•    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 33: Be Glad in the Gift of Today   

    As I began my 33 Days of Gratitude journey, I did not have a plan for what I would write throughout the project, nor did I ever get ahead of myself, writing ahead. I took each day as it came, breathing deeply as the air turned from crisp autumn freshness to the slippery slush of old man winter.

    As the journey comes to a close, I feel reinvigorated and thoroughly refreshed, as I am again reminded of the richness of life. I am blessed as a woman to feel sanctity in the roles I have had the luxury of holding – mom, wife, friend, giver, taker, holder, helper, worker, believer, and general soul of the earth.

    I have learned more than ever that I love to write. I love words and love to get a thought out of my head and onto paper. I love sharing my writing with others, although this effort takes courage and a leap of faith, both of which time has helped to again bubble out of my heart – splashing delicately and with great sparkle onto the pages of my life.

    I am thankful for the gifts I have been fortunate enough to enjoy each day, and at times feel I could weep with joy at the treasures perched beneath our old slate roof. Our home is a symbol of gladness in my heart and is a home that has provided the perfect nest for me to learn who I am not only as mother, but as an adult woman, a lady with love to share with the world.

    I am thankful for the blessings of homemade pizza and a nice glass of Cabernet Sauvignon on a frosty December evening at home. I am thankful for the smell of rich, strong coffee in the morning and the feeling of my soft, snuggly, flannel purple pajamas that I wear on most nights. I am thankful for the scent of orange and clove and the talks with a little girl on a dead end sidewalk. I am thankful for work, for play, for challenges, and for the richness of a relationship with God, a friend who is up all night, even when I would rather be asleep.

    Through a commitment to living with, and sharing in gratitude, I have been reminded how much I love my life – not because it is perfect, not because it is easy, but because it is mine. We are blessed to be alive. We have been given the chance to be ourselves, to be the best we can be, and to be glad in the gift of today. I am thankful. I wish the same for you.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 32: The Twelve Days of Christmas   

    The Twelve Days of Christmas officially began in our house today, and is a tradition I grew up celebrating with great glee. Now as an adult, I am fortunate to still receive a large cardboard box at my doorstep every year on the day before our tradition begins, brimming with small, neatly wrapped packages. Carrying on the tradition with my own family is something I truly enjoy, and is something that links the past with the present through the chance to remember previous chapters filled with joy.

    For our family, it has never been about the stuff, as most of the gifts are rather simple and commonplace, but it is about the element of excitement and surprise. We celebrate The Twelve Days of Christmas as the 12 days before Christmas, with the first day being December 12th, or 12 days before Christmas eve. Sharing this daily time together to see what is beneath the tissue and candy cane wrapping paper brings our family closer. Carrying on and creating new traditions gives a family a foundation from which to build future memories – encouraging strength as a unit, and as souls interwoven by fate, and now by love.

    As I researched The Twelve Days of Christmas, I found many different ideas on where the song originated, ranging from being an old Catholic Catechism to help children focus on the gifts of their faith, to a Twelfth Night, “memorize or forfeit” game, where each player had to recite the player’s line before him and then add his own, or forfeit. It is known that the song was first published in England in 1780, and The Twelve Days of Christmas actually begin on the day after Christmas and run through January 6th, the Feast of the Epiphany. These twelve days on the calendar are also known as Christmastide.

    Regardless of why this song was created, I love hearing it every year, and of course know and love to sing every word. It is a song that we have woven into the fabric of our family traditions and for that I am grateful. May the traditions we choose to carry on in our lives always be those that enrich our homes and give peace and meaning to our celebrations.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 31: The Story of Christmas   

    Some days the simple gift of blind faith seen with little eyes and explained with the gestures of little hands is more insightful than any book or professional teaching. The story of Christmas is simple, and yet so profoundly life-changing. Today I am grateful to learn more, and love more about Christmas each year. Christmas is a holiday that is treasured around the world, and is a day that is filled with traditions and the spirit of giving. It is also a day that forever links mankind with God, providing us with a foundation from which our faith may grow, as we humbly do our best to carry Christmas in our hearts throughout the year.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 30: Lost and Found   

    Today I lost my favorite necklace made by my favorite kindergartener. This special treasure is constructed with neat little blocks that spell “COURTNEY,” has a ceramic cross in the middle, wooden charms in the shape of fish, and all of this magic and delight is tied together with a bright green piece of string.  It was created with love by tiny hands in our basement as a surprise for my 33rd birthday.  I wear the necklace frequently with great pride and happened to tie the knot a little too loosely this morning as I put it on. My day carried on like any ordinary day until I looked in the mirror this afternoon and noticed I was lacking the rainbow of colorful blocks and trinkets around my neck.

    My heart sank as I quickly looked around the house, hoping to find it laying on the floor, or in one of my pockets. It was nowhere to be found. As I began to retrace my steps, I knew there was a very real chance that the necklace was gone for good. How would I tell the sweet giver of this gift that I had lost it?

