Thursday, December 31, 2015

Making it Happen in 2016


The Christmas ornaments are all packed away, and my son carried the Christmas tree back down to the basement before he left last Sunday. This week, I moved room to room, carefully wrapping in tissue paper and bubble wrap the holiday decor and replacing it with the items I'd boxed up just a month ago.

Yes, Christmas is behind us. And in 3 1/2 hours, 2015 will be behind me as well.

2015 was, like every year, one of ups and downs, struggles and successes, joys and sorrows. My oldest child buying his first house, the youngest moving twice due to her career. My oldest  interviewing at hospitals back home and deciding where he wants to practice medicine after his residency ends in June; my daughter graduating with her Masters, accepting her first full-time position in her field and then just a few months later receiving another, better offer. My oldest becoming engaged; my youngest suffering her first real heartbreak.

Of course, those things didn't happen to me. Yet they did. My heart exults with each wonderful event in my children's lives, and it breaks when they hurt.

But what did 2015 bring me personally? It began with a move "back home" and a 2-hour each way commute to work several days a week. Summer found me undergoing my 1st-ever surgery (oral surgery doesn't count) -- arthroscopy to repair a severely-torn meniscus. And, of course, I worked and cleaned house and did laundry and weeded the garden and walked and read and knitted and wrote.

And now, the year is almost gone,and I've begun to look ahead to 2016, to what I want to focus on and what I want to accomplish in the next 12 months.

First and foremost, I want to grow spiritually. My baby steps last year have only caused me to want to take bigger steps and then bigger still.

I want intend to begin living again. Really live, not just get up when the alarm goes off and do what needs to be done each day before going back to bed at evening's end. I am determined to stop just thinking and talking about what I want my life to look like and, instead, take the steps necessary to create that life. Risky? But necessary.

But what does that mean? What will it involve?

It means I'm going to remove the things that weigh me down -- the glances backward at what my life used to be and what I've lost, the parts of me that don't fit anymore, the behaviors I developed out of need long ago and that have become habit.

It will involve me writing and revising and editing a book. It will involve me completing the 12 monthly challenges I set for myself and doing at least 4 things on my "100 Things I Want to Do" list. It will involve me jettisoning  possessions and obligations I've kept out of habit.

It will require me to take risks both personally and professionally. Big risks in some cases. Scary risks, even.

A dear friend sent me the following in a Facebook pm.


The kiss, I'm not too sure of. From where I sit now, I can't imagine that scenario. But I think I may be open to it . . . finally.

But the rest? Magic and good dreams and good madness. Reading fine books. Creating art. Living as only I can. Surprising myself.

That, I'm ready for. That is exactly what I want 2016 to bring.

No, that's what I'm going to make happen.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ahhh . . . the Joy of Pieces Falling into Place

I'm a nerd. Not in the way most people might define the word -- I'm not technologically gifted nor am I at all interested in math, science, Star Wars, Star Trek, playing video games, or anything along those lines.

I'm a nerd in the sense that I love challenges and checklists and setting goals and subgoals. And when any 2 of those things somehow dovetail, I am almost giddy.

What happened last night is a good example of those small moments that bring me great, nerdy joy.

I decided a few weeks ago to participate in "52 Books in 52 Weeks 2016". I love to read and regularly read at least 2 books a week (except finals week each semester). Now, you might be thinking that it's a bit silly for a person that already more than exceeds a challenge to participate in that challenge, but I just can't resist! I'm nerdy that way.

I'm also participating in "16 in 2016", a challenge/treat group I created*. My January challenge is to sort through every closet, drawer, bin, box, and cabinet, donating or selling or throwing away anything I don't love and/or use on a regular basis.

The continuous rain and stormy weather has kept me inside, and I was feeling a bit antsy, so I decided yesterday evening to get a jump start on my January challenge by decluttering the family room. I packed away Christmas decorations (more on that in a future post, I think) first and then moved around the room, quickly going through the 2 drawers in the end table before moving on to the entertainment center/book shelf I made from a dresser.

I sorted through my videos quickly and made quick work of the board games. Then I moved on to my books (which I'd already downsized before I moved last February), and that's when 2 pieces fell into place.

