I had a lovely Christmas but I didn’t get anything I wanted

Cue the music, this is where the evil Disney queen comes in, right? A lovely family day, pleasant meal, fun opening gifts. And 24 hours later, a comment…. not malicious, not meant to draw blood, just an offhand comment “I didn’t get anything I asked for  – oh, except the keurig.”

Why does that hurt so much? Maybe because I traveled halfway around the world (twice, once in each direction) and excitedly chose gifts that I knew my family would love? Maybe because I listened to offhand comments during the year about “I wish I had one of those’ and made it my task to get one under the tree. Maybe because I was really excited to see the reactions to the gifts from our travels. Even so, when THE LIST was delivered on December 14th I still found a way to get a couple of things from the LIST under the tree too, lest there be disappointment. Alas, the items were the wrong size, or the wrong color, or the wrong whatever. And  I am left with “I didn’t get anything I wanted this year”.

Obviously somewhere along the line, this became all about me. MY gifts were rejected, blah blah blah. So was I really giving to give for the joy of giving? Or was I secretly aiming for best present-giver EVER!!! OMG Beth NOBODY can pick a present like you can!! Or, I suspect, the truth is somewhere in the middle. I was excited when I shopped this year, and sad when it was met with “I didn’t get…” but dang that probably sums up my whole childhood. I was no doubt one of those kids who had a treasure trove under the tree and then pouted because Bethany got an Easy Bake Oven and I didn’t.

Maybe it’s just the human condition –  CLOSE to living a grateful life but just not quite there yet. So, I am back to gratitude again. I have a fabulous (albeit a bit goofy) family – my mother is still living (many of my friends cannot say that) – I know where my children are – God has blessed me with a beautiful marriage centered around Him, and all that it brings. I have a dog who adores me and a cat who tolerates me (which is adoration in cat-ese). I have a beautiful home, that my family is happy and comfortable in during holiday gatherings. And I do have everything I wanted…. a loving husband, a healthy mother, adult children that like me, and a granddaughter who is pretty sure I walk on water. And, above all, a loving God, who sent His most precious gift that I might find grace in moments like the one I had earlier today.

Merry Christmas everybody.

Yay God 🙂

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Good Intentions and $5 Will Get You A Peppermint Mocha

OK so much for a letter of the alphabet EVERY DAY in November with a gratitude connected to it…. lesson learned – never publicly declare something you are unprepared to back up! But… I MEANT TO DO IT… so that should count, right? Judge me by my intentions…

Nothing deep today, just a little reflection on the holiday past (Thanksgiving) and the holidays upcoming…

My overwhelming impression of Thanksgiving at our house this year was that it was NOISY!! But what a glorious noise it was…. laughter, conversation, running (kids, bigger kids (age 31), four dogs and a cat)(in 1400 square feet) – there was no yelling. No slamming. No sirens. No crying. How sad that those noises are what a lot of people identify with the holiday season.

As for me, I love the holidays – the lights, the music, the shopping, the crowds – I usually make it my mission to go to the mall a couple of times and just SMILE at people so they have seen at least ONE friendly face while they are out there fighting the good fight. How can you not be happy when there is chocolate peppermint EVERYTHING out there?? Peppermint Mochas (I love the red cup season at Starbucks), Ghiradelli Peppermint Bark, Peppermint Stick Ice Cream with Chocolate Sauce, I could go on, and on…

But, it’s not really about the food, is it? Or the shopping? My joy comes from the single most important birth in the history of the world. The reason for the season, if you will. The point blank declaration from God that He loves me and sent His son. Hard to believe? Perhaps. But just because something is unbelievable does not make it false. Rather than looking at how believable it is, focus for a moment on what is undeniable. A single birth, followed by a life and death that shaped the history of mankind, and continues to do so thousands of years later.

So, as you’re out there trying to nab the last Xbox, or that flat screen TV – take a moment to ponder what the real message of Christmas is – better yet, ponder it over a steaming hot peppermint mocha… and while you’re in the drive-thru line, go ahead and buy one for the guy behind you too. After all, the joy is in the giving 🙂

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B is for Better

I was off to such a great (consistent) start, then Friday night I got hit with some kind of flu bug, which resulted in sleeping 38 of the next 48 hours! Some day I will learn not to promise daily columns! But I am BETTER now (see how I worked that in there?) and will try to catch up a bit over the next couple of days.

As always, being sick for a day or two reminds me how much I take NOT being sick for granted. Given the level of abuse that I inflicted on my body for an extended period of time, I am, in fact, ridiculously healthy, and so very grateful that I am here, alive, and present, to take in all that God offeres this time of year…

The colors of the seaon… brilliant blue skies, puffy white clouds, a rich carpet of reds and golds as the leaves turn….

