Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Few of my Favorite Things

     I created a very special wreath a few years ago.  It seems like a few years ago, but it was more--I know this, because as I look at the wreath today, I see photos of babies that are now big.  I love this wreath.  It's covered in ribbons and glitter, and all of the special ornaments that Jono, Abby and Sam made throughout preschool and elementary.  At one point, that brief moment in time when they were actually toddlers and babies, my tree could hardly hold all of the magical decorations, and I wasn't willing to part with any.  Not one.  So this wreath became the overflow vessel for the stars and pinecones, the glittery school photos, the bells, reindeer and gingerbread men.  I have three-of-the-same of most, and after a few years, the wreath was as full as my tree had been.  It was magnificent, and it hung in the house, displaying my favorites.

     And then we moved.  I protected the wreath and it traveled well.  But it didn't' find its way out of our new attic that first Christmas.  Or the second, third or fourth.  December would roll around and one kiddo or another was coming home from college or waiting on college acceptances, or auditioning, or  needing a ride to Boston Mills.  The tree was always full of memories and special ornaments, but the idea of the ornaments with the tiny faces and the sparkly pinecones wasn't at the top of my list.

     Until this year.

     The tree is up, and it's half decorated.  Jono is working downtown, and Abby will be home on Thursday.  Sam just texted from school wondering about skiing this afternoon.  Everybody wants to decorate the tree (I just know it in my Christmas heart) but I do not live with toddlers in their Christmas jammies anymore.  My children are busy young adults who are studying for finals and attending office Christmas parties.

      So, as I was hanging the last of the ornaments today, I realized that something was missing.  The toddlers.  One quick trip up to the attic, and there it was, bagged carefully, hanging on a hook.  Just as easily as it was assembled, it was disassembled.  Every last one of the popsicle-stick stars and the paperboard angles will find its way back onto the tree.   Suddenly, there is so much room.

     Merry Christmas, friends!  Make sure to surround yourself with your very favorite things.



Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Best of Intentions


The good, the bad, the best of.

My daughter, Abby, wears a bracelet everyday that says "breathe."  I was with her when she chose it, when she connected with it in the boutique.   When I look at her, I am not at all surprised that she feels this word so deeply.  Her theater training, her vocal technique, her yoga classes.  Then there is the stress that can arise with a packed schedule.  The word was so perfect.  Breathe, girl.

The word bracelet, the "MyIntent" bracelet is a big "thing" right now and I want one, but I've been struggling to pick my word.  The lists are endless, and I can't seem to connect.  Some have double meanings, some just sound wrong, some are slightly negative, some seem cliche, some aren't fitting enough to wear everyday.  Being that I kind of fancy myself a word-kind-of-girl, this word block is challenging to me.


That's another thing.

My cousin, Julianne, has challenged me to accept a 50-Weeks-to-50 challenge.  I must pick a new goal every week until I turn fifty next July.  Fifty goals, fifty weeks.  She's a few weeks into her challenge and mine starts this week.  So, I have to pick my first challenge.

I can't even pick a word.

So, this morning on my walk, I decided to combine these two tasks.

Week One of my 50-Weeks-to-50 (#50Weeksto50 on Instagram) will be to  pick my word of intention.  And as I thought about it, really thought about it, and thought about some things that will be on my list of goals to accomplish this year,  I wondered, what keeps us (me) from trying things, finishing things, putting things out into the world.  For me, it's often fear.  Fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of not finishing, fear of the unknown, fears I didn't even know were holding me back.

"You cannot be brave without fear."  ~Muhammad Ali

It feels a bit weird that one of my favorite quotes happen to be by Ali, but it is.  And that's what popped into my head on my walk.  And then there's another one of my favorite quotes, but it's actually the end of a poem.

There is freedom waiting for you,
On the breezes of the sky,

And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?” 
~Erin Hanson

So I chose my word.  BRAVE. I have some goals to complete, and some things to try, and there is freedom waiting on the breezes of the sky.  I see a paddleboard in my future, a journal, and a finished manuscript.  I will write poetry. I will try yoga. I will bake and decorate cupcakes from scratch.  I will submit that manuscript.  Again. 

What is your intention?  What is your word?  Follow me on instagram at @christychafe and #50WeeksTo50 share your goals and intentions and dreams and challenges and favorite words.  I'd really love to hear.  

Be brave.  What if you fly? 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Enjoying the Ride

Happy New Year.   And, phew.

