art, artist, beautiful things, Christmas, Christmas shopping

“Box-of-Socks” Happy

Christmas pencil

Merry Christmas morning. I’m enjoying a second cup of coffee as I reflect on holidays past and present, and those things, that usually aren’t things at all, that bring us joy. My family’s original Christmas Eve plans were thwarted by illness this year, and though we did manage to celebrate, it just isn’t the same without all my children present, because it is precisely those people that make holidays special. Cuddle time with grandson Tommy, who arrived safely with his mother from California, helped, but still didn’t make up for the missing family members.

CHristmas Eve with Tommy

While I usually savor year-end reflections on New Year’s Eve, a nearly-empty house this morning has me feeling pensive. Last-minute plans to move the Christmas Eve celebration to my home meant my children had a one-hour trip (or more) here last night, so we decided to delay the usual morning gift-giving until after our noon meal today.

Before my children arrived for festivities last night, a box arrived on my doorstep. It wasn’t a last-minute gift; reminiscent of the good old days when savvy couponing and refunding provided the bulk of our gifts, I’d managed to complete the majority of my shopping before Thanksgiving.

No, this box held 200 vintage advertising pencils. The thrill of excitement I felt upon opening that box would seem ridiculous to some.


Because you see, although the people I love are the most important things in my life, there are also material things that bring me joy.

Years ago, as the mother of several small children, I revealed to a friend my obsession with cute designed socks for my girls. While a lack of money prevented me from indulging in the habit, I did haunt the clearance shelves of Baby Gap and Gymboree for those socks. Not long after revealing my secret lust, a large box arrived in the mail from this woman. I vividly recall the moment I opened the flaps to reveal the contents; socks of all colors and patterns. There was initial amazement at the sheer number of socks; dozens of each size, from baby to teen, swiftly followed by a spark of wonder and joy at the bounty.


I knew the particular happiness of a wedding day, the joy at the birth of each of my children. But I wasn’t familiar with this kind of happiness. I grew up in poverty and wasn’t much better off for most of my marriage. Up until that moment, I don’t think I’d known the kind of happiness that came from having a bounty of anything. There were certainly a lot of junky garage sale toys cluttering our living room and play area. Definitely a high volume of dirty laundry. But so much of a good thing?

That day I coined the phrase “box-of-socks happy.” I’ve felt it many times since; a friend gifts me with a garbage bag filled with vintage boxes of stationery, a library book sale nets a goldmine of good reads, or I discover a clearance shelf filled with my favorite type of pen. I felt it, and then craved it, collecting more stationery than I could ever use in my lifetime, more discounted postage from eBay, even though I already have postage stashed away.

I even know what it is to have “too many shoes,” a dilemma I never understood all those years as a stay-at-home mom when a single dress pair inhabited my closet and Dr Scholl sandals vs. tennis shoes signaled the change of seasons.

I felt it last Christmas when my children gifted me with a magic Christmas ball filled with cash designated for a trip, an experience, a tangible wonder that would fill my heart with memories.

It isn’t the vintage pencils that excite me so much as what I will be doing with them; handing them out at “Legacy of the Magic Pencil” workshops and programs I’m planning in conjunction with the release of my new book, Called to Be Creative, next September.

Public speaking also makes me “box-of-socks happy.” I never feel more alive than when I’m conducting a program or workshop on a topic I’m passionate about.

I also feel that same sense of excitement, of wonder, when I find the perfect gift for someone, and I’m feeling it this year as I wait, with bated breath, for my children to arrive and open their gifts. It’s the reason I’ve delayed this post by 24 hours. When my brother Bill of William’s Whittling and Woodworks created the above plaque, I knew I must have one for each of my daughters. It embodies the very topic of my upcoming book. I want each of my children to discover their purpose in life.

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Of course, once I knew what I was giving my girls, I had to shop my brother’s etsy store for the perfect gift for each of my sons, feeling that same sense of excitement and anticipation as I imagined their own moment of happiness as they unwrapped the one-of-a-kind work created by their uncle, an uncle who is living his passion through his woodworking.

