Giving Christmas, Parts 2 and 3

One of the latest projects Honey Bear and I finished for our holiday giving was buying Angel Tree gifts. We had a great time exploring the toy aisles and goofing around while checking out all the cool stuff.

Here’s what he picked out for the 4-year-old boy he chose:

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Here’s what I picked out for an 8-year-old girl (that little thing is actually her “big” gift – an mp3 player):

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The other thing we did recently was Honey Bear’s project and one of his favorite things to do this time of year. There’s a business owner here in our city that collects kids’ coats and then distributes them at local schools. I think the school counselors and teachers keep an eye out and give the coats to the kids that need one.

Here are the 6 coats that Honey Bear bought (and picked out himself):

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Giving Christmas, Part 1

Honey Bear and I decided not to buy each other any big gifts this year, and instead we are using our money to donate items to causes we support. We have done this to a lesser degree in the past, but this time we are doing more and only buying a few little stocking stuffers for each other.

I have several things in the works, and I’ll try to write about them as we go along. We have had fun so far picking out things and thinking about what we want to do.

Our first project was putting together a hygiene items basket for a family of 4 — 2 adults and 2 children.

3B2D (or 3 Bags in 2 Days) is partnering with a local children’s organization to provide these baskets for the holidays. Honey Bear and I picked out some things such as shampoo, body wash, bar soap, brushes or combs, deodorant, razors and shaving cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste for individual family members, then added some things for the entire family: toilet paper, dish soap, wash cloths, hand soap, facial tissue.

To keep things organized, I divided up the items for each person into festive zipper bags. After we turn in our basket, the folks at 3B2D will add laundry soap and wrap the baskets up all fancy for giving.

Who else has holiday giving projects in the plans for this Christmas season?

Reflections

At today’s UU service, we spent most of our time in small discussion groups. I chose the Spiritual Walks group and learned some about several people and where they are on their journey. I also shared a little.

Between us there were experiences with many religions – we are or had been Jews, Buddhists, many flavors of Protestants, Catholics, New Age, atheists, agnostics, and probably more – but it seemed everyone’s stories led back to a central theme. We were looking for a place to learn and believe as we felt led, without judgment, and where we could have a sense of community in our pursuits.

In the spirit of sharing spiritual walks, here are a few quotes I’m mulling over and being inspired by this afternoon.

“Let us just be side by side β€” helping, respecting, and understanding each other β€” in common effort to serve humankind. The aim of human society must be the compassionate betterment of human beings.”
– His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Kindness, Clarity, and Insight

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”
– Galatians 5:22-23, New American Standard Bible

“Speak tenderly to them. Let there be kindness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile, in the warmth of your greeting. Always have a cheerful smile. Don’t only give your care, but give your heart as well.”
– Mother Teresa

Sunday service

It’s the last day of my vacation, and thanks to rolling the clocks back an hour I managed to make it up for church. I attended a Unitarian Universalist congregation I’d Goog.led and been meaning to check out for awhile.

I had a good feeling about it when I arrived, as I got out of the car, and someone comment that they liked my Dalai Lama “Loving kindness is my religion” bumper sticker. πŸ™‚

I met several people, including the couple who founded the group a few years ago, and I think everyone I met introduced me to someone else. πŸ™‚ All were very friendly and glad to have a newcomer. Also, I found that 2 attendees are a couple who I volunteer with at the soup kitchen. I was glad that everyone was so open because it is a smallish group, not a megachurch where you could visit virtually unnoticed if you wanted.

The service consisted of lighting the chalice, an opening, a hymn, a homily, an offering, a time of sharing announcements, joys and concerns submitted by those in attendance and written on cards at the beginning, a closing and the snuffing of the chalice.

I’ve tried a few religions/churches, and read about even more, and have sort of taken bits and pieces for a more personal philosophy.

I feel too liberal to be a Protestant and too spiritual to be an atheist.

I’m basically at a point where whatever church I have tried I feel false at in some way because I have to accept a predetermined list of beliefs that aren’t open to interpretation or amendment. In many religions, if you want to formally join, you have to renounce your old religion. I’m not cool with that. All of these things I have tried or learned about make me who I am – why should I have to choose? Why should I have to accept the Bible as the one and only truth? Why should I have to interpret it literally? Why should there be days in which one is obligated to attend church – shouldn’t I want to attend without an edict? Why must I choose between science and spirituality, logic and belief? I struggle with the belief that some carry that their church’s tenets are directly given from God and absolute – how can this be so when humans are involved? Why does one have to be wrong in order for another to be right? These are just some of the things I think about.

UUs draw from varied religious backgrounds and philosophies, and do not have a proscribed creed. They are guided by seven principles.

They seem to basically foster freedom of religion, developing personal theology, and tolerating the beliefs of others. It’s about reason, science, ethics, the continual search for truth, social justice, human dignity, love and good works.

