6 Things I’m grateful for – One at a Time – Number 1

sqeasy vegetable soupThanksgiving Soup

I’ve been thinking a lot about what todays grateful item would be.  Reading over the previous five I am hopeful that much more of what I’m thankful for has been woven throughout.  I didn’t want today’s post to be the typical things like faith, family and friends.  You did read those things into the other posts, right?  If not, here they are; I am very thankful for my faith the holds me steady, my family that always stands firm with me, and my friends who encourage me and add so much to my life.

Today’s post is what I like to call Thanksgiving soup – a bunch of little things that are full of goodness and laughter that come together to give great flavor to my world.  It’s the simplest of things and people I encounter each day.  Times and encounters that can’t be plan, Fate brings them together.  We need to be paying attention to catch them.

This morning I got up to watch the Macy’s Day Parade – a Thanksgiving tradition of mine for many years.  Jay got up with me and we enjoyed a cup of hot tea, the Rockettes, and marching bands from all over the country.  About half way through, Cole got up and joined us.  There the three of us snuggled on the couch, laughing and playfully enjoying some fun.   It is these moments I have grown old enough and wise enough to cherish in my heart.  You can’t trade them.

I won’t bore you with the hundreds of other examples of the simple pleasures in life for which I am thankful.  But I will encourage you to slow down enough to enjoy a few for yourself.

Happy Thanksgiving.

All the best,

KK

6 Things I’m grateful for – One at a Time – Number 2

Today I am thankful to be both a mother and a wife.  I have a teenage son who is becoming an outstanding young man.  Don’t get me wrong, we have our moments where I have to stop, take a deep breath and realize he will grow out of some of the typical teenage attitudes.  But for the most part it brings me great joy and great challenge to raise him.

There hasn’t been a stage of raising Cole that I have liked better than the other.  I loved cuddling and caring for him as an infant.  As a toddler and small child he was all smiles.  The worst part of my day was leaving him at daycare every morning, but the best part of my day was picking him up in the evening.  He was into super heroes for many years, so I never had to fear danger because Spiderman or Buzz Lightyear was never far away.  Elementary years were when things got a little challenging because his questions got bigger.  I realized I needed some wisdom to help him begin to enter the bigger boy world of friends, sports, and building character.   Every stage has been enlightening and has driven me to my knees more than once.  Next year we head into high school; I’ll keep you posted.

Believe it or not, I sometimes feel less equipped to be a good and Godly wife than I do a mother.  Five years ago I married a wonderfully Godly man who loves me and Cole with all of his heart.  There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for either of us.  Getting remarried in my forties, I found myself older and smarter about how to do marriage right.  First of all, I know Jay needs to know I respect him.  I appreciate all of his hard work to provide for us.  I love his personal convictions and character.  Secondly, we work together equally.  If I need Jay’s help, he is available and willing.  Just about every morning I ask him if there is something I can do for him.  He is a very independent sort and he may not ask me if there is something I can help with.  The other reason I am mindful to ask him is that I know it’s easy for me to get lost in my own to-do list and not consider others.  Cole teases us because he’s never heard us fight.  We don’t.  We love each other and work very hard to think of the other person first.  With both of us doing this, it really makes being a wife a joy.  Don’t get me wrong, there have been times when one of us has hurt the other’s feelings.  In those times a little communication goes a long way.  The hurt doesn’t stew, we talk about it and each of us is quick to apologize.

These two men make it very easy to serve them as mother and wife.  I am very thankful for the opportunity to do so every day of my life.

All the best,

KK

Being Crafty

craft itemsA couple of weeks ago I went to a well-known craft store (the mecca of crafters in the Louisville area).  I am not a crafter, but I recognize the value of this store.  We needed a piece of black photo matting and spray adhesive for a project my son was working on.

