Ohhh, Christmas Tree!

The perfect Christmas tree? All Christmas trees are perfect!—Charles Barnard

THE Christmas tree:  Symbol of that oh so special holiday, proudly displayed each and every year in a place of prominence, carefully adorned with treasured and sentimental ornaments.  A recognized hallmark of the Christmas season and the BANE of my Decembers. As our family always opts for the “real” variety (instead of the plastic trees of my childhood,) it seems that somewhere along the way a war has been waged between the Spencer family and THE tree.  A battle that never fails to entertain and frustrate at the same time.  This year proved no different.

So may I present to you our annual Christmas tree adventure–in song form!  Oh yes, this year’s tree had us fooled…we REALLY thought this was THE perfect tree 🙂  Each family member convinced that we could avoid the typical end of the year evergreen hijinks.  Fools we were, this tree had our number from Day 1.

tree poem

THE tree on January 4, 2015.  A little scraggly....

THE tree on January 4, 2015. A little scraggly, still standing!

Still standing!  We made it through December and into 2015.  Sure, it’s a sight to be seen and my son is already begging me to “please, take it DOWN.”  No, son, not yet.  I promised my daughter I would try to have it down by the time her birthday rolls around (mid-January.)  In the meantime, I will sip coffee and watch our once majestic tree transform into a scraggly shrub, daily picking up the ornaments (aided in their fall by the dog no less,) placing lights back onto the branches and taking bets on just how crooked it will get before it tips over (again)…and then, maybe then, I will take it down.  I’m in no hurry.  The whole ordeal has practically become its own Christmas tradition…a tradition I secretly wouldn’t trade for anything in the world!  Ohhh, Christmas tree 🙂

Don’t measure the height of your Christmas tree.  Measure the abundance of the love present in your heart!  Have a blessed Christmas!–author unknown

Don’t Know About You, But I’m Feeling 22

Fav Baby Photo

Everyone is the age of their heart.  ~Guatemalan Proverb

I didn’t do anything as gaudy as send myself a birthday bouquet but I am about to break a few social mores.  That’s right, I’m saying it, “Happy birthday, to ME!” and I’m going to post photos of ME, and I’m writing a blog about ME 🙂  But I hope you’ll give me a pass…mostly because I AM the birthday girl.

Okay, to be clear, I’m not trying to solicit birthday wishes and/or gifts…but I just had to share a few thoughts about turning “the year before THE year.”  What????  Doesn’t make any sense?  Well, check this out:  Most of us know that turning 40 it’s a pretty big deal…as in it’s a pivotal moment (and not necessarily in a good way.)  And while I won’t be 40 until next year (2015), I did have a friend tell me that (NEWSFLASH)  turning “the year before THE year” is actually a pretty big deal, too!  I had no clue.  39 is a BIG thing…really?  Since when?  I guess…since now.

39 has been called the “creepy-creeper” birthday.  This connotation suggests that 39 is both undesirable and sneaky? Maybe even a little scary?  Sort of like you’re walking along…minding your own business…when this dreadful number jumps out from behind the bushes and boldly states, “Warning.  You’re about to cross over into old age!”  Or something like that.  Supposedly, at 39 this is the last year that I can be considered somewhat “young.”  I’ve been told that I’ve now entered the final months where it’s even somewhat socially acceptable to wear my hair long, paint my fingernails any color other than matronly mauve, or wear jet black mascara (among a great big list of other taboo items.)  If there is a distinction in adulthood, apparently 40 is the line for women and so I’m left with this one little year in which to kick up my heels and behave accordingly.  365 measly days left to be young!  I can hardly believe it…it all went so fast!  Actually, I find all this to be pretty funny.  Funny for two reasons:  1) because I think when I was in my 20s that I actually believed these rules and 2) especially funny because in my heart of hearts the first number that pops into my mind whenever someone asks me how old I am has ALWAYS been 22!

