Christmas Card Competition

christmas-catString me up by toenails, I mailed out my Christmas cards today. I’m THAT person. The obnoxious one that sends Christmas cards every year. Early. I’m sorry. Before you pelt me with olives, let me assure you, I do not have my crap together in any other way.  

I have posed with a shovel, made my friends take pictures of me when I was single and sent them out with aplomb. If I had a cat in the 90’s, no doubt I would’ve been this super festive twee love pictured to the left.

Somehow, though, my favorite time of year to visit the mailbox has lost a bit of luster. I think it’s gotten a little too competitive. My sister gave me a look of unbridled (yet, well deserved) disgust when I handed out Christmas cards at Thanksgiving last week. The personalized return mailing labels with our family photo emblazoned on them? A bit much, perhaps. My family is not as bright and shiny as we appear on the thick cardstock. Yours isn’t either, precious. None of us are Christmas card perfect. We just aren’t perfect, period. So let’s just write a Christmas card disclaimer, like a surgeon general warning on a pack of ciggies: these photos may be dangerous to your self-esteem. May cause you to vomit a little in your mouth. Smiling is good for your health, so smile, piss ant, and be glad someone mailed you an actual card.

In my heart of hearts, I know that my favorite Christmas cards are the ones that make me laugh, the ones that celebrate joy. The family that mocks themselves a bit. I loved it when a friend of mine had her husband wrestle with a barn cat one year for a photo shoot in striped sweaters. Admittedly, my humor veers towards David Sedaris.

Let’s make our goals certain and true: try to  make people smile and be glad they’re friends with you, rather than wanting to bash your perfect face in when they open up your Christmas card. My labels are pretentious this year, the contents inside- flagrantly braggadocio, hopefully the cover photo redeems the hot mess. So, from my family to yours…Merry Christmas from Bossy Boots & the Pot Stirrer.

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Keep sharing moxie!

 

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Letter of Recommendation

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A heartfelt letter of recommendation is a gift. It’s words on a paper from someone you admire summarizing just how amazing they think you are. Everyone should have one in their back pocket just to pull out when they’re feeling the funk and stuck in the mulligrubs. It’s an adult paper equivalent of gazing upon all your Little League trophies.

I’ve recently had a mash-up of events: attending funerals, writing and receiving letters of recommendation. Professionally, I’m often asked to write letters of recommendation. Usually, it’s a student or an employee, which goes with the territory. Recently, I’ve been asked to write letters of recommendation for colleagues I adore, admire, respect and load of other chest puffing adjectives. It’s left me feeling sad and incredibly grateful to have worked with these friends that have changed my life. I feel the exact same way at funerals.

What if we put the adoration out there for everyone when they were still with us? Before they were ready to leave? Before the final goodbye? What if?

What would you say?

Who would you say it to?

I have witnessed first hand the vacuum suck of underperformance and watched some of the best people “check out”. We’re all familiar with “senior slide”. The students that check out after completing college applications, rest on their laurels and wait for graduation love to shine on them anyway.  I’ve also seen the slow decline of an extremely negative environment and the effect it has on industrious people. The workers start to check out long before they leave. You notice the little things that people don’t do anymore. The unwillingness to put in extra effort because you’ve lost the feeling that you’re aiming for the same shore and mutiny is whispered in the wind.

If you’re sick, and you know your time is limited, you start to focus on what really matters. The people that matter and how you want to spend your final weeks, days and hours. You withdraw from extraneous commitments and measure time as the valuable resource that is. We know the infallible truth that time is limited for everyone, but it’s not until the hourglass is forcibly shoved in your face do you truly acknowledge it. It’s regrettable that our best lessons are usually learned last, too late, and without do-overs.

There are some tangible ways you can turn things around. Tell the people now, today and without delay, how you feel about them, before they withdraw. Whether it’s a student, a colleague or family member. Letters of recommendation usually have a similar arc. It’s a pleasure, how you know them, what you respect and admire, sprinkled with some personal witty touches. They can be formulaic or they can be heartfelt. When you come from a place of truth and vulnerability, putting it all out there, it resonates. Good friends, great employees, and exceptional students are gifts to you and your community. Tell them how much you adore them today. Write it down and stick it in their back pocket.

Keep sharing moxie.

