#hydratefortheholidays: It’s the thought that counts – even on Black Friday

thoughts count

“Guess what today is??!” Jack excitedly asked as he came downstairs for breakfast.

“The day after Thanksgiving?” I ask back.

“Mahhmm!” he exhales. “How can you not know? It’s like a HUGE deal.”

“I don’t know,” I shrug. “What day is it?”

“It’s Black Friday!”

“Ohhh…” Did he seriously just say Black Friday – like it’s a holiday? Does he think it signifies something important? worth celebrating and commemorating?

“Yes – it’s finally here. Black Friday.”

He smiled and started to gather what he wanted to eat for breakfast. I guess he was preparing for the big day (as if we’ve ever said a word about it.)

Then he paused and thought for a moment, “What is Black Friday?”

He’s so funny. I guess he’s heard so much about all the hype and the deals on the radio and t.v., he thought it was another holiday. (Cue the laugh-cry emoji.) But it’s real. And it’s here. Our chance to make the most of all the great deals. To spend, spend, and spend.

So, for today’s #hydratefortheholidays, a quick tip on navigating deal driven purchase pressures: remember, it’s the thought that counts – really. Thoughtful consideration of the intended recipient’s likes/tastes/quirks can often trump the gift (thank goodness!) I watched it play out this week.

A couple of weeks ago, I saw something online that I just knew would rank as an all-time fav gift for Barton – a Lithograph t-shirt. It’s basically literature on a shirt. Since she LOVES reading, it seemed a special, off the beaten path no-brainer. So, I carefully perused the genres, authors, designs – and chose what was sure to be her favorite. Then I waited with excitement for the gift to arrive.

As promised, the package arrived last week. I grabbed it running out the door for carpool. so I could see how it turned out. I was even more excited. It wasn’t big, but it sure seemed to be custom made for her.

As I waited outside the high school for Barton, the package started calling out my name, “Don’t wait for Christmas. Give me to her now.” And since, among the many terrific genes my mom passed to me, I inherited the can’t-wait gene – I did. I gave it to her right there on the spot. Even amidst her protests, I made her open the mailer. I just couldn’t wait to see her surprise and happiness at the perfect gift.

“Oh…” she said, holding up the Lithograph t-shirt I just knew she would LOVE.


“It’s Sherlock Holmes,” I said smiling.

“Yesss…” she replied. “I can see that.”

“Oh – and all those tiny words… They’re right off the pages – verbatim.” I start to pull away from the curb. “Don’t you just LOVE it?!!”

“Well … “ her pause was enough.

“Oh my – “ I start to get catch on. “is it a little nerdy for school?”

“Well, a little.”

“A lot?”

“No, not a lot…” she replied. Then she smiled and put her hand on my shoulder. “Actually, I really love that you would get if for me. It might be a bit geeky, but you sure know what I love and even added a twist. It’s really sweet mom.”

Okay, so the shirt itself was a bust, but the thought behind it sent heart-fireworks that warmed her soul. She felt known, loved. Someone cares about her enough to try to find something in tune with her tastes – without her asking for it. Neither the price tag nor packaging mattered, it really was the thought that counted.

“It makes me think of my friend C,” she said when we were almost home. “She’s such a nice friend – like a real friend.”

“What makes a real friend,” I asked.

“Well, the other day at lunch she suggested that we have partners.”


“Yeah – partners to get each other their lunch. Go through the line and get what they think the person would most like to eat from that day’s menu. It was really cute. She started going around the table saying what she would get for everyone. When she came to L, she said she would get her a huge bowl of queso – with a straw. Which was hilarious. She had been listening the week before when L said the queso was so good she wanted to drink it.”

Barton smiled thinking about it. “She did it for everyone – saying exactly what she’d get for each person and getting it exactly right.”

Then she added, “Thanks for the shirt; it’s everything I love.”

Though a pile of great-deal stuff can be wonderful, being known is even better.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


The rest of the story:

(Bonus) Barton actually loves the shirt. I wasn’t as off as I thought.The Lithographs shirt really is cute and more than one siblings has hit me with the classic, “Why didn’t you get that for me?!” Apparently it’s geeky, but cool geeky – perfect for the avid reader in your life. AND, Lithographs, in an effort to promote literacy, partners “with the International Book Bank to send one new, high-quality book to a community in need for each poster, t-shirt and tote bag we sell.”]

