Sharing Secrets, Support, & 500 Posts

Christmas Day 1986 - Cullene, Gene, & Elizabeth Harper

Twenty-five years ago today, I was newly married and in my last year at the University of Georgia. I was also newly pregnant in this Christmas photograph taken with my dad and step-mom, but they didn’t know it yet. Barely twelve days into the pregnancy, there were no tests available back then that were sensitive enough to confirm what I already knew.

I hadn’t planned on adding a baby to my goals for the new year and even though it was very early, I was already worrying about how I was going to balance being a mom with the career goals I had for myself.

For years when I looked at this photo, I focused on the briefcase I was holding and the memory of the feelings I had at the time. My excitement over their gift was tempered by my fear of the future. We were uninsured for pregnancy and were already living pretty frugally and I just couldn’t see how we were going to manage it.

I may have been smiling in this picture, but the secret growing inside me dominated my thoughts that Christmas and I worried that Cullene would sense that something was different about me.

That tiny bean of a baby became my daughter Miranda and it is largely for her that I began this blog in June 2008. From the time she was born I worried as many mothers do that something might happen to me and she would never know how much I loved her or who I was. That eased a great deal as she grew up, but when I choose to marry John and move to another country some of those feelings resurfaced.

I thought writing about my life here might be a way for her to see what was happening with me in England. I also hoped it might help to maintain and strengthen our relationship even though I was so far away.

‘Gifts of the Journey’ evolved very quickly into something more as I bravely wrote and made public those first bog posts. I found myself sharing many things I would have normally kept private. Thoughts and stories that while not as revealing as some might think, were huge leaps of faith for me as I posted things about myself that I worried might be too much.

Today marks my 500th post and it seems right to use a Christmas photograph that once made me think of things I was afraid to say.

When I look at it now I can see what I didn’t then. I was so fearful about the future that I missed my father’s hand on my shoulder and my hand touching Cullene. I missed how embraced and supported I really was, grounded by Cullene’s careful, nurturing nature, and braced by my dad’s belief in me.

Age and introspection have a way of clarifying things and I can easily recognise the benefits I receive from those of you who read my posts and are kind enough to support me through your comments. I may not always comment … I’m slow with email too, but I always, always, read and appreciate your thoughts and the time you take to share them.

Your interest in my words creates a lovely ripple effect in the pond of my emotional life and I am grateful for your continued presence and friendship.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate this day and thank you all for the gifts you share with me.


Missing My Girl At Christmas

Miranda, Asda, ComedyI knew it would be hard to live so far from my daughter when I moved to the UK and I knew there would be times when it would be more difficult, but must the Universe feel compelled to send me constant reminders at Christmas!

There’s a comedian here in the UK who shares my daughter’s name and this holiday season there seem to be television commercials and signs for her everywhere. It makes me want to shout, ‘Enough!’

My Miranda is never far from my thoughts. I generally have a photograph of her as my screen saver on my laptop and images and reminders of her are scattered throughout the house as well.

I won’t bore you with all of them, but some of my favorites are in the photos below. They’re mostly a few quick snaps from this morning taken in a way to avoid the dust and pre-Christmas mess so be advised they’re not my best work.

This photo was taken by my brother-in-law, Leon when Miranda was not much more than one. It’s the first thing I see when I walk into my studio space.

I had this copy of one of my favorite pictures of me with Miranda put on canvas last summer. It was pre-digital and the best copy I could find so it could not be reproduced any larger and keep the sharpness. I love seeing this when I do my hair and makeup in front of the mirror in the hall of my studio.

I have a more recent of photo of Miranda on my desktop, but I try not to put any taken too recently on the blog to give her a smidge of privacy. She was in a friend’s wedding last month and looked so pretty in her role as maid of honor that I wanted to post it, but not without discussing it first.

She made this when she was in pre-school or kindergarten and it sits in an old piece of furniture I rescued years ago from a barn on my grandmother’s property.

