to know anymore!” There are teachable moments. There are frustrating moments. And now, we've added a new element. The truly terrifying, “We could die a fiery death!” moments.

Jake got his driver's permit. Talk about feeling old! It's so strange to sit in the passenger seat while YOUR SON, whom you used to buckle into a car seat, operates the vehicle. He's actually a very good driver, and wisely, The Engineer took him around the first month, “Honey, you just can't handle it yet, I know how you are.” We finally got the go-ahead for me to supervise, and we drove to Blockbuster. But we forgot the other stop - tortillas.

This is when I realized the best part of having a teen driver. You see, I'd already gotten into my pajamas as soon as we got home, and we were settling in for family movie night. I lamented the need to change to do that last errand. But there's no need! Teen drives to tortillaria, teen gets out of car, Mom stays inconspicuous in the car in her PJ's. Life is Good.

~ Tina

P.S I don't remember where I heard this quote, but it was probably in Mom's Group.

The days will be long, but the years are short.”

Amen to that.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Christmas Stars & Candles: Scandinavian and American Traditions

Last year I shared three posts (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) about my immediate family's efforts to honor the heritage of both my Swedish roots and The Engineer's (quite firmly planted) American traditions. I think we make it work pretty well. Recently though, I was reminded of another difference in our cultures. Outside decorations, or should I say, decorations one can see from outside the house.

Let's start with us Americans. Frankly, I think we've gone off the deep end. I love Christmas lights, especially if they follow the outline of the entire house and DON'T BLINK. I like the new LED lights - they twinkle so gently. I certainly appreciate the folks who rent a cherry picker, and string lights, thousands of lights, all over their trees.

I don't like plastic figurines. And the worst off all? The inflatables. The SPINNING inflatables. Why? To me they are just ridiculously overboard. To view these good and bad decorations, our family traditionally gets some fast food, puts on some Christmas music, and spends an evening driving around looking for nice light displays. It's festive, cozy, and a nice time. (I secretly pretend I have a BB gun and shoot the inflatables.)

Swedes on the other hand, at least as far as I can remember (and I checked with The Swede who concurred) don't really decorate the OUTSIDE of their houses. They concentrate on the inside and how those decorations appear from the outside. The idea is to create a cozy, welcoming atmosphere that beckons visitor to come in.

That cozy effect is most often invoked now with in modern times with  electric candle stands, shaped in an inverted V in the windows. (I searched for non-copyrighted pictures and couldn't find any...and my parents don't have theirs up this use your imagination). A lot of families also put single candles (again, now electric) in every window. I remember vividly flying home for Christmas (pre-marriage and family) and as we pulled into my parents' cul-de-sac, there were the lights, the figurines, and then at our house, a single candle in every window. Made me a bit misty for my homeland.

Another traditional Scandinavian (as in not just Swedish, but Norwegian and Danish, too)window decoration that beckons visitors is the Advent Star. These are found in many variations all over Scandinavia. This particular star is from my Farmor's home (father's mother). 

photo by my Dad

 It's now hanging in the window at my parents house, here in Colorado. It's made from gently shaved wood, delicately woven into this heirloom. Many Swedes implement some variation of this star. They are as varied as snowflakes, and when I see one, I want to go inside, sip some coffee, and catch up with friends.

What are some of your traditions?  Do you have a defense for the necessity of inflatable decorations?

P.S My friend actually MADE stars like this one from vintage paper.  She's like a crafting super hero or something.  Directions, pictures, nice tutorial all found at her very popular blog, House Revivals.  Go check it out and at least say hi!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


I think I found my new “Skinny Boy.” (This post will make a lot more sense if you've read that one.)  However, to sum up, we have another boy who spends a LOT of time here because frankly his home life isn't "satisfactory."  He hasn't been as easy to warm to – he just has a different personality. But again, like Skinny Boy, amazing work ethic and impeccable mannners. Home situation quite different, too. Again, we'll leave it there. Lives in a nearby rental, reunited with Dad and new girlfriend. The difference in our family life, and I think the explanation for why he spends literally every available moment here, he shared off the cuff with me this afternoon.  What he said really helped me, because I've been wallowing in a the inertia-sucking mire of self-pity for a while.  "Smiles" gave me perspective. (That nickname is for you, Brian - he sure could use your expertise, and he's tries valiantly to cover his pain with a gorgeous smile)

I Finally got my house decorated this weekend by my fabulous Swissie, and this afternoon The Engineer found the Advent House!  

The advent house has 24 doors, big enough to tuck a little treat into. Of course I was ELEVEN days behind, so I wrote privilege cards, not being allowed to leave the house “limited activities, you may walk around your house if you want”. (I'm recovering from a nasty bout of bronchitis that sent my asthma to Olympic Gold...and I cracked at least one rib. While coughing.) So the cards said things like, “Get out of dishes”, “Get a smoothie”, etc. It's a tradition. There are usually trinkets, ornaments, candy, but not so far this year. Not been exactly traditional around here with a laid-up Mom for so long.

I asked “Smiles”  about his favorite Christmas traditions. He gets to spend a lot of time with his Grandparents in another state, so I didn't think it was a hurtful question. I thought there'd be some to share. He just smiled and said, “We're not a put together family like yours.”

Imagine that. I thought I was blowing Christmas for our kids with my infirmity, but no, I'm putting it together. Thanks, Smiles. I needed that. We need each other. We can help each other. Keep coming over.

P.S (Last year I wrote a three-part series about Swedish/American Christmas traditions if you'd like to take a peek.)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cheers, Cavanagh Blogfest

Dear Mrs. C.,
I'm sure Alex's beautiful description of marriage in CassaFire was born from his relationship with you. You're a special lady, and I'd like to thank you for letting him do so much for us!