The International Book Bank from Litographs on Vimeo.

#hydratefortheholidays: Tip #6 – Look Up

hydratefortheholidays - look up

Having Thanksgiving at the end of November really does put a kink into things. On the one hand, aren’t we supposed to be planning December since IT STARTS NEXT WEEK? But on the other, what about the Turkey? and lazy, and food, and football, and raking/jumping into leaves, and food, and family/friends, and food and hanging out? But December IS HERE and I don’t want to get behind, or be rushed, or forget something (eek!)

The walls start to feel like they’re closing in (am I the only one?!) and even I begin to make lists. And in the making of lists I start to think about all the things that NEED TO BE ON A LIST. Then I see the list and think how ridiculous it is – because I’m laid back and have never been friends with lists.

In fact, I’m a terrible list maker. I write the stuff down, usually on a scrap of paper that resembles a Chic-Fil-A receipt found in my car. Then I put my list somewhere – somewhere good, where I’ll be sure to find it. And later I search for the lost-list not sure I actually made it. And I struggle to remember what was so important that I actually made a list in the first place. Because, those things must have been important for me to have gone so far as to make a list.

I feel for my kids. Good thing a couple are actually organized. Let’s hope that gene continues!

So, there’s that – the pressure stuff – and then there’s life.

I’m starting to realize that hydrating for the holidays actually reaches so far beyond a time of the year. Inasmuch as I don’t want the commercialization of societalization (I know that’s not a word, but how else can one describe the societal trends that pressure cook life) to rain on my holidays, I don’t want anything to distract from the good in life that paves even the steepest of roads.

So – today’s #hydratefortheholidays tip: Look Up. You never know what you might see.

Remembering to look up can turn my focus away from the holiday crazies and toward perspective, maybe even help slow things down a bit. And slowing down almost always brings with it a nice, long deep breath – and a little sanity, even in traffic.

“Hey! Look!” I punch my shotgun passenger. We were stuck in a long line of cars – maybe in a hurry, absolutely tired of being in the car. “A rainbow!”

“Where?” she asked. “It’s sunny. How can there be a rainbow?”

“It’s right there,” I pointed up over the trees.

As we inched up the road, she moved her head, trying to see through the trees, not really believing me that there could be a rainbow since the sun was brightly shining.

Soon enough, we came out from the trees, “Can you see it now?” I’m now trying to drive and find my phone, hoping the light will turn red so I can snap a pic.

She saw it and stared. It was so beautiful. A tiny rainbow in the sunny sky.

“How is that possible?” she asked.

“There must be water in the cloud that the sun is shining behind.”

She snapped a pic. So I did what every techno-savvy gal does these days, I posted the pic on Instagram with the caption: “Don’t forget to look up – you never know what you might see: a tiny rainbow on a sunny day”



And almost instantly, my friend Peggy replied: “and an angel wing.” (Isn’t it nice that friends can help us see even more than we do on our own! :)

My shotgun gal and I talked about God’s promise. How his faithfulness remains in every season/landscape. It’s always there whether we see it or not. That not every rain cloud is apparent to others – yet God’s promise stays true ALWAYS. And I thought about my friends who are suffering right now with health issues – how the Lord is faithful in the midst. And I thought about the reason for the season which we will soon celebrate – the ultimate promise fulfilled.

Maybe the tiny rainbow was a gentle reminder to keep my eyes focused up where the ground never moves, I don’t know. But I hope I do remember to look up. Looking upward might help the looking outward, too. It peels our eyes away from distractions to be able to see more in the moments – a powerful reminder for my kid-passengers, too.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


#hydratefortheholidays: practice JOY today


In a few short weeks (they seem to be getting shorter and shorter – which makes me sad since all I want these weeks to do is linger), Christmas songs will be filling the airwaves. In the malls, on the radio, at school recitals, through churches across the globe, songs about peace and hope will be sung. Peace, hope and joy.

It seems we could all use a nice jolt of each right about now.

Joy, the subject of one such beloved song [Joy to the World, by the 20th century the most published hymn in North America], is such an interesting word. It alludes to a concept more deeply rooted than happiness. In fact happiness is often used to describe joy – as does delight and bliss. It originates from the Latin word gaudēre: to rejoice.

