Sunday, December 25, 2011


Once again, we come to the Holiday Season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice. ~Author Unknown

Two of my granddaughters and their mom came from Bellingham to Edmonds for their annual holiday dress shopping spree last Tuesday. In the past we parked at Seattle Center, checked out the latest displays there, rode the monorail, walked the streets of Seattle, enjoyed a horse driven carriage ride, viewed the marvelous gingerbread houses at the Sheraton Hotel, and soaked up all the street activity – musicians, homeless panhandlers, store windows filled with animated displays, and the pulsating crowds of last minute shoppers and gawkers.

But this year, Lily was a 13-year old and the game plan was different. It was a “shop ‘til you drop” kind of day, and we started from Edmonds at noon, driving through stop and go freeway traffic, finally paying $l5.00 to park in a garage on Pike street. Thus we began a marathon of looking for a particular black dress to be worn to a friend’s December 31 Bat Mitzvah. The dress in question had been spotted on an internet site and was currently only available out of Canada according to our new teenager. Surely we would be able to find its counterpart in the big city of Seattle. Her sister, ten year old Kacey, was tagging unhappily along, visions of fish throwing at the market, another horse carriage ride, or an IMAX movie dancing in her head. The latter was not to be as we gamely went from one store to another in search of the perfect dress. By the time we had checked out American Eagle Outfitters, Express, Urban Outfitters, H & M, and Forever 21, to name only a few, it was 5:00 p.m. and we were hungry and discouraged. I suggested we head north to Alderwood Mall, meet their Auntie Nelle at Claim Jumper for some sustenance, and to continue our quest at Nordstrom and Macy’s. As we walked back to the car the girls were somewhat scandalized by the blatant pot smoker who stood near us as we waited to cross the street. We all “tsked, tsked,” and Kacey held her nose in disgust. It was probably a little more fascinating than the street scene in Bellingham.

We fought rush hour traffic heading north on I-5, but because we were eligible for the carpool lane, made the trip in record time. After regaining our strength at the restaurant we headed to Nordstrom but had no luck. Macy’s was next. They had a large selection, but none matched the envisioned dress. It must have a certain bodice, a twirly skirt and skinny shoulder straps. By this time, close to 8:00 p.m., like Rosa Parks, I just had to sit down. I told them they could find me at the outside Starbucks when they were finished shopping. During the 90-minute wait I had a skinny peppermint mocha and a very long phone conversation with my sister, Judy. I was considering a nap when suddenly they appeared, laughing hysterically, and filled with the need to tell about the “miracle” that had happened to them in one of the stores.

Apparently Kacey had spotted Santa and had taken off after him to tell him about her sister’s dilemma. One minute he was there and then he simply vanished. It seemed strange and impossible, and perhaps some kind of omen. In the meantime, Lily had found a dress that would have to do, and was standing in line to pay with her aunt, mother and Kacey, who was babbling about her Santa experience. They were telling the sales clerk their long, sad story, when suddenly she said a dress had just been returned and maybe they should look at it. Would you believe it was the VERY dress they had been looking for all along, in the exact right size, and here it was before their very eyes?

Of course they were full of this miracle, and Kacey just knew Santa had something to do with it. And who can argue?

Now the 2011 shopping trip to Seattle is just a memory. Lily will no doubt always remember her search for and finding the perfect dress, Kacey will always remember how much she hated all the shopping, the stinky pot smoker and Santa’s amazing disappearance, their mom made sure we would all remember everything, by taking many pictures to commemorate the miracle, and I will always remember the year that a little girl crossed over into young womanhood, when shopping became more important than anything else that downtown Seattle at Christmas had to offer.

I close by wishing you a very wonderful holiday, no matter how you celebrate, and a hope that you can look back on the year with a degree of peace and contentment. Here are some Christmas gift suggestions made by Oren Arnold: To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


A couple of days ago two professional women, each top in her field, came to our house for what could have been a difficult business meeting. They did not know each other or have full knowledge of the other's expertise. In working together one of them would have to change direction. My husband was uncomfortable. Although a trained diplomat, mediator, and facilitator he did not look forward to a possible confrontation between two high powered women. He misunderstood one very important thing - the power of the purse as ice breaker and relationship builder.

They arrived within minutes of each other. The last to arrive walked into the family room where coffee was available, and the women were introduced. Both still had their purses draped over their arms. Suddenly, eyes locked on each others' purses, they nearly swooned over the two bags, one plain black and the other a colorful fabric.

The ensuing conversation went something like this:

"Your bag is fabulous!"

"I got it at the Vera Bradley store in Bellevue."

"I love it!"

" Yours is amazing too!"

"Look at these pockets!"

"I know, aren't they wonderful, and look at this perfect place for my cell phone!"

The conversation continued unabated for several minutes. By this time they were enthusiastically checking out each other's bags, oohing and aahing over all the pockets, big and small, that held the accoutrements of a typical high powered business woman.

My husband stood by trying, without success, to suggest they all go into the living room to begin their meeting. The ladies weren't the least bit interested as they continued to extol the virtues of their particular handbags and how much they loved the Vera Bradley line. I, on the other hand, stood by in amusement as I watched him watching them, speechless and thunderstruck.

Eventually they moved to a table where they began to address the issues at hand. By this time they were in such accord that any possible conflict was averted, decisions were made amiably and a new relationship was forged.

This happened Thursday. Today, I am still chuckling to myself at the memory of my husband's bewilderment and the look on his face. I think almost any man watching this scenario would have reacted similarly. Not so a woman. We understand the importance of shared experiences and the enjoyment found in the little things in life. When we find common ground in something as mundane as a purse it creates a bond and allows us to hear each other on a deeper level.

