Journey 359: The Best Christmas Gift

What a beautiful Christmas Day! Sixty degree weather and ample sunshine didn’t create traditional postcard-like Christmas scenes but I didn’t mind the bright, breezy day. My daughter Adriel hosted the family for Christmas. 

My tree last night after I completed gift wrapping. 

As we gathered, gifts surrounded Adriel’s tree. Extra tables and chairs were set up, Christmas dinner prepared, pies popped into the oven. Conversations, punctuated with laughter, shifted from kitchen to living room and back again, a continuous joyful murmur that flowed  as people grouped here, then regrouped over there. 

We had a great meal…sliced brisket, smoked chicken and an assortment of sides and salads. The younger kids grouped around a table in the kitchen while Dayan and the adults sat at tables in the dining area and living room. 


After our meal, the children wasted no time in opening presents. That was a wild and fun commotion accompanied by the sound of paper ripping and the laughter of kids as they sorted out which packages were theirs. I was handing off presents to eager hands and didn’t capture many of those moments with my phone camera. 

Everyone received gifts. My mom, who stopped by later in the afternoon, gave gold coins to the kids and grandkids. And there was a wonderful assortment of toys, video and board games, art supplies, gift cards, books, specially crafted photos and items for the cooks in the family. It was fun to give…and to receive. 

The best gift of all today was that all of my children, with their spouses and fiancé, and all five of my grandchildren were present! Because of busy schedules, it is rare for all of us to be able to gather together. Last Christmas, Adriel and her fiancé were out of town, and three of the grandchildren were not able to join us. I totally understand how complicated scheduling can be. Which makes it incredibly exciting when everyone can be present. 


The make a silly face photo. 

I finished Christmas Day with a special treat. Dayan and I watched the Doctor Who Christmas special tonight. I’m caught up in this series. The special was my first real time Doctor Who episode. “The Husbands of River Song” brought back a favorite reoccurring character from previous episodes, River Song, and Dayan and I enjoyed the show immensely. We loved the many references to past stories and the chemistry between the 12th Doctor and River. 

We exchanged many happy looks and laughed, a lot, during the hour long special. And then as often happens during Doctor Who, the energy shifted and zapped my heart and tears filled my eyes.  It was a beautifully done episode and I’m grateful for the opportunity to watch it on this special day, with Dayan. 

Yes, what a beautiful day of celebrating and laughing, hugging and loving on each other. My heart is full tonight with gratitude and appreciation for these most precious gifts, my family members. I am blessed. I am honored to journey alongside each one, into the new year. 

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”   Burton Hillis



Journey 358: Christmas Eve Cookie Bars

I tried a new recipe this evening, in between finishing up the grocery shopping for tomorrow’s Christmas dinner and wrapping the last of the gifts. With candles lit inside, and outside on the front deck, music playing on my iPhone, and food prepped for tomorrow, I was in a festive mood. 


This dessert was so easy. Here’s the recipe:

Chocolate Chip Cream Cheese Bars

3 pkgs of cream cheese

3 eggs

3/4 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

2 rolls of refrigerator chocolate chip cookie dough 
Combine cream cheese, eggs, sugar & vanilla. Set aside. 

Slice cookie dough from one roll into 1/4″ slices and arrange on bottom of greased 9×13 glass pan. Spoon cream cheese mixture evenly over dough. Top with slices of cookie dough from remaining roll. Bake at 350 degrees 35-40 minutes. Cool. Refrigerate. Cut into bars before serving. 


The tantalizing aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking filled the air as I tidied up the kitchen and put away baking supplies. I’ll let the dessert cool and refrigerate overnight. We will try the bars tomorrow after Christmas dinner and I’ll report back! 

Now on to finishing up the last few tasks before gratefully crawling into bed. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and spending time with my family! 

Journey 357: All is Bright

Today was one of those days that just flowed, and I flowed with it. It was a long day, with twists and turns and little delightful surprises that make me so appreciate my life and all the goodness in it. 


