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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas on the Half-Shell

I received one of the best gifts ever this year.

I must be living fearlessly to embrace such a thing. Embrace it I did, squealing joyfully as I peeled away the protective tissue - an oxymoron of sorts - carefully unwrapping it. As I held it aloft for all those gathered around the tree to see, I admitted that it was rivaled only by the Baby Alive I received when I was 7 and possibly the Big Wheel I got when I was 8, maybe even the BB Gun placed in my hands on my 9th Christmas. Otherwise, I couldn't think of many more gifts that ever came close to bringing me the same glee, the same awe, that the spectacle raised above my head did at that very moment.

An armadillo. A stuffed armadillo. Not a plush armadillo, but a taxidermied armadillo mounted on a board. Its shell, sleek and shiny, reflected the light from the chandelier. Its segmented tail curved around in front of its hind legs, and its head tilted slightly to the right with its tiny black eyes staring fixedly. And it had a wonderful color, like deep, rich brown leather. Had anything so perfect ever entered my hands before this? It was hard to say.

Like the dad in A Christmas Story I knew the ideal place for it - atop the rabbit pelt on the sofa table behind the loveseat in the den, where its presence alone will prickle the hairs on the backs of necks and upper arms.

Perhaps you squirm at the thought of this animal gracing my decor, but I tell you no southern girl should ever be without at least one taxidermied specimen. For certain, my admiration of preserved animals, all within earshot of my husband, plus my demand that he fill my need for collecting them, keeps my hunting husband home on a lot of Saturdays: 1) Why go if I'm urging him out to the woods, and 2) The pressure to bring home a trophy is paralyzing.

But that's not why I love my armadillo. You may not realize this, but it is in mint condition, bearing not a ding nor a dent. And someone went to a great deal of trouble to find me an armadillo that doesn't sport tire tread imprints and isn't squished on one side, the other, or straight down the middle. I've been given something rare and irreplaceable indeed. I can buy another Big Wheel. I can feed my daughter's Baby Alive. My sons will let me shoot their BB Guns. But how many more times in life would one perchance to happen upon preserved roadkill of these proportions and think to give it to me?

As with every gift, it's the thought that counts.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly in the New Year

Every [woman] should be born again on the first day of January. Start with a fresh page. Take up one hole more in the buckle if necessary, or let down one, according to circumstances; but on the first of January let every [woman] gird [herself] once more, with [her] face to the front, and take no interest in the things that were and are past.
~Henry Ward Beecher

As January 1st approaches, I have to assess if I really accomplished all that I set out to do this year - get organized, manage my time better, read more books, focus on the truly important things in life . . . live fearlessly. Then I must put it behind me. Face forward and meet the New Year head on. Because if I'm seriously honest with myself, I have to admit that the only thing organization ever did for me was create a clean slate for new chaos.

Instead of making the same-old-same-old safe resolutions like travel, lose weight, spend more time with family and friends, get in shape, eat healthier, I'm going to accept that I've probably done the best that I can with those tried and true standards over the years. In 2009 I'm stepping out on a limb and taking a chance on a new approach to evolving into a better person:

  • Say "No" - I will say "No" to doing anything - joining a club, leading a group, organizing an activity - that I cannot or will not give my best to. I will not allow a guilty sense of obligation back me into a corner.
  • Make no comparisons- No matter what the talking heads in the media try to get me panicked about this year, no matter what my friends and neighbors do, I'm going to spend my time and my money only on things that are important to me and my family.
  • Live life as a work of art - I will cherish experiences over things. I will collect beautiful memories instead of stuff.
  • Foolish versus Fearless - I will remember the difference between foolish and fearless and will not do anything to compromise my life or my dignity. This includes skydiving and skinny dipping and other sundry activities of that nature.
  • Change is not just the coins jingling at the bottom of my purse - It is an uncertain world in which we live. I will accept change in my circumstances as God's way of offering me a new opportunity or His desire to alter my life's direction.
  • Be a light of this world - I will speak kind words, make charitable contributions within my means, and engage in behaviors that build my community regardless of recognition.

Happy New Year!

May you and those you love embrace all the possibilities it brings at the stroke of midnight.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Southern Girls Living Fearlessly in the Holidays

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.
- Mary Ellen Chase

The holidays, despite all their bling and the joy they bring, can also be STRESSFUL. We run the risk of releasing our resolve to live fearlessly and, thus, spiraling into Christmas chaos. Don't lose your presence of mind.

Five Ways to Live Fearlessly for the Holidays
  1. Travel Light - Remember, every decoration that goes up must also come down. Don't be afraid to simplify your yuletide.
  2. The Book of Lists - Doubtless, you've got a list as long as Santa's of things that must be done by midnight on the 24th, or before. Accept that some things are not absolutely necessary and catapult Make cookies with the kids to the top of the list. Be happy that some stuff doesn't get done. It means you spent time on the truly important things.
  3. Summon Your Tunnel Vision - Keep in mind the real reason we celebrate Christmas. Don't let glitzy advertisements, glossy magazine pictures, or persnickety perfectionists convince you that you need more, more, more to have a satisfying holiday. Be confident that you've already got all you really need.
  4. Gather the Girls - Friends are one of life's greatest gifts. Take time out of the busyness to spend time together.
  5. Fake It - Feeling bah-humbug? Say "Merry Christmas" robustly to everyone you meet. Your Christmas spirit will soon swell.