Watching the incident unfold made me realize how much I enjoy being a woman, and how sorry I am for men who probably think a discussion about purses is shallow and meaningless. Sadly they don't realize that important relationships can begin with something seemingly insignificant only to be forged into a powerful experience.

We have long heard about dressing for success in a power suit. I would suggest that adding a power purse is a "must". It can even be a pretty fabric handbag, designed by Vera Bradley, which holds a computer, a cell phone and other "office on the go" items. Perhaps even Vera doesn't realize the secret weapon her purses hold - that of ice breaker and relationship builder.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Last year I blogged about inventing an advent calendar for kids while also sharing the religious meaning of advent. It included 25 activities children could enjoy as they counted off the days until Christmas. In looking back I think it is worth revisiting, and you can do that by going to my article of November 28, 2010 called "The advent calendar for kids - secular vs. Christian."

This year I suggest trying something different. How about if we adults mark off the days until Christmas by giving something back to others in twenty-five different ways. You can think of it as your own personal advent calendar of giving. Here are some ideas.

1. A favorite expression in the last decade is called "paying it forward". Give a small amount of money at the next drive-through food or coffee house, and tell the window attendant to apply it towards the purchase of the person behind you. You can suggest that he tell the lucky recipient to pass it on if he or she is able.

2. Buy a poinsettia and put it on the doorstep of a family you know has little money and few bright spots. Include a card that says "Happy Holidays."

3. Visit a nearby assisted living or nursing home and offer to be a personal shopper for residents who might find it difficult or impossible to buy holiday presents for their family members.

4. Do the same thing at a similar home for the elderly, only let the task be helping with choosing and sending out Christmas cards to their loved ones.

5. Buy or make a cake to celebrate December birthdays at a nursing home. In fact, commit to doing it monthly starting in January. My mother and her friend Stella arranged monthly birthday parties for a Bellingham facility, providing goodwill and caring for all concerned.

6. If you have a neighbor with young children, offer to baby sit while the mother does some errands.

7. For young couples with little money "date nights" are sometimes non-existent. Provide babysitting for a date night. If you have some extra money throw in a couple of tickets at a nearby movie theater.

8. If you have a truck or large SUV offer to bring home a Christmas tree from a lot or farm for a family whose car is too small to accomplish the task. Such a truck could also be used for hauling junk to a dump so that a vehicle does not need to be rented.

9. Offer to clean house for someone who has been ill or has been going through a stressful time.

10. Call a friend with whom you have not been in contact and renew the friendship.

11. Any activity that brings excitement or pleasure to others can be considered a good deed in my book. Inviting friends in for a popcorn and video night generates well being and caring. The same can be said for ideas #12-#16.

12. Have a white elephant party where people bring unwanted beautifully wrapped gifts to exchange. The old saying that one person's white elephant can be another person's prize applies.

13. Have a book exchange party where the invited guests bring beautifully wrapped books to share with others. Wanting others to know about a book you have enjoyed is a thoughtful gesture.

14. Cookie baking and decorating can be a reminder of simpler days. Have guests bring their favorite cookies for exchanging with each other. Even more fun is when the guests actually make and bake the cookies that night. Have plenty of milk on hand. Milk and! Hosting such an evening takes time and talent, and can certainly qualify as a good deed if guests leave with a warm memory.

15. Think about days gone by. Decide you will make root beer this year. See the youtube indicated here for directions as to how.

16. If your root beer has been made early in December, plan to make ice cream later in the month. The site here shows how to make ice cream several different ways. You can even have a homemade root beer float party.

17. Apply the adage "Charity begins at home." If you are a husband, put some zest in your love life by forgoing your favorite TV program and taking your wife/significant other out on the town. An inexpensive date could be a movie followed by appetizers and wine at a romantic cocktail lounge. Tell your "date" to dress up, then make sure to tell her how terrific she looks.

18. If you are a wife/significant other, tell your man you are taking him out to a place he will enjoy. Depending on the venue, tell him how to dress. Whether it is a wrestling match, football game, or billiards, make it special for HIM. Tell him how wonderful he is and how much you appreciate him.

19. Hugs and kisses are free. If they are in short supply at your house, decide to show more affection every day to your loved ones, adults and kids alike.

20. Leave loving notes in unexpected places in the house. Such notes found in places like often used drawers, medicine cabinets, cupboards or lunch boxes are morale and love boosters.

21. If you have been estranged from a family member, decide to show forgiveness by making contact and ending the estrangement. Food is a great way to break the ice, and you can make arrangements to drop by with some kind of special treat, and the words "I'm sorry" ready to be spoken.

22. Either on your own or with others decide how you can make the holidays more joyful for service men and women who are far from home and loved ones. Go to a site such as "Care package and equipment suggesetions for deployed military," for ideas and directions.

23. Go through your cupboards and put together a bag of food items that are still useable. Deliver them to your local food bank. These banks can be found on line simply by typing in the words "food banks in Seattle" for example.

24. Helping the needy anytime is a good thing, but helping the needy during the holidays is particularly satisfying. Go to a site listed here under that heading, and you will find many useful ideas.

25. Attending a church Christmas Eve service, with its candles and music would be a wonderful way to complete your holiday activities. Bring along someone who no longer drives to make it especially meaningful.

These are just a few ways to bring pleasure and add meaning to your life and the lives of others. I close with a quote by William James. "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."