As I walked in a whoosh of the aroma of glue sticks, paint and artificial flowers overcame me.  Having shopped in this store I knew the direct path to the photo/framing area.   A sales lady greeted me and wanted to help me quickly (20 minutes to closing).  There was little chit-chat.  She understood what I was looking for, but kept trying to sell me far more of the mat board than I wanted.  This would have saved her from having to custom cut a piece.  Nonetheless, she finally relented and understood that for my purposes, a custom piece was the best buy.  She went to make the cuts.

Prior to her exit, I asked where I could find spray adhesive.  Remember I’m a stranger in this land of craft supplies.  Her answer taught me just how much I didn’t know about where I was.   She said, “Follow this aisle at the back of the store past the craft items; it will be down the aisle on the left.”   While I listened to all of the directions, when I turned to follow the back aisle, it occurred to me that in my inexperienced mind, ALL of the aisles were craft items.  I didn’t realize there were sub-categories of craft items.  I had to wonder, are there other things I needed to know, like the language and crafting etiquette? Watch your manners…

Having only five minutes left in store hours according to the overhead speaker, I began the journey looking down EVERY aisle.  Before I got too far off the one aisle I knew would lead me back to my custom cut board, a friendly clerk asked to help and led me directly to adhesive spray and even made a suggestion.craft items 2

True confession:  going to a craft supply store makes me want to buy, take up a craft and create something.

Store was closing – whew – bought only what I needed and left.  No new hobbies.  To my friends who are crafters, you have my admiration and appreciation for your talents.

What are your hobbies?

All the best,

KK

Say Please and Thank You, and Rule the World

One of the first things we learn is to say, “please” when requesting something and “thank you” when receiving. 20130408-225059.jpgThese two phrases work wonders in making progress on a task, duty or need. While these manners are taught young in life somewhere along the way they seem to wane and by adulthood for some they are entirely absent. Saying please and thank you shows respect for the other person and puts a value on what they are offering or can do.

Common courtesies and respectfulness to other humans seems to be losing out to everyone’s efforts to just ‘get a task done’ and selfish thinking. Instead of going through the day working our jobs and along the way building relationships, people are isolating themselves with a laptop and a cell phone and are all about just getting the job done. Its a very self-centered existence. This may please employers in a cut-throat environment, but it’s no way to build a life. Maybe the workplace has become so competitive there is little mutual respect because tomorrow the next guy may have your job. Seriously though, is that anyway to live AND build a career?

Back to the original thought, have you ever walked up to a counter to place an order only to be greeted by a server who is obviously harried and busy with customers. As the customer, you are thinking, that server’s job is to serve. But what about your responsibility in the exchange. Your role is to place your order. Given your observation of the server, what can you do to help the order-taking and the order-receiving process be 20130408-224945.jpgpositive for both? Just be kind and considerate — please and thank you. Try it sometime and see what happens.

As long as we are talking about basic manners, let’s venture into the world of technology. It is a wonderful thing and does provide opportunities to communicate and connect with others, but it is absolutely no substitute for person to person interaction — a phone call, visit or even hand-written note. Texting and email have their place, except when sensitive information is being shared. That is just rude. And if there is a problem being worked out, pick up the phone and call the person, don’t just pass emails back and forth. There is a great deal to be lost in the tone (real or perceived) in an email. If settling the problem and making things right with another person means that much, then it’s worth the time and effort to pick up the phone.

Thank you for reading my thoughts on the matter. Please take a minute to comment or even click follow on the right side.

All the best,

KK

Tis the Season

For the last eight years February was the beginning, March was the get ready and April was GO! The ritual hasn’t changed come rain, sleet, snow and sunshine, THIS is the start of the big season. Over the years the prep time has grown to the point of not really feeling like the season ever ends. Are we finishing that one or getting ready for this one? And over the years, while still full of hustle and bustle, the season has become more enjoyable; so much so that even I am looking forward to getting things going.

