Monthly Archives: December 2019


I don’t consider myself to be very emotional, but a few things got me this season.

Yesterday, I finally made the time to transfer all of my pics from my phone to the laptop and then onward to a backup server. The effort of this and time involved inspired our New Year Resolution to start downloading monthly! Seriously.

I spent so much time compartmentalizing things into different folders (“Sterling 2019,” “Sterling & Sports 2019,” “Jaelyn & friends 2019,” “Jada & name the holiday 2019″) that I almost missed the present moment when one of the kids asked me to play a game. Not a video game, but a sit-on-the-floor kind of board game. These moments are rare and usually only happen over Christmas break.

Anyway, I got to thinking about how often we compartmentalize our lives into neat little boxes. I’m guilty of doing that all the time. If we get together with friends, I try to make sure the couples will have things in common…can you imagine mixing our Democrat friends with our Republican friends (yes, we have a good mix of both! And get this, we even get along!)? Can you imagine putting this person who swears quite a bit (ok, it’s me) with this person who seems to be perfect? We have to keep that relationship at the school event or the church event or whatever the case might be.

The list goes on.

So I realized that I compartmentalize my feelings or stay busy to the point of not having to confront them, which is why writing certain scenes can be really tough as it opens the door just a little bit to what feelings of loss feel like. At least if I want to connect in a believable way with a reader.

So this Christmas, I received the most unexpected and special gift I’ve ever been given. And let me tell you, I was having a perfect glass of wine, had on the perfect red lipstick and Christmas outfit and was as composed as can be after attending Christmas service. So when I opened a mysterious card addressed to me from Santa (of course I’m on the good list), the sentimental words ripped open my neatly boxed and wrapped emotions of devastation, loss, gratitude, love.

My Uncle Woody, who was married to my second mom (my mom’s twin sister) had written me a note within a card and had wrapped the most precious gift of my Aunt Pam’s legacy necklace so that I could carry a piece of her with me from time to time.

I was instantly a mess. That hardly ever, NEVER happens to me. I’ve lived through some pretty rough moments, but I never show hurt. It was a gut reaction, like being slapped in the face. Tears came streaming down my face and all my emotions oozed out of their packaged boxes and swam around my stomach in a muddy mess. Having her fingerprint felt like having her here. A mixture of loneliness & fullness at once. But she felt close.

My mom’s twin sister has been part of every part of my life. Losing her felt like the loss of a mom as I saw her almost daily my entire life. It was a season of tremendous faith knowing she was in this amazing place where time stands still and knowing her, she’s probably still hugging everyone in line at Heaven’s gates. I feel her presence daily, but to have a tangible piece makes her feel like she’s always with me.

The second trigger that wreaked havoc on my emotions happened when reading “Ordinary Grace,” a FANTASTIC book that several people have recommended. This trigger opened the boxes of hope, faith and comfort in one little dialogue exchange between a Native American and a young man…

“As I walked away he called to me and when I turned back he said, They’re never far from us you know.

Who? I asked.

The dead. No more’n a breath. You let that last one go and you’re with them again....They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.”

I was fulfilled and grateful to the author (William Kent Krueger) for being willing to open that box in order to relate with me and so many others and set me at ease through his words. The way he writes the scenes of devastation (read it, you’ll know what I mean), it’s certain he’s lived through loss. Tragic and severe loss that cuts through your soul and leaves you feeling shattered as you search for broken pieces of what was your heart.

But because of this, I didn’t feel alone in loss. I felt companionship. There are so many people who relate with loss and if not yet, they will. We all will. That’s a promise. Having the courage to open these boxes from time to time, lets others in and our light and relatability out.

For the first time in weeks, I slept well last night.

Christmas Traditions

One of our favorites:)

Most of our Christmas things are packed, along with 70% of the rest of our life. After sitting on some land for almost 13 years, we are finally pulling the trigger and building this spring.