Feels like a whirlwind, doesn't it?  Not just the holidays (which seemingly flew by me in a glorious frenzy of tissue paper, confectioners sugar and glitter, as noted by the evidence I am still finding) but the entire year.   I look back on 2016 as if it were a giant revolving door instead of a calendar year;  transformations, changes, comings and goings.   I'm not even talking about the election--transitions to be sure--but so many changes and upheavals along my own journey. 

I've realized that for a girl who enjoys travel and activities and surprises, I also apparently like my schedule and patterns, so this year of "different" was not always so easily-received by me.  Abby left for college, Sam started high school, and Jono began his senior year.   Adam made a big decision to begin a new phase in his career; after twenty years in the same company, he will be transitioning into something new.  

Big changes.  Which bring about small changes.  Morning routines, daytime routines.  Who's in the office, and who's watching the Today Show-- or ESPN?  Abby is no longer singing show tunes (or Beyonce) all day long in the kitchen, but Sam has taken up skiing full-force, so I am learning a delightful new language.  (Some days the "pow" is great on the slopes, and sometimes things are "sendy." Sick.  Hella lit.)   I often trip over ski boots.  

Just when I was growing accustomed to Jono being away, he is now about to become a true grown-up.  He has thrown himself into the interview process and while  his determination and skill both astound and delight me, I already find myself mourning the fact that I will not have him home again for a four-week Christmas break.  Sad!

This will be Jono's last season of baseball.  And ours, with him.  Real change.  I am a girl who packs a mean baseball cooler, a trie baseball mom.  But I am also not unaware of the changes in the boy who is becoming a man;  one ready to move forward with the love of the game with lessons learned from the game.  A new phase, a new time.    

Abby will take the stage at Miami University in the spring.  I'm trying  not to rent an apartment in Oxford to take care of her this spring.  I want to be close enough to buy grapefruit juice and lozenges, to make sure she sleeps and eats.  To be at every single show.  This is already difficult for me.  

But this is not about me.  These revolving doors keep revolving, and sometimes, I find them spinning me right back to where I belong.   I try to ride along, and I spin and I spin, but I never get very far, chasing the change.  So I will step quietly (ahem) back, and watch the comings and goings, the new and the different.  And I will be grateful for the ride.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."  Jeremiah 29:11

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens. 
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Friday, May 13, 2016

The Last Lunch Note

*Copied-without permission-from the note I tucked in Abby's lunch this morning. 

This is the last lunch note I will write you.  

You were my “pack a lunch” kiddo.  While the boys always liked to buy their lunches, you preferred to pack yours, almost always.  

When you were younger, you would pack them yourself.  But in these last few years, the job fell to me.  Isn’t that weird?  I think most kids would have grown INTO the job, not out of it.  You got busy in the evenings, and began to count on your lunch being prepped, and I wore the “I pack a great lunch” badge with honor.   I never minded, particularly.  Well, to be fair, some mornings I would grumble and moan and the absolute last thing I wanted to do at 6:45 am was pack a lunch, but MOSTLY I loved it.  

You were a very thoughtful and meticulous planner.  I would know well in advance that you would like to eat chicken breasts and mini guacamole cups one week, or peanut butter and banana sandwiches another.  Cut up veggies.  Grapes.  And dips of all kinds.  Ranch, sour cream, bleu cheese, hummus, hot sauce.  If I could pour it into a tiny cup, and you could dip a veggie into it, thumbs up--lunch is served.

I could occasionally convince you to branch out.  The wrap-sandwich experiment, for example.  It didn’t work too well, until I cut your wrap into tiny pinwheels, then you liked it better.  OMG.  I think I finally get it. . .you’re actually still a toddler!  You like things in tiny pieces and anything you can dip into anything else.  Sigh.  Captain Obvious, where were you when I needed you?

There were the lunch crisis moments, those mornings when I didn’t think you were packing a lunch, and the call would come down the stairs at 7:19.  “Mom, can I have a lunch?”  Those were the days you got 1/4 of a cold Chipotle burrito from the fridge, a piece of questionable fruit, and a small handful of Halloween candy.  In April.  But you would still get a lunch note, no matter what.  

Every packed lunch gets a lunch note.  My boys got fewer, but they got them, and I had the pleasure of finding all of them, saved, every year, in the inside pockets of the soft-sided lunch boxes.  Something about those notes, being tucked away instead of tossed aside, made every note that much more important to compose.

