Waiting on Christmas Day

It remember it like the scene out of “A Christmas Story.” The child stands at the window early Christmas morning to discover it had snowed outside overnight. A fresh blanket of snow covers everything — glistening in the early-morning sunrise.

I recall a Christmas morning just like that as a child. It was truly magical. In that moment as I stared out the window, I forgot what day it was — I forgot the tree downstairs was surrounded by presents waiting to be opened. Of course, that moment was small as my brother and I bounded downstairs to open our treasures.

I also recall as a child waiting up for Santa. I’d lie in bed waiting for Santa to arrive — this would finally be the year I was going to actually see him! Well, it never happened — I always fell asleep. I honestly was never a night owl. On family trips, my mom would drive, I would be awake with mom during the day and my brother, who is the night owl, would be awake with her into the night.

As an adult, my reasons for waiting on Christmas have changed. I seek out the magic of the season — the glitter, the atmosphere, the excitement and I can’t wait to give my loved-ones treasures to enjoy. I love seeing the joy on people’s faces.

As an adult, it’s not what I receive for Christmas, it’s what I’m able to give that brings me joy. (Yes, I do find joy in receiving gifts too, but giving is so much more fulfilling).

I saw a video earlier this season of children in Africa opening shoeboxes filled with gifts. I remember participating in one of these drives some time ago, but the video really brought to light the importance of these. You may see the video here.

I hope everyone had a lovely, blessed Christmas.

Santa’s antics

Disclaimer: The Santa Text referred to in this column is a statue — an animatronic version of Santa. The actual Santa was not harmed in the antics mentioned in this column.

Santa — or our Santa statue rather — is a bit of a legend at The Emporia Gazette.
Santa started his pranking adventures here at The Gazette a couple years ago after being stored upstairs. His adventures are always epic. Usually right around Halloween, Santa comes out to play — and the last two years he actually served (in costume of course) in the Gazette’s stop in the haunted tours. 
This Santa figure stands approximately 4 feet tall and at one time was an animatronic but he doesn’t work anymore (probably from his antics here).
My first year back at the Gazette (after a two-year hiatus to do marketing and public relations work), was last year. This was the first year I met The Gazette’s Santa. Over the course of my time back at The Gazette, Santa has been delighting, scaring and pranking.

Santa has brought much joy to The Gazette the past couple of years and even paranoia. One of our reporters is wishing Santa would go back to the basement to be stored for another year. This reporter was caught off guard when Santa was in a random hallway after-hours. Anyone who has been in this old building at night, alone, would understand why a life-sized statue would scare. Old buildings creak and can be creepy enough without Santa lurking around.
Here is what Santa has been up to at The Gazette:
He has been hidden behind doors in the bathrooms, hallways and behind people working. There have been many screams as a result and I’m betting there are some grudges still being held as well.
He has been beheaded (again, please note he is a statue, not the real Santa) and placed in the refrigerator, on people’s desks, in desk drawers and probably many other places not mentioned in this column.
His head has been put on backward. Santa “Exorcist” anyone?
He was once locked in our publisher’s office so when Mr. Walker opened his office door, the first thing he saw was Santa. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to work early enough this day to see the reaction, but I heard it gave him a good scare.
He has been placed on desks, towering over people working (he sees you when you’re working … is that how it goes?).

He has been the center of photos, including selfies and was photographed with me earlier last week reading the newspaper. He, of course, was reading page two of the paper checking his naughty list.
On another note, I think this Santa figure is stalking some of us here at The Gazette — and we probably deserve it. I’ve seen an identical statue in multiple places outside The Gazette. I saw him at Museum of World Treasures in Wichita. (If you haven’t visited that museum, it’s a really neat place.) I also saw at least two identical Santas at Poehler Mercantile Antique mall in Emporia. Another Gazette staffer reported they saw another Santa like ours here — this time the animatronics were actually working.
Santa also has been spotted in a yard in the 800 block of Rural Street and inside Wal-Mart. It’s almost like he is letting us know he is watching us.
While our Santa antics make us laugh, the lesson here is deeper. Santa has taught us to not only laugh, but to lighten up during a stressful time of year. He provides a much-needed comical break from the craziness that comes along with the tinsel and holiday events. Christmas is indeed full of joy and cheer, but let’s face it, the season also is busier than much of rest of the year, and in many cases, more expensive. Any comical break from the hustle and bustle is welcome and therapeutic.

