Tag Archives: holiday

The History Behind Holiday Decor

8 Dec

 

While Gaffigan’s explanation to how our decorating traditions came to be is much funnier, it is obviously inaccurate. It got me thinking, “Why do we use trees, garland, and lights to celebrate this time of year?” I decided to take matters into my own hands and see what I could find out.

Did you know the ancient Egyptians used greens in the home to symbolize life’s precedence over death? The Romans, too, have a history celebrating winter solstice by decorating with lights, evergreens, and the exchanging of gifts. The decorations that are placed on the outside of the home have a rich history in which they were thought to have kept evil spirits away and provide promise for a good spring season.

Our modern day Christmas tree has evolved from these traditions. It’s rumored that Martin Luther was the first to decorate trees in celebration of Christmas. The candles he placed on the evergreen he had indoors symbolized and honored the birth of the Christ child. It wasn’t until much later that the tradition became popular and spread to the United States. By 1900, one in five families had a tree around this time of year. The tradition only grew from there until it was commonplace in most homes twenty years later.

(Reference: obtained from this article by David Robson, Horticulture Expert)

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Christmas things

5 Dec

I’m a little scared to say it, but….

I have a new baby.

A happy one.

One who only cries when he wants his diaper changed, fed, or his beauty rest.

Today, I’m thankful for modern medicine!

And time to peruse Amazon.com. I just keep finding so many things I want! But I promise I’m only shopping for others, though 😉

Still, I’ve got my eye on these things:

Nikon COOLPIX L120 (so that I can take more pictures of my sweet boy!)

Sewing Machine (Does that come with someone who knows how to use it? )

and the Kindle Fire (because it seems like the affordable, awesome alternative to the iPad2.)

Why is everything I want expensive? I might just treat myself after Christmas to one of these items with the birthday money or Christmas money I have left over after I purchase gifts for everyone else. We’ll see. For now, though…I’ll just visit them online every now and again.

This weekend was nice. On Saturday J, K and I went to the local parade for a few minutes. It was sprinkling so we didn’t stay long because I was worried about Baby K’s little ears. I didn’t want him to catch a cold (even though those two things aren’t really linked. lol). Still, we saw enough to get into the Christmas spirit! Then yesterday I went to a presentation of the Living Christmas Tree at a friend’s church. It was awesome! I spent much of the service intrigued by ‘how they got the lights to do that!’ It doesn’t take much to impress me. Anyway, the Christmas music put me in the mood and I wanted to hop in the car and drive to Tennessee right then and there, but we still have a few weeks left before that can happen.

Who else is pumped about Jesus’s birthday??

Christmas Craft Part 2

3 Dec

Today, I learned I’m no Martha Stewart.

I saw this cutesy pin on Pinterest from Ms. Stewart’s website:

And it looked so easy I just had to give it a whirl. I didn’t plan enough and well, my ornament was a big fat fail. The hot glue I decided to use peeled right off in no time and the pretty paper fell to the floor along with the pine needles from our live tree. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll put a little more effort into in next time. Still, I hung the cookie cutter on our tree because we’re still trying to fill the many branches of our perfectly humongous tree.

It’s looking a bit bare toward the back of the tree, but we’re working on it.

I do love an over-decorated tree, ya know? Or is there such thing?

Anyway, not one to quit crafting before I created something lovely I like…

I made this snowflake ornament-

I just cut up large strips of Christmas(sy) scrapbook paper and arranged them inside a plain glass ornament with my pinky finger. Talk about decorating on a budget!

(I know what you’re thinking- “She wasn’t talking about decorating on a budget. Awkward.”)

I also used what’s around me to my advantage. There are pine cones all over my yard so I’ll definitely be putting them to good use in the future, too.

Have fun creating, y’all!

De-Stress Your Christmas

1 Dec

With tree number four up and decorated, I have started thinking more and more about the holiday season that is upon us. There are so many people who become stressed rather than comforted by the Christmas season, myself included sometimes. In effort to prevent that from happening this year, I did a little research on the topic as a reminder for myself and for you to take a chill pill and remember why we celebrate. To me Christmas is about celebrating the birth of my Savior, spending time with my loves, and the spirit of giving (even if it’s simply baking cookies and gifting those out). Actually, scratch that…nobody wants my homemade cookies! 😉

Anyway, here are some tips and tricks to chillax and enjoy your winter break. Some of these are borrowed from PsychologyToday.com and some are from my little, ole wrinkled brain:

*Be realistic. You know you can’t be in two places at once. You (probably) know you can’t buy someone everything they could possibly want. And hopefully you are keeping your expectations of the holiday season in check. I have found that if I expect a certain day to be perfect, I am more aware when the day doesn’t turn out as I had hoped. Additionally, I’m well aware that I can’t afford to buy a ton of people a ton of presents. Being a stay at home mom means that we’re living off one paycheck (one that congress keeps trying to delay…ahem) so money can be tight each month. To remedy this, we try to set a budget each year and stick as close to it as possible. Sure, we go over a bit every single time, but tis the season!  The main thing I struggle with in this realistic category is the first one. Because we live so far away from family and friends, when we get to town our time is stretched very thin. It’s difficult to fit everyone in. This year, I am going to attempt to not worry about not being able to make this engagement or that. I’m just going to do what my little heart desires and actually enjoy the time off I have with my people back home. There’s no need to dwell on and stress little things like that. That’s not what Christmas is about at all.