My day began with a closing in another town, the final one for me in 2015. It’s been a good year in real estate and I’m grateful for amazing clients and transactions. What a great way to close out the year, with a transaction between gracious buyers and sellers who worked well with me and each other. I appreciate the agent who sent these buyers to me as a referral. What an honor to take care of clients entrusted to me by a fellow realtor that I respect. 

The rest of the day was filled with glimpses of beauty, such as Blanket Flowers still in bloom in my garden during this mild December. And moments of joy and fun. 

Grandsons Dayan and Jonathan helped me make fudge this afternoon while we chatted about what’s going on most recently in their lives. They made peanut butter and chocolate varieties while I supervised. Jonathan was the official taster of the finished product. 
Granddaughter Aubrey got a play date this evening with her BFF/cousin London. The girls shared gifts, laughter, pizza and dances, while I had an opportunity to visit with my sister, mom and nephew. London’s little sister Aralyn joined the older girls for playtime, and she busied herself between the big girls in the playroom and the adults visiting in the living room. Aralyn called me Yaya for the first time tonight, and liking that new sound, called out to me repeatedly with a smile on her sweet face. 


When I took Aubrey home late in the evening, I saw Oliver and Joey, making the count 5/5 for grandchildren today. The boys were ready for bed, sweet and sleepy, and although they are eight and nine years old, I couldn’t resist hugs and cuddles. We talked about Christmas and whispered I love you’s before I headed home. 

While making a pizza run earlier, for the little group gathered at my sister’s house, I was stopped on a dark side street, waiting for traffic to clear. My eyes were drawn upwards, to a beautiful sight. The nearly full moon was emerging from a bank of puffy clouds illuminated by the reflected lunar glow. It stirred my heart. How magical, that sight. How mystical, and deeply meaningful, is this time of year. 

I forgot about the cars whizzing by, completely captivated by the Christmas moon. I rolled my window down to take a picture, the fresh breeze stirring around me, lifting my hair, caressing my face. What a magnificent day, full of treasured connections. In that hushed night, the busy street now deserted, I felt the Divine present in that full and poignant moment, and I felt gratitude, peace and wonder. 

Silent night, holy night, all is calm, all is bright.”


Journey 356: Wrapped in Love

My journey today took me to another state, and involved time spent with a dear person in the hospital. Walking with him through a challenging time is my honor and privilege. The story is his though, and not mine to share. I was present. And he is on a healing journey now. 

Home after a long day that began at 3:30 am, I popped a Christmas movie into the tv/dvd player and gathered wrapping supplies. Before retiring, I wanted to get a few more gifts wrapped for Christmas. 


Gift wrapping is common this time of year. However, for me it’s more than sliding gifts into festive bags or covering a box with merry paper. It’s a meditative act that I’ve practiced since my children were small.   

As I wrap each gift, or tuck colorful tissue paper around it, I think about the person who will be receiving the present. I picture them, with their beautiful faces, their bright, shining souls, their eyes full of mirth. I surround that person with blessings, prayers, Love and Light. I imagine an amazing upcoming year for them. 

As I write that person’s name on the gift tag and affix it to the present, it is an “amen” a “may it be so” to all that I’ve been thinking for and about that loved one. And then I select a different person’s gift and start the meditation again. It’s a beautiful experience, one that I cherish. And I much prefer what this practice has evolved into, over feeling rushed and stressed about getting the gifts wrapped, as I once did. 

Tonight I realized that as I create these Christmas packages, I am doing more than wrapping them in paper. I am wrapping them, and the recipients, in love. Further, I saw that being present with another today, sharing his journey, holding his hand, giving reassuring hugs and words, was actually another form of the same act. It was a full circle kind of day, wrapped in love from start to finish. 


Journey 351: Dinner & Christmas Shopping with Jonathan 

Tonight was the final Grandchild & Yaya excursion as grandson Jonathan and I headed out to shop for Christmas gifts and have dinner together. This bright and entertaining boy was ready when I arrived at his house this afternoon to pick him up, and he knew where he wanted to go. 

We made our first stop at an electronics store. I’m grateful Jonathan is a whiz at all things related to gaming. He politely asked a sales clerk for assistance and then rattled off what he was looking for. She knew that the item he sought had just arrived on a truck and a few minutes later, placed it in his hands. I was impressed! 

Before we stopped at the next store, Jonathan decided it was time for dinner. He chose Cici’s Pizza where he could eat all the pizza that he wanted. We chatted about school and family, video games and YouTube. Jonathan is an intelligent young man who customarily thinks outside the box. He has big ideas and the confidence to pursue an extraordinary life. 


The perfect way, for this kid, to spend a few minutes after dinner. 


I really like this next pic, where his face is reflected in the mirror at the back of the game. 


We finished our shopping at the next store. I enjoyed watching the kids go through the process of gift selection. They think through what they want to buy, keeping in mind what the intended recipient likes. Jonathan touched my heart tonight. He asked if he could pick out a gift for his friend, Eli. Eli’s father passed away this year and this is the boy’s first Christmas without his dad. Jonathan wanted to do something special for his friend. Of course, I said yes…and gave Jonathan a hug. 


What a wonderful experience this has been, taking each of my five grandchildren out for an evening of undivided attention. It was fun to spend time together, and see what they picked out for their families. What I loved most were the conversations, the glimpses into their incredible hearts and minds, the stories they shared about how they view the world and what they hope to do. I look forward to journeying alongside each child as they continue learning and growing. 

My younger daughter Adriel does not have children yet. She does have fur babies. I considered tonight the completion of the shopping trips, but perhaps my granddog Frances might want to go with me to select gifts for her mom and dad!

Jonathan wrapped his gifts and I snapped one more pic before it was time to take him home. As we walked to the car, tiny snowflakes were falling from a dark wintry sky. We turned our faces upward and felt the cold fragments of ice on our cheeks. What a perfect way to end our evening together. Dayan, Jonathan, Joey, Oliver and Aubrey, I am so blessed to be your Yaya.   


Journey 350: Dinner & Christmas Shopping with Dayan

This evening it was Dayan’s turn to shop for Christmas gifts for his family, and go to dinner with me. I picked him up from school, and as we usually do on Wednesday afternoons, we watched Doctor Who. As of today, I am officially caught on and current on this show, which features the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi. I will be able to watch the Christmas special with Dayan. 


Immediately after the conclusion of the final episode of the season, we headed into Joplin to shop. One difference in taking a 16 year old shopping is that Dayan did all the driving this evening, which was a nice treat for me! As he expertly handled the car, we chatted about Doctor Who, school and where our first stop would be.  

Dayan is my first grandchild, and the oldest of the grandkids. In fact, he was my only grandchild for a while. When he was young, I would take him shopping at Christmas time for his family. He’s always amazed me with his ability to select meaningful, thoughtful gifts, even when he was a wee lad. As he got older, we switched for a time to making gifts for the family. That was fun as well. 

I felt quite nostalgic, taking this grandson, now a young man, out shopping again. As I suspected, he was the fastest shopper so far. He had ideas and those came together rapidly. For the gifts that he was undecided about, plans fell into place with ease, and he was happy with his purchases.

Dayan selected Cici’s Pizza for dinner, a great buffet style restaurant. As we walked in, the manager instructed an employee to lock the door behind us. Cici’s was preparing for a company Christmas party. We were told we could stay and eat. What perfect timing!  

We enjoyed our dinner, and more interesting conversation, in a party atmosphere! There was a Santa handing out gifts to children of the employees, and a steady stream of people carrying in treats and food prepared at home. Dayan and I decided that if one worked at a pizza restaurant, one would want anything but pizza at the company Christmas party. 

