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Check the list twice

Does your list look this?

  • Cookie exchange – 13 dozen
  • Craft store boxes for ladies exchange
  • Candy canes/classroom – 29
  • Teacher presents – 5
  • Greeting cards – 25
  • 6 stocking stuffers – (don’t forget the razors this year)
  • Host – Lions Club party
  • Hang outdoor lights
  • Decorate outdoor tree
  • Gift exchange – $25 or less
  • Concerts – December 3, 10, 12, 14, 19, 21, 22
  • Tree decor – $350
  • Host – Association holiday bazaar
  • Clearance tub sale – 12/27
  • Christmas Eve party @ Jamie’s house
  • Grandma Jean’s gift

This isn’t exactly a long list, right?  Perhaps not for some. Although I would question this list for even the most organized.  For others though, this is an example of why the holidays become a dread instead of a joy. Because with 10 extra nights out in the month, 12 extra gifts to wrap, 25 cards to write, a tree, house, mantel and hall to decorate, and two extra parties to host, there isn’t much comfort and joy to be had.  It’s all been squeezed out and there’s no more room for baby Jesus at the Inn.

So how do we manage all of the demands we’ve placed on ourselves and which ones do we let go of?  I mean we want to appreciate our child’s teachers, and the Association party just won’t be the same without our help, and we can’t forget Grandma Jean or the lovely dance recital our neighbor invited us to, and…..

The answer to this question will vary greatly depending on you and your needs. But the answer begins with asking yourself,  “Why”?

Why am I baking 13 dozen cookies for the party?

Is the party really something I love? Do I love baking cookies? Do I enjoy the people at this party enough to bake this many cookies?

If your answer is a resounding “yes,” and this both gives you great joy and you like why you’ve chosen this then by all means keep this activity as something necessary this season. But if it isn’t, then it’s time to cut it off your list.

The same goes for tree decorating, hosting parties, giving presents, and buying candy canes.

Friend, it may be too late to back out of some commitments now and if that is the case I hope you will at least make note of what you can actually let go of for next year but if you have not yet made a commitment to some activities then please do yourself a loving favor and check some things off your list.

And I know it can be so difficult to let go of our stuff, our ideas, our traditions, our _____________ but let me share with you a wonderful memory from last year that we created because we let go of what we’ve always done.

We had a very busy year with transitions in our household, as our oldest son was far away in college and not going to arrive home until December 23rd. He was possibly going to miss our outing of getting a tree and decorating it.  We decided to wait for him before we decorated which meant we wouldn’t have our tree for the usual 3 weeks we had it in previous years.

Additionally, because of the busyness we had during the year, we felt a traditional tree was going to feel more like a burden than a joy so we switched gears… let’s get the tree that needs the most love. It could be a symbol of our Christmas and what our hearts were being drawn to so, as I went shopping for our tree… I searched for the little tree that needed the most love.  There weren’t many to choose from. Yet, as I glanced at the three or four still available, there she stood…… sort of. Actually, she was bent and leaning like the leaning tower. We started calling our tree, “the leaning tower of Christmas”.  It was a point of humor but everyone got into the spirit of that little tree last year.

On December 23rd, the afternoon our son arrived home from college, we all sported our Christmas pajama bottoms, hopped into our van, and headed to the dollar store where each of us bought three ornaments and once home, placed them all on our little leaning tree. There was such laughter and light-heartedness in those moments and the joy that filled the room was truly better than some of our past years of decorating much larger and more perfectly-shaped trees.

leaning tree

Our take-away from last year is that we let go of what we did before and created a much more pleasurable and loving experience.  Now, it’s your turn….

Challenge #2

Check the list twice…

What can you let go of that will allow you to create something a little different or a little more enjoyable?

AnnaGracie tree
Christmas 2017 ~ Anna laughs while Gracie adorns our tree with a garland.


kyleisaac tree
Kyle and Isaac decorating our leaning tower of Christmas.


