mommyverbs

Engaging Each Day with Action Words

Focus. — On One.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One.

presents

Tonight, we will distribute these 250 presents.

They are all lined up.

Organized by number.

Wrapped. Bagged. Tissue papered.

With brightly colored bows and ribbons.

Sitting pretty.

Waiting.

I’m overwhelmed by this image and the need it represents.

I’m overwhelmed by the number of people who made this happen and the joyful giving of a community.

I’m overwhelmed by the hours of shopping, wrapping, organizing and honestly, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer number of presents and the process we will use to give these out tonight.

So, I’m trying to focus.

Focus on one.

Focus on one present at a time.

Focus on one smile. One excited giggle. One “Thank you.”

Because out of so many,

that one present,

in the red bag, with the cheerful snowman in his crooked black top hat and green scarf,

is for one child.

One child who might not be surrounded by the comforts of … a lot.

One child who might not know safety and security, not to mention, stockings full of stuff.

One child who might squeal with delight upon opening it up.

One child who might still believe in the magic of Christmas.

So I’m going to try to focus on each one. 

Because…

Thanks to so many, Christmas might be just a little better for

this…one.

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Perfect. — Please Pass the Mashed Potatoes.

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving  Freedom From Want

Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving
Freedom From Want

Traffic might be heavy.

The weather may be dreadfully dreary and cold.

It might be too windy for the iconic Macy’s Day parade balloons to fly.

You may forget your toothbrush.

Or forget an ingredient that was on the shopping list.

Someone may say something that hurts someone’s feelings.

Or ask a question that crosses the line.

The kitchen might get too hectic.

The cook may feel overwhelmed trying to get everything to come out at the same time.

The mashed potatoes might be lumpy.

The gravy might get cold.

The turkey might turn out to be a little on the dry side.

A kiddo might refuse to eat. Or say something is yucky.

Or … spill their milk on the nice table cloth. Or on the carpet in the dining room.

Someone might drink a glass too many of wine.

Or may have one too many helpings to cause a belly ache.

There might be an awkward silence.

Or too many people talking at once.

Someone may not help clean up the dishes even though they didn’t help cook and it is their turn.

A piece of china might get chipped.

Or maybe someone wasn’t able to come home. Or schedules conflicted. Or someone is ill or too far away. Or doesn’t have family, related or not, to gather with right now.

There are so many things that can go wrong on days like Thanksgiving.

Here’s a gift for you to make this holiday just a little bit easier, simpler:

It is not supposed to be a perfect day.

It is just another day. Another Thursday, where we set the intention to come together as friends and family and just be together.

So, accept it all. Everything that might go wrong and know that it is all part of the story.

The story that is this holiday, this Thanksgiving.

Because families are all about their stories. Their pictures. Their times. Their memories.

The traditions. The laughter. The dessert. The time and place. The table. The gathering. 

It doesn’t have to be perfect.

Remember it all. And just be thankful.

For every little piece of this day.

And please pass the mashed potatoes.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Splash. — A 41st Birthday Haiku.

There’s no better way

To begin a new year than

With a few splashes.

Water parks and slides,

tubes and tunnels and surf boards

with laughing kiddos.

Giggles and squealing.

From dripping, sliding, swimming

to wrapped up in towels.

To start another

trip around the sun for the

forty second time.

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Mildew. — Why I’m Dreading Holiday Decorating.

It is November 7th. And I am trying to be thankful.  Thankful for mildew. 

Yes. Mildew.

A few weeks ago, I went to the crawl space under the house to retrieve the Halloween and fall decorations we have stored there. I love this time of year. Not so much Halloween, I just fake that for the kiddos. But I love the fall colors. The oranges and maroons, the leaves. The pumpkins and scarecrows, the golds of it all.

So, I went under the house, ducking under the beams, walking like a hunchback. Until I found the three plastic tubs of fall decorations and dragged them out into the sunlight.

As soon as I carried them inside, the kiddos started pulling stuff out, knowing where it all goes. The leaf garland on the mantle. The little straw scarecrows on the bookshelf. The pumpkin lights in the living room. The spider bowl in the kitchen.

“Slow Down.” “Take your time.” “Be careful!” “Don’t drop that!” “Walk. Walk. WALK!”

I started looking around, seeing the browns and golds and oranges and maroons and smiled.

And just as I was starting to feel that “Fall is in the air” spirit, that is when it happened.

I smelled it. Within just a few minutes,  I smelled that sickened, sweetgross smell of … mildew.

I vaguely remember that Felix mentioned in passing that the crawl space was damp. But I’m sure I wasn’t really listening.

But. He was right. Yep, the damp mild temps of summer has created the opportunity for mildew.

On my stuff. On my fall stuff. On my decorating stuff.