So, on these last few days of the Christmas season, don’t forget to smile, laugh and reach out to those in need or those who might be sad this time of year. While you may not use Santa to play pranks on someone, you can bring joy to someone in other ways such as a simple phone call, a few baked treats or a small gift. Each day is precious, so make it count.

Merry Christmas and thank you for being a part of my life by reading this column.

2015 and the epic potential

Christmas and New Year’s are probably my two favorite holidays of the entire year. Perhaps my birthday is a close second…perhaps. 🙂

Christmas is such a magical time with all the glitter, glitz, giving and just the general holiday spirit. I love the holiday commercials, the look on a loved-ones face when they open a gift, the treats, the trees, the lights…I pretty much love it all.

That brings me to New Years. While in reality it’s “just another day” and another date, it has always felt like a new chance to me, a time to change some things and set some goals. I guess most of us get caught in this with resolutions, but as I get older I find my goals changing — and I usually set goals I know I can keep/stick to.

As 2015 draws near and 2014 folds away, I am keeping a running list in my mind of what I’d like to change and accomplish in 2015. And I’ve decided on one concept: EPIC. I am going to aim to make 2015 epic, not just for myself but strive to make a difference in others’ lives too.

A few of my goals are:

  • Write more letters (real, hand-written letters) to family and friends.
  • I plan on starting a pen pal exchange between a fictional character (the sock monkey in the photo above) and a friend’s grandchild. I plan on making these handwritten, from the sock monkey’s point of view and I plan on keeping a copy of the letters for myself as well. (Judith, thank you SO much for agreeing to be a part of this!)
  • I plan on continuing my health journey. Whatever that may look like. Maybe give Couch to 5K another gander? 
  • I plan on continuing my daily gratitude posts. They have helped me so much.
2015 also is the year I turn 39. I have a list I’ve been working on for a while the “39 List.” Thirty nine things I want to do before I’m 40. Keeping all these realistic — and they aren’t all about me. I’ll be posting more about that later. 🙂

For now, I’m So excited for 2015! 

Day 400 of thankfuls

Today, Dec. 10 is day 400.

A quick back story because I’ve told it a few times: 400 (roughly) days ago I decided to join the November thankful challenge where you post one thing you’re thankful for each day during November. Fifteen days into that challenge a house fire killed my dad. During those dark days my family suffered through that followed that tragedy I kept the thankfuls going — because I needed to — not because someone had challenged me.

Dec. 1 of that year came and I posted another. Dec. 2, another. And so on … until I got to today — 400 days.

When I look at the number 400 in the scope of all this, it’s amazing. For 400 days I’ve posted one thing a day that I’m thankful for. Four hundred days. And no, I do not plan on stopping anytime soon.

What I’ve learned these past 400 days is this:

  • Gratitude increases happiness.
  • Gratitude inspires others.
  • There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for. Always.
  • Beauty can be found in the darkest of places.
  • Gratitude is contagious.
  • It’s all about attitude — in any situation. In many situation, when I turn my bad attitude into a moment of being thankful for the challenge, I find my entire day shifts.
Here is to the next 400 days!

Simple beauty

This afternoon I was working proofing a page for Wednesday’s paper. I looked to my left and I noticed a beautiful blue prism of light spilling onto the wall next to me. It took me a minute to figure out where it was coming from. The light from another window was reflecting off my cup of water and onto the wall beside me.

Upon further inspection, several subtle colors were spilling onto the wall.

A simple, beautiful moment and a quick break from the afternoon hustle. I was gently reminded that beauty is everywhere on this amazing earth. It’s hidden in a cup of water, enhanced by sunlight. It’s in the laughter of a coworker in the next room.

It’s in the pounding of my dog’s feet as they bound up the stairs in the middle of the night.