Challenge #3 is for tomorrow and it’s going to be good….


Posted in Uncategorized

Timeout for Christmas

Photo by Nubia Navarro on

red lighted candle

Do the songs you hear during the season light you up? Some of them are quite simple, yet brilliantly composed songs that have had almost miraculous histories. Some of them have lit the path for faith built on Christ’s love and kindness.  Others speak of joy and family and cocoa around a fireplace. All of these are reasons to embrace the songs of the season.

Let’s be honest though. Some of the songs we hear on the radio make us feel annoyed. Maybe they seem corny or monotonous. There’s only so many hundred times you can hear ding-dong after the 4th day of Christmas and realize you just want your true love to bring you the stress-free holiday you promised yourself.  Maybe you are like a few of my friends who lost a true love this year so just celebrating anything feels a bit daunting and sad and stressful.

What if you could be your own true love this season though and take a time out to discover the stress-free holiday you crave. Let this be your permission to do just that. Some people thrive on events like tree-lightings and church services and they light up with all the wonderfully composed songs of the season. Others are more introverted and need to dial it down. Maybe their idea of a great holiday is spending time alone with a good book curled up without distractions. “There’s no judgement here,” as a friend of mine would say.

So, to my few dear readers, I don’t want you to go through another year wishing the stress of the holiday  would  go away when you have within yourself the power to choose the best things of this season. I want to be clear that I love Santa, reindeer, silver bells, lights, desserts, stories, concerts, music and all the trimmings but for me, in order to experience the best of the season I choose challenges like scheduling time-outs and letting go of unnecessary things. Are you ready to join me the next three days as I challenge you too? Here we go…


Schedule a time out. This is absolutely not an option. Scheduling a time out gives you the opportunity to discover the very best of the season. Sound boring? It doesn’t need to be.

Here are some of my ideas for accomplishing this:

DRIVE:  If you like driving, then fill your gas tank, grab a hot drink, find a place you would like to drive to or that you can safely park at and ask yourself these three questions.

  1. What do I enjoy?
  2. What steals my joy?
  3. What gift can I bring to the party that has nothing to do with buying a present?   (For those resistant to this question ,think of your personality traits like listening, humor, light-heartedness, kindness, hospitality, friendliness or flexibility as a start. You get to decide this year how you want to show up to the party and it doesn’t begin with the present you bought. It begins with you.)

These may be tough questions to answer, especially if you are used to functioning on autopilot but if you answer them and commit to adding more of what you enjoy and less of what steals your joy, your timeout will have been absolutely worth it.

JOURNAL: Find a quaint coffeeshop, bookstore or quiet place in your home, light a candle and find a topic to consider for the holidays.  You are welcome to create your own journal topics. This may be helpful for those who have lost someone this year because you may want to write about your loved one. However, I’ve put together a few general prompts for your consideration. Here they are:

What is the best memory I have of the holidays growing up?

What is the biggest winter storm I’ve experienced?

What if the only people I had in all the world were the people I lived with? What would I do? What would I say?

What can I give myself permission to do more of this season?

SING: Yes. Sing. Make a date with yourself, find a holiday song you enjoy and sing it. This can be in the shower or the car or even with friends. The challenge isn’t to worry about your sound or to rush through the song so you can check this time-out challenge off your list. The challenge is to find a song you love, find the joy in singing it and even learn more about it too. Look up the lyrics, study them if you wish, find out who the composer is and why they wrote the song. Buy a cd with your favorite song on it, or download various artists singing the same song.  You will certainly find great joy in this time-out challenge. Trust me.


Challenge #2 comes in tomorrow’s blog post. Don’t miss it.



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Life goes

candlesIt was 5:00  a.m. when the phone rang and…

I knew.

People just don’t call you that early in the morning unless it’s bad news. It was my mother.

She was choking back tears trying to form words that could only mean one thing….

  My dad was dead.