It’s hard to think about joy today – especially amidst all of the turmoil, sadness, confusion, and anger filling social media and airwaves. Well-intentioned people scramble and fight against each other for the last word on how to love well. Because, how can love look to some like opening borders and to others like closing borders – and the like? I don’t know, but it does.

And even in all the calls for one or the other – brutal commentaries are dished. We live in a strange world where conversations occur more online than they do in person. Making it easy to say just about anything, sometimes forgetting the people on every side of the equation.

Maybe everyone’s searching to make sense of it all. But, where’s the joy? Is it here? Can we find joy, real joy – in the midst of atrocity, illness, heartache – so we can sing along tomorrow with honest hearts and true goodwill toward those traveling alongside?

Joy to the World

I remember not so long ago sitting at our kitchen table with my father-in-law chatting about the topic of joy. He was in Dallas for a visit, a small breather from his own less than ideal life-landscape. His wife of 50 years had been taken prisoner by Alzheimer’s. And due to the debilitating disease, literally everything in their life had changed. The dreams, the home, the occupation – all of it was disrupted. Dick’s new normal took him on a detour for roughly 10 years – a road that wasn’t always filled with sunshine and butterflies.

But, the man met it head on, determined – searching for the meaning of joy in the midst of far less than cheerful circumstances.

How did he do it? In a manner worth contemplating as we travel our own road.

  • He grappled with joy. Honestly, not in some Pollyanna way or in an effort to prove a point. He asked the question – What does it mean to “count it all joy?” And he asked with an open mind – keeping his own answers/desires at bay. I think that’s why Hope always met him in the midst.
  • He made/makes the most of his situations – even though this was clearly a tough one. That sneaky little secret about getting your eyes off yourself just might be the key to this one. He was quick to take the focus off their situation (and himself) by constantly reaching out to those around him. For the ten or so years that he made the daily trek to an Alzheimer’s unit, he was around lots of folks who needed an ear to hear their story or a good word to brighten their day. So he listened and encouraged.
  • He kept going. He didn’t know the answer to counting it all joy, but determinedly – anchored in trust and hope – he put one foot in front of the other each step, every day.
  • He never fell prey to a “victim” mentality. No one ever said life is fair. In fact, someone once said life is full of suffering. (That same someone also said He would meet us and carry the burden with/for us.)

I’ve witnessed my friends who are at the epicenter of suffering find joy the same way. My friend Jen who is very sick (please pray for her & Scott & little Linc) said recently – “People say to me, ‘Do you every ask why you?’ to which I can honestly answer – ‘No.’ My question would be more along the lines of ‘Why not me?’”

Which seems hard to imagine. But my friend Greg has said the same thing. As did Kyle Ogle, a friend of my brother’s. Kyle’s road included an arm amputation in his mid 20’s – kind of a bummer for anyone, let alone someone who loved to hunt. But it didn’t slow him down. He made a special attachment to his bow so he could hold the arrow and string in his teeth. In 2005, he was named Pagosa Country Adventure Guide’s “Hunter of the Year”.

Here’s something he shared in the midst of his battle:

I gave my life to Jesus and asked him to save me from sin when I was 17. My life has not turned out exactly as I thought it would. It does not say next to my picture in our high school yearbook “Most Likely to Get Cancer at 26 and Win the One Armed Dove Hunt”. It would be an understatement to say that life has been difficult the last few years. God never promised me an easy life or great wealth, just an abundant life. Things have been excruciatingly hard at times, but we have lived. It hasn’t been the kind of every day monotonous do it all again the next day kind of living. We have experienced more love, more joy, more kindness, and more miracles than most people see in 100 years of living. That is abundance. I have a lot of games to attend, so I hope that abundant life continues for years to come.

But the greatest promise He gave was that when this life is over, there is more to come. Out with the abundant life and in with the eternal. The story will not end here. In fact it will not end, ever.

Joy in the midst. Anchored in HOPE.

And in the midst of my father-in-law’s journey – along the entirety of its way – joy paved his path, even/especially when happiness took a backseat to tears.

Joy to the World.

Maybe some seeing-beyond-the-moment practice TODAY – anchored in hope, eyes resting in joy – can make the singing of those words in a couple of weeks mean a little more than they might have in the past. Surely practicing it today can help me to see above the world’s chaos and spot pockets of peace – and then to see beyond myself. Because, it’s likely that someone will cross my path today who needs to be heard or seen.

