Charlie and the Christmas Ornament.

A letter written for an ornament exchange on December 7, 2016.

Dear Friend,

In giving this ornament to you, I hope to pass on the selfless act of kindness that was shared with me a few weeks ago and the story of its creator. This ornament was handmade by an acquaintance of mine named Charlie.  Before you begin to picture a child making a craft in school, let me give you a frame of reference. Charlie is in his 80’s. He is tall with neatly combed thinning white hair, glasses, and uses a walker.  I always like to picture the elderly when they were young and I picture Charlie as the handsome all-star football player in high school, who later went on to defend our country in the Vietnam War, came home afterwards and married his high school sweetheart, but it’s just a speculation. He is currently a resident in one of the nursing homes where I work. I was finishing up after a very long day and I wanted to check up on Charlie before I left because the nurses documented that he recently lost some weight, which is not always happy news for an elderly person.  Charlie was sitting in his rocker winding yarn around a contraption that looked like a Yo-Yo. We chatted for a little bit. He said he was still cleaning his plate at meals, but wanted to lose a little weight so he stopped drinking so much hot chocolate.  I felt like I was talking to a clean shaven Santa Claus with a New Year’s Resolution.  I praised his efforts to eliminate empty calories and encouraged him to continue eating balanced meals including nutrient dense fruits, vegetables, and protein. He agreed and asked if I wanted what he was holding. I said, “Sure! What is it…” He proceeded to dismantle to Yo-Yo contraption and out popped this little puff-ball yarn ornament.  It was quite a sight seeing such a masculine looking elderly man finding so much joy in giving out a puff-ball yarn Christmas ornament. I loved it. It was just what I needed. He made my week and I told him so. I later came to find that Charlie’s puff-ball yarn ornaments are all the rage in his nursing unit. There is a wreath on the door of the unit made entirely of puff-balls.  I later noticed a resident donning two of them stylishly on her walker.  He is basically a geriatric fashion trend setter.

All kidding aside, I left work that day thinking about Charlie and the other things I knew about him.  As a more able bodied-resident, he often lends a hand folding towels and napkins for the staff.  He is quiet and mostly keeps to himself, but you see him regularly make his way to the unit across the hall to sit with his wife, a lovely lady with perfectly permed salt and pepper hair who is always wears big brooch necklaces. She is currently on Hospice.  She has dementia and sometimes sees things that aren’t there, but you can tell she appreciates his company and used to love the snacks he would bring her.  Recently, she has been declining. I thought about how hard that must be, to not know if your wife, your best friend, will even know who you are when you visit or be able to hold a normal conversation; to think that it might be their last Christmas together.  Still, Charlie has the best attitude.  He continues to help in any way he can, and spread lots of love and joy in the form of little puff-ball ornaments.  I feel honored to be a recipient of this gift, but knew the instant he handed it to me that I needed to pass on his love and his story here tonight.  He showed me a little bit of Jesus that night, and reminded of what I truly have to be thankful for and celebrate this Christmas. I hope this little ornament can be a continual reminder to you as well.

Love,

Christine

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A Day in the Life…..

Well friends, it’s true.  My days of hibernation (known to many as unemployment) are coming to a close.  That’s right.  This girl has secured herself a spot in the enticing place called the “Working World.”  I have heard that this brave new world isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Maybe Christopher Columbus thought the same thing when He found out He hadn’t landed on the place with the awesome spices.  Hey, America turned out sort of OK, so maybe my Working World will too?

As I am enjoying my last supper in the land flowing with idleness and Netflix, I want to take this time to record what it fully means to have all the time in the world, for posterity of course (or for those hypothetical times down the road when I feel like an overworked, underpaid servant to Corporate America).

Here are my tips on how to do nothing to the best of your ability:

1.  Don’t wake up before 10 am.  Seriously, no sunrise is that beautiful for you to leave the comfort of your foam mattress or husband pillow.  Sleep. is. wonderful.

2.  Drink at least one cup of coffee.  The “get you going on the right foot” elixir.  Caffeine aside, I’ve read that the stuff can be good for you, and there is no way I’m not buying into that.  Antioxidants people.   I actually just took a break from writing this to get some afternoon coffee, no joke.

