A Simple Advent Wreath! If You're Five or 90, This is For You!

(This was originally posted two years ago. It's still works today. )

I woke up at 3 a.m. this morning with a vision of an Advent wreath I had to make.  This has happened a few times in my life, where an idea comes to mind that is crystal clear and urgent.  We all know that phrase, "it dawned on me."  Our daughter says that's how God works - He dawns on us.

My 90-year old Dad has quietly lamented twice this week that he and Mom will not have an Advent wreath this year, because they are in an ALF, and they can't light candles, or have fire in their suite, and they have no room for a circled frame the size of dinner plate covered with live greenery, holding four candles.  They have not had an Advent wreath since they moved to the ALF almost four years ago.

The Advent wreath was a big deal in our house when I was growing up.  Dad, who loves gardening, always made our wreath from a wooden frame and evergreen and ribbons.  Four new tapers were tucked in the greens and anchored in the wood with wires.  He usually poked a few holly berries in the wreath as well.  We lit the appropriate candle every night at dinner and said a special prayer. I can still smell the fragrant evergreen and the melting candle wax. 

Advent candles were on sale after Mass this past weekend.  Dad wanted to know how much they were...then he wheeled on towards the car with our daughter.  He didn't know how he could have a wreath, but he was probably trying to work it out in his head.

This morning, I got up and made this.

I made it from a ring of cardboard and construction paper.  Four cardboard columns and some scrappy leaves.   

I covered the columns in purple and pink paper and glued ovals of black Velcro to the wicks.

 I glued matching Velcro pieces to the backs of four gold stars.  

Then, I snipped leaves from three different shades of green and two shades of brown art foam.  All scraps.  

As the four weeks of Advent unfold, Dad can stick a gold star to a candle to "light" it.  I punched a hole in the top of the wreath for hanging from a Command hook on their wall.

I assumed the folks would want the wreath hung inside their suite, but when I gave it to them today, they wanted it on their front door, so other residents and staff could see it.   I gave Dad a gold star and told him to practice attaching it to a candle wick, as the first candle will be "lit" on Sunday.

With his trembling hand, he pressed the star to a purple candle wick.  Easy as pinning the tail on the donkey.  He got a kick out of the wreath and told Mom, "Janey-baby, I hope we don't lose the other stars."

"I have them right here," Mom assured him, tapping the snack baggie of stars on her sliding pile of paperwork.

I said to Dad, "Do you want to take off this star?  Advent doesn't start until Sunday."

"No, let's leave it," he said.  "I might forget to put it on Sunday.  We'll just start early."

So, advent candlelight is already sparkling in Florida at Brookdale ALF. 

As I was working on the wreath today, I realized a "stick-on star light wreath" might be ideal for young children as well.  It can be hung low enough on the wall for short arms to reach, and no real fire is involved.  Children can help decorate the cardboard ring in any fashion they like.  Weathered, ailing hands, or chubby little fingers, this simple project keeps Advent tangible for all ages.  After Christmas, the wreath can be stored in a large mailing envelope for use next year.

God has some really good ideas, doesn't He?


My 2015 Grateful List - from the Handy Man to Baby James

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It's like Christmas, without all the crazy shopping and overspending. And Easter, without all the candy. It's a day that refocuses my mind - for at least a week - on what's truly important. We need more holidays like this.

I want to share with you how, despite some heartaches this year, I am still mindful of how blessed I am. These blessings are in no particular order.

1.  I still love our 25-year-old house, despite the fact that the kitchen is about the size of a walk-in closet. This dear home has raised three kids to adulthood, weathered copious Florida hurricanes with no flooding, housed many, many friends and family, and tolerated one lovable dog who liked to drag dead squirrels inside.

2.  I'm so grateful for dark chocolate-covered malt balls.

I don't know why it took someone so long to create these, but they should get the Nobel peace prize.

