‘Tis the season-to give, to love, to hold on tight.

My dear friend and cousin has recently revealed that she is using her blogging efforts to raise awareness and money for a different cause each day until Christmas. A very clever way to celebrate the 12 day  countdown to the holiday (well, now its 10). My cousin is nothing if she isn’t clever– so inspired by her company’s collective efforts raising money for a local charity that she wanted to pay it forward in her own way.

Because all of that giving for all of that need got cousin feeling so incredibly blessed to have a healthy, smart and fabulously blonde family who loves her, a job that pays her to do something she does well, and a house in the middle of the mid-west that provides her enough room to have members of her extended family play Guitar Hero and sleep in the basement for days on end and go reasonably unnoticed.

So she decided to take her company’s lead and use her talents to see if little ‘ol her could make a difference somehow, reaching out to her friends and family via the fabulous world wide web to spread the word about charities and causes that mean something to her.

And damned if, within the first two days, she hasn’t raised some money for these great causes…

Which got me thinking a few things:

1. I am related to a pretty amazing woman and I had good taste when I decided to look up to her. She was a really enticing role model in that twinkling Rodeo Queen sash, sparkly shirt and crown.

Here she is teaching me to read...she probably put me in that dazzling dress too.

2. This world is full of wonderfully generous and fantastically talented and giving people. And because of the little invention known as the internet, I get to know some of these people–even the ones I’m not related to–and you amaze me every day

(Insert super hot photo of you)

3. What if?

Because my life is not without its challenges, but it is pretty damn good. And because I have chosen to share details (mouse incidents, cow poop, bad outfits and all) over this thing my momma calls “the interweb,”  I have been lucky enough to be reminded by you (who I’m not even related to), that yes indeed, it’s a wonderful world. A wonderful, wide, beautiful world full of laughing, naughty and angelic children, Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes, stunning sunsets and families who really know love, wonderfully witty sarcasm that I truly appreciate and people who share in my passions and can relate to a life spent doing something you believe in.

And so we open our laptops and turn on our desktop computers and from our offices, coffee shops, living rooms, and bedrooms we learn each other’s names, marvel at backyards across the country and oceans, laugh at shared embarrassing moments, ooh and ahh over home decor and delicious recipes, listen to troubles and hear the call to give.

And thanks to all of this sharing, all of the feedback I have received, all of the warm wishes and good vibes, my eyes have opened up wider to the life I lead, enticing me to live it better, smile a bit wider, be more appreciative.

Because, yes indeed my backyard is breathtaking.

Yes sir the pug is cute (although he does resemble the Grinch, even without his Santa suit).

Yes ma’m my family reminds you of the Grizwalds, but that’s ok cause it makes for good material.

And yes indeed life is good.

So here comes that inevitable question that sneaks up on everyone in the middle of a life that’s going pretty well thank you very much.

“What if?”

What if it wasn’t.

What if the world gave me lemons and no sugar for lemonade?  What if I took a wrong turn down the road less traveled and it lead me to regrets and disappointments and mistakes that I could not take back–bad memories I could not shake.

What if my parents didn’t love me enough to dress me like this?

What if this was something I only found on postcards in gift shops I traveled through instead of what I see when I look out my window in the mid afternoon?

What if my family hadn’t sacrificed, struggled, pushed and loved enough to make this our home….

…opening the door for me to make it mine?

What if I didn’t have friends, ridiculous friend, who indulge my need to act like a five year old every once and a while, standing by with a giant rainbow umbrella in case it rains (or we get sprayed by the hose)?

What if he did not fall in love with me at age 14 and continue to hound me for my hand until I gave in…

…what if it didn’t become the best decision of my life?

And what if the best decision of my life didn’t happen upon an advertisement in a gas station and then promptly call the number to have this delivered to our door?

And what if I had nothing to make my face look like this while laughter comes booming out of my lungs?

Who would I be then?

Where would I be if all of the moments I found myself in, all of the decisions and heartbreak and happy times and kisses didn’t align to bring me to this point of planning and enjoying a life I’m not so sure I’ve done anything to deserve?

I don’t know. But more than likely I’d be fine…maybe vacuuming the floor in a suburb somewhere living with a man who wears a tie to work instead of a neckerchief (because I’m convinced if I lived in a suburb I would vacuum more), or in an apartment in a city with a couple goldfish, happy and content with the hustle and bustle , or on the road with my guitar…

…but maybe not.

See, that’s the thing about life that baffles me every day…there is no way to know what our lives would be if we broke a heart instead of made it ours forever, chose the east instead of the west, the job instead of the wedding, home instead of leaving, children instead of  travel, a pug instead of a goldfish…well, I take that back…I pretty much know  how that would turn out…it’s hard to get a goldfish to wear a Santa suit.

Anyway,  it doesn’t really matter does it? We could play that game all day, but it won’t get us anywhere. The only thing we can do in this world as living, breathing people, is to be grateful and take care of one another. To be kinder than necessary. To hug a little harder. Smile a little more. Reach out.