Photo (4) fixed

Birthday gathering with friends 🙂

Yes, I know.  It’s been a long, LONG time since I was 22, but you have to hear me out about this.  So when you’re a kid, you can’t wait to be in double digits.  10 is a BIG deal.  The next milestone age is 13, right?  Because now you’re a teenager.  Followed by 16…the year you can get your driver’s license.  The next biggie is 18…no curfew, you can vote, live on your own, etc.  And finally 21.  The BIG ONE.  That’s right…all the sudden you’re able to do all the things you’ve been told REAL grown-ups do. (?)  I know, we all know…most of them are very OVERRATED.  So when 22 rolls around you figure, okay…that’s it.  Nothing to see here people and I guess I just stopped counting after that.  Ridiculous, right?  I know…but that’s the house that I’ve been living in.  Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s still MY house.

At this point, I’m sure you’re laughing at me and I’m actually laughing at myself, too.  It’s been ages since I’ve been carded, had a night life, or gone on any adventures that don’t involve having my two kids in tow.  I’m not up on the newest trends, nor do I drive a hot car, or keep up with the latest movies or music.  I don’t really do any of the things that would lump myself in a category with anyone who is actually 22, yet that’s still the number that sticks in my head.  I always imagined that someday I’d graduate to a new birthday number, but it just never happened.  So now that I’m turning “the year before THE year,” I thought I’d better do a little research and see what the hubbub surrounding the number 40 is really all about…I mean, since I don’t want to be caught off guard (again) and I’m headed in that direction anyway.

It appears that there really are a lot of resources out there concerning the Big 4-0.  Countless books, websites, blogs and articles about embracing the “new and improved” you.  As I enter “the year before THE year,” it might behoove me to start reading up on some of these expectations and societal norms.  Here’s what I’ve gathered from the headlines so far:  40 is magical.  40 has attitude…it’s called “fortytude.”  There’s also a rumor that 40 can be fabulous (but I caution you, there are a lot of caveats to this one.)  40 is the first year a woman can qualify as a “cougar.”  40 is something that needs to be figured out and faced…it also makes you fierce and a force to be reckoned with (don’t you love all the alliteration that comes with 40!)  You can also be fit and forty at the same time (who knew?)  For those who truly believe in stressing themselves out about the number 40, there are a few websites that offer up 40 things you should accomplish by the time you reach 40.  And, by the way… in case you haven’t heard, forty is the new “F” word.

That’s a lot for one girl to take in.

All of this aside, here’s where I’m at.  It’s MY birthday and all I really want to do is thank God for another day, another year, and another reason to celebrate life (while eating Dairy Queen cake, of course.)  I don’t really get wrapped up in all this aging stuff.  I’m sure the day will come when the wrinkles and the gray hairs will win out, when my body doesn’t cooperate like it used to, when people stop asking me just how old I really am (and just start assuming I’m OLD!)  Until then, I’m just going to keep chugging along…making up nonsensical songs with my daughter, teasing my son by repeating hip phrases that sound anything but hip when I say them, wearing my hair as long as I want to, and sporting nice, bright nail polish as the mood strikes.  I’m not going to worry about figuring out or facing 40 or even reading up on the 40 things to do before you reach this supposed milestone.  While society might find my lack of alarm annoying or unheard of,  I think the psychological term is called “self differentiated.”  That’s right…who says you can’t teach an “old dog” new words.  And by the way, I’m going to stick with the age 22 for the time being (especially since Taylor Swift makes it sound so fun!)  Sure I’m a long way from it (and you really couldn’t pay me to go back,) but mostly just because it’s a nice number and like I said before… I still have a house there.  (Sure it’s a crazy house, but it’s MY house.)

Here’s to 365 days of “the year before THE year!”

