My Dash

Today marks the first day of my freedom….for approximately 30 days to come.  Yesterday morning I submitted my final paper for MNGT 681 – Strategic and International Management, class number eight of 10 and the capstone of my MBA program.  The past seven weeks have been challenging to say the least.  30+ hours of course work, 40+ hours of “work” work, and of course, family.  I have been tired, stressed, stretched to my limit (and my very supportive, amazing, sweet husband has too).  But life keeps on going, even when you take on too much.  Life moves on, ready or not…as mine certainly did.

In the past seven weeks, we lost Jace’s most beloved pet hamster, Butterscotch.  On a rare night alone, my husband and I decided to go out for a little wine and dinner.  On our way home my husband mentioned he forgot that he had let our pet cat, Molly, inside the house.  You see, Molly was once an inside cat, but after my daughter’s cat allergies arose, and exasperated by Molly’s awful temperament and propensity to pee on our bed when she wasn’t pleased with us, Molly become an outside cat.   So, Phil had let Molly in for old time’s sake and forgot to put her out when we left for dinner.  Arriving home, I bolted for the restroom, which tends to happen after a few glasses of wine.  From upon the porcelain throne, I hear my husband mutter, “OH MY GODDDD.”  From the restroom I shouted, “What???!!” To which he returned, “It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine.”  There, left lovingly by my husband’s bedside as a sweet little gift, was Butterscotch, dead.  Molly was prancing around the house as though she was really something fantastic.  I’m not sure if it was the wine or the thought of telling Jace that Butterscotch was no more, but that night I sat in the kitchen and cried for a while.  Jace took it well, and much to my own amazement, in place of Butterscotch, we now have two hamsters, because little sister needed a hamster too.  Our family continues to grow, fuzzy as it may be, Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera, Rusty (dog), Molly (cat), Oreo (hamster) and Angel (hamster) keep on moving forward.

In other news, my oldest son, Jace, turned nine years old this week.  As absolutely crazy as it seems that I can have a nine-year old (yes, that is half way to 18), in the same breath it seems so right.  When I look at my son today, I see a boy, not the baby and toddler that I used to see.  I see someone with his own thoughts and opinions, someone who is considerate and kind, someone who is quirky in the best way.  I see someone who is gaining an understanding of this world, both its beauty and its cruelty.  He isn’t the same tiny boy he used to be, which in moments makes me sad, but  also so proud.  I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he is growing into. Time keeps moving forward.

Now Christmas in the Hafele house has begun.  The tree is up, the presents are bought (mostly), the month is filled with Christmas-fun plans.  The elves are back….and they’ve multiplied.  We first began with Zart, the original Elf on the Shelf.  Then in year three, Zart went missing.  We then brought in Millie and Willie, one for Jace and one for Jera, of course.  Then in year four, Zart turned back up and we had Zart, Willie and Millie.  Ater my grandma passed away recently, the kids wanted Great-Grandma’s elves to remember her by, so three more elves came to live with us.  Today we have six, you read that right, SIX elves to stash around the house.  Thankfully, I let Jace in on the little secret this year, and he has had a blast helping us to hide the elves for Jera.  As much as I thought it would be sad to tell him the truth about the Elves on Shelf, he has genuinely enjoyed being the giver of joy this year.  Another sign of what a special boy he is.  And every once in a while, Zart hides somewhere special for Jace to find….just for old time’s sake.

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My next class begins January 8th, and I plan to enjoy each and every second until then.  And then, when I’m back to the 70+ hour work weeks, I will try to enjoy every moment then too.  I look back at the last seven weeks, look back over the past year and a half in the MBA Program, back at the last 10+ years of working full-time, at the past 15 years of my relationship with my husband…I think back to the time of my childhood, of my parents and all of the love we shared, to my siblings and cousins and all of the laughs…I look back and I’m in awe.  I’m in awe to be where I am today with so many blessings.  I’m in awe that so much time has passed and at times it feels like it’s only been an instant.  I’m brought back to my Pastor’s sermon from last week where she recited the poem “The Dash”….if you haven’t read it, the poem talks about how a headstone marks the date of birth and the date of death, but those dates really aren’t important at all.  What is important, what really matters is the ‘dash’.  What are we going to do with our dash?  How will we spend it?  I hope to make the most of my dash.  That is what I strive for every day.  I hope you do too.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I pray that you are filled with the sacred spirit of this season and that your dash is everything that you were created to be.