Because if the people you meet everyday are lucky enough to have a roof over their head, they go home each night to fight their own battles, live with their own regrets, miss someone so much it hurts, and  hold on tight to the things they love, even if they don’t make sense, just like you and me.

So thanks cousin. Thanks for reminding me this season, while I’m sitting under the enormous Christmas tree plucking glitter out of my hair, to breathe in this life I love and then give back to a world that has held me so close as a lucky one.

Because I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. No one does.

All we have is each other…

…and this very moment to be good. To do good.

And hold on tight.

Visit shantastic.blogspot.com to keep up on cousin’s charity suggestions and spread the word.

Or give, if you feel so inclined.

Thanks for reading and thanks for making my world a little wider, my days a little brighter.

17 thoughts on “‘Tis the season-to give, to love, to hold on tight.

    • He does look like the Grinch right? Someone pointed that out to me the other day and I guess I couldn’t agree more….
      Hope you and your hubby (and pets) are enjoying the build up to the holiday…lots and lots of snow here here, and rain last night. Ah, december in the dakotas!

  1. After spending time w/ a good friend yesterday, having a bite to eat w/ her and talking w/ another gal I know, Christmas really is about memories w/ family and friends; and a reminder to live life to the fullest, One Day at a Time. Because as you said, none of us know what tomarrow will bring. I know my hubby would definitely trade your place for mine..lil apt. on the prarie..as he wasn’t working so he took off to go ice fishing..Brrr but it is what he enjoys and that is the main thing. Thanks for sharing as I have two cousins who are my age and we enjoyed each other’s company at the holidays. HELP!! 10 days to go? Hugs, Nicole

  2. Jessie, your life sounds perfect. I love the pug and I must say, I didn’t meet any eligible (up to my standards artistically) bachelors in WC. I knew I had to move on, but, still recall coffee in Larsen’s Drug Store with Herb Thorsen and Bill McLees after school with Iona Lawler (WC’s version of Flo on Mel’s Diner) singing Charlie Pride with her big red hair. And, you had a wonderful family who brought cheer everywhere they went. Also, you live in paradise. So, as I listen to the traffic, watching another big plane land at OHare, and curse the pollution, I will think of the cowgirl and cowboy out on the lone prairie.

  3. Jessie, another perfect essay for the season! Your thoughtful way with words is a gift that I treasure. It’s amazing how our (the human beings of the world) memories seem so familiar, our life paths so similar, our choices almost always reviewed with wonder about “what if?”. Love your blog and hope to visit the ranch someday. Merry Christmas to you – thinking of our pool team, and beautiful music we had at the Foundation holiday party in 2007…:-)

  4. I love this post, and I love that you love your life. It’s so easy to find fault with things, but so much better for us if we just let go and fall in love with them!

  5. Last time you made me laugh to tears, but now my tears where real… Of those that make your nose wrinkle…
    I told you before, what I´ve come to admire most from reading you, is that you are right where you are suposed to be, and you love that place.
    Almost everyone -me included- is looking for something in their lives, or in some cases, a life for that matter.

    So I will thank your thanking post, and you off course, just because you give some of us a smile, and some inspiration along the way, that makes us belive that in this conflicted world it is still possible to live a breathtaking life, just like the one you see every day out your window.

    So keep on enjoing it, and embracing it, and sharing it with us, who are still looking for all those amazing ingredients to bake a delicious life….

    Waiting for the next recipe!

    Abrazos!

  6. Man, am I blessed to have a ‘little’ cousin as amazing as you. I don’t even want to think about where I’d be without you! And never fear: my basement will ALWAYS have enough room for your Xbox playin’, boxed wine-drinkin’, pizza-box-sleddin’, fun-lovin’ selves.

    I am so happy that the roads have led us to where we are, respectively, in life. We ARE fortunate, aren’t we? THANK YOU for reaching out with your beautiful words, and thank you for being in my life. I love you and miss you to no end!

  7. This is just so beautiful. Even at only 18 years old, I still have regrets, worries and often I find myself praying that my life can change in a big way – take another direction. However, your post has made me realize that whilst I’m constantly focusing on the negative aspects of my world, I’m never thankful for the wonderful gifts I’ve been blessed with. Because where would I be without my family? My aspirations for the future and the tools I’ve been given to achieve these dreams? So thank you, thank you, thank you for reminding me to just say a big ol’ ‘thanks’, because you know what, I do have a heck of a lot to be thankful for.
    Alice

    • Alice, well said, well said. We all have regrets and worries, but the key, I think, is not to let them outshine the good stuff. And sometimes the good stuff is disguised as the bad and we don’t realize it until the long run. I know this has happened to me…I have been given gifts wrapped in crappy days, only to be thankful for them later.
      Something I’ve learned: yes, some things are out of your control, but there are a whole lot more you have the power to get a handle on.

      Thanks so much for stopping in and sharing your thoughts.
      Now go live that great life!

  8. Jessie…you have done it again…your thoughts make me belly laugh and bring tears at the same time. Merry Christmas to you and all of your familly!

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