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Confessions from the booth…

ballotTruth: I have voted in every major election since I was old enough to vote. Confession: I haven’t known half of the candidates that were on the ballot…

Before you slip into your Judgey McJudgey pants, bear with me. I consider myself to be a reasonably informed person. I walk into every polling place with a chipper step, smiling and thanking the election judges for their service. I get into the booth and click through the president, governor, senators. Well done, me. Then, I glance down at the representatives. By the time I get to judges, soil and water conservation supervisors and county coroners, I am sweating. I have no idea who any of these people are and how in the world I am qualified to choose them. Sometimes I pick them based on how I like their names. Who is the incumbent? Why is someone running against them? Sometimes I break out eenie, meanie, miney, mo. I’m not proud of this, but I try to tell the unvarnished truth here, so there it is.

Not this year though, my friends! Much like studying for an exam, I’ve read the book beforehand. I’ve downloaded a sample ballot for my exact address and county, so I’m ready. Bring it, election of 2016. I’d like to recommend this bit of reconnaissance for any of the rest of you that have known the stall of shame at the polling place, walking out wondering who you ended up voting for. (see myballot or ballotpedia)

The presidential race has been crazy pants, but I have every intention of nailing it with the small races where I have a blank slate that needs to be filled with information. To that end, I’m proud to say I’ve been a part of a disparate group that has organized a school board candidate forum in my community tomorrow night. My vote may matter the most in this small election that will shape the educational opportunities of my children for the next four years. If “all politics are local” and “the school is the heart of any community” then spending a night to learn about your own school board candidates, mayoral candidates, and county commissioners might be a better use of time than listening to another soul- crushing hash on the future of America from popular media outlets.

Make change where you can, yourself. Start studying. Soil and water conservation supervisors, by the way? Thank you. You have helped to keep this cheeky girl’s water safe unbeknownst to me for years. Thanks for mitigating pesticide run-off. I know your names now. I’m ready to vote for you.

Keep sharing moxie.

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Welcome to the family-

Dear Newbie,

Today you will take the hand of beautiful girl. Her father will “give her away” today, but that’s not how it really works. You know that, right? She is joining your family and taking your last name, but we had her first.

I have loved this child since the day of her birth. I’ve been blessed that her mom and dad were willing to share her with me. Your parents are sharing today, too. Weddings are beautiful, but they are hard. Something new is beginning, but an entire way of life is ending. This joy stings.

I’ve learned that families become stronger when you open yourself up to others. We have adopted people, friends have become family, and today you are formally joining our family, but it doesn’t happen in a day. Families become what they are over a hundred gatherings of pizza, beer, and scrabble. The easter egg hunts that become legend and the inside jokes that make people laugh so hard they hurt. You’ll learn.

All I can ask is this: strive to be worthy of her. Every day. She’s lovely inside and out. Every family wants the next generation to be all of the good stuff and less of the bad. Her parents and their combined gene pool knocked it out of the park with her. She’s a hell of a lot nicer, kinder, and goodness personified than all of us on our best days. Don’t take this for granted.

You love her. That’s where it all starts. You haven’t been really tested yet, but you will be. Life will eventually throw death, loss, change, and hardship your way. It happens to all of us. How you struggle through it sets the tone for the rest. If you continue to come back to a place of love, you’ll be alright.

Welcome to the swirling vortex that is our tribe. The woman that you are walking down the aisle today used to love to twirl around in dresses. Did you know that? She used to shout out, “Watch me, watch me! Are you watching me?” I’ve been watching since the beginning. I’m honored to watch you both together now. Keep her twirling and you’ll always have a seat at my table. Welcome to the family. We’ve been waiting for you.

Keep sharing moxie.