The local group has a format that varies weekly and includes a homily, small group discussions, topic presentation, social event or service event. I’m looking forward to checking this all out some more and seeing if maybe I might belong there.

A surprise from the universe & the slippery slope

This probably should be 2 posts, but, just like in my real life right now, I can’t seem to separate them.

I had a pleasant surprise this morning (OK, afternoon, I slept in) as I opened the kitchen window blinds while waiting on the coffee to brew: Surprise flowers. Being in a drought, about the only things in my yard still alive and thriving at this point are the weeds and the apple tree. And even the apple tree is struggling, dropping her apples already. The grass, what little there is, is dry as straw, and the remains of the blackberry vines and canna stalks are crispy and brown.

So I was happy to see these in bloom.

This isΒ  Lycoris squamigera, commonly called naked lady, magic lily and resurrection lily. There are actually 2 stems of these that have popped up in this bed, but I selected this picture to show what is behind the flowers. The day that I hung my homemade prayer flags that I blogged about in Making Up with the Universe, I also got out my typewriter and wrote a little note to that bitch Infertility and buried it in that red flower pot. (I wanted to bury it in the ground, but it is just so dry here.) I covered up that ugliness that I am trying to let go of with some decor, including a butterfly on a stake, and set the pot under my apple tree, below the prayer flags. And this is where my surprise flowers decided to make their appearance. So, OK, Universe, this lovely message is not lost on me. Thank you.

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Today is a good day for the surprise flowers, too, ’cause I have to admit I was feeling a little bit sorry for myself yesterday. It’s weird, the things that can be disconcerting, when you’re going along having a nice day. In a joking conversation yesterday with a friend about him never buying me a beer, I was reminded by my friend that said beer had been previously provided to me on a couple of occasions, one of which was at a party a few years ago. I’d brought only one beer to this party for me to drink. Long after I’d finished that beer, we were still hanging out with our friends, and I was wishing for another one. So he gave me one. Maybe it was two. Whatever. That’s not the point. The point is, this made me think, why did I only bring one beer to this party? Ah yes, because we were TTC, and I was trying to be “good” during the 2WW even though I knew the cycle was likely a bust anyway. I guess the fact that this was ages ago and I was TTC then and still haven’t now, the passage of all this time bummed me out.

I think quitting assisted reproduction is like quitting smoking for me. I’m reminded all the time, little memories, things I see. When I quit smoking there were the little things that reminded me of how sucky it was to not be smoking. The after-dinner cigarette. The cigarette while driving. The smoking while drinking. Remembering something you did with a friend and recalling you were smoking back then. Now that so much time has passed since I smoked, none of that really bothers me anymore. The only time I ever feel a little twinge of wanting to smoke is when someone lights up near me. That split second of the initial flame-to-tobacco burning smell. I suppose that with time memories of TTC won’t bother me as much too. But right now, pregnancy announcements, or someone’s new ART attempt, kinda sting. Cause I’m not in that game anymore. And on purpose, I realize I took myself out of the game. But that doesn’t change how it feels. A long ago memory during TTC just reminds me of how much time has really passed. Good change, bad changes, life goes on, yes, but the time, realizing it has been so long and that I can’t get any of it back or slow time down, well it just sucks.

Similar to walking away from most anything, no matter how good it is for you to do so, physically or mentally — such as smoking, drinking, a relationship, or whatever vice or struggle or “favorite sins” you want to use as an example here — quitting ART is hard because you feel these twinges and you start thinking, maybe just one more wouldn’t hurt. This time it might work, or it might turn out better. One more try, but I can still quit whenever I want… It’s a slippery slope.

 

Making up with the universe

A recent burst of craftiness has me sewing quilt squares, so Saturday I thought, why couldn’t I make my own prayer flags? I am going to get some of the traditional Tibetan variety because I like them, but there is something special about making your own. Sort of therapeutic and whatnot, which I certainly need in my letting-go phase.

The general gist of prayer flags is to send your blessings and good intentions out to the world on the breeze. The flags aren’t just for your own benefit but for the good will of all.

Here are my flags:

I just used things I already had around the house to make these: A piece of a cracker box to cut out the triangle template, leftover fabric, yarn, glue, sequins, rubber letter stamps and ink. I also put a few stitches around the top of the flag just to make sure they held to the yarn, but they could totally be no-sew with just the glue. Also, I was going more for the process than permanence, so I know that the ink I used for the lettering is going to run if it gets wet. If you make some and intend to hang them outside, keep this in mind.

I hung my flags on my apple tree and I took some time outside to think and pray.

Adding to the irony of this whole letting go of infertility thing is that the tree is full of new life – apples, of course, but also I’m hosting 3 newly-hatched birds in the hanging box. This brings me back to mentioning my birthday gift from my friend Alli – a photo she took of some baby blue jays in a nest that she titled New Beginnings. A beautiful and fitting gift for all the things going on with me.

Here’s a photo of the adorably ugly little darlings in my bird box: