Christmas Trees and Memories!

This holiday season is different for my husband and I, a bit quieter around the house because we became empty nesters several months ago. And I admit that with Christmas just around the corner, the quiet is a bit thunderous. I remember past holidays when our son and daughter were little; we’d keep the magic going and would look forward to witnessing their wonder of the season each day up until the morning when we watched them with delight open their gifts. They knew that just the night before, Santa had come down the chimney with the hefty pack of presents on his back.

Holiday baking is a tradition that I carried into my family from memories of my sisters and I baking with Mom. She was beautiful and festive, wearing her Christmas apron as she taught us how to make sugar cookies and her German Christmas Stollen – a delicious recipe that I’ve made only once in my life but will attempt again when I have the required energy in both mind and body. The recipe is complicated, involving yeast and bread rising and everything that I know very little about, hence, the need to muster up that energy! Baking with my young children was a time when their excitement and giggles bounced off the walls as they helped make sugar cookies in different shapes: bells, boots, Christmas trees, angels, stockings, candy canes, holly leaves, and more. Licking the beaters was a must, and no one ever got sick. Their tiny little hands had so much fun with the cookie dough as if they were creating with playdough. Christmas carols played in the background adding merriment to the mix.

I must have inherited my love of dressing festively for the holidays because when our children were little, I loved painting on t-shirts and sweatshirts for family and friends. I was no artist, but my daughter and son were thrilled to wear their white “Merry Christmas” sweatshirts with candy canes and Santa’s “Ho, Ho, Ho!” The grandparents wore their Santa Claus sweatshirts with pride, and they looked cute! My husband and I still wear ours and that paint has never peeled off, even after thirty years! Having fun was the main objective!

Last year’s festivities

But this past Saturday a new tradition began when just the two of us drove to our most patronized grocery store to look for a live Christmas tree. He’s an Arborist and an avid tree hugger, so as long as the prepping of the tree – fitting it onto the stand and keeping it watered – doesn’t become physically challenging, a living tree will be our preference. For the first time, we brought home a beautiful Grand Fir. My husband prepped the tree outside, trimming the bottom branches, making sure the flush cut was level with the base of the tree, then drilling holes around the center hole to allow water to be soaked up. Inside the house, I rearranged furniture, vacuumed, and pulled the red festive tree skirt from the closet, prepping the perfect spot by the large window in the living room. When the tree was set up, I poured sugar water into the base and waited a half hour to ensure no water was seeping through.

Tony Bennett sang Christmas carols in the background while we strung the lights around the fragrant tree. As we picked up each ornament, precious memories flooded our minds. Most ornaments were handmade by our children as they were growing up, and many have photos of them from kindergarten, first, and second grades. Oh, the memories! Now our beautiful Grand Fir stands tall by the window adorned in red, green, and white lights, adding magic to the room. The tree topper is our very own precious angel that our daughter made when she was a little girl. She used a toilet paper roll. Hilarious, but clever, and so special that this angel will never be replaced.

I realized early that day, I didn’t feel the same excitement to put up the tree as I’ve felt in years past. But we had a great time, perusing the trees on the lot, then getting both tree and house ready. Feeling reminiscent of those years when our children were little invoked gratitude for the blessed Christmases we’ve had when we all lived together, or at least, when one child was home while the other was away at university. So, even though we missed the presence of our adult kids during this tradition, I’m grateful for my husband to share another holiday season with. Perspective is key: this is the next chapter for each of us, and it’s all good. Most importantly, we are healthy and safe.

Everyone has their own struggles and sorrow from various life events; some are just a matter of going along with the progression of natural changes like becoming empty nesters, and some events are so tragic that joy drifts far, far away. Hopefully, though, joy can be found wherever our hearts and minds may be this holiday season, even if only in tiny, fragile fragments.

