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Remembering Where You Come From

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Graduation signifies the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another.

The first time I was totally aware of the meaning of that statement was when I graduated from high school.

June 5, 1963 came so quickly. It didn’t seem possible our graduation day had arrived. But there we were marching across the high school track to the football field, through the junior honor guard, walking past our parents seated in rented wooden folding chairs , marching in time to the processional played by the high school band.

As we filed onto the stage built just for the graduation ceremony, we were happy everything was going as we had rehearsed it. After hearing stories of girls at past graduations walking right out of their shoes when heels got stuck in the grass, my friends and I were happy to hit the stage with our high heels still intact.

The sign to be seated was given and the class went silent. Even the rowdy students were on their best behavior; no one wanting to embarrass themselves in front of school officials, their parents, and friends.

Suddenly it became real. High school days were over. We were really graduating. A chapter of our life was closing, never to be reopened.

The graduation ceremony included the usual speakers reminding us of the highlights of our four years at Norwood High School and describing what our futures might hold. All too soon, we were standing one row at a time, walking across the stage when our name was called to receive our diplomas from the Board of Education president.

Then standing as a class, we completed our last official act, switched our tassels and it was over.

Afterwards, happy graduates milled around, smiling, and laughing. Flashbulbs flashed as cameras captured images of graduates posing with family and friends. Parents were proud and some of our mothers cried. We didn’t understand their tears.

Looking back on that night, the keynote speaker’s comments remain a blur. I wish I had paid more attention to his advice. Bet his talk shared some wisdom that might have helped me somewhere along my way.

Flash forward to 1986 when the keynote talk was my responsibility. The ceremony was no longer held on the high school football field. An increase in graduating class sizes had changed the venue several times; otherwise the format hadn’t changed in the twenty-three years since my graduation. The only obvious changes had transpired in my life. Marriage, motherhood, building a career, and trying to live a good life had kept me busy.

I wrote and rewrote that speech, struggling for weeks to find the right words to inspire and offer helpful advice to the Class of 1986. In the back of my mind, I wondered if anyone would be listening. Would the graduates be more aware than I had been? Would they know a most important chapter in their lives was ending?

Would they understand that after high school, classmates go their separate ways, scattering into the next chapter of their lives; some to college, some to the military, some moving away while others stayed close to home? Classmates marry, have families. Some are never seen again. Never return for class reunions. Some never step foot in their old high school ever again.

As president of the board of education, I had the honor of awarding diplomas to the Class of 1986. While serving on the board, I also had the pleasure of presenting both of my daughters with their diplomas. What special memories.

Another big jump forward to May 25, 2017 when my husband and I attended our granddaughter’s high school graduation at Deer Park High School. The graduation once again, came too quickly. It seemed our granddaughter went from five to eighteen at warp speed.

Watching her sing in the Senior Chorus at the beginning of the ceremony, I cried as they sang For Good, a beautiful poignant song from the Broadway musical Wicked—the untold story of the Witches of Oz. It fit the moment perfectly.

“It well may be

That we will never meet again

In this lifetime

So let me say before we part

So much of me

Is made of what I learned from you

You’ll be with me

Like a handprint on my heart

And now whatever way our stories end

I know you have re-written mine

By being my friend:

Like a ship blown from its mooring

By a wind off the sea

Like a seed dropped by a skybird

In a distant wood

Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?

But because I knew you: have been changed for good.

After the song, the graduation format unfolded with the usual components; the same familiar words. This time I listened more intently to what the speakers were saying. I find the older I get, the better I listen.

I especially related to the words of the keynote speaker and hoped the young people on the stage were listening. Richie Schueler, a proud native of Deer Park and Class of 1996 graduate of Deer Park High School had an impressive life resume. He was an engaging young man who spoke honest, insightful, and inspirational words. It was obvious he had immense pride in his Deer Park roots and attributed the foundation of his life to the community he grew up in. He seemed to be telling my high school story.

His words about the advantages of small high schools; having the opportunity to know everyone in the class, or maybe even the whole school, resonated with me and my memories of Norwood High School.

He asked the 2017 grads to take a look around at their classmates, to recognize after thirteen years together their life was about to change drastically. That night might be the last time they would ever be together as a class. He encouraged them to follow their passion, work hard, and never forget where they were from, and to proudly go and show the world just what a kid from Deer Park could do with their life. He then closed with their traditional school motto: It’s always a great day to be a Wildcat!