The smells of the season… wet grass, brats on the grill (football season), the beginnings of cinnamon and nutmeg as the holiday goodies start to appear…

The sounds of the season… gentle breezes, leaves crunching underfoot (well, not quite yet down here in the south, but any day now!), greetings as friends come and go…

The feel of the season… cool morning weather that calls for fuzzy sweaters, sunny afternoons that make us wonder why we brought coats to work, early darkness that invites snuggling by a fire with a mug of something warm…

The tastes of the season… football food, red cup drinks at Starbucks, turkey sandwiches and pumpkin pie…

May I always be grateful for the ability to see, smell, hear, touch, and taste the bounty that God has provided. Have a great day everyone!!

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A is for Adoration

Adoration – the act of adoring – to regard with the utmost esteem, love, and respect. Honor.

There are no half-measures to this concept! We are all in with adoration. I am grateful not only for the ability to adore someone else, but for the gift of being adored. Many of us are great at GIVING love, GIVING help, GIVING of ourselves, but if we don’t have the grace to RECEIVE it as well, giving can become a control issue – a way to keep people at arms length, letting them see only the ‘giving’ side of us.

Many know that I lovingly refer to my husband as my ‘slayer-of-dragons’ but most do not know why… years ago we were in a small (church) group, talking about marriage and spouses. My husband shared that I had not only told him that I loved him, but that I adored him. He repeated again “she ADORES ME!” at which point he sat up straight, swept the room with his eyes as if searching for something or someone, and said “where is that dragon you want me to slay?”

Just knowing he was adored made him sit taller in his seat and feel like he could tackle any challenge. That is a lot of power for one word.

Do I know, understand, and accept that GOD adores me, even on bad days… because HE says I am worthy, not because I deem it so? How much more can I do, dream, and achieve in my life because I am safe and secure in the knowledge that I am adored by God?

Do we provide that security for our children? Do they know that they are adored? Can they dream bigger dreams because they are confident in the knowledge that we regard them with the utmost esteem, love, and respect? Or do we tear them down with little jibes and snipes? Do we crush their hopes as unrealistic, and laugh at their dreams of slaying their own dragons, telling them dragons are not real?

Do our spouses know that we are in their corner no matter what? Or do we fall into the trap of fearing that if we somehow commit to them verbally they might not return the sentiment, or worse yet, that we have now let ourselves be vulnerable and they are somehow AHEAD of us in the grand score-keeping game of life. Do we play it safe to avoid potential rejection? Or can we take a cue from God, from Grace, from the concept of ‘gift freely given’ and put ourselves out there regardless?

My gratitude today is that I am able to adore – and to be adored. And, yes, full disclosure, that ability came as the result of the crushing pain of trying to play it safe and do things my way – confronted with a personal crisis (self-created) that I could no longer postpone or evade, I turned to God in a time of pain and need and was given the gift of unconditional love – which had always been there for the taking. I am adored 🙂

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Well, yeah, if you want to look at it THAT way….

So many times we roll our eyes when someone says we should be grateful – sometimes it’s hard to stay positive in a culture that tells us if we only had THIS we could be happier, and if we didn’t have THAT life would be better – we are bombarded with messages that we don’t have enough, and we are told if we are not HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY 24/7 something is wrong with us, and we had better get more while we still can. Yet when we stop to count our blessings suddenly the day looks brighter.

Many years ago I was complaining to a friend about my job – the conversation went something like this:

“ugh I hate my job!”
“you have a job??”
“um, yeah…”
“wow! And they pay you??”
“um, yeah, but…”
“and how do you get to work?”
“you know I drive to work!”
“you have a car????? AND a license to drive it???”
“well, yes, but…”
“and where do you park the car at night?”
“very funny – I park it in the parking garage at my apartment…”
“you have an APARTMENT????”
“yes, I have an apartment…”
“WOW!! You have a job, a car to get you there, a license to drive the car, and an apartment that is yours to sleep in when you get home!!! Did you have ANY of that six months ago??”
“uh, not exactly…”
“It sounds to me like your life is pretty incredible!!”
“Well, yeah, if you want to look at it THAT way….” 🙂

So… for my friends and readers who are thinking to themselves “damn little to be grateful about that I can see”…or “ugh are you REALLY going to do gratitude for the WHOLE month of November????” I would like to ask a few questions – questions that I ask myself when I find I am taking life for granted. I realize not everyone can answer yes to all of these, but maybe they will be enough to help you start a list of your own… so here goes! The official YAY GOD Gratitude List Starter Kit!!