*Be thankful. This is sort of a carry-over from last month, I suppose. It’s just so easy to pick out things each day that I’m thankful for. And you know what? When I write them down, I have a better day. I’m going to keep up my blessings list throughout the Christmas season just as a reminder of what all God has given me. There’s a pin floating around Pinterest that states, “What if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for yesterday?” That’s the spirit of thanksgiving that I want to create in my life during the month of Christ’s birthday. There are so so many people who are less fortunate than I am. If I can remember this in my lowest moments and choose to focus on a positive in my day, then I’ll be doing good. Here’s my list from yesterday:

*Exercise. What you say?? Yes, in the midst of all the eating it might be a good idea to get some exercise. Clearly, this isn’t one of the suggestions I thought of because I’m still sportin’ an extra 3lbs from Baby K. But I think it is a noteworthy tip! The author of Tis the Season emphasizes the importance of self-care during Christmas (and the rest of the year!). The impact that exercise can have on one’s mental health isn’t lost on me as I have focused on this very notion in research papers past. My senior thesis was on enjoyment and exercise. 🙂 Now, let’s see if I can take my own advice!

*Make a list. And check it twice. Ok, I just wanted to write that. You don’t have to check it twice. But if you’re a list maker, then get to writing! Organize your gift list. Organize your schedule. And maybe your plan is to not plan. You can write that down, too. I’ve made a list of the things and events that I want to do (on my iphone, of course) and the rest of the break is dedicated to not having a plan. I’m going to enjoy my time at “home” and do what I want when I want. Although it may sound like it, it’s not selfish. I’m in charge of only myself (well and Baby K) so in order to keep the stress away, I’m going to focus on what’s best for me and what’s best for K. Having a visual of the set plans will allow me to see the freedom I have in the un-planned days, too.

I hope these help you. Happy December!

Reference

Mintz, L. (2011, November 30). Tis the season.Psychology Today, Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/stress-and-sex/201111/tis-the-season

“Finding the Good” Part 2

29 Nov

If you missed the first part of this story, you can catch up here.

Thanksgiving Day I woke up in a foul mood. Despite having the perfect little boy to spend my day with and a husband who is safely in country, I had my lame face on. Baby K was fussy and I desperately wanted some space, but I also wanted to be around J and K on this day. I was very back and forth and missing family back in Tennessee somethin’ awful.

We decided to go for a walk, then I decided to go for a run, just to get away and have my cry.

I turned on “Lady Gaga Radio” on Pandora and quickly realized how ancient I am because not only did I not know the songs that were playing, but I also only averaged 12 minute miles.

After the run, I sat in the car and felt sorry for myself that I wasn’t going to be eating turkey with my family on Thanksgiving Day.

Hubby and I had plans for Pizza Hut.

I started thinking about Thanksgivings past and I realized how completely absurd it was to categorize this year as a bad year. I have so so much to be thankful for. At the very tippy top of that list is the health of my sweet almost four month old!

Later on that weekend, J’s parents paid us a visit in Cajun Country. By Saturday evening, we had a Cajun flavored fried turkey on the table, along with mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, green bean casserole, gravy, bread, apple pie, and chocolate cobbler (I’m sure I’m missing something, too)! And wouldn’t you know it…Mama got to eat! Baby K was an angel all throughout our meal–and wide awake, too. It felt so wonderful to have my expanding family all at the table.

Of course, I missed my family, but it was so nice to spend the day with his.

My blessings are abundant and I’ve got pictures to prove it!

Cookin’ the bird
My In-Laws
Lazy, rainy Saturday celebration

Psalm 75:1 “We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks!
For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.”

“Finding the Good” Part 1

27 Nov

I know you’re all itching to know how my Thanksgiving went, but I’d like to share something else first…

My senior year in high school marked the beginning of my negative feelings toward this holiday. Prior to this year, Thanksgiving was easily my favorite time of year. This particular year, though, a terrible accident happened and it made me look at Thanksgiving with sadness. A well-loved former high school alum was killed in a car accident, forever altering my view of my carefree, little world.

Sara was an exemplary person, one who many of our small town’s youth looked up to. Her death was tragic for everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. You can read more about her here.

Then, my senior year in college, I heard word of another accident. I’ll never forget. It was the day I had to give my thesis proposal to my peers and professors. My nerves were already elevated, but when I got word of the wreck there was only one thought in my mind and it had nothing to do with the success of my paper. Would my cousin live? Is he going to make it?

His friend (and mine) had already died instantly in the crash-

More heartache felt like more than I could bear. More than I wanted my family to bear. Still, he passed away on Thanksgiving Day.

