Chasing Contentment

Thursday, November 29

Not only do I have my Chel's Holiday Plan (see middle column), but I also have this Holiday List of my own... things I need/want to do in the next few weeks. Mostly, I suppose, it's things I need to do.

This week, I've tried to get all of the jewelry made... pieces that were ordered by other people and pieces that I want to give this season. I've had this fabulous big chunky bead for six months trying to find the right beads to go with it for a present for my friend, Mika. When I saw that big bead, I knew I had to have it for her. It's finished now, and I'm moving on to other things.

This weekend, I'm going to make the first batch of my butter mints this season so I can get them in the mail to Linda (who will, I'm sure, devour them within days of receiving them). And we may make some holiday cookies, too.

Every now and then I write a story for Mika, who was one of the first fans of my fiction (LeeAnn has known me more than half my life, so she takes the first title by default). I wrote a holiday story for her a couple of years ago (see "The Christmas Card" in the middle column), and I'm working on a new one for her. Once I get it finished, I'll post it here, too.

Until then, go read that one and let me know how you like it.

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, November 29, 2007  ]

Tuesday, November 27

I'm in a funk this week & I don't know why. Things certainly aren't bad or disturbing, but things just feel a little off with me. I have been feeling better about work and about my qualifications, but yesterday I got a review, and it wasn't as good as I would have liked. I was more than a little disappointed.

And there is a bunch of stress surrounding my supervisor for various reasons, and I'm frustrated with that. So I'm a little blah this week, just out of sorts.

I've told Mike several times that people at work say over and over how nice I am. And I really don't consider myself that nice. But this is a very secular environment, and the things I consider basic civility or moral niceties aren't things that are the norm.

One day last week, a co-worker made the comment that I am the optimist in our section, which made me laugh. Here in our house, I'm solidly in charge of the pessimistic duties. But I must have an inner hope that shows... something we don't see because we're accustomed to it... accepting of it as part of our daily lives.

I prayed before we moved here that God would put me somewhere that I could be of service to Him. Why he chose to grant this prayer and not the one where I'm a size 8 again with a cute tush, I don't know. But He did.

And I've been shocked. I really, honestly have always been quite sheltered and protected. My family were Christians. My friends were as well. We both worked in a Christian environment (not that everyone there acted in a proper Christian manner, of course). And now that I'm in the minority rather than the majority, it's surprising to me.

I know people must see something in me that is positive and encouraging because out of the five other people in my section, three have asked me in the last two days if I was okay (and one of the other two is a man, so he hardly counts in this scenario). I'm not depressed or upset... just blah. And for a subtle shift like that to draw such attention... I must be allowing God's grace and hope to shine through me more than I think some days.

At least I hope so. And I hope the blahs go away soon. I've got Christmas fun to have.

[  posted by Chel on Tuesday, November 27, 2007  ]

Sunday, November 25

We had a good week with my parents, and now we're knee-deep into the holidays. And I'm loving it! I do love everything about Christmas.

Now, there's a ton and a half of things to do in the next few weeks, but in my head, they're all fun things... jewelry making, Santa letter writing, Christmas card making, gift wrapping.

My friend, Aleece, never seemed to enjoy all of that as much as I did, and I told her - years ago - that what she needed was a plan. Pretty much, I think that if you have a plan... a good list... pretty much everything is doable. So I made her a list. And don't you know, I had fun making it. Now, whether Aleece uses it or not, I don't know.

But every year, the last of November, I post it here with whatever amendments feel necessary at the time. So tonight, I think I'll begin posting my holiday list. In honor of Aleece... who is way more creative than me but always in need of a good list. Love you, Aleece.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, November 25, 2007  ]

Chel's Holiday Plan...The Questions
1. Make a list of Christmas and New Year's traditions (one list for each holiday) that you enjoy. Each person in the family names their favorite two holiday traditions or activities. Add those to the list. Don't let the list exceed 10 items (unless your family's that big).

