Celebrating the Advent season with a child a state away – it can be done 

Celebrating the Advent season with a child a state away – it can be done 

Advent season is approaching like a freight train. How quickly this year has zoomed by and we are entering into December. I feel like I was run over a few times on the way to this month, but we’ve arrived. Advent is a season that I’d never really participated in until I joined the Christian Church, but it has become part of our Christmas traditions. To me it puts Christ at the forefront because each week of advent we are celebrating the promise of Christ’s birth. In our house we follow the pattern of the church with candle lighting, scripture reading and a prayer maybe not in that order though.

Since my son went to live with his dad three years ago this makes advent a bit more challenging for us as a family. This blog is about how we do advent long distance. It’s meaningful and it’s still Christ centered. 

What guide do I follow? My favorite and the one I keep stored in my bible all year long is an insert that was sent to parents called teachable moments. It gives each week, what it means, what candle color and a scripture to read. Makes it easy for me. 

Teachable moments

In other years I’ve used different material but this year I decided to go back to my favorite. I let my son know on Friday that he would need to set aside a little time for me. Teenagers are busy creatures! I shopped for my last candle on Saturday, so I was ready to go for our Sunday afternoon time via the phone. I assigned him the verse to read, and I read the week one info as given on the sheet. Once I got to the scripture I had him read it. Then we finished off with ways that we are filled with hope because we know Jesus. That kid brought tears to my eyes with what he said. He knows even during the hard times that Jesus will be his hope and strength. Since the candles are here I light the first purple one. At the end I offered up a prayer for our time together in celebration of advent and how Christ represents hope to each of us.

Some other ideas that I’ve used can be found on Pinterest, and I’m including the links here➡ Advent Wreatha fresh Advent wreath, and new verse ideas. I’m sharing this example because finding purple candles that aren’t tapers is hard as heck! I don’t have a taper holder, so I use purple tea lights. I have enough for one more year. This is my plan once I finish them off. 

My twist on an advent wreath – eclectic

How does long distance work? You have two options phone call where you put them on speaker so you can manage the tasks. I will normally ask my son to read the bible verse, since I’ll be lighting the candle and normally he’ll want me to pray. Divide up those tasks so they are being in the moment and not doing something else. The other option is facetime. This is awesome because you can see each other, they can see the candle lighting and it makes the family time feel more like you’re together. Sometimes the connection isn’t so good, so then we fall back on a phone call. Again even with facetime divide up the duties. 

Today he actually had a friend over, but he took time out to spend it participating in our family tradition. I could hear his buddy about the time we were coming to a close. He was shouting tell your mom ”hi”, so I was returning the the greeting. Not our first exchange. Hopefully I’ll finally get to meet him when my son graduates.

I think it’s important for a child or children to understand the who, what, how, and when of certain celebrations. He’s experienced prepping communion during my first year as deacon, we’ve practiced Lent together, and both of us had challenging tasks. I felt for a long time that I was failing him with his christian walk. As he becomes an adult I want him to know the religious celebrations, as well as, having that relationship with Christ. I’m trying to make sure he has all the tools and support I can give him to grow into a strong christian man. He took care of finding Christ all on his own bless him.

As we go into the following weeks remember that distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to traditions or family. It’s taking the time and being purposeful that you can share in them together. Photos, calls, facetime, and even texting can all be ways to bring you closer to the ones you love that are far away.

Week 1 of Advent

Many blessings – G.

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Another holiday weekend come and gone 

Another holiday weekend come and gone 

Thanksgiving is a great time to spend with family gorging on the traditional fare and hanging out. I enjoy the time off but this isn’t my favorite holiday. If it wouldn’t cause a riot I’d probably travel during my time off. With my son staying with his dad during this holiday I always feel at loose ends. I hate Black Friday shopping so that’s out, so instead long naps and leaf raking happens. It’s dismal and I need a new plan for next year because this is getting old!

Let’s talk food – despite my goal of smaller portions which I did….somewhere I miscalculated and had too many carbs. I took a 7 hour carb coma nap and then I’ve suffered every day after from the food. Ugh I totally get why meal preppers take their own food and get grief, but it may be worth it in the long run. Damn I’ve been miserable.