As I began going through my books, I made 2 stacks. A short pile of reference-type books that I use fairly regularly went back on the shelf. I was left with a stack of about 38 books that I have either not read in a long time or have not yet had time to read. I don't know if I *love* them, so I don't know if I should keep them.

I decided I need to read each one, but when would I have the time? Then I remembered the "52 Books" challenge, and it dawned on me that the first 38 books I would read were those in that second stack. I'd be meeting the "52 Books" challenge while at the same time determining whether or not each book was a keeper.

Did I say earlier that when a goal and a challenge dovetail I become "almost" giddy?

Well, in this case, I felt absolutely giddy. So much so that after I moved the 38 books to the open bottom section of my nightstand, I treated myself to a piece of Christmas-dinner chocolate cream pie with a hefty dollop of whipped cream.

I may be a nerd, but I'm a happy one!

*If you are interested in learning more about the "16 in 2016" challenge & Facebook group, you can read more about it here:   or you can request to join the group on Facebook. There are already around 25 participants, and we'd love for you to join us!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

16 in 2016

I haven't made New Year's resolutions for several years, and this year will be no different. Instead, I've created a Facebook group called "16 in 2016". I hope that after reading the overview (from the Facebook page) posted below, you'll decide to join the group. If so, search for "16 in 2016", request to join, and I'll add you.

"16 in 2016" Overview

Follow the steps below to prepare for your participation in 16 in 2016:

1. Brainstorm a list of "challenges". A challenge can involve *adding* something to your life, *removing* something from your life, or *replacing* something in your life. Think of changes you are willing and reasonably able to sustain for a month.

[A list of ideas is provided as a file on the Facebook page]

2. Hopefully, you have a nice little list of things you. Choose 12 , and assign each of those 12 challenges to a month in 2016. Remember, you are going to make that change for an entire month.

3. Now it's time for the "treats". Brainstorm a list of things you would really like to do, that you think would be fun, something you have never done or perhaps that you haven't done in a long time. These treats should be fairly big; each one should be something that takes all day or even an entire weekend (or longer). If you have a "bucket list" (btw, I despise that term; I call my list "100 Things" -- for the 100 things I want to do), you could choose items off that list.

[A "treats" file with some ideas is provided on the Facebook page]

4. Choose 4 of those treats you listed; commit to doing one each quarter of the year (Jan-March, April-June, etc). I'm going to treat myself each quarter, no matter whether or not I am able to complete the monthly challenges that quarter, but you might choose to only reward yourself with the treat if you complete 1, 2, or 3 of the challenges. You get to create the guidelines that work for you.

12 monthly challenges + 4 rewards = 16 in 2016!

Near the end of each month (beginning December 2015), I'll post a "Monthly Challenge" post. I hope you'll chime in and share what you're challenging yourself to do that month. Of course, if you would prefer not to share your challenge for a particular month, that's great, too! Just chime in and say you're adding/removing/exchanging something but don't want to be any more specific.

Near the end of each quarter (beginning with December 2015), I'll also add a "Quarter Treat" post. Again, feel free to share what you will be treating yourself with the coming quarter.

Throughout the month, we can chat about whatever you want -- how the challenge is going, an update (pictures are great!) of your treat, or anything else you want to talk about *except* controversial topics such as politics or serious social issues. I'd like this group to be a place to chat and have fun, encourage one another, share concerns, etc., but not to get into deep discussions/debates.

If you have any questions, please post them here [on the Facebook site or here on the blog]; I'll respond as quickly as possible.

One last thing. I've set this group to "Closed". Anyone on Facebook can see the group exists and can ask to join; only members can see the posts. If you "Follow" this group, the posts will appear on your wall, but your friends will not see them.

As a member, you can add other members, so feel free to tell others about this group and to add any friends that are interested!

Friday, December 11, 2015


I'm very excited again this week to join a talented group of women bloggers in an online, unedited flash mob free write. This week, the word-prompt given to us by our fearless leader Kate Motaung (whose wonderful blog can be found at is reflect. My timer is set for 5 minutes; ready, set,

Reflect. I would bet that, if we were somehow able to track this sort of thing, we'd find that the word reflect sees more usage in December, particularly the latter 1/2 of the month, than it does in the entire previous 11 months. December is a time we're all encouraged to look back over the year this drawing to a close, to ponder the good -- our accomplishments, the fun times -- as well as the not so good.