I watched Dayan interact with people…servers who were clearing tables and wiping down surfaces, and other staff sweeping floors and cleaning up. He’s always so gracious with others, going beyond politeness to show genuine interest in people. Although we were not pressured at all to eat quickly and leave, we didn’t linger over our meal so that the party could begin in earnest. 

What a great evening with Dayan. Because he is allergic to cats, we did not stop at my house to wrap gifts. Instead, Dayan drove us back to his house and had the pleasure of telling his family to close their eyes while we carried bags of surprises into his room. He will wrap his presents on his own and slip them under the tree. One more child tomorrow night, grandson Jonathan, and that will conclude the Yaya and Grandchild shopping adventures for this year. This has been so fun! 


Journey 349: Dinner & Christmas Shopping with Joey

I had the pleasure of spending the evening with my grandson Joey, as the Yaya and Grandchild shopping sprees continue. I picked this bright boy up from school and off we went on our shared adventure. 


I quickly discovered that Joey is a master shopper. At Toys R Us, he smoothly navigated the crowded aisles, knowing exactly what he wanted to purchase for Aubrey. He was open to what grabbed his attention for Oliver, but wasted no time in looking at anything for himself. He made great choices and out the door we went, on to the next stop.  

Our destination was Hobby Lobby, which was a wonderful idea, as virtually everything was on sale. Most items were marked 50% off, which meant Joey could make his money go much further. I give each of the kids a budget and they are so good at sticking to it. Joey was very money conscious, weighing options carefully before committing to a purchase. 

Our time in this super store was precious. I love how creative Joey is and as we walked around, we discussed art, creativity and how inspiration finds us. We had a magical moment when THE perfect gift appeared before us, at the right price. Magical was Joey’s word and I am so proud that he recognizes synchronicity and the Divine at work. We spent a few extra moments looking at art supplies and drawing books together, discussing projects.  

Shopping completed, Joey chose Cracker Barrel for dinner. Another great choice! As we waited for our meals to arrive, we played with the puzzle at the table. 

And Joey challenged me to a game of checkers. I was not much of a challenge at all, as he beat me soundly!

I enjoyed watching him figure out his next move. 

We had a fun evening together. Joey is a great conversationalist, and we discussed a broad range of topics. He was gracious to others, thanking sales clerks and the server at the restaurant, and polite as he opened doors for others and carried packages for me. 

Presents wrapped, we headed to his house, our evening drawing to a close. Joey made a request, on the way home, that we do more of these Yaya and Grandchild evenings, where he has my undivided attention. I think that’s a great idea. I love having all my grandkids together. And yet Joey’s right, the energy is different when it’s me and a grandchild, having one on one time. I get to hear each child’s conversations at a deeper level, and learn what lights up their bright and earnest faces. I think this Christmas tradition has just become a year long tradition. We can replace shopping with an event that each child would enjoy and then have dinner. To quote Joey, it will be magical!


Journey 348: Coloring & Eggnog

The perfect end to today, snug inside against the chilly night air, was to sample the season’s first eggnog, while enjoying one of my favorite activities for relaxing. Coloring. Dressed in comfy pjs, the Christmas tree lit up with white twinkling lights, I felt warmed and joyful, a great precursor to sleep. 


I tried the adult version of eggnog last year, for the first time. My mom used to fix the nonalcoholic kind when I was a child, but I had not had any type of eggnog for years. For this drink, I buy nonalcoholic eggnog and add a splash of spiced rum, and a sprinkle each of nutmeg and cinnamon. Delicious, and perfect for a wintry evening. 

I researched the drink and found that it originated in Europe in the 14th century. It was first called posset and was a hot drink made from curdled milk and ale or wine. Eggs were introduced to the drink some time later. After America was colonized, the drink morphed into one that contained the original recipe plus grogg, which is a mixture of beer and water or rum and water. Served in a small wooden mug called a noggin, the drink was called “egg and grogg in a noggin”. Thankfully, this was shortened to eggnog. 