3. I'm grateful I have a handy husband. Between the two of us, we can manage most home repairs and updates. Recently, we re-framed an old, industrial-grade bathroom mirror.

(If you want to do this, here are detailed instructions: GETTING FRAMED)

4.  I'm beyond grateful that my handy husband is finally recovering from vertigo - a condition that made him so sick a week ago, he was sleeping on the bathroom floor. It's an odd inner ear imbalance problem that is completely debilitating, and it often springs up for no apparent reason. Whoever figures this one out really deserves a prize.

5.  I'm grateful the little fender bender I had two weeks ago hurt no one and no one else's car either. Only my own, which is fair, I suppose. Luckily, I have first-accident forgiveness, so I have only my deductible to pay, and I can move on with my life. Thank you, USAA.

6.  I'm grateful for a week in a condo on the beach last month to celebrate our 40th anniversary. This was a gift from many family members and we have great photos to remind us of this time away from our own lives. Here's one of my favorites.

Thank you, son Jeremy, for taking so many lovely photographs.

7.  I'm grateful for my nutritionist, who by muscle testing keeps me on track with eating well, despite my occasional cheating with chocolate-covered malt balls.

8.  I thank God that Dad is finally recovering from his fall six weeks ago. He had several set-backs, and we wondered if he would be able to return to his ALF, where Mom is. Looks like that will likely happen now.

9. I'm grateful that my ebook about our family Christmas project (HERE: THE 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE) is finished and was published in July. I felt called to write it and share it with the world. What happens with it now is up to God.

10.  I'm grateful for our local thrift shop. It reminds me that "stuff" is recycle-able and share-able and trade-able. I love taking a bag of things there just about monthly, and I love finding an item there I need. We could all save so much and probably help the planet too, if we would just rotate our stuff.

11.  I'm grateful for good pie crust. I've never been able to master it, so I really love and admire a baker who can do it. JOAN'S PERFECT PIES here in Melbourne has the best pies I've ever tasted. Joan won second place in a national pie championship in 2014, so you know there's only one baker better than her in the nation. If you're ever in Melbourne, FL...check out this pie shop.

12.  I'm grateful for Champion brand sport bras. For various reasons. Enough said.

13.  I'm grateful, delighted really, for our first grandchild James, who is six months, pre-born. Here he is with his folks, our son and his wife.

Isn't he the most beautiful pre-born you've ever seen? He looks great in plaid, don't you think? Clearly, I'm going to be one of those nutty grandmas, but I'm OK with that. James and I will be buds.

14.  I'm mostly grateful that I know there is a sovereign God who loves me and has a plan for my life. Without that, nothing else makes any sense.


This is What Your Christmas is Missing! (guest post by Stacey Lozano)

Stacey Lozano from STACEY'S DAZE shared her thoughts about my holiday craft/project ebook this week. I had trouble linking her post to facebook, so I transferred her post to my blog to see if the kinks are on my end as well. TESTING!
She's giving away a FREE copy of my ebook, so check it out! Winner announced Friday the 20th! To enter the contest, leave your comment on STACEY'S BLOG HERE.

From Stacey...

This is what your Christmas is missing!

It's coming up on Christmas, my friends. And those that are parents are wondering what to do this year. Three gifts, or Santa gifts? Elf on a shelf or one of the many alternatives. And those without children are wondering if there is any magic in the season. Have I got a treat for all of you!

My friend wrote a book sharing a Christmas tradition her family did and she still does. The twist is it's about doing for someone else rather than simply receiving. It's called the "12 Days of Christmas Adventure." 

Marianne and I came to know one another during a Blog from A-Z campaign. On her blog, she writes about "grown-up babies, seasoned parents, chasing wellness, chasing God, and dropping the meatloaf in the dish water." And now she's written an ebook about their own Christmas tradition someone once shared with her family, but they carried on and she still does.

Based on the song The Twelve Days of Christmas, the idea behind the tradition is that you give a daily gift and card to someone for the 12 days leading up to Christmas. Each day you give something fun, practical, creative, or crazy that is closely or loosely based on each day of the song.

