It was “The Voices of Lee” at my church’s outdoor amphitheater right before Christmas. They’re an A Cappella group of college students who attend Lee University in Cleveland, TN. Their voices are impeccable, and they sing at different venues, particularly churches, during the holiday season as part of their grade. They sound like professionals. My husband, Bryan, and I really enjoyed the mini concert. Our pastor at, LifeFamily, has arranged for them to perform every year. He has a special connection since his oldest daughter attended Lee University. I captured the photos below.
I’m taking a moment to send holiday cheer into the world. For my household, Christmas is a time to celebrate Jesus’s birth and to also spend time with family, to let our loved ones know how much they mean to us, to be extra gracious and kind, and to just experience the joy of the season.
We started our day early. My 21-year old son, Caleb, who tries to play it cool with his emotions, woke us up from a deep sleep early in the morning. My husband, Bryan, later told me it was about 5:00 am. He asked if we were ready to open the gifts. We both shouted out, “No, a little later!” We knew he was excited, but we were too sleepy and soon dozed back to sleep.
When I was growing up, we opened Christmas gifts at midnight on Christmas Eve. Bryan’s family opened gifts in the morning, but sometimes they would open one gift at midnight. With our kids, we’ve mostly opened gifts first thing in the morning. I’m usually still wrapping gifts at midnight, but not this time. I had help. I asked my daughter, Elise, to wrap a few of her brother’s gifts. I had gift bags for some of the gifts and wrapped the rest. I completed my wrapping at about 8:00pm on Saturday.
I spent Christmas 2022 in my pajamas all day. My family is happy with their gifts so I’m happy. We tend to provide extra gifts to our kids since most of our families on both sides live in the Chicago, Illinois area. My heart is especially full because it’s the one time of year where I can get hugs from my kids. We’re not the most “physically expressive with our emotions” family. I’ve grown to be more of a hugger as I’ve gotten older, and as the universe would have it, my kids prefer otherwise.
Not only did Caleb gift me with a beautiful necklace, he reciprocated my hug, and told me he loved me. Elise also reciprocated my big suffocating hug. Perhaps other parents hear the “I love yous” and get hugs from their kids all the time. As my kids have gotten older, they do it much less, which makes it all the more special.
This is the first Christmas without my mother in law. I asked Bryan how he was doing and he said it’s been different. He’s been talking to his mom off and on today. He’s spent the past 2 days talking to family members. I can tell he had a great day. I’ve been communicating with family and friends through phone calls, texts, and social media. I enjoyed the connection, even if for a few minutes.
We’ve had some unusually cold weather in Texas for this time of year, so for the first time in a long time, we didn’t attend the church concert or Christmas Eve service. Thankfully, we didn’t have extreme weather like we did in February 2021, when the power went out and water stopped working for about a week for most people. Some people died which was heart breaking and incomprehensible, especially since I’ve experienced colder winters than that growing up in Chicago. I blogged about my experience in the posts Is This Texas? and Is This Texas Part Deux?
This time with the cold, we had no precipitation which makes it much more bearable. I can deal with cold, but it’s darn near life altering to deal with cold with rain, snow, or ice. It gets too dangerous to drive in the Texas terrain with drivers who do not know how to drive under those conditions. The temperatures were as low as the teens, but it has been steadily increasing. I enjoyed the nostalgia of having a colder Christmas week.
As I sit in my recliner couch typing and watching Bryan reclining on the other couch with his boozy beverage in hand, I can tell you, it’s been a SPLENDID day.
More than anything right now, I want more kindness, grace, and love for us all. It’s not cliché that life is so precious and short. One of my biggest light lessons for 2022 is instead of worrying about losses (such as in relationships, time, health, etc.), I’m paying more attention to the people who make room for me and who love me and the time and health I do have. If I don’t reach a goal as planned, I won’t stop living until the goal is achieved. I’ll continue living in the moment, appreciating where I am and knowing I’ll eventually achieve it. Sometimes, we get caught up in what’s missing rather than what’s here, right now in front of us.
With that, I say cheers to Christmas 2022 knowing that it can be an especially difficult time for many people for various reasons, including the loss of loved ones and loneliness. Give the gift of kindness, grace, and love to others and especially yourself this season and every day.
Christmas Eve Message
Today was a pretty uneventful Christmas Eve. I slept in, worked out for an hour, and watched a few videos on YouTube. Then mid-afternoon, I decided to take a nap, headed to my bed and proceeded to spend several more hours watching YouTube videos and scrolling through my social media channels periodically. I felt that my body needed to do nothing and I actually listened. My husband, Bryan, picked up pizza for dinner so I didn’t cook. After I recuperated, I wrapped the rest of my Christmas gifts, straightened up the house a little, and began preparing for our Christmas meal. It’s going to be so good and a departure from what I said I was going to cook in my post Fall Food Chronicles 2020.