❤️❤️❤️

And speaking of memories, if you’re looking for a holiday gift for family or friends, my memoir, More than Coffee: Memories in Verse and Prose, is available on Amazon:

US Amazon:
https://tinyurl.com/5bffee3t

UK Amazon:
https://tinyurl.com/fhy4mtaf

Below is another beautiful 5-Star Review from my dear friend, Betty at https://raindancepoetry.wordpress.com:

“More than Coffee is a heartwarming collection of memories and anecdotes in which the author reflects on her early life, her marriage, her love for family and friends, and her appreciation for the great outdoors. In poetry and prose she writes poignantly (and often humorously) of love, loss, sadness and joy, and I found myself relating to each section. The overall feeling I had after reading More than Coffee was one of optimism and upliftment. A wonderful book!

I believe there is some meaningful discovery for each reader, or at least, this is my wish.

Sending you all hugs of joy during this holiday season.
Lauren ❤️🎄

All Good Things

In these unsettling times, it’s important to find joy in each day,
even if digging a little deeper is necessary
. Anxiety, fear, and sadness
have certainly been fueled this year, which is reason enough to find things in life that make us happy. Throw in a dash of fun and a sprinkle of silly – bring on the smiles and laughter! It’s important for our mental and physical well being to find a balance so that all of our energy and focus isn’t directed only to the negative. I’m sure you’ve heard of a gratitude journal, so let’s count this post as one of my long journal entries, but first the visuals:

I’m grateful for another drive through the majestic redwoods and then onto Bolinas Ridge where the view of Stinson Beach was stunning – no fog or wind, just a glorious June day. I find joy in receiving fun gifts like the musical note earrings my daughter gave me because of our shared passion for music, and then the socks from her that tell me “I’m gorgeous, don’t change.” Wearing this kind of encouragement throughout the day is definitely a mood-booster.

I’m thankful for how I followed in Mom’s footsteps as my family indulges in sweet decadence once in a while, as well as baking for gifts. The plate of cookies are oatmeal chocolate chip, so don’t be shy! The cake was for a birthday: lemon with raspberry filling and buttercream frosting (all homemade). I also look forward to our relaxing patio time where we can talk about the day, make plans for tomorrow, and clink our glasses to celebrate being healthy and employed in these Covid times.

And then there are books! Can’t live without the exciting and adventurous worlds they draw me into. My son gave me “Little Fires Everywhere” not knowing anything about it. It turned out to be an engrossing and riveting read, and the mini series starring Reese Weatherperson and Kerry Washington was just as captivating. I found “Nineteen Minutes” listed on one of Stephen King’s book recommendations and am half-way through it. Can’t put it down either, but I must so that I can write this post! I highly recommend both books.

You see Copper lying on the bed…he was also enjoying “Little Fires Everywhere.” He is diligent in practicing how to relax and has become very good at it. 🙂 The love and joy this big puppy gives us is priceless. Oh, and look at Mini! As a child, I lived in Anaheim with Disneyland in my backyard. So, Mickey and Mini will always have a special place in my heart.

Nature provides serenity. It calms and emboldens us to look deeply within ourselves. It is a teacher of simplistic living, especially while backpacking. The sunset was taken at one of our favorite campgrounds, Look Lake – a gorgeous body of water in the Sierra without the crowds. The other photo is of Spider Lake that is a higher elevation, and I’m happy to report not one spider was found! Both destinations were perfect to take in the beauty around us, to spend time together, and to simply be. No technology, just a tent, a couple of chairs, and a picnic table. This is what we love to do, and we hope to venture onto the trails as long as our bodies will allow.

I hope you enjoyed these samples of some things in life that bring me joy – the list is never-ending. What do you lean towards in these times of uncertainty? What brings you calm? What turns your frown upside down? What makes you chuckle? Do you find that some of these photos bring you joy, too?

Wishing you a wonderful Friday and much joy in your days ahead,
Lauren
💗🎉💗🎉

Special Birthday Gifts ♥

Today is my 39th birthday (again).
Well, my true age is yet to be found out.
🙂
Anyway, my family wrote poems for me,
filled with love, smiles (and a little embarrassment).
I’d like to share their writing, for a change. ♥

From Dad, at the young age of 93

It was a Saturday morn-
And Lauren was born!
Mom was in good spirits and
Both of us were wondering-
a boy or a girl?
If a girl, would she have curls?
If a boy, would he be a “Milton Berle?”
When Mom delivered, the doctor said,
“You have a beautiful baby girl.”
Mom replied, “Are you sure?”
The doctor said, “See for yourself;
This is not a blur!”
With that, Mom was very sure
and through the years, LOVE ENDURED!