I’m not sure what she even said to me. I just know that I’ve decided since then that telling someone their loved one has died, passed, or is gone, is the most excruciating thing you could ever have say to another person.   It must have taken my mom some time to call. Did she think about what she was going to say first? Did she even have anyone with her? All I know is she must have stores of courage that others don’t. She had lived long with the knowledge that Dad’s passing was imminent but even with acceptance, the shock of someone’s passing is still too much for a soul to bear alone, let alone speak about.

I don’t remember much about the next day or two but on the third day, I remember going to the funeral home to see my Dad’s body in a casket. It was my birthday, so my mom and brothers and I met up for my birthday dinner.  Didn’t feel much like eating but we did anyway. My mom still wanted to celebrate my birthday. I guess she just carried on for all of us.  She always has been that kind of mom…. amazing.

The moment came for us to enter the room where my Dad’s body lay.  Do you know the feeling you can get when you really don’t want to go into a room? Your body tenses, you sweat and feel nauseous like you could faint?  It was like that for me only worse. I felt my soul was going to bottom out much the way I felt the day I turned around for just a moment and then couldn’t find my son…. That sinking, anxious, panicked feeling where I barely knew how to breathe.   I just know that nothing could ever have prepared me for that moment. GOD…. NO!!!!

My dad is NOT dead!!!!!

Of course I couldn’t let the others see me not being brave so, I walked up to where my dad lay and touched him like, “Hey.. he’s not here, so can we go…?  

I didn’t want to be there. Yet.. here I was. Here we all were celebrating my birthday (yep… weird) and here was my dad laying there in that thing.   He was just laying there.

The next day was the actual funeral and most of it was a blur except I think I squeaked out a song to sing acapella. I’m pretty sure there was a pastor who talked about the afterlife and about my dad and his life here on earth. He said I was the “apple” of my dad’s eye.  I guess that means something special but I’ve never completely understood it.

I had nightmares about my dad both before and after he died. I used to wake myself up crying which if you have never experienced that before, it’s almost frightening and really quite astonishing how your sleeping body can cry for you when your waking body can’t seem to.

Life goes on though. That’s what people want to happen anyway. For me my life did in so many ways. I mean, I was a married, stay-at-home mom, doing well and then about 10 years after Dad’s passing I remember hitting a wall, and feeling so ripped off. My dad missed everything. He. Missed. Everything!

Isaac’s birth. Anna’s adoption.  Kyle’s shows. The kids’ concerts, events, celebrations and …what about my opera singing?  Dad missed my singing. The opera he spoke about for years before I actually ever sang an aria… He missed it. He is still missing things. All the amazing things I’d like to share with him about one of my kids. He’s not a part of it… not really.  I sometimes try to convince myself he is but the truth is, I haven’t felt him for a long time. Unless you know someone that has passed away, that idea may not make much sense to you but many people think there is a period of time when you feel like your loved one is still with you. I haven’t felt that way for a long while. I also lost dad so early in life that the memories I have of him regrettably are so few.   I used to purchase a Christmas ornament in memory of him every year. I would make my selection based on something we did together. I feel like I’ve run out of memories.

This thing called “death” took so much away,  and just exactly how does life go on after “death” anway?  How do I answer that? Especially since I believe in life after death. I believe with all my heart that I will see my dad again. I believe the scripture that says “He that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live.” But to answer the question about how to go on, is another thing.

The truth is, there is not an easy way to answer how life goes on.  There is no minister on earth that has the “message” that will save you either. I don’t mean the gospel message. I mean the one message that tells you exactly how life will go on for YOU. That message is something you so badly want to hear from the one who is now gone.

I’ve been one of the lucky ones. I’ve had a mother who choked back all life threw at her and still managed to find a way to celebrate, and even celebrate me in the middle of all the excruciating details.  I miss my dad. I’ll always love and miss him. But I have been so blessed with the kind of mother who shows up for all our families events, hosts all our holidays, swallows tears to be brave for us and after 25 years of carrying on without my dad, has shown all of us how to live, how to live well and how sometimes life isn’t about having answers to questions like how to go on living… sometimes the answer lies in the gentle  “this is the way life goes”.  