I’m not 40, I’m eighteen with 22 years experience.   Author unknown

February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 14 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 14

Love is…having a Valentine by your side every day of the year. –me

Well…it’s finally here—Valentine’s Day! A holiday absolutely loathed by some and totally adored by others (all subject to one’s current relationship status, of course.) It’s also the final day of my love song countdown. While the list includes some romantic music staples, I’ve tried to include a few unlikely additions as well (no Barry White, Celine Dion or Mariah Carey here.) So in conclusion, I offer up this little goody by The Proclaimers 🙂   An absolute brain worm and feel good ditty, this tune is about one of the greatest love qualities that I can think of…song 14WILLINGNESS. It’s not a ballad that promises the world. It’s not a steamy song with lots of suggestive innuendo. And nothing about this song would break your heart or move you to tears. Rather, it’s one person saying to another…”if you’ll let me, I’ll be there in the morning, all throughout the day, I’ll be the one talking your head off, working hard to provide for you, growing old with you, dreaming about you, always coming home to you, and thinking about you whenever we have to be apart. I’m not perfect, but I am WILLING to be all that I can for you.” While this chart topper doesn’t necessarily fit the typical love song mold, I think it’s the perfect “dark horse” candidate to complete my list—unlikely, improbable and least expected…yeah, that sounds a lot like love to me. Happy Valentine’s Day 🙂

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?

February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 13 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 13

Love is…the best (and the worst) kind of mystery. –me

You may have noticed that I haven’t included much contemporary music in my love songs list. Not a diss really, I guess I’m just more old school. However, this song is currently on Billboard’s Top 10 and I find it especially moving. The lyrics could be interpreted a number of ways…pertaining to an unfulfilled or one-sided romantic relationship, a broken friendship, troubled family systems, a loved one dealing with illness, aging and maybe even loss. It could also be read spiritually. Like any good love song this one speaks directly to the soul, but it takes things one step further as song 13it addresses the difficult and unpleasant part of putting your heart on the line. Will you let go, are you willing to grow up and make tough decisions, how much are you able to give before it all becomes too overwhelming?

In this crazy world we never expect (or plan for) the rejection, hurt and pain that can accompany love.  The reality is that sometimes love sucks. Love isn’t fair. And often, as hard as it is to hear, it’s just not enough.  I’ve always believed that actions speak louder than words and when we finally get to the point of asking a loved one to “say something,” I presume that on a lot of levels we already know the answer.  And as difficult as that answer may be, it ultimately leads to this question…is it REALLY better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?  Yes..a hundred times, yes.

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 14

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?

February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 12 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 12

Love is…talking about everything and nothing while sharing piles of French fries. –me

In the country music world, George Strait is king. And when it comes to heartfelt love songs, he easily keeps the crown. The song “I Cross My Heart” reads like wedding vows with sweet promises and pledges of fidelity. It’s the song 12kind of song that gives hope to the unattached, optimism to relationship newbies and profound joy to those who know and experience this kind of committed love. Easily one of my top three love songs of all time, not only does it ooze all the gushy goodness of love but between the lines it connotes dedication, respect and accountability. While this song may have been a number one hit in the early ‘90s, its timeless message will make it a favorite for decades to come.

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 13

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?

February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 11 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 11

Love is….knowing that I’m with you every step of the way (whether you like it or not.) –me

Love, laughter and loyalty. No, I’m not trying to impress you with some fancy alliteration; I’m simply listing the makings of a solid relationship. If we’re honest, we all know that love really isn’t enough. Sure, they say love can move mountains, it knows no boundaries, and it can conquer all, but there are too many instances out there where love alone is nothing more than a starting place.

song 11Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” addresses a cornerstone of any long lasting relationship—loyalty. Most of us can recall a time when someone’s unfaithfulness has brought us to our knees. Only time can heal those type of wounds. And in order for a relationship to truly have a solid foundation it has to be built on a mutual trust. Music historians say that King’s song was inspired by an old spiritual as well as the words of Psalm 46:2-3. This scripture expresses God’s willingness and His commitment to stand by His people through all things—both the highs and the lows. Loyalty and fidelity…having a confidence in the one who promises to love you everyday and in every way.  This is the best kind of love.

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 12

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?