I love gentle reminders of beauty such as today. The strip of light didn’t last long — it was gone within five minutes or so as the sun shifted its position in the sky. This is a gentle reminder that sometimes if you aren’t looking around at the right time, you miss out on simple moments.

Car wash therapy

 So I have a bit of a confession to make: I am addicted to the automatic car wash. Let me explain.

My addiction began earlier this fall, after I leased a new car — which I call Tuxedo (but I won’t go into all that). Who doesn’t want to keep their new car clean, right? 
I was feeling lazy one day and my car needed washing after a bird decided my car made an excellent bathroom. I tried the automatic car wash on 12th Avenue and I discovered something about automatic car washes — they are therapeutic. I’ve heard other people swear by the therapeutic benefits of an automatic car was as well.
It’s been many years since I’ve been in an automatic car wash. I’ve never really wanted to spend the extra money so I’ve always done it myself. As I sat in my car with the radio turned off that day, I could hear the water trickling down my windows and pelting the side of the car. I noticed the patterns the water made as it ran down the windows. The best visual part of the car wash is the triple-shine protectant — a colored foamy substance that makes the most beautiful patterns (and smells pretty good, too).
What I learned during that seven or eight minutes it took the machine to wash, dry, rinse and wax my car, is this: for those several minutes I was fully in the moment — enjoying what was right before me. I didn’t think about my worries. I didn’t wonder what was next on my to-do list. I was 100-percent involved in that car wash.
This is a lesson I’m working to include in my daily life. This life is short and worrying doesn’t do any good anyway, so why not fully immerse in each and every moment — no matter what is going on?
Whether it’s work or play or time with friends or family, I want to be as fully engaged in every moment as I was inside that car wash.
While I have found the car wash relaxes me — like an unconventional sanctuary — there is another lesson. Any place can be a sanctuary. Unconventional places — like car washes in my case — but it’s more than that.
It’s important to have places where we can relax and unwind. And they don’t always have to be physical places. They can be internal. One of my favorite visuals includes a stream with koi fish, a log cabin and birds in the forest canopy.
With all the above said, I still enjoy a nice sit in the automatic car wash after a hard day. But I’ve had to limit myself because if I went every day it would put a nice crimp in my budget.

Emporia’s Christmas Parade

Earlier this month I had the honor of walking in the Emporia Christmas Parade.

This was my third time walking in the parade and every time I’ve enjoyed it immensely — even on parade nights where it’s so cold you can’t feel your fingers or toes at the end of the walk.

It was such a joyful experience as we walked down the street with the parade marshal banner.

Commercial Street is lined with spectators of all ages — all the way to the university. Looking around, it’s amazing to see the wonder on people’s faces — especially the kids’ faces as they point and exclaim at the floats. And want to really make a kid’s day? Wave at them. Their faces light up as they grin from ear to ear and eagerly wave back.

Emporia is a very special, generous community: one I’ve called my “Emerald City” since I first landed here.

I’m proud to be a transplant, proud to call this city home and proud to have lived her 14 years now.

I’m hoping I’m asked to walk in next year’s parade!

The jar of happy notes

Sometimes it’s easy to fall away from something that takes so little time but brings so much joy. That’s the case with my little jar to the left.

 I found this  jar in an antique shop. I had gone there in search of a jar to place one happy memory a day in. This jar already had a coin slot cut in the top and it is so cute I couldn’t resist.

I had seen the idea on Facebook where you do this for a year (and you can fill it with whatever you like) and on New Year’s Eve you open it up and you read all the notes you left for yourself.

I did this for a year in 2013 — and on New Year’s Eve it was such a wonderful experience to open up my jar and read all the notes. That jar of happy notes was amazing.

I didn’t do it this year — or rather I probably made it about a week judging by the few notes that are in there. Tonight I picked up the jar and placed two pieces of paper in it. In 2015, on New Year’s Eve, I’ll be opening it up reading all my notes.

I hope you’ll try this too. It really is worthy of the small amount of time it takes each day to write yourself a note or slip a movie ticket in it.

The reward? 365 “love” notes to yourself. 365 happy memories. 365 moments of joy. 365 pieces of paper (or other tokens) kissed with the intention of love and happiness.

And we need a lot of joy in this world today.