I am really, really sensitive to that icky smell, and began to go back through the house collecting the spider bowl, the pumpkin lights, the little scarecrows and spiders. Back into the box. And into the garage. All of it.

Everything except for the plastic pumpkins that the kiddos carry for trick or treating. Mildewy.

I have to admit that I am a little sad that I am going to have to throw most of these things away.

Nothing that was too valuable,  mind you. Everything that can be replaced. I just can’t have any of it in my house anymore.

But what makes me even more sad, is the realization that all of my Christmas decorations are down there, too.

Along with the tubs of yearbooks and high school memorabilia.

And even though I know in the big scheme of things, it is not that big of a deal. 

I am still a little sad to throw the little scarecrows in the garbage.

The big ones get to stay outside now.

The good thing is that I cleaned out and downsized some of the Fall Decoration boxes.

But I’m really dreading to see what is inside the green and red boxes.

Oy.

scarecrow

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Pretend. — I think this costume is broken. I don’t love Halloween: Part 3.

Lil’ X told me this morning: “Nothing is real on Halloween, Momma.  It’s all pretend.”  He was looking into the little Jack-o-Lantern that I had plugged in at the last minute, my feeble attempt at pretending to be a little festive on this day.  He looked into the plastic pumpkin and said, “You’re not real.  You just have a little light bulb inside your mouth. You’re just pretending.”

photo (12)

I think I will use that way of thinking to my benefit today.

I’ll pretend that my house is all decked out for Halloween and we have all kinds of good holiday spirits going on in our home. I’ll pretend that I wasn’t feeling like the proverbial ‘bad Mom’ this morning, because I wasn’t really doing anything super special for the kiddos for Halloween today. Instead,  I’ll pretend that I fished out the fun black and orange socks for everyone.  That I donned my witch’s hat to greet them in their beds just for fun. That I  even made orange and green pumpkin pancakes to make this October 31st just a little bit memorable.

I’ll pretend that I got up early and made it to the gym this morning like I planned.  I’ll probably enjoy the fact that I missed the circuit this morning, that I believe involved Burpees and Wall Squats, when my legs aren’t so sore later.  (Secretly, I like Burpees and Wall Squats, so I’m actually a little sad that I missed this one.)  I’d like to pretend that my day isn’t so busy that I could sneak off to the gym later this afternoon, but that’s not gonna happen.

I’ll pretend that I’m excited about walking around tonight in the cold for Trick or Treating.  Actually, I’m already dreading it a little, but I’ll pretend that I’ll change my attitude before 6:30 p.m. No, really, I will. I will manage to adjust that mentality and focus on some fun…even if I have to pretend that I’m having fun just a little bit.  The truth is, I don’t like being cold and I’m not ready for Winter.

My kiddos are probably living in a fantasy world, too, dreaming that they get to eat all of the candy they collect in their plastic pumpkins tonight.  Ha! That’s a good one.  They can pretend all they want, that they will have open access to their stash instead of giving them up to the Switch Witch who will leave them a toy instead. When they start to have sugar withdraws, they’ll say we are mean and that we don’t love them (or else we would let them eat all of the candy that they want, be all jacked up on sugar and have rotten teeth), but I know that they don’t mean it–that  is just pretend, too.

photo 4 (3)

So, meanwhile Y is pretending to be a random softball superhero tonight.  X was going to be Iron Man, but when tried on his costume a couple of weeks ago, he had to pretend that he wasn’t just a little bit disappointed when he casually said to me, “Hmmmm….I thought I would be able to fly.”

He’s decided to be the Incredible Hulk instead so he can walk around and yell, “Hulk: SMASH!”

Happy Halloween!

It’s a good day for pretend play.

Let’s all, Go. Do that.

Today’s Action Challenge: What do you pretend? What do you make believe?  What would you like to believe is true? How do you suspend disbelief? Doodle things that you believe are make believe that you wish were real and true?

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Leap. — The kind that takes that little thing called Faith.

There is a little church. In a little town. That lives in an old furniture building.

But this little church in this little town is doing big things.

This little church in this little town in an old furniture building is busy…. meeting need.

I heard someone say today that this little church doesn’t care about stained glass or stains on the carpet. They care about the community. The people. The need. They are focused on doing the work of Loving God and Loving People.

It is so true.

A few weeks ago, on the day I went gleaning with my family, just before Thanksgiving, I answered a call to help this little church. To help meet need in our community.

A call to help lead a project for the food pantry that lives in the little church. An Angel Tree to support the children of the families who attend the food pantry each week in this little church.

I had no idea what I was doing. I just felt the need to help. Like it was my turn to give back. My turn to be thankful for good news and many blessings. My turn to pay it forward. Truth be known. I’ve done some praying this year. I’ve done some soul searching this year. I’ve even done my share of bargaining. It felt like it was my time. My time to do something for this little church.