Between now and when my son gets here for Christmas break I’ll get the house all decked out…totally deck the halls. This is one of our favorite holidays to spend together. I work from home while he’s here which I appreciate and so does he. I have a presence in the house, we have our meals together, and have some awesome conversations. Give us time and we’ll solve some world issues! It’s during those times that we’ve plotted and planned the future. He’s a sharp kid and I can’t wait to see what he does in life. 

What else? Cooking – I have some truffle Mac’n Cheese to make while he’s home so gathering ingredients is on the to do list. This dish ranks higher than chocolate cheesecake with ganache. The cheesecake I’d be restricted to a sliver so I’m kind of glad this one is off the table. I’ve been researching other options. Flourless chocolate cake is on the list along with a chocolate tart. High in cacao and lower in sugar. Still looking so if anyone has a recipe to throw my way remember low carb. 

Holidays don’t always work out like we want and that can be ok. This year I drove my grandfather home. He only complained a little about my driving and I’d be shocked if he didn’t. It’s part of the experience. I wanted to offer to take him down to my grandmother’s grave, but he looked tired and ready for a nap. So I kept the offer to myself and gave him a big hug and took off. As I was tooling down the road I still felt the need to visit family that had passed. I was coming up to the turn off for the cemetery where my dad is buried I jumped two lanes and made a crazy right turn. No other drivers were harmed in the lane change or turn. It was like some internal need that had to be met. Maybe I’m just strange but I was heading to the graveyard in no time. It wasn’t planned so when Ginger jumped out I’m snatching her up in fear of having my dog decide she needs a potty break. That just seemed wrong. 

Many years ago I read a book and one of the characters would leave a stone on the headstone to represent they had visited. The cemetery that my grandparents on my dad’s side are buried you can’t leave flowers because they have strict rules, so I got in the habit of leaving a stone.  

My step-mom has really pretty flowers throughout the year, so again no need to bring flowers to the cemetery where he’s buried. Every time I visit or when Seth comes with me, we leave a stone to say “we were here.” So on this visit I’m looking around for a small stone with a dog under one arm. It was a brief visit but it settled something inside of me. 

What’s next? Tomorrow it’s back to the office and the daily grind, but it just means I’m getting closer to time for my son to be here. Deck the halls and let’s be merry cause I’m ready for some mom and son time!

However you celebrate the holidays enjoy! If that’s not your thing have fun on your days off if you get them. 

Peace and goodwill – G.

Food = Love

Food = Love

An appropriate topic with Valentine’s Day looming this week. All about some LOVE! ❤ I’ve spent several days watching Food Network while I’ve been sick and confined to the house. I enjoy watching all the cooking because I like to cook. As I was watching a particular episode of Chopped, I was reminded why I love cooking so much. For me it’s a way to show my family and friends how important they are to me by feeding them.

Food = Love 

Creating a meal is my way of nurturing and feeling like I’m meeting a need at the same time. I’m sure there is some psychology behind why, but really I don’t need to know why because I’ll just continue to cook because I can.

Cooking is a skill that I’ve developed over the years. I can remember some beginning meals that make me cringe. I’m pretty sure there were some things that should’ve gone straight to the trashcan. Can’t even tell you how many years it took me to figure out gravy from scratch and not the package variety. It was my Achilles for years. I mean really I’m a southern woman,  holy crap, I should be able to make gravy. I was beyond proud when it all finally came together. I made breakfast for just about every meal for a solid month!

Over the years I’ve tackled all kinds of styles and flavors of food. If I ate something in a restaurant that I loved but knew I’d never be able to get that where I lived, I’d figure out how to make it myself. Helps that have a pretty decent palate. Despite having this ability my son is a picky eater. Lord help me. Slowly but surely he’s coming along. I love it when he tries something new and he loves it. When he’s home I fix his favorites. Chicken and dumplings are top of his list followed by homemade fish fingers. At Christmas I made chocolate cheesecake with a chocolate ganache topping for the first time. He loves chocolate cheesecake so I made it. I’m sure I’ll make it again and again. A mother’s love knows no bounds when it comes to school projects. My son and I took on some Greek recipes for an English class. We made Tiropitakia. If you like feta you’ll like these. And gyros – he loves those. Plus it makes me feel good when he tells me I’m spoiling him by cooking his favorites and spending time teaching him how to cook some of them as well.