2. Make a list of holiday traditions that you hate. Go on, be honest. Ask each family member if there's any one thing that ya'll have done in the past that they don't enjoy. Add those to the list. (I'm not saying you HAVE to throw something out, but this is a good way to get in touch with what your family really likes and dislikes.)

3. Make a list of activities you'd like to do during the holiday season... go caroling, attend an Advent service at a church, drive around after dark looking at lights, rent holiday movies. There's no end to this. It's a fluid list.

4. Make a list of people you'd like to send Christmas cards to. Think about whether you want a photo card or a plain store-bought card with a photo inserted or a card you design yourself. Consider if you'd like to say, 'screw cards.' It's a fine thing to say every now and then.

5. Make a list of all of the people on your gift list. Include everyone you can think of... family, friends, teachers, etc. This is the BIG list from which you can cut.

6. Make a list of charities you'd like to donate time or resources to this season.

7. Make a list of your favorite holiday foods. Let each person add to the list. Be sure to include one take-out or dine-out meal!

After the list is complete, I keep it around and rest for a few days before tackling the how-tos of making the holidays happen for us. Just answering the first few questions put us all in a cheerful state of mind.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, November 25, 2007  ]

Chel's Holiday Plan - The Cards

First, take your list (made during the initial Question stage), however long it is, and cut 10 percent. Just delete them. If you've only got 10 names on the list, cut one. If you've got 40, cut four. It's not an unreasonable amount, and quite frankly, it helps me feel like I'm paring down, making things easier for myself. It may only be in my head, but it helps. And never have more than 50 people on the list. That's just unmanageable, I think.

Everything else can be done in small blocks of time, so it's not so overwhelming. I can do an amazing amount of stuff while I watch an evening of television.

1) If you're buying cards, decide if you want plain cards from the store that you can drop a photo into or photo cards. If you want photo cards, start taking those family pictures and uploading them to Snapfish or some such place. Order photo cards now.

2) Plan to address envelopes (or key in labels) one evening watching television. Stick the labels and stamps another evening. You can buy stamps online to avoid the line at the P.O. and to be sure that you get the cute stamps. (Keep in mind what stamps cost these days when you're making your card list!)

3) If you're making your cards (which I have never done before but am doing this year), make a list of everything you'll need to make them and buy those things all in one shopping trip. Then, decide when you're going to make them. Set aside an hour or two or three or whatever, but do it in one block. And decide that you'll do it all in that amount of time and that whatever doesn't get done, just won't. And that's fine.

4) I always take my stack of envelopes and make two stacks - the folks who get a name signed to the card & the folks who get a short note. And I mean a short note! (If I get photo cards, the note is printed on them, so this step is already done!) Then, I do the signing and note writing.

Because I want my purchases to be positive, I'm trying to make purchases from people or organizations that give back or from people selling their own goods. I've already bought prints from French Toast Girl and she also has beautiful cards made from her own artwork. I also like the M.D. Anderson's Children's Art Project that allows children with cancer to experience the healing touch of art.

And now, I know there are people who want to write big newsy letters about what happened in their family all year long. I hate those. If I don't know you well enough to have a general knowledge about what happened in the last year, why are you sending me a card? Sheesh.

But if that's your thing... Buy cheap recycled paper and use a font big enough for us to play the error game without losing our eyesight (those of you who know me and Mike in real life know we like to edit stuff that comes in the mail for errors).

Now, go make a list!

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, November 25, 2007  ]

In the final phase of my Christmas Plan, I work on the gifts. Each year, I do this a bit differently, but, I believe that's the beauty of my plan... with a little tweaking each year, it's fully functional.

Chel's Holiday Plan - The Gifts
Every year, the first thing I need is a list. I want a list where I can write down every single person - teachers included - for whom I'll need gifts. Here's how I do it...

