Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays

Hope you enjoy this holiday season. I'll still be blogging about books during the next couple weeks, but I'll be on a break from this blog until after New Year's. See you again in a couple weeks!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Little Word 2012

For the last few years I have tried to find a word to focus on for the year. Some years I have really worked with my word and other years I couldn't even remember what my word was.

For 2011, I picked "choose" or "choice." This has been a theme that cropped up a lot, mostly in sentiments like "I get to choose how I respond to this crummy thing going on."

I'm already thinking about what my word might be for 2012. Here are some choices I'm toying with:

1) Create - I have not been very crafty the last few months. I haven't scrapbooked in years, but my supplies and pictures continue to pile up. I have cross stitch patterns overflowing file cabinets. I'd like to be more crafty and creative this year.

2) Finish - one of my favorite bloggers is Jon Acuff. He recently issued a challenge to focus on finishing in 2012. I am a good starter, but a poor finisher. I like the idea of making an effort to finish something in 2012.

3) Twelve - I am taking a scrapbooking class online in January called Twelve. I like the idea of planning some "twelves" for the new year - twelve projects to focus on, twelve books to read, etc. 

Will you choose a word for 2012? What word are you thinking about?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


As a psychology student, I have always been fascinated by tools of self-discovery. I love reading about Myers-Briggs types (I'm an ENFJ). I read books that are supposed to help you figure out who you are. I have signed up for online and in-person conferences and classes designed to help participants assess their gifts and strengths. Many times I have gone to these things wondering what I should be doing with my life.

For the most part, I have been satisfied with my career choices. There were a couple jobs in recent years that I did as a means to an end rather than because I felt passionate about what I was doing. Even though I was content in most positions, I never felt like I had found the "right" thing. 

One of my favorite jobs so far was when I taught elementary school part time a few years ago. While I always thought, growing up, that I would some day be a teacher, I NEVER planned to teach at the elementary level. I was surprised at how much I loved it. I even loved subbing - I loved getting to know the students, seeing them weeks later when I was back at the school subbing for someone else. 

Even though I loved that, I couldn't picture myself going back to college to be a teacher. I struggled with the idea of pouring into a group of 25 kids for a year and then sending them off to someone else while I started fresh with another group. I know teachers have been doing that for ages and it works just fine, but I couldn't fathom letting go like that.

I am four months into a new job as an elementary school librarian. Four days a week, I get to walk into an elementary school and engage with 60 to 80 students in the library and 240+ in the lunch room. Every day I get to be in relationship with these amazing kids. Every day I get to talk to them about books and reading and life and their birthdays and their families and their pets and their hobbies and all the things that are precious to them. While I'm not a librarian by education, my passion for my students and for reading and children's books is carrying me through.

The first couple months of the job felt like I was swimming against the tide. I was trying to get my feet under me, but the school year kept sweeping me along as there were lessons to plan and classes to lead and not nearly enough time to plan and organize my space and my systems like I wanted to. But somewhere this fall it stopped being work. I let go of the desire to make everything "right," figuring that's what summer break is for. I found a rhythm to the days and the weeks and found my teaching "voice." I found my way with the school's discipline system so that I can use it in a way that feels natural.

This past Sunday in church, the pastor was talking about how God speaks. He mentioned God speaking through

  • the way God made us
  • gifts and graces
  • the community where God places us
As I listened, I realized that I have finally found what I was searching for through all those years of reading and researching and conferences and inventories. I have never felt so at home in a job - or in my own skin - in my life. I can't find words big enough or strong enough to reflect the joy and the "rightness" of this stage in my life. I feel connected with God in a new way because I feel like the way He made me is lining up with the gifts and experiences I have had and He has placed me in a community where I can be myself and serve in a way that is true to who I am.  The fact that it has happened during a year of such tremendous loss makes me that much more grateful.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Missing Christmas

If you had talked to me a month ago, I would have told you that I was crazy-excited for Christmas. I could not wait for December to get here and to get the holiday preparations started.

Now that December is here, I wonder if I peaked too soon. I've lost my enthusiasm. Lord knows I could blame it on a lot of things - the sale of Dad's house (which did go through. My joy lasted exactly 5 seconds before the tears started. I was not as happy when it was done as I thought I would be), anticipating Christmas and my birthday without Dad... You get the idea. But I am not conscious of any of those things yet. Now that the house is sold, that issue is done. The other two haven't arrived yet. I can only imagine how I will feel when they actually get here.

All I know for now is that we are two weeks into Advent and up until this weekend, we had no plans to put up a tree. I even tried to talk my husband into buying a metal one we could hang ornaments on and call it good. (He said no.)