    I threw on my coat, boots, and hat and began to walk the ½ mile path into town, glancing back and forth on the sidewalk that was encrusted with snow and ice. After retracing my steps through town I called the library and finally, a store that I rarely visit, but happened to this morning – GFS. The manager answered the phone when I called and explained to him that I may have lost a precious treasure in the store that morning. Although I was expecting him to say that he had not seen anything like it, my spirit soared with the sound of his voice as he said he had just discovered it in the parking lot. I raced back to GFS with my kindergarten passenger happily tagging along, and picked up the necklace that was wrapped neatly in a GFS store flyer. The necklace was dirty, wet, and a few of the blocks were smashed, as it had spent much of the day in an icy parking lot as hurried shoppers arrived and left in their cars.

    Life is not about the stuff. It is about the people and the glorious experience of living. If my necklace would never have been found, it would have been out of my hands, but always in my heart. Our lives are filled with the opportunity to embrace the gifts in our lives, but to remember that the best gift we could ever give, or ever receive is simply the gift of love.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 29: Simple Skin Savers   

    Waking up to soft, smooth skin need not be something only in our dreams.  Living with skin that we feel good in creates a feeling of well being and comfort with who we are as physical beings. We are all different, each born with our own unique finger prints, skin type, or that  problem area that is prone to break outs. This is exactly as it should be. No two people are alike and this is a gift to be celebrated. As I grow older, I am better able to embrace my own personal flaws, and realize that those cheeks that flush easily, and the hair that seems flatter than it used to, is part of who I am. Beauty comes from being alive and aware, with the ability to celebrate the sound of raindrops on the roof, and the first trickle of coffee coming down the thin slide of our trusty coffee pot.

    Healthy skin starts with a healthy diet and lifestyle, but it also starts with a  smile. A face just looks prettier when it is graced with a smile. A face filled with peace is less prone to the crunching grimace of the dreaded frown. A smile is always in style, and is never misunderstood. A smile is the simplest form of communication, understood by all.

    Here are a few of my favorite winter skin savers. These easy, simple, and non-fussy treats may awaken your spirit and infuse your morning routine with delight.

    * Add ¼ cup olive, or almond oil to your bath water for an extra bit of moisture. Add a few drops of peppermint oil for some extra zing.
    *Invest in the old fashioned tradition of A&D ointment to keep on hand for your feet and hands. Before bed, generously layer this goopy salve, which contains cod liver oil, all over your feet. Top with socks and sleep well.
    *Add a few drops of 100% pure Jojoba oil to your regular moisturizer – ounce for ounce this is pricey, but a little drop goes a long way. This also works great on hair that tends to dryness.
    *After a shower, apply avocado oil to your skin, paying special attention to elbows, knees and hands.
    *If your face is feeling dry in the afternoon, add a few drops of vitamin E oil to your hands to warm, and apply lightly to your cheeks and under eye areas.

    God created each person with their own skin, their own soul and their own glow. May your beauty always shine from the inside out.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 28: A Playdough Play Date   

    Sharing a morning with a friend is the perfect way to start the day. Today the blessing of friendship, the sound of children laughing, and a simple concoction of flour, salt and food coloring brought a good dose of comfort to my spirit . Each day is filled with gifts big and small, none quite alike and none to be repeated. Noticing these gifts, and treasuring each colorful drop is our mission. Today let us be glad in the vivid colors of a life made better through the gift of friendship.

    One Minute, No Frills, Playdough Recipe:

    • 1/2 cup of salt
    • 1 cup of flour
    • 1 tablespoon of cream of tartar
    • I cup very hot water with a few drops of desired food coloring, or if  a natural coloring agent is desired, beet, tomato or orange juice work just great

    Directions: Combine all dry ingredients. Slowly add the colored water until the mixture changes from crumbly to smooth and plump. Be careful not to add too much water, but if you do, add more flour until you get a clay-like ball. It is great fun to let each child or participant have their own bowl and mix in the ingredients. Other additions for flair and spunk include sand, glitter, flavored Kool-Aid, or sprinkles. No spoons necessary – get those hands dirty and enjoy!

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 27: Finding People Who Make a Difference   

    Although much of my time is spent in the fabulous role of mom, where days are filled with art projects, songs of rhyme and stories by our old window box, I also spend time in the recruiting industry as an executive search consultant with Sanford Rose Associates in Brighton. As a recruiter, I am fortunate to be able to help people make a difference in their lives through their careers, and to help those people make a change in their lives when opportunity knocks. This position affords me the gift of balance, allowing me to thoroughly enjoy time with my children, and for this I am grateful.

