A Few of My Favorite Things

This Christmas I received many gifts that made my Grinch-sized heart grow.  There are a few in particular that stand out.  None of them are extravagant.  None of them are expensive.  They are simple and lovely.  And I am blessed to have people in my life who gave me such wonderful gifts.

1.  A friend made me a beautiful dragonfly necklace.  She used understated earth tones and I appreciate the fact that she took time out of her impossibly busy schedule to create something she knew I’d love.  I gave her a book.  I bought it online.  I am lame.

2.  Our school has a Christmas Boutique where kids can shop for gifts for their families.  One little girl, a blond fairy of a girl, kept shooing me away while she shopped because she had something in her basket I couldn’t see.  The next day she slipped a small box under our classroom tree.  I unwrapped the box and inside sat this precious dragonfly brooch.

“How did you know dragonflies are my favorite?”  I asked her.

“You told me once a long time ago, when I was little, and I remembered.”  She smiled proudly, showing off the window where her front teeth used to be.

I wore the brooch all day and thought of the precious girl, who at the age of six is still little, but already has a big heart.

3.  This giant Hershey’s kiss was from another of my little ones.  He’s an affectionate boy and we’ve had some conversations about how we hug, but don’t kiss each other at school.  He gave me a basket of pansies and then handed me a wrapped box.  When I opened it, he said “This kind of kiss is allowed at school, right?”  The class erupted into peels of laughter and the clever little guy grinned from ear to ear.

4.  I received this angel ornament from another student.  The ornament is sweet and when I hang it on the tree each year, I will remember how tightly the little boy hugged me after I opened it.  He also gave me dish of Hershey’s kisses and repeated the line from the kid who gave me the giant chocolate kiss.  In first grade if a joke is funny the first time, it’s absolutely hilarious the second time around.

5.  I have a friend who used to race bicycles and he always gives me awesome cycling stuff.  This year he gave me a gift card to RoadID.com.  My emergency shoe tag was wearing out and so I bought a shiny new one along with a wicking hat for spin class.  There are two great things about this present.  First, if something dastardly goes down on my bike, my shoe tag can help emergency workers figure out who I am very quickly.  Secondly, and much less morbidly, RoadID gives a percentage of each sale to one of nine charities, so upon check out you can choose which charity receives some cash.  Naturally, I chose LiveStrong.

6. My grandmother used to wear White Diamonds lotion.  When she passed away earlier this year, I wore one of her sweaters just to have her scent on my skin.  My aunt wrapped up a tube of White Diamonds for me this year and when I unwrapped it and unscrewed the lid, I was immediately filled with the scent of my grandmother, the scent of all the joyous memories we had together.

7. Okay, when I said none of the gifts I received this year were expensive or extravagant, I apparently had a brain hemorrhage and forgot about the gift Terry gave me.  My hubby gave me a housekeeper for a year.  Let that sink in for a minute.  He gave me an Alice.  Revel with me for a moment here: an entire year of no vacuuming, no dusting, no mopping.  Ladies, I understand that you’re probably swooning.  Put your head between your knees for a sec and breathe.  Yes, he is that good.  No, he doesn’t have a brother.

I hope your Christmas was full of lovely gifts and joyous memories.  And even if your heart was already the right size, I hope this Christmas season made it swell at least three sizes bigger.

Thankful Thursday #3

This week I’m thankful for…

  • the little girl who told me that I have beautiful hair like a movie star.  I didn’t ask which one because I thought I’d just better leave well enough alone.
  • walking my old neighborhood with my mom
  • the jar of peppermint nougat Christmas tree candies my mom gave me
  • falling asleep to the sound of rain
  • the light of the Christmas tree
  • sitting on my couch reading O magazine after a rough day at work
  • my student who got a paper cut on her finger and said, “It feels like my finger has a headache.”
  • the dragonfly necklace my friend made me for Christmas
  • the little boy, who moved away earlier this year, and called me this week to tell me all about his new class, his new house, and to tell me about his letter to Santa.  I only told him I missed him 7 times.  And my eyes only watered a little bit when it was time to say goodbye.
  • my friend, Abby, who was featured here for the stunning necklaces she creates
  • Christmas music on Pandora

Thankful Thursday #2

This week I’m thankful for…

  • my grandmother’s nativity set.  It’s carved from olive trees harvested in Bethlehem.
  • playtime with my nephew
  • Christmas ornaments from all the places Terry and I have traveled
  • Terry’s vanilla pancakes on a Sunday morning
  • Advent
  • Christmas carols during Sunday morning church service
  • Knowing I pushed as hard as I could in spin class.
  • Sitting by the light of the Christmas tree
  • peppermint hot chocolate
  • online Christmas shopping
  • walking the neighborhood in the misty air

Top 10 Christmas Carols

Image from seeingredaz.wordpress.com

A few years ago, one of my students made me a CD of Christmas carols and other holiday songs.  He picked the songs out with his family and it is a gorgeous, GORGEOUS compilation of songs.

Today the pouring rain trapped my little ones inside and they were sort of antsy.  And by ‘sort of antsy’ I mean, out of their minds antsy.  We did all the regular things to combat being stuck inside like lots of singing and dancing, but still their little bodies were wiggling and squiggling all over the place.

