Since Mother’s Day is almost upon us, I thought I’d share one of my all time favorite metaphors. Moms, let your spirits be encouraged today, and know that the foundation you lay now will stand for generations!
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.
Inside I’m thinking, ‘Can’t you see I’m on the phone?’
Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.
I’m invisible – The invisible Mom.
Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more.
“Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?”
Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, ‘What time is it?’
I’m a satellite guide to answer, ‘What number is the Disney Channel?’
I’m a car to order, ‘Right around 5:30, please.’
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa cum laude – but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner,celebrating the return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well.
It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, ‘I brought you this.’ It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription:
‘To Charlotte, with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.’
In the days ahead I would read – no, devour – the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals – we have no record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built,
and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man,
‘Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof?
No one will ever see it.’
And the workman replied, ‘Because God sees.’
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, ‘I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will
At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.
The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime
because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, ‘My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.’ That would mean I’d built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, ‘You’re gonna love it there.’
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.
–Author Not Known
“Click, Click, Click.” Ski bindings lock in boots as people without poles load the last chair of the night and year at Schweitzer Mountain Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho.
This year two 10 year olds accompany the expedition, nervous but anticipating the experience they’ve waited so long to have.
Thus, age 10 became the minimum age, and it now signifies a certain rite of passage.
Crisp air paints cheeks rosy as the crew recounts the tradition riding up the chair in the stillness of the night – who came what year, who couldn’t handle the steep climb, the current newcomers. The ski patrol awaits our arrival.
“We’ve been expecting you,” they say, and warn us of the cat groomers as they do every year. Binding click again, but this time in reverse.
The group begins the trek up the ridge, carrying their skis on their shoulders. The noisy chatter quickly dissipates as the angle of the hill steepens, and breathing becomes deep and steady. Breathless “You can do its,” and “Good Jobs” interrupt the pounding of the heart in each chest. Kick, step, kick, step, we make our way, following the divets in the mountain of the person who went before us. The 10 year olds inevitably beat most up the mountain. Young legs pay off.
At the top there are fireworks, high fives, and hot chocolate waiting.
I love the bonding that happens between parent-child, cousin-cousin, friend-friend. The experience ties heart strings to one another.
We light the flares…
and head down, following each other in an “S” fashion.
What is so appealing about this experience?
It has 4 elements that can create a special, unique tradition:
1. The element of challenge – something must be overcome.
2. The element of fellowship – people are embarking on an experience together.
3. The element of fun – those involved enjoy what they are doing, even if parts are difficult.
4. The element of originality – not everyone does this. In fact, it makes us unique that we do.
Ours may not sound like a “fun” experience to many of you, but to us, it’s one of the greatest highlights of our year. When we yell “HAPPY NEW YEAR” and wave our flares as we fly down the mountain all aglow, we feel ALIVE and CONNECTED. To me, there is no greater way to ring in a new beginning.
How about you? What unique traditions have you heard of or started? What ideas do you have for your family or friends? I’d love to know!
And P.S… our tradition has an open invitation. So if you ever get the hankerin’ to climb a ski ridge in Idaho on Dec.31st, we would love to have you!
Some people embrace January 1, seeing it as a fresh start…a chance to un-do bad habits, plant something new in life’s garden, and grow. Others balk at the tradition, mocking the seemingly short lived goals that seem to fade as soon as January ends. Whatever your stance, it is never a bad thing to reflect on where we are and where we are headed. This doesn’t have to happen on January 1st, but for those of us who could use a little push or deadline, it’s a great opportunity to do just that.
Have you ever had the experience of driving down the road, and instead of going to the intended destination, you drive the habitual daily route instead? Without thinking, we go on “autopilot” and take the road we usually travel. The same is true in our lives. If we don’t purposefully get off auto, we will simply continue to repeat what we already know and do. Change requires intention. And there can be no change without reflection.
Inevitably, we are either moving backwards or forward. Accountability can be the deciding factor in our success. I know first hand!
I wish you the very best in 2013. Here’s to NEW BEGINNINGS!
Here are my resolutions – what are yours?????:
Looking for an easy, but homemade and creative gift to give neighbors, teachers, and friends? Try this Chocolate Tree as seen on Martha Stewart.
- Foam cone
- Tinsel garland (an 18-inch tree uses about 36 feet of garland)
- Pearl-head pins
- Chocolate squares of choice, still in wrapper (an 18-inch tree uses about 48 squares or approximately 3 bags)
- Craft knife
- Chocolate squares packaging
- Ruler or straightedge
- Bamboo skewer
Chocolate Tree How-To
- Begin by wrapping foam cone with tinsel garland until completely covered. Pin one end of garland to bottom edge and turn cone while wrapping. Secure in place with pins as needed.
