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Comfort and joy—finding light again

They sorted through the bags looking for the tags, checking the numbers. This year they can read the numbers on our Advent calendar themselves.

22 . . . 19 . . . 18 . . .12 . . .9 . . . 11 . . . 8 . . . 6

“Six!”A list of books in our advent calendar this year

Even before the book is out of the cloth bag, jolly with gingerbread men, they start exclaiming, the little one peering over the big one’s shoulder.

“Oh, I LOVE that book!”

“Me too! I luv it”

And then “Can we read it now?”

I sit on the couch and snuggle in on either side of me, a red head resting on one side, the a blond one on the other. I melt into that middle.

“On Christmas eve, many years ago,” I begin.

My big girl half shivers next to me, anticipating the rest of the story, and leans in a little closer. I smile and keep reading.

I heard the bell for many years, but then nothing. I worried that I’d never hear it again, that Christmas would be quiet and dim in our house.

Even though this month is still full of shadows, light has returned—the gentle glow of the Christmas tree, the warming light of the fire, the dancing excitement in my girls’ eyes.

They run around the house sometimes singing “Jingle Bells” and shaking the bracelets they made with tiny bells pipe cleaners. It’s a tinny sound, but in that enthusiasm, I can almost hear the richer, magical tones of that other bell.

When I’m done reading, we sit for a minute in the warmth and light and quiet before, I prompt them, “Time to get ready.”

The sky, and with it the room, has brightened. The bus will be here soon. In the bright kitchen, I stir oatmeal and call out to the girls to get dressed, but throughout the day there is that moment of peace and warm light and maybe a little magic.

Do you hear the bell at Christmas?Writing Prompt: Describe a holiday moment of comfort or joy.

In the comments, share something that gives you comfort or joy this time of year.



What don’t you need this December?

What don’t you need this December?

Three kids went home sick from my daughter’s class yesterday. One threw up at school. I’m obsessively washing my hands, reminding the kids to wash theirs, and trying to remember not to eat scraps off their plate.

Still, this morning, my stomach felt off. I don’t know if I’m on the verge of something or if I’m just fearful of getting a stomach bug.

I’ve been thinking about fear and the trepidation with which I approach December every year, and wondering if some of that is just habit.

December pulls me hard between dark and light, joy and sorrow, birth and death. All year I hold these things together, but in December, the tension is strong.

Next week I will celebrate my older daughter’s birthday. A few days later, her little sister will blow out her own candles.

And on the 17th, we mark the day Henry died.Simple traditions

I still feel trepidation when this month rolls around. My body tenses as we move into December, wrapping tighter as we move closer to that day.I feel the pressure of birthdays and holidays on either side of Henry’s day. I feel that weight sinking in the center between them.

I have slowly reclaimed this month. I moved from having no tree to putting up a mini tree to telling my girls the stories of the ornaments as we hang them together on a big tree. I’ve slowly reintroduced traditions like baking cookies and making ornaments. I’ve added new traditions like our Christmas story advent calendar.

Along the way, I’ve found light again and joy. My girls have helped a lot with that, their enthusiasm and excitement lighting my way. I want to follow their light, bask in it’s glow.

I want to let go of the trepidation this month brings.The weight, the darkness, the sorrow may come—surely will—but I don’t want to give it extra time.

The past few Decembers have been about building—adding in traditions and celebrations. This year, I want to start to let go of  anxiety and anticipation, so even more light can come in.

 What can you let go of this December? What can you make room for?

Maybe you’ll let go of a tradition you never liked or an event you grumble about every year to make room for a new tradition that brings you peace or joy.

Maybe you’ll let go of getting “perfect” gift and enjoy spending time with loved ones instead.

Maybe you’ll cull your Christmas card list and write a note to a few friends.

Maybe you’ll throw out the to do list and sit by the fire and sip your eggnog.

Not sure? Try journaling about what you love most about the holidays.

Whatever you do, I hope you find more joy and peace and light in this season.

