Not Everyone Loves Christmas: Holiday Encouragement

I’ve been sharply reminded several times already this month that not everyone is happy at Christmas time.

The “perfect Christmas” is supposed to be presents and treats and music and laughter. Most of all, it’s gathering with those we love the most.

But that doesn’t happen for everyone. Some of us are alone and some of us are surrounded by family but still missing someone. I think of Cassie. Of Heather. Andrew. The older we get, the list grows.

Katie Couric wrote a beautiful essay Here, of what she’s learned from missing her husband for the last 19 Christmas’s.

My father-in-law and I were listening to Christmas songs on the way home from Boston and the song, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” came on. “This is a sad song,” he said. “It’s from World War II.” I was pretty sure he was also thinking of his wife.

I thought of war time and all the young men and women who never came home. Not for Christmas and sometimes not ever.

Two of my close friends lost their husband’s this year. Stephen. Eric. We miss them.

My neighbor still longs for his wife who has been gone the last 20.

I believe that someday, we will be reunited with the ones we love the very most.

But in the meantime, we are here are on earth to help each other along the way.

I post this video in the hopes that we can be the light that makes someone’s Christmas bright.

(As a side note, there are several Cope sightings 🙂 )

Wishes and Candle for you:

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

A Few Favorite Things {a maisymak Christmas guide}

Now that we’ve said “THANK YOU!” can we ask for stuff? 🙂

Here are some beloved items you may consider for the Christmas season.

FOR YOU (Warm and Cozy ALL WINTER):

1. American Eagle Faux Mink Twisted Snood: Haven’t you always wanted to wear something called a “Snood”? Go ahead, imagine yourself wearing wicked good mocs and a super soft faux mink snood and you’re ME. All DAY. This snood is both fabulously soft and also pretty; you can wear it to bed or a dinner party.

  1.  2.  3. 

2. L.L. Bean Wicked Good Moccasins. Have you put your feet in these? You’ll never take them out. And with L.L.Bean’s Lifetime Guarantee (the best!), you’ll never ever have to buy another pair. I wear them all day, all winter. With a snood. 25% off TODAY!

3. LL Bean’s Weave Hat and Mitten Set. You see a theme here? Warm and cuddly and so soft inside. And the mittens can go on either hand.

FOR YOU (Beautiful ALL WINTER):

  1.  2.  3. 

1. Coconut Oil. Weird? It’s the best (and most economical) beauty product I have in the shower. Apply to feet, legs, arms, face, and hair! Anti-microbial and bacterial, no greasy, clogged pores. Feel soft and smooth and smell delicious. Buy anywhere.

2. Garnier Skin Renew. Our love affair is going strong. I’ve resisted foundation, but have needed a tinted moisturizer and smoother. This is it. Buy at any drugstore.

3. Pomegranates. Because you are what you eat – and because beauty literally comes from the inside. The fruit is in season NOW. Eat for breakfast lunch or dinner, it also makes a great stocking stuffer.

STOCKING STUFFERS:

  1.  2.  3 .

4.  5.  6. 

1. Seed and Sky necklaces. Handcrafted by a former student who is now a master artisan, these are so beautiful and unique. My girls adore them. On sale now!

2. Candy Cane Pop Rocks. Can’t go wrong here, right?

3. Candy Land Band-aids. Right???

4. Barrel of Monkeys. Long car rides, boring afternoons…monkeys are fun!

5. Whoopie Cushion. Surrounded by sisters, my son has never had one. It’s time.

6. Hatch a Dinosaur! Paige wants this soooo bad. I can’t wait 🙂

FAMILY Fun

  1.  2. 

1. Oh, Snap! A new game we all have fun playing. Find a sale at Target!

2. #LightTheWorld This is the most important and best Christmas gift. I love this campaign. It’s a reminder to be the light by serving one another. See a video below and print the PDF for your family.

Books for Christmas!

  1.   2. 3. 

4.  5.  6. 

1. How to Be An Explorer of the World by Keri Smith. So excited for Paige to open this for Christmas.

2. The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes. Classic.

3. Under the Bottle Bridge by Jessica Lawson. Paige named it as a favorite of all-time!

4. The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.

5. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I’m not even all the way done with it, but I have many thoughts. More later. I think the teen in you will like it.