Then standing as a class, they completed their last official act. All together, they switched their tassels, marched out with big smiles on their faces and it was over.

Once again, I watched as graduates happily hugged their family and friends, and posed for lots of photos, this time photos were taken primarily with cell phones. Hugging my granddaughter, I told her we were so proud of her and her many accomplishments, but also proud of her eagerness to begin college, her next chapter. Happy she was so excited to be on her way to her future.

I sought out the keynote speaker to offer my congratulations on his wonderful words. As he thanked me, he laughed saying, “That was the hardest speech I ever had to write. I really struggled.”

“You ever have to do one of those talks?” Laughing, I answered yes and told him of my own difficulties to find just the right words. We both agreed it had been a proud moment in our lives.

Norwood and Deer Park are similar; both small schools, both filled with tons of traditions. How exciting to think of the graduations happening all across the nation with millions of graduates, parents and grandparents experiencing similar emotions, going through comparable traditions at their respective high schools.

Traditions tend to create a common bond among fellow classmates because high school is a special time. Classmates together in the same place learning to take baby steps to discover who they are, learning to make their own decisions, discovering new interests, learning to trust, and beginning to find their way.

Life after high school takes us in different directions, down different paths. Experiences after high school help polish and hone one’s goals, one’s skills, and one’s determination to succeed. Smoothing out the rough edges while we are figuring out what kind of person we truly want to become. Those experiences help to define our life.

High school graduation has always been a significant moment. As graduates everywhere close their first chapter and get ready to embark on an exciting next step, I hope they remember the foundation they received from the schools and communities they grew up in.

The carefree days before I graduated from Norwood High School remain inside me. Those years were some of the best years of my life. They helped prepare me to think for myself and to maintain an open mind as I ventured into a very diverse, complex world.

Reflecting on my life, three things stand out. Remembering who I am, where I come from, and what I believe.

Wishing all 2017 grads good luck in their future endeavors and hoping they will influence their world with good by remembering where they come from.

Ending on a Positive Note: The graduation photos and posts all over Facebook for the last few weeks have energized my spirit; given me new hope for the future of this country, this world. A new batch of bright, energized young people beginning their next chapter is cause for celebration.

 

Memorial Day – Picnics and Parades?

After stopping to schedule my next appointment at the doctor’s office last week, the young lady handed me a card confirming my appointment and said in a cherry voice, “Have a happy Memorial Day.”

Happy Memorial Day! The words didn’t go together. Memorial Day isn’t a happy day to be celebrated. Memorial Day is a day of remembrance and gratitude. Isn’t it?

I’m old enough to remember when Memorial Day was always on May 30th. Maybe that adds to our confusion about the true meaning of the day. Somewhere along the way, Memorial Day became a three-day weekend.

Today, the long Memorial Day weekend has become the unofficial start of summer. Picnics, backyard barbecues, the Indianapolis 500, mattress ads on TV, baseball games, and if the weather is warm enough, a dip in your neighbor’s pool. Some see it as just an extra day off work.

There’s nothing wrong with picnics or relaxing with friends. But, some seem to have forgotten we should take time to remember who paid the price for our relaxing day or that extra day off work.

As a young girl living in the country Memorial Day, or what my parents called Decoration Day, had a meaning that was a bit more special. Every year, families got all dressed in their Sunday best and headed for Mill Springs Cemetery in Nancy, Kentucky.

I don’t remember a parade, just speeches about war and patriotic songs being sung. Serious faces and snippets of conversations and tears about losing loved ones, a brother, or a father in the war. It was never referred to as World War I or WWII, just “the war.”

Daddy told me the site of Mill Springs National Cemetery was originally a Civil War battlefield. Today the cemetery is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. One of the first National Cemeteries created, it still receives burials today. It is one of the oldest National Cemeteries still in operation.

Many smaller towns and communities still have parades with the high school band marching and playing patriotic songs. A color guard usually carries an American flag and flags representing the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Along the parade route, excited little kids wave small flags and grab the wrapped candy tossed from the elected officals’ cars to those who watch from the sidelines.

In the early 1960s, as a majorette, I marched with the Norwood High School band in an annual Memorial Day parade, down Montgomery Road ending at Victory Park for speeches about the importance of remembering those who had died to protect our freedom.

