…the Power of a Little Foresight:
100% of the proceeds from December sales of Patti Maguire Armstrong and my book Big Hearted: Inspiring Stories from Everyday Families (ALL royalties and publisher profit) will go to LifeNews to support the pro-life cause. if you are looking for an inspiring book in the $12.95 range, please consider this purchase. If you have already finished your Christmas shopping, please share this message so Life News will benefit. Check out Scepter Publisher for other great deals as well.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and my oven is broken. And so is my stove. So I am not cooking… anything. The large kitchen appliances going on strike occurred quite suddenly, and so my husband and I scrambled to make alternative plans. Instead of having a Thanksgiving dinner at home, then piling in the car to visit relatives, we are going to pile in the car and visit relatives, eat with them, and then go home. Not a huge difference, except I won’t have to do dishes.
Something else is different about this Thanksgiving. Two of my children are not going to be with us. One of my offspring, a mid-twenties single man, is adventuring with friends on an international trip. And the other, across the country, is saving up to come home another time. This could have broken my spirit in my younger self, but it doesn’t now. They are, after all, alive and well. I’m grateful for this. They are with me in spirit, and hopefully, at least for a few minutes, on the phone. God willing, there will be other Thanksgivings with them. I will focus on what I have, on those things that bless me.
This year, happily I did not do a single craft with the younger children. Don’t get me wrong- I am not against crafts. In fact, I love doing crafts. I have done my fair share of coloring and cutting paper plate turkeys and making elegant place settings. I have created artwork and pop-ups with the children in Thanksgivings past. But life got in the way this year. And, as luck would have it (see paragraph one), it turns out we won’t be needing table decorations anyway this year.
In lieu of making a Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve gathered some thoughts on how to make the best Thanksgiving ever. See? Another good thing comes from broken appliances. I might be whipping up a sweet potato casserole or baking a pecan pie right now. Instead, I’m sitting at the computer with a cup of steaming coffee, ruminating with you. It’s all good. ☺
To have a great Thanksgiving, do the following:
Simplify your Thanksgiving in your expectations and execution. A good goal if you’re cooking at home is to get dinner on the table within a reasonable time frame and with a peaceful demeanor. Thanksgiving is not about the accouterments or out-baking your sister in law. It’s about gratitude and gift of self. It’s about sharing that gratitude and self with family and friends. Remember that.
Simplifying means not trying to squeeze in those two, amazing, Thanksgiving home decorating crafts you saw on Pinterest, but forgot to do earlier in the week. It is being okay with not being a super artsy mom today, using all sorts of glue and construction paper and googly eyes and glitter the day before the biggest cooking day of the year, but focusing instead at the little one tugging at you, asking “Book please?”
Instead of thinking “and”, “and”, “and” this Thanksgiving, try paring down. Take ten minutes to snuggle up with your child and read a story about the pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving. Share with your child what you are most thankful for. Help him make a list of what he is appreciates most. If you can sneak out for a visit to church for Mass, go for it. But keep things simple.
And here’s a thought: instead of fretting over centerpieces and tablecloths and entryways, go find your Advent calendar, wreath and those four ever-elusive candles. Advent starts Sunday. You’ll need the calendar and wreath for four weeks, not just one day.
To have a great Thanksgiving, focus simply on loving your family and friends. In order to do this, slow down, act and react. Pay attention to the people around you. Focus.
Hug your mother, if you are blessed to be with her this day. Do you not really get along? Hug her anyway. Kiss your kids. Muss up their hair. Straighten your son’s shirt collar. Tell him he looks handsome. When he brings in extra chairs into the dining room for Grandma, smile and mouth thank you! Let him know you admire his helpfulness. Compliment your daughter as she sets the table or prepares potatoes in the kitchen. “You will be a fine hostess some day,” you can say. She will beam and try even harder to please. If you are spending time in another’s home this Thanksgiving holiday, really notice what needs to be done and help out. Ask your niece how her studies are going and then look into her eyes and really listen. Ask questions. Be attentive.