I keep a dresser tucked behind the sliding glass doors in my studio that house my closet or wardrobe as they would call it here. ( More can be seen in this post )

It’s here that I keep a few bowls that Miranda made me when she was a little girl and there are some cards from her and photos as well.

The puppy pic is her precious boy and the picture below is from our mother-daughter camp days.

 These dusty images are next to the bed and the bookmark is one she gave me about five years ago.

This was from a Christmas photo taken in 2009. It was my only other Christmas without her and I used a big bowl she painted when she was young to give us an angel in the dining area here. The ornament was only there for the holiday.

Angel Bowl I went through a big angel phase about twelve years ago and Miranda really made me smile when she made this gift for me.

I like to keep a favorite photo of Miranda in the kitchen and I see it every time I come into the house as we almost always enter through the kitchen door.

She’s twelve in this photo taken in Paris when we went for the Millennium New Year in 2000.

Finally, here’s a shot from when I tried to grow Sweet-Peas in the back garden because it was my nickname for her when she was a baby. I need to add that I’m not known for my gardening skills and my poor plants did not flourish or even sprout.

Miranda’s work keeps her too busy to visit during the month of December and she has little time for much else until January. I think next year I may suggest that I fly to see her in January and so we can celebrate Christmas on January 6th, the original date for early Christians.

Anyone else out there having to get creative about how they see family during holiday celebrations?  

My Christmas Blunder – 2011

Child, Gifts, Christmas

I love Christmas!

Except for a few years when I was a bit ‘ Grinchy ‘ due to job stress and people pleasing fatigue, I’ve always loved it. And while I know Christmas isn’t all about the gifts, I do get excited when I think the people I love opening a present that I hope they’ll enjoy.

I’m not sure why my daughter looks so thrilled with this little sweatshirt since it was clothing rather than a toy, but I’d like to see her face when she opens the gifts I sent her this year. I’ve only been away from her one other time at Christmas and thanks to iChat, I was able to see her open her presents on Christmas Day.

Being a UK-based Santa now has some limitations which are lessened a bit by my ability to shop online and email gifts to different family members in the US for wrapping and delivery.

I sent some gifts this year directly to Miranda that I had wrapped here and had some sent from Amazon that I asked her wrap for me and to take to her Grandmom and my sister, Jennie. I also sent my step-mom Cullene a gift to wrap for Miranda.

Here’s where it gets interesting …

I was on the phone a couple of days ago with Cullene who was acting as chief elf for the gift I had sent to her house for Miranda. I was telling her all about the package that was coming and how I had searched through hundreds of similar products on the internet before finding what I wanted on Etsy.

While I was trying to describe the gift to her, I decided I’d make it easy and forward the email receipt with an attached photo and send it to myself in the same email. I thought I was being pretty smooth until I pressed send and nothing showed up in my email inbox. My first thought was that the file might be larger than I thought and it was just slow.

So I went to my sent file and discovered I had made a big mistake.

I bet you know where this is going … yep, if you guessed that I cc’d Miranda instead of myself, you’d be right!

What quickly followed was a mix of phone calls and emails. I couldn’t reach her by phone so within a few minutes I was in a full-blown panic and moved from calling to email.

Notice how my subject headings go from a wordy babble, to shouting and ordering in just three emails.

Subject: Delete the ETSY email I sent you by mistake or you will know what one of your Christmas presents is !!   ( This one looks as if I’m giving her options here, but I’m really not. It’s an or else moment if I’ve ever seen one. ) 

Subject: DO NOT open the ETSY EMAIL!!!!  It’s a MISTAKE AND WILL REVEAL YOUR PRESENT!!! ( Right, now I’m really getting bossy, but I’m still informational about it.)

Subject: DON’T OPEN THE ETSY EMAIL!!!!! ( No pretending here, I’m just saying don’t do it!)

After waiting for what seemed like forever and moaning a lot to John about my stupidity, I received an email that she sent from work.

It was simple and to the point with a clear lack of her mother’s excitable energy and overuse of exclamation points.

Subject: All emails deleted without opening


How about you … any Christmas blunders happening in your world or is just me who can’t keep a secret?