I don’t know … just a thought.

Thanks for walking the road with me (and bearing with these LONG posts – my word!)


Note: Joy to the World, written by Isaac Watts, was published in 1719. It was a hymn glorifying Christ’s triumphal return rather than a song celebrating his birth. Interestingly enough, the melody of the beloved song is believed to have originated from Handel – famed composer of “Messiah”.

#hydratefortheholidays: Tip #5 – Exercise


Last year I had the unfortunate opportunity to meet face-to-face a not so fun diagnosis of Shingles. But, with all that is going on with my friends and their much more life-altering diagnoses, I really didn’t care much about it. Still, for anyone going through Shingles or who knows someone that has it – YUCK. It’s painful – and can actually be friendly enough to hang around for a longer haul. Which mine decided to do. I have residual nerve damage from it. The bad news – I can’t exercise the same way I’ve done through the years. The good news – nerves can regenerate, AND we live in a day and age where there are LOTS of ways to exercise.

For me – it’s swimming. And the blessing, that came with my unexpected change-up, has been multi-dimensional and filled with so much goodness. Much of the blessing comes with the place I exercise: Texas Health Finley Ewing Cardiovascular & Fitness Center Dallas. As indicated by the name, it’s a far cry from a typical gym. The lure for me was a saltwater lap pool. The bonus benefit: I’m about 20 years younger than the most of the clientele. Yes, even at 50 & free, I’m the youngster. And I can tell you – the locker room conversations aren’t about weight or optimal sizes, they’re usually about the best brand of walker or the amount/types of meds recently prescribed.

So I get to exercise with people who are the furthest thing from trying to prove themselves, or look a certain way, or one-up, or – really anything that involves trying to fit in or buff-up. No, they’re happy to be alive and as sweet Florence (age 92!) told me recently, “I just love to be in the water. [She walks the pool, up and down the lanes in her cool water shoes] It gets my mind right. I come to the pool to get the poisons out of my thoughts. Then I have a better day – always.”

Please let me be like Florence when I’m 92!

So – here you go, #hydratefortheholidays Tip # 5: Exercise.

When the thoughts (all that needs to get done, all that is undone, all that will never be done) are stealing the joy – take a walk around the block. Because even a simple walk around the block helps get oxygen to perspective-starved thoughts. But [and especially at this time of the year] exercise without obsessing over being a certain size.

That certain-size thing, it plants our eyes on ourselves – not really the best place to anchor our eyes when the season is really about others.

But since the holidays come with a few outward appearance land-mines, especially when outfits, parties, reminders, pressures, and the like can tempt our thoughts to land on outward appearance, let’s not let the negative plant less-than thoughts. Apparently, we’re prone to go negative on ourselves:

Notice – we need friends to remind us. So I’m here to say, in case no one speaks the words to you today – YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL. Your beauty is INSIDE & OUT. You have SO MUCH to offer. You have GREAT WORTH – really you do. In fact YOU are the reason for the season that is just a few weeks away.

So, exercise – not to be a certain size, but to clear you mind, to gain perspective. Don’t let outward appearance issues/pressures/preconceived ideas steal the joy from something that can help us breathe.

Today I got a small, but forced, moment of exercise. Rather than be frustrated with the crazy traffic in Preston Center, I let the parking space in the back of the lot be an opportunity rather than an inconvenience. I got to walk. And I actually enjoyed it. I needed a breath of fresh air. And when I saw someone pull out and open the space directly in front of Chipotle (where I was headed), the walk helped me be happy for the guy that got it. Because, you never know what kind of day he might have going on where a front row spot could be just the thing to make it better.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


p.s. LOVED this from Clare Bowen – beautiful, heart-felt reminder making its way across social media today:

it's just hair

I was really inspired when I heard a story about a little girl who said she couldn’t be a princess because she didn’t have long hair, and I wanted her, and others like her to know that’s not what makes a princess, or a warrior, or a superhero. It’s not what makes you beautiful either. It’s your insides that count… even if you happen to be missing half of them.

Every scar tells a story, every baldhead, every dark circle, every prosthetic limb, and every reflection in a mirror that you might not recognize anymore. Look deeper than skin, hair, nails, and lips. You are who you are in your bones. That is where you have the potential to shine the brightest from. It is where your true beautiful self lives. (read more)