The whole point, or at least what I think is the purpose,of this time of reflection is to pause for a moment and celebrate those moments that perhaps a person didn't have time to celebrate in the busy-ness of the moment or perhaps didn't celebrate because, at the time, he/she couldn't see that the moment was worthy of celebration. With the distance of even a few months and the perspective they bring, time can be spent celebrating and its importance can be seen.

Conversely, this time of reflection allows a person to look back objectively on those moments that were not celebratory and perhaps see patterns of behavior that need attention. Perhaps the behavior is directly that of the reflector (how's that for overly-formal language!); perhaps the reflector can see that he/she has a habit of making commitments and not following through on them.

Perhaps, the behavior is in response to another person's behavior. A friend told me this time last year, that as she reflected on 2014, she realized that she had, time and again, covered for her teens' seemingly-inconsequential rule-breaking in order to keep their father from finding out about behavior that didn't bother her but did violate family rules they had all agreed on. She told me had to face the fact that she had disrespected her husband by her dishonesty in not expressing at the appropriate time how she really felt about the rule and by lying to him. Similarly, she disrespected her teens by teaching them that breaking the rules is okay if you disagree with them, lying to someone is okay if you think the reason is worthy of a lie, and (more specifically) by modeling to her teens what an unhealthy marriage relationship looks like.

Reflection can be a good thing.

It can be a very dangerous thing as well.

As I reflected back on 2014 near the end of last December, I was forced to face the fact that I spent much of the year reflecting on the past, focusing on what my life used to be, on what our family used to be, on what was no more. As a result, I mourned the past when I should have been living the present.

I think that was normal for where I was at the time. Who knows.

But in 2015, I made an effort to look back only briefly and only in healthy ways.

So now, near the end of 2015, I reflect on whether or not I've done that.

Sometimes, yes. Sometimes, no. And again, I think that's pretty normal for my circumstances. Hopefully, prayerfully, in 2016 I'll be more consistent in looking to the past in healthy ways.

And this time next year, I'll reflect again to see how well I've done.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Ho, ho, ho, What Would Jesus Say?

I know I'm not alone in my love for almost everything Christmas.

I particularly love that that the family room is adorned with a beautiful tree hung with ornaments collected over the years or made by my children when they were much younger; the fireplace mantle's normal decorations have been replaced by stockings "hung with care" and Christmas cards from loved ones near and far; and that everywhere I look are snowmen and snowmen and Santas of various sizes and type of craftsmanship.

The red-sweater Scentsy emits a warm glow and the gorgeous scent of a Christmas tree, and candles and holiday decor placed throughout the house gives it a much-needed makeover every year when cold weather keeps me indoors.

I'm also a big fan of Christmas goodies -- cookies of all sorts, divinity, and fudge (but only the type made in a cast-iron skillet with Hershey's chocolate, milk, lots of stirring, and a test ball in a glass of cold water to see if it's ready to be poured on a buttered plate).

I don't get as excited about Christmas music. I like it, of course, and I sing along with it at the appropriate time, but I don't seek it out unless I'm decorating or baking or it's Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

One thing I really don't like about Christmas is the constant preoccupation with the seasonal greeting businesses place on their signs or people use as a greeting or  farewell. In fact, I'll just say it outright:

I don't care if a person prefers to say "Merry Christmas"!

I don't care if someone says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas!

There. I said it. I've been itching to post that on Facebook, where people have been frantically sharing "If you love Jesus you'll say Merry Christmas" memes.

While I don't care what greeting people use, I am bothered by the fact that the posters of these memes, and many of those who agree with them, are essentially determining what it is that reflects the nature of another person's relationship with God.

I'm in the last week of a very well-respected, Biblically based, non-denominational 12-week Bible study on knowing and loving God. Each week, I've sat down at the table 6 mornings a week and read the 3-5 page lesson, consulted Scripture, and answered another 3-5 pages of questions (and this book is not a small one -- the pages are 8 1/2 x 11 -- that's a lot of material!). In all of those pages, in all of the hundreds of Scriptures, and in the various commentaries I've consulted, what I've learned about knowing and loving God comes down to this:  a person who loves God will obey God. Not a single reference to using any specific, or God-approved, phrase.