February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 10 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 10

Love is….nothing to do and all day to do it (in optimum temperatures of course.) –me

No Valentine love song list would be complete without a little Frank. This classic crooner has so many wonderful songs to his credit that choosing one was difficult. So I went with my all time favorite Sinatra song—The Summer song 10Wind. While not his most well-known ballad, this tale of fleeting summer love seems timeless. Whether your story occurs ocean side, lakeside or poolside… those summer flings somehow manage to leave a lasting impression on us all. On a cold winter day in February, this song transports me to warm summer nights, staying out late stargazing, and (when I finally made it out of the Midwest) walks on the beach. I can practically hear the ocean waves crashing, the birds in the background, and that smell…salty and warm—oh, the summer wind!

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 11

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?

February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 9 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 9

Love is…unselfishly handing over the last piece of chocolate (and smiling when you do.)

One of the most quoted scriptures in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) begins with these words, “Love is patient, love is kind….” Often read aloud at weddings this verse is actually not an ode to romantic love, but rather a call to love one another and to live in a spirit of cooperation and mutuality. In this type of existence, men and women would equally look out for one another without reservation, sharing and giving wholeheartedly. When I think of that kind of love, song 9this song by Jason Mraz comes to mind. In an interview Mraz says that these lyrics speak to “giving yourself or your time to someone else.” As we near Valentine’s Day (and the pressure to find the perfect gift mounts)—I can’t help but wonder if today’s definition of love centers around quantity or quality?  How many of us would happily accept an hour of uninterrupted time with a loved one (romantic or otherwise) over a box of chocolates or a dozen roses? In so many instances giving a gift is the easy thing to do while giving yourself is what really matters most.  In this Valentine season, will you be a giver or a taker?

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 10

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?

February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 8 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 8

Love is…laughing before the punch line (but the joke-teller doesn’t mind) because you both already know where this exchange is going.

What is love without laughter? Personally, I LOVE to laugh. It really is my favorite thing 🙂  This song made the list because it shows love from a yin and yang point of view. Keely Smith with her beautiful, sophisticated voice paired song 8up with Louis Prima and his talented, yet cut-up, vocal abilities. It’s the kind of duality that I can appreciate. I mean, I really think there’s something to this whole opposites attract theory. And as a more serious type, I love (and NEED) to be around others who can let loose and appreciate the lighter side of life. They keep me grounded. So maybe it’s not so much that opposites attract as it is that opposites complement and interconnect with one another. And when it comes to love, this dynamic just might be a good thing.

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 9

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?

February…How Do I LOVE Thee? (Song 7 in the Countdown)

Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 7

Love is…smiling like a fool at the first mention of his/her name. –me

I went 80s rock ballad today. And while this song was probably overplayed in it’s time (guilty as charged) I’m drawn to one aspect of it—and it’s not the “listen to your heart” chorus line. Rather, I think this song actually speaks to a “cause to pause” in love. Have you been there? Everything is moving so fast…you both have a thousand things in song 7common, you can’t spend enough time together, and a chemistry exists between the two of you that CANNOT be denied. This love train is racing down the track at full speed and the last thing you can think about is stopping to THINK. This is precisely the moment when you need to put on the brakes! Take a brief step back…I’m not talking about anything drastic. No dramatic break-up or ultimatum. Just a pause. Time to gain a little perspective. Reflect. While most of us use our hearts as a guide when it comes to love we all know it’s not a perfect gage.  So listen to your heart, but let your brain have a voice, too.

Coming Up: Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul: Song 8

***This post is part of an ongoing series. As part of my cup half full approach to loving the month of February, I vow to jump in with both feet and embrace the whole Valentine thing with my own custom list of Love Songs to Melt Your Heart and Move Your Soul. Ambitious? Yes! Bold? Absolutely! Crazy? You betcha! Pointless? On just about every level. Regardless, let’s give it a go—I mean it’s February and how else am I going to get through the coldest, bleakest, cloudiest, shortest (and longest at the same time) month on the calendar. Let the countdown to Valentine’s Day begin! I (gritting teeth) LOVE February, how about YOU?