    Helping and sharing life with others is what makes a life rosy and full –  to enjoy our work and enjoy the journey is a gift in itself – a gift that is in our hands each and every day to receive with grace.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 26: Sidewalk Talks   

    “When faced with a never ending staircase, or a dead end sidewalk, which one would you choose? ” This question was asked of me by my delightful kindergarten daughter as we walked together on the familiar sidewalk that greets our front stoop and has become part of our daily routine. It was a quiet, gray morning with the perfect nip of early December’s crisp welcome. Our mood together was calm and unhurried. Time such as this is a gift because these are the moments that allow real communication to come alive. I slowed my pace to think about this peculiar question, and instantly answered, “ A never ending staircase.”

    She seemed unsurprised by my naïve answer and we traveled on. “Why did you choose that answer? ” was her next question. I smiled and began to explain that I would always want the chance to keep climbing, and moving forward in life. I would not want to be faced with a sidewalk that ends, giving me no place to turn. I asked her which she would choose, and she told me that she would choose a dead end sidewalk. I felt a bit uneasy about her answer, wondering why anyone would choose a sidewalk that suddenly ends. I asked her why she chose this option, and her answer was incredible, “ I would walk backwards to where I wanted to go, or I would get off that sidewalk and find a new path.”

    I took a deep breath. I smiled. Her answer was brilliant, and it allowed me to see the question with new eyes. She was able to see that life is not always as we first believe it to be. Our lives are filled with bold, beautiful and vibrant choices – some easy to make and some terribly difficult. Our lives are unpredictable, but with the gift of an open mind and a willingness to look deeper at our lives and options, we can take a path less traveled and discover a beautiful field to dance in, or an inviting park bench by the water that holds an empty seat, just for us . Life is not complicated. It is simple and filled with goodness. Life is not about climbing the staircase, hoping to someday arrive at the top. It is about enjoying the walk, and choosing a different path if the one we are on suddenly ends.

    This photo was taken on East Street, near the intersection of Flint Road in the city of Brighton.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 25: An Old Fashioned Tradition of Spice   

    As the golden leaves of autumn slowly fade into a memory, and the windows of our old home display an icy mist along the corners, my spirit craves warmth and the earthy scents of pine, cinnamon, and clove. The profound scent of orange and clove gently blended brings about memories of my time as a little girl, baking Christmas cookies with butterflies in my belly, awaiting the arrival of Christmas day. Through the power of scent, we are able to revisit chapters of our lives that are now closed – partaking again in a journey that time has long left behind, still alive in our hearts, ready to be unearthed when we least expect it. Our breathe takes in our world and our breathe gives life to our physical body – breathing in the scents of our surroundings is natural and constant. Whether we breathe in the gift of hot apple strudel straight from the oven, or the vibrant spice of an old fashioned pomander, our life is richer because we are able to experience the world through our sense of smell.

    The pomander, a clove-studded fruit, is a traditional Christmas ornament and New Year’s gift that have been around since the 15th century. The word pomander comes from the French word pomme, which means apple. The delightful scent of orange, clove and spice is incredible and brings a citrus-infused glow to a spirit in need of the comforts of home.

    Supplies needed for 2 pomanders:
    2 oranges
    Toothpick to ease the cloves into the orange, if desired
    Whole cloves, approximately  ½ cup, depending on the design
    Spice mixture (shown below)

    For the spice mixture:
    Ground cinnamon
    Ground nutmeg
    Ground ginger

    Directions:

    Creating a pomander is easy, but will take patience and some good tough fingers – cloves are prickly! Simply stick a clove directly into an orange, and continue until you fill the orange, get tired, or create a pattern that suits your fancy. You may want to use a toothpick or knife to make the first punctures so that the cloves are easier to insert. Sit back, relax, breathe in the scent of clove-scented juice that will trickle down your wrists.
    Once the ball is completely studded with cloves, or you are happy with the pattern, roll it in the spice mixture and set it aside for a several weeks in a cool dry place to enjoy.

  •    33 Days of Gratitude – Day 24: Christmas is Alive in my Spirit   

    Sharing the gift of Christmas with children is an experience that brings tears of gladness to the happiest of hearts, song to the soul of the mom who does not sing, and laughter to the hearts of all who partake in the magic of Christmas. I grew up believing in the magic of Christmas, and do my best to carry on the Mary Poppins’ spit-spot, get-up-and-go magic today with two little girls that keep my creativity hopping . Believing, celebrating and giving thanks for the blessing of Christmas, and God’s endless love for the world is a gift I honor with great passion, but of course, too frequently take for granted.

    I love celebrating life. I treasure the gift of a twinkling candle in the moonlight, and the help of an eager little girl who has an idea of exactly where each ornament should be place on our Christmas tree. Tonight as I tucked our little ornament specialists into bed I read, A Wish to be a Christmas Tree, by Colleen Monroe, illustrated by Michael Monroe, both fabulous, local artists. The story is a beautiful rhyme that describes what it truly means to live gratefully, even if it is not always expressed easily. It also explains the meaning of a best friend and how sometimes the people we love most of all don’t hear often enough that we love them, and the gifts that they bring to our lives.

    Christmas is alive in my spirit and for that I give thanks.