I’ve learned to cook a lot of things in the name of love. Italian…the amount of pasta I’ve made is ridiculous! I can whip out a homemade Alfredo sauce like nobodies business. Tex-Mex….well that was mostly for myself and so was the Indian. I learned to grill for my little carnivore baby. Oh the burned meat I served was outrageous, but now I’m skilled with a gas grill, charcoal or even over an open fire. I’m the official grill master for Father’s Day. I get teased by my grandfather but he still eats my food. It’s an opportunity for me to do the work and for the men to kick back and enjoy. Except it never fails that dad’s gas grill runs out of propane. No lie. Two years in a row this has happened to me.

If you don’t have a crockpot you need one. It’s so awesome to walk into my home at the end of the work day and smell the yummiest scents emanating from that crockpot. Pulled pork is divine but I can do an amazing barbacoa just as easily. Talk about feeding the soul and some folks good food! Makes my mouth water thinking about it and really I haven’t felt like eating anything except soup for DAYS!

I learned to home can food for the love of family tradition. It’s something that transcends the generations and connects me to the women and the men that gardened and canned the fruits of their labor. Really a labor of love because the food was stored up for a whole family or families. I love eating fresh food and staying away from overly processed, so I do a mixture of canning and freezing. I’m grateful to have family that provides me with home grown veggies and a fantastic farmers market to shop for all the rest. Before too long it will be time to order strawberries and blueberries…yummy deliciousness!

I’ve taken on gluten free and vegan as well. All for the love of friends and family. Can’t say I’ve always been successful at everything I’ve tried but I think it’s the effort that counts. I definitely put a lot of love and caring into the food I prepare. There have been a few less than deserving individuals that I’ve poured time and energy into cooking for in the past. There were the blueberry white chocolate scones – that was a mistake. The man not the scones. Oh Lord how about the pie…let’s skip that part not worth the time.

Really it’s a bit disturbing now that I think about how important cooking is for me. Good thing I don’t freak when a dish isn’t loved. It’s more about the satisfaction of fixing the meal and the care that goes into tasty goodness. If I think back to Gary Chapman’s book ‘The 5 Love Languages’ it would probably fall under service or maybe quality time. I do enjoy gabbing while I’m in the kitchen or standing over a grill.

Valentine’s Day is one time a year, but showing the people you love how much you care can be done everyday in many ways. For me, one way is through cooking. I know there are more dishes to try, more cuisine to share, and lots of fun and love to spread around.

-G.

*Photos are from Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, AR.

Enjoy the little things 

Enjoy the little things 

I’m overjoyed that my son is home for the holidays. His first night home I slept like a baby. My maternal instinct was just so happy to have him under my roof to feed and fuss over. Contentment oozes from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet.

Christmas was small in comparison to previous years but the time together is the most valuable and priceless part of his visit. We’ve discussed his future plans, plotted world peace, negotiated some serious topics, and enjoyed our time with friends and family. 

Motherhood is not easy. I’ve had to compromise, let go way to soon, and I’m challenged over and over on the fact that I let him decide to live with his father. I’ve been judged and found wanting with no evidence based on that one item alone. I learned a long time ago that you can’t defend yourself. Actions speak louder than words and I don’t need to justify my actions in this case.

Being a single mom hasn’t stopped with him living with his dad. I still have the same job of parenting. To guide him to being an independent adult that will be responsible and can handle any situation life throws at him. To know that he’s capable of adulting. I freaking hear this way too much or see memes about not adulting today. Well you don’t get to take a break from that and if you are it’s called being irresponsible. No accountability…get your shit together! Just do it…life sucks balls sometimes. Leaping off my soapbox now. Makes me a bit crazy when I hear that kind of stuff. Now for those of you that are being funny and you’re responsible…you have a pass on my gripe. 

Just in case anyone isn’t sure adulting means: you pay your bills first then play with what’s left. Take care of your family and kids first before spending on wants or frivolous items. 