3.  Go to the beach.  It ain’t called the Jersey Shore for nothin’.  Every chance you get, put on that bikini, grab a book, and hit the sand (not literally, although somehow I usually end up with sand in every orifice of my body.)

4.  Pay attention to nature.  Leaves change color and it’s the best thing to watch.  The Very Hungry Caterpillar was in my driveway the other day and it was grossly enticing and did I mention HUGE.  Taking a moment to feel the air breathe you breathe on a run (make sure that’s before you enter the large cloud of gnats that haunt your running path).  The world is a beautiful place.

Clinton

5.  Get off your butt and do some of the things you’ve been meaning to do.  Like make your own lip balm and your own Nutella.  Or less excitingly, clean under your bed.  You may find your friend’s plane ticket from his college study abroad trip or some Lewis structure models from Organic Chemistry class that your younger brother gets a little too excited about as he is currently suffering through the torture.

6.  Learn to use the remotes.  This may be an easy task for most Americans, but I am in this strange minority where Toddlers in Tiaras and NCIS just didn’t do it for me.  I also always escaped the task of putting the DVD in to play.  It took a few tries and glaring looks from my younger sister, but I finally can navigate the buttons on the remotes for the TV and all attached devices with relative ease.

7.  Read books.  The library is a great place.  I mean come on, you can get free stuff every time you go, guaranteed.  For some reason, I always thought you had to pick something off of the bestseller list in order to get a good read.  Wrong.  Just get something random that looks interesting; you might be surprised.  All bestsellers had to be discovered by someone who did just that.

8.  Find something you love to do.  For a foodie such as myself, that means a trip to a farmer’s market to gawk at the blue potatoes an white eggplant.  It also means trying to make cookies with garbanzo beans and putting chia seeds in your smoothie.  But if that doesn’t float your boat, you could knit yourself a scarf or something.  I’m sure there are other options for leisurely hobbies.

9.  Don’t say no to a challenge.   Maybe a night out with friends and a dart board?  Game on, baby.

10.  Work out.  That means exercise.  No pouty face.  No excuses.  Just go.  You’ll thank me later when you buy the little black dress you find for $10 at H&M.  Look out bachelorette parties! 😉

11.  Stay in your PJs til 3 pm.  It’s OK; Most interesting things happen after that time anyway.  However, if your neighbor asks for help jumping his  car at 1 pm, you might want to change out of the blue and lime green booty shorts and tame the unbrushed beast that is your hair.

12.  Rock the slipper sock.

SocksEnough said.

13.  Go to a place that relaxes and focuses you when you need to get some actual work done.  For me, that means the little coffee shop in Clinton along the river.   The sound of water and movement around you paired with a cool but sunny day is enough to make you want to study tube feeding techniques for fun.  Well, almost.

14.  Don’t stress too much about your bank account.  Disclaimer: CHECK your bank account to avoid overdraft protection fees, but don’t let the number scare you too much.  Instead of thinking of it in limbo game of “how low will you go,”  just try to keep the number the same for as long as possible.  Once the number gets to be about equal to your body weight, you may need to ask for a loan to tide your over.

15.  Splurge.  Enjoy the french toast and the homemade peach cobbler.  It’s worth it.  You have the rest of your working life to eat bag lunches, breakfast in the car, and leftovers for dinner.

Well, there you have it.  A recipe for unemployed success.  Or maybe from now on, it will be my recipe for a truly awesome weekend.  Unemployment, it’s been fun.  I really did learn a lot from you unexpectedly.  But for now,

Bon Voyage.

Seasons Change

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. Leaves changing beautiful shades of burnt orange and red, the smell of crisp, cool air, and pumpkin flavored everything. It’s a sign that the world is in need of rest, like a cool down and recharge phase, and ironically the phase where people pick up back into work, school, and routine.

Fall always seemed to be my season of change. The season where I would start a new school year, a new sports season, a new job.  It was the time where I pressed the go button and didn’t stop until Thanksgiving and then Christmas, usually ending up with a stuffy nose and a cough as a result.  Summer is for relaxing on the beach, and Fall is for scarves, lattes, soccer games, evening shifts, and homework.