- Using straight pins, attach chocolate squares to cone, starting at bottom edge and continuing to top in a spiral pattern.
- To create spray for top of tree, use a craft knife and straightedge to cut packaging into 1/4-inch strips.
- Use scissors to curl strips and attach to bamboo skewer with tape.
- Finish tree by inserting end of skewer into top of foam cone.
when you hear a jingle bell what comes to mind? how would you describe a jingle bell to someone who has never heard one? and how can a simple lesson from a jingle bell translate to our lives? together with my dear friend tammy at grace uncommon, we decided three characteristics really stand out. jingle bells are: CHEERFUL, they are CLEAR, and they are CONNECTED.
jingle bells are simply CHEERFUL! close your eyes and imagine the sound of a jingle bell. how does it make you feel? for me, jingle bells proclaim joy, happiness, and lightness of spirit. you can’t help but feel more festive when you hear their distinct sound. what’s your sound? are you like the jingle bell? are you cheerful? do you spread joy with your voice? cheerfulness is a choice and, if you’re like me, some days you choose to wear it, and other days you don’t. we get to decide every day whether we will put it on or not. consider the bright, cheery sound of the jingle bell when nothing mutes its ring. it is beautiful and clear. if you put your hand over the bell and try to ring it the sound becomes muddied, muted, and flat. the same is true for us. this season, choose to not allow any person, relationship, or the stress of our to-do list mute or dull the sound of our bell. refuse to be easily offended, frustrated, or irritated. be easily impressed. make the choice of cheerfulness in every circumstance, and let your bell ring cheerfully clear for all to hear.
a jingle bell’s ring is CLEAR. it is distinct. if you were in a busy airport or in the crowded stands of a football game, and jingle bells started ringing you would know, in an instant what they were. you wouldn’t question whether they were cowbells, doorbells, or a dinner bell….you would know without a second thought, they were the unmistakable sound of a jingle bell. they have their own voice. their own sound. and so do we. se were made to ring our own clear voice. and like a jingle bell that knows its own ring, there is nothing more fun and alluring than a woman who makes a cheerful sound. a sound that is true to her nature.
when we are true to our voice we are genuine. we don’t strive to sound like another bell. we don’t allow another to dull or mute our sound. we learn in the polar express, that the only way to silence a jingle bell is to stop believing in it’s magic. the same is true of our voice. only if we ourselves stop believing in our voice will we silence it’s ring and suppress it’s gift.
imagine yourself back in that airport or the football stands when the jingle bells start ringing. if you’re anything like me you would be talking or eating or cheering – but the sound of the jingle bells would make you stop. wouldn’t it? it would get your attention. it would make you wonder, what’s going on? you would listen. jingle bells don’t just ring for the heck of it. they bring a message of cheer. they are hopeful, joyful, wishful, warm, encouraging, inspiring, they provoke memory, they ignite in us a desire. when we use our voice, we have a choice to ring a clear message of hope, a message that would make people STOP, and listen.
so ring with intention, have the courage to be authentic and ring with integrity because we know that our voice is enough. it is what we have, it is our gift to this world, it is the light that we bring with the voice we were given. and if we ring cheer, if we make a joyful sound, people will stop to hear our voice. they will be inspired to ring their own sound and join with us, together.
jingle bells ring better when they are CONNECTED together. consider the flash mob trend. who doesn’t love the element of surprise?! shoppers are going about their business when suddenly a lone voice rises from the food court and bursts into song. voices begin to ring out from every side of the mall, spreading the spirit of Christmas, until the space is filled with joy through song. no one is untouched by this incredibly beautiful experience of unity. the same concept is true of jingle bells. the one single bell is pure and sweet, and has it’s own special role, but jingle bells are the most beautiful when they ring together. most of the time, you will find them on a string or in a cluster, because together is where they function at their best.
how connected are you this holiday season? are you out there just ringing your little bell alone? or are you connected to other bells that add depth and breadth to your music? that you bounce off, learn with, grow from, are inspired by…who spur you on to make an even greater, more beautiful sound. make it a point this season to make time for those you love. schedule that long overdue date night with your husband. sit by the fire and read books as a family. turn off the lights and admire the twinkling tree. go to lunch with your girlfriends, maybe even bake that fruitcake with grandma. delight in the magic. we are meant to ring together.
so what can we learn from a jingle bell this year?