Decide you will go out of your way to make your husband’s Thanksgiving Day extra special and a relaxed break from his hard work. Bring him a beverage. Give him a love pat. Encourage him to relax and watch the game after dinner. Yes, you work hard too but focus on him today. Remember why you fell in love with him. Reward him for forsaking all others and choosing you. In the spirit of thankfulness, spoil him. He’ll love it but here’s another secret: you’ll also enjoy the day more.
Actions often precede emotions. Choosing loving actions helps us actually feel more love toward family and friends. We love those whom we serve. Serving is a way to love. Serve well. Love well. Be loved.
Express Your Gratitude and Remember
To have a great Thanksgiving, express gratitude! Start your day with prayer. God listens to requests all year long. Tell him ‘thanks’, unfettered, today. Tell others what they mean to you. Be specific. Share an uplifting story about the past. Recall your first Thanksgiving as a married couple and relate that to your children. Did you burn the turkey? Did you travel to four homes trying to accommodate the wishes of all the relatives? Did anything funny happen? Did plans go awry? What do you remember most fondly about those times? What are you really grateful for?
Let it Go
Last, to have a great Thanksgiving, let go. If you are on the receiving end of a snarky comment, or are left out of a conversation, reply with sweetness or leave the room and release the tension, like a balloon rising up. If a relative or friend is saying or doing something destructive or immoral in front of the children, of course, this is not the time to let go, but to address things upfront or remove your family from the situation. Most unpleasant conversations or uncomfortable situations, however, can and should just be ignored. Be sweet and polite and focus on being a channel of joy. If it gets hard, go to the bathroom. If you have to stay there longer than 20 minutes to regain composure, you might want to go home, and finish Thanksgiving there, in peace.
Not to be morbid, but sometimes on holidays like Thanksgiving, I think about death. And it helps me learn about life and how to live it best. I think about a cold gravestone and chances to choose and act no more. I think about how then it will not matter if my Thanksgiving pie was the best or my table setting was perfect or if we ate on time or if I wore the right outfit. It won’t even matter if I celebrated a particular holiday at the home of this relative or that. Elaborate food won’t matter; the surroundings will mean nothing. I will be remembered for none of that.
In the end what counts is what I offered the world. Did I offer frenzied anxiousness to those around me? A barking demeanor? Stress? Busyness? Did I offer complication? Or, did I bring joy and offer light and softness, gentleness and peace? If I am lucky someone who cares will stand at my gravestone and ponder that even with all my weaknesses, faults and shortcomings, I gave. I gave sincerely, simply, generously and with faith.
The important question will be:
Did I love?
This Thanksgiving, I will focus on that.
It’s not even Thanksgiving, and the stores have been playing Christmas tunes for weeks. Holiday displays have been twinkling even longer in store aisles like Macy’s and Target and, well, just about anywhere else that sells things. It’s annoying that Christmas has become commercialized, yes. And I’ll have to admit I’m the first one not to want to jump into a purchase frenzy before I’ve even thawed my Thanksgiving turkey. But hear me out! There is a very good reason to think about (and start!) shopping now.
Getting the shopping out of the way makes more room for celebrating Advent and the REAL meaning of Christmas when the time comes, with the family, unencumbered mentally. You won’t have to physically fight the snow and crowds and busy roads, or that stressful time crunch and pressure. You won’t click on a link and find the one sweater your mom might LOVE is just not available in her favorite turquoise blue in her size because everyone else thought their moms would like the sweater too. The early bird gets the worm, as they say, and the smart mom gets her shopping done before Thanksgiving, if she can. In this spirit then, I’m jumping on board to share with you my favorite ideas for Christmas this year.
We’ve all read blogs that are plugging products guised under a thin veil as a creative idea for presents rather than the (not so blatant) advertising that it is.
I WON’T DO THAT HERE!
This list, this suggestion of Christmas gifts for loved ones comes from a sincere like and appreciation for the gifts. I’m not posting a link to do anyone a favor, I promise (I am good at ignoring requests for things I don’t like and I would NEVER recommend something I didn’t.) Many (actually most- probably 99%) of these suggestions come completely unsolicited by those who sell them. In some cases I’ll even give you multiple places for purchasing them. Among other things, I’m recommending books I think look amazing (or I’ve read and they are), knowing full well that if you like THEM, you may choose them over MY BOOKS. It’s okay. I want you to trust me to recommend only what I really like, what I’d really use and what I really feel is a great gift for a loved one.