Yesterday was Bryan’s birthday. We started the celebration on Tuesday, a few hours after my doctor’s appointment, rather than Wednesday. His birthday is the same day as my mom, Solange’s, who passed away 3 years ago. It was a bittersweet day. Although my mom didn’t celebrate her birthday for religious reasons, it is still and will forever be her birthday. On Wednesday, I actually forgot it was her birthday until Bryan said something indicating he remembered. His memory has greatly improved in the last year. The reason why he has a problem with memory in the first place is due to hydrocephalus.
I felt bad for a little while because I forgot it was also my mom’s birthday. I had received some news that I was preoccupied with. My sister sent a group text to my siblings and myself indicating that she was missing our mom. I expressed how much I missed her too.
I was reminded that aside from this global COVID-19 pandemic, which has many people anxious and on edge, this time of the year, the holiday season, is difficult for many people. It’s especially difficult for those who have lost loved ones and friends, lost jobs, have strained or no relationships with their families, and/or don’t have a lot of money to get their kids what they want, let alone put food on the table. Many people have lost their loved ones due to COVID-19.
Some messages during the holiday season are that this is the season of sharing, caring, togetherness, giving, kindness, and gratitude. But there is also loss, grief, despair, depression, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, hopelessness, helplessness, and people who act unkind, impatient, and entitled.
It bothers me that people, including myself sometimes, lose sight of the real reason for Christmas, which is to celebrate Jesus’s birth. Jesus lived a life we can never fully live up to on this earth. Yet, there is pressure, at least depending on how you look at it, for people to spend money on gifts….a lot of money on gifts. I was at a retail store recently and to see how people were frantically looking for stuff to buy really struck me. Why do we feel so compelled to show people how much we love them by buying things?
I’m not sitting on my high horse looking down on everyone else either. I participated and bought my family gifts too, but we had some lean Christmas’s in my life where we got very creative. For us, this pandemic is a walk in the park compared to what Bryan and I have been through. In fact, our circumstances helped prepare us for it. My perspective has really shifted on what’s important in life. What’s important to me is keeping myself healthy so I can care for those whom I love and who love me. It’s also to ‘pay it forward’ and lend a helping hand when I can.
Last Christmas, I budgeted for gifts, but it was a lean Christmas. Bryan hadn’t worked in 3 years due to his health condition. The year before he did work for UPS during the season for about 2 months so we could have a great Christmas. That we did! Bryan had his first grand mal seizure in November 2019. He had another one in January 2020. My greatest lesson in these last few years is how precious life is. All of the other stuff is just extra. To be ALIVE is a blessing. To be able to help others is a blessing. I’m grateful that we had those hard times because I appreciate even more that we’re in a good place now.
My message in this post is for anyone who is struggling or grieving a loved one…cast your cares on God. I know it’s not easy, especially as you live through challenging times. Life is hard…so hard that I work to not let any bitterness or coldness settle into my heart. But if you can find one small thing to be grateful for, it will help. Praying and having people pray for you will help. It may not take you out of your situation immediately, but it will help ease the pain. And you will be better on the other side of it.
From my family to yours, I wish you a warm, bright, PEACEFUL, JOYOUS, and LOVE-FILLED, Christmas! Our gathering is usually small with Bryan, our 2 kids, and myself, so we didn’t have to make any modifications. However, I know many families are missing seeing each other. Hopefully, next year will be different. My family and friends and I have already been making plans to see each other in 2021.
I’d love to hear how you are spending the holidays. If you celebrate, what are you cooking for Christmas dinner? Mine is gonna be so good!
Merry Christmas to my WP friends from all over the world! I was up super early after a night of repeatedly getting up to use the restroom. Serves me right for drinking a glass of water close to bed time. You’d think it was a gallon.
Of course, my cats heard my movements, so I could hear the purring from out in the hallway. My husband, Bryan, and I were on our cell phones. Then, my son, Caleb, walked into our room. Soon after, I heard my daughter, Elise, come out of her room. They were ready to open gifts. I’m tickled that my kids still feel the excitement even though they’re getting older.
Everyone was back in bed by 8:00 a.m. I’d been exchanging texts with family and friends most of the morning. I spoke to a dear friend for a while. I exercised on my step board my husband got me. I was so excited I had saved one of my old step aerobics DVDs.
I plan to have a quiet day at home. My real purpose in this post is to send a special message to those of you who may be struggling this time of year. Whether the struggle is financial, grieving a lost loved one, loneliness, isolation, weariness, homelessness, illness, etc., the reason for this season is to celebrate Jesus’s birth. It’s not about the consumerism and materialiam that we’re bombarded with daily.
There’s peace, joy, generosity, good will, gratitude, and love in the air that I hope permeates your soul today and every day.
To all the badass women leaders
Oh dear! This is the last Christmas Eve of the decade! Listen, 2019 has tried to WHOOP my behind and I mean TRIED, but I have a second wind. I’m percolating with ideas and enthusiasm. I’ve been laying low and recharging my battery, particularly my spiritual battery. For anyone in a similar situation as me, we can end 2019 with a BANG, or at least with the acknowledgment that we did the best we could and we’re still standing to tell our story.
