cultivate (kuhl - tuh - veyt)
v. 1) develop 2) nurture

graft (grahft)
n. 1) transplant 2) bud 3) union

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Annie was one such woman...

Every once and again a life touches another's, leaving a profound and indelible signature. Annie was one such woman. My story is much like countless others; her kindness speaking volumes, and her smile sparking palpable joy in any room she entered. She never took herself too seriously, all the while gladly bearing another's burden with heartfelt warmth. What was probably an act of kindness quickly forgotten by her has stuck with me for nearly twenty years. 

As I blew into work on a frosty morning, I lamented to Annie (who went by “Annie” then, and so remains in my mind as “Annie” instead of “Anne”) that I had regretfully lost my favorite winter hat. Bustling between college classes and work, I had somehow lost it out of my truck. Alas! Despite retracing my steps, Operation Hat Recon had failed miserably. It was just a silly ol' hat, but Annie listened to my dramatic hat tribute with her trademark compassion and empathy (those who knew her, know exactly what I mean). With work to do, I set to my tasks, while Annie went to the back room. Now is a good time to mention that the hat I lost was white-just ordinary and white. She reappeared with what can only be described as a Suessical hat. Measuring in at an impressive thirty-six inches-yes, it was three feet long, this hat boasted bright stripes from stem to fringey stern.  With her 1,000 watt smile, she held out her hat and declared that she absolutely insisted I have it. She modeled how stylish this hat was as she strutted her stuff across the faded carpet of the workroom.. With a gallant toss of her head, she demonstrated how one could use the tail of it as a scarf. How could I possibly say no?

Her head would have been just as cold as mine on the trek home after work, and yet I know that if it had been my jacket I'd lost, she would have given that to me as well. That's just who she was. I could recount dozens of stories of her kindness-driving me across town when my glasses broke, shoving money into my pocket to sneak us ice-cream at work, impromptu drawings for tough days, movie dates, a great many conversations on every topic under the sun, and a hilariously perplexing nickname which stuck for quite some time (but which also holds precious space in my memories). Each moment is stored in my heart, and I'll treasure them there for a lifetime. 

As the air grows chilly, I'll pull out my Annie Hat. I've readily worn it every winter, and every winter I garner at least a couple raised eyebrows and amused side-eye glances. The fluff has long since been suppressed, and the hues have lost a certain vibrancy-much like the world has with Annie's passing. However, I will gladly keep right on wearing this comical hat, and anyone who comments will hear a tale of an incredible woman who, with a simple gesture, taught me that it's always the right time to be generous...and a tad goofy.   

At a time in our nation when it's en vogue to disagree, I can't help but think that the world needs more Annies. Perhaps today you could choose kindness over yet another politically charged argument. Hug tightly. Listen intently. Snuggle a little longer. 

With a Blessed-but-Heavy Heart,


Monday, January 25, 2016

Let Them (Re)visited: Let Them Give it Away (and a book shout out)

Let Them (Re)visited is an opportunity for me to eat crow or crow all the louder regarding topics I covered during my Let Them series. Let's see what happens, shall we?

As soon as I peeked at the first Let Them title, I knew my stance wouldn't have changed one iota. Kids with much should be encouraged to practice generosity. Liberally. But here's what has changed for our home: Things are more complicated now. Kids ranging from toddler to tween means interests are more diverse. Toys are more distinctly owned by individuals. Group consensus to toss something is not met so easily. Olders are more attached to The Things From Their Childhood (things they rarely actually play with, because they are babyish). More trinkets get tossed in the trash, because they don't survive to meet the inside of the giveaway bag.

The living situation is more complicated too. We're practicing commune living, so there's seven people living in a manufactured home. Because we're kooky like that. Four kids in one room means somethin' has to go, precious snowflakes. As this is a temporary arrangement, some special treasures have stayed boxed up. The life-as-I-know-it-will-cease-without-this-toy items have been relegated to small bins on the bed or under it.

In short, our children have learned to do without. And embrace it. They've played card games, and worked many a puzzle. They've learned new skills in the kitchen, pursued classic literature (because books are one area I basically refuse to limit, and is evidenced by the mountains of reading material surrounding us), and climbed our trees for hours. Perhaps we've all learned to be content with less. Don't get me wrong, we all have displayed selfishness over keeping something, but what I've learned since February 23rd, 2013 is that less truly, really, honestly is more.

I think most parents want their children to become giving, thoughtful, gracious people. I think most of us falter in our steps as we strive to raise grateful kids. It feels uncomfortably against the flow to teach kids gratitude, and sometimes it's easier to float with the current down You Deserve It River. Sometimes we need a solid kick in the pants before we're willing to adjust our thinking. Before I'm willing to say, “OK, God, what I'm doing is a total crapshoot.”

(Here comes my amazingly smooth and undetectable segue.)

Hey! Remember that one time I applied to be part of a launch team for Kristen Welch's new book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World, and didn't know I'd been accepted because my e-mail is rising up in mutiny and eating important e-mails? I've basically been playing catch-up with the rest of the team, which means they've been babysitting me and holding my hand, bless it.


We need a kick in the pants, and Kristen delivers a swift, but gracious boot to get us moving. We're not all precious, gentle families who practice All The Special Things with our families. Kristen knows that. Kristen is our people. She's transparent. Reading her book is just like sitting across from her on a squishy couch, yukking it up. I know this because we have the same verse inked on us and I sent her an e-mail years ago to tell we're basically BFF's and I'm not a weirdo stalker. Not once do you catch of a whiff of condescension. Grace, firm suggestions, a call-to-action.

“When entitlement's poison begins to infect our hearts, gratitude is the antidote.” 
“Kids will be kids and if we give them too much, too soon, they will likely take it.” 
“We give our kids more because we think it will make us all feel better, but it actually places a higher value on things than on relationships. And often our kids don't need more stuff or more freedom; they just need more of us.”

Good words, Kristen. Go read more of her good words (and possibly win something...Oops! I've said too much.).

So here's the deal: Today is the release date! Go get thee thine own copy and one to giveth away. This isn't so much a parenting book as it is a manual for not raising, nor being yourself a self-absorbed lazy butt. You won't regret it.


*Cover courtesy of Tyndale House Publishers