When we were moving into our “in-between” house last year, for the first time, I realized just how many Christmas bins I had. I had never really added them up. A few in the garage (garlands and pine swags), a few in the laundry room (ornaments), and a couple of closets with metal pine candle holders and snowmen. Oh, and about ten nutcrackers, just because (do you need a reason if they have glitter?)

So we had roughly 8 bins. Big bins. I love Christmas.

So I didn’t think I would miss them over one year. And I have to say, I was right. Almost.

What I really miss the most are the books. Of course.

We had an unspoken tradition of keeping the Christmas/winter kids books out on the table to read throughout the season. I didn’t realize how much I would want those out! I miss reading “Twas the Night Before the Night Before Christmas” and “Dancing Snowmen” with the kids. The gap with the kids actually sitting and reading them with us is closing in fast:( I’m not sure if the kids have even noticed, but I do.

As a kid, some of my best winter memories (don’t make fun of me) are of sitting on the carpet by the fireplace and reading the Little House series. I LOVED them. I even kept the box set in hopes of at least one of my kids being interested in them. Sterling got close this year and liked the one they were reading in class. I was excited and asked him if he wanted to read my set.

“No thanks,” he replied. Oh well. There’s always grand-kids someday.

So, in the end, it’s time together that makes the season. Reading, playing games and yes, even the teenage bickering to some point (we have a LOT of that between the two girls).

And traditions. Driving to the Pechacek Farm, which is always AMAZING. Free light show, complete with Santa’s workshop full of their real-life cats and bagged treats for the kids. Cost? Free with a food shelf donation.

And music. I’ve taken the radios hostage. All of them. To Sterling’s dismay, Christmas music. All. Day. Long. I love it! I love the stories of Christmas music. I’m a lyric person (go figure).

So, here’s to the simplicity in Christmas traditions. Especially the ones that actually celebrate Christmas. No money required.

Small Town Support

I love to travel more than almost anything. I love trying new foods and exploring new places with my favorite travel partners, my hubby and kids. Even still, there’s nothing like living in a smallish town.

It’s true that the city is exciting and we love going to concerts in Minneapolis or to the Orpheum for stage productions. St. Paul restaurants rarely disappoint and if the borders of a small town ever feel confining, a flight out is just beyond the metro.

But if you are looking for a place that will always accept you, support you and lift you up, a smallish town is what you need. A place where you know the local bookstore owner by first name and the local youth librarian usually knows what your kids are reading. A town where you can pop into the coffee shop and they know what your regular is (except when you throw in the surprise twist of…maple fall flavoring)!

From the dazzling reflections in the eyes of our kids when the town lights up the trees along the streets and Santa pulls in with his reindeer, to the fundraising efforts supporting local students who are fighting cancer, small towns usually prevail. And let’s not forget our beloved teams who are welcomed home from state games on fire engines and much cheering. Go Cats!

Or when you throw it all on the line and write a book, baring your art for everyone to see (so scary), you will find support in so many places. Like Dave Woods and Rachel Helgeson, who wrote such flattering columns encouraging people to give the book a read. From local teachers to bookstore owners to the librarians who organize the book clubs, the list goes on. I’m grateful and humbled.

Which brings me to the point of just how supportive independent bookstores across the country have been. These small bookstores are owned by families. They put their budgets on the line and put faith in little people with big dreams who want to write a story for the sake of writing and educating.

They get it. They know what it’s like to have a vision and be up against Goliaths in the industry. They open their doors every morning to welcome the little authors and big ones alike, filling their shelves with exotic places and people for locals to experience the world by simply stepping across the street and into their place.

Small Towns.

So while there might be more things to buy (but not better things by any means) and more places to go in larger cities, when life begins to beat you up a little and you need comfort, look for that round trip ticket back.

I know for a fact that this small town will wrap its arms around you in a big embrace as if you never left. And if you’re lucky, there will be a maple latte waiting at the local little coffee shop:)