I think part of our hesitation is that no one was looking forward to pulling out our old artificial tree. We tried to find a new one, but had no luck. Then we stopped by Lowe's on Saturday. When we were done, we had a live Christmas tree in our trunk. We have never had a live tree before. That seemed to help us kick start the season. At least now we have a tree and some lights. We'll see how much farther we go and if it brings back the festive feelings or not. This may just be an "off" year for Christmas.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Wishes, Dreams and Affirmation

Through the course of our marriage, my husband and I have talked about the theory of the Five Love Languages. For the uninitiated, the five languages are physical touch, acts of service, words of affirmation, quality time and receiving gifts. (You can go here and take a quiz to see what your love language might be.) In marriage, it can be helpful to know the ways you "hear" love as well as how your spouse "speaks" it.

My top love language is words of affirmation. This became clear to me again this year when I realized how much I miss talking to my father and hearing him say he believes in me or hearing his excitement when I tell him about the things I am doing. He would have loved hearing about my new job. And especially when it has come to all the things that I've needed to do for his care and his estate this year, I miss the chance to have him tell me I am doing all right with the things he left for me to do.

Hopefully by the time this posts, the sale of his house will be completed. It has been a source of considerable stress over the last 6 months. In a recent conversation with Dad's attorney, I was surprised how much I clung to the lawyer's affirmation that, despite the hassles, I was doing precisely what Dad wanted me to do (although, I think deep down the lawyer disagreed with Dad's wishes).

When I woke up Sunday morning, I could tell I had been dreaming about the house. I couldn't remember a lot of details; Dad was present in some of them and absent in others. My subconscious often deals with stress - and grief - in dreams. Anyway, just as I was coming awake, I heard a voice that seemed un-dreamlike and didn't fit in the dream I was having. And I was still asleep enough that I feel like I missed a portion of what was said. But what I heard was that I was doing all right with the tasks left for me and that my perseverance was important or appreciated (that part wasn't clear to me - mostly just the word "persevere.").

The mystical little girl inside me would love to think that was a message from my father. And I know God can do all things, so it is possible. But maybe it was only a dream. Either way, I am hanging on to it - clinging to it, desperately, with hope that the words are true - that I have honored my father this year - and that the business part of my grief is almost completed.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Choose Joy

Almost a year ago, I chose my word for 2011 and the word I picked was "choice." So often we feel trapped in circumstances and I wanted to remind myself that I could choose to change my circumstances - or at least choose how I was going to deal with them.

Last week I had a young student come into the library and announce to me that she wouldn't be smiling because she was just too sad. After a little conversation I found out her parents were going to be travelling and she was already missing them, before they had even left.

As class went on, I caught her starting to laugh at a book I was reading. When I pointed it out to her, she went back to frowning and didn't change her expression for the rest of the class.

Her reaction is developmentally reasonable, considering her age. But I realized that I could easily fall into the same pattern. I look back at 2011 and see all the sadness and trials and grief. Sometimes I feel like I should be more serious because of the serious sort of year it has been. But there have been plenty of joys and gifts this year, too. 

I get to choose what to focus on. So do you.

Choose joy this holiday season.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Holiday Ideas - final

My absolute favorite part of Christmas is putting together (and opening) the stocking. 

As a kid, that was the best part, for me. I always had a new stuffed animal. Then it was full of all sorts of wrapped little goodies. Now, as an adult, we try to follow a Christmas/birthday budget, but the stockings are off-budget. I'm always on the lookout for little treasures I can tuck in. Here are some fun ones I have used.

Small ornaments are always fun to tuck into a stocking. I found this little guy at Target this year.
Small stuffed animals are also fun. 

We usually have candy in our stockings, too. The mint Hershey's miniatures are one of my favorite treats of this season. I also found these "candy sticks" at Hallmark this year - chocolate covered candy canes. Yum!

Finally, gift cards are a GREAT stocking stuffers. But these Lego ones from Target are fantastic! They come with a gift card (you pick your own dollar amount) and a Lego set with instructions for making three figures.

Love, love, love these!

So, what are your holiday ideas? I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Holiday Ideas - part 2

Here are a few more things I have enjoyed lately that might work for someone on your Christmas shopping list.

Bath and Body Works have these Peppermint candles (and hand soap and sanitizer). I love peppermint, and I can actually smell this fragrance when I first use it. It makes me think fondly of candy canes. Perfect for Christmas!

Then, they have these fun candle holders. I got this one this fall because I love owls, but they have fun winter-y ones for Christmas.

I also think anything personalized is a great way to go for the holidays. Cafe Press is a fun place to shop - you can choose designs that fit the hobbies or favorite TV shows/movies of the person you are buying for. I love this shirt based on the TV Show Big Bang Theory, but I couldn't get it because of the language.

This year I have also gotten things from Cute stationary, book plates, stamps, etc.

You can do a search for "personalized" and find all sorts of things on the web. Think of the joy of a child who finds his/her names in a book or on a set of notecards or a notebook/journal! Personalization Mall is another site to check out - look at these cute ornaments!

Okay - come back Saturday for one final set of ideas.