There were always representatives from the local community, usually a few older men dressed in partial uniforms of the various U.S. military forces; veterans in a shirt, or a jacket covered with military emblems and maybe a few medals. Whatever they had left or maybe what still fit.

All veterans of different wars, they marched proudly. Their faces somber as they stood as straight as their bodies would allow, saluting the bronze plaques in Victory Park of the veterans who died in wars before Vietnam.

Today, I witnessed another small town parade in the community where we now live. Not much different from the parades of my teenage years. A color guard opened the parade, elected officials still threw wrapped candy, and little kids still waved flags. There was not one, but two bands. However, there was no patriotic music, just a drum cadence. I miss  the music.

People of all ages lined the parade route; some sitting in lawn chairs, some standing, some putting their hand over their heart as Old Glory went by, or saluting as the veterans rode past in the back of a pick-up truck. The veterans still had somber faces, still wore their uniforms with pride.

I wondered how many minds were thinking about lost loved ones. The husbands, wives, sons, daughters, grandchildren or friends who had served their country, but maybe had never returned from the war they had served in.

Today’s morning TV was filled with images of Americans observing the holiday by placing flowers and flags flapping in the breeze on the graves of fallen soldiers. By the end of the weekend, hundreds of thousands of people will have visited cemeteries all across America to pay their respects.

I started to end this blog by looking up the number of those who have died serving their country but stopped, knowing the number would be way too high. It would hurt too much.

In the past few weeks, I have attended celebrations with my family, special occasions such as a sports banquet, dance recital, a granddaughter’s 16th birthday, and watched my oldest granddaughter graduate from high school.

How many men and women fighting for MY FREEDOM would have loved to have been present for just one of those special occasions involving their own children? How long has it been, for some military moms or dads, since they have hugged their children or kissed them good night? I can’t even imagine what life must be like for the kids who miss their moms or dads every day. Just wishing and praying they were at home or on their way home.

Every year, I watch the National Memorial Day Concert from Washington, D.C. Last night the show was hard to watch. I didn’t cry, I sobbed. Instead of just saying nice, appropriate things about our service men and women to make us feel patriotic, or maybe to ease our consciences a bit, they chose to tell stories about true American heroes. Real-life stories about injury, death, and people trying to pick up the pieces of their forever changed lives.

Stories about real-life service men and women who are still struggling to find their way back to an old life, before war. A grown woman told of the heartbreak of losing her father (when she was eight) while he was serving in Vietnam. Another story was of a young husband and father, severely injured in an explosion, who struggles daily with difficult rehabilitation. He will never hug his children again. Never walk again.

All of the stories were so moving, filled with bravery and courage. Stories such as these should be incorporated into history books so our children and grandchildren can gain a better understanding of the horrors of war. Wars are more than names of generals, dates, numbers. Wars do irreparable damage that change people and the world we live in.

This Memorial Day, let us be grateful to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for  America’s freedom. It is a debt we can never repay. As Americans, we owe it to our all–voluntary military to appreciate what the true meaning of Memorial Day is.

Ask any Gold Star family, they can tell us what it means. It’s about the men and women who have given their lives for this country. Special men and women who died to make it possible for us to live in freedom.

Starting today, my prayer list will include praying for our service men and women every single day (and their families waiting at home). I invite you to join me in praying for their safety. To honor and respect our veterans, and those who still serve.

Ending on a Positive Note: Wars can’t possibly be the answer. There must be a better way to settle our differences. There must be a way for us to learn to get along, to find peace. As the song that closed last night’s concert says, “Let There Be Peace on Earth and Let it Begin with Me.”

Everybody Has a Story

Several days ago, I walked down the hall to get my mail. I always check the bulletin board sign-up sheets for upcoming events scheduled for our building. Coming up was a breakfast, a chili luncheon, our monthly birthday party with one of our favorites scheduled to provide entertainment. An every other month trip to the Casino was planned, plus the usual exercise, bingo, dominoes, and card game nights, along with Friday morning Bible Study. Usually there was a pen hanging from the bulletin board to make it convenient for us to sign up. Looked all around, no pen in sight.

So I wheeled my walker into the manager’s office next door to get a pen. The manager was on the phone. While waiting for Sandy to get off the phone, I said good morning to a fellow seated across from me. I had never seen him before and was surprised when he told me he had lived in the building for years. His apartment was just a few doors from ours.