I live in apple country, and this time of year my garage is filled the glorious fruits. Whenever I enter the house, I smile down at the brimming boxes, just happy they are there. It spells f-a-l-l to me…oh, happy fall! And what better thing to do with them than settle in and make caramel apples? Sea salt ones no less?
I stock a hunk of caramel in my pantry. It’s called Peter’s Caramel, and it saves me having to unwrap 100 small squares. I sometimes make my own, but when I don’t have time, this is the perfect solution.
Using a very complicated double boiler system (a metal bowl over a pot filled half way with water), I melt the caramel.
Recruiting help for this part isn’t difficult. Spear the apples with a stick (I use Wilton’s from the baking section at the craft store).
Roll the apples in the caramel, using a spoon to cover the tops. Let the extra spill back into the bowl, and place on a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet.
If you are sprinkling with sea salt or kosher, work fast (the caramel hardens quicker than you think). As soon as you place the apple on the silicone, or right before if you can handle doing 2 things at once, sprinkle on the sea salt, making sure to get all sides of the apple.
The kids will be indebted forever if you leave all of the extra caramel for them to scoop up and eat.
This easy fall craft doubles as a decoration and message board.
sugar pumpkin (or other small pumpkin)
Chalk Marker (these can be found at craft stores)
Tape around the stem so that paint doesn’t bleed onto it. Paint the pumpkin with chalkboard paint. Let dry completely. Remove the tape and tie the ribbon around the stem. Write your message!
The couple of months before Christmas I wrack my brain trying to think of something really great to create for the family. A few years back we decided to make giving a homemade gift the tradition (I write about it HERE). At some point in the brainstorming, a light bulb goes on and I know just what I want to do. This year: Vintage WIndow Frame Chalkboards – fun, useful, practical, and just plain VINTAGE COOL. Here is how I made them:
I went to a salvage yard and picked out the frames. I learned a few things that may help you. First, pick frames that don’t have 7 layers of lead paint on them (hmmmm…why didn’t I think of this??). Pick ones that have just a little bit of paint, or are unfinished. They will be much easier to sand and prep. Second, realize that the smaller the window frame panels, the harder it will be to sand and paint. And three, pick a time of year where paint removal will work outside. I finally figured out the stripper wasn’t working on the paint because it was too darn cold after I had spent HOURS freezing my buns off trying to get it to work! The whole operation got moved to the bonus room, which was interesting. Footballs were whizzing past my head as I scraped and sanded.
I used a paint stripper to start loosening the old paint on the frame. I scraped what I could off, then sanded the rest. An electric sander is the best way to go. It took a few times, but like I said, you will be smarter than me and not get frames that had been painted 10 times!
I taped the sides of the frame with painter’s tape, then began painting the window panes with chalkboard paint. HINT: USE A PRIMER BEFORE YOU BEGIN USING THE CHALKBOARD PAINT. The paint had a tough time sticking to the glass. If I would have used a primer, it would have been a piece of cake, and it would have taken less coats.
These projects are family affairs. This part my kids could do a lot of the work, as long as they stayed within the tape lines.
Here is the work area. We ended up painting 4 coats, so we would paint and let dry overnight before repeating.
My sister excitedly called me in January and told me that she had just flipped through a Pottery Barn catalog, and they were selling a window frame chalkboard that looked just like the one we had given her — only for a $250 price tag! Gotta love that……
Arranging your own flowers is easy and cost effective. I buy 3 different kinds at Costco (tulips and sweat peas are shown here). Cut the stems on the diagonal and place them in a vase with flower food. You can get 2 or 3 arrangements from these bundles. Use lots of fun, colorful ribbon with different textures to make it look beautiful. To make your own flower food mix 1 cup lemon lime soda (not diet), 1/4 tsp. bleach, and 3 cups warm water.
Personalized Valentine’s are definitely the best, especially for grandparents, teachers, and parents. Have the kids make their own by setting up a Valentine making station. Have out colorful paper, scissors, glue, glitter, stickers, and pens.
These little mailboxes from Target have become one of our favorite things! We put them on candlesticks at varying heights. Throughout February we put little notes in them and put the flag up when there is mail. The couple of days before Feb.14, however, I like to start putting little surprises in them, like heart shaped fruit snacks, and heart chocolates. To see directions for the Valentine Subway Art shown in the picture, click here.
Last, but not least, I’ll be planning the food: homemade breakfast donuts made with our Sunbeam donut maker (no frying involved), heart shaped cheeses and crackers for lunch, and hamburgers with cut out heart buns followed by Death by Tiramisu.
See the full post HERE to see what songs I put on mine, and to download a free CD cover.
GAME TO PLAY:
HERE’S TO CELEBRATING LOVE!!!