Lenten Lessons Learned

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With Lenten season in full swing, I’m in the throes of day two of my sacrifice (giving up my snooze button on my alarm clock). Over the past few years, Lenten season has become more and more special to me. I love everything about it. I love the idea of sacrificing in order to better focus on Christ and what he did for us. In past years I gave up social media and found that it truly helped me stay focused on the important things in my life. Until you unplug entirely, it’s hard to see just how distracted we all are. Since I know I can do without social media now, this year I decided to switch gears and give up the snooze button on my alarm. While I write this I have to just stop and be thankful to live in a world where FB and snoozing are the things that mean sacrifice. It hardly seems meaningful when I think about God giving the life of his only son for me. Just another reminder of why it’s so important to slow down and concentrate on our faith. We have a mid-week evening church service throughout Lent and I love this too. There’s something about ending my day with a church service that leaves me feeling calm, clean and rejuvenated…most of the time anyway.

Thanks to my daughter, my 2016 Lenten season started off with a bang. Jera is three (by Easter she’ll be four). In past years, I let her stay at home with my husband since the evening services went beyond her bedtime. This year though, I thought it would be nice to share this experience with her. So I put on my big mommy pants, loaded up a couple of Barbies and matchbox cars and headed off for Ash Wednesday service with my three and seven-year olds. They’ve both set through plenty of church services, although on most church days Jera, my three year old, spends some portion of the service in the play room burning off that three-year-old-ants-in-my-pants energy. However, the  services she has attended are in the morning…NOT AT BEDTIME….let that sink in….NOT AT BEDTIME!

Everything started out innocently enough. Jera was full of liveliness, driving my son’s matchbox cars up and down the pews. Without a doubt, she was distracting.  But kids will be kids and I try not to get overly excited as long as she isn’t burning down the building. I began to sense trouble when Jera eyed the bread and wine for communion and started to fixate on the “body and blood” stating to me how hungry and thirsty she was. No, I’m not starving her. She did have dinner immediately before church service although you wouldn’t know it from talking to her.

We attend a church that practices open communion. I don’t believe there are any hard rules or age requirements on when a child should take communion at our church (but I’m not sure about that!!). Personally, I think a child should have an understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and the symbolism of it all. Soooo….let me preface this by saying that introducing my daughter to communion at 3 was probably a mistake. As she sat with me in service last month and communion made its way around, I allowed her to partake, talking her through it step by step. She was overjoyed to share in communion and I was proud that it meant so much to her. Hmmm…hind sight really is 20/20.

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Fast forward to Ash Wednesday service…it was time for communion but it wasn’t our normal communion routine where we pass the bread and wine through the pews. No, this was a “stand in line in front of the whole church and take communion one at a time” type of communion. I immediately became nervous. No other children were taking communion….this was not good for the home team. My children and I made our way through the line and Jace and Jera arrived to our Pastor in front of me. Pastor Jane leaned down and blessed my son which he accepted sweetly. Whew, he is fine with being passed over for communion. Then the Pastor leans down to bless my daughter and again, she sweetly accepts….but then….oh no….Jera just reached up with her little bitty hand and grabbed a chunk out of the bread. My 3-year old just stole a chunk of the body of Christ! The Pastor couldn’t help but notice what the little thief had just done so she smiled kindly at Jera and said “Well there you go.” Crisis adverted.

Then we hastily moved along to the wine. I quickly grabbed my cup and moved along hoping my kids were following me. Sure enough Jace was tagging right along behind me…but not Jera. No, definitely not Jera. I turn around in time to see her staring expectantly at the gentleman passing out the blood of Christ. He is looking uncertainly at her and then to me. He motions to ask if he should give her some…to which I responded, “No, that’s okay.” Jera caught wind of this denial and immediately…loudly…began to whine, “WHAT ABOUT MY BLOOOOODD??? WHERE’S MY BLOOOODDDD???? I’M THIRSTY!!!!!”

Really? Really. If I could have hidden beneath a pew, I would have. It felt like an eternity to me that I stood there in horror…and then I did the only thing I could, I moved along with my child whimpering for “blood” and took her on a trip to the water fountain to quench her undying thirst. I tried to explain to her that communion is not snack time. I tried to explain to her that it is a sacred time. I tried to explain it all but again…she is THREE.

So, needless to say, lesson learned. Three is too young to understand the miracle of communion. Duh. I’m not sure what I was thinking but leave it to my beautiful, rambunctious, kind-hearted Jera to teach me.

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As I proceed through the rest of this season, I hope to stay focused on my faith, on what has been sacrificed for me, for all of us. I hope to continue sharing my love for this season with my children (although hopefully in a less embarrassing way!).

Have you stopped to think about what this season means to you? I’d love to hear about what you’ve decided to sacrifice this Lenten season and what Lent means to you. I hope you enjoy this Lenten season with those who mean the most to you… even if it leads to a moment of total humiliation.