With that all straight then, here is my list (in no particular order) of Best Christmas Gift Picks for 2014:
HIGHLY PERSONALIZED GIFTS:
Family photo, ornament, scrapbook. The gift of a family picture is always a best pick for a Christmas gift. Barter with an acquaintance, hire a professional or ask an camera-handy friend to take a picture of your family for you. Upload these shots to the computer and choose the coloring (black, white, sepia) and size then download to make prints. Pick up a few nice frames (Kohls has some on sale right now, as does Michaels, and probably a dozen other local places. )
This picture/print gift will be cherished especially by grandparents, members of the family, especially young adults who have moved out. The photographs can be used in many ways to make key chains, mugs, even a mouse for the computer or a child’s t-shirt (Try Zazzle, CafePress or your local Staples store for these). The prints can also be used to make unique Christmas ornaments to give away to friends, or the first page of a scrapbook for the family, a nice Christmas tradition to start. Family scrapbook ideas HERE. A starter family scrapbook is a perfect gift for a young married couple. Nothing says ‘belonging’ like a family picture. Build family unity by giving this gift this year.
Personalized Cookbook. Every family has its own unique recipes and favorite meals. Organize a family cookbook for those you love. This need not be elaborate. When my oldest children left for college I put together some recipes for them to make when they missed home. These cookbooks can be as elaborate (professionally done) or simple (typed out on the computer) as you wish. If you simply type out recipes on computer paper, cover with plastic and put in a three ring binder, the recipient can add what he likes as years go on.
One of many many beautiful prints from North Dakota local artist Nellie Edwards. Nellie is a mother of eight, who began her painting after the death of her husband and with no previous fine art training. Her work is full of vibrant colors and attention to detail. It is stunning. Her ‘Teaching Madonna’, a depiction of Jesus being taught by His mother Mary, graces my own homeschool room. This link will take you to her website. However, you can also purchase prints (or framed prints) from other distributors.
Something from Goodwill or a locally owned vintage shop. Yes, you heard me right! Goodwill is a great place to find gifts! If you have a loved one who enjoys vintage gifts, you might be able to pick up a wonderful present for just a few dollars. My daughter and I each have vintage typewriters (mine from the 1930s, hers an enviable older one!) picked up from two different Goodwill stores. Figurines, silver, candy dishes (be sure to fill with Christmas candy before giving as a gift!), tin signs, salt and pepper shakers, glassware, cigar stands, decorative plates, and small furniture like stools and chairs, which can be inexpensively painted, all make wonderful gifts for the right person.
I’m lucky enough to have Mishawaka Art and Frame, a locally owned, wonderful vintage shop nearby as well. There I have purchased many quaint items for gifts, including 1950s president shaped shot glasses, antique glass Christmas bulbs, and a pretty 1940s lamp. The etsy shop for this store is online here.
BOOKS. Books-audio or traditional- make wonderful gifts. Here are some that have piqued my interest:
From publisher website:
Even though he was born without arms or legs, Nick Vujicic created a “ridiculously good life.” But after dating disappointments and a failed relationship, he reached his mid-twenties worried that he would never find a woman to love him and share his life.
Then Nick met Kanae and everything changed. But even with undeniable chemistry, they would have to navigate twists and turns worthy of a romantic comedy before becoming “one” in marriage.
In Love Without Limits Nick and Kanae tell how they improbably found each other, fell in love, and then fought to overcome skepticism from others about their relationship. Filled with practical insights that will benefit any couple, this inspiring book describes a godly courtship and the early years of the Vujicics’ marriage and parenting journey.
Above all, Love Without Limits is an inspiring reminder that when Christ is at the center of a relationship—even with serious challenges—true love will triumph.
