Basking in the comfort of holiday traditions

They grow up so fast. Of all the clichés in the parenting handbook, this is the oldest and the truest. Among the things I love most about Christmas is that for a few joyous weeks, the inexorable march of time is held in abeyance by an even greater force: the hope, the peace, and the excitement of Christmas.

Our children are teenagers now, the oldest about to celebrate Christmas with us for the last time before she graduates and starts college in the fall of next year. Next Christmas is likely to feel different, be different, with her home for break. But that is not something we have to deal with today.

Creating an honest path to gratitude

I haven’t always known how to feel grateful or identify the feeling of joy. There are certain lessons in life only learned through experience. No matter how many books are read or classes taken, hard-fought living is our one true teacher. In this season of gratitude, I’m reminded that my ability to feel thankful and happy is a recent revelation. I’ve also realized that through loss, a person can gain everything.

Polar Express wraps up another magical season

Hearing the joyful sound of a small silver jingle bell from Santa’s sleigh — it’s what separates those who believe in the spirit of Christmas and those who don’t.

The jingle jangle of the bell comes through loud and clear when we’re children, but can fade away as we get older. Hope is not lost forever though, as children and adults alike are sure to find their Christmas spirit restored aboard The Polar Express train ride. 

Finding anchors in seasons of change

When the winds rage the sea, we look for an anchor. 

As my life continues to unfold, I’m learning there are things over which I have little control. Like any human, I at first try to manhandle situations. Every single time, I try to come up with a solution or fix the issue before I realize God and the universe have other plans. I’m working hard to stop this and rather, approach each day with curious expectation. 

Thoughts on Thanksgiving and traditions

Funny how when you’re living in a moment, you don’t realize how truly special the moment is. Only later in life does the full onslaught of gratitude cover you like a warm nostalgic blanket. That’s how I feel when I reflect upon Thanksgiving days of the past. 

Every Thanksgiving morning, my sister and I would wake up and wander into the kitchen bleary-eyed and still wearing pajamas. As the Asheville Christmas Parade played on WLOS, my mom would be sipping coffee and have already cooked cornbread and biscuits, the beginning ingredients for my great-grandmother’s dressing recipe. 

Learning to connect with the other world

The night after my mom died, my dad stepped out on the front porch with my brother-in-law, whose father had passed away only a month earlier. As they looked up, two shooting stars, one after the other, flew through the night sky. We were convinced it was our two family members comforting us from afar.

Check mate, and I’m off to Ingles

My wife and I do not play chess. A few years ago at a company Christmas party, we were participants in a game of Dirty Santa and came away with a chess set featuring oversized chess pieces that glowed in the dark. I had originally opened a gift I actually wanted — a big coffee mug with a nice bag of gourmet whole bean coffee — but some guy in a hideous Christmas sweater swiped it from me because he drew a better number and preferred my coffee bonanza to the chess set that he opened.

Raising boys and respecting women

As a child, I wanted to grow up and plan a big fancy wedding with a ruffly white dress, then have two little girls and name them Veronica and Samantha. As one of two girls in a family of four, this is all I knew. My middle-class childhood wasn’t indulgent in any way, but it was happy and secure. My sister and I knew our parents loved us more than anything. Both my mom and dad worked multiple jobs to give us opportunities and experiences we couldn’t have otherwise had. I’m forever appreciative of that, and I 100 percent credit them for nurturing and encouraging my adventurous spirit. 

In my life, I’ve loved them all

With the massive rainfall from Tropical Storm Florence on Sunday, my truck carefully navigated its way through deep puddles and down slick backroads, the windshield wipers barely able to keep up. 

The church was just off the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway, tucked above Barber Orchards in Balsam. It’s had been awhile since I stepped foot in a church. Raised in a Catholic family, I’d go to church sometimes twice a week (Thursday for school, Sunday for family). Though a deeply spiritual person, I hadn’t crossed the threshold of a house of worship in some time. 

Grief is love’s souvenir

Three of life’s top five stressors are death of a loved one, divorce and moving. Within the past two years, my mom passed away, I got a divorce and bought a house. I say this not for pity but as a fact that’s required for the rest of this column to unfold, and the anniversary of my mom’s death is this week so it’s hard to think of anything else.

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