What about you? What makes you box-of-socks happy?










angels, Christmas

12 Days of Christmas

This morning I woke up excited~ I had a note and a gift to open.

A couple of days ago, I found this box on my porch, a box with 12 wrapped gifts and 13 envelopes inside. The envelope labeled “Open me first” explained it all. Each day, beginning on December 13th, I was to open one envelope and the corresponding numbered gift. My “Secret Angel” would be revealed on the morning of December 25th, in the last envelope.

christmas angel 001

My secret angel knows me; this morning’s gift was two composition books. Paper: always a good gift for a writer. I thrill with the knowledge that 11 more gifts and notes remain. Not only has this person given me the gift of excitement and expectation, they have given me an idea to help me through the holidays next year. I will keep each note and use them to do this very thing for someone else next year!

I am continuing to choose from my Bible verses each morning, attempting to do something each day outside of myself. Unfortunately, I haven’t kept track of all the verses or the deeds, though at some point, I realized I didn’t have to. One day I treated someone to a bowl of soup. Another day I delivered a box of candy to a neighbor I’d never met. I’ve begun each day by reading in a devotional, then choosing a Bible verse card, praying, and then conciously choosing my random act of kindness, prompted by the verse. And perhaps that is the point, after all; by beginning my day prayerfully, and reaching out to others, I find it a little less painful to go on without David. Like the Christmas Grinch, each time I do something for someone else, a small section of my broken heart begins to heal.

My secret friend has given me an unexpected extra bonus gift; for the next twelve days, I’ll be looking at everyone around me through different eyes, as a possible angel.

Christmas, David, grief

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas…

I’ve kind of lost track of the details of my daily deeds, though I know I’ve already sent out several of the lovely cards I found at HalfPrice books, along with three more verse cards. I forgot to write down two of the verses before I sent them off, but Saturday’s verse made me think about a friend whose husband died a year ago in November, so a card went out to her that morning, along with the verse card that said this; “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

“Why are you sending the verses? You won’t be able to use them next year,” my daughter Elizabeth pointed out when I told her where Saturday’s card was going.

“I don’t think I’ll need them next year. I need something to get through this first holiday season.”

One reason I haven’t shared all the verses and my subsequent actions is that several have been quite personal. I look at the cards every morning and then spend some quiet time praying, and each time I have felt led to reach out to a particular person, sometimes for reasons unknown, and other times, for obvious reasons. I’ve also been very busy with Christmas preparations and finishing up a manuscript.

It is interesting to note that for all I had dreaded the holidays, our house is looking quite festive.  Our tree arrived and is now beautifully decorated.

christmas tree 003

Emily, inspired perhaps by my verse a day ritual, designed Abby’s usual red and green Christmas chain with a little twist for the first time.

christmas chain 001

On each chain, she added something for Abby to do on that day; something nice. One day it was “Don’t annoy Mom today.” Another one said, “Wave to a stranger.” Yesterday’s was “Do five nice things for others today,” and Abby and I both had fun counting out her five nice things that eventually became eight nice things.

christmas chain 002

Rachel added to our new rituals by spending time with the girls, designing a gingerbread house. In 33 years of Christmas traditions, I’d never made a gingerbread house!

gingerbread house 009There it is, on top of my bookshelf.

Here is a close-up of the creation:

gingerbread house 002Besides the Christmas preparations, I am busy finishing up a manuscript that is due to the publisher by the end of the month. I hope to finish it by the end of the week, instead. I think I might just make it, too, if the last two days are any indication.

Speaking of Christmas, if you are on my Christmas card mailing list, you should have gotten my card by now. When I had to choose a photo that embodied the year, this was it. There wasn’t any other photo that would do it.

christmas card

Beneath the dove and the holiday greetings, I added this sentiment;

Live like you are dying!                                                                                                                   Love with all your heart~                                                                                                  And laugh, because this is the only card you’ll ever get with a tombstone on it.