Lori Anne and Lenora, celebrating life, tea and Downton Abbey at Lenora’s lovely home on Lake Tapps. 

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Shame. On. Me?

“What a shame.”
“Shame on you!”
“Shame on me!”

”Shame on….me?”

Have you ever heard any of these “shame” phrases?
Have you ever seen what a child does when they are shamed? During the immediate moments of experiencing shame, the child might yell, throw something, hide, tell a lie, cry or run away. Other times a child may do nothing except sit in silence. As time passes though, when shame has a chance to work, suddenly a behavior never seen before manifests itself and everyone around, including the child, is unsure of what just happened or why.

Sometimes, as adults we may act out of shame too. It might not look the same as a child’s acting out but some of us have witnessed behavior in an adult that has baffled us. Perhaps their behavior isn’t all that baffling. Consider, could they be reflecting their own feelings of shame? Maybe that person is you. Maybe your feelings more closely resemble embarrassment. But what do you do with those feelings? Are you kind to yourself or do you hide or say mean things to yourself? Do you hold on to negative feelings or act like you are the embodiment of a title like, ‘Miss What-a-Shame’ or ‘Mr. Shame-on-me’? This embodiment has long term effects and must be challenged since shame is almost always accompanied by an inability to accept all aspects of yourself.

In “Secrets: Good or Bad?” I challenged readers to take their first step in dealing with a secret by acknowledging it and asking it to live somewhere else. If you have done that, I applaud you. You are courageous. Now, I’d like you to imagine all the accompanying feelings of shame, embarrassment, fear, pride, guilt, or blame being packaged up in a suitcase. Imagine the secret is inside the suitcase along with all those feelings. Those feelings and that secret is something you have been carrying around. Guess what? That suitcase feels heavy. My challenge to you this week is to lay that suitcase down! It’s kind of like the example we’ve heard before about laying down your baggage because baggage in this instance represents “emotional weight”. If we can lay this down a while, we can do the work to analyze it, separate it from ourselves, and work on processing through it in a way that heals. Is it easy? Nope. In fact, it’s hard work. Is it worth it? I think so.

Here is an example from my life that I have told several people about and will share here so you can get an idea of how shame manifested itself in my life and how I chose to rid myself of the accompanying feelings.

When I was a little girl, about 6 years old, my family and I were gathered with a large group of relatives for probably a family reunion. Two of my distant cousins (boys about 14, whom I will call “Bob’ and “Al”) approached me. They wanted to take me for a “walk”. Of course everyone thought that was a great idea including me. So we set off on our walk and I was rather excited about having two older boys (kind of like brothers) pay so much attention to me. When we got to a secluded spot – I think it was a barn or shed, one of the cousins decided we would play a game. It was a game called “sex”. One of the cousins, “Bob”, came up to me and started to unbutton my top pant button. I resisted and said I didn’t want to play that game. I knew in my 6 year old brain this was not my kind of game. My innocent mind actually thought they were calling the game “six” not “sex”. They corrected me. They also said a whole bunch of stuff that didn’t make any sense at all to me. “Al” looked completely out of it like he was using drugs and he started smoking something. Finally Al said to Bob who was still trying to unbutton my pants …. “Ah, leave her alone.” We soon (much to my relief) started walking back to where everyone else was but not before both of them made me so afraid to tell a soul about the game or about the smoking. I felt shame almost instantly. I was afraid and for years never told my family because I felt dirty for almost letting someone take off my pants.
Continue reading “Shame. On. Me?”

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A secret. Good or bad?