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Wanderlust vs. Home

wan·der·lust
  1. a strong desire to travel.
    “a man consumed by wanderlust”.
    I think you either have been infected by wanderlust or not. Those that are adventure seekers are always planning their next trip, their next conquest. Those that thrive on being home look to plan their next major home improvement project or continue to scour markets for the perfect entryway bench. I have friends in both camps. I respect both sides of this coin.
    I live in an Artic version of Mayberry. People not only recognize my daughter’s handknit hat, but know who made it. I love this, but there is a whole world out there to explore. There are weeks in the winter when I have no desire to travel because it is so damn miserable out. In the summer though, I try to only make brief pit stops by my house. We just need to wash enough clothes to get us through to our next adventure.
    My heart has been irrevocably changed by travel. Has yours? My first trip to another country: Oh Canada! A young kid thrilled with new kinds of candy, eh?  To my first foray into a poor country: a place where children die from diarrhea juxtaposed against a wealthy playground for the rich. There are places I’d like to visit every week and others that I can check off my list and never return to. Perspective is something that we could all use more of and travel is often the fastest way to achieve that.
    A well appointed home is a fine thing, too. Those homes that are so thoughtfully constructed and decorated that you just smile walking from room to room. A den that you want to sink into and a kitchen that you never want to leave? Ah, yes. Well done, good friends, those with the architectural eye and the designer’s flair, well done.
    For now, it’s the season of travel for me and maybe for you, too. Fall and winter will come soon enough. School schedules and real life will hem us in too quickly. Wander now and return home to wash your underwear. Enjoy it all, my friends!

Whimsy: we need more of it.

I have always believed there is more good in the world than bad; I still do. I’m not advocating that you bury your head in the sand, but I would encourage you to turn off the news for a bit, put down your phone, and look around. The world needs you to pay attention to the good stuff. Where’s the whimsy, people? The things that delight you? The little touches of humanity that make you smile?

If you want your daily dose of fear, watch your 24 hour news channel. If you need some whimsy, read on.

whim·sy:
playfully quaint or fanciful behavior or humor; a whim; a thing that is fanciful or odd.

This is my tote bag. It cracks me up every time I use it.

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I have a canary yellow bike and I just found the perfect Nantucket basket for it today. I’m looking for a bumble bee decal for my bike next.

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These are the cups I use at the lake. I smile whenever I see them stacked up in my cupboard. Aren’t these cups cheerful? They just shout “hello” don’t they?!

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See? Wasn’t that a nice little bit of respite? You can believe the world is going to hell in a hand basket or you can look to things that inspire you and people that are trying to help.

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”― Fred Rogers

Today, take a picture of something that delights you and share it with someone. I just did.

Keep sharing moxie.

Mother Teresa’s Anyway Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

[Reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa’s children’s home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. However, an article in the New York Times has since reported (March 8, 2002) that the original version of this poem was written by Kent M. Keith.]

Teenage Years: Love through a lens

Dear Daughter…By the end of the week I will have a teenager in the house. You. Sigh. I know my love will have to come at a distance most days, perhaps through a telephoto lens. I can watch you, but not too closely. I can encourage you, but not directly. Any attempts at being too questioning, will result in a sigh, or worse, the dreaded eye roll.

Truth is, you got the eye roll from me. Anything that sends me through the roof, is something, on a good day, that I own and recognize within myself. On a bad day, clearly those things came from your father.

You are pulling away, which I knew would happen, but I miss you. Some days I want you to remain little, and on others I wish you would hurry up so I can like you again. Your dad looks at you like you have grown three heads when asking about unloading the dishwasher results in tears. He doesn’t deal with tears. I get it. You don’t think I do, but I really, really do.

I was once a sassy, silent, loud, artistic, anguished, angry teenager. I felt things from the tips of my toes, through every fiber of my being. Beethoven made me cry. Bryan Adams songs were poetic, and my friends were the best and worst on any given day. No one understood me and never, ever would. I was special. I was ugly. I was so many things at once, it made me want to vomit. I know you look at me and see a tired, middle-aged mom, but I didn’t start out this way.

For now, I will watch you from a distance and then I will swoop in on a days when I have chance. You are so lovely and don’t even know it. I love that. You take pictures of your brother and I will take pictures of you watching him. I see you playing with his toys after he has wandered away. Don’t stop playing. Ever. Don’t hide your intelligence. Own it. Please don’t dumb down. Nerd up. Love fiercely.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”         e. e. cummings 

It takes courage and a hell of a lot of moxie to be you, bravely, and let the rest of you emerge, as time goes on. I know you’re up for the challenge. This mom will be waiting on the other side, but don’t worry, I won’t be far away. I’ll try to give you enough space to grow into the person you’re supposed to be. I can’t wait.

Love, Mom

Keep sharing moxie.

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