The Wall Street Journal says:
Asked to explain why a few people truly excel, most people offer one of two answers. The first is hard work. Yet we all know plenty of hard workers who have been doing the same job for years or decades without becoming great. The other possibility is that the elite possess an innate talent for excelling in their field. We assume that Mozart was born with an astounding gift for music, and Warren Buffett carries a gene for brilliant investing. The trouble is, scientific evidence doesn’t support the notion that specific natural talents make great performers.
According to distinguished journalist Geoff Colvin, both the hard work and natural talent camps are wrong. What really makes the difference is a highly specific kind of effort-“deliberate practice”-that few of us pursue when we’re practicing golf or piano or stockpicking. Based on scientific research, Talent is Overrated shares the secrets of extraordinary performance and shows how to apply these principles. It features the stories of people who achieved world-class greatness through deliberate practice…
From the publisher website:
In Then Comes Baby: The Catholic Guide to Surviving and Thriving in the First Three Years of Parenthood, Greg and Lisa Popcak lend readers the benefit of their twenty-five years’ experience in parenting and marriage and family counseling to help them navigate the earliest years of parenthood. They recommend rituals, routines, and tips on how to manage feeding, fatigue, and finances and how also to prioritize marital bonding and faith life, suggesting that setting the pattern early will pay dividends later. The Popcaks coach Catholic couples as they become first-time parents as they adjust to their new identities and help them face the inevitable challenges of parenthood with ideas for bonding with babies and getting sufficient sleep and nutrition—all while seeing these everyday experiences through the lens of Catholic teaching on the purpose of family life.
Wow! I wish they would’ve had something like this when David and I were first starting out….
“…We want others to know the joy we’ve discovered as Catholics and have an impact for good in the lives of others. But can busy, ordinary men and women of faith do something that really makes a difference? Through the heart-warming and candid stories of ordinary Catholics around the country, author Randy Hain shares creative ways Catholics can live their faith and pass it on to others–often with extraordinary results…”
I would also love if you might consider my own
Big Hearted gives you an inside look into the triumphs, struggles, joys and sorrows of ordinary families with generous hearts. It invites you to witness extraordinary love in ordinary moments like the simple cooking of a meal or the hug between a teenaged brother and his baby sister. Just like your family, these families experience pain, setbacks, and challenges. And just like your family, they also experience love and immeasurable blessing through their commitment and care for each other.
In this book, you will learn the story of:
• A father of seven healthy boys who struggled to love his Down syndrome baby girl
• A mother of twelve who learned an important lesson about Christmas from her children
• A special relationship between a teenaged brother and his infant sister
• Two grandparents in their final days who inspired their grandchildren in simple ways
• Two orphan children from Kenya who prayed for adoption by an American family and got what they asked for!
It has been said that God cannot be outdone in generosity. The stories in these pages will show you how big hearted families experience this truth in a myriad of ways, sometimes miraculously.
It’s no secret I love aprons. Aprons are fun to give because so many of us love to cook and bake! Aprons make great gifts for mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers and more… and they are relatively inexpensive to purchase. Here are a few I love:
If you’d rather sew your apron gifts, start with this:
For a fun flip through of the history of aprons, decade by decade see Country Living’s article here. It’s a nice break from shopping and might inspire you with ideas.
Are you hooked on aprons like I am?
Last, here is something for the little girl in your life- who likes to play with American Girl sized dolls. Have you ever wished for beautiful habits for the dolls so the girls could play pretend about that vocation too? Well, look no more! Summer DuBay at The Little Habit offers these amazing doll clothes:
This list of ideas is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully, it has given you some ideas to get those creative juices flowing and get started on your Christmas shopping. Most of all, I hope this post helps you finish your planning and shopping early so you can truly enjoy the Reason for the Season.
I’m a lymphoma survivor. So is one of my brothers. One sister battles chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).
September is the less known lymphoma cancer awareness month. While the majority of cases of lymphoma cannot be prevented because the exact cause remains unknown, two studies show that people who eat lots of vegetables have about a 50 percent lower risk of getting lymphoma than those who don’t.
So, grab a plate of carrots and broccoli, and CHEERS!