6. The Unforgettable Guinevere St. Clair by Amy Makechnie. A shameless plug! But the cover was tweaked (see full image here)!!! (Amazon hasn’t updated yet.) Yeah, yeah, you won’t get it until June. Big whoop. Order now. Tell the kids…it’s coming 🙂

Looking for more book ideas? Christmas books, Here, Here, and Here! and Here 🙂

Here we go, into the holidays. Merry Christmas, happy holidays, fa-la-la-la-la!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

The Gratitude Drug

Today husband had four stitches put in his head.

As I drove him to the ER, my imagination went into overdrive as I imagined all of the worst case scenarios. I began to feel mad. How dare he get hurt? This was not on Monday’s schedule! Clearly, I need to get a grip.

Also: my impatience makes me a bad nurse. I like things to be “fine.” I am annoyed by sickness and injury as if they are personal weaknesses. Sigh. Bad nurse.

Impatience and mad finally gave way to a rush of relief. He was okay and so I was, too.

In the long run, it was a little thing, but you know, life changes as quickly as the flip of the switch. Flip. Your life is turned upside down.

There is nothing like spending the day in a hospital to give you perspective.The Thankful Tree, a physical manifestation of our  gratitude. If you’re looking for a family activity, I suggest this one! It’s fun. The kids think it’s great to glue thankful leaves on a tree branch. I’m going to write “Gregor’s Forehead” on a leaf.

I’m also thinking we should tell the people we love that WE REALLY DO LOVE THEM. Because the Thanksgiving table changes. People somehow get swapped out. This year I will have to make a giant paper Cope Cut-out.

Cope, we love you.

Life is good. We are alive and well. Even if our girl will be eating mashed potatoes in the Wasatch Mountains…sniff…(but Patrick and Natalie, I am SO GRATEFUL for hosting her!!!)

Small events like this morning are reminders. We are mortal. I’m grateful for more time. It’s a feeling that floods through me. It’s like a drug. Literallly.

Did you know? This relief, this thankfulness, this GRATITUDE activates a reward center in our brain: meaning we crave more. Read THIS Great Post! “When we feel grateful, we are programmed to seek out more experiences or things to be grateful for, more ways to feel that high.”

And guess what else? The more we practice gratitude, the better we get at it. The brain continues to seek after what made us feel so good (confirmation bias) so it keeps finding ways to be grateful, which in turn keeps rewarding us with feel-good dopamine.

But on the flip side: it could also do the opposite. If we look for ways that life is no-good horrible, our brain will keep finding more no-good horrible. We could actually train our brain to seek after the bad.

Fascinating, no?

I think I’ll stick with feel-good dopamine hits.

For starters: Sunsets

Children hopping off a school bus

The change of seasons

This guy. A scar on the forehead should just make him more fetching, right?

I’m thankful he’ll be at the table (and cooking the turkey and stuffing.)

There was another dopamine hit:

Starving, I went to the hospital cafeteria for soup and a Diet Coke (I know, a drug I’ve got to quit) only to discover they didn’t take credit cards. While fumbling through my purse to no avail, a man pulled out five dollars. “It’s the holidays,” he said, handing it over to the cashier.

Gratitude flooded through me right there in the check-out line. What kindness.

In turn, I wanted to buy someone else lunch. See what he did there?

Just think, if we were all so kind, the gratitude drug could become an epidemic. We could be swimming in happiness.

Happy Thanksgiving, friends.

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

Sunday Meditations: we were moving mountains…

Originally sung by Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, I’m partial to this version.

My favorite line:

We were moving mountains
Long before we knew we could

Bias might also be the fact that Cope is singing. You can find her around 2:45 and 2:54 and 3:01 and 3:04 (I may have watched this a few times) on the far right with the black and grey striped shirt.

You know, just singing about miracles on the Salt Lake flats.

How about those beatboxers? Sweeeet.

Enjoy 🙂

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

A Book is Born {hello, guinevere :}

My dear friends,

here it is.

I am so very very grateful. It’s been a long haul, which I will tell you all about, but for now, let’s just admire the jacket cover art (which I’ve grown to adore.)

That’s Guinevere St. Clair on top of the tractor. Jimmy and Micah are down below wondering what the heck Gwyn is doing. Also: it’s midnight.

I just love these kids (they are very real to me!) and I hope you will love them too.

The book is being released by Simon and Schuster on June 12, 2018, but you can pre-order now and make my day, and when I see you I will give you a big kiss! Or at least a hug. Not your thing? My undying gratitude.

Hardcover:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

BAM

Indies

Or, support your local bookstore! Our Morgan Hill Bookstore is happy to take preorders!

I’ve read that when you ask people to pre-order your book, you should offer them a *Bonus “thank you” gift. Well, here’s what I’ve got: my heart and soul, years of my life, tears, toiling, and my greatest wish – a story that I hope you will never forget 🙂

That’s what I’ve got. AND IT’S ALL YOURS!

Thank you, thank you. Pinch me, please.

Love,

Amy

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

Monday Inspiration: Shalane For the Win!

It hasn’t happened in 40 years: an American woman winning the New York City marathon.

For the last ten years, she’s been a fixture at international competitions; always in contention, but never able to close the last gap.

A Massachusetts girl, Shalane was sidelined from running the 2017 Boston marathon, due to a pelvic fracture. She was vocal about her devastation. I have to admit, I was pretty letdown.

She rested. She wrote a cookbook (it’s GOOD.) She fostered two teenage girls. She got back to training.

Could she compete in New York?

When she pulled out a HUGE win over 3-time NYC champ Mary Keitany…I admit to feeling a bit teary. Watching runners does that to me.

It took Shalane seven YEARS to win. In her post race interview she spoke emotionally of the need for patience, but also believing in the “awesome.”

“I knew it was possible.” She’s 36-years-old. Running a 1:16 half-marathon split, and running between 5:07-5:25 minute mile splits.

Incredible.

I don’t think I can even sprint that fast!

This morning I went out for a run and felt totally slammed from the weekend. SO TIRED. At the last half mile stretch I considered walking. Instead I began to repeat to myself: Pre, Pre, Pre (a nod to legendary runner, Steve Prefontaine.)

But then, I swear it’s true, Shalane popped into my head. I started to say, Shalane, Shalane, Shalane. I finished.

My take-away moment: the women are rising. And they are inspiring. Don’t doubt it: big or small sphere, your influence matters.

“Nine months ago I was heartbroken…I’ve dreamed of a moment like this since I was a little girl…and hopefully it inspires the next generation of American women…”

Oh, it does, Shalane. It does.

 

 

#nycmarathon #shalaneyourock

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

On a Monday. Want to be happier? Try this!

In college, my five roommates and I called ourselves, “The Snapper Squad.” (Yes, we were very cheesy…but don’t ya just love cheese?)

On our Snapper Squad wall we covered it with reams of paper. Across the top we wrote “The Snapper Squad’s Happy List” (or something like that. Gretchen Rubin, eat your heart out 🙂 I should have written THAT happiness book!)

Anyway, the whole wall was covered with lists of what made us happy. Just writing the list made us happy. And every girl, boy, and RA who wandered into our apartment had a comment about our wall. It was a huge conversation starter, and every time I passed in and out of our apartment, I would glance at it…and college Amy was happy (in-between all the boy drama.)

I didn’t know it then, but years later, science would back up the Snapper Squad’s happiness experiment.

Being grateful and expressing gratitude makes us happier.

My niece, Hailey, and I taught a lesson to our young women at church on Sunday. The topic was “Why is it important to be grateful?” Isn’t it interesting that God has often commanded us to be happy? (Think of the parable of the lepers…)

Doctrine & Covenants 59:21 And in nothing doth man aoffend God, or against none is his bwrath ckindled, save those who dconfess not his hand in all things, and eobey not his commandments.

Sometimes, when we feel our lives are a train wreck we don’t feel we have much to be grateful for.

But remember Job? Even after he lost everything, he said: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return…the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

I think God wants us to be happy. And if that’s true, than perhaps we shouldn’t think of commandments as restrictions, rather, as opportunities for greater happiness.

Even if you don’t care a lick about what scriptures say about gratitude, let us go back to science. Science says we are happier when we are grateful. Try it.

Hailey showed this video:

For a phenomenal talk from one of my spiritual heroes, listen to this one.Wow.

Tonight, with a nod to the Snapper Squad, the #makechniemafia hung a long piece of paper on the wall so we can have our own happy list.

“We sometimes think that being grateful is what we do after our problems are solved, but how terribly shortsighted that is. How much of life do we miss by waiting to see the rainbow before thanking God that there is rain?”

-Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Happy Monday. Hope you’re feeling grateful because then I bet you’re feeling happy 🙂

 

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

Yes, I’m alive {and other good news}

Poor neglected blog. I keep having brilliant blog post epiphanies and then…something happens between thinking and doing. A little catch-up:

We left our peaceful world of summer with one last swim…When my friend moves and sells this adorable little cottage with lake access, I’m buying!

With both feet, we jumped right into fall.Fall is my favorite season of all. The humidity lessens, the air becomes crisp, apples start growing on trees, and the colors! Such a beautiful world God created.

I found this butterfly today. It was dead but looked ready to launch…there’s a lesson in there somewhere…

What else did fall bring us? These Sistema tupperware (I found at Old Navy). My kids LOVE them. Why is it so much more fun to pack food in cute little containers? “Mom, can I please please pack a salad?” Yep!

This post could also be called: Soccer Makes a Life TakeoverBut I not-so-secretly love everything about that too! We can’t get enough!

The boy made varsity and plays as a left winger. It’s rough and tough and oh so awesome. I had more fun pictures of boy, but he sets a very high bar for clearing pictures and captions. Why you gotta be like that? 🙂

My middle school team – I LOVE them! (And yes, it took a good five minutes to stop jumping on one another for this shot.)

My Brynne girl is on my team at the middle school. We are having a blast. Our team is pure magic. The chemistry couldn’t be better!

As our middle mid, she’s one of our play makers!

We are having so much fun with the cousins who moved to town. #makechniemafia attends many many games together!

Paige doubled up on soccer AND cross-country. I have many thoughts on what I was thinking. It was a great experience, but she’s a little bit overloaded as a 10-year-old. When she runs, Paige closes her eyes and says, it’s almost over, it’s almost over…

Boy is also in my Anatomy & Physiology class. We are having fun dissecting! (but I’ve had to cut down on the boy stories :))

The Professor is a busy boy, talking to other busy folk in matching black jackets. We say hi and bye a lot.

But not to worry – we make sure to have doughnut dates. (Tarte, please don’t move!)

Oh, and College Cope? She discovered that leaves change color in Utah, too!

And we FaceTime every Sunday. And she and I text, like, everyday. Because that’s just the way it has to be.

Sometimes when I’m sad my children are getting old and leaving me I’ll make boy’s bed. I put his stuffed animal in the middle and we’re happy again.

I also remind myself that Hard is What Makes it Great. Right? Family stuff is hardest of all but also gives the biggest payoff. So we have to work the hardest at it, and know that life is long and most things have a way of working out.

Here cousin Grace is, consoling Paige after they opened a package that was sent to me and discovered it was a fetal pig to be used for dissection. It was, um, rather horrifying. “Come here, Paige,” Grace said. “It’s okay.” Yes, I receive many odd packages.

This past month I’ve also been burying myself in edits, edits, edits. I kindof love it. It’s so much better than a blank page. I guess it’s as good a time as any to announce that back in February I was offered a book deal by Simon and Schuster. WHAT?!

How’s that for an announcement? haha! I’ve been so shell shocked and panic-stricken and in happy la-la land that I am just now able to publicly write that last sentence 🙂

This isn’t even the title anymore! I could write posts and posts about this crazy, exhilarating, and yes, even heartbreaking odyssey. Would you like to read them? Publication is summer 2018, and don’t you worry, you’ll be hearing all about how to preorder 🙂

Thanks for reading, friends, and Happy October!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

Recent Book Reads, Shows, and Podcast Love!

Happy Weekend! Looking for some good reads? Here’s what I’ve been up to since March…

Reading:

I adore Alice Munro. Such an excellent short story writer.

I’m a Michael Connelly fan. Great structure, kept me reading.

I love love Elizabeth Strout. Her sentences are so gorgeous. This is sad but good.

Watching:

PBS masterpiece, John Adams, Chicago PD, Hart of Dixie (only because of Lemon Breeland!), and currently it’s Amazon’s Vikings. The battle scenes are so violent that I have to constantly close my eyes, but I’m drawn to the culture and the curiosity and clash between paganism and christianity. Also: Lagertha.

Podcast Love:

New York Times, Modern Love, Happier with Gretchen Rubin, and KM Weiland’s How to Help Writers Become Authors.

And…that’s all folks! What are you reading, watching, and listening to?

Have a great weekend!

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare

This is How We Say Good-Bye

So, it’s all very, very good. We’ve had college in mind for 18 years. We’ve saved for it for 18 years. We didn’t really hope she’d live in the basement.

