Thursday, December 15, 2016

Christmas Babies

My son, Chris, was probably the best Christmas gift I ever received, as December babies often seem to be.

Christmas 1975
I stumbled upon this photo today, taken from one of those old albums that often destroyed the photos when you attempted to remove them, as evidenced by the torn sections at the bottom!  I must have taken a photo of this photo with my phone at some point, though I don't remember doing so. A flood of happy memories returned. 

In December 1975, I was a new mom and step-mom, with three little boys to love and attempt to raise.  Fortunately, I'd had plenty of experience having step-moms, so I had a good idea of how to be a good one, and how to not be a good one.  I was pretty young myself, just 25, and learning to parent boys who were seven, five, and three weeks old. 

My Dad and step-mom opened their arms and their hearts to these little boys, the first of several step-grandchildren to come, and the boys called them Grandma and Grandpa, spent weekends with them, and knew love from not just my parents, but both sets of my grandparents as well.  Time passed, kids grew up, I got divorced, eventually losing contact with my step-sons, who went on to have pretty hard lives.

The baby in this photo, also grew up, and sort of followed in his mother's footsteps, falling in love with a woman who was a bit older, with three fatherless children.  I've posted that photo before, but I really like it so I'll post it again here.
Chris, Shari, Kenny, Emily and Arik - 1996
Chris became an instant Daddy, to kids that were stairsteps with his little sisters: Kenny was 8, sister Jessica 7, Arik 6, sister Kailyn 5, Emily 4 . . . and we became instant grandparents! 

Grandparenting, while we were also parenting the girls, was often a challenge, and I felt bad that I wasn't the grandparent to Kenny, Arik and Emily that my parents were to Chris, his brothers, and his multitude of cousins. However, there was lots of love and laughter when we managed to gather together.

All families experience tragedies, and ours was no exception.  Chris left us on December 16, 2005. That anniversary has been difficult for me the past few years, although this year, while I am sad he is no longer with us, I am seeing the many gifts he has given me more clearly.  I seem to have overcome the grief I am typically wallowing in this time of year, and instead feel only the blessings.  

What has changed? Certain circumstances, for sure.  Both step-sons have contacted me in the past year, and there is a tenuous relationship building with one of them. I'm reading "The Book of Joy" slowly, savoring it, making notations and know I will return to the inspired wisdom being revealed to me, over and over. I've embarked on a program of recovery from a long time battle with compulsive overeating, and seeing real results from this life choice. And of course, time passes - it just has a habit of doing that - life goes on.
Emily, Shari holding birthday girl Jailee, me
November 19, 2015
Above is Emily - all grown up, Shari - my amazing daughter-in-law, holding Jailee, her first granddaughter/my first great-granddaughter.  Bountiful blessings, all thanks to my son Chris, falling in love with Shari all those years ago.
Christmas baby Scarlett with great grandma Sandi
Yesterday, I held great-granddaughter number two, my first Christmas baby since 1975.  Yes, I shed a few tears, as I am right now, when I saw Emily holding her second daughter.  But, they were tears of joy, not sorrow.  Chris loved Emily as his own, and would be busting his buttons with pride as a grandpa.  Through my tears, I told her and her husband, Jason, what a blessing they were, and it was all because Chris fell in love with her mom, that I was given this abundant gift of grandchildren and great-grandchildren - despite the fact that I'm not nearly old enough to be a great grandma!  Jason has a son who is 8, so Emily is a step-mom also. I guess maybe that makes me a step-step-great grandma to Jaydin!

Shari married Tim a few years ago.  He's a wonderful guy, who loves his instant family as much as his predecessor did a few years ago. Tim has become a sort of adopted son-in-law, which probably sounds a little strange, but doesn't feel strange at all. As I said before, life goes on.

This Christmas I am feeling so blessed. Christmas babies are living gifts of the very best kind.

Friday, December 2, 2016


For the second morning in a row, I've woke up happy to be alive - looking forward to the day ahead.  I've been reading "The Book of Joy", a little bit each night before I fall asleep. If you haven't heard of it, the book is co-written by Douglas Abrams, through interviews and hanging out with the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, during a weeklong birthday celebration/gathering. It isn't religious, but spiritual.  The chapters are very short, powerful, and lead me to contemplate what my purpose is here on earth. I've felt a subtle shift in my attitude toward life that is mostly unexplained, unless I give this book some of the credit. I didn't realize I had been looking for joy, until it found me.

December has been my most dreaded month for the past ten years.  I've fought depression, relived the saddest year of my life and frankly felt pretty darn sorry for myself. (You can read about some of that year here) Each December brought with it the promise of plenty of sweet treats to feed my weepy spirit and I alternated between compulsively eating sugar laden goodies and hating myself throughout - especially when my current favorite jeans refused to zip, despite laying on my back on the bed, struggling. I bought progressively larger sizes of cheerful holiday tops to hide my sad sugar addiction.

No more.

The joy I feel at the beginning of this December lies partially in a trimmer body, not thin, but 30 pounds lighter than last December. Having to buy new jeans that actually stay up - instead of falling off - makes me joyful in a way that I can see.  Being able to bend over, from a standing position, to tie and untie my shoes gives me pleasure. Purging my closet and dresser of dozens of items too large, and donating to a homeless shelter, increased my joy. At the bank I was waited on by a former student who exclaimed as she literally ran around the counter to give me a hug, "Mrs. Babbitt!  I didn't recognize you!  You look ten years younger than you did when I was in your class!" I'm not lying - Maddie gave this old gal some real joy!

I am also taking steps toward giving up a life long dream of buying and selling antiques and treasures, after finding out that the workload exceeds the benefits! I wrote briefly about the beginnings of that adventure here. I'm now working to move as much from my garage to my space downtown as possible, with hopes of great sales.  I will move what is left back to my garage on December 31. I'll either sell or donate whatever I decide not to keep. Just knowing I have an end date makes me happy.  It was fun, at times, but not quite enough fun, or profit, to want to continue.

Yet the greatest joy lies inside me this morning - writing and awaiting my daily 7 AM brisk walk with my neighbor and her dog, looking forward to the fresh air, the mostly sleepy and sullen middle schoolers we pass each morning, waiting for their bus. There's a smile on my face, leftover from the couple hours I spent yesterday with several retired teachers at the nearby IHOP, as we joyously ate  from the senior menu, laughingly shared our adventures during the previous month, and attempted to fix the current political chaos. 

In all areas of my life - spiritually, physically, emotionally - I am grateful that joy has found me. Retirement is the best, and due to strategic financial planning, we are comfortably living much the same as we did while working. In the past year we have crossed eleven National Parks off our bucket list, with spring plans to visit a few more. Both daughters are doing well, enjoying their teaching assignments, and their significant others, and their cats. Chris' family continues to grow, and there will be another great-granddaughter around December 13th. 

I set a goal in October to return to blogging and post at least once per month. These posts will mostly be picture prompts from my childhood, and fictionalized responses - with what truth I can remember woven in. Here is October, and November posts. It is my hope that I will move toward publishing some of the writing I do each morning in my journal, which is where today's post came from. 

I have been found by joy, and life is good.