If we take a moment to recall the days of our innocence, a secret could mean the surprise our Aunt has waiting for us after school, or the sparkly present under the tree that has our name stretched across the gift wrap. It could mean your best friend leaning over to whisper, “I want to tell you a secret,” and the secret is about a boy she thinks likes you. This kind of secret may cause anticipation, but generally feels good and can even cause a burst of laughter.

But the other kind of “I want to tell you a secret,”  is the kind we think can’t be spoken in a sentence, or even told over a cup of coffee. It’s the kind that may take years to talk about. The kind we’ve carried throughout our lives that feels like a whisper of our personality, the dark parts we don’t wish to reveal. This secret can lock you into yourself and may rarely be noticed by us until one day it pops into our existence even though we were completely convinced we had buried it. It’s the kind we don’t speak out loud for fear we will end up being swept away by it’s persistence or else we think if those close to us knew, they just may walk away. This kind of secret feels bad.

So what do we do with the bad secrets then? If there was an easy answer to this question there would never be any need for counselors, pastors, priests and other people helpers. If the answer was easy, it would mean all the bad secrets could be spoken out loud without fear.

Friend, has your secret been making you afraid? Has it been showing up as the bully of your current existence? Has your secret been tearing at your soul making you wander or feeling like you’re unable to find the whole person you used to be?    

For a moment, I’d like you to imagine the “you” before the secret. What was that person like? What if you asked that person to tell you about how you used to like to play? What are the things you enjoyed? What adventures did you look forward to? Did you like to have many friends or just one?

Now imagine going to a remote place, one that is full of things you love and the things you surround yourself with to relax.  When you are ready, think about the secret you’ve been carrying so long. Unwelcomed, it’s popped into your existence. It’s uncomfortable and scary but you are safe. Your secret has snuck it’s way out for a reason.  It’s not trying to be bad or good. It’s just that it doesn’t serve you anymore. It doesn’t want to live deep in your soul. Your secret needs a different place to live.

Friend, can you give yourself and your secret the gift of having its own place to live? You don’t have to provide or protect it anymore. In time you may want to share it with someone. It doesn’t have to be today. It doesn’t have to be this week. The big challenge in this moment is to acknowledge your secret. It’s lived with you a long time. It’s brought up a lot of bad feelings. You may need time in this moment to be alone, to write, or cry, or pray or listen to music. Whatever you do, just acknowledge it and if you are feeling brave,  thank it for sneaking out and kindly ask it to live someplace else.

Give yourself time today to really think about this and if you want to, journal your experience.


Posted in Grief

Grief Series: Joy in the mourning “Today I will live”

“Only two more days until Christmas, then I can get on with taking down the fake disguise I’ve had this past month trying to appease those in my life unable to handle the truth of how I’m really feeling.”

I wonder if any of you have felt this way?   For those who recently lost a loved one, this sentiment will probably not apply to you. After all, people are far more willing to allow you to have meltdown moments in the days and weeks following your loved one’s death. For those who have lost someone a while ago though, this isn’t the case. I could say more about this, but my focus tonight is to let all my readers know that you are not alone and that my candles burn for you this season.

My prayers are with you believing that someday, perhaps soon, you will be able to punctuate life’s happenings, your feelings and your pain with something other than a period. A period at the end of a sentence surely completes a thought. A period at the end of a loved one’s death though does not have to be the complete end of us.  My wish for you moving into 2016 is that perhaps, in time, instead of saying, “My loved one is gone.” Period. “I will never be the same.” Period. “Death is so final.” Period.  You will be able to say instead. “My loved one is gone…. AND,” or “I will never be the same…. BUT,” or “Death is final….SO today I will live.”

Thoughts of peace, hope, life, more living in 2016, and joy in the mourning,

Lori Anne

Posted in Grief

Grief Series: Joy in the mourning: “Will you please hold this for me?”