Ahem.  Compose is a big word.  Write.  Scratch.  Scrawl.  Some were clever.  Some notes to you were honest.  Some were “good luck on your test.”  Other’s were “HI!” on a napkin.  Once or twice, when you were running out the door, I had to blow a kiss into the lunchbox and yell “LUNCH NOTE!”  (Whatever works in the moment, right?)  Many would discuss the latest "Grey’s Anatomy" episode, or Scandal, or "Secrets And Lies" (Where is that show, anyway?  Anyone?)  I’d try to be inspirational, or funny.  Or punny.  Or holiday-themed.  I would go for the laugh, but my daily goal was always the same:  to let you know that I was thinking of you while you were in the lunch room, dipping your cucumbers in the dip-of-the-day, hanging out with your girlies.  

This is your last lunch note.
I’ve told you everything I could possibly tell you, at least in lunch-note language.  But to finish it off, here you go:

Have a good day.
Sing out.  Sing your song.  Good luck on every audition, ever.
Don’t talk to boys, but if you do, be smarter than they are.  (Not hard.)
You be you, GURL.
Take your time on every test.  Read the questions carefully.  
Plan in advance, but if you don’t, make the best with what you have.
Be careful what you dip into.
Try the wrap.  
Take small bites.
There is no shelf life on Halloween candy.
Be brave.
Your hair looks great today.
When you are watching Grey’s, eat the caramels.  Think of me when you accidentally get a cream.
Send notes.  Leave notes.  
When you eat lunch, know that I am thinking of you.  
I’m proud of you.
Make good choices.
Be a good friend.
You are a star.
It’s a great day to save lives.
Where is Secrets and Lies?
I’m going to miss you, but I’ll be okay.  
I love you.  I really, really love you.

This is the last lunch note.  Signing off.  May 13, 2016.  XOXO 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Best Dog Friend

 They tried to warn me, those naysayers and nonbelievers.  It will be hard work, they said.  You’ll be up all night with the crying, I heard.
I’d fought it for years, but I was ready.

Now?  I heard.  Your kids are so big, and you’re doing this now?

Can’t explain it.  I was ready.

It will tie you down, some argued.  You love to travel.

Didn’t care.  I was ready.  
I gathered my research, read the books, did the preparation, bought the supplies, and made the plan.  

I was ready.

And on the day he came home, I was really, really ready.
I was prepared with the small bowls and the soft food.  There were itty-bitty snacks and soft blankets, and toys.

Pee-pee pads, two crates, three beds, seven different chewy bones, a dog car-seat, and one two-and-a-half pound Maltese puppy.  

Coach the Dog was a late-but-great addition to our family.  Small in stature, but big in personality, he offers kisses to all who will accept (and serious make-out sessions with some lucky winners).  This fluffy little puffball has taken over our home and schedule.   But we were ready.  

We were all ready to bring the puppy home.  I was not prepared to meet my Best Dog Friend. 

My Best Dog Friend came into the house in my arms on August 29th, and hasn’t left my side.  The pitter-patter of his four small paws follows me everywhere.  From the stove to the refrigerator.  From the couch to the bedroom.  From the bed to the bathroom and back to the bed.  If I am working, he sleeps under my desk.  If I get up, he gets up.  My Best Dog Friend likes to sit on my vanity while I dry my hair.  And he likes me to dry his already-dry fur. (High maintenance.)

My Best Dog Friend protects me from things I cannot see, and from my husband whenever he tries to put his arm around me.  

My Best Dog Friend warns me of possible intruders, or maybe just leaves on the porch.  

My Best Dog Friend shares my food with himself.

My Best Dog Friend cries when I leave and falls all over himself with joy--literally--when I come home...from getting the mail.

When Adam is traveling, My Best Dog Friends sleeps on the bed and makes us both happy.  (Oh, I mean he’s totally crate-trained.) 

        My Best Dog Friend keeps me company when my kids (“your kids are so big!”) are gone all day.

        I was ready to bring a puppy into the house.  I was unprepared to fall in love.

I’ve never had a Best Dog Friend.   I was ready.

Friday, July 31, 2015

God and Baseball

Be still.  (Still calling those as strikes? Really? You're missing a great game, Blue. . . )

Be still,  and (and NOW it's a ball?  You have GOT to be kidding.)

Be still, and know (you know what?  I'm going just post these pictures of Jono batting on Facebook)

Be still, and know that I (I need another water.  Does Jono need a Gatorade?  Where is the Gatorade?)

Be still, and know that I am (I am on 15% battery here.  I hate it when that happens.)