We struck up a general conversation. How long have you lived here? Do you like it? Have you always lived in Cincinnati? Informative, but pretty boring stuff. He spoke in a monotone. No smiles. No interest in our conversation.

I decided to try one more question. Even though I knew the answer, I asked if he was retired. He told me he had been retired a long time. So, I asked the obvious, “What kind of work did you do?” His whole body went through a transformation. He sat up straighter and in a voice filled with pride, he replied, “I was a newspaper reporter for the Kentucky Post.” I am discovering many older people only see their value in their former profession.

His question asking if I remembered the Kentucky Post made me laugh. He chuckled when I told him I remembered not only the Kentucky Post, but the two afternoon papers, the Cincinnati Post and the Cincinnati Times Star. I even recalled those two papers later merging before finally closing up shop leaving only the original morning paper, The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Bert went on to tell me his beat had been a mixed bag. “I was an investigative reporter so I handled everything under the sun, but occasionally got assigned a really great story like the opening of Riverfront Stadium.”

With that remark, we were off to the races. I was a huge fan of the Cincinnati Reds. I asked him his opinion of Riverfront the first time he saw it.

Bert replied, “Found it a disappointment. How about you, did you like it?”

I told him Riverfront had never done much for me either. Too much concrete didn’t allow room for much character. However, I did remember one fun fact I heard during a TV interview. Roy Rogers, who was born in Cincinnati, said his family lived where Riverfront Stadium has been constructed and joked he was born at second base.

He hooted when I told him, “I did think Riverfront Stadium was very appropriately named until they changed it to Cinergy Field. I retaliated by calling it Riverfront until they tore it down.”

I continued, “Crosley Field had such charm and personality. What wonderful memories were in that little ballpark; the sun deck, the moon deck, the terrace in left field, watching Ronnie Dale at the organ playing special songs every time one of the hometown players hit a home-run.”

He seemed surprised that a woman was a fan, prompting me to tell him my mother had also been a huge fan. He almost choked on his words. “Your mother was a Reds fan?” Yep, she had fallen in love with baseball when we first moved to the Cincinnati area in 1954.

“She loved the Reds and so did my mother-in-law. They never missed a game, listening on the radio or watching on TV. My husband and I took them to the last game at Crosley Field and then to the first game at Riverfront, two weeks apart in 1970.”

We agreed the best name for Riverfront was in the mid-70s when it was labeled the Home of the Big Red Machine. Many local Cincinnati fans referred to the Big Red Machine as the best team to ever play the game. Who doesn’t remember Pete Rose and his head first slides, Johnny Bench’s bullet throws to second, (little) Joe Morgan, Tony (Doggy) Perez, Davey Concepcion, Ken Griffin, Sr., George Foster, and Cesar Geronimo?  That team could hit, run, field and create excitement for fans, even when they didn’t win the game.

By this time, Sandy was off the phone. I left them to talk and I went back to the mail room to put my ‘John Hancock’ on a few sheets. As I was leaving the mail room, I noticed that Bert had a small box on top of the mailboxes, so I took it with me.

His walker was different from mine and couldn’t accommodate the box, so I offered to take the box down the hall for him. Arriving at his apartment, I found UPS had left a big box outside his door. Accepting my offer to take both boxes inside his apartment, he unlocked the door and asked me to put them in his library.

Assuming his second bedroom was his library, I put the two boxes on top of a hard backed chair so he could easily access them. I couldn’t help but notice he had books all over the room. Some were neatly arranged on book shelves circling his library while others were stacked on top of his desk, a little table across the room, and one small stack was on the floor next to a comfy chair.

Asking if I liked to read, we fell into an easy conversation about our love of books; briefly discussing favorite authors and a few favorite books.

As I headed for the door, I asked if I could do anything else for him. He said he was fine, but thanked me for bringing in his UPS boxes and for brightening his day with my smile and conversation. I had enjoyed my time with this sweet, old guy who had lived an interesting life.

Ending on a Positive Note: Our eyes cannot see the stories people carry inside. There has to be a conversation. An interesting conversation with a real person is always a fascinating pause in any day. Hope you are taking time to enjoy the people around you.

Special Ordinary Days

Wedding DayToday is my wedding anniversary; a day for celebrating forty-nine years spent with my husband and best friend. A special day, but in some ways it’s just another day; an ordinary day.

