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I have felt like I could cry at the slightest provocation for the past few weeks. I'm not even entirely unsure that it's sad tears, just emotional, life is moving and I can't stop it tears.

October stirs up all kinds of feeling for me. I love the holidays, perhaps more than other people. It is engrained in me from my childhood. My mom created magic around the holidays. They were special and full of family and it was always my favorite time of year.

The holiday season started with Halloween. As a girl, I went to country school and rather than go trick or treating at houses like other kids, our country school had a big Halloween party, complete with a haunted house. There was a cake walk, bean bag toss games, costume contests, fishing over a bedsheet, and more. At the end of the party, all the parents and neighbors would gather in a big circle and us kids got to walk through and collect candy from each of them. It was a child's dream, all that candy and very little effort!

November was basically Christmas prep. Thanksgiving was a really great feast but it's sole purpose was to celebrate the time of year where it was socially acceptable to begin playing Christmas music and watch Christmas movies. The day after Thanksgiving, Christmas decorating began and it was no small feat. Pictures came down from their place on the walls, blankets were stowed away, and pillows were removed from couches to make room for Christmas paraphernalia. Anything that wasn't nailed down (and some that were) was exchanged for red, white and snowflakes. If it could be decorated, it was. If it could have a Santa hat added atop it, we did.

When I was little, the decorations were mostly homemade, things my mom sewed or painted or crafted. Then there were the hoards of things her four kids made at school over the holiday season and brought home. That sweet woman displayed every handprint reindeer, macaroni ornament, and paint by number Santa we brought home.

And the sweets, good Lord, the sweets. My mother can bake circles around Betty Crocker, my siblings and I jokingly call her Martha Stewart on crack. My Mom's holiday trays are notorious. Each year, she starts right after Thanksgiving, working on the goodie trays that will go out to neighbors, postmen, family, random strangers that stop in... everyone. She makes huge batches of chocolate covered cherries, peanuts butter blossom cookies, turtles, fudge, peanut clusters, caramel, and so much more. Every single thing, homemade.

She still does this. I get my own tray now, although I have to fight my husband and kids for my favorite things. My Mom loads the tray with my favorites though, because she knows how hard it is as a mom to have to share.

The holidays were never about money. They weren't about looking a certain way to impress. They were simply full of family and food and so much love. I know memories are different for everyone, and if you asked myself and my siblings, we would each tell of a different experience about our childhood. But the holidays were always made special. They were held to a higher standard than the rest of the year. There was holiness there. The rush of the farm and the busy life that naturally comes with it, slowed during those times.

Now I have four kids of my own, and I want the holidays to be just as special for them, but even more than that, I want everyday to carry that feeling of love. I want so desperately for them to know they are loved, every single day of the year.

As the holidays draw near, I feel a heightened sense of not wanting to fail. The other day, I messed up, bad. One of my kids scared me and my fear came out in anger. I made that child cry, on purpose, and I felt awful. I still feel awful.

I waited till the moment had passed and we had both calmed down, then I sat her down and I apologized. I looked her in the eyes and told her how sorry I was, how wrong I was, but it didn't feel like enough, it never feels like enough.

I know the holidays can't fix everything, and they are not an absolution. I can't sweep my ugly stuff under a Christmas themed rug and hope it will disappear, but I can take the feelings of nostalgia and let it guide me. I can set my goal to love, to make my family feel special. I can keep my eye on raising happy, healthy children that respect others.

The number one rule in our house is respect, even before love, because respect is tangible. I can explain it, I can draw a line for what is respectful, what is not. Everything else flows from respect.

As we head into my favorite time of year, I will love my people like crazy, because that is easy, but this year I am also going to focus on respecting them as well. No matter how tiny they are, it is never too early to show them they matter enough to deserve my respect. They cannot earn my love, they have that endlessly, unconditionally but respect takes work, for them and for me.

I know as parents, we will always carry some guilt, some regret, because no matter how hard we try, we will never get it just right. I am making peace with that. I am handing over the stuff I can't change to God and working on what I can.

I grew up with a amazing role model for a mother and I inherited a beautiful role model in my mother in law and yet I still feel like I am just winging it most days. I cannot imagine how much harder it is for those who didn't have that love growing up, those who never received respect.

Our past does not define us. Whether it was two days ago or twenty years ago, we have a choice. We can rise above our past and we can choose to not let the pressures of expectations cripple us.

I cannot change the pain from the past. I can only tell you this; regardless of upbringing, we are all a little lost. We are all just doing our best and feeling like its not enough, but we are enough. We are good enough, smart enough, strong enough, wise enough, tough enough, forgiven enough. We are worthy of love and respect. When we accept that, that's when we can start loving others well.

With love,

P.S. Make this chex mix and people will immediately love you.


  1. Wow! Excellently written and what a testament to your mom!


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