Chapter 32: Most Treasured Gift

What is your most treasured gift?

XmasMemoriesBookCoverI’ve had many over the years, but one of my very favorites is the Christmas Memories Book given to us by Don’s cousin when we were married in 2000. This precious book has blank pages with prompts for 20 years of Christmas memories. Our is full of my handwritten notes, snapshots and favorite Christmas cards received. Including some blank pages because sometimes mama don’t have time for all that! But it’s still my favorite thing to unpack each year when we dig out our Christmas stuff.

Since I could not pull off Christmas cards this year (gotta pick my battles), I will share a few Christmas memories here with you instead.

* Nephew Reese (3) calls my parents “Big Daddy” and “Big Mama”
* Reese and Colin (2) make “cookie houses” with Grandma.

2008: We hosted 2 Christmas gatherings – one for Triad Sign Guys staff (our small business at the time) and one for our supper club. I’m pretty sure this was the last time we hosted anything other than Thanksgiving for the family! LOL! Keepin’ it real, folks.

Samisms 2008 (3):
* When I go to heaven, I’m gonna ask God why he didn’t give me back my green balloon
* Mommy, it’s so cold outside, I’m shiggering
* No Mommy, I can’t wear those pants (shorts) because I won’t be a dude in them. I need to wear the other pants (jeans), so I can be a dude!

Colinisms 2008 (6):
* I borrowed Ms. G’s fan and told her Mommy would give it back to her when I die. But then I gave it back to her later that day, because I told her Mommy might forget to give it back
* Today on the playground I was playing house with A & J. I was the baby. No, mommy, they did not change my diaper – it was fake!

Sunday school teacher: Who remembers the name of the city where Mary & Joseph stopped and had to stay in the stable?
Colin (7): Fresno?

* Don turned 40 this month, he received more than 40 Happy Birthday phone calls!
* Sam (5): Mommy! Why do we have to make all of these stops? I want to go home?
Colin (8): Sam! Christmas is about helping people and about God’s birthday and not about being lazy and waiting for Santa to bring you toys!

* We spent a week in Disney World in early December. A great trip!
* Colin’s nativity art was featured on the Christmas Eve service bulletin at church.
* Me to Colin (10): It was nice of you to help that kid who is usually mean.
Colin: Well, I’m getting worried about being naughty this year, so wanted to work on my goodwill for Santa.

* Celebrated my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary at Thanksgiving.
* Colin (10) after seeing a commercial: Mom, what’s wrong with Christmas sweaters?

* Our first Christmas without Don’s dad. We both lost our jobs that fall when our employer closed unexpectedly.
* Sam (8) at Red Lobster: The mashed potatoes are good, but not as good as the ones at school.
* I was reminded of the No-Matter-Whatness of God: God is just too busy loving us to be disappointed in us (G. Boyle).


Christmas 2014

2014: Seems like yesterday, but this was three years ago! I started my job at Peacehaven and Don started his job at Graphic Visual Solutions. Busy year – no notes in the memory book other than the card!

2017: You have heard the story of this year through this blog. To say it’s been a blur would be an understatement. Looking back I can say there were many more good days than bad. Hallelujah.

I am reading the new book Barking at the Choir by one of my favorites, Father Gregory Boyle. He writes, “God receives our childlike painting of a tree and delights in it. God doesn’t hand it back to us and say bring it back when it looks more like a tree. God simply delights in us.” I think about my children handing me their artwork when they were young. Many of them still hang in our stairwell to the basement. Each was such a treasure and brought me such delight. You know that bursting feeling that seems to bolt out of your chest and put stars in your eyes? Like you just cannot believe that this amazing little person came from a part of you; and could you love it anymore than you do right now? This idea of God doing the same for me, for us, is quite something to marvel over. No judgement. Just love. Just delight.

This year the Chandlers have learned (and are still learning) to delight in the simple pleasures of each day. I hope the holidays and 2018 bring you many days of delight. And I hope we can share a few moments of delight together very soon.

Stephanie, Don, Colin & Sam


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Chapter 31: Nearing the end of 2017

What a year this has been.
Cancer for Don.
Cancer for my friend Elizabeth.
My friend & colleague Dave passing away.
An almost-new colleague passing away.
My friend’s son passing away.
My friend Rene moving away.
My colleague’s brother passing away.
My colleague’s father passing away.
Plus losing the father and grandfather of other friends … these were after long well-lived lives, so sad, indeed, but not as shocking as the others.
I’m not the only one who is ready to shuffle 2017 out the back door.

Perhaps this is normal stuff for someone in midlife like me. I don’t know. I’ve never been in the shoes of a 48-year-old woman before. I don’t really like what I’m seeing in this chapter.

Gratefully, Don is doing well. We are learning the nuances of what it means to live with NETs. Who knew that when you lose your gallbladder your body does not process some foods as it once did?

It breaks my heart that Elizabeth is in so much pain and discomfort. It does not make sense that a 48-year-old woman should have to endure the things that she is enduring. It does not make sense that her loving husband and two beautiful teenage daughters have to see her suffer. They are amazingly strong which I’m sure strengthens and comforts her. But, still, none of this is easy.

And then there is the gratitude.
Gratitude for my husband who makes me laugh everyday.
Gratitude for my sons who relish each new day as theirs for the taking.
Gratitude for my friends who understand me and share my perspective of this crazy world.
Gratitude for my sisters who are only a text away.
Gratitude for my parents and Don’s mom who are available at a moments notice to support and advise.

I guess it really is the roller coaster of life. Ups and Downs. Ebbs and flows. Darkness and light. Rarely do I have one without the other. It’s often hard, but I’ll take it.