I wouldn’t describe Tom as a big romantic type of guy, but throughout the years he has totally surprised me with some special gifts. While those gifts were great, they are not necessarily proof he loves me. He proves he loves me by the way he treats me on the ordinary days. True love shared in small ways, every single day.

Tom shows he loves me when he helps with the laundry or goes to the grocery store (a job he has done for many years simply because he knows I hate it); when he allows me to watch a TV show or movie he isn’t interested in, just so we can be together. He listens, which is huge! Seriously, have you ever heard how much I talk?

Tom gets excited about things that excite me. He believes in me and has always been supportive of my many projects. He respects women. He respects me. He respects our daughters (and our granddaughters); proving his love to them by being a steady, strong role model every day.

He continually makes me laugh and tells me he likes me best with no makeup, in jeans and gym shoes. Tom is a great husband, wonderful father and grandfather, good friend and the most dependable, reliable person I know. Daily, I see in the small ways that really matter how much I mean to him. Oh, and just for the record, I just happen to love him with all my heart. He is truly the love of my life.

Ending on a Positive Note: I’ve heard it said that “Love is the key to a long and happy life.” Well, so far my life has been very happy, but forty-nine years with Tom isn’t long enough. So, here’s hoping we can renew our option for a few more decades to achieve that long life.

2013 Word of the Year

MagnetsFor several years, I have been reading about people that choose a specific word as their Word of the Year. I thought it might be fun to join with several other friends and choose a Word of the Year for 2013.

I absolutely love words and have since I was a little girl. I love reading words. I love playing word games. I love words on plaques and refrigerator magnets. So how hard could it be to find one word?

But, this is my fourth day of contemplating on finding the perfect word for 2013, so obviously it’s not as easy as I thought. But while storing away my Christmas decorations, I stumbled on the perfect word. It was right there in front of me on a refrigerator magnet.

My daughter and I have been making simple (but fun) arts and crafts during December. The photo above shows some of our refrigerator magnet creations. The process was simple. We wiped white dominos with an alcohol solution and then stamped them with colored dots of paint. We loved how the paint spread to create totally unique designs on each domino. Let the paint dry and super glue a magnet on the back and you’re done. We added some of our favorite words and phrases to make them more special.

Sherry and I found that our designs got better the more we experimented with different colors and stamping techniques. We offered all of our Christmas guests a magnet to take home with them. It was amazing how long it took some of them to choose a favorite. Some chose a magnet because of the color combinations, but most chose their magnet based on the word adhered to the top of the magnet. As you can see, we had some great words and phrases listed. But the phrase “never stop improving” jumped out at me.

So my word for 2013 (drum roll please) is IMPROVE which means to bring into a more desirable or excellent condition, to make more useful or valuable. The word feels right for me.

Do you have a Word of the Year for 2013?

Ending on a Positive Note: The old saying, “there is always room for improvement” can apply to anything we do or say. We can do something small every day to improve ourselves, our attitudes, our work habits, our homes, the way we communicate and interact with family and friends, and the world around us.

What is Christmas

What is Christmas? What can it be?
Can I feel it or is it something I can see?
Is it in the air? Is it something I can hear?
Is it magic? Is it really everywhere?

Is Christmas tall, green, scented trees of pine?
Is it tinsel and stars that twinkle and shine?
Is it snowy streets all blanketed in white?
Is it church bells ringing in the still of the night?

Is Christmas the songs that the carolers sing?
Is it the silver bells on city streets that ring?
Is it candles all aglow with flickering light?
Is it warm hearths glowing with fires crackling bright?

Is Christmas each heart that is filled with cheer
By greeting cards and phone calls sent far and near?
Is it visiting old friends, or somehow finding a way
To be home with your family if only for a day.

Or is Christmas quite simply the happiness and joy,
Found on the faces of each small girl or boy?
Faces filled with both eagerness and glee
While opening gifts beneath their Christmas tree.

Is Christmas just a holiday celebrated once a year?
Do we only seek its spirit as the season draws near?
Is it really only a star on a tree, a wreath on a door?
Maybe! But, something tells me it is so much more!

Christmas is shepherds and wise men traveling far.
Guided on their journey by a bright Bethlehem star.
Christmas is a tiny baby lying on a humble bed of hay.
His birth the true reason we celebrate Christmas Day!

Copyright Agnes Spurlock – December, 1985

“Trimming” the Christmas Tree

I have been doggedly hanging onto my 8-ft. Christmas tree for years. It didn’t matter that there wasn’t proper space in our little condo for the tree. It didn’t matter that our health issues had made it more difficult every year to decorate it. It was tradition and must be done. Well, maybe not!