This is my first Fall since I was four that the seasons changed but my mindset and my schedule didn’t.  I have no school, no job, no tests, no homework, and emptying bank account, and more time than I know what to do with.  I can’t remember the last time I could say that.  It has been a wonderfully frustrating ride of unemployment, but beyond that a beautiful time of rest and self discovery.

For so long, my school and work driven life was so defined by everything I was involved in.  I was busy and I liked that.  It made me feel like my life meant something.  It isn’t until your busyness is taken from you that you are forced to wonder who you are outside of what you do.  I always dreamed of when the time would finally come when I would have nothing hanging over my head. It’s here, that freedom, yet I found myself in that “grass is greener” mindset that somehow I was a more complete human being when I was an overworked, under-slept, well-rounded student.  What a lie.

Among the many things I have learned in this season, the most important is this: I am no better than anyone else.  Somewhere deep inside I thought of people who remain jobless for months at a time and never thought I would be that person.  I worked too hard for that to happen to me.  Many interviews and job applications later, here I am.  I passed judgement on people in the twenty-somethings living at home with their parents after college.  Staring at the clouds and rainbow on my wall painted when I was 12, here I am.

Success isn’t something we rub a magic lamp for.  It doesn’t even come through how busy we were or how hard we worked beforehand.  God defines our success; He IS our success.  For now, I sleep, I read, I cook, I run, I job search, I tweak my resume, I interview.  I wake up frustrated beyond belief some days and others I am filled with more peace than I have ever known.  A job will come, I know that.  My schedule will change and I will enter a season of utter busyness once again.  But for now, I’m thankful that in this changing season, my life hasn’t changed, but I have.

Bucket List

– Pick tiger lilies off the side of the road

– Paint a room mustard yellow

– Learn how to play guitar

– Own a Bed and Breakfast by the beach

– Own pets named Wanda, Lazlo, and Luigi

– Choose from these names for my daughter(s): Charlotte Rose, Savannah Jane, and Sophia Annalise

– Host dinner parties regularly

– Travel to Greece, New Zealand, Oregon, and Prince Edward Island

– Try Lebanese and Egyptian food

– Run a half marathon

– Be a grocery store dietitan

– Work as a barista in a coffee shop

– Love every minute of life and not take it for granted.

 

Waiting.

We all know that patience is a virtue.  However, my 4 year old selfish side has been lashing out lately screaming, “No, I want it NOW.”  I just want to be THERE.  Have everything I ever hoped and dreamed in place, all my plans worked out, loans paid off, degree earned, RD exam passed, dream job, a salary!, vacation days, no homework, place of my own.   It feels like I’m running towards an oasis in the middle of the desert, only to discover I’m running on a treadmill. Stuck.  Eight more months of meeting possible employers, seeing possible job opportunities, seeing myself enjoying working in certain areas, and then poof, what’s my next rotation?  Really, I have to start all over again….learn a whole new computer system and introduce myself 17 more times every day.  Yes, I’m the intern.  Yes, I killed 10 trees last night printing my homework, and yes, I blacked out the patient info on my In-Depth.  I can calculate your BMI faster than I can spell my own name, and sorry you can’t have your bacon cheeseburger on a heart healthy diet.  Sadly, I find myself wondering sometimes where my personality goes from 8:00 – 4:30. Not wanting to say or do the wrong thing, so I nod, smile, find ways to occupy myself, and try to add something noteworthy to the conversation.

It is a challenge for sure, but amidst the uncertainty, there have been beautiful moments.  Moments where I connected with someone, moments where a person needed someone to talk to and I happened to be there, moments where I thought to myself, yeah I know what I’m talking about and I can help you.  Those times, though often short and anticlimactic are still reassuring that we did choose the right field.  We want this; we worked hard to get here, and no one can tell us that we are unworthy of the position we are in. We will make it, through ups and downs, and the key to patience is to just try our hardest to be content with where we are, and not to live in the future, but in the present because there is a lot of life to live in the here and now.

Patience is not waiting; it’s knowing what will come, but living right where you are, no matter where you are.