We’ve made our annual pilgrimage that feels (and costs) a lot like buying school supplies, to the sporting goods store. We’ve checked the list and made sure the supplies are ready…

Pants, check. Socks and belt, check. Cup, check. Water bottle, check. Stadium seats, check. Sunflower seeds, check. Camera, check. Clothing for any and all kinds of weather, check. Hand warmers, check.

The season of which I’m referring and currently planning for is none other than youth baseball season! You were thinking that, right?

This will be the first year for metal cleats. That’s my boy behind the plate, don’t you slide into home and into his pretty face with those spikes! Thinking it, not saying it…I learned several years ago the best position for me to play during the game; number one fan! I’m at just about every game in the stands and cheering our team on. Win or lose, good game or bad, I’m proud of my player and his team for preparing and showing up to play their best on the field.

Little league and now collegiate baseball is amazing. We watch our kids grow from picking flowers in the outfield when they are five years old to being young men who play their position with skill and precision. They stand tall and are proud of the team they represent. Win or lose they show the character of the men they are becoming when they encourage the opposing team.

The coaches, us parents don’t always understand their game strategy, but we trust them with our boys not only because of baseball 1their knowledge of the game, but because they will help us show our sons what it is to be a man with values and integrity. Our boys need good coaches and we have been so blessed to have many. Some of the parents get a little weird and a little over the top when the umpire is having a bad day. But within minutes after the final run is scored, it’s the boys who are bugging around talking highlights, tossing a ball around having already forgotten the bad calls.

I do love all the things that make youth baseball great: the game strategies, being outside on a sunny day watching our boys play with absolutely nothing electronic but the scoreboard, the crack of the bat or the whap when the ball hits the catcher’s mitt and the excitement when the perfect play is made.

With the final flakes of snow melting away, our team will take the field this weekend having shaken the dust off their bats, grown in maturity, taller in stature, and better in skill. I can’t wait to see what happens! Win or lose, it will be a good season.

All the best,
KK

Have you done it yet?

Welcome to the end of the first week of January.  Last week you started the month and the year with high-hopes and lofty resolutions.  Now that things are settling down to normal and the kids are headed back to school, it’s time to solidify those resolutions into goals that you can work toward accomplishing in the next 358 days.

With clear and realistic thinking, sit down and write your goals for 2013.  You’ve heard that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with the first step; writing your goal down is the first step.  Your goal becomes real when you see it staring back at you from the page.  It becomes your destination and map for a new journey this year.  Then take the second step and write under the goal the first five action items to accomplishing your goal.

For example, one of my goals is to read at least 12 books this year and at least two of them need to be new authors and genres for me.  So under the goal I number lines one through twelve.  Now I just go to work filling in the blanks.  I know a book a month doesn’t seem like much, but realistically I have little time in my day to read, so I know it’s attainable given my work and family obligations.  Last year, I would have read more, but one of the books I chose was painfully slow.  But I finished it and am glad I stuck with it.

Can’t think of anything you would like to accomplish this year?  Ask yourself a couple of questions:  if I could do one thing to improve my situation, financially, physically, mentally or emotionally, what would it be?  What do you need to do to accomplish this?

If it helps and you want someone to hold you accountable, share your goals with a trusted friend and give them permission to ask you throughout the year about how you are doing toward your goal.  Having gone through this exercise every year for the past 20 plus years, setting goals has become a part of my psyche, I’m pretty good at holding myself accountable; ok except for exercise goals, these I stink at.

One thing is true, if you write nothing down; set no goals, you are likely to be the exact same physically, mentally or emotionally as you are right this minute.  Even if you don’t fully accomplish the goal you write down, any effort toward that goal is better than no effort at all.  In the end, you will celebrate all the steps of your journey even if you didn’t reach your destination.  That’s what 2014 will be about.