At the same time, since it was coming on Christmas, my X and Y were starting to get some bad cases of the “IWants” and this felt like a good way to model thankfulness, graciousness and generosity. Things that we value and want them to know and live. This would be a perfect way to do all of these things.

I said. “YES. I will help.”

I can organize this. There will be others to help, right?! Ok. Should probably be about 60 kids or so? Sure. So I drafted some forms. Emailed them out.

But then, on the first night out of three, we collected over 60 names of children who needed our help to make this Christmas, a merry one.

Oh dear. And that is the moment that I started to get nervous. We still had two more nights to collect names. How big can this get? How is this going to work? Will we be able to get enough people to ‘adopt’ children and purchase presents? How will we get these gifts to the children?

I kept telling myself. Don’t panic. Don’t fret. It will all work out.

Don’t panic. Don’t fret. It will all work out. (and repeat.)

But. There was a part of me that was a little concerned, a little worried, that this could all blow up. Somebody’s going to get their feelings hurt. Kids wouldn’t get adopted. Presents wouldn’t get returned on time. What presents we did have, we would spend hours and hours driving all over kingdom come to deliver presents. The list goes on.

On the second night out of three, the number of ‘angels’ on the tree jumped to 100+.

Don’t panic. Don’t fret. It will all work out.

By the third night, the number was close to 140.

Don’t panic. Don’t fret. It will all work out.

Again,  I said, “Ok. Yes. We can do this. Yes.” And when I stopped and looked at the stack of handwritten papers, describing interests and clothing sizes and most wanted presents, I realized that I wasn’t panicked. I wasn’t spending countless hours fretting. I really thought this will certainly all work out. I just wasn’t sure how.

We made paper angels for the tree. That makes them seem fancy…They were just tags, with the child’s information. Yes, Handwritten. Every. Single. One. Next year, we will be more sophisticated with Excel spreadsheets and merge forms or something. Better. Different.

By the beginning of December, there were about 140 angel tags attached to a large Christmas tree in the celebration room. I made a plea to the people of this little church. I didn’t intend it to be, but it turned out to be a tearful one. I encouraged folks to be intentional. Do good. Be intentional to give and do good. I talked about my family and our summer and our intentional efforts to spend time together and do good for others. I challenged everyone to do the same. I invited them to take tags, shop for children, wrap the presents, attach the tag and return the present in two weeks.

One hour later, by the end of the service in this little church that is focused on meeting the needs in this little town, the tags were almost all gone. Only about 15 remained. Ah. May. Zing. That many people, in this little church, were motivated to take care of other people’s children. And before I could begin to worry about what we would do with those 15 left on the tree, a volunteer took them to a local business where they were all adopted.

“Shew!”, I thought. I can breathe easy now. Together, a few of us even figured out a brilliant distribution venue and it was rolling. People will come to the community dinner, have a meal, pick up presents and food pantry goodness.

But this little church is different.  Here is where this little church kicks it up a notch. This little church, that lives in an old furniture store, has people in it, who weren’t satisfied with this. They were open to and wanted to help more. I swear every time I turned around, someone was handing me more forms, or names of children or lists of wants and needs.

I have to admit. In my head, I was screaming. STOP! No more. We can’t support anymore. Seriously, people. This is the most we can do. Maybe next year. Enough!

Two weeks later, it was time for the presents to be returned to the church. I couldn’t believe the amount of presents that were there. For a while, I had a sense of calm. This is going to work out. This is going to be ok and kiddos in this area are going to take these presents home and have a Merry Christmas.

And, no time to celebrate success, because the people in this little church kept collecting names of people in need. Stop! Enough! We can’t help everyone this year!

Finally, it was time for the community dinner. We set up that brilliant warehouse distribution system. People check in at the front desk. If they have a child or children on the angel tree, they get a number on a green card. They walk to the back and hand the number to me. Someone puts a checkmark by their name. I have helpers that went and found the gift by the number and handed off to the parent. We even had folks willing to help carry items out to the car… With a Merry Christmas! and … off they went.

That’s when I started to receive the gift that comes with service (and my own semi-faith) like this. I saw it. I felt it. The graciousness. The thankfulness. The generosity. The overwhelming “This is all for my child?!” feeling.

Then there is my X and Y, who watched and helped. They carried presents. They organized cards. They help check people in. Y was a little frustrated at first that she didn’t get turkey at the community dinner, not because they ran out, but because we just missed it we were so busy. But she soon understood that maybe the people that DID get dinner, maybe DID NOT have a house with a full pantry, a full freezer and a full refrigerator.  She got it.  YES.

More yes. While the presents were going out the door, names and needs were still coming in.  Every time a need arose, there was a miraculous random offer of help, almost immediately. The total number of children whose Christmas Tree base will be just a little bit more full, rose to at least 170 as of this morning.