Praying and pondering this morning it occurred to me: I am SO GRATEFUL for my full-time, stay-at-home …..mom. As a baby I never looked up into a nanny’s or babysitter’s or day care worker’s eyes. It was hers, I saw. It was her arms that soothed me when I fell, learning to walk. Her lap I sat on learning to read. We didn’t have extras like dance lessons, family vacations or name brand clothes, but we had what was most important- mama’s TIME.
I remember meandering walks with her through the neighborhood, past the fire station. I remember sitting on the porch with her, eating popsicles, counting the cars and waiting for Daddy to come home. I remember an outing to a fish hatchery, for fun. I remember from scratch baked cakes rising in the oven and sending a heavenly scent throughout the house. Our home was plain. Uncluttered. Sparsely decorated. Full of love.
What a total, unselfish gift to her family. The mother I am today and strive to be comes directly from the example she set.
Along the lines of a TED talk (or an “idea worth spreading”), without actually being a Ted Talk (but still “an idea worth spreading”), here is a riveting You Tube presentation from a panel discussion of just two months ago at the University of Notre Dame. The topic is pornography. This talk is not done on an academic or theoretical level. These four panelists (two on the production side of the pornography industry and two on the consumption side) talk about the impact that pornography has had in their lives:
1. Donny Pauling- a successful producer of porn, eventually being offered a contract from Playboy to develop a lucrative new line- and how the industry not only ruined the lives of those he seduced into it (many young, naive 18 year old college freshmen), but also how it ruined his life.
2. Chrissy Moran- a model who earned $15,000 a month just from her pornographic website alone and was considered one of the most desired, ‘successful’ and beautiful porno ‘actresses’. She shares how she came into the business, what it was like in the business and how and why she got out. Her testimony dispels the common myth that women who do this do so freely and happily- and the myth that porn hurts no one because the women who participate are ‘consenting adults’.
3. Sam Meier- a married man who struggled with pornography for years, beginning in college. His testimony highlights the innumerable destructive consequences of simply viewing pornography. He talks about the degradation in his relationships especially with his wife (Beth)- how it almost destroyed their marriage and ruined his life. Sam now works to help other men who find themselves feeling compelled to turn to pornography
4. Beth Meier – Sam’s wife. She shares how pornography affected her own self worth (“Why am I not enough?” “Why does he tune me out and not want me but wants strangers?” etc. etc.) She asked for a divorce. Her testimony banishes the theory that porn is ‘harmless’ and hurts no one outside the viewer.
These are real people and real stories. As the gentleman introducing the panelists states, this discussion delves deeply into the topics of intimacy, freedom, power and longing-
According to one panelist, pornography is a $14 BILLION per year revenue industry, exceeding in dollar amount that of the NFL. The frequency of use of porn is higher than the frequency of use of iTunes. The statistics show that the average age of first exposure to pornography is 11, and brain studies show that it impacts neurologically — watching porn, scientific studies have shown, actually produces male brain shrinkage.
I found this so compelling. Please watch and share-
Other links worth checking out related to this topic:
-Watching Pornography Damages Men’s Brains- here.
Jason and Crystalina Evert (Their website, Chastity Project, here)
-Matthew Fradd’s site to help you overcome pornography. Includes a “battle plan”, “ask an expert” and “encouragement” - here.
Matt Fradd (His website is here)
Matthew was addicted to porn at a young age. Matthew is from southern Australia. At age eight, he found pornography in his grandfather’s shed and became “hooked.” By age 12, he was stealing porn from neighborhood stores, and by his teen years had acquired a vast pornography collection.
He commented, “No one had to tell me it was a bad thing. I knew it was shameful. I was hoping I’d grow out of it.” Matthew’s teen years were sad; he recalls how he dressed all in black and wrote suicide poems. His father discovered his porn collection, but only expressed mild disapproval.
In 2000, Matthew spent two weeks in Rome for World Youth Day, and was inspired to become Catholic. In the confessional, he admitted his addiction to pornography, and received mixed responses from the priests to whom he went. Some suggested it wasn’t that serious, but he recalls one who told him, “That’s a terrible preparation for marriage.” Matthew said, “That’s what I needed to hear. I didn’t want to justify my porn addiction, but admit that it was wrong.”