1) Make a list of everyone. Just everyone possible. Better to start big and cross people off than forget someone.

2) Decide who will get hand-made gifts and who won't. Consider each recipient's wishes. I want gifts to be about the recipient not about the giver (the rare occasion when I don't want things to be all about me).

3) As I complete or purchase each gift, I put a check mark by that name, until I've completed all of the gifts.

4) If I'm making gifts, I do all of the gift making the same way I would do the card making, set aside an amount of time and work during that time and then stop. Even if I'm not finished. If I need several blocks of time, fine. But I limit myself, so I don't get too overwhelmed by it all.

5) Make a list of everything needed for wrapping and such (paper, tape, bows, bags, cards, anything) and do all of that shopping at once. Take an hour and do just that stuff. And then, it's all done and available when I want it.

6) Do the wrapping in sessions, too, so it's less overwhelming.

With the list, I make a second list of all gifts that need to be mailed (we've got lots of family in other states - even more now that we're in Florida). I plan to purchase or make those gifts first, so they can be wrapped and in the mail by mid-December, in plenty of time for a Christmas arrival.

If you use my list and like it, please let me know. :)

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, November 25, 2007  ]

Wednesday, November 21

Happy Thanksgiving a few hours early. Our visit with my folks is going very well, and we are all thankful. Mike's got his turkey brining over night, and we're gonna watch the Macy's Parade in the morning before putting up the Christmas decorations tomorrow afternoon.

Thanksgiving is my mother's favorite holiday and my least favorite (we won't explore any hidden meanings there). For me, Thanksgiving is a portal to Christmas. And since I was so depressed last year at Christmas, we're all really excited about this holiday season.

But for tomorrow, in honor of my mom's fave holiday, I'm thankful for...
my kids
our families

Trust me, this is no where near a comprehensive list. I should probably include my salvation, but I figure that goes without saying. Happy Day to everyone.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, November 21, 2007  ]

Sunday, November 18

My folks are visiting this week from Arkansas, and Eliza's having a great time having a couple of extra people to boss around. We're praying for a wonderful visit for everyone.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, November 18, 2007  ]

Thursday, November 15

An early Merry Christmas to me! And to you, too, of course! Paige Davis is returning to "Trading Spaces" in January. TLC fired Paige in 2005, and I stopped watching then. Prior to that, I was a bit of an addict. And now, she's coming back! And she's bringing Doug, Hildi, Laurie, and Frank with her. Woohoo!

[  posted by Chel on Thursday, November 15, 2007  ]

Wednesday, November 14

A quick update on us...
Griff's MRI results came back normal, and we are so thankful. We will now do the bloodtest and get an appointment with the orthopaedist.

My parents are coming to visit on Sunday, and they'll be with us through Thanksgiving. That's a long time to have extra people in the house, but I know they're looking forward to the time with the kids.

The weather changed here last week (and please don't be mistaken... all that means is that now the highs are in the high 70s to low 80s and the lows are in the 50s), and we slept with the windows open because it felt so fabulous, and now I'm sick. I was coughing so badly today that people on the other side of the floor came to check on me (which is sweet but embarassing). I've got an appointment with my asthma doc tomorrow morning.

Mike's been put in charge of two different committees within his department, and while he's annoyed at the vast amount of organization involved, I'm proud of him. That tells me his new people are pleased with the work he's doing.

I've got orders for five bracelets for Christmas, so I've gotta get busy. But I do love that initial phase of envisioning what I want them to be. And someone won the drawing and will be getting my groovy pearl necklace in the mail here soon.

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, November 14, 2007  ]

Monday, November 12

I've gotten several emails in the last few weeks encouraging me not to let Griff see the new Nicole Kidman movie, "The Golden Compass." I hadn't heard anything about it before then, and so I did some research of my own.