My lovely boss gave me an early Christmas gift and I’ve already begun diving into this book. I know I’m a badass and I don’t doubt myself like I used to. In fact, the older I get, and the more experience I gain, the less I doubt myself. However, sometimes the obstacles of life can make you doubt your path, BUT I’m here to tell you to keep going. Obstacles, challenges, disappointments, disasters, and defeats come with the human experience. Don’t bother asking, “Why me?”.
If you’re not in a struggle now, you’re coming out of one or are headed that way in the future. But don’t fret! It strengthens your muscle, and which muscle being strengthened (character, spiritual, resilience, emotional, mental, financial, intellectual, integrity, professional, parenting, friendship, etc.) depends on what lesson you’re meant to learn.
Intermingled with the obstacles in 2019, are some definite wins. This is why it’s so important to take time every so often to reflect on your life. The end of the year, or decade for that matter, is a great time to reflect. It’s important to review your goals, assess your progress with achieving them, and determine what other work you need to invest to reach them. It’s also important to acknowledge and express gratitude for the things working well in your life because there’s something to acknowledge, no matter how small.
I want to spend a little time doting on the badass women leaders I know. I’m fortunate to work in a environment with a diverse group of exceptional women leaders. I’ve known this already, but it really stood out to me last week. The strongest traits I see in them that I admire are articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things, encouraging others, providing constructive feedback, taking the time to learn, adjusting, and bravely making hard decisions on a daily basis. These are just my current colleagues. I’ve had examples of strong, badass women leaders my whole life.
My mom, Solange, was a package of strength and vulnerability. I was perplexed by this combination for a long time. She raised 4 children on a meager salary on her own for years (before she married my stepfather when I was 16). I don’t know how she did it when I learned how much her salary was. I think I made more money than her in my first full time job and that job wasn’t much.
Solange was strict and had high standards. She passed her work ethic down to all of her children. I believe the work ethic she instilled in me is responsible for why I’m in a leadership position. My work ethic is responsible for why I push myself so hard….I’m an overachiever. Overachieving comes with some drawbacks as you’ve seen me blog about previously. I’m in a constant battle of doing and being okay with not doing. I have to tell myself to “chill out” sometimes.
The other badass woman leader example I grew up with in my own home is my older sister, Gina. Growing up, she was the one everybody called “bossy”. Naturally, most people have a problem with the “bossy” ones because they don’t want to be told what to do. However, she was practical and had an organized sense about her.
As it turns out, people who are bossy make great managers and she’s been in leadership roles at various jobs starting at an early age. I’ve always admired Gina’s ability to speak with confidence and articulate what she meant. Gina was frank and honest. I’m grateful she’s one of my resources for feedback in managing certain personnel matters at work.
Then there was my older cousin who is so smart. I’m purposely not typing her name. There’s a lot of pressure in Haitian culture to do as your parents have set out for you. Our parents’ generation had some relational tactics that I found were controlling and manipulative. As the middle child, my cousin, from my perspective, learned to be a great neutralizer and negotiator in the family. In fact, I think Gina, also has these traits as she is the middle child.
My cousin maintains relationships with everyone even if those individuals don’t get along with each other and some don’t. She’s the common denominator. They all get along with her. I’ve also watched her achieve her goals and meet high standards she set for herself and standards her parents set for her.
I could go on, but these are just some of my examples. If you’re a striving to be, or are a current badass woman leader, surround yourself with other badass women leaders.
The traits I admire in women leaders such as articulating thoughts precisely, saying the hard things despite the audience, constantly learning and adjusting, negotiating, managing personalities successfully, offering constructive feedback, bravely making and standing by hard decisions, managing work and family life simultaneously, don’t come easily to many of us. Women are raised, or at least used to be raised, counterintuitively to what makes a great leader (please everyone, don’t say what you think, be nice, etc.)
2020 is right around the corner and I plan on being even more BADASS than I already am. And BADASS for me does include taking the time out for myself doing the things I most enjoy. I’ll share some of my goals in the coming weeks.
As a jump start, I started my Christmas break doing something I love…dancing. I was one of the instructors at a Zumbathon benefiting a shelter for women and children.
We normally attend Austin’s Trails of Lights spectacular, but we opted to go more low key and small town this year. Therefore, my husband, and I, went to the small town of Buda’s Trail of Lights. It was seasonably cold.
Then, yesterday after I spent the day preparing a feast for my husband’s birthday, we went to our church to hear the amazing Annie Moses Band play Christmas music. Their performance was so beautiful, it left us speechless.
I hope you all have an AMAZING Christmas and holiday season! I know this time of year is difficult for many due to financial stress, missing a loved one who is deceased, and loneliness, to name a few. The biggest misconception is that you’re alone. The reason for the season is Jesus’s birth and He is with you. Please take comfort in Jesus’ sacrifice for you.
Now it has just occurred to me, I’ve repeatedly used the same curse word throughout this post, and yet ended the post writing about Jesus. I’m not perfect, but I know the reason for the season. I plan to curse less in 2020, but in all fairness the book started it!
What wins have you had in 2019? Who are the positive examples in your life? How do you plan to spend the last few days of the decade?