In fact, Matthew stressed, the first thing someone who wants to get away from pornography must do is admit that it is wrong, stop blaming others, and make a commitment to change. For Matthew, now 27, the struggle to be porn-free has been “brutal.” He related, “Every day I wake up and decide what kind of man I want to be. Purity is not a destination one arrives at, but a daily battle.” -From Catholic World Report, Jan. 21, 2011
-The My House Initiative: Archbishop Joseph Naumann’s anti-pornography effort – here.
-US Church Helps Ex Porn Star Come Back To Christ- here
“I don’t think they (people who watch porn) have the whole truth. I think that they are buying into the lie that the porn industry puts out there. . . because what you see on the video isn’t really what’s taking place. You know, you don’t see in between scenes where girls are physically sick because of the trauma … you know, you don’t see the porn stars out back snorting coke ….or getting high…trying to cope with it. You know, you don’t see the disgusting, gross stuff that goes on…the unhealthy conditions…what you see is just a small snippet…. on my first porn set the thought that kept going through my mind was ‘this will be over soon…this will be over soon…’ Once you’re done, you’re so relieved.”
“I suppose it (watching porn) would be an easy trap to fall into.… (but) Anyone who watches porn – even just clicks on the internet site- is actually contributing to the victimization and degradation of these women.”
“Drugs are a huge part of it (to numb and escape) and they drive you into a really dark, dark place.”
“After leaving the industry I actually went to a psychiatric ward because of the trauma I endured.”
-Christian Leader’s Dire Warning About Porn, Horror Flicks and Demonic Possession- here.
-Catholics Come Home- facts and help- here
-Integrity Restored- Helping Catholic Men Break Free from Pornography here
-Reclaim Sexual Health “Brain Science of Behavior in the Light of Faith” – here
-The Serenellians Catholic Apostolate is composed of lay and religious who dedicate themselves to combat the evils of pornography and assist those affected by it to bring hope, encouragement and strength -here.
-Porn: The Marriage Wrecker from Catholic Match – here
-Strengthen Your Marriage After Porn here.
-Rebuilding Trust in Marriage After Pornography: here.
CONCLUDING THOUGHTS :
“(the) porn generation (is) people 30 and younger who sit around and watch porn with their parents- but we just call it things like “Two and a Half Men”. We know what’s going on. They might have their clothes on but when you’re laughing about that sort of activity with your parents then it becomes easy to recruit you into porn….”
“We were very good at making it seem like it was their idea. ..Manipulation. I did that by telling them porn wasn’t for them when they first came into my office (but then) they’d be around my very lavish lifestyle…I started them off doing soft core and alone- get them used to the money then slowly (get them into harder things)… It was very easy to recruit.”
“I would slowly watch the lights go out (of their eyes). This isn’t the part of porn we like to see. We think this is the polished video..”
“On screen it is amazing and attractive, but we don’t see the girls curled up in a ball in a corner in a fetal position between takes or sucking their thumbs because their minds are so blown away by what they just had to do, or have to have surgery to repair damage done to their body.” – Donny Pauling, former porn producer of photography and film
A good society is a society in which it is easy to be good. By that definition, we do not live in a good society. With porn use at an all time high, the stability of families and our culture itself is threatened. Share this link. Share the video. Share the resources available. Support someone you know who struggles with pornography. If it’s you, today you can begin to a path of purity, healing and true joy in the ultimate enjoyment of sexuality that God intended. I’d like to close with a Bible quote from the Serenellian Catholic Apostolate website. More prayers can be found here. God bless you, your marriage and your family!
“When you come to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for trials.
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
undisturbed in times of adversity.
Cling to Him, forsake Him not;
thus, will your future be great.
Accept what befalls you;
in crushing misfortune be patient.
For, in fire gold is tested and worthy men
in the crucible of humiliation.
Trust God and He will help you.
Make straight your ways and hope in Him.
You who fear the Lord, wait for His mercy.
Turn not away, lest you fall.”
- Sirach 2:1-7