Back to where I was going with this blog…it has been a load of experiences. Mountain coaster riding…no brakes!!! Thrill seekers are us. Topped that experience off with keys locked in the vehicle. Only I can do that twice in less than a month. Too many distractions and I need to do some ‘being in the moment’ and not looking ahead to the next moment. BUT the gentleman that busted my keys free cracked us up. He drove up in his little van and backed into the space next to me. He jumps out and as he comes around I see his cap says ‘Jesus is Lord’ or ‘I love Jesus’. Can’t recall because I was totally thrown by the heavy rap song that busted loose unexpectedly from his ride along with the clear word ‘Fuck’. Whaaat….that word and Jesus typically don’t go together. He turns it off and doesn’t say anything. As he starts breaking in to my vehicle his phone goes off – he answers and as soon as he gets off the music starts again – I hear fuck AGAIN! I’m trying not to laugh as he frantically tries to cut the music off. He then tells us that he had picked a Christmas music station on Pandora and instead of Christmas music he gets rap with foul language every time. OMG hysterical and his face was bright red too. He made quick work of the break in so we were off and blazing a trail home so we could see Rogue One. Soooo good and if you don’t know Star Wars that’s a tragedy! We saw Assassin’s Creed the week before…it was good too. My son said they did a good job, and he’s my little gamer so he’ll know better than I will.

Up next a trip to Ft. Smith, AR to ring in the New Year and then off to Tulsa, OK to watch the Tulsa Oilers play some hockey against Wichita. Fun times. Any seat in the BOK Center is good so no complaints and we got to listen to fans from both sides cheer on their team. It was our first time to see a minor league game and it was fun so we’ll be doing it again!

Point is I don’t get a ton of time with my son, but we try to make the most of it. Goes back to Be Here Now and how important that concept is when he’s with me and how finite our time is together. To rip off Zombieland – one of our favorite movies – Rule #32 Enjoy the Little Things! 

Happy New Year! I hope that all those that read my blog and even those that don’t are blessed with a fantastic year!

-G.

Waiting on the beginning

Waiting on the beginning

We don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on death, anyway I don’t. I’m more of pursue happiness and live life to the fullest kind of chick. It’s a theme in my family cause I’m not the only one…you know the odd ball. 

At this moment in my family we are coming to terms with the approaching death of my grandmother. It feels like a marathon, but I know when the moment arrives I will be winded and feel like I’ve sprinted the entire time. 

Life is precious and oh so fleeting. It’s obviously more apparent when you’re right in the middle of dealing with it. All the love you have for the individual and the love you have for friends and family make it more bearable. One of the interesting things I’ve realized with my grandmother is the extent of her impact on other people.

Despite her Alzheimer’s she has welcomed in a whole family of caregivers that love her dearly. They have made their way either to the hospital or to her room at the nursing home where she is in hospice. It’s so touching it brings tears to my eyes every time. Even though I may never get their name I know that we both love this woman to the bottom of our hearts…it bonds us.

My grandmother is a strong Christian woman that has instilled those same beliefs in Jesus in her children and especially this grandchild. She was my influencer. She was never ashamed to share her testament, pray or ask for prayer. She willingly offered comfort and support. Drug my sisters and I to church plenty…not that it was a hardship. I loved sitting next to her on the pew as we sang and listened to the sermon. She wouldn’t let me wear her ring, but I could mess with it while I held her hand. 

Even when she didn’t always know me she knew scripture and we could talk about our faith. It was a connection that we share and will always share. For my grandmother this time between the stroke and her passing is time for family and friends to say goodbye. I know she is ready to hit the streets of gold! Hopefully she’ll confirm there are rivers of chocolate. It’s not the end for her because our bodies are temporary and she will soon be stepping into her eternal home – it’s the beginning with her heavenly body and in a place that she will never feel pain, anxiety, loss or any other emotion that isn’t joyful.

I love her dearly and she WILL be missed but I know from my faith that we will meet again.

-G.

The Journey Class

The Journey Class

Not quite five years ago I found myself in The Journey Class. It had been years since I’d stepped foot in a Sunday School classroom. It had been long enough that I couldn’t recall anyway. They were a mixture of all ages from college level up to 50’s. Being right at 40 I wasn’t feeling like I was too old or too young. Kind of like goldilocks finding just the right porridge – I had found it in the class and the church.

The Journey class turned into more than just a Sunday gathering. They are also my pew crew, family, and friends. I couldn’t imagine how empty my life would’ve been these last several years without their love and support. We see each other through trials and tribulations. It was my pew crew that held me every Sunday during church service as I learned a new way to live. They fussed, worried and prayed for me, which I can’t thank them enough. I wasn’t  expecting to have an empty nest so soon but I did. It was tough to find my center and know where to go with my life…my world was a bit messed up. In the end I’ve survived that change in my life. It took the pew crew and being voluntold. 