It wasn’t until about 10 years later that I had another grievous time missing my dad. I didn’t expect to have that kind of meltdown but that’s the way grief is. It sneaks up on you at times you least expect it.  Being unprepared is like you’ve walked the hallway of your home, stumbled across an object and have no idea how it got there or where to put it. The options are: hold it, toss it back on the floor, or designate it to the junk drawer. All of those options present problems though. If you hold it, even if the object is only as small as a paper clip, eventually your hand will become so tired you could end up with hand function problems. If you toss it back on the floor eventually you are just going to stumble across it again and if you put it in the junk drawer ….well… everyone knows about the junk drawer. So, Whom do we feel safe enough to share our grief with?   So, how do we appropriately deal with the unexpected when we just don’t know what to do? Where do we put that kind of grief? For me it has been in writing and music.

Ways to handle grief will be different for each person but to help you in the process, consider how another person may be able to help.

Consider the following:

1. Who can you trust enough to allow you to honor your grief? Friends? Family members? A co-worker? A grief counselor? A support group? This will be important to identify and accept. I say accept because people close to you may not be the best at allowing your grief. It’s not because they don’t mean well but not everyone is equipped to handle the full range of grief you inevitably will experience.

2. Will you learn to say this phrase? “Will you please hold this for me?” This isn’t really what you would necessarily say, but it serves as a symbol of the dilemma of trying to find a place for the newly found household object and articulating your need to ask for help. By asking for help, this allows others to help you while you figure out the best ways to honor your grief.

One last question…. and this one is for those who have friends or family members who are grieving.

3. Will you answer your friend when they’ve asked for help? It’s not that simple, I know. Some people never ask for help and many of us aren’t clued in to people’s needs or to the subtle ways people might ask. Some people are only comfortable showing the emotions of anger and bitterness. Becoming vulnerable may not be something they have yet made room for in their lives. Others are full of anxiety or may exhibit behaviors they didn’t before. Some may become completely disenchanted with any type of organization or group, whether it’s religious, educational, community, job-related, etc. The reality is your friend may likely be searching for a place to rest from carrying their grief. The Apostle Paul instructs the Galatian church through a letter to become a shoulder to each other when carrying burdens. The text reads, “Bear one another’s burdens…” and that directive serves as a principle with just as much importance today as it did then because no one was meant to carry burdens all by themselves.

Questions open for comments:  In what ways have you been successful asking for help with your grief?

Grief Series: Joy in the mourning “But I’m still crying”


Waking yourself up crying is not the kind of thing you easily forget. In fact it is the exact opposite of what the mournful psalmist David writes in Psalm 30:5 (b), “Weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.” When reading this passage the first thing that may come to mind is…

“Guess what David? You’re a great poet but you’ve got this all wrong. Morning should be spelled mourning. I know you think weeping is for the night, but it’s morning and I’m still crying.”

This kind of grief is the kind you wake up to. It’s the kind that reaches all the way down to your guts and spills out of your unconscious being. There are no words anyone can say to you in that moment. Really the only thing you want is someone to hold you and even though that may help for a while, like a wave, grief comes again and again and threatens to knock you over leaving you terrified that you won’t be able to tread through that kind of pain any longer.

Fortunately, for me I didn’t have too many more “crying myself awake” mornings after my Dad’s death and I had been blessed with a beautiful son to love and care for. Some people aren’t so lucky though. They are literally left alone without a single person or pet in the home. They may have grown fearful at the thought of going it alone or they may turn to substances and unhealthy activities, behaviors or relationships. Questions undoubtedly arise that there are no answers for.

Questions in particular I’ve had are “If joy comes in the morning, then why am I still crying?” and “Will I ever feel normal again?”
The reality is there isn’t any easy way to answer this AND there shouldn’t be. Crying, getting angry, feeling desperate, alone, troubled, weak, sickly, torn, devastated, and empty are all perfectly normal reactions when you lose someone you love. What if instead of trying to make all those awful feelings go away as quickly as possible, we chose to honor them by allowing them.


Ask yourself, “How am I supposed to feel?” If you can answer this honestly you may be on your way to honoring your grief and the one your troubled soul misses.