Share in the comments what you want to make room for this month and one thing you can let go of to get there.

What makes a community

What is community?Sometimes community is rooted in place, feeling part of where you are.

It’s the librarians knowing my name and running into friends while we’re checking out books. It’s the cashier at the market asking my little one where her big sister is. It’s my three-year-old having a “usual” at the coffee place.

It’s saying hi to all the other people out walking their dogs or their kids. It’s a quick walk around the block taking twice a long as you intended because you ran into one person and then another and then another.

It’s the shared work of clearing snow and helping those who can’t. It’s meal trains when a baby is born and the neighbor who takes your trash or lets your dog out or ties up your tomatoes when you can’t.

It’s watching a high school senior go off to the prom or a kindergartener get on the bus for the first time—even when neither one is your child.

It’s working together on the playground at the end of the street or the garden/greenhouse at the school. It’s leaving toys in the sandbox for others to play with (and finding them there when you go back)  and picking up trash whether it’s yours or not.

It’s traditions like first day of school muffins and our neighborhood egg hunt and the Halloween gathering across the street.

All this is my community, the one grounded in place and people who take care of each other and what they share.

What does community mean to you?

Write with Me Wednesday prompt: Write about communityTell me about your community—one built around people and place or one built around shared experience.

What’s one thing you can do to build or strengthen your community today?


Give yourself a break—It’s Mountain Day

Imagine waking up and hearing that you didn’t have to go to work and all your appointments were cancelled today.

The bells rang out on my college campus today signalling Mountain Day. Classes are cancelled. It’s a day to be outside, climb a mountain, eat cider donuts and ice cream.Make your own Mountain Day—stop and notice the beauty around youEver since I graduated, I’ve been tempted to take my own Mountain Day when I get the email announcing the arrival of this fall tradition.

I think about going on a hike or cancelling work for the day, but inevitably I’m on deadline or  catching up after a weekend away or just got a call from a client I haven’t heard from in a while. There’s always something isn’t there?

So I’m not calling off work today or pulling my kids from school, but I had a cider donut with my coffee. I’ll give my girls donuts or take them out for ice cream this afternoon.

I took a walk this morning, just around the block, no mountain involved, but I slowed down. I paid attention to the swirl of colors that has emerged recently, noticed the yellow against gray sky that has now brightened up to blue.

I’m not taking the whole day off, but I’m going to take a little break anyway. I encourage you to take your own Mountain Day today, or a least a Mountain Moment.

Take a break.

Have a treat.

Get outside.

Slow down.

Notice the beauty around you.

Happy Mountain Day!

 What are you going to do with your Mountain Moments?


For a month of this kind of Mountain Moment, join me for Abundance.

Abundance: an online writing retreat from www.sarabarry.com

Back to School Banana Muffins

Seven years ago, I sat on my front porch and watched as my neighbor got on the school bus for the first time. Each September since, I’ve been out at the bus stop on the first day of school, even though my kids haven’t ridden it yet. Somewhere along the line, we added coffee, sausage, and muffins to the morning.

Today, that little girl I watched seven years ago climb tentatively on the bus leaves early for the regional school.

Today my own little-big girl will climb on the bus and leave for her first day of kindergarten.

She’s got her first day of school outfit. Her backpack is packed. And I’ve made the muffins.back to school breakfast

First Day of School Muffins

(good for breakfast or after-school snack)

½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup butter, softened or melted
2 eggs
1 + cup mashed overripe banana
2 cups flour (white or whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream butter, sugar, and eggs until fluffy.
  3. Add bananas and mix well to combine.
  4. Add flour, baking soda, and salt and stir until just mixed in. Gently stir in chocolate chips. (You can skip the chocolate chips if you want, but they are most definitely not optional at my house.)
  5. Spoon into greased muffin tins and bake 20 minutes or until golden. (Also works well in a square cake pan or loaf pan, but a loaf will bake longer).


What are your first day of school traditions?