I had declared 2010 was my year to simplify my life by reducing and removing clutter. No area was to be spared, not even the Christmas tree.

I have always loved decorating the Christmas tree, so taking this tradition down a notch was going to be tough. For as long as I can remember I have turned on the Christmas music and buzzed around the tree to find just the right spot for each Christmas ornament.

We have an eclectic collection of ornaments. If one looks closely, the ornaments tell the story of our life.

  • The construction paper candy canes and stockings that Sherry & Stacy made in kindergarten have weathered the years fairly well, but Stacy’s stocking that used to be purple (her favorite color) is now sort of a purple/brownish color. But they are still precious to me.
  • An assortment of personalized ceramic ornaments like carolers and gingerbread houses, remind me of the years that my best friend Doris and I attended the downtown Christmas Caravan craft shows. Our faithful attendance was in the name of research; to get ideas for ornaments our PTA could make for the annual Christmas Sale at school. Oh, the memories! So much laughter. So much fun!
  • Beautiful handmade ornaments received from ladies in my Sunday School class’s annual ornament exchange.
  • Animal ornaments representing the years I worked at the Cincinnati Zoo as Director of Volunteer Services. I loved all of the ornaments I received from my volunteers, especially the handmade ones from the Zoosters, a group of talented volunteers who have been creating and selling beautiful Christmas crafts to benefit the Zoo for many years. These clever ladies took a box of sand dollars collecting dust in my basement and turned them into delicate tree ornaments and made money for the Zoo.  Loved all of the wonderful, loyal Cincinnati Zoo volunteers! 
  • Ornaments I received from good friends who worked at other Zoos across the U.S.  
  • Acrylic ornaments with Great Oaks Vocational Schools carved on them from Tom’s years of service on the Great Oaks Board of Education.
  • Fed Ex ornaments we received for being an official Fed Ex drop-off site during the 6 years we had our More Than Mail packaging & shipping store.
  • Vacation keepsakes and ornaments received from old friends and neighbors.

My daughter Sherry once told me that my Christmas tree looked like a craft shop explosion. She was right! But it was hard not to hang all of the ornaments on the tree because each one had a memory attached. And everyone knows I am the world’s biggest sucker for sentiment.

Okay, if 2010 was indeed my year to simplify, I was going to have to make some difficult choices. My ultimate goal was to keep the most important, most cherished items to make sure Christmas remained simple, but memorable.

First Choice: Buy a smaller tree Fairly easy decision as my attachment was never really with the tree. Since our little condo doesn’t really have enough room for a 8-ft. tree, I donated the old tree to Goodwill.  

Second Choice: Select ornaments for the new tree – Sorting and selecting the ornaments to adorn the new 4-ft. tree was much harder, but I kept reminding myself “simple life, simple life.”

Third Choice: Cut back on Christmas decorations – I had already done a little of this in 2005 when we moved into our condo, but found more decorations we didn’t need or that didn’t hold any special meaning.

Fourth Choice: Reduce gift wrapping supplies – After taking an inventory of my boxes, paper, ribbon, gift cards, I kept enough for 2010 and 2011 and gave the rest away. 

In the Bible, Ecclesiastes 3 tells us “there is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. . .a time to keep and a time to throw away.” I’m sure some would think our simple little Christmas tree looks pretty sad when compared to larger trees adorned in beautiful color themes, but our little tree fits this stage of our lives perfectly.

Trimming back on Christmas helped take away some of my pack-rat tendencies and my sentimental attachment to stuff. Stuff that I now realize had become Christmas clutter. It was difficult to “trim” down Christmas and remove some of the clutter, but when I gaze at my little simple Christmas tree I feel good about my choices.

The result is I am more rested. I have more time to enjoy the season. I can still take my sentimental “walk down memory lane” when I look at the ornaments on my tree. But when Christmas 2010 is over and it’s time to put everything away until next year, it will be easier because of the stuff I donated and the clutter I’ve eliminated. I am left with only the items that truly have meaning to me or my family.

Ending on a Positive Note: We all have a choice of how many of the cherished customs of Christmas we do because of tradition or because they really matter. I am finding that simple and significant fits well in all areas of my life, even in my tradition of trimming my Christmas tree.