Until I put on that CD.

They were mesmerized, soothed even, by the music.  I played it quietly in the background and they settled in and even sang along.  It was like we’d taken a collective deep breath.  I looked around the room at my smiling, working, humming, singing little ones had one of those blessed teaching moments where I just stood still for a second and enjoyed being in their presence.

And so, I’m thinking maybe your life is busy like mine.  Maybe you are antsy about some things and are about to wiggle right out of your skin.  Maybe you need a moment of tranquility to stop and enjoy your life and the presence of those blessed to be in it with you.  Maybe you’re like me, in need of a song to soothe your soul, to acquaint you with all that is good and pure and holy.

Here are my 10 favorites this year:

10. River by Sarah McLachlan. I wish I had a river I could skate away on.  Alas, ice skates+me=one very bad idea.  So I’ll just have to listen to the song and dream.

9. The Holly and the Ivy by the Virginia Girls Choir and Ana Hernandez This one reminds me of high school choir, of singing at the Madrigal Dinner.  The members of the Virginia Girls Choir sing with such purity and innocence that it leaves me in awe.

8. The Night Before Christmas by Brandon Heath I love, love, love this one.  I usually have to listen to it several times in a row before I can move on to the next song.  So when you download this one and have to play it over and over again until your family throws things at you to make you stop, just remember I warned you.

7. Ring the Bells by Travis Cottrell featuring Natalie Grant Remember when I said you’d want to play that last one over and over again?  Well, multiply that by 100 for this one.  If you’re feeling blue, this song is the cure.

6. Christmastime is Here by Vince Guaraldi Trio Just put on some feetsy pajamas and snuggle up under a blanket.  This one is an express train back to childhood.  Sit back and enjoy the ride.

5. Silent Night by Yo-Yo Ma I do not know how Yo-Yo Ma makes such rich sounds come out of his cello, but you will love this one by the lights of the tree.  You will love it in your car.  You will love it pouring out of your earbuds in the grocery store as the children behind you in line cry and scream.  You will smile at those children, even if they are your own children.  That’s how great this song is.

4. What Child is This by Andrea Bocelli with Mary J. Blige Okay, get close because I’m going to tell you a little secret.  I don’t even like this song. I’ll probably get one of my Christian cards taken away for saying that, but I don’t like this song.  At least I didn’t like it until I heard this version of it.  Mary J. Blige will break your heart with her raw emotion and then Andrea Bocelli will put it back together again.

3. Winter Snow by Chris Tomlin featuring Audrey Assad From the piano solo at the beginning to Audrey Assad’s earthy voice to the harmonies with Chris Tomlin, this song just wraps its arms around you.  If you need to be reminded of the gentleness of God, take a moment to close your eyes and let yourself fall in love with this song.

2. Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song) by Amy Grant As a kid I used to wonder what Mary was thinking with the Son of God, you know, gestating inside her and all of that.  Did she ever think maybe God should have picked someone else?  Did she ever feel alone because she was the chosen one?  This song is sung from Mary’s perspective and I love it because I think maybe Mary wasn’t so different from you and I.  Maybe sometimes she doubted herself, felt alone, and needed the very breath of heaven to help her keep it all together.

1. O Holy Night by Celine Dion Admittedly, I’m not a Celine Dion fan, but that girl can sing and when she sings my most favorite of all Christmas carols, everything else fades away.  This one gives me goosebumps and makes me cry every single time.  It’s Terry’s favorite, too, and let me tell you, when we sing this one in church we are a sight to behold, blubbering and singing and wiping our noses and dabbing at our eyes.  So grab a box of tissue and enjoy my most favorite of all Christmas carols:

Five Golden Rings

Dear Gramma,

The other day when my little ones were lining up to go to lunch, I asked if they wanted to sing a Christmas song on the way to the cafeteria.  We sang Jingle Bells and then one of my little ones asked if we could sing “that one about the 12 things”.

My voice caught in my throat and not a single word cracked out.

I stood thinking about singing The 12 Days of Christmas at your house and always hoping, wishing, crossing my fingers that I would get the card that said “Five Golden Rings”.  It was my favorite line.  I could only imagine enough golden rings to slide on all the fingers of one hand.  I remember you singing that line in your best warbling Baptist church vibrato.  Your singing voice always made me giggle.

As I stood there watching my little ones pull their jackets on and grab their lunch boxes, I spun the gold ring on my right hand, the one my mom gave me from your trip to Greece together.  It is carved with the Greek symbol for eternity.  We walked to lunch singing and when we got to the part about the golden rings, I sang through the lump in my throat my voice trembling each time until I got to those four calling birds.

Christmas is a hard time to be apart from you.  The tree, the music, the decorations, the food-it all reminds me of you.  Those memories are so sweet.  And I’m thankful for all of them.  I just wish you were here to make more.

But then I turn the ring on my finger and remember that this season, when I am singing of the Christ come to Earth, you are singing with Him for eternity, singing in your best Baptist church vibrato.

I can’t think of a sound I’d like to hear more.

Come sing to me in my dreams, Gramma.  Come sing to me about the Christ come to Earth.  Sing to me about eternity.  Sing to me about Heaven where five golden rings are a mere drop in the bucket.