Even today, on Christmas Eve Eve, I spent 2 hours shopping for 5 kiddos, after several parents called this morning stating their needs.

I was no longer saying, “Stop. Enough. We can’t help anymore.”

I was saying…Yes. This little church, in this little town is doing big things. And the people in this little church have amazingly big hearts and enough faith to share with me and many, many others who…need.

I want to be a part of that. I want that kind of faith.

Merry Christmas Everyone.  I challenge you to say “Yes”…just a little more. See what happens. 

giving tree

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Pretend. — I think this costume is broken.

Lil’ X told me this morning: “Nothing is real on Halloween, Momma.  It’s all pretend.”  He was looking into the little Jack-o-Lantern that I had plugged in at the last minute, my feeble attempt at pretending to be a little festive on this day.  He looked into the plastic pumpkin and said, “You’re not real.  You just have a little light bulb inside your mouth. You’re just pretending.”

I think I will use that way of thinking to my benefit today.

I’ll pretend that my house is all decked out for Halloween and we have all kinds of good holiday spirits going on in our home. I’ll pretend that I wasn’t feeling like the proverbial ‘bad Mom’ this morning, because I wasn’t really doing anything super special for the kiddos for Halloween today. Instead,  I’ll pretend that I fished out the fun black and orange socks for everyone.  That I donned my witch’s hat to greet them in their beds just for fun. That I  even made orange and green pumpkin pancakes to make this October 31st just a little bit memorable.

The reality is — that didn’t happen.  Not today.  Today, I was still recovering from last night…when Y had a coughing spell that we couldn’t get rid of until we finally got a little Vick’s magic and cough medicine on and in her.  I’d like to pretend that this happened at a normal bedtime, but it was really 2:00 a.m.  At which point, the dog started whining, wanting to know why there was so much activity in the middle of the night.  I’ll pretend that he didn’t end up sleeping in the garage last night.

I’ll pretend that I got up early and made it to the gym this morning like I planned.  I’ll probably enjoy the fact that I missed the circuit this morning, that I believe involved Burpees and Wall Squats, when my legs aren’t so sore later.  (Secretly, I like Burpees and Wall Squats, so I’m actually a little sad that I missed this one.)  I’d like to pretend that my day isn’t so busy that I could sneak off to the gym later this afternoon, but that’s not gonna happen.

In this pretend universe, I won’t have to take Y to the Dr. this afternoon, which she is so looking forward to.  Not. I probably won’t take her to Sweet Frog afterwards.  Wait, let’s be honest here. The kid gets to go to Sweet Frog after the appointment today and she gets to get 3, not 2 toppings…and I think last night she even negotiated for syrup on top, too.  But that was 2:00 a.m. when everything is pretend, anyway, right?

I’ll pretend that I’m excited about walking around tonight in the cold for Trick or Treating.  Actually, I’m already dreading it a little, but I’ll pretend that I’ll change my attitude before 6:30 p.m. No, really, I will. I will manage to adjust that mentality and focus on some fun…even if I have to pretend that I’m having fun just a little bit.  The truth is, I don’t like being cold and I’m not ready for Winter which seems to have been escorted in by our pretend-friend, Sandy the Superstorm.

I’ll pretend that while we are out walking the neighborhood like fools tonight, the other kiddos that come to our house, will only take a couple of pieces of candy from the bowl, like the note says, instead of emptying the entire contents of said bowl into their oversized pillowcases in one fail swoop.

My kiddos are probably living in a fantasy world, too, dreaming that they get to eat all of the candy they collect in their plastic pumpkins tonight.  Ha! That’s a good one.  They can pretend all they want, that they will have open access to their stash instead of finding them on top of the refrigerator for careful doling out in appropriate amounts at a time by their parental units. They’ll say we are mean and that we don’t love them (or else we would let them eat all of the candy that they want, be all jacked up on sugar and have rotten teeth), but I know that they don’t mean it–that  is just pretend, too.

Of course, I’ll pretend that over the course of the next couple of days, that I won’t reach my hands into those orange treasure chests on top of the refrigerator and borrow a few pieces of sugary madness.  I’ll also pretend that I don’t know what happened to the last Reese’s cup that was being saved for your lunchbox tomorrow.  Ooops.

So, meanwhile Y is pretending to be a random Vampire Queen tonight.  This is her first attempt at anything remotely scary as a costume…I think she really liked the idea of both the tiara and pretending to be a little scary…although she is very aware of not wanting to really scare anyone,… mostly herself!

X is pretending to be IronMan.  And when he first tried on his costume a couple of weeks ago, he had to pretend that he wasn’t just a little bit disappointed when he casually said to me, “Hmmmm….I thought I would be able to fly.” 🙂  That kid cracks me up.

All in all. Happy Halloween! It’s a good day for pretend play.  Let’s All–Go. Do that.

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