- Elf on the Shelf. This seems to be a polarizing Christmas tradition for mom’s I know. They either deeply despise the whole concept and anyone who does it, or they are just the opposite and embrace it with levels of creative ability beyond comprehension. I laugh at the memes that mock the elf and his crazy, stalker tendencies. And I marvel at the labor-intensive scenes carefully presented for children to discover each day. I don’t like the mischievous elves, to be sure. Any mess left for mom is not ok in my book! Our elf joined our family traditions in 2007 when my oldest son was just 3 1/2. I have to admit, he wasn’t too good at his job. He came late and mostly just sat in the same place all month, fitting that stalker stereotype rather well. When Pinterest hit the scene, I was just grateful my young kids didn’t have accounts to see how amazing all the other elves were. At some point, those amazing elf scenes must have made some mothers feel less than good enough, so the “I-hate-the-Elf” team was born and fostered. These days, as my youngest child is now 3 1/2 and my next son, age 7, will likely not care much longer, I am making an effort to encourage our elf to be a little more creative and fun this year. My sister-in-law is amazing at this. She has set the stage for some of the very best elf adventures, and yet does it in such a way that it only lifts and brings joy to me. I marvel at the hot yoga restore studio class she set up this morning with barbies, the grinch, and the elves all stretching it out. Her outdoor corporate training inside a real snow igloo with the other neighborhood elves was magical, and the campfire scene, tree decorating, skiing…I look forward to her December photos more and more every year. However, you feel about the tradition of Elf on the Shelf, I dare you not to find the fun and magic in these photos! My elf is still boring, but I’m learning from her photos that sometimes the magic for the kids is for the adults as well. You can find her on instagram @toniasarah. P.S. She is an awesome writer and says it like it is, while having a remarkable ability to speak to the heart.
- Radium Girls, by Kate Moore. Oh man, this story–this true story–was horrifying to listen to and comprehend. It is the dark story of America’s shining women and the price they paid for all we know about the effects of radiation. The Radium Girls were female factory workers who contracted radiation poisoning from painting watch dials with self-luminous paint beginning in the 1920’s. It was “clean” and well-paid work for women in those days where work was much needed during WWI and WWII. They were lied to by the company about their safety and suffered greatly because of it. Radium was known to burn the skin, but nothing was known about the damage it could cause when introduced inside the human body. It took years to manifest fully in its victims which meant the company argued that it was free of all accountability for their demise. The book not only tells their stories but also details the legal battles and laws that needed to change to protect workers everywhere. “Radium Girls spares us nothing of their suffering; though at times the foreshadowing reads more like a true-crime story, Moore is intent on making the reader viscerally understand the pain in which these young women were living, and through which they had to fight in order to get their problems recognized…The story of real women at the mercy of businesses who see them only as a potential risk to the bottom line is haunting precisely because of how little has changed; the glowing ghosts of the radium girls haunt us still.” – NPR Books. I recommend this one.
- Christmas cards. Oh, how I love seeing my friends and their families grow! I am so honored by each card we receive, especially because our address changes so frequently. It means so much to me when people reach out to ask for my address and I truly treasure each card. The flip side of that is that I also feel badly for not making sending holiday cards a priority. I actually purchased cards early this year, in October! And I bought all the stamps as well…but alas, our plans to take a family photo outside kept getting foiled by bad weather and conflicting dates with a photographer. I pulled out the good camera and the tripod and yet it still sits, waiting to capture a photo. Just the other day, I received a card from a friend that made me question myself on waiting for the perfect family photo. Her card was individual pictures of candid moments of her children with a simple note wishing us a happy Christmas. I was touched and grateful at how real it was. It wasn’t a color-coordinated, carefully staged family photo, although I love those, too. More than anything, I realized I need to focus on the real importance of sending holiday wishes of love and gratitude, rather than taking a good photo to go inside the envelope. I was always moved by the countless cards we received from friends, neighbors and strangers alike when we lived in England. It was such a simple gesture that means so much there. What are your favorite cards you receive? I’d love to know.
- Go to the magazine stand, right now, and buy the latest edition of National Geographic 12.2018….go, now! I’m serious. When you have it, turn to page 116 and check out Gregg Deal. He and his family have been good friends to us here in Colorado from the moment we arrived six months ago. They are the kind of super cool friends that you love talking to and that you secretly hope some of their coolness will rub off on you. The article in National Geographic is about how “Native Americans are recasting narratives about indigenous culture, countering the racist fixations that have plagued views of Indian life throughout U.S. history.” Gregg is a Pyramid Lake Paiute who uses performance art to challenge misconceptions of Native American identity. His work challenges people to confront their misunderstandings and reconsider stereotypes. Listen to his TED talk and you’ll love this guy and his family, too. Matt and I both recently learned earlier this year that we have different Native American tribes in our ancestry. We just took an ancestry DNA test so we will see what is confirmed when our results come back. As we know it right now, Matt has a great-great grandmother who is Cherokee, and I am Mohican from the late 1700s back. It was timely to meet Gregg and his awesome wife, Megan. I love what they share and are bringing to light. You can find them both on Instagram @greggdeal and @megabigdeal.
- SNOW DAYS! We had a snow day yesterday which in Colorado Springs actually means there may not be much snow, but it is really cold and windy, making the roads unsafe and some crazy snow drifts to play on. My kids woke up naturally at 8am and were immediately freaked out that I had forgotten to wake them up and worried they were going to be late to school! I relished sleeping in myself, and having a quiet house. I laid out a hot chocolate bar and we made a big list of….things to pick up and clean and homework to do, before playing. The kids were great and got right to work. They relaxed into a carefree day of play. I read, cleaned, organized, walked the dog, shoveled snow, and called friends. Snow days here are the best! Such a sweet surprise day! As long as we don’t have anywhere to be., these snow days are great! I am so lucky to work from home, take time off whenever I choose, and be able to stay with my kids. It is something I do not take for granted.
Looking for the things in my life that bring joy and understanding each week has really helped me to focus on the good and recognize progress. It has also helped me to stress less and appreciate the nuances of each day. I challenge you to write down the five main things that have been on your mind this week and make it a habit.