As I sipped my eggnog, I colored on a Christmas print created by artist Johanna Basford. Johanna’s coloring book, Secret Garden, launched the coloring craze about a year and a half ago. She has since released two more books, Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean. I have all three books and love her detailed pictures. 

I’m in a coloring book group on Facebook that Johanna is also a member of, and part of her Facebook group. During #GivingTuesday I learned of Mary’s Meals through her page and contributed to this worthy organization with the mission of feeding hungry children around the world. Later, Johanna offered four beautifully done Christmas prints to color, to those who made a donation. That was very kind of her! 

After a time of coloring, and a cup of eggnog, it’s going to be an early turn in for me tonight. But it won’t be my last evening for enjoying either. I found a recipe online for making eggnog from scratch, supposedly George Washington’s concoction. December 24 is National Eggnog Day. I think I’ll give it a try! 


Journey 345: Dinner & Christmas Shopping with Aubrey

This evening was the second outing with a grandchild to purchase Christmas gifts for family members. It was Aubrey’s turn. When I picked her up from school and told her the plan, she was so excited about the prospect of shopping for others that she decided to get right to selecting gifts, and eat dinner afterward. That’s a big deal, as this child is usually starving after school. 


Time out for a small prize, after selecting great gifts for her brothers at Toys R Us. 

Showing off her backpack tag that says “Hope”, as we enter Target to shop. I let the kids make selections based on what they want to surprise their family with. They each have an amount that they can spend and they do an amazing job picking out gifts. 

Hamming it up with a storm trooper. 


Aubrey chose Golden Corral for dinner. She loves this buffet style restaurant. We talked about school, Christmas and family. She saw a couple of older gentlemen that she knew, friends of her great-grandfather’s. We walked over to say hello.  Walking back to our table, our conversation went like this:

Aubrey: That’s crazy! I’ve seen those guys three times recently. 

Me: What do you think that means, that you keep running into them? (I was thinking about synchronicity and a connection to her great-grandfather, who has passed.)

Aubrey: I think they are stalking me! 

This girl, she makes me laugh. She also warms my heart. Aubrey always has me leave a note to our servers, in restaurants, with the tip. 


We had a fun evening, Aubrey and I. After dinner we wrapped gifts at my house before making gift deliveries and saying goodnight. She kept up a continual conversation that both amused me and surprised me, because of her perceptive insights. 

Three grandkids yet to take shopping. It’s Joey’s turn Sunday evening. I am blessed with these grandchildren, and enjoy spending time with them. We are creating memories. 


Journey 341: Tis the Season

It’s been a busy day and an even busier evening. In between taking care of people, I continued decorating the house for Christmas. I love expressing my creativity this way. I’m not finished yet, but it will all get done. I needed a simple blog post tonight, as midnight is quickly approaching. 

Here is Christmas as it is appearing throughout the house. 


My little Norfolk pine in the bedroom gets decked out for Christmas. Love the new little colored lights this year. 


The vintage suitcase switched over to Christmas. The Merry Christmas postcard featuring Bob & Leta Moore is 71 years old!  


Santa mug collection.  
Vignette in my great aunt Roxie’s little red footstool, that I flipped upside down. 



Although my main tree is real, I’m scattering little artificial trees throughout the house this year. This one found a spot on a vintage chair. 


I swapped out a few items on the entry table to transition it to Christmas. 


The main tree, in process. I’ll finish it tomorrow as I have time. 


The two new ornaments for this year. The acorn, reminding me of my adventures during 2015, and those who accompanied me and those that I lost. 

And I made the cluster of hearts from the beautiful little ornaments that I purchased last month. I love the colors. 

This is what I love to do each evening before bed. Turn off the room lights and sit looking at the Christmas tree. Peace and joy fill me. It’s after midnight. I should get to bed. I have much to accomplish later today and more decorating to do. But for just a few moments more, this is where I want to be.