1) Do you know where you will sleep tonight?
2) Did you eat today? Are chances good that you will eat tomorrow?
3) Do you have indoor plumbing?
4) Do you know where your children are?
5) Is there more than one choice of outfits in your closet/drawers or are you wearing everything you own?
6) Do you have electricity? Heat? Internet? (obviously if you are reading this, at least one of these is a yes!)
7) Do you know how to read? Write?
8) Is there toilet paper in your bathroom? (<- one of my personal favorites – I have not run out of toilet paper in 25 years)
9) Does your spouse/partner know you love them?
10) Do you realize it is never too late to tell them if you are both still breathing (see #9)

May you contemplate your many blessing today, and hang with me as we start the gratitude alphabet tomorrow – maybe you can start an alphabet list of your own!

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Consistency whaaaaaat????

Well I see that early in the year I vowed to be more consistent in 2013 than I was in 2012…. so yay me for being so consistent! I was consistent, I was consistent, I was consistent (in the spirit of today’s politicians I am trying the “if you repeat it often enough it is true” method)….

OK, so I wasn’t consistent! But the year isn’t over yet! So here I am again… back for another shot at things! In the interim, I have launched a new free-lance writing business (Beth Hartley Writes, Inc) – no website yet, but there is a domain and email (beth@bethhartleywrites.com) – brochures, rewrites, proofreading, marketing materials, newsletters, ghost writing, web content… hopefull with God’s Grace (and some hard work on my part) I can move toward working the creative side of my brain on a more consistent basis (there’s that word again).

In the meantime, to get back in the swing, gratitude often comes up in November so let’s try to get grateful together – one (blog) per day starting on November 1st – each with a letter of the alphabet – so November 1 will be “A”, November 2 will be “B”, etc – after we get to the 26th, we can either make up four more letters, or wing it for the rest of the month!

Tomorrow, as a pre-exercise, I will take a look at the effect of gratitude on my life…

Everybody ready? Think Olivia Newton-John (you have to be old enough to remember the 80’s)…. let’s get consistent! Consistent! I wanna get consistent! Let me see my blog talk… my blog talk….

Now, where did I put my leg warmers???

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In Praise of Bunnies

As is often the case (at least for me) what started out as a joke, which was intended to be an offset to much unpleasantry, has ended up being a wonderful addition to my life.

I have, for the most part, always managed to stay above the (political) fray on Facebook… until the past election cycle. Against my better judgement, I engaged, and quickly found that there is an endless supply of CRAP on both sides of the aisle – and, that we have mostly all made up our minds, will unlikely change our minds based on someone elses posts, and mostly post to make ourselves feel better. That being said, the fact remains that as the election got closer, I found myself getting more and more agitated (I would say annoyed but that would be a vast understatement).

Now, before I go any further, let me say that I have always been a bit of a talk radio fan, AND I have found that after a few weeks of talk radio, I always find myself driving more aggressively. I don’t always see it as it starts, but about the time I hear myself screaming at some JERK who CAN’T DRIVE FOR GOD’S SAKES, I say… “oh yeah…. time to go back to Christian radio!!” But, I digress….

With vitriol flying in all directions by mid-October, I made the public promise that, WIN OR LOSE, I would post nothing but pictures of fluffy bunnies for two weeks after the election. And so it began…

It has been nearly three months, and I am still finding bunny pictures – some days I have a little “slip” and make political comment, which is ended with “bunny to follow” but I have found the most amazing thing…. pictures of fluffy bunnies put a smile on my face!! Looking for pictures of fluffy bunnies puts a smile on my face!! And, apparently, they are putting smiles on other peoples’ faces as well.

After a few weeks I started seeing comments on other peoples’ walls like “this really makes me mad…. I think I need  Hartley bunny” (and I am happy to oblige!) – and now bunnies are appearing on my Facebook page from other places….

Now I know you are going to say “pffffffffffffffffffft duh Beth… bunnies DO tend to multiply!!” <grin> but I have to tell you, I am really beginning to love the furry little creatures! And it makes me wonder…. maybe if we had more bunnies, and less commentary, everyone’s blood pressure would lower a bit….

So, if you have had a particularly crappy day, try a bunny!! Try more than one! Ping me, I will be happy to share some of mine! And don’t be surprised if one mysteriously (or not so mysteriously) appears on  your page if you are having a bad time of things… maybe one day we’ll see more bunnies and less criticism of others…. who knows – maybe even a “Facebook Bunny Day”…. putting smiles on the faces of others is a nice way to spend an ADD break. How ’bout it?

Bunnies for everybody!!!

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