The movie is based upon a book by Philip Pullman. And I have a hard time saying we won't read something or see something based merely upon the word of others. I'm not going to be one of those parents at school who encourages the banning of books she hasn't read. (I'm actually the mom at the Book Fair with $150 worth of books, several to read herself.)

I consulted Josh, who reads fantasy stuff (me, not so much), and he hadn't read it, so I requested the book from our local library (the library, by the way, is the very best expendature of tax dollars ever). After all, I fell in love with Harry Potter when people said it was a horrible book & that no one should allow their children to read it.

So I read it. And it is blasphemous. Without a doubt. And for a non-fantasy person, quite frankly, there were parts that I found confusing. But it was also an amazing adventure story. I found myself annoyed because I couldn't read it faster (the fantasy stuff slowed me down) and find out what happened next.

Now, unlike the Harry Potter books, I won't be reading the next two. While Harry was warm and comforting and funny and inviting, this book was cold. There wasn't any warmth or kindness. I don't need to know what happens next. I don't care. With Harry, I cared. A lot.

We will take Griff to see the movie. I know that may seem odd since I've already said the book was heretical. But I think we need to acknowledge that there are different perspectives out there. I always believed that, but I believe that now more than ever. We were all complacent living in the Deep South, where everyone was a Christian. Here, not so much.

So we'll take Griff to see the movie, and we'll discuss it after. Probably over ice cream. I like to have theological discussions with ice cream. Actually, I like ice cream with pretty much anything.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, November 12, 2007  ]

Wednesday, November 7

I have donated a necklace for a giveaway at Sallie's blog, A Gracious Home. It's freshwater pearls and sterling silver, and I'm delighted with how it turned out. Go over to her post and register for the giveaway.

I'm also offering a 10% discount on any custom orders from anyone who registers at Sallie's. I'm just all excited about getting to give this to someone unexpectedly, and I'm also hoping to make a few sales so I can help us with Christmas presents this year (my goal is to pay for everything in cash this year).

So, go... register. And check out Created By Chel. Be sure to tell me what you think. And if you have questions, please email me at createdbychel(at)

[  posted by Chel on Wednesday, November 07, 2007  ]

Monday, November 5

In Louisiana, they have a word that means a little something extra... lagniappe. Whenever you get a surprise or a freebie with something or a little extra shrimp in your gumbo, that's lagniappe.

I've got lots of things I've been thinking about and meaning to post, but I haven't had nearly enough time. And as I go make my sister-in-law's belated birthday present, I don't have much extra time tonight either.

But there were a few things I thought I'd post... a little lagniappe to tide over my four readers until one night this week when I have a bit of extra time.

A belated birthday to Josh...happy, happy. This is Olivia and Josh at Disney with us.

Griff successfully made it through both of his MRIs last week, and we're awaiting the results, feeling pretty confident that this isn't a neurological problem and that we'll be able to work with an orthopaedist to help him.

Words like "chauffer" are hard for nine-year-olds to spell, even if they are in his gifted spelling list for this week.

In the last month, I've sold one necklace/earrings set and donated two others. One will be auctioned at (my sister-in-law) Stacy's work as part of a silent auction to raise money for teacher bonuses at Christmas and another will be given as a give-away at another blog here in the next week or so. Now, if I could just get a few more orders to help with Christmas presents.

Josh updated the jewelry site for me, and it looks great. A big thank you to him.

And I'm deep into some icky thoughts about my body image, so I thought I'd try to combat those with a cute picture of me and Eliza at Halloween. Enjoy. You can tell it's us because we've both got the fake red hair.

[  posted by Chel on Monday, November 05, 2007  ]

Sunday, November 4

I really should be at work tonight, catching up and trying to get a tad bit ahead. But instead, I'm here playing Guitar Hero with Mike and Griff on the Wii(Eliza just went to bed). I'll never get promoted at work, but Griff will remember when he is older that his mama and daddy could beat him at old '80s Poison songs.

[  posted by Chel on Sunday, November 04, 2007  ]