Let me know how it’s going,

KK

Consider Mary

starConsider Mary; young, outcast, weary of nine months of whispers as she passed the other women rather than motherly advice from her elders.  Did the hormonal swings make her think she was crazy?  With no book, What to Expect when Expecting to guide her, she prepared for her baby and our king.  Did she know how to count the weeks and months until the birth?  In her third trimester did she understand Braxton Hicks contractions?  Joseph had come back ready to love her through this, did she wonder if he would change his mind?  Knowing they would be traveling to Bethlehem, did she do any “nesting” like most mothers, preparing space and blankets for wrapping her new born?

Each year at Christmas as a mother, I am drawn to Mary and her point of view.  Nine months pregnant, more than likely swollen and uncomfortable riding on the back of a lumpy donkey, did she weep with fear of giving birth?

Or in her discomfort, fear and pain, did the God who chose her, carry her.  Did she find peace in the silence and feel His strength and confidence surround her?

Jesus didn’t just feel his humanity when he was older and being tempted in the desert, even during birth the babe experienced the trauma of the birth canal and his first sounds were that of his mother’s scream during delivery.  No doubt Jesus immediately felt the dramatic contrast from the warmth of a mother’s womb to the coldness of the world.

All births are miracles, if you are a mother, you can imagine Mary holding her child close to nestle him in the warmth of her arms.  While we may have held our children in wonder about who this little person is and what they will be when they are grown.  Mary held her son knowing his purpose but not fully understanding his impact.

Recovering from giving birth, Mary lay resting with her child snuggled close and a loving but shell-shocked Joseph trying very hard to make their surroundings more comfortable.

Taking a deep breath of contentment, the young mother, forgetting the nine-confusing months rested under the star that made the silent announcement that her son had arrived and the world would forever be changed.

Gardening in the spiritual sense

Many times on Sunday afternoon after church and our family lunch, Jay will retire to a nap, Cole to the couch for relaxing with some TV and I head for the yard.  Some might call what I do, “yard work”, but for someone like me who works in a professional setting, climate controlled office 40+ hours a week, it’s much, much more than that; even though I end up hot, sweaty and very dirty.

I like plants and flowers and have garden areas in the front and back of our home.  It’s still absolutely amazing to me to plant a seed or small flower and watch it grow.  Isn’t that amazing?  Most of the time while pulling weeds or trimming I think about the sermon from that morning, our Creator and this earth He gave us that we so readily consume without a second thought.  Sometimes I think about all my questions for God, like “are weeds that bloom really weeds or just misplaced flowers?”  Today, I planted mums (.88 cents at Home Depot) and my trees from the Arbor Foundation (www.arborday.org).   Today I thought about the legacy of gardening I’ve inherited.  Family legend has it that my MaMaw Bray could poke a hole in the ground with her finger, put a stick in it and grow a tree.  My mother is a gardener and gave me something close to a stick with roots last spring assuring me if I put it in the ground I will have a Butterfly bush.  I did what I was told and sure enough there grew a Butterfly bush that was very busy this afternoon.

Being outside trimming and cleaning up the garden reminds me of how we should constantly be aware of how God nips and prunes us to become the beautiful person He sees when He looks at us.  At the end of my time outside I usually turn on the hose and give all the flowers a drink, hose down the sidewalk and my feet.  What a wonderful site and fresh smell; completely natural.

Ok, so to top it off, I like to mow also.  In fact, I’m a little sad that my son is getting old enough and motivated (by the pay) to want to mow.  It’s like getting a haircut.  You start out a little unkempt and in an hour you have a clean, well-manicured look and feel.  The same holds true for your lawn.  Within a short time (and even when you don’t edge) you have a tidy looking yard.  To make mowing really appealing in today’s vernacular; it’s pretty much instant gratification.  There, I said it.

Coming in from the garden I am sticky, dirty, and if I’ve worn a cap it’s pretty much sweat-plastered to my head until I’m safely in the bathroom where no one can see the mess of my hair.  I always feel my cleanest after a post-gardening shower.  From a dirty mess to clean and fresh, huh, pretty much the point the pastor was trying to make.