We paid for books, drove her to games and rehearsals, pushed her to work hard. We filled out the applications, did more than stress our minds out, cross our fingers and say our prayers. But geez, this is the deal? She actually LEAVES?

I’m paying for this pit in my stomach?

College.

This picture sits on my desk. This was my baby Cope starting kindergarten, just a little while ago.

I remember her so well at this age. She had a little brother and a baby sister who accompanied her to school. She wore a yellow rain jacket and Elmo backpack. On the first day of kindergarten she came home and threw a ginormous tantrum, collapsing on the couch in a deep sleep from sheer exhaustion. This would continue to happen throughout her childhood 🙂

She lives with passion, this girl.

What a privilege it has been to be her mother. There are no perfect mothers, but I have tried to be a good one. I’ve pondered: Do I regret other “opportunities” I didn’t take so I could be home more and raise children? Do I regret any of the stories read, the bedtime routines, the wake up and go to sleep times? I regret none of it. I have no greater accomplishment.

Suddenly she’s this girl: so confident and smart and compassionate and beautiful.

We had a great August. Slow days of packing and purging and sorting. What to bring to college when you have to put it on an airplane (2 carry-ons per passenger, nothing over 50lbs.)

We also had hostage-like negotiation sessions over clothes – she is always raiding my closet!A certain sister already had her room packed up before Cope left, chomping at the bit to move downstairs instead of across the hall from mom and dad.

Cope and I and flew across the country, hovering above the great Salt Lake. It was getting real.

I was that really strange mom taking photos of my grown daughter while she slept beside me. I found myself gazing at her skin and eyelashes, wondering how this thing called “TIME” works. I thought of Erma Bombeck’s poem, WHY DON’T YOU GROW UP?

Guess what? They do.

Although Utah is a desert, we went hiking and found TREES!

We stayed with my sister and family where Cope walked little Autumn to first grade. On the first day, Autumn cried and clung to Cope. Cope looked at me with big eyes and panic, mouthing, “WHAT DO I DO?”

I said: Give her a hug and kiss, I’ll see you later, and walk away.

Oh dear, I feared I would be Autumn in a few days.

We made it! She has a room key. I don’t. What the heck?

We love her dorm and roommate!

After buying out the entire local Target (when people tell you that bringing your child to college is the most expensive trip you will make – THEY ARE RIGHT. I, the tight-fisted budget mom was suddenly spending her feelings on lamps and hangers and “Honey, look at this llama lamp, do you want it for your room???! No? How about mug with your initial or how about M for Mom? Make-up? Do you want make-up? What can I buy you???”) Who was this woman???

We spent HOURS debating about room decor (Believe me, Pinterest IS NOT YOUR FRIEND). However, after agonizing over the tapestry and bedding for literally DAYS, we had just what she wanted. Bless you, Amazon, and your free Prime 2-Day shipping.

Roommates?!

“Dad, mom knows she’s not staying, right?”

We walked around campus, reliving the college years (Gregor and I met at BYU!) Cope patiently endured us.

 This is a much bigger pond than our little town…

Of course we had to get pictures with the BYU cougar. “Moooooom!” And yes, we are now completely dressed from head to toe in True Blue BYU fan gear. I’m sorry if you find me annoying for the next four years 🙂

On the bright side. The BYU bookstore has the best cinnamon gummy bears IN THE WORLD. This is not a joke. For $2.50 a bag, I’ll just eat her way through college.

On the wall in the bookstore: We went to spy on her the next day at freshman orientation (we didn’t see her). Um, is this what they mean by “helicopter parents”? Clearly, we are part of the problem.

We made up an excuse to meet up for a few minutes before our flight took off. When she came walking across campus she looked like she could be in college. Oh wait…she is?

Final hugs good-bye, in the Joseph Smith building, where Gregor really fell in love with me 🙂

And so it begins.

We left her in the capable hands of mighty Mount Timpanogus, my most favorite mountain. Can you see her lying across the top, left to right? Keep an eye on my girl, Timp.

She will, as this girl does, read. And study. And learn. She will, as BYU’s motto states: “Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve.”

The Class of 2017. “You Are the Y.”

Excuse me while I go get a tissue. As Gregor says, “this is the happiest sad I think I’ve ever felt.”

FacebookTwitterGoogle+PinterestShare