I don't know what Alex looks like physically, but to me he looks like generosity, selfishness, giving, and integrity.

Alex reminds me of my math and bandmate, Bill. He didn't play guitar, but he rocked a mean bass clarinet.

Give Bill Pullman dark hair, he's Alex. Though I'd rather see Alex played alive. Still not adjusted to zombies.

******  Even Awesome Ninja Captains Sometimes Need the Help of Friends*******

Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh wakes suddenly from a deep sleep. He's got his guitar still in hand, and his head on the keyboard. Visiting all the IWSG folks who rely on his group-building strengths has left him tired. “Just 20 more blogs...I can do it he mutters,” putting down the guitar. I CAN do it. All by myself! I'm a Ninja!  
Then he pauses. Byron needed help. He needed a friend. Sometimes Awesome Ninja's do, too. Time to enlist some help!

Two new co-hosts are recruited.  Soon Alex heads to find Mrs. C, and as they fall asleep, he's piloting his Cosbolt, new navigators at the ready.


This is the most special blogfest I've participated in.  Alex has been a wonderful  friend, mentor, and blogging buddy.  He totally deserves this day dedicated to him.  You're the best, Alex.

Hosted by Mark “The Madman” Koopman”Marvelous” Morgan Shamy", Stephen “Breakthrough” Tremp," and David “Kingpin” Powers King, the BlogFest runs from December 10 - 12. 

P.S There has been some confusiong as to what this post is about (yes, there actually are people out there who don't know for the sake of clarity, here are the questions I was answering above.

·         In +/- 20 words, what does Alex look like?
·         In +/- 20 words, who could play Alex in a documentary? (Living or dead.)
·         In +/- 20 words, who does Alex remind you of?
·         In +/- 100 words, (excluding the title) write flash fiction using all these prompts:
     ·         Cavanaugh
           ·         Ninja
           ·         IWSG
           ·         Cosbolt
           ·         Guitar
For Bonus Points:
·         In +/- 40 words, leave a comment for Mrs. Cavanaugh - thanking her for sharing.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Digging Up The Dirt: What Do You Want to Know?

Today I'm asking for your help. Even if you're not going to be in the April 2013 A-Z Blogging Challenge, you can still contribute greatly, and the entire team of co-hosts will be grateful for your creative, goofy, or pin-em-to-the-wall input, if that's the case.

We are putting together this year's “Get To Know Your Co-Hosts” questionnaire, and need your help with questions. What would you like to know about us? What have you been wondering about me? If we get enough questions, each co-host will choose which to answer, so we'll have some variety.  For what you already know about me, see the "About Me" tab above.

Please do me the huge favor of heading over to the A-Z Blog today if you'd like samples of what our questions and answers were last year. You can also see what questions have already been contributed.

Or, if you're ready and short on time, leave your question in my comments here. Either way, we sure appreciate your help.

~ Tina

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

IWSG: Do I Need a Weekly Schedule?

I missed posting last month, and I mean MISSED as in wow, it was amazing the support and encouragement that I received from you bloggers during my first foray into this wonderful group, and I want more. Thank you. You took me seriously and you answered my questions honestly.  

This week what plagues me is my blog's format. A lot of bloggers follow a schedule, so I know that Mondays I'll get musings from the weekend, Wednesday a haiku, and Fridays something random. I like that. I've tried giving myself a schedule, but can't decide what it would be.

I used to have a meme schedule, where the only day I wasn't involved in something with a linky list was Mondays. That got exhausting because there was so much visiting it took away from writing and visiting my regular buddies and responding to comments on my own posts.

I started my blog to practice writing, so I can “legally” write about anything. I'm finding that topic too wide. I get paralyzed staring at the blank page wondering what in the world will make someone come read. (And I know readership is down because my blogging is down, but it's a cycle...) I want honest feedback, real opinions, I'm not afraid to start a controversial debate, either.

Do you think it would draw more readers if they knew that on Mondays they'd get a Swedish childhood story, Wednesday a poem with the good folks at dVerse (if you're a poet, gotta check 'em out – awesomely welcoming group), and then Fridays an embarrassing story. (This is an example. Not saying I could keep up with this schedule...)

Do you have a schedule? Do you tend to read more blogs that do? What is your opinion of what would be best for me at this time? Honestly, please tell me.

Alex J. Cavanaugh with the help of some friends host this hop the first Wednesday of the month.  Come join us!  Click on the picture for the link to the linky (the one in the sidebar).

Monday, December 3, 2012

You Can Find Hope in the Madness

Oh come oh come Emmanuel
And ransom stressed out shoppers in their fight
Don't let the tinsel, trappings and the light
Detract from celebrating what is real
Our savior is Whom we should honor here

He came to save the lost and despaired
Not make us spend more than we should have dared
Rejoice! Rejoice!
Peace can be found this year
Just let go of what you once held so dear

Oh come oh come Emmanuel
Release us from what Christmas has become
And help us celebrate the ONE
whose coming brought the hope and the light
And deserves our worship this and every night.


Here's the melody of this old hymn if you're not familiar with it.

I felt the urge to re-write some of the lyrics as the newspaper grows thicker and thicker with low prices on things we don't need. I feel that the US is the most blessed nation on earth, and that instead of buying gifts for each other, we should reach out and bless those less fortunate. I don't know your faith or beliefs, but it's my belief that wanting to help others is universal. Thanks for listening. Feel free to disagree. I'm listening.