I wonder, too, why some people feel it's imperative that "Christ" be the root word of the phrase used so that the everyone is reminded that Christmas is about the birth of Christ. Yes, I know that Christ's birth is essential to Christianity.

The same Person's death and resurrection 3 days afterward is also essential to another very important Christian holiday, yet not a single "Merry Christmas" hardliner I know ever questions the fact that "Christ" is not a part of the word "Easter".

Besides, "Holiday" originated from "holy day"; and isn't Christmas, in fact, a holy day?

But what really stands out to me about the posturing on social media and elsewhere as well as the hand-slapping of those Christians who refuse to boycott stores using "Happy Holidays" or who {gasp} actually send Christmas cards with that phrase, utter it aloud, or use it in any other way is this.

Jesus made it very clear, more than once, how He felt about those who practice their faith publicly in order to show their righteousness. To save you some google time, I'll share just one of quote of Jesus' words from the Bible (Matthew 6:1):

"Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven."

Is it wrong for a person to prefer "Merry Christmas" over "Happy Holidays"? According to all the Scripture I have read after weeks of googling, various respected concordances, and red-letter New Testament passages in letters on Christian conduct penned by the human writers of the New Testament -- absolutely not.

Is it wrong for such a person to take upon themselves the role of doctrine-maker and then judge of those not practicing their man-made doctrine?

I don't need to answer that question. Jesus already did.

Monday, December 7, 2015

All I Want for Christmas

Video provided to get you into the mood before reading my Christmas Wish List:     All I Want for Christmas by The Chipmunks  

Why would I, a woman who has throughout her adult life resisted requests for a Christmas wish list and only produced one when prodded and nagged, willingly produce one this year, when only 2-3 people are giving me a gift, and none of them have requested such a list?

That's a good question. But before I answer it, I need to explain why, once I reached adulthood, I tried year after year to worm out of making a Christmas list.

One reason is that, at least as far as gifts go, I love surprises. Really love them.

Additionally, I could rarely think of anything I wanted and, when I did, it was something that wasn't mass-produced in a factory somewhere and sold by the dozen at a local department store. On the contrary, I wanted items that are hard to describe -- a hand-made quilt of a design that I would fall in love with as soon as I saw it, for example, or a hand-knitted scarf that would be perfect with my winter coat.

The last reason -- the most important reason -- is that I want people to think of what they know about me and then give me what they feel is a great gift for me. I love seeing what people who know and love me choose!

This year I feel comfortable making a Christmas gift list because I know the 2-3 people who will be buying or making me a gift either already have or don't read my blog (but I love my son anyway, of course lol). There's absolutely no chance that anyone is going to feel pressured to run out and buy me any of these things even if they could, so I can dream big and be completely honest.

That said, my parents did teach me the importance of graciously accepting a willingly-given gift, so Wealthy Celebrity Who Has Happened Upon This Blog, feel free to add me to your Christmas shopping list!

Patti's 2015 Christmas Wish                                                              *items listed in order, "want-wise"

**no "world peace" or "for my children to be healthy and happy -- this is admittedly a list of things for me

  1. To be able to retire without being old enough to retire -- immediately. This gift will, by necessity, need to be a renewed gift for the next 5 years. If I only get one gift, this is the one I want to find under my tree on Christmas morning.

  2. A mortgage-free very small home with a small yard in my hometown -- neighborhood to be disclosed as when needed

  3. A friend who is a proficient in digital scrapbooking who is willing to teach me and scrapbook with me at least once a month until I get 29 years worth of scrapbooks created for my son and daughter

  4. A new class-B camper (for the non-camper, a class-B is a converted van)

  5. A red Prius (I miss my old one) -- the electric model would be fantastic

  6. An already-housebroken German Shepherd puppy (from a specific breeder I'm already acquainted with)  accompanied by a gift certificate for all necessary training sessions

There you have it. Happy shopping!