Trey was 25 when he died. Younger than I am now. It still seems so wrong. But some place deep inside me, I know God is in control of us. I trust in Him. That’s all I can do. Trey’s sister (Laura Lefler Herzog) wrote this about him. I hope you’ll read it because her words say far more than I could ever write and she encapsulates the beauty of Thanksgiving:

Last Thanksgiving, my life changed forever.

My younger brother and only sibling, Trey, was in a very serious car accident and after several days in the hospital he died from his injuries. It was Thanksgiving Day.

There is no doubt that Thanksgiving, and life in general, will never be the same for those that loved Trey, but I believe the timing of his death was significant. It forced us to approach even our darkest day with a spirit of gratitude.

Trey and I both worked for Senator Lamar Alexander for years, and you can’t work or even be around Sen. Alexander for very long without hearing him quote his friend Alex Haley who said, “Find the good and praise it.”

For me, part of “the good” came when we learned that Trey would die the same way he lived, by loving and giving. I like to say that Trey, more than anyone else I know, tried to live his life according to our Lord’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. As a natural extension of his generous spirit he had chosen to be an organ and tissue donor and because of his loving choice at least five people were given new life: two single mothers in their 40s, a 56-year-old mother of two who had been married for 28 years, a 36-year-old gentleman who enjoyed fishing (one of Trey’s favorite pastimes), and a 62-year-old physician and father of four who had been on the transplant list for two years.

My family has learned a lot about organ donation in the year since Trey’s death. In particular, we’ve experienced firsthand that while marking “yes” to organ donation is critical, it’s just as important to share your wishes with family members. As the Tennessee Donor Services Web site states: “A discussion with family now will mean a life-affirming decision later.”

According to Tennessee Donor Services (TDS), Trey renewed his driver’s license at a kiosk in Nashville on May 14, 2007, and marked “yes” to organ and tissue donation. His girlfriend, Jane, also recalled a conversation with Trey just a few weeks before his death indicating his wish to donate “everything.” She remembers him saying, “I’ll be with the Big Guy. Give it all.” As we sat in the hospital waiting room, I struggled with the decision to donate his eyes. It seemed so invasive. But they were not my eyes to give. They were Trey’s, he didn’t need them in heaven, and he had made it very clear to “give it all.”

Many people find talk of organ donation uncomfortable and maybe even morbid. And many people believe organ donation is a good thing, but just put off doing something about it for another day. According to TDS, a survey conducted by the National Coalition on Donation found that 91 percent of respondents support donation, and yet 29 percent have taken no action to indicate their wishes via their driver’s license, donor card, living will, or by simply telling their family. That was me. I’m embarrassed to say that I signed my driver’s license the day that Trey died. I’m so thankful that my responsible brother was not part of that 29 percent like I was.

Because of his decision to be an organ donor, Trey’s story became a resurrection story. Out of death and despair came new life, and our Thanksgiving became an Easter. Through our tears we rejoiced knowing that five families had gotten a call on Thanksgiving Day with news that their loved one would be receiving a life-giving organ. What an incredible Thanksgiving for them!

True story: On my mother’s birthday last March she was having dinner with my stepfather at a restaurant in their hometown, 250 miles from the site of Trey’s hospitalization, when a gentleman approached her and thanked her for the very special gift her son had given him. It was the 62-year-old physician and the keeper of one of Trey’s kidneys. The gift – the good – had come full circle.

Because of his example, I’m a donor now, too.

Every year, around this time especially, my thoughts are with these three individuals who have shown me so much.

There was plenty of good to be found this year. I’ll be sure to share all that with you next time I write. Thanks for listening.

Love,

Mrs. K

Thankfulness

24 Nov

I always treasured the old hymn that says, “Count your many blessings see what God has done.” It’s a practice that should last all the year long, not just on the fourth Thursday every November. God has blessed and enriched my life in so many ways that it would be difficult and lengthy to display in this small space. I’ll list a few, though…

* He gave me an amazing blended family. When my parents divorced, it seemed like the worst thing in my little life. But now, as they have re-married other truly awesome individuals, I recognize how God blessed us even in times of trouble. I consider my additional family members part of my true family, too. I am thankful for my stepmom, Julie, and my stepdad, Joe. Thank you both for making my parents so happy! I’m forever grateful and I love you both.

*God also gave me the most beautiful, wonderful family of my own, too. I’m thankful for J’s parents who raised him to be the man he is today. I’m especially eternally grateful to God for allowing me to raise my angel, Baby K. I love my little family so much; my heart overflows.

*He provides, too doesn’t He? I’m thankful for the promise evidenced in Matthew 6:31-32:

“Therefore, do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…For your Heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.”

I’m thankful for Him providing my husband a job that allows us to have food on the table every night, a roof over our heads, and clothes on our backs. I’m thankful and proud that his job is with the Army, too because there are many opportunities for me to miss him and have him return to me-That way, I can fall a little more in love with him each time.

*I’m thankful to be born in the greatest country in the world where I am free to practice my faith in God the Father Almighty.

*I’m also thankful for cookie dough. Mention of this will open a whole other can of worms, though so I’ll just stop right there 😉

*Thank you, dear readers, for sharing in my life with me!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!