Now, you might be thinking. "Stacey, that sounds great. But I'm not that creative, and I don't have that much time." I get it! And so does Marianne! She has given a wealth of ideas in the book for you to use. And she gives you ideas on what the fun cards should say as well. And she gives you alternatives on how you can do the entire tradition. Generally I always say to do what fits you best. She helps you find what fits you best.

Here are some benefits of this book:

  1. Your children learn that it truly is better to give than to receive. 
  2. Someone feels remembered and loved through the season.
  3. Relationships are formed or tightened.
  4. You have an activity to do with your children.
  5. You don't need children to do this for someone!
You need to go pick this book up. I do not receive anything for suggesting this book to you, nor am I paid for this post. I thought it was a really good idea, and am deciding who should be the recipient for my 12 days as I type. THAT might be he hardest part of this entire thing, as there are always people who are hurting.

You can read what Marianne says about the ebook at her blog. You can purchase "The 12 Days of Christmas Adventure" HERE at Smashwords or HERE at Barnes and Noble (who gives you a sneak peek) right now.

I am SO thrilled to be able to give away one copy of the book to one of my friends here on the blog. All you need to do is leave a comment telling me your favorite Christmas tradition growing up. How easy, right? I'll draw a name out of the hat and announce the winner this Friday, the 20th, which will leave you plenty of time, as well. The 12 days starts on Dec 13th. Get ready to start what will surely become your favorite Christmas tradition for years to come. 



A Great Stocking Stuffer!

A sweet blogger friend of mine has written a book called Shock the Clock: Time Management for Writers and Other Creatives. I whipped through it yesterday and took a page of notes on time-saving tips for writers specifically, but everyone, in general. 

This is my kind of instructional book - short paragraphs, bullet points and a few wacky graphics for fun. This is Jeanette Levellie's third book of tips on how to manage life from a spiritual perspective. There is always a dose of humor tossed in.

Shock the Clock opens up with helping readers recognize themselves based on the four temperaments first defined by Hippocrates: choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic. I was a bit of a mix (as most people are), but dominantly melancholic. Based on your temperament, you can easily see how you best work, what your weaknesses are and how to overcome them. Isn't all of that good to know?

Jeanette then writes about how to remain steadfast in your writing (if you are a writer) and how to de-clutter your life in general, (writer or not) because cleaning out your life gives you more time to do whatever it is you love. There were my favorite tips:

1. "Don't buy clothes that need to be dry-cleaned." Yay! I always avoided anything that had to be dry-cleaned because of the time and money involved. I just didn't want to mess with it. Now, I have confirmation that I'm as smart as I thought I was.

2. "It's OK to do nothing for an hour a day." I loved reading this. I think most of us operate on the premise that if we are busy, we are important. We tend to think we are indispensable in all our activities. But, if we take an hour off, the world really does go on.

3. "If you had two years to live, what would you spend your time on?" Wow. Everyone could benefit from answering this question. I'm still thinking about my answer.

Jeanette offers many suggestions to help writers organize their schedules and stay on task. Writers tend to get side-tracked with social media. We also tend to doze off while reading a great book or studying the writing of a favorite TV show. It's not important how I know this, but Jeannette's tips might help you, if you have this problem. She's got great ideas on time management, in general. When I finished her book, I hopped up and organized my work station. No joke.

Check out Jeanette's website for more info. on this talented writer and speaker:  www.jeanettelevellie.com.

Visit her facebook page here: JEANETTE's FACEBOOK

You can pre-order her gem of a book here: SHOCK THE CLOCK.  (Release date is Dec. 14.) It's a quick, easy read that would make a great Christmas gift. Gain some tips on how to start fresh in the New Year.