Voluntold….I know some are thinking wth! Crew was needed for the hot air balloon festival in our town and my cousin needed more volunteers. I agreed and I had no idea what to expect – but what happened was amazing. My pilots were both Aggies and if you know anything about Texas A&M we Aggies tend to stick together. We were fast friends and I had a fabulous time. During our weekend of ballooning we talked about the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM. It was on my bucket list! My pilots encouraged me to come out and crew there as well, so I took them up on the offer. 

That was one of the greatest things I’ve ever done for myself. I made the long haul out there in my vehicle by myself. The music options are terrible and the views across Texas are nothing to write home about. It’s flat! The great thing was the thinking time. I was able to consider what direction I wanted to take my life. Make decisions about my future personally and professionally. To take some deep breaths and just know that God had all these worries, doubts and concerns all taken care of for me. I could just let go of the stress! Amazing idea I know. 

I’m about to make this trek again. This time because I love ballooning. New Mexico is spectacular and I’ll be able to see people that I met last year, my pilots and friends. It’s because of The Journey class that I find myself taking a new journey in life.

I love that we get to see all the amazing and wonderful things God is doing in our lives. Our class shares in joys, concerns and God sightings. If you aren’t sure what a God sighting is well it can be almost anything but today’s example: no traffic at my normally busy stop sign, where I have no view of oncoming traffic and I’m on an incline. It was a blessing!

I’m just so thankful for my class aka pew crew, and the opportunity I have to spend the weekend ballooning with all of them. Our Sunday School fellowship is community service this weekend. They are amazing people and I love them!

-G.

My Southern Family

My Southern Family

I grew up gathering on the porch to listen to stories, share in conversation, and in the summer eat watermelon. Every once in awhile we might have homemade ice cream…yum. Even though my great-grandparents have long since passed we still continue the tradition. Doesn’t matter whose home we’re gathered at if the weather is nice enough you’ll find us on a porch, patio, or deck.

It’s from those days on a porch that I dreamed big and knew I had family that would support those dreams. I still have big dreams, and I still sit on the porch despite the fact I’m in my forties. You can always dream! My great-grandparents had a swing on their porch and it’s something that I love! Even after I moved off and had a home of my own I had a swing. I’m on my third swing. It’s a big cedar monstrosity and I love it. It sits near the firepit, so when it’s cool enough for a fire I lay on the swing and watch the fire burn. On sunny days it’s the place I go to read a book or watch the clouds move across the sky…sometimes I take a nap.

Today we celebrated my grandmother’s 89th birthday. She is the epitome of a southern woman. Fine manners, gracious, Godly, hospitable and always put together. We couldn’t go feed cows until she had her make-up on and hair done. I’m not quite living up to that standard since I love my yoga pants. One thing she did was set the precedence that women are equal early on in our family. When she married my grandfather, the ladies in the family had to wait until the men had eaten before they could sit down to eat, because they served the men and children first. My Granny wasn’t having that she was sitting down at the same time to share a meal with my grandfather…you know that must’ve been a shocker when she bucked that tradition. I respect her gumption because in those days that wasn’t the norm, so I say thank you for paving the way and being the southern woman you are! Think ‘tawanda‘ from Fried Green Tomatoes…my Granny is a feisty one! I think I must’ve got a double dose of feisty from her but it serves me well.

This evening as I sat  enjoying the conversation around me I couldn’t help but think of the past, and how all those experiences shaped me as a person. My values, love of family, friends that become your family, respect for a hard days work, love of siblings and cousins, and my faith that was nurtured by the family around me. I needed my village and fortunately I grew up in a rural area where I could run wild…well as wild as my parents let me. We had the screen door and I did hear ‘don’t come back in until I say you can‘. It’s funny now but we had so much freedom. I try to give my son freedom to learn and grow, but goodness it’s nothing like what I had. That’s probably due to the world we live in today in comparison to way back when…geez now I feel freaking old.

I’ve enjoyed my Labor Day weekend of family and friends, which is how it should be! Phones down and conversation flowing. Sharing of our lives and how we can find time to put some culture in it. Opera or ballet is in our future. Might be like the Beverly hillbillies come to town but we look pretty good all slicked up. It will be an adventure.

Enjoy the rest of the holiday…I’m planning to hit the lake for some fun in the sun!!

-G.