Be still, and know that I am God.  (Um, God?  I am trying to watch a game, here.)

But I wasn't.  And that verse, my very favorite, was quietly inching its way to the front of my brain.  Now, I know that God and baseball (and cellphones and Facebook) might not intertwine for most, but for me, they go hand-in-hand.  What was meant to be a peaceful morning, relaxing in the beautiful sunshine, watching my son play his favorite game, was being overshadowed by the unimportant details.

So I put down the phone, and relaxed into my chair.  And there, with God and baseball, with the sun on my face, enjoying the boy I love playing the game he was born to play, I was finally still.

I was even thankful for the umpires. . . and that says a lot.

Be still, and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Singing Outside the Box

I've never been that great at "stepping out of the proverbial box."  No thank you,  new boxes.  I like the spaces, activities and schedule that I have created, and I like the people that are incorporated into my world.  So it should have come as no surprise when my best friend, Lisa, told me recently that it also takes me a while to warm up to new people. But surprised I was.

This can't be true.  I thought I LIKED meeting people.

"You do like meeting them," she assured me.  "But it takes you a while to see if you're going to let them in."

Really?  REALLY?   So then I asked her how long it took me to decide.  I assumed that A) she wouldn't know or B) it would be a few weeks to a month.  

Seven years, on average.  

Apparently, I'm a mean dog in a lonely, box-shaped crate.  Like, the meanest.  No new people.  No new boxes.  Go away.  Get out.  See you in seven years.  

Those who know me well will hopefully attest that this is a bit of an exaggeration.  I'm not the meanest dog, but maybe it is okay to step back and consider who and what we let in.  At the same time, we don't want to let great things pass us by.

The past couple of months, I've been seeing notices at church recruiting singers for Faure's Requiem. Dates and times for vocal interviews.  Come and sing!  Everyone in the community invited.   I saw the same notice in the Hudson Hub.  I love singing big pieces of music.  Well, I love singing any piece of music, but the idea of this was really calling to me.  I haven't sung in a long, long time, but I kept thinking. . . if I don't audition, and I'm in the congregation watching, what will I thinking as I enjoy the music? What experience might I have allowed to pass me by?

Rehearsals are on Monday nights, a night in my week that is absolutely free.  So I scheduled my interview, sang for Tom, received my score, and went to my first rehearsal.  Out of my box.   Although singing is something that feels natural, I've not sung in this setting, with this director, with these people.  There were a few familiar faces, but far fewer than I expected.  So. . . deep breath.  New box.  New people.  Surface introductions.  Sang the first movement.  Night one, big success.

At the second rehearsal, I was sitting next to Tracy again, in the Alto section.  (Note:  it is also waaaaaay out of my box to sing Alto.)  She sat down and opened her binder.  Binder!  I was there with my score and pencil, now feeling underprepared.  

"I'm doing that next week," I said, coveting. 

"Well," Tracy said.  "I sing in three choirs.  I just love to sing!  So I have to do this."  In her binder, she also had a pencil case with a mass of sharp pencils, a pencil sharpener, and all the handouts from Tom.  I was overcome with jealousy.  I have missed years of this.  

Tracy went on to tell me that she sang in the Laurel Lake Choir, and also the Hudson Community Choir.  I shared that I had sung in the Community Choir many years ago.  She asked where I had grown up (Cincinnati) and she told me she was from Lima, OH.  And there it was-- The Connection.  Lima is a town very near Indian Lake, OH, where my grandparents are from, and where I spent (and spend) many of my summer days.  It's where my parents met and still have my grandparent's home.  It's where my dad was a lifeguard and where I learned to waterski.  It's where I fell in love with the day lilies that I transplanted to my own yard.  Tracy told me she danced at the same ballroom where my grandfather's band played.  She knew the amusement park.  We both knew Hinkle's donut shop.  

After practice, we walked and talked toward the exit.  We took the elevator down and chatted some more.  Tracy would drive home, one town over.  In the elevator, she had asked if I attended church at First Congregational.  I had said "Yes, since 1998."  I believe Tracy was far more out of her box than I, and yet she seemed infinitely more comfortable.

Now, I have my binder ready.  I have made at least one new friend.  I've learned two movements of the Requiem.  The words are so familiar but the tune is not, and I have but six weeks, not seven years, to warm up to the song.   I'm already loving the experience, though, so I'm not really worried.  

 Make a friend.  Sing a song.  Walk and talk.   Open your heart and take a tiny step out of your box.  Even if it's back into a place you've been before.