From My Sister, Susie

God blessed me with a much younger sis
at age 11 an unexpected and exciting twist
Growing up wasn’t always bliss
especially when refusing her request to play
her eyes might mist

Despite the gap in our ages, some of our personality traits match
loving homemade cookies and baking a tasty batch

Being avid readers we love to turn the pages
Although we share the gift for words
while I speak to be heard
my sis created a blog and pens poetry from her heart
which inspires and entertains her readers

While I adopted two sons, sis adopted a playful coppery puppy
These cuddly canines (Copper, Inka, and Remy)
love when it’s time for their daily walk

My sons became Star and Life Boy Scouts
Sister’s son is a Life Scout about to follow his dad’s example
by soon achieving Eagle, something to joyfully shout about

Our hair style with bangs is long and straight
and requires an occasional highlight
to cover strands of gray
What a twist of fate

God has graced us with the gift of faith
Loving husbands and two children each

We’re definitely opinionated and don’t hesitate
to express how we feel or what we think
To have a talented sis who is so great
I’m positively tickled pink

From My Daughter

Today is your birthday
another year younger, right? 😉
Time keeps moving forward
but you stay youthful and quite,

 so, that’s not how life unfolds
We get older, we age
Laugh lines increase, weight goes up and down
after the turning of every page

 But at 52, you have timeless beauty
Your sea blue eyes never cease to shine
You smile always in that perfect rectangle
and your laugh is always light and kind

 Well, sometimes it’s loud and weird
and I’m not sure where your goofiness comes from
but I wouldn’t trade those for the world
because that’s you beating to your own drum

 Which is what you (and Dad) have taught us, kids (haha)
You have been a wonderful mom and continue to do so
Your arms are always open and your love continues to grow

into a beautiful flower, you’ve blossomed
Getting married, having kids and settling down
I know being a parent can be tough
but you have held on and not fallen to the ground

 Giving up isn’t your style
although, sometimes you probably want to
Just know that you are an awesome and strong person
who can handle anything you puts her mind to

 Bills, working, difficult boss, chauffeuring us around
You’ve done it all
and continue to conquer it with guts and ba..

 Love is what you give to us every day
even if we can’t see it or even when we fight
Our friendship will always be tight

 Happy Birthday, Ma!
Enjoy your day!
You deserve the best!
So, don’t worry about the pay 😉

From my Son

Today is a day of celebration,
of reminiscing on highs and lows,
as you commemorate fifty two years of your creation.
So many people have helped you grow;
they’ve been there for you as you balanced the equation
of who you are and what to show.

 Life has not always been the best
but no matter what, you always stay strong,
because you know, with love and hope, nothing can infest
what you call your family. We are not wrong,
for we must confess
that your love helps to bind us together; lifelong.

 So be happy and merry,
smile with joy,
knowing that today, those around you will carry
your burdens because today is about you; we will not annoy
you. We will all be your magical “fairy.”
Now go enjoy!

From My Sister, Debbie (Remember When)

It was decades ago when you were a child and I was the big sister,
I loved to take you to lunch to chat and have a burger.
We loved books, music and country charm, and we were taught
The Golden Rule to do no harm.
Now time has sped by through laughter and tears,
and we still help each other overcome our fears.
Though we live miles away, and wish it were minutes,
the bond that we share will never diminish.
So now we’re “mature” and a lot has been said,
but with God ever faithful, we’ll still look ahead.
I’m glad you’re my sister and also my friend,
and we have a connection that never will end.
So have a birthday to remember, good food, wine and cake,
and though we won’t be there, it still will be great!

From My Hubby

Our love has grown stronger through the years,
In between, we’ve shed a few tears.
My love for you is second to none,

and because of this, you are my Hun.
Together we raised two beautiful children

To me, you’re one in a million
Through good times and bad our love has grown,

you have the sweetest heart I’ve ever known.
I’m here with you now and forever,

as our life unfolds, we’ll always walk together.

Thank you, My Family, these are the best gifts.