Think about it,

KK

Sugar cookies and memories

Yesterday I made sugar cookies to take to school at lunch time for Cole’s birthday.  Evidently it is still cool for mom to show up with cookies at middle school lunch as long as she doesn’t hang out too long.  The cookies were homemade slice and bake, but I wanted to ice them to look like baseballs.

One thing to understand, I am not an artist and if I can’t just shoot a fun shape out of a cookie press and add sprinkles, I’m stretching my talents.  Standing in the kitchen icing these cookies, I began to think about my son and how he is growing into a young man.  I felt thankfulness for the grace and encouragement God had delivered over and over to us throughout the years.  I thought about the day he was born and the first moment he looked at me as if to say, “so that is what you look like, I only knew your voice for these nine months.”

Then it came time to add the red icing to make the laces on the “balls”.  It wasn’t great.  Some were ok, and then I remembered my recipients, middle schoolers.  The cookie that looked like home plate was good and I eeked out five or six good baseballs, the rest got sprinkles.  I was running out of time and needed to get them over to school.

At one point I thought maybe I should scrap the idea and go buy the pretty ones from the bakery.  But then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to reflect and embrace the blessing of a birthday many years ago and yesterday.

I have no idea how Cole will remember his 2012 birthday.  Maybe we will laugh about my attempt at cookie decorating; but I can almost promise you that he will know that every swipe of the icing spreader, and every squirt of the icing decorator was done with love.  Yes, I could have easily swiped my debit card and bought pretty cookies, but it wouldn’t have been the same experience for either of us.

Think about it,

KK

Soak it Up

A baby is born and is completely dependent on someone to provide for the basic needs.  Within the first year the child goes from completely helpless to crawling and many times even walking.  Parents are told to fill their minds with music, color, shapes and to talk to their baby.  The child is like a sponge taking it all in.  I’m wondering when we lose our sponginess.  Do we?  When do we grow immune to our environment, or the messages that are shared?  I don’t think we ever lose it.  I think we forget about the cliché “garbage in, garbage out.”  We think as adults we have great command over our thoughts and self- control of our actions.

I digress, because tonight my concern is for our young people and the messages they are receiving disguised in the cloak of entertainment.  Tonight our family went to see Marvel’s Avengers (http://marvel.com/avengers_movie/).   It was a treat and a good movie.  However, the previews of coming attractions were a string of dark stories that were presented as end of the earth, destruction, movies that led me to think that life is hopeless.  Ok, so they are movies not reality.  But you and I both know the line between the two can be very faint for the young people around us.  The previews also included two new reality shows coming to television.  Seriously, is this entertainment?  If it’s true reality than maybe all hope is gone.

I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when television was growing in popularity as a means of entertainment.  The situational comedies like Happy Days and Lavern and Shirley, filled our minds with fun and laughter.  Never once did we hear Richie Cunningham bashing his father or being two-faced with his friends.   Today our television schedules are full of ridiculous shows that are “reality based” are filled with backstabbing men and women.  The plot lines for this waste of time and space shows ranges from alligator competitions, to bored house wives, father son motor cycle builders and even loggers.  How is this entertaining?   When you watch a reality tv show, after it’s over do you have a sore belly from laughing like we did with characters like Joey on Friends or Jerry Seinfeld?  Let me help here, you don’t.  If anything you may just find yourself tired and cynical.

Shows that make us laugh; give us the opportunity to release all those positive endorphins that laughter produces.  Shows that inform stretch our minds and build knowledge.   Television dramas can be entertaining if well written and have strong characters.  Even watching a sporting event can be uplifting.

What messages are our young people taking in from their television and movie entertainment if all of them are dark, stressful and cynical?  Why should they have hope for a brighter future if this is what they watch?  How can we be effective parents and mentors if this is the crap we are watching?

Think about it…

KK