Thank you, Jeanette, for sharing your book with me!

https://womenunplugged.files.wordpress.com/2015/11/3-final.jpg About Jeanette Levellie: A spunky pastor’s wife of thirty-plus years, Jeanette Levellie authors a weekly humor/inspirational column, God is Greater, a popular feature in her local newspaper since 2001. She has published stories in Guideposts anthologies, stories in Love is a Verb Devotional with Gary Chapman, articles in Christian and secular magazines, greeting card verses, and poems for calendars. She is also a prolific speaker for both Christian and secular groups, and loves to make people laugh while sharing her love for God and life. 

Jeanette is the mother of two grown children, three grandchildren, and servant to four cats. She lives in Paris (not the French one), IL, with her husband, Kevin. Her hobbies include dining out, talking baby talk to her cats, avoiding housework, reading, and watching old classic movies. 



Life at Both Ends 2

Isn't it surprising what can happen in one week? When I last wrote, I was on the sofa with an ice pack on my knee. I had tripped down the stairs, and my knee was the size of a softball.

Today, the knee is back to normal, but for a couple red spots where I had skin contusions. As I was getting better, Mom was getting sick. She developed bronchitis, and we made a visit to the doc so he could listen to her goopy, wheezy, crackly lungs. We started levaquin that night, and she's now hacking a bit less. However...

Two days later, she developed a patterned rash on her back that was creeping around to her side, and the ALF nurse was pretty sure Mom had shingles. We headed back to the doc, and yep, shingles. My mom is 95 and a half and the size of a twig. Yet, she weathers illness and injury like a soldier. I was off my knee for two days when I tripped down two stairs; Mom, with bronchitis and shingles, keeps tooling around in her wheel chair, straightening her room and sifting through paperwork. I get tired just watching her.

On the Dad front, he's still in rehab after a fall four weeks ago, and then a small stroke Oct. 7. They're having trouble stabilizing his involuntary movements, which make PT difficult. He's really tired of the whole thing, and he alters between wishing God would take him and telling his therapists his goal is to walk again, unaided (which he has not done in over a year.) I try to console him; yes, it's hard to be disabled. God loves us anyway, even if we don't feel "useful."

I don't know what else to say because I don't get it either. Both of my parents have been worker bees all their lives. They have served and shared and contributed so much to their world. Now they are in wheel chairs, watching the world pass them by, and they are still with it enough to fully understand what all they've lost. Only by the grace of God does our family keep plugging along. It doesn't make sense to the mind or the heart why they are still here, but we are not the authors of life and death, so we just keep going as long as God allows. I trust someday I will understand. I pray I will look back on these years and say, I get it now.

Dad moves to a new rehab facility today, where he will have another thirty days to recover. We don't yet know what "recovery" will look like. There are some new deficits that might be permanent, but we won't know that until he is unable to overcome them. I pray he can return to his ALF with Mom, but we just don't know yet. So, we wait and watch and take him strawberry milkshakes on bad days. 

On the sweet, glorious front, our daughter-in-law came down for a visit this past weekend and spent some loving time with Dad. She brought him a book he's been wanting and some chocolate and put lotion on his arms and chatted with him like he was her best friend. She's wonderful that way.

She's also carrying our first grandchild, James, who's the size of a large mango. Here's a picture of the three generations, although James is not yet visible. He's warm and snugly under his mama's blue dress. Dr. Ben Carson made it into the picture as well.

I love pictures like this because they hold the full spectrum of life. A new budding babe sharing a seat on the bed with his great grandpa, (who's middle name is James) who has lived a full, adventurous life and is longing for peace of mind and an end to all struggles. Both of these lives are fragile, yet full of expectation. I pray in February, I can get a picture of Dad holding baby James.

So, in spite of the challenges of aging, I am blessed by the thought of holding fresh life in about four months. I'm excited for our son and his sweet wife. I'm grateful my knee is 90% back, and I'm glad all the Halloween candy is finally out of the house. I ate entirely too many Milky Ways.

The adventures continue here in the Ballpark...