Overcoming Mediocrity

The daily grind……….accented by the vanilla syrup in a latte, kissed by a bit of sunshine, or stroked by wind whipped  hair on a run.  That has been my life lately.  Hopeful for the future, that ever looming unknown that beams with possibility, but struggling to remain on the hamster wheel that is the here and now.  Wondering why it has to be such a vicious, repetitious cycle and longing to break free and simply be myself, to embrace the beauty in the little things, and love people to the fullest.  I find myself needing to create crazy meals for dinner, to walk aimlessly around campus, and to see how long I can wait before needing to attend my college commitments, just to “live on the edge”  in my own little way.  I know……I’m so rebellious.

I feel stuck sometimes, trapped even.  Wondering how I can live to my fullest potential, beyond books, the library, cramming information into my head, you know….the academics.  Frankly, I’m done with school.  I’m certainly not done with learning, but the whole class, eat, homework, sleep, repeat cycle is boring the heck out of me.  There has to be more than this; there IS more than this; I just need to make time to embrace the more.

I realized something at Bible study the other night that really struck me.  You live to the standard that you set for yourself.  If your standard is based on negative thoughts or who you are NOT, than the pattern of your life will reflect this.  If you set a standard of who you know you can be, who you want to be, and the positive aspects of who you are, your life will reflect this as well.  Set your standard high, and live above it, whatever that means to you.

For me, this means doing what I have to on the hamster wheel, but not being devoted to that alone.  Making time for people, doing little things to show I care, and going above and beyond in what matters most in my life.  These are the accents, the wanderings I need to keep me sane.  I may still make weird meals, wander, and be close to exactly on time as possible, but my standard goes far beyond that.   My standard needs to be set by the Father, and I need to live to the standard He sets.  I am escaping…..escaping the mediocrity.

Anatomy of a Mug

Anatomy of a Mug

2 Corinthians 4:7-12 – But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show us that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.

            Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a sucker for warm beverages.  Give me a cup of hot tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, comfy clothes, Adele singing in the background, and something to read, plop me on a couch and I couldn’t be happier.  Anything that looks cozy just adds to the experience.  I think that’s why I like coffee shops so much.  The earthy interior and dim lighting combined with smells of baked goods and roasted coffee beans puts me in a good mood no matter what kind of day I’m having.  What can I say, it gets me every time.

 

I came home from college today to a small box sitting on the kitchen table addressed to none other than yours truly.  I knew the handwriting like the back of my hand. Grandma.  God love her, remembering my birthday and getting her gift in early as always.  I was in no rush to open it, but when I did, the tea drinking fanatic inside of me smiled from ear to ear.  A mug.  An endowment from one tea lover to the next.   But it wasn’t just any mug.  A big, beautiful clay mug with flowers painted on the outside.  Strange as it sounds, when I looked at it, I pictured it growing on a tree; the clay being formed in the depths of the Earth and somehow magically bursting forth in that wonderfully crafted shape.  I loved it so much, I couldn’t stop looking at it.  I am also a sucker for pretty little knick knacks (in case you couldn’t have guessed).  My beverage was going to taste better, look better, and I was going to relax better with this mug, I just knew it.

 

Needless to say, this mug was filled to the brim with black tea, milk, and honey soon after and I was sitting down to read a new book I borrowed from a friend.  I was still looking at the mug though, admiring the skill of the artist who created it.  The mug was definitely hand crafted.  There were initials in the clay.  I loved the feel of the unpainted clay on the bottom of it; proof that this was the real deal…handcrafted, shaped, molded and painted to perfection by a caring maker.

 

And as I sat there, wondering why I cared so much about this mug, but not wanting to stop looking at it just yet.  It was beautiful, but it is just a mug after all….

 

It’s just a mug, and I’m just a human.  But me and my mug, I think we have a lot in common.  We were both formed, shaped, and loved on by a skilled Creator who saw a purpose in our existence.  The Creators set their marks on us and put us into the world to be filled and to pour goodness and joy into those around us.  They made us perfect, called us their own, and gave us a mission.

 

We are both jars of clay, storing and holding tasteful treasures.  We were molded into something beautiful, but the treasures we are filled with make us who we are; they make us meaningful.  Otherwise we are empty shells, adorned with earthly elegance but dry and bare behind the façade.  An empty mug accomplishes nothing, regardless of its outward appearance.  It is simply there.  Filled mugs fulfill their purpose.

 

The question now stands, who is more full, me or my mug, and I urge you to ask yourself the same question.